Financial Services Focus: Increasingly diverse sector in transition as it loses two stalwarts


This year Ireland’s financial services sector is experiencing perhaps the most seismic change in a long time.

Ulster Bank and KBC are exiting the banking market and that creates a whole range of opportunities, threats, problems and success stories. It all depends on where you stand. If you are a future former customer of Ulster Bank or KBC this is likely to cause problems unless you are very organized.

For competitors like AIB and Bank of Ireland, there is huge opportunity for easy wins – new customers, new mortgage books and, in a market where skilled workers are scarce, new employees.

It is likely to be a turbulent time for employees in the industry – not only because of the departure of two large employers who together employed almost 4,000 people in the industry.

But overall, the industry is still a huge success story and now employs more than 100,000 people. That’s a massive 60 percent increase since 2004.

In the last eight years alone, since Ireland began recovering from the crash that devastated much of the sector, the number of financial services firms in the country has risen 36 percent to 9,000.

Like almost every other sector, financial services are being fundamentally transformed by the digital revolution.

Fintechs, who may not have long been seen as a real threat to the big players in the industry, are now a true driver of innovation. Legacy banks are scrambling to transform old, creaky, and overburdened tech systems into agile financial gateways that can attract a new generation of customers who judge banks by their app, not the bank manager’s school ties.

But the fintechs also create opportunities for techies and finance-oriented employees.

With growing tech and financial hubs, Dublin is proving to be a fertile breeding ground for a crossover sector that is part tech and part finance.

A similar hybrid success story previously emerged as Ireland’s proud tradition as a hub for the aviation sector blended with the kind of accounting and legal expertise that knew how to navigate tax laws and international treaties to transform Ireland into a global leader in aircraft leasing. Some of the country’s highest-paying jobs are maintained by this particular financial services sub-sector, although many of these high-paying professionals are making their money right now trying to get back the planes they leased to Russian airlines.

In fact, the top-ranking financial services firm is Fidelity Investments Limited, a Boston-based investment house that employs 1,300 people here — many of them software engineers and programmers who staff a large technology center. Only a handful of others make it into the top 70 on the leaderboard and they are all big international players.

The two major Irish banks make the list, but not the top 100.

At the top of these institutions, there is a growing sense that the salary cap is constraining smart recruitment, with Bank of Ireland CEO Francesca McDonagh’s departure to Credit Suisse being just the most prominent example.

And further down the ranks, employees at the two main banks will know better than anyone what tremendous changes have already taken place to enable them to compete — and what tremendous changes are likely to come. Financial Services Focus: Increasingly diverse sector in transition as it loses two stalwarts

Fry Electronics Team

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