Rishi Sunak, Britain’s last prime minister, was often seen as a tech-friendly Conservative – and not just because of his penchant for smart circles and studying at Stanford in the heart of Silicon Valley.

During his campaign for the leadership of the Conservative Party and his tenure as Chancellor of the Exchequer under Boris Johnson, Sunak made clear his desire to raise the UK’s technological status, particularly when it comes to fintech.

It earned Sunak a a warm welcome from the UK tech community. But what specific actions did Sunak take to support British technology during his political career?

Fintech focus

After a career in finance at firms such as Goldman Sachs, Sunak has spared no time in outlining a vision for UK fintech since he was appointed chancellor.

In 2020, Sunak approached Ron Khalifa about a review of the UK fintech sector. The Kalifa Reviewpublished in February 2021, marked an important moment for UK fintech.

Sunak responded positively to the review, setting out proposals for the development of UK fintech in his speech at Fintech Week in April 2021.

“The UK is already known for being at the forefront of innovation, but we need to go further,” Sunak said. “If we can capture the extraordinary potential of technology, we will cement the UK’s position as the world’s pre-eminent financial centre.”

During Sunak’s chancellorship, UK fintech experienced a period of rapid growth, reaching a historical level of investment in 2021. However, an a slowdown in investment in 2022 for most of the sector suggests that the sector will need support to maintain its momentum.

Tech IPOs

The Kalifa Review recommended encouraging promising fintech companies based in the country to IPO in London, rather than following in the footsteps of many promising UK startups by going public in the US or being snapped up by foreign rivals.

Sunak agreed to launch a consultation on how the UK could encourage firms to list in London, receive proposals from the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA).

While 2021 was a a record year for tech IPOs in the UKEY data released earlier this year – while Sunak was chancellor – showed that 2022 should be a disappointing year for lists on the London Stock Exchange against the background of worsening macroeconomic situation.

Scaleup visas

Sunak was a staunch supporter of Brexit and said migration needed to be “controlled”. However, since the UK left the EU, tech entrepreneurs have struggled to fill vacancies as the pool of available talent has shrunk.

The Khalifa review recommended a number of policies which the then chancellor promised to implement. These included a visa expansion scheme to encourage foreign talent to come to the UK. Although the decision was largely welcomed, the government won backlash from the boss of Innovate Finance for delaying the process.

“Throughout the two days of IFGS, we heard repeatedly from fintech companies that the competition for the best talent is fierce. Without easier routes, UK tech companies won’t be able to hire the best and brightest people from around the world,” Innovate Finance CEO Janine Hirt said back in April.

In August 2022, the government launched extended visa a move welcomed by the UK tech industry.

Crypto champion

At the end of his time in charge of the Treasury, Sunak set out a plan to turn Britain into a “a global hub for cryptoassets,” promising new legislation to strengthen the country’s position in the cryptocurrency world.

“I am committed to making the UK a global hub for crypto-asset technology and the measures we have outlined today will help ensure that firms can invest, innovate and expand in this country,” Sunak said in April.

Among the measures mentioned in his speech was the introduction of stablecoins – crypto tokens with values ​​tied to other sources, typically fiat currencies – into the British payment system.

The speech at the time appeared to be a bold, if somewhat vague, endorsement of incorporating decentralized blockchain technology into traditional financial systems.

However, the global crypto-asset market has fallen sharply since then, with some experts calling the current period a “crypto winter.”

The department has been relatively unbiased in updating its previously announced plan, except for a few statements that support it still interested in supporting British cryptography despite the accident.

Business incentives for technology companies

Another major policy of Sunak’s chancellorship was the research and development (R&D) tax credit plan. During his time at the Treasury, Sunak said he wanted the UK’s research and development spending to increase compared to other developed countries to ensure innovative technologies were developed at home.

Despite Sunac’s stated desire to increase R&D spending through tax incentives, by the end of his tenure as chancellor, the country’s R&D spending was less than half of the OECD average, leading to question Sunak’s ambitions.

Despite criticism from some, the House of Lords science and technology committee in August, ahead of Liz Truss’s first post-Johnson leadership contest, expressed support for Sunak’s R&D ambitionsbut warned that the next government would have to deliver on those promises.

Looking at Sunak’s voting record as an MP, he is generally in favor of using public policy to support technology growth. In voting on whether to include digital services firms in business tax incentive plans, Sunak has consistently advocated that those companies be eligible for the programs.

Will Sunak become the technology leader the industry wants?

There are clear signs from Sunak’s record that give the UK tech community reason for cautious optimism. Throughout his career, he has consistently spoken about the importance of supporting fintech and scientific innovation.

However, there is also a pattern when the results do not fully meet expectations. Regarding technical visas and research and development, there are concerns that the policy does not go far enough or has encountered delays. As for cryptography, there is uncertainty about the future of the policies he introduced (ie Royal Mint NFT nowhere to be seen).

However, this must be seen in the context of an unprecedented period of instability in the UK government and challenging global economic conditions. The UK tech industry craves stability first and will be watching closely to see if Sunac’s technical credentials live up to expectations.

Rishi Sunak: What is the new prime minister’s tech track record?