In our latest Employee Spotlight, we check in with our Account Supervisor, Marta Seitz. Marta joined BackBay nearly 5 years ago as an Account Coordinator on our Fintech team in Boston. At the end of December 2021, she had the opportunity to move across the pond, supporting our London team from our Great Chapel office in Soho. Shortly after the one-year anniversary of her move, we checked in with Marta to learn about the inspiration behind the move, the differences she’s observed within the US and UK markets, and life in London.
Why did you decide to move to London?
I started my career at BackBay in Boston, working on a mix of US and UK/European accounts within our Fintech practice. Over the last few years, we have seen increased demand among existing and prospective clients for support expanding their business into the US and Europe as target growth markets. Having worked on our Fintech accounts in both geographies, I was excited about the opportunity to support the team in our London office and help grow our Fintech practice’s geographical footprint.
On a personal level, it was a tremendous opportunity for personal and professional growth. Moving to a new country I had never previously visited was an exciting individual challenge and easily one of the most worthwhile decisions I’ve made to date. I’ve learned so much about myself in the process and feel continuously grateful to work for a company that encourages me to grow.
What are some of the key differences you have observed between the US and UK Fintech landscape?
There are so many angles to approach this question, but I think the most immediately striking observation was the contrast within banking and payments. North America has long been known as a Fintech power player, notably with New York as an established global finance hub and Silicon Valley as a breeding ground for innovation and investment for hot new startups. It’s certainly no surprise that the US outpaces the rest of the world in number of Fintech unicorns, with roughly eight times more fintechs valued at $1B+ than any other country (Statista).
Increasingly, London has been quietly moving up the ranks to earn its well-deserved position as a global Fintech hub – surpassing even San Francisco and New York in venture capital funding in 2022 according to Dealroom research.
From a regulation standpoint, the UK has more established frameworks governing financial services and consumer data protection in line with greater Europe. I definitely noticed this when I moved here and had to “opt in” to share personal data any time I visited a website under the EU’s General Data Privacy Regulation (GDPR) compliance mandates. The US, on the other hand, has a more experimental approach to innovation, creating new technologies and then building regulatory guardrails around it as needed, whereas the UK fintech landscape has more mandates under which innovators must remain compliant when bringing new concepts to market. In that regard, I think the markets complement each other well and can learn a lot from each other from their different approaches.
What did you find most surprising about the fintech landscape coming to London?
I was most amazed by the differences in digital banking adoption and everyday consumer behavior. It was shocking how vastly different my experience was banking in London vs. America. My favorite example has to be the transportation sector: a classic head-to-head with the Boston MBTA (T) and the London tube. Living in Cambridge, MA, I thought that everyone’s monthly travel cards expiring on the same day each month – and the resulting traffic jam of rush-hour commuters queueing at physical machines to top up their Charlie Cards – was an unavoidable frustration.
That changed when I moved to London, and was impressed to find that everything is contactless. Apple Pay to tap in/out of the tube, contactless payments at restaurants, direct deposits into friends’ banking accounts with Monzo. Digital banking is so ubiquitous that cash has become almost entirely obsolete. It made me notice for the first time the friction points I had become to accustomed to in the US: fussing with swiping/chip inserts at card terminals, the 1-3 business days for Venmo transfers to deposit into my bank account and, of course, the recurringly inefficient Charlie Card top-ups on the first of the month.
What have been some of your favorite projects or initiatives since coming to the UK?
My favorite part about living in London has definitely been taking part in the UK/European event landscape. Our office is in the heart of Soho, which is a hotspot for regular local London Fintech meet-ups. I’ve also really loved being a part of some bigger events such as London Fintech LIVE and SuperReturn International in Berlin.
In terms of my favorite projects, I would have to say an acquisition we announced with one of our UK Fintech clients. I’ve always enjoyed working with our long-term clients, where you have the opportunity to both support their growth from the early stages, and celebrate their success when it culminates into a big milestone such as an acquisition. You become very personally invested in helping their brand grow and their victories feel as exciting as your own.
What do you like most about living in London?
I love the proximity and interconnectedness to the rest of this corner of the world. In many ways, London feels like a gateway to the rest of Europe and offers such a great accessibility to experience different cities and cultures. And London itself feels like its own world. There is no such thing as a boring day and the opportunities feel endless. West End shows, free art galleries and museums, quirky new restaurants, hidden rooftops, etc. City life has so much to offer, combined with a surprising amount of green spaces, beautiful parks, river walks, and even hiking routes just a short train ride away.
What do you miss most about living in the US?
Aside from the Boston team (of course), my weird yet honest answer is bagels. Despite the stereotype of Brits having bad food – which I have found to be entirely untrue – there is only one gap in the market that I’ve been unable to find a comparable equivalent, and that’s a really good bagel sandwich. New Yorkers will get mad at me for saying this, but my absolute favorite bagel in America will always be the Classic Jumbo from Bagelsaurus in Somerville, MA. In London, the salt beef bagel from Brick Lane Beigel Bake in Shoreditch is the best alternative I’ve found so far.
My other American nostalgia would be driving. London and Europe as a whole are wonderfully navigable by tube, train, and plane, but as a native of the driving-dominant Minnesota, there will always be some part of me that craves being able to get in the car and go for a long drive.