Monthly Archives: October 2022

GK Monthly Insights

The GK Insights team goes through some of the previous month’s biggest policy developments, focusing on actions taken by regulators to help consumers through the current economic climate. For more information, please get in touch via 

Sunak’s fintech vision 

Rishi Sunak’s premiership could well see greater emphasis placed on the findings of the Kalifa Review, which had made the definitive assessment of the UK’s fintech sector. As Chancellor, Sunak enthusiastically approved of many of the review’s recommendations and signalled his commitment to their implementation. Last year, while speaking at Fintech Week, Sunak threw his support behind new initiatives derived from the review to boost fintech.  

One of these initiatives was the establishment of a Centre for Finance, Innovation and Technology (CFIT). At Spending Review 2021, HM Treasury confirmed it had allocated £5 million to fund the creation of the CFIT. The body is intended to facilitate collaboration between the tech and finance sectors, as well as the key players expected to drive legislation and regulation affecting the sector; the Treasury and the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA). 

The CFIT Steering Committee (SteerCo) chaired by Ron Kalifa himself, has met regularly throughout 2022 to assess and address perceived opportunities and barriers to growth within the UK. Crucially, the body’s recommendation on a future strategy will be largely led by industry stakeholders rather than the FCA or HM Treasury.  

Although the final strategy is far from certain, it is notable that both Sunak’s Treasury and the FCA were instinctively minded towards light-touch regulation. There is agreement on all sides that policy-makers and regulators should explore how technology and the need for regulation (as well as regulatory reporting) can be balanced effectively. It is likely that the FCA will prioritise the creation of a stable, rather than reactionary, regulatory environment where competition will not be stifled. 

Political and regulatory challenges 

Unsurprisingly, Sunak’s personal views are unabashedly in favour of technological advancement: 

“Our vision is for a more open, greener, and more technologically advanced financial services sector. The UK is already known for being at the forefront of innovation, but we need to go further. The steps I’ve outlined today, to boost growing fintechs, push the boundaries of digital finance and make our financial markets more efficient, will propel us forward. And if we can capture the extraordinary potential of technology, we’ll cement the UK’s position as the world’s pre-eminent financial centre.” 

Nevertheless, political and regulatory realities are likely to slow the pace of Sunak’s technological revolution. Fintech companies have long warned that the UK is unlikely to become a technological superpower if the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) takes a strict approach to merger control assessments. Instead, they have called for a more flexible approach to enable consolidation within the fintech market (particularly if the ambitions for UK-based companies to become European or even global players are to be realised).  

There have been calls from parliamentarians to pass the Digital Markets, Competition and Consumer Bill, which would facilitate a new digital competition regime and a Digital Markets Unit. Although these calls are motivated by a desire to ensure that the market power of Facebook and Google does not become entrenched. While this may prevent barriers to entry for some start-ups, a potential side-effect is that the mergers between homegrown fintech companies may be made painstakingly difficult. In recent years, we have seen the CMA’s stance on mergers and acquisitions harden as public sentiment and political scrutiny has turned to the tech sector. The CMA and other competition authorities in Europe are increasingly sensitive to consolidation efforts in the sector due to the perception that they have allowed too many controversial deals to be completed in the recent past, meaning that the CMA may choose to take more time in assessing whether certain deals are appropriate.

Addressing the skills gap 

As Chancellor, Sunak was keen to emphasise the link between technological innovation and skills, by launching a Digital Strategy to create new jobs. The issue of skilled migration could cause Sunak some concern. Although Sunak is a staunch proponent of immigration controls, tech bosses have warned of a deficit in skilled workers since the UK’s withdrawal from the European Union, with many concerned that the skills gap has cost the UK economy tens of billions. 

The Kalifa Review advocated for a number of policies that the then-Chancellor pledged to implement. In relation to immigration, this largely involved the scale-up of a visa scheme to encourage skilled overseas workers to join the UK’s tech sector. While the decision was largely welcomed, the government received some backlash from the sector for delaying the process until August 2022. Businesses meeting certain requirements can apply to sponsor individuals working in roles such as software development, engineering and science R&D. Successful applicants will be granted a two-year stay without further sponsorship. By contrast, temporary worker visas have a six-month maximum stay. After five years, applicants can apply for settlement. 

However, Sunak has the unenviable task of balancing this policy with satisfying the demands of right-wing Conservative MPs and some of his own Cabinet ministers. The Prime Minister will be aware that the Home Secretary, Suella Braverman, played a significant role in destabilising an already fragile governing coalition after her visceral objections to Liz Truss’ plan to loosen immigration rules to attract high-skill workers from abroad. 

Sunak’s room for manoeuvre is further limited by the levelling-up commitments that the Boris Johnson administration has made. A key pledge in the Levelling Up White Paper is to increase public investment in R&D ‘outside the Greater South East, by at least 40%, by 2030. Additionally, investment will be increased by at least one third over the Spending Review period. For instance, Chesire’s Hartree National Centre for Digital Innovation will be an area of focus, supporting the development of digital technologies, such as AI and quantum computing. Red Wall voters will be expecting investment in their constituencies and increased job opportunities for local workers.  

However, not only is public spending set to tighten – casting doubt on whether Levelling Up pledges can be fulfilled – the current workforce may not have the requisite skills in the short-term to fill the tech vacancies (without drafting in overseas workers to fill gaps). This three-part problem could force Sunak to compromise on long held ideals regarding public spending or immigration. Ultimately, it means that Sunak’s vision of technological advancement is under serious threat right from the outset of his premiership.

Statement on PRCA Membership


Following reports of serious concerns around the PRCA’s internal processes, GK Strategy has taken the decision to pause our membership of the Association.

We joined the PRCA in recognition of our commitment to the highest ethical standards. Integrity is one of our core values as an agency and until we have seen the results of the review that is being undertaken, and are confident that necessary action is being taken, we can no longer support the PRCA’s processes and leadership. Our directors are former members of the PRCA Public Affairs Board and take our responsibility for the highest standards seriously.

We care about our industry and remain committed to our reporting via the ORCL register.


Louise Allen
CEO, GK Strategy

Scott Dodsworth
Managing Director, GK Strategy; former board member of the PRCA Public Affairs Board

Emma Petela
Director, GK Strategy; former Co-Chair of the PRCA Public Affairs Board

GK Insight: What does the Liz Truss premiership mean for the UK’s net zero agenda?

GK consultants Sam Tankard and Milo Boyd assess the potential ramifications of a Liz Truss government for the UK’s net zero commitments, and what conclusions can be drawn from the ministers appointed at the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy. Take a look at the analysis here: What does the Liz Truss premiership mean for the UK’s net zero agenda?

Demystifying ‘net zero’: How to invest in the future

‘Net zero’ has become very topical and an increasingly mainstream issue. As one of the Government’s flagship policies, the Net Zero Strategy and related initiatives, such as the Heat and Buildings Strategy, may encourage many businesses and investors to look more closely at Government activity in decarbonisation and energy efficiency.

Last month, GK Strategy hosted a roundtable discussion with keynote speaker, Dr Alan Whitehead MP, Shadow Minister for Energy and the Green New Deal. As ESG specialists, GK pride ourselves on working with investors and organisations that value and demonstrate the importance of sustainability policies.

We strongly believe that the investment community has a vital role to play in the net zero agenda.

GK co-founder and executive chairman, Robin Grainger, asked Dr Whitehead and other participants some important questions about what ‘net zero’ looks like practically, how the investment community can help the Government achieve its targets, and what is the new Government’s take on the net zero agenda.

Beginning the discussion, it was clear that net zero policies are here to stay. The shadow minister expressed his desire for a greater adoption of net zero as a ‘state of being’ rather than simply being an aspiration. He said that it should become a constant in the economy, and ultimately the basis upon which the entirety of the economy operates.

Dr Whitehead outlined where he thought the UK was doing well and where it was lagging behind. He said that one area which required much more attention was that of land use, and land use change, to ensure that food systems were resilient to shocks.

He went on to say that the UK was generally performing quite well on low carbon energy, partly due to some very ambitious plans from the Government. He also noted that the UK was beginning to develop a more effective carbon capture and storage economy, which would be particularly important for high-emitting industries in the future and could eventually be used to support hydrogen production.

The Government came in for criticism on its attitude towards infrastructure, arguing that it was not realistic enough, and did not account for the need to have necessary infrastructure in place well before the net zero goal of 2050.

The Labour frontbencher stated he believed that the UK is also ‘woefully deficient’ with regard to its grid system as a result of the historic focus on fossil fuel-orientated energy, which has meant that the increasingly necessary transmission of clean, renewable power from the British coastlines to inland regions is made more difficult.

We also heard Dr Whitehead explain Labour’s proposals for net zero, which were firmed up at the recent Labour Party Conference in Liverpool last month. Labour would support the current landscape by:

  • creating a £180 billion green investment fund that would drive development of infrastructure, lead the electric vehicle (EV) revolution, and help Britain lead the world in hydrogen;
  • giving more of a focus to the demand side of energy, seeking to use energy in a smarter way through a big retrofit programme;
  • joining up more of the thinking currently emerging from Government, simultaneously aiming to ensure that projects could be run at the local level.

Comparing this to the new Conservative Government under Prime Minister Liz Truss, there seems to be a greater Labour commitment to the net zero agenda. These measures targeting investment, especially in the demand side of energy, and associated job creation, seem like a good start.

With the Truss Government’s approval rating, and that of the whole Conservative Party, declining sharply in recent weeks, it would be useful for investors and businesses to begin, or continue, their dialogues with influential Labour policymakers.

The discussion last month cemented the fact that net zero policymaking is here to stay, even under a pro-fracking Truss Government, and certainly under a Labour administration. Private equity firms and other investors should take government policies seriously and consider investing in the ‘green transition’. Dr Whitehead advised against investing in the ‘brown economy’ and into areas that are likely become stranded assets.

He concluded that it will hardly be a ‘feast or famine’ situation for the investment community as the UK continues to transition to a fully green economy. In his view, there would undoubtedly be many opportunities that will arise with the advent of a green economy, with new markets opening up and new technologies to support.

GK provide expert advice for investors and business leaders looking to take advantage of the green economy; to learn more about it and the transition to net zero, please contact

About GK Strategy

GK Strategy is a political consultancy based in the heart of Westminster. We support private equity in their due diligence process by advising on deals and producing political due diligence reports, identifying any risks to an asset in the deal process.

GK Strategy also provide strategic communications support to companies once the deal process is complete.