Rugged coastlines, breathtaking mountains, green as far as the eye can see, but that’s not all Northern Ireland has to offer.
It may surprise you to learn that Northern Ireland also has burgeoning and diverse financial services and technology sectors, with Belfast being ranked in the top three FinTech locations of the future, according to a report from the FT’s fDi Intelligence.
Regional business development agency, Invest Northern Ireland reported that: “A host of global financial services institutions including Citibank, the CME Group, Visa, Vela, and TP ICAP and a dynamic cluster of home-grown entrepreneurs such as First Derivatives, Datactics and FSCOM thrive in a supportive entrepreneurial ecosystem in which collaboration and innovation are encouraged and supported by the government.” Just recently, Invest Northern Ireland announced its financial support of Vox FP’s increased investment in Belfast that will create 25 new jobs at our HQ.
This sector has continued to grow even amid the COVID-19 pandemic, with many FinTech firms reporting April to be their best month on record, having beaten the previous month to this title.
But what is it that sets Belfast apart from the rest when it comes to attracting financial services business? There are many things, but here is my top six:
Labour costs in Belfast are on average 40% lower than those in London or Dublin. Renting an office is also a fraction of other major cities (on average £23.00 per square foot in the Greater Belfast area compared to £54.00 per square foot in Dublin and £70.00 per square foot in London as of 2019). As a UK city, companies based in Belfast benefit from one of the lowest levels of corporation tax amongst the G20 nations. And it’s less expensive to live in Belfast. Compared to London, rent in Belfast is one-third the cost while consumer prices are 25% lower.
Northern Ireland boasts widespread access to fibre broadband and outstrips the rest of the UK on this key metric. This will be increasingly important as firms move towards more employees working remotely. When travel resumes, there is day-trip access to Heathrow and London City from Belfast City Airport – just ten minutes from the city centre – as well as European access from Belfast International, with transatlantic access from Dublin just 90 minutes away.
An educated and diverse workforce
Northern Ireland has a large and diverse pool of university graduates and Belfast is home to outstanding universities. This includes one of the best in the UK, Queens University, Belfast, which is a member of the Russell Group, a renowned association of 24 research universities in the UK. Despite being a hotbed for foreign direct investment, Northern Ireland still has a relatively untapped workforce potential in terms of the number of graduates it produces. And 52% of the population is under 40, guaranteeing an abundance of young professionals; yet there is a relatively low level of labour turnover.
Supportive business environment – business-friendly government
The government agency Invest Northern Ireland assists many companies (including Vox) with investment, technical and advisory support, property searching, talent sourcing, operating efficiency, business development, and more. According to the Northern Ireland Council for Voluntary Action (NICVA), of the 51 financial support programmes in Northern Ireland that their research has identified, the vast majority (43) are delivered by Invest NI with the balance delivered by organisations including IntertradeIreland, Enterprise Northern Ireland and The Princes Trust.
Familiar legal system and regulatory framework
Northern Ireland operates under UK law, which provides a high level of robust legal protection to firms and their assets.
Strong track record
Don’t just take our word for it: Northern Ireland has a sterling record of attracting global corporations and major investment. In recent years Microsoft, Baker Mckenzie, and Liberty Mutual joined the more than 1100 international firms to invest in Northern Ireland. What’s more, 75% of these firms have since reinvested, a figure that will surely continue to rise as time goes on and more firms realise the advantages the country has to offer.
Vox Financial Partners provides regulatory change management consulting services and software products to the top-tier bank and broker-dealer clients in the US and Europe. Our Service Delivery Centre, based in Belfast, takes advantage of the abundance of high-quality people there to manage critical business processes offsite for financial institutions while maintaining a first-class experience for their clients.
Written by: Robert Bleakney, Regulatory Reform Analyst