Financial technology plays a vital role in Wales’ fast-growing digital economy. And thanks to a vibrant entrepreneur community, easy access to Government support and a pipeline of talent from Welsh universities, fintech is flourishing. Software from Delio heads up our special focus.
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 curated 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 software 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 three years on, the Cardiff-based business already has offices in London, Brussels and Sydney, and is eyeing further expansion in the Middle East. Lewis says: “We’re also looking at a big fundraise this year to move into the US market, and we’re expecting to double headcount in the next 18 months.”
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.”
The firm has received support from Cardiff Council and the Welsh Government’s Accelerated Growth Programme. It has also gained from being based at the Cardiff Business Technology Centre, a flexible office space aimed at developing knowledge-driven or technology-based small firms.
“We’re probably one of the larger businesses here now, and we have our own private space,” he says. “We’ve had to move offices three or four times because we keep adding more people. The Centre has always been very flexible, and it has been one less thing for us to worry about. But now we’re up to 30 people, we’re looking at laying foundations for an international HQ here in Cardiff.”
After three years of putting in place the structure of the business, the watchword for the immediate future is growth – and Lewis thinks there’s an untapped market for Delio’s services. “There are more high-net-worth individuals allocating money to private assets, and more financial institutions are realising they need to do something in this space. We are continuing to evolve and develop on this basis.”
What’s more, diversification is never far from mind. “There’s lots we can do, not only in this space but also in other markets,” he says. “We are a private asset infrastructure business, but where else can we look to build out offerings? That’s a question we’ll be looking to answer in the next two to three years.”