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Leading banker outlines IFSC’s underlying strengths Back  
Country representative of ABN AMRO in Ireland, Gerry Roseingrave spoke to Finance on why he sees a bright future for the centre.
Gerry Roseingrave’s view of the IFSC is a clear one. Despite the grey autumn morning outside his third floor window, he sees blue skies ahead for the Dublin’s financial centre.

His optimism is refreshing given recent market downturns and the increasing caution being exhibited on international markets. But it is an optimism that has been born out of hard work and a period of restructuring within ABN AMRO globally.

His confidence in Ireland’s ability, particularly the IFSC’s ability, to weather the current economic storm, stems from his belief that the underlying strengths of the centre remain, despite the current international downturn. He believes the businesses that located in the IFSC over the last number of years were not attracted by fiscal incentives so much as by the skills pool of the centre itself, developed over the 13 years of the centre’s existence.

As country representative for ABN AMRO Dublin he has reason to be positive. The company has restructured substantially over the last 12 months, in line with the new corporate structure of its Dutch parent, leaving the Irish operation as a tighter, more focussed unit.

In early 2000 the new chairman of ABN AMRO, Rijkman Groenink, announced a plan to reorganise the way that the business worked and set targets for the Group to become one of the top five wholesale banks internationally by 2005. According to Roseingrave ‘the bank wants to position itself as an international wholesale bank and wants to move away from balance sheet banking.’ He said that the bank wanted to develop strongly in the three areas of banking - wholesale banking , retail banking and private banking. The Irish operation of ABNAMRO comprises of a Wholesale banking unit and a Private Banking. The 2005 target has led the entire company to re-identify its strategy and to divest itself of non-core businesses. In Ireland that has led to a closure of its funds listing operation and the exiting of its private client equity business.

In the restructured ABN AMRO, Roseingrave says the company is focussing on fewer clients - but those in particular that have a requirement for cross border banking services. Some 12 months on from the start of that transformation process Roseingrave says the company is three quarters the way down its transformation path - a journey he likens to travelling from A to Z in double quick time.

The Irish ABN AMRO operation is now focussed on key areas - including treasury outsourcing, institutional stockbroking, cash management and financial markets services to its wholesale clients and private banking clients and Dublin is according to Roseingrave a key centre in the ABN AMRO global network.

The process of restructuring ABN AMRO has entailed ‘dismantling the geography’ to create an operation which is more client focussed and less bureaucratic. ‘We’re dealing with fewer clients than before - and now have a very pure focus. The old structure allowed us to operate with bolt-on, non-core operations. The new structure demands a more focused approach - with fewer clients but the provision of a much higher standard of service expected from a top class international wholesale bank.’ It is from this improved coverage that Roseingrave expects to see the growth.

Earlier this year the Irish operation exited from the funds listings business. The company also exited its private client equity services - a move which Roseingrave is happy to have addressed before the downturn in the markets internationally. ‘It was the right strategy for us’ he remarks when questioned on the timing of these moves.

Future of the IFSC
The new look ABN AMRO doesn’t want to be all things to all people. The third quarter will be a period of settling down says Roseingrave following the changes in strategy and the hiring of new personnel. ‘Our people have the confidence that the strategy will work,’ he said. He muses over the happenings of the last 6 months, a turbulent time for the company with almost weekly rumours of the company relocating of staff to the UK. But Roseingrave’s commitment to and enthusiasm for the prospects of the IFSC are palpable. After a period of settling he’s ready to bring new business to the centre.

The two client areas where the company intends to develop even further are the areas of corporate clients and the financial institutions. Indeed it is the corporate client end that will see a determined focus over the coming months, it having been the most affected by the changes in strategy. ‘The financial institution clients of the business were less impacted by the new strategy than the corporate clients, and consequently our corporate client relationships were altered in many cases, we are now happy that we have taken measures to address this.’

Looking to the future for the IFSC Roseingrave is optimistic of its prospects - even over the next 12 months. Essentially he believes that the strengths of the centre remain, and the deteriorating economic conditions are temporary. While the reasons for businesses coming to the IFSC at its inception in 1987 were mainly fiscal incentives, he says that now the main attraction is the highly skilled work force - and that will not change despite the current climate.

‘The future is positive because 13 years ago people were attracted to Ireland for tax reasons. Now we have a centre which is resourced with 11, 000 people with a highly developed skills-set. The human resources available here remain attractive.’ Ireland’s reputation as a dynamic economy, with a large number of multinational companies based in the country is helping too, as Dublin has the reputation of being a significant European location for international financial services.

Agency treasury
Agency treasury is another important area of business for the ABN AMRO in Ireland employing 40 of the 180 staff. Roseingrave says ABN AMRO Dublin has been built up as a centre of excellence for its client outsourcing globally - particularly from US and European multinational clients. Over 99 per cent of this business comes from overseas clients. This is an area the company plans to expand over the coming year.

Looking ahead Roseingrave plans to keep Ireland at the forefront of the global network - and is planning to ensure that the IFSC will be chosen to host more of the group’s activities in the future. What areas he has in mind he’s not saying, but this is where Dublin’s reputation may help to beat the competition.

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