Monday 20 January 2020

Brexit is a 'once in a lifetime' opportunity for Ireland to redefine its relevance in the financial services world

Colm Kelpie

Brexit is a "once in a lifetime" opportunity for Ireland to redefine its relevance in the world of financial services, Irish Stock Exchange chief Deirdre Somers has said.

But she said she was unaware of an integrated, joined-up approach to capitalising on the fallout from the June 23 vote.

“Maybe there is a plan somewhere and I’m just not party to it, or I haven’t seen it. I certainly am unaware of a coordinated, cohesive approach to what is a career defining disruptive event for financial services,” Ms Somers said.

She was speaking as part of a panel discussion at a seminar jointly organised by the British Irish Chamber of Commerce and law firm McCann FitzGerald.

Ms Somers said the strategy should be to focus on attracting financial services infrastructure to Dublin, which may not initially bring a lot of extra jobs, but in time will create an interconnected system and attract further investment.

She used the example of Bats Europe, one of Europe's biggest stock exchanges, which is looking for a home outside of London as a result of Brexit, with Dublin mooted as a contender.

Bats Europe accounts for about 24pc of daily trading in European shares. Ms Somers said if Dublin secured Bats, that would lead to the possibility of further investment from other areas within financial services.

“I don’t see any strategy in that space. I have no doubt that the IDA is doing what the IDA does extraordinarily well, which is open doors in very large institutions,” Ms Somers said.

“But I think if we don’t grab this opportunity now, we’ll be sitting here in five years time, without having moved the dial.

“We’ll be still in the same FDI position, where we have large institutions, large bodies of people that are here for cost perspective, with a small piece of tax motivation, and they are always vulnerable to change. This is an opportunity to do something completely different.”

Ms Somers said there needs to be more of a “coordinated approach”, where these firms are presented with a “package” of what to expect by relocating here.

“This is an opportunity for a step change, it is a once in a lifetime opportunity for Ireland to redefine its relevance and its position in the specific part of financial services arena,” she said.

Denis Curran, the head of IDA’s International Financial Services Division, told the seminar the agency is doing a number of things to win investment, including a major international media campaign, and overseas ministerial travel.

“We’re not going around London with billboards on the back of lorries around Canary Wharf saying come to Dublin. We’re doing a number of different things,” Mr Curran said.

Ms Somers said the role of promoting Ireland and Dublin in terms of financial services was not simply the job of the IDA, but also of senior executives in the sector.

She said companies have asked her how difficult it would be to relocate to Ireland.

"I’m pretty well informed and I don’t know the answer to that," she said.

“You need to know are the resources there from a regulatory perspective, what is the likely regulatory approach to the specific organisation you’re talking to at the moment? Is the government going to be supportive, is there going to be property available to you? What is the likely outcome, what is the likely time horizon?  All of these things you need to be able to nail,” she said.

Mr Curran said IDA executives continuously speak with tax specialists, legal and service specialists to highlight a consistent message.

He also said the agency was not interested in attracting so-called brass plate operations following the Brexit vote.

“I’m measured in jobs, I’m not measured in brass plates,” he said.

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