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Fintech Hubs: How Amsterdam Has Grown Into A World Leader

To say the fintech industry in Amsterdam is booming would be an understatement. There are around 350 companies operating in the fintech landscape within the city, and the sector attracted €194m capital investment back in 2016 (that’s 76% of the total for the whole of the Netherlands).

But what makes Amsterdam the perfect breeding ground for fintech startups to flourish? Well, it turns out that Amsterdam (the so-called ‘dark horse’ of fintech hubs) is the ideal city for startup growth.

Some of the aspects that make it the quintessential fintech hub include:

  • Nurturing an ecosystem in which innovation thrives
  • Attracting a diverse talent pool of skilled employees
  • Support fintech growth through world-class infrastructure

Nurturing an ecosystem in which innovation thrives

Amsterdam is renowned for its innovation, a key growth factor that enables fintech startups to thrive. Many of the technologies we take for granted today came about because of Dutch influence, in some shape or form.

Cees Links was responsible for developing the world’s first wireless local area network (LAN) product in 1990, creating a foundation for the modern-day Wi-Fi. He was recently given a Golden Mousetrap Lifetime Achievement Award for his contributions in this field.

Another Dutch national, Dr. Jaap Haartsen, invented Bluetooth, and Python (a widely used programming language) was created by Guido van Rossum, a University of Amsterdam alumni.

The reason Amsterdam has such a rich history when it comes to innovation is in part due to the positive initiatives that are focussed towards fintech startups.

Amsterdam2London FinTech bootcamp is a collaborative workshop whereby Amsterdam fintech startups are invited to London, introducing them to the UK fintech scene. They will be offered business development and legal advice, as well as networking and recruitment opportunities.

There is also Startup Amsterdam, an action program designed to boost the startup ecosystem in Amsterdam. It focusses on five core areas: talent, customers, content, capital and a startup-minded environment. By highlighting the strengths and assets of Amsterdam it helps growing businesses to realise their potential.

Holland FinTech on the other hand is a global fintech marketplace that makes use of the advantages that comes with the strong strategic position of the Netherlands in Europe, to bring people and organisations together. They believe in creating a level playing field to drive innovation in the financial technology sector.

Holland FinTech has also been collaborating with the Swiss Finance + Technology Association for another initiative they call a “Swiss-Dutch FinTech trade mission”. The aim of this roadshow is to bring together leading Dutch FinTech companies with corporates investors in Switzerland to explore business development opportunities.

The regulators in Holland are also very supportive of innovation. AFM and DNB (Dutch regulators) have set up the InnovationHub, which aims to encourage innovation within the financial sector.

These programs and initiatives truly encourage a supportive fintech ecosystem. This support and encouragement allow them to grow and continue to innovate which is why Amsterdam has become a world-renowned fintech hub.

Attracts a diverse talent pool of skilled employees

It is impossible for fintech companies to grow and break through technological borders without its employees. This might be stating the obvious, but without the people that make up these innovative startups, there’s no fintech industry. Period.

Luckily for Amsterdam, the city’s got many things going for it that allow it to attract bright and brilliant thought-leaders.

Although the native language of the Netherlands is Dutch, most of the people in Amsterdam are fluent in English. That means you won’t have to know any Dutch to get by, and indeed prosper, in the city.

Other common languages spoken in the Dutch capital is German and French. This is a great advantage. The most basic aspect of any business (and life in general for that matter) is the ability to communicate. The ability to communicate and the ability to understand the people around you will make Amsterdam that much more attractive for skilled employees from around the world.

When you can communicate with the people around you, you are more likely to enjoy the environment you are in. And there’s a lot to enjoy in Amsterdam.

According to an annual report produced by Mercer, Amsterdam is one of the top 20 cities in the world when it comes to quality of life. The report looks at aspects like the social and political environment, healthcare, education and recreation, to name a few.

Additionally, the city’s got a low cost of living (compared to other European cities) and an enviable work/life balance which appeals to many people globally.

Apart from being one of the best cities to live in, Amsterdam is also featured as number 36 when it comes to the best student cities on earth (according to QS Best Student Cities). Not surprising, as the University of Amsterdam ranks 63rd out of 980 universities globally.

These are a few factors that attract some of the world’s greatest minds to Amsterdam and make the city ripe for fintech innovation.

Supporting fintech growth through world-class infrastructure

Another thing Amsterdam can boast about is world-class infrastructure which allows the fintech industry to boom, making it a proper fintech hub.

Schiphol Airport, for example, is a major international airport from where you can fly directly to and from 274 different destinations. And the train into Amsterdam city centre only takes 15 mins. This means Amsterdam is not only well connected but easy to get to as well.

Amsterdam is also home to AMS-IX (Amsterdam Internet Exchange). This not-for-profit organisation was established in the 1990’s and is a neutral, independent, Internet Exchange. It facilitates the interconnection of approx. 800 networks, offering professional IP exchange services (known as “Peering”). Peering allows these interconnected networks to provide stable, fast and cost-effective Internet services to end-users, i.e. fintech companies and other organisations. Another great example of forward-thinking and innovation that makes Amsterdam a top fintech hub.

This powerful internet infrastructure means Amsterdam has one of the fastest broadband speeds globally, ranking 9th in the world. Apart from all the other things going for the city, that is pretty impressive in itself. As everything revolves around the internet these days, this will definitely have a positive effect on productivity which will only support the growth in fintech innovation.

Amsterdam startup success stories

One of the most successful fintech startups in Amsterdam is Adyen, a payments processing solution that counts Facebook, Netflix, Airbnb and Uber among its clients. The company was relatively unknown only a few years ago but has experienced incredible growth since then, with transaction volumes increasing by 80% from 2015 to 2016, reaching $90 billion. In payments also Mollie (European Stripe alternative) is rocking the Amsterdam stage.

Flow Traders is a leading, technology-enabled, liquidity provider, specialising in Exchange Traded Products (ETPs).  The company raised an impressive $660 million in an initial public offering. 

If that’s not enough, Amsterdam fintech startups are also revolutionizing the banking sphere. Bunq is a non-traditional, digital-only bank, with a strong foundation built on independence while Knab looks to completely turn the financial industry upside down (quite literally – Knab is “Bank” spelled backwards). Supporting the banking revolution is Ohpen, a powerful cloud-based, core banking engine, servicing five of the largest financial services companies in Holland, administering billions of assets under management in the process.

Conclusion

It is evident that Amsterdam has emerged as an international fintech hub by making sure that its startups can rely on excellent infrastructure, attract talented people from around the world and support innovation through a nurturing ecosystem.

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