Northern Ireland’s growing potential as a location for customer contact and shared services operations was today highlighted as consultants from IBM met in Belfast for a pan-European conference.

IBM’s annual European Shared Services Practitioner’s Event - which last year was held in Barcelona - was addressed by Colin Lewis, Director of International Marketing and Sales at Invest Northern Ireland, who said the region’s skilled talent pool and competitive cost-base were major attractions for Shared Service Centre (SSC) operators.

He said: “We have a track record of bringing high-quality customer support operations to the region, including new shared services centres, because of the ready availability of suitable skills. They include companies such as Regus, which is locating a pan-European SSC in Belfast, as well as Prudential and National Australia Bank. It is a major coup for Belfast to host this prestigious two-day conference, and it is another clear sign of Northern Ireland’s emergence as a global competitor.

“The Contact Centre and Shared Services sectors are key target areas for Invest NI as we believe that they have massive potential to generate considerable benefits for the local economy. We are in a strongly competitive position, particularly in the growing financial shared services arena, and we are actively targeting the smaller and medium sized SSC projects in this sector, both at national and pan-European level.”

The event was organised by IBM Global Consulting Services, the leading location and strategic change consultancy which advises on investment locations for global players such as Deutsche Bank, Cahoot and Samsung. IBM’s two day event in Belfast involved its shared services practitioners in Europe, the Middle East and Africa who design and implement shared services primarily around finance as well as human resources, customer relationship management, procurement and IT.

Yvonne Welch, lead partner of IBM’s Global Network of Shared Service Practitioners, said: “Belfast occupies a strong competitive position within the financial shared services sector and has good potential to attract small and medium sized shared services projects. Belfast also offers good value for Human Resources and IT services when compared to other UK and Irish locations.

“This event enables us to examine the latest trends in the industry and analyse new developments so that IBM can refresh its offering to clients. It has also given us the opportunity to learn at first hand about the strides being made in the development of Northern Ireland’s knowledge-led economy.”