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A new era for financial services, and it's all about trust


Technology is the key enabler: FinTech has become a ubiquitous term for any technology applied to financial services

Technology is the key enabler: FinTech has become a ubiquitous term for any technology applied to financial services

Technology is the key enabler: FinTech has become a ubiquitous term for any technology applied to financial services

Trust is the biggest factor facing the fintech industry. There is a revolution going on - be it in peer-to-peer lending, exchange transfers and new crypto currencies such as Bitcoin.

This has come about not just because of technical progress and consumer behavioural change, but because of the breakdown of trust in mainstream banks.

The tipping point of people trusting the internet rather than the bricks and mortar of a branch network may already be with us.

Earlier this year for example, Currencyfair was the first peer-to- peer currency exchange marketplace in the world to transfer over $1bn for our customers. That was all achieved from our modest office over a Lidl in Ranelagh, Dublin.

We see that as significant because it means that people sending mortgage payments and pensions from country to country can trust an entity that is purely on the internet with nowhere to go and throw eggs at it if something goes wrong.

Something big is happening in financial services and the battle is raging all around us. It should be great for consumers if we get the ground rules right.

Ironically, until recently people have found it harder to trust entities like ours - precisely because they are up to 10 times cheaper than the usual bank alternatives. This is trust that the new cheaper way to transact has taken time to build, and we've depended on outside agencies endorsing our practices as standard and safe - so we welcome and celebrate hard regulation and transparency.

New and tighter regulations in the last few years from the Irish Central Bank are to be welcomed - but having been through the process, as an Irish-based financial provider, it needs to be implemented faster for everyone to benefit.

It is all based on EU regulation now anyway so we need to move faster without reverting to light touch to gain operational advantages and attract the best and fastest growing.

The fact that it gives us European standing immediately is great and will lead to a larger amount of high-growth financial companies basing themselves here, given the uncertainty of the UK remaining within the EU.

London is still the financial powerhouse in Europe - but as we have shown in the wider technology sphere, that can be used to our advantage by providing that which they cannot, due to political or practical issues.

This new crop of companies also needs to hold itself up to higher standards of transparency and regulation.

We worry about firms enlarging their user base but ignoring basic sound business practice on the way there. The end result of that would be consumers losing out in the end. If a firm was unable to continue to fund itself, the fallout would negatively impact on other innovative firms - driving people back to the expensive traditional banking system.

Setting pricing models at the low end of transactions with unsustainably cheap rates in a 'grow at all costs/worry about sustainability later' is a mentality that can sometime succeed in industries such as social media. But in financial services, there is an awful lot more for the consumer to lose if it goes wrong.

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Originally from Perth, I moved from London to Dublin after years working in banking and am now a proud Irish citizen. This was primarily due to the better quality of life I can have here. And the opportunity for Ireland is also enormous, as we rebuild our financial infrastructure along new digital first principles.

Minister Harris' new IFS strategy, expected to be published in early 2015, will focus on the megatrends in global financial services. Fintech and its strong linkage to payments and cyber security could emerge as a key pillar, following recent Enterprise Ireland initiatives in the incubator and programme space.

This should make it more attractive for a whole new generation of disruptive fintech companies to decide on Ireland as their IP-generating hub - and not just the location for back- end office operations.

  • Brett Meyers is founder and CEO of CurrencyFair

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