People Behind The Future: Allan Syms


A PhD in cancer research, a fertility clinic in the US, forensic DNA profiling, international trade adviser, fintech start-up – there is not much that Allan Syms hasn’t done. These achievements are made all the more impressive by his backstory.

“I grew up on a challenging council estate in Hampshire, one of the largest in Europe, where I was consistently told from a young age that it would be impossible to achieve anything in life,” he explains. “I was determined to do what I could about that. To me, everything was possible.”

The end result? Allan went to the University of Sussex, gaining a degree in biochemistry, before doing his PhD at the Tenovus Institute for Cancer Research in Cardiff. “I was probably one of the first in my school to get to that level of academic achievement,” Allan says.

Putting his skills to good use, Allan moved to Houston, Texas where he spent three years on cancer research, before returning to the UK to set up a lab at Oxford University to study metastasis.

In 1986, he decided his future lay away from academia. “I take my hat off to those on the frontier of science, but I wanted to move to the applied end of science, to see inventions become a reality.”

From front-line research to the front-line, Allan launched a DNA profiling firm, spending time assisting the local government in identifying bodies of those killed in chemical and biological attacks in mass graves in Northern Iraq.

This harrowing experience was followed by business ventures as varied as frozen confectionary, nano-technology, health foods, and electronics. More recently, Allan has spent the last six years working as chief operating officer and commercial director of emerging fintech start-up, MYPINPAD – a provider of authentication solutions for devices, mobile phones and tablets.

“All of these ventures are more closely linked than you’d think,” Allan explains on his eclectic experience. “Identify the cancerous cell, identify the chemical, identify the body, identify the customer with the credit card. When you can identify something, you can find out what or who it is, understand capabilities, know how things work, and from there make things better and safer to improve all our lives.”

Now settled with MYPINPAD, Allan hopes to grow the business from the 30 people it currently employs, to over 100 within the next couple of years. “It’s a massive challenge, but we’ve got the money,” he says. “London is the best place to grow a business because of the people – no people, no business. Here they are diverse and talented – it’s a magic cauldron.”