grand canal square

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It is a universally established fact that misbehavior in finance and bad judgment in monetary policy were two major catalysts of the world recession that has touched almost every economy over the last few years. Financial institutions are the driving force of an economy; they allow businesses to produce and consumers to spend and so their actions have a very real impact on our lives.

There were times when austerity measures would reinstate reason and measure in that seemingly wild arena but now, technological revolution with the hyper connectivity and infinite openings that it offers, is providing the world of finance with a chance to make a real social impact; and this time, for good.

This is happening right now in Ireland and specifically at Bank of Ireland, in Grand Canal Square, in Belfast, whose Head of Innovation, David Tighe, I met at MoneyConf.

We had an energetic chat on how banking has a real chance to turn its reputation around and start being a facilitator rather than a drain on the economy. He told me how Bank of Ireland has finally acknowledged the impact of start-ups on Ireland’s economic growth, as they are now a core element of their strategy.

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To that effect, Bank of Ireland has set up a workbench in its Grand Canal Square branch with plans to expand to the major cities across the country. Put simply, it is a space where start-ups can come any day to work and build their business in an innovative and vibrant environment with free WIFI, free coffee and snacks, a network of like-minded people, and staff to answer all financial questions.

BOI Innovation Hub is completely aligned with Horyou when it comes to the interdisciplinary model as both believe in the power of cross collaboration and sharing of ideas. Diversity should be celebrated and the best results come from convergence of different experiences, thoughts and skills.

I challenged David on the fact that a bank is still a profit seeking institution; so what’s in it really for them? He said that as an enterprise bank, ‘start-ups are our product’. He believes that with the right advice and support, start-ups can grow, create real value and become driving force of growth in the economy.

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I was also happy to hear that along with supporting potentially high return companies, sustainability is key consideration; entrepreneurs are realizing the competitive advantage of long-term servicing. And this is not just about environmental impact; sustainable business is built with a long-term focus in mind, be it environmental or economic.

This is why Bank of Ireland, and hopefully many more institutions, will continue to support start-ups; the end goal of solely financial gain is changing to that of financial gain plus social good. They have society in mind, and we hope that from now on, other banks will too.

By Dearbhla Gavin

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