International investors have the UK high on their radar for a new round of post-Covid investment with Welsh tech and fintech firms able to secure growth funding, says Lord Mayor of London .
During an official visit to Wales, Vincent Keaveny said the City of London and its stock exchanges needed to do more to support tech and growth companies, a shift he says is underpinned by a new regulatory landscape , in particular the decline in the percentage of shares. required to be in public hands of a 25% to 10% issue.
Regarding the appetite for venture capital investments, Mr Keaveny said there was a correlation between where investors live and where investments are made, but that was only a part of the equation.
Speaking at Tramshed Tech in Cardiff, Mr Keaveny, who plays an ambassadorial role in promoting the professional and financial services industry across the UK and not just in the City of London, said: “The international venture capital community is looking all over the world, but at the moment it is particularly focused on the UK.
He said Silicon Valley investors in particular “have been very keen to come here” since the lifting of Covid restrictions and are planning trips to the UK over the next few months.
The Lord Mayor added: “They are focused on the opportunities as they feel a bit disconnected. While there’s a lot you can do online with virtual meetings and such, it’s being able to see the people on the ground and get a real sense of what the proposition is. There is huge international interest in opportunities in the UK and given what is happening here in Cardiff and Wales in general I’m sure VCs will be on the doorstep here over the next few months and over the next year.
From his point of view and that of the City of London Corporation, which he leads, he said: “It’s about giving meaning to potential investors, whether they come from the United States or the Gulf for example. , about what’s happening to ecosystems in places like Cardiff and Belfast. Very often we will put them in direct contact with people like Fintech Wales (regulatory body for the fintech industry) so that when they show up here they have a really interesting day or two or whatever it is to meet the type of businesses they are interested in.
He welcomed the Chancellor’s decision which will see the UK government’s economic development bank, the British Business Bank, set up a dedicated investment fund to support Welsh businesses.
Although the £130m fund has yet to launch, the chosen fund manager is expected to leverage private sector matching funding for the fund.
Mr Keaveny said: “There have certainly been big gaps in the funding mechanisms available and trying to fill some of those gaps with things like the British Business Bank (Welsh fund) help, but there will have to be funding private in there. as well.”
He acknowledged that London and its stock exchanges, with the main London Stock Exchange and the Alternative Investment Market, needed to go further to provide a seat for growth-oriented companies, such as in technology, to float rather than on global stock exchanges. rivals like the Nasdaq in the US. Of the reduction in public ownership following an IPO, he said: “It will improve the market and the attractiveness of London for technology companies.
“However, I think there’s a shift happening in the investment community anyway and a realization that they need to have a better understanding of growing businesses as opposed to old-school businesses that will be the essentials of the FTSE 100 that pay good We haven’t been as receptive to growth companies on our exchanges as in the US, but that mindset is definitely changing.
He said the UK government’s flagship leveling program was not intended to clip the wings of the economy of London or south-east England. Mr Keaveny said: “It’s about growing the cake and it’s not a proposition that London loses and everybody wins. I don’t see it like that. A lot of what we’re doing right now is creating real centers of expertise.
“We approach this from two angles, one being capital and the other being skills. One of the organizations we set up in the city a few years ago was the Financial Services Skills Commission headed by the former Minister of Treasury Mark Hoban (Chairman Mark and his team have looked at financial services skills across the UK and we are very aware that we want to house the best and most diverse global talent, but we also want to ensure that the local pipeline is there to supply skills needs across the country.
A number of reports produced focus on reconversion in nations and regions of the UK. Mr Keaveny said: ‘It’s a big priority for us and particularly around clusters of expertise and working with local universities and businesses to create these really strong cultures so that you not only get new and younger entrants into companies, but also a re- skills of people who leave other careers or, in some cases, no career. »
Professional and financial services are one of the fastest growing in the Welsh economy, with a workforce of around 155,000.
But what about the role of AI and the increasing automation of professional and financial services and the impact on jobs?
Mr Keaveny said: ‘I am much more optimistic about the future and still think we will need a significant human input into certainly professional services in the years to come. At every stage of the industrial revolution people predicted the death of work and jobs but at every stage those theories were proven wrong and I think we’ll see the same thing with AI and the industrial revolution that we live right now. »