Imran Gulamhuseinwala, Global Lead for FinTech at EY, earned an Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) in the 2017 New Year’s Honours List for services to financial services. He joins a line of prominent FinTech influencers who’ve been given the award for excellence in our sector – a sign that the government is committed to recognising the valuable work of FinTech and its leaders. Previous OBE recipients include Giles Andrews, Chairman and co-founder of Zopa. Samir Desai, co-founder and CEO of Funding Circle, was also recognised for his work in FinTech with a CBE.
Innovate Finance spoke with Imran about the honour and his work at EY, which is one of its earliest members and an influential player in the UK’s financial technology ecosystem.
- Your work has been recognised with an OBE from the Queen. What is the significance of this honour to you and how will it help you to continue to develop and support the FinTech sector?
The significance of the award raises the profile for the sector and sends a clear message to everyone involved in FinTech, including investors and innovators, as well as consumers, that this is an important industry for the UK and that government policymakers really care about it and want to support it.
Like in all emerging industries, government recognition is crucial; this shows how strategically important FinTech is for the UK.
It’s a privilege to be given this award and I’m exceptionally grateful. I should note however that putting FinTech on the map is very much a team effort and all my colleagues, as well as people and organisations from across the industry are making it happen.
2. EY is a member and partner of Innovate Finance. What inroads have been achieved through our collaborations together?
The collaboration is a really important one for us. We were one of the early supporters of the organisation. Innovate Finance is the preeminent membership association globally, and under Lawrence Wintermeyer’s leadership it has become an influential voice for the sector, which is why we are keen to continue supporting it. We have worked on various projects together including the EY Innovate Finance talent programme, where we put our people at EY directly into FinTech startups -which has mutually beneficial results. In the last year we’ve also collaborated on a blockchain research paper and an analysis of the impact of FinTech on capital markets. And, we’ve hosted key events and seminars to help FinTechs understand what they need to scale up and grow their businesses.
3. 2017 is expected to be an interesting year for FinTech – what are some of the challenges that you expect the sector to face and how can your work help to overcome them?
Talent and capital will be the biggest challenges not just for this year but in general, and while we have got great momentum at the moment, there are headwinds to deal with. FinTechs will have to make certain decisions this year based on what they think the world will look like in 2020. It will be key that access to top talent and availability of capital continue to be taken into consideration at the government level as we negotiate the next few years of change. We should remember that the issues of talent and capital don’t just affect FinTechs but most emerging tech sectors, and as such we should work together across these other sectors to make an impact.
4. Tell us about some of the FinTech initiatives you are embarking on this year.
We will launch our second FinTech Adoption Index, which quantifies consumer adoption of FinTech, which products are being used and what the future outlook is. Also, in collaboration with Innovate Finance, EY will also produce a ‘FinTech census’ that will, for the first time, attempt to contact every FinTech firm in the UK and fully map out and quantify the sector.
5. What role can professional services play to ensure the continued growth of FinTech in the UK, as well forging bridges globally with other hubs?
We can help FinTechs scale up using our existing toolkit of professional services products and our global network. We can also support meaningful collaborations with large financial institutions – most FinTechs want to work with financial institutions and vice versa, and we can help to bring these two groups together.
6. What are some of the FinTech trends to watch for this year?
Open banking will be very significant. We are going to see a revolution in the way data can be used to enhance consumer choice and value. We look forward to finally seeing enterprise level application of blockchain, albeit this may not break first in financial services. We also expect to a great deal of activity in ‘chatbots’ as a new consumer channel. Finally I would hope to see RegTech firms get traction with large financial institutions to help better manage risk and bring down the cost of compliance.