What does the number 33 mean to you?
To some it’s the number of years that Jesus spent on earth; to others it’s a jibe about how some Irish people might phonically confuse their trees and their threes. But a slightly more niche answer is that 2020 is the 33rd anniversary of the foundation of the International Financial Services Centre in Dublin, Ireland (the “IFSC”).
I’m a born and bred Dubliner, though I have lived overseas for much of my adult life. In 1987 I was just 14 years old – safe to say that the establishment of a new financial district and tax-efficient corporate structures to encourage foreign direct investment is not a prominent memory from that year. However, by the time I left university eight or so years later, to take up a job with a professional-services firm in the heart of the IFSC, it was front and centre of Ireland’s emergence as a growing economic force.
In February I joined Copylab, a global leader in the production of investment writing and content, to provide on-the-ground support for our Irish clients. The value for our clients, both current and prospective, at that time was clear: Ireland had re-emerged from the global financial crisis and many sectors of the economy were thriving once again. Since then, however, the Covid-19 pandemic has redefined everyday life. While we are now cautiously emerging from its economic and social ravages, we don’t yet know how those consequences will play out. It seems likely though that the landscape that follows will be significantly changed and the pathway to recovery very uncertain.
From a communications point of view, that presents all manner of challenges of its own. But if anything, effective communications becomes even more important for financial services companies during uncertain or volatile times; when investors are apprehensive they need to hear your message more than ever. Our own experience bears this out: over the last three months, global demand for our services is higher than it’s ever been.
Added to that, our nearest neighbour, the United Kingdom, is leaving the European Union and, most likely, the comfort blankets of uniform financial-services regulation and “passporting”. Consequently, UK-based financial services providers have been scrambling to create structures that will enable them to continue providing a seamless service into and out of European markets. My role with Copylab in this ever-changing financial landscape will be to help our clients create and deliver content for their customers and co-workers across Europe and the world.
A growth revolution
Since I entered the workforce around 25 years ago, economic growth in Ireland (as measured by GDP) has increased by over 250%; at the end of 2019, it stood considerably above the levels seen prior to the global financial crisis. The IFSC has been at the heart of this economic revolution. While the country has suffered a couple of stumbles along this path of economic growth, including the current Covid-19 related challenges, it is clear that Ireland has enjoyed a meteoric rise from a broadly agrarian economy to one driven by financial services, pharmaceuticals and more recently by information and communications technology.
Now home to 20 of the 25 largest financial services firms globally, the country in many respects is barely recognisable from the Ireland of the late 80s and early 90s when the IFSC was in its infancy. It punches well above its weight through a combination of a highly educated work-force, a good quality of life, a pro-business regulatory and fiscal regime, and an English-speaking, common law legal infrastructure.
The B word
It is also noteworthy that Ireland will soon become the only English-speaking member of the European Union. In that regard, a recent EY report noted that some 29 financial services companies have relocated staff or services from London to Dublin as a result of Brexit, making Dublin the most popular relocation site for the sector, ahead of both Luxembourg (25) and Frankfurt (24).
Another 2019 report compiled by New Financial, a London-based think tank, identified more than 330 financial services groups in the UK that have responded to Brexit in some way by relocating part of their business, staff, or legal entities to the EU. It noted that Dublin was the clear winner with 115 choosing the Irish capital as a post-Brexit location. The Irish capital’s capacity to attract fund managers was highlighted, with over a third of asset managers identified choosing Dublin as their main EU hub, rising to just over half when you include hedge funds and private equity.
Some of the major relocations announced to date for Dublin include Barclays, Bank of America and JP Morgan, Aviva and Hermes Investment Management. These companies are moving billions in assets, hundreds of staff and creating a wave of new job opportunities.
The IDA, the development agency of Ireland, noted recently that there are now over 14,000 funds administered in Ireland, representing a total value of over €4.9 trillion in assets. Of this, almost 8,000 funds and over €3 trillion worth of assets are domiciled in Ireland.
Some of this uplift in assets is likely a Brexit dividend, but much of it derives from over 25 years of graft and ambition to establish Ireland as what is now the third-largest funds’ domicile worldwide. While historically much of the work being performed in the IFSC was back-office administration, custody and audit, Ireland today is increasingly being seen as a location for middle- and front-office roles, in particular in the areas of risk and compliance and in technology and innovation.
But back to turty tree…
In researching this article, I have learned that the ‘th’ sound is entirely absent from the Irish language; so when we Irish were introduced to English some few hundred years ago, we tended to fall back on the native pronunciation of “t” for “th”. With Copylab now having a permanent presence in Ireland, we can steer you through such linguistic minefields to produce world-class, but also localised copy.
More importantly, however, and in such uncertain times, it is clear that speaking to your clients with an authentic voice and clarity of message is more important than ever. Our experience and expertise has never been a more valuable service to our clients, present and new.