“Artificial Intelligence is going to have a major impact on a number of areas, including personal finance”
FinTech is an industry composed of companies that use new technology and innovation to leverage available resources in order to compete in the marketplace of traditional financial institutions. We recently sat down with Brett Meyers, founder of Currency Fair to ask him about running a Fintech out of Ireland and how they scale in such a competitive environment.
So, tell us about what is happening at CurrencyFair at the moment and what excites you most about the next period of your company’s evolution?
Lots happening! Towards the end of last year, we made a number of new hires, including some world class talent on our C-team. With this new org, we’re poised to expand and will be focusing on new products directed at SMEs, some new geographies, and some exciting developments on our marketplace product.
So what excites me the most is that we’re now in a position to capitalise on all the ground work we’ve put in building the best consumer/SME fx platform in the market.
Outside of the usual obstacles that every start-up faces and thinking back to when CurrencyFair was in its infancy, what were the main obstacles you had to overcome (specifically as a FinTech company) starting off in Ireland?
Specific to fintech, the main obstacles we faced were: getting regulated, building banking partner relationships, and ensuring that our platform was secure and robust from a transaction processing and customer data perspective
Q: Which, if any, of these obstacles, still exist and do they still encumber you today?
All of those things are still key focuses of the firm as a fintech. However, rather than encumber us I’d say that they are just things that you have to be good at to be viable as a fintech firm. It’s just the environment we operate in. Being better at these than others can be a competitive advantage.
What do you think can be learned from the major fintech hubs like New York, London and Singapore?
I’m not as familiar with the environment in NY, however, London, and perhaps even more recently Singapore, are characterised by strong government support for the advancement of fintech, and this is reflected in the way they approach regulation. They realise that change is a positive thing and are prepared to be proactive in ensuring that regulation keeps up with that and helps to foster competition.
Do you think that the Government and the Regulator are doing enough to help Dublin replicate the success we have seen in other FinTech hubs?
We’ve come a long way since starting out as one of the first major Fintech firms in Ireland. We have transferred over €4billion over our platform since then. We recently hired a top level C-Level in CEO Paul Byrne, which allows me to focus on implementing a new strategy in new areas of innovation.
One of the main things governments can do is to make it easier for Ireland to keep attracting top level expertise and talent that might not exist here in sufficient quantity. Making the visa process easier and maybe something on capital gains tax on share options will help us do that and allow us to teach our workforce new skills.
What effect, if any, do you see Brexit having on the Dublin tech scene in general but also specifically from a FinTech perspective?
It’s hard to say as there is so much uncertainty. I think you might see some bigger foreign companies relocating part of their operations (in both directions). Also, I think we might get access to some additional talent that maybe sees the UK as less attractive.
From a fintech perspective, I think it will be quite a while yet before we can assess any regulatory impact, ie passporting etc.
What particular part can industry leaders like yourself take to help Dublin grow as a FinTech hub?
I think that we can get involved in industry bodies that give us a voice at policy level. In addition to that – we just need to keep building successful companies!
Outside of CurrencyFair what indigenous Irish FinTech companies have the most exciting future in your opinion?
There are loads. I wouldn’t want to miss anyone out.
What are the particular areas of FinTech which you feel are going to have the most growth in the coming years, and is there anything in particular Dublin or Ireland can do to ensure we have a big part to play in that growth?
I think the development of Artificial Intelligence is going to have a major impact on a number of areas, including personal finance. In the future, I think we as consumers will be managing our financial lives quite differently, with a lot of tools at our disposal which will help distill the complex into a series of very clear choices.
I’m excited by the work we’re doing at CurrencyFair in this regard – stay tuned!
In terms of Ireland, I think there is obviously a huge opportunity at the moment in spite, or maybe because of turmoil caused by big international events such as Brexit and the election of Donald Trump.
I think it’s important that Ireland goes in the opposite direction and remains open and internationalist. Tech moves across borders and being protectionist or closing that down won’t benefit it. Fortunately, we’ve had a number of young Ministers of State with responsibility for Fintech such as Sean Sherlock, Simon Harris and Eoghan Murphy that understand that and take an interest in this area.
Obviously there is a lot that the Government and the Regulator can do, but what are the wider steps in terms of the FinTech ecosystem do you think we need to take as individuals, as companies and as organisations within an industry to ensure Dublin continues to grow as a FinTech hub?
I think a lot Fintech companies have seen us in total opposition to the banks. I think it’s a tiny bit more collaborative than that. We’re not diametrically opposed. Fintech companies through innovation can offer customers product and services that the banks can’t. But banks infrastructure and expertise shouldn’t be dismissed either.
I think banks and Fintech companies hiring off one another, competing against one another and collaborating with one another will offer more options, products and better value for the customers.
I hope that in Dublin, where the majority of the world’s top tech companies and financial institutions have bases, we can create a number of major fintech firms in that ecosystem.