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Tech to boost banking competition – Hogan Lovells
(L to R): Eimear O’Brien and Eoin O’Connor (Pic: Cian Redmond)

09 Jan 2024 / business Print

Tech to boost banking competition – Hogan Lovells

As regulatory lawyers in Hogan Lovells’ Dublin office, Eimear O’Brien and Eoin O’Connor lead a growing team of six, with a focus on Irish and EU financial-services regulation.

Hogan Lovells is one of the largest law firms in the world, by both size and revenue, with regulatory law being one of its key practice areas. Arthur Cox-trained Eoin O’Connor was hired as Hogan Lovells’ Ireland managing partner in January 2022, moving from Walkers where he was head of financial regulation.

The current focus of the firm’s Dublin office is regulatory advisory work, but it is opportunistic and responsive to client demands, and has recently added transactional finance expertise, with plans to expand into other in-demand areas such as corporate and technology.

Eimear, having first worked for Hogan Lovells in London, returned to the firm as a partner in September 2022. Before rejoining the firm, she worked as a legal manager with the Central Bank and led DLA Piper’s financial-services regulation practice in Ireland.

International network

She outlines the extent of Hogan Lovell’s offering in Ireland: “We service the entire spectrum of financial-services regulation and work with international banks, fintechs, investment firms and digital-asset providers.

“We advise on authorisation projects, supervisory engagement, risk-mitigation programmes, and horizon-scanning for regulatory developments, which are always being reviewed and updated.”

On the presence and strength of Hogan Lovells on the world stage, Eimear says: “We work closely with the Hogan Lovells’ international network, and we offer global advice and perspectives, given our presence in jurisdictions such as the US, Britain, and EU countries such as France, Germany, Italy, Luxembourg, Belgium, Spain, and the Netherlands.

“We see ourselves as a one-stop-shop, so clients get consistency, and seamless high-quality advice, both in Ireland and internationally.

“The size and international reach of Hogan Lovells means our offering is backed by a huge investment in know-how and technology, with our clients being able to access global ESG-law comparison tools and AI-powered regulatory ‘scraper’ tools that automatically search, sort and extract relevant legal and regulatory updates, worldwide,” Eimear explains.

Financial-services firms

In terms of the financial industry in Ireland, advancements in technology are likely to address some of the banking industry’s competition issues, the Hogan Lovells lawyers believe, following the exit of key retail banks, such as Ulster Bank and KBC.

For example, the younger generation are seeking out more agile, tech-led solutions to managing their finances than did the generation that preceded them. As the pillar-bank presence on the high street recedes, neo-banks in the fintech space are offering up alternative banking platforms and products, challenging the long-established approach of the traditional retail bank.

Neo-banks are already popular in Ireland, with online reports suggesting the number of Irish consumers using neo-banks is the third-highest in the world. Neo-banks have proven particularly popular with young people and are unlikely to set up physical branches.

“Ireland is a small market to make profits in,” Eoin O’Connor notes.

“The profitability of the traditional banking model is challenged by the cost of running a bank in terms of capital requirements, complying with ever-evolving regulation and the challenges faced in attempting to repossess domestic properties for those retail banks offering mortgages.”

Ireland, while having a small domestic market, is a springboard to the EU’s 450 million potential customers, with the benefits of EU passporting. This is very attractive to financial-services companies looking for a business-friendly home in the EU.

“Many financial-services businesses will struggle to service Ireland exclusively. For international groups and new start-ups in particular, their growth prospects often come from Ireland’s membership of the EU, and the ability to passport financial services around Europe,” says Eoin.

Firm loyalty

Hogan Lovells is notable for the loyalty it attracts from its staff, and its ability to attract lawyers back to the fold, he explains.

“I interviewed with people who have trained in the firm and remained on as associates and partners. It’s a very strong culture,” he said.

“The work is extremely interesting, and the clients are second to none,” Eimear adds, pointing to a strong diversity and inclusion emphasis, and a firm-wide commitment to undertake pro bono work.

“It is a very collaborative firm – colleagues across the network see the benefit of introducing us to existing clients of the firm. This benefits clients as they receive a ‘house view’ on tricky legal issues and industry views being taken across Europe, for example. We see the key differential and competitive advantage of being an international organisation,” she says.

As a result, the Dublin office regularly welcomes colleagues from international offices meeting with Irish clients, in particular the aircraft-finance and life-sciences sectors.


Brexit has benefited Dublin, to a certain extent, in that it has driven new businesses into the market, particularly in financial services, Eoin says.

Future divergence in financial regulation between London and the EU is a key topic for the Hogan Lovells Dublin office.

“In the payments space, we’re not seeing a whole lot of divergence yet. It seems like both sets of legislators have gone through a parallel process of looking at what areas need to be improved, such as fraud prevention, safeguarding, and open finance,” Eimear adds.

“Each is looking at what will protect consumers and make their jurisdiction more attractive. Europe continues to be focused on the single market, and Britain is very focused on London continuing to be the market of choice for financial services.”

“I don’t think there is going to be short-term divergence for the sake of divergence, but there may be political pressure in Britain to show that Brexit ‘meant something’, and therefore not to leave everything as it was,” Eoin said.

The Edinburgh Reforms in December 2022 – a package of over 30 regulatory measures to drive growth and competitiveness in Britain’s financial services sector – signposts the areas that will change in Britain, with a focus on topical areas, such as sustainable finance, technology, and innovation.

“Introducing legislation such as that is a slow, multi-year process, but where common interests exist, for example in areas such as preventing financial crime, it makes sense for Britain to work together with Europe,” Eoin O’Connor says.

“What these developments mean for the EU and Ireland over the medium and long term remains to be seen, and these are the questions that we expect to be important for our clients in the future.”

Mary Hallissey is a journalist at the Law Society Gazette.

Mary Hallissey
Mary Hallissey is a journalist at Gazette.ie