Greater Manchester’s fintech sector is a thriving ecosystem, with significant growth and development over the last few years. According to a new report, the region’s fintech sector is the largest outside London, with over 10,000 people employed, and is set to contribute more than £1billion to the regional economy this year.
Whitecap Consulting shared regional insights into Manchester’s success in its latest Greater Manchester FinTech Ecosystem Report 2023. The launch took place at Bruntwood SciTech’s No.1 Circle Square facility in Central Manchester on Friday.
Greater Manchester is home to over 14,000 financial services and technology firms, employing over 152,000 people in the sector. Its fintech economic output, as measured by the region’s gross value added (GVA), has surged by an impressive £540.6million to £905.0million.
The number of fintech startups and scaleups in the region has increased by 218 per cent since 2020, and now stands at 124. In total, 147 fintech firms are based in the region, up 133 per cent from three years ago.
Approximately 240 firms are expected to employ an estimated 10,000 people in fintech roles, contributing £1billion to the local economy by 2023. Core strengths include payments, lending, wealthtech and accounting.
One fifth of the UK’s home-grown fintech unicorns have a presence in the region, and there are seven fintech unicorns in total.
The University of Manchester established the Centre for Financial Technology Studies in 2022. It is a knowledge and research hub for digital advancements in finance, offering a broad range of specialist courses and research areas.
The geographical spread of fintech firms in the region is increasing. Only 55 per cent of fintechs are now based in the centre of Manchester. Stockport has seen the most growth and attributes for 13 per cent of the ecosystem.
The report recommends that Manchester needs to leverage engagement opportunities via organisations, such as the City of London Corporation and the Centre for Finance, Innovation & Technology (CFIT).
“A good challenge,” agrees Nicholas Lyons, the Lord Mayor of the City of London.
Speaking at the launch event, Mr Lyons said: “One of the recommendations in the report is to challenge the City of London to engage more with the North West. This is my second day up here in Manchester on a visit focused on meeting some of the leaders in the banking and tech sector. And it is already very clear to me that there are an enormous number of opportunities for financial technology to flourish in Manchester.
“You’re home to 14,000 financial services and technology firms employing over 152,000 people in the sector with startups as well as established international banks. We can expect the sector’s GVA to reach a billion pounds by the end of this year. This is a huge success story, not just for Manchester, and the north, but for the UK. And I want to congratulate you all on the hard work which has led us here.”
Chris Sier, chairman of FinTech North, welcomed the Lord Mayor’s spotlight on Manchester.
“The launch of this new report was significant in a number of ways,” says Sier. “Not only did it provide a platform upon which to tell the story of incredible growth and scale of the fintech sector in Greater Manchester, but it was also the first time the Lord Mayor has been a guest speaker at a FinTech North event.
“I’m really encouraged by the continued evolution of the fintech sector, and I hope we will see increased regional, national and international collaboration over the coming months and years.”
In a foreword to the report, Charlotte Crosswell OBE, chair of the recently launched Centre for Finance, Innovation & Technology (CFIT), also stressed the importance of better connections.
“It is important we continue to enhance the links between industry, academia, government, and regulators to support this exciting sector, and ensure that its impact is felt up and down the country.
“I’m excited to see the long-lasting developments that will arise from CFIT’s work, from our innovation hubs creating an invisible thread between the UK’s cities and regions, to our collaboration with universities, further education colleges and schools.”
Ways to improve
While Manchester is a major funding hub, regional funding can be challenging to navigate. Investors in London or the US are generally more aligned with early-stage fintech investment opportunities, which is why many founders prefer to look to these regions for funding.
Pawel Oltuszyk, founder & CEO of smart digital account Frost, comments in the report: “The main thing for most startups is money. Manchester should compete with London for foreign investment, which in turn would help startups. I think more could be done to promote the region, so people know it’s a great place to live and do business.”
Whitecap’s report suggest more structured support to help startups and scaleups navigate the sector and identify suitable investors to approach. Additionally, founders should engage with/support other founders and entrepreneurs to share insight and experience.
There is a positive attitude towards collaboration, but issues on both sides can make it hard to develop meaningful partnerships, finds the report.
For example, some large financial services brands have run support programmes, but there is “less evidence of mid-sized firms collaborating, while many entrepreneurs need to improve their understanding of regulatory considerations”.
The report suggests larger organisations become more engaged in regional fintech ecosystems, including regional focus/deployment of national initiatives, and sharing opportunities for fintech firms to offer support.
It also advises increased focus on collaboration in event formats and for increased accelerator/innovation activity.
Focus on fintech in the north
Organisations such as Bruntwood SciTech, GFT, MIDAS, Slalom, Vialto Partners, University of Manchester, Rise, created by Barclays, pro-manchester and FinTech North have collaborated on Whitecap’s Greater Manchester FinTech Ecosystem Report.
Last year, Whitecap Consulting also identified the opportunity to create more than 2,000 new fintech jobs in the North East by the end of 2025. Additionally, in February 2023, it launched its Leeds City Region FinTech Report 2023.