Tapping into FinTech innovation happening outside of the capital will result in better competition for customers, says the head of innovation at the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA).

The regulatory body wants to work with new FinTech businesses innovating across the country through its work around coaching and accelerator-type programmes.

“Our style is about approachability, getting out there, talking to people and listening,” Bob Ferguson told BusinessCloud.

“FinTech has a huge concentration in London which is great but what about Manchester, Leeds, Glasgow and Edinburgh?

“We don’t want to neglect regions that have a significant developing FinTech scene.”

London’s ‘gravitational force’, alongside the fact that the bulk of requests to connect come from the city, means the FCA has spent lot of time working with businesses there, says Ferguson.

However they have always been open to working across the country.

“We don’t want to be a facility for just London businesses,” he says.

“We want to see more traffic from other cities – wherever the action is.

“We’ve got all the obvious non-London targets in our sights now. We just need people to spread the word and say ‘you can talk to these people’.

“We want to understand the ecosystem in Manchester better than we do at the moment.”

Part of this push is spreading the idea that the FCA is actually there to help – which is not the word on the street, according to Ferguson.

“We exist to protect financial consumers and to try and keep markets clean but we also exist to promote competition,” he said.

“We’re trying to become an approachable body and particularly in the context of FinTech and FinTech innovation we’re trying to be enablers of that instead of just being perceived as some kind of nuisance or block.”

The key for Ferguson and his team is for fledgling companies to come to them with their ideas to avoid being overwhelmed by the regulation surrounding the sector.

“People think ‘oh God, there’s all this regulation’,” he said.

“One of the main things we’re trying to do is say ‘it’s ok you can talk to us, we’ll explain it to you because we understand the sector’.

“When people are shaping their propositions if they’re in dialogue with us we will know how to make things much simpler.”

The key driver for the authority is to help new businesses get to market with less hassle, which helps promote the overall goal to increase competition, making things fairer for customers.

“We’re not here to give new businesses an easy ride or engage them in misleading advertising in any way,” said Ferguson.

“We don’t want to take away protections that customers would enjoy if they were dealing with traditional financial institutions.

“We’re coaching people on a one-to-one basis because a lot of people come to us not necessarily with a financial background, some come with a tech background who’ve spotted a potential application in the sector.”