AI is now the focus for UK FinTech startups, reveals new report

BY Fraser Tennant

FinTech startups in the UK are increasingly focusing on building smarter and faster machines as well as gaining a better understanding of the potential for artificial intelligence (AI) to solve customer problems, according to a new report by PwC and Startupbootcamp.

In ‘Start-up view: a year in FinTech’, based on data from Startupbootcamp’s FinTech accelerator programme and UK FinTech deals in 2016, the report’s authors reveal a major cultural shift over the past 12 months and cite Enterprise Bot – virtual assistants that can be used by banks to improve customer service – as a good example of how AI and machine learning is being used to solve real-life customer issues.

Among its key findings, the report notes that: (i) UK-based FinTech startups made up 34 percent of all applications to Startupbootcamp in 2016 (up from 22 percent from 2015), demonstrating the constant growth of innovation and wealth of talent in the UK; (ii) nine of top 20 UK FinTech deals were completed post-EU referendum, with investment totalling $368m; and (iii) the UK’s FinTech sector has continued to progress following the EU referendum, with FinTech ‘bridges’ being built between London and China, South Korea, Singapore, India and Australia.

“Despite political, economic and financial uncertainty causing people to believe FinTech might be derailed, we have yet to see any real impact," said Francisco Lorca, managing director of Startupbootcamp FinTech London. “This year, we have seen the sector’s entrepreneurs, including the Startupbootcamp FinTech 2016 cohort, consistently proving that they have genuinely transformative ideas to offer – and that these ideas are commercially viable.”

However, despite all the entrepreneurial spirit and transformative ideas, the report does make clear that investors are less keen to focus on this area, with many saying that ‘it remains too soon to invest in smarter, faster machines'.

 “While questions remain on how big players can measure their success in FinTech, the reality is investment in innovation is now necessary for financial services companies to keep pace with competitors both within and outside their own industry," said Steve Davies, EMEA FinTech leader at PwC. “As the UK’s position in Europe post Brexit becomes clearer, startups from across the world will continue to travel here to work with international investors, partner with leading financial firms and develop under a forward thinking regulator.”

Noting that the UK is likely to remain a global FinTech centre despite Brexit, Mr Lorca concluded: “One can only imagine what will come next, but both incumbents and startups should be prepared to embrace change.”

Report: ‘The start-up view: a year in FinTech’

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