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US software firm Signifyd to create 150 jobs in Belfast

Signifyd co-founder Raj Ramanand with Invest NI chief executive Alastair Hamilton at River House in High Street, Belfast
Signifyd co-founder Raj Ramanand with Invest NI chief executive Alastair Hamilton at River House in High Street, Belfast
Ryan McAleer

By Ryan McAleer

The head of a US tech firm behind plans to create 150 new jobs in Belfast said the city has the most product engineering-centric culture it has found outside of Silicon Valley in the US.

San Jose-based Signifyd, which makes anti-fraud software for online transactions, plans to establish its global research and development centre in Northern Ireland. It will recruit the roles over the next three to five years, with salaries averaging £33,000. Economic development agency Invest NI has offered the firm £981,500 as part of the move, which it said will eventually generate £5m in annual salaries for the economy.

Set up in late 2011, Signifyd employs 215 people, and has already recruited 12 here since Christmas for its new Belfast base in River House on High Street.

Chief executive Raj Ramanand said the firm had looked at locations in the USA, Asia and Europe, but said its leadership team were drawn by Belfast's product and engineering culture.

“It’s an amazing culture here. There was a lot of things built here, from linen to ropes to ships to whiskey, and we want to continue that in the software world,” he said.

“We don’t want it to just be a support organisation, we want to build AI (artificial intelligence) in Belfast.

“We looked at a lot of places in Europe, and Belfast does have the most product and engineering-centric culture outside Silicon Valley that we found.”

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The co-founder said Signifyd plans to eventually expand into its own facility in Belfast. “As we scale up, we’ll have to look for more space. But for where we’re at now, we love the place we’re in.”

Mr Ramanand said the company made the decision last summer to set up shop here and that it had not been deterred by the uncertainty surrounding Brexit.

“We looked at all of this before we chose to come here. It wasn’t like we came in without any of that knowledge,” he said.

“At the same time what we’re focused on is really this concept of building something.”

Alastair Hamilton, chief executive of Invest NI, said that while Brexit poses significant challenges for businesses trading out of Northern Ireland, it had not deterred foreign direct investment (FDI).

“In the global FDI space we are not detecting at all any significant impact on our ability to build a pipeline then, secondly, to secure the projects and the jobs,” he commented.

“We will announce our results later on in the year, but I expect they will be similar if not better than in the past.

“The reason for that is that the majority of inward investors coming into Northern Ireland are looking access to talent, and we have that.

“The majority of companies are not coming to set up here to access the European marketplace and sell products and servicing. They’re accessing talent to deliver mainly back into the US market.

“I think that gives us a natural hedge to the risks that people might perceive there to be around the Brexit challenges.

“As far as inward investment is concerned, we still have a healthy pipeline,” he added.

In the case of Signifyd, the Invest NI boss said: “They were looking for a centre outside of San Francisco, because the war for talent was so intense and the wages so high that it really wasn’t cost-effective for them to build the R&D capability there.”

He said the company’s visit to Belfast clinched the deal.

And while companies are aware of the issues posed by Brexit, Mr Hamilton contended: “From their point of view the real focus is on the skills, the talent, the ecosystem that is now developing around payments and financial services and data analytics, with the colleges and universities, and that’s what swung it.”

Trevor McCullough, director of engineering at the new R&D hub, said he expects the centre to be on an aggressive growth path.

Signifyd has said it will be recruiting in the area of software engineering, data, risk and fraud analytics, along with customer success positions.

“We’ll be rapidly building a team from the ground up, which in the end will make the business lives of thousands of customers better,” he said.

Belfast Telegraph