Government chooses fintech start-up to lead UK tech mission to China
The eighth China-Britain Economic and Financial Dialogue, London 2016

Government chooses fintech start-up to lead UK tech mission to China

Fintech start-up Nuggets has been chosen by the UK government and the Mayor of London to embark on two trade missions to China this year.

The company – which has developed a blockchain-based, e-commerce payments and ID platform – will help represent the Department for International Trade, the Greater London Authority, and the City of London Corporation on the trips. 

It is hoped that the government will be able to forge new business opportunities between Britain and China via the missions, which will focus on the so-called fintech bridge agreed by the two countries in 2016. Under the deal, Chinese banks and financial services companies also have access to the City, and to the wider UK market (see photo, above).

Nuggets, which uses biometric and blockchain technologies to let people conduct online transactions without sharing personal data, will be shown off as an example of a high-growth, UK-based fintech firm.

Business growth

Alastair Johnson, CEO and founder of Nuggets, said the support of the government and the Mayor reflects the growth that it has achieved in the fintech sector over the past few years.

“To receive the support of three highly respected international business bodies is fantastic news, and testament to the rapid progress that Nuggets is making in harnessing blockchain technology to enable individuals to own and control their personal data while making e-commerce payments,” he said.

“The technology we are building has huge implications for e-commerce markets around the world. It’s great to see the UK and London supporting innovative technology companies in this way.”

Extensive support

Not only will the missions allow the government to show off Britain’s fintech potential, but they may also be an opportunity for Nuggets to establish a presence in China. The trade organisations will tap into their extensive networks to introduce the company to potential clients, investors, and relevant bodies in China.

The DIT explained that it will provide the company’s marketing team with “speaking opportunities at various British government events in China” and help it “establish an onshore presence” in the country.

Sherry Madera, special adviser for Asia at the City of London Corporation, said the trips will accelerate the UK’s growing financial technology market. “We’re pleased to support the UK’s burgeoning fintech scene and the ambitions of firms here wanting to expand overseas. The UK is a world leader in fintech and by some estimates home to around 1,600 fintech companies,” she said.

“The news that Nuggets is working with a number of China-based businesses is yet another example of how the UK and China can work more closely together in this hugely exciting market.”

Internet of Business says

As the UK detaches itself from its biggest market, the EU, all eyes are looking East for new opportunities. China’s billion-plus population is certainly the world’s biggest captive market for citizen data – outside of Facebook, of course. Combined with the UK’s global importance to the financial sector, the potential is enormous.

Nuggets’ mission is to help people “take back control of your data”, offering payment and ID services without sharing personal information. As such, it is both a good and bad fit with China, where a compulsory citizen monitoring and social ratings system will go live in 2020.

However, the trade mission also comes at a delicate time in the West’s relationship with Beijing, as the trade war escalates between China and the US. Among other effects, it appears to be slowing China’s approval of major business deals, such as the critical $44 billion Qualcomm bid for NXP Semiconductors. As the UK continues to side with the US in political matters, it would be foolish to assume that there will be no effect on British interests.

And there is another challenge in looking beyond Europe for opportunities to minimise the economic fallout from Brexit: the so-called ‘iron rule of business’. This states that trade halves as distance doubles. In short, simple physics intervenes, which is why the UK’s biggest markets will always be closest to home – whether it likes it or not.