‘Appetite for Disruption’ - Enterprise Ireland At Its Thought-Provoking Best

‘Appetite for Disruption’ - Enterprise Ireland At Its Thought-Provoking Best

February 13 2019


By Laura Smyth

There was an incredible turn out at Enterprise Ireland’s 2019 event, “Appetite for Disruption”.

I had the pleasure of speaking with and hearing from, many entrepreneurs, business leaders, advisors and influencers within the world of FinTech and financial services.

Here's a quick summary of the event . . .

'Appetite for Disruption' - Enterprise Ireland Event Summary

The 'Appetite for Disruption' event was hosted in the beautiful space, Talent Garden in Glasnevin.

We kicked off with an introduction from Julie Sinnamon, CEO EI.

Julie welcomed a large number of attendees and companies who had travelled from overseas. Julie passionately delivered her message on how proud she is on the innovation in the Financial Services sector.

You can download a fantastic white paper which covers subjects around reinventing transactions - irishadvantage.com/fintech – It highlights Irish innovation in this space. It is a must read and share.

Enterprise Ireland Strategy

Next, Michael D’Arcy, Minister of State for Financial Services and Insurance, who despite being under a tight schedule, gave us an outlook into IFS 2025.

The message was that in Financial Services the core area is Fintech and in Ireland, we are really strong in finance and technology.  

The biggest spaces in Fintech are (no surprise) RegTech and Payments.

He spoke about how we can push innovation and how we educate people from the primary to the third and fourth levels. We need to think about what other people in other industries can bring into this space. Being exposed to and meeting truly innovative people in these brilliant spaces like Talent Garden is a positive step forward.

On Brexit, Minister D’Arcy emphasised that Ireland’s opportunities are not capitalised on UK difficulties. Ireland simply wants to be part of solutions due to these difficulties.

“I believe there will be a deal at some stage. It will be a late deal...but there will be a deal.”

Keynote: Dómhnal Slattery, CEO & Founder of Avolon

Our keynote speaker of the day was the inspirational, Dómhnal Slattery, CEO & Founder of Avolon. He is not only an incredibly successful entrepreneur but is extremely passionate about entrepreneurship and he spoke about how business founders need to be rewarded by the state.

He spoke about the obstacles he faced in the Aviation industry and how success comes when you ignore the doubters - “It takes courage to ignore the doubters and try to soar”

Dómhnal started out at 22 and after a series of a job application rejections, he eventually landed a job sorting through faxes and he learned the industry from the bottom up. He has brought the same work ethic with him globally and he knows what it is like to fail and succeed and has learned from it.

“Entrepreneurs create jobs. They don’t make a living, they make lives. They are the oxygen every economy needs..my feeling is that we are unnecessarily starving our economy of this oxygen.” “Ultimately Ireland has no shortage of entrepreneurs...we have the intellectual capital...we have start-up hubs...we cannot keep our best and brightest here long enough...it all begins and ends with culture...”

He spoke about how we are not excelling in the digital arena, artificial intelligence, machine learning and internet of things. These are areas we absolutely need to address in the short term.

He spoke about how in Ireland, there is no focus on entrepreneurship in primary schools hence no inspiration to open your own business. “We need to inspire our young to not just think about getting a job, but to think about being their own boss.”

His overall key message was that going forward, in Ireland, for entrepreneurship to work in a meaning way, we must introduce tax-efficient ways to enable our entrepreneurs i.e. lower Capital Gains for founders and these increased benefits will bring us in line with our peers in the EU and UK.

1st Panel: 'Relationship Status…It’s Complicated'

The first panel of the day was moderated by Eoin Fitzgerald, Senior Development Advisor, Enterprise Ireland on “Relationship Status…It’s Complicated” which consisted of:

  • Gary Conroy, Chief Commercial Officer, Transfermate
  • Maureen Mitchell, Director, Sterling National Bank
  • Mike Chiaramonte, Director, Fintech-Practice, Grant Thornton

The panel discussed real challenges they are faced with; how partnerships with not only Fintechs and Banks but also with the Regulators is key; and where the customer experience can be made easier and automated.

 “What do you have that is unique?”

Gary: Transfermate which is part of The Taxback group and partnership was key for them. Getting investment from ING and AIB was key and it is not just the actual investment but the partnership.

Mike: Over last 5 years, customer experience and not automation is key.

Maureen: “At some levels, you could drive a truck through that customer experience…regulatory environment is crushing and puts up a great deal of roadblocks for internal innovation”

Eoin: “Is it a quick win”?

Maureen: “It is not a quick win...it is a long process of relationship building...it doesn’t provide an easy fix...relationships trump digital access”

Gary: “It is not just a Fintech and Bank relationship but the Regulator also...”

Mike: “Stay focused, stick to your product, try to scale the product and get adoption across the enterprise…”

Maureen:  “Understand the pain points and try to solve those..”

On regulation

Gary: “You can be a Fintech without being regulated but without it, it can be a barrier to entry....having it becomes an advantage”

Maureen: “As a director of a bank, regulatory requirements can be crushing...have seen regulators work with the bank…there are opportunities there to work together”

On top use Customer Experience cases in the Financial Services sector

Gary: “Top use cases are not only about more efficient ways to move money but a better process and customer experience...”

Maureen: “If you look at every business line, you could identify multiple processes to improve....managing risk on an enterprise level takes a lot of work so addressing this could be one...couldn’t identify one”

Mike:  “AML and many others…converting from rules-based to machine learning.... a lot of opportunities for automation”

2nd Panel: 'It’s an F’in Debate'

Next up was the highly energetic panel moderated by Pete Townsend, Founder / CEO, Norio Ventures on “It’s an F’in Debate”. The panel was split into two teams:

Team Europe

  • Jack Finucane Clarke, Market Advisor for Fintech / FS – UK, Enterprise Irelamd
  • Sean Faughan, CEO, Salmon
  • Philip Konopik, Ireland Country Manager, VISA

Team Rest of the World

  • Mo Harvey, Head of Fintech – Asia, Enterprise Ireland
  • Thomas Layman, CEO, Global Vision Group
  • Ollie Walsh, CEO, PiPiT

East versus West resulted in a draw as both sides made very valid point delivered with great wittiness. It is evident that Fintech and innovation are at the forefront both sides of the world and we all have our challenges.

Pete: "East versus west - who is the Fintech superpower?"

Mo: “Asia and Asia Pacific is the future…42% of the adult population does not have access to banking…in 2018 six out of ten Top Fintechs were in Asia...Asia has leapfrogged from pure cash skipped credit cards and gone to digital wallets…growing tech-savvy population…”

Jack: “Over 600 years of banking history…regulation environment in the West is more advanced..we are on the cusp of the fourth industrial revolution…infrastructure facilitates Fintechs to make a big impact…”

Mo: “Asian agile legal systems are playing catch up but open for innovation..”

Jack: “It’s very easy to develop a unicorn when you’re state-backed…it’s going to be much more difficult for Asian Fintechs to enter into the level of regulation faced in the west…if you look at the level of internet connection we have in both..West is much better connected and has a robust infrastructure and the East is not there yet..”

Pete: “Will the challenger bank model stand the test of time?

Sean: “The banking sector is the least trusted sector in the world…people want transparency.....that’s what challenger banks can do”

Tom: “I hate banks…I believe in competition…the fact that banks are regulated, people do trust them...banks will survive..”

Jack:  “Ryanair has forced huge consolidation and have gotten bigger…some of the names we know now will survive and some will not”

Tom:  “One thing that is important, I can find an airline that gives better service, so competition is good”

Pete:  “No bank necessary, is the future cardless?”

Ollie: “People want to be financially included but can’t get a bank account.”

Philip: “If you look at challenger banks today...cardless...not in our lifetime. Cards are a physical representation of something digital...cards will amalgamate, evolve but still be there..Visa is a B2B brand so comfortable being in the background…business push the card.”

Mo: “Why is nobody talking about QR codes?...my cards have become redundant”

Philip:  “QR code is just another way of using the rails”

Audience question: What are the solutions for digital identity?

Mo:  “In India…demonetisation policy which they are rolling it out in terms of biometrics

Philip:  “Biometrics…voice, facial identity etc…it’s combining your behavioural pattern…biometrics is not a single solution…the vast majority of innovation takes place in the other end of the spectrum…the number of changes that are totally disruptive are few and far between…we are all data companies…we could do well understanding how other companies utilise their assets.”

Final Panel: 'Moonshot-FS 2025'

The final panel moderated again by Eoin Fitzgerald was titled, “Moonshot-FS 2025”. The panel consisted of:

  • Laura Clifford, Fintech Fusion Manager, ADAPT Centre
  • Daniel Chatelain, MD, The BayPay Forum
  • David Saul, Chief Scientist, State Street
  • Mark O’Donovan, CEO, RecommenderX

They gave us an excellent insight into how emerging technologies will change Financial Services by 2025 and covered Blockchain, AI, Machine Learning.

The discussions around data was that to have good data we need to standardise and format of the data which we can then apply these disruptive technologies to. 80% of time is spent on cleaning and collecting data.

In general, there is a fear of change felt by senior management around losing their positions and their resistance is an obstacle.

Some key takeaways are quoted below.

  • “We are all in a data business, but a data business built on trust”
  • “We don’t understand how intelligence works so to say we can do it artificially is arrogant at best”
  • “Will self-driving cars make the same ethical decisions as us? Will they swerve off a road to avoid hitting a child? We are a long way from this...”
  • On GDPR: “Need to demonstrate what algorithms you are applying to people’s data.”

Event Summary

It was an insightful event which really highlights how important it is to keep abreast with the rapidly changing world we live in. If we don't, we are unlikely to survive in our businesses.

Whether we like it or not, our world is changing, and we must evolve or accept that we will be left behind.

Information is readily available to us and our expectations as customers have massively increased due to the various technological advances hence why customer experience is key.

I found this quote which I want to dedicate to the entrepreneurs, business leaders, advisors, and Influencers who attended the day. Every day they challenge the way we do things and by rejecting the norm, they break the mould and create their own.


"Here's to the crazy ones. The misfits. The rebels. The troublemakers. The round pegs in the square holes. The ones who see things differently. They're not fond of rules. And they have no respect for the status quo. You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify or vilify them. About the only thing you can't do is ignore them. Because they change things. They push the human race forward. And while some may see them as the crazy ones, we see genius. Because the people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world, are the ones who do."

— Apple Inc.

Laura Smyth