Fintech businesses looking to grow must be “super-focused” on identifying how to solve a customer problem, rather than expecting a “Eureka moment”.
Kent Mackenzie, partner at Deloitte, told a Scotsman Conferences event that young businesses aiming to scale up must have a detailed understanding of the banking system and regulation - so they can see how their idea could address a specific challenge.
“Never underestimate the complexity of the banking environment,” he told the audience at How Can Scottish Fintechs Scale Up To The Next Level?
Jude Cook, leader of ShareIn and Stuart Lunn, chief executive of LendingCrowd, said the early focus of their businesses had been on regulation, compliance and governance, ensuring their businesses were based on solid foundations.
“You have to get the infrastructure right - or you have nothing,” said Lunn, although he admitted that looking back, he would have employed more specialist staff at an early stage in areas like HR and sales and marketing.
Employing HR specialists early on could help deliver a cohesive workforce, said Lunn, so new starters understand the core values and culture of the business.
Eleanor Shaw of the University of Strathclyde said the values of a business were now more important to fintech graduates coming out of university than a hefty pay packet.
A strong fintech network
Shaw stressed that when it came to business growth, “the journey was not linear and was different for everyone - but the growth pains are very similar”, including access to funding and talent. She said it was important for businesses to have a toolkit for growth, in the same way as you would have a map to climb a mountain showing all its contours and crevasses.
David Goodbrand of Burness Paull highlighted that fintech growth was dependent open being able to prove your business model worked.
According to Goodbrand, five factors feed into this: building the right people into a cohesive team; having great technology; identifying and delivering funding; having cheerleaders supporting you; and understanding the marketplace.
Asked which single factor would help a young fintech business grow, the panel pointed to the need to engage with strong and supportive fintech network in Scotland, with Mackenzie saying firms had to “sweat the network and make it work for them”. Cook said that, sometimes, success was about real focus and just getting on with the job in hand.
Paul Atkinson of Par Equity said his experience as an investor was that “hard work and perseverance” was what made successful businesses stand out. Shaw agreed, adding that young fintech entrepreneurs understood the value of hard work: “They know that you need to work both in the business and on the business.”