Leeds has become one of the best FinTech cities outside of London, according to new data. Over the last few years, the FinTech (financial technology) industry has started to move away from its traditional base in London, with the rise of the regional cities across the UK meaning many companies see the value in setting up somewhere less expensive with more potential for future growth.
In fact, according to City AM, in 2016, more money was invested in the FinTech industry across the UK outside London than anywhere else in Europe, with an influx of £4.4 billion into the sector that year. And it seems that this is a trend that has been growing for some time, with one of the north's most prolific cities at the centre of the rise of regional FinTech.
Leeds as a FinTech centre
Over the past few years, Leeds has benefited from a perfect storm in terms of growing its FinTech offering. Having been the country's second biggest banking centre outside London for some time, Leeds has also seen growth in recent years of a digital tech scene that has become one of the UK's strongest.
For some time, Leeds' worth in the financial sector has been clear to see, with more than 30 major banks from both within the UK and across the globe operating in the city. And with the migration of major FinTech companies like Panintelligence, Contis, WorldPay and Nostrum Group to the city, it has managed to combine two of its most important sectors into one growth industry.
At present, Leeds has one of the biggest banking business sectors to be found anywhere in the UK, with more than 38 per cent of its output coming from banking - including FinTech - alone. When we add in the fact that more than 24,000 people are employed in digital economy jobs as well, it's clear that the two are drivers behind the city's thriving economy in the current market.
Why FinTech companies are heading to the regions
The reasons the FinTech sector in Leeds has found its feet and been attracting businesses in the last few years include the ability to grow, access to fantastic commercial property and the ability to draw from a highly skilled pool of graduates year after year.
In terms of growth, start-ups and small businesses in Leeds' tech sector have been actively encouraged to invest and spend towards their future growth for some time, as the city attempts to become a hotspot for new businesses like Manchester and Birmingham already are.
This can be seen in innovative new projects such as the Digital Enterprise Programme, launched earlier this year, which offers fund-matching grants for companies to spend in digital tech and skills expansion, with up to £5,000 available from a pot of £8.5 million. Schemes such as these incentivise companies to not only come to Leeds to set up their business, but also to grow and realise their true potential.
On top of this, there's also the access to strong skillsets in Leeds that makes FinTech firms see the traditional financial city as the future of the sector's tech growth. Leeds has two main universities, each of which have acclaimed computer science programmes and a student body of more than 60,000 between them, presenting companies with skilled graduates on an evergreen basis, which is a huge attraction for building for the future.
And when it comes to tech-friendly commercial property, the city also delivers as well, with new developments such as Bruntwood's Platform at Leeds Train Station allowing companies the chance to work collaboratively in modern office spaces designed for tech firms to work, grow and expand together.
All three of these elements are key when it comes to the sector growing in prominence within the city, and when they can all be checked off, it's evident that the growth already seen in FinTech in Leeds over the past few years is only the beginning of something much bigger still to come.