Barclays opens 'biggest fintech center in Europe' as it aims to experiment and spot early trends

Neil Ainger; Writer for
Barclays headquarters in London, England.
Justin Solomon | CNBC

U.K. lender Barclays has opened a new innovation center in Shoreditch, London, for its in-house banking and technology teams, as well as more than 40 co-located financial technology (fintech) start-ups.

The announcement on Tuesday claimed the new Rise facility in east London is the biggest fintech co-working space in Europe. On a monthly basis it will host more than 200 hours of workshops, "hackathons", networking and learning events.

The regular events are designed to help the 40 fintech start-ups firms housed in the new offices to develop innovative new ideas for the financial services sector, while encouraging Barclays' own in-house teams to become more nimble and experimental. The start-ups may also learn some lessons about business and operational tips from the co-located bank staff.

The site forms part of Barclays' Rise program, which has so far signed up 70-plus firms exploring blockchain, big data and other technologies. The new London Rise facility joins existing offices in New York, Mumbai, Cape Town, Manchester, Tel Aviv and Vilnius. All operate with a brief to create new services, products, apps and platforms in conjunction with the start-up partners.

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According to Jes Staley, Barclays Group chief executive, the bank wants to be a technology leader. It announced the creation of 750 new jobs in its U.K. technology centers just last week.

"We believe that technology must be a core competency of a global financial institution," he said in a press release on Tuesday.

"Fintech start-ups are at the front of the technology wave that is changing our industry," he continued.

"Through Rise, we glean important insights: We can actively experiment with emerging technologies, and spot early trends and new markets as they form. This allows our employees, customers and clients to do things faster, better and at lower cost."

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Barclays' head of innovation, Michael Harte, wants to tap into the "vibrant community" and harness "the agile and disruptive" nature of these ventures.

"For us, the more vibrant we make the fintech community, the greater the value contribution to customers and shareholders as well as to the FS (financial services) sector as a whole," he added.

Demo day

The new Rise offices at 41 Luke Street in London hosted 11 pitching firms Wednesday as part of a Demo Day for the second cohort of fintech start-ups to go through Barclays' accelerator program. This is part of a 13-week intensive course run by the TechStars network with the intention of connecting entrepreneurs with mentors and investors in order to help scale up the next generation of fintech firms.

Starting at 10.30 a.m. Wednesday morning, and running for two hours, the 11 start-ups were expected to pitch their ideas in the new facility to an audience of investors, bankers, technologists, journalists and others in the hope of winning further backing to develop their ideas.

The 11 pitching start-ups, and their self-described offerings, were as follows:

  • Alyne: Manage operational risk and technology compliance in one smart solution.
  • Barac: Real time analytics for instant decisions.
  • Bean: A simple way to find, track and manage all your bills and subscriptions.
  • Bokio: A free-of-charge digital controller.
  • Citizen: Identity in the palm of your hand.
  • Courtsdesk: The ultimate business litigation research platform.
  • Flux: Receipts reimagined.
  • Homeppl: Unlocking rental and financial opportunities through reputational data (& social media).
  • Nivo: Secure mobile messaging for smarter customer service.
  • ShieldPay: Buy Safe. Sell Safe. Pay Safe.
  • Simudyne: Artificially Intelligent (AI) simulations for financial institutions.