Thursday 22 August 2019

Ulster Bank support FDI through innovation

Emma Chapman, Director International & Institutional Banking // Corporate & Institutional Banking at Ulster Bank Ireland Limited
Emma Chapman, Director International & Institutional Banking // Corporate & Institutional Banking at Ulster Bank Ireland Limited

Emma Chapman has recently been appointed to the role of Director, within Ulster Bank’s International & Institutional Corporate Team.

Emma now heads up an established team that has 20 years experience in the FDI (foreign direct investment) space. Ulster Bank knows what is required in order to provide excellent service to the FDI sector, from large multinationals to high growth tech companies expanding overseas. We asked Emma about her views on the FDI sector in Ireland as well as how Ulster Bank supports these FDI companies as they locate here.

Emma, what do you see as the opportunities and challenges ahead in the FDI sector?

The FDI sector is still thriving in Ireland and there is no shortage of innovative, international companies wishing to locate here. All top 10 “Born on the internet” companies and 9 of the top 10 global pharmaceutical companies are based here. This scale of FDI investment has been very beneficial to our economy by increasing employment levels and copper-fastening our global reputation as a technology and innovation hub. Ireland is attracting global talent, as it flocks towards the tech companies already located here. The work of bodies such as the IDA (Industrial Development Agency) and the American Chamber of Commerce have played an integral part in bringing high growth companies to Ireland and, as a domestic bank with an international footprint, Ulster Bank embraces the opportunity to support these businesses.

The challenge for Ireland is to remain competitive in attracting FDI - to ensure we have sufficient office space, to retain our domestic talent, attract global talent and lower our personal tax rates to satisfy this retention. Ireland also needs to remain at the cutting edge of innovation. Innovative, high-performing companies need to be supported from their start-up phase, right through their life cycle and Ireland needs to remain mindful of this to avoid complacency.

What type of activity is Ulster Bank seeing in the FDI market currently – is activity confined to specific sectors or a variety of sectors?

We are seeing interest from international companies across a variety of sectors including lifescience, medical devices, online retailers, technology, fintech, cloud computing and digital marketing. Many of the American entities in particular, are making Ireland their European headquarters, following in the footsteps of some of the larger tech companies such as Twitter and Facebook.

While in previous years, the majority of FDI business coming into Ireland was from America, we are now seeing more interest from companies across Europe, Canada and South America, thus growing Ireland’s reputation globally.

The common theme among each of the companies we meet is “innovation”. These companies are incredibly enthusiastic about their future plans for growth in Ireland, and at Ulster Bank we are very excited to support them on this journey.

You mention “innovation” – how important is innovation to Ulster Bank?

Ulster Bank is building a Bank that is relevant to the future, with a stated ambition to become the number one bank for customer service, trust and advocacy by 2020.  Our partnership with Dogpatch Labs embodies this innovative, fresh approach. Dogpatch Labs is the place where start-ups, investors and corporates come to rub shoulders and spark ideas, and our investment is supporting their future expansion, proving Ulster Bank’s commitment to the fintech start-up market. We can also learn a lot from the start-up culture radiating from Dogpatch which was set-up to support high performing tech start-ups as they grow and scale. In addition to this, Ulster Bank and global experts at the Open Bank Project, organised the first dedicated banking Hackathon at the beginning of February this year, at the NDRC (National Digital Research Centre) in Dublin. The weekend-long event brought together almost 100 coders, designers, mentors and investors for an intensive period of peer-to-peer idea generation and programming focused on new thinking for banks and bank customers.

Furthermore, through our parent, RBS (Royal Bank of Scotland), we have access to the RBS Innovation Team based in Silicon Valley, the heart of the tech start-up community. This allows our business to always stay informed of technology advancements that could potentially benefit our customers.

Ulster Bank’s ongoing investment and focus on innovation is a key component of our offering and we are excited for the future benefits this investment will bring to our customers.


Your new role will involve supporting international businesses in Ireland - what differentiates Ulster Bank from its competitors when servicing international customers?

I believe if you become known for good quality customer service, you will naturally win customers and earn customer trust, so this is a priority for us. However, we also have a number of other attributes that assist us in differentiating ourselves in the market:-

-   International Footprint: Ulster Bank has two routes of access into the international market, providing many benefits to us and our customers. Firstly, we are a wholly owned subsidiary of RBS and secondly, we are the only Irish bank that is a member of the international banking partnership, IBOS (International Bank, One Solution).  IBOS includes over 25 member banks, all operating globally (including Silicon Valley Bank, US Bank, PNC Bank, Unicredit, Santander). Through IBOS, we can provide on-the-ground banking services in a large number of countries, with the same service level you expect to get from Ulster Bank. This allows us to support our customers, as they expand into Europe, America and beyond.

- Sophisticated, Efficient Online Banking Technology: As part of RBS, we have invested heavily in our online banking systems, as we continually strive to improve our customer experience. We recognise that fast-paced, global companies want secure, efficient, robust systems, with intuitive functionality. Our system, “Bankline” can be accessed from anywhere in the world once you have a secure internet connection, so it really facilitates the requirements of international companies.

- Supporting Domestic and International Technology Companies: Our support for the tech start-up community is of prime importance and our collaboration with Dogpatch Labs is testament to this. The partnership firmly embeds Ulster Bank within Ireland's technology ecosystem.

“Overall, the FDI sector is flourishing, and I look forward to the opportunities that lie ahead for Ireland, but also, for Ulster Bank. We are committed to the sector and we see ourselves as very well placed to support international companies locating in Ireland and beyond. Our strength of offering, service and investment in technology are leading us into an exciting phase and we are keen to share this progressive journey with our customers!”

Sponsored by: Ulster Bank

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