Can Luxembourg’s unique environment provide the launchpad for finance-related technologies?
Photo: Sébiastien Goossens
The newly-inaugurated Luxembourg House of Financial Technology (LHoFT) is a public-private initiative designed to bring players together, and 24 April saw the official opening of its new, temporary Kirchberg premises.
“This is a place for the community to meet, ideate, create, energise and collaborate,” said LHoFT’s CEO Nasir Zubairi to a crowd of around 150 attending the ceremony.
“I have lived and worked in eight financial centres and I have never before experienced the spirit and openness we have in Luxembourg,” he said. “The ability to get key stakeholders and decision makers around the same table, in a spirit of innovation and desire to progress, sets this country apart and will propel us forward.”
Zubairi claimed that around 50 local and international companies have applied for space at the LHoFT, underlying the need to find larger permanent premises. A long term solution is expected for next year. To underline this interest, he welcomed representatives from fintech and venture capital firms from the UK, China, Israel and Finland who were present at the opening event.
Brexit has helped Luxembourg move up the pecking order for international fintech businesses seeking an EU base, he said. “We are not just seeing interest of firms from the UK looking to move, but also expanding operations from the US, China, Hong Kong, Singapore and Israel seeking a European focal point.”
Points in this country’s favour include a welcoming business culture, English almost universally spoken within a mature financial centre with a “knowledgeable and innovative regulator” that accepts filing in English.
The LHoFT initiative has extensive support across the public and private sectors. Several ministries are involved, exemplified by the presentation given by the finance minister, Pierre Gramegna, at this opening reception. Backing has also come from public enterprises Post Group and the BCEE.
On the private side, partners include consultants, law firms, banks, Clearstream, IT firms, and most recently the Luxembourg-based retailer Amazon. LHoFT's initial six-month set up phase has been coordinated and mentored by the public-private trade promotion body Luxembourg for Finance, with the Chamber of Commerce also providing support.
LHoFT has been given a €2m budget for its first year, and several useful and eye-catching structures and events are in the pipeline. As well as educational programmes, showcases and workshops organised with local and international players, there will also be a “soft-landing platform” designed to make it as easy as possible for fintech firms to set up in Luxembourg.
Zubairi also mentioned how they have participated with 25 big name international players in an EU funding application for a “truly epic” big data platform called Exofin.
No one can safely predict where fintech will lead. LHoFT is a clear statement of intent that Luxembourg wants to ride the wave and make a difference.