As financial services firms continue to ramp up their digital strategies Invest NI’s JENNY SANTIAGO YOUNG outlines Northern Ireland’s financial services and fintech strengths and how these could be leveraged by Ireland’s financial services industry to underpin growth and support and expedite the development and deployment of new services and technologies.
Demand for fintech skills outside of Dublin has been the norm since the start of the pandemic and employers are increasingly seeing the productivity benefits of better work life balance. This focus on identifying new talent pools across the island is shining a light on what is on offer in Northern Ireland and how its world-renowned fintech credentials can play a valuable role in helping sustain growth in emerging key international financial services technology niches from regulation and ESG to AI.

Research from Irish Funds and Fastrack into Information Technology published last autumn revealed the importance of boosting tech skills to support the asset management and funds industries’ ambitious growth plans. Cloud computing, blockchain and robotic process automation were all cited as in demand with growth for some tech skills predicted to rise more than 230 per cent in the coming years.
Jenny Santiago Young
Jenny Santiago Young

Following the UK’s exit from the EU, there has been an influx of asset management companies into Ireland and continued funds industry growth means that fintech skills are in high demand. Irish domiciled funds now sit at €4.4 trillion, up from €1.39 trillion 10 years ago when the UK announced it would leave the EU. In the past five years alone, assets actively managed from Ireland have increased by almost 60%, according to asset management representative body, the Irish Association of Investment Managers, which has seen member assets reach €3.1 trillion, up from €1.3 trillion in just three years. This asset management industry growth is running alongside expansion in the jurisdiction’s world-leading funds administration sector which has now surpassed €7 trillion, according to figures from Irish Funds.

Northern Ireland’s fintech strengths
Growth combined with ambition means that there is likely to be more interest in taking a look at what tech skills are available in Northern Ireland. There would be good reason to do so. Belfast is the world’s top city for fintech inward investment (fDi Markets FT, 2023) and ranked in the top three global fintech locations of the future after only London and Singapore (fDi Intelligence FT, Fintech Locations of the Future 2019/20).

Northern Ireland also has the highest concentration of fintech employment in the UK, with one in five people working in either the financial services or tech sectors specialising in fintech. (Northern Ireland Fintech Ecosystem Report, 2020).

The region’s world-renowned fintech clusters of expertise span trading and payments technologies, regtech, insuretech, cyber security as well as pioneering activity in disruptive technologies such as AI, data and ESG analytics.

Belfast is also the number one international investment location for US cyber security firms (fDi Markets FT, 2023) with Proofpoint, IBM Security, Rapid7, Imperva, Anomali, Contrast Security and Synopsys all having operations in the region. Financial companies such as Aflac and CME have also located their cyber security operation centres in Belfast. And with the 2022 Official Cybercrime Report from Esentire showing that cybercrime is set to cost the world $8 trillion this year, demand for this skillset is at an all-time high.

This all presents an ideal opportunity for Ireland’s fintechs to expand with the talent available in Northern Ireland.

Irish fintech companies expanding via Northern Ireland operations
These illustrious fintech credentials and availability of top talent has not gone unnoticed by some of Ireland’s companies in the sector who have set up operations in Northern Ireland, from which to expedite expansion in their home market, the UK and across the globe.

Take Version 1, which is an Irish company specialising in international management consulting, software asset management, software development, cloud computing, and outsourcing. Version 1 opened its first office in Belfast in 2012 with four staff and has since grown rapidly, building up a team of over 500 staff. The Northern Ireland team delivers a wide range of technology and services for customers locally and across the UK and Ireland. The technology skillsets span all of its key strategic growth areas – enterprise resource planning, digital services and enterprise cloud and the team works closely with technology partners such as Oracle, Microsoft and Amazon Web Services.
The Belfast skyline with the world famous Titanic Belfast in the foreground. Northern Ireland is well positioned to capitalise further on the growth in fintech and this 'presents an ideal opportunity for Ireland's fintechs to expand with the talent available in Northern Ireland,' says Invest NI's Young.
The Belfast skyline with the world famous Titanic Belfast in the foreground. Northern Ireland is well positioned to capitalise further on the growth in fintech and this 'presents an ideal opportunity for Ireland's fintechs to expand with the talent available in Northern Ireland,' says Invest NI's Young.

Also, Dublin IT solutions company Codec, which counts Zurich, AIB and Bank of Ireland among its clients, has set up an office in Belfast in a €1.9 million investment. This has helped the company meet growth plans and, in recent months, open up a further office in London and increase its workforce in Ireland by 65.

Limerick enterprise software development company Deveire, is another company servicing the financial sector which is leveraging the local talent and agency support for expansion. It has set up a new software development centre in Derry-Londonderry in response to the UK’s exit from the EU to gain access to the UK market.

Recent years have also seen Dublin data protection and privacy management software and solutions developer PrivacyEngine - which enables organisations to prevent data breaches, address regulatory risks and demonstrate compliance with rapidly changing global privacy regulations - look to Northern Ireland as part of its plans to grow in international markets.

Dublin’s Ammeon specialises in software development to the financial services sector and has a Belfast office which is pivotal in its international expansion. Today it experiences revenue of over €20 million and its recent acquisition by intive sees it continue to operate as a separate business unit.

Northern Ireland providing solutions for risk and compliance
Risk and compliance is one of the fastest growing sub-sectors in the region – and an area of increasing need for the funds industry which has seen and continues to face a raft of new regulations including SFDR.

The global regtech market size is projected to grow from approximately €11 billion in 2023 to approximately €55 billion by 2030, according to Fortune Business Insights. Also, closer to home, a study - the Financial Services in Ireland Skills of the Future Report - by Financial Services Ireland (FSI) through IFS Skillnet highlighted the variety of new skills needed in Ireland’s financial services sector. It singled out risk and compliance as being a key need alongside data analytics and digital transformation.

Northern Ireland is well positioned to capitalise on this growth and its burgeoning reputation for risk and compliance skills was evidenced when The Bank of London – the world’s first purpose-built global clearing, agency and transaction bank - opened its Northern Ireland headquarters last year seeking software engineers, compliance and risk experts.

This risk and compliance backbone combined with readily available tech skills, are core reasons why accountancy firms have set up global centres in Northern Ireland.

Both Deloitte and PwC’s Belfast centres are their largest in the UK outside of London and for PwC, Northern Ireland is its fastest-growing UK region, employing some 4,000 people. Its new €45 million Advanced Research and Engineering Centre will create 771 technology and operational jobs over the next five years. Belfast is a PwC centre of expertise in relation to financial crime, including AML, KYC, Politically Exposed Persons, sanctions, alert and transaction monitoring.

Regtech has blossomed in the past decade and global powerhouse FinTrU, has been one of the region’s indigenous success stories. The fintech giant works with tier one investment banks across the globe, offering services such as regulatory, legal, compliance and KYC. Already employing 1,200 people in Northern Ireland, it is creating 300 more jobs as part of a €22.2 million new office investment.

First Derivative, an FD Technologies company and the world’s largest dedicated capital markets consultancy firm, supports all 20 of the world’s leading banks from its headquarters in Newry, Northern Ireland. Since inception, over 25 years ago, it executes complex, large scale, regulatory driven programmes of work – spanning the breadth of banking and financial services.

All-Ireland Fintech Corridor
Initiatives to support and grow collaboration between jurisdictions is already underway and the Fintech Corridor is one example of such an initiative. This unique cluster straddling two jurisdictions increases co-operation and collaboration amongst indigenous and investor fintechs on the island of Ireland. The area provides start-ups and SMEs with an attractive and accessible location from which to grow across the UK, Ireland and into Europe.

Northern Ireland’s talent pipeline to support company growth
A strong indigenous and investor company base and a pipeline of skills coming from Northern Ireland’s universities and further education colleges has all contributed to the fact that more than 45,000 people are employed in Financial & Professional Services in Northern Ireland and tech expertise has played a critical role in that rapidly expanding sector (Northern Ireland BRES 2021 and Invest NI data).

In addition to this, companies thinking about creating jobs in Northern Ireland won’t find anything in Europe quite like Northern Ireland’s Assured Skills Programme. A joint initiative between Northern Ireland’s Department for the Economy and Invest NI, the fully-funded, pre-employment training programme guarantees that incoming companies can secure the right talent with the right skill sets.

With direct input from participating companies and in collaboration with Northern Ireland’s colleges, newly arriving operations can hit the ground running. The Academy Model is flexible and has been used to help companies recruit new staff in areas such as software development, data analytics, cyber security and financial management.

Companies which have secured the employees they need from bespoke programmes include Deloitte which has hired people in areas such as robotics and data visualisation skills. It is partnering with the Department for the Economy on further academies in transformation, finance and technology, as well as cloud computing for graduates to gain key skills in this sector.

The programme has a high success rate with more than 80 per cent of those completing courses hired - including more than 600 FinTrU employees. This month saw EY launch an academy with an initial focus on data analytics following the announcement it was to create 1,000 new jobs in the region. And, in recent days The Department for the Economy has announced a second Assured Skills Academy with Newry company First Derivative - The FinTech Analyst Assured Skills Academy.

So, why not check out how our companies can provide the funds industry with the skills it needs or how our expertise on the ground, coupled with the support of Invest NI can enable your fintech company to expand.
Jenny Santiago Young is Regional Director, Ireland at Invest NI.
Invest NI’s Dublin team supports Irish based companies who wish to establish and expand successful operations in Northern Ireland. The team can help with initial fact-finding, bespoke discovery visits, property and talent sourcing, business and sector network introductions through to tailored packages of financial assistance. To find out more, visit or contact Jenny Santiago Young, Regional Director, Ireland.
This article appeared in the November 2023 edition.