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Norwich fin-tech entrepreneur says digital banking could be fertile ground for start-ups

PUBLISHED: 12:59 14 February 2018 | UPDATED: 13:07 14 February 2018

Norwich-based David Brear, founder of financial services firm 11:FS, speaks to members of the Norfolk Network at an event at St George's Works in Norwich. Picture: Joe Lenton Photography

Norwich-based David Brear, founder of financial services firm 11:FS, speaks to members of the Norfolk Network at an event at St George's Works in Norwich. Picture: Joe Lenton Photography

Joe Lenton

The digital banking space is open for start-ups and challengers to make their mark, as legacy organisations lack the flexibility to capitalise on technological innovations.

This is the message of a Norwich fin-tech entrepreneur who is hoping to open his global company’s fifth office this year.

David Brear, founder-director of financial industry services firm 11:FS, says the investment in online banking services – totalling £270bn since 1990 – has not reaped proportionate rewards.

The UEA graduate and his 18-month-old company, which employs 65 people in London, New York and Chicago, believe digital banking is “only 1% finished”, with the changing financial and regulatory landscape opening up new investment and technological opportunities.

Mr Brear said the billions of pounds of investment had led to a “one-size-fits-all approach” in digital banking, with big banks maintaining “arbitrary constraints around features and functionality which mean nothing to customers”.

“For the capabilities technology has, and the investment that has been put in, this should be different,” he said.

Speaking at a Norfolk Network event, Mr Brear said a relaxing of legislation around starting banks had opened the door for start-ups to utilise new banking technology.

While working for Lloyds Banking Group he pitched for a £1.4bn investment to transform its digital banking system – but says 80%-90% of investment at big banks is ploughed into “just standing still”.

“It would take such an amazing amount of strength and investment to move forward the legacy technology, the legacy culture and get past the regulatory inhibitors that I truly believe it is impossible for them to get to the front of digital advancement,” he said.

“Start-ups will be able to do that much faster with less investment. They are building services that people want, providing services and capabilities that change expectations, not just in retail banking but in commercial banking too.”

11:FS is currently launching four banks around the world with plans to get five more up and running.

The next Norfolk Network event will include an interview with George Davis, founder of fin-tech start-up SenLab, and will be held on March 1 at St George’s Works.

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