Innovate Finance Initial Response to the Conservative Party Manifesto 2017

Today UK Prime Minister Theresa May launched the Conservative Party’s Manifesto 2017 ahead of the upcoming UK General Election on Thursday 8th June.

The document provides a vision of how a future Conservative Government will help support the United Kingdom post-Brexit. It highlights the importance of emerging sectors such as FinTech which continue to develop the UK’s world-leading digital economy.

Some of the key policy proposals that may affect FinTech include:

– Pursuing effective regulation and the appreciation that the United Kingdom must regulate more effectively. A future Conservative Government will look to examine ways in which regulation of utilities can be improved.

– Investing in a modern industrial strategy to secure the long-term prosperity of the country. The Mainfesto suggests this can be achieved by meeting the OECD average for investment in R&D (2.4% of GDP) within 10 years; increasing university investment funds and contributing £740m towards digital infrastructure investment (as part of the previously announced National Productivity Investment Fund).

– Prioritising skills development for the digital economy. This includes creating new institutes of technology backed by employers and linked to universities — specialising in technical / STEM disciples; introducing a right to lifelong learning in digital skills; and looking at the how the visa system can be better aligned with the industrial strategy. An approach mentioned in the Manifesto includes setting aside visas for workers in strategically important industries such as digital technology.

– Immigration policy. A future Conservative Government would however look towards reducing net migration figures down to the ‘tens of thousands’; toughen visa requirements for students (keeping overseas students in immigration statistics); and double the immigration skills charge levied on companies that employ migrant workers — from £1000 to £2000.

Alongside these specific proposals, the Manifesto included a chapter on “Prosperity and Security in a Digital Age”. This looks at assuring security and fairness in an era of technological change. There are plans to develop a ‘digital charter’ to establish a balance between digital freedom and protection.

Innovate Finance broadly welcomes the Conservative Party’s Manifesto commitments for the digital economy, and the role emerging sectors such as FinTech can play in driving innovation and productivity.

However one of the biggest challenges post-Brexit remains access to talent.

The UK FinTech sector is heavily reliant on a highly skilled and internationally diverse workforce, with 30% of Innovate Finance’s (non-institutional) founders being non-British. As such, whilst the party’s commitment to prioritising domestic skills development is welcome, doubling the immigration skills charge, as well as making it harder for talented students to continue to contribute to our economy will advserely affect the most innovative companies that reside here.

As Lawrence Wintermeyer, CEO Innovate Finance says: “To secure the continued prosperity of FinTech and other tech sectors, any future UK Government must ensure that we have an efficient visa system, immigration policy, and highly skilled domestic workforce — that continues to prioritise both local and global talent.”