Fortnightly FinTech Fuse – Embracing our role in the European FinTech Team!

My travels and meetings over this last few weeks have again reinforced to me that Scotland’s fintech developments are very much embracing being much part of a wider European team.

With our shared values and ambitions, there are enormous opportunities to work with our European team partners in reinventing financial services through fintech innovation.

This was certainly brought alive on Wednesday evening in Edinburgh with the launch of the ground breaking European Innovation and Technology (EIT) Digital Office with its focus on fintech.


European Collaboration

The new fintech digital office based at the Bayes Centre will deepen relationships between Scotland and Europe, increase innovation and investment in new fintech initiatives, grow knowledge exchange across the continent and attract inward investment.

Working with the EIT team along with Scottish Enterprise, University of Edinburgh, Scottish Funding Council and Highland & Islands Enterprise, it has been terrific to see this initiative international come alive.

It was a privilege to share the platform with Willem Jonker and Morgan Gillies at the launch along with Scottish Government Minister Ivan McKee and Charlie Jeffrey from the University of Edinburgh to explain how the collaboration will boost innovation and investment in fintech.

The atmosphere for the launch was made special by having a packed diverse audience with us representing all corners of the Scottish ecosystem.

Including some of the exciting fintech enterprises such as Tynah and Helene from MoneyMatix, James from Xpand, Loral from Sustainably, Rab from Wallet Services, Daniel from Listings Ledger as well as Kevin from Hylomorph.

The event was a great opportunity to catch up with some of the inspiring people making things happen across Scotland driving innovation such as Poonam Malik, Jude McCorry, David Robertson, Jasmina Lazic, Martin Hughes, Amanda Fergusson and Daniel Broby, Terry Murden.

Thank you to Courtney Garner from SciTech Europa for making the long journey to be with us and to the terrific EIT and Edinburgh Innovation teams for making it all happen on the night.

The European collaboration opportunities were also very much in evident for my recent visit to Brussels with Graeme Jones and Clare Carswell of Scottish Financial Enterprise for a range of very constructive meetings at the EU.

There is so much mutual common ground in developing fintech collaboration opportunities and a huge thank you to the magnificent team at Scotland Europa, Sarah English and Marija Ivoninaite and Fraser Clark from SDI.

It was great to have the opportunity to present on Scotland’s fintech progress with an engaged European audience on the Tuesday evening along with Graeme and John Maciver from Pinsent Masons.

We made a number of great connections and I’m sure there will be many more visits to our European friends in the near future as we commit to work even closer.

I flew back from Beautiful Brussels directly to Glorious Glasgow to present at the Institute and Faculty of Actuaries to speak at their knowledge sharing session.

It was wonderful to have a very engaging full house with so many of the profession interested in the role of fintech in shaping the future of financial services.

Thank you, John Taylor and Barry Shannon for inviting me to present as well as to Ji-Hyang Lee and Alan Watson for being terrific hosts for the session. I look forward to repeating in Edinburgh in June!


European Innovation

Europe was very much part of the discussion at the asset management dinner on Tuesday evening with Ministers Derek Mackay and Kate Forbes along with senior members of the investment world.

It was good opportunity to share the examples of how the Scottish fintech community is progressing innovation with the major financial institutions in these uncertain times and highlight the growing global interest in Scotland’s fintech sector.

Thank you to Graham Laybourn and the Baillie Gifford team for hosting the engaging evening as well as for the ongoing support from Anurag Agrawal in exploring new ways to develop fintech innovation in asset management.

There are a growing number of global fintech with a focus on asset management looking at setting up in Scotland due to the depth of Scotland’s investment sector.

Talking last week with Hamish Croll of Singapore based fintech BlueFireAi, there is no doubt the potential in Scotland is very much getting recognized.

The opportunities for fintech enterprises are also rapidly evolving in banking and it was great to catch up with Gary McLellan of CYBG this week to develop how we progress the collaboration opportunities

Thanks also Gary for allowing me to be one of your ‘guinea pigs’ for your innovative approaches to online fintech innovations for personal data security, great to experience at first hand.

The RBS fintech accelerator demo day a week or so ago was another fantastic example of a large institution supporting new fintech innovators.

Inspiring pitches on the day including by Adrian James from Monily, Chris Herd from Nexves, James from Xpand.

It was great to be on the stage with Matt Perkins from FreeAgent and Karen Bird of RBS in sharing insights on developing fintech innovation through collaboration

Fantastic leadership by the RBS team Steve Chown and Janice Cunningham for running such a constructive event.

Unfortunately, I could not stay for all the fintech demos as Nicola and I had to dash off to Glasgow for the University of Strathclyde Enterprise Network event.

Another amazing evening listening to the budding entrepreneurs. I was particularly struck by the innovations coming from the Fing & Pay and Hotei fintech teams, both expertly mentored by our friend and fintech guru Nick Cousins.

Many congratulations to the always inspiring Eleanor Mackay, it is no surprise that Strathclyde has an enviable reputation across Europe when it comes to fintech innovation.

This is invaluable in developing the collaborative innovation opportunities for fintech entrepreneurs across Europe and the world.


European Entrepreneurs

It was super to catch up with entrepreneur Derick James, the founder and CEO of Symphonic, to hear about the brilliant progress his team has been making in Europe and wider alongside the move into the new office in Edinburgh.

Very much looking forward to sharing the Symphonic international innovation story with the fintech community in the coming months.

Similarly looking forward to working with experienced expert innovator George Kelsey with what he is brewing up for the fintech world! Reflecting on my catch up coffee with George this week, I must introduce to Derick James.

I’m thinking it could be another example of one plus one equals five in creating even more fintech innovation in collaboration and what a story that would be!

Last week we shared the awesome entrepreneurship story of FNZ who are a fabulous example of a Scottish based fintech expanding in Europe and worldwide in helping consumers manage their long term savings.

Another inspiring innovation example I learnt about in this last fortnight was Cortex Worldwide.

Terrific conversation with founder and chief executive Peter Proud and such a truly inspiring journey in scaling a market leading technology enterprise. Peter’s experience is invaluable, and I am keen to share to many budding entrepreneurs.

The European and global innovation can come in various forms and I really enjoyed meeting Jordan Stewart of AlbaFX in Glasgow recently and hear how his proposition can help small firms gain the most from international trade.

Very much looking forward to connecting Jordan with the growing fintech community to develop mutual valuable connections.

I had the opportunity to meet Craig Anderson of venture capital firm Pentech in this last fortnight as well and talk through how the fintech community was evolving and the emerging investment opportunities.

In this respect, I also had a very constructive conversation with Andrew Wilson of Charlotte Street Partners on how we could do more to help fintech firms present themselves to potential investors.

I’m hoping that talking about the how the Scottish fintech community of firms is developing will encourage more of the entrepreneurial activity across the country.

So, it was good to be interviewed on Monday by Kim McAllister for a new BBC Radio show which will give live in May on the exciting fintech developments and the impact on people’s lives.

Meeting the engaging media professional David Lee on the same day, who is writing the Scotsman supplement on fintech for May, was a good time to reflect the whirlwind of activity over this last twelve months.

I shared with David that a major strength of Scotland’s fintech progress is our diverse range of people.

Whether this is the data analytic expertise being developed by DataLab and the MBN Solutions team, something which was showcased at Aviva a couple of weeks ago in growing their data centre of excellence.

Then there is the fintech entrepreneurial expertise being developed in our universities

In this respect it was wonderful to share joint plans with Claudia Cavalluzzo and Georgia Goodall of Converge Challenge who do amazing with new entrepreneurs from our universities

The enterprise spirit was very much demonstrated to Nicola and me recently when we were asked to present to the University of Stirling fintech postgraduate students.

A terrific group of people and thank you Andrea Bracciali for arranging the session, really enjoyable and insightful as was the visit to Newbattle Community Campus to see first hand the wonderful progress of this new ‘digital’ school environment

Newbattle is very progressive educational role model for the future and it was absolutely fantastic to spend time with Gib McMillan and leadership team and the inspiring students, in their hands we have a very bright future.

The conversation with David Lee also gave me the opportunity to reaffirm the ambition to be a top five global fintech centre one year into the journey and the importance of working with European and global partners to achieve this goal


European Partners

One such group of partners are of good friends in Ireland and it was just absolutely wonderful to spend a few days in Dublin as part of Scottish Irish Finance Initiative (SIFI) conference on fintech.

Such a warm and welcoming reception from our European partners and the mutual relationships being developed though the SIFI team are going to be invaluable going forward.

Massive thank you to magnificent SIFI trio David Clarke, Pete Townsend and Terry Quinn for organising as well as to the brilliant Dublin Business School team, Andrew Quinn, Andrew Conlan-Trant and Rory Mo-ran.

It was great to hear from so many new friends such as the inspiring Hesus Inoma and the amazing Susan Sweeney as well as Scotland’s leading fintech guru Daniel Broby of University of Strathclyde.

The trip to Ireland also gave the me the opportunity to meet up with Peter Oakes, the highly respected global fintech leader and founder of FinTech Ireland. Thanks Emma Shiel from SDI for arranging and joining us.

It was fantastic to hear first hand the story behind FinTech Ireland and the significant presence Peter has established in Europe and across the globe. Peter’s next trip was to help with the formation of FinTech Cyprus, another European partner for is to collaborate with.

It was poignant that we met Peter in the Hibernian Club and sat in the very chair that FinTech Scotland was conceived five years ago.

Looking forward to developing closer collaboration with Peter and the FinTech Ireland team as European partners.

My return from Dublin was via Hampshire (and Reading to see my mum) as I had the opportunity to meet up with Mark Hanson, Managing Director of Simply Health who provide valuable health insurance plans for millions of consumers.

The worlds of fintech, insurtech, healthtech all overlap, and we had a super conversation on some emerging innovations in this space and the potential to work in partnership with University of Edinburgh and entrepreneurs to explore further.

Collaborative partnership is also very much at the core in developing a Global Open Finance Centre of Excellence in Scotland and we are delighted the joint FinTech Scotland, University of Edinburgh, Scottish Enterprise and FDATA proposal has been shortlisted for funding.

A huge amount of credit for this must go to our very own European and Global Open Finance ‘presidential’ leader, Gavin Littlejohn who is instrumental in the strategic development.

I’m looking forward to seeing Gavin next week when he returns from formidable open finance mission trip to Hong Kong, Australia and India.

The Open Finance initiative is facilitating further collaboration with partners and this is also true of the Ethical Finance Hub team based at Heriot Watt University

It was valuable to catch up with Chris Tait recently and talk through the fintech contribution to the Global Ethical Finance Forum which will take place in Edinburgh in October with many distinguished international partners.

Barry Wingate it would be super to work in partner with you on this following our chat a week or so ago!

International partnerships were the focus of the conversation with James Bernard of the Dubai DMMC, the enterprise agency, when we met in Edinburgh last week, thank you Russell Dalgleish for making the connection.

Encouraging a European and global innovation and growth mindset with the Scottish entrepreneurial community as a key focus of the conversation for the executive dinner of fintech organized by FWB Park Brown last Wednesday evening.

I very much valued the challenge and constructive feedback from the diverse group of successful business leaders from sectors outside of financial services and fintech and thank you to those who have reached out to follow up.

Big thanks to Graham Burns and Michael Dickson for expertly arranging and professionally hosting the engaging evening, I look forward to the next one, maybe in Aberdeen or even another European city?


Running Europe

Unfortunately, and to much frustration, my toe injury has not cleared up which means my running opportunities in Europe have been somewhat curtailed.

Whilst the buzz of the exciting fintech activity with so many fabulous people has kept me occupied, I am a bit of a ‘bear with a sore head’ as I have not been able to get out and run.

I have tried swimming, but my limited breaststroke ability does not replace the three hour runs I so much enjoy!!

I know I will need to be patient in recovering but if I look angst when you see me you will know why!

Let’s hope I am going to be ready for the Stirling, Livingston and Lock Leven half marathons in the run up to Edinburgh marathon in May!! Until next time.