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Collaboration: a Critical Factor for Fintech Across CCR

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Following our last article which featured the fintech strategy that’s currently evolving to build a world-class fintech ecosystem in the Cardiff Capital Region, we now look in more detail at  ‘collaboration’ and the crucial importance of  it in realising the ambition to build a cluster of global standing.

The UK Government-commissioned Kalifa Report identified collaboration as a key factor in the success of any fintech industry, making an ongoing case for fostering partnerships between financial institutions and fintech firms and “building coalitions across the value chain of economic actors to address specific industry challenges, such as the development of the architecture and ecosystems for Open Finance and digital identities.” And that’s exactly what is happening right here in our region, with our universities leading the way in working closely with fintechs of all sizes, inspiring innovations that will deliver a collaboratively-created competitive edge.

“Delivering a collaboratively-created competitive edge”    

Cardiff University has shown real vision in quickly understanding fintech’s wave of creative destruction, how it will transform the finance landscape – and how it is already impacting on our economy: with phenomena such as cryptocurrencies suddenly competing with flat currencies, disrupting the existing payment system and posing a real challenge to central and commercial banks.

The Academics at Cardiff University’s Fintech Research Group are working with a number of enterprises on collaborative R&D projects, combining innovative business models and computer technology to improve financial services by utilising cryptocurrencies, blockchain, open banking, insuretech, robo-advisors, digital payment systems, crowdfunding, algorithmic and high frequency trading, machine learning and computer-assisted textual analysis.

The results are already tangible, with companies such as ActiveQuote, Admiral, Confused and Wealthify all benefiting from these collaborative innovations – as well as the University’s Data Innovation Accelerator working with enterprises such as W2 Global; and career pathways into the industry already established through the National Software Academy, Data Science Academy, School of Computer Science and Informatics (the alter mater of Yoello’s Sina Yamani) and specialist courses that include a BSc in Financial Maths and a one-year MSc in Fintech.

Cardiff University’s Fintech Research Group is well on its way to becoming an internationally recognised institute – a leader in interdisciplinary Fintech research – engaging in innovative industrially-relevant collaboration. And it’s by no means on its own. Cardiff Metropolitan University is blazing its own trail as a fintech R&D partner. Dr. Imtiaz Khan, Reader in Data Science at Cardiff Met’s School of Technologies works in a team that specialises in provenance, blockchain, data modelling, data interoperability, interactive data visualisation, virtualisation and machine learning – and sees clear potential for fintech in our region to stand for something new and much-needed, by being amongst the first wave of fintechs to deliver a democratic and fair financial system that’s progressive and inclusive.

“Standing for something new, progressive and much-needed”

This potential for fintech to be a force for good is a theme taken up with alacrity by Dr Khan’s colleague, Dr. Sia Chow Siing, Senior Lecturer in Data Science at Cardiff School of Technologies. In conversations with us, Dr Siing stressed that she’s witnessing the convergence of banking, international finance and risk management right across financial services, with fintech being both a key driver and enabler of this – and that’s given the School of Technologies the international profile to bring together leading academics from across the world, a tangible testimony to what’s happening in this region and the huge potential for what could happen next.

Making sure that the next generation of people in the region benefit directly from this is at the heart of the work being done in schools by Dr. Fiona Carroll, Senior Lecturer in Digital Media and Smart Technology at the Cardiff School of Technologies. Dr Carroll’s passion is Human Computer Interaction (HCI) and how computing actually influences us and our behaviour – and for her it’s a fundamental given that we need to get more females into the whole technology field, to make sure that the future is built on balanced, representative and inclusive tech development.

To help achieve this, the Cardiff School of Technologies are embarking on a project involving 20 local schools, aimed at engaging young female students to interact with STEM subjects through innovations such as a ‘Read and Code’ book that Dr Carroll actually developed with her three young children. Fabulous to see such amazing levels of creativity being applied to the challenge of inspiring young minds to get interested in coding. She’s convinced that the success of future collaborations will be dictated by how well we connect with future talent of all genders – and that the CCR can play a valuable part in developing tech that’s good for all.

“A meeting of minds delivering fintech that’s good for all”

The quality of collaborative links already in place across CCR is not lost on Sarah Williams-Gardener, CEO of Fintech Wales:

“We have already evidenced how good we can be through many meeting of minds – and the inspirational work already being delivered through partnerships with Cardiff University and Cardiff Met gives us a glimpse of what is possible here in our fintech cluster. The same spirit of collaboration and innovation is driving some great work at the University of South Wales too – where I’ve witnessed their team developing an amazing platform for Mayo Twala’s Stock Up start-up, which is due to launch in September 2021. It shows that if we work, think and act together, we can achieve our vision – and maybe even more.”

This emerging culture of collaboration across CCR gives credence to the Fintech Wales vision of building a sector that will enjoy global repute – and that collaboration extends beyond co-operation between companies and academia: with a network of companies supporting fintechs in their growth and development. We’ll be looking at one such company – Ship Shape VC – next week, finding out how their unique semantic algorithm helps fintech start-ups identify the investors and the funding that’s right for them.