Northern Ireland renaissance: how US companies sparked Northern Ireland’s global fintech hub
In just 25 years, Northern Ireland has established itself as a global hub for technology and financial services innovation. The world’s top financial services brands began setting up shop in earnest after the Good Friday Agreement in 1998 and many of these companies have expanded operations here well beyond their original scope, attracting others to the region along the way.
An unbeatable combination of world-class talent, highly competitive operating costs, research excellence and a resilient infrastructure, in a low-risk, pro-business environment, has fueled the growth of Northern Ireland’s financial services sector for over two decades.
So much so, now Northern Ireland is the world’s top region for both new software development and fintech inward investment projects (FDI markets, FT 2021). The same report also named Northern Ireland as the number one international destination for US cybersecurity development projects.
According to the 2023 FT FDI markets report, Northern Ireland was ranked the #1 Mid-Sized European Region of the Future in the FDI Strategy category. The capital, Belfast, was named a top three fintech location of the future (FDI markets FT 2019).
Today, there are roughly 46,000 people employed in the financial and related professional services sectors in Northern Ireland. A third are employed by international companies providing risk management, investment operations, regulation and compliance solutions on a global scale. In fact, Northern Ireland has the highest concentration of fintech employment in all of the United Kingdom.
So how did it all begin?
Allstate set up a small technology center in the region in 1998. Today, Allstate has the region’s largest IT presence, employing 2,500 people who provide a range of critical business support services to the parent company, including technology, data, cybersecurity, risk & compliance, legal, and finance.
Liberty Mutual’s technology division, Liberty IT, set up shop in Northern Ireland in 1997 and currently employs over 500 people there.
Today, Northern Ireland is also technology location of choice for companies like Insurance Office of America, Everquote, and Aflac. The latter of which opened its first office at the start of the Covid-19 pandemic. Alchemy Technology Services also recently established sizable delivery centers in the region.
Banking & trading
Not to be outdone, Northern Ireland has significant expertise in banking, trading and capital markets technologies, notably, with the presence of tech operations by global banks and institutions such as Citi, Cowen and TP ICAP.
Additionally, Santander and Lloyds Banking Group established customer contact centers in Northern Ireland in the late 1990s and collectively, with the later arrival of BNP Paribas, have approximately 2,500 employees in the region today.
Citi, which arrived in Northern Ireland in 2005 with a 375-person technology operation, is the region’s largest financial services employer today, with over 3,500 employees providing support across 21 different functions to 96 countries.
CME Group, an US-based global markets company, established its Northern Ireland operations in 2012 and today employs 325 professionals in Belfast supporting its various enterprises.
All told, over 2,000 software engineers and systems architects in Northern Ireland are developing trading technology platforms for various global capital markets and financial services companies.
Why Northern Ireland?
Companies consistently choose Northern Ireland because they can plug into the region’s internationally recognised vibrant and supportive ecosystem. Collaboration between industry and academia is actively encouraged, resulting in a robust pipeline of highly educated talent with skills focused on addressing the emerging needs of an evolving global economy.
The growth of data and computing, digital and mobile technologies, analytics and automation sectors are driving transformation, while cybersecurity and emerging technologies such as blockchain, machine learning and AI are developing rapidly. Capability across these areas is well-established in Northern Ireland, which has long held an international reputation for engineering excellence.
The region is home to two world-class universities – Queen’s University Belfast and Ulster University – which offer degrees in finance, accounting, computer science and software engineering. Both universities have trading rooms in collaboration with financial industry partners. These environments enable students to build skills through engaging with finance and risk challenges under real-time trading conditions.
As financial services companies continue to demand better technology, talent and innovation, Northern Ireland’s rich resources are poised to enable companies to lead on a global scale as pioneering firms, sector disruptors and technology innovators.
If you wish to find out how Invest Northern Ireland can help your business grow, visit investni.com/americas and contact one of our business development directors.
Sponsored by Invest Northern Ireland