UCC and Fexco sees 'world-leading' fintech research

At the iconic Railway ‘Metal Bridge’ were from left, Dr Ciarán Seoighe, Deputy Director General, Science Foundation Ireland, Denis McCarthy, CEO FEXCO and Professor John O’Halloran, Deputy President UCC. Photo: Valerie O’Sullivan

A €3m partnership between UCC and financial services firm Fexco will see major research conducted on emerging financial technologies, or fintech.

Investment in the project, known as FintechNext, will be provided by Science Foundation Ireland and Fexco in equal parts with researchers at the Cork University Business School (CUBS) within UCC carrying it out, Fexco said.

The project will see 12 newly appointed researchers delve into treasury and foreign exchange, digital taxation, and corporate asset administration.

According to the Central Bank, fintech is technology to deliver financial services and products to consumers, such as opening online accounts without having to visit a bank.

The five major retail banks have spent hundreds of millions of euro in recent years to revamp their technologies in the face of stiffening competition from fintech companies.

New AIB chief executive Colin Hunt this week said the bank had spent €870m on upgrading its IT systems between 2015 and 2017, and would continue to invest around €250m a year.

Fexco said the research team will be co-located between its Kerry headquarters and UCC.

It said the project, led by Professor Philip O’Reilly of CUBS, "will put Ireland on the world map" as a fintech innovation centre.

In July last year, Fexco said it would recruit 175 additional staff to expand its research, development and information technology capabilities.

Finance Minister Paschal Donohoe, who launched the project, said: "Technology is significantly transforming and disrupting the financial services ecosystem. We need to invest in collaborative research projects, such as FintechNext, to give Ireland a competitive advantage in emerging technologies."

Investing in innovation will support higher value jobs in rural regions, Mr Donohoe said.

UCC president Patrick O’Shea said the partnership "contributes towards developing world-leadingng fintech sector in this region and nationally".

It was a "great example of the way the public and private sectors can invest together in innovative research with potentially valuable commercial applications," the UCC president said.

Chief executive of Fexco, Denis McCarthy said there would be a "dual benefit" for his firm.

"The first is the opportunity to be at the forefront of identifying new trends and technologies that could create new markets for our business and the second in welcoming a team of world-renowned research experts to the organisation. Fexco’s staff, including myself, stand to learn a huge amount from them," Mr McCarthy said.

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