As international banks and investment firms continue to expand their operations in Ireland, the nation has become a major player in the global financial sector. According to a recent report by the Federation of International Banks in Ireland (FIBI) and Banking and Payments Federation Ireland (BPFI), 17 of the top 20 global banks have established their presence in the country.
Ireland’s Rise as a Global Financial Hub
FIBI serves as the representative body for international banking and investment firms in Ireland, representing over 30 organizations, including prominent banks such as Bank of America, Wells Fargo, and JP Morgan. The United Nations trade and development data reveals that Ireland is now the sixth-largest exporter of financial services worldwide, with the 19th largest international banking sector.
The report highlights the substantial contribution of international banks to employment in Ireland. By the end of last year, FIBI member firms employed over 14,200 individuals, marking a 16% increase compared to 2019. This number is expected to grow as 65% of firms plan to increase their workforce this year.
Factors Attracting Investment to Ireland
Gavin Purtill, Director of Regulation and Supervision at Banking and Payments Federation Ireland, noted that several factors contribute to these companies’ decisions to locate in Ireland. Although the corporate tax rate is one aspect, access to talented and efficient workers remains the driving force behind their decision.
Purtill also expressed confidence that changes to Ireland’s corporate tax rate would not negatively affect the country’s attractiveness for these firms, citing that corporation tax stability has historically been an advantage. He further mentioned that the regulatory burden is among the challenges faced by the banks, emphasizing the need for a level playing field compared to other countries.
Fernando Vicario, Chair of FIBI and CEO of Bank of America Europe DAC and Country Executive for Ireland, attributed the growth in the sector to the UK’s departure from the EU and the business-friendly operating environment in Ireland. This growth has facilitated the development of specialized skills within the local workforce, enhancing the sector’s talent pool and the country’s competitiveness for further investment and growth.
A survey of FIBI members conducted earlier this year revealed optimism for the future despite geopolitical tensions and macroeconomic uncertainty. 80% of respondents expect their Irish operations’ business activity to increase, while 15% believe it will remain unchanged, and only 5% anticipate a decline.
Brian Hayes, CEO of Banking and Payments Federation Ireland, cited several advantages that Ireland offers international banks and investment firms, including its status as the only English-speaking country with a common law tradition in the eurozone, a pro-business culture, and internationally recognized regulatory standards. Additionally, Ireland’s economic and political stability, particularly its response to the global financial crisis, continues to attract the financial sector.
Challenges in Ireland’s Financial Sector
However, the report warns that the continued growth of Ireland‘s international banking and investment sector should not be taken for granted. Challenges such as the increasing regulatory landscape at EU and domestic levels, geopolitical uncertainties, rising business costs, and cyber risks must be addressed. To ensure the industry’s long-term success, FIBI members and the government must work together to create a level playing field across all aspects of the operating environment.
By doing so, Ireland can solidify its position as an attractive and innovative hub for emerging areas like sustainable finance and fintech, maintain the development of a diverse skills base, and preserve the economic and political stability that has benefited the country for years.