Brexit: the effect on UK FinTech

By Jonathan Lawrence

On 23 June 2016, the United Kingdom will hold a referendum about whether to remain in or leave the European Union. A British exit from the EU has been labelled a “Brexit”.

A recent Financial News poll has showed that the UK FinTech sector is substantially in favour of staying. Financial News surveyed 118 FinTech professionals to gauge their opinion.

More than two-thirds said Brexit would be detrimental to UK FinTech. However, nearly 18% believe it is still unclear what the long-term impact would be. The remaining 13% think UK FinTech would benefit from a decision to leave the European Union.

Often tech talent is sourced from countries such as Bulgaria, Estonia, Hungary, Romania and Slovenia. The ability to access talent was a major concern of some business people interviewed. The other key potential issue is regulation. There’s a circular debate over whether there would be lighter regulation after the UK left the EU, or whether it would be forced to stay in line with the rest of Europe as a price for continued market access. One theory is that the European market – already smaller than the US – would, in effect, be divided in two. US FinTech firms already have the advantage of addressing a bigger market – partitioning Europe would make this advantage greater still.

More than 84% of those who said Brexit would harm UK FinTech said it would make London less attractive for foreign FinTech companies as a location for their European HQ. However, the largest share believes London would maintain its dominance as a FinTech hub. Asked which European cities would most threaten London, 28% answered “none”, closely followed by Berlin, 25%. Frankfurt came third with 15%.

On the other hand, some 13% said the sector would be better off and 18% were undecided. Of those who believe UK FinTech would benefit, 63% thought it would free up resources that could be reinvested in innovation. Some 58% said Brexit would make it easier for FinTech companies to do business with clients in non-EU countries.

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