Key to tech investment lies in hands of pension holders, says Sunak

Chancellor says its up to those who pay in to pensions to tell institutions they want to invest in fast-growth tech start-ups

EXCLUSIVE: The key to small business investment lies in the hands of those who pay into pensions, chancellor Rishi Sunak said this afternoon.

Mr Sunak said that it was up to everyone who pays into a pension to tell pension funds that they want some of their money invested in technology start-ups.

“Making sure these companies have access to capital is critical,” said Mr Sunak.

The chancellor, who hosted the first Treasury Connect event in East London this afternoon, was in listening mode, taking in the observations of Pension Bee founder Romina Suvova, who said it was difficult for institutional invest to put money into unquoted companies.

One takeaway from the event, which brought together tech founders with Treasury mandarins, was the three-way disconnect between tech start-ups, which need investment – especially at the later stage – institutional pension funds and the public, who would support a small percentage of their pension to support fast-growth businesses.

The UK’s pension funds control £4tr of cash paid in by up to 30m people through workplace pensions, making the UK the second-largest pension market in the world.

Yet, unlike the USA, Australia and Canada where 4-5 per cent of pension cash is invested in technology businesses, in the UK just 1 per cent goes to SMEs.

Mr Sunak also touched on the recent Coadec survey of venture capitalists, half of whom said they would slash investment if the Government intervened more heavily on takeovers through the soon-to-be-established Digital Markets Unit.

“People don’t need to be anxious about the DMU when it launches … it’s about getting the balance right. Nobody should think we’re against acquisitions,” said Mr Sunak.

Mr Sunak thanked the UK fintech community for acting so quickly when it came to getting Government Covid-19 emergency cash out the door at the height of the pandemic.

Mr Sunak said: “The first few months of the crisis were a desperate time for small businesses. Small businesses needed support and we need to do it at serious scale and serious speed. We took the decision that they were worth saving.”

Further reading

BGF primes £15bn National Recovery Fund to take stakes in businesses