The growth of Wales’ digital economy has been spectacular. According to a recent estimate, it’s worth around £8.2billion and employs more than 44,000 people. Much of this success is down to the booming fintech (or financial technology) sector, which has seen Wales emerge as a go-to location for innovative start-ups.
It’s easy to see why. There’s a strong financial and professional-services sector in Wales. We have an entrepreneurial culture, sustained by talented graduates from our universities, and a devolved Government that encourages and supports it. Early-stage companies can benefit from incubator and co-working spaces, accelerator programmes and an active meet-up community that brings investors together with both start-ups and established companies.
The latter include such technology giants as BT, Hewlett Packard and Dell – all of which have built up a large presence in Wales – and the consumer brands MoneySuperMarket, Admiral, GoCompare and Confused.com. Up-and-coming fintech companies include Wealthify, an online investment service that uses smart algorithms to democratise investing; Sonovate, a contract finance provider for the recruitment industry; and BipSync, which offers research management software for investors.
Cardiff’s Amplyfi and Swansea-based Vizolution are two companies that have carved a unique niche in the tech sector. And another example of a thriving fintech firm is Delio, which has developed a white label technology platform that enables financial firms to connect their clients with highly desirable private investment opportunities. The business was co-founded in 2015 by Gareth Lewis, who chose to return to his native South Wales after starting his career in corporate finance.
“We developed a technology platform which we license to financial institutions, and which they can brand to their own organisation,” he explains. “It’s essentially a customisable client experience, where wealth management clients can log on and access a range of entrepreneurial investment opportunities.”
Due to the specialist nature of Delio’s work and the international growth in private markets, its client base is global. Just six years on, the Cardiff-based business already has an international team operating from London, Zurich, Singapore, Dubai, New York and Sydney and is eyeing further expansion in the key financial markets. Lewis says: “We’ve made fantastic progress over the last six years and completed our Series A fundraise in 2019. This has enabled us to expand the business rapidly, hiring some fantastic people around the globe and winning clients in 17 countries. However, we’re also incredibly proud of our Welsh roots, so I was delighted to be able to open our brand new head office in central Cardiff late in 2019. This is now ‘home’ to more than 50 members of our team.”
Lewis expects the Welsh fintech sector to continue flourishing over the coming years. “Cardiff is the closest capital city to London, which is home to a thriving financial technology sector. It gives us the opportunity to have a large in-house team here in Cardiff, with a number of exciting opportunities on our doorstep.”
Finding staff in such a competitive sector is not easy. Delio has a number of channels, including a graduate rotation scheme for students from Cardiff University, and is currently looking to develop links with local schools to make young people aware of the opportunities in the sector. Likewise, when it comes to attracting staff from further afield, there are advantages to being headquartered in Wales.
“I believe we’re unique in the opportunity we’re offering and the type of exposure we can offer to people joining us,” says Lewis. “We’ve taken on some fantastic people who are Welsh and wanted to come back to Wales for the lifestyle advantages. We can offer them not just a fast-paced role with plenty of personal development opportunities, but also a good work-life balance.”
Flexible working arrangements have been key to building and retaining talented individuals at Delio, according to Lewis. “As a business we rapidly adapted to working from home during the Covid pandemic. However, as restrictions began to relax, we spoke to our team and it was clear that the majority of people wanted a flexible approach going forward. As a result, we now employ a hybrid model where team members can choose to work remotely, from the office, or a mixture of both. We feel this gives individuals the flexibility and freedom they want, without losing the accountability that everyone has to contribute meaningfully to our business.”
After three years of rapid growth which has seen revenues increase by more than 350%, the watchword for the immediate future is acceleration – and Lewis thinks there’s a huge global opportunity for Delio’s services. “There are more high-net-worth individuals allocating money to private assets than ever before, and more financial institutions are realising they need to do something in this space. The fact that we’re now trusted by some of the world’s most respected financial institutions like Barclays, ING and UBS, just goes to show how extensive the opportunity is for us.”
What’s more, diversification is never far from mind. “While we’re a technology business at our core, we’re always looking at ways we can add value to our clients. This has led us to offer complementary services such as regulatory expertise and proposition development; the breadth and depth of our team’s knowledge means that we’re perfectly positioned to support these requirements. It also helps us to differentiate ourselves, which will be key to our growth plans.”