FinTech Scotland has announced that Chief Executive Stephen Ingledew will step down from his current role and assume the role of Executive Chair from November.
As Executive Chair, Ingledew will remain involved with the strategic leadership of FinTech Scotland. He has headed the industry champion since its foundation in January 2018.
In an interview with DIGIT, he said that he will continue to work with the group, providing strategic direction and working to bring together participants from across Scotland’s fintech cluster.
“As Fintech Scotland is nearly three years old, it’s time it evolved,” he said. “And as the organisation evolves, you need to bring in that next stage of leadership.”
FinTech Scotland Strategic Development Director Nicola Anderson will take on the role of acting Chief Executive from November. She has been on full-time secondment with FinTech Scotland from the Financial Conduct Authority for two years.
As acting Chief Executive, she will work with the Executive Chair to continue Fintech Scotland’s current projects. Her appointment will develop the group’s leadership team to capitalise on its growth and build on its impact as a cluster management body.
Ingledew noted that, as FinTech Scotland grows, it will also ensure that the workload is spread among another senior person, as well as preparing for future growth.
“With a small team, it is important to bring in a level of succession planning,” he noted.
FinTech Scotland will begin looking to appoint a new Chief Executive, with the process expected to be complete by the end of the year.
In addition, FinTech Scotland’s current Non-Executive Chair, David Ferguson, will step down from the role which he has held for over two years. Ferguson will continue to actively support FinTech Scotland move into its next phase.
As Executive Chair, Ingledew will provide crucial support to Fintech Scotland’s team and continue its work developing Scotland’s fintech cluster.
“Our key role is making sure that we bring together different participants, whether it’s helping the innovative SME community link with larger financial companies and other big global players, or getting the community to link in with universities, with consumer groups, with government agencies, or global hub connections.”
Along with his new role at FinTech Scotland, Ingledew will take on a part-time secondment to Scottish Enterprise as an interim director for six months from November. He will help develop future strategic opportunities in economic and technology developments across a variety of emerging digital clusters.
His six-month tenure means Ingledew will focus on how best to support Scotland’s post-Covid economic recovery.
“I think everybody is focused on the immediate steps that need to be taken. Focused on the actions, the priorities, the interventions that could actually make a positive contribution now – the public sector working with the private sector, working with academia, and entrepreneurs, bringing all that together,” Ingledew said.
In addition, he has recently been appointed to the UK Government Innovation Expert Group, announced this February, set up to advise on driving productivity through innovation.
During a three-year tenure heading Fintech Scotland, Ingledew said he has held a privileged position watching the development of Scotland’s fintech SME community and cluster. During that time, new innovative startups have entered the ecosystem and more established firms have matured.
“When we started, we had 26 firms in the community. Now it’s 148 firms,” he said.
“Also, international fintech businesses have moved into Scotland. So, the cluster is diverse, it’s innovative, and it’s very broad in terms of the areas of innovation,” Ingledew added.
FinTech Scotland has also seen the number of strategic partners it works with grow, according to Ingledew.
“When we started, we had five strategic partners – HSBC, Lloyds, University of Edinburgh, Scottish Government, and Scottish Enterprise. Now we’ve got 26,” he said.
For its future growth, FinTech Scotland will focus on three areas to help Scottish fintech businesses grow.
“The first is making sure there’s the right access to the skills. Secondly, there’s continuing investment in research and development. And thirdly, building our international profile to help fintechs in Scotland go international and help global fintechs come to Scotland working with Scottish Development International and others.”
In addition to seeing FinTech Scotland’s development, Ingledew has had a front-row seat to witness how the whole cluster has developed and changed. He has seen how fintech startups have identified problems with how people and businesses use money and found technology that addresses them.
“That type of motivation, of wanting to make things better, to reinvent the financial world, to make it better than it was, it’s been a real privilege just to see so many examples of that and it’s very motivating,” he said.
“To see that, and such a diversity in the field – in everything from payments, the way people use money, to the way that people gain access and deal with their data, their bank and the way people invest. The diversity, the innovative creative mindsets, the application of new technologies, it’s just been phenomenal.”
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However, the impact of Covid-19 on the sector has been perhaps the biggest change of his tenure. He noted that Scottish fintechs have shown remarkable resilience, and while there have been challenges for all companies, there have been opportunities as well.
“Without a doubt, there have been harsh challenges for fintechs, whether it’s around cash flow, recruiting people, keeping people within new contracts or developing the technology,” he said.
“Having said that, we’ve seen a real acceleration in a kind of digital economy, and therefore an acceleration in the demand for fintech innovation. The number of firms in the community when we went into lockdown in March was 130. Now it’s 148.
“The key is, as we come out of the pandemic and go into next year, we need to think about the lessons we can learn from it? And one of the key things is we will require a very different mindset – we can’t go back to the mindset that we had before.”
Ultimately, Ingledew stressed the importance of collaboration. It was collaboration between FinTech Scotland and its partners, between startups, government, larger companies and academia that has helped Scotland’s fintech cluster develop over the past three years.
“Some organisations put competition before collaboration. How do we turn that around and be more collaborative while recognising the importance of competition? Collaboration has to take dominance to help address issues like financial crime, customer vulnerability, financial inclusion, and helping small businesses adopt technologies that benefit everybody.
“It’s not an area that you compete over, so let’s collaborate over those areas.”