Posted on Monday 2 December 2019 by Ulster Business

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By Andrew Jenkins, HM Treasury appointed Fintech Envoy for Northern Ireland

With 2020 just around the corner, it’s the perfect time to take stock and plan for the year ahead. With uncertainty in the political landscape, my assessment of the local fintech sector, and what lies ahead, has been a welcome distraction.

Since taking up my role in September, I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve been asked to describe fintech. Financial technology, often shortened to fintech, is an emerging industry that at its core, uses technology to improve how we access financial services.

As consumers, while we may not instantly recognise the term ‘fintech’, we experience it daily through mobile apps, computer program and other technologies that support and improve how we bank and access finance.

Fintech also encompasses the technologies that make it easy for us to purchase and pay for Christmas presents online. In Northern Ireland, fintech is a success story we should feel very good about.

The fintech sector is estimated to be worth £2.4bn to the Northern Ireland economy and almost 40,000 jobs are sustained across the financial and professional services, making it a key economic driver.

As Fintech Envoy for Northern Ireland, I am immensely proud of what the sector is accomplishing, and I am privileged to be working with people, passionate about how we can maximise our potential right across the region.

As we move towards 2020, I have made it my mission to develop and promote a sustainable, diverse and collaborative world-class fintech sector in Northern Ireland for the benefit of society.

Gone are the days of my Christmas wish list. This year though, I have a set of fintech priorities that are firmly rooted in reality.

Talent and skills are important in every aspect of business and fintech is no different. To advance investment and growth we must create an environment which will inspire the current and future generation of innovators and creators; an environment which places inclusion and diversity at its core and which recognises the doers and rewards the risk-takers.

With almost a third of students taking up university places outside of Northern Ireland, we must be imaginative about developing initiatives that encourage our young people to stay, as well as promoting Northern Ireland as an amazing place to come back to live and to work.

Together with business leaders, schools and colleges, I am committed to building on recent progress and working to ensure we have people with the skills and ambition to thrive in an ever-changing digital world. Across Northern Ireland the start-up and scale-up ecosystem is burgeoning.

The Catalyst Fintech Hub at Danske Bank is focused on growing local early stage technology companies who are ambitious to scale and expand into new markets.

Barclays Eagle labs working space in Ormeau Baths is brimming with indigenous start-up and scale-up companies who are being supported as they accelerate their growth locally and further afield.

And these are just two examples. In the North West, Allstate, Alchemy and FinTrU are major employers and their success on a global scale is testament to the potential, across Northern Ireland.

Our vibrant and dynamic fintech sector here allows me to be ambitious and rightly so. Belfast is the world’s number one destination for fintech development investment projects and the top city in Europe for new FDI (foreign direct investment) software development projects.

We have so much to be proud of and yet, we can achieve even more. As Fintech Envoy for Northern Ireland, I am excited for the opportunities which lay ahead. In 2020, we must seize and harness the potential of fintech right across Northern Ireland. I’m confident we will.

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