The rapid growth of fintech in Scotland is likely to continue after a boom in the number of new businesses created during the pandemic - because it has "only just started to scratch the surface" of opportunities.
Speaking to The Scotsman's Fintech Focus podcast series, Nicola Anderson, Chief Executive of FinTech Scotland, said the number of small and medium-sized businesses in the fintech cluster had risen from around 120 in March 2020 to almost 200 now.
“I think we will see more growth," she said. "I'm very hopeful because we've only really started to scratch the surface. Open banking is opening up opportunities in our retail banking sector, but we haven't yet started to really see what that looks like in other sectors.
"I'm anticipating more innovation in pensions, particularly as we think about the pension dashboard.
“Also, technology will continue to evolve and advance at pace. And as we see how technology can be applied within our everyday lives and particularly our financial lives, we will start to see other innovations. I'm anticipating more innovations involving virtual reality, more opportunities that connect us with distributed ledger technology which drives some of the crypto and digital currencies - and we’ll be asking questions about quantum (computing) and what that means.”
In a wide-ranging interview, Anderson describes her unorthodox career path to FinTech Scotland, initially via the hospitality industry, including a spell as an area manager with Wetherspoons.
She said the strong focus on growing sales revenues at Wetherspoons had been very instructive and had taught her a lot: “All those skills - business development, building products and propositions, thinking about what will attract people, how you work with people, how you manage money - came with me as I moved into the world of financial services.”
Anderson initially joined the Financial Services Authority [which became the Financial Conduct Authority, or FCA] after answering an advert saying no financial services experience was necessary.
She thought this was helpful: “I was coming in fresh, if you like, and able to ask those obvious questions and challenge a little bit more for the outcomes that customers would expect to see.
“I really, really enjoyed my time at the FCA. I worked all the way across the retail product lines, starting in that small firm space where we would talk to intermediaries selling financial advice investment products, all the way through to working with the larger banks.”
After joining FinTech Scotland (initially on secondment) as Strategic Development Director in 2018, Anderson worked on its consumer panel project - bringing together a range of organisations that represent citizens, particularly those who may be vulnerable.
“It’s about sharing insights and views and thoughts - and then sharing that with fintechs, so products can develop and evolve,” said Anderson. “We’re seeing some fantastic initiatives through that work, with the likes of InBest maximising income and how people can access all the social security benefits they are entitled to.”
Anderson also worked on building closer collaboration and thinking about what fintech and finance will look like in ten years’ time - and how to enable more research and innovation.
This is one of three broad areas that Anderson sees as potential drivers of future growth for FinTech Scotland.
“We'll be doing more with our international community as we take that message of FinTech and Scotland across the world,” she said. “We'll also be thinking about how we move from our bronze accreditation [as a cluster of excellence in Europe] to silver and go.
“And we'll be doing more on research and innovation - that's another really important part of our work for next year.”
This is the second podcast in our Fintech Focus series. Subscribe to our Fintech Focus podcast.
Podcast music credit: Ravines by ELPHANT
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