When people think of the UK's financial operations - if they think of them at all, they generally conjure up the London skyline. Few realise that, beyond London, Leeds takes centre stage for business and finance.
Besides being home to over 30 banks, both national and international, the city is a prime hub of risk, venture, and equity finance. Thus, it should come as no surprise that Leeds leads the way in supporting fledgling cryptocurrency entrepreneurship.
How does this fintech centre do it? What's on offer in Leeds for cryptocurrency newbies? And what about experienced traders?
Let's take a tour of Leeds' financial tech sector to find the best cryptocurrency information outlets the city has to offer.
Learn About Cryptocurrency at the University of Leeds
As yet, there are no university courses dedicated to teaching anything about cryptocurrencies, distributed ledger designs like blockchain or digital currency theory, even if these are some of today's hottest topics.
“Blockchain technology is a recent development and there is always a bit of a lag as academia catches up.” - Aggelos Kiayias, director of the Blockchain Technology Laboratory, University of Edinburgh
That quote, uttered by Dr Kiayias in 2016, still holds today. Despite his chairing that university venture - the first of its kind in the UK and in Europe, there is yet to be an established curriculum to teach fintech (financial technology) to keen students or crypto enthusiasts.
That's not stopping the University of Leeds.
The Leeds University Undergraduate Cryptocurrency and Blockchain Society was founded in 2017; it was the first of its kind in the UK. Granted, it's not a course and it follows no degree plan - it doesn't even attach to a degree plan, but there is plenty to learn as a member of this society.
Their goal is to raise awareness and deepen understanding of all aspects of fintech, not just cryptocurrencies and blockchain. Ultimately, they aim to place Leeds as the forerunner of cryptocurrency and blockchain innovation.
If you know next to nothing about distributed ledgers or digital currency, you may attend their workshops or sit in on one of the lectures they frequently host, followed by a question-and-answer session. You may also participate in their events, which they regularly schedule.
These events include anything from Q&A sessions with tech industry leaders to discovery lectures, webinars, and workshops. They are also a rather social bunch so, should you decide to join them, you can count on game nights, movie nights, and more.
It's particularly encouraging to see a strong female presence within the group. Typically, the tech sector seems closed to females but this group makes no such distinctions. In fact, BelnCrypto, a leading crypto news and education platform that recently partnered with LUUCABS, just hosted an event titled Women in the Cryptocurrency and Blockchain Industry.
And even better: the talk was given by BelnCrypto's CEO, Alena Afanaseva.
LUUCABS' university association suggests that only undergraduate students would be welcome; indeed, their web page states that everyone is invited regardless of their degree plan. However, nothing says that this group wouldn't welcome crypto enthusiasts who are not university students so, if you're interested in joining them, get in touch.
That's what my mate in Birmingham did when she moved east of the Pennines and went looking for cryptography courses and information.
Learn About Cryptocurrency with Northern Blockchain
While the Big Smoke labours under the multipronged challenges of keeping up with global educational, fashion and economic fluctuations, as well as being the country's seat of political power, the northern regions of the country are just right for focusing on the future of digital technology.
The Northern Blockchain Group incorporated in 2019 and, since then, has built a 50+ member strong partner network that explores advances in technology, stays abreast of the latest news and legislation efforts, and educates anyone interested in fintech.
To that end, they host a series of workshops and courses - both in-person and online, that cover everything from blockchain basics to its wider applications in business and law.
If you are completely new to the subject, you could learn a lot from their blockchain taster course. It covers:
- case histories of blockchain use in financial, legal and educational settings
- development frameworks, their differences and optimal applications, including
- Hedera Hashgraph
- Hyperledger Fabric
- how to develop a smart contract
You don't have to have any specialised knowledge to benefit from this workshop or online course - whichever format you prefer, You only need to dedicate a few hours and bring your learning mindset; these well-qualified and experienced instructors will talk you through all the steps you need to take to get started on your blockchain journey.
If you have a bit of coding experience and/or some knowledge about how blockchain works, you may sign up for their more advanced workshops. They cover specific aspects of blockchain usage, such as how to develop smart contracts, how to develop decentralised applications and how blockchain could advance an already established business.
Let's say you don't yet know enough about blockchain's possibilities to invest time and effort in learning how to work with it. In that case, attending a few of their conferences and events might help you decide which way you want to go, both with cryptocurrency and with financial technology.
Northern Blockchain hosts numerous events each year and not all of them deal with the technical side of the matter.
Visitors of past events have been concerned about security and the lack of regulations and oversight. Others may contend that these new technologies offer bad actors a secure way to operate because of fintech's minimal accountability - moving money around to fund destabilising activities comes to mind, here.
These are all valid concerns and they are being addressed, as you will discover, the more you study up on the matter. Across the board, the prevailing mindset is that the theoretical side of the coin is just as critical as advancing those new technologies.
Northern Blockchain, at the cutting edge of it all, promotes these discussions during their events.
In fact, you couldn't find a better outlet for such debates in any cryptocurrency classes in Manchester, London or anywhere else in the UK.
Learn Cryptocurrency in a Social Setting
Interest in - and promotion of cryptocurrency varies wildly. For instance, as mentioned earlier in this article, the University of Edinburgh has a whole department dedicated to blockchain and cryptocurrency but we couldn't find the first cryptocurrency class in Glasgow.
Likewise, while no UK university offers any fintech degree programme, some of the top unis in the US have built entire curricula around the subject. Students of Duke University, MIT and UC Berkeley, among others, may earn their degrees in any number of fintech-related study programmes.
Loiners aren't waiting for academics to catch up; they've set up their own crypto groups.
The Leeds Blockchain Meetup hosts what they call a Crypto Catch-up on Friday evenings, usually at La Bottega Milanese. They also host Leeds Blockchain Crypto and Blockchain Hackathon events.
Contrary to its negative-sounding name, hackathons consist of tech pros coming together to collaborate on projects. As the -thon suffix implies, these events tend to be very intensive and, by the end of the session, the project in question should be complete.
The focus of the Leeds Blockchain Meetup leans more toward the technical side of things - new advances, proposed legislation... that sort of thing. They generally stay away from the 'public' aspects of cryptocurrency such as speculation and investing.
If you were looking for more information on how Bitcoin and Altcoins could work as an investment vehicle or a way to manage your money with no third-party involvement, you could turn to Superprof.
Superprof has two cryptocurrency tutors in Leeds. They both have extensive experience in digital marketing and cryptocurrency as well as teaching those concepts. Both hold degrees in technology and both have earned rave reviews from their pupils.
They both also offer their first hour of instruction at no cost, and they will be happy to meet you at yours or welcome you to theirs. If you wish, they can also conduct your course online.
We'll finish out this article by highlighting some of the best online outlets to learn about cryptocurrencies but... don't you agree that a local Superprof cryptocurrency tutor is better than any online cryptocurrency course based in London?
The Best Online Courses to Learn Cryptocurrency
Maybe you have no time to dash out for a cryptocurrency course or perhaps you worry about the cost - some of those courses can run into the thousands of pounds.
If you're only looking for a bit of knowledge about this relatively new technology so you can keep abreast of the trend and maybe invest some, paying for an expensive course of study would be silly.
You could turn to Reed, instead. This aggregate website lists an assortment of cryptocurrency courses targeted to every level of knowledge and need.
A four-hour, online instruction package from Course Central or Course Cloud may be all you need to decide whether you should plunge further into the crypto world. If so, you might sign up for Educba's 5-hour Introduction to Cryptocurrency course and ultimately turn to Skill Up for a diploma in cryptocurrency trading and investment.
Whether online, in person, through an innovative company, or as a member of a social group, learning about cryptocurrencies and how they will impact our future is a must. Luckily, Leodensians have plenty of educational outlets to choose from.
Now, discover how and where the rest of the UK gets their cryptocurrency education.