Posted on Thursday 21 January 2010 by Ulster Business

Mike Irvine

Mike Irvine - DAVY

Leaders in Business - Heading up one of Donegal Square’s newest additions to the local wealth management community is Mike Irvine, a man who sees big potential in the local investment market. We hear more from the head of Davy Northern Ireland.

It’s two and a half years since Davy set up its base in Northern Ireland, a period which has been one of the most volatile for financial markets in living memory. On the face of it, you would imagine it was bad timing to open an office with an offering of wealth management, stock broking and financial advisory services during that period, but Mike Irvine, head of Davy Northern Ireland believes it has worked in Davy’s favour. “The turmoil of 2008 and 2009 created opportunity for us. Existing wealth management relationships were dislodged as clients realised their adviser didn’t really know how to cope with difficult markets.” Mike said in an interview with Ulster Business. “Building a business during the tough times requires you to put down strong foundations and set a very high standard of client service. These are things which will hold us in good stead when the environment has improved.” Indeed, the fact Davy started with a blank canvas in Northern Ireland going into the credit crunch and subsequent recession has meant it has managed to post a solid performance for its clients here. Backing up the regional team are a host of experts in the company’s Dublin headquarters, a resource base which gives a considerable advantage to Davy when it comes to offering a complete service for investors. This, combined with an independence from other investment vehicles, means the company’s offering stands out. “We’re the only proper private client service available locally,” Mike said. “We can provide genuine global diversification and world-class partnerships – others say that but can’t really deliver it.” “It’s difficult in this industry to lift above the rhetoric and the spin.” Mike’s academic and career background were definitely free of the latter two factors. A law degree at Queens was followed by a career in accountancy and corporate finance with PwC and KPMG in both London and Belfast which provided a sound footing from which to take over at the helm when Davy set up in Belfast. Building an impressive client base has been the company’s main aim over the last few years and Mike feels there is huge potential in the future, not just for Davy but for the local economy. In particular, he points to private equity investment in business, a system which remains underdeveloped in Northern Ireland. “The infrastructure around private equity is woefully inadequate here,” he said. “There are some moves to improve this but on the whole we settle for incredible mediocrity in this area. What Northern Ireland needs is equity that is going out to make big opportunities happen; a proactive approach.” To highlight our disparity against other parts of the UK, Mike points out there are over 20 business angel networks in Scotland and only one in Northern Ireland. This doesn’t mean there isn’t a willing line of investors looking to invest here. “We have about two conversations a week with people who want to invest in businesses in Northern Ireland,” he said. “There’s a great opportunity to facilitate the financing and identification of business opportunities.” And he believes Davy is well placed to take the lead in this area. “I think we are well positioned to lead change in developing this infrastructure and be part of a better equity finance network.” Given it has come through a period of economic turmoil relatively unscathed in a local context, such a bold proposition doesn’t sound far from the mark and could be the shot in the arm the local market needs.

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