Being Scottish is great. If you forget about the weather, the sometimes crushing sporting defeats and the midges; it’s a wonderful place to call home.
Understanding the Scottish market has been the focus of my career initially as a funder and, more recently, in finance and accountancy recruitment with iMultiply. So, in October 2017, when we set up our Belfast office, our first office outside of Scotland, I wanted more than just a good business case to make the move.
Transitioning away from what you know can be a daunting task and having met a number of finance professionals who have moved back to Northern Ireland, perhaps a return into an environment which you have stepped out of for a while can be even more challenging.
The most common concerns for movers considering returning to Belfast are; competitive rates of salary, the ability to settle in quickly and the size of the private sector. Having spoken to many finance professionals who grew up here and who later moved away for a particular university course or a career opportunity, there are often niggling doubts about moving back to Northern Ireland which have the potential to hold them back from making the best career and lifestyle decision.
Let’s address these doubts now:
“Are the salaries lower?”
Compared with other large UK cities and at first glance; yes, they can be. However, you really need to look past the pay cheque to fully assess whether you’ll be better off. The housing market in Northern Ireland can offer an attractive home for less than the price of a two bedroom flat in Edinburgh, or even less square footage in cities like London or New York. Similarly, the rental market is also incredibly appealing to those who have rented in a city centre elsewhere. The average salary to house price ratio in Northern Ireland is 1:4.12 – compare that to 1:7.6 as a UK average and you get an idea of how much better off you could be.
“Can it match my current lifestyle?”
This is perhaps where a move back to Belfast can pay its largest dividend. There is a big focus here on maintaining a healthy work-life balance. In a 2016 study by City A.M, Northern Ireland had the shortest average commute time across any region of the UK (45.8 minutes). There has also been huge investment into the restaurant and bar scene which provide options to rival most major destinations. First Trust Bank forecasted that the hospitality sector in Northern Ireland is set to generate £1bn turnover by 2020, in spite of fears of a local skills shortage. The country has enjoyed a massive influx of tourists in recent years, while Lonely Planet awarded Belfast and the Causeway Coast the ‘best region in the world to visit’ in 2018.
“Would my family be able to settle in quickly?”
Something Northern Ireland does very well is family life. In The Times 2017 survey of secondary education across the UK, no other region other than London and the Southeast contained more schools in the top 100. The grammar school system here provides an excellent level of education without the private school cost. There are also two excellent universities here, with Queens University ranked in the UK top 40. Aside from education, there’s a terrific feeling of community here and national statistics show crime at its lowest numbers in 20 years.
“What about work? Are there sufficient opportunities?”
Since iMultiply set up the Belfast office last year, the team have been encouraged by the volume of vacancies, which is comparable to our other attractive business locations. Northern Ireland statistics show 8.7% growth in vacancies since 2012, primarily driven by the private sector, whilst the number of new businesses registered in 2017 showed 6.2% growth, compared to 3.6% across the UK.
There is an enormous social aspect to doing business here, with a business community which is very supportive of one another. Invest NI also contribute hugely to this supportive ecosystem, providing over £650m of support to local businesses since 2012. There seem to be new external investors coming into the market every week and the demand for talent is at an all time high.
Your choice of where to make your next move will come down to a multitude of factors but the key is to make that choice with your eyes open. If you feel that a move to Northern Ireland would be something you would like to pursue, please get in touch.
Jamie Watts, iMultiply Manager Belfast: firstname.lastname@example.org; 028 9244 9980