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On the road to establishing Ireland as a top 20 global financial centre

Financial Services Ireland chairwoman Cecilia Ronan talks growth and innovation

Financial Services Ireland (FSI), the Ibec association representing the full suite of financial services companies in Ireland, aims to establish Ireland as a top 20 global financial centre by 2025. The association also plans to make Ireland the global centre for technology and financial services integration, innovation, and leadership as well as a world-class location for sustainable finance.

“The resilient response of the financial services industry to the Covid-19 pandemic shows how the sector can become a source of growth for Ireland,” says Cecilia Ronan, CEO of Citibank Europe and FSI chairwoman.

And growth up until the pandemic was little short of spectacular. “From 2014 to 2019, the contribution of the sector to Ireland’s GDP increased by 30 per cent to €19.3 billion and the corporate tax contribution from financial services companies rose by 137 per cent to €2.47 billion. That was almost a quarter of Ireland’s total 2019 corporate tax income.”

The employment statistics are no less impressive. “Financial services companies employ over 100,000 people,” she notes. “And 40 per cent of the jobs in the industry are outside Dublin. Employment has increased by around 60 per cent since 2004 but what we have seen in recent years is the nature of the jobs changing as well as the industry moves up the value chain.”


Indeed, Ireland is now home to 20 of the world’s top 25 financial services companies and with over €4 trillion in fund assets under administration, this country is the third largest global investment funds domicile and a leading location worldwide for hedge-fund administration.

This provides a solid platform for the industry to achieve the objectives it has set for itself, but Ireland has other advantages, according to Ronan. “Ireland’s open economy and commitment to the EU are both very important, as are the pro-business environment and ease of doing business here,” she says. “Access to key talent and skillsets and Ireland’s tax regime are other important factors.”

These factors provide the ingredients for continued investment and growth in key areas such as digitalisation, fintech, and sustainable finance, she believes.

“Our ability to leverage the unique ecosystem we have here for collaboration and innovation with technology companies and fintechs will be critically important.”

The industry has already been investing in digital technologies. “BNY has set up a digital asset hub here,” she says. “Zurich has a tech hub delivering global services to the group. At Citi we set up our Innovation Lab here in 2009 during the last crisis and we also have our AI and blockchain centres of excellence here in Ireland. Revolut is here as well.”

Net zero

Digital and fintech will continue to be a strategic focus for the industry. “The technology firms here in Ireland can help. We can’t build everything ourselves and shouldn’t build everything ourselves. We can partner with others to do it.”

Sustainable finance is another area of focus. “The industry has a responsibility to help achieve the net zero target,” says Ronan. “We can do this by supporting clean energy projects, reducing climate risk in our credit portfolios, and reducing our own direct impacts.”

Skills development will be vitally important for progress in those areas. “We have been working with the IFS Skillnet on that,” she says.

“It is imperative that we continue to attract the best talent to financial services. We also need to look at the skills we need for the future. FSI has commissioned a report on future skills needs, which will be published shortly. We talked to stakeholders and found that climate risk, data analytics and software engineering will be the type of skills we need. We need to work with the Government, the universities and other stakeholders on that.”

Diversity is also very important for the industry’s future. “We have 62 nationalities working in Citi and 35 per cent of the people working in the industry in Dublin are from outside Ireland,” says Ronan. “Diversity of thought leads to greater innovation. We are also supporters of the Women in Finance Charter and the industry is committed to enhancing gender balance and reporting progress on the gender pay gap.”

Looking to the future, she says collaboration between all stakeholders will be needed in an intensely competitive operating environment. “We are known for our collaborative culture here in Ireland, and we need to build on that to grow the industry,” she concludes. “We need to be forward-looking, recognise the challenges we face, anticipate the opportunities which will come our way and understand what will drive growth in future.”