Tech leaders including venture capitalists and fintech startup founders have weighed in on how Brexit will affect the UK’s booming tech sector at the Fintech Beyond Borders event during London Fintech Week.
Although it is still too early to say what impact Brexit will have on the ability of UK companies to hire and retain talent, the fintech industry is clearly thinking about the issue, and planning for all eventualities.
The startup perspective
Hiroki Takeuchi, cofounder of the UK fintech startup GoCardless said: “For me I think the number one thing is open access to people.”
Takeuchi speaks from experience having recently had to jump through hoops to get a potential employee a visa.
He told the story: “We now need to go and put the job on some stupid website, where we wait for 90 days for a bunch of dross to apply and then we have to give a specific reason why we have rejected every single person from these job centre places and then we can make the offer, we can’t make a formal offer before that. So it is a crazy, crazy system.”
So how does he see this changing post-Brexit? “Everybody talks about it like it is a binary thing,” he says. “Like you’re either in London or not in London. I think one of the things that is likely to happen is the way companies grow is likely to be more distributed.”
Jeff Lynn, CEO at crowdfunding startup Seedrs, had a different perspective. Speaking about the difficulty of getting visas for potential employees he says: “That kind of stuff hits fast and lean startups disproportionately hard. If you are a big bank and you have a major HR function and you are constantly going through these sort of processes and delays then fine.
“If you are a business whose entire competitive advantage is based on being able to move fast and getting the right talent and you are waiting six months for things to clear then that’s a real problem.”
His solution draws from the Australian approach to immigration. “To me a huge portion of whether Brexit is a significant problem turns on whether there is a legitimate and useable points-based immigration system,” said Lynn.
The VC perspective
When asked what fintech companies need most, Rob Moffat, a partner at VC firm Balderton Capital said: “I think the movement of talent. I agree with Hiroki’s point and maybe it won’t be exactly the same as it is now.”
When asked if talent is more important than capital the VC said: “Capital is much less important for the average early stage fintech.”