By Huw Jones
LONDON (Reuters) - Eager to ensure that financial technology firms don't desert London after Brexit, the UK government's latest incentives to lure start-ups will include free networking dinners and trips to potential partners in the United States.
London is the dominant center for "fintech" investment in Europe but Paris, Berlin and other EU cities are openly courting London-based fintech firms ahead of Britain's departure from the European Union next March.
Keen to reassure firms worried about a potential loss of EU market access post Brexit, the British government announced on Wednesday that it would launch "Tech Nation" in September, a program open to founders of "early-stage" fintech firms looking to work with or sell to other businesses.
Candidates must demonstrate market success for their product and be based in Britain. Once admitted to the program, they will spend time with established fintech entrepreneurs to learn how to grow their business, deal with regulation and expand internationally, the finance ministry said.
The program may not be enough to satisfy the City of London, which in October called for a single policy vision for the fintech sector to coordinate standards, support hiring of staff from outside Britain, and improve access to overseas markets.
Fintech develops and offers personalized financial services like payments, loans and insurance via smartphones or the internet, providing consumers with alternatives to high street banks.
"Tech Nation" will include a 24-hour induction for firms on the program, a series of in-depth learning sessions, and five networking dinners.
"The program will culminate in a showcase trip to the U.S. to give the cohort a feel for the American market, its ecosystem dynamics and investors," the finance ministry said.
To get on the program firms will be screened by a panel of fintech sector executives, such as Anne Boden, chief executive of Starling Bank, and Anil Stocker, chief executive of MarketInvoice.
"The program will help to give some of these start-ups a boost to the next stage, and with it bring innovative new products to the market," Britain's financial services minister John Glen said in a statement.
(Reporting by Huw Jones; Editing by Susan Fenton)