Sunday 21 July 2019

Derek Kehoe: 'Ireland must aim to be a fintech hub'

Location: The IFSC can position itself as a world-class location for new and existing business by reaching out to counterparts
Location: The IFSC can position itself as a world-class location for new and existing business by reaching out to counterparts

Derek Kehoe

The recently launched strategy for the development of Ireland's international finance services sector to 2025 provides a good opportunity to build upon the considerable success achieved to date in making Ireland one of the world's leading financial centres.

As Minister Michael D'Arcy points out, the Ireland for Finance strategy belongs not just to government, but to all the relevant stakeholders.

We in the Federation of International Banks in Ireland (FIBI) are determined to do all we can in support of the strategy.

To start with, we intend to act on Mr D'Arcy's desire to have the IFS sector speak more frequently with one voice at European level and indeed further afield.

While the banking industry has been the first to establish a Brussels-based office (as well one in Frankfurt), others such as the insurance industry and the funds industry have since followed.

While circumstances will continue to require industry-specific action on occasion, we see considerable merit in having greater co-ordination across industries - for example, in terms of jointly inputting to EU legislation where there are shared advocacy objectives; and in collectively promoting Ireland as a world-class location for new and existing business.

We will be reaching out more and more to our counterparts across the financial services sector to make this happen.

Of course, to be fully effective, greater co-ordination abroad needs to be matched by greater co-ordination at home.

To this end, a number of the Ireland for Finance actions are especially welcome. In particular, the proposed establishment of a Central Bank stakeholder engagement group which is to be based on an assessment of international best practice; also, to Department of Finance engagement with the financial services industry on EU legislative and regulatory proposals.

These actions will not require participants to compromise on their principles. They should, however, help to ensure much greater consistency between the messaging FIBI and our member banks seek to convey internationally when promoting Ireland as an attractive location for financial services and the actual experience encountered on the ground when potential new businesses come calling.

Technology and innovation are transforming the way banks do business and how we engage with our customers.

It is vital that we keep pace with this process of change, but also that we harness it in a productive and beneficial way.

This is why we are particularly pleased that Ireland for Finance will see the establishment of a Fintech Foresight Group.

As the party tasked with leading this initiative, we will be fully focused on a number of key objectives: fostering greater collaboration between the IFS sector and the fintech community - big and small; and building better linkages with third-level institutions.

In this regard a number of our Institutes of Technology are already showing the way.

From my engagement with third-level institutions I sense a growing recognition on their part of the need to better design and structure courses to match the requirements of future IFS employees. As an industry we wish to assist in every way we can to help produce graduates that are equipped with appropriate digital business, communication and leadership skills.

Technological change presents very real challenges in terms of the new skill sets and leadership qualities required across our sector.

Recognising the importance of ongoing professional development, we have just launched, with the Irish Management Institute, a new Future of Financial Services Leadership Programme, doing so in association with IFS Skillsnet.

The first intake of participants will be in September. As the literature itself states, "the programme will develop participants' mindset to become disruption-fit leaders".

This latest initiative reflects the way in which the evolving marketplace is making new demands of traditional bankers, fintech players and regulators alike.

Diversity of people in every sense lends itself to diversity of thinking and improved decision-making; and initiatives to improve diversity are variously being rolled out by banks right across our sector.

However, wider and deeper labour market participation cannot be secured without appropriate, supportive labour market policies; and therein government has a clear role to play.

Another form of diversity which is also very important in the overall scheme of things is what I would call 'diversity of location'.

Mr D'Arcy rightly makes much play of the fact that as much as 45pc of the 44,000 employed across financial services are now outside of Dublin in locations such as Cork, Galway, Limerick, Kilkenny, Dundalk, Wexford, Waterford and Letterkenny.

The very first financial services development plan of the late 1980s succeeded in completely regenerating Dublin's Docklands. Through harnessing and co-ordinating inputs from industry, policy makers, regulators and other key stakeholders, Ireland for Finance has the potential to do the same for many other parts of the country.

The overall employment target of 50,000 by 2025 is definitely achievable and our industry will not be found wanting in that regard.

Finally, there's conduct. As an industry we need to ensure the best outcomes for all stakeholders: our customers, employees, shareholders, regulators and the society in which we operate.

Exemplary conduct needs to be at the core of everything we do and has to be in order to flourish for the long term.

Derek Kehoe is chairman of the Federation of International Banks in Ireland (FIBI) and chief executive and Head of Country, BNP Paribas Ireland. Affiliated to Banking & Payments Federation Ireland, FIBI represents the interests of the international banking sector in Ireland.

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