Business First January 2016

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northern ireland’s business magazine





First Minister Letter


Seeking Diamonds

John Arthurs EurGeol, GCgeol makes the argument in support of common sense fracking.

Patrick Gallen, chairman Chartered Accountants Ulster Society open letter to Arlene Foster MLA.

Briana McAteer, AMH, beleives that employers supporting mental health, support the economy.

We launch 2016 Northern Ireland PA & Office Manager Awards with Diamond Recruitment Group

PLUS: Northern Ireland Economic Outlook 2016 in association with


Putting your Business First

What’s inside your issue THOUGHT LEADERSHIP & COMMENTARY Is it time for more Unruly companies? Roseann Kelly Women in Business Northern Ireland


Common Sense Fracking

Peter Craven, head of marketing at CDE Global

John Arthurs EurGeol, CGeol, PGeo, MSc, DIC, DMS, MIMMM

Tax and talent must be the mantra. Sinead McLaughlin Londonderry Chamber of Commerce

Page 12 Page 46 Page 50 Page 55 All change: make way for 2016 While you might have returned to the same old desk in the New Year, up at Stormont plans are being made to revolve a few. Once Arlene Foster gets her high-heels under the desk, a few of the other boys and girls will find themselves on the move as well. And the result - whether or not you might be a supporter of the DUP - will be a fairly youthful Executive. At only 45 Arlene will be the youngest First or Prime Minister in Northern Ireland’s history. So while the challenges might be the same, the approach to solutions might be different. With that in mind we have published an open letter to Arlene from Patrick Gallen, chairman, Chartered Accountants Ulster Society in which he outlines the challenges and suggests a few possible solutions (page 10). Arlene and the team will find more advice from David Gavaghan, the new chair of the CBI (page 26), and other commentators have taken the opportunity of being invited to contribute to the Northern Ireland Economic Outlook to share their thoughts as well. We in the business community have seen Arlene close up during her seven years as DETI Minister and I think it would be fair to say that we liked what we saw. Her challenge now is to take the same pragmatic, forwardlooking and positive approach into every corner of government and at Business First wish her every success.

FEATURES The Northern Make a positive Employers Reasons why CBI Ireland Economic difference to your supporting mental Northern Ireland Outlook 2016 workforce in 2016 health, support supports EU sponsored by Peter Wilson the economy membership upstream

Cedar Foundation

Briana McAteer AMH Works

Nigel Smyth, Director CBI Northern Ireland

Page 17 Page 48 Page 73 Page 80 BEST PRACTICE EU decision Avoiding the risks affects companies of not getting paid Stuart Ramsden, data in US. Are Country Manager you affected? Katey Dixon, Forde Campbell LLC

Atradius Ireland

Why does Leadership Matter? Olivia May William J Clinton Leadership Institute

Employment Opportunities for Northern Ireland Care Leavers Business in the Community

Page 61 Page 62 Page 64 Page 75 In our Digital Issue you can click on any square to be taken directly to the article. Download it from

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See you on the frontline!


FRONT COVER IMAGE Judith Totten, upstream See page 22 for the Cover Story

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YOUR BUSINESSFIRST TEAM Editor Gavin Walker Sales Jenny Belshaw Finance Margaret Walker Design Studio Tw2



YOUR EDITORIAL CONTRIBUTORS Articles from some of Northern Ireland’s most influential business leaders that will inform, challenge and inspire your thinking.

Roseann Kelly Women in Business NI page 12

Maybeth Shaw BDO page 16

Jonathan Bell Department of Trade, Enterprise & Investment page 18

David Gavaghan CBI page 26

Tina McKenzie Staffline page 28

Stephen Kelly Manufacturing NI page 38

Phil Davison Negative Equity NI page 41

Patrick McAliskey Novosco page 44

Sinead McLaughlin Londonderry Chamber of Commerce page 55

Dr Alan Black Balackwell Associates page 60

Olivia May Leadership Institute page 65

Maria Jennings Food Standards Agency page 70

In our Digital Issue you can click on any picture to be taken directly to the article. Download it from



Action Renewables Awards 2016 launched eaming up with event sponsors including renewable electricity supplier Vayu and Tughans Solicitors at Titanic Belfast, Action Renewables recently announced that this year’s annual awards luncheon will take place at the iconic Titanic Belfast on Thursday 31st March 2016. Ciaran McConville, Business Development and Marketing Assistant, Action Renewables, said at the awards launch that 2016’s event would be the best yet. “Now in their eighth year the Action Renewables Awards have gained more and more momentum and popularity with each year, and has become a key event in the Northern Ireland Business calendar.” said Ciaran. “We’re delighted to welcome back event host Jamie Delargy and our esteemed panel of judges for 2016, which includes industry experts Carol Forster, Operations Manager, NIEL; Jim Kitchen, Director, Sustainable NI; Dr Robin Curry, Queen’s University Belfast’s School of Chemistry and Chemical Engineering; and Andy McCrea, Renewable Energy Consultant. The high calibre of industry figures who attend the annual event teamed with the stunning modern venue of Titanic Belfast will help to make this year’s event one to remember.” “It is a pleasure to be invited to judge the Action Renewables Awards again this year,” said Carol Forster, Northern Ireland Environment Link. “The initiative has grown from strength to strength and is a wonderful way to showcase and celebrate excellence in the renewable energy sector.” “We are delighted to sponsor the Action


Ciaran McConville, Action Renewables, Mary Rossiter, Vayu, and Maria O’Loan, Tughans

Renewables Awards for the second year running, helping to highlight the wide range of expertise and innovation that exists across Northern Ireland’s renewables industry” said Mary Rossiter, Vayu Energy. “The impressive calibre of last year’s entries and the overwhelmingly positive response to the awards clearly demonstrates the importance of renewables to local businesses. As a supplier of 100% green electricity, this is something we’re seeing on the ground first hand, which is very encouraging. We would encourage as many businesses as possible to enter this year and help us to celebrate the very best in renewables.” Continuing their long-standing relationship with the Action Renewables Awards, Maria O’Loan, Planning and Environment Partner, Tughans added, “We are delighted to sponsor

the Action Renewables Awards for eight years running. We recognise the importance of renewable technologies in Northern Ireland’s economic development having worked on some of the region’s most innovative renewable projects. The awards recognise the achievements and importance of the industry” The deadline for entry to the 2016 Action Renewables Awards is 5pm Monday 15th February 2016. Winners will be announced at the flagship industry awards event held at Titanic Belfast in advance of a gourmet lunch and afternoon networking event on Thursday 31st March. To download an entry pack or book a place at the awards visit

Law Society elects John Guerin as President he new President of the Law Society of Northern Ireland is Mr John Guerin, solicitor and partner with BLM since December 2014 following their merger with Campbell Fitzpatrick solicitors. Mr Guerin specializes in defence litigation for Insurance companies, employment law and professional disciplinary and regulatory work. He has acted for many of the main insurers and Education and Library Boards in relation to Employers, Public and RTA liability claims involving high value and complex High Court cases as well as County Court matters. He became President on Wednesday 25th November 2015 and he will be joined by Arleen Elliott, Senior Vice President, Ian Huddleston, Junior Vice President and Alan Hunter, Chief Executive who will form the Presidential and Chief Executive Team



Former Senior Coroner receives major Queen’s University award he 2015 First Trust Bank Queen’s Graduate of the Year Award was presented at the annual Charter Day Dinner to Mr John Leckey, former Senior Coroner for Northern Ireland. The Graduate and Student of the Year Awards, now in their 15th year, are awarded by the Queen’s Graduates’ Association (QGA), organisers of the Charter Day Dinner, with the support of the University’s Development and Alumni Relations Office and First Trust Bank. This year’s Student of the Year, Laura Graham, received her award – plus a cheque for £500 – during Summer Graduation. Speaking to the BBC’s Mark Simpson, who interviewed this year’s Graduate winner about his life as a student at Queen’s and his role as Senior Coroner, Mr Leckey said: “My wife, Janet, and I are both graduates of Queen’s and hold it in very high esteem and with great affection. I am deeply honoured to win this Award.” “Fate played a role in my career,” he continued. “I wanted to study medicine but my sciences were not strong and so I went into law. However, I always kept my knowledge of forensic science up-to-date.” Commenting on the Award, QGA President Feargus McCauley said: “Charter Day is a celebration of the founding of the University and as the most prestigious alumni event of the year, it is fitting that we are able to present our First Trust Bank Queen’s Graduate of the Year Award to former Northern Ireland Senior Coroner, John Leckey. My congratulations go to him and all those who helped make this evening so special.”


e N Vice­Chancellor Professor Patrick Johnston, Mark McKeown, First Trust Bank, Mr John Leckey and QGA President Feargus McCauley

John Leckey (LLB) and his wife Janet (BSSc, Psychology) graduated from Queen’s in 1971 on the same day – a doubly special occasion as they also announced their engagement that day. In the 70s and 80s the Northern Ireland police force was not allowed to move a body without the Coroner’s permission. “There were no mobile phones then; you relied on the home phone and could therefore easily become housebound. Routinely I was awakened 3-4 times a night,” said Mr Leckey. When asked if he was obsessed with death, he replied: “No, but why people die is interesting. Death is both precarious and

unexpected.” Mr Leckey went on to outline the most challenging parts of his role as Senior Coroner. “Some of the most difficult inquests were those involving the death of a child. It was obviously very challenging to see bereaved parents in a court room and to remain professional is tough. However, you cannot take on the grief of the family; you need to keep a Chinese wall erect. The grieved family deserves the highest level of professionalism,” he told Mark Simpson. “In saying that,” he added, “it wasn’t always easy; certainly there were moments when the wall was close to falling down.”

Hyundai i20 is Northern Ireland Car of the Year he Hyundai i20 took the top spot at the 2016 NIIB Finance Northern Ireland Car of the Year Awards held today (Thursday 22nd October) at Cultra Manor, part of the Ulster Folk and Transport Museum.. The awards are sponsored by NIIB Finance, part of the Bank of Ireland. NIIB's Regional Manager James Dempster presented the awards saying, "With NIIB Finance being the leading independent funding provider to the Northern Ireland motor market I am delighted to have teamed up with the Ulster Motoring Writers Association, delivering the 2016 NIIB Northern Ireland Car of the Year Awards. Being the local name in lending remains and has always been important to NIIB, complementing our existing GB challenger brand, Northridge Finance.” Terry McLean, Regional Manager, Hyundai UK; Jim McCauley, Chairman UMWA, Natasha Waddington,


Head of Press and PR, Hyundai UK and James Dempster, Regional Manager, NIIB Finance.



GENESIS scoops CIM Marketing Agency of the Year 2015

elfast-based creative ad agency Genesis has won Marketing Agency of the Year including Digital at this year’s Chartered Institute of Marketing (CIM) Ireland Marketing Excellence Awards held in Belfast. The CIM Ireland Marketing Excellence Awards celebrate, recognise and reward proven marketing achievements across various industry sectors in Ireland and acknowledge the contribution made by both individuals and teams. On the night, Genesis also picked up the CIM Marketing with Impact Public Sector Award for the Invest Northern Ireland Go for it campaign, and was shortlisted for the HSENI Farm Safety campaign, and the Henderson ‘Passion about Local’ campaign for SPAR. Stephen Bogan, Managing Director of Genesis, commented, ‘We’re delighted to


receive these awards in recognition of the hard work and commitment of the team, and the vision of our clients. As an agency, we aspire to international class and receiving these awards lets us know that we are well on our way there. ‘At Genesis we’ve invested for over 22 years to excel in strategy, concept origination, project management, digital and production, which is why we’ve won 30 major awards in the past three years alone, most recently Northern Ireland Media Agency of the Year in Dublin. And we’re the only Northern Irish agency to have won a prestigious Drum Marketing Award. It’s a huge boost for our clients – the awards we’ve picked up this year confirm that they’re working with the very best in Northern Ireland.’

Angels reach £35M milestone with Halo NI TAGGLED investment alo, the Northern Ireland business angel network and partner to HBAN, the allisland umbrella group responsible for stimulating angel investment and joint initiative of InterTradeIreland and Enterprise Ireland, today announces that it has helped HBAN breached the landmark of £35 million invested by business angels. A further £65 million has been leveraged from other sources including Invest Northern Irelandsupported capital funds. NI Science Park-based TAGGLED raised a further £250k from Halo angels, the Halo Fund and the NI Cofund. This helped the all island HBAN and Halo NI to reach this milestone.



Brian Ambrose conferred Honorary Fellowship at Belfast Met

Brian Ambrose chief executive Belfast City Airport with Belfast Met principal and chief executive Marie­Thérèse McGivern

elfast Metropolitan College celebrated the achievements of over 1,000 higher education learners at its annual Graduation. Belfast Met conferred an Honorary Fellowship Award to Brian Ambrose, chief executive of Belfast City Airport who was awarded for his outstanding contribution to tourism and economic development in Northern Ireland. Brian Ambrose OBE, Belfast Metropolitan College Honorary Fellow, has worked within the aviation industry for 39 years holding senior management positions within Bombardier in Engineering, Business Development and Operations. In his current role Brian is responsible for a growing business which has become a significant employer and contributor to the Northern Ireland economy employing approximately 1500 people on site and generating an annual passenger throughput in excess of 2.7 million. Brian said: “It is an honour to receive an Honorary Fellowship from Belfast Metropolitan College at a time when both Tourism in Northern Ireland and passenger throughput at the airport are hitting record highs. I had the privilege of graduating from the College many years ago and have been an interested observer as the Belfast Met has gone from strength to strength. “Reflecting upon and sharing experiences from my own career with the 2015 graduates was a reminder of how far the tourism industry and business has come in recent years and I hope I have in some small way inspired the next generation to take hold of every opportunity and make the next 40 years just as successful.”



Tourism Ireland raises expectations ourism Ireland has launched details of its marketing plans to promote Northern Ireland overseas in 2016.The organisation aims to build on this year’s positive performance and unveiled plans to attract two million overseas visitors to Northern Ireland, generating £476 million spend and representing a target of a four per cent increase in overseas visitors and five per cent increase in revenue in 2016. Speaking at the launch of Tourism Ireland’s 2016 Marketing Plans launch, Enterprise, Trade and Investment Minister, Jonathan Bell said: “Building on this year’s success and sustaining growth into the future is at the heart of Tourism Ireland’s strategy for 2016. Positive factors contributing to building on our 2015 tourism success include new flights to Northern Ireland and stronger economies in key source markets. I also welcome the opportunity to showcase a new updated advert highlighting our latest tourism experience - The Gobbins Cliff Path. The new ad will launch in January 2016 in 23 markets around the world, reaching 26 million potential holidaymakers in France and Germany alone. Niall Gibbons, CEO of Tourism Ireland, said: “2015 is set to be a very good year for


overseas tourism to Northern Ireland. Throughout the year, Tourism Ireland undertook a packed programme of promotions, to bring Northern Ireland to the attention of travellers everywhere. Thousands of opportunities were created for potential visitors around the world to read, hear or watch positive messages about Northern Ireland; Tourism Ireland estimates that this media exposure is worth an estimated £90 million in equivalent advertising value.” Commenting on the year ahead, Niall Gibbons said: “Following a successful 2015, ambitious targets have been set again for 2016 and beyond. Next year, we will place a major focus on Northern Ireland’s Year of Food and Drink, inviting people who love great food to come and enjoy a wonderful culinary celebration – where they will discover the best of local produce and have the chance to experience the spectacular scenery and wonderful coastline which makes Northern Ireland so special. “We will highlight The Gobbins Cliff Path around the world, while continuing to place a major focus on other iconic experiences like Titanic Belfast, the Giant’s Causeway and our unique National Trust properties.”

Local companies feature in Ulster Bank Business Achievers Awards lster companies have been named amongst the island’s top achievers, crowned at a prestigious ceremony in the Mansion House Hotel, Dublin. Finnebrogue (Downpatrick), AJ Power (Craigavon) and social enterprise the Bryson Charitable Group (Belfast) secured awards in the prestigious Ulster Bank Business Achievers Awards against stiff competition from companies across all four provinces. Having already enjoyed success at the Ulster provincial stage of the awards, the three winning firms continued to impress the high-level panel of judges and were selected for all-island awards from a record list of entries. Paying tribute to the winners, Richard Donnan, Head of Ulster Bank Northern Ireland, said: “As we get ready to launch our Entrepreneurial Spark hub in Belfast early next year, this is the kind of entrepreneurial spirit and commitment to innovation and improvement that we want to help develop and promote,” he adds. To impress the panel, companies were required to demonstrate strong financial performance and a flair for innovation, indicate company milestones and achievements and outline strategies for future business development. In recognition of their success, winners each received an award trophy and



Nigel Walsh, head of Sectors and Specialist Sales, Ulster Bank, with Ashley Piggott, managing director of AJ Power, Denis Lynn, managing director of Finnebrogue, and John McMullan, chief executive, Bryson Charitable Group.

significant marketing opportunities including a specially commissioned company video and a prominent profile page on the Ulster Bank Business Achievers Awards website.

For more information on each of the winners and the awards scheme, including details of how to enter for 2016, visit



A letter to our new First Minister from Patrick Gallen, chairman, Chartered Accountants Ulster Society he New Year will be a busy time for some of our leading politicians. Arlene Foster will become the new First Minister. There will be a re-shuffle within the ranks involving the appointment of a new Finance Minister to succeed her and we’ll have a Budget by the end of January. First, I’d like to congratulate Arlene. She has little time to celebrate her elevation to the office of First Minister and, of course, to the Leadership of the DUP. There’s an ‘in-tray’ crammed with issues that have to be addressed in a very tight timeframe before the Assembly shuts shop in time for the May election. The fact that our politicians reached a ‘Fresh Start’ agreement in November is tremendous news for Northern Ireland. We all hope that this is the beginning of a new era of co-operation which provides a basis for a better future. The deal gives new First Minister and our politicians the platform to put Northern Ireland’s finances on a sustainable footing. It must be seen as a significant step towards securing a normalisation of our politics and society and we can only hope, pray and cross our fingers that this will bring an end to the ‘stop-start’ political progress of recent years. The Fresh Start also paved the way for devolution of corporation tax powers with an expected 12.5 perc nt rate by April 2018. That’s also fantastic news. Chartered Accountants, both in Northern Ireland and the Republic, have campaigned along with many other business organisations about the benefits that a Corporation Tax cut can bring to Northern Ireland. Foreign Direct Investment is critical if we are to secure growth, jobs and prosperity for all and we’re delighted that date and a rate for implementation has been agreed. A competitive corporation tax rate is a strong incentive which will encourage more investment into Northern Ireland, although we must back that up with investment in skills and infrastructure. Our experience over recent years on issues like flags, parades, welfare reform and dealing with our past shows clearly that political stability and confidence is also essential. There is a strong feeling, both from the business community and the general public that this Fresh Start Agreement must be the last of the fresh starts presented by our politicians. We’ve had too many of them over the years. The instability of political life in Northern Ireland has been one of many inhibitors to inward investment. To take advantage of a competitive corporate tax rate, stability and economic politics from Stormont is an absolute must. It is critical that our politicians work together and start to engage in proper economic politics


Prosperity, lasting peace and a shared future are the real prize here. But to reach it we’ll need to secure our economy, put the division of the past behind us and find the political stability which has often remained just out of reach. Patrick Gallen


for the benefit of all the people of Northern Ireland. Our politicians have a difficult job. Of course they want Northern Ireland to prosper. That is not in doubt. But we can’t allow the past to delay our future. We need to put the years of brinkmanship and division behind us. Northern Ireland has to make a shared future work, and that shared future – committed to peace and prosperity – has to start now. The corporation tax rate is only one of a number of blocks in the economic challenge ahead. An educated workforce, cost effective utilities and reliable infrastructure are just some of the challenges.

Political stability But the keystone of Northern Ireland’s future is political stability and the need for economic politics. Without it, any reduction in corporation tax rate will only be a waste of time and energy. The business community must play its part too though, especially with fresh Assembly Elections on the horizon. For our part, Chartered Accountants Ulster Society will be consulting with members across Northern Ireland early in the New Year. We’ll be taking views on what business leaders expect from the new Assembly. We will put together a manifesto of measures which the people who drive our economy on a daily basis want to see. Measures that the business community really believe can move our economy, and our society forward. The Fresh Start has given our politicians an opportunity. It’s an opportunity to move towards a new economic future, which will in turn create a better place for everyone in our community to live. Improvements in health, social care, housing and education are all more likely if we can secure a strong economy and foreign investment. Prosperity, lasting peace and a shared future are the real prize here. But to reach it we’ll need to secure our economy, put the division of the past behind us and find the political stability which has often remained just out of reach. We should never forget how far we’ve come from the really dark days. Our politicians deserve credit for that. But we should aspire to more, and the Fresh Start can be the launch towards a new future if we don’t let the past derail it before we’ve begun.




We all know them. They’re the young ambitious leaders who are making Northern Ireland business rock. And for the fourth year in a row Business First wants to celebrate them in our Special Feature in the March issue of the magazine. We’re looking for the 40 most impressive rising stars of business in Northern Ireland who are under 40 years old. Nominations are online and will take you only five minutes to complete. Last year over 5,000 people viewed our Top 40 under 40 online publication. So your five minutes taken to nominate a colleague or friend could change their careers forever.

Nominate your Rising Star today NOMINATIONS ARE OPEN UNTIL FEBRUARY 15 2016


Is it time for more Unruly companies? by Roseann Kelly, CEO Women in Business Northern Ireland

ver the last couple of weeks I have reviewed a report from the McKinsey Global Institute (MGI) and a Harvard Business School report, both regarding gender diversity. The McKinsey Report talks about the $28 trillion contribution women’s parity could make to the global economy and the other reports that women lack the desire to reach the top. These findings present us with a dilemma, maybe the McKinsey report has got it all wrong by putting a dollar value on gender parity since the Harvard report indicates that women aren’t interested in power. I wonder if it is a case of “ its too hard to do” or “don’t want to do”? Surely a diversity target or quota might be worthwhile to gain a small piece of the $28 trillion? Only cultural change will address the issues highlighted regarding women’s desire for professional development. So I will reference an article in a Sunday newspaper about women in technology. It featured Sarah Wood, who sold her tech company Unruly for £114m, a company with an ethos grounded in flexibility, “a place where you can bring the kids into work any time you want”. We need to build organisations like Unruly, that work for women and attract women, if we want the $28 trillion in growth. We need more women to start and grow businesses with a culture that works from them or for corporates to embrace the cultural change our businesses need to become truly diverse. The McKinsey report was entitled ‘The Power of Global Parity’. It stated that narrowing the global gender gap in work would not only be equitable in the broadest sense but could double the contribution of women to global GDP growth between 2014 and 2025. Delivering that impact, however, will require tackling gender equality in society. McKinsey mapped 15 gender equality



indicators for 95 countries and found that 40 of them have high or extremely high levels of gender inequality on at least half of the indicators. The indicators fall into four categories including: equality in work; essential services and enablers of economic opportunity; legal protection and political voice; and physical security and autonomy. They considered a “full-potential” scenario in which women participate in the economy identically to men and found that it would add up to $28 trillion, or 26 per cent to annual global GDP in 2025, compared with a business-as-usual scenario. This impact is roughly equivalent to the size of the combined US and Chinese economies today. They also analysed an alternative “best-inregion” scenario, in which all countries match the rate of improvement of the bestperforming country in their region. This would add as much as $12 trillion in annual 2025 GDP, equivalent in size to the current GDP of Japan, Germany, and the United Kingdom combined, or twice the likely growth in global GDP contributed by female workers between 2014 and 2025, in a business-as-usual scenario. The Harvard report entitled ‘Compared to men, women view professional advancement as equally attainable, but less desirable’, revealed a stark gap in the professional ambitions of men and women. Having surveyed a diverse sample of more than 4,000 men and women, a team of social scientists reported a list of interesting findings: · Compared to men, women have more life goals, but fewer of them are focused on power. · Women perceive professional power as less desirable than men do. · Women anticipate more negative outcomes from attaining a high-power position.

· Women are less likely than men to jump at opportunities for professional advancement. · While women and men believe they are equally able to attain high-level leadership positions, men want that power more than women do. I totally concur that women are equally able to attain any and all high level leadership positions, and have no doubt that within Northern Ireland we could produce lists of women for any position. Amazingly from the time the High Court commenced in Northern Ireland we could not find one woman to fill the role of Madam Justice, but this year we found two fantastic women…. I rest my case. Northern Ireland plc… now is the time to get our culture right. Now is the time to support female enterprise, to support gender diversity and to reap those economic benefits that will impact us all. Can we afford to ignore McKinsey Global Institute (MGI) report?


Will these judges decide you have a Diamond in your office? The Northern Ireland PA & Office Manager Awards 2016 in association with Diamond Recruitment Group and Business First, are now open for nominations! he search is on for the 2016 PAs and Office Managers of the Year and you are invited to nominate the ‘diamond’ in your business. The person (or persons) who make your business tick. The men and women who make sure everything is where it’s supposed to be when it’s supposed to be. Now in their second year, the Northern Ireland PA and Office Manager of the Year Awards are a unique way for you to say thank you to the individuals who so often go the extra mile without expecting any acknowledgement. And this year Diamond Recruitment Group are delighted to be sponsoring this year’s Business First PA & Office Manager Awards. Donna Parker, Operations Director at Diamond Recruitment said “PAs & Office Managers play a vital role in supporting the work of senior management teams and ensuring the smooth operation of local businesses. “We are delighted to sponsor an event that recognises and rewards the contributions of these professionals and we are very much looking forward to being part of the Awards in 2016.” Gavin Walker, managing editor at Business First, said, “At a time when Northern Ireland business is beginning to see the light at the end of what has been a very long tunnel, we want to work with you to help boost the morale in your office and take a moment to say thank you to the people who are often the unsung heroes of business - the PAs and Office Managers who keep us all inline and on track. “The one thing we learned from the nominations to last year’s Awards was that PAs and Office Managers are now expected to have a broad range of knowledge from the best locations for meetings to the most recent best practice in corporate governance. “They are called upon both to respond to their employers needs and employ real entrepreneurial skills in problem solving. These are very impressive people.” The 2015 Overall Award Winner, Tracey Magee of Xafinity added, “Winning the Award was a very special moment and I have been amazed at the numbers of people who have taken time to congratulate me. “But to be honest, the most important aspect of the Awards was to be nominated in the first place. It was a brilliant feeling to know that my boss and colleagues respected and valued my contribution to the business so much that they wanted to take this opportunity to acknowledge it. “I can’t begin to tell you how great a feeling



The judges for the Northern Ireland PA & Office Manager Awards 2016 are Alyson McNutt, managing director PA2Day, Donna Parker, operations director at Diamond Recruitment, Gavin Walker, managing editor, Business First and Tracey Magee, overall winner of the 2015 Northern Ireland PA & Office Manager Awards (also judging is Kate McKay managing director AKU Training.)

“The most important aspect of the Awards was to be nominated in the first place. It was a brilliant feeling to know that my boss and colleagues respected and valued my contribution to the business so much that they wanted to take this opportunity to acknowledge it.”

Tracey Magee, Xafinity

that is and I hope every employer from the private, public and chairty and voluntary sectors jumps on this opportunity to say thank you to their PAs and Office Managers. “And who knows, they may well prove to be one of the ‘diamonds’ we’ll be looking for in the judging!”

ABOUT THE SPONSORS For over 25 years local businesses have entrusted Diamond Recruitment to source the best people for their business. Diamond has grown to become one of the most successful recruitment agencies in Northern Ireland and our success has been built on a strong focus on excellent relationship management with both clients and candidates. With regional recruitment centres located in Belfast, Ballymena, and Derry/Londonderry Diamond offers both temporary and permanent recruitment solutions, working with many of the Top 100 Companies. Our clients include both large and small business within the public and private sector. At Diamond Recruitment, our Consultants provide an expert approach to recruitment. Whether your experience is in Administration, Accountancy, Sales & Marketing, IT or Engineering, we have a Recruitment Consultant that is a specialist in your chosen field.



Awards Sponsored by

a Staffline Ireland company

We’re looking for the diamonds in your office Northern Ireland Office Manager of the Year 2016 Northern Ireland PA of the Year 2016 (Private Sector) Northern Ireland PA of the Year 2016 (Public Sector) Northern Ireland PA of the Year 2016 (Charity and Voluntary Sector)

Nominations now open


Family Owned Businesses:

Motivating Key Non-Family Employees by Maybeth Shaw, BDO Northern Ireland s the local and global economies begin to gather pace, more and more family business owners are looking to strengthen the calibre of staff involved in the running of their businesses. A natural corollary of this is that the competition from rival businesses to entice key staff and management has become much more of an issue. In short, incentivising and retaining key management and employees has become crucial for the success of most family businesses up and down the country. The task of retaining and incentivising key employees can be a particularly complex and sensitive issue in the family business arena. The aim of aligning non-family employee goals with that of the family business can potentially be achieved through a variety of methods, ranging from simple cash bonuses through to performance linked incentive share option schemes, each with their own pros and cons. Releasing equity to outsiders used to be a taboo idea for many family owned businesses, but this has changed in recent years, at least to a certain extent (with families generally finding the reality much less of an issue than the perception). Some family firms have concluded that if they are to attract professional, high calibre staff then they must be prepared to release, in an unrestricted form, at least a small proportion of the equity in the company.


Enterprise Management Incentives One of the most tax favoured share options plans is the Enterprise Management Incentives (EMI) scheme. EMI schemes can enable an employer to reward selected employees with tax favoured share options. The company grants options to an employee which gives the employee a right to buy the shares within a specified period at a fixed price. Exercise of the options is often linked to performance related criteria. Provided all of the qualifying conditions are met, the tax reliefs are very generous in respect of income tax and capital gains tax for employees and corporation tax relief for the employer. The EMI scheme therefore offers tax benefits to both the company and employee while at the same time allowing for performance conditions to be set to enhance the overall success of the family business. Where the conditions of the EMI scheme are met, there is no tax charge on grant of the EMI options. On exercise of the options, no income tax or national insurance should arise provided the options are exercised within 10 years of the date of grant, and, that the price


at which the employee can exercise the option is at least equal to the market value of the shares when the option is granted. As it is the market value at the date the options are granted, rather than the date of exercise, that is relevant, an early grant of options in a company which is expected to grow in value over the option period can prove very beneficial from a tax perspective. This is because on a disposal the increase in value from the market value at date of grant will be liable to capital gains tax (CGT) at a lower rate than income tax. In addition, Entrepreneur’s Relief may potentially be available on the disposal of the EMI option shares, meaning any gain on the disposal is taxed to CGT at just 10 per cent. The EMI scheme therefore offers trading companies a tax efficient way of incentivising key staff members in a way that allows any exercise of the share options to be linked to very specific performance related goals. As a result, the goals of non-family employees and the family business can hopefully be more closely aligned. Of course schemes such as EMI will not be attractive to all family business and indeed, there are still a significant number of family businesses that limit share ownership to family members. In fact, many Family Constitutions will not allow for shares to be sold outside the family. This is understandable as family business owners will tend to have more affinity to the business which makes the concept of giving away shares in the company much more alien. In such circumstances, there are some alternative options which could potentially be used as a means of incentivising staff. These include issuing restricted shares (for example, non­voting shares or restrictions around how the shares are transferred) as well as phantom

share option schemes. Phantom share option schemes carry all the features of real share option schemes with the exception that the employees do not actually take up any title to the shares. The employee is granted a phantom option to buy shares at current value, and can exercise the option during a set period of time specified in the scheme rules. As with EMI, the exercise of the option can be made conditional on predetermined performance criteria. The employee is treated as having sold the shares for the value at the date of exercise. The company will then pay the employee a cash bonus equal to the gain on the phantom option. The advantages of the phantom share option scheme are that it avoids diluting the current share ownership but still rewards employees where they meet the specific performance conditions set. As the reward can mirror the value of a shareholding in the company, such an arrangement can also help to ensure family and employee goals are aligned. However, the downside is that the employee is still subject to income tax and national insurance on the award, much like a normal bonus arrangement. It is clear that there are several ways in which family businesses can potentially incentivise their key management and employees. The use of shares and share options to attract and retain employees is, without doubt, one of the most fast-moving areas in incentive planning. It is important that family businesses strike a balance between wishing to retain full ownership of the shares in the company with appropriately incentivising key non-family stakeholders who are instrumental to the overall success of the family business.

Enterprise Management Incentives main conditions • The company must be a qualifying trading company. • The gross assets of the company must not exceed £30 million; • The company must have less than 250 full-time employees; • The options must be exercisable within 10 years of grant; • Employees with a “material” interest (broadly, more than 30 per cent of the share capital) in the company cannot participate in the scheme; and • The maximum value of shares (as valued at the date of grant) over which an employee holds EMI options cannot exceed £250,000.


Northern Ireland Economic Outlook 2016 in association with

18 Foreword ­ Jonathan Bell MLA, Minister of Entreprise, Trade & Investment

29 Small business remains the backbone of Northern Ireland economy in 2016 ­ FSB

20 2016 ­ An Economic Outlook Richard Ramsey, Chief Economist, Ulster Bank

30 Count energy into your budget ­ The Energy Desk

21 What are the key concerns for Entrepreneurs in 2016 from EY 22 Screw it...let’s do it - Judith Totten of Economic Outlook Sponsor, Upstream 24 Tourism is food and drink to Northern Ireland economy in 2016 ­ John McGrillen,Tourism NI 26 Northern Ireland economy can enjoy continued momentum in 2016 ­ David Gavaghan, CBI 28 2016 Skills Review ­ Diamond Recruitment

31 Let’s give some credit to 2016: Coface 32 Planning is on the move in 2016 - Richard Bowman, Strategic Planning 33 Content and effective Social Media - Bill McCartney 34 What are the challenges facing Chief Information Officers in 2016 - Andy O’Kelly, Chief Architect at eir 36 Year ahead is one for recovery for commercial property ­ Brian Lavery  CBRE

37 Improve wellbeing and save money ­ Randox Health 38 Manufacturing starts the year on the backfoot ­ but pledges to fight back ­ Manufacturing NI 39 Political and Economic Outlook 2016 - Chris Brown, MCEPR 40 This time we really do need a proper Fresh Start - Paul Terrington, IoD Northern Ireland 41 It’s true ­ life does begin at 40 - Michael Blaney, Autoline insurance


Corporation Tax rate and date an economic landmark T

Foreword to the Northern Ireland Econnomic Outlook 2016 by Jonathan Bell MLA, Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Investment

While undoubtedly we will face new challenges in our quest to achieving an economy that is characterised by a sustainable and growing private sector, we are in a strong position to face these head on. Jonathan Bell


he commitment to reduce the corporation tax rate in Northern Ireland to 12.5 per cent from 2018 has made 2015 a hugely significant year. It marks a new economic era for Northern Ireland, with research from the Ulster University Economic Policy Centre estimating that by 2033, we could create well in excess of 30,000 additional jobs and the economy could be almost a tenth larger. Of course, we need to ensure we reach this potential and our actions now will be pivotal in the policy’s long term success. Invest Northern Ireland will be taking forward a range of actions to develop our proposition and sell the benefits of Northern Ireland to investors on a worldwide basis, and this will include targeted communications and marketing campaigns, advertising, investor engagement and inmarket events. Invest Northern Ireland is also updating the intelligence on those sub-sectors and functions which will be most attracted by a lower corporation tax rate and will be reviewing its other solutions so that the best possible package of support is available to both new investors and existing businesses looking to grow. This latter element involves close collaboration with colleagues in the Department for Employment and Learning so that companies have access to the skills and talent they need to make their operations a success. In addition to the potential that corporation tax could bring in the future, we have been building on our local economic recovery during 2015 with overall conditions improving, driven predominantly by the local private sector. The stronger growing private sector has allowed us to not only continue to rebuild the local economy but to rebalance towards greater private sector growth, allowing us to move towards the goals set out in the Executive’s Economic Strategy. It was more than three years ago now that the Economic Strategy was launched and 89 per cent of its commitments have now been delivered. To ensure the strategy reflects the latest economic conditions and developments in key policy areas, such as corporation tax, it will undergo a review and refocus over the coming year.

Export Northern Ireland

Shortly, we will also publish ‘Export Matters – an Exports Action Plan for Northern Ireland’ which has been developed to put our focus firmly on export-led economic growth which will also remain the key goal of the refocused Economic Strategy.

Tourism Northern Ireland Turning to tourism, the hosting of major international events continues to play a significant role in our tourism success with this year seeing the Irish Open at Royal County Down, the return of the Tall Ships and Sports Personality of the Year. Existing attractions are also enjoying continued success, and this has been enhanced with the opening of the Gobbins Cliff Path. In 2016, we also look forward to the opening of the new Waterfront Hall Conference facilities while a key focus in 2016 will be ‘The Northern Ireland Year of Food and Drink’ which will be a celebration of all that is good about our local produce. A little further down the line we can all look forward to the much anticipated return of the Open to Royal Portrush in 2019, an announcement that must surely rank as one of the most exciting developments of the year past.

Department for the Economy Of course there are many factors that will ultimately feed into our success as an economy, whether that be exploring how best we can support ongoing air access connectivity to key markets, cutting red tape or encouraging innovation. These are things we already aim to do but of course there are other things too, such as ensuring we have the right skills that businesses demand. The creation of the Department for the Economy in 2016 will ensure we are agile in our response to supporting the economy and that we can adapt quickly to changing business needs. On an ending note our economic future is bright. While undoubtedly we will face new challenges in our quest to achieving an economy that is characterised by a sustainable and growing private sector, we are in a strong position to face these head on.


The Year of the Monkey won’t be short on drama by Richard Ramsey, Chief Economist Northern Ireland, Ulster Bank 015 will go down in the economic annals as a good year for the Northern Ireland consumer. Falling food and energy prices, coupled with a return of pay rises, have boosted disposable incomes. At the same time, employment growth has continued, with over 90 percent of the jobs that were lost during the downturn having now been recovered. This is in contrast to the Republic of Ireland, where less than half the jobs lost during the downturn have been recouped. Meanwhile, the UK has recovered all of the jobs it lost. It is a somewhat different picture though when it comes to economic output. Whist the Republic of Ireland returned to pre-recession output levels in 2015 - and the UK some twoand-a-half years ago – Northern Ireland is still some way off that mark. Indeed, Northern Ireland’s economic recovery has been the weakest on record. Since 2010, local commentators have consistently overpromised in their forecasts for economic growth. Every year, however, the ONS official statistics have under-delivered on these expectations. Last month it was confirmed that the local economy expanded in 2014 by less than half the rate of growth projected. Northern Ireland recorded growth of just 0.8 per cent in real terms. After Wales, this was the lowest rate of growth within the UK. The Northern Ireland economy has failed to record an annual growth rate of at least one per cent since the recovery began. Following zero per cent growth in 2010, Northern Ireland’s annual growth rates in the three subsequent years were: 0.5 per cent (2011), 0.9 per cent (2012) and 0.7 per cent (2013). 2015 and 2016 should be better, with low / no inflation coupled with a return of pay rises providing a much-needed boost to economic growth. Consumer spending, stemming from real wage-growth will account for a greater share of economic growth, whilst the corporate sector should see its contribution moderate. The local economy is estimated to have grown by 1.5 - 2 per cent in 2015 (UK +2.3 per cent). Assuming this growth rate, the Northern Ireland economy will have recouped less than half the output lost during the downturn. For perspective, the Republic of Ireland economy returned to its pre-crisis levels in 2015 with its second successive year of >5 per cent growth. The Northern Ireland economy is expected



to lag behind its nearest neighbour and the UK in 2016. Over-optimistic projections in the past would suggest an expansion of close to but above one per cent is realistic. This compares with growth of two per cent in the UK and 4.5 per cent for the Republic of Ireland.

The Labour Market In terms of the labour market, falling real wages have blighted Northern Ireland’s recovery in recent years. However last year saw wage increases return with a vengeance, with the first real terms increase since 2009. Indeed, Northern Ireland recorded the fastest rate of wage growth in 2015 of all the UK regions. Northern Ireland’s 5.4 per cent annual rise in pay last year (UK +1.9 per cent) represented the biggest rise in 11 years and the first real terms increase since 2009. The local claimant count unemployment register has been falling for three years. Last year saw the numbers claiming unemployment benefit fall by close to 12,000, taking the claimant count to its lowest level since January 2009 and 25,600 below (-40 per cent) its post-recession peak. The pace of decline should ease in 2016. The headline ILO unemployment rate briefly dipped below six per cent in Q4 2014 for the first time in six years. However, it returned back above this level in Q1 2015 with the unemployment rate averaging 6.2 per cent in 2015. The UK and Northern Ireland unemployment rates are set to diverge in 2016 with the former expected to go sub-five per cent later this year while Northern Ireland moves towards seven per cent. Meanwhile the Republic of Ireland’s unemployment rate returned to single-digits last year for the first time since January 2009 and should average around 8.4 per cent in 2016. Employment growth remained strong in 2015 although the pace of growth slowed towards the end of the year. The drivers of growth are expected to change in 2016 too. In the 12 months to Q3 2015, manufacturing accounted for more job gains than any other sector. However, manufacturing output has been contracting sharply in the second half of last year. Indeed, output fell at its sharpest rate since Q2 2009 in Q3 last year.

Manufacturing still lags behind Local manufacturing is feeling the chill from the slowdown in global trade / manufacturing activity. In 2016 Northern

Ireland manufacturing is expected to lose more jobs than it creates. JTI and Michelin have already announced their plans to close with redundancies to commence this year. Manufacturing, like the tourism industry will also be battling with an unfavourable sterling/euro exchange rate. Sterling is expected to strengthen further in the year ahead against the euro but weaken against the dollar.

Monetary Policy Divergence in monetary policy intentions by the Federal Reserve, the ECB and the Bank of England should be a big driver of currency moves in 2016. The Fed raised interest rates last month for the first time in almost nine years. Meanwhile the ECB is expected to embark upon more monetary policy stimulus. The UK falls somewhere in between. While we may see a rate rise occurring in the latter half of the year, don’t rule out yet another year of no change. The introduction of the National Living Wage in April presents a challenge for the hospitality industry and low salaried sectors such as the care home sector. Overall in the services sector there will be a divergence in performance between the public and private sectors. The latter has already recovered the jobs lost during the downturn. Meanwhile the shrinking of the public sector is a multi-year project. Meanwhile, the construction sector expected to grow but is coming from such a low base, and employment remains 35 per cent below pre-downturn levels. In 2016 – the Chinese Year of the Monkey Northern Ireland’s productivity challenge will be greater than ever before. Global factors will also loom large. Northern Ireland is a £34.5billion economy of 1.8m people and is vulnerable to external influences both economic and political. And there will be plenty of these in 2016, notably a China slowdown / crisis, Eurozone economic uncertainty, and uncertain in relation to a potential Brexit. 2016 should not be short of drama.


What are key concerns for Northern Ireland entrepreneurs in 2016? D ifficulty in attracting skilled labour is a key challenge facing some of Northern Ireland’s leading entrepreneurs, according to the latest EY Entrepreneur Of The Year™ (EOY) survey. The survey shows that 30 per cent of the EOY community cited a shortage of experienced talent as their number one challenge. The survey was conducted among 416 of Ireland’s leading entrepreneurs (of which 70 are based in Northern Ireland) all of whom are previous EY Entrepreneur Of The Year™ finalists.

Shortage of experienced talent Attracting and retaining skilled talent is a key challenge to doing business in Northern Ireland. This applies across a range of sectors including tech, manufacturing, food and drink, retail, telecommunications and hospitality. This increased demand for skilled labour is evidenced by 84 per cent of respondents having grown their total headcount in the past year. EY’s Sean Duffy, programme director, EY Entrepreneur Of The Year™ commented “Difficulties with recruitment are directly contributing to the issue of scaling their business. Entrepreneurs in Northern Ireland are struggling to compete with large multinationals that can offer higher salaries and fringe benefits in the race for top talent, particularly as we seek to expand the private sector. “Interestingly, only six per cent rank graduate recruitment as their biggest challenge, favouring a more skilled workforce. We must continue to make Northern Ireland an attractive location for not just retaining the talent, but through targeted initiatives to attract expatriates and returning emigrants.” Overall, the EOY community experienced strong growth in 2015, with 67 per cent of those surveyed stating that their business had grown by over five per cent in the past year. This network of leading entrepreneurs have been driving real economic growth. In the last 12 months alone they have created over 17,800 new jobs, and in aggregate they currently employ 170,144 individuals. Collectively they have generated €17.4bn in revenue for the same period. But is Northern Ireland providing enough support in return to its entrepreneurs? Although 87 per cent of respondents feel positive about the current economic environment, 64 per cent still believe that there is still not sufficient support in place for those whose businesses are struggling or have failed. This marks an increase when

compared to 37 per cent last year. Of those surveyed, 46 per cent of the respondents said that they had had a business fail in the course of their career, with 52 per cent still describing themselves as a ‘serial entrepreneur’. These findings indicate that although business failure is likely to be part of the entrepreneurial journey, most entrepreneurs are willing to start afresh with a new venture. “During the economic crisis entrepreneurs typically faced issues such as accessing finance and consumer demand, they are now encountering a new wave of problems associated with growth. Many struggle to scale their businesses at manageable pace,” commented Sean. He continued: “It therefore vital for government, industry and academia to understand the specific challenges facing entrepreneurs and to collaborate to solve problems, address legislative and cultural barriers to success, and together shape the future of entrepreneurship in Northern Ireland”.

Building on tax advantages “High taxes, particularly personal income tax and capital gains tax, were listed by respondents in the Republic of Ireland as some of the biggest inhibitors to daily business. “Meanwhile in Northern Ireland, entrepreneurs are benefitting from a more accommodating CGT structure, which puts them at a relative advantage in terms of equity and provides an incentive for inward investment. “The announcement last week to cut the corporate tax to 12.5 per cent from April 2018 in line with the Republic will be warmly received by entrepreneurs, levelling the playing field for attracting investment and jobs across the island. Sean continued “The survey results show that while some very positive steps have already been taken, particularly taking fiscal structures into account, more could still be done to encourage a culture of entrepreneurship in Northern Ireland. “We now need to focus on finding ways to encourage failed entrepreneurs to start again, as well as facilitating scaling for successful businesses. Entrepreneurs are playing a huge role in the expansion of the private sector here through job creation and export-led growth. “We need to put mechanisms in place that will support them in their efforts, releasing the equity required to reinvest into new businesses’.

Ease of doing business Access to finance also continues to play a role, but encouragingly this was deemed to be relatively less problematic this year with only 11 per cent listing it as their main challenge, compared to 41 per cent in the previous survey. On a further positive note, 87 per cent of entrepreneurs surveyed said they felt positive about the current economic climate for entrepreneurial business throughout Ireland. The survey also shows that over half of the entrepreneurs surveyed (55 per cent) have conducted business with other members of the EOY community, demonstrating the importance of professional networks in creating a supportive climate for doing business in Ireland. Furthermore, a skilled and educated workforce, low corporation tax rates and government support were listed as the biggest enablers to doing business across Ireland.



screw it LET'S JUST DO IT! by Judith Totten, Upstream


We definitely did not want to lose our reputation for empathy and understanding and we wanted something which would eloquently describe our story so far and our vision for the future. Judith Totten his is one of Richard Branson's favourite sentiments in business and he is quoted as using it regularly. It is perhaps a bit flippant but I like it, because it sums up an attitude of positivity, innovation and entrepreneurial spirit which if any business can harness even a small percentage of, will serve it very well. Mix that Branson ‘devil may care’ approach with great products, services and people and a respected brand with a reputation for professionalism and delivery and well … it simply works. Keys Commercial Finance or KCF has served us very well as a brand since June 2011 when we embarked on our ambitious journey, but when I bought out my business partner earlier this year in a very amicable MBO, we knew we had to step change the business and upscale our footprint in the alternative finance market space. And so began the exciting journey of developing new brand images, looking at colour schemes, identifying new premises and working with a team of truly awesome specialists to relaunch and rescale our business for the future. We have had a few twists and turns, many speed bumps and moments of, "Can we ...?" along with quite a few of Branson's, "Screw it" moments . But we have had so much fun and laughter too and honestly if we had gone with some of the more left field ideas, I think the market might quite rightly have questioned our sanity! We wanted something new and different to reflect our position as the only truly independent funder in a landscape of institutional financiers in Northern Ireland and the challenges this has at times presented. We definitely did not want to lose our reputation for empathy and understanding and we wanted something which would eloquently describe our story so far and our vision for the future. We wanted to maintain our sense of fun and our energy whilst embracing something fresh and innovative - again an attitude we have tried to engender from day one. Like many business owners in Northern Ireland we have had to raise money, bring investors on board, diversify our business


and grow our staff numbers while upskilling our existing team - so again the new brand had to mirror these issues and us striving for goals. Above all though, we want to build a brand that our clients and partners recognise for its professionalism and corporate approach without losing the very essence of what has made Keys Commercial Finance successful thus far - honesty, integrity, flexibility and collaboration. We have always tried to act as partners in support of our clients and this absolutely will not change. So with great excitement and some trepidation, we invite you to join us at: "UPSTREAM" Positive Working Capital Our motto is that we always have been and always will be: 100% Half Full ­ optimistic, positive and energetic. We are here to support “Fearless Growth”, to enable you to access the funding structures that give you the confidence to exploit new opportunities, markets and products or services, without fear And finally, we are: Upstream ... Never Mainstream! After much soul searching we have also decided that Belfast City Centre is the best central location for new beginnings. So, from January 18 2016 we will be relocating to new ground floor Grade A premises at: Suite B, 40 Linenhall Street, Belfast. The offices are being completely upgraded and kitted out in our new corporate colours of turquoise and magenta with a fun and funky layout and soft furnishings to reflect our fresh, innovative and professional approach to what is often perceived as the dull finance sector. This new office has lots of meeting space and we plan to use this space often and to great effect. We want to invite our colleagues, clients and partners to spend time with us, getting to know the team even better and becoming even more familiar with our

service ethic and customer focus. The fabulous team at Upstream remains unchanged in terms of the quality and commitment of our people and their passion to deliver the top quality service that you have all come to expect. We will be adding new and exciting complementary funding streams to our business in the very near future to ensure that businesses of all sizes and in all sectors across Northern Ireland can access what we now prefer to call Appropriate Finance. We plan to introduce Supply Chain and Trade finance to Northern Ireland through our new brand, which will add a new dimension to the already dynamic suite of Invoice Finance and Receivable products we have. We are an SME just like many of our clients and therefore we understand the challenges facing young and growing businesses in a post-recession economy. So we plan to add structure to our advisory function by partnering with key experts and specialists to bring a range of added value services to the market.

In summary? We are no longer Alternative Finance providers. Collectively, Upstream and the many funders across Northern Ireland are now part of an overall packaged solution for business owners. We are fortunate to have a wide range of both independent and Invest NI backed funds across the spectrum of new start, growing, import and export business in NI and within all sectors alongside a mature Banking sector. We are most assuredly seeing a culture change across our portfolio with business owners and advisors alike seeking a cocktail of solutions to spread risk and reduce dependency. This is not just healthy but essential as we rebuild Northern Ireland PLC. This is the new landscape - and the new normal - for Northern Ireland business. Welcome to Upstream – and Fearless Growth in 2016 and beyond! Please contact Upstream at or 9099 9450



Tourism is food and drink to Northern Ireland economy in 2016 A with John McGrillen Chief Executive, Tourism NI fter a successful year which saw an overall increase of two per cent in trips generating £4.5 million, the tourism industry is gearing up for an even more exciting 2016 which has ben designated as Northern Ireland’s Year of Food and Drink. With three new airlines serving Northern Ireland - KLM, Vueling and Wizz Air extending our reach into the growing European markets, and the restoration of the economy in 2016, the year will see a United Airlines service to New York, foreign continued investment in tourism visitors in 2016 should rise even further. infrastructure. New and improved facilities continue to “Investment in tourism infrastructure provide a unique visitor experience with the extends to every corner of Northern Ireland,” newly restored Gobbins dramatic cliff-face John said. “From the renovation and path offering another jewel on the famous extension of the Apprentice Boys Memorial Causeway Coastal Route and the three year, Hall which contains a new Siege Museum to £7.5 million investment in the restoration of the opening of Window on Wildlife in Belfast, Mount Stewart completed to acclaim. visitors now have more new experiences to During the year, John McGrillen was add to their itinerary.” appointed chief executive and and along with And the product enhancement story will a new Board, has welcomed the Hunter continue into 2016 with improvements to the Review. Museum of Free Derry, a Heritage Gateway to “The Review contains 33 recommendations Fermanagh and the completion of the HMS with broad themes around strategy and Caroline project to transform the First World leadership, policy, competitive positioning of War's last surviving battleship into a floating Northern Irelnd, effective partnership museum. working, business support to the tourism “The extended Belfast Waterfront is set to industry, and delivering a more client open at the end of April 2016. This centered approach,” John explained. development will add huge value to the “Using the Review as the starting point, business tourism mix and very much enhance work has begun on a new tourism strategy to Belfast’s, and indeed Northern Ireland’s, set the future direction for the industry, and capacity to stage major conferences and we look forward to working more closely conventions,” John said. “In fact, Belfast with Invest NI and the 11 new councils in Waterfront is already reaping rewards with Northern Ireland.” nine hotel projects in the pipeline and 25 events in the diary for the next three years With the scene set for a leap forward in the bringing 70,000 delegates and bring in over value of tourism to the Northern Ireland

The Gobbins Cliff Walk


£34 million for the city. “Numbers like this prove the value of tourism to Northern Ireland plc, and we know there is so much more to that can be achieved. For example, we’ve seen the incredible growth of value of film in Northern Ireland we are continuing to work with NI Screen, Tourism Ireland and the hospitality industry to capitalise on the film and TV productions being produced across Northern Ireland and promoting those locations that are accessible to visitors.”

Year of Food and Drink The centrepiece of tourism in 2016 is the Year of Food and Drink. “Tourism NI wants to raise the profile of food and drink with local people, visitors and global markets by developing branding, marketing and promotional activities in Northern Ireland and across key markets,” John explained. The project also aims to support a wider agri-food objective to grow export food sales. Success in this area should also support the tourism agenda by building on Northern Ireland’s destination reputation. “Food and drink experiences have become increasingly important to tourism as they offer destinations an opportunity to differentiate and celebrate indigenous foods. “While food and drink is a vehicle through which our visitors can learn about our heritage, landscape and culture as well as meet our people, it also accounts for a significant proportion of visitor spend,” John added. In 2014 overnight visitors to Northern Ireland from all markets spent an estimated £751 million of which, approximately one third was spent on food and drink. In addition, £282million was spent by Northern Ireland residents on tourism day trips, of which, approximately 40 per cent was on eating out. “This is another fantastic opportunity for Northern Ireland to work collaboratively to reach a common goal. We will endeavour to ensure that both existing and new events play a key role in the success of the Year of Food and Drink 2016,” John concluded.


Northern Ireland economy can enjoy continued momentum in 2016 by David Gavaghan, chair, CBI Northern Ireland he Northern Ireland economy continues to recover from a deep downturn and we expect growth to continue through 2016. But I believe the year ahead can see us build the momentum to transform towards an enterprise led and more sustainable economy, providing more, and better, opportunities for all. This will require leadership, co-operation and partnerships – by working together we can make a difference. Businesses have worked hard to grow and do their part to help rebalance the economy and there have been some notable successes. We have secured record levels of international investment, records levels of investment in innovation and R&D by our SMEs, growth in our tourism sector which sets us on a path to doubling tourism revenues to £1billion by 2020 and a range of world-class events, helping promote Northern Ireland as a vibrant and outward looking place to live, work and invest. We must develop a longer term vision for the economy in which opportunity and prosperity are shared by all, recognising that we are competing globally for talent and capital. There is a great deal more to do to create a sustainable and balanced economy focused on enterprise, investment, innovation and exports. That journey is underway. The Executive’s commitment to a 12.5 per cent Corporation tax rate in 2018 is a key element to achieving this goal, with the potential to transform the Northern Ireland economy, creating tens of thousands of additional jobs. We must get behind Invest NI and Executive Ministers in helping market this opportunity internationally. Elections in May will be a key focus in 2016 – and much of CBI’s work during the first half of the year will be focused on influencing the next Programme for Government. A strategic, outcome focused and ambitious Programme for Government is needed. The CBI set out its priorities in ‘Punching above our weight – 12 steps to create a more prosperous Northern Ireland’ last October and we have been engaging with our political representatives since. This will remain a framework to judge our success in influencing the political parties in the coming month.


Public expenditure constraints will continue, so transformation within public services to deliver better outcomes for users must be matched by investment and growth in the private sector. Companies and wealth creators across the region will contribute to creating that prosperity. I believe that central to a successful economy is a successful Belfast – ambitious, outward looking and attracting international capital, talent and tourists to the city. The focus in Britain on the future growth of cities outside London is a key part of the UK Government’s strategy in tackling disparity and urban deprivation – we need the same degree of focus here and create more linkages to major international markets. Northern Ireland’s record of poor economic productivity must be reversed – the drivers will come from delivering a significantly improved education and skills system aligned with our economic needs. And the business community needs to step up their efforts in this area too. We must also continue to invest in innovation, building on our increasing investment in this area and also ensuring we invest in our universities and colleges, ensuring they have sustainable funding. We must put Higher Education on a sound financial footing by taking the necessary, even if unwelcome, step to increase tuition fees to compensate for the constraints in public

The Executive’s commitment to a 12.5 per cent Corporation tax rate in 2018 is a key element to achieving a sustained economy. We must get behind Invest NI and Executive Ministers in helping market this opportunity internationally. David Gavaghan 26

funding which are supporting our universities and colleges. We also must ensure our infrastructure provides the necessary connectivity internally and internationally, while ensuring it can facilitate the industrial, commercial and residential investment we need, giving businesses the confidence to grow and invest. A major challenge is the need to increase our capital investment from its current levels of around £1billion per annum. We need a serious debate around the need and benefits of investing in our infrastructure and how this can be best funded, looking at a range of potential revenue-raising measures. 2016 is also likely to be the year when we face an EU referendum – that has major implications for Northern Ireland. We need considerably more debate and discussion around this. The majority of CBI members favour staying in a reformed Europe with a market of over 520 million consumers. While recognising the EU is not perfect the alternatives do not stack up. The economy must remain the top Executive priority, but with a greater strategic focus, fewer priorities and greater attention to delivery. Achieving our goals of a more balanced, sustainable and enterprise led economy will need all of us to work together. The prize is significant. I look forward to working with the full spectrum of key stakeholders to deliver the benefits and opportunities our young people deserve.


A new landscape brings new opportunities N orthern Ireland’s capital city continues to reap the benefits of having pumped over a billion pounds into its infrastructure during the last decade. The emergence of new attractions, hotels and flight routes has helped transform Belfast into a vibrant and happening city. Today it is making a name for itself on the world stage as a leading business tourism destination. A recent addition to its long list of deserved accolades is "trendiest" city for business travel in Europe, which saw the city beat off competition from Valencia in Spain and Reykjavik in Iceland. And the invaluable addition of Belfast Waterfront’s new 7,000m2 conference centre to the city landscape in May this year will bring even more new opportunities.

Flexibility Business tourism is big business for destinations. In 2015 the city enjoyed an outstanding 198 per cent increase in growth and its upward spiral is set to continue with a further increase of 28 per cent forecasted this year. Recognising the valuable contribution events make to the local economy Belfast City Council, Tourism Northern Ireland and European Regional Development Fund together invested £29.5m in the new Waterfront development to further enhance the city’s ability to accommodate conferences on a larger scale. Over 60 per cent of centres across the world are planning extensions to accommodate larger events, whilst at home the team at Belfast Waterfront are just months away from opening the doors to the city’s largest conference and exhibition facility. Doubling its event space to 7,000m2 has already attracted new events as well as facilitated the return of many, specifically, from associations which had previously outgrown the existing facilities. Lucy Davies, Association Manager, Association of Breast Surgery at The Royal College of Surgeons comments: “The Association of Breast Surgery is looking forward to holding its Conference and AGM in the new Waterfront facilities in 2017. The ABS Conference & AGM is held around the UK and the expanded facilities will enable the Association to use Belfast for the first time.” However having more event space isn’t the only critical factor in winning new business. Trends for 2016 reveal that flexibility is more important than ever. Venues must be versatile to accommodate creativity and boast technical resources that will bring live events to a worldwide audience. At the Waterfront, a major plus for event organisers will be the addition of two multi-

functional halls spanning over 2,500m2. Depending on the requirements, Hall 1 can be used as one large 1,805m2 area, or subdivided via retractable walls into four smaller spaces. This stylish space can also be transformed into a stunning gala venue for up to 1,000 dinner guests. And with a ceiling height of 9m, clients are sure to be dazzled by the spectacular set up, superb food and service that’s second to none. Alternatively, this multipurpose space can accommodate 2,000 theatre style. Likewise Hall 2 can also be divided into two separate spaces or used as one 700m2 exhibition and conference area. Mike Kimmons CB, Chief Executive Officer of British Orthopaedic Association, comments: “...Belfast Waterfront offers room flexibility that has been well thought out and caters exceptionally well for our Congress needs. The new space fully integrates with the existing features offering more choice and transforms the Waterfront into a top international Congress venue. We are looking forward to taking full advantage of the new development when we hold the BOA Annual Congress in Belfast in 2016.”

A better all round experience When it comes to the new venue there is no shortage of multipurpose space. The new development will be on a par in space terms with UK and European rivals, but it will also be on a par technically, offering the kind of flexible space and facilities that today’s event organisers demand.

Today delegates are ditching their laptops in favour of mobile devices, seeking digital content over paper handouts and are more reliant than ever on real-time data to effectively engage with their peers. Event organisers demand a sophisticated solution that will both engage and excite delegates – delivering a better all round experience. Belfast Waterfront’s intuitive design meets these changing needs. Located in the heart of one of the UK’s super connected cities, this stunning riverside venue will empower clients to reach and engage with a worldwide audience – bringing a world of knowledge to an event. Harnessing the power of new technologies will see Belfast Waterfront host many more live demonstrations and interactive exhibitions, allowing delegates to become active participants in events. Technology will not only bring a brand new dimension to traditional meetings or events but rich data analytics captured via mobile devices will fundamentally change how events are organised and make them outstanding and truly unique. The new Waterfront development will boast the flexibility and support services to wow up to 4,600 guests with a brand new event experience today and in the future. For more information contact the sales team at Belfast Waterfront on 028 90 33 4400 or email



What can we expect to see in recruitment & employment in 2016? by Tina McKenzie, Managing Director (Staffline Ireland) and Regional Director (Recruitment and Employment Confederation) permanent placements at the end of 2015, with this trend likely to continue into 2016. Employers are competing for the talent available at a higher pace than our local higher education institutions can keep up. The demand for suitably skilled and qualified IT staff is particularly of note this year. In 2014, demand was highest for Nursing/Medical/Care staff in the UK whilst demand for IT staff only ranked as fourth. In comparison this year we have seen a complete reversal – permanent placements

hroughout 2015, we have seen unemployment in Northern Ireland continue to drop, with November’s unemployment figures at 5.9 per cent, down from a peak of 8.1 per cent in March 2013. The REC/KPMG’s monthly Report on Jobs data also shows that jobs placements through recruitment agencies across the UK have now increased for 37 consecutive months. We are even ending 2015 on a high note, with permanent placements in November increasing at the fastest pace in seven months. This is obviously great news for the UK economy as a whole, and it presents exciting opportunities for job seekers as they find themselves choosing the best employer from a market that has shifted in their favour. The REC are also predicting further growth in 2016, with 80 per cent of surveyed employers in the UK planning to hire more staff over the next three months, according to the REC’s latest JobsOutlook report. However, this does pose some new challenges for local employers as this improving labour market has led to increased competition for talent. In line with placements increasing, candidate availability fell at sharp and accelerated rates in November according to the Report on Jobs. The labour market is tightening. As employers find it more difficult to fill the jobs that are available, the increased competition for staff has seen marked growth in pay for successful candidates in the last year. This demand for staff has also seen hourly pay rates for contract staff grow at the fastest pace in three months. While these pressures are likely to be felt across sectors, IT and Accountancy/Finance are the sectors with the strongest growth in



“For 2016 and beyond, Northern Ireland must work on using the information at our fingertips to help inform future generations of the opportunities available in the local market.” Tina McKenzie for medical staff was fourth whilst placements for IT staff took the top spot. It is no surprise then that among the key staff skills in short supply across the UK according to the Report on Jobs were skills in computing and finance, two areas of growth in Northern Ireland. Among IT skills in demand were automation, IT security and web development, all areas where jobs available outstrip available staff and in which employers locally compete to find the best talent. Staffline Ireland’s specialist professional recruitment agency, Diamond Recruitment, have sought to address this challenge head on – by identifying and working closely with Northern Ireland’s leading IT professionals year round, Diamond are able to access the best talent in Northern Ireland before the search is necessary. By building these relationships early, we are able to quickly match candidates with opportunities as they arise. This has led to us building the largest database of IT professionals in the region, giving us immediate access to talented and skilled candidates as soon as a vacancy is created.

As we move into 2016, Diamond Recruitment is preparing for the annual influx of job hunters. January is usually when we see an increase in candidates entering the market, hungry for their next opportunity. So, we will be registering new candidates to our database around the clock to ensure any vacancies we are given are matched to the right people with the right skills. While this influx of candidates in the New Year will help to reinvigorate the labour market with fresh talent, employers will still need to be well placed in order to entice the talented staff their businesses rely on. This year saw an increasingly tightening labour market, and while the New Year will help increase candidate availability, this offers no guarantees for the rest of 2016 and it is best to be prepared with a strategic recruitment plan that attracts the best people with the right skills. For 2016 and beyond, Northern Ireland must work on using the information at our fingertips to help inform future generations of the opportunities available in the local market. For those of us with children in third form, we know how difficult it is for young people to decide the best career path! Luckily, as recruiters we are able to see the ebbs and flows in the labour market based on the jobs we receive, and we have become increasingly adept at pre-empting future skills needs. Reports from bodies such as the REC and DETI’s Economic and Labour Market Statistics unit also give a glimpse into what skills will be critical for a growing economy in Northern Ireland. Jobs transform lives, which is why the recruitment industry is committed to helping more people develop awareness and clarity with regards to work opportunities in the market. For business leaders, familiarising ourselves with the information available will help us with our businesses looking ahead to 2016, but for long-term impact the recruitment and employment industry’s engagement with policy makers, employers and education experts to promote this knowledge will do much to benefit the Northern Ireland economy and build the best jobs market possible.

a Staffline Ireland company


Small business remains the backbone of Northern Ireland economy in 2016 New research from Ulster University infroms the FSB Northern Ireland Assembly Election Manifesto 2016 orthern Ireland has the highest concentration of SMEs in the UK, producing the highest contributions to turnover, employment and GVA in the private sector. Paramount to economic recovery and growth in the local economy, is the small business, micro-business and self-employed. Furthermore, with 80 per cent of local, small businesses, intending on growth, there are tangible, future returns to the Northern Ireland economy to be realised. In launching the FSB Northern Ireland Assembly Manifesto 2016, entitled Realising the Potential of Small Businesses, the recommendations advanced were directly based upon the calls of small businesses throughout Northern Ireland. At the foundation of the manifesto, was the recently published research report, commissioned by FSB Northern Ireland from the Ulster Business School, The Contribution of Small Businesses to Northern Ireland. One of the primary concerns of SMEs was the lack of political stability in Northern Ireland that directly impacted upon economic stability. With the agreement of A Fresh Start: The Stormont Agreement and Implementation Plan incorporating confirmation of a date and rate for corporation tax of 12.5 per cent from April 2018, there has been positive developments which will enable increased business confidence. FSB Northern Ireland has been at the forefront of campaigning for the devolution of corporation tax, to encourage inward investment and enable indigenous businesses to reinvest and grow. fficial UK Government figures have revealed that with the lowering of the rate from the UK figure of 20 per cent, 34,000 businesses in Northern Ireland will directly benefit, including 26,000 small businesses. The decision to lower the corporation tax rate demonstrates that the Northern Ireland Executive has accepted that it is a means of boosting growth. However, FSB Northern Ireland is concerned that the delay of the implementation until 2018 does challenge opportunities for growth in the next two and a half years. The Economic Policy Centre (EPC) at Ulster Business School has projected that 22,000 net jobs will be created between 2014 and 2018


in Northern Ireland. Of this figure, 19,500 will be within SMEs. With unemployment figures in Northern Ireland consistently topping the UK average, there is a need for the business environment for SMEs to be as conducive to job creation in Northern Ireland as it is in the rest of the UK. Employment costs, the threat of legal disputes and challenges and onerous regulations all are factors in deterring SMEs from taking on employees, consequently deterring business growth. Unlike larger companies, 95 per cent of small businesses state that they will not leave their local area, thus providing stable, longterm employment and investment in a particular area. This is particularly evident following the devastating losses resulting from relocation by JTI Gallahers followed by the closure of the Michelin factory, both in Ballymena. However, over a third of small businesses find employment costs and regulations to be a major barrier to their growth. Support is required through reducing the amount of employment regulations and paperwork required from employers. More concerning, is the fact that those small businesses that are ready to take on staff, are not being able to find the appropriately skilled candidates that are required. The Contribution of Small Businesses to Northern Ireland research found that 61 per cent of SME employers in Northern Ireland are not confident that they will find the candidate with the right skills for the job that is being advertised. Forty six per cent of respondents stated that they feel that this is due to education provision in Northern Ireland not preparing young people to a sufficient standard for employment.

The development of education and skills is integral to establishing the Northern Ireland economy. Last year, there were a large number of cuts made to further and higher education places and there remain continued budgetary pressures. FSB urges the Northern Ireland Executive to protect investment in further and higher education and apprenticeship schemes, as well as increasing interest in practical, vocational education and STEM topics. In determining the skills that are required, pathway options should be developed with SME guidance so that skills that will ensure long-term employability and career success are captured. In terms of the future, there is a need to capture the potential, talent and creativity evident within Northern Ireland, by encouraging new start-up businesses. Since 2009, Northern Ireland has persistently been below the UK average in terms of the net change in the number of business registrations, with consecutive annual decline in the total number of businesses that are registered. This is all the more concerning given that in 2005, Northern Ireland had the highest startup rate in the UK. To redress this situation while encouraging the wealth of local talent and creativity, business skills and alternative routes to employment should be focussed on in both curriculums and career guidance at secondary level education.



Count energy into your budget Have you set your budgets yet for 2016? Have you factored in your energy? ````````````````````` asks Stewart Curtis of The Energy Desk (TED)

hilst a lot of companies have set their budgets and departments are now haggling over, it may be worthwhile looking at your Energy Costs and budget and look to way reduce. Consumption and costs. It is worth noting that recently I spoke with a group of Finance Directors and my question “ What is the third largest expense in your company and the one you know least how to deal with “ Yes it was Energy. Right now is the best time to contact an industry specialist who can come into your business and work with you to understand your current energy position and how to enhance this through reduction of consumption and reduce cost of bills. A energy management company not a brokerage company will understand your needs and work with you put your company in the best position in the market. At TED we would look at the whole picture as a Full End to End Energy Management Company and produce solutions to would best fit your business? A lot of companies would have gone through this for ESOS if you have more than 250 employees or a turnover more than £40Mil but probably not acted on the saving opportunities found, as compliance was just to be in ESOS. Take the advice it was



save costs and reduce your energy and more to the point put your business in front of the market as the next phase will be what have you done to act on ESOS solutions and if not completed fines will be issued as the extension time has passed!!! If you are the size of ESOS and nor registered please contact The Energy Desk but be prepared you may be fined. Solutions to energy budgets will be different for every company but can be simple from: • New Procurement • Change to LED • Biomass • CHPs • Live Energy Management System – with automated bill validation and full bureau of reporting suites These are just a few ways that you can budget for your energy and save costs in the

company and these budgets can be set for periods of years and managed by your energy management team. As an energy management company we would look at all of the above and for multi site operations and manufactures we would also look to drill down on intensive user programs to save more on energy cost, DSU to supply back to the grid, and Thermal Reaction waste to energy, the last to options would not only save money and costs but would earn your company a revenue that can be factored into the budgets and bottom line.

A prosperous New Year Businesses have plenty of reasons to be optimistic about 2016, provided they have a strategy for addressing trading risk, explains Coface’s Roslyn Keogh. onfirmation of a cut in corporation tax from 2018 was an early Christmas present for businesses in Northern Ireland. Not only will the new rate of 12.5 per cent help attract foreign investment, it should mean that companies have more funds to invest in growth and development. The director of the CBI in Northern Ireland recently reflected that “there is a great deal more to do to create a sustainable and balanced economy focused on enterprise, investment, innovation and exports”1. According to one study2, there are currently 67,000 enterprises in Northern Ireland, 12 per cent higher than in 2014 but the number achieving high growth has fallen. And although Northern Ireland saw an increase in exports in the year to September 2015 this only represents two per cent of the total3. Alongside effective political leadership and Government investment, Northern Ireland’s economic prosperity now depends on businesses achieving sustainable growth. This is often a tricky balancing act because the need for companies to offer credit exposes them to the risk of a bad debt. However, the most successful businesses have a strategy to monitor their exposure and mitigate potential losses. As a credit insurer, Coface regularly evaluates trading risk on behalf of our customers. These are some of the risks to take into account in 2016:


Company risks Company insolvencies have fallen in Northern Ireland4 but it is dangerous to assume that you are safe from the threat of bad debt, even if you are on good terms with your customers. Every failed company leaves suppliers in the lurch and reeling from a potentially fatal blow to their cash flow. And in Coface’s experience, businesses are at particular risk of bad debt during an economic recovery when they can succumb to the temptation to overtrade and make up for lost time. Rather than take chances, offering credit terms should always be an informed decision based on an objective assessment of a customer’s financial health and trading behaviour. It is also essential to monitor account customers so that you can act on a sudden change in their credit status before it is too late. Companies with a credit insurance policy should find it easier to keep track of credit risk and focus on their most financially healthy customers, while being protected from the impact of a bad debt.

Sector­specific risks While individual companies can still be profitable trading partners, it pays to take account of the overall risk profile of a customer’s business sector which can be affected by factors such as global demand and commodity prices. Coface’s reports on sector non-payment risk provide a useful insight and are freely available from the economic studies section of our website (­studies). For example our latest report5 highlights the improving picture in information technology, an expanding sector in Northern Ireland. Sector risk is assessed as moderate in Western Europe where demand has been buoyed by private consumption of online streaming and cloud services. By contrast the automotive, construction, energy and metals sectors continue to cause concern.

Country risks It also makes sense for exporters to be aware of the trading risk in traditional and emerging markets. Coface’s country risk assessments (From A1 to D) indicate the chances of payment default based on a range of macro-economic data (again, these are freely available on our site). Our current assessments for Northern Ireland’s top five trading partners are: Republic of Ireland – A3 (satisfactory) USA – A1 (very low risk) Canada – A1, but negative watchlisted since June 2015 Germany – A1 France – A3

Global risks In his Autumn Statement last November, the Chancellor announced that expectations for world growth and world trade have been revised down6. Among the foremost global threats to trade are the escalating conflict in the Middle East; tensions between NATO members and Russia over Ukraine and the Syria crisis, while terrorism and cybercrime have become a real and present danger for ordinary citizens and businesses. While businesses cannot influence global

events, it is important to be aware of developments and take steps to minimise their potential impact. For example, Coface’s single risk cover protects companies from losses arising from political upheavals overseas, including conflict or acts of terror. Both geopolitical risk and cyber security will be on the agenda at Coface’s Country Risk Conference London, in June 2016. To register your interest, email

Trading safely Despite the risks outlined above, there is reason to be optimistic about 2016 following the ‘fresh start’ deal. After such prolonged political stalemate, Northern Ireland’s businesses have an opportunity to shine. Coface is ready to help them trade safely and grow. For more information about Coface in Northern Ireland, contact Roslyn Keogh, Country Manager - Ireland on +353 1230 4669

References 1 Punching above our weight, CBI Northern Ireland, October 2015 2 The Barclays and BGF Entrepreneurs Index Volume 7, November 2015 eneurs-index.html 3 Regional Trade Statistics Third 2015, HMRC, 3 December 2015 t.aspx 4 Insolvency Statistics – July to September 2015, The Insolvency Service, 29 October 2015 s/attachment_data/file/471934/Q3_2015_statistics _release_-_web.pdf 5 Panorama: Sector barometer, Coface, October 2015 n-the-world-October-2015 6 Spending Review and Autumn Statement 2015, HM Treasury, 25 November 2015 ement-2015-speech


Planning is on the move in 2016 Richard Bowman, Strategic Planning reviews the result of moving the planning process from central to local government and what developments 2016 might bring. his is the third year that I have written a planning forecast for the Economic Outlook and it’s always interesting to look back over the previous year and see if things panned out as predicted. We were looking forward to the move of planning powers to the Councils this time last year and eight months on we are all starting to get used to the new regime which in many cases is still suffering from teething problems. The legacy left by Department of the Environment of under-resourced planning teams is going to have to be addressed by the Councils if they are to deliver the more efficient, fit for purpose planning system which the new legislation promised, especially since many are hoping to produce the first part of their Local Development Plans during 2016. The Strategic Planning Policy Statement was finally published in September 2015 and had an immediate effect by throwing a number of retail applications and appeals into disarray. The new policy document introduces a few refinements from the old PPSs which present potential opportunities, such as a slight relaxation on the redevelopment of zoned industrial land for alternative uses. The outcome of the DUP challenge on BMAP is still unknown and this is having an unsettling effect on residential development. It’s impossible to predict how the courts will deal with this, but from an economic perspective, a decision which results in a quashing of the plan will have a significant negative effect on investment in residential development in the greater Belfast area, something that we can all do without. The Environment Minister finally ended the debate as to the need for a new £240 million EfW plant at Hightown with the refusal of planning permission, which ARC21 is planning to appeal. In a similar vein, the Omagh Minerals underground proposal was approved in July 2015, but local objectors have predictably sought leave for judicial review. Meanwhile Dalradian are developing their plans for a not dissimilar proposal near Gortin in County Tyrone, submission of which is expected in early 2016. In general, the optimism around the economy in 2014, waned slightly in early part of 2015, partly due to likely cooling off following a rally of activity in the previous year, but more probably due to the impasse regarding the budget and other matters at Stormont. The latter part of 2015 has certainly been busier for us, not least because of the new requirement to carry out public consultation for major planning applications



kicked in on 1st July resulting in a few key pieces of work. Student housing proposals have dominated the planning scene in Belfast over the past two to three years, but there is now the perception that there is a potential oversupply, yet there is still interest from a number of providers and 2016 could see a few more proposals around the city centre. If student housing is on its way out (in planning terms), then office proposals are certainly on their way in, with developers such as Stargime, Kilmona and McAleer & Rushe responding to the demand with a planned 880,000sqft of grade A all of which should be approved in 2016. The main residential developers are still focusing on sites within a 20 mile radius of Belfast, although, Belfast City Centre is still bereft of any significant residential development. Increased popularity of the city centre for other land uses will eventually create an environment which will attract more permanent city centre dwellers and it is highly likely that we will see residential being part of larger masterplan type schemes over the next year or two. The talk of a formalised developer contributions policy relating to residential developments has not raised its head again during 2015, but it is doubtful that we will get through 2016 without such policy being put in place. Developer contributions for city centre developments are starting to become the norm, with the recent approval of the All State project at Maysfield netting around £100k for a range of projects which will benefit the local community. The renewables sector saw many of us through the worst of the recession. However with re-election in May, the Conservatives brought forward the closure of the ROCs scheme from March 2017 to March 2016. This has come like a bolt out of the blue for the wind industry which has led to a legal challenge against DETI. The industry is not dead yet but as far as major advancements and expansion of this sector is concerned, that is a thing of the past. A number of new players have come into the Northern Ireland retail market in 2015 and are likely to be making their presence felt during 2016. These include retailer/ baker Greggs who have plans for up to 50 stores throughout Northern Ireland and they already have 10 sites identified in Belfast. Oak Furniture Land is soon to open their first store in Shane Retail Park and while not a new entrant, Sports Direct is making a big play about plans for more stores around Northern Ireland.

Public spending on development projects all but ceased during 2015 with a number of key projects, such as Magilligan Prison redevelopment being suspended pending the outcome of debates on Welfare Reform. Now that there appears to be a resolution of sorts to that, I would expect to see Magilligan and other similar projects being reenergised during 2016. Despite some unwelcome press during the summer, Cerberus has been doing its part in reintroducing some liquidity to the property market with the sales of a number of portfolios of land and buildings which have been snapped up by some of Northern Ireland key property developers and hopefully in due course translated into projects. Overall, optimism is increasing and while 2015 was not exactly a bumper year, the deals that have been done over the past twelve months and the decisions taken on public sector spending, will hopefully pave the way for a more prosperous year ahead.


Social Media for business in 2016 “If you’re not using mobile marketing to attract new customers to your business, don’t worry – your competitors are already using it and are getting those customers instead, says Bill McCartney, Bill McCartney Social Media as he looks forward to the challenges and opportunities of 2016 ne Billion people logged onto Facebook in just one day a few weeks ago. That is one in seven people on the planet. Your businesses can significantly benefit from tapping into this huge phenomenon social media.


“We don’t have a choice on whether we do social media, the question is how well we do it” – Erik Qualman Social media challenges you to think differently. You may be still paralysed by focusing more on the risks than the opportunities social media offers your business. Quality training through an accredited social media course can help show you and your employees how to limit the risks and enhance your opportunities.

Challenges Privacy is a concern and you may not be aware of the different privacy settings available to you across a range of social media platforms. People for example object to LinkedIn members viewing their profile anonymously. However they leave their public LinkedIn profile fully viewable by search engines. Security is often overlooked. Double sign on using a password and a unique pin sent to your mobile helps reduce the chance of being hacked. Correctly set page roles as in your Facebook business page are essential. Negative comments where your customer satisfaction is clearly visible and not totally within your concern is a challenge. “Social media doesn’t create negativity, it uncovers it” – Jay Baer Remember whether you have a social media presence or not people will still discuss your products and services online. It’s better to be aware of customer comments than hide your head in the sand.

New Opportunities Social Selling is in essence when people buy from people. It is a commonly used phrase that has stood the test of time. LinkedIn with over 400 million members and the world’s largest online network is made for social selling. “The richest people in the world look for and build networks, everyone else looks for work”­ Robert Kiyosaki, author of Rich Dad Poor Dad

LinkedIn allows social selling at scale with a global reach at the touch of your mobile smartphone or tablet. It’s important you value and listen to people, stop broadcasting and engage in conversations. It builds trusted relationships to grow sales and buy from people you know, like and trust. Mobile Marketing has opened the world of social media to a huge Global audience and potential customers. It is part of our everyday lives. When you leave the house you now take a smart phone, car keys and money. “If you’re not using mobile marketing to attract new customers to your business, don’t worry – your competitors are already using it and are getting those customers instead.” Jamie Turner Periscope uses your mobile to provide live interactivity. Its co founder Kayvon Beykpour favourite Periscope broadcast is Rodger Federer who started a Periscope broadcast walking onto court at Wimbledon this year. Roger Federer was able to interact live with his audience. That live interaction according to Kayvon Beykpour is what makes Periscope so compelling. Mobile Platforms Instagram the photo and video sharing app and SnapChat real time picture chatting are growing in importance. They should be on your radar. Mobile Designer Apps like Word Swag are incredible simple and effective ways to quickly design promotional material. Video Advertising using Facebook allows you to tell a story in your Facebook advert.

They are excellent for brand awareness, product lunches and customer stories. The Facebook advertising platform is easy to use and adverts can be laser targeted. “I think video advertising is a hugely compelling medium” ­ Susan Wojcicki Facebook enables you to build unique custom audiences for you to advertise too. These could be customers on your email list, or who have visited your website or activity in your app. Facebook adverts offer incredible value for money with a huge targeted reach.

Training I am delighted to be delivering fully accredited Social Media courses in 2016. The assessment process to accreditation is very thorough and demanding as is to be expected from an accreditation body. We value your time and work to ensure our courses are of the highest standards. They will be delivered in partnership with Business First and the International Academy of Digital Marketing. Your buyers are using social media to find, evaluate, compare and decide their best buys. Our training will help you reach your target audience, grow sales and leave your competitors behind. Are you and your employees ready to invest in the skills necessary to succeed on social media?



What are the challenges facing Northern Ireland’s CIOs in 2016? At eir Business NI’s most recent CIO Club in Belfast, there was little disagreement on the challenges that 2016 will bring for Northern Ireland’s CIOs and where their role is headed. No matter the industry, CIOs share the same concerns and challenges, but they are at different points in their journey on finding the best way to tackle them. Chair for the event, Andy O’Kelly, Chief Architect at eir Business, outlines what’s preoccupying Northern Ireland’s CIOs. n November, eir Business NI hosted a dinner with some of Northern Ireland’s top CIOs. The discussions centred around the key challenges for 2016 and Northern Ireland’s readiness to tackle them. While the CIOs around the table represented different verticals, each and every one shared a common challenge: how to better align IT with the business.


Embrace IT as an enabler and not just a caretaker Whilst some companies across Northern Ireland have shifted budgetary weight & resource from traditional ‘lights on’ activity to transformation, most have not broken free from the day-to-day demands on their IT department. Most companies are struggling to get to 40 per cent transformation, and in the worst case the figure was lower than 20 per cent. In this particular case, the lack of focus on transformation has led to the bulk of work being centred on cost-reduction measures, and the profile of IT being visible only in the context of service failures. Industry analysts and commentators are clear: in the 21st century every company is an information technology company. The role of technology has never been more important, yet, according to a survey conducted by BPI Network, there is a clear disconnect across organisations between the recognised need to adopt new technologies and actually achieving that goal. The survey highlighted the top five obstacles: gaining consensus and support for new technology investments 44 per cent, determining needs and optimal solution available 41 per cent, minimising information security risk, vulnerability and threats 34 per cent, successfully implementing and gaining organisational adoption 31 per cent, and ageing IT infrastructures that need updating and modernisation 28 per cent.

Get to know your CIO If CIOs are to devote time to driving that business change they need to avoid getting bogged down in their daily responsibilities running corporate IT. This is the challenge faced by most. Shifting focus and budget to more impactful innovation was seen as a primary responsibility of the CIO role: selling - and delivering - the value of IT to the CEO and senior management team peers and building


support for change and investment. This clearly makes the CIO role challenging, but also personally satisfying and rewarding. In many organisations, CIOs don’t report directly to the CEO. According to Jacob Morgan, author of the book Future of Work: Attract New Talent, Build Better Leaders, and Create a Competitive Organization, IT gains much better visibility into the key imperatives for the company with a CIO who reports to the CEO. These conversations between IT and business aren’t happening nearly enough, according to Morgan, who suggests that a CIO who reports to the CEO will give the business stakeholders a greater opportunity to learn about what’s happening within IT. A typical CIO and their IT team can add value to a business in many ways, including: enhancing business processes, developing software to aid customer acquisition and retention, and identifying or developing applications that drive efficiencies in functions like finance or sales. But to do this effectively they need to be free from day to day ‘keeping the lights on’ tasks like ensuring the organisation’s infrastructure is operating at peak efficiency.

So he made the decision to tackle the historically problematic network first, moving to a managed service that dramatically improved the quality of overall IT service delivery. As the consumerisation of IT, the rise of mobile, the automation of processes through machine-to-machine communication and the shift to the cloud become mainstream, whole industries are being transformed. In the middle of this technological revolution sits the network, the main super highway on which millions of terabytes of data from billions of devices flow. At eir Business NI we’ve seen some of Northern Ireland’s most successful indigenous enterprises realise the value in outsourcing their network; handing the management of this utility to experts who can make sure it runs at peak performance. By taking this step, they’ve been able to return to the high-value tasks of using technological developments to achieve their business’ strategic goals. Not only that, they are confident that their network is being monitored 24/7 by experts whose job it is to make sure it is running at peak performance, at all times.

Can your network handle the pressure?

Are you in the cloud yet?

The company with the highest ratio of transformation projects compared to ‘lights on’ spend observed that the network is a foundation layer for any IT delivery. If that layer is unreliable or restrictive, all services depending on it are impacted.

While cloud has become a ubiquitous topic and is impacting the role of the CIO, it is just a method of delivery, not an end in itself. For the CIOs attending our event there was some frustration with the disjoint between marketing messages and effective and practical solutions to business problems,

Each business solution needs to be considered on its own merits, not in any dogmatic way, and in the short to medium term a hybrid of in-house and public cloud looks the most advantageous and effective approach. Andy O’Kelly represented at its worst by sales cold callers asking the question ‘Are you in the cloud yet?’, with little or no consideration of what such a question can really mean. Each business solution needs to be considered on its own merits, not in any dogmatic way, and in the short to medium term a hybrid of in-house and public cloud looks the most advantageous and effective approach. Before jumping headlong into the cloud, we would caution organisations to understand why they are considering a move to the cloud. Investigate which applications or processes could be migrated to the cloud, and the benefits that would deliver. Are you thinking about adopting a remote working policy? Do you want to reduce your hardware costs? Will your legacy applications even run in a cloud environment? Every business is different, and will have different requirements and reasons for making the move to the cloud. At eir Business NI, we take a tailored approach, which ensures we are designing a solution that meets the specific needs of our customers, rather than implementing a ‘onesize-fits-all’ solution. At a macro-level, while there has been a deficit in the availability of high quality data centre services in Northern Ireland, this market deficit has had little or no impact on IT services in the private or public sector. Many customers have worked around the issue by retaining in-house data centre rooms for their virtualised server farms, as well as leveraging cloud. But with the availability of high quality data centre services across the border, CIO’s in Northern Ireland should not feel limited in options. At eir Business NI, we have connected a number of Northern Ireland businesses to our state-of-the art ISO27001 data centre in Dublin. We ensure highly resilient, scalable network connectivity to the data centre across an all-Island IP Virtual Private Network. Coupled with our on-premise data centre capabilities, we are able to develop and deliver Hybrid solutions which combine the benefits of Cloud with the surety of premisebased data centres where needed.

Challenge your staff to keep them interested There was also consensus that foreign investment and State support is impacting on

availability and cost of IT and software skills, pulling candidates away from indigenous business. Retaining expert staff interest and skill-level is difficult in expert areas – challenges and projects are key to keeping the best in best condition. All agreed that this made managed services a no-brainer in many critical areas, including networking. By outsourcing fundamental, ‘keeping the lights on’ tasks to third party experts, organisations can free up IT staff to work on projects that will make a real difference to business strategy. A survey by of IT recruiters and executives showed that, along with flexible working hours, IT staff were motivated by being included in decision making, provided a certain degree of independence, offered training, and given opportunities to work with new technologies. Hiring top tech talent to simply monitor and maintain critical IT infrastructure will likely result in unmotivated employees and an increase in staff turnover. The role of the CIO is no doubt becoming

more challenging. A lot of the sentiment is endorsed in Gartner’s 2016 CIO Agenda survey about what they enjoy most and least about their role. CIOs are excited by the opportunity and the imperative to lead and drive change; finding how to manage this within their current constraints is what keeps them awake. Complexity is still a challenge, finding a way to reduce it is the key. If you’d like to discuss any of these areas in more detail, please contact our sales director Matt McCloskey We’re keen to discuss how we can help your business reduce complexity and meet the challenges that lie ahead. or



Year ahead is one for recovery for commercial property by Brian Lavery, Managing Director, CBRE Northern Ireland

015 was another busy year for the commercial property market in Northern Ireland following a particularly strong performance in 2014. As is usually the case in Northern Ireland, the largest proportion of activity in most sectors was recorded in the second half of the year. As a result of a shortage of Grade A accommodation, take-up in the office sector in Belfast was slightly down on the previous year, reaching almost 27,881m2 (300,000 sq. ft.) during 2015. Much of this activity occurred in the second half of the year with several transactions completed just before year-end. There were encouraging signs with some speculative development of office accommodation commencing in the last 12 months. Planning powers were also transferred to local councils, hopefully speeding up the process and bringing a more commercial focus to decisions. Last year also saw some increased appetite from retail occupiers with this activity particularly evident in Belfast and larger towns across the region, where we saw several new entrants commence trading in Northern Ireland. The rates revaluation, which took place last April, benefitted many retailers across Northern Ireland leading to significantly reduced rates bills in a number of instances. Take-up in the industrial sector was compromised by a lack of modern buildings in prime locations, which in turn saw prime industrial rents rising for the first time in several years. Following a very strong year in 2014, there was continued activity in the investment sector of the market last year with



transactional activity reaching approximately £400 million. Investors were particularly encouraged by the relative affordability of real estate in Northern Ireland compared with regional UK cities. The bulk of investment activity in the region during the year emanated from private equity buyers and institutional investors with the vast majority of transactions comprising shopping centres and retail parks. Availability of debt funding was more readily available over the last 12 months which is encouraging. However, funding for speculative development remained elusive and is likely to do so for some time yet other than where prelettings are secured. Tourist activity increased year-on-year, which in turn benefitted the hotel & leisure sector of the economy leading to an improvement in hotel performance figures across Northern Ireland. There was a notable improvement in transactional activity in this sector. Towards the end of the year, the Stormont Assembly announced details of the ‘Fresh Start’ programme, which bodes well for continued activity in the commercial property sector over the next couple of years.

Outlook 2016 2016 will see the commercial property market in Northern Ireland moving to the next stage of recovery with an escalation in development activity becoming increasingly evident, most notably in the office, hotels and student accommodation sectors in Belfast. The office sector is progressing more quickly and we expect to see an increase in the number of office projects entering the planning process during 2016. A small volume of new office stock is to be delivered this year but many larger schemes won’t be completed until 2017 at the earliest. This will continue to put upward pressure on rental values in this sector until there is a meaningful improvement in supply, as a result we expect to see prime office rents in Belfast increasing from £16 per sq. ft. £18 per sq. ft. over the course of the next 12 months. The biggest challenge in the retail sector

this year will be securing stores for retailers in many of the most highly-sought-after schemes and high streets, most of which are close to, or at, full occupancy. We therefore expect to see some further growth in retail rents in prime shopping centres and high streets this year and expect to see more lease re-gears in the retail sector of the economy. We also expect to see some further upward pressure on prime industrial rents in 2016 to approximately £4.50 per sq. ft. However, rents will not rise to the point where speculative development is viable and so aside from one speculative scheme we are not expecting to see new industrial accommodation emerging other than specific expansion and ‘design and build’ projects. We expect to see strong volumes of activity in the investment sector again in 2016. As deleveraging efforts wind down, it is inevitable that a greater proportion of transactional activity will emanate from secondary trading, as private equity firms continue to implement their exit strategies and many of the assets and portfolios purchased over the last number of years are re-traded or re-financed. Investors will now also broaden their focus to maximise income generation from existing assets and concentrate on potential development opportunities. Prime yields are for the most part expected to remain stable this year. Tourist numbers are expected to reach two million visitors during 2016, which will bring benefits for the hotel and leisure sector of the market and encourage more hotel operators and investors to consider opportunities in the Northern Ireland market. There is also a need for caution as there is potential for oversupply if all hotel schemes in the planning process materialise; this is also a concern in the student accommodation sector. The announcement that the Northern Ireland Executive intend to lower the rate of corporation tax in Northern Ireland to 12.5 per cent in April 2018, is hugely significant. The change to corporation tax has the potential to be a game changer for the Northern Ireland economy and in turn its property market. We expect to see some further improvement in the availability of debt funding over the course of the next 12 months both from local banks and new entrants to that sector.

Improve wellbeing and save money

overnment-led salary sacrifice schemes have for years allowed companies nation-wide to contribute what they normally pay in tax towards pensions, childcare vouchers, or bicycles to use to cycle to work. Thanks to a government-led initiative for all UK businesses, both employers and employees can also benefit from this tax benefit scheme that allows individuals to invest in their health and wellbeing. This ability to simultaneously improve wellbeing and save money is exactly what Randox Health is delivering through their Workplace Wellbeing programme. By taking what you would usually pay as tax and investing it in your health instead, employees can save up to 62 per cent on their income tax and National Insurance Contributions and employers can save 13.8 per cent on their National Insurance Contributions. Jason Webster Business Manager of Randox Health, says the significance of the Randox Health Workplace Wellbeing initiative is that by taking a simple blood test, employees not only benefit financially, but also gain personal insight to prevent ill health and disease at a stage when corrective action can be taken. “The health benefits of the Workplace Wellbeing scheme are endless. Many of us pay money into an ‘insurance pot’ which can take care of us if we fall ill in the future. But at Randox Health we believe in going one step further – actually preventing illness before it happens.” The payment plan for the scheme operates


on a monthly basis, which means that the cost is spread over 12 months. No need for cash or card transactions, monthly payments come out at source – no remuneration required, effectively saving up to 62 per cent of the cost of a Randox Health preventative programme. “The Randox Health Workplace Wellbeing Programme is the most advanced diagnostic service in the world. Both employers and employees can have access to a premium healthcare service at a fraction of the cost, and as a completely tax-free initiative at no extra cost to the business. It makes great business sense to get on board with such a scheme. In addition to this, taking care of the health and wellbeing of your employees will reduce absenteeism, costs and improve productivity making this a win-win programme,” says Jason. The scheme is managed entirely by Randox Health who organises a 100% confidential indepth health check. A simple blood test, which can take place within the workplace, can comprehensively identify the health and function of your organs, cancer surveillance, nutritional health, sexual health and fertility, amongst a wide range of 150+ disease indicators. This is followed up with a scientific report, personalised health plan, consultation with a GP and ongoing retesting for each employee. The Randox Health team can provide a bespoke service tailored specifically to your business requirements at no extra cost, with no obligation for employees to sign up. Those who do choose to benefit from the Randox Health services will also have access to a

network of experienced specialists who promise to deliver a unique service at the best possible price. “We are also delighted to offer family members of corporates 10 per cent savings through the Randox Health Workplace Wellbeing, meaning that you, your colleagues and your family, can all benefit from a personalised health screen tailored to either male or female health,” says Jason. This holistic style of testing ensures that the patient understands their full body health in great detail in order to prevent as many problems as possible in the future. This has added benefits for your private medical cover – Randox Health patients can optimise their health insurance by understanding their personal health profile and knowing what action to take now to prevent ill health in the future. The Randox Health Workplace Wellbeing programme can save you from potential illness and disease in the future. Empower your employees to find out how healthy they are and how they can continually improve their wellbeing. Don’t leave the health of your workforce to chance. Let Randox Health Workplace Wellbeing take control of your future business health. For more information contact the team at Randox Health now. Tel: 0800 2545 130 Email: Website:



Manufacturing starts the year on the backfoot - but pledges to fight back asks Stephen Kelly, chief executive, Manufacturing Northern Ireland t was a difficult end to 2015 for our manufacturing base. Job losses in a number of businesses and the impending closure of the Michelin factory, calling time on almost 50 years of production locally, and a bitter blow for the 860 skilled, productive and committed workers in their Broughshane plant. As we enter into 2016, we’ll sadly see the planned closure of JTI Gallahers starting with the first batch of workers leaving to be followed by full closure planned for May. A pretty depressing start to the New Year for the economy but particularly for those families dependent on a manufacturing wage. What all this does is remind us how brittle manufacturing remains and confirms the need for a strategy. A cross cutting, reported on by a Minister, plan which sets out a route and commits to actions which will attract, sustain and grow industry.


But, why is that important? Despite high profile losses, manufacturing has sales approaching £19b, represents 24 per cent of non-financial GVA and with 83,000 people employed, the third largest employment sector with 12 per cent of jobs. These are in constituencies across Northern Ireland, particularly outside of Belfast. 16 per cent of jobs are in manufacturing in the new Armagh, Banbridge and Craigavon Council, 21 per cent in Mid and East Antrim and in Mid Ulster an incredible 28 per cent of jobs. Well paid jobs, averaging over £500 per week, in communities where people want to work, set up home and contribute to their local community. The economic multiplier is huge with these businesses and jobs supporting retail, leisure, professional and service jobs. These are in largely home-grown businesses. Great products, made by great people in great companies. But we can’t rely on home-grown loyalty. We owe it to them to ensure the conditions are great for them to do business. If we have the right conditions for them, then we have the right conditions for multi-national, Foreign Direct Investmen manufacturers too. Invest NI and DEL do a good job in supporting investment in training and R&D, supporting exporting capability and resource efficiency. But a manufacturing strategy, at the heart of a new Programme for Government, will ensure every corner of government will commit to actions to support and grow of manufacturing base. The commitment to a “date and rate” for


the introduction of a lower rate of Corporation Tax will give InvestNI a new sharp marketing tool but the opportunity must be seen as having wider significance. Many of our FDI manufacturers are cost rather than profit centres. The Corporation Tax opportunity allows us to begin discussions to bring greater investment, sales to new territories and support services here. For home grown businesses, it will release capital to invest skills, R&D and machinery – the latter being critical as where the machinery is located, the jobs are sustained for the medium to long term. But, our own Corporation Tax rate is not enough. Our Programme for Government needs to commit to investment in skills and infrastructure. DEL’s recently released Skills Barometer signals the need for 14,000 more people in manufacturing by 2025. We need to begin investing now in order for these jobs to be filled. And, key roads infrastructure projects – particularly the A6, York Street and the A5 needs a committed and funded project timeline.

We also need to finally deal with the perpetual problem of power prices “Our energy bill in Northern Ireland last year was £9m – it has been an Achilles heel for us”. These words from Wayne Culbertson, CEO Michelin UK should be final warning shot for policymakers, regulators and indeed the energy industry itself. The most recent price comparison report from the Utility Regulator was depressing reading. Almost all categories of business consumers are now enduring the 2nd or 3rd most expensive power bills in Europe. 24,000 businesses, clearly not all manufacturers, including the critical SME sector should not be asked to suffer these prices whilst the energy industry is guaranteed huge profit. A commitment that ALL customers – domestic, small and large energy users – should enjoy prices competitive within Europe will direct actions by those departments, the Regulator and how the redesigned all-island generation market will work. Energy may seem complicated but we can be reassured that ALL the levers needs to ensure competitive prices are within the gift of the Department (policy costs and levies) and the Regulator (Price Controls and market design). Manufacturers across Northern Ireland have been reassured by the commitment of,

then, Finance minister Arlene Foster to ensure the continuation of the 30 per cent cap on industrial rates as part of the Review of Business Rates. Given the large spaces required, much of which can’t be commercialised, manufacturers already pay the second largest amount per business. Uncertainty of the long-term commitment had led to holding back plans for expansion. Finally, whilst it may appear unpopular, our employment laws are out of step resulting in uncertainty and a reluctance to take on permanent employees. The Living Wage, pensions and the new Apprenticeship Levy are increasing costs, but unlike GB, balance is not being provided through a contemporary and relevant employment law regime. Manufacturing is big and important but particularly sensitive to costs. We can’t do anything about currencies, commodity prices nor global demand but it is within our gift to deal with rates, energy and the labour environment. Manufacturing Northern Ireland members will not be found wanting in creating wealth and work, filling the 14,000 spaces forecasted. They just need the Executive and its agencies to create the conditions for them to thrive.


Political and Economic Outlook 2016 by Chris Brown, director, MCE Public Relations lections will take place in both Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland this year, both predicted to be within months of each other. Locally this will mean a political business hiatus for up to 6-8 weeks during purdah and also an extended period of organisation after the election when parties pick departments and ministers are set. We also have to contend with the fact that the number of the government departments here will be reduced to nine after the election. Later in the year we are going to see the formation of the likes of the Department for the Economy, the Department for Infrastructure and the Department for Communities which will assume the roles of previous departments and amalgamate the functions of others.


Northern Ireland Investment fund The minister for Finance, Arlene Foster MLA, has said that significant progress has been made towards establishing a Northern Ireland Investment Fund. A feasibility study by Deloitte has now concluded and further market testing has been carried out to determine the potential structure and scope of the Fund. However, a significant amount of technically complex work remains before the Fund can become operational and DFP officials continue to engage with the European Investment Bank. The outstanding work includes, amongst other things, development of a Fund Investment Strategy, determination of the appropriate governance structure, development of the fund manager procurement strategy and completion of the fund manager procurement process.

Defamation Law The Finance minister has also indicated that an independent review is being carried out on Northern Ireland defamation law at present and has told the Assembly that she hopes to receive the report by early 2016.

Export strategy action plan The Enterprise, Trade and Investment minister, Jonathan Bell MLA, outlined in the Assembly in December that the DETI draft export strategy action plan and final action plan is expected to be published in the next few months.

PEACE IV The European Commission has now formally adopted the EU Programme for Peace and Reconciliation, PEACE IV. The cross border cooperation programme will deliver around €269million to projects

working to support peace and reconciliation in Northern Ireland and the border region of Ireland. This is expected to provide a welcome boost to certain organisations in the Voluntary and Community Sector throughout 2016.

2016­2021 Programme for Government In preparation for the next Programme for Government, DETI and its bodies are, as part of their corporate planning process, setting out to consult and engage with local stakeholders and businesses to communicate high level strategic priorities for the period 2016-2021.

Year of Food and Drink This year has been designated the special year of Food and Drink in Northern Ireland. The idea behind it is to boost Northern Ireland’s reputation by putting food and drink at the heart of the tourism experience. The objective of the year is to grow trade and visitor spend.

Review of Business Rates In October last year Finance minister Arlene Foster MLA, launched a consultation on a Review of Business Rates in Northern Ireland during which stakeholders have been invited to provide input on the future direction of business rates in Northern Ireland. The review will also seek views on alternative forms of taxation as either replacements or supplements to the existing rating system. The consultation is expected

to close on 25 January.

Dormant bank accounts As part of the 2015-16 Budget, the Northern Ireland Executive has agreed that £6.4m is available for Northern Ireland expenditure under the “Dormant Accounts and Building Society Accounts Act 2008” and is to be opened in Northern Ireland under the Social Innovation Fund. A consultation is expected inviting views on, amongst other issues, the spending priority and the distribution mechanism for the Social Innovation Fund.

Autumn Statement and Budget 2016 In November, the chancellor of the Exchequer outlined that the Northern Ireland Executive block grant will be over £11 billion by 2019-20. In with the range of issues he touched on, he announced that from April 2016, new rates of Stamp Duty Land Tax will be introduced that will be three per cent higher on the purchase of additional properties like buy-to-lets and second homes. He also announced that a new £7 million Regional Air Connectivity Fund will support new air routes, including those from Belfast to Carlisle and from Derry to Dublin. The next Budget is expected to take place on Wednesday 16 March 2016. Connect with Chris Twitter: @CB_PRandPA Email:



This time we really do need a proper Fresh Start by Paul Terrington, chairman, Institute of Directors Northern Ireland eflecting on the old year past and the New Year yet to come, your mind tends towards an authoritative quote, so a couple of lines from Seamus Heaney seem appropriate. Looking back on 2015, Heaney’s encouragement that, “…even if the hopes you started out with are dashed, hope has to be maintained,” seems to fit the bill. But looking to the future and Heaney’s warning that, “… anyone born and bred in Northern Ireland can't be too optimistic,” is sufficiently pithy that it might be engraved over the doors of Stormont. I’m growing rather tired of writing economic reviews and fiscal commentary about Northern Ireland. I spend enough time with economists to know that, while Northern Ireland may be recovering, the economy is recovering more slowly than the other 11 UK regions and there is no evidence whatever that the prosperity gap is closing. And I spend enough time with politicians to know that there is neither the political will nor the consensus for the kind of radical public sector reform that will make any material difference. Nevertheless, like most of the business community, I am a fan of devolution. I see consensus in Scotland – a desire amongst nationalist and unionist alike to make it a better place, to use the enhanced Scotland Act to create wealth, attract investment and build a prosperous economy. I see devolution working in the English regions, flowing from the City Growth Commission report, which concluded that devolving powers from Whitehall to city regions could boost economic output in the UK’s 15 largest metropolitan areas by £79bn per year - around five per cent of GDP – with one of those metropolitan areas being Belfast. I want us to embrace devolution with the same zeal and enthusiasm that is evident elsewhere in the UK. I don’t want Northern Ireland left as the only region in the UK where devolution has delivered nothing – and that is not as unlikely as it sounds.


The Fresh Start The Fresh Start agreement has set the date and the rate for the reduction of Corporation Tax, but ‘switching-on’ the powers remains reliant on the provisions contained in the Stormont House Agreement, include putting the Assembly finances on a sustainable footing and there is no clear consensus amongst political and trade unions stakeholders that the price is ‘affordable.’ But if we have a Fresh Start agreement where the issues of welfare reform are resolved and where the Northern Ireland budget now balances, this is the time to have a fresh start around the issues of public sector reform. A programme that looks to the best of the English city deals and combined authorities, that looks to the best of devolution in Scotland and Wales, and that lets the Executive focus on public sector outcomes and not public sector ownership. A fresh start should let us look to review after review of the local economy, all of which have pointed to the problems and none of which have been implemented.

A fresh start should let us look to review after review of the local economy, all of which have pointed to the problems and none of which have been implemented. Paul Terrington


A fresh start that seeks to create a Northern Ireland plc with a vision and investment strategy that delivers real return; and a fresh start that does much more than prevent the Assembly collapsing and maintaining Executive Ministers in role. The Executive cannot achieve this alone. I have said in the past that if Northern Ireland was a business that had come so close to collapse, some measure of control might be achieved through the appointment of independent non-executive Directors and that the Secretary of State and the Executive should invite Robert Chote of and the Office of Budget Responsibility to actively extend its remit to Northern Ireland. Inviting the OBR to examine and report on the public finances, to consider the costs and implications of the new budget and help determine how best to put Northern Ireland’s finances on a sustainable footing; that alone would bring confidence to investors and stakeholders and would help challenge the tit-for-tat policies, petitions of concern and belittling of anyone who offers constructive criticism of a better way to manage the finances. It’s tempting to look to Heaney and agree that anyone born and bred in Northern Ireland can't be too optimistic. But it’s equally important to remember that to even if the hopes you started out with are dashed, hope has to be maintained. If the Fresh Start is to work it needs hope and it needs to be a fresh start in a lot more than name.

It’s true - life does begin at 40 by Michael Blaney, MD, Autoline Insurance Group hey say life begins at 40, but at Autoline Insurance Group, which ‘turned 40’ in 2015, we’ve always sought to be on top of our game. Over the past four decades Autoline has worked hard to become one of Northern Ireland’s leading brokers, offering independent, tailored solutions for our customers. At the core of that vision, and something which has helped keep the business fresh since 1975, is innovation. That desire to innovate – and to offer products which are as good as anything available from global insurance brands – is probably best exemplified by the pioneering services Autoline has developed in the world of telematics (insurance products that use technology to reflect individual behaviours). In 2012 Autoline made history as the first company in Europe to launch a phone App linked to an insurance policy, and in 2015 we unveiled ChilliDrive – the most sophisticated telematics smartphone app available in the UK. Aimed primarily at younger drivers, ChilliDrive turns smartphones into ‘in-car mentors’, measuring driving skills by analysing speed, acceleration, braking and cornering. Not only will the app drive down insurance premiums, it will also, ultimately, help improve road safety. Armed with this ever more advanced telematics technology, and the accolade of Broker Innovation of the Year at the recent Insurance Times Awards, 2016 will mark an exciting new stage in Autoline’s history as we take the product beyond our home market to Great Britain. ChilliDrive will be offered to over 200 brokers in GB and marketed directly to consumers. Beyond telematics, an ever growing part of Autoline’s business has been Northern Ireland’s SME sector. In recent years we’ve grown strongly, doubling in size between 2006 and 2008. Much of that has come increasingly from areas such as commercial insurance and – through our Ashtree brand - financial services. Autoline now offers a full range of products covering both business and personal clients. Commercial customers can avail of insurance products in areas such as commercial let property, motor trade, commercial vehicle and farm, to name but a few. Northern Ireland’s agri-food sector, which continues to be a backbone of the local economy, has been a particularly strong growth area. As with all products, customers are guaranteed a local account manager who understands local conditions, but with access to the UK’s leading farm insurers who operate in the broker market. This combines all the advantages of local service, but with a global perspective. Be it farm vehicles, machinery, buildings – or


Armed with this ever more advanced telematics technology, and the accolade of Broker Innovation of the Year at the recent Insurance Times Awards, 2016 will mark an exciting new stage in Autoline’s history as we take the product beyond our home market to Great Britain. Michael Blaney

even the specific needs of small holders Autoline has it covered. Indeed, such has been the success of our agri-insurance products in Northern Ireland that we will be expanding into the Republic of Ireland market in early 2016. As someone who has developed Autoline from a small business into one that now employs 200 across five different locations in Northern Ireland, I – and my management team – know only too well the trials and tribulations which running a SME brings. With that perspective we have developed a range of SME products to provide cover for those unplanned events which can threaten a company’s future. Running a small business is a time consuming, if not all-consuming, passion. It’s all too easy for owners to overlook how much protection they need. Owners are understandably focused on looking after clients’ day-to-day needs, but sometimes this comes at the cost of failing to ensure that the inherent value of the business, built up over years of hard work, is adequately protected against potential threats. Through our local office network and handson account managers, we can help business owners take a step back and refocus, providing bespoke solutions that fully protect the company in circumstances such as death or illness of key staff. Through Ashtree Financial Services we can also provide advice on all aspects of financial planning. While we are first and foremost a business, part of what has made Autoline such a success is the company’s strong community ethos. This includes a very successful partnership with the road safety charity ‘Brake’, running ‘2 Young 2 Die’ workshops which over 2,000 pupils have benefitted from. In the last few months we’ve introduced a new car crash simulator – one of only a handful in use across the UK – to really drive home the road safety message. During our 40th anniversary celebrations we also ran a campaign to raise over £40,000 for 40 local charities, an exacting target, but one which our staff and our customers more than exceeded. So whether it’s in business or in the community, Autoline’s ethos is to set a challenge, to innovate and to improve. In 2016 that ethos will help shape Autoline’s reputation as a onestop shop for commercial and personal customers across Northern Ireland (and further afield!). The insurance industry has undergone a revolution in the past decade and Autoline has grown as we have sought to meet our customers’ changing needs. At our core, however, we will remain a company built around personable and accessible experts who will give our customers the best advice and products on the market.



The precarious future of Northern Ireland’s Knowledge Economy and the Internet of Me by Bill McCluggage, Managing Director, Laganview Associates Ltd

n September, the NISP Connect team at the Northern Ireland Science Park published the 2015 Knowledge Economy Report which showed that the knowledge economy in Northern Ireland has grown by 35.2 per cent over the past five years. This is second only to the North East of England – another growing powerhouse of digital enterprise. According to another report, this time by Tech Nation, the digital/ICT sector in Northern Ireland has doubled in the past five years. This is all good news for Northern Ireland because it represents an increase in jobs with higher gross value added (GVA). GVA is a measure of the value of goods and services produced in an area, industry or sector. While both report highlights the growing success of the Northern Ireland digital/ICT economy we cannot rest on our laurels. As a small region in the North-West corner of


Europe we are highly vulnerable to a range of factors including corporate and personal migration. The recent announcements by both JTI Gallaher and Michelin reflect the ease with which large corporates will move regions if the economic factors are favourable. It is equally conceivable that our large knowledge-based inward investment community will be at risk if we do not continue to generate favourable local conditions. One of the key attractions of Northern Ireland is our talent pool and we must continue to invest in creating the knowledge environment that grows talent through our excellent Further and Higher Education establishments. In addition, we need to find a way to foster re-skilling programmes to help grow the size of our indigenous knowledge economy workforce. There are a number of factors that could derail continued growth or, at least, blow us off course The first is the continued lack-lustre attitude towards the knowledge economy by many parents across Northern Ireland. We need to foster a much better understanding of the opportunities available in the digital/ICT sector for our young people and ensure that parents become increasingly aware that the tech sector and, in particular, the digital/ICT sector is a great place to plan a future for their offspring, be it as an employee or indeed as an entrepreneur. Second, it appears that the recent budget cuts announced by the Northern Ireland Executive will hit the very sector that can help increase the GVA of Northern Ireland as a whole. The Ulster University recently announced the impact of budget cuts to the computing department and, while the 10 per cent cut doesn’t seem like much, it could mean a net reduction of around 100 graduates per year. Queens University Belfast has yet to

I personally cannot fathom the logic [in the Executive policy] that may result in driving our young people to find suitable graduate courses off-shore. Bill McCluggage


announce its plans to cope with cuts to its budget in terms of graduates destined for the knowledge economy but it is unlikely to be a positive response. In my view, a key factor that is tying the hands of our two universities is the attitude adopted by the Northern Ireland Assembly towards tuition fees. While on the one hand they decree that fees cannot be raised to the levels we see in England and thus tie the hands of our two universities, they then inflict damaging cuts to institutions that are critical to the generation of increased young talent in the province. I personally cannot fathom the logic that may result in driving our young people to find suitable graduate courses off-shore. Finally, we need to keep technology jobs front and centre in the minds of our young people and generate the sort of ambition that we’ve seen in countless technology pioneers who originate from Northern Ireland.

Northern Ireland Science Festival Thankfully, the Northern Ireland Science Festival is set to be repeated in February 2016 and once again the Turing Lecture will feature as a key event during the festival. The lecture will be presented by Robert Schukai, who is Head of Advanced Product Innovation for Thomson Reuter, and the title of the lecture will be ‘The internet of Me: It’s all about my screens’. The lecture will explore our future in this hyper-connected world and how our lives will seamlessly drift into a work-life blur based on a “dayflow” of activity. It will look at the digital trends which are driving this from both the consumer perspective as well as from the service provider and will paint a picture of what this means for our 21st century lives. It will take place in Belfast City Hall on 25 February 2016 between 5.30-8.30pm. Last year over 450 people attended the lecture, which proved a great success. It’s open to all ages, so if you would like to attend you are advised to book early through

THE VIRUS WITH NO FIX by Richard Simpson, managing director, Atlas Communications.

e have all heard the horror stories about cybercrime, encrypting critical company data and the extortionate fees being demanded for the return of information. Now, an even more sinister type of virus has been discovered. In the past we have heard of businesses having data encrypted and a large sum of money being demanded for its return. It has been suggested by security experts that Ransomware like this is aimed increasingly at small businesses. Upon payment of ransom, the data is unencrypted making it accessible again by the owner. A variant of the Power Worm Virus discovered destroys the keys that are


normally used to unencrypt the records when a ransom is paid, meaning that scrambled information can no longer be recovered. This particularly malicious Malware has been designed with a few flaws resulting in no fix for data that is seized, even after a ransom sum has been paid. This leaves the affected business to restore data from a backup – if they have such a thing. Unfortunately many businesses have incomplete backups or no backups at all. A loss of vital business data can cripple a company, often putting it out of business. Having a solid framework in place that will provide stability and security in a time of crisis will pay for itself the first time it is used.

So how can we protect our companies? A business can invest large sums of money in layers of security; Anti-virus, firewalls and so on, but sometimes these layers are breached. Backing up critical business data on a regular basis will prevent hackers being able to hold you to ransom, especially if the backups are kept offline from your own office network.

It is important as a business owner to ensure that your critical and customer data are securely backed up off site in a secure data centre. Having an option to take a copy of your files prevents the Cyber criminals being able to hold you to ransom and will ensure that in the event of such an attack you can continue to service your customers with limited down time. Many flaws in business security are human in nature, not electronic, and if one computer on your network becomes compromised, your entire operation is at risk of cyberattack. Consider, too, encrypting the data on devices used by you and your staff, whether mobile, laptop or desktop. Educate the workforce on the importance of taking care when opening attachments from unknown parties or clicking on unknown links and the importance of care when the laptop when not in the office. Richard Simpson, Managing Director of Atlas Communication. Atlas provides in­premises and hosted data and telephony solutions to businesses across Northern Ireland and can be contacted at 028 9078 6868.



Digital disruption that could reshape the economy by Patrick McAliskey, Managing Director of Novosco

he brand name Uber, which made an appearance in Belfast recently, is closely associated with digital disruption. Valued at over $50bn, according to some estimates, Uber’s app-enabled taxi service has put disruptive ‘convenience tech’ on the map, and spawned a myriad of Uber-style businesses. If you haven’t experienced Uber yet, it works like this. You tap your phone screen, and a taxi soon appears. The Uber app tells you the expected price, and when you arrive there's no hassle with cash, cards, tips or receipts – Uber’s app automatically debits your account and issues a digital receipt. I imagine Belfast-based taxi firms will not have been overly pleased to see Uber is coming to Belfast, as it could significantly disrupt and change the city’s taxi scene. But an even bigger digital disruption could be coming down the line in transport. This is based on a personal blog post by ‘futurist’ Zach Kanter. He is predicting that autonomous cars will destroy ten million jobs and reshape the economy by 2025. How does he come to this conclusion, given that many think the transition to driverless vehicles will come slowly over the coming few decades? He reckons that there is widespread underestimation regarding the likely uptake



of autonomous cars. He thinks they will be commonplace by 2025 and have a near monopoly by 2030. He says the sweeping change they will bring will eclipse every other innovation our society has experienced. That’s a big statement! The benefits, he predicts, will include greater efficiency in society, greater safety on the roads (saving thousands of lives), and significant environmental benefits. Indeed, Kanter points out that the progess towards driverless cars is already starting to happen. Elon Musk, Tesla Motor’s CEO, says that his company’s latest models will be able to self-drive 90 percent of the time. According to Bloomberg News, GM’s 2017 models will feature “technology that takes control of steering, acceleration and braking at highway speeds of 70 miles per hour or in stop-and-go congested traffic.” Google and Tesla predict that fullyautonomous cars – what Musk describes as “true autonomous driving where you could literally get in the car, go to sleep and wake up at your destination” – will be available to the public by 2020 (in the US anyway). PWC predicts that the number of vehicles on the road will be reduced by 99 per cent due to autonomous cars; a drop from 245 million to just 2.4m vehicles. Imagine the fall-out for all kinds of

industries, including oil companies, insurance businesses, mechanics, and tyre manufacturers. In Northern Ireland, where car ownership is high, public transport is not as advanced as other societies, we have a relatively dispersed population, and we have a high dependence on imported fossil fuels, all of this could bring huge benefits. And we don’t have huge dependence on the motor industry for employment – so there isn’t the same downside for Northern Ireland from that perspective as there would be for Germany, Japan and the US for instance, which have huge car-making industries. It could reduce our dependence on imported fossil fuels, make it more efficient to transport manufactured products out of Northern Ireland to other markets, and make our society more mobile and agile. Of course only time will tell if Kanter is overstating the pace at which change will come and the magnitude of the impact. But either way, change is coming, and it is an uber-exciting and/or daunting prospect, depending on which was you look at it. Novosco is an indigenous Northern Ireland managed cloud company with offices in Belfast, Dublin and Manchester.

How Northern Ireland is taking on the growing threat of cybercrime O

ver the past few years, it’s been impossible to ignore the rising threat of cybercrime and a growing number of firms have been tied up with major data breaches, phishing scandals and downtime of important services. The fallout that ensues for these businesses is very costly. Financial loss and reputational damage, not to mention the distraction from core business activity, can cause lasting and sometimes irreparable damage. TalkTalk’s recent widely publicised breach reportedly cost the company around £35 million and had a deeply negative impact on its reputation. Regaining the trust of aggrieved customers is incredibly difficult and brings with it further financial cost. The attraction for cybercriminals is a nobrainer. Bank account details can be sold for £100 - £150 per account, while credit card details usually go for anywhere between £7 £20. US retail giant Target’s major data breach in 2013 reportedly saw upwards of 40 million credit card details stolen. Northern Ireland as a cyber security hub In a time when providing effective cyber security is more vital now than ever, Northern Ireland is stepping up to the mark. It is a growing hub in the battle against cyber criminality and plays an important role in the global information security wheel. Minister Arlene Foster recently highlighted the sector supported around 900 jobs in 2014/15. This vision for growth is supported and driven by the Centre for Secure Information Technologies (CSIT), which aims to be a global innovation hub for cyber security. Since 2008, the Northern Ireland Science Park-based centre has helped to attract more than 100 high-tech FDI and start-up companies to the region. Rapid7 is an example of the kind of global cyber security leader that has established a significant presence in Northern Ireland. Recently, it announced it was opening a software development centre in Belfast, creating 75 highly skilled jobs and dozens of student placement opportunities.

Local influence Not all of the success is coming from abroad. Local information security providers like Ward Solutions are growing and making their presence known globally. Ward is now the largest provider of information security services in Ireland, North and South. It provides a comprehensive range of services including security auditing, consulting, incident response, secure

managed services and software development services. Through 17 years’ experience, Ward has discovered that taking a holistic approach and recognising the ‘information security lifecycle’ is the best way for businesses to stay protected. “Information security is a journey, not a destination that can be arrived at. We work with businesses to fully secure their assets and incorporate an information security lifecycle, which focuses on people, processes and technology,” said Pat Larkin, CEO, Ward Solutions. This means investing in an organisation’s team so that they are fully aware of – and continuously trained on – the most likely risks. It gives them the tools and mind-set they need to avoid cyber threats and mitigate damage when they do occur, says Larkin. Ward leads by example and invests nearly £300,000 annually on continuous training and development. All of Ward’s team of information security experts spends at least five per cent of their time engaged in research and development, understanding evolving threats and developing new responses. Ward has seen great success with its holistic approach to battling cybercrime and is in a major growth phase. “We’ve announced plans to expand our operations in Northern Ireland as part of a £1.5 million investment,” said Alan McVey, NI business development manager, Ward Solutions. “We want to grow in Belfast and Dublin both in terms of increasing staff numbers and our diverse client base, which includes SMEs, government departments, state agencies and blue chip companies.” Ward recently unveiled its new Security Operations Centre (SOC), which includes bestin-class threat monitoring, risk assessment and incident response technologies and is being staffed by a team of experienced information security engineers and consultants. The SOC has significantly enhanced the company’s core services.

Alan McVey, Ward Solutions The rising tide of sophisticated cybercriminal activity is showing no signs of slowing down. As the world becomes increasingly connected and the number of smart devices in play grows to anywhere between 25 - 30 billion, the bad guys will continue to identify new opportunities to prey on people and businesses. It’s important that Northern Ireland maintains and grows its position as a critical line of defence in this constant battle and keeps cybercriminals at bay. Ward Solutions Contact Details: Tel: 028 9082 3688 Email: Twitter: @wardsolutions LinkedIn: Ward Solutions

“Information security is a journey, not a destination that can be arrived at. We work with businesses to fully secure their assets and incorporate an information security lifecycle, which focuses on people, processes and technology,” Pat Larkin, CEO, Ward Solutions.



From STEM to STEAM Peter Craven, head of marketing at CDE Global, looks at the evolution from STEM to STEAM.

recognised the value of STEM when the term was first introduced into our vocabulary to represent the increasing focus on Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics. It was a useful tool for discussions around education, employability and making sure that our education providers knew that industry needs these skills in order to maximise the potential for growth and innovation. However, I now think that the time has come where the expression 'too much of anything is bad for you' is true of STEM. It seems to me that the story has progressed from simply recognising that STEM subjects are an important part of the mix when it comes to the skills society needs to prosper. It has now reached the stage where STEM appears to be all that is spoken about in any conversation about education and this approach is disrespectful to the contribution that many other subjects make to the society we live in, the schools we learn in and the businesses we work in. Art and design have a huge role to play in the future success of our businesses as well as helping to create a rounded society which is self-aware and uses this knowledge to create better products, better services and better relationships with our customers. In today’s world, where everything has to be measured on a spreadsheet, art, design and the humanities are at risk of being



phased out because there is no obvious formula to measure the positive impact they have on us as individuals or on our businesses and customers. But STEM subjects alone will not provide us with the insights we need in order to be able to understand how our customers will interact with us. More than 80 per cent of all the decisions we make are emotional ones rather than rational ones. The only predictable thing about our interactions with human beings as customers is that they will be completely unpredictable. It's those with an understanding of and an education in the art, design and humanities subjects that will bring this understanding to the game. The growth in popularity of The School of Life in recent years provides some evidence of a growing realisation of the value that art, design and humanities can offer the business world.

What started as a self-help project to help people build more meaningful relationships and become more fulfilled in their own everyday lives has developed into a tool that hundreds if not thousands of businesses are using to develop deep emotional connections with customers. It's time to evolve STEM. A recent incarnation of this is STEAM with the 'A' representing the need to also focus on art, design and the humanities. There is a huge amount that art, music, design and philosophy can teach us about ourselves and it is this knowledge which will help us to better understand our customers, leading to better new products, stronger customer relationships and more profitable businesses. So let's grasp the opportunity that this presents and realise that balance is the answer. This is how we will deliver what our businesses need in the future.

Art and design have a huge role to play in the future success of our businesses as well as helping to create a rounded society which is self-aware and uses this knowledge to create better products, better services and better relationships with our customers. Peter Craven

Innovating for success: Top 5 consumer trends in agri-food F

ood glorious food, hot sausage and mustard!Northern Ireland’s growing agri-food industry has plenty to sing and shout about. Since the Agri-Food Strategy Board launched its Going for Growth scheme, the sector continues to go from strength to strength, contributing £4.5bn to the local economy (Invest NI, 2015). Local food producers are at the forefront of building a larger, more export-driven private sector and are now recognised as a key driver in the Northern Ireland economy. Central to the strategy’s focus on sustained, profitable growth has been the concept of an integrated supply chain, based on the needs of the marketplace. It has been encouraging and timely to see so many food businesses engage with consumer research and development in creating new market-led products. At the Food and Consumer Testing Suite (FACTS), situated within Ulster University Business School, we have had the opportunity to assist some of these companies as they strive to meet consumers’ changing tastes and preferences. But what are consumers’ needs and desires in this increasingly competitive climate? Here are five significant consumer trends currently shaping the agri-food industry.

1. Health by stealth Consumers are increasingly seeking healthier alternatives to their favourite foods, but are unwilling to compromise on flavour. To meet the demand, manufacturers have reformulated some of their highest-selling products, with reduced sugar, salt and fat versions among the most prominent offerings. More recently, key health trends relating to natural and wholesome ingredients are being viewed as a way to ‘add value’ to a product. Promoting the quality of our grass-fed livestock in Northern Ireland is one example of how local producers can differentiate themselves in a global market. One company, we have been working with, has taken our love for grass to a whole new level. Squeeze Wheatgrass is the only UK producer of a ready to drink wheatgrass shot and is being hailed as one of Northern Ireland’s fastest growing health food companies (Check:

2. ‘Free­From’ Foods There is a growing, global trend towards the avoidance of certain food ingredients, with gluten-free, sugar-free and fat-free diets becoming increasingly mainstream. In

response to consumer demand, there is a burgeoning market for innovative products which make it simple for people to manage their food intolerances, allergies or specific dietary needs. Our final year students are currently working on a marketing plan for a local start-up, New Found Joy (Twitter: @NewFoundJoy), whose brand is aimed squarely at those with a sweet tooth. The Portadown-based bakery offers a wide array of pre-packaged gluten-free ‘tray bakes’ such as caramel squares, rocky roads and even brownies!

3. Learning the craft The popularity of artisan and craft products has grown in recent years due to consumer expectation for quality products and demands for ‘something different’, for local produce, unique flavours and for brands that tell a story (Mintel, 2013). Artisan/craft products are usually local, focused on highquality ingredients and produced in smaller quantities compared to mainstream manufacturers. The market for craft beer in Northern Ireland is one that has expanded over recent years and is predicted to continue to grow steadily. Marketing researchers in Ulster University Business School (Miss Fiona Roddy, Dr Lynsey Hollywood, Dr Darryl Cummins, Professor Mark Durkin) spoke to a range of craft brewers across the island of Ireland such as Carrig Brewery, Tempted Cider and The Black Donkey. All had experienced growth and we identified four key motivations driving their businesses: passion for the craft, independence in running their own business, citizenship and fulfillment. Such emotive factors play a significant role in shaping their brand narrative and were thought to enhance consumers’ perceptions towards the reputation, quality and credibility of their products.

of climate change on food production and diminishing non-renewable energy sources "sustainability" is one of this decade’s buzzwords. Food producers today need to ensure that they apply sustainable practices throughout the supply chain, from production to post-consumption. Consumers are increasingly conscious of issues around food waste and packaging, which shapes their behaviour, as their desire to become ‘global citizens’ and give back to society strengthens. Working in conjunction with SUKI tea, our students have learned a lot about the importance of incorporating sustainable practices into every aspect of a business and how it can be used as a tool for competitive advantage. Ten years ago, it began as a market stall, but has since gone from strength to strength, last year investing £250,000 to increase its export operation. Maintaining its commitment to sustainability as they expanded, SUKI became the first UK tea company to hold triple certified status meaning their products are Fairtrade, Organic and Rainforest Alliance Certified.

5. You are what you tweet! Social media is now playing an important role in shaping our food culture. A quick glance at Twitter or Instagram shows people are now consuming their food, not just through their mouths, but through their screens. Popular websites, blogs, YouTube channels and podcasts have created communities of thousands of foodies, giving them a forum to exchange recipes, reviews and restaurant recommendations. Even longestablished companies like Morelli’s ice cream, which has been trading on Northern Ireland’s Causeway Coast since 1911, are turning to social media to generate brand awareness. Their almost 3,000 followers were among the first to know when the company recently won 3 Great Taste Awards (2015), for their caramelised hazelnut, rhubarb and custard and espresso coffee flavours of ice-cream which our Consumer Management and Food Innovation students helped to select after a lot of tasting testing in our sensory suite at FACTS! Dr Lynsey Hollywood Lecturer in Consumer Management and Food Innovation

4. Sustainability With rising global populations, the impact



Make a positive difference to your workforce in 2016

ecruiting and retaining staff is a key issue for all businesses in Northern Ireland. This can be even more challenging when employers wish to employ a disabled person or support an existing employee who has a disability or on-going health condition. Supported Employment Solutions (SES), a partnership of seven local disability organisations, can support your business deal with these challenges and help make a positive difference to your workforce in 2016. January 2016 sees the publication of SES’s 2015 Impact Report which highlights the success of the support programmes we have delivered over the past year. The report demonstrates how SES has successfully helped over 300 employers to recruit staff, retain existing staff with disabilities and supported people with disabilities and health conditions to and maintain employment. SES is contracted by the Department for Employment and Learning (DEL) to deliver two specialist employment programmes, Work Connect and Workable (NI), in all areas of Northern Ireland. Looking forward to 2016 SES is keen to work in partnership with an increasing number of employers in all sectors throughout Northern Ireland. We believe that many more employers could benefit from the support and expertise of SES through the programmes we deliver and we would encourage you to look at our employer and client testimonials found at Edward Taylor, Customer Service Manager, at Budget Energy commented on an individual they have been working with through the Work Connect Programme since December 2015. “Due to a health condition he has been unemployed for several years and although he has the suitable qualifications required he fell down on the experience element. We had an option of a work placement with the potential of a full time job on successful completion of the placement. He was very enthusiastic and keen to return to work but felt that he needed support to do so. Although his health condition is being managed he felt that he lacked self-esteem and the confidence in his own ability to present himself and get ready for an



interview. He was brought over by his Project Worker from SES and she supported both us and the client in beginning his placement. As well as checking in with his progress she also asked us what she could do for us and how she could best support us to get the most from the placement. He is enjoying his placement so far and we are enjoying having him and the extra resource of advice from the SES Project Officer.” Ben Wilson from Contemporary Cakes commended how SES has worked with his business: “I would recommend Work Connect as an employer because it gives the participant the opportunity to learn something new that they may have not tried before and it gives the employer the chance to trial the participant and see their capability before hiring. This programme has given Contemporary Cakes, a small business bakery business in Ballymoney, the chance to work with Elaine and see her develop from a quiet, self-conscious person into the person she is today with her confidence growing with every job she does in the bakery. Through this it has let me see how capable Elaine is and what areas were weak with Elaine and what areas she is strongest in. Elaine has shown consistent progress throughout her trial and is very keen to learn new skills in the bakery, she is always willing and helpful in whatever she has been asked to do and is punctual and reliable. Thankfully we have now been able to offer Elaine some paid hours, to allow her to continue to develop her skills, I would definitely recommend the Work Connect programme to other businesses.”

Working with Employers This positive impact of SES services is based on successful engagement with employers to develop constructive and mutually beneficial relationships. In doing this we seek to create opportunities to demonstrate the many benefits for employers of engaging with SES. We actively promote benefits of working in partnership to secure employment opportunities for people with disabilities and in helping employers to retain staff members who have developed a disability or health condition. These benefits include: • Free, targeted recruitment method, providing a new source of skills and talent; • Support and advice from experienced support staff and ‘on-the job’ support if required; • Disability Equality Training and Advice; • Good Publicity; • Corporate Social Responsibility opportunity for partnership and enhancing

the reputation of your company; • Advice and support on Positive Action; • Support and advice on reasonable adjustments, for individuals taken on as new employees, or existing staff who have acquired an illness or disability.

Do you have employees off on long term absence due to a disability or serious health condition? Our employers have had the benefit of working with a specialist disability organisation to advise and guide around best practice and to help them problem solve to ensure their employee is supported to return to work and fulfil their potential.

Has an employee acquired a disability and you need some advice? SES tailor support packages to meet the needs of the employer and the employee, to reintegrate employees back into the workplace and also to assist the line manager to understand how an employee’s recovery is progressing. The SES 2015 Impact Report can be found at and we look forward to working with you in 2016. Supported Employment Solutions (SES) is a partnership of seven disability organisations who work ‘better together’ to support employers and people with disabilities throughout Northern Ireland. SES comprises Action Mental Health, the Cedar Foundation, Action on Hearing Loss, Mencap, NOW, the Orchardville Society and RNIB NI. SES is contracted by the Department for Employment and Learning (DEL) to deliver two specialist employment programmes in all areas of Northern Ireland. These programme provide an extensive range of support and practical assistance to both disabled people and employers: Workable (NI) which provides intensive and on-going support to people with significant disabilities who are employed for more than 16 hours per week. Work Connect which delivers a preemployment support and a job finding service for people with disabilities and health conditions. For further information on SES please contact Peter Wilson p.wilson@cedar­ Tel: 028 9046 1834 DD Tel: 028 9073 6366 Mob: 07791 075921

Assessing your mortgage options Business First talks to Negative Equity NI Director Phil Davison ortgage payers were given an early Christmas present in the form of the Bank of England’s decision not to increase interest rates. That news is particularly welcome in Northern Ireland, where 41per cent of homes and 68,000 owners remain in negative equity. In addition, the lack of sufficient money to pay capital loans when the term on interestonly mortgages expires is a continuing worry for thousands who know that problem is going to have to be faced some day. Right now they are relieved to have sidestepped the issue once again in the second-last month of a year which was to have seen an interest rate increase. Throughout 2015 most Northern Ireland home-owners have been waiting in trepidation for the announcement of a rise. But for now, it’s a case of as you were for the UK interest rate which means that home owners with variable rate and tracker mortgages were able to breathe a sigh of relief on learning that the base rate is to continue at 0.5 per cent. For how long? Ah, that’s the $1million question. The answer? It seems no-one is quite sure. The current interest rate has remained unchanged for so long that it almost merits the word ‘fixed’. Certainly the current interest rate is not what we were all led to believe by experts, ranging - in terms of status and knowledge - from the Governor of the Bank through to every business correspondent in the national media. Everything emanating from those highly informed sources suggested it was simply a question of ‘when’ in 2015 rather than ‘if’ a base interest rate rise was announced. All of those supposedly in–the-know appeared to be singing the same tune, the only discordant note amongst them being what level at which the anticipated interestrate increase would be. Half of one percent was the figure on which the vast majority had settled, though a few went either side of that by estimating a quarter or threequarters. Throughout the year, however, the decision to increase the rate kept being nudged backwards. And now, with the global economy’s growth having slowed right down, we can safely say it is not going to happen in 2015 or at any point in the very near future. this stage most of the City experts are suggesting the second quarter of 2016 as the earliest stage at which there will be an interest rate rise. And tellingly, some believe it may well be 2017 before we see movement. The interest rate in the Republic of Ireland


also remains at 0.5 per cent, the all-time low level to which it dropped in September 2014. South of the border the latest forecast is that the rate will remain low for the next three years, the Euro zone’s continuing problems being the major reason for this pessimism. Across the Irish Sea in London, November 5 was not an occasion for fiscal fireworks in the UK. Instead Guy Fawkes Day saw the Bank of England’s decision-making Monetary Policy Committee once again vote 8-1 in favour of leaving the interest rate where it has been since March 2009. As has become the norm, Ian McCaffrey was the one dissenting voice who urged an increase. Of course, those struggling with mortgage repayments are delighted at what amounts to a stay of execution. Having received one, what matters now is that they use the time it buys them to take stock and make decisions and plans for what lies ahead. The fact that the train is running late does not mean it won’t be arriving. It will, and when it does there will be implications for all concerned. The concern right now is the exact nature of those implications and the number of people who will be affected by them. Those in negative equity, those with interest-only mortgages, those experiencing

difficulty with repaying mortgages at a time of record low interest rates must make maximum use of the reprieve to seek advice on their next step. If the rate continues at 0.5 per cent until March – little over three months from now – that will represent a seven-year run at this level. Now this is unprecedented, so it is inevitable that the bubble must burst and when that happens, inevitably there will be fall-out. Already the Bank of England’s Governor, Mark Carney, is warning that “good domestic performance is set against foreign weakness”. The emerging markets to which he referred – most notably China - are vulnerable due to higher interest rates in the USA. The Bank of England now has scaled down its forecasts of growth in the UK and globally. And with inflation still below one per cent, that remains significantly below the BoE’s two per cent target figure and remit. So now is the time to assess your options. What are they? What is your home and mortgage position? What can be done to improve it? Realistically, what do you want to happen? Get in touch with a member of the team today for advice.



Common sense Fracking W by John Arthurs EurGeol, CGeol, PGeo, MSc, DIC, DMS, MIMMM

e all worry about energy costs. From 2010 to half-way through 2014 crude oil prices hovered around $100 to $120 a barrel. The nose dive in July 2014 took the price down to around $45 a barrel by November 2014 where it has remained. Good news! Well yes, except that we all know that commodity prices are cyclical. Energy costs must go up again. We just don’t know when. What we really want is inward investment to support price stability and security of supply.

Could “fracking” give us what we want in Northern Ireland? While it appears likely, the truth is that nobody knows for sure. Tamboran Resources Ltd estimates there might be about 1.6 trillion cubic feet of gas waiting to be pumped out of what geologists call the Lough Allen Basin. This is equivalent to the total energy requirement for Northern Ireland for about 15 years. If gas production proves feasible then Tamboran anticipates investment of at least £5 billion over 20 to 50 years in the region. The spin off in taxes, jobs and local development is unknowable at the exploration stage but it would have to be very large indeed.

What about the environmental costs? The views of vocal but poorly informed protesters seem to grab all the news headlines. More rationally the Editor of Geoscientist, Ted Nield, says “like driving, fracking can be either safe or unsafe – depending on regulation, workmanship, inspection and enforcement”. A decade ago in America a combination of poor engineering practice, inadequate state regulation, private mineral rights ownership and a lack of concern for the truth gave shale gas a bad name. Here hydrocarbons are state owned. According to an EU survey we already have adequate regulations to manage shale gas exploration and development safely. The first onshore exploration drill holes in south Fermanagh and north Leitrim in the 1980s showed tantalising traces of gas. In 2001-2002 another company, Evergreen Resources Inc., found a bit more but still not enough. In April 2011 the Department of Enterprise Trade & Investment awarded an exploration licence over south Fermanagh to Tamboran Resources Ltd, an Australian-based company. The reason for the new exploration venture was the developments in fracking and directional drilling.


equivalent to the highest mountain in Northern Ireland (850m) and that the zone of artificial fractures around the well is about 30m radius, you can get a feel for the relative scales. You simply would not be aware of drilling under your land. If your business is in Fermanagh tourism you might be worried about the impact on visitor numbers. It’s true that drill rigs about 40m high and truck movements will be visible during exploration. However, this stage is relatively short-lived, of the order of a few weeks or months at the most. The production well-head facilities which remain afterwards are low structures enclosed in a football-size field, all easily blocked from view by trees and shrubs.

Will the beautiful lakes and rivers be polluted?

Fracking, jargon for hydraulic fracturing, is a method of opening up cracks in the rock around a borehole to make it easier for gasses and fluids to flow. The technique was first developed in the Texan oilfields in the 1940s and has been commonly practiced all around the world since. In the last decade or so fracturing technology has developed to allow very precise targeting of prospective rock formations underground. Drilling technology has also advanced to the point where, amazingly, a vertical drill hole only 15-20 cm in diameter can be steered through 90 degrees to drill horizontally. This means that a single vertical mother well can connect to a fan of horizontal holes deep underground and so tap natural gas in a horizontal bed of high-grade shale.

People naturally worry about the idea of drilling under their property. Ground tremors during fracking operations are measured at around 1ML, undetectable by human senses. Exceptionally, fracking in Lancashire in 2011 created magnitude 2.2 ML tremors, about the equivalent of a large truck passing by and commonly experienced by residents living near old coal fields. So, when you know that the proposed minimum depth of drilling is roughly

There’s no technical justification for any pollution at all. The recommended safe separation distance between the deepest aquifers down to fracked rock below is 500m. It is interesting to note that the Fermanagh exploration wells were hydraulically fractured in 2001 without any environmental pollution at all. Over the past five years all the major geoscientific and engineering institutions in the UK and America have set up independent working groups to study the available evidence. In June 2012 the Royal Society and the Royal Academy of Engineering jointly reported to the Government Chief Scientific Adviser. The report concluded. “The health, safety and environmental risks associated with hydraulic fracturing (often termed ‘fracking’) as a means to extract shale gas can be managed effectively in the UK as long as operational best practices are implemented and enforced through regulation.” Given that shale gas is a good transition towards future renewable energy objectives, is it not just common sense to allow explorers to carry on and tell us whether or not they can extract gas and under what conditions? Then we can decide. John Arthurs is a semi­retired consulting geologist. Over a 48­year career he has travelled widely, carrying out geological surveys in remote parts of the world as well as in Ireland and his own native Northern Ireland. At various times he has worked for government geological surveys, mining companies and academic institutions. John has no financial connection or consulting association with any hydrocarbon exploration company in Northern Ireland or anywhere else.

How to make content marketing work for you in 2016 C by Professor Steven Van Belleghem

ontent marketing has been around for years now, with the explosion of social media adding urgency for businesses of all sizes to invest in it. The good news is, investing in content marketing generally requires time rather than big advertising budgets, so I have put together some guidelines on how to make the time you invest really pay: Be purpose­driven: Content marketing is all about selling without selling. Rather than focus on what you’re trying to sell, looking for ways to enthuse people about your story. In the long run, it’s more valuable to excite people with your personality and brand purpose than with a viral movie. Add value to the consumer: Content marketing is all about offering something relevant to your customer. Make a list of all the questions people could possibly have about your sector, your passion, your products, your business, your people, then set about answering them in blog posts, videos and infographics and people will find your content. You’re the expert in what you do, but remember you’re talking to consumers so don’t get carried away with technical jargon. Be engaging: Social media offers ways to engage people every day. If someone shares your content or asks you a question, at least have the courtesy to give them your attention. Most big brands will favourite a tweet if it says something nice, but as a small business, why not try something more engaging like a personal five second video saying thank you? Volume counts: It is better to create 10 small pieces of content than a single huge piece. Micro content is about taking an idea and then fragmenting it into many small pieces of content to work for different channels. If you’re writing a blog post, try making a short accompanying video and some visuals then suddenly one post becomes a series of micro-content pieces that can be shared via more channels. Consider supply and demand: Many marketers will naturally focus on the channels with the biggest reach, which usually means Facebook gets our attention, but right now 1000 followers on Instagram is worth much more than 1000 Facebook likes because the more branded content there is on a channel, the harder it becomes to catch the attention of your audience. Of course this doesn’t mean you should stop using Facebook and Twitter, but you will need a larger follower base to achieve your goals, so don’t

You’re the expert in what you do, but remember you’re talking to consumers so don’t get carried away with technical jargon. Professor Steven Van Belleghem be afraid to look for channels that may be hot in three years’ time. Create in the moment: A content plan is great, but try to allow 80 per cent marketing messages planned upfront and the other 20 per cent flexible for what is happening in your customer’s real world. This does not mean you jumping on everything that’s trending on social media, but if you can use your knowledge to add value in your customer’s world then do so. Online v offline: The lines between the two are increasingly blurred, as a lot of the work a brand does online will have an offline link, and vice versa. Every content marketer should have an eye on how their good added value content is could be relevant to the offline media too, and keep in mind that today’s newspapers are filled with yesterday’s tweets. Create scenarios: Pieces of content are very often stand-alone pieces of content, but successful content is created through scenarios. Imagine your content plan is the scenario for a never-ending TV show and try to add the suspense, surprises, emotions, characters and stories, you would expect of a top TV show. You will quickly see how the impact of each small piece of content increases because it leads to something. Don’t forget a hook: A lot of content marketing is simply about fantastic bait. You

create a beautiful piece of content, people like it and that’s it – they move on to the next beautiful piece of content. However, it is smart to use a hook once in a while so that brilliant piece of content entices customers to share their data. If you give good content 90 per cent of the time, you are allowed to ask for something in return 10 per cent of the time. Have personality: Real people are real stars of content marketing. Living in a digital world, we have less and less contact with actual people working for the companies we buy from, so using real people in content marketing makes a connection that says you are a real company with real people. Consumers feel as if they are getting to know the brand on a more personal level, and employees take pride in being part of something. Professor Steven Van Belleghem is author of When Digital Becomes Human, published by Kogan Page, priced £19.99. Follow him on twitter @StevenVBe, subscribe to his videos at or visit



Assessment, Prediction and Control by Simon Bridge, visiting professor at Ulster University

n order to steer something on a successful course, be it an ocean liner or an economy, we need information on the current position of the object in question, an assessment of where it is going and what obstacles might be ahead of it, and a means of steering it along the desired course away from the obstacles and towards the goal. In this process prediction and control are different. We might want to predict how something will behave, or what obstacles might be ahead of it, in order to see if we need to control it - but being able to predict behaviour does not itself give us the means for that control. Meteorologists have become quite good at predicting what weather we are going to have, at least in the short term, but they make no claims about controlling it. Actually, if we could control it and steer it away from trouble, we would not need to spend so much effort increasing the range of our predictions. But when it comes to economies, economists often seem to focus not so much on where an economy is, appearing to take that as given, but on where they think it is going and how it might be helped it on its



way. They seek not only to forecast how an economy will behave but also to suggest ways in which that behaviour might at least be influenced, if not precisely steered, by various forms of government intervention. They seem to want to embrace both prediction and control.

But are either of these aspirations actually possible? To start with, until they can convincingly demonstrate otherwise, I think we have to conclude that economists can’t reliably predict. They can extrapolate from current trends but, as events over the last ten years have shown, they cannot tell when that is going to change in unexpected ways, and change it will. History is clear on this point: whether due to natural phenomena or to the complexities of human interactions, events frequently happen which are unexpected deviations from the trend and which can be drastic in their impact. What use are forecasts which only predict the expected and fail to give warning of the unexpected – because it is the unprepared-for

unexpected which usually does the damage that we would wish to avoid. Market researchers might be expected to be in the forecasting business, but even some market experts admit that they cannot reliably predict the future, especially for something new. Philip Graves in his book Consumer.ology quotes one experienced industry executive who had held senior marketing positions in several blue chip companies as admitting that the real reason many businesses did market research, was not because they believed the results, but because, if an initiative did not succeed, they would be criticised if they had not done their due diligence. And consider the group of ‘expert entrepreneurs’ whom Saras Sarasvathy interviewed for her research on ‘effectuation’. They all distrusted market research - and these were people who had started businesses and taken them to the stage of stock market flotation. They didn’t think that the future was preordained. Things, including their own actions, could still happen between now and then to change it - so how could anyone

When it comes to economies, economists often seem to focus not so much on where an economy is, appearing to take that as given, but on where they think it is going and how it might be helped it on its way. Professor Simon Bridge forecast it now with any degree of reliability? What, therefore, are many forecasters, especially economic ones, doing when they stray beyond statements about what is happening now to offer predictions of what will happen in the future? Are they in effect vying for attention by staking a claim which is both salient enough to attract notice but also sufficiently consistent with received wisdom that, should the prediction fail, so will the efforts of many others thus helping their own failure to escape notice in the crowd. And what these efforts do not usually offer is any new way of changing the economic future. When they offer prescriptions they generally stick to suggestions of doing more of the same - which should only serve to get more of the same. So no surprises there?

Who else forecasts? As indicated above meteorologists offer forecasts of the weather – and they are getting better at it. With lots a data and complex computer models they can now offer reasonably reliable short to medium-term predictions. But they make no claims about how to control the weather. Economists also have lots of data and computer models - but are they the right data and the right models? Daniel Kahneman didn’t think so . He got a Nobel Prize essentially for pointing out, in response to a list of the assumptions about human behaviour underlying traditional economic theory, that as a psychologist he had been professionally trained not to believe a word of it. So why do we listen to economic predictions? Is it because we want to believe someone or something and have nothing better to reassure us? So do we then suppress our doubts and accept inaccurate and unreliable reassurances because we suppose that they are better than having nothing? Just as there is prediction without control, there can be control without reliable prediction. This was the problem of early sailors: they could control their ships but did not know for sure where they were and what might be ahead of them. Therefore, especially at night or in fog, they could not reliably foresee danger ahead and steer away from it – and the result on many occasions was a fatal encounter with an unexpected obstacle such as a rock or an iceberg. But is this the case with economies?

We might know where they are, although often that seems to be apparent only with hindsight, but, as indicated above, we can’t tell what their future is. So we don’t know what imminent dangers we should be trying to avoid if we could we steer an economy – and the evidence seems to suggest that we can’t. In the last century the American New Deal and Keynesian economics, combined with the Second World War, seemed to have helped the US and the UK to recover from the recession of the 1930s and for about 30 years after the War we seemed to have our economy under control so that we could maintain a relatively steady position of low unemployment. But that changed in the 1970s and since then little has seems really to have worked. Look at economic plans recently, especially those of the Northern Ireland Government how many of their declared economic ambitions have been realised?

Are we still looking at economies in the wrong way? What Kahneman did do was to remind us of the human factor which is often forgotten. It is clear that economies are not like clocks which, while they may be complicated, are nevertheless regular, orderly, consistent, predictable – and inanimate. Humans, like other animals, interact with each other in complex ways – and complexity is very different from complication. Observe a flock of starlings and try to predict how the flock will move. They behave like a cloud and, while the movements of individual starlings within the flock can best be modelled by assuming that they will try to maintain an optimum level of separation from their neighbours – that does not help us to predict how the flock as a whole will move. Suppose we think of an economy as a nature reserve. A reserve contains many different types of creatures all of which interact with others and the behaviour of one type cannot be understood separate from the behaviour of at least some others. Some sustainable ecologies, like coral reefs, have a wide verity of organisms in them and others, like northern birch and pine forests, relatively few, But why should that be and how could the diversity and/or the activity in, and the benefits of, an ecology be increased?

Some people have managed successfully to steer the human cloud. That is what nudge techniques try to do and what successful marking campaigns for fashion goods achieve. They manage to harness unconscious following-the-crowd instincts to get people to act in the way that the manipulators desire and/or to buy the goods they want to sell. And those responsible for recent anti-drunkdriving campaigns are similarly trying to harness social influence. So, based on an understanding of human behaviour, it is possible to influence human activity. But is that what our economic gurus are advocating or are their suggested control mechanisms as valid as their predictions?



The Year of Food and Drink 2016. is it on the menu? W asks Dr Peter Bolan, Ulster University

hen we consider Northern Ireland’s economic landscape there can be no doubt that tourism has risen to new heights in recent times. Indeed our tourism industry now has very strong potential for future economic growth. 2016 now shines a light on the food drink sector of our economy and this carries a special tourism significance. Food and drink is a key element of any visitor experience; with eating out a primary activity. Indeed, food can be seen as one of the essential elements of the tourist experience. This can therefore bring a significant economic dividend to a country or region that can provide the mix of good quality food and drink that today’s tourist seeks. In fact, food and beverage expenditures can amount to as much as one-third of overall tourist expenditure in terms of global tourism turnover. Trends in tourism show that tourists are increasingly seeking a stronger connection to the places and communities that they visit. It’s not just about taking in the scenery and visiting the key tourist attractions. Our visitors want to be immersed in the local communities they visit, eat local cuisine, drink local beer, taste local whiskey and indeed meet the artisans making the products they are tasting and purchasing. With 2016 declared as the Year of Food and Drink in Northern Ireland we have an enormous opportunity to showcase this aspect to a vast audience. The quality of our Northern Ireland produce is incredibly high. The range, depth and quality of food dishes on offer in our restaurants has developed tremendously in recent times (with many awards received to highlight such success). The sheer creativity, variety and success of our artisan food and drink producers is also something to celebrate and to be proud of. In short, we have the ‘product’ and a great story to tell. That should all ‘feed’ the Year of Food and Drink very well indeed. However, this mustn’t be a one-off. We need to use this to truly put this aspect on the map, particularly from a tourism and economic perspective. In short we need a highly detailed, thorough and in-depth food and drink tourism strategy going forward and this year of food and drink can provide an ideal platform and impetus and be used as a catalyst to drive this forward with a much higher level of prominence. It has already been happening with great attention, effort and high level profile


elsewhere, including places quite close to home. Scotland was there before us with this initiative. Their Year of Food and Drink was 2015 and has now recently come to a close (following a previous Year of Food and Drink in 2010). Such ‘themed’ years have been utilised to good effect to market Scotland as a tourist destination for some years now. 2014 was their year of Homecoming. 2016 is their Year of Innovation, Architecture and Design. Type’ food tourism strategy’ into google and the first page displays a number results for Wales and England as well as Australia and the Caribbean, and interestingly for the Republic of Ireland in relation to Failte Ireland initiatives. Nothing for Northern Ireland though. Others such as Scotland appear prominently, as well as the likes of Canada, South Africa and so on. Nothing on food and drink tourism strategy here though. Why isn’t there? There should be. There needs to be. Another aspect that warrants attention is the drinks sector. It often gets overshadowed by the food side and yet think how much we have to offer that way. We have the oldest licensed whiskey in the world and one of the very best in Bushmills. The distillery itself is a prominent tourist attraction already. Think about the explosion of new craft beers we have produced in recent years, the likes of Lacada on the north coast being one of the most recent additions. Similarly in relation to gin and cider we now have some great local producers achieving great success with excellent products in that regard (eg. Shortcross Gin and Long Meadow Cider). If we think about Ireland overall the most successful visitor attraction in terms of visitor numbers is the Guinness Storehouse in

Dublin (which gets twice as many tourists as Titanic Belfast for example). So clearly, let’s not underestimate the power of what our locally produced drinks can do for tourism and the economy and therefore give them their fair share of attention in terms of marketing and strategy. This can all be seen as part of what has become known as the ‘experience economy’. Our artisan food and drink producers are now ideally positioned to be a very important part of this experience economy and a key asset in our overall tourism product. Visitors want authenticity. They want products that are genuine with an identifiable link to the area. That very much adds value to the overall tourism experience. When it comes to food and drink, we can provide that. We are in many respects already there, but let’s get the balance right and above all, let’s get the message right. We need a coherent, detailed and achievable strategy for food tourism and we can use the 2016 Year of Food and Drink to help achieve that. There are a lot of great aspects about tourism in Northern Ireland these days but let’s make sure that food and drink have their rightful place on the tourism menu.

Tax and talent must be the mantra by Sinead McLaughlin, chief executive, Londonderry Chamber of Commerce orporation tax is a big issue in Derry/Londonderry. Our city spreads across the border into the Republic and some of our businesses locate in what are effectively our suburbs – yet are in a different jurisdiction. There they pay 12.5 per cent corporation tax, instead of the 20 per cent payable in Derry. From April 2018, under the decisions laid out in ‘A Fresh Start’ agreement, there will be a level playing field. The rate is to be 12.5 per cent on both sides of the border. All other things (such as tax reliefs) being equal, there will no longer be a tax incentive to move a business out of Derry and into Donegal. That would be good for our local labour market, our supply chains, the demands on our road system and for our tax revenues. But if anyone thinks that cutting our corporation tax rate will automatically solve our economic problems, they need to think again. When potential investors decide not to locate in Derry, tax is not necessarily the most important issue. The key to Northern Ireland’s offering is more than tax – it is tax and talent. The two must go hand in hand. A study that looked at investment decisions in the Republic found that while the low tax rate was an important factor driving US investment in Ireland, other important Irish attractions included the large number of skilled graduates in the labour market, strong vocational skills, good schools, the work ethic and even friendly local accents. In England, investment decision-makers have told researchers there are four key factors behind location choices. These are good road and rail connections, local airports with the right flights, good schools, and a nearby university that supplies both high level skills and research and development that flow into the local economy. If you consider these points together, it becomes clear what the economic development strategy for Northern Ireland needs to comprise. Yes a low tax base can help attract businesses, but our complete offer must contain much more. For the North West and the West of Northern Ireland, it is absolutely essential that we have better road connections. It is completely unacceptable that it can often take more than two hours to travel the 70 miles between our first and second cities. It is equally unacceptable that it typically takes between four and five hours to travel between our island’s major city, Dublin, and the fourth city, Derry. Here there is one piece of really good news. The chancellor’s Autumn Statement approved the creation of a new, twice daily, flight between Derry and Dublin, which we hope will be confirmed in the near future. This would offer not just a fast and pleasant alternative to an awful


If you think cutting corporation tax rate will automatically solve our economic problems, think again. The key to Northern Ireland’s offering is more than tax – it is tax and talent. The two must go hand in hand. Sinead McLoughlin

road journey, but may also cut business costs by avoiding the need for overnight hotel stays in Dublin. We are hoping for further good news with other additional flights into and out of the City of Derry Airport – an important resource for our local economy. So when we plan our strategy for how to exploit the lower corporation tax rate, our plea is that number one on the agenda is to strengthen our infrastructure – which is too weak West of the River Bann. Our second request is equally obvious (at least to us in the North West). That is for greater attention to the skills needs of our economy and our employers. Some of our existing local businesses are ready and waiting to take on extra staff. That is significant in an area where we have the highest level of unemployment not just in Northern Ireland, but in the whole of the UK. What is holding back these extra job offers is the shortage of applications from people with the right skills. In particular, our IT and digital sector is desperate for high quality, relevant, skills. Addressing those needs reflects changes that are needed in all parts of our education sector – at university, further education, post- primary and even at primary school level. Young children need to be encouraged and supported in their interest in smart phones, iPads, laptops and in coding. That interest needs to be nurtured and honed as they go through the education system, into GCSEs and A levels. Further education colleges need to be attuned to the needs of employers when they design courses – happily I can report a strong relationship between local businesses here in Derry and the new leadership of our North West College. One of the problems, though, is the decision by the Northern Ireland Executive and Assembly to reduce funding to further and higher education. This makes no sense from a strategic point of view. If we are to attract investment and support the expansion of indigenous businesses, the provision of a stronger skill base is every bit as important as a low corporation tax rate. It is peculiar that some of our politicians are apparently unable to recognise this. In business, strategy is more important than tactics. The successful firm is that one that has a long term vision and a route to reach it. Unfortunately, Executive decisions to cut corporation tax while also cutting the flow of skills into the labour market is all tactics, and no strategy. Businesses have to decide on their priorities if they are to thrive. Politicians should do too.



Tendering for Public Contracts in 2016 As a regional leader in commercial dispute resolution ranked in Chambers and the Legal 500, Millar McCall Wylie (MMW) are naturally very familiar with the intricacies of public procurement law as it relates to this jurisdiction. MW has particular experience in helping clients prepare and submit challenges to procurement processes in the High Court in Belfast. Much of this experience comes in the form of advising business clients who have been treated unfairly or who have been unlawfully excluded from public procurement processes with Contracting Authorities. Despite this, as Caroline Prunty, Partner at MMW observes:“We are increasingly finding that we are being called upon to provide a consultative advisory role in relation to complex bidding arrangements.” Indeed, given the volatile nature of many tender processes, tenderers often require timely and strategic advice about how best to approach bids. Moreover, although new EU procurement rules have been adopted to simplify tendering processes, MMW suspects that an increasing number of SMEs involved in tendering for public contracts could create even more disputes. In public sector tendering, larger contracts are being more commonly divided into lots to facilitate smaller companies in expenditure of public funds. As a result, public contracts are increasingly allowing for bids to be made for contracts by multiple companies or consortiums. Businesses involved in tendering for public contracts will be well aware that under the new Public Contracts Regulations 2015, Contracting Authorities continue to be obliged to act in a manner that promotes


The Millar McCall Wylie Team equality, transparency, proportionality, fairness and value for money. However, if you are invited to tender in a consortium or with a group of companies, the process can be extremely complex. It often requires advice from commercial lawyers who also understand the interconnectedness of procurement law. Issues can also arise between the establishment of a consortium and a bid. Main contractors can end up in substantial disagreement with subcontractors or consortium partners during these delicate negotiating phases. In such circumstances, a consortium partner may well decide that it would be better off if it removed itself from the arrangement. In 2010, the European Court of Justice held

in Wall v City of Frankfurt that where a sub contractor was critically important to a main contractor’s bid, to replace them would be a material change to the contract. According to the court, what must happen in this situation is that the replacement sub contractor must be better or equal. Other issues arise where main contractors are seen to be having carte-blanche in their choice of subcontractors. Some contracts also allow for successful tenderers to choose their sub contractors after an award has been given.

What does 2016 hold in store Moving into 2016, tendering for public sector contracts will remain a complicated business. There are numerous commercial and legal considerations which warrant professional advice. As a member of Multilaw, an elite global network of lawyers, MMW is part of a multijurisdictional procurement practice group which provides a wealth of knowledge in the area of procurement. If you are involved in tendering for public contracts and require advice please do not hesitate to contact MMW’s Caroline Prunty on or Jamie Ritchie on

This material is intended for general information purposes only. It is not provided for any specific purpose(s) or persons and is not intended to be relied upon as legal advice. No liability is accepted by Millar McCall Wylie LLP Solicitors for any actions taken in reliance upon the information provided. It is recommended that appropriate professional advice should be obtained regarding any specific legal problem or matter. Should you require such advice or assistance please contact us.


Is the door closing on Buy-To-Let investments? With Buy-To-Let landlords set to feel the squeeze on profits following several changes to the tax rules for rental properties, there is still time for investors to take action before the measures come into effect, advises Caroline Keenan, Tax Director, ASM than one tax year to tax full advantage of the CGT Annual Exemption (currently £11,100);

Stamp Duty Hike The Chancellor’s Autumn Statement on 25 November 2015 delivered yet another blow for landlords, with the announcement that a 3% surcharge on top of the current Stamp Duty Land Tax (SDLT) rates will be payable on all Buy-To-Let property purchases from 6 April 2016. This means, for example, that the SDLT bill on a £150,000 Buy-To-Let property will increase ten-fold from £500 under the current rules to £5,000 from the start of the 2016/17 tax year.

• the potential SDLT liability that would arise on transferring a property to a company (remember that the three per cent surcharge only takes effect from 6 April 2016 and the current rate of SDLT for residential properties with a value up to £125,000 is 0 per cent), but with careful planning some SDLT exemption reliefs may apply to reduce the liability to nil; and

Erosion of Tax Relief for Finance Costs The news about SDLT comes only several months after the announcement in July’s Summer Budget that a restriction to the amount of tax relief on finance costs that residential property investors will receive is set to be phased in from 6 April 2017. These new rules mean that by the 2020/21 tax year the after-tax cost for an additional rate (45%) taxpayer of £20,000 of mortgage interest will soar from its current level of £11,000 to £16,000. Although the restriction to tax relief will be brought in incrementally over four tax years (in 2017/18 the after-tax cost of £20,000 mortgage interest relief again for an additional rate taxpayer will be £12,250, in 2018/19, £13,500 and in 2019/20, £14,750), landlords with higher incomes face potentially significant increases in tax and lower profits as a consequence.

Options to Mitigate a Rising Tax Bill As the above changes do not take effect immediately, there is still time for landlords to review their property spending plans and also assess if opportunities exist to structure their portfolio in a more tax efficient manner. Bringing forward intended Buy-To-Let purchases to before 6 April 2016 will mean that the transaction will not be liable to the three per cent SDLT surcharge and the benefit of the reduction to SDLT for the vast majority of properties following the abolition of the old ‘slab’ system on 4 December 2014 can still be enjoyed.

Would a Company structure be beneficial? While the new mortgage interest relief rules will place a considerable extra income tax burden on individuals who own their buyto-let properties personally, those who invest through a company will not be affected by the restrictions. A company will be entitled to full relief for its finance costs and will pay

20 per cent Corporation Tax on its rental profits, with that rate set to fall to 19 per cent from 1 April 2017 and 18 per cent from 1 April 2020 (a property investment company would not be entitled to avail of the 12.5 per cent Northern Ireland Corporation Tax rate set to take effect from 1 April 2018). Using the example of an additional rate taxpayer who owns properties personally and has annual rent received of £50,000, mortgage interest of £20,000 and other rental expenses of £10,000, the resulting profit of £20,000 would give rise to an income tax bill of £14,000 on the rental income by the time the full changes come into force in 2020. By contrast if a company owns the properties, the tax on the same rental profit would be just £3,600, based on a Corporation Tax rate of 18 per cent in 2020. For landlords who wish to grow their portfolio and reinvest profits rather than extract them, a company becomes even more tax-efficient. But, careful consideration needs to be given to and professional advice taken, with regard to whether incorporating a residential property business is the best option. Factors to review include: • whether rental losses are currently being carried forward; • the Capital Gains Tax (CGT) position of properties held. The transfer of a property to a company would be a disposal for CGT, but tax exposure could be minimised by offsetting properties in a capital loss position against those that would generate gains, or staggering the transfers over more

• the medium and long-term plans for the rental business, in particular the anticipated level of profit extraction. Distributions by way of dividends will attract a personal tax liability, but a remuneration strategy could be implemented to reduce income tax exposure, and even with the new dividend regime set to take effect from 6 April 2016, the dividend tax rates will still be lower at the equivalent bands compared to tax rates on rental profits for properties held personally.

Conclusion The Chancellor sent out a clear message that he intends to target Buy-To-Let landlords in his Autumn Statement: 'Frankly, people buying a home to let should not be squeezing out families who can't afford a home to buy.' There may be a risk that the fundamental changes applied to the buy-to-let sector will backfire as one effect of the tax increases could be a corresponding uplift in market rent values. What is certain however is that now is definitely an opportune moment for landlords to consider their spending plans and rental business structures. ASM Chartered Accountants can provide a comprehensive review of the tax position of portfolios and advise on the best options for maximising tax efficiencies. For further information, please contact our Tax Director, Caroline Keenan, on 028 9024 9222 or email, or visit our website at The content of this article is for information purposes only and advice particular to your circumstances should be sought from a professional advisor.


Exercise your company health policies this new year With studies revealing that 63 per cent of people favour increased exercise and healthy eating as their priority this New Year (Angels Den, 2015), Dr. Alan Black, Director of occupational health providers, Blackwell Associates, explains how employers can assist workers in achieving their health goals. colorectal cancer, stress, and osteoarthritis. However, despite the overwhelming health benefits, as much as seven out of 10 people in Northern Ireland are still not physically active enough (Health Promotion Agency). Back pain is the most common cause of absence from work in the UK, with an estimated 16 million people affected each year, while mental ill-health such as work related stress, depression and anxiety, is the second most common contributor. Needless to say, both ailments and many others can be greatly improved or eradicated through the simple and cost-effective method of workplace physical activity programmes. It is recommended that an organisationalwide approach towards supporting employees should therefore be taken and can be implemented by: t goes without saying that employees are the most prized asset of any organisation. That’s why responsible business leaders will not only recognise that a safe and healthy workplace makes perfectly sound commercial sense, but moral sense too.


Healthy employees ­ healthy business. Several studies have shown that the bottom line of companies that proactively encourage healthy living within the workplace has drastically benefited. By motivating employees to adopt a healthier lifestyle, organisations will not only witness a rise in productivity levels by up to 38 per cent (Workplace Research Foundation 2014) but an improvement in engagement and customer service also, whilst reducing absenteeism, staff turn over and levels of stress. When you take into account that the average worker is absent from work for 8.4 days a year - costing a business up to £598 per employee - an unhealthy workforce is not only an inefficient one, but costly too. With that said, here are some measures businesses can put in place to ensure employees achieve their New Year health goals, one resolution at a time.

Resolution One: Exercise more often Adults should aim to exercise at least 30 minutes a day through activities such as walking, cycling or running. By doing so, you reduce your risk of a number of life threatening illnesses, such as coronary heart disease, stroke, obesity, hypertension,


• Encouraging employees to walk, cycle or jog to work by offering secure cycle parking, developing a route plan, or signing up to government schemes such as Cycle to Work. • Introducing flexitime to facilitate physical activity, such as longer lunch breaks. • Joining a corporate membership scheme with local gyms and incentivising staff to join. • Encouraging participation in fundraising events such as sponsored walks and/or marathons.

Establishing education programmes to raise employees’ awareness about health and wellbeing - while demystifying nutritional advice - should also be considered as an invaluable tool to help staff members achieve their own personal health ambitions. A survey commissioned by the University of Rochester, 2015 suggests that workplace weight-management programmes play a vital role in helping employees achieve weight loss, with nearly half of respondents reporting success in reaching and maintaining their long-term goals. Employees cited workplace support groups, occupational health guidance and healthier food selections in company cafeterias as contributing factors in their weight loss success. Ways to support healthy eating in the workplace include: • Sufficient information and guidelines on nutritional content for food sold within the premises. • Active participation in local healthy eating campaigns such as World Health Day on 7 April. • Supplying more fruit and healthy snacks in the staff kitchen for breakfast and tea breaks. • Running information sessions for employees on healthy eating within the workplace.

Resolution Two: Eat Healthier Obesity can result in a wide range of chronic illnesses, including type 2 diabetes, heart disease, cancer, mental health problems and low self-esteem. These illnesses can affect employees’ productivity and often cause longterm sickness absence, costing the local economy more than a million pounds a day and an astounding £277 million to Northern Irish employers each year (Safefood 2012). However there are many simple, inexpensive ways for employers to help staff manage their weight, with basic support including healthier alternatives in workplace canteens and vending machines. Also useful are health screens or check-ups with occupational health experts to measure employees’ basic vital signs, such as blood pressure, body mass index (BMI) and heart rate.

In addition, an occupational health provider can also provide professional advice and support to businesses wanting to reduce levels of workplace sickness through health and wellbeing policies. The team at Blackwell Associates Limited are well positioned to provide expert occupational health services and advice. For more information, please contact the team on 9065 6131 or visit Keep up to date with the latest developments in Blackwell Associates by following @BwellAssociates on Twitter or


When it comes to doing business in 2016, A GREAT DEAL WILL STAY THE SAME by Richard Donnan, Head of Ulster Bank Northern Ireland

ooking ahead to 2016, it’s important to recognise that when it comes to doing business this year, a great deal will stay the same. Major shifts in tectonic plates of business occur only sporadically and often without advance notice. As Sir George Quigley once said, change is ‘unpredictable, disruptive, inevitable and ineluctable’. This ebb and flow in the pace of change should be a cause for optimism – it means that the best business plans will be those that introduce the fewest variables and stick tightly to the factors that can be controlled. This is a value that we at Ulster Bank try to hold to, as our ambition is to be the number one bank for customer service, trust and advocacy – a simple and memorable principle that sits at the heart of everything we do, along with our colleagues in NatWest and Royal Bank of Scotland. The soundest plans focus on opportunities for improved productivity, competitiveness and customer experience centred on an individual’s wants and needs. If businesses are to compete more effectively, it is clear that above and beyond costs, planning and strategic approaches to business development, Northern Ireland companies need to put customer preference – and the speed with which that can evolve – at the heart of their forward planning. There are a few key areas in particular in which this needs to be considered, and which Ulster Bank is actively supporting in 2016.


Export There are clear benefits on offer for firms that engage successfully in exporting activity, and from my experience, more and more

Northern Ireland businesses are growing in confidence about taking that next step. By turning their focus to a larger market, there is an opportunity for more detailed specialisation, for new product development opportunities and a chance to spread risks – allowing companies to leverage changing global demand. However, it’s important to engage with a trusted partner to make that step. Your financial institution can provide insight on what’s required to get to that stage, as well as helping assess your plans for growth to help make sure that you move forward on a sustainable footing.

Building business confidence Bodies such as InvestNI do great work to promote inward investment in Northern Ireland, and steps here have been taken to make sure that we are making the most of our diaspora network and strong links to the United States. Further to these confidence boosting measures, it is important to encourage entrepreneurship close to home and create a culture that recognises and rewards people for taking risks, and sets up entrepreneurs as people to admire and inspire. The new Entrepreneurial Spark hub, powered by Ulster Bank, provides a safe space for up to 80 entrepreneurs to test and develop new ideas, we’re confident that it will produce significant benefits for local start-ups and early stage businesses – making them resilient, innovative and investable as well as providing new exposure on all of these fronts.

Putting the right people and products in place: It’s important that we in Ulster Bank play our part by making sure that we have in place the foundations that help businesses to meet these aspirations. In 2015, we introduced a dedicated international proposition to support our exporters, with the ability to release money tied up in unpaid invoices, to manage foreign exchange rate fluctuations and to access banking services in the jurisdictions in which they operate.

Open for business Ulster Bank is the only local bank with full membership of the international banking association, IBOS, which allows us to connect your business with our IBOS partners who aim to provide the service you would expect from Ulster Bank, but delivered by a local bank within your chosen market. Actions like these are an important way for us to signal that we’re open for this kind of business, as well as reassuring companies that we are able to support them at all stages of the cycle – from those just starting out, to those seeking to grow internationally. It is important to remember that there are many fundamental positives about the Northern Ireland economy that can be explored to create growth and opportunities – our land border with the EU, our strong diaspora links and being granted control over corporation tax. But the big asset is our people and our entrepreneurial history – a muscle memory of international success. Northern Ireland businesses have a history of producing and delivering on the global stage and to my mind there is no meaningful reason as to why we should not continue to do so. The appetite is there – quite literally in the case of some of our food and drink producers – but businesses need to be encouraged to take that next step. I hope to speak to many more of you in the coming months in order to discuss the ways in which Ulster Bank can support your ambition and deliver help for what matters to you.

If businesses are to compete more effectively, it is clear that above and beyond costs Northern Ireland companies need to put customer preference – and the speed with which that can evolve – at the heart of their forward planning. Richard Donnan



The secrets to a successful marketing career revealed! by Nick Read, chair, CIM Ireland Board recent CIM Special Report asked several senior marketing professionals what their secrets to building a successful career were. Many of their responses could be applied to any leadership role, and are sound advice to all those who manage or aspire to do so. However, some emphasised the traits, skills and lessons that are pertinent to the marketing profession. The report contends that marketers are fortunate to work within an industry which, through a period of economic turbulence and uncertainty, has offered up challenge and opportunity. As new technologies and organisational structures have entered the business world, the traditional roles within a marketing department have been superseded by specialisms such as content marketing manager or digital marketer. Such specialisms offer marketers the opportunity for new career pathways, and permit those with particular expertise the opportunity to focus on an area which is of interest to them. The report highlights that, as marketers, we may have to navigate a career pathway which sees us specialise. But if we wish to progress within an organisation, we need to be able to understand and integrate all disciplines of marketing into our planning and strategy. As an organisation, we also need to be able to spot and manage talent. The marketing department, of course, is mainly the domain of the large organisation who has the infrastructure and budget to be able to employ a number of people, and have specialist marketing functions within the team. Most organisations, particularly in Northern Ireland, do not have the luxury of a large marketing team and, if there is a marketing department at all, there are usually one or two diligent marketers covering the roles of marketing manager, content manager, and so on. In this case, marketers must have a diverse skill set and be able to determine which approach to market is most suitable to adopt for the organisation, the customer and the market. For this reason, many argue that the word ‘digital’ in front of a job title is a little erroneous – that marketers are marketers, whether they are digital or not. For the solo marketer, maintaining a diverse skillset is essential and often difficult, particularly with the quickening march of technology, and all of the opportunities and challenges that it can offer.



There are, of course, training courses available, and many workshops, conferences and events (including CIM’s regular trips to Google’s HQ in Dublin) to attend in order to stay up-to-date. This is essential if we are to keep pace with our competition and the market, and also the demands of our customers. Once we understand the marketing options available to us, we are able to make an informed choice as to whether the option is right for us. Below are some of the highlights from the report that may act as a prompt for you as a marketer when considering your next marketing decision or your career.

Get stuck in Orla Mitchell, chief marketing officer at Wrigley’s, says a hands-on approach to marketing helps you to gain expertise and keep these up-to-date, adding that taking on roles and responsibilities out of your comfort zone is beneficial. Orla argues that getting this experience early in a career gives marketers knowledge and experience, as well as an ability to learn and be agile.

Team work trumps individualism Karim Klaus Emara of Arup contends that you need to listen and be honest. This engenders trust in your relationships within an organisation and helps to build strong teams. Try to meet people and adapt to their DNA, but also bear in mind the culture of the organisation. Increasingly, marketing is bound up with other departments in an organisation, so it is important to be a ‘sponge’ for information. Ryanair’s chief marketing officer, Kenny Jacobs, holds a regular ‘all hands forum’. In this forum, 200 of his staff get together to discuss the marketing plan, along with their concerns and ideas. This helps iron out any issues and ensures all are signed up to a clear direction from the top.

Ask the right questions Johan Jervoe, chief marketing officer for UBS, argues that good marketers ask the right questions and listen to the answers. Curiosity can make you better understand consumers, clients and your colleagues – don’t take everything at face value.

Listen to engender creativity Nina Jasinsky at Ogilvy and Mather says, “We must remember we are a creative industry, we need an environment that

encourages the testing of ideas, learning from them and making them better, so we need an environment where failure should not be feared. Emara maintains, “the best firms are those that don’t focus on blame, they focus on what they are going to do about it.”

About CIM For more than 100 years, CIM has been supporting, representing and developing marketers, teams, leaders and the profession as a whole. Our networks have an unrivalled breadth, depth and diversity making this not just the largest community of marketers, but one with impact. We’re independent, trusted and connected, with access to unmatched ideas, insights and resources to help marketers navigate from problem diagnosis to practical solutions. Our vision is for marketing to be recognised for playing a pivotal role in business, constantly harnessing, integrating and acting on collective intelligence – and our role is to be the catalyst of that. Find out more and join the conversation at


Shock EU court decision threatens companies hosting data in US. Are you affected? by Katey Dixon, Forde Campbell LLC

n 6th October Europe’s senior court ruled that businesses who transfer EU citizens’ personal data to the US may no longer be able to rely on the methods they’ve used to date. This resulted in a flood of major US tech providers loudly shifting their data stores out of the US and into the EU: Amazon Web Services announced a new UK based cloud services region, and Microsoft has just committed to building up data centres in the UK and in Germany.


What’s the panic? The background is the severity of EU data protection legislation, implemented in the UK as the 1998 Data Protection Act. One of the legislation’s 8 data principles states that personal data should only be transferred to a non-EEA country if that country’s own data protection laws come up to a standard approved by the EU. Only 11 countries have been recognised so far by the EU. The US is not on the list. However, given the volume of trade between US and the EU (including the fact that the world’s largest data hosting services are US based), a compromise arrangement was constructed by the EU and the US Department of Commerce – the hubristically named “Safe Harbor” scheme. Safe Harbor allows companies in the US to self-certify that they implement adequate data security measures, and to be registered as companies allowed to receive EU data. However, following concerns over US intelligence monitoring of data, a test case argued that the Safe Harbor scheme was anything but secure. Austrian privacy activist Maximillian Schrems claimed that, in light of the Snowdon revelations, the transfer of the data of Facebook users from its international headquarters in the Republic of Ireland to the

US amounted to a breach of EU privacy laws. Schrems initially brought the claim against the Republic of Ireland data protection watchdog, the Data Protection Commissioner, who rejected his claim. The European Court of Justice reviewed the Commissioner’s decision. Its 6th October judgment ruled that businesses could no longer rely on Safe Harbor as a guarantee that a transfer of data to the US is legitimate. There’s a bit of legal ambiguity here: the ECJ didn’t say that Safe Harbor itself was invalid, just that the Republic of Ireland Commissioner’s interpretation was incorrect. This ambiguity has led to differing interpretations of the ECJ decision: the EU body representing all member states’ data protection agencies, the Article 29 Working Party, has said that any data transferred from the EU to the US which relies solely on the Safe Harbor Scheme is unlawful. However, the UK’s Information Commissioner is more relaxed. Perhaps in anticipation of the forthcoming Dad’s Army film the Information Commissioner’s Office has taken a less alarmist approach, with the advice “DON’T PANIC” written in large friendly letters on the Deputy Commissioner’s blog. The ICO suggests that businesses identify what data they transfer to the US, and determine whether the data really needs to leave the EU, before making any decisions. The ICO guidance hints that use of Safe Harbor won’t immediately be deemed to breach UK law, and that the issue of data transfer needs to be worked out over time – perhaps by structuring a “Safe Harbor 2.0”.

What’s the risk for Northern Ireland businesses? If a business collects personal data from an EU country (particularly from countries with the biggest data protection sticks, such as Spain or Germany), and sends it to the US (whether for commercial purposes or just because that’s where the business’ data host has its servers), there’s a risk that in the near future somebody will challenge this in the local courts and the courts may find the transfer illegal. This would make the business liable to fines and enforcement action, as well as forcing the business to restructure how it handles its data.

What should Northern Ireland businesses do?

data held about your employees, as well as the individuals your business deals with; • identify whether the data really needs to be sent to the US. If the US transfer is only because your hosting provider is based there, can the provider keep it in servers in the EU instead? (Many of the big name hosting services offer this as an option). If not, is there an alternative EU based hosting provider; • estimate the risk to the individuals whose personal data is transferred, were the data to be leaked in the US. Being able to demonstrate that you’ve carried out this risk analysis will be particularly important; • consider the use of alternative ways to transfer data to the US. One way is to have EU approved model contract clauses incorporated into your contracts with the parties who provide you with data: this sounds great, but in practice the clauses are lengthy, non-negotiable and need a bit of legal tinkering to incorporate. Putting the clauses into future contracts is relatively easy, but negotiating them into past contracts is much trickier – you’ll almost always need the consent of the other party, and they may well ask for a new benefit in exchange for including the data protection wording; • get explicit consent (in writing) from anybody whose personal data you’re transferring to the US. This may or may not be possible, depending on the number of individuals you’re dealing with. The ICO scrutinises the meaning of consent very carefully, insisting that consent must be freely given. In practice this means the individual must accept a very clear, easily understandable consent statement: opt-out boxes are a no-no. Particular care must be taken with employees, since there’s a presumption that the employment relationship prejudices the freely given nature of consent; • WATCH THIS SPACE! The ICO isn’t rushing to be specific. The good (?) news is that EU data protection law is due to undergo drastic change in the next few years anyway… Forde Campbell specialise in data protection law. If you have any concerns about transferring data outside the EEA, feel free to contact or

In the absence of explicit advice from the ICO, we’re currently advising our clients to: • work out what personal data you send to the US. Remember, personal data includes



Avoiding the risks of not getting paid by Stuart Ramsden, Country Manager for Atradius Ireland ne aspect which a company should never have to worry about is getting paid. However, this is the single biggest risk to any company with the potential to undermine its ability to do business. Chasing payment to reduce trade debt is unpredictable, time consuming and an administrative burden – resource which could be constructively directed growing the business. Overdue payments put strain on a business’ cash flow. For some, unpaid invoices can break a business altogether and SMEs are particularly vulnerable as they often have less breathing space to withstand the financial pressure. When doing business whether in the domestic market or overseas, there is a very real risk of nonpayment. The latest Atradius research into payment practices revealed that an average of 41 percent of B2B invoices are paid late. This trend has risen over the past two years with British businesses now waiting an average of 10 days longer for overdue invoices to be paid. In addition, around seven per cent of all sales become delinquent – that is, unpaid 90 days after the due date. British businesses went on to declare that 1.2 per cent of their trade was entirely uncollectable. Nearly half of businesses said that delays were due to their customers having insufficient funds while 11 percent had fallen to insolvency. During the recession, businesses were seeing increased insolvencies and were very risk aware. Now that the economy is growing again, it is important not to lose sight of the risks – but Irish businesses also need to be ambitious for the opportunities. Companies need to proactively take action against the risks of doing business and have a robust credit management system in place. Good intentions are not enough, there are too many examples of businesses getting it wrong, and suffering from the consequences. The good news is that implementing a positive risk strategy is simple and there are a few basic steps that Irish businesses can take to make the world of difference:


When doing business there is a very real risk of nonpayment. The latest Atradius research into payment practices revealed that an average of 41 percent of B2B invoices are paid late. Stuart Ramsden

Be focused: The first step is to focus on your market – you will have much more success directing your energies to specific markets and not take a scattergun approach. Understand the regulatory and legal regimes and then focus on your distribution channel and build strong relationships. Who are you trading with: Credit checks will allow you to find out vital financial information about your customer, including how good they are at paying other suppliers and their credit rating. This will enable you to decide if you can do business with them on credit; if not, request payment in advance.


Set your payment terms: Can you get paid upfront? If credit is the only option, have a written agreement on the costs and the payment procedure. Can you offer an early payment incentive to reward timely payment? Stick rigidly to your side of the deal and invoice promptly. Be clear about the service or product you’re selling: Because nearly one in five invoices are unpaid because the customer disputes the quality of the service or goods provided. Don’t let this become an issue. Get your admin right: Fifteen per cent of bills are unpaid because the invoice has the incorrect information. A further 13 per cent are sent to the wrong person. Don’t take the basics for granted – check it’s correct. Stay on top of billing: Create aged debtor reports to monitor which invoices are unpaid after the due date and follow up swiftly with reminders. Your legal rights: You are entitled by law to charge interest on overdue payments. Spot the warning signs: A business almost never goes into insolvency overnight. Red flags include customers frequently failing to pay on time, permanently taking advantage of full credit lines, asking to prolong overdue bills, changing banks or offering bills of exchange in lieu of payment. Collect your debt: If your bill still hasn’t been paid, send a final warning letter and turn the debt over to a collection agency. You may not have the resource but, for example, Atradius has specialised collections teams on the ground in countries across the world ready to take action and you pay nothing if they do not successfully collect the debt. Don’t be embarrassed: You may have a longstanding relationship with your customer but you cannot let this hamper your business sense. Don’t let any customer over-extend your business’ usual payment boundaries and you can’t afford to be shy about sending payment reminders, conducting credit checks or taking out trade credit insurance against their orders. Protect yourself: Trade credit insurance is the simplest, most cost effective way to protect your business against not getting paid. If you can’t get paid, for instance if your customer becomes insolvent, is affected by payment default or political risk, Atradius will pay your claim – reducing the need for bad debt provision and releasing money back into your business.


Why does Leadership Matter? Build organisational success in 2016 by focussing on leadership By Olivia May, Programme Director, William J Clinton Leadership Institute oo often we see media reports of business failures on a grand scale, Volkswagen being only the latest case in point. Attempting to diagnose what went wrong, the reason given is often a “lack of leadership”. We know, instinctively, that leadership is important for all organisations, but can we precisely put our fingers on the reason why? How does leadership indeed become the vital ingredient in both business success and business failure? If we can clearly highlight the ways in which leadership contributes to success, then we can ensure that we hold our leaders accountable, and support and develop them as they fulfil their critical role. At the William J Clinton Leadership Institute we believe that leadership provides the four fundamental ingredients for organisational success. Without these, a business is like a house built on sand that can wash away. For this reason, we think of them as the four “cornerstones” of organisational success, and they can be summed up as “change”, “culture”, “commitment” and “capability”. Change: we know only too well that businesses that do not change do not survive. Leaders challenge the status quo and drive change, even when it is uncomfortable and difficult. For any organisation it is always much easier to carry on doing things as they have always been done than to reinvent. This is particularly difficult when the organisation has been successful, but leaders recognise that the seeds of failure are present in every success, and the pace of global change requires businesses to be ever more agile, adaptable and forward-looking. Culture: Peter Drucker famously said that “culture eats strategy for breakfast”. This doesn’t mean that strategy doesn’t matter, but that the culture of an organisation, the invisible set of behaviours and attitudes that drive peoples’ behaviours – “the way we do things round here” - has a more direct impact on every single person in the organisation, and thus on its performance. Where does the culture come from? The answer is that the tone is largely set by the people at the top of the organisation. Effective leaders recognise this and know that when they need to communicate what they


If we can clearly highlight the ways in which leadership contributes to success, then we can ensure that we hold our leaders accountable, and support and develop them as they fulfil their critical role. Olivia May


say is meaningless unless it is congruous with what they do. Commitment: leaders, particularly front-line managers, can make the difference between an employee who is committed and motivated, and one who is disengaged and disaffected. The degree to which engaged employees deliver better customer service, solve problems and drive creativity is well understood. Nonetheless, not enough managers recognise and are accountable for simple actions that they can take to build commitment – sometimes it can be as little as thanks for a job well done, or taking into account the fact that the member of staff is a person with responsibilities and a life outside the workplace. Capability: successful organisations use the talents of all their people, at all levels. Too often we see decisions pushed upwards, with front-line staff not being empowered or up-skilled to be able to tackle and solve problems at their level. This causes bottlenecks and wastes human potential. Great leaders realise that their job is to build capability – to continually coach people, build skills and delegate properly so that the people in the organisation get better all the time. This then enables them to take on new tasks, in a continual process of learning and performance improvement.

So how can leaders ensure that they build these cornerstones of success? The first task we often ask leaders who come on our programmes is to work out how they, in their businesses, add value as a leader. A simple question on the face of it, but critical, and often an eye-opening exercise for the individual as they realise that how they add value as a leader can be very different from those factors that have been important in their career success to date. They recognise that as a leader it is less about what you do personally, and more about what you enable others to do. It is less about the results themselves, but more about creating the conditions for sustainable business success. It is less about responding to today’s crisis, but more about looking forward and predicting tomorrow’s problems.

2016 and the Northern Ireland Insurance Market A

by Martin McRandal, Find The Way Consulting

The Northern Ireland insurance market has undergone much change in the past ten years. No longer are insurance companies competing for office space within sight of City Hall. Martin McRandal

s an industry, insurance doesn’t have the most exciting reputation, so I’m pleased that you have read this far. The Northern Ireland insurance market has undergone much change in the past ten years. No longer are insurance companies competing for office space within sight of City Hall. In fact many insurers have reduced their operational presence in Northern Ireland with functions being moved to centralised service centres, mainly in Great Britain. However those jobs lost have been replaced by others created mostly by local firms; insurance brokers and varied service providers. Northern Ireland needs and indeed has a vibrant insurance market. The Belfast Insurance Institute has some 1,800 members. It’s annual dinner, one of the social events of the year, will take place in the Culloden Hotel on January 8th 2016 and will as usual have an attendance of 500. A leaf through recent editions of Business First will reveal several good news stories about local insurance firms. In looking at what 2016 will bring, I must start with some bad news. Insurance Premium Tax on most general insurance products was increased from six per cent to 9.5 per cent effective from November 1st 2015. The effect of this is to add roughly £10 to your £300 home or car insurance premium when renewal date comes around. The car insurance market has been under the spotlight in recent years. This began with Consumer Council research in 2009, the conclusion of which was that the cost of car insurance in Northern Ireland was significantly greater than that in comparable regions of Great Britain. This led to Northern Ireland being included within a wider investigation of the operation of the UK car insurance market by the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA). The CMA concluded that no intervention was necessary, although they found some evidence both that car insurance was more profitable for insurers and that there was less competition in Northern Ireland. Locally a special working group in the Assembly has been investigating the operation of the Northern Ireland car insurance market. They have focused specifically on a number of issues including control of claim cost, under provision of services to those involved in an accident and level of competition in the market. Their concluding report is due to be published soon and will make interesting reading. Motor insurers in the British Isles have had a difficult time over the past couple of years. There have been a number of significant insurer withdrawals from the motor insurance market. Motor insurance premiums across the British Isles have simply been too cheap. There has been

too much competition. Both claim cost inflation and claim numbers over this period were underestimated by insurers. It has been widely reported in Republic of Ireland that car insurance premiums rose 25 per cent in 2015 and are expected to rise by a further 25 per cent in 2016. All of the recognised UK car insurance premium indices show premiums increasing across all regions. In Northern Ireland our largest car insurers have taken significant action to increase premiums in the second half of 2015. The outlook for 2016 is that motor insurance premiums will rise further. The home insurance market is at a very different place. Insurers went through several difficult years, starting around 2008, during which premiums increased significantly. There were two main factors at play. Firstly there were severe weather incidents, severe freezing or heavy rains resulting in flood, at least once a year. Secondly insurers found that the cost of the average claim was increasing at an unusually high rate year on year. This can be attributed to the economic prosperity of the preceding years. The average house simply had much more costly fittings and contents than it had previously. In the home insurance market premium levels have now largely stabilised. We had, until December 2015, gone through two or three years of benign weather. There are signs that competition is increasing in the home insurance market. On the subject of home insurance, Flood Re will be launched in April 2016. This is the result of collaboration between the UK Government and insurance companies. Its primary purpose is to make affordable flood cover available to those householders whose properties are at greatest risk of flooding. Affecting business insurance contracts, The Insurance Act 2015 will come fully into effect in 2016. It has been described by the UK Government as “the biggest reform to insurance contract law in more than a century”. Briefly, the Act reforms specific post contractual issues and pre contractual obligations on business policyholders to make a fair presentation of the risk. 2016 promises to be another challenging and eventful year for the Northern Ireland insurance market; a market continually evolving to meet the needs and demands of our customers. Martin McRandal is a Business Consultant, a Motor and Property Insurance Underwriter and an Expert Witness.



Hillsborough Castle: open for business n April 2014, independent charity Historic Royal Palaces assumed responsibility for Hillsborough Castle, one of the most beautiful historic properties in Northern Ireland. Historic Royal Palaces already cares for the Tower of London, Hampton Court Palace, the Banqueting House, Kensington Palace and Kew Palace, and is now undertaking a major project to transform and open up Hillsborough Castle. New visitor facilities and a dedicated Clore Learning Centre are to be created and the castle will be made more accessible, enabling Hillsborough Castle to become a leading destination and a place for reflection and learning about centuries of history. Hillsborough Castle is an exquisite venue for weddings, corporate events and conferences. With magnificent State Rooms and expansive gardens, the venue is a truly unique choice in Northern Ireland, enabling visitors and guests to walk in the footsteps of presidents and princesses. Over three centuries, Hillsborough Castle has hosted people from all corners of the globe, and been the scene for some of Ireland’s most significant events including the signing of the Anglo-Irish Agreement. Built in the 1700s by Wills Hill, first Marquis of Downshire, and later remodelled in the 19th and 20th centuries, the castle retains a role in cultural and political life in the country and offers a range of inspiring and versatile spaces able to accommodate events from small meetings to large seminars or conferences. Hillsborough Castle’s State Dining Room can host 26 guests for a dinner or 60 for receptions, while the Throne Room is comfortably able to accommodate 130 theatre-style. Located 20 minutes from Belfast, the castle’s prestigious setting makes it a great base for corporate away days, with the entire ground floor available to hire exclusively for large events, with total capacity for 400 guests. The castle’s 96 acres of gardens developed from the 1760s onwards offer an oasis of



calm making it an ideal choice for weddings. Couples can say their vows in one of the castle’s State Rooms, filled with historic paintings, or make use of the ornamental gardens, peaceful woodland, meandering waterways, picturesque glens and carefully tended lawns by hosting their special day outside. Elegant gazebos and marquees can also be incorporated into the landscape. The Marquee Site has capacity for 350 guests for a wedding breakfast or dinner event, while over 4,000 guests can be accommodated in the grounds for outdoor celebrations.

Re­presenting Hillsborough Castle Historic Royal Palaces is embarking on an exciting transformation project at Hillsborough Castle, with the ambition to open up the castle and the grounds to the widest possible audience. The charity plans to improve access for visitors and guests, conserve the site’s unique heritage and provide enjoyment, learning and participation opportunities. Initial building works are now underway and the project will be completed by 2019. As well as introducing new visitor and

education facilities, the project will rejuvenate the gardens and re-present the Throne Room, Drawing Room and Staircase Hall. Debbie McCamphill, Visitor and Events Manager at Hillsborough Castle, says: “As an independent charity, Historic Royal Palaces is dedicated to ensuring the future of the historically important buildings we care for. Funds raised from functions and events help make this possible and ensure that these sites are maintained for everyone to enjoy. “We are excited to head into 2016 where our major project at Hillsborough Castle will begin to take shape. The restoration of the State Rooms will ensure that guests choosing Hillsborough Castle for their function or event will enjoy newly-conserved spaces set within the fantastic historic setting of the castle.” Historic Royal Palaces is able to work closely with clients to demonstrate how hosting a function or event at one of its palaces contributes to the organisation’s charitable cause. With corporate social responsibility (CSR) and sustainability a key component of most company strategies these days, all of Historic Royal Palaces’ venues are in a unique position of being able to help clients fulfil these increasingly important CSR targets. Liz Young, Head of Events at Historic Royal Palaces, adds: “Corporate social responsibility targets are an integral part of a company’s strategy extending to all areas of the business including event-related activities. Clients are looking further into the sustainable and CSRrelated activities of a venue or supplier and at the ways they can get their delegates directly involved. “Whether it is engaging in community work or being able to contribute to the future of historically important buildings such as ours, we welcome the opportunity to work with organisations to successfully fulfil their CSR targets, while securing the future of this beautiful site for future generations to discover.”

Meetings are made easy at Maldron Hotel Belfast! hen planning an event or meeting, one of the most important aspects is Location, Location, and Location. You may have to consider that delegates will be travelling from different regions of Northern Ireland to attend your event. When considering a venue, then look no further than Maldron Hotel Belfast. Located in the heart of Northern Ireland, only a twominute walk from Belfast International Airport and just 20 minutes outside Belfast. Maldron Hotel Belfast the perfect location for your next meeting or event! Easily accessible from the M1 & M2, making Maldron Hotel Belfast, the ideal meeting point for any regional businesses. Maldron Hotel Belfast is perfectly located for corporate meetings when you are bringing people together from different parts of the region or even from further afield. Avoid the traffic and parking issues of


Belfast City Centre with stress-free access to Maldron Hotel Belfast. All conference guests can avail of complimentary Parking and WiFi. Meetings are made easy at Maldron Hotel Belfast as you will find there is a conference room to suit any event or budget! The hotel offers 10 impressive conference rooms with capacity for up to 250 delegates. Each suite can be tailored for any event such as training, product launches, networking, interview or exhibitions. Maldron Hotel Belfast is renowned for high standards, outstanding service and a keen eye for detail.

So think of Maldron Hotel Belfast when you are planning your next meeting and take advantage of the great facilities. The conference team offers a highly personalised approach to meetings and events, trained to offer you a tailored and professional service. Contact them with your meeting requirements and they will provide a bespoke quote to match your needs. Flying from Belfast International airport on business? Check into Maldron Hotel Belfast the night before. Relax and enjoy a good night’s sleep. Arrive for your flight relaxed, refreshed and ready for your travels. Take advantage of our convenient Stay, Park and Fly facilities. Packages are available from £89.00 with up to Seven Days parking included. Visit Contact 028 9445 7000 or email



BA Components celebrate 25 years O

n Thursday November 19th 2015 BA Components crowned their 25th incredible year in business with a glittering celebration, with over 300 staff, suppliers, customers, family and guests attending a black tie gala awards night at the Glenavon House Hotel in Cookstown. The statistics were impressive; 332 attendees, a 6-piece band, 1000 plates of food, 11 awards and 6 block-booked hotels making it an unforgettable evening. BA Cookstown staff were joined by colleagues from the Doncaster factory, suppliers from as far away as Japan and customers from over 23 countries serviced by BA. The evening followed earlier guided tours of the Cookstown factory, led by business owners Brian and Kieran McCracken; and was filled with some reminiscing on times past, inspiration for the future, and plenty of laughs in between. Ste Thornley from Thornleys, and winner of both the Best Kitchen Under £15k and Overall award said “The factory tour this morning was brilliant. We were given a great insight into the company and the creation of the products we purchase. Being led through the factory by Brian & Kieran themselves was an honour; being able to absorb their knowledge and experience first-hand.” Following the afternoon’s busy tour schedule, comedian William Caulfield entertained (and sometimes shocked!) guests as he navigated through the black tie dinner and awards presentations with his witty humour, while David Caulfield, Sales & Marketing Director at BA Components (pictured) co-hosted to oversee every detail of the spectacular night. When called forward by David, awards sponsors and winners made their way to

Brian and Kieran McCracken receiving their 25 year timeline plaque

stage to the accompaniment of live music from The Liberals throughout the evening. A humorous and entertaining tribute leading to a standing ovation was paid to the twin brothers who have taken the business forward for the past 25 years, Brian and Kieran McCracken. Together they have grown the business from a 1 man band to 250 employees and from zero to a £30m turnover company operating in 23 countries worldwide. Once the presentations were over, The Liberals took centre stage on the dancefloor. There wasn’t a moment throughout the night when the floor was empty.

The awards winners were as follows: Best Bathroom: Wittering West Ltd Best Bedroom: Drawers N Doors Best Dealer Use of Social Media: J Sheppard & Sons Most Innovative Use of a BA Product: Glenlith Interiors (Scotland) Ltd Best Makeover/Replacement Project: Upgrade Your Kitchen Ltd Best Kitchen Under £15,000: Thornleys Best Kitchen Over £15,000: David Head Furniture Best Dealer Showroom: Carana Kitchens / Buy Buy Kitchens Supplier of the Year: Hettich Overall Award: Thornleys BAmbassador: Troy Tappenden, Dream Doors Tim Leedham, Managing Director of Hettich UK said, “I cannot believe the level of detail BA


have gone to for this event; well actually, I can. “The quality of the night reflects their attitude to business – striving for the best they can possibly produce. We have had an incredible time tonight – BA have set the bar HIGH. I can’t imagine I’ll ever be at an event of this quality again any time soon.” Brian and Kieran McCracken, Directors of BA Components said “Tonight has been incredible. We are blown away by the level of detail David and his army of helpers have gone to in order to deliver this event. We can’t thank him and all who attended enough for the most memorable and glamorous night BA has had to date. (jokingly) We’re looking forward to seeing how the 50 year anniversary celebration will top it!” David Caulfield, said “This has truly been a night to remember. A night when customers, staff, suppliers, friends and family all came together for one great party and celebration. All the hard work, stress and sleepless nights have been worthwhile just to see the pleasure and enjoyment everyone experienced tonight.” If you weren’t able to attend on the night, or catch a glimpse of the live stream; fear not! The evening was also recorded and will soon be made available to watch for the first time, or to re-live if you were there. We would love to see your photographs from the night, so send them in to, or share them on our social media! More information about the BA Awards is available at Follow @bacomponents on Twitter or search using the hashtag #BAwards2015.

Enterprise Northern Ireland Awards 2015 T

he annual Enterprise Northern Ireland awards were held at the Hilton Hotel in Belfast. The event was opened by Patsy McGlone MLA and the audience also enjoyed a presentation from Tom Griffiths, founder of The top award, for Business Start Up of the Year, was scooped by Holohan’s at the Barge, a family owned restaurant moored next to the Waterfront in Belfast. Chief Executive of Enterprise Northern Ireland, Gordon Gough, said: “Enterprise Northern Ireland is the voice of local entrepreneurship and we’re very pleased to celebrate great examples of local ingenuity

and talent. Helping to develop strong companies that create employment and export across the world is an important part of what we do. “These awards are an excellent chance to recognise the hard work and dedication of businesses and members of the Enterprise Northern Ireland network. Whether it is through offering business support or highlighting access to finance initiatives, our network of enterprise agencies is playing an important role in stimulating Northern Ireland’s economy.” Keith Liggett from Legacy Wealth, the headline sponsor of the Awards said: “We

Presentation of the Special Recognition; Indigenous Business Award to Suki Tea by Gavin Walker, Business First to Oscar Woolley, Suki Tea

Gordon Gough, Chief Executive EnterpriseNI, Claire McCollum, Compere, Patsy McGlone MLA,, John D’Arcy, EnterpriseNI Chairman,

media partners for the Enterprise NI Awards

were proud to support the awards again this year to show our commitment in helping to encourage innovation and entrepreneurship. Entrepreneurial tenacity and determination is alive and well and the 2015 Northern Ireland Enterprise Awards certainly showcased Northern Ireland’s brightest business talent.”

Dermot Cleere, Legacy Wealth, Tom Griffiths, Founder of, Gordon Gough, EnterpriseNI, Mark Crimmins, Ulster Bank

John D’Arcy, EnterpriseNI Chairman, Emir Holohan, Holohan’s at the Barge , Mark Crimmins, Ulster Bank



Business First meets Maria Jennings Food Standards Agency in Northern Ireland What’s your job title? Director of the Food Standards Agency (FSA) in Northern Ireland.

What skills did you require to get where you are? I completed a BSc Honours Degree in Environmental Health and worked for a number of District Councils before going on to obtain a Master’s Degree in Environmental Health and Safety. I specialised in enforcing food law in manufacturing businesses before I joined the FSA when it was set up in 2000. Along the way, I have had the opportunity to gain new skills, completing an All-Ireland Public Health Leadership Programme and the Chief Executives Forum Women in Leadership Programme.

What does your day­to­day role involve? My time is mostly split between Belfast and the FSA head office in London. I am involved in driving the delivery of our strategic plan outcomes by putting consumers’ interests at the heart of creating food we can trust. On a day-to-day basis, I manage the FSA office in Belfast and I have regular contact with Ministers, MEPs and MLAs. I also work closely with the food industry, the Public Health Agency and our enforcement partners, DARD and the District Councils.

What are your career successes? While I loved my job as an Environmental Health Officer, being the Director of the FSA means that I can influence the overall direction of food safety across the UK. For me, one of my most rewarding roles in the FSA was to establish the Nutrition and Dietary Health Team. It was great to shape this policy area in NI by building strong partnerships to take forward this important work.

What’s the best thing about your role at the FSA? I would have to say the people. The team are extremely bright and dedicated. Every single employee is clear about how they help to deliver the FSA’s objectives. They make it easy for this office to deliver for NI consumers and they’re always willing to go that extra mile.

Did you always want to work in the food industry? If so, why? Surprisingly…no! An Environmental Health role is much wider than food safety and I originally started in a more general public health role. My initial love was pollution control but by accident I fell into a food safety role. And as the saying goes, I’ve never looked back


What are the most common misconceptions about food? I believe the most common misconception is that the FSA and enforcement authorities are responsible for making food safe. We are responsible for overseeing the rules, regulations and standards that are put in place, but it is a food businesses responsibility to produce food that is safe to eat. We can’t possibly give a stamp of authority to everything that is produced.

What do you attribute your success to?

How important is the online world of Facebook, Twitter, blogs and news websites to the success of your campaigns? Social and digital media have now become a way of life. I find myself reading things on Twitter that the news reports two days later. It’s vital in some incidents for us to get our key messages out there fast and these channels give us the control over how we do this. We can react really quickly and continue to build on our reputation as the voice people can trust on food matters.

I have learned a great deal from the managers and leaders that I have worked with throughout my career. I try to replicate those who have most influenced me positively and try not to make the mistakes I have seen others make. I am passionate about always being fair to those I work with and maintaining my integrity when I am making difficult choices.

In my husband’s words, ‘I always have my nose stuck in a book’, so I think it would be safe to say reading is a true passion of mine. I’ve probably worked my way through more than 2,000 books over the past 20 years and there are many more to go.

If you had three wishes, what would they be?

What advice would you give to someone starting out in their career?

I’d have to say more resources (but who doesn’t?); the ability to break down barriers between different partner organisations we work with and; if I could, I’d have a time machine to help cut down on travel time between London, Belfast and home.

Soak up as much knowledge as you can. There’s no better way to get ahead than to learn from others. Ask to be involved – don’t rely on others to include you. If you show interest in your work you will easily progress. Politeness and gratitude go a long way.

What’s your greatest passion outside work and family?

Business First celebrates your success [1]Gind Insurance NI has appointed Lana Cairns as Marketing Manager. Lana has over seven years’ experience in delivering successful marketing strategies and campaigns for high profile businesses in Northern Ireland. Lana will be responsible for devising, implementing and managing all marketing initiatives for Find Insurance NI. [2] Deborah Archer, Director, Company Commercial Department at Cleaver Fulton Rankin. Deborah will specialise in the area of Banking and Finance. Deborah holds an LLB in Common & Civil Law with Hispanic Studies from The Queen’s University, Belfast and in 2001 graduated from the Institute of Professional Legal Studies with a Distinction. [3] Kathryn Laverty, Solicitor, Corporate, Banking and Finance Department at Cleaver Fulton Rankin. Kathryn joined Cleaver Fulton Rankin as a Trainee Solicitor in September 2013, completing her Certificate of Professional Legal Studies in June 2015. Kathryn advises clients on a wide range of corporate, commercial and employment law issues with a particular focus on corporate transactions, commercial contracts and noncontentious employment law. [4] Peter Lockhart, Solicitor, Dispute Resolution Department at Cleaver Fulton Rankin. Peter becomes a solicitor in the Litigation department, working in the Procurement, Construction, Mortgage Repossession and Dispute Resolution teams.Peter comes from a public law background, having completed his training contract in the Office of the Attorney General for Northern Ireland where he was one of a small, in-house legal team providing the Attorney with support in discharging his responsibilities [5] Visit Belfast, the city’s destination marketing and management organisation, has appointed Laurie Scott as its director of business development. Laurie, who worked for Visit Britain in New York for more than seven years, joins Visit Belfast’s senior management team to lead its business development team across conference, meetings, cruise and travel trade sales. [6] Grainne Glenny has been appointed Ireland Manager at MCE Public Relations. She has previously worked for Edelman PR in Dublin. Her new role will see her utilise her extensive knowledge of the ROI market to service growing demand from MCE’s consumer and lifestyle clients such as Dillon











Bass, Beannchor Group and the Cathedral Eye Clinic. [7] Alastair Luke has been appointed as a Client Executive at MCE Public Relations. He previously worked in third sector communications with Young Enterprise and in graphic and web design with Agenda NI. His new role will see him work alongside the firm’s corporate team. [8] Natasha Doherty has been appointed as a Client Executive at MCE Public Relations. She has previously worked in the UTV newsroom, assisting on a range of current affairs programmes including UTV Live and UTV Live Tonight. Her new role will see her work closely with a variety of Public Affairs clients, delivering bespoke political monitoring, detailed policy research and community consultation services. 9. Niall Watson has been appointed Delivery Executive – New Business and Mobilisation with Fujitsu. As Delivery Executive, Niall will be responsible for the

growth, mobilisation and delivery of new business within Fujitsu’s Public Sector accounts, supporting customers’ needs and providing innovative end-to-end digital modernisation services. Niall has a BSc Hons degree from the University of Ulster in Maths, Statistics and Computing and previously worked at Parity Solutions as a Software Developer. He has worked at Fujitsu, the largest Japanese employer in the UK and Ireland, for 18 years in a number of positions and brings vast experience in the delivery of complex managed service contracts within the Public Sector to this new role. Niall has an in-depth understanding of business - from the programme delivery of contracts to providing innovative ICT solutions.

Employers supporting mental health, support the economy A

One in five people in Northern Ireland will experience a mental illness at some stage in their lives, making it an increasingly important issue to address more openly to break down the associated stigma. Briana McAteer

ccording to statistics from Action Mental Health, almost 50 per cent of long-term absences from work are due to mental health issues, with four in ten employers admitting to not employing someone with a psychological condition due to perceived ‘high risk’ (Mind, 2014). Furthermore, one in five people in Northern Ireland will experience a mental illness at some stage in their lives, making it an increasingly important issue to address more openly to break down the associated stigma. With that said, more and more companies are realising that by fully investing in the wellbeing of their employees, they will create a viable and sustainable business model that has the greatest impact on the bottom line. The way employers manage issues of mental health when they arise has a huge impact on staff turnover, with considerable associated costs in terms of recruitment, training, and employee engagement, which impacts on quality of work and productivity. Briana McAteer, Employment Officer with AMH New Horizons supports those with mental health issues as they seek to find employment, volunteer posts or further training. “AMH New Horizons supports people from all walks of life and treats everyone as equals. “It’s well documented that everyone experiences difficulties at some point in their life with the number of people experiencing mental ill-health further on the rise. “However, despite how common it is, there is still a lot of stigma associated with mental illness which makes it difficult for people to discuss. This therefore results in a lot of fear and misconception around the topic.” AMH’s Vocational Programme offers a range of accredited and non-accredited courses as well as many activities that support personal development and social inclusion such as yoga, art for relaxation, stress management and support groups. The charity also provides an Employment Programme which gives practical advice and support, such as job searching and application writing skills, to those who are unemployed, experiencing mental ill-health and want to take the next step towards recovery. Support is also provided to find volunteer placements, training programmes or further education courses in which clients can enter. Across Northern Ireland the programme has contributed over £450,000 to the local

economy through employment and tax revenue. Briana continued: “Once a client is referred to us, we provide support to both them and the placement provider for up to 18 months. Our work is very much tailored to meet the individual needs of each so we can also offer support and peace of mind to the employer. “If employers have any questions or concerns they can come directly to us as a consistent point of contact. “Our role is to ensure the situation is workable for both parties and is sustainable in the long term. Often ‘work-trials’ are an option which means that we can place people with a company for a trial period of 6-10 weeks. This gives both parties an opportunity to see if the placement will be viable, thus removing much of the perceived ‘risk’. “We are still in quite difficult economic times so it’s important to have as many people economically active as possible to support the growth of the community. However, it has been proven time and again that a supportive working environment can help improve people’s mental wellbeing. “The more supported and capable each individual is, the stronger the community is as a whole.” AMH has units located across Northern Ireland in Antrim, Belfast, Craigavon, Banbridge, Derriaghy, Downpatrick, Fermanagh, Foyle, Newry, Mourne, North Down and Ards. For more information on AMH New Horizons and details on how to get involved please visit This project is part funded through the Northern Ireland European Social Fund Programme 2014-2020 and the Department for Employment and Learning.



Shortlist for the Allianz Arts & Business NI Awards 2016 revealed T

he shortlist for the Allianz Arts & Business NI Awards 2016 has now been announced. The partnerships making up the 2016 shortlist showcase that when the worlds of culture and commerce collide they create something amazing together. The businesses shortlisted range from the worlds of banking and dental to legal and printing. Arts entrants cover a diverse variety of art forms ranging from theatre to music and photography to literature. Sharon Connolly, operations manager, Allianz remarked: “Yet again this year’s submissions reflect the real value that cultural and corporate partnerships bring to local communities, to business communities and to society at large. Many congratulations to all the very worthy projects who have been shortlisted and we look forward to an exciting Allianz Arts & Business NI Award Ceremony in 2016.” Awards will be made in nine categories, six awards will be presented to the local business community including the prestigious Business of the Year Award. The Arts Award includes a cheque for £3,000 and the Allianz Community Art Award will be presented to the winning organisation alongside a prize fund of £2,000. Business of the Year Award and Allianz Community Art Award shortlist and winners will be announced on the evening of the Awards. The judging panel included representatives from the business world and the arts sector and was ably chaired by Actor, Playwright and A&B NI Board Member, Dan Gordon. Mary Nagele, chief executive, Arts & Business NI commented: “Thanks to the judges for collating such an inspired shortlist and to Allianz who continue to give their vital support for these important Awards that celebrate creative partnerships between the worlds of culture and commerce.” The winners will be revealed at the Allianz Arts & Business NI Awards ceremony which is taking place at the Grand Opera House, Belfast on Wednesday 20th January 2016.

Awards Shortlist Allianz Arts & Business NI Corporate Responsibility Award Belfast Harbour & Culture Night Belfast – Cathedral Quarter Trust Belfast Harbour & Arts Care Campsie Karting & Millennium Forum Theatre & Conference Centre Foyleside Shopping Centre & Waterside Theatre & Arts Centre


Allianz Arts & Business NI Cultural Branding Award Fielden Clegg Bradley Studios & PLACE NI Gentle Dental Care Belfast & Cinemagic Film and Television Festival for Young People Iris Colour & Belfast Photo Festival Suki Teahouse Ltd & Visual Artists Ireland

Allianz Arts & Business NI Sustained Partnership Award AES Northern Ireland & Cinemagic Film and Television Festival for Young People Exitex Ltd & Sestina Music Iris Colour & Belfast Photo Festival Ulster Bank & the MAC (Metropolitan Arts Centre)

Allianz Arts & Business NI Employee Engagement Award Burke Shipping Group & c21 Theatre Company Ltd Edwards & Co Solicitors & Lyric Theatre Navigator Blue Communications & South Bank Playhouse

Allianz Arts & Business NI New Sponsor Award Belfast Harbour & Arts Care Belfast Harbour & Culture Night Belfast – Cathedral Quarter Trust Gentle Dental Care Belfast & Cinemagic Film and Television Festival for Young People Suki Teahouse Ltd & Visual Artists Ireland Translink & Cinemagic Film and Television Festival for Young People

Allianz Arts & Business NI Arts Board Member of Year Award David McCullough & Kabosh Ellie McGimpsey & Oh Yeah! Music Centre Glenn Murray & Pintsized Productions Tony Kennedy & The John Hewitt Society

Allianz Arts & Business NI Business of the Year Award Winner announced on the night of the Awards

Allianz Arts & Business NI Community Art Award Shortlist and winner announced on the night of the awards

Allianz Arts & Business NI Arts Award Arts Care Belfast Photo Festival c21 Theatre Company Ltd Cinemagic Film and Television Festival for Young People Culture Night Belfast – Cathedral Quarter Trust Lyric Theatre Millennium Forum Theatre & Conference Centre PLACE NI Sestina Music South Bank Playhouse the MAC (Metropolitan Arts Centre) Visual Artists Ireland Waterside Theatre & Arts Centre

100% Employment Opportunities for Northern Ireland Care Leavers Y by Robin Simmons, Professor of Education, University of Huddersfield

oung people who have spent time in care suffer a range of disadvantages in terms of education, health, housing and family support. They are also particularly vulnerable to becoming NEET (not in education, employment or training) and to spending significant periods of time outside education and work. This, in turn, is often linked to an increased likelihood of involvement in crime, early parenthood and other sustained disadvantages, such as longterm unemployment and substantially reduced lifetime earnings. But, whilst being outside education and work can have serious implications for the individual, and especially for those who have been in care, there are also broader social costs to consider.

The cost of NEETS NEET young people are less likely to participate in civil society and the democratic process, and tend to demonstrate lower levels of institutional trust – relating, for example, to policing, health, education, and so on. There are, however, also significant financial costs associated with being NEET. These include: • Public finance costs, related to additional welfare payments, lost tax revenue, increased demand for health and social services • Resource costs involving lost earnings for the individual, reduced economic activity, and lower levels of skills and productivity There have, in Northern Ireland and elsewhere, been a number of initiatives which have sought to increase employment opportunities for care leavers, and to prepare them for the world of work. Aiming Higher, a Big Lottery funded project run by Business in the Community in partnership with Include Youth has been particularly successful in this respect, and significant progress has been made in improving employment opportunities for care leavers across Northern Ireland. But those who have been in care remain disproportionately vulnerable to becoming and remaining NEET, and to sustained disadvantage thereafter.

What can business do? There are a number of important points to make about the costs and benefits of engaging care leavers in education and work. First, whilst the challenges should not be

underestimated; the number of young people concerned is, at least in the Northern Ireland context, relatively small. Although data is not complete, and numbers differ between HSC Trusts, an informed estimate suggests that around 200 care leavers (aged 16-21) are NEET each year in Northern Ireland. But there are almost 690,000 jobs in Northern Ireland and there were, during 2014-15, nearly 12,000 entrylevel job vacancies across the country. A quick calculation then shows us that around 1.7 per cent of entry-level job vacancies would need to be filled by care leavers in order for all to be in employment within a year – although it is also possible that some young people who have been in care will also be suitable for jobs in sales, administrative work or other occupations. Other NEET care leavers may, however, need to engage in further education or training before starting work. It is therefore feasible that 100 per cent employment opportunities for NEET care leavers could be achieved by filling just 1 per cent of entry-level job vacancies in Northern Ireland with young people who have been in care.

The business case Many employers will, of course, be concerned to improve the life chances of the most vulnerable and disadvantaged young people and there is, in Northern Ireland, a strong tradition of social responsibility amongst industry and commerce. But there is also a strong business case for improving the employment prospects of care leavers.

On one hand, employers are significant contributors to the Exchequer and the cost difference between individuals becoming and remaining NEET and successfully securing and maintaining employment can, on average, be estimated to be around £130-£150k over a working lifetime. Such costs may, however, amount to as much as £1m by the age of 40 for those in the most extreme circumstances. On the other hand, increased participation in education and work would also directly benefit business and industry in a variety of ways – through, for example, generating increased demand for goods and services, and improved productivity associated with higher levels of workforce skill and motivation. There are a number of ways of improving employment opportunities for care leavers – and these are discussed in a research report I was recently commissioned to write by Business in the Community, with my colleague, Ron Thompson. The underlying message for employers is that creating sustainable employment opportunities for care leavers is not only a matter of social justice. It also makes sound business sense. For more information on Business in the Community’s work with young people leaving care, please email or call 9046 0606


ASTON MARTIN DB9 he Aston Martin as a brand has and is loved –well if not loved respected by all of the Motor industry and that alone is something special. Aston Martin has faced bankruptcy on numerous occasions throughout its 102 year history and the company is still one of the most recognisable brands in the world. The reason for their financial difficulties over the years has always been the same. They build bespoke cars using the very best of materials and craftsmanship which makes them labour intensive but also makes them extremely special. Yes they sound expensive but when you start looking at them up close and hear about the hand built engines, the hand stitched interiors the attention to detail and the build quality and performance. Expensive maybe, special, original, charismatic, sexy– they really have it all. Ian Fleming the creator of James Bond was renowned for his exemplary taste and after driving the DB9 I certainly agree. DB9 is the iconic heart of the Aston Martin model range. A Grand Tourer combining an intoxicating blend of elegance and engineering, refinement and technology. DB9 is also the latest progeny of the most illustrious automotive bloodline in the world. I drove the DB9 Carbon Edition which looks just stunning both inside and out it’s like a panther about to pounce. Carbon is used on the front splitter, door mirror caps, rear lamp infills and rear diffuser and also a little on each side that is suitably subtle. The DB9 certainly has a road presence – I was surprised by how many people stopped to let me out onto the main road just to have a look at the car usually when you are driving a



supercar it is just the opposite. Aston Martin has only one licensed dealer in Ireland, Charles Hurst Aston Martin. The showroom alone is fascinating as it has all the tools available to configure a completely bespoke car. My DB9 (well for a short time anyway) had a V12 6 litre engine driving through a semi auto six speed gearbox. Once inside the DB9 you instantly know you are in something special. Once you enter the oblong fob into the starter in the middle of dash and the engine fires up – yes it is special. Press the D (drive) button on the dash and the DB9 just rumbles away purring like a lion. The DB9 delivers its 510 Bhp beautifully smooth and silky the V12 engine is an absolute jewel and it will hit 60 mph in just a

by Ian Beasant, BUSINESSFIRSTMAGAZINE motoring correspondent smidgen over four seconds, with a top speed of 190mph. The DB9 has ceramic brakes, huge discs all round are hidden behind the 20 inch alloy wheels. The brakes are outstanding a firm push on the brake pedal and the DB9 just settles onto the road. Inside, it is quite a piece of art, with a mixture of leather and carbon that really is top class. The driving position is excellent as you sit in the car, and feel part of the car. Passenger room and comfort is very good as well –rear seat passengers well – it’s probably better just having the driver and a passenger. Aston Martin really does focus on the best driving experience you can have at any cost – the engine is so sweet I hardly had the radio on. The only way I can sum the DB9 up is really easy in one word - Special.

Simply SUPERB Skoda he new Skoda Superb is aptly named. It has the quality and offers the driving experience of an executive car at twice the price. Add to that practicality fuel economy and style and it really is Superb. With smaller engines being in vogue at present and I would think going forward; the Superb I drove for a week was the SE Estate fitted with a 1.6 120bhp turbo diesel engine. A six speed manual gearbox drives the front wheels and I was a little sceptical at first as The Superb Estate is a big car. But the 1.6 engine was real surprise as it is so torquey and never felt laboured even with a full load of five people on board. The engine is quiet and feels a lot quicker than the figures suggest of 0-60mph in 11 seconds. Fuel consumption was astonishing – Skoda reckons you could get 1100 miles on a full tank –well maybe on a very long journey that would be possible. On my week of all types of journeys I was able to achieve just under 70 miles per gallon. The Superb Estate looks great sitting on its 17 inch alloy wheels, funnily it does not look that big as the wheelbase is quite long and this adds to the clean lines that enhance the appearance of The Modern looking with a purpose. The interior is real quality in every way, the driving position is excellent and the amount of room is well – just stunning. The driver and front seat passenger are treated to a generous amount of room, the rear seat passengers are really well accommodated. The leg room even for six footer is generous to say the least. I think the Superb offers more


leg room and comfort for rear seat passengers than more than any other executive car on the market. The Estate offers a vast amount room, drop the rear seats and the Superb turns into a practical work horse. Skoda has filled Superb full of extras offering all the latest in safety and comfort. Once I got behind the wheel I was hooked. The six speed gearbox has short shift and combined with the pin sharp steering –the Superb feels really sporty to drive. The suspension suits our roads well offering a well-balanced feel between keeping

body roll to a minimum, comfort to maximum and handling to the fore. The leather clad steering wheel gives great feedback which makes driving the Superb an enjoyable experience. The Superb for all its size, does not feel at all big on the road it feels nimble and sharp. So much so that I really did not want to hand this one back. Prices start from £22,790 on the road.


The new Fiat 500

he new Fiat 500 has just gone on sale and Fiat has very successfully kept the appeal of its predecessors even though no fewer than 1,800 changes have been made all designed to enhance the ownership experience and refine its inimitable style. The majority of the changes can be found at the front. New FIAT 500 retains the “face” of its predecessors with headlights which are still circular in shape but which adopt innovative polyellptical modules for improved night vision and extra safety. These clusters


by Ian Beasant, BUSINESSFIRSTMAGAZINE motoring correspondent

integrate the dipped-beam headlamps and turn signals, while lower light cluster integrates the main beam headlights and LED daytime New 'empty' light clusters, comprised of ring-shaped structures with body-coloured centres, define the revised look of the rear, with the fog light and reversing light relocated to the edges of the redesigned bumper trim to improve safety by separating illumination functions. The interior has had a freshen up as well all

new FIAT 500 models now benefit from numerous enhancements, most noticeably in terms of its dashboard design which now integrates the advanced Uconnect™ infotainment across the range. The unit is not only easier to read and more intuitive to use, it also improves connectivity and functionality with steering wheel remote controls and USB / Aux-in ports on all models. I tested the 875 cc two cylinder Twin Air petrol engined model coupled to a sweet changing six speed gearbox. It feels a lot sharper than the figures suggest 0.60 in 10seconds and the little two cylinder engine is quiet and does give a sporty roar when pushed on a bit. The differences Fiat have made to the 500 are significant and you real can feel it in the chassis as the new 500 is so much more engaging to drive and the steering and brakes are sharper and the car feels better for it. The 500 will carry four people – although it might be a little cramped in the rear if you are tall. The driving position offers a balance of good visibility and comfort. Luggage space is adequate for a couple of people. I could only manage 40 miles per gallon which fell a bit short from what Fiat are quoting – but then again it was probably down to my driving more than anything else as the Fiat 500 is so much fun to drive –it is a real head turner in looks and as a city car it ticks all the boxes.

The warm Peugeot 208 hat are two things you might not expect to find in Peugeot's new warm hatch, the 208 GT Line? One, a three-cylinder engine. Two, an automatic gearbox – but the 208 GT Line 1.2 has both. Off to a bad start? Not necessarily. You see Peugeot’s turbocharged 1,199cc Puretech motor delivers 110bhp and 151lb.ft. of torque. The result is a 9.8 second dash to 62mph and 118mph top speed along with 62.8mpg and 104g/km efficiency claims. Making the 208 GT Line specification yet more appealing is its GTi-aping appearance sitting at the top of the non-GTi tree; it features 17-inch alloys, gloss black door mirror trims, front grille and fog light surrounds and a chrome exhaust pipe. The five door body shell also an attractive and practical addition to this sporty hatchback. I was a bit skeptical at first about the sixspeed automatic gearbox, really because it is not very often you find small cars with automatic gearboxes. But I needn’t have worried as this six –speed was an absolute peach and was always in tune with the engine which made it great for a bit of town driving and effortless when cruising on the motorway. The 1.2 litre Turbocharged



engine is a beauty and feels very sharp providing instant power when needed. The 208 GT line does offer sharp handling without compromising on the ride quality. The interior is a little quirky and the small steering wheel does take time to get used to. The controls are well laid out and in a very fresh uncluttered way. Interior space is good for a car of this size giving you plenty of space for four people to travel in comfort. There is enough room behind the rear seat for a fair bit of luggage and you can also drop

the rear seats if you need room for larger items. On the road you can use the six –speed auto box as manual if you prefer. The suspension has been nicely tuned to give the 208 that agility and nimbleness that Peugeot have always built into their hot hatches. The 208 is economical and it I great fun and easy to drive with a touch of French style, it may not be a Hot hatch –but it is certainly a warm one.

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The Final Word Reasons why CBI Northern Ireland supports EU membership Sinead McLaughlin, chief executive of the Londonderry Chamber of Commerce kicked-off our coverage of the debate that will develop over the coming months in the lead up to the UK -wide European Referendum. In this issue Nigel Smyth, director of the CBI Northern Ireland, outlines his thoughts on the issue.

he UK’s relationship with the European Union (EU) is becoming a hot topic of conversation in households, offices and pubs across Northern Ireland and, with a referendum due before the end of 2017, that won’t change anytime soon. With so much at stake, the CBI is meeting employers across the UK and we have just held a roundtable in Belfast to discuss the matter with local businesses on the ground. While the CBI would never claim there is a uniform business view on this issue, it’s clear that a significant majority of our members want to remain in a reformed EU. This includes SDC Trailers, one of Northern Ireland’s fastest growing manufacturing companies. We will, of course, listen to and engage with those members who don’t agree – we respect their opinion. The CBI speaks on behalf of 190,000 firms, together employing around seven million people in the UK – the vast majority small and medium and across every conceivable industry. Our members tell us how important delivering reforms within the EU are; to make a better deal for citizens and businesses across the continent. But let me first give some reasons why a majority of CBI Northern Ireland members believe our continuing membership in a reformed EU is good for our economy: Access to the EU Single Market of 500 million customers has been crucial for the fortunes of hundreds of small and mediumsized firms in Northern Ireland who export or form part of large supply chains worth millions of pounds – for many small companies the Republic of Ireland acts as a great first stepping stone. Some 57 per cent of Northern Ireland’s



exports go into EU markets, considerably higher than the 45 per cent for the UK as a whole. For those firms who do not directly export, they may not see how their business is benefiting from the EU. But you can bet that businesses higher up the chain are doing exactly that – selling in Europe – meaning that this link is so important to the success of the firms across the entire chain. Much of Northern Ireland’s sales into GB market actually end up being exported. And we have a very large and growing agri-food sector in Northern Ireland which has a massive dependency on the EU, in both the supply side and as end markets. And, of course, the prosperity generated through trade means people generally have more cash in their pockets to spend in local shops, benefiting businesses throughout Northern Ireland. In the EU Single Market where there is one set of rules for 28 different countries, smaller firms find it easier to take that first step to export and break into new markets on our doorstep. This provides jobs across Northern Ireland. Second, being in the EU also lets us set the trade agenda with our European allies. We could soon be signing the biggest free trade deal ever with the US. Randox in Antrim believes a successful trade deal with the US will improve their market access and make the company more competitive in the US. We would look to negotiate trade deals on our own if we left the EU, but we’d be doing so with a weaker hand and would have to start from scratch. Through the EU, we currently have free trade deals with 50 countries, with more to come – and many Northern Ireland companies already benefit from this market access. Who knows how long it would take to renegotiate these deals, and how much disruption firms would face as a result, almost certainly costing jobs, and investment. Third, membership of the Single Market has helped Northern Ireland attract investment from around the world, especially from the US but also from Europe. Per capita Northern Ireland has recently been securing the highest level of inward investment in the UK outside of London, with 25 totally new investors arriving last year alone. With a lower Corporation Tax rate we expect Northern Ireland to attract many more, but being part of the Single Market will be a key requirement for many potential investors. Access to markets is the most important factor influencing investment decisions.

Fourth, being part of the EU Single Market means business can offer customers more products and services, and at lower prices. As well as opening up markets, common EU standards have led directly to safer and more environmentally friendly products, from fridges to medicines. But the EU isn’t perfect and membership has also had its costs to the UK. The European Commission has a strong tendency to regulate, giving a sense of ‘mission creep’. It must improve the process by which it assesses new regulations and reduce this burden, particularly on smaller firms. But the signs are that Brussels recognises this and progress is already being made to reduce that impact. In the past few years, the number of new EU initiatives has fallen from 314 in 2010 to just 23 this year. We also need the EU to go further making yet more progress on completing the single market, including services, maintaining momentum on trade deal talks and ensuring that Britain’s EU membership does not become diluted by being outside the Euro. The Prime Minister has now outlined his reform wishes in a letter to the European Council. The CBI Northern Ireland supports his efforts and we will be pushing the reform agenda that our member companies want to see. At the end of the day, it’s not about whether we could survive outside the EU, it’s about whether we would thrive. We’ve looked in detail at the alternatives and, frankly, the arguments don’t stack up. All other possibilities leave us on the outside with far less influence, still following the same rules to trade inside the EU and still footing the bill. For example, Norway is the tenth highest contributor to the EU but not even a full member, and still complies with free movement of people. And for those pushing for an exit, they need to offer a credible and prosperous alternative, not just complain from the side-lines. The CBI Northern Ireland has taken its reform agenda to European capitals for the last few years and there is undoubted appetite for change to tackle the big issues Europe faces. As we heard recently from An Taoiseach, Enda Kenny, addressing the CBI’s Annual Conference, the Irish government are sympathetic to reforms which improve the EU. We believe we can win the EU arguments both here and in Brussels to ensure we have an economy that can deliver growth, jobs and prosperity for Northern Ireland. The business case to remain in a reformed EU is clear.

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