Politicians and Tech Startups: A Match Made in Westminster

John matches up UK political party leaders with their most likely financial technology startups.


It started, like so much of my work does, with a press release landing in my inbox, one that I clearly didn't read correctly, because the excitement I felt at seeing that Jeremy Corbyn, leader of the UK Labour Party, had founded a technology startup was strangely vivid.

When I actually read the email properly, my visions of interviewing Corbyn about his latest funding round with institutional banks quickly evaporated. However, I decided to run with the idea anyway and have outlined where I think each of the major party leaders in the UK would set up shop if they ever wanted to delve into capital markets technology for themselves.

Theresa May (UK Prime Minister, Conservative Leader)—Surveillance
Prime Minister Theresa May came to power this summer in the fallout of the Brexit referendum, primarily by staying quiet while all other candidates managed to make as many gaffes as possible.

Time will tell whether or not she is suited to the position, but given her track record as Home Secretary, there's clearly one technology area May would dive into headfirst: surveillance. From the ill-judged "Go Home" vans aimed at undocumented immigrants, to the introduction of the "Snooper's Charter," May seems to have a passion for keeping an eye on the public in the same way regulators often like to keep tabs on market participants.

With waves of regulation set to bombard the industry for years to come, May would surely have a great opportunity here, although she would be a little late for the Market Abuse Regulation. MAR II perhaps?

Jeremy Corbyn (Labour Leader)—Transparency/Regtech
Jeremy Corbyn, depending on your personal view, is either the man who will reform the face of British politics or utterly destroy the Labour Party.

A non-conformist who displays open hostility for much of modern government and media practices, Corbyn would no doubt find himself quite at home in a small team developing new transparency and due diligence systems, although the image of him in Level 39—London's fintech accelerator—doesn't quite fit.

Corbyn has often said there needs to be more accountability in positions of power, similarly to many regulators that are pushing for transparency in areas such as dark pool trading. Despite his reputation as a firebrand, maybe he could just provide a valuable service to compliance managers across the industry.

Tim Farron (Liberal Democrats Leader)—Whatever Upsets the Conservatives
The Liberal Democrats have been in decline ever since Nick Clegg rescinded on his promise to oppose further increases of student fees.

Following Clegg's departure from the party after the 2015 general election, Tim Farron has been in charge, but has yet to make any real impact on Westminster. As such, he probably wouldn't really care all that much which type of technology his start-up was involved in, just as long as it opposed anything the Conservatives were doing.

Caroline Lucas (Green Party Joint Leader)—ESG
A favorite of students and protest voters, the Green Party is in no way, shape or form ready for any real power, but instead represents the moral and ethical responsibility our government should strive toward.

As such, I think Caroline Lucas would definitely opt for an Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) start-up, tapping into the increasing demand from end investors to know exactly where their money is being deployed and holding banks accountable for any questionable decisions.

BONUS: David Cameron (Former UK Prime Minister, Unemployed)—Blockchain
The legacy of former PM David Cameron will be open to interpretation, but the decision to let the British public decide on the Brexit referendum put an end to his political career. Following Cameron's decision to step down as MP of Witney this week, he will have a lot of spare time on his hands, time that could be filled by starting his own blockchain venture.

Throughout his time in Downing Street, Cameron often made attempts to lure Britain's youth to the Conservative's way of thinking, so it stands to reason he would want to get in on the sexiest area of capital markets technology. Unfortunately, all his time as a politician means he's probably going to be too late to the party on this one.

*No disrespect is meant to Nicola Sturgeon of the Scottish National Party or Leanne Wood of Plaid Cymru (Welsh National Party), I simply don't know enough about them to include them in the list.

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