Wednesday April 1, 2020

Fintech is growing fast from small seeds

Ireland has long positioned itself as a global centre for innovative ICT, but not all sectors are equally well represented. Financial technology, or fintech, is one that is growing rapidly, writes Jason Walsh

3rd November, 2019
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Disruptive Technology Award in association with Facebook: Electricity Exchange. David Shanahan, partner at Deloitte, Majella Mungovan of Facebook, Duncan O’Toole and Paddy Finn co-founders of Electricity Exchange and Louise Kelly, partner at Deloitte

Fintech has been grabbing the headlines for some time, but for Silicon Valley Bank, sponsors of Deloitte Fast 50 Fintech Award, the concept is not necessarily new.

“To me, fintech has always been present,” said Clive Lennox, director of Irish business development for Silicon Valley Bank.

“Over the last three to four years, it has become a particular sector of tech that people are focused on, but it has always existed; it’s just now that people are recognising it.”

Founded in 1982, Silicon Valley Bank is not only based in the home of the IT revolution, it is focused almost entirely on it.

“We have about 45,000 customers,” said Lennox. “We look at things a little bit differently from traditional banks, and we bring in people from industry, like life science people who have worked in labs.”

This means that Silicon Valley Bank has an inside knowledge of the sectors into which it lends and helps to organise investment.

Lennox said fintech allows financial institutions to develop and deploy products and services which they might otherwise struggle with. “I think it’s driven by the environment,” he said.

Today, many banks have calculated that they can’t just work in-house to build the best technology. The questions for such businesses then are: what are we today, in terms of what are we offering? What can we offer in the future and where do we want to go?

“You have to look at what’s in market and what’s better than what you have,” he said.

Heavily regulated areas have been a particular focus for fintech growth.

“We’ve seen the rise of ‘regtech’,” said Lennox. “Really, anything driven by compliance, it’s huge, where there’s no two ways about it: you have to do it or you’re fined.

Right now, Ireland is not the centre of the fintech world but, said Lennox, there is room for the country to grow, based on its strengths in tech and finance.

“Predominately it’s software and medical devices [that Irish companies focus on]. It will grow. I am tracking particular companies, with an eye toward working with them,” he said.

“The great thing about Ireland is that we’ve traditionally had strong financial companies, so you have a blend of established companies that are continuing to grow and then new companies coming in.”

Payments primed

This year’s fintech winner at the Fast 50 is TransferMate.

Founded in 2010, the global payments firm has grown to become the global choice for businesses worldwide that send and receive foreign currency payments, and is today a disruptive force across the global fintech sector.

Its founders, chairman Terry Clune and chief executive Sinead Fitzmaurice, built TransferMate out of parent company Taxback Group, stemming from their own frustrations with making international payments.

TransferMate’s presence in the awards is no big surprise: the company has always had a focus on growth and has made the list in previous years.

As part of its growth strategy, TransferMate has announced key partnerships and strategic investments over the past two years. In May, the company launched a strategic relationship with Wells Fargo Bank in the US, offering an international receivables product for the bank’s American business clients. TransferMate has also attracted major strategic investments from leading banks such as ING Group and AIB, which have cumulatively invested €51 million in the company.

“We are delighted to be named one of fastest growing technology companies in Ireland once again, and we are particularly honoured to receive the fintech award this year,” said Clune.

“Our increase in the rankings by 20 spots from last year is a testament our team’s hard work building best-in-class technology and partnering with leading banks and software providers.”

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