Scotland has a vibrant and growing fintech ecosystem and is the natural home for fintech because of the country’s rich tradition of financial services. The size of the network is such that valuable connections can be made and dynamic collaboration can take place – if you are prepared to tap into and make the most of what the network can offer!

Burness Paull is really proud to have made a huge investment in fintech over the years. In fact, I sat on the steering group which brought together a number of stakeholders that helped establish FinTech Scotland.  That collaborative effort, which was largely driven forward ‘off the side’ of everyone’s desks, has had a very positive impact on the fintech sector in Scotland.

FinTech Scotland, the body that was set up to promote and grow the sector in Scotland, has been operating for around two years, and it is fantastic that it’s remit has just been extended for a further three years. Two years was never going to be long enough to deliver the results that everyone was hoping for.

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It’s also great that Scotland’s model is being seen as the exemplar for other regions, and that there is a genuine willingness to share ideas about how to promote the industry across the UK for the benefit of all. Scotland is home to some really funky tech and fintech businesses. That larger ecosystem and the flow of talent between different businesses and sectors is really exciting. Companies are attracted to setting up in, or moving to, Scotland  and are looking to grow – with enquiries coming from as far away as Hong Kong.

As an industry, fintech is a very broad category. There’s a huge mix of businesses with different ideas and challenges. If you are focussed on retail customers with a direct to consumer business model, you will face different challenges as compared to a business developing back office technology to help institutions be more efficient. Because of the supportive fintech network that has formed, there’s a place for all the different businesses in Scotland.

Just like most good relationships, fintech is built around collaboration and trust. Customers (and regulators) demand assurances that they will be protected in their interactions with fintechs. As a result, data privacy concerns (spurred on by the public’s overall awareness of new regulations like the GDPR, as well as a number of high profile data breaches and IT failures within the financial services sector) are high up the corporate agenda now.

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The fintech sector needs to work hard to build up trust, but that trust can very easily be eroded if privacy and security concerns are not taken seriously. Retail customers must have trust in the fintech apps they are using because they are handing over some of their most sensitive data.  However, retail customers are not the only ones who have concerns.

Open Banking initiatives mean that traditional banks are now mandated to make information easily available to innovative fintechs looking to add value to the customer experience. The banks will also want to make sure that the fintechs they are sharing data with have robust data security policies in place – to protect the banks and their mutual customers. This is an area where collaboration is vitally important.

As far as the traditional banks are concerned, it’s can be a challenge to implement new technologies within their existing tech infrastructure. There may be legacy or interoperability issues. Whereas so-called challenger banks, on the other hand,  tend not to have the same legacy issues and their technology development can be laser-focused on customer experience. They’re really good at that, but the big issue for them is developing trust.

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When you speak to people who bank with the challenger banks like Monzo or Starling and you ask them: “But have you moved all your banking over?” People generally say no. They usually have their mortgages and loans with the traditional banks. The challenger banks have not yet reached the tipping point where customers are  prepared to ditch their existing banking relationships.

However, it’s fair to say that all players are spurred on by the competition. Traditional banks are upping their game and developing their own applications and services.

It’s no surprise a lot of fintech businesses are led by people with a rich and deep experience within the financial services sector. They’re able to pinpoint the opportunity where technology helps to solve a problem or attract new customers. However, they are also great at bridging the gap and creating the collisions that make successful collaborations possible.

Burness Paull has a great reputation in financial services, but also a strong focus on the technology sector.

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We’re helping the established players but we’re also working with genuine scaling companies to grow their businesses. However, impactful collaboration is absolutely key for the continued success of the sector. n

David Goodbrand is Technology and Commercial Partner and Head of Data Privacy at Burness Paull.

For more information please visit www.burnesspaull.com

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