Continuing our focus on jurisdictions where Association for International Life Offices (AILO) membership is increasing, this time we’re shining the spotlight on the Republic of Ireland, writes AILO chief executive Bob Pain.
Ireland may be comparatively small on a global scale, but it has a very strong financial services sector.
There are many USPs which underpin its success. It’s an important hub for global tech firms, an influential player in the EU, and a trusted international banking centre. But its abundance of employees with excellent people skills and customer service experience are equally important in the context of understanding Ireland’s status in the offshore insurance sector.
The quality of employees in customer service roles really stands out. That’s not just because of a friendly, positive attitude, but also a high level of knowledge combined with a willingness to take responsibility and use their initiative to solve problems. An added benefit for UK customers is that Ireland doesn’t have the language barrier which may exist with some other jurisdictions.
Many providers set up in Ireland specifically to offer international bonds. For life companies this is a lucrative market which is focused mainly on mass affluent/HNWI clients in the UK looking for tax advantages.
However, there are some interesting future opportunities too, said Sanjeev Kopan, head of proposition for Europe at Standard Life. While international vonds are often viewed as being only for the super wealthy, there is potential for it to become a mainstream, long-term savings solution.
Kopan added: “We need to dispel the myth that international bonds are only for HNWIs with sophisticated financial needs.”
For many individuals, the international bond is the next logical step for long-term savings for customers after topping up their personal pension and opening an ISA. It can also prove to be a simple and tax-efficient way to provide income post-retirement alongside a pension.
The Central Bank of Ireland (CBI) regulates all financial services in the Republic of Ireland and, generally speaking, is quite consistent with the UK’s Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) when it comes to setting regulations and guidance.
The CBI also works closely with the European Insurance & Occupational Pensions Authority (EIOPA) to comply with relevant guidelines.
While regulation, as in all jurisdictions, provides challenges, in Ireland there are clear benefits to businesses and consumers which stem from the role it plays in establishing its reputation as a respected and trusted business centre.
How AILO helps Ireland’s life sector
AILO has more members in Ireland than anywhere else. There are many benefits of membership, but Sanjeev highlights two proof points as examples of why AILO is so strong in the Republic:
- AILO’s eLearning modules: Particularly important in the context of helping businesses support training for employees, especially in the induction process for workers who have been recruited from outside the life sector.
- Working successfully with other representative organisations: One example is the work Ailo’s Legal and Regulatory Committee did in 2022 regarding UK trustees and the EU5AMLD directive.
In the latter example, AILO’s work in conjunction with Insurance Ireland was instrumental in prompting Revenue (Ireland’s tax and customs agency) to publish FAQs which proved to be very helpful for UK trustees holding an Irish offshore bond provided by Irish insurance companies.
Many life companies are members of AILO and insurance Ireland – so the willingness of both organisations to work together towards common goals that benefit members, and the industry is very important.
Summing up, despite its relatively small size in economic terms, Ireland writes a significant amount of business in the life sector, and financial services generally.
Just as very few small nations are able to attract so many US presidents on official visits, Ireland continues to punch above its weight in the life sector too.
This article was written for International Adviser by AILO chief executive Bob Pain.