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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

Read more: 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 there.

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 markets.

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 classifications.

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 innovation.

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.


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