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Why Middle East investors should consider Northern Ireland’s fintech sector

Why Middle East investors should consider Northern Ireland’s fintech sector

The fintech sector is booming – supported in part by the Covid-19 pandemic – and Northern Ireland offers regional businesses a great platform for growth

Financial technology (fintech) has rapidly emerged as one of the most attractive sectors worldwide and also specifically in this region – investments in fintech across Europe, Middle East and Africa (EMEA) in the first half of 2020 reached $4.6bn with 391 deals, according to the Pulse of Fintech H1’20 report by KPMG.

While the industry was growing even before the Covid-19 outbreak, the pandemic has further propelled its rise to accommodate the changing demands in the ‘new normal’.

“Covid-19 is driving a major shift in customer behaviours – with a rapid increase in the use of digital payments models and online product and service channels,” KPMG said.

“It has also shifted how businesses operate, with many accelerating investments in digital channels and related enablers in order to meet customer needs. This acceleration will continue to drive fintech investment geared toward succeeding in the ‘new normal’.

“Well-capitalised fintechs and those able to respond quickly to the shifting needs of customers could see strong growth,” KPMG said.

For investors from the Middle East looking for fintech opportunities, one destination they should be considering is Northern Ireland, according to Northern Ireland’s Fintech envoy, Andrew Jenkins.

The city of Belfast is currently “the world’s number one destination” for fintech development investment projects, the top city in Europe for new FDI software development projects and ranked in the inaugural Top 10 European Tech Cities for the Future’. These accolades are “hard earned and well deserved”, he states.

“Northern Ireland has a high concentration of product development activity with local tech companies and teams ‘owning’ product management, design, development QA and DevOps from end to end. Consequently, the region has become a globally respected hub for trading technology, big data and advanced analytics, software development and cybersecurity,” Jenkins says.

While almost 40,000 people are employed across the financial and professional services sector in Northern Ireland, roughly one in four of them are working in technology roles.

The region has attracted global companies such as Allstate, Citi, Liberty Mutual and First Derivatives to establish and expand their operations, with recent investors including CME Group, Vela and TP ICAP.

“International firms have not only benefitted from the strength of technology and innovation talent in the region, they have tapped into a wealth of other skills available to deliver in a broad range of areas including fund administration, client services, investment operations, analytics, risk management, regulatory compliance and legal services,” Jenkins elaborates.

Having operated a regional office in Dubai for over 25 years, Invest Northern Ireland, the region’s economic development agency, is confident that local organisations from the region can collaborate and work with the Northern Ireland to expand and grow their businesses.

“Northern Irish companies have a long history in the Middle East and there are many success stories here. They have played pivotal roles in the dairy industry, in the renovation of the Dome of the Rock, in supplying carpet to the numerous hotels in the region, in partnering with the first medical college in Dubai, providing sand washing equipment used in construction, and technology used for crowd analytics to predict overcrowding,” the agency explains.

“Innovative companies from Northern Ireland are built on a highly educated and entrepreneurially-focused workforce, supported by strong academia.”

Invest Northern Ireland works in partnership with investors to offer advice and financial assistance as well as with experienced Northern Irish exporters who keen to grow and develop trade partnerships across the region.  For more information visit: InvestNI.com

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