Speech at the European Financial Forum

12th February, 2020


Ladies and gentlemen,

Thank you for your participation in the European Financial Forum today.

I want to commend the IDA and my officials in the Department of Finance for the work they have done to organise this event.

Background to IFS development

The development of international financial services has been an important part of Ireland’s industrial policy for three decades.

As far back as the 1970s, international financial services had been recognised by Irish policy-makers as a potential industry for creating employment, but it was not until the 1980s that concrete steps were taken to take advantage of the changes that were occurring in the industry globally.

It was also recognised that financial services provide significant opportunities for creating and capturing value for a domestic economy.

The development of an international financial services sector in Ireland has been very successful and it has exceeded expectations.

Links between education and industry

Many of the firms in the sector have strong links with the regional universities and institutes of technology.

Those links have more than one benefit.

The most obvious one is that the colleges provide high quality education at both graduate and postgraduate levels in across the full range of the skills and disciplines that are in demand.

Links between the financial services industry and our universities and institutes of technology can provide the basis for productive research programmes that allows Ireland to develop new technologies, applications and systems.

For example, only recently in Killorglin, Co Kerry, Fexco has opened a €21 million research and development facility.

Dedicated to Stanford University computer scientist John McCarthy it hosts a not-for-profit public private partnership IT Tralee and Kerry County Council focused on the commercialisation of innovation and research.

More generally, the industry in Ireland is going to become deeper and more diverse.

One example is that in recent years, we have seen the start the arrival of ratings agencies and trading platforms in Ireland.

The growing importance of sustainable finance will create demands for new products, services and approaches, and firms in the industry.

The main trade bodies in the sector including the Banking and Payments Federation of Ireland, Financial Services Ireland, Insurance Ireland, and Irish Funds have signed a declaration of intent pledging to take action in 2020 to mitigate climate change risk through Sustainable Finance.

For many citizens, the main change in the landscape of finance over the years has been the increasing presence of technology.

Whether it be the ability to tap when paying for a beer, or using their phone to pay for a garment, or using an app to share a bill in a restaurant, it is clear that in the retail sector, fintech has become a standard way of doing business for millions.

What is less visible to many are the developments in backroom products, services and tools to enhance processing, reduce paper work or secure transactions.

Ireland is now a major international fintech hub.

Part of the reason is that Enterprise Ireland goes beyond ‘soft’ supports to companies that it has identified as having high potential.

It invests in them.

Enterprise Ireland is one of the largest and most successful global fintech investors.

It currently supports a portfolio of 15 hundred companies with equity investments, spanning a wide range of sectors.

I’d like to put that investment in context as In Enterprise Ireland is the third largest investor in fintech globally.


The EU has been very clear that we are ready to begin work on Future Relationship Agreement as soon as the draft mandate for the negotiations is agreed later this month.

It is vital that we get this right and create the best possible framework for working and cooperating with our close neighbour and friend.

Together with our EU partners, we will work for the closest, deepest and broadest possible relationship with the UK, based on a balance of rights and responsibilities, including level playing field provisions for fair competition.

We welcome that the mandate closely follows the priorities set out in the Political Declaration in this regard.

We will work with our partners to ensure that our priorities are appropriately reflected.

Within this, key issues for Ireland in the future relationship, alongside an FTA in goods, include adequate level playing field provisions, cooperation in the area of justice and security, fisheries, transport connectivity and data exchange. 

Provisions for services will also be important, as well as the continued participation of the UK in EU programmes, on appropriate terms.

Negotiations on implementation of the Withdrawal Agreement, including the operational arrangements for the Protocol on Ireland/Northern Ireland, will also be important.

Alongside the relationship between the EU and UK, the Irish-British bilateral relationship will remain a key focus.

CSD developments

Ladies and Gentleman, the advent of the decision of the United Kingdom to leave the European Union has served to highlight the risk of relying on critical market infrastructure outside of the Eurozone. 

I am, of course, referring to the fact that Ireland does not possess a domestically located Central Securities Depository.  

In late 2018, Euronext Dublin selected Euroclear Bank Belgium as its preferred long-term post Brexit settlement solution. 

Since that announcement, work has been underway to develop the future settlement model through a number of working groups with participants drawn from across the Irish market. 

I would like to thank all those who have committed their time and expertise to the project, your efforts are very much appreciated.

I realise that it is a complex and difficult project, but nevertheless an essential project that must be completed.

For our part, the Irish authorities have made every effort to support the project and the market as it migrates. 

Last month, I signed the commencement order for the Migration of Participating Securities Act to provide an alternative legal mechanism by which Irish issuers can migrate their listed securities to Euroclear. 

This was a significant milestone in the process. 

But as we now enter the last 12 months before the migration deadline, it is becoming increasingly important that all parties, but in particular issuers and their registrars, play their part in ensuring that the migration is completed within the time remaining. 

This process will be difficult, it will be disruptive but it is in our collective interest that it must happen as nobody wants market disruption.

Concluding Remarks – the new decade

As you know, the over-arching theme for our discussions at the Forum today in Dublin Castle has been ‘Ready for the new decade’.

The last several decades have sent us a clear signal – increasing inequality and a growing climate crisis will only get worse if left unaddressed.

Financial inclusion and Fintech is playing an increasing role all over the world by giving people access to banking services and a chance for a better life, therefore addressing emerging inequalities.

Meanwhile, the increasing importance of building climate risk into the financial system opens up the possibility of a new era of sustainable finance.

While fiscal policy remains as important tool, we cannot overlook financial sector policies.

If we learn the lessons of history, and adapt them for our time, we can build an even stronger system fit for the future.

Let us make the year ahead a year of action, and, in turn, the new decade – a decade for prosperity and a stronger Europe in the World.

In conclusion, I can assure you that the Irish Government remains fully committed to the international financial services sector and our place in Europe. 

As one of the most globalised countries with a very open economy, we also remain strongly committed to the continuation of strong global trading relationships.

I also hope that you leave Dublin, you will have a renewed sense of why Ireland is a top location for financial services and an intention to return many times in the future.

For those of you who have business already in the country or who are strongly thinking of moving some activities here, thank you for your interest and support. 

I hope you will enjoyed the Forum, thank you again for coming, and have a good day.