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New jobs in store as blockchain payments company SETL opens new engineering centre in Ipswich

PUBLISHED: 15:58 15 February 2017 | UPDATED: 17:01 15 February 2017

From left, Sir David Walker, chairman of SETL, Peter Randall, chief executive, and Ipswich MP Ben Gummer at the opening of the company's new global engineering centre in Ipswich.
Picture: GAVIN HAMILTON

From left, Sir David Walker, chairman of SETL, Peter Randall, chief executive, and Ipswich MP Ben Gummer at the opening of the company's new global engineering centre in Ipswich. Picture: GAVIN HAMILTON

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The growing reputation of East Anglia’s technology sector has helped attract a pioneering company which aims to revolutionise the processing of financial transactions, including credit card payments.

Nick Pennington, left, CTO, and Peter Randall, CEO, at SETL's new global engineering centre in Ipswich.
Picture: GAVIN HAMILTON Nick Pennington, left, CTO, and Peter Randall, CEO, at SETL's new global engineering centre in Ipswich. Picture: GAVIN HAMILTON

A new campaign, Tech East, was launched last year to act as a single voice for the technology clusters in and around Cambridge, Ipswich and Norwich, with the goal of driving growth and attracting investment to create 5,000 new jobs across the region.

The initiative, supported by the New Anglia Local Enterprise Partnership, followed the success of Ipswich earlier in 2016 in breaking into the annual Tech City UK digital economy report, alongside Cambridge and Norwich.

And now, the availability of talent in the area has been cited by London-based SETL as one of the reasons for opting to locate its new global engineering centre in Ipswich, initially creating 10 jobs with the prospect of many more to follow.

SETL (the name is pronounced “settle”) plans to use blockchain technology, which already underpins the virtual currency Bitcoin, to shake-up operations in banking and the wider financial sector by handling transactions more quickly and securely, and at a fraction of the cost, compared with current systems.

Ipswich MP Ben Gummer, left, carrying out a demonstration transaction  at SETL.
Picture: GAVIN HAMILTON Ipswich MP Ben Gummer, left, carrying out a demonstration transaction at SETL. Picture: GAVIN HAMILTON

Ipswich MP Ben Gummer, Minister for the Cabinet Office and Paymaster General, today officially opened the new centre, located in offices in central Ipswich which, for security reasons, carry no external branding.

He also performed a demonstration transaction, using a SETL card (which works like a conventional chip-and-pin card but carries no account or security numbers on the front or back) to “purchase” a muffin, with screens showing the money passing from one account to another almost instantly.

Mr Gummer said: “I am delighted to have been invited to open SETL’s new office here in Ipswich. They are the latest of a number of businesses choosing to locate in our tech hub.

“Suffolk has a thriving ICT sector, with the University of Suffolk ensuring that there is a pipeline of new local talent. Taken together with Norfolk, we have the third highest concentration of science and research parks in the country.”

The card used by Ben Gummer to make a demonstration purchase using the SETL payments system.
Picture: GAVIN HAMILTON The card used by Ben Gummer to make a demonstration purchase using the SETL payments system. Picture: GAVIN HAMILTON

The first commercial SETL transactions were carried out successfully last week under a partnership with Millwall Football Club, before and during the club’s home match against Southend United.

And with SETL’s networks able to operate alongside and independently of the established infrastructure for transactions, the company believes uptake of its system could be rapid.

Peter Randall, chief executive of SETL, said its networks could cut the cost of transactions to a matter of pennies, rather than the substantial percentages levied on transactions at present by credit card companies.

“Since we launched in 2015, SETL has continued to expand rapidly, with new blockchain products and initiatives,” he added. “Our new engineering centre will be the powerhouse that supports our growth ambitions as we deploy blockchain projects globally.”

SETL has its headquarters in London and also has staff based in France, Japan and the United States, but with the total payroll currently standing at only 25, the Ipswich centre already represents a substantial part of the business, with potential for signficant further growth.

The new team in the town, led by chief technical officer Nick Pennington, who comes from Suffolk, includes blockchain technology architects and specialists for server systems analysis, enterprise storage, web development, integration and project management.

Also at today’s opening was SETL chairman Sir David Walker, a former chairman of Barclays, who said the current inefficiency of the financial services sector, as a result of using systems and procedures dating from the 1980s, 70s or even 60s, was such that businesses which failed to embrace the new technology would be “disrupted out of existance”.

The savings would also “greatly outstrip” the potential extra costs arising from Britain leaving the European Union, which currently appeared to be dominating the thoughts of many banking executives in London, he added.

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