Ireland an emerging hub in fin-tech

After a turbulent decade, Ireland has rebounded and is a great place to set up your fin-tech business, Enda Meehan believes.

Mr. Meehan is a Senior Vice President for the Investment and Development Agency (IDA) of Ireland. It is his job to sell companies on why it makes sense to establish operations in the country.

Enda Meehan

Enda Meehan

IDA’s strategy is working. Mr. Meehan said. More than 1,200 companies have chosen to operate in the country, with more than 700 of those originating from North America.

Many are big players too:

  • Nine of the top 10 global software companies;
  • Nine of the top 10 global pharmaceutical companies;
  • 13 of the top 15 global medical technology companies;
  • Nine of the top 10 US information and communication technology companies;
  • 15 of the top 25 global financial services companies.

Google, Twitter, LinkedIn, eBay, PayPal and many major banks are among those with bases in Ireland.

“There is a basket of reasons why companies are attracted to Ireland,” Mr. Meehan said.

The only English speaking member of the eurozone, Ireland offers a gateway to more than 500 million consumers. Because of Ireland’s membership in the European Union, goods produced there can freely travel to other member countries, Mr. Meehan said. Workers can also move to where the attractive opportunities are, so companies need not worry about a shortage of skilled labor.

That is unlikely to be an issue, for Ireland’s native labor force is perfectly suited to the needs of fin-tech operations, Mr. Meehan said. The youngest in the EU with 40 percent of people under the age of 30, the percentage of people aged 25 to 64 who have completed postsecondary education, 41, is one of the EU’s highest. A high percentage of those graduates high training in math, science and computing.

The workforce tends to be stable too, Mr. Meehan said.

“U.S. clients tell us it is easier to attract and retain tech talent than in many of the U.S. hot spots.”

The Irish government offers several incentives too, Mr. Meehan said. The corporate tax rate of 12.5 percent is half the rate charged in China. The UK rate is 20 percent and Germany’s is 30.

They also offer 25 percent tax credits against payroll, tax, and research and development expenses. Ireland is the easiest country in the EU and sixth easiest in the world for a business to pay its taxes, according to the World Bank.

“There is good incentive for companies to set up in Ireland,” Mr. Meehan said.

I asked Mr. Meehan about Ireland’s economic rise and fall last decade. Much of that growth was reliant on property and when the recession hit, Ireland suffered.

“That coincided with a change in government,” Mr. Meehan said. “The new government made some hard choices, including reducing public sector pay by 17 percent.”

“They focused on making Ireland competitive again. We were the fastest growing in Europe last year at 4.8 to 4.9 percent, and this year is looking good too.”

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