The FinTech Innovation Challenge, a collaboration between Digital Isle of Man and Finance Isle of Man and supported by the Isle of Man FSA and Deloitte, has attracted inspiring entries from all over the world.

Kurt Roosen, head of innovation at Digital Isle of Man, said: ‘I’m a 35-year IT professional and you get to a point where you think you’ve seen it all, that nothing’s going to surprise you, but it has. We’ve got entries where you think: “That is a really different way of thinking about a problem” - and if I’m going to be surprised then I’m sure everybody else is going to be as well.’

There are four categories in the Challenge and applicants could enter more than one. In all, 45 different organisations applied, from 20 different countries, with 80 entries in all.

Last week the names of the 17 finalists were announced. Some are island companies but others come from as far afield as Singapore, Switzerland, India and the US.

Mr Roosen explains that they managed to achieve so much worldwide interest in the Challenge mainly through social media.

He says: ‘We’ve all got lots of networks that we can tap into through social media and we were involving Deloitte as a supporting partner so they gave us access to hubs of activity that are happening in various places.

‘As a digital agency we’ve also been working with colleagues in the other Crown Dependencies: one of the places we’ve got a couple of entries from is Jersey, and this was promoted by Digital Jersey, which is our equivalent there.’

Perhaps the most interesting category in the Challenge was the Wild Card and Mr Roosen says the entries for this category were very diverse: ‘There were no two entries that matched up against each other. In that category we had 22 entries and they were stunning, they were really, really high quality.’

This is nicely illustrated by the one from Swiss company, Codos, which addresses ESG issues around the daily commute, currently responsible for 5% of global CO2 emissions. Codos aims to change the mindset which sees up to 70% of EU and up to 80% of US citizens choosing cars as their primary means of transport to work, through gamification, rewarding them with ‘Codos coins’ for every sustainable commute.

There’s no cheating either: the Codos App uses machine learning and AI to automatically detect the mode of transportation, whether it be car, bicycle or bus.

Another entry can work out the carbon footprint of a business from a combination of sensors, drones and satellite imagery and express it in a way that is auditable, thus demonstrating its ESG credentials to investors.

Mr Roosen says: ‘There are some really very interesting research projects and [these companies] are now looking at putting a footprint on the island because they are saying: “We weren’t quite aware of how interesting you were as a test bed for these things and this has brought it to our attention”.

‘So this is exactly the outcome we wanted.’

He goes on to explain why they decided to hold the challenge. He says: ‘There are two real objectives to this.

‘One of them is putting our head above the parapet in a global sense and saying: “We’re here, we want to do interesting things, we want to work in FinTech.

“We haven’t traditionally looked like we do that, but we do, and we want people to come and create this ecosystem with us”.

‘The second part was us genuinely saying: “If we are going to start off with a brand new challenge in the FinTech area then let’s try and come up with things that will help the most number of companies on the island”.

‘So the beneficiaries will be every type of business here because every business, whether it knows it or not, has issues with identity, with KYC, with compliance and fraud prevention.

‘So if what we can do is bring a showcase of solutions here, whether those are solutions that emanate from here or not, there’s a real benefit to the business community.’

In addition, the process of mentoring the finalists’ entries will involve all of the island’s regulators who will be able to tell them whether their products comply with all laws and regulations.

‘So we will have ironed out all those problems before it gets to the end stage and what we can guarantee is that, when we get to the finalists day, the next day you could use that product from day one, and that’s why we have done it this way,’ says Mr Roosen .

And he adds: ‘There’s no cash prize, no guarantee of a contract.

‘All we’re doing is saying as part of this is that we will introduce you into the business community and where the business community take it – and government as well as we are also potential customers for some of these things – where they take it is down to you and how well you can sell it to them.

‘These people are competing for the prestige and because they see an opportunity to further their product by having access to a whole bunch of people who are going to tell them what’s wrong with it ,or what needs to be changed, including government. You couldn’t do that normally.

‘We’re putting them all together in one place so you can ask one question and get a unified answer back and you can’t do that anywhere else.’

Clearly the number of entries alone means that the Challenge is shaping up to be a great showcase for the island.

Mr Roosen says: ‘That’s achieved result number one: it’s put us on the map as a place that does things in an interesting way.

‘What we want them to take back to their jurisdiction is: if you want to do smart stuff – go to the Isle of Man.’

l You can find out more about the FinTech Challenge, and read about all the finalists, at