Belfast Telegraph

Belfast 'is well-placed to be hub' as financial services decentralise

By John Mulgrew

Belfast could become one of the UK's top spots for financial services, a new report has claimed.

Research outlining the future strategy for the UK's financial services says Belfast could see the sector expand by around 25% here, making it the second fastest in the UK.

According to the report from TheCityUK and PwC, 70% of these new revenues could be delivered outside London, with the fastest growing regions expected to be the North East (30% growth), Northern Ireland (25%) and the West Midlands (23%).

Belfast has managed to attract a number of financial services businesses in the last few years. That includes FinTru and global giant Citigroup.

According to the report, the financial services sector employs more than two million people across the UK, with around two-thirds based outside London.

It also highlights firms "embracing the potential of regionalisation", including more than 2,000 Citygroup staff based at the Titanic Quarter, and Newry's First Derivatives, which has more than 1,200 employees.

Ian McConnell, PwC Northern Ireland partner and financial services lead, said that technology is "transforming the way the industry does business and will generate new opportunities across the regions". "London will remain a premier location, but the emerging jewels in the crown by 2025 will be regional financial centres outside London.

"Banking, insurance, asset management and back-office operations will continue to develop, hosting more headquarters of major companies.

"Belfast's advantages include availability of skilled labour, proximity to London and its Dublin competitor, as well as world-class universities and a relatively low-cost of doing business.

Post-Brexit, Belfast will enjoy a unique position as part of the UK, but as geographically next-door to Ireland and the EU.

"That means we must concentrate on developing the necessary infrastructure - from high-speed broadband and rapid access to other centres, as well as investing in the technology skills that will provide a ready and available labour pool, and aggressively marketing our attractions to global financial services organisations.

"The prize is substantial - our estimates show the implementation of this strategy could add £43bn to the overall UK economy - and Belfast can share in this prosperity."

Mark Hoban, TheCityUK board director and report chairman, said the industry has thrived by embracing change and tackling challenges.

"This vision is ambitious and delivering this transformation cannot be done by the industry alone. A strategic partnership with government and regulators is essential to its success and ensure the UK remains the world's leading financial centre, meeting the needs of its domestic and international customers," he said.

In Belfast, financial services giant Tullett Prebon is to set up its new hub at Belfast Harbour's flagship City Quays 2 building.

The London-based company announced last year that it was heading to the city in a move that would create 300 jobs.

City Quays 2, which is nearing completion, sits alongside the now fully let City Quays 1 building. The new technology centre will support Tullett Prebon's international growth strategy.

The jobs involved - with an average salary of £33,000 - will be created over the next three years or so.

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