François Hollande: Fintech investment is key

François Hollande: Fintech investment is key

The former French President, François Hollande, gave a keynote session at Money 20/20 speaking on the current state of French technology investments and about how he turned France into a Fintech hub.

Interviewing Hollande, Money 20/20’s Scarlett Sieber introduced the many fintech achievements of the former president. During his presidency from 2012 to 2017, Hollande solidified France’s status as a European fintech leader, introducing a welcoming regulatory environment, including new rules allowing direct lending by non-banks, and streamlining the process of obtaining a fintech license.

Faced with an economic crisis, Hollande states that one of his first priorities was to use technology as an answer to the problem the country - and wider European region - was facing. “The main purpose was to convince people that we have a future, and that starts by creating jobs. My policy was to demonstrate our willingness to create an ecosystem of technology. And that’s the reason that, in 2013, we launched French Tech ticket with tax incentives and the creation of the public bank to support technologies and entrepreneurs. It was the first step to give a better chance to fight the crisis.”

Creating French Tech was only one aspect of Hollande’s drive to promote France’s technology sector. Other initiatives included tax breaks for early stage investment in R&D funding for emerging technologies, targeted visa programmes for tech entrepreneurs, and advocacy to unify EU fintech regulation across the Eurozone.

Yet, while he advocated for unified EU regulation early on, it remains a challenge to this day. Speaking of the limitations across the continent, Hollande comments: “The problem in Europe is the fragmentation of the market. We do not have a global market for tech, which is the big challenge. If Europe does not put together all the forces, powerful countries like the US or China will win the competition.”

Fragmentation is one challenge, but education and investing in the next generation is another key factor in the domestic fintech market. A lot of success is predicated on a person’s network, so providing these opportunities is crucial. France is home to the world’s biggest startup incubator, Station F, as well as School 42, France’s first nursery for IT talent, both of which have been championed by Hollande. When asked how the country can ensure to keep this talent in France instead of losing it to other Fintech hubs, Hollande emphasises that going abroad is not at the heart of the issue.

“It’s not a problem to have talent abroad. The problem is how does France ensure this talent comes back? It’s a good thing when young people go to study in Europe, the US or elsewhere, or have work experience in another country. The question is how can we make sure they come back? We have to incentivise them to attract the talent back. Not simply because they’re French, but because they can succeed there.”

Lastly, when asked about which achievement he was most proud of, Holland mentions the creation of the state investment bank. “I have created an emerging, public bank to support tech and entrepreneurs. And now this bank, ten years later, it is one of the most important investors in tech. And it’s not doing it alone, but with other banks. In the beginning, it was about creating an actor which can convince the other partners to invest, and now this bank could disappear, but the movement would still there.”

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