Belfast Telegraph

US health insurer to create 150 jobs with new Belfast technology centre

Invest NI’s Alastair Hamilton (middle) with Aflac’s Keith Farley and Virgil Miller
Invest NI’s Alastair Hamilton (middle) with Aflac’s Keith Farley and Virgil Miller
Margaret Canning

By Margaret Canning

A US health insurance firm has announced it is opening a technology innovation centre in Belfast, creating 150 jobs paying an average of £45,000.

Aflac Incorporated, which has offices across the US and Japan, will establish a global IT and cybersecurity innovation centre in the city as part of a multimillion-pound investment in Northern Ireland.

Economic development agency Invest NI has offered Aflac just over £1m to secure the project.

The firm provides supplemental life and health insurance for more than 50 million people worldwide, employing 11,000 workers.

However, it will not be selling its products here.

Keith Farley, the firm's managing director in Northern Ireland, said he had relocated here with his wife and family.

He said they plan to stay here for a couple of years as the firm establishes itself, before appointing another boss for the operation.

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Mr Farley said the company, based in Columbus in Georgia, had considered other locations before choosing Belfast because it is an "adaptable" location.

"We look at Belfast as an adaptable, resilient and inventive place," he explained.

"It was once the capital of linen-making, rope-making and ship-building. Now it's into film studios and cyber security. I think Belfast rises to what the world needs."

The company is based in the short term at River House on High Street, though Mr Farley said it was in negotiations over setting up in another location.

Aflac will be recruiting for the new jobs over the next five years. Once filled, they will contribute almost £7m to the Northern Ireland economy.

Virgil Miller, executive vice president of Aflac US, said the firm believes Northern Ireland has the IT expertise to support the business.

"What is particularly attractive about Northern Ireland is the existing expertise in areas such as mobile and cloud development and intelligent surveillance technology," he said.

"Investing in advanced technologies is at the heart of our strategy to deliver an exceptional service experience to our customers and in Northern Ireland we know that we can drive world-class innovation for our company. We are also pleased that the new centre will provide an additional time zone, enabling expanded threat monitoring and response."

Alastair Hamilton, chief executive of Invest NI, said: "Aflac operates in the two largest insurance markets in the world, the US and Japan. The increased safety of its customers is central to its business and this new centre will ensure Aflac remains at the cutting edge of technology with access to global excellence in cybersecurity.

"The team here will provide technical expertise and operational support to complement its US cybersecurity and IT operations. With a constant drive to innovate and exploit new emerging technologies, this will be an exciting addition to our cybersecurity and ICT sector."

Belfast Telegraph