Charlotte Chamber panel: Ireland's finance minister offers window into Dublin's fintech scene
Published Wednesday, March 14, 2018
by Caroline Hudson

Partnership is the key to growing a city’s financial-technology sector. That was the overarching message at Wednesday’s Economic Growth Talks panel hosted by the Charlotte Chamber at AvidXchange.

The Chamber welcomed Michael D’Arcy, minister of state at the Department of Finance in Ireland, as the keynote speaker. Panelists included Douglas McDowell, chief strategy officer at SentryOne; Luke Nestor, founder and executive vice president of Rockall Technologies; and Jay Plueger, senior vice president of strategic initiatives and corporate development at AvidXchange. Carolina Fintech Hub founder and Charlotte Councilman Tariq Bokhari moderated the panel.

The Queen City has a lot of developmental similarities with Dublin, Ireland, and never has that been more true in the fintech space, D’Arcy says. He says the two-way relationship between the U.S. and Irish economies is crucial. More than 155,000 people in Ireland are employed by U.S. firms, and more than 180 Irish firms were established in the U.S. over the past five years.

D’Arcy says the U.K.’s decision to exit the European Union — also known as Brexit — has placed a strain on Irish trade and even some budding fintech companies. He believes his role is to now offer solutions for those companies through the work of partnership.

Another aspect to consider is the recent tax overhaul in the U.S., which D’Arcy says was long overdue for the country. Ireland has a set corporate tax rate of 12.5%, which attracted plenty of U.S. business over the years. This trend could potentially shift, however, now that the U.S. corporate tax rate was slashed to 21%. Plueger says it’s a fintech company’s job to know how to navigate regulations and any legislative changes across the markets.

SentryOne, soon to be based in South End, recently opened an office in Dublin, and CEO Bob Potter previously cited Ireland’s favorable corporate taxes as one of the reasons for choosing that market to grow the firm internationally. McDowell says physical space is also an important part of helping fintech flourish, whether it is a collaborative office space or a location in proximity to the talent pipeline.

McDowell says SentryOne is investing in the type of co-working spaces that encourage the collaboration needed in a next-generation, rapidly changing fintech environment.

"I don’t believe you can look even five, seven years down the road ... because technology is moving so rapidly. It’s incredible,” D’Arcy says. “You can’t say five, seven years. You’re looking at five, seven months.”

Plueger says there are three traits that set a successful fintech company apart from others in terms of growth: those that know how to innovate, those that embrace ever-evolving technology and those that manage opportunities wisely.

“I think part of that not only comes from finding the right talent, but what are we doing to attract the right talent to Charlotte,” Plueger says. “If we look at the type of talent we want to bring in, it’s also going to be, ‘what are we doing to help entrepreneurs come to Charlotte and want to be a part of Charlotte’s fintech community?’ And that’s on us to help them do that and to help them grow.”

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