220 creators to hack the fintech future at Ulster Bank Hackathon 2019

12 Apr 2019

From left: David de Niese from the 2018 winning team, Petrichor; Ciarán Coyle, Ulster Bank; Fabia Howard-Smith, Petrichor; and Emmanuel Abodunrin, Petrichor. Image: Orla Murray/SON Photo

One of Ireland’s largest fintech hackathons is fully subscribed and it is igniting an entrepreneurial revolution within Ulster Bank.

Today (12 April) more than 220 coders, designers and entrepreneurs will hack the future of fintech at Dogpatch Labs in Dublin at the annual Ulster Bank Hackathon.

Attendees will work in teams over the course of 54 hours, brainstorming to improve the banking experience and ‘hacking’ to build working prototypes.

‘Teams will have access to a host of support tools over the weekend, including the newly launched Ulster Bank API sandbox’

An array of mentors, from engineering to industry experts, will be available to offer support, from Microsoft and IBM to Nile and ViewsDX. Participants will also have access to pitching workshops, so that they can not only imagine and create groundbreaking solutions, but also pitch these to the judging panel.

The hackathon includes a category for Ulster Bank staff to apply disruptive ideas and technologies to their organisation, so they can think like an industry disrupter. This forms part of Ulster Bank’s ‘intrapreneurship’ programme, Startup, which encourages entrepreneurship within the organisation.

The event will culminate in competitive pitches to the judging panel, which is made up of Ulster Bank’s Joe Heneghan, Damien Daly and Amelia Casey, as well as Patrick Walsh (founder of Dogpatch Labs) and other external experts. Prizes will be awarded to the winning team.

Revolutionising everyday banking

“Ulster Bank’s hackathon is about expanding our way of improving services for customers in a fun way, perhaps in a way that you wouldn’t expect from a bank,” Heneghan, Ulster Bank’s chief administration officer, told Siliconrepublic.com.

“The brief this year is to deliver innovative solutions to enable ‘everyday banking and collaboration’ – which essentially is all about our customers. Over the weekend, over 220 coders, designers and entrepreneurs will work in teams over 54 hours to develop concepts to improve the banking experience, and ‘hack’ these together to create working prototypes, which we hope will benefit our customers.

“Teams will have access to a host of support tools over the weekend, including the newly launched Ulster Bank API sandbox, which gives the opportunity to rapidly test prototypes in a mimicked production environment. Importantly for me, the hackathon includes a category for Ulster Bank staff to apply disruptive ideas and technologies to the organisation where they work every day, challenging them to think like a start-up and harnessing those who already think that way but perhaps need an outlet for their ideas.

“The annual hackathon is a key step in our Startup intrapreneurship programme, which is aimed at fostering and implementing entrepreneurship, so that our staff can develop new ways to improve services for our customers. Ulster Bank is a strong supporter of innovation and we’re all really looking forward to the weekend, which we hope will once again lead to an opening up of ideas, collaboration and better services for customers.”

Heneghan said that hackathons also help the bank to identify and nurture new solutions in external start-up companies that help both the bank and its customers.

“One practical example of this is a past hackathon winner, Circit, which developed an online tool that can cut the time it takes to perform financial audits by up to 80pc. This product is now available to Ulster Bank customers.”

Fostering a culture of entrepreneurship

In terms of Ulster Bank staff, Heneghan said that working with start-ups and events such as the hackathon play a vital role in providing an outlet for their ideas.

“We know that when it comes to tangible innovation, that makes a real difference in our customers’ lives – our people have some of the most insightful and creative ideas. That’s why we are committed to taking practical steps to support our colleagues to find new ways to improve the banking experience for our customers … The programme creates an environment to nurture an entrepreneurial culture and gives Ulster Bank staff the time, space and resources to develop their skills as entrepreneurs and create real solutions to benefit our customers.”

Speaking with Siliconrepublic.com, Walsh explained that Ulster Bank was a founding partner of Dogpatch Labs “at a time when few others believed an empty furniture store could become the start-up hub it is today”.

Walsh continued: “That took courage and foresight. They supported us when it mattered. The partnership enabled us to build the Vaults and they helped us finance the Mezzanine when we expanded with Pivotal. So they’ve literally helped us build this hub of entrepreneurship in Ireland.

“The partnership has evolved to focus on innovation. Most recently we launched the Startup, a programme for internal entrepreneurs in the bank to come and develop ideas here in Dogpatch. This incubator was of its kind in Ireland for financial services and we’re hoping to see some exciting new financial products coming into Irish marketplace as a result of this programme later this year,” Walsh said.

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years