Ireland’s fintech and payments sector has experienced significant growth, establishing itself as a global hub for innovation and investment. Chloé Wade, vice president of international financial services UK at IDA Ireland, explores the growth of the sector and its future prospects.
Ireland’s fintech and payments landscape has made remarkable strides in recent years and is among the fastest-growing sectors in Ireland today. Homegrown Irish companies, supported by Enterprise Ireland, are scaling and growing and multinational firms looking to internationalise continue to choose Ireland as a location of choice.
This is for several reasons; Ireland is the only English-speaking country in the EU, it is a common law jurisdiction, presence of a pro-business Government, a highly skilled and well-educated workforce. Lastly, it also has a visible presence of big tech and large-scale financial services. These have been important factors for companies looking to establish EU/EMEA headquarters and Ireland’s success is evident by the number of companies who have chosen Ireland such as R3, Remitly, S&P Global, Revolut, MoneyCorp, and Boku.
From humble beginnings to accelerated growth
Ireland’s rise as a prominent player in the financial services sector can be traced back to the establishment of the Irish Financial Services Centre (IFSC) in the mid-1980s. At that time, many young and educated people were emigrating in search of opportunity and career progression. This so-called ‘brain drain’ was a concern and so, with support from the European Union, the Irish Government formed the IFSC in Dublin to help increase employment and strengthen the economy.
While it took time to establish the IFSC as a major hub for financial services in Europe, the number of financial institutions that have established operations in Ireland over the past four decades is ever-increasing.
There is a broad ranging across all verticals of the sector from major international banks such as Barclays and HSBC to investment managers such as BNY Mellon and Vanguard to insurers and reinsurers including AXA, Alliance and MunichRe. Supporting them is an expansive ecosystem and network among stakeholders, industry groups and Government agencies.
Collaboration is key
The establishment of the IFSC in Dublin also helped grow the wider financial services sector in Ireland and was a key driving factor for foreign direct investment (FDI) throughout Ireland. Today, there are more than 420 FDI companies operating in the financial services sector in Ireland. Not just in Dublin, but across the length and breadth of the country. They’re all contributing to the global advancement and internationalisation of their businesses.
Collaboration with academia is visible within the sector in Ireland. Many of these firms actively engage with universities, and third-level institutes. Furthermore, research centres to develop specialised qualifications that meet the growing needs of the industry.
Notable examples include the MSc in fintech offered by the National College of Ireland and the BSc/MSc Immersive Software Engineering program established in collaboration with Stripe founders at the University of Limerick. This cooperation ensures that the industry remains aligned with the latest technological advancements, regulatory requirements, and industry trends. Furthermore, it solidifies Ireland’s reputation as an innovation and expertise hub.
The evolving UK regulatory environment
The considerations and implications for financial services firms due to Brexit have been extensive. UK and US headquartered firms in particular have had to make strategic decisions about EU/EMEA hubs with several fintech and payments firms choosing Ireland as a location of choice. This includes many UK companies such as Soldo, Corpay, Paysafe, Trust Payments and TrueLayer.
For many, regulatory authorisation was the prominent consideration with the dominant authorisations sought being electronic money institutions (EMI) and payments institutions (PI) licences. To date, the Central Bank of Ireland (CBI) has authorised 23 PI firms and 21 EMI firms, including UK companies such as Paysend, myPOS and Modulr.
Fintech and payments companies have also sought MiFID authorisations and VASP registrations (Virtual Asset Service Provider) to facilitate the exchange of virtual assets. Prominent companies holding VASP registrations in Ireland include Paysafe, Zodia Custody, Coinbase, and Gemini.
Initially, companies established regulatory functions and front-office activities in Ireland to serve their EU business. However, due to Ireland’s exceptional talent pool, operational performance, and favourable business environment, many have expanded operations to include various functions. These include technology development, software engineering and RD&I.
A global fintech hub
The fintech and payments space is continuing to scale and grow and there is a visible presence of sub-sectoral growth in Ireland in areas like digital payments, cross-border payments, payment gateways, digital banking, digital remittances, open banking, regtech, blockchain, and digital assets.
Ireland is home to c.60 FDI companies operating in the fintech and payments space employing c. 7,000 staff across a wide range of activities. Ireland has a proven track record as a location of choice for these firms and continues to attract other companies looking to internationalise, drive growth and innovate.