IT giant Allstate to leave Strabane building in May - but 'no job losses'

Allstate opened its new Belfast headquarters in June 2018.
Gary McDonald Business Editor

THE north's biggest IT company Allstate has confirmed that it will vacate its 30,000 sq ft workspace in Strabane this May when the current lease on the building expires.

But the US-based insurance giant, which has had a presence in the town for more than 15 years and is one of Strabane's largest employers, insists there will be no job losses as a result of its decision.

Allstate NI, a subsidiary of the Chicago-headquartered Allstate Corporation, has around 2,200 employees across Northern Ireland, including more than 700 at its north west offices in Strabane and Derry's Northland Road.

The unit in Strabane - a two-storey building constructed in three blocks, with two workspace units connected via a central core - provides Allstate NI with modern accommodation for up to 400 employees to carry out call centre operations and technical support to the parent company’s global operations.

It is understood staff at the company were informed via an online site-wide meeting before Christmas of plans to surrender the lease at the site in Strabane's Orchard Road industrial estate.

Employees currently based there were advised that they will be expected to continue to work from home, the majority of whom have already been doing so since March 2020 following the onset of Covid.

Sources say that the current staffing levels in the Strabane building are currently just around 20 or 30 people daily.

Allstate NI will close its Strabane office when the lease expires in May

In a statement, a spokesman for the company confirmed: “Allstate NI employees have more choice about where they work and many are choosing to work from home. As a result, we no longer need as much office space and are leaving our Strabane office in mid-2023.”

Before the outbreak of the pandemic, Allstate had also planned to move into the new 52,000 sq ft Ebrington Plaza building in Derry to complement its operations in the city, but decided against taking the lease.

In its accounts for 2021, submitted to Companies House in September, Allstate's operations in Northern Ireland had sales of £119.6 million compared to £128.4m the year before.

Profit before tax and foreign exchange came in at £3.8m against £10.6m in 2020, and on a bottom-line basis, its retained profit was £2.1m - less than a third of the previous year's total of £6.8m.

Given its proximity to the border, Allstate's Strabane office employs a number of staff from the Republic, though its closure is unlikely to cause issues for them regarding working from home, where the legislation differs from that in the north.

A new "Right to Request Remote Working Bill' in the Republic was designed to give employees the right to request remote working as well as confirming specific grounds where an employer could refuse a request.

Employers questioned the need for the legislation and warned that it may result in additional administrative burdens for businesses.

In November, the Dail announced that rather than passing a separate piece of legislation, the law would be included in the 'Work Life Balance' Bill which means that employers and employees will now be making and considering requests for flexible or remote working under one law and one code of practice to be developed by the Workplace Relations Commission (WRC).

However, it is understood Allstate has considered looking at a bricks and mortar alternative in Donegal to facilitate its southern workforce, though no details have been revealed.

The upcoming Strabane office closure comes as Allstate's boss in the north, John Healy, stepped away from the company in December after more than six years "to pursue new opportunities".

Mr Healy (52), who has spent all of his career in financial technology with companies such as JP Morgan and Citi, joined Allstate in 2016 as managing director to lead its business operations in the north, and a year later he was promoted to vice-president.

His influence elevated Allstate's reputation as the top technology employer in the north, where he helped forge strong ties with universities, as well as ensuring strong working relationships with local and national governments.