British insurfintech hires top European talent but Brexit threatens to screw things up

Fast emerging insurance and financial technology company URICA has built its success on securing some of the brightest young European talent – more than 70% of its staff are non-British. However, Managing Director Ian Fitz-Harris fears that Brexit could scupper this strategy:

”I believe Brexit will seriously disrupt our ability to hire the best talent for our industry, an industry that needs in-depth finance and technology knowledge and expertise. This is why we hire the best people from around the world but now I’m seriously concerned we will be faced with a lot of issues around immigration given what we have been hearing from the politicians. To counter these risks, we are opening an office in Paris.”

URICA’s latest additions from the continent are two very experienced directors.

Xavier Lang has left CODIX, an international software firm which boasts clients such as Euler Hermes, Atradius, Societe Generale and GE Capital, to take up a new role as URICA’s Operations Director.

Mr Lang brings 16 years of experience working in both the financial and technical sides of the fintech universe. He’s also fluent in five European languages.

“Just like URICA, I’m a bit ‘fin’ and a bit ‘tech’. I’ve worked for finance companies and IT companies around the world,” said Mr Lang. “I can bring this experience to a start-up that’s going to shake up the supply chain funding market.”

So what attracted Mr Lang to URICA? “I’ve worked with Ian Fitz-Harris and Jean-Francois Diaz before and we were very successful,” explains Mr Lang. “Ian is a serial entrepreneur and I’ve been waiting for the opportunity to work with him again, so when he called me to explain the URICA proposition, and ask me to be part of it, I didn’t hesitate. It’s a great product, giving clients quick access to cash and invoice-by-invoice flexibility.

“URICA owns its technology and it’s at the top of its game. The client front-end, the processing back-end and the broker CRM system that sits in the middle integrate brilliantly and it means we don’t need to involve an external product provider.”

URICA’s Chairman, Lindsay Whitelaw believes they’ve hooked a top talent, “Xavier ticks all the boxes. His experience is everything URICA needs right now to really kick on and make a huge impact in this market.”

Arriving hot on the heels of Xavier Lang is Raphaël Maginot, who has left his role as technical director at French software company Eudonet to become URICA’s Digital Director.

Mr Maginot brings with him 25 years of experience and global CRM know-how, which will enhance URICA’s offering enormously.  Mr Maginot’s first task will be to heighten user experience of URICA’s web applications and take URICA’s platform technology to another level.

“URICA already uses the latest technology. For example, our partners can already link their own web applications with URICA’s in a matter of days.” comments Mr Maginot. “Our web applications offer our customers security and a great user experience but what’s great today can still be better tomorrow. Looking ahead we will introduce enhancements such as electronic signatures and we are also working on technology that will enable our customers to predict accurately their cash-flow needs.”

When asked what attracted him to URICA, Mr Maginot said, “Imagine if a guy called Mark Zuckerberg called you back in 2003 to ask you to get involved in an idea of his that he was calling Facebook. Now imagine how you’d feel now if you’d said no thanks. This is how I feel about URICA. When Xavier Lang explained the URICA project to me, straight away I saw the business potential and the technical challenges. The URICA team already contains some very talented people who are doing some really innovative work and I wanted to be part of that team.”

“We are delighted that Raphael has decided to join us,” said URICA’s chairman, Lindsay Whitelaw. “Raphael is a huge talent and he will help us take URICA to the next level.”

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Making the numbers work – Fair Finances to prototype new products

Fair Finances is a self-generated project by Plot London, and kindly supported by the Paul Hamlyn Foundation. We are using design and technology to radically re-think financial services and make them simpler and fairer for the most vulnerable.

Our latest round of work builds on previous months’ of reviews and research, available on a public Evernote page and summarized in an article in The Fintech Times, and has now resulted in four very different prototypes. These prototypes are being made in order to explore the potential for a fairer, more inclusive and less disabling kind of financial environment in which people experiencing poverty do not continue to be punished just for being poor.

There has been lots of great research and useful initiatives underway but yet it feels that not much changes it does feel. Therefore we’re focused on making this conversation an effective one. During the process we have had the opportunity to connect with Toynbee Hall, Bromley by Bow Centre, Salford Poverty Truth, Joseph Rowntree Foundation in the UK and FAIR Money in the US. Our aim is to situate prototyping as a form of action and as a complement to just writing reports. We want these prototypes to highlight the issues, think outside of the conventional paths, and explore the possibility of connecting individuals and local organizations to a wider pool of social capital. Technology combined with service design is a powerful opportunity to explore financial inclusion and make a positive impact. Rooting the process in customer needs and validating it through cycles of live action research, feedback and iteration is key.

Our success criteria for the whole Fair Finances project includes: generating plenty of noise about this work; an increase in stakeholders wishing to be involved and ideally a financial or organisational interest in helping to take the prototypes further.

Below is how the four prototypes are shaping up and what we’d like to see as the next steps.

1. Anti Poverty Premium Kitemark

Charging extra to the least resourced in our communities seems to be widely accepted as an appropriate business strategy. Yet the evidence of the harm this creates is well-documented by Toynbee Hall and Joseph Rowntree Foundation. You could see this as normal. Or you could see this as a market failure. And in any market failure is an opportunity to do things differently. Alternative business models, such as freemium, Robin Hood or tiered service become possible. So we’re asking What might trigger companies to establish a kitemark system that becomes the vanguard for a commercial movement against the poverty premium? What are the conditions that could stimulate and encourage this kind of initiative. We’ve started mapping out what the system might look like.

What happens next? Plot and the Fair Finances team will identify specific businesses, share the idea and gauge their interest.

2. Data Discounts

Data from our transactions informs companies if we are good for credit and contracts. The way this currently operates excludes many people from existing financial products, or even engaging with financial service providers. What if we could invert the model and find a way to harness the data that people who have little generate? Or use alternative forms of data to create a different kind of score, perhaps a trust score.

What happens next? We’ll be pinpointing providers that could bring these data services to consumers and examining the kinds of discounted and supporting services might be designed as a result.

3. Business giveback kit

Social capital extends the reach of people into help and support and in a neighborhood it creates trust and local economic resilience in troubled times. People experiencing poverty can be challenged by a lack of social capital. What might it take for small, local, independent businesses to give something back in their neighborhood? How might they do that in a way that works for them? Our kit, which is out for testing right now aims to help small business owners (perhaps with their staff) explore what and how to give to local people who really need it. With examples of other successful schemes, the kit gives them a process for decision-making, so that they can consider what they can do. Then they can establish how not to over-stretch themselves. Finally they can work out a non-stigmatizing way of making sure the right people know what’s available.

What happens next? We’re looking for possible sponsors of the kit. And we want to collaborate with a partner capture the data and evaluate the benefits created by the kit.

4. Neighborhood fund

Much of the great research shows that people can be pushed into a spiral of poverty after minor events. These everyday events are common, such as a washing machine breaking down, or simply starting a new job. We conducted some research locally into how people feel about having a local emergency fund they contribute to. We are prototyping how this might work next.

What happens next? We’d like to establish who the best partner would be; maybe it’s a credit union? And we’re open to hearing lots of ideas for where could be a good place to host the fund.

To follow our progress check out the project blog at

On social media: #fairfinances #timeforfairfinances #povertypredator

And feel free to get in touch directly with Plot



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The world of Fintech is coming to London. Are you open for business?

With London now the epicentre of a fintech-friendly regulatory framework, and home to forward-thinking VCs and a large and vibrant, digital-first workforce, it’s no wonder that the UK’s capital continues to reign as the Fintech capital of the world.

FinTech Connect Live remains the UK’s largest fintech event and with the expo now free to attend in 2017, an audience of over 3000 visitors is expected to descend on ExCeL, London on 6-7 December. You will not want to miss this terrific opportunity to engage with your target audience.

Your gateway to…

  • Network and forge new business relationships with over 3000 of the industries finest fintech professionals
  • Meet senior business leaders looking to discuss their start-up challenges at the all new FinTech leaders forum.
  • Extend your brand presence to over 40 000 of your qualified targets through an extensive marketing campaign prior, during and post the event
  • Shorten sales cycles and save on traveling costs by meeting with the fintech world in one place over 2 days.

More information

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Uncovering the Essence of Modern City Life


Whatever the time of day or year it’s important we all indulge in a few little luxuries every now and again. It doesn’t matter what your style is or which bit of your wardrobe you like indulging in, there’s something out there for everyone.

This month I’ve sought out some new designers as well as a couple of more established independents, who all provide that special little extra luxury.

Starting with accessories, the newly launched Vertex watch is tipped to quickly become a City must-have. Heritage British design is mixed with Swiss engineering to entice interesting people to an interesting watch. The Vertex M100 lives up to the hype, oozing a ruggedly elegant design, it is waterproof, luminous, precise and comes with a lovely history, the company being resurrected by the founder’s great-grandson (£2,500).

Marrieke Elisabeth: Luxury handbags with a sense of stylish fun

For ladies, the launch of new limited edition handbags Marrieke Elizabeth, designed by a former city CFO is another top trend tip. Design inspiration is taken from the seabed, providing a stylish and fresh new look for capsule evening bags and backpacks in a variety of colours; the Naked Urchin, Jellyfish & Spider Crab. The Italian napa leather, soft suede and craftsmanship means these bags not only look great, but are wonderfully tactile and feel divinely soft and sensuous (from £645).

Moving onto the f-under-mentals, London based designer ZLDN Underwear’s striking African designs make them a fun must-have luxury. Designed with special panelling for extra comfort, men’s boxers and women’s briefs are made from micro-modal material (a plant derivative that’s breathable and supersoft). They cost just £21 a pair or less as part of a subscription.

Indulge in Gatsby glamour by Derek Rose

Another family business has also been revived, this time by a former corporate lawyer, to create a thriving ‘Smart Comfort’ sleep and lounge-wear company. Derek Rose also uses a bespoke micro-modal material to create his signature Basel MicroModal V-neck T-shirt (£69) – a silky soft delight for the skin, while his cashmere track pants – yes, it’s a real thing – are the surprise star of this collection – honestly, once you’ve tried them, you’ll never take them off (£499)!

Quintessentially British womenswear by Amanda Thompson Couture

For the outer layer, there are many bespoke designers driving City fashion – Amanda Thompson’s quintessentially British couture SS17 lines feature simple and elegant cuts using high quality fabrics in vibrant colours from candy pink to electric blue. The season’s hero piece is a women’s teal tuxedo suit made in a wool-silk mix and lined in silk paired with a yellow shirt for the ultimate in luxurious tomboy chic (£1,100). For less flamboyant days the blue and cream animal print shirt dress is brilliantly versatile (from £395).

The Cad and The Dandy: modern British suits using age-old techniques

For men, Cad and The Dandy’s new season Fresco Lite travel suits use a new cloth from Hardy Minnis. Made in England, it combines light-weight durability and crease resistance – making it a great option for sharp dressed, business travellers. Bespoke two piece suits start at £1,500 (machine sewn from £1,100).



Zulu London  

Marrieke Elisabeth  

Derek Rose  

Amanda Thompson Couture  

The Cad and The Dandy 

Written by Emily Manson






Prosecco & The City

When you’ve something to celebrate, or just fancy a night of indulgence, make it really sparkle with the Montcalm Royal London House’s Prosecco in the City Package and savour a bottle of chilled bubbly in your room on arrival. Not only that, but a freshly baked, beautifully decorated cake and fresh seasonal fruit will also be provided as the perfect accompaniment while you relax and enjoy the start of your evening. To make a booking visit

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Jenna Gordon is an angel investor with a professional background in the area of child protection social work. She has a specific interest in responsible investment and entrepreneurs who focus on a positive impact agenda. Jenna is a mother, a writer and a passionate advocate of children’s needs and the necessity for children to be enabled and empowered to reach their developmental potential. We spoke to Jenna about doing good and her motivation to become a Rainmaker…


Why did you become a Rainmaker?

The values and the bigger picture ambitions of the Rainmaker Foundation align with my own. I straddle two worlds: born into financial good fortune, I have experienced the corporate and commercial world as a client and felt the strengths but also limitations of our economic system for creating sustainable societies. On the other hand, my professional life has taken me on a detailed and eyeopening journey into the inspiring but often challenging experience of working in the public and voluntary sector.

I often feel a frustrating pressure to compartmentalise each ‘identity’, when in actual fact, the knowledge gained from both ends of the spectrum seem invaluable for bringing together a picture of what a stronger and more fruitful financial system, based off the dual principles of purpose and profit, could look like.

The Rainmaker Foundation is a powerful and unique catalyst for empowering charities in a world that is exponentially steaming ahead with innovative, disruptive ideas, concepts and technology. This new industrial age, less forgiving of a cultural dependence, is likely to outpace social sector providers, negatively impacting on their ability to protect beneficiaries if we don’t enable charities to be part of this global future. The community culture of the Rainmaker Foundation – equally valuing the expertise of civil society actors alongside the gurus of the tech world and leaders from the business sphere, has provided me with an opportunity to share knowledge across sectors and a sense of treading collectively with others on the road to social progress.

As an Impact Investor and Philanthropist, do you ever feel torn on which approach is more effective?

I believe it is possible to find investments that hold social, ethical and/or environmental benefits, whilst also providing a financial return. In my mind, it’s these facets that bring long-term reward and sustainability to those companies and their stakeholders.

I also tend to find that there are more similarities than differences between tech and social entrepreneurs seeking to bring their values to life. So for me, I’m always investing in the person behind the cause, whether it’s for profit or otherwise!

Most memorable experience with the Rainmaker Foundation so far?

The House of Genius Event. A unique evening involving Rainmakers from a range of different backgrounds, coming together anonymously to think critically and constructively about the challenges charities are facing. The feedback given was honest, creative and valuable for the charities, and meaningful for us as the ‘genius’s as we put so much depth and passion into it. Rainmakers were present to make a practical difference and they did.

What advice would you give to someone considering becoming a Rainmaker and/or supporting doing something good?

Being a Rainmaker is about community in every sense. Doing something good requires you: your thoughts, knowledge, skills and interest, all of which will prove valuable beyond the professional sector you find yourself currently focused on. Just go for it!


As technology continues to play a growing role in disrupting traditional industries and shaping the future market economies, charities have to find ways to adapt to new realities in our changing world. They must learn to use these shifts not just to retain their relevance, but to thrive. We exist to build a bridge between small charities with big potential and the most brilliant and generous business minds with a strong focus on innovation.


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Findings of FinTech Industry Sandbox Consultation Released

The Consultation was chaired by Innovate Finance, the UK’s membership association for global FinTech, on invitation by the UK Financial Conduct Authority (FCA). The Industry Sandbox Consultation Report identified use cases and design requirements for a successful sandbox development environment that could enable FinTech players to validate innovations as well as to partner in developing new solutions in a neutral ‘off-line’ environment before accessing the market.

The global Consultation brought together over 200 representatives from financial institutions, large technology firms, data vendors and startups to identify where and how an Industry Sandbox can add value. The report features comments from 30 leading FinTech organisations and thinkers.

The Consultation found there was a demand for an Industry Sandbox in the following areas:

  • Helping to show how new financial products would work
  • Making it easier for Industry to resolve shared problems together
  • Supporting knowledge sharing with regulators early in product life cycles

The report offers a menu of Industry Sandbox components that can be mixed and matched according to each use case.

In every case, an open, collaborative and accessible approach to innovation was viewed as key to success, along with a simple and flexible implementation model that lowers barriers to participation as much as possible and allows an initial version of an Industry Sandbox to scale.

Industry Sandboxes could provide access to data, APIs (application programming interfaces), common technical requirements and other technologies to help build and test financial products. Users should be able to certify against industry standards and best practices to give their potential clients more comfort. A sandbox governance structure could also make collaboration on common industry challenges such as passporting Know-Your-Customer checks or adopting RegTech less complicated

Commenting on the report, Lawrence Wintermeyer, Consultation chair, said: “The findings collate all the feedback from the consultation process and conclude that a successful Industry Sandbox must be open to an entire ecosystem on a voluntary participation basis, connected to shared testing environments and accessible to all key players, from startups to big banks.”

Rachel Kent, Partner, Global Financial Institutions Sector at Hogan Lovells and member of the report’s Steering Committee, said: “One of the key findings is that Industry Sandboxes can provide a way to speed up regulatory efficiency in the FinTech ecosystem. The consultation shows there is clear demand from the industry for regulators to be involved with such sandboxes, where they engage as observers, so that industry can share knowledge early in the life cycle of solution development. With regulators taking an educational role, sandbox participants learn who they are, what their role is and how best to engage with them. This is seen as a good way to do a lot fast.”

FinTech startups, financial institutions, technology and data vendors, professional services firms, and venture capital funds can all be users, contributors and / or sponsors of an Industry Sandbox. Regulators and other public bodies could engage as observers.

The Consultation team anticipates the global financial services industry will consider the findings of the report when building their own industry sandbox.

Industry Sandboxes must work together to develop solutions to support an open innovation environment and deliver better products to consumers.

The full report can be downloaded here

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