Frank O’Donnell: time to unlock our fintech potential

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The financial services industry has long been a powerhouse of the Scottish economy and, with the advent of fintech, we have the opportunity to become a global leader in this emerging technology.

However the path to success is by no means clear-cut and this supplement will address the issues that need to be overcome if Scotland is to reach its potential.

Tech is littered with false dawns, however fintech has firmly landed and it will, in time, affect the very fabric of our everyday lives.

Early technology such as contactless payments is only a glimpse of what lies ahead.

Blockchain offers a future where hard currency is a distant memory while advancements in artificial intelligence and the rapid processing of data it provides will transform how we bank and invest our money.

Imagine a world where your every financial decision is taken care of by a computer. It’s not that far off.

However, when more money moves online there comes an increase in the number of people looking to compromise the processes involved.

Security is vital in maintaining trust in the fintech sector and, while maintaining confidence has its challenges, it also presents opportunities for start-ups looking to provide solutions to online threats.

Scotland’s financial sector contributes 7 per cent of the country’s gross domestic product and the industry employs 85,000 people.

We simply cannot afford to get this wrong. The onus is on all of us with a stake to support and innovate.

The focus on fintech should not only be limited to Edinburgh’s financial centre.

As Kent Mackenzie of Deloitte points out in this supplement, each of Scotland’s cities has a role to play from Glasgow’s talent in the creative industries to Aberdeen’s strength in engineering.

We should also continue to be outward looking in our approach, looking to fintech hubs around the world for innovation and collaboration.

How we do business is changing and it is likely that the new large fintech companies will be based across many countries.

By drawing on our existing resources, thinking differently and by putting up a fight we can secure a stake in an industry which has the potential to transform our economy.

When it comes to fintech growth, Scotland has a lot in its favour.

We have a growing ecosystem of start-ups such as Money Dashboard, Nucleus and LendingCrowd, while we also have established players such as Royal Bank of Scotland and Standard Life making in-roads with new financial products.

Our world-class universities also offer a fertile ground for advancement with the University of Strathclyde’s Business School in particular showing leadership with the launch of the UK’s first ever masters course in fintech.

We also have a lifestyle advantage over our nearest fintech competitor, London, in terms of lower living costs which, as property prices continue to spiral, will become more important.

As a country we pride ourselves on our history of innovation however now is the time to think truly differently, change what we do and adapt to opportunities as they present themselves.