Tyrone natives to the fore as firms add lustre to Northern Ireland's cyber security cluster

Economy Minister Gordon Lyons (centre) announced that US IT and cyber security services provider Agio is creating 100 jobs in Belfast. With him are (from left) Thomas Raju, Belfast site lead for Agio; Invest NI chief executive Kevin Holland; and Agio's Ray Hillen (managing director of cyber security) and Garvin McKee (chief revenue officer)
Gary McDonald Business Editor

TWO cyber security firms confirmed on the same day that they are setting up shop in Northern Ireland - and both with a strong Tyrone influence.

New York-based Agio, which provides AI-enabled technology services for the financial services industry, is creating 100 jobs over the next five years, paying average salaries of £45,000.

Its chief revenue officer is Garvin McKee, originally from Dungannon and who worked for digital equipment firms HP and Compaq and has been in the States since 1998, eventually helping set up Agio in 2010.

Its announcement comes on the same day Tokyo-based cyber security firm Nihon Cyber Defence (NCD) confirmed a new base in Belfast, with another Tyrone man involved.

Nihon has recruited Omagh-native Professor Ciaran Martin, a former chief executive of the UK's National Cyber Security Centre, to its board and has plans for 10-plus jobs.

Over the last decade Northern Ireland has become a global cyber security hub, with specialist university research centres, innovative start-ups delivering global cyber security solutions and an impressive cluster of international cyber security investors.

This has contributed to the region becoming the number one international investment location for US cyber security firms including Rapid 7, Imperva, Cygilant and WhiteHat Security.

First-time investor Agio, which already has 19 jobs in place, has begun recruiting for roles such as network, server and public cloud engineering, end user analysts, cyber security consultants, and business development roles.

The posts will be a hybrid of home-based and also on-site at Agio's Belfast technology centre at Urban HQ.

Mr McKee said he is confident a Northern Ireland base will continue to add excellent talent to its world-class technology team.

“The Belfast team is central to our growth plans and will enable us to deliver 24/7 ‘Follow the Sun' support to our global customer base. It will also support the development of our products and services for our planned European expansion,” he said.

But while his company is keen to recruit fresh new graduate talent, he also admitted their could be "an element of head-hunting", given the maturity of the sector.

Invest NI has offered Agio set-up expertise and £650,000 of support towards the creation of the new jobs.

Economy minister Gordon Lyons said: “Agio joins our impressive cluster of fintech companies, and its investment here will add to our pool of expertise and contribute £4.5 million in annual salaries once all of the roles are in place.

“Cyber security and fintech are two areas where we have seen the emergence of significant capability and capacity with the potential to drive our economy forward.”

Meanwhile Toyko-headquartered NCD, which provides intelligence-driven defence solutions, services and support to governments, businesses and public sector organisations to protect them from all forms of cyber attack, plans to recruit a team of up to 10 core staff in Belfast over the next 12 months to work with UK and Ireland customers and support its existing operations in Japan and other regional Asia-Pacific hubs.

As well as appointng Professor Ciaran Martin and Dougie Grant to its board, NCD already has a strong connection with Belfast through its chief executive Cartan McLaughlin, who is originally from Northern Ireland.

It also has long-standing relationships with local academia and has previously offered placements to several local cyber security masters students in its overseas offices. With the establishment of a Belfast office, NCD will be seeking to develop this talent pipeline further.

Ciaran Martin said: “We continue to see the devastating impact of cyber-attacks globally, but we recognise that early preparation is key if we are to respond effectively. NCD is at the fore-front of this capability delivering their expertise to the Japanese market and further afield.”

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