Over the past few months, I have been working across several cities and regions, which have or hope to create, a fintech hub. Although they are all very different, in terms of their existing strengths, their potential, their approach and their progress, at their heart, the process each of these countries are going through to create an effective ecosystem is very similar and in many ways highly repeatable.
I was keen to pinpoint some key principles and after a lot of thought, I concluded that there was a way to build a blueprint for doing this.
The result was the creation of our Fintech Cities playbook, aimed at helping cities, regions and countries define a blueprint and strategy to accelerate the growth of an ecosystem and emerge on the global stage.
With this playbook, we have done two things – we developed a clear view of the mechanical elements you need to build an ecosystem, and described what you need to do to execute effectively, and put a network in place that will stand the test of time. While it is important to have a number of guiding principles, there are five that emerged strongly in our work.
A summary of the five guiding principles
1) Stop being good
Fintech needs something different, some disruption. It’s important to step quickly away from that stage where you are just talking about it. How do you identify that bold step that can move your fintech city forward?
In Edinburgh, the aspiration is to be the data capital of Europe. It’s brave to call it, but it makes sense to help order thoughts and be clear in building a strategy around a component of fintech.
2) Create your own legend
What do you want the story of your fintech future to look like? What do you want the ecosystem to achieve?
In Saudi Arabia, for example, we are helping align the ambition of the fintech community against the broader ambition set out in the region’s Vision 2030 strategy and their desire to accelerate the growth of technology and other industries.
3) Brave the brutal truth
Recognise what you are good at – and what you are not so good at. Don’t try to do everything. Focus on some niche areas and do them really well. Where are you on the journey, and how you find those specialisms?
So often I see cities or regions who want to be all things to all people when it comes to fintech, it is important to understand the power that can be created through partnering or linking to other communities to plug gaps that you might have in your own ecosystem.
4) Scale at the frontier
This follows on from creating the legend; within that big picture, what are the specific areas that you can really excel in, and how do you drive them forward? Take the things that you do well now, and scale them.
Set the benchmark for other fintech hubs to aspire to, in the areas you excel.
5) Go further together
It’s all about collaboration and Scotland has done that very well. No matter how many parties are involved in the fintech ecosystem, you have to collaborate and network.
Never be more than one or two steps away from a partner you might need to work with to make progress.
What is also incredibly important, however, is how we use these fintech hubs and centres to help build confidence among budding fintech entrepreneurs and train the next generation of talent.
That means programmes and meet-ups, coding clubs and the like, but also coaching and encouragement to be creative and think about how we could re-imagine financial services. It is important that we not only teach the skills, but also build confidence, encourage creativity and define a culture that allows people to be bold and unencumbered in their thinking.
The future is incredibly bright and now that Scotland has captured and understood what it means to be a fintech hub, our focus must now be on wonderful execution.