×

Impact of Brexit, US politics being felt by fintech firms, says Western Union’s head of partnerships

  • Financial technology (fintech) has felt the impact of a perceived direction towards protectionism, Western Union's partnerships lead has said
  • She referred to a report which showed that venture capital investment in U.K. fintech startups fell by 33.7 percent last year
  • But she hopes that signs of "moderation" - such as the election of pro-EU French President Emmanuel Macron - would be a positive
Western Union
Scott Mlyn | CNBC

Financial technology (fintech) has felt the impact of Brexit, U.S. politics and a perceived direction towards protectionism, Western Union's partnerships lead has said.

Christina Hamilton, head of partnerships and international expansion at the global payments and transfers company, said that protectionism and a populist surge against globalization was a serious concern for the fintech industry.

"I think the flow of money and people is a great thing, and I think the fastest path to economic growth and stimulus is actually when both money and people move across borders," Hamilton told CNBC in an exclusive interview on Monday.

She said that her views should not necessarily be regarded as the views of Western Union, but was clear that her business had been affected. "We are being forced to think about the impact of some of the protectionism that we're seeing around the globe and on our business," she said.

Amanda Edwards | Getty Images

Hamilton said that Brexit worried her in regard to investment in fintech and the kind of "cross-border" approach to finance that companies such as hers rely on.

She said that, although negotiations surrounding the U.K.'s exit from the EU are "still fairly early," "this particular question around the movement of people as well as the ability for the U.K. to do business with the EU in an easy way as it is today is going to drive how the market responds to it more broadly."

Hamilton added: "I do have some concern for the fintech industry." She referred to a report by the independent fintech industry body Innovate Finance, which saw venture capital investment in U.K. fintech startups fall by 33.7 percent last year. On the other hand, venture capital investment in fintech globally rose by 10.9 percent.

"Clearly there's been an impact in the U.K. already, and that's something that we just have to watch very carefully," Hamilton said. "As far as the overall rise of protectionism (is concerned), I think there was quite a lot of concern after Brexit and the U.S. election."

But Hamilton said she is hopeful that signs of "moderation" - such as the election of pro-EU French President Emmanuel Macron - would be positive for her business and others.

"Now I think we're starting to see with the election of Macron and some others who are more pro-migration, or at least pro-movement of people and goods, some of that (impact) is starting to temper a little bit," she said.

The head of partnerships added that Western Union is alert to the impact of political uncertainty on business. "We are a business that is in 200 countries and so all of these macro trends do impact us and we watch them very carefully, because that's our customer base," she said.