What is your background?
I have worked several years in management consulting and sales for IBM, the Swedish Trade Council (Business Sweden) and I had my own consultancy firm prior to joining Enterprise Ireland. I have worked mainly in the Nordic and South East Asian market.
I have an educational background from the Stockholm School of Economics, M.Sc. in Business Administration and Economics and I also studied Fintech at Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
Does it seem like a logical progression to what you do now?
Yes, the things I do at Enterprise Ireland are in many ways similar to the work I have done in the past. It’s about building strategies for companies, have them meet up with the right partners, make market validations, understand the value proposition, ways to work with sales channels, to look at the sales process and collect market intelligence
What’s a typical week like for you?
Phone calls, conference calls, client meetings, report writing, attending events and seminars, responding to e-mail, planning and executing events, meeting with industry experts and people in the Financial and Tech industry, learning new business models and to understand the entrepreneurs that sits on the other side of the table. The work week can be very different depending whether I am in Stockholm, Dublin or somewhere else.
What trends are you excited about in Fintech?
I think there are many different trends in the financial industry. I think we will see a major change in the way payments are made after the implementation of PSD2 (Payment Service Directive 2) in 2018. I’m sure that will lead to better competition between banks and other financial institutions but it all depends on the content of the PSD2.
Another regulation that I think will change the industry is the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) that will be enforced 2018. In the future it will be even more important how our private data is protected and managed. This could be an advantage or disadvantage depending on how it will be used. Hopefully, citizen will get better control over the personal data.
I also believe that there will be a higher number of Fintech hubs across the world that will focus, co-operate and compete in different segments of the global Financial Industry.
The number of new innovations in Artificial Intelligence, Cyber Security, Identity, Machine learning and Data Analytics will be the future for companies that wants to stay competitive in the coming years. As I understand and see things there will be major changes in the Financial Industry and how we work and perceive banks and financial services.
Are there many Irish companies looking at the Nordic markets? / What Irish companies are doing well there?
There are several clients interested or doing business in the Nordic market. In the Fintech and tech space most of them are engineering companies with a strong knowledge of software development. A few of the companies are Ostia Solutions, Moqom, Ammeon, Corvil, Fenergo, Rockall Technologies and there are of course several others. Most of them are business to business companies and not know by the public.
What tips would you give to companies looking to grow into these markets?
In general there are a few things that a client should know to be successful in the Nordics. First is that you need to do your homework really well. A thorough market validation, a competitive analysis and identify the people in the companies you want to meet. A strong value proposition is important because the Nordic is a highly competitive market.
Once you have a few customers in the Nordics I would recommend you to hire local people and set up an office. Someone needs to be near the customers and it needs to be someone with local knowledge, experience, language skills and a descent network.
Last but not least is to attend meetings and appointments in time. There is nothing more annoying than someone that is late every time. In the Nordics it’s a big thing.
Has bitcoin peaked? Will we see other crypto currencies?
That is a very good questions and yes I think it has peaked. Since Mike Hearn one of the top developers announced that is no longer believes in bitcoin I think it will be hard to regain trust in the market. Another huge problem has been the volatility in the currency which does not give it a whole lot of credibility. Other large problems have been illegal transactions, drug sales, etc
However, I still think that bitcoin could be useful in undeveloped countries with unstable economies. Bitcoin may be seen as a safe haven compared to the local currency that may fluctuate in countries with high inflation and uncertainty.
How close are we to cash free lives? How might this change how we live?
In the Nordic countries we have come quite far as compared to the rest of the world when it comes to cashless payments. In Sweden for example 97 percent of the population have access to card payments, 85 percent have access to internet banking and 80 percent have access to direct debit. Sweden’s Riksbank might become the first significant central bank to issue a digital currency as it responds to an increasing move away from cash in Sweden.
A future with a cashless society has been strongly influenced thanks to iZettle, an app allowing anyone with a smartphone or a tablet to accept credit card payments on the go. Swish, another Nordic innovation, allows Swedes to send money to friends and companies using only their mobile phone, so the app is perfect for splitting the bill at a restaurant or paying for a bargain at a flea market.
I can use myself as an example I never carry any cash when I’m in the Nordics. I always pay with MasterCard or VISA for all kind of payments. Even most of the street vendors prefer a cashless payment via Swish or iZettle.