In a turbulent world, Britain has remained a stable, thriving and prosperous nation. In times of war, disaster and yes, pandemic, the UK has been the lighthouse standing proudly upon stormy seas. Through the centuries, that beacon of light has attracted people from different nations and cultures from all corners of the world. Thousands come to the UK, in part because of the stability Britain offers, but also because of the world renowned warm welcome and hospitality bestowed on the people who choose to start a life here. Intertwined with the stories of those who have made the journey to these shores, are also the ones of the British people, who should be proud of their long history of opening their doors and communities to immigrants.
Britain’s diversity and tolerance has created a truly special economy and society. Walking down streets like Brick Lane in east London, feels like a whirlwind tour of the globe, with every cuisine imaginable on offer. The same can be said for towns and cities across the country, from Birmingham to Glasgow, where immigrants are all bringing something unique to the table.
But it’s certainly not just in restaurants and markets where immigrants are making an impact. From business to law, we are increasingly seeing ‘foreigners’ becoming trailblazers. However, there is one area which has benefitted the most from overseas talent; financial technology.
Britain’s rich tapestry has created a vibrant tech scene, and an unmatched fintech ecosystem in which I’m proud to be active. This was clear from the Khalifa Review into UK fintech, which revealed that foreign talent represents 42% of UK fintech employees. This diversity of nationalities, cultures, and thinking, means that fintech in the UK has gone from strength to strength.
The UK now boasts several fintech hubs, including in Manchester, Edinburgh, Belfast and London where approximately two-thirds of all UK fintech companies are headquartered. They include Finablr, the emerging markets payment platform and the parent of such brands as UAE Exchange and Xpress Money. Finablr is being acquired by Prism Group AG, the Swiss-based private equity group I founded with Guy Rothschild, and Royal Strategic Partners, one of the UAE’s leading private equity investors. As we look to the future, we are building out our London-based team of entrepreneurs and technologists, which can uniquely thrive in the world’s most dynamic fintech centre.
Many in the UK fear that Brexit meant pulling up the drawbridge to overseas talent, ending our long history of diversity. But I believe Brexit has been mis-sold and is in fact a golden opportunity to attract even more of the brightest and the best from beyond Europe. It continues to attract fintech entrepreneurs, like ourselves, from across Europe, the Middle East and South Asia that want to contribute to our local ecosystem.
The UAE is one fintech sandbox where young innovators are shaping exciting tech for the future. Thanks to the nation’s forward-thinking mentality, it has become the fintech capital of the Middle East. It’s no wonder that almost 50% of the region’s fintech companies are based there, including market leaders such as UAE Exchange, Liv and MashreqNeo. Finablr was born and, for a time, based its operations there. Nevertheless, our young and talented will always be drawn to the UK where much of the action is taking place.
I welcome Liz Truss’ ambition to strike an FTA with the Gulf Cooperation Council, where I spend much of my time, but the UK must go further. On top of strengthening economic ties with the region, the UK should be opening its doors to talent from the Gulf, and indeed the world. Only by actively encouraging overseas talent to once again make the journey to Britain, can the country bounce back from the pandemic.
I therefore urge the government to ensure that Britain remains the welcoming, tolerant and thriving country that I – along with countless other innovators and entrepreneurs – am proud to call home.
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