Chris Jessup: Fintech sector pushing forward despite economic challenge
FOR years now we have discussed Northern Ireland’s position as a centre for excellence in fintech. Evidence of this emerges weekly, with news of companies investing into the region, parts of the local ecosystem expanding outwards and continued growth across our corresponding clusters of reg-tech, compliance and cyber security.
Innovation and business transactions are carrying on at pace. FinTru, The Bank of London, fscom and Smarttech247 are recent examples of members of the local ecosystem that have celebrated expansion and investment. From start-ups to large institutions, the financial services sector is doing what it can in the circumstances, an indication that despite a fragile economic situation, the sector will stimulate further growth going forward.
Through our collaboration with the FinTech National Network, which unites the UK’s regional fintech hubs to encourage innovation on a national basis, we know that fintech is contributing to economic growth right across the UK.
In Northern Ireland, as with our regional counterparts, the growth of the sector is not a new phenomenon to be exploited amid a challenging economic climate. The expansion of fintech locally is forecasted and strategy-led, with key targets and performance indicators in place.
We have a workforce of over 7,000, are a cluster of 75 plus companies and generate £392 million in annual GVA to the local economy. As the not-for-profit industry association representing the sector, we have not been shy about our ambitions to grow this further and have a strategy in place to achieve our projections.
These include the creation of 25 new fintech companies, the attraction of £25 million in additional foreign direct investment and generation of thousands of new jobs.
Well on track to achieve this, the fintech sector is working collaboratively to ensure growth in Northern Ireland is sustainable. At FinTech NI, we have identified several focus areas to ensure these targets are met and indeed exceeded in the months and years to come.
We know there must be improved financial and business support available to indigenous fintechs with high-growth potential, which covers many of our startups and SMEs operating locally. Connecting entrepreneurs to large institutions and specialist advisory firms is key in order to stimulate knowledge sharing, new partnerships and economic growth.
As an Association we have talked repeatedly about building a sustainable talent pipeline, which requires working with schools and educational institutions to encourage young people into the sector. Connected to this is our work with wider society, engaging with the public sector to promote fintech career opportunities and feed into curriculum development.
As the sector grows, there is also a requirement to build a clear line of sight for regulators like the FCA to engage with and support fintechs to ensure their growth is compliant in the jurisdictions they operate.
These are the areas making up the current phase of work for fintech in Northern Ireland. The possibility for growth here remains very evident, therefore now is the time for implementation. Ensuring this takes place and the local ecosystem is positioned as a world leader in fintech will be my focus going forward as chairperson of the FinTech NI Association.
:: Chris Jessup is FinTech NI chairperson