Every year more than 600,000 international students travel to Canada to continue their studies in higher education. When planning a move to Canada as a foreign student, tax organization is key – this is where Sprintax comes in. Sprintax specifically caters to the more than two million non-residents visiting North America each year to live, work, and study. Sprintax also partners with universities and employers to ensure non-resident employees, students, and scholars are taxed correctly on income earned. With the support of Enterprise Ireland, Sprintax partners with eight of the top 10 universities in the United States.
“Sprintax is a unique SaaS solution,” says Sprintax Commercial Director, Joanna Murphy. “Today, we are proud to report that our solution supports non-residents in Canada as well as the US with every tax requirement they may have and ensures full compliance with their tax obligations.”
Sprintax Canada offers the only online self-preparation software for non-resident Canadian tax return preparation. To access their completed, fully compliant tax return, students complete a short questionnaire, answering questions about their income, deductions, and eligible tuition expenses. After questionnaire completion, the Sprintax software automatically generates ready to download tax forms. Users are also guaranteed to receive their maximum Canadian tax refund, as the software ensures the claim of any qualifying federal and provincial tax relief deductions.
“It’s clear that Sprintax is a unique solution and there is simply no other product like it on the market,” says Shaun Ryan, Market Executive – Canada, Enterprise Ireland. “It is fantastic to see such innovation and global ambition displayed by an Irish company. Sprintax Canada is a textbook example of how much can be achieved when Irish entrepreneurial minds come together.”
Sprintax Canada also generates complete federal and provincial tax and employment documents (including Federal TD1, Provincial TD1, TP-1015.3-V forms, and more). With Sprintax, payroll departments can easily manage the tax profiles of their international employees all in one place through a user-friendly dashboard.
Sprintax Canada determines tax residency status, calculates the correct income tax withholding for each non-resident and outlines whether they are eligible for any tax treaties or deductions.
The software is the brainchild of Terry Clune and part of the Clune Technology Group (formerly the Taxback Group) – an organization headquartered in Ireland, employing over 1,500 staff members across 33 countries around the world. Clune Technology Group is the parent company to Ireland’s most successful and groundbreaking Fintech brands including TransferMate Global Payments, Immedis, Taxback International, and Taxback.com.
Sprintax’s North American operations are led by Vice President Enda Kelleher. Based in the company’s New York City office, Kelleher leads the Sprintax team all over the US and Canada to speak with staff and students at universities and trade shows – offering workshops, webinars, and demos on US and Canadian taxes for non-residents.
“We are all incredibly proud of Sprintax,” Kelleher continues. “To date we have partnered with eight of the top 10 universities in the US – this is an outstanding achievement. Our expectation is that our product will continue to go from strength to strength in the coming years and exhibit the same phenomenal patterns of growth in Canada that the company has already displayed. We are excited about the prospect of spreading our wings and developing even further in Canada.”
In the past, tax organization has always been a headache for the 600,000 students new to North America. Sprintax has recognized that issue and provides a simple and comprehensive solution to non-resident students as the software caters directly to their tax needs.
With the FinTech sector’s recent boom in the UAE and across the wider region, Irish start-up DX Compliance launched its operations in the Middle East from its new base in the UAE. The Dublin-headquartered company is fast becoming one to watch in the global RegTech space where its operations have expanded into five international markets.
Operating out of the country’s capital, Abu Dhabi, DX introduced its disruptive technology and solutions to the rapidly expanding financial market. Working with banks and FinTech companies, DX Compliance invented AI-enabled anti-financial crime and compliance software solutions with easy to use features and top-of-the-line capabilities to effectively identify and manage regulatory and financial risks.
“With UAE topping the list of countries in the Middle East with the highest number of financial technology start-ups, we knew this would be the best market for us to begin our journey from. After successfully launching in the UAE and securing a place in the two biggest start-up accelerator hubs in the UAE, we are looking to expand our offer into the wider MENA region. This move will create several R&D jobs in Ireland where DX puts a high focus in hiring young talent. Following through our milestones achieved, we continue to help our customers benefit from the unique insights of our proprietary machine learning capabilities and user focused approach” said Simon Dix, CEO & Founder of DX Compliance.
The move to the region has been supported by Enterprise Ireland, the Irish Government’s trade and innovation agency. Their involvement has contributed to the successful expansion of DX Compliance into the Middle East market. This includes the Dubai International Financial Center’s (DIFC) FinTech Hive as well as Abu Dhabi Global Market’s (ADGM) Hub71.
Welcoming DX Compliance to the region, Stephen Twomey, Enterprise Ireland’s Senior Market Advisor said, “The FinTech scene across the Middle East is ever evolving and fast emerging with plenty of opportunities for growth and innovation. We’re delighted to see DX Compliance successfully launch in the UAE and become part of the UAE’s largest start-up accelerators, making it the very first Enterprise Ireland backed FinTech start-up to secure a position at Hub 71 and DIFC’s FinTech Hive. Irish FinTech is well received in this region for its ground-breaking innovation, technology and ability to overcome challenges.”
Daniel Dorr, Co-Founder of DX Compliance said “The support we gain from Enterprise Ireland along with our collaborations with Universities in Abu Dhabi and Dublin opens doors for more growth and employment during unprecedented times. The collaboration between our two offices which represent two ecosystems, will help us expand our company and portfolio at a rapid level leading to more job opportunities and delivering value back into our respective ecosystems”.
“Our expansion into the UAE comes as we have just launched DX Version 2.0, our latest version of our transaction monitoring software, which takes the fight against financial crime to a whole new level. Our new and improved features enable banks, FinTech firms and other providers of financial services to effectively identify and manage their regulatory and financial risks, lower operational costs and focus their attention on their revenue drivers with a peace of mind”.
In addition to successfully launching in the UAE, DX Compliance has strengthened its leadership team by appointing two C-Suite titles. Razi Ardakani, financial compliance and FinTech expert, was appointed as Head of Growth and will lead the company’s expansion across the Middle East and drive global expansion strategies. Appointed as DX Compliance’s Chief Product Officer, Prem Ipe has over 15 years of experience leading data analytics teams. Prem was also previously nominated as one of the top 30 leaders in Australia.
DX Compliance has a successful track record in providing market-leading anti-financial crime products that offer insights into individuals’ and commercial entities’ financial behaviour. They generate value for their clients by uncovering suspicious transactions that usually go undetected by more traditional forms of anti-financial crime tools.
Considering DX Compliance’s expertise and journey of growth, the start-up was selected to be part of RegLab, the UAE’s specially tailored regulatory framework which provides a controlled environment for FinTech participants to develop and test innovative solutions.
The highly respected financial regulator of the city-state Singapore, the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) has last December awarded four digital banking licenses. These licenses will allow entities including non-bank entities to provide banking services including deposit taking and lending in Singapore. As a regional fintech powerhouse, the liberalisation of its banking industry has been hotly anticipated by big players in the world of finance and technology.
Two of the licenses are categorized as “full”, in that they allow consumer banking. One has gone to a partnership of local ride-hailing super-app Grab and telco conglomerate SingTel, where both companies have large customer bases and regional activities across Southeast Asia.
The other has gone to Nasdaq-listed internet powerhouse Sea group, which has had a blockbuster year of growth from its e-commerce platform Shopee (well able to hold its own against Amazon and Alibaba), it’s gaming division Garena and existing fintech division SeaMoney.
The remaining two are “wholesale”, or business banking licenses, awarded to Ant Financial (the fintech affiliate company of Alibaba Group, best known for their Alipay app) and another to a consortium of Greenland Financial, Linklogis & Beijing Co-Op Equity Investment.
Singapore follows a wider regional pattern, two years after the Hong Kong Monetary Authority who released eight digital banking licenses. Taiwan’s Financial Supervisory Commission also released three and Malaysia is expected to issue up to five sometime later this year. The Philippines has also indicated it will accept applications for online only banks. The authorities in Indonesia however, seeking to encourage consolidation of a fragmented banking sector, is not expected to issue any further licenses. However numerous small or struggling local lenders have been acquisition targets for ambitious Fintechs, while larger banks are experimenting with digital-only propositions.
However, they face a challenging marketplace in Singapore, where incumbents are deemed to be very digitally capable. Covid-19 forced them to bolster their digital proposition, and at the retail level almost all transactions, including account openings, can be performed online. DBS, the market leader, has won various accolades as the World’s Best Digital Bank, boasts over 7,500 engineers, with the CEO Piyush Gupta evangelizing the bank as a tech company in financial services.
The experience in Hong Kong and Australia seems to point that new entrants cannot only rely on a slicker app experience and marginally better deposit rates. They will need to tie in truly innovative products, services and integrations that are useful and targeted specifically at under-served sectors of the market.
In order to achieve this, new digital banks will have to have a robust, agile and secure technology stack incorporating the best technology partners in the game – and this is where the Irish Advantage is. Irish companies are already supporting many of the world’s most innovative digital banks and look poised to power the current wave of upstarts in Asia.
The Irish Capability
Daon is a world-leading mobile authentication and biometrics company. Established 20 years ago to serve the government sector and now a leader in financial services, they are one of the only FIDO certified biometrics companies, whose services are critical to the security of any digital banking offering. Daon are already working with some of the leading financial digital banks in the region – TONIK (the Philippines) and Mox (Hong Kong).
A comprehensive compliance offering, and seamless onboarding process, is central to offering customers an exceptional and secure account opening experience. KnowYourCustomer’s KYC, KYB and onboarding platform is currently used by digital bank Neat in Hong Kong. Know Your Customer notably won “Best Solution – Customer Onboarding” in the 2020 edition of the Regulation Asia Awards of Excellence.
Also in the onboarding space is Fenergo, the industry No.1 provider of Client Lifecycle Management (CLM) software solutions for financial institutions spanning capital markets and investment banking, commercial, business and retail banking, private banking and wealth management, and asset management. Fenergo CLM is an end-to-end platform that transforms how sell-side banks and buy-side firms manage clients – from initial onboarding to KYC/AML compliance, to client data management and ongoing lifecycle KYC reviews and refreshes.
With the uptake of digital banking solutions expected to experience exponential growth, Leveris’ cloud-native and real-time core banking system offers a 100% turnkey digital bank solution. A modular platform designed with scalability and reliability at its heart, Leveris helps fulfil ultra-rapid total deployment for innovative technology-driven banking solutions, digital at heart.
CR2 solutions provide innovative omnichannel banking software to banks across the world. CR2 makes self-servicing banking better through supplying ATM’s to mobile and from POS to the Internet. CR2 offer digital channels that provide personalised services built upon an integrated self-service digital banking platform known as ‘BankWorld’.
With compliance core to the reassurance needed to drive adoption of digital banking, Solgari’s omni-channel cloud communications platform provides communications and functionality through Microsoft Dynamics 365 within the CRM interface.
As Singapore embarks on its journey into digital banking, there is much to be learned and gained from the experience of companies who have helped other organizations venture into this space. A global technology hotspot, eight of the top 10 global software companies have their European headquarters in Ireland, making this a hotbed of innovation; innovation that empowers and enables.
To find out more about the #IrishAdvantage in Fintech, please reach out to talk.
Tiarnan McCaughan – Senior Market Advisor Fintech & Financial Services, Southeast Asia
Grace Odlum – Market Executive, Southeast Asia
With digital banking being on the rise, Botswana Savings Bank (BSB) has chosen CR2, the global leading digital banking provider, to launch a suite of next-gen digital banking channels and payments services. The move forms the central pillar to the BSB digital transformation strategy to provide a suite of value-added digital services to their customers.
Headquartered in Ireland, CR2 is world-leading provider with a market leadership position in Africa, within the Digital Banking Platform market enabling over 100 banks in 60 countries to seamlessly connect and engage with their customers on the most critical banking channels today.
The sheer importance of providing dynamic digital banking payments and services has been highlighted by the Covid-19 pandemic as customers move away from branches and physical interaction.
With CR2’s next generation BankWorld platform, BSB will have the ability to digitally onboard customers remotely, allowing the bank to efficiently increase its customer reach. The new suite of digital services will give BSB’s customers full access to relevant lifestyle-based digital services such as Person to Person payments and utility payments. Customers will enjoy an enhanced digital experience as they will be able to access their accounts, products, loans and mortgages remotely whilst being able to track their spending and budgets through Personal Financial Management, creating a better all-round customer experience.
Kabelo Ngwako, BSB Director of Support Services looks forward to working with CR2 on this significant milestone for the bank. “This investment for BSB is important and we were careful to select an experienced and trusted vendor with knowledge of our market. As CR2 are highly rated and recognised by analysts as a world leading provider of digital banking platforms we know that by bringing them onboard to roll out our digital channels they will give us a platform that will put us at the cutting edge of modern banking in Botswana” said Kabelo Ngwako.
On the announcement of the partnership, Meabh Maguire, CR2’s Global Commercial Manager said that she believes BSB’s move into Digital Banking will give them the edge in an already highly competitive market. “Our BankWorld platform will enable BSB to offer their customers a state-of-the-art digital banking and payments service. In the times that we now find ourselves living, it is key that a bank reacts and adapts quickly for its customers and with this investment, BSB are making a strong statement as to their commitment to the future and to ensuring their customers have access to the best digital banking services available.”
In welcoming the move by BSB, Nicola Kelly, Senior Market Advisor for Enterprise Ireland said, “In CR2, Botswana Savings Bank has chosen their world leading technology to fulfil their ambitious digital transformation strategy that will deliver huge benefits to BSB customers, providing access to the next generation of cutting-edge digital banking services that are being used around the world”.
“When it comes to advances in financial technology, Africa and the rest of the world is looking at Ireland. With the strong reputation for world leading innovation, Irish companies are at the forefront of the financial digital transformation – it’s the Irish Advantage in action”.
With the Middle East’s FinTech sector growing rapidly, Global Shares has made Riyadh, Saudi Arabia its Middle East HQ, making it the 17th office in their global network with the opening of their office in the largest Arab nation in the region. Managing employee share plans for some of the world’s biggest companies, world leading FinTech powerhouse, Global Shares is headquartered in Ireland and has 16 other offices spanning across Europe, America and Asia.
Located in the capital of Saudi Arabia, Global Share’s Riyadh office will act as the hub for the region’s service team and a base for the company’s new Managing Director of the Middle East, Abdulhadi Alherz.
With major plans of expansion in the GCC region, Global Shares has also partnered with NCB Capital – the largest investment bank in Saudi Arabia – who are providing the required custody and dealing services as part of the Global Shares offering.
Commenting on the new Middle East hub, Abdulhadi Alherz said: “Global Shares is a global fintech leader, which has reimagined technology solutions in the employee ownership space. The arrival of a global fintech leader in the employee ownership sector is great news for Saudi Arabia and the wider region, and it’s also exciting for Global Shares”.
He added “Saudi Arabia has a large, strong economy with a population of 33.7 Million and GDP of $790,000,000,000. Our country is highly diverse: 32% of the population is made up of expats and 66% of the population is youthful, both of which will help from a long-term incentive plans perspective”.
Explaining the focus on the region, John Meehan, Global Shares Business Development Director, commented that “The Middle East is a region of huge strategic importance to Global Shares as more and more companies recognise the importance of equity-based compensation.”
In welcoming Global Shares to the region, Enterprise Ireland Senior Market Advisor, Stephen Twomey, said “It is very encouraging to see Global Shares, an Enterprise Ireland backed company, expand their footprint into the Middle East by establishing a presence in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. The FinTech scene across the Middle East is both vibrant and thriving with plenty of opportunities. Irish FinTech is well received in this region for its innovative tech and ability to solve complex problems”.
“Global Shares is a great example of why Ireland has forged out its role and reputation as a global hub for finance, technology, and leading fintech innovation,” he added.
With more and more companies looking to expand into the Middle East region, there has been a major boom in the FinTech industry, and an increased opportunity for investment and growth. Global Shares has plans for continued recruitment, training, onboarding new clients and strategic partnerships in the region for 2021.
Difficulties with a motor insurance renewal led to the establishment of conversational messaging specialist Webio. Founded in 2016, the Dublin-based company helps clients in financial services, insurance and other sectors to communicate with their customers in the sensitive areas of credit, collections and payments.
“People don’t like talking about financial problems,” explains Webio founder and Chief Executive Cormac O’Neill. “We give our clients an easier and more effective way to have those difficult conversations by bringing technology to bear on customer engagement and the customer journey.”
The lightbulb moment came as O’Neill’s wife was trying to renew her motor insurance policy. “We were about to set off for a holiday down the country and she phoned the company to renew,” O’Neill recalls. “What should have been a five-minute conversation lasted three-quarters of an hour. I figured there must be a better way of doing it.”
The timing was propitious. “When I look back now, it was around the time WhatsApp and other messaging apps were really starting to arrive and they were changing communications from being voice-driven to technology-driven. We wanted to transform the way enterprises engage with their customers. Way too much time is wasted in contact centres trying to get people on the phone, putting them on hold and so on, when it could be done much better on a messaging app.”
The company raised funding of €1.75 million from Enterprise Ireland and US investor Cameo Global in a seed round in 2016. “Enterprise Ireland has been fantastic for Webio,” says O’Neill. “It is very supportive and is a real enabler for start-ups. We spent the next 12 months building and developing a product.”
Market interest was very strong. “There was a lot of excitement around it and we had strong interest from a range of sectors,” he recalls. “But we were trying to be everything to everyone in some ways. It took us a while to figure out where the product fitted best. The people getting the most use out of it were in the credit arrangements, collections and payments areas. Our target market is any business which wants to talk to their customers about these things.”
The pain point addressed by Webio is the difficulties businesses have in reaching out and connecting with customers who owe them money. “Whether that’s an insurance company with customers on payment plans, or a bank or a credit institution, they all face the same difficulties. In a lot of cases, customers simply don’t answer the call when they see the number displayed on their phone. It’s not that they are trying to avoid paying what they owe, it’s just that they don’t feel comfortable having a voice-to-voice live conversation about it.”
Webio’s clients are reporting positive experiences with the conversational customer engagement solution’s they have deployed“What clients are finding is that if they send a message via WhatsApp, SMS or another messaging channel, customers are much more likely to respond. “This is all to do with the psyche of people in debt. They don’t like talking about it but if they get a text message, they can think about it and reply later. Many people find it easier to engage by text rather than verbally in relation to such things.”
Applications for the Webio service are wider than credit and payments management. “The type of businesses using it include insurance, financial services, and companies who sell a lot of products on monthly payment plans. We also offer value-added services such as using WhatsApp to renew a policy or to send photographs of a damaged vehicle for assessment in real-time. This will allow customers to do in minutes what used to take hours or even days.”
Inertia has been one of the biggest issues facing Webio. “Innovation is not in the insurance industry’s DNA,” says O’Neill. “But they are now being forced to change as a result of new digital insurers entering the market. These digital providers are targeting niche areas at the moment, but that will change. They are already having a big impact. Lemonade is the world’s first unicorn insurance company, Dropin in the US is using drone technology to assess damaged areas after storms almost in real-time, and Next Insurance is using artificial intelligence (AI) to insure small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). These digital-first insurers are changing the way the industry communicates with its customers. The established companies are starting to change and they are turning to Webio to help them on their digitisation journeys.”
The company is experiencing an increase in demand following a sharp drop at the outset of the Covid-19 pandemic. “The minute Covid hit, business dropped 35%, but it is starting to come back now. Budgets were frozen and no new business was being done. People were so focused on dealing with the impact of the pandemic that they didn’t have the bandwidth for anything new.”
He foresees even stronger demand in the coming year. “Unfortunately, we are heading for a tsunami of personal debt. People’s salaries are being propped up by governments, but that can’t last forever. When it ends, we are going to see huge personal difficulties and that will drive more and more need for what Webio does.”
Support from Enterprise Ireland and Cameo Global has been fundamental to the company’s success. “Enterprise Ireland has been excellent,” O’Neill concludes. “Their soft supports like market entry programmes have been particularly effective. When you are supported by Enterprise Ireland you get connected into a great network on the ground in markets like the UK, which is our primary target at the moment. We plan to look at the US market in 2021.”
This August, Irish Software company, Vizor, announced the successful implementation of its Automatic Exchange of Information (AEOI) platform for the Oman Tax Authority. The data sharing pursuant to the Common Reporting Standard (CRS) as mandated by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) will begin in December this year, making Oman the twentieth tax authority globally to implement Vizor’s solutions to fulfil some form of international tax sharing obligation (CRS, FATCA, CbC Reporting etc.)
‘We selected Vizor based both on the user-friendliness of the solution, as well as their track record of success with tax authorities, not just in the region but globally,’ explains Said Shanfari of the Oman Tax Authority.
Vizor is a sophisticated, yet easy-to-use and highly secure software solution which can be fully automated to provide fast and user-friendly services, combined with extensive monitoring, tracking and reviewing of both data and reporting entities. The Vizor platform is also designed to support its clients through any future changes to the tax exchange obligation standards such as Schema 2 for CRS, which is currently being rolled out.
What makes this contract a particularly impressive achievement, is that the entire rollout was carried out entirely remotely during the global lockdown.
’We are very proud to have delivered this project as our first AEOI project to be implemented 100% remotely’ says Vizor’s AEOI Business Development Manager, Mary O’Leary. ‘This was enabled by an excellent working relationship with both our local partner and the Omani Tax Authority.’
‘It’s very encouraging to see this,’ says Stephen Twomey, Enterprise Ireland’s Senior Market Advisor for the MENA region. ‘It is a different way of doing business. It signifies a change in how new deals can be done in this region. The very fact that this was conducted and implemented completely remotely is a first.’
Based in Dubai, Twomey provides strategic consulting, and route-to-market advisory services to Irish technology companies breaking into the MENA market.
‘The decision-making process out here can be a little more elongated than is typical in Europe,’ he explains. ‘That’s down to the whole sales cycle… Local clients want to get to know their business partners, there is a big emphasis on building rapport and really understanding what the business is about.’
Lockdown has presented a challenge for most businesses, and some are adapting more easily than others to the ‘new normal’. The implications of having to work remotely are particularly daunting for industries and regions where face-to-face interactions and personal relationships play an essential role.
Ireland has a significant reputation in the Middle East, for cutting edge, bespoke regtech solutions. As well as having some of the best software available, ‘Irish business people are well placed to build up a rapport in this region,’ says Twomey.
So, when the Covid-19 pandemic hit Oman and Europe, there was some concern about how Irish businesses would fare under the travel restrictions.
Ms. O’Leary visited Oman last December, to give a demonstration and discuss particular aspects of the Vizor solution. She knew Vizor could provide what the Oman authorities needed. What she didn’t know, was that this would be her last visit before implementation.
‘When it’s a relatively new jurisdiction, I would normally go over and be on site again once we were chosen as partner,’ says O’Leary, ‘there are a lot of face-to-face meetings and trainings.’ Of course, this became impossible as restrictions were put in place. But the client wasn’t in a position to wait for the situation to ease.
‘Oman had committed to a exchanging CRS data by September 2020 (now moved to December 2020 by the OECD in light of the Pandemic restrictions), mandated by the (OECD,’ explains Ms. O’Leary, ‘so we simply had to get moving.’
The key to the success of this project, was the effective cooperation of all the organisations involved. ‘The Omani Tax Authority was so great to work with,’ O’Leary adds. ‘They were so motivated and showed so much initiative.’ In order to have a presence on the ground, Vizor had partnered with a local firm – one of Omani’s leading technology services company, Software Systems LLC (SSL).
‘I think it did help that we had a local partner,’ says Ms. O’Leary, ‘and they were really cooperative, despite the fact that all players were working from home. Everything was facilitated through Teams and Zoom – even the training.’
Enterprise Ireland is currently working with a number of Irish tech companies, to help them to get a foothold in the MENA region. In this context, Vizor’s remote roll out is particularly heartening.
‘I’m hoping this will be a regular occurrence,’ says Twomey, [Vizor’s achievement] could be indicative of the times we’re in, and it could be a signal that there are similar transactions to follow.’
If you’d like to connect with innovative Irish companies, click here .
How the Hot 10 lister helps small and medium-sized companies to fire on all funding cylinders.
Andrea Reynolds knows exactly how important the right source of funding, at the right time, on the right terms, is to any business. She founded Swoop Funding because she also knows how hard it is to secure.
Reynolds is a chartered accountant who started her career with professional services firm KPMG in Dublin, specialising in financial services and working with clients that included banks and insurance companies.
She moved to London with KPMG in 1999 and quickly gravitated towards smaller, younger businesses. Within a few years she was walking the talk, having left to set up her own firm providing corporate finance consultancy to start ups.
“I could see how challenging and time consuming it was for these companies to raise funds. I understood that it’s not just about getting the loan, or the finance, it’s about getting the right blend, the right mixture of, for example, loan and equity investment,” says Reynolds.
It’s exactly the kind of activity that in larger firms is looked after by a chief financial officer. “The problem is that, while every business needs a financial advisor, not every business can afford one. Yet, if you are in a small business, you are busy enough finding customers without having to do all this as well,” she says.
At best, the result is hours spent googling. Reynolds reckoned there had to be a better way: “I felt sure the technology had advanced enough to provide a solution.” And it had.
In 2018, together with co-founder Ciaran Burke, a fellow KPMG alumnus, she developed Swoop Funding, a platform that prompts a business towards the debt finance, equity investment or grant award it doesn’t just need but is most likely to get.
The genius is that it integrates all of a user’s data points, including bank accounts, accounting software and Companies Registration Office information, to come up with guidance.
The platform analyses the data to establish key metrics such as a business’s debt/service coverage ratio (DSCR), a measurement of the cash flow available to pay current debt obligations.
“It’s the number every lending institution looks at before deciding whether to give you a loan or not, and yet nobody is aware of it. The result is that, too often the business gets declined for a loan it should never have applied for in the first place,” says Reynolds.
She is the first to admit that Swoop Funding’s own start-up journey was fuelled by timely access to the right supports.
One of its first wins was securing Competitive Start Funding from Enterprise Ireland, Ireland’s trade and innovation agency.
Swoop went on to win an award from the open banking challenge, a competition funded by the main UK banks and managed by Nesta, an innovation fund. Earlier this year it secured £5 million from the RBS bailout fund.
All of its funding has helped fuel growth. Just over a year since its launch, Swoop Funding now has more than 1,000 providers on its website, including debt, equity and grant providers from across the UK and Ireland.
What makes the platform even more compelling is the fact that it provides a clear picture of a user’s spending behaviour and proactively identifies savings too, all the time improving its DSCR.
Swoop helps reduce its cost base by prompting significant savings across banking, insurance, foreign exchange, international payments and utilities. That frees up a business to do what it does best – making sales.
No business is too small. “We had one customer who had a turnover of £100,000. The owner paid his tech developers in Poland each month through his bank. Simply by switching to Transferwise Swoop helped him to save £7,000 a year,” says Reynolds, who could see the small and medium enterprise sector was ripe for such a product.
“Nobody thinks about the SME sector as a customer segment. It’s completely underserved and overcharged, despite the fact that every economy relies on them.”
Swoop Funding doesn’t add to their burden, it lightens it immeasurably. “Our product is free to use. We only get paid if we are successful, which is exactly as it should be.”
By October 2019, Swoop had generated €50 million in funding and savings for its users. Inclusion in The Fintech50s’s Hot Ten 2019 list, which marks it out as one of the world’s most innovative fintechs, rounds off a spectacular year.
Enterprise Ireland continues to play a key role in its development. “It has been incredible,” comments Reynolds, who says that having operations in both Ireland and the UK allows her to see the difference between supports on offer in Ireland and in the UK.
They are “poles apart”, she says. “Enterprise Ireland is recognised across Europe as the benchmark of best practice. Apart from the funding element, the really relevant support Enterprise Ireland provides is what makes the difference.”
“Swoop has a genuine competitive edge as a business but by being part of Enterprise Ireland, you get an additional advantage.”
Of course, it helps too that at every stage in Swoop Funding’s development, Reynolds has known where to turn, and when, for the right mix of investment, debt finance and grant funding.
“We’re like a case study for our own platform. We have used every form of funding available to a business of our size and stage. That’s what’s nice about Swoop – we’ve done it ourselves.”
Banks need to keep pace with customer expectations and fintech disruptors or risk being left behind.
According to the 2017 B2B Payments & Working Capital Management Survey, 45% of participants consider the quality of a bank’s B2B payments offering to be a critical factor when selecting a banking partner. Furthermore, for those focused on global expansion, the ability of banks to align their services with an enterprise’s own growth trajectory is important, with around 20% of survey respondents mentioning that they use alternative options for B2B cross-border payments.
Not only does this highlight that businesses are transitioning from inefficient and costly paper cheques to electronic payment methods, but also that banks have not been able to meet demand for innovation and simplicity in the international payments arena.
Meanwhile, corporates struggle with the fragmentation and complexity of cross-border payments. Navigating the multitude of payment options and identifying the most suitable ones while handling evolving compliance and regulatory requirements can prove to be frustrating.
A survey by Saxo Payments focused on cross-border B2B payments indicated that the costs associated with international payments are a major cause of dissatisfaction: 48% of respondents were unhappy with the fees charged, while 80% of businesses would consider changing providers to reduce costs. Other challenges cited include a perceived lack of transparency, foreign exchange rates variations and slow transactions. This prevailing discontent has been one of the primary factors underpinning the growth of fintechs, many of whom provide innovative solutions that help companies manage their payments more efficiently.
Gaps in knowledge sharing, where traditional banks are unable to meet requirements or guide companies regarding the best ways to execute global payments, can hamper progress. This has created an inefficient and unsustainable ecosystem that prompts companies to look for other options. Paytech firms are leveraging technologies such as platforms and artificial intelligence (AI) to provide the building blocks for more efficient solutions. Technology-based platforms also deliver better value propositions and facilitate innovative business models.
For example, automated systems can identify and ensure fulfilment of all requisite payment protocols before initiating a payment process. TransferMate (Ireland) offers a range of global services for international payments that can be integrated with businesses’ accounting and enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems. With access to 117 currencies, 145 countries and transparent exchange rates, corporates can initiate secure and fast cross-border transfers.
According to Frost & Sullivan research titled ‘The Global PayTech Market: Driving Transaction Transformation’, a noteworthy growth opportunity in the coming years will be instant or real-time payments. Expected to be implemented globally, the massive adoption of mobile devices and mobile payments will underpin this trend. Previse (UK), which received £2 million in seed funding to develop its proprietary artificial intelligence (AI) solution, enables buyers to pay their suppliers as soon as an invoice comes in. Ripple (USA) offers a global real-time payment system that enables banks and financial institutions to send money globally using the power of Blockchain. Many such use cases of advanced technologies are being explored and will likely be adopted to further increase efficiency and reduce costs.
The value propositions and business models of paytech companies can vary considerably. However, they essentially all work towards creating a seamless and easy-to-execute system. Integration with existing systems, Single Euro Payments Area (SEPA) transfers, FX conversion automation, marketplaces, payment gateways, automatic compliance and notifications are some of the benefits that paytech companies offer.
For instance, dynamic currency conversion (DCC) and multi-currency pricing (MCP) are technologies that enable banks and merchants to price goods and services in the local currency of their customers and receive payment in their chosen currency. It simplifies international sales, while offering a tailored, transparent shopping experience to consumers. Irish fintech firms working to reinvent global finance by developing innovative solutions for merchants and ATM networks include Fexco, MonexFS and Continuum Commerce.
The corporate cross-border payment cycle is complex and paytech companies can disrupt different parts of the value chain to improve customer experience. CurrencyCloud (United Kingdom) automates the entire payment lifecycle by eliminating the need for companies to build a payment infrastructure or conduct negotiations with banks to enable international payments. The cloud-based platform enables frictionless global payments and rapid launch with its application programming interface (API). Paytech firms can lower costs by leveraging streamlined process and online or branchless models. Take Flywire (United States), for example. The global payment and receivables solution provider can charge its customers currency exchange margins that are almost 50% lower than traditional banks because it has a streamlined system and low overhead infrastructure.
The innovative cross-border payment solutions offered by paytech start-ups are encouraging incumbents to redesign their solutions to meet customer demands and remain competitive. Banks are either collaborating with or investing in paytechs to access innovations and enhance their services. For example, AIB acquired a minority stake in cross-border B2B payments company TransferMate and, as part of a strategic partnership, will offer business customers a convenient and cost-effective way to send or collect funds globally. European banking giant ING also entered into a strategic partnership where TransferMate services will be available to the bank’s SME and corporate customers.
Going forward, as corporates increasingly use innovative services, they will benefit from cross-border payment trends that encompass instant payments, better FX rates and technology-based platforms that help to streamline processes, cut costs and reduce delays. Although some transactions may still require
the involvement of banking entities, paytech will reduce costly errors and complexity to ensure better customer service and agility.
Disruption across the financial services industry has led to an increased focus on creating a secure and seamless experience for customers. The Experian 2018 Global Fraud and Identity Report identifies online shopping and personal banking as the top two activities performed by consumers on mobile devices in their online interactions with businesses.
That’s why traditional methods for customer authentication such as passwords, PINs and tokens are obsolete; they are easy to forge and do not protect information from being stolen or compromised. Meanwhile, biometric-based security systems make forging difficult and are more accurate, cost-effective and scalable than traditional methods of authentication. New regulations made by the European Banking Authority recommended strong customer authentication (SCA) that uses strong multi-factor authentication (MFA) for certain payments, which will come into effect in September 2019.
Multiple options to strengthen authentication
Daon (Ireland) and its IdentityX platform enables an omni-channel approach to biometric authentication. Users can opt for a variety of combinations including traditional security measures such as passwords along with biometric parameters such as voice or facial recognition or fingerprint ID.
Over the years, a range of biometric authentication options have been launched, with banks typically using more than one method to deliver comprehensive security. These include:
Other innovative authentication methods include iris recognition and vein and heartbeat biometrics. Industry interest is evident with growing adoption and investment. Each of these solutions relies on the uniqueness of the associated features for individuals.
Towards a seamless and secure banking future
According to Frost & Sullivan research titled Biometrics in Financial Services, Forecast to 2022, security protocols impact customer trust. A focus on retaining goodwill and brand image are significant drivers to the adoption of biometrics solutions. Banks are introducing a variety of methods for consumer authentication to avoid hefty penalties in case a breach occurs. Additionally, with customer engagement becoming a cornerstone of good business practice, 75% of businesses surveyed in the Experian’s global fraud and identity report said they were open to adoption of advanced authentication and security measures if such solutions would not impact the digital experience of customers.
The move away from cash-based payments, coupled with biometrics such as thumbprints, and use of advanced technologies such as machine learning (ML) and artificial intelligence (AI), can yield a more secure and easy-to-use payment service. Research by the Oxford University and Mastercard suggests that 92% of banking professionals and 93% of consumers favour adoption of biometric solutions. Most biometric solutions are designed to meet regulatory and compliance requirements. This makes it easier for companies to adopt, while application programming interfaces (APIs) make implementation relatively straightforward.
Although biometrics-based authentication solutions are finding favour across financial services industry stakeholders, experts caution against complete reliance, citing a hybrid approach that uses MFA as more secure. Instances of fraud with just one level of authentication prove that financial services solutions continue to be targeted by scammers, meaning that security measures must evolve.
For now, the use of biometrics will enhance authentication and customer experience, while solutions will improve as they are fed with additional data on individuals and their transactions. Combined with other game-changing trends – such as smartphones enabled with fingerprint authentication and facial recognition – the industry can move towards more secure and frictionless payments.
The financial services sector, led until recently by traditional banks, is undergoing a period of unprecedented change and disruption. Technology, as well as consumer demand for innovative services, are driving fintech startups, while regulators are proactively participating to create a level playing field. One such move is the introduction of the revised Payment Services Directive (PSD2), which came into effect in January 2018 and recognises new and emerging payment providers by creating a secure and competitive environment in which they can compete with the industry behemoths.
According to the 2018 World Payments Report, an executive survey by Capgemini and BNP Paribas, 21.4% of respondents indicated complete PSD2 compliance, while 18% are in an implementation stage. PSD2 has extended the scope of payment providers by enabling new companies to participate, improving transparency of payment fees and curbing transaction costs.
The focus of PSD2 on open banking and application programming interfaces (APIs) is ultimately driving innovation for the benefit of consumers. It allows third-party providers (TPPs) – upon customer approval – to access their bank account data and offer value-added payment services, which in turn will accelerate industry disruption. New interaction models now meet customer demands for real-time, customised and seamless payment experiences.
PSD2 requires banks to open their payment infrastructure and customer data to TPPs, thus taking away their privilege over direct customer engagement. The subsequent shift in competition manifests itself with the growing presence of fintechs, technology firms, retailers and telecommunications providers in the payment ecosystem. Incumbents are evolving with new business models, innovations and collaborations to sustain relevance. For example, UniCredit (Italy) launched Buddybank, a mobile-only ‘conversational banking’ model, with claims that 75% of its customers are new to the group. UniCredit plans to use customer feedback and information to improve other parts of the business. Similarly, credit card companies Visa and Mastercard are actively seeking collaborations to develop new services and identify other revenue sources.
While new industry participants innovate based on their newfound access to customer data, consumers are increasingly using online and mobile banking and payments. The natural progression is visible with the adoption of advanced features such as personal finance management, instant and peer-to-peer (P2P) payments. Fire (Ireland) is a Payment Initiation Service Provider (PISP) that provides business and personal customers with digital accounts and debit cards and enables users to easily pay funds directly to another
Fire (Ireland) is a Payment Initiation Service Provider (PISP) that provides business and personal customers with digital accounts and debit cards and enables users to easily pay funds directly to another person or business in the Eurozone or UK without sharing any account or card details. For instance, utility billers can add a ‘pay from your account’ link to emails, enabling people to click and pay from their accounts without using a card.
PSD2 goes beyond enabling Access to Account (XS2A) for third-party payment providers; the guidelines focus on many other aspects to ensure customer protection. Some of the other influences are:
APIs are effective, standardised and easy-to-use interfaces. TPPs offer their core capabilities via APIs and benefit from access to data to further improve solutions. Companies that integrate APIs benefit from easy implementation, testing and lower innovation cost. N26 (Germany) is a mobile-only, pan-European bank that provides consumers with a single digital platform for all banking needs. It integrates APIs from many partners and customers can access new services without any fees. APIs help to scale and add value as well as fit well in companies’ compliance and strategic plans.
With game-changing technologies and business models, the linear model of the payments industry that customers and banks once operated in has ceased to exist. Today, the industry is a complex web with multiple industry participants, many associated and complementary services, and a focus on creating a seamless and personalised payments experience for the user.
中国，2018年11月1日 – 香港金融科技周为全球领先的三家爱尔兰金融科技公司提供平台，为香港特别行政区和中国大陆的公司建立战略伙伴关系爱尔兰。这些合作协议均彰显出爱尔兰在全球发展金融科技创新的优势。作为金融，科技及投资者活动的全球枢纽，已经迅速发展成为金融科技创新的温床。
三家爱尔兰公司Global Shares，了解您的客户及CurrencyFair与一些香港企业达成合作协议，建立合作伙伴关系，这将加速其在亚太地区，特别是在中国大陆和香港的业务增长。这三家公司亦同时获全球 第二大金融科技公司投资者（按交易量计）Enterprise Ireland提供支持。
Global Shares曾荣获德勤「年度最佳金融科技公司」奖，为全球企业提供领先的股权薪酬管理方案。该公司今日宣布将与寰盈国际建立战略伙伴关系，为新经济公司提供员工持股计划管理，股票交易，全球合规，财务报告及资产管理服务。寰盈国际是香港和中国大陆最大的在线经纪公司之一。未来5年，该协议将实现价值逾1500万美元的营收继今年。 早前开设香港办事处后，全球股票今日亦宣布在北京开设新的办事处，进一步扩大在亚洲的业务。
Enterprise Ireland是爱尔兰政府的贸易和创新机构和全球第三大风险投资者（按交易量计），当中获得其支持的14家爱尔兰金融科技公司均参与了本周举行的香港金融科技周，一 展爱尔兰金融科技的实力。这些爱尔兰公司将在#IrishAdvantage品牌下展示其代表着监管科技，支付，银行业，保险科技，云端通讯及生物识别技术等众多金融科技的领域的优势。
爱尔兰商业，企业暨创新部部长Heather Humphreys就这些协议表示：「Enterprise Ireland客户公司正在以前所未有的速度在全球市场成功争取新合作协议。Global Shares，了解您的客户及CurrencyFair今天在香港金融科技周达成的这些协议反映了爱尔兰金融科技公司能够为全球合作伙伴创造的巨大价值。对于爱尔兰金融科技的优势能够获得世界各地公司的认可，我们感到十分振奋。」
Enterprise Ireland行政总裁Julie Sinnamon就这些新的合作伙伴关系表示：「金融科技在亚洲的急速发展为爱尔兰公司提供极好的机会，透过建立战略伙伴关系促进增长，就像我们在此次香港金融科技周所见证的一些伙伴合作般。这些交易只是爱尔兰金融科技帮助企业加速增长，增加营收的其中一些方式。除此之外，他们亦可协助企业改善服务得以改善，增加就业机会，以及为投资组合实现增长。今天宣布的合作协议正彰显了爱尔兰作为金融科技创新重要来源的声誉，以及爱尔兰金融科技公司在为亚太地区的合作伙伴提供解决方案方面所发挥的重要作用」。
Enterprise Ireland 爱尔兰亚太地区金融科技与金融服务领导慕海斐（Mo Harvey）在谈到爱尔兰金融科技公司在香港的发展时指出：「香港作为亚洲最大的金融中心，在金融科技部署方面是亚洲最具前瞻性的城市之一。过去，爱尔兰金融科技公司在香港的发展格外出色.20多家爱尔兰金融科技公司在香港均非常活跃，重点公司包括Fexco，Daon，了解您的客户，CurrencyFair，Intuition Publishing，Fenergo， Fineos，Tax Back International，Corvil，Global Shares及Financial Risk Solutions。当中，这些公司已成功争取与香港一些国际知名金融服务公司，例如汇丰银行，渣打银行及中国银行，以及证券及期货事务监察委员会和香港赛马会等香港机构合作。」
|Know Your Customer||Know Your Customer 提供全面数码化的身份认证方案，能高速及准确地核实个人和企业背景。||监管科技|
|Global Shares||Global Shares是全球领先的股权薪酬管理软件供货商，为全球100多个国家的公司及其员工提供股权计划管理，全球托管，股权交易和财务报告服务。||金融服务|
Enterprise Ireland是爱尔兰政府的贸易和创新机构。作为主要的资本投资者，我们投资于最具创新性, 贯穿不同发展阶段的爱尔兰公司，并将其与多个行业的国际客户联系起来。我们在全球拥有30多个办事处，我们的行业专家团队与国际企业密切接触，以了解和解决他们的业务需求。详情请浏覧：https://irishadvantage.com/why-work-with-us
Stephanie Choi 蔡晓恩
电话：+852 9100 4747