Agile London Startups Give Banks a Run for Their Money

Refugees from London’s financial sector are flocking to the the city’s burgeoning startup scene, launching lean, Web-based companies that capitalize on public mistrust of banking institutions, and use tech tools to trim costs and improve customer service.

Refugees from London’s financial sector are flocking to the the city’s burgeoning startup scene, launching lean, Web-based companies that capitalize on public mistrust of banking institutions, and use tech tools to trim costs and improve customer service. GoCardless helps small businesses circumvent banking fees by letting them set up monthly payments to suppliers. Wonga.com, which offers short-term loans at above-market interest rates, saves money by using public online data to check applicants’ credit history. Another site, Transferwise, created by tech veteran and expatriated Estonian Taavet Hinrikus, connects people wanting to exchange currencies to help them save on banking fees. (Company tagline: “Bye Bye Banks. You’ve had your fun.”) Success stories like these are attracting a crop of new aspirants from the city’s shaky financial services industry, which is poised to shed 25,000 jobs this year. Venture capital firms like Y Combinator and Index Ventures have staked funding for a number of new enterprises, and Google has opened shared office space to support up-and-comers in an area of East London that’s looking more and more like a wee Silicon Valley.

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