To celebrate UK FinTech Week, we caught up with some of the EmpowerRD employees to learn more about what makes FinTech in the UK such a fascinating and dynamic industry to work in.
It continues to grow from strength to strength! According to data released by Innovate Finance, the UK’s FinTech investment increased by more than threefold to $11.6 billion from last year, with 2,500 fintech businesses now operating in the UK.
Hari Sandhu – CEO
What made you change your career direction and build a FinTech startup?
Essentially, EmpowerRD was founded as a FinTech startup because I felt that the industry needed to use advanced technology, combined with people, to improve the experience of claiming R&D tax credits. The platform helps you build your claim and allows expert advisors to focus on the most important parts of your claim. As a result, it’s important we continue to enhance our technology to make it as intelligent as possible. This will help to push our industry forward.
Do you have any advice for someone who is thinking about working in the FinTech industry?
It’s difficult to get a FinTech company up and running from the ground up. Unless you’re willing to give it your whole life, I wouldn’t recommend it. It has to be a passion for you. The entrepreneurial game necessitates a lot of sacrifices, late nights, and little sleep!
But once you’ve decided to take that jump and start your own FinTech company, the FinTech ecosystem is strong and provides a lot of support. If you are a first-time founder, there is a lot of information out there that helps you understand where to source funding and which VCs are good to work with.
What’s the biggest challenge facing the FinTech space right now?
I suppose the growing cause for regulation in the industry. This is not to say that there isn’t a drive to create lots of FinTech businesses in the UK, but there is an increasing chorus of voices across professional bodies and government officials who are calling for greater reassurance for consumers utilising the services of fintech firms.
One of the most promising things taking place in the FinTech industry right now is the formation of organisations and membership networks that are beginning to discuss the big issues. This has generated a great deal of discussion and allowed members to fight back against false and negative claims surrounding the sector.
Jon Yeomans – Tax Lead
After spending over 30 years with HMRC, what drew you to the FinTech sector?
To put it simply, I was looking for a new challenge. I’m proud and very pleased that I had the opportunity to work with HMRC; we made some real progress over the years. Some highlights include helping to digitise the self-assessment process in the late 90s, and more recently, managing and developing strategic projects and contributing to HMRC COVID-19 response activities.
However, I got to the end of 2020 and was looking for something new. Having worked for HMRC in innovation, the fintech sector has always piqued my interest and appealed to me.
When the chance to work for EmpowerRD came along, I had no choice but to accept it. It’s great to work for a fintech company that combines technology and people to democratise the R&D tax credit claiming process, and it’s nice to be able to use my knowledge of the scheme to help contribute to the efficiency of our platform.
Do you have any advice for someone who is thinking about working in the FinTech industry?
Go for it! FinTech is a fast-growing and interesting sector with lots of great businesses making important contributions. It’s also a disruptive sector, which is helping to democratise financial services, which I think is really positive.
Financial technology will continue to play a significant role in the world economy, tackling some of the UK and global’s most pressing issues. It’s a really interesting area to work in and it’s not going away.
What impact has FinTech had on claiming R&D tax credits?
FinTech has impacted R&D tax credits in two ways. Technology, especially automation, has aided a lot of businesses with their R&D tax credit claim, ensuring the process of claiming is robust and time-efficient. But the scheme as a whole is changing and modernising. In the recent Spring Statement, Rishi Sunak announced that pure mathematics will become a qualifying cost in 2023. The reason for this is because of industries like FinTech, where Artificial Intelligence is used. It really shows that novel financial services are changing the R&D tax credit scheme as a whole, pushing it forward into the future.
Madi Smith – Strategic Business Manager
What do you love most about working in FinTech?
Essentially, it’s a really interesting area. It’s fairly new and it’s exciting! There is so much going on and it moves so fast.
I get to chat with a lot of different businesses that are doing incredible things. It’s fantastic to learn from and speak with CFOs and CEOs of new innovative companies.
For instance, I went to a FinTech week last year in November and met a variety of different companies and individuals that provide such an eclectic mix of solutions. They might not be in our niche area, but broadening my knowledge and understanding of the fintech industry as a whole has really helped me in my job.
Women are underrepresented in FinTech. What would you say to other women considering moving into the industry?
If you are upfront, ask questions and find out about the culture of a company before accepting a job, you won’t necessarily feel it. I’ve never felt unsupported and I work in a company where the culture encourages an environment that is open, and where all employees feel comfortable asking questions.
Having more women in the FinTech industry will only make more females comfortable entering it. That’s why it’s important that we talk at work and encourage diversity in the workplace. I don’t think there is a lack of interest, it’s just got to be the right environment.
I’d also say more generally that if you are looking to get into the fintech industry, it’s so important to get involved in the world as a whole. There are lots of magazines and websites you can subscribe to and so much information and cool stuff that you can find out about.
What trends do you see developing in the finTech sector in the near future?
It might just be me, but speaking to clients, I’ve noticed there are a lot of FinTech companies from across the whole of the UK. People tend to think that you need to be in a financial hub like London to work in FinTech but I’ve been in conversation with companies in Scotland, Wales and the North of England.
Traditionally, you wouldn’t see much innovation outside of London, but I suppose it shows that FinTech is highly applicable to people across the UK. If you’re a smart person with a new financial solution it doesn’t matter where you are. I’m pleased to see this as a proud Welsh person!
Jonny Fearis – Customer Success Manager
What do you love most about working in fintech?
I guess the fact that it’s so fast-paced! You have to adapt quickly and a lot of the time it’s about being proactive. There is so much change at the moment, and being at the forefront of that change in a dynamic and small FinTech company is something I love about my job.
Also, as a customer success manager, you get to learn about so many different FinTech companies. It’s really cool to see them pushing the boundaries in their small portioned off sector within the fintech sector. It’s also interesting to discover who they are working with, whether that’s the government or another fintech company.
Do you have any advice for someone who is thinking about starting a career in the Fintech industry?
It’s linked to the last point. I would suggest trying to find an area that you are interested in. FinTech companies tend to be small startups or scaleups trying to move into the next phase. In smaller companies you have to be invested in what the business is trying to achieve, putting in that extra work here and there.
You won’t be restricted to one lane and you’ll be asked to put on lots of different hats. If you don’t love it or you aren’t invested in the company’s objectives and goals it can be difficult. Buying into the culture of the company is such a big thing.
What trends do you see developing in the FinTech sector in the near future?
In terms of tech, automation and AI machine learning are being used across the board by lots of FinTech companies. At EmpowerRD, we’re trying to automate our services to ensure that our platform can carry out the menial tasks, so that our experts can focus on claims. This helps with efficiency, speed and the robustness of a claim. Lots of FinTech companies are continuously investing in their platforms or software to ensure it’s as intelligent as possible.
Interested in a career in FinTech?
EmpowerRD is a dynamic and agile fintech startup that’s helping to unlock funding for thousands of companies. Have a look at our latest job openings.