Cost competitiveness, a talented workforce, renowned expertise and a collaborative business environment are the credentials often cited for Northern Ireland’s growing position as a world leader in financial technology.
In the last month alone, we have seen New York-based technology firm Agio become the latest in a string of international companies that operate within financial services to choose Northern Ireland as its location for investment.
Bringing 100 jobs and £4.5m in annual salaries to the economy, Agio joins a healthy mixture of global financial services institutions and innovative home-grown companies that conduct business here, a region with typically 40pc lower salary costs compared to our neighbours in London and Dublin.
Consider that factor alongside the thousands of graduates that enter the world of business and technology here each year, and the case for Northern Ireland over other potential fintech hubs can be closed. But there is much to be done to ensure this level of success can be sustained.
Supercharging Northern Ireland fintech
The first in-depth study of its kind for the sector, it estimates we are now worth a significant £392m per year to the local economy. Though we already rank highly in lists of the best places in the world to locate a fintech company, the report puts actions, timelines and measurable achievements in place to support this.
Our ambition is to supercharge the sector by 2024 by attracting an additional £25m in foreign direct investment, establishing more than 10 new international partnerships and taking our current total of 74 fintech companies to more than 100.
Given our understanding of Northern Ireland’s current state and knowing the strengths we currently have at our disposal, the strategy identifies six key streams of work to transform the sector and benefit the wider economy of Northern Ireland.
These will ensure fintech has an agreed governance strategy, that Northern Ireland is continually marketed as a world-class location and that collaboration with the wider UK and global ecosystems is stimulated.
The roadmap also sets out key objectives for developing talent, including both attracting skilled workers in, but also busting myths among young people to ensure fintech emerges as a reliable and attractive career prospect for the next generation.
We intend to enact improvements to the financial and business support funds available to indigenous firms with high-growth potential, while ensuring government policies and frameworks are attractive for fintechs and supportive of an agile and collaborative business environment.
While we may seem optimistic, this is a dynamic sector recognised for its industry-led innovation, supportive and collaborative community and strong track record in driving global engagement and investment. An industry that flourished in the face of a global pandemic. I have no doubt that the time for optimism is now.
Andrew Jenkins is director of Belfast-headquartered tech company Arity and chair of FinTechNI, a not-for-profit industry association and the independent voice of FinTech in Northern Ireland. He also serves as the UK Treasury’s fintech envoy for Northern Ireland.
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