More than 50 UK firms mulling Irish move post Brexit, says Irish Life

Lack of housing supply a ‘very real issue’ for companies considering relocating to State

Irish Life Investment Managers (ILIM) has received more than 50 inquiries from companies considering relocating activities from the UK following the Brexit vote last June.

Speaking at a media briefing about likely trends in pensions, investments and health insurance for 2017, ILIM's managing director, Patrick Burke, declined to identify any of the interested parties but said it was largely financial services companies, many of whom had existing operations in Ireland.

“It is still to early to determine what [number will come here] but the level of enquiries is giving us a good deal of comfort about our [office] development opportunities,” Mr Burke said.

“If you look at the quantity of supply that’s coming through [across the whole office market] at the moment, I would say we’ll be in a position to meet the current level of demand over the coming two to three years if it was reflected on a one-in-five hit ratio on the level of enquiries.”


Lack of infrastructure

Mr Burke said a lack of housing supply and other infrastructure was a “very real issue” for companies considering relocating here.

“We’re not building enough houses and rental costs are significant. We have to remain competitive and the alternatives, such as Frankfurt and Luxembourg, start to look attractive because they have the infrastructure to support big businesses.”

ILIM has a number of offices that it is preparing to bring to market in Dublin this year, including 130,000sq ft (12,077sq m) at 1GQ on George’s Quay, which was previously occupied by Ulster Bank.

This is due to hit the market in March year while planning permission has been secured for 58,000sq ft (5,388sq m) of offices at Hainault House on St Stephen’s Green.

Separately, Mr Burke predicted a “continued improvement of flows” into equity markets this year, although there were “political risks attaching to it”. Global equities rose by about 10 per cent last year.

“We see inflation also coming back, moderately, and in the euro zone not a huge amount of spread widening.” he said.

ILIM secured more than €5 billion in new business in North America last year and €8.5 billion from the domestic market.

Health system

Reviewing the impact of an ageing population on the health system, Jim Dowdall, managing director of Irish Life Health, which was formed last year from the acquisitions of GloHealth and Aviva Health, said the rise in the population aged over 65 would require a 42 per cent increase in public hospital beds by 2026.

This is the equivalent of building three new hospitals the size of Beaumont Hospital in Dublin, he said.

Mr Dowdall said increases in chronic disease would put further pressure on the health system.

“The current model for funding the public and private health system is not sustainable. If we are to create a sustainable health system to support an ageing population, we require a different vision for the future,” he said.

He proposed three areas which should be addressed: a strategic vision incorporating the public and private system; a focus on costs and changes to the funding model; and ensuring a sustainable community-rated market.

The level of private funding for the Irish health system currently amounts to 31 per cent of the overall €19 billion annual expenditure.

Some €2.4 billion is spent annually on private health insurance by Irish people, with about 46 per cent of the population holding a policy.

Irish Life is owned by Canadian group Great-West Lifeco and employs 2,400 staff here. It has 1.3 million customers and manages €78.4 billion in assets. The company contributed €109.5 million to Great-West Lifeco’s net earnings in the first nine months of last year.

Ciarán Hancock

Ciarán Hancock

Ciarán Hancock is Business Editor of The Irish Times