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Invest Northern Ireland: Smart money
01 March 2014
Invest Northern Ireland explains how government, academia and industry are working together to create a thriving financial hub
Invest Northern Ireland
Northern Ireland is becoming a magnet for the financial sector.
The Financial Times* ranked Belfast the number-one city
globally for financial services technology investment. Global
institutions in banking, insurance, asset management and
capital markets, including Citi, Allstate Corp, First
Derivatives and Liberty Mutual are investing and expanding
Fund administrators Augentius and Heritage are both recent
arrivals to the region. Lloyds, Chicago Mercantile Exchange,
the NYSE Euronext, Mercer and Cowen International have Belfast
bases too, while established professional services firms like
KPMG, Deloitte and PwC are delivering technology, analytics and
forensics solutions to the sector internationally using their
Northern Ireland centres.
All have been attracted by the wealth of talent and expertise
that is abundant enough to deliver the entire spectrum of
activities: fund accounting, middle and back office investment
operations, risk management, quantitative modelling, trading,
compliance and legal services.
These activities are backed by strong capabilities in related
professional solutions such as tax, audit, accounting,
corporate intelligence and legal services.
Northern Ireland has built an international reputation for
trading technology, data analytics, predictive modelling,
software development and cyber security and clusters of
excellence flourish in insurance, asset management and capital
Northern Ireland's competitive advantages quickly add up,
starting with a highly-educated workforce strong in
quantitative skills. GCSE and A-level results outclass the rest
of the UK. Post- A-level, 75% of students progress to third
level and 66% of graduates attain the top two degree
To ensure courses fit employers' future needs, universities and
colleges partner government and business. All Queen's
University Belfast (QUB) finance and risk management students
have a mandatory third-year job placement. The Ulster Business
School also prioritises student internships and placements and
works closely with banks and fund administrators to align its
programmes with the needs of industry.
The universities constantly engage with professional bodies to
ensure graduates achieve maximum accreditation for their
studies in finance, accountancy and risk management. The effect
of such collaboration is to ensure graduates are work-ready.
In 2012, QUB launched the First Derivatives Trading Room
supported by Invest Northern Ireland. Offering Bloomberg
terminals, financial information feeds and software, the room
gives students the experience of trading in a busy stock
exchange, dealing in real-time equities, bonds, foreign
exchange and derivative instruments. The university has also
developed modules on financial trading and launched an MSc in
computational finance last year.
Both QUB and University of Ulster participate in the Capital
Markets Network, a collaboration by world-class financial
services companies to offer career opportunities in capital
markets technologies through an intensive training academy and
co-sponsorship of PhD projects. The network sets challenges and
shares results, teaming with government to facilitate
Government, industry and academia also work together to ensure
financial and technology companies can access the skills they
need in the region, both at setup and for future expansion.
This includes the design, development, delivery and financial
support for bespoke training, management and leadership
development and graduate conversion programmes.
Northern Ireland's talent and low turnover has enabled
companies such as Fidessa and First Derivatives, financial
software technology specialists, to upscale rapidly. Yet
operating costs and salaries are significantly lower than in
Dublin, London and other traditional financial services
centres. Property in Belfast averages around £12.50/ft
compared with London at £55, and Dublin at £22.