The serial innovator and Fintech Grand Master talks to Rosie Allsopp about his latest venture and why Jersey’s the perfect sandbox
It’s no exaggeration to say that Nick Ogden is a titan in the world of fintech.
He’s credited with inventing e-commerce back in ’94 with the launch of Wine Warehouse.
Not content with that, he’s gone on to launch several very successful ventures including WorldPay and Clearbank.
And, on the day I interview him, Nick tells me he’s just discovered that he’s been awarded the rather fabulous title of Fintech Grand Master by his peers, so it’s fair to say he’s at the top of his professional game and showing no signs of slowing down.
His latest venture, which was announced last October, is RTGS Global – a collaboration with Microsoft which will enable another step change in the way that multi-currency payments are carried out.
What is RTGS? RTGS stands for Real Time Gross Settlement. RTGS.global is a global network for cross-border liquidity. It’s technology that uniquely authenticates and audits interbank real-time liquidity on a transaction by transaction basis. It transforms multi-currency payment instructions, delivering instant transactional integrity, security, risk reduction and settlement finality.
“A few weeks ago we launched a major initiative with Microsoft who we’ve been working with since we started the project,” he says.
“We’ve got banks, regulators from around the world that we’ve been in discussions with. We’ve got a Stage One process at the moment. What we’ve developed is the world’s first liquidity network.”
Nick is the first to admit that this sounds very grand but he explains that the principle is actually quite simple.
“What it does, before you make any international payments, you know the money exists and you can confirm the money exists and you can transfer the ownership using something called atomic settlement.”
As an example, he tells me how he flew to Australia to do an event with Microsoft and before leaving he sent the company’s managing director Steve Worrall $200AUS.
“I then flew to Australia via Abu Dhabi. I got to Australia, we did the event. I gave him $200AUS in cash which I’d got at the airport. I left Australia and the money still hadn’t got there. Today, we can do exactly the same transaction in 50 milliseconds.”
The technology utilised by RTGS Global is so state-of-the-art it wasn’t in existence even two years ago.
“So you couldn’t have done it even if you’d had the grand idea, it wouldn’t work. It was impossible. We are fortunate in relation to being able to do that.
Those opportunities to be able to transform, innovate, move things forward, provide efficiencies, we are trying to take $15tn of financial friction out of the world’s financial system. That is a massive number and there’s lots of opportunities to transform and do things like that.
“Looking forward to how all of that is going to develop, you see massive opportunities in financial services, or any industry. If you just stand back and ask ‘why do they do that?’ quite often you think it’s because they had to then because that was the only technology, but you don’t have to now.”
Nick OgdenWhich brings us neatly to Digital Jersey’s Tech Week. Nick, who’s based in Jersey, will be kicking off the week by hosting a panel discussion featuring some equally big hitters including Matt Gamser from World Bank, Christian Safardis from Microsoft, Global Fintech 50 influencer Dr Ruth Wandhofer and Huw van Steenis a former advisor to Mark Carney at the Bank of England.
I ask him how the Channel Islands can capitalise on opportunities in fintech.
Nick explains that Jersey is a perfect sandbox environment because “it’s a microcosm of the world.”
He says: “We have a complete demographic here, we have an environment where you can measure it, it doesn’t move.
“As a consequence of that you can really do some clever stuff. If you have a product or service that you want to test, trying to do that in a city in the UK or America or somewhere in Europe normally has a lot of challenges around it.
“You’ve got the movement coming in and out and you can’t match the demographics properly. Here you’ve got the movement around an island of nine by five. So it’s relatively restricted so you can test things, you can do things, you can evaluate things.
“I was saying last week to Digital Jersey we should call it The Sandbox because it’s surrounded by sand and it’s probably the world’s best sandbox.”
He is, of course, correct and it’s something Digital Jersey’s already picked up on. If you’d like to know more about the island’s qualities as the perfect sandbox you can find out here.
Tech Week also offers the opportunity to show Jersey off to the rest of the world, he says.
“It would be great to show people who are going to be tuning in from around the world from wherever, to watch this event, what they are missing, what they can do here and the combination of the environment and the creativity and everything else is as good as Silicon Valley in America or better.”
So, as a man who’s internationally renowned for being a serial innovator, what advice would he give to someone who thinks they’ve got a great fintech idea but has no idea about how to progress it?
“You need to have the courage to start. Going to talk to somebody about getting the courage to start isn’t necessarily the best way going around this. You’ve got to really believe in yourself and accept that it’s not going to be easy. People will think that you’re heading towards the madhouse and you may fail. There’s no guarantees.”
It’s also good to realise there’s nothing wrong with failure, he adds.
“It’s unfortunate that in Europe and the UK and elsewhere we view failure as failure whereas in America they view failure as learning. Hopefully with what’s going on with Digital Jersey, people will understand that things are not going to be perfect because life isn’t. I would just go and give it a go. If you need some technical help or office space, Digital Jersey can help with that. Try and find a mentor, somebody you can talk to. Don’t lose sight of your own vision. And if your own vision isn’t clear, you probably need to think of a different one.”
If you happen to have a fabulous fintech idea and you’d like to talk to someone about it, click here to find out more.