Belfast’s flourishing tech sector has been lauded as playing a key role as the city looks towards reopening and recovery from the current Covid-19 pandemic.
Speaking ahead of next week’s BelTech 2020 virtual conference, Belfast’s Lord Mayor Frank McCoubrey said the city’s tech sector had shown true resilience during the lockdown and will have a key role in Belfast’s ongoing recovery.
He added: “Recent conversations with leading tech companies, including AllState, Citi, Datactics and FinTrU, have revealed their incredible resilience and ingenuity in the last few extremely challenging months of lockdown. They’ve flourished in a difficult period.
“All of us have become more dependent on technology recently – to work from home, keep in touch with loved ones or even just to do our food shopping – so it’s become more widely evident that tech has a central and evolving role to play in our lives.
“Belfast has already proved itself the number one destination of choice for FinTech investment thanks to our ready supply of talent, our connectivity and competitiveness in terms of operating costs.
“As we work towards economic recovery, we’re focused on becoming global leaders in digital innovation, with investment from the Belfast Region City Deal and through the implementation of our Smart City strategy.
“Realising that ambition will require genuine engagement and collaboration with the tech sector – as well as knowledge sharing between businesses, education and the public sector.
“So I’m delighted that we can draw upon the expertise of our recently appointed Digital Innovation Commissioner, Jayne Brady, in that regard.
“There’s a real appetite evident amongst our talented tech leaders and innovators – and they’re keen to start those conversations at events like BelTech later this month.”
Whilst many sectors have suffered job losses and sharp declines in sales, it seems that the tech sector is one which has actually benefited from responding to the challenges presented by Covid-19.
Jayne Brady, Belfast digital innovation commissioner, said: “It has been heartening to see the role that digital innovation has played in ameliorating the impact of Covid-19 both from an economic and a societal perspective.
“Our FinTech companies have in particular demonstrated Belfast’s ability to rise to the challenge and lead globally.
“Development of this sector will be a critical building block in underpinning our recovery programme.”
John Healy OBE, Vice President and Managing Director, Allstate, said: “All of our employees have been working from home since mid-March and it is a testament to the great team we have here that we have continued to successfully deliver technology solutions to our parent company in the US throughout this time.
“There has been tremendous work across all areas of the company to maintain ‘business-as-usual’; from delivering strategic projects to moving our comprehensive learning and development programme online.
“Digital innovation plays its part in this new world of work and has enabled us to maintain productivity in a virtual environment, but it is our employees who have excelled, they have shown leadership, resilience and creativity to adapt to this new normal and move the economy towards recovery.”
Stuart Harvey, CEO, Datactics, said: “At Datactics we’ve had to find a way to support existing customers and install new RegTech clients in cities like London, New York and Amsterdam during lockdown.
“The team here has made the most of remote access technology and video conferencing for this purpose. We have grown staff numbers by 15 per cent since March and in May we were fortunate to win a major new financial services supervisory organisation in London for our data quality platform.
“Although working from home is far from perfect for a young and growing team like Datactics, we’ve found a way to make it work for new and existing customers.”
Darragh McCarthy, founder and CEO of FinTrU, added: “We are in the fortunate position where FinTrU has continued to expand throughout this period, having been driven by our clients’ needs and demands.
“We have welcomed 75 new colleagues in the past two months, which included two virtually delivered FinTrU Financial Services Academies in Belfast and the North West.
“Our clients supported us fully with our transition of 100 per cent of our employees to working from home.
“We are very proud of the positivity and adaptability shown by every team member throughout this very difficult time.
“The technology infrastructure and local talent pool make a real case for Northern Ireland to see a significant increase in reshoring functions back to the region, largely due to the resilience demonstrated by the tech sector at this time.”