What is SIFI?
Our name says it all – we are an initiative helping the finance industries of Scotland and Ireland to work more closely together so as to create more jobs, a wider range of financial services, and healthier and more successful companies than the two locations would be able to achieve acting alone.
What’s the premise?
That both Scotland and Ireland have complementary expertise and industry focus that when combined together can compete successfully with larger financial centres in an increasingly competitive world.
But the UK and Ireland are two separate sovereign countries?
Scotland’s and Ireland’s close cultural and business links and proximity more than overcome any challenges posed by spanning two jurisdictions. In fact, straddling the Irish/UK border is an absolute positive when it comes to solutions on the sale of financial services. The international cooperation dimension is what makes this project special and gains the attention of international financial services companies in a world that has been erecting borders to trade.
Is this just a response to Brexit?
Brexit has been a catalyst but the raison d’être is much broader than that. Of course, working more closely together across international boundaries – and what’s likely to be the UK/EU border – is something that is absolutely necessary for the health of our financial industries at present. But looking to the future in a world where we will be challenged by regional, not national, industry hubs, this project takes on a new and even more important task.
So what does the Initiative cover?
There are two strands to our Initiative. The first relates to an immediate and pressing task to help companies in the UK and Ireland continue to trade effectively after Brexit, and we feel the Scottish-Irish angle is an important element of bridging some of the gaps that Brexit exposes. At the same time, we have a second strand which sees us looking to help younger financial businesses, in particular those in fintech, to utilise the broader expertise and financial-sector hinterland of both countries to develop better end-to-end solutions for the finance industry. Both strands can and will inform each other.
Does the Initiative hinder either Scotland’s or Ireland’s ability to grow their own domestic finance industries?
Absolutely not. Our approach is additive to the main national development policies of both jurisdictions.
Is the project solely focused on the main cities?
Again no – in particular the growth of fintech allows the development of virtual clusters that can spread widely across both locations inside and outside of the main urban areas.
What’s the view of the Initiative on Brexit?
We are strictly nonpolitical and hold no corporate opinions on the constitutional or political issues both countries face. Instead we seek to provide positive proactive answers and policies within the political framework that we inhabit.
What is the output of the Initiative?
We have two key tasks: our first is to act as a conduit in bringing people together – trade and industry organisations, development agencies, third-level institutions, government and companies – in a forum in which to develop solutions; and our second is to bring forward policy suggestions under the terms of our mandate. We’ve already held a summit, two mini conferences and produced a policy paper on asset management and an academic paper on fintech. We’ve also attracted media coverage in publications including the Financial Times.
How is the Initiative managed?
We run a small office to help oversee our activities, to maintain good links between the two locations and stakeholders, and to channel funding into research for policy development and networking events. We look to raise modest funding to support our work from government, agencies and the corporate sector.
Who is involved?
The Initiative is managed in both Dublin and Edinburgh by policy director David Clarke CFA, Administrative Director Terry Quinn and consultant Pete Townsend; our academic work is overseen jointly by Daniel Broby at Strathclyde University and Dr Andreas Hoepner at the Michael Smurfit Graduate School of Business, University College Dublin. We are supported by an informal advisory group chaired by Dr Frances Ruane which receives input from key stakeholders in industry and government in both jurisdictions. We have received funding from the Scottish Government and non-financial support from many stakeholders including the Scottish Government Innovation and Investment Hub in Dublin, the Irish Consulate General in Edinburgh, Enterprise Ireland and PwC.
What’s the end result?
Overall it is to create more jobs, stronger industries and a better location for international finance companies to locate and fintech businesses to grow and prosper. Our ultimate ambition is to create a new type of cluster, one that straddles borders, utilising all the available expertise and the facilities available to us to establish an Atlantic finance/fintech corridor stretching across Ireland and Scotland.