Banks go big in Belfast

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Belfast is emerging as a new source of banking and financial services jobs.

It's all happening in the 'Titanic Quarter' next to the City Airport, says Donna Parker, branch managing partner of Belfast recruitment firm Diamond Network.

Political stability is fuelling growth in the North's financial services industry, according to Parker. Local banks are seizing on the inflow of investment funds to switch from retail to corporate banking.

Although Belfast doesn't have a pool of financial services talent as deep as that in Dublin, Parker says this isn't necessarily a hindrance - the city has, "a flexible workforce with highly transferable skills".

She adds that with London and Dublin exhausting their "recruitable" resources, banks are looking to Belfast for talent - witness Citigroup, which set up a 375-person Belfast office in January 2005. And there are plenty of Belfast-inhabitants currently making the two hour recruit to work in Dublin, who'd be more than happy to work closer to home.

Parker says these Dublin commuters expect to be paid well - and are helping increase the parity of pay between the two cities. A Belfast-based head of wealth management or head of retail can command 100k plus 10% bonus a year, perhaps only 10% below Dublin rates.

More back (office) than front

But Wayne Sullivan, director of Belfast-based VanRath Search & Selection says that while the banks are funding property developers in the city, there's still not much in the way of corporate financing or M&A activity.

He says Belfast banks are hiring junior accountants at starting salaries of 25k or 30k plus generous benefits to train as managers. An unforeseen consequence is for the accountancy profession that faces a shortage of accountants.

Belfast is however gaining a reputation as a "back office" service centre. Citigroup's office is a technology hub supporting its UK operations. It recently announced 117 new jobs and Mr. Sullivan says the total could rise to 400. Salaries range from 29k to 65k or 70k, but bonus potential is apparently limited.

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