Nordic coun­tries of­fer op­por­tu­ni­ties as fintech grows

Sunday Independent (Ireland) - Business & Appointments - - FRONT PAGE - Tom Hol­gers­son

AS a source of growth in both the Nordic and Ir­ish mar­kets, the fintech sec­tor has be­come an im­por­tant fo­cus for in­no­va­tion ini­tia­tives. Over the past five years, Stock­holm at­tracted 18pc of all Euro­pean fintech in­vest­ment, sec­ond only to Lon­don. When the or­gan­is­ers of Money 2020, the world’s largest fi­nan­cial ser­vices event, came to Europe last year, they chose to lo­cate in Copen­hagen.

Ire­land is a fintech pow­er­house and has the po­ten­tial to grow sig­nif­i­cantly in the next decade. The gov­ern­ment’s IFS2020 strat­egy aims to show­case fintech providers and in­crease mar­ket aware­ness of the do­mes­tic fi­nan­cial ser­vices of­fer­ing. At the end of 2015, En­ter­prise Ire­land counted 8,800 peo­ple specif­i­cally em­ployed in fintech, up 40pc from 2008, with over 100 client com­pa­nies ac­tive in the area.

To cap­i­talise on these growth prospects, En­ter­prise Ire­land ex­panded the team that sup­ports fintech and launched a sec­tor­spe­cific fintech Com­pet­i­tive Start Fund. The agency fos­ters fintech in­no­va­tion through world-class ac­cel­er­a­tion pro­grammes or­gan­ised with part­ners in­clud­ing the NDRC and Ac­cen­ture.

The re­cent Fintech In­no­va­tion Show­case in Dublin gave am­bi­tious busi­nesses — in­clud­ing Vis­tatec, Ky­ckr and Sol­gari — the chance to ex­plore part­ner­ship op­por­tu­ni­ties with top play­ers from Den­mark in­clud­ing Nordea Bank, Danske Bank, Saxo Bank, Nets, SDC, Fi­nan­cial Ser­vices Union, Copen­hagen Fintech, BEC and Festina Finance. Visi­tors learned about the ca­pa­bil­i­ties of En­ter­prise Ire­land clients in rapidly-de­vel­op­ing ar­eas such as ar­ti­fi­cial in­tel­li­gence, data an­a­lyt­ics, pay­ments, cy­ber­se­cu­rity, and reg­u­la­tion and com­pli­ance.

The op­por­tu­nity for Ir­ish com­pa­nies in the Nordics is sig­nif­i­cant, an at­tendee ex­plained: “We’re pri­mar­ily in­ter­ested in so­lu­tions that we can bring to our 10 mil­lion re­tail cus­tomers and 700,000 SME and corporate cus­tomers. We’d like to part­ner with Ir­ish startups that have banks as cus­tomers. Po­ten­tial ar­eas in­clude open bank­ing, so­lu­tions lever­ag­ing op­por­tu­ni­ties cre­ated by PSD2, like fi­nan­cial ag­gre­ga­tors, and AI and ma­chine learn­ing. In­puts on the fintech ini­tia­tives of tech giants re­sid­ing in Ire­land are also of in­ter­est.”

A chal­lenge clients ex­pe­ri­ence when ex­pand­ing over­seas is in un­der­stand­ing the mar­ket’s busi­ness cul­ture and cus­tomers. At­tend­ing events like the Fintech Show­case gives Ir­ish com­pa­nies an op­por­tu­nity to learn about prac­ti­cal as­pects of do­ing busi­ness in the tar­get mar­ket. In the Nordics it­self, the Copen­hagen Fintech hub con­nects lead­ing com­pa­nies in the space in Den­mark and can be a great start­ing point.

Ir­ish com­pa­nies should be aware that the Nordic mar­ket is ex­tremely ad­vanced and has many in­dige­nous global play­ers, mak­ing com­pe­ti­tion fierce. Un­less your com­pany has a unique so­lu­tion, it can be dif­fi­cult to suc­ceed. Fintech busi­nesses in the re­gion want a re­li­able, trusted, and se­cure sup­plier.

An at­tendee de­scribes their ideal Ir­ish part­ner: “We like to col­lab­o­rate with global fintech ac­cel­er­a­tors that pro­vide a con­sis­tent pipe­line, are highly ver­ti­calised within pay­ments and ad­ja­cent ser­vices, and ag­nos­tic to geog­ra­phy. We are par­tic­u­larly in­ter­ested in con­nect­ing with fin­techs with Iot-knowl­edge, es­pe­cially In­ter­net of Pay­ments. Value-added ser­vices con­nected to re­tail are of ma­jor in­ter­est if the tech­nol­ogy can be ex­ported to the Nordic con­text, for ex­am­ple startups that col­lab­o­rate with a mer­chant to demon­strate a prac­ti­cal so­lu­tion in the Ir­ish mar­ket that can be eas­ily ex­ported over­seas.”

There are a range of sup­ports you can access to re­alise plans in the Nordics. En­ter­prise Ire­land of­fers R&D, In­no­va­tion and Com­pet­i­tive­ness fund­ing to help com­pa­nies iden­tify and fill knowl­edge gaps. Lo­cal of­fices can con­nect you to spe­cial­ist mar­ket ad­vis­ers in the re­gion. Tak­ing time to learn about the re­al­i­ties of the Nordic mar­ket will give your plans for growth ev­ery chance of suc­cess.

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