Canary Wharf has become cool! No, I never thought I'd say it either. Largely thanks to the arrival last year of Level 39 - Europe's largest FinTech accelerator - Canary Wharf, and by extension London, is fast becoming the hub of FinTech action. Ergo, cool.
It's hard not to notice that the buzz around FinTech in London is growing. Not content with the city hosting the world's first FinTech Week in April, hot on the heels of the Barclays / Techstars collaboration, earlier this summer another FinTech accelerator arrived in London courtesy of Startupbootcamp, further cementing London's position as a global financial innovation hub.
And there's more. On Wednesday, George Osborne turned up in Canary Wharf to announce a new initiative that will explore the potential role of virtual currencies and digital money (Bitcoin to you and I) in Britain's economy. Osborne has commissioned the Treasury to produce a detailed study on cryptocurrencies, looking at their potential risks and benefits. The study will be published in the Autumn and could pave the way towards a new regulatory framework for crytocurrencies in Britain. Time to get excited? There's plenty of people in the Wharf who will tell you so, particularly those behind Innovate Finance, the new financial trade body that launched this week to promote the interests of the UK FinTech industry and support businesses in the UK developing financial technologies.
So why London? Already the heart of financial services in Europe, London thanks to a handy time zone, works as a financial thoroughfare for the US and Asia. The infrastructure is here, the knowledge capital is here, and all the big global firms have a major presence here. The industry also wants to put its past behind it. The financial crisis triggered a lot of soul-searching about what went wrong and why, but what emerged, somewhat surprisingly and almost phoenix-like from the ashes, was a new culture of financial innovation. No longer the risk-taking casinos of old, but an industry that embraces new technologies and entrepreneurial spirit. The UK has global ambitions in FinTech, and it hard to see what will stop it. The Government is clearly on board.
Whatever your views on Bitcoin, or its rival Stellar (the new digital currency that aims to unite global money systems, and into which Stripe invested $3 million earlier this week), the ante keeps being upped in bringing digital currency into mainstream use. Silicon Valley may get there first, but the Bitcoin ATM that was flashing in Level 39 this week suggests that London might not be that far behind.