Fintechnext featured in the Irish Examiner article: US-Irish college ties open doors to top careers and research roles

 In Press

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Q&A with Prof Mark Hutchinson and Prof Philip O’Reilly 

Q1. Philip and Mark, tell us how the Fintechnext programme has enhanced the future talent pipeline for companies operating in the financial services sector in Ireland, the USA and globally.

Fintechnext is about two things. Scientific excellence and industry impact.

It is a multi-million euro, four-year collaborative research programme between University College Cork and Fexco, supported by Science Foundation Ireland. This research collaboration between Fexco, a high impact industry leader in FinTech and University College Cork, a world-class centre of excellence in high impact FinTech research is leading to the creation of new knowledge, the discovery of new technology, and the development of the Next Generation of Financial Services Technology.

The outputs from this research are already disrupting and transforming three vital sectors of the international financial services industry, through the development of innovative new products and services, progressing the economy and society.

We’ve built out one of the largest dedicated university research teams globally focused on Fintech. This has involved recruiting expert full time researchers, all with PhDs, from leading universities and research teams across Europe and North America. Expertise on the team includes AI, Big Data, Business Models, Quantitative Finance and UX design.

Fintechnext has been spotlighted in the Ireland for Finance 2020 Action Plan published by the Department of Finance. : The strategy for the development of Ireland’s International Financial Services sector to 2025, included as a case study, showcasing the significance of the research to the future of financial services.

A Fintech Foresight Group has been included as part of this national strategy. Professor O’Reilly has been appointed a member of this group. This group is an active strategic pool of expertise accessible to Irish policymakers, helping them in defining the future Irish regulatory, policy, and technical agenda and will advise the Minister for International Financial Services of pertinent technical developments.

Q2. Philip and Mark, describe how your own studies and career opportunities have benefitted from the initiatives driven by this programme.

Our researchers, the broader UCC academic faculty and most importantly, our students are benefitting directly from the initiative. We also incorporate published findings in full time and executive education teaching materials, informing the next generation of financial services professionals.

Of course, the programme also represents an opportunity for the research team to collaborate with world-leading experts, including experts at George Mason University, Vanderbilt University and the University of Miami.

Finally, the dissemination strategy which includes intellectual property, data standards, industry white papers, and peer-reviewed scientific papers is already resulting in significant career progression and reputational enhancement for the research team.

Q3. Give some background as to how prior partnerships between UCC and State Street have helped underpin the success of Fintechnext.

In the last 10 years there has been over €10 million invested in FinTech Research and Development at UCC, by leading international companies and funding agencies. For example, in 2015 UCC was chosen as one of only two global centres of excellence for FinTech research by international bank State Street. The State Street Advanced Technology Centre was a major development in the long running engagement with State Street Ireland, USA and China. The collaboration was positioned to support the research needs of State Street and their partners. The centre created a unique global research experience for our students and helped position Ireland to be at the forefront of Fintech research. During the life of the programme, each year the Advanced Technology Centre lab housed up to twenty research Masters students focused on key emerging topics.

Examples of a groundbreaking joint project focused on financial services data which UCC researchers completed with the State Street’s Dublin office was to take a data set (from multiple sources) used in quarterly regulatory reporting and leverage emerging semantic modeling techniques to aggregate that information. In total, they estimate they would normally spend 200 person-hours a quarter to prepare this report. Some of the aggregations that used to take 3-4 hours individually can now be accomplished in 3-4 seconds. The importance of this output for the broader financial services industry was highlighted by our wonderful colleague Oliver Browne spending six months travelling the world presenting the system to industry and regulatory audiences.

Q4. Can we also ask you both to give some insights into other US-Irish third level collaborations.

The reputation and impact which UCC has in Fintech globally is evident by the quality of the ongoing engagements with senior personnel from organisations at the cutting edge of financial services globally. Members of the Fintechnext are providing thought leadership on Fintech globally and have ongoing international research collaborations in the US.

Q5. How do these fintech research initiatives lead to engagements that roll out into the financial marketplace?

As part of our research programme we go out and speak to industry. These structured engagements are designed to assess the opportunities for next generation financial services, business processes, and technology solutions in the rapidly evolving FinTech environment.

The analysis enables comprehensive, detailed evaluation of our emerging solutions in terms of Business process innovation; Technology suite, system design and their Business model, incorporating value proposition design, revenue model, partnerships and market strategy.

The team at UCC Innovation manage the university’s valuable intellectual property portfolio arising from Fintechnext. Our team work closely with Rich Ferrie and Anthony Morrissey, who ensure that the intellectual property we generate is rolled out into the marketplace. They are the access point for industry.


Prof Philip O’Reilly:

In December 2017, Professor O’Reilly was requested to present to the Board of the Federal Reserve on emerging global Fintech trends. As recently as November 2020, Professor O’Reilly chaired a discussion on the future of Digital Currency, a session which included the Senior Vice President from the Federal Reserve Boston with responsibility for the Bank’s Digital Currency research efforts.

Professor O’Reilly has for many years collaborated closely with the leadership team in the Banking and Payments Federation of Ireland (BPFI), a representative body for over 100 banking and international financial services organisations in Ireland. The Federation of International Banks in Ireland (FIBI), an affiliate of the BPFI, is the principal voice of the international banking and financial services sector in Ireland and counts among its members many of the largest financial service providers in the world, including Citibank, Bank of New York Mellon, State Street and Wells Fargo. Professor O’Reilly has been invited to present on Fintech to the 12 member FIBI council, the leadership forum of FIBI.

In November 2019, Professor O’Reilly presented to the Head of Digital Advisory, Herve Tourpe of the Washington headquartered International Monetary Fund (IMF) on Fintech for Financial Inclusion.

Prof Mark Hutchinson:

Professor Hutchinson spent time as a Visiting Scholar at Vanderbilt University in 2019 where he continues to work with a global expert on trading strategies. The team also work with world leading experts in hedge funds at the University of Miami. These collaborative projects have had strong impact in both the financial services industry and the scientific community and the output is published in world leading scientific journals and is regularly disseminated at academic and industry events throughout the world.

At the outset of the Fintechnext project we were keen to leverage university collaboration with the US. One knowledge gap we were keen to engage with experts on was in the area of data science.

The UCC interim president, Professor John O’Halloran, wrote to President Marty Meehan, of the University of Massachusetts. President Meehan enabled us to access the expertise we needed from a world leading research centre within the UMass system. This shows the power of the US-Irish collaboration at the most senior levels.

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