2020: How FinTech in Wales has adapted and grown in unprecedented times
As lockdowns and social distancing measures continue due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, businesses in every sector have had to pursue new ways of working and recruiting.
In 2020, as the nation was told to work from home, FinTech proved absolutely vital and in 2021 it will become even more important. This almost year-long crisis has forced consumers to embrace digital technology in order to adjust to the ‘new normal,’ with the greater adoption of mobile wallets, branchless banking, and ‘do-it-yourself’ financial services.
Financial institutions with progressive and modern technology have also been able to respond better to increasingly digital customers and a more remote workforce.
All this means that FinTech across the globe is flourishing, and FinTech in Wales is no different. In fact, there’s more to FinTech in Wales than you know – in this article, we take a look at some of the reasons why our nation has pride of place on the global FinTech stage.
Chairman of FinTech Wales Richard Theo recognises that 2020 was a game changer for digital companies and FinTech in particular.
He says: “There was a real dividing line between companies that embraced technology to turn 2020 into a success story versus those that stood still. Due to the arrival of Zoom in the home, consumers are now ready to engage with video chat in a business context en masse. Companies would do well to quickly embrace person to person contact through video chat with customers moving forwards.”
Our own FinTech Wales members have raised the bar when it comes to working through these unprecedented times. Confused.com’s CEO Louise O’Shea says she is proud of how her team adapted with the new demands of working from home.
She says: “We have high hopes for 2021 and beyond. FinTech has come into its own as more people have been fast-tracked along the road to managing more of their life online, meaning we’re able to help even more customers.
“Our team has seen the benefits of home working – a greater relationship of trust, increased productivity, a better work-life balance and reduced travel costs. Furthermore, even more people are recognising the job stability afforded by FinTech companies and this means we’re seeing applications from diverse candidates.
“Most of all, I’m thankful that 2020 has allowed us to take stock of what’s most important and given us fresh perspective as we head into 2021. Seeing the difficulties millions of customers have faced with regards to insurance and their finances has further cemented our commitment to genuinely put their needs first and help them in any way we can. And seeing my team be there for each other through trying times has reinforced the feeling of family that we have at Confused.com. My one hope for 2021 is that we can see each other face to face a little more, because despite the benefits of home working, we do really enjoy getting together when we can.”
Cardiff-based Yoello is another Wales-based company who has won multiple awards during 2020. By providing the hospitality industry with a cheaper, instantaneous and secure way to manage payments, it has quickly become a vital tool for hospitality businesses across the UK to reopen and operate under social distancing regulations.
Yoello was announced as a regional winner of Tech Nation’s Rising Stars programme, the UK’s only national competition for innovative, early-stage tech companies, designed to showcase the best in the country and to help companies on their growth journey.
The firm was also named Technology Business of the Year at the Cardiff Business Awards and walked away with the “Fintech Start-up of the Year” and “Mobile and Emerging Technologies Start-up of the Year” at the Wales Start-Up awards.
2020 was a challenging year for financial institutions but even crisis periods can have a silver lining. For Principality Building Society, that silver lining was the chance to perfect the way they engage their customers digitally. With the pandemic limiting person-to-person interaction at branches, consumers have flocked to digital and mobile banking as a lifeline to their financial lives.
Principality kept busy continuing to provide a standout service for customers, helping to keep business running as usual and adapting to a new way of working. The building society was able to provide various levels of support to around a third of its customers that specifically requested it, whilst continuing to provide a ‘business as usual’ service to those customers who were able to keep operating during the pandemic.
Peter Hughes, Managing Director, Principality Commercial, was awarded Commercial Personality of the Year by Insider and Principality Building Society was also shortlisted for the Lender of the Year category.
Moving forward, Principality has just appointed its first female chair in its 160-year history. Sally Jones-Evans is to be appointed the new chair of Principality Building Society’s Board in April 2021, subject to regulatory approval.
Sally is former Lloyds Banking group executive and currently sits on the boards of Hafren Dyfrydwy Ltd (a subsidiary of Severn Trent Plc), Saga Services Ltd, the insurance broking arm of Saga Group Plc and Delio Wealth Ltd, another Welsh fast growing FinTech company.
Deputy Minister for Economy and Transport, Lee Waters agrees that the fast-moving pace of technology during the pandemic has only served to underline the critical need for businesses to adopt digital ways into their working so they can be more efficient and flexible to the ever-changing demands.
He says: “We know that the vast majority of jobs now require at least some element of digital skills and we are working hard to build capacity here in Wales. Our Welsh tech sector is already thriving in Wales, but we must keep building on that success and continuously strive to innovate and lead.”
Despite a testing 2020 globally, FinTech Wales starts the New Year in a positive position with a new CEO in place and a £250,000 award from Cardiff Capital Region – our mission to help keep Wales as a global player in the FinTech and financial services sector is unfaltering and we see 2021 as only getting better and better.