Derryman, John Harkin, was back at the ‘Tech’ yesterday 38 years after completing his A-Levels and heading to London to study computing.
The 56-year-old had returned to the North West Regional College to announce a major investment by his company Alchemy Technology Services that will see 256 jobs created at a new base in the City Factory.
“I grew up in Derry and I left here after doing my A-Levels at NWRC in 1980,” Mr. Harkin said.
“I went to London to study my degree in computing, then I joined some of the big firms, travelled the world a bit with them, with PricewaterhouseCoopers and with some of the big insurance providers as well. To be honest I only came back for family visits and weddings and things like that,” he added.
Now he’s back with a bang, however, and aiming to position Derry as a European Centre of Excellence for the insurance industry. Over the past four decades Mr. Harkin has amassed a wealth of expertise in the field and believes Alchemy, and Derry, are well-placed to create jobs gold from a skills gap the insurance sector has been grappling with for the past two decades.
“Alchemy is going to service the insurance industry. There’s a big transformation going on in the insurance industry. Part of the challenge is their legacy systems.
“They have quite aged core systems that need replacing and a whole industry has grown up around that over the last 20 years. There’s a terrible shortage in certified resources that are qualified and understand how to implement these systems and that’s the gap in the market that Alchemy is addressing,” he said.
Mr. Harkin plumped for Derry as a base for two reasons mainly: the excellent talent pool and the cheaper costs that prevail here.
He described Alchemy as essentially like a ‘wholesaler’ providing good and services - i.e. specialist expertise - to the insurance company ‘retailers’ who are selling insurance products across Europe.
“We create what we call in the business world ‘near shore resources’. So it’s lower cost. Then we have them travel to various parts of the UK and Europe and the ‘retailers’ if you like, the people who do the systems integration, pay us for those resources and they obviously use them on these projects and they do big fixed price deals. So it’s the price point and the talent that is the attraction,” he said.
Mr. Harkin said it was an easy decision to give something back to Derry.
“Alchemy is focused on creating, if you like, a win win for the individual, the family, the community, and to be part of the socio-economic growth of this area.”