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12 November, 2015 - 13:29 By Angela Murray

Cambridge banking on a new tomorrow

Dame Colette Bowe

Cambridge perspectives informed a panel session at the Bank of England Open Forum yesterday – an event described by the Bank as an opportunity to ‘bring together every kind of stakeholder’ to discuss how to build ‘real markets for the good of the people’.

Insights from Cambridge academics, companies and financiers, gleaned by Bank of England COO Charlotte Hogg and CIO John Finch on a visit to Cambridge last week, provided 'scene setting' for a debate on 'How financial innovation and technology can support the economy’.

Panel chair Dame Colette Bowe, chairman of the Banking Standards Board, opened the session by referencing Cambridge comments on current funding capabilities, and highlighting the funding gap identified in the £1 million to £5m range – too high for Angels but too low for VCs.

Dame Colette also noted that many Cambridge startups still found it hard to gain access to established financial institutions and to Government funding and support.

She also cited the 'shocking' comments from Cambridge-based commentators that consumers seem more willing to trust non-bank services – even if automated – than traditional banks because of the general loss of faith in the banking system. 

Dame Colette’s remarks prefaced a detailed discussion of current and future finance and finance technologies, in the context of what Santander global head of innovation José María Fuster described as the '5th digital dimension'.
The speed and ease of lending from challenger organisations was contrasted with the poor customer experience offered by many traditional banks, although Mariana Mazzucato, RM Phillips Professor in the Economics of Innovation at the University of Suffolk, questioned whether the increased focus on smaller and shorter term investments was at the expense of the long term financial commitment required to fund world changing innovations such as ‘the next internet’.

The debate also ranged across big data and social data, cyber security and responsibility, and the role of the Bank of England, regulators and Government in shaping and supporting opportunities.

Concluding a session which she admitted 'just scratched the surface', Dame Colette noted the strong desire for engagement among both those in the room and wider contributors to the debate, and hoped the Bank of England could create a space in which these issues could continue to be discussed.

• PHOTOGRAPH SHOWS: Dame Colette Bowe

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