How can Scotland realise its full fintech potential?

A new body is to be created with the aim of promoting growth in Scotland's burgeoning financial technology (fintech) sector.

SFE chief executive Graeme Jones, left, with Burness Paull partner Callum Sinclair. Picture: TSPL
SFE chief executive Graeme Jones, left, with Burness Paull partner Callum Sinclair. Picture: TSPL

A panel discussion hosted by The Scotsman heard that the organisation is being formed following the success of the Scottish Financial Enterprise (SFE) fintech steering group.

The steering group launched a year ago with three members and now has 20, including the University of Edinburgh, City of Edinburgh Council, Scottish Government and Skills Development Scotland.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

SFE chief executive Graeme Jones said: “The level of alignment is quite astonishing. One thing we’re looking at is the establishment of a ‘newco’, let’s call it Fintech Scotland for want of a better description, because everyone working on the steering committee from both the public and private sectors is doing it off the side of our desks and we do believe the next logical step would be for a newco to form with a chief executive who would drive it.”

Kent Mackenzie of Deloitte. Picture: TSPL

• READ MORE: Fintech news

Jones was joined in the discussion by Kent Mackenzie, head of Deloitte’s fintech team in Edinburgh; Callum Sinclair head of the technology sector at law firm Burness Paull; and Graham Hatton, international senior executive for fintech at Scottish Development International (SDI).

Mackenzie likened Scotland’s fintech sector to a “great big beautiful cake” with ingredients including the talent emerging from the academic sector, public sector support, investment and the country’s “rich tech heritage”.

He said: “It’s really critical as we take these next steps that we bring all of these ingredients together and bake this cake.”

Scottish Development International's Graham Hatton. Picture: TSPL

Jones said that cultural change was already happening in the financial services sector, with a “huge community” of innovation labs set up by major institutions to work with emerging fintech companies, while officials in the European Commission and Association of German Banks are “extremely interested” in developments in Scotland.

He added: “Our story is gradually getting out, but we do need to promote ourselves and make sure people are aware not only of Scottish financial services but also the fantastic Scottish fintech community that we’re building underneath it.”

When asked how Scotland can create the right conditions to further nurture the fintech field, Hatton said the building blocks were already in place in terms of financial expertise and the wider tech ecosystem.

Kent Mackenzie of Deloitte. Picture: TSPL

“Bringing together those two worlds presents a big opportunity to grow the sector here in Scotland,” he said.

Hatton added: “SDI has field offices around the world and we’re speaking to investors all the time who are interested in expanding into Europe generally but also the UK specifically. When they understand the capabilities within Scotland from a talent perspective – and also the size of the potential market here – they see it as a good opportunity to set up here.”

Sinclair said this is an “exciting and terrifying time to be starting a business in Scotland”, whether in general technology or fintech.

Scottish Development International's Graham Hatton. Picture: TSPL

He pointed to the Quartermile area of Edinburgh, home to companies including Cirrus Logic, FanDuel and Skyscanner, as an example of creating the right ecosystem to drive investment and promote collaboration.

“Every city has its own ‘spin’ – Glasgow is heavy in software, Dundee in gaming, Aberdeen in engineering and Edinburgh in financial services – and if we can bring together that range of talent and play on city strengths I think we can have a really compelling mix.”

Deloitte’s Kent added: “It’s really important that we have a team of people who live and breath this and take this strategy and bring it to life.

“For us, the time for studying and researching is over – the time now is to take action. If we do that, the cake will be baked.”