Sunday 19 January 2020

Cork can help boost our Brexit financial services opportunities

Shandon in Cork city
Shandon in Cork city

Eoin Motherway

In the fullness of time, June 23 2016 will become synonymous with other pivotal moments in the history of financial services. As we reach the first anniversary of the decision of our nearest neighbour to leave our European Union, there is a silver lining for our country in the need for a new financial services location for banks and asset managers requiring access to European markets.

While the silver lining has a cloud, this is arguably the single greatest opportunity for financial services growth in Ireland since the decision to establish the International Financial Service Centre in Dublin's Docklands.

Thirty years on, Ireland has gained an international reputation as a service provider for the global asset management industry. The seeds have been nourished over time. The collaboratively drafted IFS2020 strategy and notably the establishment of a Financial Services Minister have propelled Ireland into the spotlight of global media. This has been helped by the presence of leaders in financial services and the diaspora of Ireland occupying senior management roles peppered across the globe.

The tireless representation by IDA Ireland, the Irish Funds team and Eoghan Murphy and his department has showcased Ireland's preparedness and capability for the opportunity that beckons.

The Funds Business employs more than 14,000 people and has spread its capability outside the embryo of Dublin's Docklands across 15 counties. We have an all-island capability and capacity to bring solutions to the table for migrating firms. Equally, the Central Bank of Ireland has an internationally revered reputation in the regulation of funds and asset management.

This message has been repeatedly reinforced to the Cork Financial Services Forum in many of the bi-lateral meetings that it has had with banks and asset managers in the UK recently. Comments made by the European Securities and Markets Authority (ESMA) earlier this month favourably align to the endeavours of our Central Bank in finalising CP86 Fund Management Company Effectiveness. The confluence of opportunity from Brexit and expectation of CP86 make Ireland the compelling solution. The deployment of our regional capacity can make it the preferred financial services location in Europe.

Within the environs of Cork there are more than half a million people and more than 35,000 graduates from Cork Institute of Technology (CIT) and University College Cork (UCC), with a diversity of students from over 100 different countries.

Cork International Airport now has nine flights a day to London as well as connections to 50 other European destinations including Zurich, Amsterdam and Paris, and direct transatlantic flights to Boston starting next month, with direct flights to New York planned for 2018.

From a real estate perspective, the availability of office space is augmented by several 4G developments, with 1 million sq ft of commercial property coming on stream in the next 18 months.

The existence of the Tier 1 data line from Cork offers the lowest latency connectivity between Europe and the US. A second line to France is due for completion in the next two years. This will permit all data to be transmitted direct to the US and Continental Europe without the current routing via the UK. In a post-Brexit, General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) regime, from May 2018, this will be a key differentiator.

The coupling of this data transmission solution with a data 'EPark' currently under construction offers a legitimate infrastructural alternative for a clearing house, an exchange or similar big data organisation.

As Ireland's second city-region and the second-largest economic hub in the country, Cork has a clear track record of attracting overseas investments. It is home to over 150 FDI companies with over 20 financial services firms.

From an education perspective, Ireland has the highest level of third-level graduates in the OECD area.To satiate the local demands of financial services in Cork, the third-level colleges have collaboratively tailored their syllabuses to deliver in excess of 1,000 business graduates a year. This is bolstered by four research centres in UCC specifically dedicated to financial services. From a RegTech perspective, the Governance Risk & Compliance Technology Centre is centred in Cork city, funded by Enterprise Ireland and IDA, contributing to regulatory forums internationally.

Cork Financial Services Forum, run under the aegis of Cork Chamber of Commerce, is a coalition of partners in the asset management arena, partners in the fund administration business, middle office and back office outsourcing and across the audit, tax and consultancy firms, all of whom are enabled by two adaptable educational institutions.

Our collegiality is in addition to the existing essential ingredients that enable a new entrant to be commercially active, locally participative. It offers an opportunity to ambitiously advance their operations with like-minded, yet competitive peers, in Ireland's second centre for financial services.

The opportunity for Ireland from Brexit is present and pressing. The opportunity to succeed depends critically on maximising the country's capacity as an all-Ireland solution. Cork is committed to making a significant contribution and is confident of its opportunity to be successful.

Eoin Motherway chairs Cork Financial Services Forum

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