Case study 1

Organisation: Citi

Industry: Financial Services

The Story of Citi
Citi was founded in New York over 210 years ago and almost 100 years later, began expanding outside the US.

In 1965, Citi was one of the first foreign banks to open an office in Dublin. Its numbers grew rapidly to over 1,500 employees in the mid-to-late 1990s. It later became Citibank Europe plc now the main bank subsidiary for Citi in Europe, employing c.13,000 staff in the EU

Citi opened its doors in Belfast in 2005 with 375 staff delivering technology services to Citi’s Global Institutional Clients Group.

Since 2016, Citi has hired hundreds of people in both locations. Citi is now a significant employer in Ireland and one of the largest employers and the largest provider of financial services in Northern Ireland.

The unstable political environment that existed prior to the BGFA would have made it difficult for any global business to plan a long-term growth strategy in Northern Ireland. Following the BGFA, Citi saw the opportunity to establish a presence in a talent rich area as a pioneering employer in the Financial Services industry. This was a significant factor in Citi’s decision to locate a major site in Belfast.

Short-term impact of the BGFA on the business
Access to talent was the key motivator for companies to setting up in Northern Ireland after the BGFA. This was certainly the case for Citi who in 2005 chose Belfast based on this and other factors, including proximity to Dublin and London which allowed greater collaboration and connection for Citi, fostering stronger opportunities for growth.

Initially sourcing and recruiting local talent from universities from 2005, it was evident that such a high standard of education meant that there was a broader talent pool from which Citi could draw on to grow its Belfast operations.

The talent pool continues to be a key asset to Northern Ireland, putting it on the map of global business. The value proposition of the Belfast site created a snowball effect for both the bank and the wider industry in Northern Ireland. There are considerable number of other firms in the Financial Services industry who have replicated parts of the Citi model.

Long term positive impact of the BGFA on the business
Citi has expanded its footprint in Northern Ireland nearly tenfold in under twenty years – from 375 in 2005 to over 3500 employees today. It continues to grow and build upon its footprint as the only global investment bank to operate in Northern Ireland.  

Citi Belfast offers a wide variety of roles particularly in markets operations, legal, compliance, HR and technology. There has been similar growth in roles in these key areas in Dublin, which has allowed for greater connection between the two sites.

Citi has also expanded in Ireland and now employs 2800 people in Dublin, following the announcement of 300 new jobs in 2022. Dublin is also now home to a Citi Innovation Lab, the first of five global labs for Citi (established in 2009) and the location of Citi’s Artificial Intelligence Centre of Excellence established in 2021. In 2023 Citi announced it has purchased a new site at the Waterfront South Central in the Dublin Docklands, where it will develop a new modern office building which will emit zero carbon in normal operations. This is a further reinforcement of Citi’s long-term commitment to the island of Ireland.

While the development of the financial and business services sectors is undoubtedly positive, it is very difficult to quantify how responsible the BGFA is for this success. It is however fair to say, if not for the BGFA, Citi would not have established its business in Northern Ireland.

Case study 2

Industry: Dairy

The dairy industry on the island of Ireland acts as a single entity, facilitated by the free movement of milk, product and staff, which has been underpinned by the BGFA for the last 25 years.

Intra and inter-company movements of milk have been developed over time, in collaboration with authorities in both jurisdictions. This is driven by the need to generate efficiencies, improve productivity and added value, facilitated by common EU standards, labelling and free movement of product and people. Raw milk and product cross over and back with ease across the border. About a third of Northern Ireland’s milk output (800 million litres) is exported to Ireland.

What has been created is an all-island value chain for dairy, which operates to the ultimate benefit of dairy farmers, rural communities, companies and the overall economy in both countries. Today it is the island’s biggest native industry with a value approaching €16 billion, concentrated in rural areas.

Dairy has emerged as a key economic driver for both parts of the island and is a sector that serves as a key supplier and customer of Great Britain (GB). The island of Ireland produces almost 11.5 billion litres of milk, with that raw product contributing to the provision of around 80,000 direct and indirect jobs, with 93% of the dairy industry’s output exported, delivering about €7 billion export revenue annually to both jurisdictions.

Recent times have seen the industry take its place as a global hub for the development of specialised nutrition and functional foods. The health and nutrition portfolio of products includes sports nutrition, infant formula, elder nutrition, foods for special medical purposes. Island of Ireland dairy output is now the source of many health products for citizens across the globe.

Case study 3

Industry: Irish Whiskey

Ireland is the home of whiskey and where whiskey got its name. From the heyday of the 1800s when there were distilleries scattered across all parts of the island; to the nadir of the 1980s when there were only two distilleries left, one in Northern Ireland and one in Ireland; Irish whiskey has always been an all-island industry – the embodiment of our shared economy.

Irish Whiskey is a protected Geographical Indication (GI), equally recognised and protected by both the EU and UK, and in laws of many countries around the world. This means a product can only be labelled and sold as Irish whiskey if it has been fully distilled and matured in wooden casks on the island of Ireland. The Irish whiskey industry depends on seamless cross-border supply chains. Every year, millions of litres of Irish whiskey spirits cross the border to be matured or blended or bottled by distilleries or businesses on the other part of the island.

Today, the island of Ireland is home to over 40 distilleries, distilling over 110 million litres of whiskey spirit every year with global sales having reached an estimated 16 million cases – over 190 million bottles in 2022. Exports of Irish whiskey are now worth over €1 billion to the all-island economy. The gross value added (GVA) per employee in the Irish whiskey industry was estimated to be €412,756 in 2019.

The BGFA also led to the establishment of Tourism Ireland as an all-island body to promote Ireland as an international tourist destination. Tourism Ireland has worked closely with The Irish Whiskey Association to promote IrishWhiskey360° and Irish whiskey tourism generally. Across the island, Irish whiskey distilleries attracted over one million visitors in 2019, with a strong post-Covid rebound in 2022. Irish whiskey tourism is delivering substantial multiplier gains for local economies, with visitors to Irish whiskey distilleries spending €63 million in local communities in 2019.

“There is and always has been co-operation and exchanges between distilleries across the island – and so it should be and must continue to be. The ingredients that make Irish whiskey a unique product – air, water, grains and an island location don’t see boundaries.”

John Teeling,
Executive Chairman of Great Northern Distillery, Dundalk

“The distinctive all-island nature of the Irish Whiskey industry highlights the opportunity for Irish Whiskey tourism. For those of us in border counties the ease of movement for tourists to visit distilleries in routes that could combine elements of the Antrim coast and the Wild Atlantic Way or from major tourist centres like Belfast and Derry/Londonderry through into Ireland’s hidden heartlands. It plays to what we know tourists love and the stories we all want to share – creating economic benefit for all our communities.”

James Doherty
Chairman, Irish Whiskey Association
Managing-Director, Sliabh Liag Distillers, Co. Donegal

Case study 4

Name: The Single Electricity Market 

Organisation:  System Operator for Northern Ireland (SONI) and EirGrid

Industry: Energy

In 2007 Northern Ireland and Ireland came together to establish the world’s first cross border dual currency wholesale electricity market. While energy itself was never specifically included in the list of areas for cooperation in the BGFA, the creation of the Single Electricity Market (SEM) was enabled by underlying spirit and principles of the agreement.

The SEM functions as a single market for the wholesale trade of electricity generation. All major generators on the Island are required to participate in the market. Generators bid in their power to the market and suppliers buy from the pool to sell on to electricity consumers. In any given year, the SEM manages financial flows of approximately €3.5 billion.

The SEM was designed with citizens and businesses first in mind. Collaboration through the SEM enables greater economies of scale that is more attractive to investors, improves competition – thereby lowering costs –and improves security of supply thus providing benefits for customers in Ireland and in Northern Ireland. The Single Electricity Market Committee (SEMC) is the decision-making authority for all SEM matters. The committee consist of three Commission for the Regulation of Utilities (CRU) and three Utility Regulator (UR) representatives along with an independent and a deputy independent member.

The operation of the SEM is facilitated by a sharing of network infrastructure. By leveraging electricity infrastructure on an all-island basis, SONI and EirGrid, as operators of these networks, can utilise the combined strength of both grids to enhance security of supply. This means that if generation availability in one jurisdiction is not sufficient to meet demand, access to power in the other will help to keep the lights on for all users.

The physical sharing of electricity between the networks of Northern Ireland and Ireland takes place via grid connections called interconnectors. At present, there is one primary and two smaller interconnectors between the two jurisdictions. Work is also underway to develop a new larger 400kv interconnector – the North South Interconnector (NSIC). This will help further reduce electricity costs, enhance security of supply, and improve the sustainability of electricity supply.

The ESRI (2022)22 in recent research show that continued co-ordination of the market and of renewable electricity targets on an all-island basis along with the delivery of the N/S Interconnector has the potential to unlock future benefits in terms of efficient infrastructural investment and reduced costs. More broadly, it is only through continued operation of the all-island market that key environmental and low carbon goals can be delivered efficiently. This is particularly the case given Northern Ireland remains, post Brexit, a part of the Internal Energy Market (IEM) and the EU Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS).

Case study 5

Organisation: Titanic Belfast

Industry: Tourism

Tourism is a crucially important sector for the economies of both Northern Ireland and Ireland and is one of the island’s most successful services sectors. While promoted and marketed at an all-island level, the benefits flow to local communities, businesses and service providers.

This world leading tourist attraction is located on the spot where the famous ship was designed, built and launched. It opened with the aim of establishing itself as the home of RMS Titanic, celebrating the city’s maritime heritage and industrial past.

Since launching in 2012, Titanic Belfast has continued to go from strength to strength. It has contributed £430 million additional visitor spend to the Northern Ireland economy and inspired £60 million of wider heritage preservation across Titanic Quarter. It has firmly established itself on the local, national and international stage, having welcomed more than 7 million visitors from over 145 different countries and was previously voted the World’s Leading Tourist Attraction at the prestigious World Travel Awards.

With a domestic population of 1.9mn, this ‘world-leading attraction’ is reliant on tapping into a much larger island and global markets. It depends heavily on attracting tourists from Ireland, with 1 in every 4 visitors coming to the venue from there. Needless to say, it is easier to attract coach trips from Dublin rather than those in Scotland or England. Proximity also allows Titanic Belfast to tap into the lucrative ‘day-tripper’ market.25

Dublin Airport is only 90 mins distance from Titanic Belfast. Throughput in Dublin Airport amounted to 32.9M Passengers in 201926 connecting to 180 destinations via 43 airlines. Given the size of this huge cohort of passengers, it makes sense for Titanic Belfast to target visitors (both Irish and international) that come via Ireland.

Titanic Belfast houses the city’s premier event suites, which have hosted over 3,000 business and leisure events. The attraction is also regarded as an important catalyst for investment in local tourism and has contributed to the demand for new hotels to be built in Belfast City Centre.

Titanic Belfast is committed to being a key driver for tourism in Northern Ireland and is currently working on a £4.5 million refreshment programme launching in Spring 2023.