At first I thought that it was one of those mix ups you hear about in travel agents. You know the couple who thought they were going to Barcelona, Spain only to end up in Barcelona, Venezuela – how we laughed.
So when BBC Northern Ireland reported that the New York Stock Exchange was establishing an office in Belfast my initial thought was that the Americans had accidentally left off their usual helpful Hollywood identifier.
You know what I mean. You’re watching Tom Cruise abseiling down the Eiffel tower, motorbiking under the Arc de Triomphe and dodging traffic on the Champs Elysee, when up comes a little subtitle – “Paris, France”. Just in case you thought it was Paris, Wisconsin, population 194. And 3 cats.
But for once, I thought, Belfast, Maine, might have been helpful. Indeed there is even a Belfast in upstate New York so I could see where the confusion might arise.
But when I clicked on the website there were a couple of characters looking extremely like Northern Ireland’s First Minister Peter Robinson, and Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness peering back at me. You knew it was good news because Peter was giving us his best Gordon Brown style smile and he didn’t have his hands round Marty’s throat!
So it’s true the NYSE is establishing a bridgehead in Belfast. So I guess what the rest of Europe wants to know is “Why Belfast?”
Well its a pretty closely guarded secret but Belfast is much more than just a Boney M song, it is now a great place to do business. We have a young highly educated workforce ideally suited to the knowledge economy and therefore the financial services sector. If you don’t believe me follow the link to Invest NI, the Northern Irish regional economic development agency.
The highly motivated workforce, together with Northern Ireland’s superb transport links – low cost flights to every important region of the UK and the East Midlands – has allowed us to deliver a cost effective professional service to clients throughout the UK.
But I guess the secret’s getting out, this announcement follows hot on the heels of legal firm McGrigors merger with leading local law firm L’Estrange and Brett.
We at Spence & Partners are delighted to welcome the NYSE to Northern Ireland’s growing financial services community. And if you need any pensions advice, you know where to find us!