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Digitalising the money flow

Ireland’s combination of technology, regulation and talent enabled development of ‘fintech’, ‘regtech’ sector

Ireland’s combination of technology, regulation and talent enabled development of ‘fintech’, ‘regtech’ sector

Ireland’s combination of technology, regulation and talent enabled development of ‘fintech’, ‘regtech’ sector

 

Ireland’s international reputation for strong talent pipelines in both the financial services and technology sectors has ultimately led to the development of vibrant “fintech” and “regtech” sectors here.

Mark Jordan, chief technologist at Skillnet Ireland, spent many years working in financial services and funds. He says that the global financial crash of 2008 ensured that regulation of the funds industry underwent a dramatic shift, with transparency and simplicity of information now paramount.

“Gone are the days where once a year you receive a big prospectus that you can’t understand, it has to be simplified so that anybody investing in a fund gets clarity around the performance and the fee structure,” he explains.

The opportunities that this presented have been eagerly snatched up by a number of “star performers” in the regtech space that are now on their way to becoming household names, says Jordan.

“Fenergo, AQ Metrics, and Silver Finch; those are three companies that have really found their niche with helping the bigger participants in the financial services sector. Essentially what they do is help manage these regulatory requirements.”

Fintech has also undergone a surge in growth. Fund Recs is just one example of a small start-up company that went on to bigger and better things, says Jordan. “It has expanded and scaled very well, and their niche is providing outsourced services for the back office of investment companies including all of the transactional support, the fund accounting and so on. Instead of an investment bank having 300 people in their back office doing all of that, Fund Recs will support them via their technology platform.”

But it’s just one example of a host of smaller companies that have emerged with strong tech offerings having identified the opportunity, Jordan says. “They have really disrupted the need to have large numbers of people sitting in back office jobs and administration.” And the benefits of this are myriad. “It allows companies to move their talent from the back office to the front office, and it also allows better cost management because the technology can do a lot of the work.”

Ireland’s unique combination of technology, regulation and talent has enabled these developments, and Jordan says this is an area that will accelerate over the coming decade.

‘Pro-business’

“It’s a very friendly, pro-business economy that we run here so there are opportunities here anyway in terms of regulation, but then the technology piece is what is important, these companies have found the talent and the capabilities that has enabled them to build these platforms and compete with the bigger organisations.”

Ibec’s director of Financial Services Paul Sweetman says Ireland has an incredibly strong track record in developing, attracting and retaining global leaders in the financial services and technology sectors. “This has inevitably led to Ireland being an attractive location to begin or expand fintech and regtech companies,” he says.

But building a fintech ecosystem is a competitive endeavour, Sweetman points out. "Several jurisdictions are implementing policies and initiatives to become the global centre for fintech development and investment. Ireland must boost its competitive advantages. Availability of talent and skills, integration between our financial services and technology sectors, government adoption of fintech services and state-sponsored initiatives for fintech organisations will all be crucial,” he says.

Indeed, time is of the essence for what is a rapidly evolving sector. “We must look to competitor countries and see how we compare. In Ireland, 17 fintechs have received electronic money institution (EMI) licenses, yet over 200 EMI licenses have been issued in the UK, alongside four government reviews in the past year aimed at supporting the fintech sector,” Sweetman says.