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Piers Marais

Chief Product Officer (CPO), Currencycloud

Fintech is a force for good that facilitates business and helps protect customer finances, says Piers Marais, Chief Product Officer at cross-border payments platform, Currencycloud.

What does the UK fintech landscape look like at present?  

The UK is a world leader in fintech — for various reasons. The country generally — and London specifically — has a long financial history. We have a progressive regulatory framework that has allowed electronic money institutions to thrive, and we have a fantastic pool of innovative talent. While there have been challenges over the last year — due to inflation, the pandemic and war in Ukraine — the UK is a great place to do fintech business.  

You’ve described the UK’s fintech industry as ‘a force for good’ — in what ways? 

Fintech makes it easier for SMEs to do business while keeping customer finances safe. For example, we partner with ComplyAdvantage — one of the leading tech players within the anti-fraud and anti-money laundering space. Then there is Onfido offering businesses digital ID verification. Fintechs like these investigate and solve a particular problem. They allow financial companies and institutions to stitch solutions into their own apps and ecosystems quickly and efficiently.  

How does fintech empower SMEs to do business? 

By facilitating quick, cheap and more efficient cross-border payments, allowing them to grow internationally. It gives thousands of UK SMEs access to the global digital economy, which shouldn’t be underestimated. For example, we have a globalised virtual collection solution that customises payment options wherever a company’s customers are located. 

Fintech makes it easier for SMEs to do business while keeping customer finances safe.

How is fintech expanding financial inclusion? 

By taking a customer-centric approach which, coupled with technology, can serve niche parts of the small business market. Starling Bank is a great example. A traditional bank might offer SMEs a one-size-fits-all bank account, but Starling builds solutions that are relevant to their customers’ specific needs. 

Global payment solutions, built for banks and banking providers.

Can fintech help improve financial literacy? 

Yes, which is important for communities and the economy. Take Monzo, which allows people to see and categorise their spending easily, via a mobile app. There are also apps that — thanks to the open banking regulatory frameworks — allow you to see all your accounts in one space. 

Is this an exciting time for fintech? 

We’re in the middle of a perfect storm. The cost of living crisis gives fintechs specific challenges to solve while tech advances such as AI, chatbots and machine learning allow new ideas to be realised in a cheaper and faster way. That could lead to innovations that fundamentally change the way we think about financial services. I see this as the start of an exciting next wave of fintech

Currencycloud processed cross-border payments for 9.9% of all UK SMEs trading internationally (over 36,500 UK SMEs) over the last 12 months. We continue to distribute our services widely to UK SMEs, having onboarded 196 financial institutions serving UK SMEs and UK Fintechs since January 2020.

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