Northern Ireland is attracting its share of financial services

The arrival of NYSE Technologies in Belfast helped create a sector that did not exist a decade ago

It is no Wall Street but Belfast’s Adelaide Street has proven to be a happy home over the last five years for one of the North’s most high-profile inward investment projects.

The city may not have a stock exchange or a real-life trading floor to speak of, but who cares when the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) has a very real presence.

NYSE Technologies, the technology arm of NYSE Euronext, which until last November was the parent company of the New York Stock Exchange, first came to Belfast in 2009 to open its technology centre of excellence. It promised at the time to create 400 technology, operational and corporate jobs in the city, and was promised £9.6 million in financial support from Invest NI.

The centre provides support to NYSE’s global operations and also develops and delivers hi-tech trading solutions that keep some of the world’s top financial institutions and exchanges in business.

Its decision to invest in Belfast has helped to persuade other investors to consider
the North as a location. It has been a great advertisement for what the North has to offer when it comes to financial technology investment.

Duncan Niederauer, chief executive of the NYSE, has also been an unwavering supporter of Belfast as an investment location, and has proved his door is always open to political leaders during their frequent trade missions to the US.

Good man
Niederauer is also the co-president of the Intercontinental Exchange Group (ICE), which acquired NYSE Euronext in a €11 billion deal last November, so he is a good man to have on your side.

But Northern Ireland will not be able to call on Niederauer as an investment ambassador for ever. There are indications he will stay as co-president of ICE for 2014 but no firm commitment after that.

There is also the question about what role Belfast will play in the shake-up that ICE has planned for NYSE Technologies. It has said it intends to “pursue an initial public offering of Euronext in 2014”. What might this mean for Northern Ireland? There is no comment from ICE on its specific plans.

But could Adelaide Street become home to a new financial services investor?

According to Invest NI, more than 33,000 people are currently employed in the financial services sector. Bill Montgomery, the agency's director of international investment, says the fact the North has grown a "cluster" of investors in this sector will encourage others to follow.

“When we talk to financial services companies, they always ask us, ‘Who’s there?’”

The ability to highlight the experiences of investors such as Citi, Liberty Mutual,
Allstate and the CME group sends out a strong "message
of confidence" in the
North's capabilities.

"What we also see is that companies come in initially
and then reinvest again –
they see Northern Ireland as good as they thought it could
be and they also expand their functions," adds Montgomery.

He says the North is fast becoming a must-have "complimentary add-on" to operations in Dublin and London. Part of this is down to its geographical advantage but it is also because of its hi-tech, robust telecommunications infrastructure.

One local entrepreneur who does not have to be convinced about what the North can offer financial services companies is Danny Moore, a former chief operating officer of NYSE Technologies.

Moore set up his own Belfast-based investment firm, Lough Shore Investments, just over four years ago. Two years ago, he also joined Options, a company that specialises in providing IT and support services to financial firms, as
its chief operating officer.

The company expanded its operations to Belfast, and Moore is convinced the city is as good a platform to grow in as its other locations – London, Chicago, New York and Singapore. “There is a financial services culture in Northern Ireland which didn’t exist 10 or 15 years ago – there is an established network now and, with a strong vocational engineering and technology culture, plus a good educational system, Northern Ireland is a good place to be for anyone in the financial services sector.”

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