One of Europe’s largest business lenders iwoca has today announced plans to become the first major fintech firm to open an office in Leeds.
The company has chosen the city to host its latest expansion after winning a £10m grant from the Capability and Innovation Fund to help improve lending and payment services to SMEs across the UK.
Iwoca says its new Leeds base will eventually accommodate up to 100 employees, and house its growing team of developers, customer support officers and relationship managers.
The first office is due to open early in the new year, and will be followed by a larger premises in due course.
Chief Operating Officer Seema Desai said: “Leeds has a strong heritage in financial services and banking, but we wanted to play a major role in the city’s Fintech evolution.
“We looked at several cities and Leeds stood out as a natural second home from where we could support even more small businesses across the UK.
“We were particularly impressed with the size and quality of Leeds’ talent pool, its strong and improving infrastructure, as well as the city’s own distinctive culture and soul.
“But, we remain at the start of our journey – our aim is to fund one million small businesses so we need smart, hands-on people to help us reach this goal.”
iwoca is in a period of rapid growth and has increased headcount by 50% in the past year.
The small business lender currently employs over 300 people – which it expects to grow to around 400 by the end of 2020 – with the majority in its London offices, 10 in Frankfurt, and up to 100 new jobs created in Leeds by 2023.
The company was supported in these plans by the Leeds City Region Enterprise Partnership (LEP) Trade and Investment team and the Department of International Trade throughout the decision-making process.
LEP Chairman Roger Marsh said: “I am delighted to welcome iwoca, one of Europe’s largest fintechs, to Leeds City Region following a national selection exercise.
“The region is the second centre for banking in the UK employing over 28,500 and home to over 30 national and international banks, which provides a very favourable ecosystem for fintechs to thrive.
“This coupled with a pipeline bursting with talent and a supportive business environment, ensures that the region is an attractive place for global fintech companies to invest and grow.”
And that view was backed by Judith Blake, Leader of Leeds City Council.
She said: “We are delighted to welcome iwoca to Leeds. Their ethos and commitment to helping small businesses aligns with our ambitions locally, and their presence in the city will be a real win for both the local economy and our smaller businesses.”