Asian markets offer major opportunities for fintechs
In a few short years, Ireland has become the fourth-largest exporter of financial services in the world.
Enterprise Ireland has played a big part in this. In addition to cash investment, the agency helps companies via a network of offices around the world; in Asia-Pacific alone, we have a presence in Hong Kong, Shanghai, Beijing, Singapore, Tokyo, Seoul and Sydney.
For Irish fintech firms, some of the juiciest opportunities right now are here in Asia. That was clear at the recent Hong Kong Fintech Week - the first international cross-border fintech event bridging Hong Kong (Asia's financial capital) and Shenzhen (Asia's Silicon Valley) and the Singapore FinTech Festival (the world's largest fintech event).
Enterprise Ireland had a major presence at both events, aiming to raise the profile of Irish fintech providers and introduce them to key players in Asia.
In Hong Kong, we hosted 14 Irish companies. For the first time, there were speakers on stage from Irish fintechs and Enterprise Ireland. In Singapore, we had nine fintech companies exhibiting, one of which, Corlytics, was a finalist in the Monetary Authority of Singapore RegTech Competition.
Having a large presence at such strategically-important events was no coincidence. Enterprise Ireland has a sharpened focus on promoting and supporting Irish fintechs in Asia, which aligns with our ambitious target growth rate for exports to the region.
The Hong Kong and Singapore events were huge successes for us, but more importantly for the companies we worked with. Those included insurance tech firm Fineos, person-to-person foreign exchange company, Currencyfair, cloud communications business Solgari, currency company Assure Hedge, share plan firm GlobalShares, banking software business CR2, wealth tech business Rockall Technologies, as well as Irish regtech providers Know Your Customer, Corlytics, Daon, Circit, Kyckr, Priviti and Fenergo.
We also launched our #IrishAdvantage fintech campaign, generating more coverage for Irish innovation. In global fintech circles, Ireland is now mentioned in the same breath as Israel - a seismic shift in awareness and a massive door-opener in terms of opportunities on this side of the world.
Let's look briefly at some of those opportunities. Ping An Insurance delivered Hong Kong's first blockchain-based international trade finance platform, eTradeConnect. This trailblazing platform allows financial institutions to potentially access real-time, secure and comprehensive trade information to conduct risk assessment on loans. The hope is that this will lead to yet more opportunities as similar processes become more efficient.
China's Belt-and-Road Initiative will cover 62pc of the world's population, representing the biggest deployment of financial technology in history. This project will create fintech opportunities for the next 25 years or more, centred around the Greater Bay Area (GBA), which comprises 11 cities and a population of nearly 67 million - all within a three-hour train ride of Hong Kong (to which Ireland is now connected via a direct flight).
People already call Shenzhen the 'Silicon Valley of China'.
Imagine placing Silicon Valley next to New York City - that's what the GBA is. The global obsession with cryptocurrencies has cooled somewhat but Hong Kong remains a hotbed of activity, having raised €223m in proceeds across 20 closed ICOs with 15 or more still in the pipeline as of last June.
In ASEAN, 60pc of the population is below 35 years old, translating to 400 million customers. In 2017, just under half of the population had a smartphone and the figure is expected to increase to 65pc by early this year.
Irish firms are already taking advantage of fintech opportunities in Asia, and the potential is vast - you just have to come here to see it and believe it.
- Mo Harvey is Financial Services and Fintech Lead (Asia-Pacific) with Enterprise Ireland, based in Hong Kong
Sunday Indo Business