Charlotte Crosswell OBE, Chair of CFIT – launch speech at Nexus, University of Leeds

Charlotte Crosswell OBE, Chair of CFIT, gives a speech outlining our aims to bring together regional partners and industry stakeholders to power up the UK’s fintech sector and put the UK in a position to lead the world in financial innovation.


Welcome to today’s launch event for the Centre for Finance, Innovation and Technology – CFIT. We are in Leeds for a reason and that is to demonstrate CFIT’s nationwide focus and the potential that exists for the Fintech sector throughout the UK. I am delighted to see so many industry partners here today and for the financial support of both HM Treasury and the City of London Corporation in bringing this initiative to fruition. An initiative that will scale activity across the UK and remove the barriers that hamper growth, innovation and stop new services reaching consumers.

Bill Gates said, “I believe innovation is the most powerful force for change in the world”, a belief that I share and one that CFIT will embrace.

That’s why you are all here today too.

We want the UK to continue to be a competitive global leader in Fintech – a sector that draws investment from the UK and overseas, attracts top global talent to work here and scales companies to be world-beating fintech champions.

CFIT’s mission

In the two years since the publication of Sir Ron Kalifa’s Fintech Strategic Review, much work has been undertaken to anticipate the core needs of this most vibrant sector of the UK economy. The creation of CFIT was a key conclusion of Ron’s work and he rightly anticipated the need for an independent private sector-led delivery body; tasked to resolve the sector’s complex challenges and embed innovation across the UK’s financial services industry. In response, CFIT will drive socially inclusive financial innovation in the UK, by bringing together experts from across the finance and technology ecosystem. We will celebrate cultural diversity and inspire the next generation of innovators.

Our collective aim is to identify and address opportunities and barriers to growth for UK Fintech.

We will incorporate the interests of a range of interested parties, including those from the broader financial services, technology and innovation sectors. CFIT has been formed around the principles of lean experimentation and a flexible approach to problem solving. It will operate as a virtual body, facilitating enhanced connectivity across the regions and provide research and data capabilities in financial technology and innovation.

CFIT commits to:

  • Coalescing, on a time-limited basis, groups of experts from across the finance and technology ecosystem, to form coalitions and address barriers to Fintech sector growth
  • Inspiring the creation of high-income tech-based employment nationwide, enabling firms to achieve global scale and improve access to financial services for consumers and small businesses alike

CFIT will found its outputs on:

  • Generating and disseminating research and data
  • Coordinating UK-wide efforts; through prioritising enhanced connectivity across the four nations and English regions


CFIT begins its work with firm foundations in place; drawn from trade associations, academia, regulators, Fintech businesses and investors who are willing to back new enterprises. Our task is now to bring these key stakeholders together, enabling SMEs to grow to scale and existing businesses to embed consumer friendly new technologies in their services. Our programmes will enable young people across the UK to enjoy the benefits of well paid jobs, and older people, returning to the workforce will have an opportunity to re-deploy their skills, and learn new ones. We will work with the UK Government and Devolved Administrations to inform policy development and long-term strategies. And, naturally, draw in existing Fintech players such as The International Fintech Group and Innovate Finance for their insights and input.

Exciting and long-lasting developments will arise from our work including the creation of innovation hubs and collaboration with Universities, Further Education Colleges and schools. Firstly, CFIT will establish financial innovation hubs with a comprehensive reach across the UK’s regions including Wales, Northern Ireland and Scotland, as well as major cities such as Leeds, Manchester, Newcastle, Birmingham and Bristol. These hubs will drive national connectivity, by enabling cross-sector experts with a local focus to input on barriers to growth and ensure solutions benefit the whole of the UK. I thank all of those companies and associations who have already committed to partnering on these hubs and inputting into the coalitions.

These hubs will support the work of existing regional clusters across the UK to advance fintech innovation, a move that reflects the impressive growth of the sector outside London. Secondly, CFIT will continue the sector’s work with colleges and universities to give students, from diverse social backgrounds, the opportunity to participate in placements at the UK’s leading companies operating in the financial innovation sector. And to start this programme, I am delighted that we have already received support from the Centre for Financial Technology and Innovation here at the University of Leeds, in addition to Leeds Business School at Leeds Beckett University – so we will look forward to being back in Leeds very soon!

We will also partner with the fintech networks active in Universities in the UK on this programme of placements, and are excited at this important work ahead, and I am so pleased to see some of our future partners here today. The placements will act as a platform for nurturing and developing fresh talent in the fintech industry, creating a pipeline of skilled workers. As many as 67% of the UK’s fastest growing fintechs consider talent a high priority.

Fintech clusters

The Fintech Strategic Review already identified, in its analysis of the Fintech landscape, twenty-five existing clusters. Of these, 10 were high growth Fintech clusters: a London superhub, three established clusters and six emerging FinTech clusters. With all playing a vital role in ecosystems as they respond to innovation opportunities faster and employ on average 25% more people. The second largest cluster outside of London was the ‘Pennines Cluster’ around Leeds and Manchester.

Building on the momentum from the Kalifa Review, Manchester’s Inward Investment Agency (MIDAS) and West Yorkshire Combined Authority Trade and Investment Team have joined forces with support from Deloitte to bring this cluster to life through a new ‘FinTech Trailblazers’ Prospectus that is about to be launched. This is a significant step as their combined regional economy is larger than 10 European countries, making Greater Manchester and West Yorkshire a truly significant international centre, to base and grow FinTech companies, which provides a platform for both FinTech and wider economic growth.

I feel sure that there will be many more to come as CFIT works with industry, investor and academic partners on the challenges that they identify.


So, to conclude, I would like to thank you all for the support to date and, in advance, for the future cooperation given to CFIT. I really appreciate the support given by Leeds University, Nexus and Fintech North and the City of London Corporation in bringing us all here for this launch event. EY who developed the playbook for CFIT with the input from industry, KPMG who have provided the administrative set-up for CFIT, and the team at Whitecap Consulting behind Fintech North, deserve our enduring thanks too. For without them we would not have been ready to meet the challenges of setting up this new body.

Thanks to all of our great speakers today and the CFIT team. I am so honoured to Chair this new body and look forward to boosting the UK Fintech sector with you all.

I would now like to hand over to Andrew Griffith, Economic Secretary to the Treasury. Andrew has been a huge advocate for the sector since his appointment and I very much look forward to working with him over the coming months as we bring CFIT to life.