Q&A: Bringing Ireland’s fintech finest to Money20/20 Europe

15 Jun 2017

Tom Holgersson, fintech market adviser, Enterprise Ireland. Image: Tom Holgersson

Tom Holgersson, Enterprise Ireland’s fintech lead in the Nordics, fills us in on the Irish fintech start-ups set to visit Money20/20 Europe.

Tom Holgersson is Enterprise Ireland’s fintech market adviser for the Nordics. In a matter of days, he’ll be welcoming the largest cohort of fintech companies ever to visit the Nordics to join him for Money20/20 Europe.

The US Money20/20 conference is one of the major events in the fintech calendar every year and it first came to Europe last year. In 2017, the event returns to Copenhagen, Denmark from 26 to 28 June.

Future Human

Ahead of the event, we asked Holgersson a few questions as he prepares for the visit from his base in Sweden.

‘It’s always important to be informed about where the future will be, especially in the financial industry because it’s very fast-moving. I would say that the banking industry is facing a paradigm shift, where the old way of doing things is moving into an era of digital disruption’

Inspirefest 2017

What is your role for Enterprise Ireland in the Nordics and what does the day-to-day job involve?

I would say that my role in the Nordics has several different aspects, but I’m foremost focused on growing the financial services and tech sector (fintech and ICT). A lot of my work involves working with different government organisations, large companies and various networks specialised in my sectors.

A regular work week in Stockholm would normally start with an internal meeting to prioritise the week ahead and to talk about special events such as trade missions, ministerial visits, clients visiting the Nordic market, trips to Ireland or the other Nordic countries, targets and goal achievement etc.

Then there’s meeting up or talking to clients around their strategy, market validation, capabilities, key messages (sales pitch) and their long-term goals. It’s a lot about educating the clients about the Nordic market and what to expect from doing business in the region, and asking why the Nordic market is of interest.

Another large part of the job is to explain the capabilities of Irish fintech companies for the Nordic business community. It’s a large gap because both sides (Nordics and the Irish) don’t know much about their counterparts. In the past few months, I had several banks over in Ireland and the large majority never heard about Irish fintech companies.

Is Money20/20 always a key date in your calendar?

Money20/20 is on the agenda and a key event for clients in the fintech industry. The event is the largest in Europe, but it has been around for several years in the US. Last year, I attended for the first time (which was the first time it was held in Europe) and brought a few Irish clients. It was much appreciated and I thought it would be a good idea to do it again. There are not many large events in the Nordics and it’s lucky for me that Money20/20 is based in Copenhagen, Denmark.

What do you seek to achieve from the event?

The most important thing is that my clients get the chance to meet large and small companies from the Nordics and around the world. They will learn how they stand out from the crowd, find ways to cooperate, learn to pitch, validate a market-fit, network with the leading companies in the world, and build brand reputation and awareness.

There are many thought leaders and C-level executives discussing and talking about the latest trends in the industry at Money20/20 Europe. It’s always important to be informed about where the future will be, especially in the financial industry because it’s very fast-moving. I would say that the banking industry is facing a paradigm shift, where the old way of doing things is moving into an era of digital disruption.

How many Irish start-ups are attending Money20/20 as part of Enterprise Ireland’s cohort?

There are at least 13 clients attending Money 20/20 this year, which makes it the largest cohort of fintech companies visiting the Nordics ever. There are both large and small clients, with well-known names such as Fexco, Ammeon, Corvil, Rockall Technologies, Kyckr, Touchtech payments, Solgari, Daon, SalesOptimize, Cambrist, Priviti, Sentenial and Boxever.

What can these start-ups hope to achieve from the event in terms of exposure, deals, connections etc?

I think all the companies attending will get great exposure because they will be able to meet a large crowd of companies in the financial sector. There are a lot of companies at the fair and they will have the opportunity to book meetings two weeks prior to the start of the event via the Money20/20 app. I have also arranged for my clients to attend a networking event together with Copenhagen FinTech and Nordea bank. On one of the evenings, Enterprise Ireland also arranges a networking dinner, with the opportunity for the clients to invite their key contacts.

Closing deals always takes time, especially in the financial industry, but to succeed, one needs to think long-term and be patient. There are no free lunches.

Have you yourself seen start-ups finding success at this or similar events?

A client of mine that visited Money20/20 last year signed a deal with N26 (a bank from Germany). Otherwise, most clients are not interested in revealing their deals or who they meet. Sometimes, deals or cooperations can be very sensitive and that’s the nature of the banking and financial industry.

Do you think Ireland has a good reputation in Europe when it comes to fintech?

I think that there are many great Irish fintech companies and it’s very impressive that the Government has a long-term strategy (IFS2020) to develop and expand the financial services sector. I believe that there is still a lot to do when it comes to informing the world about the opportunities in Ireland and about our fintech companies.

Ireland is just like the Nordic countries: small in size and needs to work hard to get noticed in the world. I very much believe that the Irish Government, Enterprise Ireland and IDA are doing a very good job, but things can always be better. The fact that Ireland has had a Minister of Financial Services is impressive. I would like to see a unicorn (billion-dollar company) rise from Ireland. That would help to raise the profile of fintech Ireland.

Which European fintech start-ups would you single out as the most exciting to watch right now?

I think there are several interesting companies in the fintech space, but it’s hard to keep track of them. I’m not qualified enough to make such a judgement, but I like Atom bank from the United Kingdom. It’s an application-based bank that allows you to do all your banking on a mobile phone.

The Enterprise Ireland Fintech Competitive Start Fund has allocated €500,000 for 10 fintech start-ups with the capability to succeed in global markets. Applications for the fund close on 5 July 2017.