Brexit offering opportunities for Irish firms in fintech area

“I talk about fintech being like a parent and a child, with the bank being the parent and fintech the child. Five years ago, everyone was talking about fintech being disruptive, out to get rid of banks. But five years later, the banks are still here,” said Chris Skinner, the world-renowned fintech and financial services expert, who was in Dublin to deliver the keynote speech for Enterprise Ireland’s Future of Fintech conference.

This view of increasing collaboration between disruptive startups and established banks was echoed by a number of panellists, who included Elly Hardwick, head of innovation at Deutsche Bank; Kamlesh Thakur, chairman of Mumbai-based Prime Investrade; and Stephen Moran, head of research and development at Bank of Ireland.

The conference was attended by more than 100 leaders, disruptors and collaborators from international banking and fintech hubs. Attendees of the event, held at Dogpatch Labs in January, also met Enterprise Ireland-backed companies to discuss partnership opportunities.

With opportunities emerging as attitudes towards the sector mature, a combination of established global leaders with significant Irish operations and innovative Irish companies positions the industry well for international growth.

Ireland has become a globally-recognised centre for specialist International Financial Services, with 200 Enterprise Ireland-backed companies, employing nearly 10,000 people across the sector, at the end of 2017. Irish companies, from startups to scaling and large multinational companies, have achieved significant impact in international markets, exporting to 100 countries.

Companies offer innovative solutions and services across payments, regulatory technologies and broader fintech applications, an achievement supported by astute investments and an understanding of the market.

For many Irish-based companies, disruption involves delivering a better, more convenient customer experience.

“Legacy banks use the SWIFT network, which is slow and opaque, charges hefty ForEx fees, and fees both to send and receive money. We believe that is not fit for purpose,” said Gary Conroy, chief commercial officer of Irish international payments business TransferMate.

Irish startup Plynk targets millennials with a service that lets them “text” one another money. “For us, payments are social,” said Charles Dowd, Plynk’s CEO. “With the phone, you phoned places. With a mobile, you call people. You don’t think about the systems. Mobile money will be the same. It’s not about payments, it’s about people.”

The point was echoed by Conroy of TransferMate in relation to cryptocurrencies, “Cards, banks, the blockchain are just rails. How quickly I can get the payment from A to B is all people care about.”

In the regulatory space, the cost of governance, risk and compliance is estimated at 15pc of the total cost of running a financial services firm.

Technology can help deliver a better customer experience there too. “RegTech is about the intelligent use of technology to get better outcomes for clients. It’s also about stopping regulations getting in the way of the user experience,” said John Byrne, CEO of regulatory risk intelligence firm Corlytics.

Brexit may be viewed nervously by some sectors but, for fintech, it promises to bring real opportunity, according to expert Chris Skinner.

“US banks are actively relocating core European services to Ireland. I’m not just hearing that, I’m seeing it,” he said. “London is still seen as a global financial centre, but for access to Europe, with the assumption that London no longer has that access to Europe, the next best place for US banks is Ireland, and not just Dublin but along the west coast too.”

Favourable market circumstances internationally and a strong ecosystem at home make the future of fintech bright for Irish companies, particularly in the UK and North American markets, with Europe and Asia-Pacific also featuring strongly in last year’s export figures.

Giles O’Neill is head of Fintech at Enterprise Ireland

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