Newly appointed regional fintech envoy for Wales, Richard Theo, told delegates at Digital Festival that Wales is in prime position to be biggest Fintech centre in the UK outside of London.
Although 80% of the UK’s Fintech businesses are based in the English capital, Wales’ burgeoning FinTech scene is estimated at £8.5bn and includes pioneers like comparison service GoCompare and fledgeling firms like Delio and Theo’s own Wealthify.
He said: “Wales has a great chance to become the second biggest Fintech hub in the UK. We have low operating costs, great connectivity, a wide range of incubators and accelerators, improving funding options and a far better lifestyle choice than living in London. We can work together to build the first Welsh unicorn.”
Now in its sixth year, Digital Festival- organised by Innovation Point in partnership with Welsh Government- sees 2,000 delegates across the next two days hear tech leaders from across the globe tackle tomorrow’s big issues taking in mega-trends like AI, VR, IoT, GDPR, blockchain and big data, looking at how they affect day-to-day lives as we live, work and play.
Anne Boden, originally from Swansea, pioneered the world’s first same-day payment service with the challenger Starling Bank.
She said: “In 1981 I graduated from Swansea University in computer science and chemistry and started my first job in banking. T
here were very few women in tech and banking then and very little has changed. So what made me decide in my 50s to quit my job and start a bank?
After a few years working in RBS, I came to the conclusion that we were all trying to put back the same financial system that was in place before the crisis happened and pretend it didn’t.
“I spent some time in fintech with people who were trying to do things differently. I’d spent 35 years in traditional banking and finance controlling some of the world’s biggest tech budgets and in fintech, you had three of four people in an attic, actually changing things for the better for the customer and getting things done.
“I was sceptical. I’d managed £900m budgets and thought you needed lots of people to make things happen.
“When I started knocking doors asking for money I was told people don’t start banks, particularly one which uses tech to change.
“But we created a new current account for customers that every time a customer makes a transaction collects data around that, using machine learning and AI to give insight, and this insight will give the consumer enough knowledge to figure out if they had enough money for the end of the day, the week, the month or their lives.
“In Jan 2014, I started this mission to start this bank and people thought I was crazy. We now bank with 100,000s of customers and have a retail and business proposition.
“At the moment we have a world where you do banking. You go into your app, you make a payment, you do banking. Soon, it could be that transactions just happen.
“You walk into the shop, pick up your goods and as you walk out, get a feeling from your tech-enabled suit about whether you have enough money or not.
“As the value chain breaks up, I believe we’ll have a world where transactions become smaller and we’ll create a world of invisible banking.”
The first ever Top Women in Welsh Technology – an awards ceremony crowning the women driving the digital industry in Wales – were announced at the festival.
Following a public nomination process, judges have chosen from hundreds of women from across Wales and across sectors including females who’ve founded companies working worldwide, saving lives, creating careers, innovating and boosting the economy.
CEO of Innovation Point, David Warrender, added: “As this month’s Tech Nation report shows, Wales is a place where disruptive solutions to today’s challenges are emerging, offering not just economic impact but making the world a better place in which to live, work and play.
“Digital Festival is that scene in a petri dish- two days of sparking ideas and putting tomorrow’s tech leaders in touch with those who have been there and done it, as well as giving a platform to the incredible women who can too often go unheralded in this sector.
“Each year new and brilliant things emerge and 2018 will be no different. Tech Nation talks about how we’re close to Wales’ first ever unicorn. Digital Festival is the place to come and find them.”
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