Saturday, December 9, 2023

Republic to remain attractive for overseas investors regardless of election winner, says Aon chief

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The global chief executive of professional services group Aon has said he is confident the Republic will remain an attractive market for foreign direct investment regardless of which political party wins the next general election.

Greg Case, who was in Dublin in recent days to attend the British-American group’s global board meeting taking place at its offices in Dublin, said the Irish business environment was still fertile ground for global companies despite a slowdown in the tech sector this year.

Aon, which provides a host of services such as wealth management, risk and retirement planning and to high-profile corporate and individual clients, has strong links to the Republic. The firm as it exists now was founded in 1982 by Irish-American businessman Patrick Ryan but has been active in the State in some form for more than 100 years. Aon Ireland is headed by Dubliner Rachael Ingle, who also leads the firm’s Europe, Middle East and Africa wealth division.

Professional services companies, including Big Four firms such as EY and KPMG, have been in expansion mode this year despite a pronounced decline in the global tech and pharmaceutical, the two main drivers of the Republic’s export economy.

In January, Aon Ireland signed up to occupy a state-of-the-art, 32,000sq ft office block being refurbished by property group Iput on Dublin’s south quays, which it will move into next year.

Asked why Aon and other firms continue to grow their presence in the Republic in the face of an increasingly challenging global landscape, Mr Case said the fundamentals of the economy here remain an attractive proposition for multinationals and the firms that service them.

“The work to set the conditions to create opportunity is phenomenal and sustained and that’s why businesses are here, and that’s why they thrive,” he said. “The long term comes back to overall philosophy, the right conditions for success. To me, those have stood the test of time in Ireland in a way that is really unique, incredibly powerful, and from a business standpoint, bodes well for the future. Long term, the cycles will ebb and flow but the long term foundation is incredibly strong.”

With critical general election cycles upcoming in both the US and the Republic, Mr Case would not be drawn on Aon’s view of what is to come. He said the firm would continue to find “opportunity to help [clients]” regardless of which parties win on either side of the Atlantic.

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He said the political environment was in a constant state of flux globally. “So our approach is to really understand and react and support clients in that context. It’s less about an opinion about what the outcome should be, the outcome will be what it will be.”

With Sinn Féin consistently ahead of other parties in opinion polls, the party looks set to be part of the next Government after the next election. The party has been meeting with business leaders here and foreign direct investors to lay out its stall over its economic policies.

Between wars, pandemics and economic upheaval, Mr Case said the degree of geopolitical volatility within the global landscape is increasing and Aon’s clients are facing a wide array of challenges, from supply chains to cybersecurity and climate action. In a survey published earlier this year, Aon’s global clients ranked cyberattacks as the number one threat to their business followed by business interruption and an economic slowdown.

“What they’re really encountering is a world with more global volatility,” he said. “The sources of it have changed. But you’re seeing continuous sort of actions, which essentially [mean] there’s more risk. It’s more interconnected, and it requires a set of solutions that are not in their traditional silos.”

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