Belfast IT firm has plans for 1,000 staff by 2022

Pictured at a recent Neueda business breakfast are Brendan Monaghan, chief executive, Neueda; chairman of Neueda, Helen Kirkpatrick and Alastair Hamilton, chief executive, Invest Northern Ireland

A BELFAST IT firm has outlined ambitious plans to have 1,000 employees in place by 2022, but has warned it could be forced to leave Northern Ireland in the event of a hard Brexit.

Speaking to the Irish News the chief executive of digital transformation company Neueda, Brendan Monaghan has warned that Brexit could scupper plans for growth in the north, with the company setting up a Spanish office in October as a fail-safe.

One of the fastest growing companies in the north, Neueda, founded in 2006, has experienced growth of 35 per cent over the last four years and now employs roughly 250 members of staff. Recording a turnover of £15.4 million in March the firm anticipates this growing to £21 million next year and looking ahead to 2022 anticipates a total revenue of £100 million in addition to 1,000 staff.

"Business is good, we're seeing lots of growth across all our markets," Mr Monaghan said.

"The biggest growth we have at the moment is within capital markets and investment banking. There's a number of major drivers there. Primarily all regulatory driven, but we're also benefitting from the uncertainty in North America. A lot of the customers that we're dealing with in North America are willing now to offshore projects that they would have kept onshore and the reason for that is they can't get the staff in North America to work on them, because of Visas. So it's a funny scenario, we're not sure if it's a trend, but it's all very positive."

"We're not going where nobody has gone before. A good reference point would be our friends and colleagues in First Derivatives in Newry. Another example of organisations that have been on this trajectory and still manage to maintain the growth that we're hoping to achieve would be somebody like Kainos. So it's about setting targets, it's about execution, it's about having a good plan, it's about being realistic and more than anything it's about putting in hard work."

In June Neueda announced a £12 million investment to double its workforce and create 165 jobs over the next two and a half years. At present the company remains on track and expects 60 of these roles in place by the end of March and between 110 and 120 by March 2019. In spite of the positive outlook though, the firm, which has offices in London, Dublin and Weavers Court in Belfast is wary of the possible implications of leaving the European Union and has conceded it could leave Belfast in the event of a hard Brexit.

"Absolutely. Having a cost base in the currency is the main thing. It's removing the foreign exchange fluctuations, it's removing Visa issues, it's removing travel issues. As a company we have people on flights and trains and cars every day of the week. We have 30 per cent of our business in Dublin and we have guys living on the border that wake up in the morning and decide to turn left or right. So any sort of interruption to that flow changes economics, introduces uncertainties and delays and we would have to adapt to it. Spain is very much about servicing our European base customers and it then gives us a transaction point straight back into North America if the UK drops out and there's no trade agreements in place. You're placing bets."

"So the issue for businesses like ourselves is we can't wait for the politicians to decide what this thing looks like. There's so much uncertainty, the only thing we can do is be proactive and try to second-guess what this thing is going to look like. So in terms of the Spanish office, the initial driver was very much about staff retention, but it is also very much strategic and having a base in the Eurozone."

"With Brexit we believe it will bring challenges, but it's also going to bring opportunities. It's a bit hard to see what all of those are at the present time, but the main thing is we have to remain nimble, we're a small enough organisation that we can react to whatever's presented to us very quickly," he added.

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