This article appeared in Finance Magazine

Conference examines future of financial services in Ireland
More than 235 delegates heard from over 60 at the 4th Annual Finance Dublin Conference held in the Burlington Hotel, Dublin on March 25th and 26th, which conference provided an insight into the current state of the Irish financial services sector encompassing banking, insurance, funds, asset finance and treasury.

Major themes arising from the conference included the promotion of Ireland in a ‘post ring-fenced’ era, the enhancement of competitiveness on the international financial services stage, the imperative of innovative product development, and the ongoing necessity of a flexible and responsive regulatory environment.

Speaking on EU regulation was Paul Dobbyn, a partner with Matheson Ormbsy Prentice, who attacked the Lamfalussy process, which sets out guidelines for the creation of a single financial services market, for being a ‘straitjacket’, which he believes will constrain Ireland, and take away the competitive advantage it has developed due to its flexible regulatory approach.
Responding to Dobbyn, Sir Nigel Wicks, a former member of the EU committee of ‘Wise Men’ suggested that the only viable response to concerns that a ‘one size fits all’ regulatory policy was being championed by the EU was to establish a single market based on mutual recognition. ‘We are making progress but there is still a lot more to do,’ he warned.

Maintaining Ireland’s tax position formed the basis for a discussion including top tax experts PJ Henehan of Ernst & Young, Paul McGowan of KPMG, Pat Wall of PricewaterhouseCoopers and Liam Quirke, MOP. While acknowledging that Ireland’s 12.5 per cent corporation tax rate was safe for now, they agreed that it would never really be off the agenda, and Ireland must fight to maintain it.

Jeffrey Owens, head of Taxation Policy Administration with the OECD, praised Ireland’s taxation policy for having taken the ‘high road’ as compared with ‘the low road’, which is characterised by measures that lack transparency, and have secrecy provisions and ring-fenced regimes. Updating the audience on Ireland’s double tax treaties, Frank Daly, chairman of the Revenue Commissioners, said that agreements with Egypt, Greece, Iceland, Malta and Singapore are completed and agreements are expected to be signed and ratified this year, while there are on-going negotiations for new agreements with Argentina, Turkey and the Ukraine.
This article appeared in the April 2003 edition of Finance Magazine.