Wadhawan Global Capital (WGC) is an Indian conglomerate which manages financial services companies in fields as diverse as lending, asset management and peer-to-peer lending for customers in India and the UK.
We spoke to Kapil Wadhawan, Chairman of WGC, about why the UK was an obvious choice for his company’s global expansion.
What does your company do?
“Wadhawan Global Capital (WGC) invests and grows financial services businesses in areas ranging from lending and wealth management to financial wellbeing platforms. We tend to invest in disruptive fintech platforms with the vision of contributing to a more equitable society. Towards this vision WGC has also partnered with some of the most respected and admired global developmental and financial brands such as Prudential Financial, International Finance Corporation (IFC), Korea Development Bank and GIC. In 2008, the UK was our first move to establish a presence outside of India. Today, we have over $22 billion in assets with more than 22 million customers across both India and UK”.
Why did WGC initially move to London?
“From the outset, London was the obvious choice as a base for our global expansion. The World Bank ranks it seventh among 190 economies in terms of ease of doing business. As the world’s leading financial centre, the City also boasts deep and robust capital markets and a fair and highly respected regulatory framework. The fact that London is the headquarters of leading financial brands like HSBC, Barclays and Standard Chartered really says something. Overall, it provides a definite advantage over other global financial centres and there are numerous other reasons that we are now even more committed to the City, including its innovative nature.”
What makes London such an innovative city in your view?
“Crucially, the business environment nurtures entrepreneurs. The regulatory environment is welcoming and the general attitude towards risk is conducive to growth. We have a more comfortable relationship with the regulator here and the low-cost and streamlined legal ecosystem that is in place is unique in that it promotes innovation. London also gives us access to an excellent talent pool full of wisdom and youthful energy – particularly important for growth in the fintech sector.
Access to capital is another important reason that London spurs innovation. We recently listed a masala bond for our DHFL brand (a market leader in financing affordable housing) on the London Stock Exchange, for example. There is also big opportunity for partnerships and we are currently in talks with UK education institutions to further our vision of empowering citizens through education.”
“The business environment [in London] nurtures entrepreneurs. The regulatory environment is welcoming and the general attitude towards risk is conducive to growth.”
You mentioned the fintech sector. Tell us more about that...
“London is a centre for financial innovation and the fact that the world’s third largest fintech company, Finastra, chose to be headquartered here is evidence in itself. In my view, sustainable business growth happens through adapting and innovating. For the reasons mentioned earlier, having our own presence in the City is exciting.
We were looking to make strategic investments in start-ups, to partner with entrepreneurs, and to find opportunistic acquisitions. We have already invested over £80 million in disruptive fintech businesses and challenger banks in the past few years, including four notable investments in the fintech companies Zopa, Neyber, Commuter Club, and London Business Bank. We also brought our Indian DHFL brand to London, which has opened up many other opportunities such as the aforementioned capital raise – crucial to growing this key part of our business.”
To date, Indian companies have created around 110,000 jobs in the UK
Have bilateral relations between the UK and India helped your business?
“Yes. The UK’s strong and stable business environment, in addition to its competitive, entrepreneurial spirit, means there always has been a robust bilateral trade relationship between the two nations. Today, India is one of the highest sources of foreign direct investment to the UK and Indian companies have created around 110,000 jobs in the country so far. As thriving democracies and committed members of the Commonwealth, with strong trade links that go way back, both nations are demonstrating a reinforcement of this strategic partnership at all levels. Even at the top, country leaders have been very clear about establishing more links between the two countries. To quote Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s words, UK and India are an 'unbeatable combination'.
We think connections between the two countries will progress even further in growing sectors such as fintech. There is certainly a lot of exchange happening.”
How is London aiding your global growth plans?
“WGC’s vision was always to be a global financial institution and our presence in the UK has accelerated our international reach and capabilities. Our London office is the showcase for our global presence and is paramount to our global strategy. It is exciting to see the momentum we’ve been able to build here, and the City will most definitely serve as a base for our international growth. On top of everything mentioned above, London is at the midway point geographically and gives us great access to other markets as we expand. Additionally, being here is giving us an early advantage relative to other Indian businesses, which is proving invaluable.”
“The City is a unique place for access to both wisdom and youthful energy. This is particularly important for our growth in the fintech sector.”