The UK tech sector is in the midst of unparalleled innovation and ingenuity compared to any time in history. New industries and technologies are being introduced or improved every week, and many of the leading firms and entrepreneurs within the sector are driving the change which we are seeing in our everyday lives.
In each edition of Business Leader Magazine, we feature a ‘Top 32’ list, and this time we are focusing on one of the most established sub-sectors – fintech – and the entrepreneurs that lead the companies within it.
We are aware that there are thousands of examples of great fintech innovators across the UK, and this list includes ones that have been serial award winners, reached ‘unicorn’ status, or have lead the disruption of industry. If you have any suggestions to add to the online version below – then please email email@example.com.
This list is in no particular order.
Andrew Bud CBE
As the founder and CEO of the London-based firm, Bud has pioneered new methods in biometric and facial authentication to help establish trust online within the banking sector. iProov technologies have also been used by governments and other enterprises across the world for the same reason. iProov authenticates users on smartphones, tablets and laptops with a front-facing camera and a network connection, utilising the very latest in machine learning technology.
Franz Doerr & Daniel Jeczmien
Founded in 2016 by Franz Doerr and Daniel Jeczmien after the much-publicised struggles renters and landlords had when dealing with the financial aspect of their transactions. Plus, with the government deposit schemes and insurance policies of the time not benefiting either party, Flatfair was born. The founders, inspired by the success of deposit alternatives in Germany and Switzerland, combined the most effective government deposit schemes with smart technology to make renting more affordable for tenants, more secure for landlords and more efficient for agents and institutions.
This investment app was created by the former Deutsche Bank Managing Director and has now amassed hundreds of thousands of users. The fintech firm’s investment platform allows anyone become an investor for as little as $1. With the strapline of ‘Investing for Everyone’, Invstr allows its users to learn how to play the markets and build confidence in how the process works. By breaking down the financial and educational barriers to investing, the app has allowed a new generation of investors to start their journey.
Pousaz founded checkout.com, an all-in-one payment technology solution that has eliminated the need for intermediaries on digital platforms, in 2012. The company specialises in processing international payments for online retailers at the ‘shopping cart’ stage of the transaction. The firm helps start-ups and global brands process payments in over 150 currencies around the world through its unique end-to-end platform.
Rishi Khosla OBE
The British-Indian serial entrepreneur is the co-founder of the fintech firm that focuses on enabling entrepreneurs across the world to get access to loans up to £25m. OakNorth has reported pre-tax profits last year of £65.9m, and is now ranked in the top 1% of banks globally in terms of performance, after profitably lending more than £4bn to British businesses since its launch in 2015. It now has around 144,000 savers, up from 28,000 as recently as 2018. Its loans have enabled borrowers to create almost 12,000 new affordable homes and 17,000 new jobs.
After just five years in business, Revolut has reached the $1bn unicorn status (currently valued at around $1.7bn) and employs more than 1500 people across the world. Revolut has risen to prominence as an alternative bank through its mobile app platform, which offers bank accounts, debit cards, currency exchange, stock trading, cryptocurrency exchange and peer-to-peer payments. The company has also had a series of £100m-plus raises on its growth journey.
Kristo Käärmann and Taavet Hinrikus
The pair revealed that the company was ‘born of frustration’. Hinrikus had worked for Skype in Estonia, so was paid in Euros, but lived in London. Kristo worked in London, but had a mortgage in Euros back in Estonia. They devised a simple scheme. Each month, the pair checked that day’s mid-market rate on Reuters to find a fair exchange rate. Kristo put pounds into Taavet’s UK bank account, and Taavet topped up his friend’s euro account with euros. Both got the currency they needed, and neither paid a cent in hidden bank charges, and that was how the firm was born. It has now reached the unicorn status and is used across the world.
Samir Desai CBE
Desai is the founder and CEO of Funding Circle, which launched in 2010, and is now a global lending platform where investors lend directly to small businesses in the UK, US, Germany and the Netherlands. Funding Circle has originated £8.7bn of loans to more than 81,000 businesses, creating an estimated 115,000 jobs. Investors on the platform include 100,000 individuals, institutional investors, local councils, universities, and government organisations, including the British Business Bank. Since 2010, Funding Circle has raised £550m from some of the world’s largest investors.
Anne Boden MBE
The Welsh tech entrepreneur founded the revolutionary mobile-only bank in 2014. Since its founding, it has received over £230m of funding and the company received its banking licence from July 2016. With four different account types – personal, business, joint and euro – and a pioneering payment services proposition for businesses, Starling’s world-class tech reimagines banking for life today, putting the tools people need to feel good about money in the palm of their hand. Boden received her MBE for services to financial technology.
Whilst working in financial services in his early twenties and spending time with many company CFOs, Stocker realised how difficult it was for small businesses to raise the funding they needed to drive their business forward. His ambition was to use technology and data to completely reinvent how businesses go about financing their growth, and breathe fresh life into outdated financial products. The company has processed over £3bn worth of invoices and business loans, and over £160m has been funded to 1,200 UK companies.
The British challenger bank, founded in 2013 by Matt Cooper, Michael Kent and CEO Knox, offers fully-fledged digital bank accounts and has grown to become a leading business within the fintech sector. In a similar way to how Monzo and Starling have revolutionised the industry, to join Tandem, all that is needed is to download the app and follow the simple procedures. Some of Tandem’s unique features include the ability to save up spare change by rounding your spending to the nearest pound and then analysing your spending to suggest what savings you should consider.
Established in 2015, Tide is one of the first digital-only finance platforms in the UK to provide current accounts for businesses, and promises to do so in less than five minutes. Tide is a fintech firm providing mobile-first banking services for SMEs. It enables businesses to set up a current account and get instant access to various financial services, including automated book-keeping and integrated invoicing. The challenger bank has now expanded into a 250-strong team in London, and also has offices in Bulgaria and India.
Straathof leads Liberis, an alternative finance provider founded in 2007, which has since helped more than 15,000 small businesses across the UK gain access to more than £500m in funding, to help accelerate their growth. Liberis develops technology and builds key partnerships to improve small businesses’ access to funding. Through Liberis Finance, the firm also has a scalable, finance platform for partners to help them build more valuable relationships with their small business customers.
When founder and CEO Koppel first moved to the UK, he faced a frustrating experience; With no UK credit history or utility bills proving his address, he struggled to open a bank account. From his painful experience, he came up with the idea for Monese: a mobile money account that’s inclusive, instant and on-demand. Today, people from all over Europe can open an account in minutes, without any of the hidden fees and restrictions that legacy banks often impose. Around 3,000 people sign up to Moneses daily and customers are moving over $3bn each year through their accounts. Monese employs over 200 people across its offices in London, Tallinn, Lisbon and Berlin.
Bristol-based Brightpearl is a multichannel retail operations platform for large wholesalers and brands, whether they are online, instore, or both. Brightpearl’s tech platform offers a wide array of useful tools to help retailers manage their stock and orders, and help facilitate growth. The company is a trusted and established partner within the retail sector’s small and medium sized merchants to help them deal with the essential but repeatable operations that merchants have to do across today’s omnichannel retail sector. Order values on the Brightpearl platform have increased by over 700% when compared to four years ago.
Based in London, ClearScore are a rapidly growing firm, aiming to change the way people manage their finances – starting with their credit score and report. ClearScore’s vision is to help everyone, no matter what their circumstances, achieve greater financial wellbeing by giving everybody access to their credit score and report for free, forever. The company has over 12 million users worldwide and has been recognised as one of the UK’s best workplaces.
Romi Savova & Jonathan Lister
Established in 2014, PensionBee is on a mission to give the UK users complete control and clarity over their retirement. That’s why the firm created a simple online pension portal that you can manage in a few clicks from the palm of your hand. With more than £800m of direct contribution pension assets in the UK, PensionBee’s aim is to help people who often move jobs to bring their pensions together into a single online platform. Over the last six years, PensionBee now has more than 319,000 customers.
London-based Railsbank’s mission is to enable any business to be a fintech company. They achieve this within the banking industry by being a platform that has all the technology, operational and licensing capabilities to make this possible. The ‘Banking as a Service’ company provides companies with access to a complete set of banking, cards, payments and compliance capabilities through one API. The company has expanded across the world and has a particular focus on Asia and continental Europe.
The Durham-headquartered bank was founded in 2014, and is now led by former HSBC Bank and First Direct CEO Mullen. Atom was the UK’s first smartphone or tablet app-based bank and has now grown to have more than 350 employees. Atom’s tech means their customers across the UK are able to benefit from the company’s revolutionary low-cost business model. The company has now adapted its business offerings to include extra banking services, such as mortgages, and has been praised for being one of the few leading fintechs outside of the South East.
For Paymentsense it all started on a bench in Las Vegas. Two friends, Karibian and Jan Farrarons, had a eureka moment outside the Venetian Hotel. They realised the card payments industry was broken and in desperate need of fixing. They then created Europe’s largest merchant services provider, which offers face-to-face and online payment technology for more than 80,000 businesses, and they help process more than £10bn worth of payments every year.
From a refugee who escaped war torn Somalia, to one of the UK’s leading fintech figures. The company was established in 2010 and is an online money transfer business, which is used in more than 50 countries around the world. The inspiration for the firm started after Ahmed’s own struggles when trying to send money to relatives in Somaliland. As one of the primary competitors to TransferWise, WorldRemit now has more than 1,000 employees and over three million active users.
Richard Prime & Damon Chapple
Cardiff and London-based Sonovate was founded in 2012, and is a specialist invoice finance platform aimed at the recruitment sector. What started as a business to make finance and back-office better for recruitment agencies is now changing how businesses of all shapes and sizes access finance and support to manage their freelance workforce. They have now funded more than £1.5bn to businesses in over 40 countries, from recruitment start-ups to large-scale organisations, through its invoice finance technology.
Based in the City of London, ClearBank became the UK’s first clearing bank in more than 250 years when it was founded by serial entrepreneur Nick Ogden six years ago. Now with McManus at the helm, ClearBank’s cutting-edge technology is transforming the clearing and agency banking experience, making transactions as efficient, fast and cost-effective as they can be. ClearBank offers banking services to financial service providers, FCA-regulated businesses and fintech firms.
Rapyd started as a mobile payments company, but soon realised that a much bigger problem existed that needed to be solved. In 2016, they built an e-wallet product that would allow a consumer to withdraw cash from an ATM in any country, without a bank account.
Today, Rapyd helps businesses create great local commerce experiences anywhere through its technology that removes the back-end complexities of cross-border commerce, while providing local payments expertise.
Emerging from FX Capital Group, the business secured a c.£6M Series A funding round and began its journey with a team of 20 employees based in London in 2012. The company is now a global, multi-currency account infrastructure provider that allows business to scale. Using Currencycloud, companies can access virtual-named accounts for customers, with the ability to collect, convert, pay and manage multiple currencies simultaneously, wherever they are in the world. The company has processed more than £50bn in over 180 countries and has additional offices in New York, Amsterdam and Cardiff.
Michael Wood & Adrian Blair
Founded in 2010 out of frustration from the amount of time and money lost in forgotten expenses, lost receipts and weekends spent sorting through paperwork, Receipt Bank’s founders decided there must be a better way to track business expenses and share them with a company’s accountant. 250 million receipts, bills and bank statements later, Receipt Bank now connects accountants, bookkeepers and businesses to unlock the value of accounting data. More than 300,000 businesses and 50,000 accountancy firms use the company.
In 2007, Prodigy Finance was founded on the philosophy that funding shouldn’t be a barrier to education. Stevens and two fellow MBA students recognised that traditional banks don’t serve the needs of international borrowers: requiring collateral, co-signers, guarantors or documentation that students simply don’t have. They made it their mission to make quality education accessible, using fintech to redefine the student loan market. More than 19,000 students have utilised the platform.
Chishti is the CEO of FINTECH Circle, Europe’s first Angel Network focused on fintech opportunities and Founder of the FINTECH Circle Institute, a fintech learning platform offering innovation workshops and online courses to C-level executives. FINTECH Circle is a global platform of more than 130,000 fintech entrepreneurs, investors and finance professionals. Through the platform, firms can add strategic value through investors and/or Non-Executive Directors to help them advance and disrupt the sector.
Alastair Johnson & Seema Khinda Johnson
The firm was founded by Alastair and Seema, who together have decades of experience in technology and commercialising products. Nuggets is an e-commerce payments and ID platform. It stores your personal and payment data securely in the blockchain, so you never have to share it with anyone – not even ‘Nuggets’. That means no more data breaches, because companies don’t have to store your data.
Burnmark offers fintech data and research for better collaboration between banks, start-ups, regulators and investors. The company’s unique collection of start-up data, market data and use-cases on the fintech ecosystem, are used to deliver insights through a wide variety of offerings, such as reports, monthly research updates and custom research data. Burnmark publish reports that are used by network banks, investment and M&A firms, innovation hubs, governments and academics.
Sohoni founded Seedcamp, a European seed fund, in 2007, and it has become known as an early investor in world-class founders attacking large, global markets and solving real problems, using technology in the financial sector and beyond. They have become known for backing entrepreneurs before their success is known to others. The ‘Seedcamp Nation’ includes businesses such as TransferWise and Revolut.
Innovate Finance is the independent industry body that represents and advances the global fintech community in the UK. Their mission is to accelerate the UK’s role in the financial services sector by directly supporting the next generation of technology-led innovators. Innovate Finance’s membership ranges from seed stage start-ups and global financial institutions to investors, professional service firms, and global fintech hubs.