Ireland’s minister of state with responsibility for financial services has championed the role that financial technology “can play for governments in the future as we look to achieve our public policy goals” in a speech in Dublin.
Jennifer Carroll MacNeill gave the keynote address at the Global Government Fintech Lab 2023. The one-day event, held on 18 May, attracted an international array of speakers from nations including Azerbaijan, Bermuda, Croatia and Israel, as well as participants from Canada, Costa Rica and New Zealand, to Ireland’s capital.
Carroll MacNeill, whose brief also includes responsibility for credit unions and insurance, took up her ministerial role in December 2022. “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 said at the event, which was held at Dublin Castle’s Printworks venue in the European Union (EU) member state capital and broadcast globally via a live stream.
“While I knew when I was taking up this role in government that the technology transition we are living through is a defining moment not just for Ireland, the EU and the world, it is becoming increasingly clear to me that we are still in the very early stages of the fintech era,” she went on to say. But she said that “if we are still early in the fintech journey, it provides both the public and the private sector the scope to be strategic in our actions and the space to be ambitious in setting our objectives.”
“I would encourage everyone here in both the public and the private sector to be ambitious in their engagement and in how we take forward our fintech plans in our organisations,” she urged the audience. If governments “can properly execute on our strategic goals, we can be a positive force for achieving greater scale for the existing players and innovative start-ups,” she said.
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‘The ask of government is increasing’
Ireland’s government has a long-standing commitment to developing its financial services sector. ‘Fintech and Digital Finance’ is one of five main themes of its recently published ‘Update to Ireland for Finance’, a whole-of-government strategy charting the development of international financial services to the end of 2026.
Carroll MacNeill said that she was “keenly aware that the public sector, and the organisations represented here in the room today, have a very different role to play in the next stage of the development of digital finance compared to previous years.”
“There is a consensus emerging that 2020 was a digital threshold year, where the disruption of the pandemic caused a shift in the window of what people consider possible in fintech,” she said. “We are also at the beginning of what many commentators have referred to as a decisive decade with significant choices to make about how we in government navigate a path forward. Across the developed economies, and in particular in the EU and the US, governments are implementing modern versions of industrial strategies where the state is assuming a more active role.”
“For financial services and fintech, as a regulated industry, the role of the state has been a constant with the need to balance the promise that innovation heralds with the need to protect people’s money and secure financial stability. That being said, the ask of government is increasing both from active stakeholders in fintech and from the public in terms of the services they require,” she continued.
“It is in that context that 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.”
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‘Significant opportunity before us’
The minister referred to a Boston Consulting Group report, published earlier this month, that showed the fintech sector currently accounting for just two per cent of the $12.5 trillion (about £10 trillion or €11.56 trillion) global revenues generated by the financial services industry globally. “While they [the report’s authors] are projecting a six-fold increase in fintech between now and 2030, it clearly demonstrates there is a significant opportunity before us with the option for scale growth,” Carroll MacNeill said.
“Fintech and digital finance and innovation is playing a critical role in its next stage of the growth of the financial services industry globally and is moving progressively towards becoming a core competence for firms that want to be able to thrive in a digital-first 21st century,” she said.
Carroll MacNeill used the speech to announce the launch of a post-graduate diploma in sustainable fintech as part of a government push to “provide a pipeline of skilled talent in this area” (see separate article). The new Postgraduate Diploma in Sustainable Financial Technology & Innovation will be government-funded through Ireland’s International Sustainable Finance Centre of Excellence.
She described the government’s backing for the diploma as a practical example of how “industry and academia [can better] share their expertise in order to better inform policy development and deliver better services to citizens as a result.”
The Global Government Fintech Lab 2023 was organised in partnership with Ireland’s Department of Finance. Further speakers from the host nation included Mai Santamaria, who leads the Financial Advisory team in the department; the Central Bank of Ireland’s head of policy and risk horizontal function Denise Delaney and her colleague Gavin Curran, who is head of the central bank’s markets supervision division; and Fintech Ireland’s Peter Oakes.
Further information can also be found on the Global Government Fintech Lab webpage.
Fintech ‘rife’ with opportunities for governments, say UK MPs – our report (15 March 2021) on a UK webinar discussing the HM Treasury-commissioned Fintech Strategic Review
Fintech has ‘almost infinite’ potential for governments: Lord Holmes – our report (3 March 2021) on a UK webinar discussing the HM Treasury-commissioned Fintech Strategic Review