Why Scotland provides a great springboard for fintechs making the leap to the next stage

Scotland has traditionally been known for its financial services and its strength in areas suh as wealth management and insurance. In recent years, its fintech sector has taken off and a developing ecosystem has helped attract domestic and international investment.

Copyright (c) 2016 pathdoc/Shutterstock
Copyright (c) 2016 pathdoc/Shutterstock

While there are many start-ups in Scotland, moving to the scale-up stage can be challenging, but support is in place to aid that growth.

Graeme Rennison, fintech lead at Scottish Enterprise, says that Scotland’s fintech sector continues to gain worldwide recognition and has received formal accreditation from the European Secretariat for Cluster Analysis (ESCA) as a cluster of excellence.

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Rennison says: “Despite the impact of Covid-19, global fintech companies are still locating in Scotland and we’re incredibly excited about future growth, which is why it was identified as a key opportunity sector in the Scottish Government’s inward investment strategy, published last year.

Biswajit Kundu Roy, CEO and founder of Edinburgh-headquartered Coastr
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“Our financial services sector is rightly regarded as one of the leading finance centres in Europe. Our universities are world-renowned and the innovative technology scene in our towns and cities is second to none.

“When you combine these factors with our skilled workforce, Scotland is an irresistible proposition for fintech growth and development.”

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Scottish Enterprise is fully focused on supporting Scotland’s economic recovery from Covid-19 as well as the journey towards a net-zero future, according to Rennison.

He says: “Crucial to achieving these aims will be sectors such as fintech, where we are a global leader.”

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Gobbill chief executive Shendon Ewans (right) with Michael Pollitt the company's business development manager

Below, are a series of snapshots of aspiring Scottish fintechs that have potential to scale up, which could be down to such things as recent investment, being part of a high-growth market or having patented technology.

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Coastr (Nuvven): Revolutionising vehicle hire

Established in 2018 by chief executive Biswajit Kundu Roy – a former PWC management consultant – Nuvven, trading as Coastr, aims to revolutionise the vehicle rental market with its innovative digital technology.

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The Edinburgh-based firm was founded out of passion by Kundu Roy, pictured, who wanted to solve the painful experience of renting cars by modernising customer experience and rental operations through “new-age” technology. It has signed up more than 50 new customers in the last six months, a rise of 500 per cent in user growth. And it has successfully closed its seed investment round of £1.4 million.

Swipii co-founders Louis Schena, left, and Chitresh Sharma
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It helps smaller car and van rental businesses make sense of big data through a connected platform that lets them become fully digitised and benefit from immediate cost savings, higher fleet utilisation and revenue maximisation.

With Coastr, car and van rental firms can automate time-consuming day-to-day operations and provide future-ready services like keyless entry and contactless rentals, enabling them to grow their business efficiently and compete with market leaders. With car ownership set to fall, the demand for rental vehicles will rise, and therefore Coastr’s offering looks certain to increase.

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Kundu Roy says: “Our product and engineering teams spend a significant amount of time understanding customers’ processes and key challenges to ensure products are needs-driven and innovative at the same time. … We also spend a lot of time formulating new partnerships that can deliver a more connected ecosystem for all players in the mobility sector.

“Unlike other traditional car rental platforms in the market, Sustainability is a driving factor for everything we do at Coastr. We are working towards a 100 per cent contactless future via our digital marketplace. We have pledged to cut down carbon emissions and protect the environment through completely paperless processes.”

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Callum Murray, CEO of Amiqus

Coastr plans to launch additional products into the market in 2022, such as on-demand fleet insurance, integrated vehicle financing and connectivity to market aggregators and online travel agent platforms. It says current fleet insurance underwriting methods are archaic and built on largely static and sporadically updated data.

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Kundu Roy adds: “Coastr is leveraging its data collection to build a solution that benefits all players in the ecosystem: the car rental operator, the insurer and the end consumer.”

Gobbill: Using AI to speed up paying bills securely

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Gobbill is an Australian fintech company launched by co-founders Shendon Ewans, pictured right, and Quentin Marsh to offer fraud and scam protection for secure automated payments.

The company uses artificial intelligence to automate bill payments and check for fraud. It is an end-to-end payment automation platform that helps individuals and small businesses have maximum control over payments with minimal effort.

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The service digitises invoices, checks for fraud and clears payments, saving up to 70 per cent of time on accounts payable.

Gobbill has invested more than five years in proprietary research and development to develop Know Your Biller technologies. In commercial use, these Know Your Biller technologies enable Gobbill to operate a secure payments platform to significantly reduce fraud risk and protect businesses.

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The Gobbill SaaS platform digitises invoices received via email from authorised sources for automated payment processing against the account holder’s credit card or bank account.

Gobbill is able to pay a wide range of bills generated by councils, utility, telecommunications and insurance companies, plus 40,000 other billing organisations.

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It is expanding into the UK and has already taken part in the NatWest and Royal Bank of Scotland Fintech Accelerator.It is also part of the FinTech Scotland cluster.

Amiqus: Building trust in regtechtools is crucial to good growth

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Edinburgh-headquartered Amiqus was set up in 2015 by chief executive Callum Murray to make compliance simpler and more efficient for professionals working in a range of sectors,areas including legal, recruitment, financial services and the public sector.

After training as a mediator, Murray teamed up with software experts to design and build online tools. AmiqusID allows firms to remotely verify and bring onboard staff or clients in minutes.

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It helps professionals and their clients meet increasingly stringent regulations designed to prevent money laundering and protect data privacy. Its compliance platform removes time-consuming and sometimes unreliable manual processes, such as form-filling and collecting photocopies of passports and bank statements, saving time, money and hassle.

With Amiqus ID, firms can collect, analyse and store necessary checks for clients and staff. It can also check such things as identity, credit history and criminal records.

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Murray has won several awards since launching Amiqus and the firm has grown from six founders to a team of 30. It has the renowned Sir Sandy Crombie as chairman, and high-profile clients including the Scottish Government and the Law Society of Scotland.

While regulation is only likely to get more stringent, there is plenty of scope for Amiqus to scale up globally.

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Murray says: “Early on, we found a few problems lots of businesses shared – they were driven by regulation, and we realised the issues weren’t going away. We listened to their challenges, focussed on building and supporting a great team and went from there.

“As an early-stage unproven business it’s hard to establish opportunities with large-scale clients. Building trust and building partnerships for the long term were fundamental for us.

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“We’re a purpose-driven business, with global ambition and lots to do. We tripled revenue over the last year and expect to do the same in the coming 12 months. We’ll be adding more great people to our team and continue to make good decisions led by our values and deliver what our clients need.”

CURO Compensation: Boosting employee engagement

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CURO Compensation is a Software As A ServiceSaaS business providing software for the calculation of employee compensation – including the optimum mix of salary and incentive payments – and accurate communication with employees.

The firm is a compensation management and pay equity specialist. Its software enables organisations to drive business performance through employee engagement while ensuring pay transparency, equity and compliance.

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CURO Compensation was founded in January 2010 and has offices in Edinburgh, Ottawa, London and Australia. In August this year it was bought by Payscale, a provider of compensation data, software and services. Payscale said the addition of CURO’s products enhance its end-to-end solutions for organisations to manage every part of their pay strategy.

Scott Torrey, chief executive of Payscale, says of the deal: “With Payscale’s focus to build, sell, and support data, software, and services to optimise compensation, this is the perfect time to bring CURO’s global, market-leading products to our customers.”

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Swipii: A helping hand for local businesses

Based in Glasgow, Swipii was founded in 2014 by Louis Schena and Chitresh Sharma, pictured, left and right respectively.

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Their Swipii app rewards customers with cashback when they spend directly with local bars, cafes and restaurants using a bank card.

Business owners can sign up to Swipii at no cost and use the technology to reach and retarget customers without the need for complicated integrations or marketing experts. Its app is designed to be seamless for shoppers and simple for business owners.

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Schena and Sharma say they are passionate about supporting local firms.

This summer they released the app’s latest feature, the Win-Back Offer, which enables local business owners to utilise the company’s tech to retargetget lost customers back.

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It works by targeting customers who haven’t visited a business in a defined period of time. The technology crunches data in the background and identifies a cohort of users that fit this criteria.

The Swipii app will then send out a special cashback offer on behalf of the business with the aim of getting those customers back in store spending.

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Swipii is also focused on growth, with the team set to expand and product development, new features and new locations all in the pipeline.

Since launching the app in 2018, the company states that it has helped local businesses increase customer engagement and spend, generating spend of £440,000 to date.

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It adds that even during lockdown, Swipii cashback offers saw businesses increase customer spend by 16 per cent on average.

Addepar: Tapping into a wealth of talent

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Addepar is a US-headquartered wealth management platform designed to help advisers build and mange their relationships with clients.

In spring this year it opened an office in Edinburgh, its first outside the US, as an initial step toward global expansion.

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It said that establishing a presence in Edinburgh will give it a five-hour headstart on validating the data that drives its clients’ businesses. It also wants to tap into a wealth of talent based in Scotland.

The Scottish capital was chosen by Addepar for a number of reasons. It said Edinburgh has talent, including a highly-educated pool of software engineers holding computer and data science degrees from world-class universities.

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An Addepar spokesperson also described the city as “not only a technology hub with start-ups and leaders in data analytics, big data and blockchain, but also hosting major financial services firms”. And it stated that the location offered a culture of innovation, along with a favourable business environment.

Addepar anticipates growing its European presence over time as part of a carefully planned strategy to expand its business worldwide.

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Bellrock Technology: Harnessing data to make firm decisions faster

Bellrock Technology was launched in 2012 in Glasgow by Adam Brown and Professor Stephen McArthur as a spin-out from the University of Strathclyde.

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The company developed Lumen, an advanced deployment platform for predictive analytics, which started life at the university in Prof McArthur’s research team.

It is designed to help firms use their data to make business decisions more quickly. The company says it helps organisations derive more value from investment in data science.

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The firm is named after the Bell Rock Lighthouse, pictured, an inspirational story of Scottish innovation and engineering that was thought to be impossible to build. It was built between 1807 and 1810 by Robert Stevenson on a tiny island in the North Sea, 11 miles east of the Firth of Tay. The lighthouse recently passed its 200th anniversary without a single stone ever having had to be replaced.

Lumen automates time-consuming tasks involved in deploying data science. It’s a cloud-first Software As A Service (SaaS) product that provides a flexible deployment option for its users.

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With safe and secure data management being more important than ever, demand is set to grow for Bellrock’s offering.

This article first appeared in the October 2021 edition of The Scotsman’s Fintech Focus supplement. A digital version can be viewed here.