The Rise of Ireland as a leading Fintech capital in Europe
Last weekend, the Irish Sunday newspapers were largely dominated by the news that Stripe, the online payments firm founded by brothers Patrick and John Collison, is to create approximately 1,000 new jobs in Ireland over the next five years.
The announcement came as the company raised $600m in new funding that will be invested into its EU operations, particularly its Dublin office. Among those who have contributed to the fresh funding round are the Ireland Strategic Investment Fund managed by the National Treasury Management Agency (NTMA), which will invest $50m.
While some might view this as a positive job’s announcement, what lies beneath this announcement for Ireland as a nation state, is quite significant. And how so?
Ireland is now seen by its neighbours as a leading technology capital in Europe, not least for its regulatory prowess but also for its talent base and entrepreneurial innovators. With a large fintech ecosystem already in place, Ireland is home to companies including Stripe, Currency Fair, Fenergo and Transfermate. Today it was announced that Arachas, a leading Irish insurance broker, has just acquired Kilkenny-based fintech company, Orange Bear, as it prepares plans to actively target the consumer market here. It is fair to say that we can expect to see several more similar announcements over the coming months.
So, how will Ireland continue to position itself as a Fintech capital beyond 2021?
While Ireland has already established itself as home to several indigenous financial services companies, the Government is acutely aware that it must continue to support existing and new business to ensure that Ireland maintains its attractiveness to foreign investors as well as talent. Just last month, the Department of Finance launched its Finance Action Plan 2021, which underpins Ireland’s strategy for the development of its international financial services sector to 2025 – a clear sign of their intention to, ‘plan ahead’
The document itself is peppered with phrases like, “centre of excellence”, “sustainable finance”, and “diversity”, and it is evident that Ireland is seeking to begin capitalising on changing markets post Brexit and Covid-19. Our Minister for Finance Pascal Donohoe also acknowledged how the sector will play a crucial role in the worlds transition to a ‘digital and sustainable’ future.
Ultimately, the Central Bank of Ireland’s vision for the financial system is that it is well-managed, well-regulated, and sustainably serves the needs of the Irish and European economy and consumers over the long term. For this reason, it is imperative that financial services companies bear this in mind when planning their own growth strategies for 2021 and beyond.
What does the Finance Action Plan mean for financial sector companies in the short-medium term?
Having conducted an analysis of the document, we highlight below the key areas that financial sector companies ought to focus on for Q1-Q4 2021:
- Sustainable Finance Roadmap: By Q3, Finance Green Ireland Committee will Develop a National Sustainable Finance Roadmap to guide Irish green and sustainable finance activities in the context of the European Green Deal and forthcoming Renewed Sustainable Finance Strategy.
- Fintech Group: By Q1, the Department of Finance commits to establishing a Fintech Group to help develop Ireland’s policy positions for the EU’s Digital Finance Package.
- Launch the Women in Finance Charter: Industry stakeholders have been working to develop ‘Ireland’s Women in Finance Charter’ which will allow firms to devise commitments to progress gender diversity in their firms. Industry will update on progress on the Charter at the end of Q1 2021.
- Host the European Financial Forum: IDA Ireland, in consultation with industry stakeholders and the public sector, will host the sixth European Financial Forum virtually in Q1 2021. Following the hosting of this event, the IDA will present a review of the European Financial Forum to the Ireland for Finance Joint Committee. Subject to the outcome of this review in Q2, IDA will determine the merits of hosting a forum in 2022.
In light of this publication, Stripe’s announcement and as Ireland continues to navigate its way out of the current crisis, the time is now for financial services companies in Ireland to review their operations and further strengthen their Irish stakeholder relationships. As outlined within the Finance Action Plan, there are now several opportunities for fintech players to embrace this progressive environment and join the charge towards Ireland’s fintech sector into the next decade.
There is no doubt that the financial services sector will be looked upon to play a crucial role in Ireland’s recovery and as EU Commissioner for Financial Stability, Financial Services, and the Capital Markets Union, Mairead McGuiness alluded to on Ibec’s Patricks Day 2021 event, “Sustainability will be at the heart of the economic recovery”.