Oscar Jazdowski: Why Silicon Valley Bank came to London

It’s a world-class, entrepreneur-rich hunting ground. And the pubs aren’t bad either

As far as Silicon Valley Bank (SVB) is concerned, the decision to base our European operation in London was not a difficult one. SVB provides financial services to the technology and venture capital industries: London offers not only an impressive and unrivalled financial pedigree, but also nurtures a vast and colourful array of exciting, disruptive technology businesses.

London’s long and distinguished history as one of the world’s most significant international financial hubs is well known and speaks for itself. It has, after all, been a centre of trade for nearly 2,000 years. To cite but a few statistics, the City alone is home to over 241 foreign banks, and sees a mind-boggling $1.9 trillion of foreign exchange turnover each day (this represents 37 per cent of the global share).

It is also a city at the heart of Europe (figuratively speaking, at least). With Eurostar and the marvel of modern engineering that is the Channel Tunnel, a mere two hours stand between London and the City of Light. A short flight from London City Airport takes you to Berlin, Luxembourg, Frankfurt, and a whole host of other buzzing European cities. 

As for further afield, New York is an easy seven-hour flight, and… well, you get the idea.

It seems that you can’t move in Shoreditch for bright, ambitious tech CEOs harbouring dreams of becoming Europe’s answer to Bill Gates/Mark Zuckerberg/Steve Jobs

London is, of course, a world-class entrepreneurial hotspot. Blogs and tweets seem to be dominated by comment on the progress of the Tech City initiative, and there is no doubt that encouraging innovation and entrepreneurship is high on the government’s agenda. The area surrounding Silicon Roundabout has, despite the rather naff title and uninspiring scenery, brought us some of the UK’s most exciting and disruptive companies – the biggest name, of course, being Last.fm, which was bought by CBS Interactive for £140m in 2007.

All in all, it is a great time to be an entrepreneur in London, and it seems that you can’t move in Shoreditch for bright, ambitious tech CEOs harbouring dreams of becoming Europe’s answer to Bill Gates/Mark Zuckerberg/Steve Jobs.

One of the city’s most endearing quirks (arguably, it has quite a lot) is the way in which history and tradition sit comfortably alongside the new, the ground-breaking and the exciting. SVB’s London office, for example, is in the original headquarters of National Westminster Bank, the ground floor of which boasts a beautifully preserved banking hall complete with marble columns and a prestigious history. Our floor is nothing if not cool, complete with floor-to-ceiling windows, roof terrace and a large tank full of groovy-looking fish.

This is one of the main reasons that SVB was so drawn to London: it offers a thriving and innovative start-up community, a world-leading financial centre, and is an important business hub… And it has excellent pubs

Equally, the City, with its incomparable sense of history and sober-suited bankers, lies next to trendy, techy Old Street and its entrepreneurial residents, armed with iPhones, square-rimmed specs and asymmetrical haircuts. This is one of the main reasons that SVB was so drawn to London; it offers a thriving and innovative start-up community, a world-leading financial centre, and is an important business hub (over half of the UK’s top 100 listed companies and over 100 of Europe’s largest companies are headquartered in London; over 70 per cent of the FTSE 100, and 75 per cent of the Fortune 500 have offices here). In short, London delivers on every level: strategic, financial, geographical…

…And it has excellent pubs.

With the goal of bringing the expertise, knowledge and connections of US-based SVB Financial Group overseas, SVB opened in London in 2004 to serve technology, life sciences and private equity firms in Europe. SVB Financial Group UK provides access to financial services as well as to SVB’s renowned worldwide network of venture capitalists and partners. SVB Financial Group UK provides European technology and life-science companies with access to the same targeted financial services as their US-based counterparts.

Our offerings include multiple sources of diverse debt capital such as venture debt, acquisition financing, working capital, capital call lines, growth capital and capex financing. In addition, we offer access to foreign exchange services, trade finance and US banking for subsidiaries.

SVB is in the process of seeking regulatory approval to open a full banking branch in the UK in anticipation of providing local loans, deposits, cash management and working capital/trade finance support to clients.

Oscar Jazdowski is head of origination for Silicon Valley Bank’s UK office. Jazdowski has over 25 years’ experience of financing technology companies at all stages of development, from young venture-backed start-ups to large multinational companies across a broad base of technology and life science sectors.

Have your say

You must sign in to make a comment

Related images

  • Oscar Jazdowski