Fidelity Investments: ‘Ireland is our gateway to Europe’

19 Apr 2016

Aidan Kenny, head of FCAT Europe, and Sean Belka, SVP at FCAT. Image: Luke Maxwell

This year, Fidelity Investments is celebrating its 20th year in Ireland. For the last five of those years, the Irish operation has also been home to the Fidelity Centre for Applied Technology (FCAT).

Fintech Week graphic

Set up in 2012, and based out of Dublin, FCAT – based across Dublin and Galway – is Fidelity’s research arm in Ireland, examining emerging technologies in Europe and further afield, and determining whether those technologies could be, or should be, folded into the suite of products Fidelity offers.

For a company that is ostensibly squarely in the finance realm, Fidelity also has a significant stake in the tech sector.

The company’s Irish operation has grown over the last 20 years to around 1,000 employees. Some 600 of those work in technology. One-third of the global workforce falls under the tech umbrella.

With such a focus on tech, it’s no wonder that the company is forward-looking, and the creation of FCAT seems like a natural evolution.

Its positioning in Ireland is no surprise, either. As Sean Belka, SVP of FCAT, says: “[Ireland is] our gateway to Europe, to all the intellectual capital, all the great thinking in Europe, all the universities, all the amazing tech talent.”

Beyond being able to attract some of the best talent in the world, though, FCAT’s location has other benefits.

Belka and Aidan Kenny, head of FCAT Europe, also highlight Ireland’s gateway status as a great way to uncover emerging technologies throughout Europe.

“We meet with start-ups, investors, people like that, to see what’s new and what’s relevant for Fidelity, and how we can filter that in such a way that we figure out where the opportunity is for Fidelity to use that technology to improve our customers’ lives day-to-day,” said Kenny.

The work doesn’t stop when the team hits on something new. From there, there’s analysis and development to make sure that the new technology is right for Fidelity and its customers.

According to Kenny: “When we create ideas and get ideas from our staff, we try to build on those. We build them out with proof of concepts, or pilots, or even incubate those ideas, before we seed them back into the business.

“We really support and encourage [our staff] to innovate in their daily work lives, so that we can really uncover the opportunities for Fidelity going forward.”

And there is no shortage of opportunities in that sphere. Advancements in everything from mobile and web to big data and artificial intelligence have ensured that the face of technology – and its potential applications in business – is ever changing.

As Belka points out: “It’s a really exciting time to be in technology. I have been in technology for 30 years, and I have never seen so many new technologies all at once that have really profound implications.”

Kirsty Tobin was careers editor at Silicon Republic