Over 120 people attended the second National ePayments conference at CityNorth hotel on Friday, September 2nd, to hear about the future of the Payments sector, globally and in Ireland. The keynote speaker, Chris Skinner, described as “as one of the Top 40 most influential people in financial technology by theWall Street Journal’s Financial News” gave a fascinating insight into how the increase in global population, and the growth of mobile payments and digital identification, will influence how we buy and sell to each other. Chris highlighted how “over 50% of the global population do not have access to financial systems, and Payment firms will have to successfully address how people will ‘connect globally in real time’ to stay relevant in the future”.

Other contributors include Michael Wasserfuhr, CFO of Vesta, and Board member of the Atlanta Transaction Processors Coalition (ATPC), who described how Atlanta has successfully built the largest Payments cluster in the world, where more than 60 percent of the companies in the U.S. payments industry call home, and 70 percent of all U.S. payments are processed annually run through Georgia.

Delegates and attendees discussed if Ireland could offer a similar solution to the EU Payments Industry, with the development of an M1 Payments Corridor from the IFSC to Belfast, and the creation of a National Payments Centre in Drogheda. Richard Hanlon, SVP of Vesta’s EU Headquarters in Dundalk, outlined how he is working with partners in the M1 Steering Group, to develop the M1 Payments Corridor as a region that can cultivate indigenous payment-related companies, and attract global firms to establish EU Headquarters. He continued “The ATPC started with three companies, and in three years, has developed into the primary voice of the Payments industry in the USA. It’s crucial that we build on the current momentum, and take the bold steps needed to become the EU Payments Gateway”.

The first National ePayments Conference took place in October 2015 and focused on the theme of collaboration and scaling within the Irish Fintech sector, whilst this year’s e-Payments Conference concentrated on driving Ireland as the EU Gateway for Payment firms. Other keynote speaker included Louise Phelan, PayPal’s Vice President of Global Operations for Europe, Middle East and Africa, who delivered a presentation on ‘The Future of Money’ and how their M1 Dundalk operations has helped them achieve and exceed their EU milestones.

Eoghan Murphy, Minister of State for Financial Services, eGovernment and Public Procurement, praised the M1 Payments Steering Group and The Mill Enterprise Hub for being pro-active in driving this innovative proposition, and for assembling a stellar cast of International and national panellists. He concluded by stating that “the fact that in Ireland, over 3700 people work in FDI Payment firms, and 10% of Enterprise Ireland’s Competitive Startup Fund goes towards indigenous Fintech firm, highlights our existing strengths, and the opportunities to develop this cluster”.

The conference also included panel discussions on the challenges affecting the Irish Fintech sector, how Brexit will influence the sector, and whether Blockchain will drive innovation across a number of sectors including Fintech. The panellists included Keith Fingleton (IDA), Peter Oakes (Fintech Ireland), Garrett Cassidy (Abarta Consulting), Shane Brett (Gecko Governance), John Mahon (Edgeverve), Stephen Moran (Bank of Ireland), Brendan Murray (IBM), Ron Immink (British Irish Gateway), Noel Moran (Prepaid Financial Services), and Graham O’Rourke (Aphix Software). The consensus on Brexit was that uncertainty was the main issue and will remain so for some time, but overall, it will provide an opportunity for Ireland in relation to developing the Payments sector, and ancillary sectors. The Fintech sub-sectors that could generate most growth in Ireland included Payments, B2B services, RegTech, Data Analytics, Capital Markets, and customer interaction.

According to the government’s IFS Strategy 2020, 35% of existing Financial Services jobs in Ireland are already based outside of Dublin. An M1 ‘Digital Payments Corridor’ is a key part of the Government’s NorthEast Action Plan for Jobs which proposes the creation of a ‘Digital Payments Hub’ in Drogheda, and development of an M1Payments Corridor with the potential to create hundreds of sustainable new jobs. Breanndán Casey, BDM of The Mill Enterprise Hub in Drogheda, commented “The cluster presence of a number of Payments service companies within the North-East region is apparent, and we’re working with a Steering Group of private and public organisations to ensure that it can develop into an EU Payments Gateway. The steering group includes DCU and DKIT who will provide R&D support to the industry, economic development agencies, and a mixture of FDI and indigenous companies that will ensure we directly address the present and future needs of the global Payments industry.”

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