“A lot has changed in the last few months. Some have even said that ‘everything’ has changed as a result of the Coronavirus pandemic. Yet, the Fintech sector in Northern Ireland remains dynamic, resilient, adaptable, and innovative. Despite the difficulties faced, these traits have insulated many in the sector from the worst of the economic challenges.
Confirmation by fDi Intelligence, the specialist division of the Financial Times of Belfast’s place in the Top 10 ‘Tech Cities of the Future’ ahead of financial hubs including Zurich and Frankfurt is an encouraging development.
Of course, this is not the first time our sector has been recognised for its global potential. Belfast has previously been credited as the world’s number one destination for Fintech development investment projects and the top city in Europe for new FDI software development projects.
Despite being a relatively small place, in terms of Fintech we punch well above our weight. We have a rich start up and scale up community across Northern Ireland and the combination of factors including talent availability, infrastructure, cost-effectiveness, and a supportive business environment have contributed to our attractiveness to foreign investors.
On top of this, the appointment of Jayne Brady as Belfast’s Digital Innovation Commissioner who will work alongside the excellent leadership team at Belfast City Council who are consistently advancing the sector, is crucial and makes for an exciting outlook.
In recent months, the Fintech sector has continued to benefit from job creation with significant global investment, assisted by Invest NI, among others. Attracting foreign direct investment at this time speaks volumes and global players such as, Cygilant, Riskonnect and Vox Financial Partners who have joined the likes of Allstate, Citi and Liberty IT in placing their confidence in Northern Ireland is invigorating.
These are some of the building blocks to establishing a world-leading fintech cluster, acting as a magnet in attracting fresh companies. With upwards of 40,000 people already employed in the Financial and Professional services sector in Northern Ireland, there is an opportunity to not only sustain this number but also increase it with more highly paid jobs. This would give a much-needed boost to the economy.
It is also important to mention our world class Universities and Further Education Colleges which are essential to our continued success and ambition. Indeed, the launch of Ulster University’s BSc Hons Financial Technology degree program, developed in collaboration with NI Fintech companies, highlights the value of building strong relationships across the sector.
There is no doubt we have something special in our grasp. The fact that the sector is thriving in the North West region too gives good reason to be optimistic about economic development right across the country.
With Brexit looming large again and despite the challenges which this presents, there is reason to be confident. Our peers in Dublin have also made the Top 10 ‘Tech Cities of the Future’ which is remarkable considering the proximity of the two cities. By building on the already solid relationships and co-operating on a cross-border basis there is significant scope to build on this success.
The potential certainly exists, and it is encouraging to hear our elected representatives, including the Economy Minister Diane Dodds speak confidently about the sector and its future growth potential.
With coherent and collaborative working between government, industry and academia, Belfast and Northern Ireland’s place as a prominent Fintech location of ‘today’ will become the norm.”