In a speech on the Financial Conduct Authority's regional FinTech engagement which he delivered at the Leeds Digital Festival on 27 April 2017, Christopher Woolard, Executive Director of Strategy and Competition at the FCA said that although most of the initial development work on fintech up to now had taken place in London there was real potential beyond London for a further wave of innovation. He singled out the Leeds-Manchester and the Edinburgh-Glasgow corridors as emerging hubs but failed to mention Nottingham which was the location for one of the first if not the first fintech accelerator outside the capital.
On 17 May 2016, the British subsidiary of the US consumer finance company, Capital One, in collaboration with L Marks Ltd, announced the Capital One Growth Labs. That was a 10-week accelerator programme for up to 6 early-stage start-up and high-growth companies. The successful companies were offered direct access to Capital One's software engineering department at its Nottingham head office. That provided an opportunity to refine and test their products as well as to receive close mentor support from experts from the company and the wider tech industry. While they were in Nottingham they were also offered a series of workshops and talks on branding, business development, law and marketing, At the end of the programme they were to be offered opportunities to present their products and bid for investment.
Applications were sought in the following categories:
- Unstructured data insight
- Security and fraud prevention
- Money management tools
- Enabling healthy financial habits
- Agent technologies
- Open category.
The open category was available to any startup with a potential offering to Capital One such as payment solutions, tracking, new lines of business or a physical/digital bridge.
Applications in writing were requested by 12 June 2016. Capital One and L Marks invited 19 businesses to Nottingham to pitch for the 6 places to a panel of Capital One's senior managers and outside experts on 6 July 2016.
In an announcement dated 19 July 2016, Capital One said that it had chosen the following 5 companies to take part in the accelerator:
- Credit Kudos of London which had developed a method of credit scoring based on the customer's financial history presented by Credit Kudos's co-founder, Freddy Kelly, n Simple Fair and Accessible Credit which appeared on Capital One's website on 25 Aug 2016;
- Multisense, a Dutch company which had developed a mobile authentication system using face, voice and fingerprint recognition;
- Pariti Technologies Ltd., another London business which had developed a mobile app to enable users to control their income and expenditure by connecting to all their bank and credit card accounts (see How Pariti works);
- Warwick Analytics, a spin-off from the Univesity of Warwick's computer science department, which had developed automated predictive analytics that can remove the 80% of time data scientists need to organise and process data prior to analysis; and
- WealRo, a mobile app that uses AI technology and machine learning to help users to budget where savings can be made.
I have not yet found any information about what happened on the programme, whether any of the companies found investment or whether Capital One bought any of those products or invested in any of those businesses. I can report that I have visited all the finalists' websites and they all seem to be thriving. I have not found any evidence that indicates that the accelerator has been repeated or that a second cohort will be chosen. There are however other financial institutions in Nottingham and I see that the Nottingham Building Society is investing heavily in fintech (see The Nottingham announces Major Investment in New Digital Technology in Fintech Finance).
The inclusion of law in the programme of talks and workshops for the Capital One accelerator, As I said in my FinTech introduction and overview, I see three potential legal issues with any fintech project:
- data protection and privacy particularly with the implementation of the General Data Protection Regulation next May;
- intellectual property; and
- regulatory issues.
Data protection and privacy will be particularly important for all companies' products, particularly Credit Kudon which collects data on and evaluates data subjects' credit scores. As for regulation, I refer each of the British companies to the FCA's regulatory sandbox if an in so as they are not already aware of it.
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