Bristol TechFin 2017

With just under a week before our inaugural TechFin conference, I thought it worthwhile reviewing how we got here and why it’s important.

Tickets are still available for this stellar day and fantastic opportunity to meet leaders from the financial, professional, and high tech industries!

Watershed, the venue for Bristol TechFin 2017

As a buzzword, FinTech has captured the imagination (and investment capital) of many. There is the potential for technology to positively transform what is still a very damaged industry after the last economic crisis. The emergence of challenger banks like Starling have taken advantage of the lack of trust in the incumbents to offer fantastic focus on customer needs, expectations, and to exceed them.

The ubiquitous rise of cloud computing, utility high performance compute, big data, and machine learning tools, has meant that startups can offer aggregation and analytics services that immediately scale to national levels. Tracking your spend & managing your budgets has never been easier.

That said, companies like Moneyhub have spent as much, if not more time, on navigating banking permissions and API’s to access customer data, as on providing those same customers with the user experience of being in control of their money. For many fresh startups, the green pastures of frictionless banking services are quickly bogged down by the peculiarities and legacy systems of the current banking environment.

Scroll back 12 months and a number of parallel conversations here in Bristol highlighted that while we don’t have an identified fintech scene, we do have many of the engineering teams that are building the technologies that will power the next iteration of a financial system.

We have Oracle’s cloud development team rolling out bare metal cloud, serverless architectures, and cloud lifecycle management. Oracle also launched their global Oracle Startup Cloud Accelerator programme in Bristol. We’re got a strong mid-tier ecosystem with companies like Scott Logic developing full-stack systems and providing Bristol Pound with their new mobile banking app. We’ve got the University of the West of England, Bristol and the University of Bristol both developing future technologies like quantum computing, future engineers to implement those technologies, and the future lawyers and business leaders.

We’ve also got strong professional services with firms like Burges Salmon and (the newly rebranded) Womble Bond Dickinson providing expert legal counsel and regulatory advice. Hargreaves Lansdown is another shining example of financial services, and increasingly fintech, based in Bristol but serving a global client base.

Bristol TechFin 2017 is proudly sponsored by

We’re also pretty good at the integration engineering that brings a range of technologies together to deliver novel services. Bristol was just announced as the top UK Smart City by Huawei (another firm with a strong engineering team in Bristol).

So why TechFin?

We felt that we needed to highlight the unique West of England offer. We have over 100 years of advanced engineering and complex systems integration with the aerospace industry, and that is as focused on smart systems and high value design as precision machining. We have over 30 years as a leader in silicon engineering, second only to Silicon Valley, with all the associated deep technology and software engineering expertise. We may not be the best at self-promotion, but we’re very good at innovating and building the stuff that everyone else uses.

Plus I run High Tech Bristol and Bath so it seemed appropriate to put the focus on the tech.

We’ve also got a very strong civic engagement within the city region. When we held a focused workshop on 28 Nov 2016 what came out was a strong desire to build ‘a better bank’ that would support those without the means to navigate the current system, but who needed access to financial services to survive.

So that gave us our template for the conference next week with four awesome panel discussions:

Opening Keynote: Wincie Wong (Digital Propositions Lead, RBS), will be giving an oversight of the transformations at RBS, the accelerating pace of change, and the need to keep a clear focus on customer experience.

Finance 2.0

Discussing great implementation. We’ve got Phil Bates (Oracle) and Derek Ahmedzai (Fundsurfer) giving perspectives from a global corporate and startup on what technologies are already available for the financial services sector to adopt & deploy. We’ve got Megan Caywood (Starling Bank) describing their systems, but also highlighting the gaps in both technology provision and regulatory freedom to really transform the sector. We’ve got James Caig (True Digital) who have been looking at the psychology of why more people don’t take advantage of the changes that have already taken place for their benefit. The panel is chaired by Nick Sturge (Engine Shed), home to SETsquared Bristol, the 2015 Global Number 1 University Business Incubator.

Future Innovation in Regulation

All businesses are regulated and few more so than financial services. However, the UK has been leading the world in regulatory innovation with Project Innovate and the Regulatory Sandbox. What direction is that going now, how will that impact technology innovation, and how can emerging technologies inform regulation so that it’s not regulating for the last crisis but setting the stable framework for future growth. Alongside Nick Parish (Bank of England) and Nick Cook (Financial Conduct Authority) we have Dave Tonge (MoneyHub / FDATA), Dr Holly Powley (University of Bristol), and Sameer Gulati (Innovate Finance). The panel is chaired by Adrian Shedden (Burges Salmon).

Ethical Banking

Recognising the opportunity to ‘build a better bank’ this panel examines what it means to be a bank, and how that can be reimagined to support those with the least access to advice and guidance (or indeed those who are actively prevented from receiving support). We have Dr Matt Studley (University of the West of England, Bristol), Jaya Chakrabarti MBE TISC Report on modern slavery, and Charles Radclyffe a Data Philosopher! The panel is chaired by Nic Hemley Scott Logic / Bristol Pound.

Blue Skies Finance

No conference would be complete without a glimpse of what’s coming next in technology. Always dangerous given the pace of change in high tech but we’ve a crack panel with Peter Rogers 1060 Research, Duncan Pauly Edge Intelligence, and Krasina Mileva with Prof Dave Cliff University of Bristol in the chair.

Which is a lot to get through in a day!

But it promises to be a fantastic day, with lots of discussion and opportunities to build TechFin partnerships.