Brussels and London form 'fintech bridge'

LONDON (Reuters) - A delegation from Belgium’s financial technology sector came to London with its finance minister this week to set up a “fintech bridge” with the British capital that will enable cooperation on the burgeoning sector.

“B-Hive”, the part-government-owned platform set up to facilitate innovation between Belgium’s fintech sector and the traditional financial and technology sectors, has signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with Innovate Finance, the trade body for Britain’s fintech sector, it said on Wednesday.

The initiative follows similar “fintech bridges” Britain has signed with Australia, Singapore and South Korea.

Belgian Finance Minister Johan Van Overtveldt told Reuters that the project had come about as a result of a working group that he had set up when he took up his post two years ago, and that he saw London-based Innovate Finance as a role model for B-Hive.

Britain’s vote to leave the European Union last year raised some worries that start-ups will relocate. Financial firms rely on the EU’s “passporting” system, which allows them to sell their services across the bloc while being registered and regulated just in Britain, thus saving huge amounts of money by not having to set up shop in each member state.

But Van Overtveldt said his intention in coming to London was not to lure talent away from the fintech sector, and that London would remain the main center for finance and fintech in Europe.

“London is the financial sector of Europe – there’s a lot of infrastructure..., there’s a huge talent pool that is there, there’s the capital availability that is there, so of course even with Brexit, that won’t go away just like that. It’s an important change but we should not underestimate the resilience of London as a financial (and fintech) center.”

In 2015 Britain’s fintech sector, whose ranges from app-based payment services to crowdfunding and peer-to-peer lending firms, employed over 60,000 people and generated 6.6 billion pounds ($8 billion) in revenue, according to the Treasury.

Reporting by Jemima Kelly; editing by Mark Heinrich