Fintech sector fears further talent shortages post-Brexit | Tech Industry
Tech leaders including venture capitalists and fintech startup founders have weighed in on how Brexit will affect the UK’s booming tech sector at the Fintech Beyond Borders event during London Fintech Week.
Although it is still too early to say what impact Brexit will have on the ability of UK companies to hire and retain talent, the fintech industry is clearly thinking about the issue, and planning for all eventualities.
The startup perspective
Hiroki Takeuchi, cofounder of the UK fintech startup GoCardless said: “For me I think the number one thing is open access to people.”
Takeuchi speaks from experience having recently had to jump through hoops to get a potential employee a visa.
He told the story: “We now need to go and put the job on some stupid website, where we wait for 90 days for a bunch of dross to apply and then we have to give a specific reason why we have rejected every single person from these job centre places and then we can make the offer, we can’t make a formal offer before that. So it is a crazy, crazy system.”
So how does he see this changing post-Brexit? “Everybody talks about it like it is a binary thing,” he says. “Like you’re either in London or not in London. I think one of the things that is likely to happen is the way companies grow is likely to be more distributed.”
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Jeff Lynn, CEO at crowdfunding startup Seedrs, had a different perspective. Speaking about the difficulty of getting visas for potential employees he says: “That kind of stuff hits fast and lean startups disproportionately hard. If you are a big bank and you have a major HR function and you are constantly going through these sort of processes and delays then fine.
“If you are a business whose entire competitive advantage is based on being able to move fast and getting the right talent and you are waiting six months for things to clear then that’s a real problem.”
His solution draws from the Australian approach to immigration. “To me a huge portion of whether Brexit is a significant problem turns on whether there is a legitimate and useable points-based immigration system,” said Lynn.
The VC perspective
When asked what fintech companies need most, Rob Moffat, a partner at VC firm Balderton Capital said: “I think the movement of talent. I agree with Hiroki’s point and maybe it won’t be exactly the same as it is now.”
When asked if talent is more important than capital the VC said: “Capital is much less important for the average early stage fintech.”
When asked if working in fintech is becoming too risky for top talent, Moffat said: “Fintech has become less risky. I have a bunch of friends that work in IT in investment banks and that is an ugly place to be right now. That was always a complaint about London. That you couldn’t hire good engineers because the investment banks would offer them three times the salary and that is less and less the case.”
Lynn added: “No one left the big banks because it was the safe option. They left the big banks because it was soul crushing and they wanted something more exciting and dynamic and that isn’t going to change one bit.”
The incubator perspective
Liz Lumley, managing director at the startup incubator startupbootcamp says bluntly: “Attracting talent and keeping them in the country is a barrier.”
Lumley also speaks passionately about the difficulty of access to financial services in the UK for migrant workers, and how fintech startups could make this better.
“Last year my biggest problem as MD at startupbootcamp was getting bank accounts for either personal or business accounts for our partners. Lloyds Banking Group is one of our partners and they came in yesterday to explain the whole procedure and they said “we will talk to our branch so you can go down there”. The branch? This is still the world we live in and fintech changes that.”
Summing up the event, Cameron Stevens, the founder of Prodigy Finance, a startup that looks to provide funding for top international students to attend universities around the world, said: “I think there is a consensus on one hand that talent is the key issue for people and ensuring that it is open and that doesn’t change.
“If it goes and closes borders and chooses after this Brexit to shut down that ability to tap into a global talent pool I think that will start to make startups to consider either Hiroki’s distributed teams approach, or the more extreme version of thinking about greener pastures.”