This is a really exciting occasion for us all, not least because it will be one of the first big events we have all attended since the Covid-19 lockdowns—and it has certainly been a long time coming—but it also gives us the chance to celebrate some huge developments across the UK fintech sector during a tumultuous year.
First of all, I would like to say a massive thank you to each and every entrant to the awards. We have been incredibly impressed by the number of exciting businesses of all shapes and sizes, and you have each contributed to what is one the fastest growing sectors in the UK.
In just the first quarter of this year, we saw UK fintechs raise £2.9 billion in a total of 117 deals with some mammoth investments like Checkout.com, Blockchain.com and Rapyd. After some initial hesitancy in 2020, it’s clear investors are doubling down on fintech once again.
This all shows how vital fintech will be in fueling the economic recovery over the next few years—not just in terms of the direct investments and jobs it creates, but also indirectly as an enabler. UK fintechs—many of them honoured in tonight’s awards—also have the chance to support other sectors like hospitality, retail and travel as they look to rebuild in the coming year.
Meanwhile, financial institutions have seen more than ever the need to transform their operations digitally, making way not just for remote working but for remote financial services. A new wave of technology transformation is on its way, and it’s great to see so many fintechs proving to be vital innovation partners to the UK’s banking institutions.
We’ve also seen fintechs start to vastly increase their hiring efforts in 2021, for example, with Starling Bank creating 400 new jobs in Wales alone. It’s been great to see the government support this with schemes like Kickstart, which I have seen the success from first-hand as well as being delighted with the uptake among the wider fintech community. To me, this shows not only a huge need for fresh talent but a desire to build the next generation of FinTech people.
Many of tonight’s awards—such as Diversity & Inclusion, Trainee of the Year, Rising Star and Team of the Year—highlight that most vital part of UK fintech, the people. Talent and skills are vastly improving here in the UK but it’s vital that we foster this by offering more non-traditional routes for people with the skills and qualities needed for the future of financial services.
It was particularly difficult this year for my fellow judges and I to make these decisions, and I want to thank each of them for helping to select from the huge number of entrants, all of which had a lot to bring to the table.
Each of the fintechs we have chosen is incredibly unique—tonight, we will hear from a variety of innovative companies making strides in blockchain, insurtech, lending and much more. However, the one thing they all have in common is that they have taken on board the challenges of the past 18 months with determination and creativity.
I would like to thank the UK FinTech Awards, my fellow judges, and all the entrants, for the chance to recognise and celebrate so many achievements.
Best of luck to all those who have been nominated for an award and I hope you all have a great evening.