What Makes London The Fintech Capital of Europe?

| Lucy Wilson

Sure, the rest of Europe’s got its fair share of fintech companies—think N26, Klarna, and the likes—but London remains the second most active city in the world for fintech, behind San Francisco. In fact, an impressive 9 out of 10 of the UK’s top-funded fintechs are based in the regionthe odd one out being Atom Bank, based in Durham. And whilst the UK fintech industry is starting to become less focused on Silicon Roundabout, London is still home to the vast majority of the country’s fintech companiesSo what is it that makes London such a good place for fintech startups and scaleups

We’ve taken a closer look at London’s fintech ecosystem to answer this question, and analyse the state of the market in 2021. The term fintech itself covers a range of disruptive technologies in the financial services industry, from challenger banks and lenders, to payment processing startups, investment platforms, and crypto exchangesWho are these innovators? Read on for a list of the top-funded London fintech companies to date, many of which have risen through the ranks this year, having secured fresh fundraisings in H1 (including a megadeal or two seven).

London’s fintech landscape in 2021 

There are currently 847 private, high-growth UK fintechs based in London, accounting for a massive 71% of the population. Unsurprisingly, the greatest concentration of these is in the City of London local authority (182), followed by Westminster (165), Camden (100), Islington (98), and Hackney (88). 

In keeping with the wider UK fintech sector, these businesses are most commonly early-stage startups, with 36% operating at the Seed stage and 28% at Venture, compared to 10% at Growth and 4% at Established. Meanwhile, 7% of the country’s high-growth fintechs have exited the private market, via an IPO or acquisition, whilst 15% have become inactive or ceased operations. 

Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, fintech has maintained its position as one of the UK’s fastest-growing sectorsAnd according to the City of London Corporation, the UK’s fintech adoption rate (71%) is well above the global average (64%). This is likely even higher in London, due to its vast financial and professional services industry, and thus strong demand for new technologies. 

London also has an abundance of venture capital firms and fintech-focused accelerator programmes, providing equity finance and support to businesses based in the city, and is likely to benefit from the Government’s new plans to boost the sector.

Government fintech reforms

In February 2021, The Kalifa Review of UK FinTech set out its five-point plan “for supporting the growth and widespread adoption of UK fintech, and for maintaining the UK’s global fintech reputation”. The report’s recommendations included changes to UK listing rules, with one fintech (Wise) going public in London via a direct listing just this week—in what is now the Capital’s largest ever tech float

Meanwhile, speaking at Fintech Week in April, the Chancellor laid out plans to further increase the UK’s competitive advantage, including reforms to help scale up fintech companies, and the launch of a new taskforce to explore the possibility of a central bank digital currency (CBDC). 

Accelerator programmes for London fintechs

Of London’s active fintech companies, 35% have attended an accelerator programme—with 419 out of their 474 attendances (88%) having been to programmes headquartered in the region. Some of the Capital’s leading accelerators are focused solely on fintech, including Accenture’s three-month Fintech Innovation Lab London programme, offering mentoring, workshops and networking opportunities to fintech startups. Tech Nation Fintech is a similar six-month programme, specifically designed to develop early-stage fintech and insurtech companies. 

It’s the Mayor’s International Business Programme, however, that is responsible for the largest number of London fintech attendances (78), whilst the Business Growth Programme is responsible for 45—both schemes are managed by London & Partners. Meanwhile, NatWest’s Entrepreneur Accelerator (formerly Entrepreneurial Spark) has also provided considerable support to the region’s startup ecosystem, having been attended by London fintechs 41 times. 

Fintech investment in London

Alongside London’s long list of accelerator programmes, the city is also a great place for ambitious fintech startups to seek growth finance. Between Q1 ’11 and Q2 ’21, high-growth London fintechs secured 1,139 announced equity deals, amounting to £11.4b. The average size of these funding rounds comes to £10.6m, although median round size is closer to £2m. 

These announced fundraisings saw participation from 847 different funds—by far the most popular investor type being private equity and venture capital firms (20%). Yet the most active funds during this time were crowdfunding platforms Seedrs and Crowdcube, with 131 and 85 deals into London fintechs, respectively. There are also several fintech-focused funds based in the region, such as Anthemis, Mouro Capital, Augmentum, and Fintech Circle.

Since 2011, we’ve seen a steady increase in the number and value of announced fundraisings secured each year, as London’s fintech scene has continued to grow in both size and maturity. In 2020, it brought in 203 announced equity deals, worth a combined £2.26b, compared to just 13, totalling £25.7m, ten years ago. And 2021 is already proving to be a record year for fintech investment in the Capital, with 106 deals, worth a massive £3.08b, and another six months still left to go.

Top London Fintech Companies

Another reason for London’s fintech crown is that it’s already home to an incredibly strong cohort of established firms. These leading fintech companies are providing plenty of healthy competition for one another, whilst paving the way for the next generation of innovators. 

We’ve ranked the top 10, based on equity investment raised to date—the first nine of which are also unicorn companies, meaning they’ve reached a valuation of at least $1b (an impressive feat, given there are currently just 32 private unicorns across the whole of the UK’s high-growth landscape). 

10 Top-Funded London Fintech Companies

Rank Company name Equity investment raised Number of deals
1
Revolut
£690m
8
2
OakNorth Bank
£637m
4
3
Checkout.com
£631m
3
4
Starling Bank
£535m
7
5
Monzo
£494m
14
6
SaltPay
£358m
2
7
Blockchain.com
£356m
4
8
Rapyd
£347m
4
9
Wise
£305m
10
10
Zopa
£296m
12
Revolut Logo, Fintech

1. Revolut

Amount raised: £690m

One of the UK’s earliest challenger banks, Revolut was launched in 2015 by co-founders Nikolay Storonksy and Vlad Yatsenko. Revolut’s app (initially focused on international money transfers and spending abroad) now offers a long list of features, such as personal loans, crypto trading, and business accounts with custom APIs, as well as bill splitting and budgeting tools. 

The company has attended several London-based accelerator programmes, including the Mayor’s International Business Programme back in 2017, and Tech Nation’s Future Fifty programme between 2019 and 2021. Revolut has so far raised £690m in equity funding, across eight rounds, with notable London-based investors including Draper Esprit, Index Ventures, and Balderton Capital.

OakNorth Bank Logo, Fintech

2. OakNorth Bank

Amount raised: £637m

Fellow Future Fifty graduate OakNorth Bank is second on the list, having secured £637m in equity investment, across four funding rounds, to date. Launched the same year as Revolut, OakNorth set itself apart by being primarily a B2B challenger bank, providing debt finance to entrepreneurs and fast-growing companies. 

The digital-only bank offers both personal and company savings accounts, alongside business loans and property finance between £500k and £45m. Alongside its impressive fundraising total, mostly secured from foreign investors, OakNorth has been named on several high-growth lists over the past few years, including the London Tech 50 in 2019.

Checkout.com Logo, Fintech

3. Checkout.com

Amount raised: £631m

Checkout.com has developed software that allows businesses to process payments online, and in multiple currencies. The payments platform, which also provides data insights to its customers, is already used by several big names, such as Deliveroo, Getty Images, The Hut Group, Samsung, Curve, and Wise. 

Founded in 2013, Checkout.com has since made three acquisitions of similar payment processing and financial software companies. Meanwhile, like its peers, the company has also attended both the Mayor’s International Business Programme and Future Fifty accelerators. To date, it’s raised £631m worth of equity investment, across just three roundsthe most recent of which, worth £333m, was secured in January 2021.

Starling Bank Logo, Fintech

4. Starling Bank

Amount raised: £535m

Starling Bank launched in 2017, waiting to receive its banking licence from regulators before bringing its app to market. Starling offers various personal, business, and multi-currency current accounts, plus a debit card built for children. And during COVID-19, it introduced additional features, such as lending products for SMEs, and a card designed specifically for people self-isolating. 

Founded by Anne Boden, the company’s impressive growth saw it ranked as the UK’s top female-powered business earlier this year. The company has so far raised seven equity funding rounds, totalling £535m—its latest fundraising (secured in March 2021, worth £272m) saw it join the herd of UK unicorns. Starling’s backers include London-based funds Merian Chrysalis Investment Company and RPMI Railpen.

Monzo logo, Fintech

5. Monzo

Amount raised: £494m

Challenger bank Monzo started out life as a mobile app and prepaid Mastercard debit card, before receiving its banking licence in 2017. The company now offers a range of business and personal current accounts, with tracking and budgeting tools, as well as saving accounts, tax pots, overdrafts, and loans. 

Alongside the Mayor’s International Business Programme, Monzo has attended two Tech Nation acceleratorsUpscale and Future Fifty. To date, it has raised £494m in equity funding, across 14 rounds. Monzo’s most recent raise, worth £50m, was secured in February 2021. The company’s investors include London-based private equity and venture capital firms Novator Partners and Passion Capital.

SaltPay Logo, Fintech

6. SaltPay

Amount raised: £358m

SaltPay develops payment processing and point-of-sale technology for small businesses and merchants. SaltPay’s business model is focused on building an ecosystem of services to automate business operations and grow profits, no longer centred around “the big guy”. 

Founded in 2019, the company secured a £358m equity funding round in April 2021, at a post-money valuation of $1b+, with participation from London-based VC Hedosophia, and US investment firm Tiger Global (headquartered in New York). SaltPay has also already acquired two other payment processing companies: Borgun in Iceland, and Pagaqui in Portugal.

Blockchain.com Logo

7. Blockchain.com

Amount raised: £356m

The UK’s top-funded blockchain company is, unsurprisingly, amongst London’s leading fintechs for equity investment. Blockchain.com has developed an online wallet for buying, storing, and trading cryptocurrency, as well as offering crypto market stats and trend charts. Founded in 2014, the company has attended the Future Fifty accelerator, and successfully acquired trading broker AiX, and sports trading analytics company Strategem Technologies (both based in London). 

Blockchain.com has already raised two equity rounds in 2021, one worth £86.5m in February and the other worth £218m in March. The company’s latest raise brings its total equity funding figure to £356m and, with it, a spot on the unicorn list. Notable investors include US funds Lightspeed Venture Partners and Google Ventures, Swiss VC Lakestar, and Russian firm Digital Sky Technologies, alongside London-based Mosaic Ventures. 

Rapyd Logo, Fintech

8. Rapyd

Amount raised: £347m

Founded in 2016, Rapyd is a “fintech-as-a-service” company, providing businesses with payment solutions that power local and cross-border commerce. Its offering includes integrated checkouts in sites and apps, pre-built payment plugins for e-commerce platforms, and APIs for developers to build scalable fintech apps from a single platform. 

To date, Rapyd has secured £347m in equity fundraisings, across four rounds. The company’s most recent round was a massive £219m raise in January 2021, which saw participation from a large number of foreign investors. It acquired Icelandic payment processing company Korta in July 2020. 

Wise Logo, Fintech

9. Wise

Amount raised: £305m

Wise was launched in 2011, under the name TransferWise, with the vision of making international money transfers cheap, fair, and simple. The company has since rebranded, now offering its customers much more than transfers. Wise aims to use its online platform, multi-currency accounts and debit cards to “fix international banking”—a mission that, as its co-founders made loud and clear during its high-profile London IPO this week, is unfinished. 

Since starting out, Wise has attended both the Future Fifty and Seedcamp accelerator programmes in London, and raised £305m in equity investment, across 10 funding rounds. Notable backers include Andreessen Horowitz and Fidelity, as well as London-based funds Index Ventures, LocalGlobe, Merian Chrysalis, and Seedcamp.

Zopa Logo, Fintech

10. Zopa

Amount raised: £296m

Founded in 2004, Zopa operates a peer-to-peer lending platform that’s regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA). On top of this, it recently launched Zopa Bank, thus expanding its offering to include fixed term savings accounts and credit cards for its customers. Like many of the UK’s leading challenger banks, Zopa uses open banking to verify income and financial activity by securely exchanging customers’ data, so that it can offer credit where other providers can’t. 

Whilst not yet a unicorn company, unlike the other entrants on this list, Zopa has secured more than £296m in equity investment so far, across 12 rounds. Its latest £20m fundraising, secured in March 2021, saw participation from numerous funds, including London-based VentureFounders and Augmentum Fintech.

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