Written by By Camille Niundser, CNN
José Antonio White called London “a city of rooms,” for as long as he has worked in the city.
With a quick description, it’s clear the Italian developer of Airbnb stands by his description, which captures London’s historic mix of architectural styles and a highly recognizable feel.
But perhaps the originalist sentiment was a bit too literal, a reflection of the architecture that makes London so distinctive to international travelers.
The city’s penchant for turning creative whimsy into commerce is well documented. Investors Mark Littlefield and Chris Dixon are among the famed figures from the film industry who have made London home. Deloitte , the global consultancy firm, opened a base here in 1979.
But as London’s cultural kinks are pricked, so are its commercial kinks. What’s now being called the “Silicon Roundabout” district of East London is at the nexus of a new economic model for global banks and multinationals moving to the UK. Fintech is the term of the moment, and this class of company is seemingly creating enough new jobs to keep the East London economy churning for many years to come.
“It’s the new cluster of the next big thing,” White said. “We will have years of growth.”
London has traditionally been a place that welcomes trends. As the country was struggling financially in the mid-20th century, London’s trade with the US — in gold, silver and diamonds — provided an economic anchor.
In light of London’s new emergence as a Fintech capital, sharing room — or space — with businesses that create new products and ways of doing business has never been more desirable.
London’s long line of gold from the 1850s to the 1970s helped keep the city’s economy humming until the late 1980s, but this is the first time that the economic downturn that followed the financial crash of 2008 has allowed Fintech firms to transform City’s working atmosphere.
There’s something to be said for the simple idea that London is a “city of rooms.”
One of the latest multinational institutions to establish itself in the area is CIBC, Canada’s fourth largest bank. The bank opened its first branch at 8 Commercial Street in East London in early 2015 to a friendly reception from the local community, said David Scowen, CIBC UK CEO.
Originally, the bank launched its Shoparound mobile technology service here. Shoparound allows customers to search and reserve an item at a variety of London retailers and pay for them on their smartphones using Apple Pay or chip-enabled debit or credit cards.
“There are (a lot of) cashed-up millennials in Britain, very much looking for a way to save money,” said Scowen. “For them this is a way to save money.”
CIBC makes much of its presence within East London as “a North London bank of global stature.”
“South of the Thames is bustling, but is not quite a new-tech destination,” Scowen said. “It’s a commuter area.” The North of London, on the other hand, is better suited to the sort of diversity of businesses that can thrive within the sector.
“London in general has been a hub for things,” Scowen said. “London is a world class center of finance and banking and law. But for some of that – and the type of growth we’re seeing – there was a need for a different type of bank.”
Not long after the bank opened its first shoparound service in East London, it invited companies like analytics firm Inovis and deal management service Victoria PLC to use the branch.