Meet five of the most important players in Scottish fintech

It’s not just about the tech – it’s also about the people. So who are the key players winning acclaim? Craig Johnson meets five faces of fintech

Thursday, 10th September 2020, 6:00 am
Monika Ohashi, co-founder and chief information officer at PolyDigi Tech.

David Ferguson

David Ferguson was at the heart of the financial technology scene in Scotland long before it was known as “fintech”.

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In 2006, he led the creation by seven financial advisory firms of Nucleus Financial, the Edinburgh-based wrap platform provider.

Before Nucleus was launched, the wrap market had been dominated by product providers and fund managers, but Ferguson’s vision was to build a company around its customers – the independent financial advisers (IFAs) that would use the platform.

It’s a recipe that has been successful, with the value of the assets managed on the platform rising from £100 million in 2007 to around £14 billion this year.

That success was recognised by the Treasury in December 2016 when Ferguson was asked to become fintech envoy for Scotland, one of the individuals charged with helping to ensure that the entire UK – and not just London – reaps the rewards of the growing industry.

It marked the start of a busy summer for Ferguson, who was also unveiled as the first chairman of Fintech Scotland, the trade body formed to help grow the industry north of the Border.

Then, just weeks later, shares in Nucleus began trading on the London Stock Exchange’s Alternative Investment Market (Aim), with the business valued at about £140m in its debut as a publicly listed company.

Ferguson studied actuarial mathematics and statistics at Heriot-Watt University in Edinburgh before training as an actuary with the Life Association of Scotland.

His career took him to Ivory & Sime and what was then Scottish Life International.

Christine Bamford

Christine Bamford launched Women’s Coin in 2017 as the first global women’s blockchain crypto currency based on social value.

Half of its pre-tax profits will be donated to humanitarian work to support the UN’s fifth sustainable development goal around women’s equality, while its micro-finance initiative will enable women to set up in business, with a pilot project launched in Kenya.

Bamford describes her mission as redefining charitable giving and impact investment using blockchain and tokenisation to ensure transparent, secure donations reach the point of need without using intermediaries.

She is a visiting professor at both Edinburgh Napier and Northampton universities, and has lectured extensively around the world, serving as a blockchain policy adviser on gender equality for Thailand and Malaysia, and as a regular on Fintech Scotland international trade missions.

Equality is a major passion and she is the force behind the Stepping Up leadership programme, which supports black, Asian and minority ethnic people, the disabled and women to reach top posts.

Bamford is preparing to launch Stepping Up as an online global learning channel later this year.

She was previously director of organisation development at the Welsh Assembly Government, which saw her oversee the set up of a new structure for the country’s healthcare system.

Stuart Lunn

It’s a bit of cliché to say that all equity analysts want to run their own businesses – but for Stuart Lunn, the old adage was true.

Having helped to develop Cenkos Securities’ branch in Edinburgh before becoming a consultant, in 2014 Lunn launched LendingCrowd, the Edinburgh-based peer-to-peer crowd lending platform that allows individuals and institutions to lend cash to companies and receive interest while their capital is being paid back over an agreed period.

The format has proved popular, with nearly 900 loans worth a combined total of almost £80m being provided since it launched, fuelling the growth of small businesses and sole traders that may otherwise have struggled to access traditional bank lending at affordable costs.

One of the biggest endorsements of Lunn’s platform came in 2016, when the Scottish Investment Bank, economic development agency Scottish Enterprise’s investment arm, offered £2.75m of loans across the platform, with an £18.75m deal with SE and Dutch bank NIBC following last year.

LendingCrowd was accredited by the Financial Conduct Authority and allowed to offer an individual savings account (ISA) in 2017, marking a watershed moment for the wider crowd finance market.

Sir Sandy Crombie, formerly chief executive of Standard Life and ex-senior director at Royal Bank of Scotland, came on board as LendingCrowd’s chairman in 2018.

In July, Lunn’s firm was authorised by the British Business Bank to distribute cash under the UK government’s Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme.

Tynah Matembe

Tynah Matembe’s love of family, community and building wealth lies at the heart of MoneyMatiX, the Edinburgh-based company she co-founded with Helene Rodger, and for which she now serves as chief executive.

After studying law at Makerere University in Uganda, Matembe, main picture, worked as a programme analyst with the UN’s World Food Programme before moving to the UK, where she joined Royal Bank of Scotland and gained her chartered banker accreditation.

Matembe was named a Saltire Fellow and took part in the entrepreneurship MBA programme at Babson College in Boston and Strathclyde Business School, alongside Rodger.

The pair then worked together at Passion4Fusion, a company that helps migrants to integrate into Scottish society via a range of activities, including sports, drama, and financial literacy classes.

In 2018, they set up MoneyMatiX to help adults and young people learn how to manage their finances, achieve monetary goals, and improve their mental health by tackling money-related stress.

MoneyMatiX’s work is based on the fact that people turn to their families and friends in the first instance when they are in need of financial advice.

It aims to help people develop good financial habits and become role models for their relatives and friends, making conversations about money more comfortable for everyone concerned.

MoneyMatiX operates a holistic programme called “Kuza”, which means nurture and grow. It includes KuzaKash, a finance management app that helps families with goal-setting, and KuzaLearn, which is a bespoke financial wellbeing programme delivered in schools, workplaces and to community groups.

Monika Ohashi

It was a busy spring for Monika Ohashi, co-founder and chief information officer at PolyDigi Tech, an emerging fintech that specialises in cyber security.

Not only did PolyDigi Tech unveil plans to expand in Edinburgh by opening a technology hub, but Ohashi was also named as the “rising star of the year” at the AccelerateHER Awards, which were organised by Investing Women, Scotland’s only all-female business angel group.

Investing Women said that its prize recognises a female company founder with a “business that has huge potential”.

Although the awards ceremony in March had to shift online due to the coronavirus pandemic, Ohashi was named as the rising star when the semi-finalists in the other categories were unveiled in February.

Ohashi co-founded PolyDigi Tech last year alongside Curtis Chan, Alexander Chow and Yves Segovia. The company received a £200,000 regional selective assistance grant from economic development agency Scottish Enterprise this year to help fuel its expansion by setting up a technology hub, which will create 16 jobs.

PolyDigi Tech’s authentication and authorisation technology has already been endorsed by a major international bank.

Ohashi was previously one of the founding members of Ginco, the largest multi-asset wallet application and blockchain service provider in Japan, and served as the company’s head of business development.