Tuesday, 29 September 2020

Ceisteanna (38)

Eoghan Murphy


38. Deputy Eoghan Murphy asked the Minister for Finance the strategy for the financial services sector here. [26676/20]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí ó Béal (7 píosaí cainte) (Ceist ar Finance)

I wish to ask the Minister for an update on the international financial services strategy. It is not specified in the question, but I was hoping to focus on the regional aspects of the plan. I might make a few additional points when I comment again.

I thank the Deputy. As he will be aware from his recent role in the Department, a whole-of-Government strategy for the development of the international financial services sector up to 2025 was launched in April 2019. The strategy, known as Ireland for Finance, is structured around action measures grouped together under several pillars: operating environment, technology and innovation, talent and communications, and promotion. There are also horizontal priorities - regionalisation, sustainable finance and workplace diversity - which apply across all four areas. The vision of this strategy is for Ireland to be a top-tier location of choice for specialist international financial services and to enhance and protect our future competitiveness.

The employment strategy aims to see 50,000 people in direct employment in the sector by 2025. According to enterprise agencies, approximately 47,000 people worked in international financial services at the end of 2019, which represented an increase of approximately 11,500 from 2015. I am pleased to report that the Ireland for Finance strategy was included in the programme for Government. We expect to bring an updated Ireland for Finance action plan 2020 to the Government for approval and publication in the next few weeks. Stakeholders have been working on the action measures in this draft of the strategy. The updated strategy was delayed because of the general election, as it includes policy measures which could only be taken by an incoming Government. The Covid-19 pandemic has added further delay, but the updating of the strategy is now in its final stages. I am also working on a finance plan for 2021. We have sought and received representations from most of the stakeholders involved and we hope to complete the plan in December, for publication early in 2021.

I thank the Minister of State. This is an exciting portfolio and I wish him well in it. A lot of the work depends on how much the Minister of State's senior Minister delegates to him, but I have no doubt that he will be very generous in that regard because I know how busy he is. As the Minister of State mentioned, I was one of several Ministers with responsibility for the previous international financial services strategy, IFS2020. A key commitment of that plan, which has been retained in the current Ireland for Finance strategy, was a focus on developing financial services jobs outside of Dublin. From memory, approximately one third of our financial services jobs are located outside of Dublin. They are not all back-office jobs. Deputy Nash, who was here earlier, knows all about the M1 payments corridor, which proceeds north from here to Letterkenny in Deputy Doherty's constituency, which is a very important hub for insurance services. Tralee in Kerry hosts Fintech services. Kilkenny is another financial services hub. Cork is obviously our second city for financial services and is doing incredibly well in that regard.

The decision on Brexit was made in 2016 and it immediately presented opportunities for us. Covid-19 also presents opportunities for the relocation of businesses and working from home. This aligns with the national planning framework and Project Ireland 2040. Has the Minister of State met with the regional chambers of commerce in relation to beefing up action 7 of the relevant pillar of the strategy? The regional chambers really do have the expertise when it comes to attracting businesses to their own areas.

If I may comment very briefly on the same issue of the regional balance of financial services, has the Minister met with the Carrick-on-Shannon Chamber of Commerce? As he will know, Avantcard is based in Carrick-on-Shannon. It is doing tremendously on its own. A massive facility and a skilled financial services workforce is available there. We need to redouble efforts to land new financial services investment in Carrick-on-Shannon and at that site.

I thank the Deputies. I have not yet met with any of the regional chambers but I will be happy to do so. I thank the Deputies for publicly prompting me, especially in view of the fact that so many jobs in this industry are located in the regions. Today I chaired a meeting with the industry advisory committee, which brings representatives of all the sectors in this area together with relevant senior public servants. That joint group holds a quarterly meeting. We discussed our plans for 2021. As part of that conference I spoke by video link with representatives of State Street bank in Kilkenny. I also spoke with representatives of Fexco, which is located in Kerry. There is a big regional spread in this sector, with approximately one third of jobs located in the regions. We want to develop that further. People now want to migrate closer to home. The industry is very alive to the fact that increased working from home is one of the outcomes of Covid-19. I will take up those suggestions and I thank the Deputies.

It is great to hear that the Minister of State is driving this personally. It needs to be driven by the Minister of State in order to be successful. It is also great to hear that he has committed to meeting with the chambers of commerce to help to develop the action on regional spread. As it is written the action is quite broad, but it could be fleshed out for future iterations of the plan. I would also add that the last progress report included a spotlight on the south east.

That was a good thing to include in it. Perhaps the next progress report could contain a similar spotlight on another part of the country.

I appreciate the constructive and helpful suggestions being made by Deputies as I deal with the insurance, financial services and credit union sectors. I was specifically dealing with this area all day today. The 2021 plan on which we are now working will feature strongly the issue to which the Deputies referred, especially in the context of the regions. One of the issues at which we are looking is the impact of Covid-19. Many people are working from home, accommodation is cheaper and, although there are major issues with broadband in large parts of the economy, it is quite surprising that there are so many good connections such that people can work successfully in many parts of the country. It has been highlighted that this is not the case in certain areas. This issue leads to bigger questions relating to whether everybody will be centred in Dublin. One issue we must address is that of those who are working from home from abroad. It is important that we get all those workers back to Ireland as soon as possible.