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Who are the next wave of fintechs and how can they be nurtured?

Ireland’s fintech sector is thriving with more than 400 successful indigenous firms

The physical proximity of the Republic of Ireland’s silicon docks and the International Financial Services Centre on the banks of the Liffey has created an ideal breeding ground for a crop of highly successful fintechs which are making their mark on global markets. Who are they and what needs to be done to nurture the next wave of fintech?

The Republic’s fintech sector is thriving, says Patricia Callan, director of the Ibec group representing financial services. “The country is home to over 400 fintech firms,” Callan says.

“But what is often not fully appreciated is that beyond those firms who are focused specifically on this area (many of them start-ups), every financial services firm is on a fintech journey to some degree because customers are demanding it and because it represents an opportunity to improve the performance of their business.

“Fintech is baked into every part of the sector now, and there are lots of opportunities for start-ups and longer-established firms to collaborate in a way that is beneficial for everyone.”


While many businesses suffered from the impact of Covid-19, lockdowns and something of a restructuring of the way we do business, fintech thrived, says Callan.

“If anything, Covid was a boon to the sector in that it accelerated the adoption of technology, not only in financial services but across the economy more broadly,” she says.

“I think we have seen a level shift in consumer expectations over the last number of years, and financial services firms are responding to that by giving customers the digital services that are increasingly in demand.”

There is no doubt that the Republic’s success in becoming a location of choice for large tech firms has had a positive read-across for Irish financial services, according to Callan.

“Ireland is home to a fantastic array of talented workers, who are highly skilled in the area of technology and financial regulation,” Callan says.

“Fintech firms have been able to benefit from access to that pool, and as fintech continues to move centre stage within financial services, there will be lots of exciting and interesting job opportunities for people who are skilled in tech.

“We believe now is the time for Government, in partnership with industry, to develop a physical national fintech hub and a location in this part of the city makes sense.

“The hub would allow a strong fintech ecosystem to develop further with both large established firms and newer entrants sharing knowledge, ideas and undertaking research both independently and collaboratively from the same space.

“Relevant Government service providers and the Central Bank of Ireland’s (CBI) innovation hub should also locate staff there.”

But importantly, Callan says, this isn’t just a Dublin story – “we have fintech (and tech) clusters right across the country and we believe they should be connected through the hub,” she says. “We think there is a fantastic opportunity to deliver further growth in all areas of Ireland over the coming years.”

Ibec’s Financial Services Ireland group (FSI) is working closely with Government and other industry stakeholders on Ireland for Finance, which is a strategy designed to further develop the international financial services sector in the Republic between now and 2026, says Callan.

“One of the measures we’re most excited about this year is that the CBI is due to carry out a review of its innovation hub. As part of the review, the CBI is going to explore setting up a regulatory sandbox, which we think could significantly increase Ireland’s attractiveness to innovative financial services firms.

“These sandboxes allow firms to test innovative products in the market within a framework that is approved by the local regulator.

“They are in operation in a number of other countries and the idea is to allow for the benefits of innovation to be realised, while also mitigating against risks. We are currently undertaking research to explore the innovative practices implemented by leading jurisdictions within their sandboxes.”

In addition, FSI believes that there should be a dedicated fintech accelerator programme developed by Enterprise Ireland, with support form the CBI, to help early-stage tech firms prepare for operating within a regulated environment early on in their business venture, rather than invest a lot in technology and then find out too late that they might not get through the financial regulatory process.

Edel Corrigan

Edel Corrigan is a contributor to The Irish Times