Claire Cockerton is founder of ENTIQ, the consultancy that led the design, development and launch of Innovate Finance, Britain’s first FinTech trade body, in 2014. Innovate Finance aims to be a single access point for the financial services and technology industry, connecting members to policymakers, regulators, investors and customers. Prior to this Claire co-led the launch of Level39, Europe’s largest technology accelerator for companies focusing on FinTech and smart cities.
“…Fall less in love with your own product and fall more in love with your customers’ problem…”
Claire, please can you tell us about your career to date, how you first became interested in working in finance and how you set up your consultancy, ENTIQ?
My foray into financial innovation began after completing my MBA in London, where I specialised in Innovation, Entrepreneurship and Design, and wrote my thesis on accelerators, technology transfer institutions and business incubation. I then went to South Africa to help establish Richard Branson’s ‘Centre for Entrepreneurship’ in Johannesburg.
I returned to the UK and co-led the launch of Level39, Europe’s largest technology accelerator for FinTech and smart cities companies in Canary Wharf, and founded ENTIQ (formerly Pivotal Innovations), a firm specialising in corporate innovation and accelerator programmes in the FinTech sector.
For those of our readers in different sectors, please could you tell us a bit more about what is meant by FinTech and why is it such a key sector for the UK economy?
FinTech is an amalgamation of financial services and technology – it represents both the traditional technology that underpins a bank’s operations as well as the emergent technologies and business models that are underlining e and m commerce, peer-to-peer transacting, predictive data analytics etc…
Because the UK has a favourable policy, business and regulatory environment for tech, entrepreneurship and finance, we are seeing the rise of new FinTech business formation, internationally scaling firms, and greater investment into the space by incumbents. FinTech has the power to grow the UK economy and promote greater resilience and social inclusion by offering more choice to consumers and businesses alike.
You’re based in London, one of the world’s largest FinTech hubs. What other hubs are there in the UK and also overseas, and what is the relationship like between them?
The UK has a diverse range of specialised FinTech hubs, all leveraging their own strengths – Leeds, Manchester and Edinburgh to name a few. Internationally New York, Singapore, Seoul, Sydney and Hong Kong are all offering great expansion and foreign investment opportunities for us. At ENTIQ, we are busy designing these programmes to promote scale for FinTech firms and a global network to take advantage of.
What involvement has the Government had with Innovate Finance?
No 10’s policy unit was instrumental in helping us convening and support the FinTech sector right from the very beginning for Innovate Finance. Together with ENTIQ, we convened the roundtables, and collectively we worked with industry to define what the sector needed to flourish here.
George Osborne helped me launch the organisation and made huge commitments to the industry through consolation (digital currency and open API [application program interface] as examples), investment through British business bank and policy changes that helped level the playing field for newcomers.
What has the evolution of the organisation been like so far and what sort of organisations and individuals have joined?
We launched Innovate Finance with 54 founding FinTech firms, the city of London and Canary Wharf as sponsors. At our one year anniversary we had grown to 150 members – big and small corporations alike. We have run trade and investment delegations to Singapore, New York and more, designed a FinTech course with Open University and have run a world-recognised inaugural summit… But look out for what’s in store!
What is the best career advice you’ve been given that has resonated with you?
Fall less in love with your own product and fall more in love with your customers’ problem. You can replace customer with stakeholder / organisation / champion, and product with profile or business proposition.
We sometimes need to face more outward than inward and trust our own intrinsic value.
What is coming up next for you and ENTIQ?
ENTIQ has recently launched a Blockchain lab in which we are defining new and commercially valuable use cases for our large corporate clients – and now we are actually building these products with the best minds in the business.
We are also launching eco-systems internationally – spaces / programmes / labs that will bring a whole new range of opportunities for our start-up and corporate clients.
We are also running a series of events in the smart cities space – and we will shortly be announcing a fantastic summit which will bring together city planners, innovators, architects, corporations and citizens to articulate and advance the next iteration of the smart city vision.