By Huw Martin
As someone who is passionate about the tech community and equally passionate about the growth and support of Start-ups I’m delighted and excited by the activity we see on a daily basis in our fair city of Edinburgh. There’s the Codebase crew (turning the least collaborative 1960s building into a really positive modern space), there’s the CivTech pilot and then there’s numerous other companies & individuals looking at incubation & collaboration spaces across the city.
It raises one big question for me – Can we really expect companies & individuals with vested interests to work together in genuine collaboration or is that too much to ask?
I mean, yes of course the whole purpose of these places is to foster collaboration and teamwork, generating ideas of mutual benefit and spawning the next genius ideas which save the world etc. However, how about competing companies collaborating? Is this a distant utopia that can’t ever happen?
This has come to the forefront of my mind recently as I’ve been involved in trying to help drive the FinTech scene in Scotland with other like-minded individuals in senior positions, within some of Scotland’s big financial services companies & FinTech SME’s.
The general consensus is that whilst there is certainly the will to get some traction (and there are some good things afoot as part of the government strategy) there are the obvious political challenges that come with the gathering together of companies with different interests to try and achieve a single view especially when many in the group have a different view on what FinTech is.
For example, the definition of FinTech is certainly broad and open to interpretation; “Financial technology, also known as fintech, is an economic industry composed of companies that use technology to make financial services more efficient. Financial technology companies are generally start-ups trying to disintermediate incumbent financial systems and challenge traditional corporations that are less reliant on software.” Wikipedia 2016.
So does this mean a company who provides any software to FS companies to make them “more efficient” is considered FinTech? If I build some new HR software and sell it to banks am I FinTech? Or is it the real disrupters that radically change the way we engage, interact and sell to customers etc. I’m sure the purists would think the latter however the broad definition is open to interpretation.
So when collaborating and trying to establish a clear vision for FinTech in Scotland, there is the potential for fudging it unless we’re clear as to its aims and who should be involved. If you run an event or strategy session who do you involve? Do you involve anyone making software for banks? Traditional SI’s that have an innovation arm? Uni’s? Start-ups? FS companies only as they pay the bills? Private Equity companies etc? The list grows and grows which as we know is only going to increase the time spent making decisions. But without all the relevant & key parties surely it’s not as strong?
What’s key to me is do companies really collaborate with others at the same level or is it always a subservient relationship? A large FS company collaborates with a start-up whose developing interesting software with a commercial view surely? Or is there a larger more philanthropic aim to this type of collaboration?
I hope it’s the latter as then you have a sense of creating a healthy collaborative environment which enables companies to thrive and generate interest on the world scene as opposed to building a “local scene for local people”. Only when we can get Oliver Bussman, Frank Schwab or Jason Bates and the like to be interested in what we’re trying to do in Scotland will we start to build the interest further afield which is essential to growing the FinTech scene and the increase in business collaboration in our country.