Since the invention of the ATM, technology has been finance's little helper, enabling the automation of services, making ­customers feel more convenienced, and keeping them loyal.

Banks and insurance companies have worked closely with IT companies to bring them an increasing range of ­financial services in the street after opening hours, in their pyjamas at home, and on their mobiles on the move. There have been some cracks: the repeated technology failures of RBS and others have been ascribed to creaking "legacy" systems, for example, but generally finance and technology have proved comfortable enough bedfellows.

Not for much longer. The internet has overturned the retail sector, travel, the music industry and the telecoms industry - all spheres where plucky young Davids have slain the Goliaths of ancient brands, which often have far greater claim on public affection than Britain's banking and financial services sector.

A new wave of entrepreneurs and technology companies is waking up to the fact that, despite all its complication, obfuscation and regulation, there is nothing about the business of saving, lending, investing and moving money that makes it immune to disruption by the IT and web revolution. Are the big players impregnable? The rise and rise of "fintech" - the global portmanteau term for financial technology - and the nervous "if you can't beat 'em, buy 'em" activity of big companies, suggests that the answer is no.

Jamie Dimon, the $20 million-a-year chairman of JP Morgan Chase, summed it up recently, saying: "When I go to Silicon Valley ... they all want to eat our lunch. Every single one of them is going to try."

The rise of Bitcoin, Apple Pay, PayPal web-enabled peer-to-peer lending and other virtual money-changers presages a new era, one in which it is assumed technology companies will turn into banks before banks turn into technology companies.

Given the UK's primacy in financial services, and Edinburgh's leading role in the industry, seismic shifts should be of paramount interest. The UK Government is determined that fintech should be seen not as a threat but as an opportunity for London and its satellite centres - a sentiment shared by Scottish industry leaders.

Owen Kelly, head of industry group Scottish Financial Enterprise (SFE), said: "We are seeing growing momentum behind the fintech revolution around the globe.

"There are a number of new ­developments taking place in Scotland, such as Datalab, which focuses on ­helping Scottish industry capitalise on the growing market opportunity in data science. The implications of 'big data' are theoretically profound indeed - the challenge is to keep abreast of them."

Already the grass roots are stirring. Entrepreneur Country, a global business facilitator, last week hosted a "David and Goliath must dance" dinner in a suite in Edinburgh's George Hotel in which some of Scotland's leading corporate firms and game-changing "digital enablers" sat round the table to share views and expertise on how their industries are "being re-imagined as ecosystems ... who will be the winners, and how can they embrace the digital disruption?".

Edinburgh, with its specialisms in data science as well as in finance, was proclaimed as a possible fintech nursery of the future.

"Goliaths" present included Standard Life, Kames Capital and Callcredit Information Group, while among the "Davids" were Money Dashboard, miiCard and LendingCrowd.

Amit Pau of Entrepreneur Country told the Sunday Herald: "Fintech has found a capital and it is not Silicon Valley, it is all over Europe, with Edinburgh having the potential to be a leading fintech hub. Edinburgh is already making strides, with 35% of all technology spin-out companies in the UK coming out of Scotland, despite Scotland only having 12% of the university population. And, of Scotland's output, almost half comes out of just one institution - the University of Edinburgh.

"The perception of banks being slow-moving, conservative and, ultimately, averse to change is being categorically disproven."

Attendees at the Edinburgh dinner agreed that leading American VCs are shifting their focus from mobile payments, an area which is highly fragmented and super competitive, into areas such as pensions and mortgages. The consensus was that the rumbles of an oncoming revolution are becoming harder for corporate firms to ignore.

Much debate surrounded Google and the question of whether it will join the banking industry and, if so, whether it is trusted more than banks? Google and others, like Apple, certainly have a lot of our data and know our financial habits pretty well.

According to Susanne Chishti, chief executive of FINTECH Circle, the new wave of fintech differs from previous generations in that it is not so much about selling services to big finance, it is about more disrupting them, offering software and mobile "solutions" that take market share by doing things better.

Chishti, who last month presented at a fintech conference in Edinbrugh said: "The good thing is what the start-ups can focus on the customer. The big companies, with their legacy systems of IT plumbing, take ages to change things. The new start-ups can start up with the best technology available - new models of engagement. These start-ups use Twitter and Facebook and know how to engage people - they are not waiting for them to drop into their branches. It's not just a technology change, it's a mental change."

When Chancellor George Osborne launched the new UK body, Innovate Finance, in August it was an official stamp of approval for the Government to get behind the sector to make the UK the leading player in this field. The Department of Trade and Industry claims that deal volumes in the sector have grown by 74% per year since 2008, and puts the value of fintech investment in the UK and Ireland at $265 million.

Chishti adds: "I think we have got what it takes in this country. I worked in IT in Silicon Valley at the time the internet was just being invented, and I get the same feeling in London now - the same vibrancy is in the air. The reason I believe London will be the global leader is that the US IT capital in California and the financial centre in New York are five hours apart, whereas in London you have two industries in one place. You have everything here."

According to Scots financier Callum Campbell of Fireflock, there is every reason to believe that Scotland can become a centre of fintech excellence, in a way that hasn't happened in other new, globally disruptive industries, such as ecommerce and large-scale data processing, where a lack of Government initiative and knowledge cost the country in terms of credibility with global investors. Campbell urges more of a lead from the Scottish Government.

"It is clear that fintech is on the cusp of something very large and that the giants are asleep," says Campbell, who runs the crowdfunding platform from London's Canary Wharf, connecting start-ups with investors.

Having been around financial markets for 30 years, Campbell remembers similar game-changing going on at the time of the Big Bang deregulation in the 1980s. That was change generated top down by Government and industry. The next revolution he says, will be driven by the consumer, who is fed up with banking, insurance and stock-broking as currently constituted and happy to shift to other providers who start with the consumer and work back from there.

"The default position of some big banks is arrogant and dismissive of fintech, and they are going to get a big shock," Campbell added. "Their problem is that they have massive legacy systems [ad hoc computer systems acquired over decades], big branch networks and lots of employees. They can't move quickly, they are not fleet of foot, and that's a very dangerous position to be in now.

"I'm not saying that they don't recognise it, but it's really hard for them. The people at the top of the big corporates who are going to retire soon may not be that bothered, but it's the younger people in these organisations who are saying, "s**t, we have a problem". The generation below them is simply deciding that the banking industry does not offer the prospects it once did.

"That's all quite scary for the banks, but it leaves an absolutely massive opportunity for all the 'Davids' who are out there."

Ironically, given the complexity of the software it uses, fintech is powered by a wish to return to simplicity and convenience. "You can't get much more basic than peer-to-peer lending," says Campbell.

Such a return is long overdue after decades during which the industry abused its customers by adding successive layers of complexity, eventually selling jargon-encrusted products that customers didn't understand and didn't need. In the case of derivatives and structured products, the industry didn't understand them either. Only products that work will succeed in this marketplace. The fintech revolution offers to remove the gulf between provider and consumer, with results that are still hard to foresee.

Easier to see is that in order to compensate for the lack of scale and critical mass, the Scottish sector will need to think smart and mark out specialist areas of expertise if it is to lead, rather than simply follow the revolution.