Tom Holgersson from Enterprises Ireland’s Stockholm office describes his work on fintech in the Nordics.
What are the main trends shaping fintech in the Nordic region?
To start with regulatory issues – for banks, the implementation of the Second Payment Services Directive (PSD 2) aims to make electronic payments easier, less expensive and safer for customers. However, it also means that banks must establish an interface for data access by external service providers. By putting technology at the heart of their business, banks will be well positioned to embrace opportunities resulting from the new rules.
Big data is another major trend. Some companies have over 50 years of data and don’t know how to manage it. Failure to manage data properly means that companies may miss out on business opportunities and could also fall short of regulation.
Regarding cybersecurity, in Sweden, for example, 85% of payments are contactless and are therefore potentially vulnerable. While there are many benefits to a cashless society, it is premised on IT systems being robust against security attacks. That means companies must be extremely vigilant.
Lastly, companies must manage the on-boarding of clients and keep them by offering new products and services. Peer-to-peer lending and crowd funding, for example, are new ways of financing for companies. If traditional lenders do no react to such developments, they may lose importance.
How do you assist businesses in the Nordic region?
Generally speaking, it’s a thorough process. I help Irish companies to adapt their strategy and approach to best serve potential customers and partners in the Nordics. That takes a lot of time and Irish companies need to be well prepared for it to work well.
Once I understand that, I can assist Irish companies in very practical ways, such as with Nordic languages. Or, if a company has a specific problem – for example, a legal issue – I can recommend local firms suited to their needs.
What should Nordic business people know about Irish fintechs?
There can be a large gap between what Nordic companies know about Ireland and vice versa. While many business people in the Nordics will be familiar with St. Patrick’s Day, U2, rugby, Guinness and generally have a very good view of Ireland and Irish people, the capabilities of Irish business can be less well known.
A lot of my meetings with banks and other financial players help to explain what is special about fintech and financial services in Ireland. It’s important to share the bigger picture of what Ireland offers as a complement to what the companies I work with offer, in terms of services, know-how, and Irish business acumen and culture. Discussions tend to be around topics like AI, blockchain, regtech and agile solutions.
Business people in the Nordics are interested to learn about the strength of the fintech and financial services ecosystem in Ireland and the scale of Enterprise Ireland’s impressive fintech investments. The Irish Government’s International Financial Services Strategy (IFS) demonstrates its seriousness about expanding the financial sector and building a sustainable financial ecosystem.
How do you connect Irish and Nordic businesses?
Once I have a sense of the right solution for a Nordic financial company, I introduce them to key contacts in Ireland. This sometimes includes bringing them to Ireland to meet people in the business community, such as fintech start-ups, research centres, and government experts.
I may also discuss important events they could benefit from attending, such as MoneyConf, European Financial Forum and my own event, the Fintech Innovation Showcase.
Who are you working with at the moment?
I am working with a number of Irish fintech companies, including Corvil, Fenergo, Cambrist, Rockall Tech, Monex Financial Services, Solgari, Boxever, Accelerated Payments, Priviti, Ostia Solutions and Know Your Customer, to mention just a few.