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Experience gained abroad has been crucial Back  
Jim Kirwan says that the flood of professionals from Ireland to financial centres such as London during the 1980s played a strong role in the dramatic growth of the IFSC and the financial services sector in Ireland.
The face of financial services in Ireland has changed dramatically over the last 15 years. In our wildest dreams I don’t think that anyone back in 1987 could have predicted what was going to happen.
Some of the seeds of future success had already been sown. Ireland was developing a reputation for producing high quality graduates during the 80s and many of these wished to develop their careers in the lucrative financial services sector. Unfortunately a majority had to emigrate and many went to the UK with the lucky ones going to the City (London) to start their careers. In my view this training, development and experience provided across the water has played no small part in the dramatic growth of the IFSC and the financial services sector in Ireland.
Indeed when I set up ICO my focus at that time was to take advantage of the demand for high quality graduates and professionals from Ireland. ICO’s original name was actually ICO International Career Opportunities. Fortunately for me, when this demand (largely from the UK) began to dry up in the early nineties, the IFSC was beginning to take off and as a small, flexible operator I was quickly able to switch direction toward the domestic market place.
Fifteen years ago there were not many recruitment companies in Ireland and very few were focused on the financial services sector. As a ‘conservative’ ex banker it seemed logical at the time to stick to the knitting and in hindsight I am convinced that that was the right decision.
ICO has consistently focused its attention on providing high quality recruitment and selection services to the financial services sector. However, the company has evolved through stages, which in many ways reflect the development of the IFSC. In the beginning, much of our work was helping some of the international banks that had already set up in Dublin with the recruitment of new graduates and professionals; it was easier to grow your own than to recruit from the domestic players at that time (1990 - 94).
The next step for us was working exclusively on a number of high profile start-ups (1994 - 97) including Bankers Trust, Citco, Citibank, Banque International a Luxembourg, Mellon, Merrill Lynch and Pioneer.
Like financial services itself there have been many changes in recruitment over the last 15 years. The most obvious one is the vast increase in the number of recruitment companies facilitated by economic development in the late 90s and the ease of entry into the industry.
Unfortunately I’m not sure if the quality of service and value for money provided by the industry is at a level it should be at. I would like to see far greater emphasis on professional standards and ethics rather that the ‘sales at all costs’ attitude which prevails today.
I think ICO has been successful because we know and understand our target markets and because we are constantly striving to find ways of adding value and enhancing the quality of service and value for money we provide our clients. In this regard recruitment is no different to any other service oriented business.
A few examples of this spring to mind:
• Enhance the quality and objectivity of selection for clients by using professional selection tools including psychometric testing.
• Provide a comprehensive picture of candidate remuneration and guide the client through job offer negotiations.
• Provide objective advice on the best approach to recruitment in a given set of circumstances
Globalisation has also had a profound impact on financial services in Ireland. I suspect that we will continue to see growth in the number of international recruitment firms entering the Irish market as the market for candidates becomes increasingly global.
At an industry level we need to raise the bar and dramatically improve our reputation among our customers. Effective regulation of the recruitment industry would in my view be of benefit to everyone concerned. However I cannot see it happening and as a result it will be left to the market to sort this out. Selfishly, I believer this will benefit recruitment companies like ICO Recruitment and Selection Consultants.

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