Brexit shines a light on Dublin
Ireland’s capital city Dublin, already an established English-speaking financial services hub, could stand to benefit as international firms look meet EU ‘passporting’ requirements in the wake of the Brexit vote. Gary Robinson visited the city recently to find out how locals view this and other opportunities
Ireland has a history of rebuilding itself, as has proven to be the case since the 2008 financial crisis, albeit not without some pain.
There are memories of the 1950s exodus of some half a million, with a similar story of several hundred thousand, many highly educated, who left in the 1980s. These demographic ripples, which saw young, educated people leave and the Irish economy stagnate, led to concern that 2008 could lead to a repeat and put Dublin in the doldrums for years. The unemployment rate rose from 6.5% in July 2008 to 14.8% in July 2012.
Fast forward eight years, and on the surface such danger appears to have been averted: to any visitor, Dublin in late 2016 could not be a more different place.
The Brexit vote has certainly galvanized discussion around opportunities, but when one walks around the financial district situated by the River Liffey – with its cool glass buildings, its hipster bars and restaurants situated in old quayside warehouses – there is a different feeling, perhaps one of a new city emerging from the past that is forging its own identity for the future.
Noel O’Halloran, director and chief investment officer at KBI Global Investors (KBIGI), pictured leftbelieves that Brexit will bring new opportunities, both for the city and for investors generally.
“When you look at Dublin, we have a small domestic economy in a small domestic market. Brexit was a shock and a threat, but it is also an opportunity. We run very balanced portfolios so it didn’t impact too much on those. But there is a feeling of opportunity.”
O’Halloran’s CEO and long time colleague at KBIGI Sean Hawkshaw agrees. Speaking from his firm’s headquarters located in the International Financial Centre district, he admits to having had to go prospecting in the international financial marketplace to grow the KBIGI business. Thus, the thought of that marketplace coming to his doorstep is an interesting one.
However, as Hawkshaw is quick to point out there is some way to go.
“Dublin is a centre for fund administration with EUR6.5bn in funds administered here,” said Hawkshaw. “It will be critical how UK domiciled funds and passporting is dealt with after Brexit as it could have a big impact but [at the moment] it is hard to say.”
“One thing we have seen advertising our positions [for new jobs at KBIGI] is that we have seen more CVs from the London market than we have seen previously. It is an interesting straw-in-the-wind indicator.”
With its more cosmopolitan feel, new bars alongside the spruced-up traditional establishments serving Guinness as a viable alternative to the Temple Bar stag and hen party drinking holes in the city centre, it is clear that Dublin is getting an image makeover of sorts to cater for more affluent clientele, both visiting and resident. There are still plenty of empty shops and offices to be filled but generally the look of the city is improving.
“Since Brexit we have seen office rents pushing up in Dublin,” adds Hawkshaw, pictured left. “On balance [Brexit is] a positive for Dublin but maybe not to the extent of the headlines you’ve seen. Competition exists from Paris, Frankfurt and other centres as well. Incrementally it will happen but probably at the margins and it is still very early to tell.”
The battle to lure financial services jobs and business away from London after Brexit is certainly beginning to intensify.
Dublin has been boosted with news that, in November last year, global financial clearing-house CME Group was reportedly to be particularly keen on a move to the city and examining options for a major operation headquarters.
CME, like many financial services and related businesses, is keen to ensure it keeps access to European Union customers after the UK leaves the bloc.