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April 2014 ISSUE 42 PRICE £2.50 (Where sold) l






TASTE OF SUCCESS Why breweries’ thirst for further growth seems to be unquenchable

Editor’s note David Elliott



12 Analysis: How emotional comfort could cost investors 14 Analysis: Why it makes good business sense to fully utilise women in the workplace 18 Insight: Why the number of small independent breweries are increasing all the time 26 And I’ll tell you another thing: Adrian Bradley discusses the impact of the internet 28 SME: Why the Kane family’s rapeseed oil is set for export growth, despite being born out of chance


38 Young entrepreneurs: Startup assistance and ongoing support is on hand for Northern Ireland youngsters 42 Retirement: It takes a lot of planning to ride off into the sunset once you stop working


46 Out to lunch: Ikea’s Christie Gregg tells Joris Minne how the global retailing phenomenon has kept a sense of intimacy 48 Day in the life: Brian Clerkin talks about going from from trainee to managing directon 50 Leave the car at home: Why Honda’s Tourer is leaving its considerable mark 58 The Chairman: Plenty of events to stay busy 62 Last Word: With Nick Leeson BUSINESS MONTH 124-144 Royal Avenue, Belfast, BT11EB Editor - David Elliott


26 Sales manager - Jackie Reid Contact: +44 2890 264070 or email:

58 Design and production: Business Month is an imprint of Independent News and Media (NI)

ELCOME to the April edition of Business Month, my last in this particular hot seat. This month we’re taking a look at everything from starting out in business in our young entrepreneur feature and, at the other end of the scale, at retiring in our second Focus On feature. Our cover story explores the growing world of Northern Ireland's craft beer industry, Jim McCauley takes a drive in a Honda, our travel pages head to the Canaries and The Chairman gets out and about. Around four years ago we were beginning to plan the creation of Business Month with a vague idea for a 64page magazine which would be newsworthy, interesting and just a little bit fun (hence The Chairman), and of course, all focused on business. Certainly we’ve had plenty of the latter in the following years and I hope you’ve enjoyed reading the magazine, one which has taken on a momentum of its own. From the first issue in October 2010, which I eagerly waited for at the end of a print line in the early hours of the morning, to this magazine in April 2014, which was one of my last tasks at the Belfast Telegraph before getting married, it’s been an absolute pleasure. Thank you, David

7 April 2014 BUSINESS MONTH 3


16.6% 26% Roads


24.5% 24.2% 23.1% Water



22.8% Airports

Global infrastructure requirements $tm

Firm pumps £3m into research and design A BANGOR company is investing £3m in research and development projects at its new headquarters in Co Down. Whale, also known as Munster Simms Engineering, designs and manufactures pumps, pipework, water heaters, space heaters, leisure cookers, taps, showers and accessories which can be found in boats, caravans, and recreational vehicles all over the world. The company has three manufacturing sites, two in Bangor and one in California and holds 17 patents worldwide.

Interest rates ‘could rise by end of year’ UK interest rates could rise as soon as the end of this year, a senior banker at Barclays has said. Kevin Gardiner, chief investment officer for Europe at Barclays, said estimates for the Bank of England to raise rates in 2015 may be out by a few months and there was a possibility a stronger UK economy could force the bank to hike before then. “If I had to stick my neck out, I would say the Bank of England will be the first of the big central banks to raise interest rates and it's possible it could happen later this year,” he told the Belfast Telegraph.

Republic’s GDP is set to increase by 1.9% GROWTH in the Republic — one of Northern Ireland's main trading partners — is set to pull ahead of other peripheral eurozone countries, it has been claimed. The EY Eurozone forecast said Irish GDP would increase in 2015 by 1.9%, by 2.5% in 2016 and 2.8% in 2017 — pulling ahead of other member states like Spain and Portugal. In contrast to Ireland's recovery rate of 1.9%, Spain would return to growth at a rate of only 0.8%.

Top packaging firm creates 100 new jobs 4 BUSINESS MONTH 7 April 2014

TOP CLASS: Taking the Overall Business of the Year title at the Belfast Telegraph Business Awards sponsored by British Airways last month was AJ Power. Presented the award to managing director Ashley Pigott is Keith Williams, executive chairman for British Airways and Richard McClean, managing director, Belfast Telegraph alongside British Airways and Christine Wright and Jayne Deasy

A MAJOR packaging firm in west Belfast is creating 100 new manufacturing jobs in an expansion prompted by growth in overseas markets. Delta Print and Packaging, which makes packaging for big-name clients such as McDonald's, Nokia, Kellogg's and Jacob's — of Cream Crackers fame — will employ 269 people following the £40m investment. The company, which was founded in 1981 by west Belfast entrepreneur Terry Cross, also has manufacturing centres in China and India, as well as its factory in Kennedy Way Industrial Estate.

John Lewis store is under fresh discussion PLANS for a John Lewis department store at Sprucefield could be a step closer after the retail park's new owner vowed to travel to Northern Ireland to discuss it with planners and politicians. Proposals by the department store giant, one of the UK's most successful retailers, to open up at

the site outside Lisburn have suffered numerous setbacks in the past 10 years since the would-be development was first mooted.

Enterprise zone will lever growth: Minister THE introduction of a pilot enterprise zone in Coleraine is “another tool to lever economic growth”, the Finance Minister has said. Chancellor George Osborneannounced in his Budget yesterday that a site close to the University of Ulster campus in the town would be the location of a pilot enterprise zone. It is already the planned location of a new £20m data centre to be set up by UK company 5NINES, which will be able to avail of enhanced capital allowances, the business incentive which will apply in the zone.

Firm to provide sand for 2014 US Open A COOKSTOWN firm is helping produce the sand for the 2014 US

Open Golf Championship. CDE Global has sold its first “modular wash plant” — which cleans sand and aggregates — in the USA to GS Materials, a familyowned company that has been in operation since 1984, located in Burlington, North Carolina.

Haircare company buys four US brands A BANGOR-BASED haircare firm has bought over four famous brands from a Californiabased rival to boost its market share in the US. Denman International Limited has announced the acquisition of the trading assets of San Diego corporation, The Bobby Company. The Magicap — which is used in colouring and highlighting — and three brushes — the Starflite, Black Diamond and The Original Vent Brush — are well-known within the global hairdressing industry, and the acquisition will enable Denman International to access many new export areas for its Denman-branded products.


Coleraine in Enterprise Zone lead PAUL GOSLING

▲ EMPLOYMENT Fourteen thousand more people were employed in January in Northern Ireland compared with a year earlier. Eight hundred and seven thousand people are now in employment in the province. ▲ HOUSE PRICES Average house prices in Northern Ireland have risen for the ninth successive month, according to the RICS and Ulster Bank Residential Market Survey. ▲ NEW CARS There was a 20% rise in new car registrations in Northern Ireland in the last quarter of 2013 compared to the previous year. This was the highest level since 2009. ▲ FARM PRICES Farmland prices in England and Wales rose by 14.3% last year. Reliable figures for Northern Ireland are not available because of the small size of the market. ▼ CONSUMER OUTLOOK The GfK/NOPUK Consumer Confidence index remains at a six-year high. ▼ SHOPPING TREND Retail footfall was down 5.1% in Northern Ireland in February — the seventh successive monthly fall. ▼ EARNINGS Incomes in real terms has fallen every year from 2008 to 2013, according to data published by the Office for National Statistics. 6 BUSINESS MONTH 7 April 2014

NORTHERN Ireland’s first ‘enterprise zone’ is to be in Coleraine, Chancellor George Osborne announced in the Budget. The decision followed confirmation that around 300 jobs are to be lost in the town with the transfer of driver and vehicle licensing to Wales. Enterprise zones in England benefit from enhanced capital allowances and business rates relief. But the Budget papers suggest that Coleraine’s enterprise zone will benefit only from the enhanced capital allowances, which provide 100% relief for businesses on expenditure on qualifying plant and machinery in the first year. Other enterprise zones are likely to follow. Coleraine’s enterprise zone is adjacent to the University of Ulster’s campus, close to where the Project Kelvin transatlantic communications link with the United States comes ashore. It will host the international data centre, 5NINES, a £20m project. This will initially employ 15 people, but several hightechnology businesses may now be attracted to the area. CBI’s senior policy advisor David Fry responded: “Dating back to our submission to the Government after the publication of last June’s Economic Pact, we made it clear that the introduction of enterprise zone status, providing Enhanced Capital Allowances (ECA), may

Coleraine is to be Northern Ireland’s first Enterprise Zone have some localised regeneration potential. “However, only certain companies will benefit from ECA’s — usually existing large, capital intensive and profitable companies — so to have the local success desired, the proposed enterprise zone should focus on economic activity where it is best undertaken, with a potential view to building on specific clusters and sectors in order to achieve the best impact. It

therefore makes sense to locate the zone near the University of Ulster campus in Coleraine, thus seeking to maximise the existing technology and highspeed transatlantic connectivity already in place through Project Kelvin.” The CBI also welcomed the Budget decision to provide startup aid to improve regional air connectivity, which it said could lead to new routes at Northern Ireland’s three airports.

RICS calls for far greater use of PPPs PAUL GOSLING PUBLIC private partnerships — PPPs — are “the most credible” method for overcoming Northern Ireland’s infrastructure deficit, according to RICS, the Royal Institution for Chartered Surveyors. It says there must be a serious debate about extending the use of PPPs. Ben Collins, RICS Northern Ireland director, says: “It is vital that investment in infrastructure in Northern Ireland is increased. This is essential for Northern Ireland to become more competitive and to be able to continue to attract highly valuable inward investment. “The first priority should be for the Northern Ireland Execu-

tive to move more money from current to capital spending. But the research supports PPP as an additional viable solution to the current infrastructure investment deficit and RICS is also calling on the Northern Ireland Executive to play its role in raising awareness and understanding of the potential benefits of PPP for all parties involved. “PPPs have had something of a bad name due to a small number of high-profile projects, but when implemented well they have become recognised as an important solution globally and have the potential to enable Northern Ireland to make investments in schools, hospitals, transport and other infrastructure that otherwise might

not be possible. The report that RICS has published presents examples of where PPP projects have been successfully implemented and is intended to help promote best practice.” Professor Alastair Adair, RICS member and Pro Vice Chancellor of the University of Ulster, said that the Northern Ireland Audit Office had concluded there is more scope for the use here of the Private Finance Initiative and other forms of PPPs. “Northern Ireland needs to take cognisance of global best practice in PPP to deliver modern infrastructure requirements to stimulate growth and underpin our economic competitiveness,” he argued.


Lagging local tourism sector set to grow, says Foster

THE TOURISM sector generated £834m for Northern Ireland in 2011, substantially less than any other UK region, according to figures just released by the Office for National Statistics.The sector was worth £125bn to the UK as a whole. However, the sector body, the World Travel and Tourism Council, argues that the UK is missing vast tourism revenues through national policies related to visa requirements and other travel restrictions imposed on potential foreign visitors, including those from China, the world’s fastest growing tourism market. According to the WTTC, tourism revenues account for 3.5% of UK economic activity and grew by 3.4% last year. However, it predicts growth will fall to 2.5% this year, because of tourist access problems, high rates of air passenger duty and a higher rate of VAT on the hospitality sector than is levied by some competitor nations, including the Irish Republic. WTTC predicts that the tourism sector will grow globally by 4.2% this year. But enterprise minister Arlene Foster says Northern Ireland’s tourism economy is set to grow.”The past two years have been unprecedented for tourism in Northern Ireland,” she said. “We have proven that not only can we can host major events, we can host them on a scale that makes the watching world take a second look.” She predicted that the Giro d’Italia in May will attract 140,000 tourists to Northern Ireland.

8 BUSINESS MONTH 7 April 2014

Assembly calls for action on energy costs THE Northern Ireland Assembly’s enterprise, trade and investment committee has expressed concern at the high cost of electricity in Northern Ireland. The Manufacturing NI lobby group told the committee that electricity prices in Northern Ireland are among the highest in Europe. The committee has proposed a series of reforms, along with a review of how electricity generation and distribution costs could be made more transparent. The MLAs were particularly concerned at the way the higher costs for electricity generated by renewable sources were

passed on to industry and consumers.They called on the Department for Enterprise, Trade and Industry and the Utility Regulator to review the way in which renewable generators are rewarded.They suggested that the price paid for generation from renewable be decoupled from the price paid for fossil fuel generated electricity, while ensuring a reasonable rate of return for all types of electricity generation. The committee also concluded that urgent steps are needed to improve Northern Ireland’s connectivity with other regions. Mutual Energy should provide a permanent solution to the

faults and interruptions that dog the Moyle Interconnector with Britain, it said, while the Planning Appeals Commission is urged to make an early decision on the North-South Interconnector. Manufacturing NI welcomed the report. It argues that high energy costs are causing Northern Ireland to lose competitiveness, investment and jobs. It added that the current system “unduly rewards electricity generators at the expense of all customers”.In a statement it said: “Some electricity generators have a 79% gross margin and an average across the industry of 49%.This is unsustainable.”

PwC: Financial services sector could add £400m to economy PAUL GOSLING NORTHERN Ireland’s economy could benefit by £400m a year if our financial services industry is supported to grow, according to a report from PwC. This is equivalent to over 1% of Northern Ireland’s GDP. Ian McConnell, PwC forensics partner in Belfast, explained: “We are seeing many financial services institutions looking at ways to improve their UK regional footprint, so government support in the form of incentives for financial services businesses seeking to locate activity outside of London would be welcomed. “By encouraging more regional investment, the FS industry will be able to access a wider pool of resources and at a lower cost than would be possible in London and the recent steady growth of financial and business services in Northern Ireland is just one example. In the longer term, the stronger the FS industry across the UK, the better it will be able to maintain its global competitive position.” PwC is calling on UK and EU regulators to ensure that reform of financial services is based on making them better, rather than smaller or even just safer. Kevin Burrowes, PwC’s UK financial services leader, commented: “We are seeing financial services organisations

PwC would like to see government incentives for financial services businesses seeking to locate activity outside of London respond to the challenge by not only complying with current regulation, but also preparing to comply with the wave of future regulation put in place to reduce the risks of future crises. “Banks are also investing heavily in improving internal

culture and ways to ensure that the customer's interests lie at the heart of decisions. Customers will start to see a shift in behaviour from banks and will feel like their banks are engaging with them more and putting their needs first.”


Derry takes ‘WorldHost’ lead as first city in UK

LONDONDERRY is the UK’s first ‘WorldHost’ city, following an extensive programme of customer service training for 4,000 front-line workers in the city’s hospitality sector.Participating businesses signed-up to a pledge to deliver customer service excellence. The success of the WorldHost programme in last year’s City of Culture has encouraged the Department for Employment and Learning to now roll-out the scheme across more of Northern Ireland. Employment Minister, Dr Stephen Farry, explained: “WorldHost has proven to be extremely successful across Northern Ireland, with my department’s Skills Solutions Service having funded over 7,000 individuals to receive the training, with 4,000 of those based in Derry. I would like to take this opportunity to announce that my Department will continue to fund WorldHost training for a further three years up to 2017.” He added: “The tourism and hospitality sector is extremely challenging. It plays an important role in the economic well-being of Northern Ireland, which is why I have made it a priority sector for development. In order to grow our local economy, I would encourage employers to recognise the importance of upskilling and reskilling their staff and staff to seize the opportunity to add to their skills base through programmes such as WorldHost.”

10 BUSINESS MONTH 7 April 2014

The small business rate relief scheme is to continue into the new financial year

Extended small business rate relief to undergo evaluation PAUL GOSLING THE SMALL business rate relief scheme is to continue into the new financial year, but will be evaluated, finance minister Simon Hamilton has announced.A positive evaluation could lead to its extension or reform beyond the planned end of the scheme in April next year. “The scheme provided muchneeded support to businesses throughout Northern Ireland during a difficult economic period,” said Mr Hamilton. He also announced the extension of a relief for the house

construction sector, with the continued exemption of rates on empty homes built during the property book. “Although the housing market is showing signs of recovery, the imposition of rates on builders holding stocks of unsold houses built speculatively during the housing boom will not help the recovery of the construction industry in Northern Ireland,” said Mr Hamilton. “This exemption, which applies to a particular generation of properties badly affected by the housing crash, will be

extended for an additional 12 month period. It is my expectation that, given the recent emerging signs of increased sales in the housing market, numbers in receipt of this exemption will start to fall substantially in the next rating year.” In a separate announcement, the finance minister encouraged businesses to make use of the Empty Retail Premises Rate Relief Scheme. This has been used over the past two years by more than 200 businesses that have moved into empty retail units.

City banking still self-serving ‘old boys’ club JIM ARMITAGE IF you thought it was only conspiracy theorists that saw the City as a mutual back-scratching club of old boys acting entirely in their own interests, think again. To sell a £1.7bn stake in the Royal Mail, the government had to hire an investment bank to recommend seven investment banks to persuade other investment banks to buy the shares.

These same bankers and their fund-manager peers deal with each other on dozens of similar deals. This time, it was Lazard acting for the seller, UBS and Goldman Sachs among those liaising with the buyers. Next week, on the next deal, it will be UBS advising the seller, Lazard talking to buyers. Same names, same faces. The National Audit Office says the government should not have relied so much on Lazard’s

advice — it should have found a valuer outside of the City. Nice idea, but as the Business and Energy Minister Michael Fallon said: “Whose advice should we have taken, a doctor’s?” The fact is, despite all the talk of breaking down the too-bigto-fail banks that run the City and Wall Street, there are even fewer, more powerful banks now than ever before. Conflicts of interest are growing, not declining in number.


Facebook boss joins $1-a-year rich man’s wage

FACEBOOK’S Mark Zuckerberg has fallen into the $1-a-year category. Zuckerberg (29), who is Facebook chief executive officer as well as the 22nd richest person in the world as ranked by the Bloomberg Billionaires Index, was paid $1 (60p) in salary for 2013, according regulatory filings in the US. That reduction is down from a base salary of $503,205 (£300,000) in 2012, the year of Facebook’s IPO. The $1 salary is well known in Silicon Valley circles for the already rich. Apple late co-founder Steve Jobs helped popularise the practice while all in the category own huge equity stakes in their own companies. Zuckerberg's total wealth is around $27bn (£15bn) and he

owns Facebook shares that give him 61.6% of the voting power in the Californian firm, the filing shows. His net worth ballooned last year as Facebook’s stock more than doubled in value, Bloomberg reported. Zuckerberg’s total package last year was $653,165, down from $1.99m in 2012 and related largely to his use of private planes, as part of his security programme, the filing also said. He reaped a $3.3bn (£2bn) gain last year by exercising stock options in the social networking company he founded at Harvard University while the windfall saddled Mr Zuckerberg with a huge tax bill. It marks the second straight year that Mr Zuckerberg has realised a huge gain on the hold-

Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg was paid $1-a-year in salary ing that he has accumulated in Facebook since he started the company in 2004. In 2012, he made $2.3bn off his stock options. Mr Zuckerberg has now exhausted his supply of stock options after exercising 60 million of them last year a price of 6 cents (3.5p) per share.

He then sold 41.35 million shares for $55.05 dollars (£33) apiece in December, primarily to pay for his tax bill on the gains. Mr Zuckerberg and his wife, Priscilla Chan, also donated 18 million Facebook shares to a Silicon Valley non-profit organisation.

7 April 2014 BUSINESS MONTH 11


When emotions rule Jonathan Dobbin, Wealth and Investment Management, Barclays, Northern Ireland, looks at how comfort investment can cost...


INCE 2008, investors have been questioning whether it is inflation or deflation that haunts them. One might imagine that by now we would be closer to knowing the truth but, in our experience, the answer to these ‘either/or’ questions is almost always ‘neither’. When the two options are polar opposites, some combination inevitably turns out to be the true path. Jonathan Dobbin, Wealth and Investment Management, Barclays Northern Ireland, looks at how the need for emotional comfort across the investment experience might cost the average investor around 3% per year in foregone investment return, and pinpoints some of the behaviours to watch out for. The problem with us humans is that just when things are about to take a turn for the better, when markets are about to bottom out and the best investment opportunities are rising to the surface, we often bottle it. By merging the best of classical finance with the evolving ideas of behavioural finance, we have developed solutions that can help investors to try to maximise returns, while also helping them to manage the level of emotional discomfort they may feel over the course of the investment journey. There are several tools that can be used to compensate for the various knee-jerk reactions we come across at various stages of the investment cycle. At the core of this sits our Financial Personality Assessment™, a process which allows us to pinpoint how individual investors are likely to respond at each of these three key stages in the investment cycle: Rising markets: Herding and the fear of missing out. As markets soar, enough good news stories can turn reluctance into a fear of missing out. It now feels comfortable being in the market because the investor is ‘with the herd’, and because a sustained period of

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positive results has helped to blur any fear of loss and perceptions of risk. Tools such as delegation (the use of active management and advisors) allow investors to buy preplanned emotional insurance and expertise at an acceptable price at the start of their investment journey.

can reduce the possibility of catastrophic losses, along with the fear of catastrophic losses. The sell-off: Emotions win over. When markets are falling, loss aversion and denial tend to cause investors to hold on to their investments — it hurts to give up on a once-hopeful in-

lowing the investor to fulfil the need to ‘do something’. Better a little action, mostly harmless, than costly capitulation. Those who advocate the maximising of risk-adjusted returns at all costs often forget that investors have emotional needs too. In our view, what investors require are anxiety-adjusted re-

Signs of trouble: Reference points and the perils of buying high. The point at which an investor enters the market fixes in their mind a reference point against which further gains and losses are judged. If an investor enters at the top, the early stages of the investment cycle are experienced as losses. During this stage, investors are sometimes slow to respond to indicators of a potential crash. A potential course of action might be to purchase ‘downside defence’, insuring the portfolio against large drops when getting into the markets, which

vestment and, moreso, to turn a paper loss into a real loss. But in the meantime, stress and anxiety build up. Most of the time, when investors sell in crises it is because they have run out of the emotional resilience needed to hold investments through the fear and anxiety and it is one of the most costly financial decisions an investor can take. For someone strongly inclined towards ‘taking action’ when faced with a challenging situation, inaction can make a stressful time even worse. A good strategy here is to look for small changes that can be made to the portfolio, al-

turns, which takes ‘being human’ into account and involves thinking proactively about how the comfort we all crave along the investment journey can be acquired as cheaply and efficiently as possible. That said, it’s important to recognise that no matter what strategy you take towards investment, you can still lose money. Nor are we suggesting that following these approaches will definitely ensure that returns will be greater or losses smaller than they otherwise would have been.


Empowering women

Roseann Kelly explains why it makes good business sense to fully utilise the largest underrepresented group in our economy


NTERNATIONAL Women’s Day was marked last month; the day, which has been observed since the early 1900s, celebrates the achievements of inspirational women and empowers individuals across the globe. From business conferences, networking events and political rallies to craft markets and theatre performances, the occasion was marked under the theme of ‘inspiring change’. The sentiment behind International Women’s Day is one which, if it were to be embraced throughout the year by the business community in Northern Ireland, has the potential to inspire economic change on a global level. Businesses of all sizes, from every sector and industry, owe their success to their people. Before we can judge the potential of our business, we need to look at that of the people within it. The best leaders are created through inspiration, motivation and empowerment and the importance

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of ongoing skills development cannot be underestimated in driving business growth. Northern Ireland is abundant with entrepreneurial talent so it is vital that we give individuals of all levels the tools and opportunities they need to grow professionally and ultimately drive the local economy. Whether this be through one-on-one training, a mentorship programme or facilitated networking events, leadership development must be centred around enriching, empowering and unlocking the potential of the individual. Evidence proves that companies and economies will be most competitive and successful if they empower and encourage leadership development among the best talent; both male and female. Notably, the McKinsey ‘Women Matter — 3’ study (2009) reported that companies with more women in top management tended to have an operating margin at least twice as high as those in the bottom quartiles. In their 2010 study, ‘Women at the top of corporations: Making it happen’, they report a 41% higher return on equity for companies, with the highest share of women on their

boards compared to companies with no women on their boards. In other words, driving leadership is not only the right thing to do, it also makes good business sense, and as females remain the largest underrepresented group in enterprise in Northern Ireland, here lies our greatest untapped economic resource. With this in mind, next month we will host the first International Business Women’s Conference in Belfast. IBWC 2014: ‘Creating a New Economy’ will bring together business people from across the globe to explore universal issues and themes, to facilitate valuable networking opportunities and create long-lasting international partnerships. Delegates will hear from the likes of Carla Busazi, editor-inchief, Huffington Post UK; Helena Morrissey, founder of the 30% Club; Anna-Lise Kjaer, CEO and founder of Kjaer Global; and Dell entrepreneur in residence , investor and media personality Ingrid Vandervelt. Our VIP guests include the Former US Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, and we look forward to welcoming

international delegates from US organisation Vital Voices, which works in partnership with Bank of America to facilitate mentorships for women leaders through this important project. We have the support of First Minister Peter Robinson and Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness and the Department of Enterprise Trade & Investment via Minister Arlene Foster MLA. This represents our biggest event to date. Women in Business NI seeks to show how a small, ambitious organisation can achieve great things by looking outward, by reaching out to global connections and encouraging entrepreneurial support. We hope that the Northern Ireland business community and our international colleagues and partners will join us, to help inspire a change that will be felt throughout the local economy and beyond. Roseann Kelly, chief executive, Women in Business NI



Both the UK and Ireland are having sick economies, but there are now though the fiscal pain will continue


AST month’s Budget represented George Osborne’s 11th ‘fiscal event’ as Chancellor, if you include five Budgets, four Autumn Statements and two Spending Reviews. The Chancellor has two more to go before the next General Election. Security and secure were the watch words and appeared eight times in the speech with “delivering security for the people of this country”, the Chancellor’s vision and long-term plan. As expected, the economic growth forecasts were upgraded significantly, representing the biggest inter-Budget revision in 30 years. The UK economy is now expected to see growth accelerate from 1.8% last year to 2.7% in 2014, easing to 2.3% next year. The stronger the UK’s economic recovery, the better for Northern Ireland, as this translates to a more robust recovery here too. We expect growth of 1.5%-2% this year up from an estimated 1% for 2013. A stronger UK economic recovery is good news for the public finances too, translating into more tax revenue, less expenditure on unemployment benefits and less government borrowing. Indeed, through faster economic growth and Budget 2014 measures, the Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR) now estimates that £99bn less borrowing will be required between 2012/13 and 2017/18 — equivalent to the UK’s entire Education budget. However, the UK is still set to borrow £95.5bn in just the current financial year. As the Chancellor noted: “There can be no economic security if there is no control of the public finances.” However, whilst the public finances are improving, it is from a horrendous state to something slightly less dire. Claims that the deficit is falling are often misunder-

16 8 BUSINESS MONTH 7 April 2014

Richard Ramsey

Chief economist, Ulster Bank stood. This means that the annual deficit’s share of GDP is falling, but until this turns into a surplus the overall stock of debt will continue to rise. Until then, the Government has to keep on borrowing. Some £572bn is still set to be borrowed in the seven years to 2017/18 — 20 times the annual output of the Northern Ireland economy. UK central government debt interest payments for 2014/15 alone amount to some £53bn — more than the UK spends on Defence (£38bn). In 2009/10, the annual deficit (or net borrowing) was 11% of GDP. This is set to fall from 6.6% this year to 5.5% in 2014/15. But this still remains one of the largest deficits anywhere in the developed world. Within the EU, only Spain and Cyprus have higher budget deficits in 2014. The UK’s annual deficit will not fall below the EU’s Stability & Growth Pact deficit ceiling of 3% of GDP until 2016/17. As a result, the UK will have exceed-

ed this deficit ceiling for eight successive years. The UK’s fiscal difficulties are structural as opposed to cyclical. This means economic growth on its own will not reduce the deficit, hence the need for an ongoing fiscal adjustment. It will take until 2018/19 before the deficit is eliminated, or 2017/18 when adjustment for the economic cycle is made. As a result, the UK’s overall stock of national debt is set to rise until 2018/19 and will push through the £1.5 trillion mark in the preceding year. However, with the economy growing, the overall stock of debt as a share of UK GDP will start falling in 2016/17 from a peak of 78.7% of GDP the previous year. This is two years later than was originally planned in the Coalition Government’s first ‘Emergency Budget’ in June 2010. Furthermore, assuming no future economic and financial shocks, it will be the early 2030s before the UK’s gross government debt to income ratio returns to its pre-

credit crunch level of 37%. This assumes there will be no further Eurozone crisis or fallout from a Chinese financial crisis to deflect the UK off its economic growth trajectory. Also baked into the fiscal plans are public expenditure cuts and public sector pay restraint until at least 2018/19. Much of the detail surrounding these cuts has been kicked into the long grass and beyond next year’s General Election. According to the Institute for Fiscal Studies, the UK has more departmental public spending cuts ahead than have been delivered to date. Over the period 2010/11 — 2018/19 UK Departmental spending is set to fall in real terms by 20%. As of 2013/14, just 43% of these cuts have been implemented so far. Meanwhile, outside of departmental spending, the continuing growth in Annually Managed Expenditure, which includes social security payments, is set to slow. A welfare cap is to be applied from 2015/16 to 2018/19. Whilst this is set to rise by forecast inflation, it will act as a drag on the UK economy, and Northern Ireland in particular, for the rest of the decade and beyond. Overall, despite 56 separate measures, and giveaways, this was as fiscally neutral a Budget as you could get, costing a net £130m over five years. With all Budgets, the devil will be in the detail. There are additional cuts in public expenditure and public sector pensions as yet not specified, and we will therefore still have several years of fiscal pain to come. The squeeze will not just be confined to the fiscal sphere. The monetary policy squeeze, no matter how mild, is expected to begin next year. Fiscal austerity and rising interest rates is something we haven’t experienced yet. But it is something we will have to get used to.

of debt to struggle to get to grips with their definite signs of a turnaround, even to be felt for some years to come


013 WILL be remembered as a turning point for the Republic of Ireland’s economy. Hard-hit domestic sectors such as retail, hospitality and construction began to grow again for the first time since the crisis began. Employment was up 2.4% with 61,000 extra people in work over the course of the year. Puzzlingly, GDP actually fell on the year, down 0.3% on 2012, meaning labour productivity fell sharply. In the early stages of a recovery one would expect jobless growth, rather than the jobs-rich recession which materialised. However, the GDP data are notoriously volatile due to the presence of the large multinational sector in Ireland. So the employment figures are the most reliable barometer of the health of the economy. Specifically the pharmaceutical ‘patent cliff’ has wreaked havoc on the GDP numbers, while having little impact on the real economy. A number of blockbuster drugs manufactured in Ireland have come off patent over the past number of years, pushing down on the market price pharmaceutical firms can demand globally. This has implications for exports given that pharmaceuticals account for more than half of the goods we export, and has temporarily depressed GDP. In reality, jobs in the pharma sector have actually continued to grow as firms invest in new drugs, while the decline in profitability of these multinationals has little impact on the real economy — explaining the stark divergence between the jobs figures and GDP growth. The upturn in the domestic economy has been good news for the public finances — boosting income tax, VAT and corporate tax receipts last year. Moreover, the new property tax widened the tax base further, yielding €318m.

David McNamara Economist, Davy Research

The government easily beat admittedly conservative deficit reduction targets, helped not only by improving tax receipts, but by revenues from the sale of the government’s assets in the banking sector. The deficit fell to 7% of GDP, and the government is track to meet the EU mandated 3% level by the end of 2015, from a peak of over 10% in 2010. This will be achieved by an eye-watering cumulative consolidation worth 20% of GDP since 2008, with cuts of 1.8% and 1.1% yet to hit the economy in 2014 and 2015 respectively. Ireland’s massive debt pile, which peaked 124% of GDP at the end of 2013 is also forecast to fall this year, beginning a gradual descent toward sustainability. So, much of the heavy lifting done then, but the government still has two tough austerity budgets to push through and with a 2016 election looming ever closer, this will test the resolve of the coalition partners. Indeed, the decision to reduce the planned budget

adjustment to €2.5bn from €3bn this year against the recommendation of the Fiscal Advisory Council may be the first sign of slippage in the plans. For the time being at least the government will pat itself on the back as Ireland exits the bailout with borrowing costs at an all-time low. However, one area of government spending has yet to be brought under control — health. Spending in that department finished the year €140m above target, as the government struggled to maintain spending discipline in an area that accounts for 21% of government expenditure. This was the second consecutive year of slippage in the health spending plans. In this context the planned €666m cut to the health budget in 2014 looks ambitious to say the least. While the plans to provide universal free GP care to under-5s in Budget 2014 was laudable, and forms part of the government’s strategy to provide free

healthcare at the point of contact by 2016, the cost of rolling out such schemes is hard to justify in the current climate. The government and HSE has thus far failed to cut costs or streamline unwieldy administrative and IT systems across the health service, while frontline services and staff have suffered. The freeze on public-sector employment has meant a steady stream of health service graduates leaving Ireland in search of employment elsewhere. Another area of concern is public pay. As part of the Haddington Road agreement with the public-sector unions, the government has targeted savings of €1bn by 2016. It remains to be seen whether these savings will come to fruition and at what price in terms of industrial unrest. On the social protection side, the government has consistently ignored advice from the Troika to target spending on the most vulnerable in society, maintaining universal benefit payments. However, the fall in the numbers on the dole will help spending pressures in that area this year. Despite the spending pressures, the government does have the safety valve of improving revenues as the domestic economy now recovers. Conservative assumptions for tax revenues and strongerthan-expected bank guarantee fees and Central Bank surplus income have more than compensated. Looking ahead, the better than expected jobs numbers should yield a decent windfall in income tax this year, while VAT receipts were up 7% on the year in the first two months of the year. Moreover, the government may yet decide to offload its remaining stakes in the banks ahead of that 2016 election, providing a timely fillip to the Exchequer and negating the need for any additional spending cuts or tax rises.

7 April 2014 BUSINESS MONTH 17


PINT-SIZE SUCCESS The number of small independent breweries in Northern Ireland has tripled in the past decade and the thirst for further growth seems to be unquenchable, as John Mulgrew discovers


HEIR beers have reached international monarchical heights, while the biggest brewing success story is now set for a massive expansion in the coming months. Welcome to Northern Ireland's craft beer revolution. The crop of small, independent operations has more tripled in a decade — with at least six new breweries opening in just a handful of years. Leading the way on sales and growth is Kilkeel's Whitewater Brewery, which has an annual output of around 350,000 bottles and is widely available in the three big supermarkets. But owner Bernard Sloan has told Business Month that it's set to expand exponentially in the coming months, and “could do 10 times the volume of beer and we'd still have space”. “We are taking on more people and are about to begin the move to a bigger site,” he said. “The demand — especially in the last few years — for craft beer, is down to flavour. The next wave is not here yet, but it's coming.” While part of the interesting side of this is the increasingly widening selection and explosion of ‘artisanal' beer — to use an Americanism — another is the varied backgrounds of many of the brewers. For the latest tranche of those deciding to take the brewing career plunge, the range of previous professions couldn't be more varied — including architects, a PhD student and firefighter. But while some of the latest additions to the brewing marketplace in Northern Ireland follow largely traditional lines, others are also trying to push the boat out in terms of innovation and crucially, technology. Brewbot — a crowdfunded tech start-up based in Belfast — has developed a self-contained brewing system, which utilises a smartphone app to aid the process. Self-styled ‘beer evangelist' and lead-brewer for the project Matthew Dick put a PhD on hold to turn a hobby into a career. The 29-year-old Belfast man is also in the process of setting up the city's only brewery — a co-operative called Boundary Brewing. “Craft beer is growing fast, and following the footsteps of other markets,” he said. “Tied bars are even seeing the value of selling craft beer as well as some of the off-licences here.

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“Many are selling out of craft beer faster than they can restock their shelves.” Mr Dick — whose ‘breakfast stout' was presented to Prince Felipe of Spain at the recent Mobile World Congress in Barcelona — said those between 21 and 35 with disposable income were “prepared to spend more to get more”. For breweries trying to push the boundaries — such as Galway Bay in the Republic — Scotland's Brewdog is very much the runaway success story. Formed in 2007, it quickly grew to become the nation's biggest independently owned producer of all things beer. The big players on the commercial end — chiefly Diageo which owns Irish brewing stalwart Guinness — have yet to really enter the Northern Ireland market, despite indicators of craft having something of impact on their own sales. In January, they blamed a 6% drop in sales of the dry stout during the second half of 2013 on the hot weather rather than the rise of craft. But Northern Ireland still has some catching up to do with the rest of the UK and Republic — with the leviathan that is micro-brewing in the US now boasting well in excess of 2,000 operations across the country. Northern Ireland's taste for quality, small-batch produce, still largely rotates around the more traditional fare of pale ales, reds and stouts. The region's longest running craft brewery — Hilden — is also on the rise. The operation based outside Lisburn continues to feed the demand for traditional ale styles, served on traditional handpump or in bottle. Two of the latest brewers to buy a mash tun and get stuck in, both come from very different backgrounds. Darren Nugent was working in PR and marketing in England, before returning to his native Carrickmore in Co Tyrone to launch a career in brewing. Pokertree began selling two beer lines in January this year. “I saw a gap in the market — there was very little choice,” he said. “Demand so far has been very good — those who like the beers, really like them.” “Culturally we are a bit behind the rest of the UK and the Republic, but in five years, who knows where we'll be,” said Mr Nugent. CONTINUES ON PAGE 20 >>

Michael O’Hara, President Mas of Catalunya, Mayor Trias of Barcelona and Prince Felipe of Spain (right)

7 April 2014 BUSINESS MONTH 19


Another to join the brewing fraternity was firefighter Eoin Wilson who opened Farmageddon in Comber earlier this year. “There seems to be the same sort of argument with beer as there was with wine — people's tastes are changing,” he said. “You also have the slow-food movement, locally. It's care and attention, and after things like the horsemeat scandal, there's a move towards handmade produce.”

WHAT’S CHANGED IN 10 YEARS? Northern Ireland's independent brewing industry was once a much lonelier place — with Hilden flying the flag since 1981. In 1996, Bernard Sloan established the Whitewater Brewery — but it wasn't until the turn of the 21st century that it began to grow substantially and started bottling. Clanconnel followed suit in 2008, introducing a range of brews under the McGrath's branding. Fermanagh's Inishmacsaint began production a year later, with the Ards Brewing Company — set up by architect Charles Ballantyne — also

beginning to brew in 2011. But the renewed and reinvigorated interest in Northern Ireland brewing has been further bolstered in the past two years — with no less than five breweries being opened. These include Sheelin, Pokertree, Clearsky, Farmageddon and Red Hand. Co-operative Boundary Brewing is another brewing project in the early stages of development.

WHAT'S WORTH SEEKING OUT? Traditionally, most of Northern Ireland's breweries have been just that — traditional. While the independent brewing industry

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will take some time to grow and catch up with the creativity and diversity of brewing nations further afield, there are some great and interesting beers available. Named as the Champion Beer at the Belfast Beer Festival in 2012, Hoppelhammer is a balanced IPA (Indian pale ale) with a herbal, crisp hop bitterness, and can be found on tap, cask and in bottles. A stalwart of the brewing scene, Hilden's Twisted Hop is a crisp,

refreshing and well-hopped ale. For those after something darker, Farmageddon's India Export Porter offers a rich, roasted malt and balanced espresso bitterness. For those drinkers normally resigned to a well-known Diageo-owned red ale, McGrath's Irish Red offers a great deal more complexity with some crisp, biscuity malt. In addition, if travelling south, Galway Bay's ‘Of Foam and Fury' is a superb and boundary-pushing ‘Double IPA' worth seeking out.


Right skills needed Hidden behind the positive news emerging from our local economy lies a deeper problem that must be challenged, says John Moore


HE most recent Ulster Bank Northern Ireland PMI report showed privatesector firms have now reported an increase in business activity, employment and export orders for eight consecutive months. Figures on the job market have also been encouraging, with local employment data outperforming the UK average. In fact, Northern Ireland was the best performing region across Hays UK in the last six months of 2013, with temporary placements up by over 40% and, more tellingly, an increase of 60% on permanent placements year on year. The labour market is experiencing a strong rebound in professional recruitment and we are already acutely aware of the sectors where the demand is emerging. At the end of last year we released the Hays Global Skills Index 2013, a report that is the most statistically robust piece of thought-leadership from the recruitment industry. We noted that the UK economy is facing an emerging higher level skills shortage that could threaten to derail recovery. Unemployment and numbers of unfilled vacancies are rising across the world, a clear sign that global labour markets are malfunctioning. The recruitment world moves quickly and the figures only show so much of the story. The issue of the UK skills shortage is urgent, important and must be addressed now to avoid jeopardising future economic recovery. Local businesses are already struggling to find and attract the right candidates and this threat that we warned of several months ago is quickly becoming an unwanted reality. Too many skilled jobs are now going unfilled because the right skills are in increasingly short supply. This makes a real dent on a company’s ability to grow and constrains the UK’s economic prospects at a time when we need to be encouraging a sustained recovery.

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The Northern Ireland jobs market is outperforming the UK average, but a skills shortage threatens the recovery While the expansion of the IT sector has been widely reported, demands are also growing particularly quickly in the areas of manufacturing and construction. In the last six years much of our experienced local talent within these industries has been forced to move to Scotland, England and beyond to secure work. We want to let candidates know that this work is gradually returning to Northern Ireland. Already we are seeing that money is being made available for publicly funded infrastructure projects and these are

calling for immediate specialist skills. This is being further aided by the burst of activity in the residential market and the ripple effect of house sales will create movement through the construction sector. On-site managers are the ones bearing the brunt of this so called ‘talent mismatch’, placing the candidates back in the recruitment driving seat once more. Professionals with these skill sets and experience are now in a strong position to secure work and return to Northern Ireland. More vacancies are being lodged at present,

which is very positive. Over the next six months we expect there will be more movement of good-quality people as those who have accepted career stability will now look to improve their positions. In order to keep the positive sentiment within the economy moving in the right direction there needs to be a joint effort between businesses and government to build the best skills pipeline for future sustainable growth. John Moore, regional director, Hays in Northern Ireland


‘Don’t be afraid of failing’ Our education system teaches us that failure is bad – it’s not so long as you learn from it. So says restaurateur and determined dream follower Niall Davis Name: Niall Davis Company: Howard Street I got into business because… I've always had a bit of a problem with authority so from a young age I always knew opening my own business was the only way for me. The older I got the more I craved it as I wanted to build something with my own stamp on it. I always wanted to make money and I've read enough books on success and wealth creation to know you can only get so far as an employee. I got into this particular business because the opportunity arose. I was in the process of starting a financial planning business when I met Marty, business partner and head chef of Howard Street. Marty's food was popular with the public and I knew he ran his kitchens with military precision so I also knew he would be a good person to go into business with. I knew it was one of those opportunities that doesn't present itself too often. I'll probably go back to finance at some stage. I didn’t always do this... They never paid me enough in school so I left at 16 to work for an independent financial advisor as an administrator. I worked my way up to become an IFA myself until, eight years after I joined, I left to go travelling the world. When I came back I needed money as fast as possible so my friend offered me a job in a clothes shop. I remember working for the whole month and being shocked at my after-tax wages. I needed more than this so fell into hospitality as the tips made up for the lousy minimum wage. It was only supposed to be for a few months until I got on my feet again but that was three and a half years ago. The best thing about my work is… Creating something that's made an impact in my home city. The whole team work so hard to deliver a good experience for our customers and it's very satisfying when we pull it off

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Niall Davis, right, and his business partner and Howard Street’s head chef Marty Murphy and people leave the restaurant happy. I have a love/hate relationship with the social side of hospitality. The workplace is a very social environment but the job is very anti-social in that I don't get to see my friends, family or fiancee very much. The person I take inspiration from when it comes to business is… It's easy to mention the greats of business here which, of course, are inspiring to any entrepreneur and serve as a reminder of just how much it's possible for people to achieve. However, I'm often inspired by anyone really with the guts (or the stupidity) to go and give something a go, whether they succeed or not. There are so many people who have an idea which they think will work, or a dream they want to follow but are too scared to do it because of one reason or another. I love it when people risk it all to pursue their idea. Who cares if it doesn't work out? Just get up, dust yourself

off, learn from your mistakes (crucial) and move on.

out of the loop — it's a very frustrating set of circumstances.

The biggest obstacles we’ve come up against in business is... Same as everybody else... securing finance! Another part of that is people not believing in you. I'm sure there's a lot of people who may have been supportive to my face but probably thought I was a bit crazy starting a restaurant in these times. That's fine but when those people are the people who are making the decision whether or not to lend you money that's when you have problems. Thankfully we eventually came across people who did have a bit of belief and we were able to secure the finance we needed. I also found estate agents quite difficult to deal with at times. A lot of deals in this city seem to go on behind closed doors and you need to be in the know to know what units and businesses are available for rent or for sale. Before Howard Street we weren't taken seriously and were left

My advice to someone thinking about starting up their own business is… Just do it, go for it, but be smart about it too. Plan it out properly and do as much homework as possible. Don't be scared to fail. Our education system teaches us that failure is bad — it's not, so long as you learn from it. Things like bankruptcy in this country have such a negative stigma attached to them. However, bankruptcy can be one of the great tools of our economic system that allows someone to risk everything and if it doesn't work out they get to wipe the slate clean. It's things like this that allow people to dive in and make their move. In 10 years’ time I hope to be… Earning more and working less! I couldn’t go to work without... Eye drops. Being polite to people 70 hours a week can be tiring.


Inspired by digital evolution Having ridden the roller-coaster years of the dotcom boom-and-bust, Adrian Bradley is looking forward to the days when the internet will be at the heart of all we do Name: Adrian Bradley, managing director, i3 Digital My first job... My first paid job was as a bartender/waiter at the Manor House Hotel in Fermanagh, when I was 17. I was paid the princely sum of around £1.50 per hour. However, due to my keen interest in art and being pretty nifty with a paint brush, I also worked as a painter and decorator from the age of 15 and even got a few gigs doing Disney-themed kids’ bedrooms. I just hope that I didn’t infringe any copyrights! The person who taught me how to succeed... That’s a good question. I personally believe that wanting to succeed and be the best at what you do is inherent in the individual. Being instilled with a good work ethic from an early age and proving my first career teacher wrong were big drivers for me. Hard work, coupled with creativity, self-determination plus a strong passion for what you do are key ingredients to succeeding. My business mantra... Work hard and make sure you enjoy what you do as much as possible. Running your own business is a full-time job — most people wouldn’t do it if they knew what it entails, so it’s important to ensure it involves something you are passionate about. I also believe in focusing on the road ahead and not looking back. What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger, sharper and more versatile. It’s all changed since I started out... When the company was set up, businesses were only starting to understand the potential of the internet. As the internet became more accessible, i3 Digital evolved and we now deliver highly integrated marketing and communication platforms along with utility-based apps. In the last year we have moved into the augmented reality space and are now delivering some exciting and innovative apps, which

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Adrian Bradley: ‘I have learned some tough lessons along the way. You have just got to keep moving forward.’ utilise the technology to give the end-user an engaging experience. We have developed and productised our offering and hope to launch it in the USA shortly. We are no longer focused purely on being a service-based business. In 10 years’ time the world will be... A vast digital ecosystem that will become part of our everyday lives. The internet will be at the heart of everything we do and aware of our every need. We already have connected fridges that scan bar codes informing us of the content of what we are eating and flexible microchips which can be integrated with

clothing, so the possibilities are endless. Every home will have a 3D printer and we will be downloading files and printing many of the everyday items which we need. This is good for the reduction of our carbon footprint but a potential threat for logistics and transport companies. My one business regret is... I don’t believe in regrets. You can take something positive and learn from all of your experiences. Business is a roller-coaster ride and there are ups as well as downs. I have seen the rise and fall of the dotcom boom-and-bust years and have learned some tough

lessons along the way. You have just got to keep moving forward. My piece of business advice is... Never be surprised by people. Being a very trusting person has benefited me, however, it also has its downsides. Treat people the way that you would like to be treated, good manners go a long way. As my aunt always said, ‘it’s a light load to carry, but a lot of people seem to forget the basics when they become successful’. I couldn’t start the day without.. Recovering my iPhone from my three-year-old son who is tech crazy and getting a hug from the rest of my little ones.


Born out of chance, the Kane family’s rapeseed oil is set for export growth, writes Amanda Ferguson



IKE so many great small business ideas it was started around the kitchen table. Broighter Gold, the award-winning, cold-pressed rapeseed oil, was born quite by accident on Leona and Richard Kane's arable farm in Limavady back in 2006. Richard was pressing for bio diesel when Leona ran out of olive oil while making dinner. “We were cooking two steaks that night and Richard brought me up a cupful of the rapeseed that was unfiltered, and I used it,” Leona said. “I thought it was going to ruin the steaks but I loved the smell. I didn't know much about rapeseed at the time, but there was such a difference in smell and taste to olive oil. It wasn't as strong. It [ultimately the business] started when Richard said that night, ‘That's our Broighter Gold'.” Leona did a little online research about the health benefits of rapeseed oil and realised it was a product they could produce from start to finish on the 800-acre farm, that has been in the Kane family for over 100 years. “It's got 10 times more Omega 3 and half the saturated fat, and there is also Omega 6 and 9 which you don't get with olive oil, plus vitamin D and E,” said Leona, a former Farmers’ Union Office worker. Roughly 200 acres of the farm cultivates oil seed, with the remaining 600 acres used to grow wheat, barley and potatoes. Mother-of-two Leona finally got the business off the ground in 2011, selling the oil through farmers’ markets and local independent shops and restaurants. “A chef came over to us at the first farmers’ market we ever went to and when we got home that night we had a message on

the Facebook page we created the night before,” Leona said. “He said he had tried other rapeseed oil before and that he had never tasted anything like ours. “So I started to contact different chefs. I spoke to Chris Bell at the Galgorm and Stanley Matthews at the Limetree — they both said our oil is unique. “It's not as strong and it's not as harsh. It has a lot more golden colour. We recognised that we had something a bit different. It's very versatile.” Two years ago Broighter Gold won product and packing awards at the IFEX show, bringing it to the attention of chefs across Ireland. “Chefs are fantastic because they are using the oil when doing demonstrations.” Broighter Gold is stocked in independent local shops, butchers, farm shops and delis across Ireland. Following on from the plain rapeseed oil, Leona launched four new flavours at last year's Balmoral Show: basil, lemon,

chilli and rosemary and garlic. The name Broighter Gold comes from a gold hoard found on the Kane's farm in 1896 by a local man. Online sales of Broighter Gold products to America and beyond have rocketed over the past six months, due in part to the Kanes’ appearance on UTV farming programme, Rare Breed. Leona has taken on one fulltime and one part-time member of staff and someone to help care for the couple's children,

Jacob (5) and Emily (2) as she is planning to grow the business. “Richard would have done all the pressing, and then I would have done all the bottling with help of family and friends but you can't always just have them coming in all the time.” She said Invest NI has been very good with providing advice. At the moment she is exploring different export options, with the Middle East on the cards. The small company is also part of Economussee, a Canadian-based

artisan network, so plans are afoot to export to Canada and America soon. Leona said: “We only grow a single variety in one soil type, that's what makes our oil unique. “We are working hard and it has been great. You couldn't do it unless you loved it to be honest. It's long hours, but we enjoy it and it's nice to see the customer enjoy the end product.” Broighter Gold will be featured at the Balmoral Show this month.

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ASK THE EXPERTS I OWN three buy-to-let properties. What are my legal obligations in respect of the recent Landlords Registration Scheme? The legal requirements on private landlords have become much more onerous in recent years, largely due to the trend towards renting rather than buying properties as a result of the economic downturn. All private landlords must, by law, enrol with the Landlord Registration Scheme. It aims to keep a register of landlords, where their properties are located with the goal of keeping landlords abreast of their responsibilities. However, there are other legal requirements of which, you as a landlord should be aware. More commonly known is that all properties rented out to tenants must have a valid energy performance certificate and for all gas and electrical appliances to be inspected regularly. What is less commonly understood is that if you rent out a house or flat to three or more unrelated individuals then it is considered to be a house in multiple occupation (HMO). If a property is a HMO, it must be registered with the Northern Ireland Housing Executive. Each house needs to be registered for the maximum number of people it can house for an initial period of five years. A fee equivalent to £25 per year for each occupant is payable on first registration so, for a house with a maximum of three occupants, a fee of £375 is payable. Failure to comply with the HMO registration scheme is a criminal offence and carries fines for breaches ranging upwards from £1,000. RD

Ross Davidson principal RW Davidson

Donna Sheerin managing director Totalis People

Conor Cahalane Davy Private Clients

Sound advice can be a valuable commodity We put your questions to the experts with the answers

I own an SME within the services sector. Our training budget is small and having staff learn off-site is not an option. What assistance is available towards recognised qualifications?


F you have employees aged between 16-24 and who work more than 21 hours week there is funding available under the Government’s Apprenticeships NI scheme. Incentives (of up to £750 per employee) are made payable to the business upon completion. All NVQ training is delivered within the workplace at a time that suits both the learner and employer. Not having to release staff to attend class means no disruption to the business. Training and assessment is available across Northern Ireland in a range of occupational areas including retail, hospitality, business administration, team leading and customer service. Many young people working in the service sector left school with few or no qualifications and now, years later, want to be rewarded for the hard work they undertake. They are motivated, enthusiastic and eager to learn. They see what they are doing as a career rather than simply a job in a shop or a cafe and many want personal development and career progression. Our programmes are also specifically tailored for individual needs so learners are given as much help and support as

I’m trying to plan for my children’s education. Is there anything I should be doing now to help pay for university fees in future? The financial future faced by today’s university students is a difficult one, so in my view, you should be setting aside as much as you can now. It never hurts to be prepared and really, the sooner you start saving, the better. According to Liverpool Victoria’s ‘Cost of a Child’ report 2013, a UK student who started a three-year degree last autumn will graduate with an average debt of around £53,300. In Northern Ireland, the figure should be lower but will be by no means less significant. Debt, after all, is still debt. For now, parents should seek to take advantage of any taxfree benefits that are available to them. From this month, the annual tax-free ISA allowance has increased to £15,000. Children are also entitled to their own annual ‘Junior ISA’ which allows them to build up tax-free savings of up to £3,840 a year — though they can’t withdraw it until they are 18 years of age. The only real disadvantage of an ISA is that you can only invest a fixed amount in any given tax year. Those with more income at their disposal, may wish to consider an investment bond, where there is no limit on the lump sum to be invested. There are also tax advantages of an investment bond and once children are 18, they have their own personal allowance that they can utilise. While is it never going to be easy to build up the large sums of money that a university education can now entail, a little forward planning could definitely ease a good deal of the burden. The appropriate strategy is always dependent on individual circumstances and as such, you should always speak to a financial advisor in the first instance. possible to succeed. Many learners go on to supervisory and managerial roles upon completion of the

apprenticeship which is extremely rewarding for you, the employer.


All questions should be addressed to: Questions and advice are published in good faith but should not replace the advice of your professional financial advisor. 30 BUSINESS MONTH 7 April 2014


BANKS INTHE SPOTLIGHT Ulster Bank and its parent point to an absence of evidence to substantiate claims of wrongdoing but, as Paul Gosling reports, the potential risk for the banks and Northern Ireland is great


LSTER Bank and its parent, RBS, face a very damaging accusation for a bank trying to rebuild its reputation. The charge is that one of its divisions deliberately put profitable clients out of business for what amounted to technical breaches of lending conditions and in many cases subsequently bought those closed businesses’ assets cheaply. Claims of wrongdoing are denied by Ulster Bank and RBS, which both say they have seen no evidence to substantiate the allegation. However, the accusations have to be taken seriously — and they are. RBS has engaged Clifford Chance to investigate and as part of that, the leading law firm has appealed to RBS or Ulster Bank clients with a relevant grievance to provide evidence. Meanwhile, the regulator, the Financial Conduct Authority, has engaged the Promontory Financial Group and accountancy firm Mazars to examine the treatment of business customers by RBS. The spark for the two investigations was a highly critical report conducted for the UK’s business secretary Vince Cable by his special advisor and ‘entrepreneur in residence’ Dr Lawrence Tomlinson. The report focused on the relationship of RBS with its divisions, the Global Restructuring Group (GRG) and West Register. While Ulster Bank has suggested the report was focused on RBS, Dr Tomlinson insists it applies equally to Ulster Bank.

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“The Tomlinson report definitely includes Ulster Bank as a part of the RBS Group,” he says. “In fact, some of the earliest cases I received were Ulster Bank cases. Having visited Belfast in January, and met with businesses who have had problems with GRG, I believe the issues in Northern Ireland very much reflect what I have heard from businesses across the rest of the UK.” Dr Tomlinson’s report alleged that RBS had intervened when clients breached their banking covenants, even where they were trading profitably and fully repaying their loans. Two examples of the covenant breaches cited by Dr Tomlinson were when a client was late in providing copies of its accounts, or when the loan to value ratio exceeded the specified maximum. Given that property prices in Northern Ireland collapsed by about half during the financial crisis, inevitably this had the potential to affect a substantial proportion of Ulster Bank customers who had borrowed to buy properties. According to Dr Tomlinson, customers who breached their banking covenants were routinely referred to GRG. While the remit of GRG is supposedly to assist clients to trade out of difficulty, Tomlinson — based on evidence from a whistleblower who had worked for the bank — claimed that the monthly charges imposed by GRG were so high that it made it very difficult, or impossible, for the client to trade profitably after being referred to GRG.

“The business is often fined on entry into GRG or BSU [the business support unit] for breaching their covenants,” wrote Dr Tomlinson. “More often than not, their interest on the loans will also be increased. Whilst the bank may argue that this increase in interest reflects the greater risk the bank faces as a result of the business’ instable position, this is unhelpful for the business, making it increasingly hard for them to trade out of their difficult situation.” Moreover, said Dr Tomlinson, GRG on many occasions placed client businesses into administration, with another RBS division, West Register, eventually taking ownership of the assets. Dr Tomlinson’s report says: “There are multiple accounts of West Register buying properties later down the line when the business has gone into insolvency at cut prices. When you look at the inaccuracy of the valuations of many of these assets, there is a potential for easy profit to be made from the cheap purchase of properties that later can be resold nearer the original valuation.” The FCA’s review will be wide ranging and fully consider all the points raised by Dr Tomlinson, which explains why it will only be completed in the third quarter of this year. Meanwhile, both the House of Commons Treasury Select Committee and the Northern Ireland Affairs Committee have conducted hearings into Tomlinson’s report. Ulster Bank chief executive Jim Brown told the Northern CONTINUES ON PAGE 34 >>

7 April 2014 BUSINESS MONTH 33


Ireland Affairs Committee: “We take these allegations very seriously... From my own perspective, I have seen no evidence of any systematic issues of the nature that Mr Tomlinson has talked about. No cases have been presented to us to actually review to see whether there have been any issues. But based on my knowledge of how GRG works, I have seen no systemic issues of that nature within the business.” Politicians are worried about the implications for the Northern Ireland economy if the allegations are true. Ian Paisley junior MP questioned a Bank of England official at a recent Northern Ireland Affairs Committee hearing. “How does the authority view the actions of RBS and perhaps — I say perhaps — the Ulster Bank, which has seemingly and deliberately forced and, as you said, defrauded SMEs out of businesses in order to seize their assets?” The BoE said it takes the allegations “very seriously”. There is another reason

34 BUSINESS MONTH 7 April 2014

why this issue has enormously significant policy implications for Northern Ireland. Some of the province’s most substantial commercial assets are today owned by West Register, including The Outlet in Banbridge, the Richmond Centre in Londonderry and, reportedly, part of the debt that underpins the Foyleside Centre, also in Derry. (Ulster Bank failed to respond to requests to confirm or deny this). In practice, this means a large proportion of relevant commercial assets are controlled by Ulster Bank and its associate companies. In Derry, as well as West Register owning the Richmond Centre and, reportedly, having a more than half a billion pounds’ stake in the Foyleside, the Ulster Bank is the main creditor in the administration of an Orana company that owned development land for an extended shopping centre in the city’s Crescent Link area. Consequently, it seems that the two retail centres with most to lose if the new development goes ahead

have a conflict of interest that might deter them from challenging the application. Ulster Bank failed to respond for a request to comment on the apparent conflict of interest. It did, though, provide a statement on the broader charges against it. The bank said: “Serious allegations have been made about the treatment of some customers, as of now no evidence has been produced that backs these claims of systemic fraud. Ulster Bank is committed to working with customers who find themselves in difficulty and work with customers who engage with us to help them find a solution on a case-bycase basis. We understand the importance of a thriving and successful business sector. We now have to wait to find out what the RBS and FCA investigations conclude and for what more happens from both the Northern Ireland Affairs and Treasury Select Committees. This is an issue that has some way to go. But it has the potential to strike another hammer blow to Ulster Bank’s reputation.


The month’s local indicators at a glance Ulster Bank economist Richard Ramsey gives a rundown on the latest key pointers ALL eyes were on the Chancellor on March 19. However, an encouraging batch of Northern Ireland economic data was also released on Budget day. The local labour market keeps improving with unemployment falling and employment rising. Indeed, Northern Ireland’s claimant count (or dole queue) fell for the 13th consecutive month in February. Meanwhile, the Quarterly Employment Survey (QES) for Q4 2013 is also worth noting. It measures the number of jobs as opposed to the number of individuals in employment, excluding the self-employed. The QES coverage and methodology used to estimate the number of jobs has changed, which explains the apparent surge in job numbers in Q4 2009. The latest figures revealed an eighth consecutive quarter of employment growth with a net gain of 2,920 jobs (+0.4%) in Q4 2013. Furthermore, the year-on-year increase (+1.8%) represented the fastest rate of employment growth since Q1 2008. This equated to a net

gain of 12,300 jobs with 85% of these in the private sector. The number of seasonally adjusted jobs peaked in Q2 2008 at 733,060 and troughed in Q4 2011 with 691,470. This represented a decline of 5.7% or 41,590 jobs. In the subsequent eight quarters, NI has recouped 30% of

the jobs lost during the downturn. This highlights the scale of the job creation challenge still facing NI. It is encouraging that NI's economic recovery has moved to the next stage with a meaningful recovery in employment. The steady stream of Invest NI-backed investments over

the past year, promising jobs in the near future, alongside improved business confidence and rising investment intentions, should keep employment growth on an upward trajectory. At a sector level, the most impressive growth, in percentage terms, occurred within the construction industry.

EMPLOYMENT recovery is driven by full-time employment growth. Like economies elsewhere, fulltime employees bore the brunt of the job losses in Northern Ireland’s downturn. However, the recovery in employment growth over the last year has been particularly evident in full-time em-

ployment. This increased by 2.3% between Q4 2012 and Q4 2013, representing the fastest rate of growth in almost six years and compared with an annual increase of just 0.8% for parttime employment. Despite this, the number of full-time jobs in NI in Q4 2013 remains 5.0% below the peak in Q1 2008.

THE cost of living squeeze appears to be easing with the gap between annual consumer price inflation and average weekly earnings narrowing. The annual rate of consumer price inflation (CPI) eased from 1.9% in January to 1.7% in February. The latter represents the lowest rate of CPI inflation since Octo-

ber 2009. Petrol prices are now at a three-year low and food price inflation has also been easing. Meanwhile, average weekly earnings have gone in the opposite direction. Indeed, in last month’s Budget 2014, it was forecast that average weekly earnings will overtake inflation later this year.

36 BUSINESS MONTH 7 April 2014


UPSHARES-DOWNSHARES As Profit Axon continues to storm ahead is it time to bring in the security experts? MIXED fortunes? Just a tad. The performance of your erstwhile traders over the last month has mirrored what can only be described as a tumultuous few weeks for the stock markets. Geopolitical tension isn't good for investors, who have a tendency to head for cover in times of uncertainty. Upheaval in the Crimea has borne the inevitable fruit of depleted portfolios all round,

Joanne Stuart

Director of Attrus and chair of Arts and Business NI BG Group Kingfisher Whitbread Evraz Total Wildcard Asahtead

May 28 value 73,625 151,286 246,350 16,400 487,661

Change 1060 11143 3187 -3,449 11,941



Wildcard: Babcock International Babcock is the UK’s leading engineering support services firm working in the likes of defence and energy. At the end of March, it announced the acquisition of Avincis Group. There was surprise at the valuation and the rights issue of £1.1bn required to pay for the takeover which translated into a fall in share price. But contracts with Magnox nuclear reactors and London fire engines should help the share price to bounce back.

though some of us have withstood the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune better than others. And while the lowered spirits of some of our investors are bad enough, they pale in comparison to the pall overhanging the home of Business Month at this point. Overall, we've had some profits and some big losses, not least for the departing editor who dropped a cool £28,000 en route to Peru.

Even Tony Axon lost £10,000 after taking a big hit on Lloyds, and at times, we can’t help agree with his take on Osborne’s much-trumpeted economic recovery, that it’s more about the south-east of England than our patch. Barry Byrne put in a solid performance by sticking with beer and sugar while Joanne Stuart made £12,000 on the back of a rally from Kingfisher. All prices as of March 28.

THE RULES Each trader is given £400,000 to spend, £100,000 each on four sets of shares, which they must hold in their portfolios until the end of 2013. They will also be given £100,000 to spend on a wild-card share, which must be changed at the end of each month.

Barry Byrne

Tony Axon

David Elliott

Managing director of G4S in Northern Ireland SAB Miller AB Foods BSkyB Tate & Lyle Total Wildcard Bunzl

May 28 value 117,861 233,962 135,174 94,936 581,934

Change 7,404 -5,086 2,544 7,929 7929



Wildcard: Bellway It announced record revenues and earnings per share in its interim results earlier this week. This pushed its shares up 2% but they still look attractive as the UK housing market gathers momentum, fuelled by cheap loans and interest rates. The FTSE 250-listed house builder said it experienced “strong” consumer demand during the first six months ended January and that the reservations rate had accelerated in the early spring selling season.

Media director of Navigator Blue Prudential Next Lloyds Arm Holdings Total Wildcard Burberry

May 28 value 181,630 242,626 207,373 165,870 797,499

Change -3,453 8273 -19,587 4,352 -10,415



Wildcard: Enron (not really — Ed) A difficult month as I predicted, mainly due to uncertainty over Crimea. It confirms my view that the ‘recovery’ is all south east England Osborne bluster. My reverse this month is temporary, driven down by Lloyds. At least my loss wasn’t as big as our editor who I suspect is distracted by his marriage to the lovely Geraldine. Good luck David; mind you the shares will need to do better, unless of course you’re marrying for money!!

Editor of Business Month May 28 value Standard Chartered 74,939 BP 95,413 Carnival 115,548 Pearson 83,687 Total 369,587 Wildcard Randgold 94,244

Change -5,474 -3,756 -11,762 7,015 28,007 -5,756

Wildcard: Lehman Brothers Boom! There goes the profit. Having hankered after a big profit to end this run of Upshares, this trader was left with egg on his face and a sinking feeling. The latter was more to do with the £11,000 loss for Carnival although the overall £28,000 loss was accounted for by a big slide for other stocks, including wildcard Randgold. So for the last pick I’m going for Lehman Brothers. I hear they're doing some great things in leveraged debt.

7 April 2014 BUSINESS MONTH 37


EARLY START Start-up assistance and ongoing support is on hand for Northern Ireland youngsters aiming to become the next entrepreneurial legends, reports Rebecca Kincade


ITTING in a Northern Ireland classroom today could be the next Sir Alan Sugar, Sir Richard Branson or Anya Hindmarch, all of whom started their globally successful companies at a very young age. This country has a strong reputation for entrepreneurial spirit, but what help is available to our local young people hoping to start their own business? Carol Fitzsimons, chief executive of Young Enterprise NI, told me there is a range of programmes available to young people through organisations such as The Prince’s Trust, Advantage NI, Invest NI, Northern Ireland Science Park and the Bright Ideas programme at a local council level. She continued: “There are also innovative approaches that young people can take, such as crowdfunding, private equity, support from family and friends as well as approaching the bank to get started. A great recent example is Brewbot who used Kickstarter to raise their initial start-up capital.” Ms Fitzsimons recommends that the first step for any budding entrepreneur should be to sketch out their ideas in relation to the product and the market they wish to target. She said: “It doesn’t need to be as formal as a business plan. We have found that local business people are very encouraging of young people trying to get started, so we would suggest networking to get as many supportive people around you as possible.” One of the biggest challenges facing youth entrepreneurship is our low-risk culture in which young people are encouraged to get a secure job and work through the

38 BUSINESS MONTH 7 April 2014

higher education system. Ms Fitzsimons says that they are working to increase the awareness of business start-up, or self-employment, as a career choice whilst at school. She said: “The infrastructure is there for young people to succeed in starting up their own business, but the challenge is ensuring there is a supportive climate around them that encourages them to give it a go. One of our Young Enterprise stu-

dents recently said that the only difference between Northern Ireland and America is that in America when you fail it is viewed as experience and here it is viewed as failure. This is a wise insight from a 16-year-old.” Young Enterprise programmes help students to ‘learn by doing’ through the hands-on experience of that comes from running their own business. Philip Cassidy, cofounder of Gem, and Lorraine McAleer from Learning Space, are Young Enterprise alumni. Lisa Beers, programme manager, The Prince’s Trust, explained that they too have support in place for unemployed young people, aged 18-30, who are interested in starting their own business. She said: “We offer a free four-day training programme that helps with business planning. There are also financial support packages, including test marketing grants of up to £250, startup grants of up to £1,500 and loans of up to £4,000, depending on circumstances. We can also organise up to two years of support from a volunteer business mentor and the opportunity to complete a levelone qualification in Enterprise.”

>> Turn to page 40

7 April 2014 BUSINESS MONTH 39

FOCUS ON: YOUNG ENTREPRENEURS >> From page 39 The Prince’s Trust recently encouraged budding entrepreneurs to follow their dream at an inspirational open day. Sponsored by Invest Northern Ireland, the event brought together speakers, including entrepreneur Mike Southon, and young people who, have set up in business. One young entrepreneur from the North Coast who has turned her back on unemployment with help from The Prince’s Trust Enterprise Programme is Rebecca McCrea. The 21 year old recently started her new baking business venture in the Parkgate area. After leaving school she struggled to find a career direction and decided to set up her own business. Passionate about baking, she used these skills and completed The Prince’s Trust Enterprise programme in preparation of starting her venture. She secured a loan and is receiving mentor support. Rebecca urges young people considering self-employment to contact The Prince’s Trust. She said: “Without the help of The

Youth entrepreneurship success stories ■ Sir Richard Branson launched his first business venture at 16. ■ Sir Alan Sugar founded Amstrad at 16. ■Anya Hindmarch opened her first shop at 19. ■ Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg achieved billionaire status at 23. ■ Bill Gates started his first company as a young teenager.

Prince’s Trust, I wouldn’t be where I am today. ” It can be a daunting step to

40 BUSINESS MONTH 7 April 2014

jump straight from school into managing your own business but the programmes are out

there to aid and assist our young entrepreneurs on their first steps to success.


7 April 2014 BUSINESS MONTH 41


JOB’S DONE! WHAT NOW? Ensuring a happy retirement after decades of nine-to-five routine takes planning. Rebecca Kincaid gets some tips from two impending retirees


LMOST everyone in the world of business looks forward to the day they can retire. Indeed the notion always seems idyllic. Long lazy mornings in bed, endless days on the golf course and no more earlymorning alarm calls all wait to welcome us at the end of our careers. But as we reach such a transitional point in life, does retirement become something that most of us rush to wholeheartedly or is it actually an event that we secretly dread? Gerry Coe has spent the past 50 years working as a photographer. Known for his signature pencil portraits, Mr Coe has developed his trade since leaving school. Two years ago he closed his Bangor studio and retired, to a certain degree. He said: “I came up with the old-school photographers, learning my profession and improving my skills. Things have changed now. It seems that everyone thinks that they are a photographer just because they have a good camera. It is the customers that are suffering from this change in the industry, particularly wedding clients who only have one opportunity to capture lifelong memories from their perfect day.” I asked if this change in the industry had prompted him to move towards retirement, or if his decision had been influenced by other factors. “During the recession no

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one was spending money and people were trying to find cheaper options. This was partly a factor in my decision to step back when I did. I felt like I had stayed for as long as I could and that I was battling on for no reason when I had other things that could adequately fill my time.” Since then Mr Coe has kept

For most people, their job will just come to a total halt very busy, maintaining his passion of photography by giving talks and lectures, judging for major photographic organisations and fulfilling obligations as the president of the North Down camera club. He continued: “I am very lucky that I have been able to continue to do the things that I enjoy, just in varied capacities. I have a big exhibition coming up in Bangor Library this April that will be made up of images I have taken using smartphone technology. This is something that has particularly interested me and I am giving lectures on this topic on a regular basis.”

For Mr Coe, retirement was >> Turn to page 44 an event to look forward to in some ways, however, he admits that the change of pace can be difficult to get used to. He experienced a sense of guilt in the first few weeks that made him feel like he should be doing something else other than relaxing. He said: “When you are moving towards retirement you are busy trying to think about how to fill your time. For most people, their job will just come to a total halt. One day they will get up and go to their nine to five, whereas the next day that routine will be over. The best thing for those retiring is to find a new hobby and have an outlet, whether that is in computing, photography or languages. You can’t just stop.” Dr Sheldon Hinds, a qualified doctor since 1981, is approaching retirement. After hospital rotations he entered full-time general practice in the North Down area. He

7 april 2014 BUSINESS MONTH 43

FOCUS ON RETIREMENT >> From page 43 is now semi-retired, counting down the days to full retirement in February 2015. He said: “This has been a good way to gradually get myself into a new routine, by stepping back from work over a period of time. “I have been to several privately run seminars in the run up to this point in my life to approach retirement in a holistic way.

44 BUSINESS MONTH 7 April 2014

“They encouraged me to identify my financial requirements and plan for the future. “One of the areas covered was how to maintain good mental health during the transition. “I have been able to observe many people retiring in a professional capacity and I know that it is very important to have plans and structure in place.” Retirement is something that

Dr Hinds has been looking forward to with a great deal of enthusiasm. At the top of his list of things to do is to make a determined effort to get fitter. I was reassured to hear that a new pair of trainers have already been purchased to mark the occasion. He continued:

“While I have enjoyed general practice and its challenges I feel that I am ready to seek a new direction. “I have a wide and varied collection of interests and in particular I am looking forward to extensive travel with my wife.” So the advice from the front line of retirement seems to be consistent across the board: plan, keep busy and do the things you enjoy. Now you’re sorted.





The Tourer shows its class

ASM Chartered Accountants’ Belfast office

Hitting all the right places





7 April 2014 BUSINESS MONTH 45



Embracing the spirit of the Swedish giant Christie Gregg, IKEA Belfast store manager, tells Joris Minne how the global retailing phenomenon has retained a sense of intimacy and why tough managers aren’t welcome


F IKEA made people, Christie Gregg would be a best seller. Store manager of the popular Belfast shop, she embodies everything that is cool about the Swedish furniture giant. She is bright, modern, youthful and bang on trend. The former paleontologist, who often jogs to work, has long had an interest in retail, having previously been a sales manager at Boots. “IKEA is a good place to work because despite its size it remains human-scaled and likes to operate through consultation among co-workers,” she says as we dig through a chilled, briney crab salad in Hadski’s. The IKEA brand doesn’t appear to take itself too seriously and rejects the image of corporate might. It endeared itself to us ever since it unleashed its tongue-in-cheek “Don’t be so English” and “Tidy up for your girlfriend” TV ads series. And that love has not diminished over the years. The Belfast IKEA store was the first to open in Ireland back in 2006. Eight years later, a competitor IKEA in Dublin and growing competition from discount sofa warehouses, Harry Corry and independents, has not slowed the shop’s performance. Gregg says this is down to the brand’s ability to maintain its attractiveness in changing times. “IKEA is formidable in so many ways, not least because it is flexible and intimate despite its size,” she says. “The

46 BUSINESS MONTH 7 April 2014

family spirit is not an artificial device created by marketing specialists in a laboratory — it is genuine and heartfelt and my job and that of my co-workers is to keep that spirit alive.” She speaks without irony. That’s the thing about IKEA; it’s just so compelling and affordable, no one could accuse it of being up itself. “Surely your staff and suppliers must see a tough, hard management side to you which is less gilded?” Modern managers don’t run successful businesses using outdated authoritarianism or fear-inducing discipline, she explains. “We run a good team but we consult with each other. Nobody knows how to sell a kitchen or bathroom better than the IKEA co-workers who are posted in those sections and their views are critical to our overall procurement policies as well as design and presentation decisions,” she says. This cross-consultation works internationally too as she regularly meets up with her counterparts from stores across the world. “Learning and sharing from each other’s store experiences is a permanent feature of life at IKEA and this interchange throws up interesting revelations.” For instance, she reveals that Northern Ireland consumers live in houses with storage challenges and large chimney breasts and fireplaces unlike most others

in Europe. To mine this kind of precious information Gregg and her team conduct 30 to 40 annual house visits to take dimensions, note features and style preferences and how people use their spaces. Ulster kitchens had sofas in them long before the rest of the UK caught up, she remarks. All this helps explain why the Belfast IKEA store is the third best performing in the entire UK. Whereas IKEA has maintained its cleancut and rustic values, a quick walk through the store beside George Best Belfast City Airport soon shows how more ornate, rococo styles have come into play. “People change their interiors more frequently than you’d think,” she says. “Homes are more dynamic places than ever and we want to be part of that dynamism.”

Hadski’s Crab salad x 2 Baby hake Chowder Chips Glass wine Glass beer Suki tea Coffee Total

£13.00 £17.00 £5.50 £3.00 £5.75 £2.50 £2.20 £1.60 £50.55



Streetview No.45: Regency Gift House Ron McBride


N the year the Canberra was launched and Danny Blanchflower captained Spurs to the double, John McCullough opened his shop in Bangor. It was 1961. McCulloughs opened as a nursery shop with myriad prams, strollers and toys which today is joined to the gift shop next door. The business is now run by his son David and Jenny who runs the Gift House which was acquired by purchasing adjacent premises. The Gift House, which has a sister branch in Newtownards, enjoys a prime seafront location in Bangor and, despite changes in traffic flow schemes, is still accessible to pedestrians. The frontage is traditional in terms of signage (Belleek, Waterford and Hummel) and well-stocked windows. On either side of the door two handcarts full of beakers and mugs attract attention. One window has a mix of household gifts; the other is packed with Hornby and Airfix. The shop is well organised. It

is of medium size with enough space to move around easily. Browsing customers find a considerable range of goods on attractive shelf displays or in revolving glass cabinets. On entry, to the left there is a range of crystalware and Belleek. Interestingly, while the factory predominantly displays the traditional pottery, the Regency mostly stocks the modern, stylish Belleek. Past the adjoining door to the nursery shop is the Hornby

section. This is not a toy shop per se but does stock a big range. Fathers and sons alike enjoy browsing this section which may indeed be expanded. Today digital controllers can operate three trains on one track. Changed times. A local model railway club provides a useful customer base for what can be a serious hobby. Despite competition from the internet, the experience of seeing and touching is a more satisfying experience for local customers.

Walking round the shop, a wide variety of giftware is available with cabinets bearing brand names such as Fine Country Arts, Yankee, Coleman and Pilgrim. The shop is good for wedding presents but no longer has a wedding list service which seems to be dominated today by department stores. Trends are obvious in the trade today with modern, clean designs in glassware being more popular and the more expensive dinner sets being less in demand now. The digital age is not confined to Hornby trains as David points out: in his nursery shop he may carry out up to 50 buggy repairs a week. He has on occasion had to deal with a baby stroller hood in which one of the iPod speakers had malfunctioned. The way to compete with the internet, indeed, is to provide good service. The shop, because of the Hornby alone, is worth a visit.

Regency Gift House 21 Bridge Street Bangor BT20 5AW 02891 272776

7 April 2014 BUSINESS MONTH 47



Meet the man who has gone from trainee to managing director Brian Clerkin Managing director of ASM Chartered Accountants’ Belfast office


Depending on how busy I am I’ll flex my start time. However, an early morning coffee is always high on the agenda and it is usually picked up on my way into the office. The first task of the day is to check for overnight emails and to review the previous day’s to-do list to make sure that everything is in hand.


I try to spend 10 minutes every morning with my PA to go over my diary to make sure I know where I need to be that day, to make sure that I will have the relevant papers to hand and to agree on what else needs to get squeezed into the diary. We also take that opportunity to ensure that the day-to-day paperwork of a busy office keeps flowing and doesn’t get caught up on my desk.


I have always found that I tend to be most productive in the morning so where possible I

will often block out 90 minutes or so to deal with a “chunky” task. That could be writing a report for a client or quality assuring a report prepared by one of my colleagues. I also use this time to review any client proposals or marketing material that we are working on.


I try to spend some time every day walking round the office and having a quick catch-up with the key directors and managers in the firm just to get a sense of any emerging issues or concerns, particularly in respect of the delivery of client work or staffing issues. As a firm we offer a wide range of services so there is also something interesting on the go.


I set aside an hour every day to deal with client phone calls. I try to do this before lunch so that if there are any issues where the client needs an urgent response then we have

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every opportunity to deal with them on the same day. These issues could be anything from a fraud investigation to a technical accounting query.


Where possible I try to get out to pick up my own lunch and take the time to clear my head. Once a week I try to eat my lunch in the staff kitchen rather than at my desk so as to catch up with colleagues in a relaxed environment.


I spend two to three hours a day involved in client meetings, usually out at the client’s premises. This is a great opportunity to spend quality time with our clients to find out how they are dealing with the business issues that they face and how we might assist.


I usually leave my admin tasks to later in the day. As MD I am responsible for liaising with the other ASM offices, with our

international colleagues, with our key stakeholders and with our regulators. I also usually take the time once a day to check in with our practice manager.


One last run through any loose ends. These days that primarily means dealing with emails and signing off on outbound correspondence. I try to take one last look over the to-do list to get a sense of the priorities for the rest of the week.


Homeward bound. Since the arrival of our son I have become much more disciplined about trying to separate home and work life. So while occasionally I will still work on emails at home late into the evening in recent times I am more likely to be immediately immersed in home life — and with an energetic twoyear-old on our hands all thoughts of work evaporate until early the next morning.


BMW remains on course despite bumpy road DESPITE the globally challenging economic environment, the BMW Group posted record profits last year to maintain its position as the world's leading premium manufacturer. Group revenues for 2013 totalled €76,058m (2012: €76,848m; -1.0%), marginally down on the previous year due to exchange rate developments. Group profit before tax rose by 1.4% to a new high of €7,913m (2012: €7,803m) despite greater investment in new technologies, increased competition and higher personnel costs. Group net profit rose by 4.5% to the new record value of €5,340m (2012: €5,111m).

Schools’ apprentice challenge returns THE Charles Hurst Apprentice School Challenge is set to return for 2014 following its phenomenal success last year. The innovative post-primary initiative is run in conjunction with Business in the Community and pitches four secondary school teams against each other

to increase a used car’s value the most over a four-week period. Speaking at the launch of this year’s challenge, Charles Hurst group operations director Colin McNab, said: “I am absolutely delighted the challenge is returning for a second year. It’s a fantastic opportunity for local students to get first-hand experience of the car industry. It will not only test their team-working, communication, creativity and competitive skills, but I’m sure it will be great fun as well.”

UK meets European CO2 emissions targets NEW cars registered last year in the UK collectively met a European target for CO2 emissions, according to industry body SMMT. Its New Car CO2 Report 2014, SMMT showed the average new car in the UK emits 128.3g/km CO2 — a 3.6% decrease over last year that passes the 2015 EUwide fleet average target of 130g/km CO2. Vehicle makers have invested heavily in developing and market lower CO2-emitting cars, but progress has also been supported by consumer buying behaviour.

Hopes lifted for fans of road motor sports THE Motor Sports Association has welcomed the launch of a government consultation regarding a proposed change in the law that would allow motor sport events to take place on closed public roads on the British mainland. The MSA has been pushing successive governments to devolve power to local authorities to enable them to suspend the Road Traffic Act without having to resort to an Act of Parliament. Such an amendment would enable competitive motor sport events such as stage rallies to take place on closed public roads, as already happens across mainland Europe, in Northern Ireland, the Channel Islands and the Isle of Man.

Just how good is your driving instructor? LEARNER drivers and their parents will be able to make a more informed decision when choosing a driving instructor thanks to changes being introduced by the Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA).


All qualified driving instructors are checked at least once every four years. From April 7 2014, when instructors are assessed they will be given one of the following grades: A grade (85% or over) — an overall high standard of instruction; B grade (60% or over) — a sufficient level of competence; or fail (less than 60%).

Move to clampdown on insurance fraud AA INSURANCE, along with most car insurers, will ask insurance customers for their Driving Licence Number (DLN) from next summer, in a move to cut application fraud. This is part of a national initiative being developed by the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA), the Department for Transport and the insurance industry, represented by the Association of British Insurers (ABI). The DLN, a 16-character sequence, will be used to get information from the DVLA on the type of licence a customer holds, how long they have held it, and whether they have any driving convictions.

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Honda’s Tourer is a strong challenger in the estate market, says Jim McCauley


ONDA has extended the appeal of its ‘C' sector Civic range with the addition of an estate variant. Uniquely for the Japanese manufacturer, the vehicle has been designed and built in Europe for the European market only. Manufactured alongside the hatchback range in Swindon, it is available with a choice of the com-

50 BUSINESS MONTH 7 April 2014

pany's 1.8 litre petrol engine or the 1.6 litre diesel, introduced last year. Styling-wise, the Tourer is a simple extension of the hatchback with the lines of the original design abandoning their abrupt curtailment to extend their flow across the pronounced rear wheelarches to greet the falling roofline as it pinches the rear glass area. It may be a simple extension

of the original hatchback, but it dramatically alters the personality of the car to assert its individuality. High-speed stability has also been a key focus of development which has been achieved through a high level of body stiffness and good rear aerodynamic lift balance as seen on visible parts, including the tailgate and rear window side spoilers and some non-visible

parts such as the undertray. At its UK launch, both engine options were tried, with the diesel asserting its dominance over the petrolengined model. The new lightweight 1.6-litre diesel produces 120PS, and has the upper hand in the performance comparison thanks to its 300Nm of torque from 2000rpm. With a 0-62mph time of 10.5 seconds, its over-

Honda Civic Tourer 1.6 Diesel Engine: 1.6-litre i-DTEC, 120PS @ 4000rpm. 300Nm torque @ 2000rpm Drive: Via six-speed manual gearbox to front wheels. Selectable start/stop technology Performance: 0-62mph (100km/h) in 10.5 seconds; max, 121mph (194km/h) Fuel on combined cycle: 72.4mpg (3.9 l/100km) CO2: 103gms/km; VED Band B for £20 per annum road tax Trim: EX Plus Price: £26,460 Insurance: ABI (16E) Group Warranty: Threeyear/90,000 miles, 12 years’ anti-perforation cover Benefit-in-Kind: 16% Euro NCAP: Five star Available extras: Driver assistance safety pack, detachable tow hitch, roof cross bars (for standard fit roof rails), dog guard rail

all smoothness and ever-ready power delivery gives it the clear edge. Like the petrol model, its drives through a sixspeed manual gearbox which offers short-throw precise movement through the gears. The new range also features Honda's ‘Eco Assist' technology to help owners achieve maximum economy. If the car is being driven efficiently, the dashboard glows green, but if the driver slightly exceeds the best level of throttle control, the dashboard will glow white/green. Finally, during heavy acceleration and deceleration, it will glow white. The system is further enhanced with the option of an ‘ECON' mode, which alters the map-

ping of the throttle system to ensure a smoother increase in torque for a more relaxed response and greater fuel efficiency. Stop/start technology is also standard on all models with a manual transmission which can contribute up to a 5g/km of CO2 saving for the diesel engine. Being finished in the highest specification trim of EX Plus, the test car was fitted as standard with the adaptive damping system. This provides a dial-in choice of Comfort, Normal and Dynamic settings, allowing the driver to set the response rate of the rear shock absorbers. Honda claims that it is the world's first production car to feature such a sys-

tem. To cope with the heavier power unit, the diesel has a different front suspension set-up from the petrol model. Cabin layout is familiar Civic with the flip-up rear seat retained and the obvious extension of the Tourer load bay, stretching the overall length of the car by 235mm to provide 624 litres of storage. Like the hatchback, the fuel tank remains mid-vehicle allowing for a twin level boot. While the main floor allows level access over the rear bumper, the space underneath can comfortably accommodate two cabinapproved luggage cases, offering additional security as well as space. The level load bay is maintained when the

rear seats are folded to increase load capacity to a substantial 1,668 litres. Cabin dimensions remain the same as those of the hatchback with the exception of a slight increase in rear headroom. Equipment levels progress through four levels with the second level SE Plus model aiming to be the popular choice, adding front and rear parking sensors with reversing camera along with automatic lights and wipers, and larger 17-inch alloy wheels. Overall, the Tourer addition to the Civic range adds increased practicality for those who require additional load space without sacrificing the driving dynamics of the hatchback.

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TECHNOLOGY Toshiba Encore tablet, £299 @ The new Toshiba Encore tablet is packed full of features and apps for both productivity as well as entertainment. Fully optimised for Windows 8.1, this ultra-portable tablet is ideal for users wanting to move seamlessly between work and play with a single device. With a distinctive style and durable, ergonomic design, the Encore is optimised for use in portrait mode and easy to handle in one hand. Full versions of Word 2013, Excel 2013, PowerPoint 2013 and OneNote 2013 are included to boost productivity on the go, whether it’s reading, editing, creating or sharing documents. Seven GB of free online SkyDrive storage means files can be stored in the cloud for fast access and synchronisation with other Windows devices and with Instant Goto lower power consumption and extend battery life, the Toshiba Encore is very efficient on the move.

Amazon Prime Instant Video, £79 per year Amazon is getting a spring makeover, as it will be combining both its Amazon Prime service and LoveFilm Instant into one handy service known as Amazon Prime Instant Video. This new service will be replacing the streaming side of LoveFilm, as Amazon adds over 15,000 films and TV episodes to current Amazon Prime accounts. If you’re signed up to Prime, you’ll get unlimited access to streaming video alongside one-day deliveries on your orders, plus access to 500,000 books to borrow from the Kindle library. LoveFilm’s not completely gone though: if you prefer receiving DVDs through your letterbox, you can still opt for that through LoveFilm, while if you don’t want any next-day deliveries and you just want Prime Instant Video, you can take a monthly subscription.

HTC One Gold Smartphone, prices vary on plan @ The award-winning HTC One is in a sophisticated new colour which builds on the existing silver, black, blue and red colour palette. The new colour still packs the power and acclaimed features of this premium model into a brushed body with black accents that oozes luxury and style. The HTC One has won international recognition for its stunning design. With its striking brushed finish and metal design, the latest shade is one of the key tones of the season. This latest addition includes HTC Zoe, HTC BlinkFeed and HTC BoomSound.

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Galaxy TV Bed, £999 @ This may not be the best thing to purchase if you already have trouble getting out of bed in the morning, as the Galaxy combines a cinema room with a stylish bed. It is a luxurious madras faux leather TV bed that caters for a slim-line TV which can be discretely stored inside an ultra slim-foot end. It also features a side rail cavity that offers a concurrent space for a DVD recorder and satellite box to enhance your viewing experience. Cabling is kept neat and safe thanks to its cable management system and quality sprung slats support the mattress to provide a more comfortable night’s sleep. TV not included. GMcG



Let it Shine Grainne McGarvey


ETALLICS were one of the shinJacquard tunic, ing stars at this year’s London £159 @ Ted Fashion Week and once designers Baker feature a look, it isn’t long before it hits the high street. Going more mainstream makes metallic more of an appropriate option for the office, but bling crystals or mirrored embellishments are probably a tad much for daytime attire. By keeping your other items reasonably simple you should get away with wearing it, especially by teaming with neutral Mens T-shirt tones. Guys can also get behind this shimwith metallic mery trend by opting for accessories, T-shirts hem, £14 @ ASOS or even shiny outerwear for the more daring.

Metallic jacket, approx £1,830 @

Autograph Top, £49 @ M&S

Gold high tops, £24.99 @ deichmann

Medium satchel, £179 @ Reiss

Marta Jonsson metallic tote, £225 @ Debenhams

Metallic skirt, £25 @ River Island

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A WHALE OF AN Seeking Oscar-worthy sunshine along with a hint of decadence? Linda Cookson's visit to this tranquil Canary Islands coincided with the filming of a blockbuster


IGHTS, camera, action! The small fishing port of Playa de Santiago, on the southern tip of the Canary Islands of La Gomera, had never known such excitement. Chosen as a key shooting location for Ron Howard's forthcoming film In the Heart of the Sea (due for release in 2015), its quayside was abuzz with trailers and catering vans. Burly cameramen were lugging equipment on to speedboats. Runners with clipboards were rounding up a bus-load of enthusiastic extras for costume fittings. And a cluster of schoolgirls were star-spotting like mad, as Hollywood's finest, clad in 19th-century sailors' gear, made their way towards the banana-yellow shuttle-boat that was to whisk them out to film at sea. Based on the same true story that inspired Herman Melville's Moby Dick, Nathaniel Philbrick's award-winning novel In the Heart of the Sea (published in 2000) recounts the tragedy of the whaling ship Essex, sunk by a sperm whale in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. A fantastic black-rigged replica of the ill-fated vessel bobbed incongruously on the calm horizon, its masts bathed in a golden wash of Canarian sunshine. At first sight, pint-sized La Gomera — sitting prettily in an island chain renowned for its equable climate — might seem a strange location to have settled on for a tale built around tempest-lashed heroics. Deadly waves are in short supply. The film-

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makers had to construct a special infinity pool by the former tomato packaging warehouse on nearby Tapahuga Beach to simulate the full-on storm scenes. But Howard and his scouts definitely knew what they were doing. As the secondsmallest of the Canary Islands, a one-hour ferry-ride from Tenerife and with no international airport, La Gomera is a world apart from the mass-tourism of its larger neighbours. With only a handful of low-key resorts, there was never going to be much risk of the Essex's hapless crew fetching up on a jarring parade of neon-signed shops peddling water-wings or advertising jetskis for hire. Instead, the island's starkly rugged coastline of awesome volcanic cliffs rippling down to the water's edge in stiff rocky folds, feels almost eerily enduring — and (crucially for the film, of course) totally undateable. Inland, the mountainous centre is cloaked in a dense, misty rainforest of ancient trees hung, Druid-like, with beards of moss and lichen. It's as timeless and unspoilt as you could hope for. As a place to visit in springtime, La Gomera is a total delight. The tangled green groves of the rainforest are rippled with carpets of brilliant pink bicacaros, Canarian bell flowers. Mountain villages float in drifts of white broom and almond blossom. On the coast, fringed with date palms and banana trees, the sea sparkles peacefully in temperatures that seldom

vary from around 20C. Don't expect the blazing heat or golden sands of Caribbean beaches. Most beaches are rocky. (There may even be a little rain!) But if you're searching for sun and serenity in a gentle, unspoilt island retreat steeped in tradition — look no further. And you can certainly be confident of a genuinely warm welcome from La Gomera's friendly locals, keen to share their homeland's special character with visitors. With the island still very much a novice in the tourism stakes, the whole ambience is refreshingly uncynical. Such tourism as there currently is can be found mainly on the west coast. Valle Gran Rey has a stunning sprawl of wild and rocky black-sand beaches, backed by majestic ravines (Valle Gran Rey means Valley of the Kings). Otherwise, most visitors-in-the-know head south for unpretentious Playa de Santiago, a friendly working fishing settlement with an endearingly scruffy town beach. This is La Gomera's sunniest spot and it's where I chose to stay (along, as it turns out, with the director and most of the cast and crew of In the Heart of the Sea). We certainly weren't roughing it. The four-star Hotel Jardin Tecina, set on a cliff-top above the town, is laid out like a traditional Canarian village in exuberant, flower-filled gardens. There are palm-fringed bars and terraces, and attentive waiters galore — giving plenty of scope for your own


brand of silver-screen decadence as you lounge like a diva by the poolside. It's also a wonderfully tranquil spot. The vistas from the sea-view rooms are spectacular. You can while away hours on your balcony watching the colours of the water change from turquoise to indigo to lilac as butterflies and exotic birds flit all around you. On day four of my stay, I wandered down towards the town and discovered that my friendly local beach bar — the ramshackle La Chalana — had undergone a dramatic change of location. Its wonky tables and cane chairs were now spilling haphazardly on to the edge of an early 19th-century Polynesian village. A nearby stretch of banana plantation had been cleared for carpentry and set-building, and crewmembers with blow-torches were busily distressing a fleet of rustic-looking canoes that had been carved from hollowed-out tree-trunks. A mixture of real palm trees and bright green fakes had sprung up on the beach. Tangled branches and planks of driftwood had been choreographed artfully into a photogenic array of native huts. And a derelict warehouse had been transformed into a small chapel. A set dresser perched on a ladder with what looked like a two-ton brass church bell clutched in her free hand. It was obviously as light as a feather.

La Chalana's affable host, Eric was serving up tapas and beer by the trayful. He was not alone in his enthusiasm. Everyone I spoke to on the island was thrilled by the filming — not least since the star, Chris Hemsworth, is married to Elsa Pataky, a popular Spanish actress who had accompanied him for the shoot. More pragmatically In the Heart of the Sea brought a crucial source of additional revenue to enable the island to address the environmental damage caused by a disastrous forest fire in 2012 — as well as much-needed employment for locals as caterers, security guards and prop-makers. La Gomera is also looking to the future. Although the island has been recognised for some time as a paradise for walkers, its more mainstream attractions — uncommercialised beaches and picture-postcard mountain villages — have remained a wellkept secret. There's real excitement now among Gomeros that this major, potentially world-wide, exposure will encourage new visitors to fall for their island's sleepy charms. Towards the end of my visit, inspired by the filming, I decided to embrace the whale theme in earnest. I booked a trip on board Jose Miguel's excursion boat Tina and took to the water. I was rewarded with a marine

ballet, courtesy of a pod of pilot whales and an especially obliging school of dolphins who flipped and dipped in glorious silver arcs as they rode in and out of the bow wave from our boat as it headed out to sea. I looked back at the bulking headlands of La Gomera's proud cliffs, veined with blood-red bands of sandstone, and then ahead to the horizon, where the doughty ship Essex had magically split in two, while cameramen scudded around in dinghies, capturing the moment of its doom. I really was in the heart of the sea, I realised. And lovely La Gomera is well on its way to becoming a film star in its own right. Don't wait for the movie — go now!

Travel essentials Staying there Linda Cookson travelled with Sovereign Luxury Travel (0843 770 4526;, which offers a week’s B&B at the Hotel Jardin Tecina in La Gomera from £649pp, based on two sharing. The package includes return flights to Tenerife South, private transfers to Los Christianos ferry port on Tenerife, the ferry crossing to La Gomera and private transfers to the hotel. Seeing there A four-hour whale-watching boat trip from Playa de Santiago costs €43, inclusive of barbecued fish lunch (€23 children aged 5-10; under 5s free). See:

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The big Six: Himalayan spa hotels Dwarika’s Resort, Nepal In the 1950s, conservationist Dwarika Das Shrestha took over a collection of heritage houses in Kathmandu and spent 30 years turning them into a five-star hotel. In October, the Shrestha family opened their second resort, only an hour’s drive from the Nepalese capital. Situated amid Himalayan peaks, the focus is on spa therapies. Options range from Ayurvedic massages to Pancha Kosha Newari, which uses herbs and pressure to realign the body. Dwarika’s Resort, Nepal (00 977 11 490 612, Doubles from US$461 (£307), half board. Treatments from NR3,000 (£18).

Vana Retreat, India This 21-acre estate opened in January outside Dehradun, the capital of the Indian state of Uttarakhand. Set on a small plateau, it ties together the principles of Ayurveda, Tibetan healing, yoga and personal fitness, to offer guests a tailored wellness programme. Whether you're there for weight management, to destress or detox, the team of doctors, dieticians and therapists will devise a plan best suited to your needs. Vana, Malsi Estate, Dehradun, Uttarakhand, India (00 91 11 4060 0000,

Amankora, Bhutan Amanresorts has five interlinked lodges in Bhutan. The idea is that guests can form a circuit around Bhutan’s mountain passes, but you can also simply shack up in one place for the duration of your stay. Each is built to resemble the traditional Dzong-style architecture of the Bhutanese Himalayas, but the first outpost in Paro just nudges into the lead, thanks to its twostorey spa, scented with cedarwood and incense. Amankora, Paro, Bhutan (00 975 8 272 333, Doubles from US$1,860 (£1,240), all inclusive. Treatments from US$108 (£72). 56 BUSINESS MONTH 7 April 2014

Ananda, India

Routinely voted among the best spa hotels in the world,, this resort stands between the cities of Haridwar and Rishikesh. Set up by Ashok Khanna and his wife Neelam more than 20 years ago, it has a reputation that has captured the attention of Oprah Winfrey, among other notable guests. Meals are designed to fit your body type and the expansive spa has 24 treatment rooms, with 80 therapies. Ananda, Narendranagar, Uttarakhand, India (00 91 124 4516650, Doubles from US$455 (£303), room only. Treatments from INR1,200 (£11).

Begnas Lake Resort, Nepal

For affordable luxury at lofty heights, seek out this tranquil lakeside retreat in the Pokhara Valley of western Nepal. It specialises in low-cost spa breaks with side orders of healthy vegetarian food. Yoga takes place in the garden pavilion each morning and afternoon, while treatments are administered in elevated rooms above the lake shore. Hikes, bird-watching and boating excursions complement the healing feeling. Begnas Lake Resort, Pokhara, Nepal (00 977 61 56 0030, Doubles from US$150 (£100), B&B. Treatments from US$10 (£6.60).

Uma by Como, Bhutan

When the King of Bhutan needs a break, he checks into this hotel. One of two Como properties in the mountain kingdom, this is the newest of the exclusive set. Opened in the Punakha Valley two years ago, it has nine rooms, two villas and a secluded Shambala spa. Hidden in a woodland glade, you’ll find treatment rooms, hot-stone baths and Asian-inspired therapies such as a 60-minute Indian head massage. Uma by Como, Punakha, Bhutan (00 975 8 271597,


7 April 2014 BUSINESS MONTH 8



with The


CHAIRMAN Our man about town witnessed well-deserved awards and rubbed shoulders with royalty, but is still perplexed over a collective noun

Steve Amos has been appointed chair of Clanmil Housing Group. Having been a member of the Clanmil board of management since 2011, he now takes the top role at the association which provides 3,500 social and affordable homes throughout Northern Ireland for families and older people.


Ciaran Lowry has been appointed business development executive at The Coffee Porter at Henderson Foodservice. He has a degree in hospitality management and 25 years’ experience in the catering and food service industry.

David Gavaghan, chief executive of Titanic Quarter, has been appointed as chair of its new board of directors. His posting is one of 11 new appointments to the Visit Belfast board.

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OING back to his youth (and it seems farther away than ever before these days) The Chairman was impressed with the academic excellence on show among the marketing and business studies students from the University of Ulster. A plethora of young talent was recognised at the university’s Department of Marketing, Entrepreneurship and Strategy’s Excellence Awards, sponsored by a number of local companies, which celebrated the hard work and dedication of students from UU’s class of 2012/2013. The delightful associate head of department, Dr Danielle McCartan-Quinn congratulated students on their success at the event in the Jordanstown campus. Among the sponsors were Property News, Hastings Hotels, Wrightbus, Stakeholder Group, Moy Park, Rutledge Recruitment and Training, Envision Management Consultants and First Trust. Other sponsors were the Marketing Institute of Ireland, the Chartered Institute of Marketing, Chartered Accountants Ireland and the Chartered Institute of Management Accountants. Picking up the prizes for Best Overall Final-Year Students were Ciara McCoy and Suzanne Wray. Clever Ciara, from Maghera, graduated with a firstclass BSc honours degree in marketing with a diploma in professional practice following a placement with Tourism Ireland. And super Suzanne, from Waringstown, achieved a firstclass honours in BSc marketing and has secured a full-time job as an events coordinator with Hastings Europa Hotel.

Andy Baird, the managing director of Planet Solar, has received the award for Outstanding Commitment to the renewable energy sector in Northern Ireland at the prestigious Action Renewables Energy Awards which took place in the Stormont Hotel. Pictured are Andrew Ryan, Tughans Solicitors; Andy Baird; Green Goddess, Genevieve Porter; and Jamie Delargy. Picture by Brian Morrison.

Campervan rental company Bunk Campers has received a significant loan from the Growth Loan Fund to facilitate its rapid growth, exports overseas, and strong ambition within the Ireland and UK markets. Pictured, from left, are Louise Corken, director, Bunk Campers; David McCurley, senior investment manager, WhiteRock Capital Partners; an dKeith Charlton, managing director, Bunk Campers.

Ian Jordan, centre, director, corporate banking division, Ulster Bank, Colin McDonald, (left) chief executive of the RUAS, and Cormac McKervey, senior agriculture manager, Ulster Bank, officially launched the 2014 Balmoral Show at the King’s Hall complex. The show, which will take place May 14-16 at Balmoral Park, will be Ulster Bank’s sixth year of principal sponsorship.

But not all the winners fitted the traditional student bracket. Other winners included the Wrighbus Best Overall Student, Susan Templeton, who was born and bred in Belfast, then lived in South Africa for seven years and then Harrogate in north Yorkshire for seven years, before returning to Northern Ireland 19 years ago with no formal qualifications. The Rutledge Recruitment and Training Award for Excellence Best Final Year Student went to mum-of-two Miriam Silke, CEO of the College of Psychiatrists, who was previously manager of the Irish College of Psychiatrists and prior to that worked for the Royal College of Radiologists in the UK and Guinness Ireland.


Stephen Mills has been appointed business development manager – Marine at McCue Crafted Fit. He has more than 25 years’ experience in the fit-out of specialist luxury interiors. Newry-based EnviroGroup has secured a loan from the Growth Loan Fund that will enable it to create up to 15 jobs at the firm’s head office and further grow its Northern Ireland business, while developing a franchise model to be rolled out across the UK and the Republic of Ireland. Pictured are (left) David McCurley, senior investment manager, WhiteRock Capital Partners, and Paul Devenny, managing director, EnviroGroup.

Chris Guilfoyle has been appointed vendor manager, asset finance, across Northern Ireland and the Republic, at Close Brothers Commercial Finance. He has over 15 years’ experience in the machinery industry. His career includes roles at Caterpillar, Komatsu, Kleeman and RBS Lombard, Ireland.

Local nursery group, Little Rays has invested £20,000 and in return got 400 happy children each taking huge pleasure in their brand new and specially commissioned sheltered outdoor play areas. The nurseries, located in Ballymena, Moira and Lisburn, now all boast the fantastic outdoor areas which feature a sheltered roofed area and 3G grass ensuring the children can play outside no matter what the weather. Pictured enjoying some outdoor play at Little Rays are Katie McCusker and Aiden O’Callaghan, both aged four, with Michelle Rea, owner of Little Rays Nursery.

A Glengormley teenage basketball player selected to be a part of the Ireland U16 basketball squad at this year’s European Championships has been named as the latest recipient of the Rainbow Communications Sports Award in partnership with the Mary Peters Trust. Fifteen-year-old Connor McCann was chosen to receive this prestigious award to help fund his international team training as he prepares for the European games in Macedonia this summer. Conor received his award from chairman of the Mary Peters Trust, Eilish Rutherford, and director of sales and marketing at Rainbow Communications, Stuart Carson. AS The Chairman had cause to muse a few weeks back, what is the collective term for a gathering of engineers? He was honoured to join some of the finest engineering minds from Northern Ireland and further afield at the Institution of Engineering and Technology’s annual

dinner in the Culloden Hotel. IET president Jayne Brady, now a partner at Kernel Capital, reflected on whether engineers are born, not made, as in her speech she recalled writing a begging letter asking if she could join the-then IEE — at the tender age of 11. Fast-track

Kevin Keegan has been appointed head of human resources at Ulster Bank. He most recently worked in consulting. Previous posts include group HR director at Greencore Group, vicepresident of HR at State Street and HR director with Kerry Group.

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Kieran McGaughey has been appointed as a paralegal in the property department at Cleaver Fulton Rankin. He gained a politics degree from Queens University, Belfast, before studying law at Northumbria University, where he also completed the legal practice course, graduating with a commendation.

Sean Craig has been appointed as a partner in the dispute resolution team at Arthur Cox, Belfast. He has practised as a solicitor for over 25 years and has a wealth of experience across a broad range of areas including defending building and financial professionals.

Lynsey Elliott has been appointed as an associate in the finance department at Arthur Cox, Belfast. An English literature graduate, she has a masters in legal science from Queen’s University, Belfast and qualified as a solicitor in 2011.

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Christopher Morrow, communications manager at Northern Ireland Chamber of Commerce and Industry, is presented with the Communications Professional of the Year award by Ceriann Mullins, director of markettiers4dc, at the Golden Hedgehog Awards in Manchester. neers are born, not made, as in her speech she recalled writing a begging letter asking if she could join the-then IEE — at the tender age of 11. Fasttrack a few years, and Ms Brady invited IET past-president and Acorn Computers co-founder Any Hopper to present Wrightbus co-founder Dr William Wright CBE with the IET’s inaugural award for engineering excellence. Dr Wright was engaging company as always and full of stories about the effervescent Mayor of London Boris Johnson, at whose bidding a new London bus — eventually designed by the Ballymena titans of industry — was commissioned. The Chairman also managed a chat with FarmWizard manaing director and cofounder Terry Canning, Cirdan Imaging and ex-Andor man Hugh Cormican, Matrix chairman Bryan Keating and Tim Brundle, director of innovation at the University of Ulster. Despite the glittering company, The Chairman is still no closer to a figuring out the collective term for a gathering of engineers, so suggestions welcome. ---A MAN’S man for a’ that . . . the rank is but the guinea’s stamp . . . but even Rabbie Burns himself would have felt a little starstruck at the visit of HRH the

Minister for the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development, Michelle O’Neill has launched Action Cancer’s Big Bus, supported by SuperValu from Parliament Buildings, Stormont, setting it off on its way to the Balmoral Show. The Big Bus will offer free MOT health checks for people aged 16+ and breast screenings to women aged 40-49 and 70-plus (outside NHS screening age) to showgoers during May 14-16. Pictured with the minister are Nigel Briggs, MD Musgrave Retail Partners NI, and Gareth Kirk, CEO Action Cancer.

Duke of York to Bel Tel Towers, as the newspaper launched its 50 Jobs in 50 Days apprenticeships campaign. The Chairman believes the Tele folk were briefed that Prince Andrew likes just a glass of water, room temperature, on such engagements, though scones and tea and coffee were provided for the many great companies and their apprentices who attended. The smell of fresh paint is another given for royal nostrils. All the companies and their apprentices were extremely gracious while waiting in the Tele’s boardroom for the great man to arrive. Once David

Elliott was in place, Prince Andrew soon followed. He was accompanied by private secretary Amanda Thirsk, and HRH left deeply impressed by the commitment to apprenticeships shown by business leaders such as Michael Dowds of William Coates, Keith Stewart of Irwin Electrical, Mairead Meyer of BT, Anne McKiver of Kiverco and Nuala Marken of JD McGeown, and many, many others. The Chairman believes the Bel Tel is extremely grateful to those who took the trouble to attend, and wishes all the apprentices the best of luck in their careers.


Kevin McQuillan has been appointed as an associate in the corporate department at Arthur Cox, Belfast. A graduate of Queen’s University Belfast, he recently completed a solicitor training contract with Mills Selig Solicitors. Northern Ireland Travel News (NITN) has entered the digital age with the launch of a free interactive app and multi-media edition that runs across all forms of computer, tablet and mobile device. Checking out the online edition, which will complement the existing printed edition, are NI Travel News directors Jonathan Adair, left, and Brian Ogle,right, with Ciaran Mulligan of digital edition partner

Southern Education and Library Board human resource staff are picture after being presented with their CIPD Certificate, having successfully completed the Intermediate Diploma in Human Resource Management with DMS Ireland. From left are: Emma Clarke, Lynette Donnelly, Aoife Darragh, Joanne Coleman, Lynn Carson (DMS Ireland), Mary Garvey, Michelle Mullan, Geraldine McCann, Lorraine Hart.

Asda Northern Ireland has brought together 14 of its most promising local female colleagues for a masterclass recognising women in leadership. The retailer, which employs over3,200 women in NI — 65% if its total local workforce — staged the event at its Antrim Retail Academy. The guest speakers were Gillian McDowell from the Police Service of Northern Ireland, and Gillian McKee from Business in the Community NI. Pictured are Charlotte Elliott, regional people manager for Asda NI; Gillian McDowell; Gillian McKee; and Kate Oakes, general store manager of Asda Downpatrick.

Neal Kelly, fresh foods director at the Henderson Group, launches the Local Supplier Awards that will take place at the 2014 Balmoral Show on Friday, May 16. The awards, which celebrate platinum sponsor Spar’s links with Northern Ireland farmers and growers, will be held during a Spar suppliers’ breakfast and will honour local products, companies and innovations through three categories.

Karla Dooey has been appointed as an associate at Arthur Cox, Belfast. Prior to joining the firm, she was a solicitor at Hillyer McKeown LLP in Chester and has over five years’ experience of dealing with clients across a variety of sectors on commercial and contractual issues.

Joanne Mulholland has been appointed as an associate in the property department at Arthur Cox, Belfast. She studied law at Queen’s University, Belfast and has acted for several of the UK’s leading real estate companies.

7 April 2014 BUSINESS MONTH 61


with Nick


Colon cancer was the price I paid for my lifestyle and ignoring my body’s warnings. Unhealthy stress cost me dearly yet by sharing our worries we can control it


am fortunate to hold two qualifications in further education. One, a Bachelor of Science from a London university, the other a Masters from the School of Life, in sticking my head in the sand. One achieved through a certain amount of hard work, the other through equal amounts of ignorance and stupidity. Yet I use the word fortunate and genuinely mean it. Since the pen hit the desk on the last day of examinations, I’ve never used the former again. The second is with me all of the time, it’s part of my DNA and that’s not necessarily a bad thing. We are all the sum of our experiences, good and bad. We should encourage and promote the good and discourage and learn from the bad. Stress is a constant factor in all of our lives. A certain amount of stress is good, we actually thrive and become stronger because of it, but there is a line, past which it becomes unhealthy. I’ve tested both extremities, both in business and my personal life and have regularly swayed between the two and can attest to the damage that can be done. I hate seeing it in people as I was that soldier, my actions were extreme, granted, but the consequences of uncontrolled stress are always the same — decreased productivity, relationship problems, bad decision making and ultimately ill-health. When you have run the gauntlet of all three, you are really putting your life on the line. Too much stress debilitates, it runs you down and ultimately incapacitates, yet it can be controlled. Stress is controlled by communication, by sharing your worries and concerns and by understanding what is happening. Communication leads to education which in turn empowers you to deal with your issues. Sticking your head in the sand like I did and hoping things will either go away or get better on their own is never going to work, I can guarantee that. Men aren’t great at showing

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their fears or worries, women are far better. Bar a bit of ‘man flu’, there’s not too much that we share with anyone from a health perspective, yet there are just as many threats for both gender but men more typically think that they can cope. It’s difficult to step back and take an objective view of your life; where you would like to be compared to where you actually are on the metrics that are important. It was forced upon me; I went to prison in Singapore for four and a half years and with that much time at my disposal and with some fairly intensive dissection left me with the stark conclusion that I didn’t really like what I had become. My journey had taken many turns and stress had certainly played a part. Shortly, I would be diagnosed with colon cancer — a consequence of the lifestyle that I was living. Stress was a huge part of this and not dealing with the situation. Stressors change throughout your lifetime, the prospect of ill-health is a constant. The body is a great tool in making you aware of the threats.

There are as many threats for both sexes. Men think they can cope I ignored every signal that was sent me, pushing my existence to the limit — I had an emergency operation on August 8 1998 to remove one-third of my colon after a lung had collapsed. I’ve had some difficult times. What was the worst? It’s always the same — not knowing. Again, this is why communication is so important. Financial worries are always a stressor. Debt is impacting on everyone’s life far more than it did in the past. As with stress it debilitates, it overwhelms, it incapacitates. I see every day the terrible consequences that it can have — it doesn’t need to be that way!

Businessmonth april14  

Belfast Telegraph Business Month

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