Written by Rasmus Lindersgaard and Jakob Lindmark Frier
Finance Innovation in Bergen was recently awarded official legitimacy as the first fintech hub in Norway. Shortly after, the Oslo Fintech Hub opened its doors and within a month Norway had two new fintech hubs aiming to promote a focus on cooperation, more flexible regulation, and attracting the right talent to bring the local fintech ecosystem to full bloom.
Norway is ramping up its fintech ecosystem.
In November, Finance Innovatio, which operates out of Bergen, received Arena-status in the country’s official cluster programme. A title that carries both recognition and provides funding. The Oslo Fintech Hub is a part of the Nordic Fintech collaboration and the accelerator, The Factory. The Factory has been operating since 2016 and has accelerated 27 Norwegian fintechs, invested in 13 of them and helped one startup complete an exit.
Oslo Fintech Hub.have recently announced a collaboration with the other three Nordic countries, and he sees a great potential in uniting the fintech ecosystem and give the community a united voice in meetings with government and authorities.
“We believe that innovation doesn’t happen in isolation, and Oslo Fintech Hub is committed to gathering all fintech-interested parties onto one platform with a joint goal of helping startups to success. Through local anchoring in the Oslo-region, where after all the largest Norwegian players within banking, insurance and financial are gathered, Oslo Fintech Hub will be a significant player for building a national and Nordic collaboration platform,” says Ingar Bentsen CEO at Oslo Fintech Hub.
Stig Frode Opsvik is acting as Cluster Manager in Finance Innovation that operates out of Bergen.
“Norway has been fuelled by oil for a long time. Our number one job for the coming years is to diversify the industries that will shape the Norwegian and global society and core industries for growth. One of those industries is fintech, and it holds a huge untapped potential. To unleash that potential we need cooperation, the right regulations, and talent.”
Innovation is the child of cooperation
The collaboration between the fintech environments in Bergen and Oslo will give fintech startups the opportunity to grow nationally.
Finance Innovation itself serves as an example of the power that working together affords. It is founded by some ecosystem stakeholders such as bank execs, investors and tech entrepreneurs from Bergen, but local cooperation by itself is not enough.
The cluster manager, who has worked on creating some hubs within different sectors, believes that increased innovation is the child of national cooperation.
“We want to build a national operation with an international scope. Collaboration with all entrepreneurial environments within Norway is key to our success. To stimulate innovation, we will act as a catalyst for collaboration between startups, larger corporations, and institutions. We must cooperate to be successful.”
In Oslo, The Fintech Hub offers the local fintech eco-system a local and international network for collaboration, learning, networking and investments.
“With members of the startup community and the financial environment, we believe that amazing things will happen.”
This also goes for the Nordic region.
“The Nordic fintech collaboration will help startups scale in the Nordics and gain market traction across the borders. We will share events, marketing efforts and general knowledge to fuel the Nordic fintech startup scene. Oslo Fintech Hub is one of the four initiators of the Nordic fintech collaboration, and we believe that a strong Nordic fintech-front will stand stronger in the global fintech race, compared with each country’s initiative standing alone,” Ingar Bentsen says.
Positive political climate
Many countries look to London to be inspired when it comes to best practice for regulations. In that regard, Norway is no exception. Discussions with regulators are happening right now.
“There is an on-going process where the interest group for the Norwegian ICT industry IKT Norge, is working on a report that will be released later this year. It will be presented to the government and holds some suggestions. We recommend that we establish a regulatory sandbox like the one in London. The government’s focus is to nourish the digital economy. Overall, the political climate is hospitable,” Stig Frode Opsvik says.
But cooperation is only one part of the recipe for success. There is also a need for specific skills within the Nordic country.
“There is work to be done on attracting the right talent with an international background and experience from global scaling. They need to be able to collaborate, be flexible and adaptable. The best heads are always wanted, and it one of the areas that we need to improve and are working on improving right now.”
They are looking to attract talent from entry to executive level. The fintech initiative was founded less than a year ago, so it is still in the process of creating a roadmap for its efforts in some regards.
”We are working hard to get started on it. We are still a fairly new operation – but we are hoping to hit the ground running.”