Belfast Telegraph

Spence and Partners pensions gamechanger to create 107 jobs

By Lesley Houston

A new software package "to blow away the competition" has fuelled an £8m investment in 107 jobs in a Belfast-based financial services company.

Spence and Partners is creating the highly-skilled new positions with the help of more than £1m in assistance from Invest NI.

It currently employs around 60 people at its offices on Great Victoria Street, Belfast, after a period of growth over the last two years, in which employee numbers soared by 50%.

The new actuarial and IT posts will attract salaries of over £32,000 a year, contributing £3.5m annually to the economy, and are part of the firm's ambitious plans to become one of the top 10 firms in the UK defined benefit pensions market.

Spence and Partners is a privately-owned firm of actuaries, pension consultants, pension scheme IT specialists and administrators, set up by Brian Spence in 2000.

New premises will be required to accommodate the new staff, 25 of whom are already in place.

Director Neil Copeland said the company's ground-breaking cloud-based software product Mantle would further drive the company's growth into export markets beyond its current client list, which is primarily based in the UK.

He added: "Mantle is the only software system on the market that combines actuarial functionality and related administrative processes. It will improve decision-making by providing up-to-date advice which is currently not there in the market," he added.

The director said the posts would appeal to students on the actuary degree course, founded in recent years at Queen's University. Mr Copeland said the company had close ties with the university and that at least 10 of workforce were Queen's graduates.

One of Mantle's creators, Mike Selby, said the cloud-based software could transform the pensions industry and that it had the potential to "blow away the competition".

The technology brings together pension archives – which still exist in paper format in certain places – with the actuary's ability to calculate and assess data to make evaluations much more quickly and cost-effectively.

After three-and-a-half years of working "from scratch" to devise the programme, Mr Selby said the software "links up many different platforms" of pension provision and has achieved what many previous attempts have failed to do – and at great cost.

Enterprise Minister Arlene Foster confirmed that Invest NI hax offered £1m towards the expansion.

Noting the salaries being offered were higher than the average in the private sector, she said there was "a cluster effect" in relation to other new posts in the industry.

"It's due to the fact we have the skills base available here in Northern Ireland and of course one of the important elements of that is that we have the skills through the actuary degree course at Queen's."

Invest NI said it provided £238,181 for the Mantle research and development project, £756,200 to support the creation of the 107 new jobs and £164,354 in training assistance through its skills growth programme.

According to Invest NI, financial services employs around 32,000 people here. Around one-third are employed by major international financial services companies with centres in the region, such as Citi and Allstate.

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