Partner Profile: Sandpiper Consulting, with co-founders – Paul Swinson, Andrew McIlroy and Peter Cooper
Ryan Walsh / 18th September 2023
FinTech North recently sat down with Northern-based change delivery consultancy, Sandpiper Consulting to hear about their specialist work in the financial services and FinTech sector and their thoughts about the Northern FinTech ecosystem and its future.
To listen and view the recording, check out the YouTube link embedded below. We have also produced a write-up of the interview. For those who would prefer to read the article, continue scrolling.
Tell us the Sandpiper Consulting Story.
Paul Swinson, Co-Founder:
“The three of us have all worked in change and transformation across project management, which is more my expertise. I’d say the analysis and product ownership side is Pete’s specialism; and optimisation, mainly in financial services, is Andrew’s. We’ve all operated across many different implementations such as insurance, banking and technology.”
“Over the years, we’ve built a network of tried and trusted change professionals. We thought that the next logical step for us would be to try and consolidate all of that knowledge, expertise and network into a consultancy.”
“What we want to do is offer a credible and cost-effective alternative to the larger established firms. We’ve got low overheads, a primarily remote workforce across the UK and a very large pool with which to find our associates. Ultimately, it’s partnering businesses to either advise on their change strategy, or just to help them build out effective teams that work together and deliver that lasting value.”
Who are your clients? What issues do you solve for them?
Paul Swinson, Co-Founder
“There’s been a lot of our clients who’ve spent a lot of time and effort and put a lot of thought into their overall strategy, in terms of where they want to be in three to five years time. We then come in and identify how to translate what can be quite a high level strategy into a collection of projects that are led by value and prioritised by things like cost reduction, risk reduction and time criticality.”
“There’s plenty of work that we do to get to that next level of the strategy, and turn that into reality through actionable projects. Quite often, we find that their internal teams are at capacity and completely busy with everything they need to do; i.e keeping the lights on. That reduces their ability to go after some of these new and exciting product launches, because they just don’t have the people to do that for them.”
“Through our network of professionals, we help bring them in and bolster their capacity. We work with lots of different clients in terms of looking at their change delivery methodology, making recommendations around that and introducing new tools and techniques. What we found through the pandemic was that a lot of online tools, such as mirror for visualisation, things like JIRA and Confluence for how you’re managing that workflow – were quite new and useful for a lot of our clients. We embedded those and provide project health checks as well.”
“A client might be looking to get some assurance of a particular project that’s in flight and possibly make some recommendations around that as well. It’s really just to give them that confidence of where it is and what’s next. We work on projects across lots of sectors and subject matters – though, we are primarily focused around financial services, FinTech, banks and building societies. They could be looking to offer something like a new digital channel; looking to improve the offering from using actual documents and actual IDs – it’s no longer viable to ask somebody to bring their passport into a country when they’re on the other side of the country.”
“We spend time with them to to build and flesh out what their ecosystem looks like, because it’s often not just a digital channel, it’s sometimes made up of maybe 15,20 different systems and solutions that all need to be plugged in.”
“We focus around making sure that solutions are ultimately chose as part of that procurement exercise, and are actually aligned to their customers and their customer needs. There’s no point in going and buying something really fancy, but it might only satisfy maybe 5 or 10 percent of that need and you’re buying 90% of lots of things that you might not need.”
“We do a lot of work in that vendor selection process and support. Lots of compliance aspects too; there’s a lot around consumer duty, climate change and customer vulnerability for example. Lots of regulation to help our clients navigate, translate and implement through the teams across technology and operations.”
“Lastly, this requires some sort of upgrade of their infrastructure, their back office systems, or a migrations of sensitive customer data. We ensure that it’s a safe and controlled movement – everything needs to work the same from one system to another.”
Who are you looking to connect with in the FinTech North community, and how can they get involved and engage with you?
Peter Cooper, Co-Founder
“We primarily work within the financial sector – I think becoming part of the FinTech North community, we’re really keen to work with or get to work with those clients. We want to enable your partners and your community to understand what we do in a bit more detail.
“We believe we’ve got a really good strength with regards to working with organisations, primarily from the financial sector, but we have done projects and programmes of work in different sectors, as well, like healthcare. Organisations spend an awful lot of time and money on their strategy – one of the things we take very seriously and clients have a lot of trust in us is making sure that we can make their strategy a reality.”
“With regards to the FinTech North partnership – yes, we’re very familiar within financial services, FinTech and digital organisations, but we want to reach out and really get to know the community and let them know what we’re all about.”
“We are keen on building partnerships with different organisations, maybe entering into joint ventures as well. We’re extremely big on collaboration. We’d love to connect with the other partners that you’ve got within that community and discover good synergies to work with them – that could be that we are able to do something that allows us to deliver an even bigger offering and proposition”
What for you are the most interesting elements of FinTech currently and how do you see them developing over the next few years?
Andrew McIlroy, Co-Founder:
“First of all, I think what’s really impressed me is the way that the whole FinTech community has effectively come together, especially though organisations and events through FinTech North. The sense of it actually being a community is quite amazing and I’ve been really impressed by that.”
“We see a very high level of collaboration, sharing of ideas and insights that brings together not just the FinTech companies and the start-ups, we’ve got major financial services organisations participating, we’ve got academic institutions, we’ve got local, regional and national government representation within that body – and they’re all pulling together and holding really meaningful conversations about how they drive FinTech forward.”
“To be honest, I think we’re right at the start of a very exciting journey in this space – there’s an awful lot of opportunity that we can be building on. That said, I think there’s also a great deal of challenges that we face in the coming years. Things like the pandemic; we’ve had economic disruptions through various different causes over the past few years, and we know that there can be elements of uncertainty within the sector that we need to be prepared for.”
“What we’re going to do is to make sure that we’re in the right place for that. Yes, it’s right for us to be enthusiastic about innovative and groundbreaking solutions, but we shouldn’t get blinded to the fact that financial services institutions play a vital role both in the lives of individual people, families and communities, but also the actual health of our nation’s economy.”
“We need to be aware of the often complex nature of the services that are provided here. I’ve spent a lot of time working in the insurance industry and I’ve been specialising there for many years now. There are major challenges ahead in the insurance sector – how do we develop new policies? How do we manage our supply chains more sustainably? All of those things are big opportunities for the FinTech sector.”
“Without that holistic view and a forward-thinking perspective, we run the risk of perhaps focusing too much on developing single issue solutions rather than tackling both the magnitude, but also the opportunity that you know the future is going to provide for us.”
“At Sandpiper, we’ll be launching a new initiative later this year called the Centre for Systemic Change. It will support clients in shaping their future visions with all the market and social challenges in mind, building systemic pathways of change that solutions, but in the context that they underpin genuine and wider organisational and service transformation. We want to equip our clients with the thinking and the skills to shape their organisations and really take advantage of the creativity and innovation in the FinTech sector to drive genuinely groundbreaking services that are sustainable and inclusive.”
“In short, I think it’s a really exciting time to be involved in FinTech – but it’s also an exciting time for us at Sandpiper with our partnership with FinTech North; building those relationships, coming up with our new strategies to enable our clients to move forward and embrace the opportunities out there.”
A huge thank-you to Paul Swinson, Andrew McIlroy and Peter Cooper and the Sandpiper Consulting team for their support. We massively implore anyone in the community to reach out – their website can be found here, and their Linkedin here.