Insurance Software Implementation with a Difference

Alchemy Technology Services Founder and CEO, John Harkin, describes his company’s invitation to join the Guidewire PartnerConnect Program within the first year of operation, and why Derry’s socio-economic development is as important as any other success.

I founded Alchemy in September 2018 to create a centre of excellence for insurance software implementation with the support of a few shareholders who had become trusted friends and advisors over decades.

Our vision was not only to bring new talent to the forefront of the digitisation of the insurance industry, but to bring meaningful, exciting, and long-lasting careers to a region in need of investment.

Having worked all over the world in high-profile roles in business and organisational transformation, and technology- enabled change, I knew there was a skills shortage in the insurance industry.

I had discussions with Invest NI (Northern Ireland’s regional and economic development body, part of the Department for the Economy) and after proper research and due diligence, we decided to set up in Derry; my hometown, and an area that suffered greatly in the 1970s, ‘80s, and ‘90s due to “The Troubles.” As a post-conflict region, it is in need of opportunity. The education system here is outstanding. The level of talent and ambition among the young people we met on research trips confirmed to us that this was the right place for us.

We agreed on a target of 256 jobs to be created over three years. To many, this may sound ambitious, but we have access to a large pool of talent to fill each of those positions, and there is plenty of demand in the market to keep everyone busy.

By May 2019, we were awarded PartnerConnect Consulting Select status and attended Connections as a Silver Level sponsor in November. Shortly after, we were awarded three specialisations in the EMEA region for Guidewire ClaimCenter, Guidewire PolicyCenter and Guidewire InsuranceSuite integrations.

Beyond technology competence, our people need to have something extra. When we assess our people, it is a given that they have the technology ability and skills. Our people come from some of the best degree programmes in the UK and Ireland; we are confident about their talent and their knowledge of the technology. But beyond on this, they need to have the consultancy and communication skills that make them trusted advisors to our clients. 

We decided to call the company Alchemy as a reflection of the highest level of adult human development: the alchemist. As alchemy is the transformation of base metal into gold, we aim to achieve a similar level of transformation for our people and our city. We develop our people so that they are able to work in the area of digital transformation and change to deliver the best outcomes for our clients. Our people join projects globally and seamlessly integrate with already-established teams. We also supply completely new teams in partnership with our clients.

We now have 90 employees and by our first birthday had paid over £1.5 million in salaries into the local economy. A key part of our mission is to help the socio-economic growth of the city of Derry and its surrounding areas. With a low cost of living, our people are investing in homes, buying cars, and spending money in local businesses, whilst enjoying life in the beautiful countryside and coastline of Northwest Ireland. The opportunity to travel the world and experience other cultures complements this lifestyle perfectly. For us, the growth and success of our people, personally and professionally, goes hand-in-hand with the success of the company.

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