10 Irish fintechs to watch in 2020

Home to thriving tech and finance industries, Ireland is excelling at bringing those two sectors together into a vibrant fintech industry. We look at 10 firms that are set to make waves in the year ahead.

fintech

Assure Hedge
This highly promising Dublin-based start-up is taking creative approaches to some of the biggest challenges facing Irish fintechs in 2020.

Launched in 2016 with the aim of providing web-based foreign currency services, the firm has been quick to respond to the fierce competition for technical staff caused by the growth of both the finance and tech sectors in Ireland.

Google revealed in November that it was paying its Irish workers average salaries of €100,000, leaving many start-ups wondering how they can attract the skills they need. Assure Hedge’s answer has been to look beyond Ireland and even Europe, hiring developers from places such as Brazil and India. Having earned its financial licences through the regulatory ‘sandbox’ run by UK regulators, Assure Hedge is also well-placed to continue serving the UK market after Brexit and should have little trouble acquiring Irish authorisation to serve EU markets.

Deposify
Avoiding fights between landlords and tenants over the handling of rental deposits in Ireland and the UK was the original inspiration for Deposify but 2020 will see it continue to extend its reach.

The online escrow service is growing rapidly thanks to the increasing regulatory demand for independent oversight of deposits and bonds in many industries.

The five-year-old firm is also expanding quickly in the US housing security deposit market, which has been estimated at $50bn (€45bn) .

Investor Peter Oakes, founder of the industry group Fintech Ireland, says Deposify is “ahead of the curve on online escrow services wherever an honest broker is needed to hold money”.

Fenergo
One of Ireland’s best-funded fintech companies after raising $154.5m in three rounds, Fenergo is a leader in one of the nation’s strongest fintech specialties – ‘regtech’ or regulatory technology.

Financial institutions use Fenergo’s cloud-based software to centralise and manage their client data in order to automate the increasingly heavy burden of complying with everything from the Know Your Customer rules to anti-money laundering and data privacy regimes.

One of six Irish firms on the latest global ‘regtech 100’ list, Fenergo says its customers include 26 of the top 50 global banks and it has found new customers in Australia, the Middle East, the Nordic states, Britain and the US.

Initiative Ireland
Trust and caution are keywords for this P2P (peer-to-peer) lending platform.

Since its launch in 2015, the firm has sought conservative investors who are attracted to the relative safety of secured lending to residential construction projects in Ireland.

Initiative Ireland takes the first legal charge over any home it funds and seeks to lower risks by targeting returns in the range of 6% to 8%, rather than sticking its neck out in the hope of double-digit returns.

The firm is also riding the wave of socially responsible investing – which is expected to be one of the growing investment themes of 2020 – by focusing on experienced developers building social and affordable housing.

“Unlike most peer-to-peer finance, which basically makes introductions, we are hands-on throughout the whole period of the loan,” says co-founder, Padraig W Rushe. The firm’s fees are linked to loan performance.

Kyckr
Founded in Waterford in 2007, Kyckr is now traded on the Australian Stock Exchange, with operations in both countries.

Kyckr is a global business register that helps financial institutions meet their Know Your Customer and anti-money laundering obligations. Peter Oakes, a lawyer with extensive regulation and business experience in both Australia and Ireland, says Kyckr is well-placed to boom when regulators eventually force financial firms to use up-to-date corporate information rather than the occasionally stale data that is now stored on company registers.

LoanITT
One response to the expensive competition for skilled talent in Dublin is to look overseas for staff, but this B2B credit intermediary leads a wave of firms taking another path by basing itself outside the capital city.

With its headquarters in Kilkenny and a smaller office in Dublin, LoanITT streamlines the process of applying for credit by helping lenders take advantage of the EU’s open banking PSD2 (the second Payment Services Directive), which gives them access to bank customer data.

LoanITT is one of more than 85 fintech start-ups since 2014 to be backed by Enterprise Ireland, the government’s trade and innovation agency, which has been ranked as Europe’s largest seed-stage investor in fintech companies and the second-most active in the world after California's Y Combinator.

Stripe
OK, this San Francisco-based star of the fintech world is not technically an Irish firm at all but it has undeniable credentials for any list of Irish fintechs likely to do interesting things in 2020.

For one thing this $35bn-valued payments provider was launched by the Limerick-born brothers John and Patrick Collison.

It has also recently taken out an electronic money licence in Ireland, bought the Dublin fintech Touchtech Payments, and announced that much of its 2020 expansion in engineering and development work will be carried out in Dublin.

The Irish capital hosts the fastest-growing of Stripe’s 14 offices around the world and is now its international engineering hub.

TransferMate
Ireland’s highest-profile B2B payments solution provider, TransferMate is already a world-level player.

Its online payments platform specialises in cost-effective and simple cross-border remittances and payments for businesses, and has a broad network of local bank accounts to support trading in 134 currencies and 162 countries.

Having begun life in 2010 as an Irish-regulated payments firm, it now has licences around the world and obtained an ‘e-money’ licence from UK regulators in October to ensure that it can continue growing in the UK even if Brexit negotiations make life in London hard for EU-based financial firms.

Irish fintechs that can protect their access to the UK may benefit from the fact that Ireland will soon be the biggest English-speaking fintech hub in the EU.

Travacoin
Blockchain, the technology that underpins digital currencies, has not yet taken off among Irish fintechs but one firm stands out for finding a promising and unique use of the technology.

Launched in 2016, Travacoin allows airlines to issue digital tokens to compensate passengers for late or delayed flights.

Founder Brian Whelan says airlines based in the EU alone “have a collective liability of nearly €2bn for refunds and fines arising out of delays” and with the global total of such liabilities estimated at €10bn he believes there is a huge opening for a cheap and easy way to process such payments.

The next step will be to handle loyalty payments and rewards, in effect moving towards a new currency for the entire travel sector.

Trezeo
The gig economy is reshaping 21st-century work patterns, but most financial institutions have not adjusted to the fact that irregular incomes fit poorly with the traditional ways of saving, borrowing, investing and taking out insurance.

The online payment service Trezeo is ahead of the curve by smoothing out incomes for the self-employed – one of the fastest growing sectors of the workforce.

Backed by Enterprise Ireland soon after its 2016 launch, this Irish firm found it easier to earn its initial financial licence in the UK but should have little trouble being authorised in Ireland as well.

Trezeo has enormous potential to help the self-employed build their financial stability and credit worthiness and then act as an intermediary to lending, insurance and other services.

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