Two years in the making:NI’s first Fintech Symposium

After securing the opportunity to host it two years ago, on Wednesday 23rd March NI’s fintech community came together for the first ever NI Fintech Symposium in Belfast.

Hosted by Fintech NI, the symposium followed the launch of the NI FinTech Sector Strategy which revealed that fintech now contributes £392 million to the economy and has the potential to create thousands more jobs over the next few years.

This optimism was reflected in the room by the audience and speakers which included representatives from large organisations including Deloitte and A&L Goodbody, accelerators and investors such as Catalyst and Techstart Ventures and from other regional FinTech clusters including FinTech Scotland, FinTech North and SuperTech West Midlands.

One of the major talking points among the regional fintech cluster speakers was the Kalifa Review, which recently celebrated its first anniversary. Broadly, the views were that it has helped raise the profile of regional Fintech hubs globally and fintech investment is starting to spread around the UK. There is clearly work still to do, but most agreed it was a positive step in the right direction.

Andrew Jenkins, the Fintech Envoy for NI, discussed the opportunity and challenges for local fintechs. In his view, more needs to be done to connect startups with FDIs and incumbents, and funding networks need strengthened. He called for SMEs to collaborate, work with academia and engage with other fintech clusters to share knowledge and experience.

Karen Bradbury, Financial Services Sector Lead at Invest NI, spoke about why NI is an attractive place to set up a fintech. Nearly half the population is aged between 16-44 and while it has a smaller population than other regions, this can be to its advantage as it can be more agile. There is a deep talent pool too, with financial services employing 40,000 people, 7,000 of which are currently working in fintech.

On the investment side, Ryan McAnlis, Investment Director at Techstart Ventures, shared tips on how founders can navigate investment in fintech. He said there were no hard and fast rules when it comes to fundraising but emphasised the importance of testing any assumptions about customer base, the problem you’re trying to solve, your solution, how much money you need, and pivoting accordingly.

McAnlis was followed by Steve Orr, Chief Executive at Catalyst, who laid out why NI can be one of the top three hubs in the world for RegTech and how it could become a global Centre for Secure Intelligent Regulatory Technologies – GSIRT. With £160m, GSIRT could create up to 16,500 jobs and £931m in GVA in the next decade – definitely worth watching this space.

The closing panel on NI’s fintech opportunity featured Roisin Finnegan, Head of Ventures at Deloitte, Carol Rossborough, Co-Founder of ESTHER, Chris Jessup, Finance Partner at A&L Goodbody, Daniel Broby, Professor in Fintech at Ulster University and Bo Brustkern, Co-Founder and CEO of Fintech Nexus.

The panel covered a lot of different issues including how we grow and nurture talent, how improvements in remote working opened doors to new markets for entrepreneurs and how NI can overcome challenges to continue growing the local fintech sector.

From conversations we had at today’s event with firms such as AuditComply and Datactics, and from listening to insights from the speakers, it’s clear there is a lot of energy and support behind NI’s fintech sector. We now need to turn this energy into action in order to cement NI’s place as an attractive place to set up and run a fintech business.


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