Ireland lacks talent ‘quantity’ in scramble for Brexit finance firms

Shortage of financial service skills could hinder Dublin in fight for companies fleeing City

“Up to now, the type of finance jobs available in Ireland have generally not matched London for compensation and other perks.” That could change as City firms consider moving base in light of Brexit. Photograph: EPA/Justin Lane

“Up to now, the type of finance jobs available in Ireland have generally not matched London for compensation and other perks.” That could change as City firms consider moving base in light of Brexit. Photograph: EPA/Justin Lane

 

When Rob Boardman is scouring Dublin to hire for his firm’s electronic broking and dark-pool business, it can take up to a year to find the right candidate.

“It’s a question of quantity of talent, not quality,” said Boardman, European chief executive of Investment Technology Group, who has been recruiting in the city since 2010. “It can be hard to hire in financial services for front-office traders.”

Dublin, with similar laws and regulations as the UK, is the only other English-speaking hub in the European Union, making the city a go-to option for London-based banks seeking uninterrupted EU access post-Brexit. But one big problem is a shortage of talent.

More people work in finance in Edinburgh than in the whole of Ireland, posing a concern for the half-dozen global banks considering setting up camp here.

“There are probably more Irish bankers working in London than there are in Dublin,” said Jonathan Astbury, partner in global markets at executive search firm Newington International. “There is still a sense among front-office types that if you’re not in London, you’re not at the cutting edge. Ultimately, London is going to remain the centre of the banking world for many years to come, so Dublin is going to be a hard sell for them to attract the best people.”

Certain drawbacks

Cities across Europe have begun courting banks and their high-paying roles. But potential locales all have their drawbacks. Financial firms have concerns over language issues, labour laws and taxes in Frankfurt and Paris.

What will start as a trickle – banks plan to move only a couple of hundred jobs into their new bases at first – could become a torrent if it looks like the UK is heading for a “cliff edge” Brexit, whereby all EU access is cut off by 2019.

Firms weighing Dublin for their new base will initially relocate Irish employees currently working in London, according to two people with knowledge of their firm’s contingency plans.

There are about 35,000 people working in finance in Ireland, compared with more than 60,000 in Frankfurt, 180,000 in Paris and 360,000 in London. Goodbody estimates that Dublin could gain as many as 15,000 financial jobs from Brexit, and a talent shortage may not scare off banks that see Brexit as an opportunity to reduce costs.

A few large international banks have held discussions about moving a small number of senior managers to their new EU hubs to train cheaper local hires while London jobs are cut, according to two recruiters who said they’ve had talks with the firms.

Irish officials acknowledge that the country lacks the depth of banking talent available in other cities competing for Brexit spoils, but say they are confident they can attract workers from elsewhere in the EU. They point to the 250 financial institutions already in Dublin, including Citigroup Inc, JPMorgan Chase and Credit Suisse Group, not to mention major tech firms such as Google, eBay and PayPal.

“In the context of a UK which will potentially be outside the EU, where there won’t be such mobility, we are likely to win more of these highly skilled people coming to Ireland, and I think that’s the way our companies and potential investors are reading it,” said Martin Shanahan, chief executive of IDA Ireland. “If the skills are going to be available, they are going to be available in Ireland.”

Incentive for Irish

Brexit could help reverse a trend: For decades, the brightest Irish university graduates with ambitions in finance sought out their fortunes in the narrow lanes of London’s square mile, according to Denis Curran, the IDA’s head of international financial services.

“If front-office or investment-banking jobs do come to Dublin as expected, then it would act as an incentive for Irish in those roles in London who may want to move back,” said Peter Cosgrove, a director at Dublin recruiting firm CPL. “Up to now, the type of finance jobs available in Ireland have generally not matched London for compensation and other perks. Already, we have seen a spike in inquiries from Irish in London and EU nationals who were considering moving to the UK but are looking closer at Dublin as an alternative.”

Where all these people are going to live and work is another matter. Dublin already suffers from an acute shortage of residential housing, particularly at the top end. And while prices are significantly lower than in London, they’re rising fast. Vacancy rates for prime office space in the city centre are also at record lows.

As well, Dublin is home to only five Michelin-starred restaurants – a must for any well-heeled investment banker. That is compared with more than 60 in London and 100 in Paris.

– (Bloomberg)