Belfast Telegraph

Confidence growing in home market

International firms continue investment despite riots unrest

By Margaret Canning

International and indigenous companies are showing confidence in the workforce of Northern Ireland despite the harm caused to the image of Northern Ireland by rioting and unrest over the flying of the Union flag.

Axiom, a New York-based law firm whose employees do corporate legal work for global companies, is taking on up to 40 staff for its office in Belfast.

Earlier this week, US IT firm Oxford Consulting announced its arrival, with the creation of 33 jobs which are expected to pay around £40,000 per year.

And Co Armagh pharmaceutical company Almac yesterday announced a £6.5m project which could create up to 60 new jobs over the next three years.

Mark Trepanier, Axiom's executive vice-president of managed services, said it had reached a "multi-year" lease which would see it continue to reside in Belfast's Scottish Provident Building for the next few years.

Its recruitment is in line with plans unveiled last year to employ up to 102 people following £1.1m in assistance from Invest NI and £489,000 from the Department for Employment and Learning (DEL)

Axiom said more recruits and an office move were expected into 2014, keeping it on target to take on the 102 staff.

Mr Trepanier said the company had spoken to its clients about the present unrest as "the situation has gotten some level of profile in North America".

The firm last year chose Belfast over other investment locations, such as Cape Town in South Africa, and a number of English cities.

But Mr Trepanier said: "We have not lost faith or are any less committed to the location here.

"We continue to be very excited in terms of the talent pool, work ethic and skills profile people bring to the table, and it's still to us a very good choice."

The company said there will be 30 to 40 new staff - lawyers, paralegals and other professionals - recruited in the next couple of months.

They will work in the firm's growing managed services division, which means they look after legal work which is outsourced to Axiom.

Mr Trepanier would not give exact details of how many people were currently working in Belfast, but said it was "nearly 30".

"We are climbing the curve pretty much as expected," he explained.

He said employees deal directly with clients in a "virtual" way but do not meet them in person.

According to trade magazines, Axiom have included HP, Mercer, WorldPay, Living Social and Skype.

The managed services model means that the legal work is done at lower rates, which are free of the usual overheads of a traditional law firm, such as fat partner salaries.

The firm does not operate on the traditional law firm partnership structure.