'We should never under-estimate the contribution NI makes to the UK's financial services industry'
When people think of the world of finance, law and accountancy, they tend to think of London, or The City. Which is why I'm often met with surprise when I tell them that more than two-thirds of the UK's 2.2 million jobs in financial and related professional services are outside the M25.
While London is the UK's largest and most recognised financial centre, other regional and national hubs are important centres of activity in themselves, contributing to our country's internationally renowned reputation in financial and related professional services. Northern Ireland is no exception.
With Belfast as its hub, the industry in Northern Ireland provides jobs for 32,000 people, around 4.4% of Northern Irish employment.
Companies in the industry - a number of high profile international institutions among them - generate almost £2bn in economic output, equivalent to 5.6% of Northern Ireland's total.
While Northern Ireland is an important centre for industry operations and support services, it also continues to build on its reputation for excellence in sectors such as legal services, financial services and information technology.
This has been helped along by the significant development in Belfast over the past decade.
Its highly regarded universities and excellent colleges also ensure a stream of highly educated talent for industry.
The collaboration between industry, education and business here has been highly effective in this regard. Work by Invest NI (NI) and Queen's University is just one of the many initiatives that showcase this - with targeted skills development and relocation investment support.
These strong links also complement the nation's competitive operating costs, which are a great draw for companies looking to invest in space and talent.
A recent report by TheCityUK and PwC, which sets out a vision for UK-based financial and related professional services beyond Brexit to 2025, identified the importance of regional and national financial centres to the industry's continued success.
The report details a number of recommendations for industry, government and the regulators to take forward to ensure the industry's strength into the future. If these are implemented, the expectation is that 70% of the additional economic benefit generated by the industry would come from outside of London.
In Northern Ireland, this would represent an increase of 25% by 2025 compared with 2016. This would equate to approximately £500m in additional economic contributions.
There is no doubt that we are in a period of unprecedented global change - new technologies, demographic shifts, strengthening emerging markets and a reframed relationship with the European Union under negotiation.
However, it is clear further strengthening regional and national financial centres such as Belfast, will be vital to ensuring our industry continues to thrive and make its significant contribution to the economy. Key to this will be an enhanced partnership between industry and government - both in Westminster, Stormont and across the nation - and we are committed to playing our part in making this happen.