Belfast Telegraph

After visiting we thought Northern Ireland could deliver, now we know it can

Mark Huntley, Head of Guernsey company Financial Services, Heritage Group and Managing Director of Heritage Administration Services, which has already set up an office in Northern Ireland, talks about his experiences

On the whole we found the process of establishing the office ran to plan and we opened on time and on budget.

Ours is a complex business to grasp and we were impressed at the approach and level of detail that we went through in our due diligence process.

Establishing a new office in a new field of operation with few experienced staff would never be straightforward. However, at the cornerstone of our thinking was a key member of the team who had worked for us in a former company based in Guernsey.

This person was keen to move back home so this formed a very persuasive factor in our decision. The "returners" theme which Invest NI deploys has been very important in our own approach as we can blend locally recruited staff with returners who are familiar the fund administration environment.

Since establishing our office we have grown steadily. We underestimated how long the training would take and it made us rethink how we approach the complexities of our business. That said, the time has been offset by the quality of output and we are beginning to achieve real efficiencies. The training support has been extremely helpful. Our university interns have been very encouraging and something we are keen to develop further.

Northern Ireland has developed into a key part of the Group's thinking. It is building a sustainable business in its own right as well as supporting growth in Guernsey and Malta and our growing expertise in funds focused on the energy sector is just one example of the way our Northern Ireland business is carving out niches in our overall business delivery.

I am keen that we press on and build our business in Northern Ireland including our services such as acting as Depositary (custodian) for alternative investment funds. This should see both our business and staff members grow in the next 12 months.

To potential inward investors I would say take time to make the right decision. The Invest Northern Ireland process is thorough and helpful in that regard as it requires you to carefully think through the plan.

For us the critical visit was one we made over a long weekend.

The founding directors of the business and our wives visited Belfast. We took the bus tour, the Lagan boat trip and just walked the streets, and all in all we felt comfortable with Belfast as a location. Subsequent visits have seen us widen our horizons and even a very wet North West 200 was a lot of fun.

We have found the people to be welcoming and engaging but, as I say, you have to spend some time to form the view that Northern Ireland can deliver. We thought it could; now we know it can.

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