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How the Thames Valley is becoming one of the UK's most dynamic Fintech hubs

By Angela Youngman
23 February 2022

Often referred to as the UK’s Silicon Valley, Reading and the Thames Valley is proving to be one of the most successful Fintech hubs in the country.

Finding reasons why so many Fintech companies are attracted to the region is not hard. The presence of Heathrow provides rapid global access. The general transport infrastructure is good, and there is a vibrant business community providing extensive services and staff. It is an area that has always possessed a strong innovative culture, encouraging the development of entrepreneurial and research based firms. Local authorities, Enterprise partnerships, Thames Valley Chamber of Commerce and the Department for International Trade provide help for Fintech and allied businesses to settle in the region. It has become a major hub, a viable alternative especially for companies which want to be close to, but not actually in London.

There are numerous universities and business schools in the area such as Oxford University and Henley Business School offering the opportunity for Fintech companies to benefit from their detailed research and business thinking. A recent project involving Henley Business School’s ICMA Centre and Fintech company Dynamic Planner was rated ‘Outstanding” by Innovate UK for the way it enhanced the company’s position as a pioneer of novel analytical techniques to suitably match investors with appropriate financial products. According to Professor Chris Brooks, “the scheme provided an opportunity to develop new products that will support the decision-making of hundreds of thousands of retail investors.”

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The Thames Valley is second only to London in terms of its tech and digital workforce involving over 58,000 people – a crucial factor which led US Fintech company Stash to open its global office in Reading in 2020, as part of a launch collaboration with ConnectTVT. Ed Robinson, president of Stash, said that Reading stood out “as an up and coming Fintech hub, innovative tech scene, increasing the engineering and product talent pool.”

Another recent entrant was CloudFactory, whose CEO Mark Sears commented, “As a growing multi-national looking for a place to grow our global HQ, timezone and connectivity were really practical reasons for us to be based here in the Thames Valley. The second reason was around talent. We are a fast growing start up company and we needed executives with a global mindset, people with really good technology experience and the Thames Valley has such a diverse amount of talent that we can pull from as we grow. The last reason is the beauty of the area, it is a highly desirable place to live.”

It is also an extremely resilient area when it comes to economic problems and difficulties. Reading has become the second highest contributor to the UK GDP outside the London conurbation. Metro Bank area director, Simon Neale, points out “It was great to see a recent PWC report rank Reading second only to Oxford among UK towns to withstand the major economic shock generated by the pandemic. This is due to a mix of sectors, the economic and social indicators and it is demonstrated by Reading’s success in recent years in creating jobs, high incomes, good quality of life/health, high levels of skills in the workforce and strong levels of business creation.”

Both start-ups and established companies regard Reading & the Thames Valley as an ideal location. Recent activity includes an In-Orbit Space manufacturing facility complete with 3D printer for building rocket engines, thus removing financial barriers for space themed businesses enabling them to work on a cost effective, pay as you go basis to obtain parts.

READ MORE: American fintech company chooses Reading as UK base

The Cyber Security Sectoral Analysis 2022 published by the Department for Digital, Culture and Sport highlights the area’s growing importance as a cyber security cluster, especially around Oxford, Reading, Swindon & Wiltshire.

Psybersafe was founded just over two years ago and launched during the height of the COVID pandemic. Mark Brown explains why they chose this location. “The Thames Valley has long been a technology hub and a proven location for both established global brands and innovative start-ups to grow. There are 8,000 technology-led companies based in the region and a growing cluster of Fintech businesses. It feels like a natural home for Psybersafe because our training platform sits alongside businesses in the finance and technology who will always be more at risk from hackers and need other strong cyber security technology and tailored security training that can help protect their businesses.”

Being in an area where there is a clear hub of Fintech companies is a valuable asset. Like attracts like, encouraging related businesses to choose the area. Mark Brown says, “Our largest client is a Belgian bank, our smallest a Singaporean tech firm. We are keen to work with businesses where we can find opportunities to collaborate and work together. The Fintech industry is a key sector for us because it is a sector that needs strong cybersecurity training and technology as they deal with highly sensitive personal information.”

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