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US-based Insurance Office of America chooses Belfast as key talent source in platform launch

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Insurance Office of America (IOA), based in Florida, is setting up a 40-person technical development centre in Northern Ireland.

IOA is a full-service agency that provides property and casualty, employee benefits, and personal lines insurance coverage and risk management solutions.

The IOA team in the new technology centre will be largely responsible for the development of its new quote-and-buy insurance platform, SimplyIOA, the first of its kind in the United States. It will also provide technical expertise and operational support across the IOA enterprise.

SimplyIOA, which is underpinned by data science and machine learning, allows personal insurance consumers not only to compare quotes but also to buy home and auto coverage online in under three minutes from the insurance providers across the US.

Brian McDowell, President of IOA Personal Lines and Small Business Unit, is a Northern Ireland native now based in Florida. He was formerly CEO of Hughes Insurance.

Speaking about the company’s decision to invest in Northern Ireland, Brian said: “For a project of such strategic importance, it was vital that the team responsible for development and implementation be of the highest calibre. Northern Ireland had a strong insurance sector, the technical skills and expertise, and the work ethic we needed to accomplish our goals.”

Welcoming the investment, Kevin Holland, CEO of Invest Northern Ireland, said: “This new technical development centre in Belfast is clearly of real strategic importance to Insurance Office of America. It is therefore vital the company chooses the right location for such a project. I am delighted that we were able to support Brian to position Northern Ireland as that place.

“As well as offering roles in software development, data analytics, data science and IT support with very attractive salaries, the company is also committing to a programme of skills development and training for the new recruits. This training is at both a management and technical level to ensure the staff are at the forefront of advancing industry developments.

“The project will contribute nearly £1.8 million in wages to the NI economy. Invest NI has offered assistance of £445,762 towards the new jobs and skills development programme.”

IOA has already recruited half of the 40 new roles, with the remaining to be in place by 2022.

Brian added: “Invest NI’s support was instrumental in securing buy-in across the senior team in IOA. The advice from its team both in the US and Northern Ireland, which co-ordinated a detailed visit programme that included meetings with universities, existing investors and professional services companies, showcased what Northern Ireland has to offer. In the end, the senior team was left with no doubt that it was a good fit.

“We have got off to a great start with the team in Belfast, with 21 roles already in place and staff all currently working from home. This has only cemented that the decision to choose Northern Ireland was the right one. I am really looking forward to seeing what the team can deliver.”

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