Scotland has all the right credentials to help lead the way in modernising payments. It's estimated that over £770 billion is driven annually in payments revenues, exceeding £320 trillion worldwide.
And UK technologists are stepping on the gas more than ever to revolutionise the way payments are made in the 21st century. Banks are facing challenges to their margins from innovative new fintech entrants. The result? Many are now offering more efficient payment systems that promise lower transaction charges to consumers.
Scottish companies are the vanguard of change. Among Scotland’s larger financial institutions, RBS’s Innovation Engineering team has been working to develop a better cross-border payment clearing and settlement mechanism based on the use of a blockchain, distributed ledger technology.
A UK-based subsidiary of Ingenico Group, France, makes handheld, chip and PIN card payment terminals at its 400-employee plant in Fife. It recently won a contract extension until 2020 to supply secure instore, online and mobile payment acceptance solutions to over 300,000 customers of London-based payment processor Worldpay UK. Meanwhile, NCR Edinburgh’s digital banking centre began life as mobile ticketing software startup, Mobiqa, before US global giant NCR acquired it in 2010.
Since then, head count has grown from around 15 to 120, and continues to increase as the Edinburgh subsidiary assists its global parent’s transition from being a financial hardware supplier to become a major fintech player. NCR Edinburgh is modernising how customers experience banking services across all channels including ATMs, branches, kiosks and tablets. Though it finds daily answers to the increasingly complex ways in which payments are handled, much activity still involves hard cash, dominant in large areas of the Middle East and Africa.
Alan Rae, an engineering manager at NCR Edinburgh, said: “There is still a huge demand for cash media handling services, so we are working to help make this happen in a more secure and reliable manner."
The operation’s reputation for successfully working on transformative projects saw NCR transfer a mobile banking operation from the US to Scotland to co-locate: further proof that the city has a sufficient pool of the right level of skilled, experienced people to staff such operations.
In line with Edinburgh’s cosmopolitan feel and its recruitment priorities, NCR Edinburgh is a very relaxed place, with a hint of California about its free breakfast and fruit daily, and cakes to accompany talks about coding. Rae added: “We need to do this as there are a lot of exciting fintech companies in Edinburgh and we want the talent to come to us."
Among recent start-ups, Comcarde, an early-stage company based at Livingston near Edinburgh, has developed Bridge, a secure payment system that means buyers and sellers never exchange sensitive financial information. The company raised nearly £2 million in seed funding and was planning to launch a series of funding rounds this year to expand head count and launch Bridge in the UK.
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