It has been a huge honour to serve as Chair of Irish Funds until September 2021.
During my tenure, our world has changed immeasurably. We entered the post-Trump era, saw the UK leave the European Union, and experienced rapid technological advances that have changed society, and our industry.
But more recently, certain changes have led to extreme experiences we never thought possible. We endured a global health pandemic the likes of which have not been seen for a century. We are clearly seeing the accelerating impacts of climate change. And we are living through a brutal humanitarian situation. We are appalled by the brutal invasion of Ukraine by Russian armed forces. Our thoughts are with the Ukrainian people at this difficult time.
Globally, the time is right for change. The desire to build a fairer, more sustainable world has never been stronger. And financial services is not just a valuable part of the solution: such a future can only happen with the industry’s involvement.
Our place in the future
Ireland is now one of Europe’s major financial centres, with a significant inflow of international activity across investment management, banking, capital markets and insurance. I believe this illustrates not only the resilience of our industry, but also the value that financial services brings. Our industry is instrumental in:
Putting priorities at the heart of all we do
To make sure that we continue to support the industry through the coming years, the Council and Association undertook a strategic review of our activities.
This analysis and review led to development of the Association’s strategic framework, which we launched in January 2021. It sets out our priorities for next three years, anchored to four key pillars: advocacy, engagement, leadership and capability.
When we undertook the strategic review, those were the strong principles which cemented the discussions and debates we had at Council table. We are not the same organisation today as the one established with great foresight and care some 30 years ago. We have grown and developed in line with the industry and will continue to do so. This is clear in many ways, none more so than the growth in the asset manager cohort in our membership.
We also looked at the composition of the Council itself. We felt that it should reflect the membership of the Association, and that all eligible members should have the opportunity to serve on the Council.
A key strength of the Association is the breadth and diversity of its membership. This is something we want to maintain. In doing so, we want to ensure that all those who join the Association have the opportunity and the ability to contribute to its shared success, and that of the industry.
We believe that, as a growing organisation, we need to be clear and transparent in everything we do. The transparency of our governing documents is an important part of that.
Changes reflect the transformation that has occurred in our industry and in the Association, reflect your clear and comprehensive feedback, allow us to build on our strengths and enable us, collectively, to move to forward with confidence.
Our strength and position in the world of asset management
Our purpose is hugely important to us, and our industry is hugely important to the wider European and Irish economies. The industry continues to punch above its weight and is positioned for further growth, a goal which aligns with the vision contained in Ireland for Finance 2025.
Our domiciled funds NAV now stands at €4.07 trillion. This is an impressive 22pc increase from last year, and the first time the NAV of Irish domiciled funds has surpassed the €4 trillion mark. This figure is set to exceed €5 trillion by 2025.
Our industry is hugely important to the Irish economy, providing €14.8bn in economic output. It delivers €914 million in taxes to the Irish Exchequer every year. It directly employs 17,000 people, and over 34,000 jobs throughout Ireland are the result of the presence and activity of funds industry firms.
If we compare ourselves in the context of our EU neighbours, we represent 16% of the European AM industry. We are the fastest growing domicile in Europe this year, and have been for the last seven years.
Our successes and significant milestones
This year, our successes were widespread, but included a heightened focus on advocacy, our most important priority. We want to ensure we are influential in critical areas of EU advocacy, and we are targeted and determined in our approach. We engage early, offer decision-makers and stakeholders timely solutions to potential issues, and ensure our industry is recognised as a force for positive change.
In that respect, we have increased our engagement with the Irish and European regulators and policy makers, and our Irish Funds office in Brussels has further cemented these relationships and our ability to advocate successfully. Among our other key activities and focus points this year were:
Sustainability: We’re seeing huge growth in the adoption of sustainable finance, with Europe very much leading the way. This year, Irish Funds celebrated a significant net zero carbon milestone, contributed to Climate Finance Week, and launched the Sustainable Finance Roadmap.
Working and Steering Groups: We prioritised the development of these strategic teams, aligning them with our own strategic priorities and involving SMEs for better results. Recently, we completed reconstitution of the working groups. Incredibly, over 570 working group participants enrolled in the organisation after taking part. This is yet another sign of great representation across senior leaders and asset managers in Irish Funds, and their participation helps to ensure these groups are effective and outcome focused.
Realigning our Governance and Council Composition: We realigned our governance and Council composition to ensure we fairly represent our evolving members. It is exciting to think that in our 30th year, we successfully held an EGM to increase representation of our growing asset manager community. We have now seen new Council members come on board, and are feeling the benefit of fairer representation across our wide industry.
CSR: Our industry, once again, came together to support Focus Ireland and combat homelessness. With your help, our own Irish Funds team raised over €89,000. And that, combined with funds raised by other industry teams, meant we raised almost €200,000, helping to break the cycle of homelessness for dozens of families.
And, ending on a personal note
Serving as the Chair of Irish Funds has been such an honour and a privilege. I feel honoured to have been chair during our Association’s 30th anniversary, and having been, at 17 months, the longest serving chair. That is an honour I will cherish. I would like to sincerely thank you personally, and on behalf of my colleagues in EY for the opportunity you afforded me to represent you, our members and our amazing industry.
And it has equally been an honour to hand over the reins to Maria Ging of BlackRock in September 2021. Last year, Maria and I worked in close collaboration with the Council and Executive Leadership to strategically position the Association and the industry for the years ahead. We have also worked to ensure that Irish Funds represents our changing membership, with its sights clearly on supporting your needs and your interests.
It is and has been a privilege chairing this fantastic association and representing our industry. I can’t tell you how proud I am of our industry. Personally, it has been a privilege to sit on Council for the last four years. I can honestly say that is both a personal and professional highlight of my career, a really tremendous experience.
I have been proud to represent this amazing industry and build on what so many others have contributed to over the past three decades. It has been a privilege to collaborate with an amazing group of senior leaders from across the industry who I am lucky to call my friends, and whom I hugely admire.
This has been an opportunity to give back to this great industry, and one I do not take lightly.
Thank you, everyone.