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Harper Macleod advises Glasgow Fintech business on six-figure investment deal as part of innovative council SME support scheme

A Glasgow-based Fintech business has sealed a six-figure investment deal, the first to be completed with the help of a new Glasgow City Council scheme designed to help SMEs scale up.

Asura Financial Technologies (AFT) Limited, which provides cost-saving software solutions to stockbrokers and wealth managers, attracted the backing from ESM Investments – a Scottish investment group focused on supporting high-growth tech companies.

AFT, which is at the vanguard of Scotland's fast developing Fintech sector, was advised on the deal by Harper Macleod after being directed to the firm as part of the council's new Framework for Business Growth, which was launched in early 2017.

AFT was set up by co-founders Tony Hamill and David Waddington in late 2015 with the sole aim of developing and selling software to the financial services industry. It was one of the first businesses to take a space in Tontine, the high-tech acceleration and growth space set up as part of the Glasgow Region City Deal. The company's software provides efficient solutions to Customer Relationship Management (CRM) and front, middle and back office functions.

Tony Hamill said: "This is a huge deal for us and we're delighted to have had such great support across the board, including from Harper Macleod, in helping us to reach this stage. The investment gives us the finance to go ahead and grow the business, particularly the development and sales arms, which is essential as we expand.

"The fact that we were able to demonstrate to a group of investors exactly what we do, and to give them the confidence to buy into it, is a massive thing. Some of our investors have background in the sector and the fact that they can see our potential gives us a lot of confidence going forward.

"David and I saw huge potential in this sector, and were ahead of the game in terms of the current 'Fintech rush'. Fintech is such a broad term but within it there's a huge spectrum of opportunities and we've already established strong working relationships with stockbrokers in London and elsewhere. It's a very traditional industry and if you have hundreds of millions under management you can understand that it's a huge step to change your systems. It is a huge challenge for the sector but also a massive opportunity and we have only scratched the surface."

ESM Investments, an established angel investor group led by Founder & CEO Steven Morris, comprises entrepreneurs and former senior tech sector executives who have themselves experienced successful exits.

Steven Morris of ESM said: “From the first meeting we knew that our investor-led approach worked well with Tony and David and we were very quickly able to agree the basis of an investment proposition to work together going forward. Our diligence process identified a need to support the team with experienced executives in the space and by strengthening the board we believe that the company is in a stronger position to commence with the commercialisation of the technology.

"The technology is potentially very disruptive and the market is large enough for the company to achieve its goals and aspirations. We are very excited to be part of the company’s scale up plans in the near term."

Harper Macleod Partner Paula Skinner, who heads the firm's High Growth & Investment team, assisted AFT with the legal aspects of the investment. The firm was introduced to AWT through its business advisory role on the Glasgow City Council framework for business growth.

The scheme aims to support 1200 SMEs across all sectors over the next three years, focusing on providing high-quality advice rather than short-term grant funding. The law firm is one of six main providers appointed under the framework.

Paula Skinner said: "We are delighted to have helped AFT secure such a significant investment. The whole purpose of the council's Framework for Business Growth was to direct businesses to the professional advice they need at the right time, to accelerate their growth.

"AFT is a fantastic business which is ideally placed to be a leading light in Scotland's burgeoning Fintech sector. It is in everyone's interests for Glasgow, and the rest of the country, to seize this opportunity and scale up, and hopefully this deal will be the first of many similar ones to benefit from the Framework."

The Framework for Business Growth was launched as part of the council's strategy to make Glasgow the most business friendly city in the country and the most productive major city economy in the UK, through innovation and supporting enterprise. The focus has moved from start up to sustainable growth, focusing on high quality advice and rather than short-term grant funding.

A Glasgow City Council spokesman said: “This is another success story for a technology firm in Glasgow, and an example of how this sector will bring future growth to our economy. We are delighted that our Business Growth Framework has supported the development of AFT, creating new jobs for the city.”