Hatching the egg, populating the hive: Creating a fertile FinTech ecosystem in Brussels, Belgium

Authors: Reijer Hendrikse*, Vrije Universiteit Brussels, David Bassens, Vrije Universiteit Brussels, Michiel van Meeteren, Vrije Universiteit Brussels
Topics: Economic Geography, Business Geography
Keywords: finance, financial technology, FinTech, ecosystem, Brussels
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/13/2018
Start / End Time: 8:00 AM / 9:40 AM
Room: Grand Ballroom A, Sheraton, 5th Floor
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


The post-crisis conjuncture might be defined as one of accelerating fusion between ICT and finance, as exemplified by the stellar rise of financial technology (FinTech). Spearheaded by technologies such as Blockchain, FinTech promises to radically overhaul financial intermediation. Manoeuvring this conjuncture, financial incumbents have begun to utilize FinTech as a tactical resource to counter competition from tech giants and start-ups alike. In practice, incumbents are rewiring their legacy ICT infrastructures into integrated data-driven platforms, and build entrepreneurial ecosystems around these to seduce FinTech start-ups to collaborate with them. In this paper, we investigate how incumbents individually and collectively organize such ecosystems in Brussels, Belgium, and how, in the process, they marshal public and private resources. Brussels' position as an international financial centre has faded, yet political and economic elites seek to regain its bygone clout by jumping on the FinTech ‘revolution’. Evolutionary economic geography suggests that regions endowed with Fin and Tech firms, like Brussels, have good prospects to capture new innovative activities. The leverage for Brussels is provided by the cities' status as European capital, proximity to knowledge and capital available in London, and the historically-grown presence of incumbent financial infrastructure firms such as Swift and Euroclear – global players that are particularly feeling the heat from FinTech disruption. We set out a detailed mapping and analysis of the power and knowledge relations between incumbents, startups and other actors in this emerging ecosystem.

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