UK budget must recognise that payments are at heart of digital economy

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The British government has outlined plans for investment in technological centres across the UK, including in fintech and AI, but it is vital that this funding reaches all areas of the country.

Unveiling the Autumn budget on Wednesday 22 November, Chancellor of the Exchequer, Jeremy Hunt, detailed plans to invest over £500m in tech and innovation, hoping to build on the previous creation of ‘supercomputing centres’ in Edinburgh and Bristol.

Commenting on the UK’s tech sector, Hunt emphasised that ‘we know that AI will be at the heart of any future growth’ – following up on vocal interest shown by Rishi Sunak, both when he himself was Chancellor and in his current position as Prime Minister, in the emerging technology.

“It’s great to see that Jeremy Hunt has promised an additional £500m investment in artificial intelligence to ensure the UK is an AI powerhouse,” commented Sarah-Jayne van Greune, Chief Operating Officer at Payen & ILIXIUM.

“That said, we need investment in all pockets of the UK. From Reading to Leeds and Birmingham to Basingstoke, companies up and down the country need to benefit from the investment. The UK has tech pioneers spanning the country that – with access to the right funding – will be able to pioneer solutions that will drive productivity beyond belief.

“AI, when ethically used, accelerates what humans are capable of. Computers can think and analyse faster and more accurately than people, taking onerous tasks onto their digital shoulders and leaving humans the time to be more creative. Yet, the investment should be equal across all of the UK if we’re to truly become an AI leader.”

All in all, Hunt announced 110 financial policies during Wednesday’s speech to the House of Commons – joking to the assembled MPs at one point that he did not have enough time to go through the complete list of government plans.

Aside from the budget, UK fintech had another government development to pay close attention to this week, that being the publication of the Future of Payments Review, overseen by former Nationwide Chief Executive Joe Garner.

The review has laid out a number of recommendations for the UK government to follow with an end goal of enhancing the country’s payments sector and securing – some may argue maintaining – its position as a global leader in the space.

Commenting on both the budget and review, and the implications of both for UK payments, Alla Gancz, EY UK Payments Leader, remarked: “Payments are at the heart of the digital economy, with countries around the world racing to innovate to drive economic growth, support consumer and merchant choice, and increase competition. 

“The government has set a clear intention to bolster support for the UK’s payments sector with the implementation of recommendations from Joe Garner’s independent Future of Payments Review, which was supported by EY.

“The adopted recommendations from the review cover a range of measures to prevent fraud, improve the customer experience. They take into consideration the role of the New Payments Architecture, and explore regulation around contactless payments limits. 

“There is strong momentum behind the UK payments sector, and the intent to develop a National Payments Vision is a promising commitment from the government to ensure the UK is at the forefront of payments innovation.”