Tuesday 24 April 2018

IFSC firms seek 'tsar' to sell the finance hub

After a year of lobbying, Government tells companies to set out new frontman's role

Joe Brennan

Government officials have told the financial industry to submit a detailed proposal on the appointment of an IFSC 'tsar' to rebrand and promote the financial centre.

Meanwhile, Finance Minister Brian Lenihan's plans to woo business from Americ have been postponed while he receives medical treatment.

The issue of a frontman for the International Financial Services Centre topped the agenda of a high-level meeting of the Taoiseach's IFSC Clearing House Group last week.

Dublin's IFSC, where 25,000 people are employed, has fallen dramatically in a major global index of financial hubs over the last 18 months -- from 10th to 23rd place.

Private sector bodies in the clearing house -- representing financial and fund services, banking and insurance interests -- have been lobbying for over a year for the appointment of a tsar to oversee a rebranding of the centre.

The industry has been given a couple of weeks to submit a plan on how the role would operate, and how the tsar would liaise with state bodies.

A source at the meeting said: "Timing is critical. Ireland needs to mobilise something quickly or it will miss the boat."

The Industrial Development Agency (IDA), which is responsible for inward investment, has been particularly concerned that there is only a short window to win business, as global financial groups restructure after the financial crisis.

A report by the Irish Management Institute, stemming from last year's economic forum at Farmleigh in Dublin, said the appointment of a prominent IFSC ambassador would help reposition the centre, which has seen its image tarnished by turmoil in domestic banking.

Tax break

A planned charm offensive by Mr Lenihan of major North American financial centres, originally slated for October, before being delayed to January, has now been postponed indefinitely.

Meanwhile, Mr Lenihan's staff are drawing up a series of measures for the upcoming Finance Bill to attract more business to the IFSC -- aimed at turning Dublin into a hub for funds industry management.

There is strong speculation that the minister may reintroduce some version of the so-called remittance basis of taxation, which was scrapped by his predecessor Brian Cowen four years' ago.

This system allowed executives working for overseas companies in Ireland to receive their salary outside the State and only pay tax on what money they brought into the country to support themselves.

Meanwhile, the Irish Independent reported earlier this month that head of the Financial Regulator's financial panel, David Went, was planning to inform the minister of a "mismatch" between type of firm the IDA wants to attract to the IFSC and what the Department of Finance is willing to accept.

It is believed the Department is concerned about "systemic" risks some companies might represent to Ireland if they get into trouble.

However, Government sources have suggested that the recent appointment of Matthew Elderfield as head of financial regulation should ease concerns in this area.

The heavyweight watchdog figure, who previously worked with the UK Financial Services Authority, was heavily involved in assessing the type of business the IDA is looking to attract in his most recent role as chief executive of the Bermuda Monetary Authority.

Irish Independent

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