Northern Ireland is an excellent place to employ skilled and highly qualified graduates – Spence & Partners have, since the firm was founded in Northern Ireland in 2000, built a reputation for actuarial quality and innovation. Major consulting firm Mercer have announced a major investment funded by £450,000 of public money from InvestNI, Northern Ireland’s business development agency to, according to the Belfast Telegraph, provide almost 50 actuarial back-office jobs supporting Mercer’s European business and supporting annual salaries of over £1million. New employment locally is always great news. However good this news however I hope that this type of investment will create long term employment and skills in the Province. Spence & Partners was formed during 2000 by a group of ex-Mercer consultants and whilst not wishing to blow our own trumpet we have developed alongside our sister company, independent trustee, Dalriada Trustees, a UK wide business with £4.5 million turnover and we employ over 50 people in the UK (many of whom are in our office in Belfast). We too have enjoyed some support from InvestNI, albeit a much more modest figure than Mercer, and we are particularly grateful for their assistance in funding development of a document management system in 2009/10. Our profits have been in the main reinvested in innovation and the development of our business. On a slightly cautious note it is less than two years that Mercer closed their pensions administration unit in Belfast with the loss of about 10 jobs, several of whom we were privileged to be able to employ after they were made redundant. Inward investment can be great but jobs, particularly back-office jobs can also be transferred elsewhere as industries and business models change. However we welcome this announcement. Hopefully this investment will provide jobs for some of the first students graduating with a BSc in Actuarial Science and Risk Management from The Queen’s University of Belfast. Spence & Partners have taken two students a year in recent years on placement during their degree course and we look forward to employing some graduates in future years. A big change from the days when we would bemoan the lack of Northern Ireland graduates with actuarial or other financial services qualifications. Hopefully Mercer will provide the Province with skilled people some of whom will wish, in time, to be involved in actuarial work beyond the back office. Maybe some of them will eventually start their own firms like we did. I hope in time some of the more ambitious of them will join Spence & Partners, where albeit on a tiny scale compared with Mercer Belfast is the Joint (with Glasgow) World HQ, not the European back office. Hopefully other actuarial employers will join Mercer and Spence & Partners in seeing Belfast as a great place to be located. Brian Spence is a founder of actuaries Spence & Partners Limited and a director of independent trustee Dalriada Trustees Limited. You can follow him at @briandspence or @PensionsEndgame on Twitter or link to him on LinkedIn. Follow @SpencePartners and @DalriadaTrustee on Twitter.