Smart building blocks of FinTech hub Oulu

Oulu has an astonishing track record in ICT and a bright future with 5G on the horizon. ICT is not all about fast networks and the latest bells and whistles – it is also about creating groundbreaking ways in which to utilise ICT. In Oulu, one such disruption is brewing.

Financial technology, FinTech for short, is the rising star in both finance and ICT. VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland’s research professor Heikki Ailisto says Oulu could be the hub of FinTech in Northern Europe.

“Finance is undergoing a paradigm shift both globally and in Europe with services and regulations transforming, owing both to the possibilities that digitalisation offers and what consumers expect from services. FinTech is born out of this revelation, and is gaining momentum” Ailisto says.

According to Ailisto, Oulu is an ideal environment for becoming a FinTech hub for its strong ICT know-how and the presence of development centres of big players in finance, e.g. OP Financial Group, Nordea, and Barrabes Consulting.

Countering expectations

VTT is known as a high technology research centre, and even has an operational 5G test network in Oulu. The obvious question is, then, “why FinTech? Not exactly the first thing that comes to mind about hi-tech.”

“My fellow colleagues and I saw the importance of FinTech and the disruption regarding it. I also think that VTT has a lot to offer for the development of FinTech. We have projects in e.g. blockchain technologies, information security, artificial intelligence, and data analytics, which could provide momentum for FinTech development.”

“Also, when it comes down to getting the right people together around the same table, I feel VTT has a role in getting those people together. As an impartial organisation it is easier to convince, for instance, OP Financial Group and Nordea to work together with us since we are not furthering our own business interests”, Ailisto says.

33% growth in 2017

Ailisto looks forward to 2017, as it has great things in store for FinTech.

“Technology Disrupting Finance seminar, held on January 17, was the first step in realising bigger goals on the way to making Oulu the FinTech hub of Northern Europe. One such goal is creating 100 new jobs in the FinTech sector in Oulu”, Ailisto states.

OP Financial Group’s Head of New Business Development Kristian Luoma thinks 100 new jobs sounds like a bold, but achievable growth expectation.

“Digitalisation challenges finance with different opportunities for development. If Oulu as an area can step up to the plate and answer the needs of the consumer, that kind of growth is perfectly plausible”, Luoma muses.

The way Luoma looks at FinTech is that it includes the traditional FinTech that banks develop and as the FinTech that lean, agile startups develop, the latter striving to challenge and disrupt the status quo. Oulu has know-how in both ends, but that’s not all according to Luoma.

“Blockchain, AI, IoT, etc. will have great influence on FinTech as a whole, and those areas are well represented in Oulu”, Luoma says, echoing Ailisto’s sentiment.

“The future of FinTech will be in apps that offer creative solutions, e.g. by calculating the risks of transport or driving a car, which then reflect to finance in terms of loans, etc. These kinds of solutions involve IoT for example”, Luoma says.

Luoma goes on to mention that Finland overall has been a frontrunner in digitalising banking services, with Europe’s first and the world’s second online banking service under our belts. It would be reasonable to expect great things from the FinTech sector in Oulu, what with Oulu possessing the building blocks of a FinTech hub.