US fintech firm Plaid has said it sees a big opportunity in Ireland as Covid-19 fears continue to push innovations around contactless payments and other parts of the financial sector.
But the company, which was bought by Visa for $5.3bn (€4.8bn) last November and which enables fintech developers to connect their services more readily to banks, warned that Irish regulators must ensure the company can keep pace with innovation in the industry.
The deal with Visa is awaiting final regulatory approval but Keith Grose, Plaid's international lead in Europe, said that it would greatly increase the firm's ability to expand in markets such as Ireland. Already, Plaid's technology is used by up to 80pc of fintechs in the US and it is now looking to replicate that success among the growing cluster of Irish fintech companies.
He said: "Ireland has got a great fintech ecosystem. You have Silicon Docks and you have homegrown heroes with the likes of the Collison brothers and Stripe. Plaid wants to be part of that and help continue the growth of the tech ecosystem."
Grose said the aim of the company was to partner directly with Irish startups and that, after the UK, Ireland had been its key European target market.
He said: "In Ireland, we can not only help the fintech ecosystem grow, but we can help support a wide range of Irish startups as well. We are already proven to be a critical piece of the US infrastructure, as folks move from traditional paper-based banking connections to open banking."
The company supports businesses in the US, the UK, Ireland and France, with further expansion expected.
"Through a single integration, if you're building a fintech app, as a developer, you can access standardised data and enable users to use your service across a whole range of geographies. It makes it easy for developers and a valuable infrastructure service."
The move toward more open banking with the EU's new Payment Services Directive has at times been faltering in Ireland, according to critics in the industry. Grose said that although it has not fallen behind other EU countries in this regard, it is behind the UK.
He added: "The longer it takes to really build a solid, open banking ecosystem, the more risk there is that innovators in that space will go elsewhere. We're still in the early stages of open banking as a movement in Europe and so I don't think it's too late for that by any means.
"But I do think it is an important time to make sure that what you're doing is investing in the building blocks that will help innovators."
That would ultimately bring benefits for end users and the wider economy, he said.
"There is a chance that innovators are going to turn elsewhere so I would encourage the CBI [Central Bank of Ireland] to work more closely with banks. But I don't think it's too late for them to do that," said Grose.