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Northern Ireland gears up for Irish business Back  
Northern Ireland’s investment body is gearing up to attract Irish based financial services companies to outsource some of their functions up north.
Invest Northern Ireland, the body charged with promoting Northern Ireland as a location for inward investment and growth, is targeting Ireland’s booming financial services sector, particularly in the funds servicing, retail banking and insurance sectors. Almost 20,000 people are already employed in financial services in Belfast, in companies like HBOS, Abbey, and Citigroup.
Trevor Killen

According to Trevor Killen, director with Invest NI for Ireland, Northern Ireland is very well placed to take the over-flow of operations currently based in Ireland, who are struggling with the current skills shortage in the employment market place. Although Northern Ireland’s unemployment rate is similar to that of the Republic’s at around 4 per cent, he says that there is an enormous amount of hidden reserves, due to the high number of people currently not involved in the workforce.

Moreover, Northern Ireland is attractive from a staffing perspective, says Killen, with salaries 20-30 per cent cheaper on average across all grades than in the Republic, and the average turnover rate is less than 20 per cent. In addition, Invest NI is offering generous incentives for companies looking to re-locate some of their operations up north, including ongoing training and expansion/development grants.

The body’s efforts have been winning support amongst Irish based industry players. Speaking at the Finance Dublin conference in March, Pat Wall, a partner with PricewaterhouseCoopers, said, ‘we need to look at more cross-border co-operation in terms of leveraging the resources of the people and skills base in Northern Ireland to support this growth’.

As a step aimed at increasing the attractiveness of the region, on June 13th, the Investment Administration Qualification (IAQ) award was launched in Northern Ireland.

The qualification is aimed at staff working in the financial services sector, and particularly those involved in fund administration and operations, and its implementation is a joint venture between the Belfast Institute of Further & Higher Education (BIFHE) – Northern Ireland’s largest provider of further & higher education, and the industry awarding body, the Securities & Investment Institute (SII), with support from Invest NI. The launch in Northern Ireland is one of the few that have been made available in the UK outside London.

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