The consequences of Brexit go far beyond assessments of corporate structures, financial passports, and regulatory equivalency rulings. We set out to take a closer look at how Brexit preparations are impacting the individuals that make up those corporate structures.
Ireland is a well-established fund domicile and for more than two decades has been a critical jurisdiction for asset managers, particularly those engaged in regulated cross-border fund products such as UCITS, AIFs, and ETFs. Net assets in funds domiciled in Ireland as of 31 October 2017 were valued at €2,364 billion. Ireland is experiencing a steady influx of fund industry professionals as Brexit prompts UK-based managers to expand their presence to preserve access to their EU clients. We asked industry professionals who have moved or are planning to move from the UK to Ireland to compare both areas when it comes to both professional and personal life.
In part 1 of this series, we hear from Nicholas Blake-Knox, Partner and Head of Investment Funds at international law firm Walkers about how he is re-establishing life in the Emerald Isle.
What’s the single biggest difference between living in Dublin compared to other places you’ve been?
I have just relocated back to Dublin from London where I have lived for nearly seven years. Given its sheer size, there is a lot more anonymity in London. In Ireland, it is much more likely that when you meet someone new, you will already have several mutual connections. The old adage about six degrees of separation is never truer than it is in Dublin, although it is more likely to be one or two degrees!
Tell us about the working culture and differences you’ve seen between London and Dublin.
Coming from London, I would say that the working culture in Dublin is similar in many ways. Aside from sharing a common language, the working environment within the funds industry is fast paced and Irish firms work closely with their international clients across different time zones on a daily basis. There is a culture of service in Ireland and I would say that it ranks favourably with any other city I have worked in. There are a broad variety of nationalities working within the funds industry in Ireland as well and as more firms relocate here this diversity is likely to increase. Given the nature of my work, most of my clients are based outside of Ireland and so I continue to work with firms based in the US, Asia, and Europe, which is similar to my prior role in London where I worked with global asset management firm PIMCO. Given that Walkers is an international firm with various offices globally, I am constantly speaking with colleagues in other parts of the world and this contributes to the international working experience.
What’s your commute and transportation like?
Now, I walk to work which is a big difference compared to when I was commuting in London. Whilst I loved living in Wimbledon, a suburb of London, it was a 35-40 minute commute by train each day. In due course, it is likely that I will drive to work or take the train (DART). The public transport system in Dublin is very different to London and takes a bit of patience initially. While people in London can get frustrated if a Tube takes longer than four or five minutes to arrive, here I have found that you can be waiting for a DART for 15-20 minutes at certain times of the day. I do feel that Dublin would have benefited greatly from an underground system but the decision was made years ago to avoid this. Still, there are good transport links into the city but they’re not as constant as you find in a big city like London.
Is it a good city for families?
Dublin is a great city for families. From many Dublin suburbs, you can reach the sea or the mountains within 15-20 minutes. There are family friendly parks and sports clubs and a great variety of restaurants and bars. The education system is excellent, although like many other major cities, the schools are typically oversubscribed and it can by challenging to get a place in the school that you are looking for. There are few international schools and very few that offer the international baccalaureate. The city will need to invest in more so that ex-pats who relocate to Ireland and want to keep their children in an international school system can do so if they wish.
Talk to us about differences in healthcare, taxation, and public services.
Unfortunately, taxation is higher in Ireland than in the UK. Although the income tax rate in the UK is above that in Ireland, when you add in all the additional charges that are applied here, the marginal rate becomes higher. Overall, it is difficult to assess whether the costs of living are higher or lower in Dublin. The costs of goods and utilities in London are actually cheaper in my experience but depending on where you live and whether you pay school fees, London can be very expensive. That being said, Dublin is definitely not a cheap city. However, it makes up for this in other ways and has a lot to offer.
What can you tell us about the housing market? Do you think this will change because of Brexit?
Housing is expensive in Dublin whether you are looking to buy or to rent. There is a lack of supply at all levels, including at the higher end, and this is only likely to continue with Brexit unless new housing is built. Rents are nearly on a par with London. If you are willing to live further from the city then you can find better deals but it is something that should be addressed by the current government if Dublin is to stake a claim as a credible alternative to other major European cities.
Is Dublin friendly and welcoming?
My favourite thing about living in Dublin is the sense of humour that the people have. Although we try to take ourselves seriously we are quite self-deprecating. There is also a friendly collegiate atmosphere amongst Dubliners. And as a country that itself has experienced a lot of emigration over the course of its history, Ireland offers a very warm welcome to visitors.
What will you miss most about London?
Living in Wimbledon. I will really miss the two weeks around the tournament each year. There was a buzz around the place and you would frequently see tennis players walking around the village. We once sat at the next table to Serena Williams and Caroline Wozniacki who were having a casual bite to eat before the tournament started. In the evening, it was possible to queue up and gain entrance quickly to the grounds and watch the later matches which I would often do after work. I also had the opportunity to attend the Wimbledon Men’s Final in 2015 between Federer and Djokovic – something I will never forget.
Give us some Dublin anecdotes. Anything that’s strikes you as funny on returning?
Although Irish people have diverse interests, I find our obsession with talking about the weather quite fascinating. It is always either too hot or too cold. Given that Irish people talk about the weather all the time, you would think that this would translate into a preparedness for the changing weather conditions and the ability to deal with anything that mother nature throws at us. The recent Storm Ophelia and subsequent Beast from the East brought Dublin to a standstill. Shops were closed and a “code red” was announced for what visiting tourists from other countries described as “some snow.” I recall getting a WhatsApp message showing approaches to preparing for a storm in Ireland compared to colleagues in the US, which I found quite funny. As I mentioned, earlier, you have to love the self-deprecating humour of the Irish.