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Allstate boss says firms will tap into Northern Ireland talent pool

By John Mulgrew

Published 21/04/2016

BelTech event: Doug Safford
BelTech event: Doug Safford

Belfast's technology sector is an "untapped market" which will grow once firms "see the talent" on offer here, one top tech boss has said.

Doug Safford is vice-president of technology innovation at insurance and tech giant Allstate, which employs thousands of staff in Northern Ireland.

Speaking to the Belfast Telegraph ahead of the BelTech technology event in the city today, he said staff here were being trained in a range of new areas, allowing them to work in smaller teams in order to help compete with young start-up businesses.

"We have to move to be able to compete with start-ups... that's our biggest competition.

"In Northern Ireland, in November, we started with training classes to get our folks educated on the processes.

"It was so successful we immediately got a second one, and hope to get them through the year."

And ground has now been broken on Allstate's new headquarters in east Belfast, which will see the firm able to expand its workforce further still.

Speaking about Northern Ireland's own tech talent pool, Mr Safford said: "I believe this is an untapped market, and I am very excited at what I've seen in terms of the talent in Belfast.

"I expect the tech sector to grow, as other companies realise the talent we are seeing."

But he remained quiet on what impact a Brexit could have on Allstate's business here.

"I think we are going to wait and see and then go from there," he said.

Allstate's former managing director in Northern Ireland, Bro McFerran, has previously told this paper there is "very definitely" a risk of firms withdrawing in the event of a Brexit.

Speaking about Allstate's own growth plans here, and across the globe, Mr Safford said: "My focus is to help retrain the folks we have, and we have a long way to go.

"There's a big transformation. We have to become more of a software company. We have great talent, and we want to see how far that takes us."

Mr Safford is one of several technology experts from the US who will fly into Belfast today as part of the two-day BelTech event at Titanic Belfast.

The third annual event will feature business leaders including Jascha Franklin-Hodge, chief information officer for the City of Boston's Department of Innovation and Technology.

Belfast Telegraph

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