Innovate Finance aims to transform UK into fintech hub

08 August 2014 -


Following the industry association’s launch this week, we catch up with non-executive chairman Alastair Lukies to find out how it will put Britain at the forefront of new-wave financial services

Matt Packer

Long-term web readers of Professional Manager will recall our interview last year with Monitise CEO and co-founder Alastair Lukies, one of the top speakers at CMI’s 2013 National Management and Leadership Conference. At the event, Alastair extolled the virtues of new management styles that bring empathy to the forefront, along with the tangible benefits of firms “spreading the religion” about what they want to achieve – even before they have any cash on the balance sheet.

This week, Alastair has taken a bold, new step in furthering the gospel about his passion, financial technology – “fintech”, for short – with his appointment as non-executive chairman of Innovate Finance. The new trade body will serve as a hub for the steadily growing collection of UK companies that are doing new things with financial services, and reimagining transactions through the lens of personal technologies.

It is an exciting time for this fertile overlap between money, software and gadgetry – and Professional Manager has caught up with Alastair to ask him about his role in the organisation, and what it is setting out to do…

PM: What does your position in Innovate Finance entail?

AL: The board’s role is to support Innovate Finance’s CEO, Claire Cockerton, and the executive team in delivering on its aim of accelerating and championing UK fintech – an industry that that is seeing fast-paced development, and has truly transformative potential.

Which types of innovative financial models will the organisation seek to promote?

Innovate Finance isn’t about driving one particular breed of innovation over another; the focus is on promoting an ecosystem that can grow and thrive on a world stage.

In bringing a whole spectrum of players together, we’re looking to cultivate that collaboration and dialogue – which is vital to delivering new ideas in a sector as complex as financial services. The body will also serve as a nexus between innovation and regulation and, with the support of the government, will help to promote regulatory practices that protect the consumer while promoting growth for companies that are offering something new to the financial services industry.

What are your ambitions for the organisation?

This is very much the starting line, but the potential is immense. Innovate Finance is a unique collaboration between the major players of finance and technology and new start-ups – but everyone is here because they want to improve and change financial services, and have recognised that to do so, they need to work together. The result we’re all looking for is a financial services sector that can deliver more for business, the economy and, ultimately, the consumer.

I look at the Groupe Speciale Mobile Association (GSMA) as a benchmark of what an effective industry organisation can do. Every year in Barcelona, you see 25,000 people coming to the Mobile World Congress: a forum now recognised all over the world as the platform for the future of mobile.

There’s no reason why Innovate Finance couldn’t do the same for fintech – making the UK that crucial hub of industry learning, pioneering innovation and a global regulatory leader.

What do you view as the most appealing financial innovations that are currently breaking through into public acceptance?

As part of my work at Monitise, I’ve seen how mobile has gone from being a device for just making calls and sending texts to being a means of banking, paying and buying – a sign of the incredible pace of change in this field. There are so many amazing ideas being talked about, but one innovation you can already see making that breakthrough into public acceptance and consumer uptake is Personal Finance Management (PFM). This change in how people manage and invest their money – with companies such as Nutmeg spearheading it – is that kind of real, conscious shift for the consumer that’s very exciting.

In that same vein, frictionless payments are now visibly gaining momentum, and what we’ll be seeing over the next couple of years is banks capitalising on their level of consumer trust to deliver efficiencies and further explore this field. It’s another example of the retail and financial worlds coming together and marking out a pathway that we’re certain to travel in growing numbers.

Where do you stand on the disruptive effects of virtual currencies such as Bitcoin?

Cyptocurrencies are an exciting development for fintech, and have certainly raised the profile of the industry – they’re the perfect example of finance and technology colliding. But it’s crucial for the protection of the consumer that these are properly regulated.

Innovations such as Bitcoin have huge potential, but getting them right is about striking a balance between finance, technology and regulation. To do that, you need experts in each of those fields, and a medium for that discussion – which is where Innovate Finance comes in.

What’s also worth noting with cryptocurrencies is that they are yet another example of the UK leading the charge for fintech. With the chancellor’s drive to explore virtual currencies, we’re already several steps ahead in terms our policy thinking about financial technology. It’s a good example of how to encourage financial innovation from a government perspective: on the one hand, scoping out its potential to help consumers and businesses, and on the other, developing a crystal-clear understanding of risks in order to make sure it all happens safely.

Find Monitise online.

Innovate Finance site here.

For more on the themes raised in this article, check out CMI’s Checklist guide Managing Finance.

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