Remitsy founder tells Pound Sterling Live that Brexit provides the UK with a golden opportunity to independently compete as the most pro-business jurisdiction in Europe.
Remitsy is the world’s first cross-border solution for business payments to Alipay wallets - China’s leading third-party online payment solution.
The company was founded by Richard Bensberg and Neil Woodfine in 2015, and they think that Brexit could level the playing field, especially for international start-ups.
“My hope is that with the UK outside of the EU, it will have more incentive and less restraints to pursue competitive policies to ensure London remains the FinTech capital of the world,” says Woodfine.
Woodfine says often the main impediment to businesses such as his is bureaucracy and regulation.
It is his belief that this creates an uneven playing field for small businesses, especially startups working in uncharted territory, think: Uber, Airbnb.
Woodfine hopes that a more lightweight approach to regulation would remove the advantage that large firms hold when navigating complex compliance requirements, often due to their additional resources.
“On my wish-list for improvements would be smarter regulation for financial startups (such as London’s planned regulatory sandbox), and lowering the barriers to digital currency businesses setting up in the capital i.e. let us open bank accounts,” he says.
Loss of Passporting Rights is a Worry
Remitsy enables fast payments sent via a blockchain (including conversions in bitcoin, to transfer money in and out of China’s Remnimbi (CNY) currency.
The company help both SMEs and online platforms who offer payments to their users in China.
Regarding Brexit Woodfine says as a start-up Remitsy are more flexible than bigger businesses as to how their operation is run, and he hopes that more competition between governments will lead to policies designed to attract and retain businesses.
As the world looks to see what will happen next as to negotiations, new start-ups that provide services on an international basis are nervous on the changing legal aspects and the possible withdrawal of financial benefits gained by basing in the UK.
One key concern is the ability to passport legislative licenses within the EU, a concern shared by others in his industry.
The UK is easily Europe's largest Chinese Yuan clearing centre, so it makes sense for companies such as Remitsy to be based here.
“As a FinTech company, our major concern is the ability to passport our licenses to the rest of Europe. This is a huge advantage of the EU as it allows small businesses such as our own to immediately gain access to a wider market,” says Woodfine.
Concerns Over Employing the Best and Brightest
Woodfine is also worried about the ability to look further afield for new talent to join the growing company.
Whilst the team currently employ an Australian and Hong Kong national currently without trouble, there is a concern that they may struggle to get candidates from Europe.
Recently the Conservative Party proposed that businesses should be required to publish information on the number of non-UK staff they currently employ.
For businesses that operate on an international basis, but have headquarters in the UK, this would be a huge worry.
“The biggest concern for all of us is the ability for our foreign team members to continue working in London without any extra hurdles. For example, the recent proposal for creating lists of non-UK staff is absolutely the wrong direction. We don't want anything like that,” says Richard Bensberg, CEO of Remitsy.
London Must Capitalise on FinTech Status After Brexit
So what can be done to ensure the UK remains an attractive option for start ups?
Bensberg is positive: “Brexit has handed us the perfect chance to move quick and make wholesale changes, without having to check first with another power.
“Hence my optimism that with enough right decisions this could be a great thing for Remitsy and any other startups operating in London.
“My advice to the people at the top would be that Brexit has presented us with a golden opportunity to independently compete as the most pro-business jurisdiction in Europe (we're still in Europe whether we're in an official Union or not).”
Though China is an economic powerhouse of the 21st century, it is still fragile and an unstable EU means a reduced demand for imports from China.
That said, although Brexit has generated a lot worse-case scenarios, they won’t necessarily impact on businesses like Remitsy, who could quite easily pack up a bag and move within Europe before the exit takes place.
“We won’t slow down because of Brexit, so now there is an opportunity for the government to help businesses such as ours to remain. Despite what the country voted for, my contemporaries and I are European, equally happy working in Amsterdam or Berlin, and we will go wherever we feel most welcome by the government and the people,” says Woodfine.