Supporting Ireland’s Fintech Community and Driving Cultural Change Across Ulster Bank

Supporting Ireland’s Fintech Community and Driving Cultural Change Across Ulster Bank

Dogpatch Labs’ mission is to accelerate the development of Ireland’s startup ecosystem, and in partnership with Ulster Bank we have become an important pillar of the startup community in Ireland since we launched in 2015. Ulster Bank has provided us ‘help for what matters’ in terms of building our startup hub, enabling us to triple our physical footprint over the last 2 years, and hosting large scale events like this year’s Ulster Bank Hackathon which, as Ireland’s largest fintech hackathon, helps to drive forward the concept of open banking and fosters the creation of new fintech startups.

So what’s a hackathon?

The term “Hackathon” comes from two words: ‘hack’ – a quick job that produces what is needed – and ‘marathon’ – a long lasting or difficult specific task/operation. Together, they describe an intensive event in which a mix of students, startups, entrepreneurs and company employees work in teams to come up with working prototypes and innovations.




Fintech hackathon driving the future of ‘Open Banking’

In February we helped Ulster Bank organise what became the biggest fintech ‘hackathon’ to ever take place in Ireland, with over 200 participants. I think there was such great success because of the trust and advocacy that Ulster Bank has built within the startup community over the course of our partnership.

A key feature of the hackathon was the strong collaboration with the startup ecosystem, with mentors from fintech startups like WeSavvy, Dogpatch residents like Hiri, ViewsDX and CoderDojo, and others as Entrepreneurial Spark, Microsoft and Nile.




Following an intense 48 hours of hacking, coding and mentoring, the 22 teams made their pitches on Sunday to a jury of executives and startup ecosystem players. Winners were announced for each of the three categories:

Business enablement
‘Bank of Mum or Dad’, a tool that enables kids to manage money with the help of their parents; the on-boarding using the parent’s bank details and facial recognition

‘House Tinder’, a tool for house hunters that allows browsing for and purchasing a home using banking data, credit scores and property information

Creative combination
‘Team DeLorean’, Chatty Bank, an AI chatbot for voice interaction creating a conversational banking channel

“An amazing experience, it’s a place to find motivation!”
Geomar Muñoz, Hackathon Participant




How hackathons are helping drive Cultural Change across Ulster Bank

One of the interesting facts about this hackathon was the largest staff sign up to date, which represents the cultural shift within Ulster Bank and the commitment the bank has to embracing innovation within the startup community.

“Hackathons are really important because we need to continue to innovate, we need to continue to look for solutions that best serve our customers.“
Patrick Regan, Head of Banking Operations, Ulster Bank

As the business environment changes, so should the companies - be they 5 year old startups such as Snapchat or 181 year old structures such as Ulster Bank. Corporates are seen as these massive machines that have really complex procedures and sometimes it’s really difficult to bring any change, that’s what they call “corporate inertia”. By being nimble and pushing innovation, Ulster Bank is changing this, bringing a startup mentality into their company culture.




Creating Open Banking solutions with a community of innovators

Since launching our partnership in 2015, multiple business areas of the bank have leveraged the Dogpatch Labs platform to move forward a truly integrated business strategy across three pillars: innovation, community and culture.

Through its presence at Dogpatch, Ulster Bank staff is applying global best practice in Open Innovation - sitting beside and learning with fintech innovators and startups looking to disrupt what the bank does every day in banking and financial services.

“If you want to get an insight into some of the brightest minds at what technology might be able to do for us as an organisation, an insight as to what it feels like to work at a startup culture, the pace of change, the idea, something moving from idea generation to pilot really quickly, and if you want to be exposed to that, and take part in it, the hackathon is a perfect place for you.”
Ciaran Coyle, Chief Administrative Officer, Ulster Bank




Immersed in the startup ecosystem, Ulster Bank has nurtured a symbiotic relationship - where startups learn how to work with banks, understanding what banks are looking to do for their customers; and in turn the bank learns how to be more agile, creative and less constrained approaching problem solving.




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