Setting the standards: Ireland’s Regtech sector is proving a sound investment

Setting the standards: Ireland’s Regtech sector is proving a sound investment

By: Damien
24 Sep, 2021
Regtech is a well-established financial services sector in Ireland that is set to grow as regulatory compliance becomes more onerous – giving opportunities for investors and acquirers.

In Australia and the Pacific region, one effect of the Covid-19 pandemic during the past 18 months has been to accelerate digitisation among financial services companies, in part to satisfy growing pressure from regulators for compliance.

As a result, organisations are investing more in regtech for their compliance issues and many are looking to Ireland as a solution.

In an article on Enterprise Ireland’s website [irishadvantage.com/why-financial-institutions-in-apac-are-turning-to-irish-regtech], Scott Patterson, Enterprise Ireland’s senior market advisor fintech Australia & New Zealand, based in Melbourne, explained the reasons: “Irish regtechs have proven experience of resolving the kind of risk and compliance issues that are only now being faced by companies across APAC.”

What is regtech?

In simple terms, regtech – a portmanteau of ‘regulation’ and ‘technology’ – is where companies provide technologically advanced solutions to help businesses in the finance sector deal with the demands of compliance.

Regulation has become increasingly stringent across the world in the wake of the 2008 financial crisis, with greater reporting standards and higher regulatory requirements. Consequently, businesses have sought technologies that help to deal with the requirements put on them in the most time- and cost-effective way to remain competitive.

Unsurprisingly, the regtech market is growing across the world and is set to hit $44.5 billion by 2027 – increasing by more than $10 billion on current values.

Regtech in Ireland

Ireland is becoming a centre for regtech with 68 companies operating in the country, according to Fintech Ireland [fintechireland.com/regtech.html] – and that is a mix of those established in the country and others that have chosen to locate there.

Indeed, there are plenty of global regtech leaders choosing Ireland as a base for their European operations. For instance, in January 2020, US regtech provider AxiomSL announced it was setting up an office in Limerick, which promises to generate 100 jobs by 2025. The move was supported by the Irish Government through its foreign direct investment body IDA Ireland. [www.idaireland.com/newsroom/regtech-leader-axiomsl-establishes-limerick]

Peter Tierney, global head of AxiomSL’s RegCloud business, explained that AxiomSL wanted a base with access to world class talent where they would be able to expand service and support for its customer base worldwide. “The support from the IDA team combined with the proactive engagement from local universities caught our interest,” he added. “The existing community of fintech and regtech companies and the deep pool of multilingual tech and financial talent became evident as we investigated further. This expansion to Limerick and the hiring of key talent within the region will enable us to leverage these skills to continue our growth efforts within Europe and around the world.”

As Tierney mentioned, there are numerous reasons for regtech businesses choosing Ireland as a base. With the government backing the sector, overseas companies will look favourably on the country, along with its competitive corporate tax rates and reasonable commercial property rates. Ireland has also been named as one of the top 10 countries in the world to do business with by Forbes.

Ireland is also a leader in other tech-based industries such as fintech and software development – and some of the world’s biggest companies have a strategic hub in the country. These include Apple, Microsoft, Google and Facebook.

Because of this there is a large pool of potential employees with relevant qualifications. Universities in Ireland also have courses focused on relevant technological qualifications, which means there is a steady flow of graduates coming into the workforce every year.

Acquisitions

Consequently, given Ireland’s prominence in the sector, Irish regtech businesses have proved attractive to overseas buyers. For example, one of the biggest recent deals in the sector came in June, when German firm BearingPoint RegTech acquired Irish rival Vizor Software. While the financial terms of the deal were not disclosed, The Irish Times reported that it was a multi-million euro transaction.

Vizor Software, based in Dublin, is a developer of regulatory and supervisory technology mostly for companies in the banking, insurance and pensions sectors. Its customers are predominantly in Africa, the Middle East, Asia, Australia and Canada. This was a major selling point as it compliments BearingPoint’s business, which is currently focused on Europe.

Conor Crowley, CEO of Vizor Software, explained that the deal would help the company to develop further and expand its international operations.

Jürgen Lux, CEO of BearingPoint RegTech, added that the deal was a milestone for the business to show it can develop as a standalone business. BearingPoint RegTech was acquired last year by Nordic Capital, having started as a unit of management of technology and consultancy BearingPoint.

Investment

Irish regtech companies have also proved attractive to investors. For instance, in late September 2020, ID-Pal, a Dublin-based identity verification start-up, raised €1 million in a funding round, which was led by Act Venture Capital.

CEO Colum Lyons said the funding will be used to develop ID-Pal’s product offering, along with the technology behind it. This will then be delivered flexibly to new and existing customers in Ireland and overseas to address their compliance needs.

Lyons added that the company had weathered the Covid-19 pandemic well, and was set to continue its growth trajectory, which includes plans to increase headcount – the company had already grown from 11 to 19 employees in the first nine months of 2020.

Future prospects

There is little doubt that Ireland will continue to be a hub for regtech businesses, for the reasons outlined above, and more businesses will look to locate in the country. Not only is there government support, well-developed infrastructure and highly skilled employee base, but Ireland is also the only native English-speaking nation in the European Union, which is attractive to businesses in countries such as the US, UK and Canada. Ireland is also part of the single market, which gives it unrestricted access to the other 26 countries in the EU, which is a major pull, especially since the UK left the bloc at the end of last year and now has some barriers to trading with European neighbours.

This also means that there will be plenty of opportunities to acquire, or invest in, an Irish regtech business in the years to come. Many of Ireland’s regtech businesses are currently at the start-up or SME phase of development and will be seeking additional funds to continue the development of their products or to expand domestically or internationally.

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