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Irish government to explore potential for establishing ‘national fintech hub’

‘Update to Ireland for Finance: Action Plan 2024’: contains 13 ‘key deliverables’ including six in its ‘fintech and digital finance’ section | Credit: Ian Hall (Dublin photo)

Ireland’s government has published its latest annual priorities for fostering growth of the fintech sector, including exploring the ‘costs, merits and feasibility’ of setting up a ‘national fintech hub’.

The government’s fintech-related priorities are set out in an ‘Update to Ireland for Finance: Action Plan 2024’ strategy document. The original ‘Ireland for Finance’ strategy was unveiled in 2019 and its update – a whole-of-government strategy charting the development of international financial services in the European Union (EU) member state to the end of 2026 – was published 18 months ago. This new document is therefore the second ‘action plan’ related to the updated ‘Ireland for Finance’ strategy.

The themes of the strategy are sustainable finance; fintech and digital finance; diversity and talent; regionalisation and promotion; and ‘operating environment’. The newly published action plan is (like last year’s edition) divided into five sections under the same themes.

This new document contains 13 ‘key deliverables’, which is one more than last year’s edition (Global Government Fintech lists all 13 priority measures for 2024 at the end of this article). ‘Assessing the proposal for the establishment of a national fintech hub’ is among six deliverables in the fintech and digital finance pages.

In the document’s foreword, minister of state for financial services, credit unions and insurance Dr Jennifer Carroll MacNeill writes that she is ‘personally committed to Ireland having its own dedicated Fintech Hub to foster innovation and help fintech companies with their speed to market and capacity to scale.’ She describes it as a ‘huge opportunity for Ireland given our position as a leading tech centre in Europe, as well as a centre for finance and this represents a significant opportunity to support and bolster Ireland’s innovators and entrepreneurs.’

REGISTER NOW The Global Government Fintech Lab 2024 is our one-day event in Dublin, Ireland, on Thursday 25 April: it’s free to attend for public servants CLICK HERE TO REGISTER

National fintech hub plans

The Central Bank of Ireland already operates an Innovation Hub, which was set up in 2018. The document notes further ‘tech hubs’ across the country as including Dogpatch Labs and Scale Ireland in capital city Dublin, as well as RDI Hub in Kerry and PorterShed in Galway.

‘Notwithstanding the existence of this network of physical hubs, there are industry proposals for a new national fintech hub that would be a physical space conducive to growth and innovation, where fintech start-ups could collaborate as they desired and partner with more established firms, access expertise, and share their innovations,’ the document, which was published on 8 March, states.

It adds that proposals include having professional services firms, state agencies such as IDA Ireland, Enterprise Ireland and the Department of Enterprise, Trade & Employment, as well as the Central Bank of Ireland ‘present in the building and accessible to start-up businesses intent on growing their capabilities and speed to market.’

‘It is envisaged that the hub could be a natural landing space for multinational firms in the early stage of their entry to the Irish market, while also going a long way to addressing some of the challenges faced by indigenous firms on their digital transformation journey,’ it states.

‘In this respect, the National Fintech Hub would increase Ireland’s attractiveness for investment in the fintech sector, and could assist in enhancing Ireland’s competitiveness,’ it continues. ‘Taking account of further key industry information and stakeholder engagement, the costs, merits and feasibility of establishing such a fintech hub will be assessed.’

RELATED ARTICLE Irish financial services ‘action plan’ sets out fintech priorities – our news story (28 March 2023) on last years edition of the action plan’

Industry proposals sought

‘Facilitated by the Department of Finance, in collaboration with industry and other relevant stakeholders, including government departments, state bodies, agencies and stakeholders, the parties will explore the costs, merits and feasibility of establishing a new National Fintech Hub,’ the document goes on to explain. ‘This work aims to better foster innovation in fintech companies, including start-ups, with their speed to market, and capacity to scale or grow further, and in financial services companies engaging in digital transformation.’

‘As part of this exercise, key industry stakeholders will be invited to submit their proposal(s) on the [rationale and/or] business case for a National Fintech Hub, including the potential costs, industry involvement and funding mechanisms,’ it continues, stating a deadline of the third quarter of the year. ‘Further options to consider advancing include the multi-location model whereby expertise and supports are drawn from existing regional hubs.’

Another key deliverable in the fintech and digital finance section is to ‘continue funding towards internationalisation and scaling of Irish fintechs [companies]’. This is, it states, ‘building on the work’ of an action measure in 2023’s document, which was to ‘communicate and roll out a new pre-seed funding offer for early-stage fintech innovators’. There is a target of 14 fintech and financial services start-ups to benefit from this during 2024 – an increase of two compared to last year.

The section also mentions artificial intelligence (AI), with the document noting that InsTech.ie – which describes itself as a ‘community dedicated to connecting tech and insurance to develop the InsurTech ecoystem in Ireland’ – is to establish a working group to develop a ‘collaborative digital sandbox’ as a platform to innovate new products and technology for the insurance industry.

RELATED ARTICLE Ireland’s central bank kicks off innovation consultation ahead of sandbox launch – a news story (9 November 2023) on the Central Bank of Ireland opening a three-month consultation on ‘innovation engagement’ as it looks to enhance its Innovation Hub and launch a sandbox (the authority is seeking ‘deeper engagement’ with fintech initiatives – a move described as ‘necessary to our public policy aims’)

Fintech’s broader relevance

As was also the case with the 2023 edition of the document, fintech-relevant measures extend beyond the six in the ‘fintech and digital finance’ section.

The 11th action point, for example, states that ‘Team Ireland’ – the banner under which the Department of Foreign Affairs works alongside enterprise agencies to promote Ireland overseas – ‘will support client participation in 2024 international fintech events’; and the 12th action point is to ‘review the Central Bank of Ireland’s approach to innovation engagement in financial services’.

The publication overall places heightened focus on sustainable finance.

An industry-led Irish Sustainable Finance Fintech Strategy was published 18 months ago while a ‘review and update’ of an industry-led ‘Sustainable Finance Roadmap 2021’ took place during the fourth quarter of last year, notes the document.  

It states that the next phase of the roadmap’s implementation will focus on prioritising five actions, as well as the development of a ‘dashboard to track progress across the entire Irish sustainable finance landscape’. Those five actions are to: ‘accelerate the human capital required’; establish an innovation programme to support the development of new products and services; build a sustainable finance data roadmap; make proposals for legislative changes ‘so that the environment is representative of best practice in sustainable finance’; and ‘deliver a coordinated public-private campaign to promote Ireland as a centre for sustainable finance’.

RELATED ARTICLE Global government fintech pioneers gather in Ireland for second ‘Lab’ event – an article on the Global Government Fintech Lab 2023 (held in Dublin)

Carroll MacNeill: ‘pivotal moment’

Jennifer Carroll MacNeill: pictured speaking at the Global Government Fintech Lab 2023 in Dublin | Credit: Deirdre Brennan for Global Government Fintech

“We are at a pivotal moment for the next step of international financial services in Ireland as the twin powerhouses of fintech and sustainable finance look to change the course of investment and delivery of financial services products over the coming years,” said Carroll MacNeill in a press release accompanying the new document.

The Department of Finance is also currently working on the preparation of a ‘National Payments Strategy’ that, the document states, ‘will set out a roadmap for the future evolution of the entire payments system including taking account of developments in digital payments’.

The implementation of the ‘Ireland for Finance’ strategy is overseen by a public-sector high-level implementation committee with input from an industry advisory committee. A joint committee – chaired by Carroll MacNeill, supported by the Department of Finance’s international financial services unit – meets quarterly.

The 2024 action plan was produced by the Department of Finance in conjunction with other public-sector organisations and the private sector. It runs to 64 pages – 27 more pages than last year’s version.

An ‘Update to Ireland for Finance 2023 Progress Report’ will be published ‘later in 2024’ and is set to include a ‘special focus’ on fintech.

RELATED ARTICLE Irish minister champions fintech’s public policy potential at ‘Lab’ event in Dublin – an article (20 May 2023) on Jennifer Carroll MacNeill’s keynote at last year’s Global Governent Fintech Lab

Global Government Fintech Lab 2024 on way

The Department of Finance is hosting the Global Government Fintech Lab 2024 – our international event for senior public servants interested in exploring and implementing fintech solutions – in Dublin on Thursday 25 April.

Carroll MacNeill, who took up her ministerial role in December 2022, championed the role that fintech ‘can play for governments in the future as we look to achieve our public policy goals’ in a keynote speech at the Global Government Fintech Lab 2023, which was also held in Dublin.

‘Over five months since my appointment as minister in the department, I have come to realise just how important digital finance and fintech is for government policy and how the partnership with industry works in practice,’ she told the audience at last year’s event.

‘I encourage us all to be ambitious with this [fintech] agenda, as the technological advances are opening more opportunities and at a pace that makes the discussion and collaboration between the public sector organisations lined up for today more important than ever. The opportunity set ahead of us is too much for any one [EU] member state or country and more than enough for all of us and it is just the beginning,’ Carroll MacNeill said.

Speakers from the host nation at this year’s Lab will include Denise Delaney, head of the policy and risk horizontal function at the Central Bank of Ireland (and who also spoke at the 2023 Lab); Fintech Ireland’s Peter Oakes (who also spoke last year); and Bernie Kelly, chief executive officer of Ireland’s National Shared Services Office (NSSO).

‘Update to Ireland for Finance: Action Plan 2024’: 13 priority measures
Global Government Fintech has bolded the six measures in the ‘fintech and digital finance’ section (measures 3, 4, 5, 6, 7 and 8); the lead organisation responsible for all measures is in italics.

  1. Implement the updated Sustainable Finance Roadmap (International Sustainable Finance Centre of Excellence)
  2. Promote Ireland’s evolving sustainability value proposition (IDA Ireland)
  3. Assess the proposal for the establishment of a national fintech hub (Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment and Department of Finance)
  4. Enhanced supports for ambitious early-stage fintech innovators expanding into their first international market (Enterprise Ireland)
  5. Support Innovative Fintech and Digital Finance Investments across the IFS Portfolio (IDA)
  6. Ireland South East Financial Services Cluster REISS Project – Feasibility study (South East Financial Services Cluster – SEFSC)
  7. Continue funding towards internationalisation and scaling of Irish fintechs (Enterprise Ireland)
  8. Irish fintech and financial services companies achieving competitive advantage through innovation and digitisation (Enterprise Ireland)
  9. Establish an Expert Group on Future Skills Needs (EGFSN) national oversight and implementation group (EGFSN secretariat supporting rotating chair)
  10. Promote regionalisation for international financial services investments (‘enterprise agencies’)
  11. Team Ireland will support client participation in 2024 international fintech events (‘enterprise agencies’)
  12. Review the Central Bank of Ireland’s approach to innovation engagement in financial services (Central Bank of Ireland)
  13. Covered bonds environment in Ireland (Department of Finance)

    Source: ‘Update to Ireland for Finance: Action Plan 2024’ (Department of Finance; March 2023)