Ahead of Fintech Week in April which is about showcasing the sector across all UK regions, Ambition Magazine sat down with the UK Government appointed Fintech Envoy for Northern Ireland, Andrew Jenkins.
“I grew up in North Belfast at the foot of the Cavehill. Back then I couldn’t have imagined how much change I’d witness over the next few decades – societal, political and economic. Northern Ireland has time and again demonstrated its ambition and ability to reinvent itself”, says Jenkins.
“From global business services to life and health sciences; from tourism to advanced manufacturing and engineering, TV and film, and now to the emergence of financial services and supporting technology clusters. It’s amazing to think that our local financial technology, ‘fintech’ sector is today leading the way and is widely regarded as a global success story”.
“As consumers, many of us might not instantly recognise the term fintech, but we experience it daily through mobile apps, computer programs and other technologies that support and improve how we bank and access finance. Think about the growing number of ways we can save and of course, spend our well-earned money. My children certainly avail of these services and technologies”, he added.
Talking about the constantly evolving aspects of fintech, he is keen to stress that without assistance, the Envoy will not achieve all that is necessary to harness the true potential of Northern Ireland.
“I don’t underestimate the important task at hand. I need the help and partnership of government, business and our education sector. We have a vibrant sector and many people are passionate about seeing it continue to thrive; groups like the Northern Ireland Fintech Association are playing a key role”, he said.
“And the same applies in my job at Arity, a company founded in 2016 by the Allstate Corporation where I am Director, Software Engineering. At Arity, our mission is to make transportation safer, smarter and more useful for everyone. I know I cannot play my part in accomplishing that mission without bringing a team along with me on that journey”.
It is this aspect of innovation, diversity and a focus on start-up and scale-up businesses which the Envoy is particularly focused on.
“In my short time as Envoy, I have visited and engaged with many of our indigenous start-up and scale-up companies. It’s impossible not to be impressed with the incredible innovation which is at the heart of the sector right here in Northern Ireland and it is this which makes me most proud to have been appointed Envoy”, Jenkins added.
However, he is also keen to address prevalent issues and accepts significant work needs to be undertaken to further advance the sector.
“Despite the success stories and accolades bestowed on our industry, of which there are many, there are issues which need to be addressed. I am often struck by the difficulties faced by businesses in accessing finance. There is a broad range of support available, and I am determined to help signpost businesses to the opportunities which will stimulate growth. I know that if I succeed in this, the wider industry succeeds”.
“TheCityUK recently launched the ‘Financial Services Skills Taskforce Report’ for 2020 in London. Addressing the issue of skills and talent is an immediate priority across the Financial Services Sector. This report is incredibly insightful. It is a call to action to ensure we have the skills and talent to remain competitive into the future”.
In order to address these challenges, Jenkins is hopeful that an effective vision, strategy and collaboration with the ecosystems in Northern Ireland will increase and diversify the supply of talent and encourage sustainable growth for the industry.
With Fintech Week on the horizon and plans to host a National Fintech Symposium in Belfast in June, the Fintech Envoy is making every effort to further enhance Northern Ireland’s place as a global fintech hub.
“As I look ahead to Fintech Week from 20-24th April, which will celebrate the exciting sector and showcase the rapid progress in fostering and enabling positive change in the financial services, I’m excited about we can accomplish. With so much potential in Northern Ireland, I want to make sure we recognise and celebrate this at every given opportunity”.
“After all, if we can’t celebrate one of the fastest growing sectors in the UK economy, what can we celebrate?” he said.