Exclusive: new fintech plan

RBS in tech talks over ‘Fin-Spark’ centre

Graeme Jones: opportunity (photo by Terry Murden)
Graeme Jones: opportunity (photo by Terry Murden)

Royal Bank of Scotland may take a key role in developing a “Fin-Spark” for the fintech sector to replicate the success of the Entrepreneurial Spark incubators.

It would bring together the various players involved in developing disruptive technology for the financial services sector.

A physical hub – possibly at the bank’s Gogarburn HQ – is among a number of ideas being discussed by a working group including Scottish Financial Enterprise (SFE), the universities, city council and the industry.

Graeme Jones, chief executive of SFE, told the Fintech conference at Dynamic Earth yesterday that progress was being made on creating either a physical or virtual hub.

Speaking afterwards to Daily Business, he said there was a need to bring together all those involved in the sector so they can interact, develop ideas and resolve problems.

A “Fin-Spark” is one possible route, though it would differ from E-Spark by being more than an incubator for young firms.

“It would also include investors, academics and also regulators from London who could be there two or three days a week. It’s important to have access to these people and build the entire ecosystem,” he said.

“This is a once in a decade opportunity to get it right.”

RBS is a candidate to host such a centre. Its representative at the Fintech conference Louise Smith sits on an SFE advisory board. Accountants and business advisers Deloitte are also involved in developing the digital strategy.


Key players supportive


Mr Jones said a big positive is that a number of key players are supportive of the idea.

There is also talk of housing it at the Codebase centre near Edinburgh College of Art. Codebase embraces a wider range of IT-focused businesses but could offer the required space.

The conference heard that access to funding beyond early stage capital still required firms to turn to London as there was a limit to the amount of funding available in Scotland.

There were mixed views about the impact of Brexit. One delegate said it was necessary to be positive about change and said Hong Kong had thrived more when it was run by businessmen rather than government officials.

Speaker and panelist Gavin Littlejohn of FData said he generally embraced change but he hoped British firms retained the ability to “passport” agreements across regimes.


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