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Together Stronger: The Rise of Welsh Fintech 

One of the many absorbing storylines at this year’s FIFA World Cup, was the arrival of Wales onto the world stage. They won hearts and minds with their return to the tournament after a 64-year wait.

Their achievement, inspired by Welsh values, truly demonstrates what a nation greater than the sum of its parts can achieve. Especially with strong leadership and a commitment to collaboration and teamwork. In that same spirit, those Welsh values and attitudes towards collaboration have helped to foster an economy which is open, supportive and competitive on a global stage. The country’s flourishing fintech sector is a prime example of this.

Today, the Wales tech sector is worth an estimated £8.2billion to the Welsh economy, with fintech generating £3.6billion in value in 2021/22. Wales is now considered one of the fastest-growing digital economies outside of London and continues to grow.

A key element of the success of the fintech sector in Wales can be attributed to an extremely supportive ecosystem. Namely, the essential collaboration between Welsh fintech organisations and active supporters. These include the Welsh Government, its SMARTCymru initiative, Cardiff Capital Region, Development Bank, FinTech Wales and many more.

The growth of Fintech Wales

FinTech Wales is an independent membership association and champion of the fintech and financial services industry. The company was created in 2019 with the aim of establishing Wales as a globally recognised hub of fintech excellence.

FinTech Wales brings entrepreneurs, startups, scaling and enterprise organisations, tech suppliers, universities, higher and further education, schools and the public sector together, to create a fully inclusive ecosystem. It enables fintechs to succeed thanks to the availability of the best talent, skills and investment to make a tangible impact on the global and local stage.

The Foundry

In 2021, the organisation launched its unique accelerator programme The Foundry. It was designed to support and scale the next generation of fintech startups with partners Cardiff Capital Region, Principality, Admiral Pioneer and confused.com. The success of the programme has made huge steps to attract and support startups within Wales. It is also a significant factor in attracting international companies from all over the world to develop in Wales.

The Foundry's Third Cohort
The Foundry’s Third Cohort

Daniel Sawko, CEO and co-founder of shipshape.vc – a member of the Foundry’s first cohort – says: “We found that the Foundry really helped to accelerate our business. Our vision was lifted to bigger horizons. It gave us a more welcoming environment that enabled our business to thrive. In Wales, small businesses like ours get identified, supported and that makes all the difference.”

Reflecting on the extraordinary success of Welsh fintechs, Sarah Williams-Gardener, CEO of FinTech Wales, says: “It’s brilliant to be able to celebrate the evolution of Welsh Fintechs and the collaborative business support network that is present in Wales. We’ve gone from a thriving fintech cluster to a critical cluster as part of Team GB’s position on the global stage. Following the fantastic success of our Welsh National Football Team raising Wales’ profile, we are together stronger. We must continue to be louder and prouder to demonstrate what we have to offer.”

Fintech and government coordination 

Indeed, through the impressive coordination and collaboration between Welsh Government, industry and academia, the country is home to over 1,900 active financial services companies with 128 of those directly classified as fintechs. Wales has over 55,000 people now actively employed within the financial services sector. Around 16,000 people are now directly employed by the Fintech sector. Just in the last twelve months, FinTech Wales estimates that a further 1,000 jobs have been created by their members.

When it comes to filling those jobs, Wales has a strong pool of local talent. As of Q4’22, it has 22,000 students engaged in fintech-related studies.

Welsh talent is vital

Speaking about how vital Welsh talent has been to scaling their business, Mark Thompson, head of sales at Sonovate says: “One of the things that pushed our founders to set-up in Cardiff was the ability to find capable and risk-taking people to join the business when it was a start-up – and that’s what Wales showed us. Looking ahead at the long-term growth of our business, we see that Wales is putting tremendous investment into developing digital skills in schools, so we really see this as the place to be.”

Sarah Williams-Gardener, CEO of FinTech Wales
Sarah Williams-Gardener, CEO of FinTech Wales

Sarah Williams-Gardener said: “We are extremely privileged in Wales to have so many universities who are recognised internationally for such high quality.  Aside from specialised degrees and graduates schemes, there are also a number of vocational training programmes that prepare people of all ages and backgrounds for careers in fintech.

“We work closely with our members, training providers and schools throughout Wales to deliver fintech awareness programmes and training academies. These create the skills and talent required to support the growth of our ecosystem.”

What does the future hold for Welsh fintech?

Whilst Welsh fintechs celebrate another year of local and global success, FinTech Wales is very much focused on the future. Especially in how to best serve the fintech community through investment and collaboration.

Williams-Gardner continues: “It’s essential that FinTech Wales continues to lead the collaboration and commitment to growing and developing the fintech cluster in Wales with increased investment and talent creation. We will, as always, amplify success, influence where change is required and build where there are gaps in the market.”

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