Tech Nation: UK needs more fintech poster-children

Smartphone with business web page of electronic payment company Wise
(Image credit: Shutterstock)

The UK is in need of more role models within the fintech sector in order to shape the future of the country’s tech industry.

This is according to Tech Nation chair Stephen Kelly, who commented on the news of fintech firm Wise’s decision to list on the London Stock Exchange without raising any funds.

“True to form, Wise is doing things differently,” said Kelly. “It is opting for a direct listing and adopting a time-limited dual class share structure, something that is fairly common in the US but less so in the UK. Wise also plans to reward customers who invest in its Mission by becoming shareholders. It's great to see a business recognise the importance of alignment between investors and customers.”

Wise, which was launched in 2011 as TransferWise, is London-based multi-currency payments app that allows customers to transfer money at favourable exchange rates.

Described by Kelly as “one of the UK’s home-grown unicorns” which he has “followed closely”, the fintech firm has been profitable since 2017, with a 54% annual revenue growth rate over the last three years.

Kelly's comments follow a recent government-backed review which found that the sector faces increased competition from overseas rivals.

Kelly added that he hopes that Wise becomes a precedent for an “alternative avenue to the public markets for other UK technology businesses”, in order to make sure that the country has “a thriving tech scene for decades to come”.

“I’m pleased to see that it will go public via a direct listing on the London Stock Exchange. Following the Lord Hill and Kalifa reviews, it’s encouraging to see another UK tech business choose to list in London,” he said. “The UK needs more poster-children and role models to inspire the next generation and it is good to see Wise live its values joining the London listing family.”

The government-backed Kalifa review, published in February 2021, found that the UK’s fintechs are being threatened by three main socioeconomic issues: Brexit, the pandemic, as well as rivalry from growing overseas hubs like Singapore, Australia, and Canada.

These difficulties have caused investors to become increasingly selective, leading to "at least two" IPOs being cancelled in the past few weeks, according to Reuters.


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However, Wise co-founder and CEO Kristo Käärmann said that the company is “used to challenging convention, and this listing is no exception”.

“A direct listing allows us a cheaper and more transparent way to broaden Wise's ownership, aligned with our mission," he added.

Wise’s London Stock Exchange listing is expected to be finalised on 5 July.

Sabina Weston

Having only graduated from City University in 2019, Sabina has already demonstrated her abilities as a keen writer and effective journalist. Currently a content writer for Drapers, Sabina spent a number of years writing for ITPro, specialising in networking and telecommunications, as well as charting the efforts of technology companies to improve their inclusion and diversity strategies, a topic close to her heart.

Sabina has also held a number of editorial roles at Harper's Bazaar, Cube Collective, and HighClouds.