Expert analysis from Joanne McEnteggart, Managing Director, Ireland, IQ-EQ.
‘We essentially share our networks and our local knowledge with our clients in order to help carve a safe passage for them into Ireland,’ writes Joanne McEnteggart, Managing Director, Ireland, IQ-EQ.
We are all well aware of the disruption to businesses and markets that COVID-19 has caused. However, the world has not stopped turning. People might not be able to connect physically at this time, but in most cases the core drivers behind pre-pandemic business plans remain.
It is true that many plans have been put on hold. Business expansions, industry conferences, corporate offsites – not to mention weddings, concerts and other social gatherings – you name it, it’s been postponed. But at IQ-EQ we are still seeing many international businesses progressing with their plans to set up and/or grow their operations in Ireland.
We’re seeing this primarily within sectors such as technology, pharmaceuticals and life sciences – those future-proof sectors that have been relatively unaffected by the coronavirus crisis (as opposed to, say, retail and hospitality). In fact, COVID-19 has brought with it certain pockets of opportunity for such industries. We have one client in the pharma space, for example, working on an improved hand sanitiser.
Planning a Business Expansion During a Global Pandemic
Of course, whatever industry you are in, proceeding with a business expansion during a global pandemic is not without its hurdles. The worldwide lockdowns, travel restrictions and physical distancing measures present particular challenges. For example, how do you decide where in Ireland you want to set up operations if you’ve never been there and cannot jump on a plane to visit? How can you make sure you’re selecting the right service providers to support your venture if you can’t meet with them face-to-face?
IDA Ireland, Ireland’s inward investment promotion agency, is an invaluable resource in this regard. The IDA partners with potential and existing investors to help them establish or expand their operations in Ireland, and through their website they’re currently providing the latest information and advice on COVID-19 and the Irish Government’s response, including details of the governmental support and subsidies available for businesses in the jurisdiction. Further, during the pandemic the IDA has been arranging ‘virtual visit’ itineraries for prospective investors, as well as facilitating conversations between foreign businesses considering Ireland and those already set up here.
The Irish Expansion Journey
At IQ-EQ, too, we’re now finding ourselves providing clients with practical support and guidance in light of COVID-19, beyond our usual structured finance and corporate administration services. We are helping an increasing number of clients with many of the practical, non-financial aspects of expanding across borders.
We are introducing clients to others who have already been on the Irish expansion journey. Our broad network also means we can connect clients with an array of trusted service providers and advisers. We’ve been facilitating virtual walk-arounds of office space. And we’ve supported with elements of cultural understanding. We essentially share our networks and our local knowledge with our clients in order to help carve a safe passage for them into Ireland.
For example, we’re currently working with our US team to support a US-based client who has been considering an Irish expansion. The client manufactures component car parts and wasn’t sure whether to choose Dublin or Limerick for their operations, so we’ve been providing guidance on the relative merits of the two cities in line with the client’s industry and needs. We’ve also put them in touch with the IDA for further support.
In short, the world of business has not stopped.
To overcome those inevitable coronavirus-shaped obstacles, however, businesses and service providers need to think beyond the usual ‘mould’. We must use every resource available and serve up an extra serving of flexibility and openness to the benefit of everyone involved, so that Ireland’s business community may emerge from this pandemic in as strong a position as possible.