UK: Spring Has Sprung For Scottish FinTech…And Summer Is On Its Way

Last Updated: 14 April 2016
Article by Kent Mackenzie

Most Read Contributor in UK, August 2017

On a cold winter's morning in December last year, Bela from The Infinite Kind and I sat down and started to plan the next FinTech Hackathon in Edinburgh. 

I suggested we host in the Deloitte office...now for those of you that have been here you will know that it is a beautiful, gleaming, space that we spend time with our clients in...all very civilised...and in my mind perfect to invite and help 50+ 'hackers' to run riot and create new applications for the changing world of Finance!

What we saw over the weekend was FinTech poetry in motion - watching the rapid storming and forming of teams, apps, and prototypes whilst at the same time witnessing the gleaming office disappear under pizza boxes, empty cans of red bull and imaginative scrawls of paper outlining the next "uber-type-disruption" about to storm financial services.   

When we came together on Sunday evening (and after a wee clean-up) I was once again in awe of the raw talent and fantastic ideas in the room.   Under the topics of 'apps for millennials' and 'financial inclusion' we saw 3 themes emerge;

Financial confidence and guidance - Team VISUU and Team SaveGen focussed on the development of applications that provide advice and guidance to millennials looking to build confidence around finance products.  At the heart of both these solutions is the creation of networks amongst friends and peers to help provide advice and share their experience.  A sort of 'crowd-sourced' advice and guidance service for finance products.  Really impressive.

The age of the digital receipt – 2 of the teams built fantastic apps that allowed for the real-time creation of digital receipts, beyond this the apps were able to profile spending, automate expenses re-claim and build more advanced analytics to profile and predict a user's income and expenditure.  This is clearly an area that will take off in the coming months and years.

'Gamifying and simulating' – Team Ur Bank and Team Rainy Day built amazing applications that really shift the dial on helping millennials plan their savings, simulate how different products might work for them, and the benefits they could bring.  Millennials are interested in knowing how they can 'earn more points' by switching accounts, moving money, or mixing up their pension pots.  The world of candy-crush and angry bird's meets financial services may not be that far away!!

In the end our winning team were incredibly impressive.  'Sustainably' is a charity funding platform that incorporates a range of features to support regular giving to charity, integration with employers, and the ability to 'follow' charities and celebrities and adapt your charity contributions in an easy way.  The team are clearly onto something and had carefully thought through the commercial model to make sure that charity is always the beneficiary.  Simple and brilliant.

What I also saw at the weekend is something quite seminal and important to reflect on - the real mix of people we had at the event.  So often in FinTech (and tech) we lament the lack of diversity – and for good reason.  Real representation across all demographics is hard to come by.  However this weekend was different - we saw a broad spectrum across all ages, experiences, skillsets and backgrounds. Long may it continue.

So, when I take a big step back and reflect on events such as the hackathon, or the research we've just undertaken for Scottish Enterprise to study the future of FinTech in Scotland, there is no doubt summer is on its way for Scottish FinTech.  We are beginning to weave a fine FinTech tartan - yes there is a challenge (like anywhere) with encouraging and enabling the range of demographic, yes we all need to connect better, yes there are a few things to do to really set up a sustainable talent pipeline - BUT – it's all there.  What we now need is focus, leadership, connection, and commitment from each group in the eco-system to really drive Scotland on to the FinTech map.   

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