With an expected unemployment rate of just 5% in 2023, job seekers in Ireland have plenty of opportunities to choose from. This has created a "war for talent" in Ireland amongst employers in the asset management, fund services, and wider financial services sectors, says Andrea Lennon, Country Head of Ireland for Crestbridge.

This is down to the success Ireland has experienced in the evolution of its financial services and asset management industries. Previously, the country was primarily known as a back-office hub, but it is now transitioning towards middle-office roles, with an emphasis on attracting jobs in risk and compliance. 

This shift has resulted in a significant upskilling of the workforce, as people learn new skills and take on new jobs. 
Because of this success and availability of new types of roles, Ireland has become a hot spot for both Irish nationals returning home and foreign nationals seeking employment for the first time.

These people returning or coming to Ireland for the first time are bringing with them a diverse range of skills to the economy, particularly in the private equity sector, for example bringing deep expertise in portfolio analysis and valuation, impairment testing under IFRS and US GAAP, taxation and liquidity of equity interests and so on.

The next phase of Ireland's back-to-middle office evolution will be the transition to front-office positions, such as portfolio management and fund distribution, which bodes well for Ireland's future. However, with staff in short supply for current roles, employers are fiercely competing for top talent. 

To address this, the asset management industry has teamed up with universities and technical colleges to produce the next generation of skilled workers in sectors such as funds, banks, and structured products.

Finance is one key area the government is focused on helping bringing more talent into the country, alongside life sciences, pharma, tech, and aviation (a now established sector and where many universities offer tailored courses in this area). The Industrial Development Agency ('IDA Ireland') has also done a great job in successfully bringing investment not just into Dublin but into regional centres of excellence around the country, such as Kilkenny, Limerick, Waterford, and Cork. 

This has created financial hubs outside of Dublin, distributing job opportunities throughout the country. It's very easy to get around the country, so there's no reason why the regions couldn't benefit from a wider distribution of jobs.

The increased skill set and talent pool that Ireland is already able to bring to the global asset management industry, as well as future skill sets currently being incubated, creates benefits for fund managers. 

With talent markets tighter across Europe comparatively than Ireland, especially in Luxembourg, there's a physical limit on the amount of funds that can be launched at any one time from the European continent. 

Managers who don't want to delay in launching new funds or raising assets for them, have been considering Ireland as a suitable alternative. Ireland has had success in attracting UK and US managers anyhow in recent years, but the tight talent market in Europe is exacerbating this trend. 

Other factors that are making Ireland more attractive include the recent Finance Act, the high level of education in Ireland, the large pool of talented workers (the funds industry currently employs 17,000 people), the common use of English and the similarities between Ireland's legal system and working culture and those of the UK and USA. 

Additionally, Ireland has long-established relationships with some international UK and US managers like Blackrock, Abrdn, Aon, KKR, Carlyle, Blackstone, GSAM and others. 

There are several strategies that fund managers are using to effectively handle the war for talent in Ireland and across Europe:

  • Offer competitive compensation and benefits: Beyond health insurance, retirement plans, flexible work arrangements and professional development opportunities that exceed previous industry expectations, private equity firms are sharing carry more widely.
  • Foster a positive company culture: A positive company culture can be a major draw for staff who have a wide choice of where they work. Fund managers are striving to create a welcoming, supportive, and inclusive work environment that encourages employees to feel valued and motivated. Diversity, Equality and Inclusion has been a big trend in talent acquisition recently.
  • Investing in employee development: Companies that invest in employee development are more likely to retain top talent. As opportunities in the middle and front-office grow, staff are looking to enhance their skillsets and perhaps move into these other areas. Companies who are providing opportunities for professional development, training and enhancing the new skills required to move into these roles are more likely to keep staff motivated to stay with them.
  • Offering flexible work arrangements: Many people in the sector now value flexibility in their work arrangements. Companies that offer options like remote work or flexible scheduling may be more attractive to job candidates.

By Andrea Lennon, Country Head of Ireland for Crestbridge.