Business Eye January February 2021

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Issue 203 Jan/Feb 2021 ÂŁ2.50 Voted best Business Magazine in Ireland 2005 and Magazine of the Year for Northern Ireland

Laith Dajani Bringing An International Dimension To Leadership Institute Features:


Healthy Place To Work New Initiative Launched


Office, Retail & City Centres - What Does The Future Hold?


Paddy Wallace - Adapting To A New Future

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Jan/Feb 2021 ISSUE 203

Belfast Firm Strikes 10 Cambridge Deal

Office, Retail & City Centres – 45 What Does The Future Hold?

Belfast-based Barclay Communications has secured a £3 million contract to supply one of the world’s most famous universities with a mobile solution for its 31 constituent colleges and 150 departments.

Business Eye linked up with leading law firm TLT to stage a virtual round table discussion event to look at what the future holds for office working and for the retail sector as Northern Ireland emerges from the Covid-19 pandemic.

Entrepreneur 14 OfEYThe Year Now in its 24th year in Ireland, the EY Entrepreneur of the Year ranks as one of the leading business awards programmes on the island and has recognised some of the very best business leaders on both sides of the border. Entries are open for the 2021 programme.

Laith Dajani – New Director 20 Joins Leadership Institute If the William J. Clinton Leadership Institute at Queen’s University set out to inject a little international experience into its top role, then they’ve succeeded with the appointment of Laith Dajani as Director of Executive Development.


Healthy Place To Work – A Holistic Approach To The Workplace

It’s probably fair to say that Dublin-based John Ryan and his Belfast-based business partner Peter Morris couldn’t have picked a much better time than the Covid-19 era to launch their Healthy Place To Work concept on a worldwide basis.


Upbeat Or Downbeat? The Prospects For 2021

An influential cross section of Northern Ireland business leaders share their hopes and fears for 2021 as we enter the second month of the new year. With Covid still with us, and Brexit a reality, are they optimistic or pessimistic about the months ahead?

Buckley Publications 20 Kings Road Belfast, BT5 6JJ Tel: (028) 9047 4490 Fax: (028) 9047 4495

Getting The Right Person – An 58 Innovative Recruitment Solution Two out of every five new hires turn out bad within 18 months and a bad hire at a salary of £30k can cost a business £90k to put right. With those statistics in mind, Ian Weatherup’s Corvus has launched a new scientific approach to accurate recruitment.


Paddy Wallace – Adapting To A New Future

It’s never easy for professional sportsmen to adapt to working life once they’ve hung up their boots. Former Ulster and Ireland rugby star Paddy Wallace reflects on his personal journey from full time player to business life and his decision to enter the world of financial service and wealth management.

Northern Ireland – Setting 65 The Pace On Broadband Northern Ireland is continuing to lead the way when it comes to the provision and availability of high-speed broadband according to Ofcom’s Northern Ireland regional director Jonathan Rose.

– 69 ACovid-19 Lesson In Comms The Covid-19 pandemic and its effect on the business world is a timely reminder of the need for authentic and effective communications, says Dave Cullen, director of LK Communications.

Editor Richard Buckley Commercial Director Brenda Buckley

Design Hexagon Tel: (028) 9047 2210

Photography Press Eye 45 Stockmans Way Belfast, BT9 7ET Tel: (028) 9066 9229


As we move into the second month of 2021, we have marked our first edition of Business Eye in the new year by asking a broad cross section of business leaders here about the prospects for the year ahead? Are they optimistic or pessimistic?


“Northern Ireland stands to gain from its special status post-Brexit. That’s not a popular statement to the ears of those who vehemently opposed Brexit or anything resembling it.”



t’s abundantly clear that there are two key issues. One is the continuing Covid19 pandemic. The other is Brexit and its net effects on Northern Ireland. On the face of it, and given the headlines we read and hear every day, both are existential threats to businesses and the economy here. But read carefully and it’s clear that there is a fair amount of optimism out there. Let’s start with Covid, an issue which has now dominated all of our lives for pretty close to 12 full months. We might be in the midst of a lockdown which started at Christmas and is set to go on until the start of March and probably longer. We might be living under the most stringent of restrictions. Our bars, restaurants, hotels and many of our shops may be firmly shut. But our vaccination programme is going extremely well. Better, in fact, than many of us might have imagined. At the time of writing, vaccinations have begun for the 65-70 year old age group. That gives us all hope, as it should, that we could start to move out of some restrictions in the not too distant future. The road ahead in some sectors, particularly tourism and hospitality, is going to be a tough one. For others, though, the postCovid bounce could be substantial. Brexit, for its part, was always going to be a contentious issue and it was always going to lead to some disruption and problems. And so it has proven, with almost immediate supply issues hitting goods coming to Northern Ireland from Great Britain.

Richard Buckley EDITOR Irish Magazine Editor of the Year 2005

The likelihood is, though, that these issues will continue to be ironed out as time goes on and, even when the so-called grace period runs out, that supply lines can operate pretty much as they did before. But, in some quarters, concerns remain and it’s vital that the situation is closely monitored. Northern Ireland stands to gain from its special status post-Brexit. That’s not a popular statement to the ears of those who vehemently opposed Brexit or anything resembling it. It’s a view, though, that has been put forward over recent weeks by Kevin Holland, the Invest NI Chief Executive, and his senior team. Their view is that Northern Ireland, with its easy access to both the EU Single Market and to the rest of the UK, is uniquely placed as a business location. And that’s an opinion which is being echoed by many others, including those in the real estate sector here. In any case, where 2020 was a year few of us will ever forget, there’s no doubt that 2021 is set to be a year of change. All being well, we’ll move steadily out of the Covid era, we can grasp our Brexit opportunities, we can counter any Brexit negatives and we can all look forward to brighter times ahead.

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Eye on News

Fibrus recruits 100th member of staff and appoints Chief People Officer Leading broadband provider, Fibrus has appointed a Chief People Officer to manage their growing team, following the recruitment of their 100th member of staff.


Chief People Officer, Terri Johnston (c) with Fibrus recruits Rebekah Gregory and Stephen Craven.

he new role comes in response to rapid growth as a result of the company’s recent appointment to deliver Project Stratum, which will see the roll out of full fibre broadband throughout Northern Ireland. The contract is set to radically transform broadband connectivity by extending gigabit capable full fibre broadband infrastructure to approximately 79,000 homes and businesses across the region. This has led to a surge in the Fibrus team, which has grown from 10 to 103 members of staff since its establishment in 2019. New recruit, Terri Johnston, who has taken up the post of Chief People Officer, explained the importance of a positive working environment. She said: “My role, put simply, is to shape an environment where our people can do and be their very

best. I’m an advocate for our amazing people, ensuring they are supported and have the tools they need to do great work, as well as the space and opportunity to grow professionally. This often means putting people before process, but sometimes a better process creates better results and improvements for everyone too. “Fibrus has built a really strong team of talented individuals in a very short time period. Appointing a chief people officer demonstrates their commitment to building a healthy workplace and investing in their people. “I’m delighted to be joining such an ambitious team and look forward to contributing to a workplace that people look forward to coming to every day.” Fibrus continues to recruit for a range of roles from areas right across Northern Ireland.

Sir David Sterling Appointed Trustee of Children’s Cancer Charity - Cancer Fund for Children Sir David Sterling KCB has been appointed a trustee of children’s cancer charity, Cancer Fund for Children. The former Head of the Northern Ireland Civil Service, joined the board of Northern Ireland’s leading children’s cancer charity in December 2020.


ir David brings a wealth of knowledge and experience at a crucial time for Cancer Fund for Children having served in a variety of senior roles for Northern Ireland Civil Service including Director of Community Affairs in PANI, Senior Finance Director in the Department of Regional Development (DRD), Permanent Secretary in the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Investment (DETI) and Permanent Secretary Department of Finance. Sir David was promoted to the Head of the Northern Ireland Civil Service in 2017 and retired from this role in August last year. During his tenure as Head of the NICS he navigated the NICS through challenges including the delivery of public services


in the absence of ministers, preparing for Brexit and the resumption of devolved government, and dealing with the Covid-19 Pandemic.

Sir David also holds offices including Chair of the Chief Executives’ Forum and is a Trustee of Ulster Wildlife and the Centre for CrossBorder Studies. He was awarded a Knighthood in the 2020 Queen’s Birthday Honours. Speaking about his appointment Sir David said, “I was delighted to be asked to join the Board of the Cancer Fund for Children as a Trustee. I have long admired the great work the charity does to provide support to families who are struggling to cope with the impact of cancer and look forward to working with the Board and staff team to help ensure that no family in Northern Ireland has to face cancer alone.” Cancer Fund Children’s Chief Executive Phil Alexander added, “We are thrilled that Sir David will be joining Cancer Fund for Children. He brings a wealth of knowledge which will help us in our mission to ensure that every young person under-25 impacted by cancer gets the vital support they need whilst we continue to navigate the challenges of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.” Cancer Fund for Children provides practical, emotional, and therapeutic support to children, young people and families impacted by cancer. For more information visit

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Eye on News


Angela McGowan, CBI Northern Ireland Director & Elaine Birchall, CBI Northern Ireland Vice Chair.

CBI Northern Ireland is delighted to announce Elaine Birchall as its new Vice Chair for 2021. Elaine succeeds Fane Valley CEO Trevor Lockhart and serves alongside CBI NI Chair and Barclays Head of Corporate Banking, Adrian Doran.


laine is widely recognised as one of the most respected CEOs in Northern Ireland. She has led SHS Group since 2015, a FMCG family-owned Group headquartered in Belfast and longstanding CBI member. SHS Group employs over 1,000 people in commercial offices and production sites in Northern Ireland, Great Britain and Republic of Ireland. The Group owns many household brands including WKD, Shloer, bottlegreen, Meridian nut butters and Zip firelighters and distributes a portfolio of well-known brands including Colgate, Nurofen, Finish, Dettol, Jordans, Tunnocks and Mars Drinks. It is also the largest

supplier of own label herbs, spices and condiments in the UK. Before joining SHS Group, Elaine held management and leadership roles in Europe, the USA and South Pacific for Colgate Palmolive. She also has previously led PZ Cussons UK as Managing Director and managed operations in Nigeria, Ghana and Kenya as Area Director for PZ Cussons Africa. Commenting on Elaine’s appointment, Angela McGowan, CBI Northern Ireland Director, said: “I’m thrilled that Elaine has been appointed as CBI Northern Ireland Vice Chair for 2021. “Her leadership will undoubtedly ensure the CBI continues to

represent the views of NI businesses to policymakers – from Stormont, to Westminster and Whitehall – on the issues which matter at this most challenging of times. “Elaine’s vast knowledge, experience and expertise has been invaluable to me as we navigated the challenges of last year and will continue to be so; as we help businesses bounce back from the pandemic, navigate our new relationship with the EU and accelerate our efforts towards net-zero. “I would also like to thank Trevor Lockhart for his hard work over the past few years, both as CBI Chair and Vice Chair. His wisdom, warmth and humour have been so important to me personally and to the entire CBI team through one of the most tumultuous periods I can remember.” Elaine Birchall, CBI Northern Ireland Vice Chair, added: “I’m delighted to be appointed to this significant role, as the NI business community grapples

with the considerable challenges experienced throughout 2020. “As a region powered by businesses of all sectors and sizes, CBI NI will continue to use its voice to communicate what companies need at the highest level of policy and decision making. Our economic recovery depends on it. “I personally intend to leverage our collective determination, expertise and innovation to showcase business as a force for good and a means of developing a greener and stronger economy – creating jobs, investment and growth that will deliver economic and societal benefits across our region. “I very much look forward to working closely with Adrian, Angela and the CBI team - building on their fantastic work and steering us towards a strong, secure and sustainable future.”


Eye on News

Two new partners appointed at A&L Goodbody’s Belfast office

Corporate law firm A&L Goodbody (ALG) has announced the appointment of two new partners at its Belfast office.


reg Martin has become a partner in the Commercial Property team. He advises a wide range of clients including institutional investors, developers, pension funds and property companies in relation to all aspects of real estate transactions. Chris Jessup has been promoted to partner in Financial Regulation. A fintech specialist, Chris works with organisations such as banks, payment service providers, payment systems, investment firms, fund managers, and other financial institutions and fintech businesses on UK and EU financial services regulation. ALG in Belfast is made up of 120 lawyers and business support


professionals and, following the appointments of Greg and Chris, is led by a team of 16 partners. Michael Neill, Head of A&L Goodbody’s Belfast office, said: “These senior level appointments come in response to the firm’s commitment to the ongoing growth and success of the Belfast office during what continues to be an extremely challenging period for the Northern Ireland business community. “As we look forward towards economic recovery, our clients will demand unwavering energy, adaptability and industry knowhow as well as technical expertise from our senior lawyers, and Greg and Chris very much fit

Pictured L-R are: Greg Martin, Partner, Commercial Property; Michael Neil, Head of Office, ALG Belfast; Chris Jessup, Partner, Financial Regulation.

the bill in this regard. We are proud to have such a breadth of talent across our entire team of lawyers and business support professionals in Belfast. “I would like to sincerely thank our team for the way they have responded and adapted to living and working with this pandemic. Through their collective efforts we have continued to provide our clients with exceptional service when they have needed it most.” Greg Martin Greg is a specialist in property acquisitions, disposals, re-financings, development, landlord and tenant and portfolio management. Greg also has a particular focus on mixed-use development schemes. Greg trained and worked in London before returning to Northern Ireland to join ALG in 2017.

Chris Jessup Chris has extensive experience advising on new products, commercial contracts and transactions for the commercial and retail banking, e-money, payments, virtual currency and consumer finance industries. Before joining ALG, Chris worked in the banking and financial services teams of two global law firms in London and was seconded to the legal and regulatory team of an international payment system.

Eye on Cloud Communications

Get Even More From MS Teams To Support Your Business As we grapple with the challenges of ongoing restrictions, thousands of local business owners and managers are now more confidently getting through, embracing the rich and enabling the resources on offer from Microsoft Teams and Office 365.


owever, as managers know, it’s not enough to simply get through. Every business still wants to grow, increase profits and win new opportunities. Ensuring that you’re getting the best from your MS environment, and managing it well, will go a long way to ensure you’re on the right path. Though many of us are familiar with all the basics, there’s plenty more you can do to manage this incredible resource. By adopting usage and security policies you can increase focus, collaborate better and be more organised. USE MS TEAMS FOR MAKING CALLS

Little known and a big win for local business, MS Team users can make cheap or free internal and external digital calls using the cloud, enabling them to make, receive and even transfer calls to and from landlines or mobile phones anywhere in the world from your desktop or mobile phone and more easily from their contacts.

An accredited Microsoft Silver Status partner, Rainbow Communications is Northern Ireland’s leading cloud telecom and IT provider. For more information on its full range of services, including bespoke solutions, visit

have left, so it’s important to have a plan in place. Office 365 enables you to decide where you want things stored using a folder stricture that can be shared with a team or group at the beginning of a project. Regular housekeeping, cleaning and deleting files and chats you no longer need, should also help. EXTERNAL & GUEST ACCESS


MS Teams has an unrivalled range of third party apps across a range of business functions from accounting to project management and by default any user can install them. However, you might want to consider only allowing approved apps or a specific list to keep your systems in check or limit a range to specific team members. MANAGE YOUR FILES AND DATA

Storage is finite and many users often wonder how much they

Usefully, MS Teams allows users to communicate with users outside your organisation. However, you should configure it to block or limit certain features. Be careful about who can access your system. While usually anyone with a business or regular email account can join in, there are obvious security concerns about exposing sensitive data or sharing files. For maximum security, you can leave guest access disabled by default, or turn it on but disable certain privileges like screen sharing.


As an MS Teams or Office 365 user, you own your data. It’s protected from malware in attachments, accidental sharing via chat or files, and suspicious user activity as long as you configure it correctly. Information is secure with encryption, good authentication process and device management. It is also important to continuously review these through good management procedures. CALL HISTORY, MONITORING AND USAGE

From managing workloads, busy periods and downtime, you can easily monitor your team’s monthly call history, activity and device usage, in addition to network quality, so you know you’re always using the technology to its best. This will allow you to spot any issues, whether technical or otherwise. Monitoring chats and team channels is easy through the Analytics and Reports tab in the MS Teams admin centre.

Fuelled by the ongoing pandemic, MS Teams and Office 365 is transforming business in Northern Ireland and when ‘normal’ business resumes, few will be leaving behind the benefits it has brought, particularly around flexibility, productivity and work/life balance. Having the right technology is vital but knowing how to use it well is the key to success. Easier collaboration means better communication and efficiency, which is essential for the future of every local business. For everything which this provides, the investment and cost savings gained make it a compelling proposition for powerful transformational change. 2021 starts now.


Eye on News

Belfast-based telecommunications firm strikes £3m deal with University of Cambridge

A Northern Ireland telecommunications firm has secured a £3m contract to supply one of the world’s top universities with sharper, more agile and reliable mobile solution for its 31 constituent colleges and 150 departments.


arclay Communications’ deal with University of Cambridge marks one of its biggest and most prestigious contract in its 24-year history and will see it deliver over 5,000 mobile connections that will be accessed by all Colleges and departments. This partnership will also allow the university to seamlessly support users located across multiple countries worldwide and will assist it with new remote learning setups by providing the most up to date communications solutions on the market. The £3m contract will cover every College across all the main departments — from management teams, to operations, contracts, procurement, PR and more. Barclay Communications


successfully tendered for the contract, undergoing rigorous procedures and competing against some of the world’s biggest communication providers. The University of Cambridge awarded Barclay Communications’ contract based on its ability to provide competitive packages, cost savings and innovative options including international packages that were built specifically for the Universities travellers. In addition, Barclay Communications offers a team of highly experienced service staff who provide dedicated support to the university at any time. Speaking about the contract win, Managing Director of Barclay Communications, Britt Megahey said:

“We are delighted to have been appointed as the preferred supplier to University of Cambridge and its affiliated organisations via a rigorous tender win that saw us compete with some of the world’s most renowned comms providers. “Securing this contract is a testament that Barclay Communications is responding to the new and fast-changing communication needs of businesses everywhere, with the most efficient, innovative and cost-effective solutions. “We competed against wellknown industry names to win this partnership and that reflects how Barclay Communications is at the top of its game when it comes to providing the best solutions and service around.” Mr Megahey said the impact of Covid-19 on how businesses and organisations operate has fasttracked technological development in the communications

sector by five to 10 years. He added: “While we have continued to provide our customers with the highest level of support, it is evident that the needs of our customers have changed dramatically in recent months. They now look to us to underpin how their business communicates as reliably and effectively as possible in these new times using the latest technologies and services available. “This is no different for an esteemed educational institution like Cambridge and we are delighted to work in partnership with them.” In addition to its mobile solutions, Barclay Communications offers a suite of advanced communication tools which include hosted and fixed line telephone systems, workforce management software via its in-house software WorkPal along with a range of IT services and support.

Eye on News

Deloitte’s 2021 Best Managed Companies Awards to recognise companies for response to challenges of coronavirus pandemic Companies from Northern Ireland who have managed to successfully navigate the challenges of the past year are being urged to apply for the 2021 Deloitte Best Managed Companies Awards programme and join a network of Ireland’s top businesses.


ow in its thirteenth year, the programme, which is run in association with Bank of Ireland, recognises the high standards, passion and resilience of indigenous businesses and their management teams, as well as the contribution they make to the economy. The Best Managed Companies network now includes more than 130 companies across a range of sectors, including 26 from Northern Ireland. The closing date for entries to this year’s awards is February 26, 2021. Glenn Roberts, lead partner for the Best Managed Companies Awards Programme in Northern Ireland, said: “Last year was a challenging year for many businesses and sectors, and since the first lockdown in March 2020 we have seen how indigenous businesses have gone the extra mile across a range of sectors to continue to operate, manufacture and deliver goods and services in a very disruptive operational environment, while keeping the safety of their people and customers a top priority. “We recognise that the impact of the pandemic varies significantly sector-by-sector and this will be taken into consideration in assessing applicants this year. We look forward to recognising and celebrating teams who have innovated and adapted their businesses through one of the most testing years in memory, with strong leadership and resilience.” Applicants to the programme are coached through the application process by consultants from Deloitte and Bank of Ireland, which provides teams with the opportunity to hold a mirror up to their business, their performance and their business plan. Applicants will also be encouraged to share


how they have responded to the impact of the pandemic, including examples of how they have protected their people and their communities in a highly challenging economic period. Eamon McCay, Managing Director of Strabanebased Frylite, which was recognised as a Best Managed Company for the first time in 2020, said: “The Best Managed programme helped us take a step back and analyse our business through a more strategic lens, which proved very timely heading into what turned out to be a very difficult set of market conditions for our industry. Given these circumstances, we’re looking forward to the requalification process and to learning more as we engage with the programme again.” This year will also see the introduction of a new category award for the Best Managed Family Business, in association with the Family Business Network Ireland. Nikki Canavan, Senior Director, Bank of Ireland Corporate Banking said: “Celebrating the stellar work done by Irish businesses over the past year is just one purpose of the Best Managed Companies programme. Every year participating companies benefit from coaching and specialist feedback from

programme sponsors, the value of which has never been as striking as in 2020, when Irish companies in every sector faced extreme market volatility and were forced to adapt their ways of working due to the onset of COVID-19. The programme supported more than one hundred Irish companies as they navigated through the uncertainty brought by the pandemic and will continue to do so as cases continue to rise and with the Brexit transition period now having come to an end.” Winning companies will join the exclusive Best Managed Companies Club with access to year-round events such CEO roundtables and fireside chats with leading business figures, as well as the exclusive Best Managed Symposium hosted in partnership with the programme’s academic partner, the Irish Management Institute (IMI) and the annual Gala Awards.

For further information and details on how to enter the awards, visit

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Eye on News

Nominations Open for EY Entrepreneur Of The Year™ 2021 Programme Now in its 24th year in Ireland, the EY Entrepreneur Of The Year™ 2021 programme officially opens today for nominations.


ntrepreneurs from emerging businesses to established international groups, across all sectors across the island of Ireland, are invited to submit their nominations between now and 16th March. Rob Heron, Partner Lead for EY Entrepreneur Of The Year™ in NI said: “We are delighted to be launching the programme today. For well over two decades the EOY programme has supported entrepreneurs who are actively seeking to take their businesses to the next level, and we are excited at the prospect of welcoming another cohort of hugely talented and resourceful entrepreneurs to the to this unique group”. “It has been an incredibly tough period of trading for many entrepreneurs, with others well positioned to innovate and grow during a period of unprecedented change. We have been uplifted to see so many of our alumni supporting, trading and collaborating with each other in the last year – the network has never been more relevant than in 2020 – 2021. Entrepreneurs will be a central part of the recovery on the island of Ireland following the Covid-19 pandemic and we are keen to hear from a broad array of nominees, across industries, age, gender, location and background. We’re urging all entrepreneurs to consider putting themselves forward, and for people to encourage entrepreneurs in their families and networks to get involved.” The programme is open to entrepreneurs from all sectors and growth stages in the Republic and Northern Ireland. The awards programme is divided into three categories - Emerging, Industry


Rob Heron, Partner Lead for EY Entrepreneur Of The Year™ in NI and Bill Wolsey, Founder & MD, Beannchor and winner of the Industry EY Entrepreneur of the Year in 2018.

and International - with eight finalists chosen per category. 24 finalists will be selected by an independent judging panel, comprising former winners and chaired by Anne Heraty of CPL Resources plc. Anyone interested can find out more or complete an online nomination form at Those nominating someone else must do so with the entrepreneur’s consent. Speaking at the launch, Anne Heraty, CEO of CPL Resources plc and Chairperson of the EY Entrepreneur Of The Year™ Judging Panel said: “The launch of the 2021 programme is an opportunity to recognise and celebrate the vibrant diversity of the entrepreneurial landscape across the island of Ireland. We encourage companies from all sectors, who have a positive impact on their communities, on business and on our economies, to enter. “Entrepreneurs have been facing into one of the most challenging environments we’ve ever seen over the last year and we continue to be impressed by their relentless determination and resilience in

an uncertain climate. We know there are brilliant entrepreneurs out there who are delivering outstanding work across every category of business imaginable and we want to hear from them. The diversity of people and types of business is what makes the programme so exciting, and I’m looking forward to meeting a new group of inspiring leaders from across the island this year.”

What finalists can expect This year’s 24 finalists will engage in a strategic growth programme over a 10-month period which includes a week-long virtual CEO Retreat. As part of this retreat, the finalists will join a group of more than 100 previous finalists and winners of the programme where they will meet a range of world-class entrepreneurs, businesspeople and academics. The finalists will also be welcomed into a community of 550 peers in the Irish EY Entrepreneur Of The Year™ community. To date, more than three quarters (77%) of the alumni of the programme have conducted business with

one another. Together, the EOY alumni community generates revenues of €21bn, and employs more than 200,000 people across the island of Ireland. The programme will include executive education sessions; networking forums; extensive media profiling; the annual Gala Awards. An award is presented for each category, and an overall winner will be announced at the EY Entrepreneur Of The Year™ Awards in November. The overall winner will represent Ireland at the World Entrepreneur Of The Year™ Awards the following June. The EY Entrepreneur Of The Year™ Ireland programme is supported by Premium Corporate Sponsor Julius Baer International, and Government sponsors Enterprise Ireland and Invest Northern Ireland. For further information, please visit While most nominations come from the entrepreneurs themselves, anyone can nominate a successful entrepreneur with the entrepreneur’s consent, including employees, company advisors and financiers. Nominations close on Day, 16 March 2021.

Eye on News

Does New Ruling Means You Can Make A Claim? Law firm, McKees, is encouraging local businesses to examine their insurance policies after the Supreme Court delivered a judgment in favour of policyholders to allow their claims for Coronavirus related business interruption losses to be paid.


hris Ross, Managing Partner of McKees and Founder of the SME Support Forum said: “Businesses across the country remain shut and face mounting losses affecting not just cash flow, but their very survival. And with restaurants, bars, cafes, hairdressers and many other businesses in the retail and hospitality sectors likely to remain closed for the weeks, and possibly months ahead, it is important that they secure every bit of financial relief available. Around 370,000 businesses that have business interruption cover on their policies may now be able to claim. We have been working with clients to review their policy documentation to help guide them on the potential success of a business interruption claim and would encourage all businesses to do the same as they may get a much-needed payment at this critical time.”

McKees has listed the areas to be considered when checking if your business is in a position to make a claim: Has your business been affected by closure due to the pandemic? Has your claim for the forced closure of your business previously been rejected or are you unsure if your business has cover at all? “Through the SME Support Forum, we are currently helping local companies triage their business insurance policies to review their documentation and provide information on the potential success of a business interruption claim. We are inviting the owners of SME businesses who would like our guidance at this time, to get in touch and our team will provide support in relation to what is required to progress your claim,” Chris added.

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Eye on Positivity

Fear Less Tom Smyth, author of Fear Less and MD of Dream Apartments shares his Top Ten Tips for Positivity (when it feels like the world is falling down)


ollowing the official launch of his first book entitled Fear Less, Belfast businessman Tom Smyth has penned his top ten tips for staying positive for business people doing their best to navigate in these unprecedented and uncertain times. Throughout the pandemic, Tom has been busy smashing his goals, and wants to now help others to do the same thing. Tom is Managing Director Dream Luxury Serviced Apartments and a number of other successful companies and has also recently attracted the attention of Cardone Training Technologies, one of the world’s most successful motivational coaching enterprises, and Tom has now become a Grant Cardone 10X certified coach, speaker and mentor in Ireland, UK and across Europe. Tom’s high-energy success story and new book, inspired by Belfast’s resilience and transformation journey, has been recognised by the global expert who has reached out to work with him. The internationally renowned business expert and world’s number one sales and marketing trainer has licensed Tom as a Grant Cardone 10X certified coach, speaker and mentor in Ireland, UK and across Europe. Grant Cardone launched his famous 10X movement in 2011 and since has attracted millions of devotees who use his theories to improve their business success and personal relationships. He is an incredibly successful American property entrepreneur and media personality, as well as a dynamic international speaker, coach and consultant with his teachings used by hundreds of millions of people. He is star of hit TV series the Undercover Billionaire and is currently making a movie with Robert De Niro. For Tom to be licensed to deliver Cardone’s world class sales training in Ireland, UK and Europe is a dream come true for the Belfast-born business man. He said: “This is an incredible opportunity to bring the proven training methods of the world’s most experienced and respected coaching expert, Grant Cardone. To say I am privileged


is a complete understatement.” “I have been studying with Grant Cardone for several years, and I am blown away by his teachings, so much so that I enrolled all my sales staff in his training programs. “His insights, powers of motivational speaking and positive attitude to overcoming all challenges have paid dividends for my business productivity, so I know 100 per cent that this system works. “Having become an official member of the 10X mentoring team, I am incredibly grateful to now have the opportunity to help bring Grant Cardone’s triedand-tested methods for success to a UK, European and Irish audience. “Grant’s teachings combined with my own mindset, my new book and my unwavering belief that absolutely anything is possible when you put your mind to it, means that this is a very exciting moment, with so many people set to benefit.” Over the last ten months, Tom has diligently recorded his thoughts, ideas and strategies for success and his debut book is a history lesson and a street-psychology lecture, animated by a personal narrative of ambition and learning tough life lessons. Tom continued: “While we are in the grip of the pandemic, it is important to remember that this shall pass and there are better times ahead. Now is the time to prepare for a radically different postCovid world which will require resilience and intelligence if you want to lead a fulfilling and successful life,” Tom said. “I am 100 per cent confident that as the pandemic begins to ease, we are on the cusp of a massive boom of prosperity. People need to know and believe that the end is in sight and that everyone has the power within them to achieve all of their dreams. My book offers them simple ways to unlock that inner potential and build vital resilience. Tom concluded: “As Grant Cardone said, “All your dreams await on the other side of your fears.” Here Tom shares some top tips to help people who want to break through the fear barrier in order to live their dream life.

Tom’s Top Ten Tips for Positivity (when it feels like the world is falling down) 1 Begin every day with a gratitude

session. Reflect on all the things you are grateful for and write them in your journal. Make a list of 10 things that you really appreciate in your life. It can be the simple things like having a roof over your head, food to eat, your friends and family and even the mistakes that you have learned from.

2 Start your day the positive way by

committing to an early morning exercise session. Get up an hour earlier so you have time to invest in your wellbeing. In this frame of mind, you are more likely to have a happier and healthier experience in everything you do. Many studies have proved exercise improves focus and mental ability. It also encourages discipline which carries over into many areas of your life.

3 Have defined goals and write or

illustrate them on a vision board that you can see every day. Set a deadline to achieve them. Discuss your goals with other people because that makes them real.

4 Don’t put time and space between

yourself and your challenges. Problems are like weeds; they don’t go away by themselves.

6 Generate positivity and reject

negativity. Control your thoughts, and you control your world. Change your words, and you change your world. How you speak to yourself, (and others) will impact on the outcome of whatever you are doing.

7 Always have an engaging project -

busy people don’t have time to waste on negativity. Keep your activity levels high and seek new challenges. You always need to be learning more about yourself and the world and then converting that knowledge into actions that help you achieve the exceptional.

8 Believe in yourself. Don’t be

frightened to be different. Instead, you should fear being the same as everyone else! Your ambitions must be greater than your fears if you ever hope to achieve your dreams.

9 Break your significant challenges

down into manageable tasks. For example – if you are in the gym and you don’t want to do 20 reps, trick your mind by doing 4 sets of 5 reps instead.

10 Everyday remember to practice

– Determination + Regeneration + Energization + Ambition + Motivation = DREAM

5 Never lower your target – instead,

increase your actions. Effort and result are always linked. Be prepared to put more time and energy into a project than anyone else. Set high standards for yourself.

Fear Less by Tom Smyth is set to be realised in early 2021 and is available to pre-order on Amazon now. Visit to register for more information on joining Tom’s DREAM Team.



Eye on Cover Story

Laith Dajani Bringing An International Dimension To Leadership Institute If the William J. Clinton Leadership Institute at Queen’s University set out to inject a little international experience into its top role, then they’ve succeeded with the appointment of Laith Dajani as Director of Executive Development.


ailing from a cosmopolitan background, Laith was born in Dublin and Palestinian father and educated in both England and the Middle East. His experience has includeded leading roles in both Europe and the Middle East, and crosses both sides of the corporate/academia fence. After graduating from Manchester University with a degree in Management Sciences, Laith worked in London and then for a multinational company in Jordan before heading to the UAE where he headed up business development for the British Standards Institute in the region. He went on to lead the establishment of INSEAD’s Executive MBA Programme in Abu Dhabi for seven years before moving across the Middle East to become the Executive Director at the American University in the Lebanese capital, Beirut. “I was interviewed for this role


in Belfast back in February, just before the Covid pandemic swept in,” he says. “When I was appointed in May, I had to work remotely from Beirut until September when my wife and I were able to make it over to our new home in Belfast.” Now he finds himself living in Belfast, and for the next few weeks at least, largely confined to his home and an endless round of online meetings with colleagues, executives and international contacts. But he’s clearly relishing the role and the challenge that lies ahead. “This is a top notch organisation with a really strong international profile,” he says. “Queen’s University is a sought after brand, and it’s a university which has a clear view of what it wants to do in executive education.” The William J. Clinton Institute, based in the classic surroundings of Riddel Hall at Stranmillis, has strong ties to the business community here

in Northern Ireland, and that’s not going to change according to the new man at the helm. “Our role in business here in Northern Ireland – to develop world-class leaders - is a very positive one and it is absolutely central to us,” he says. “But we’re also focusing on nternational markets and international customers, working to bring together diversity of experiences and knowledges into our programmes, helping to develop people and to contribute to business and society..” In fact, he points out that one beneficial effect of the pandemic has been to drive executive learning and management development opening up more worldwide markets for the Clinton Leadership Institute. “We were quick to flip to a comprehensive online offering and to deliver an alternative delivery channel. The speed of our response was crucial.

“We were quick to flip to a comprehensive online offering and to deliver an alternative delivery channel. The speed of our response was crucial.�


Eye on Cover Story

“We have been and we will be stepping up our international footprint, integrating technology innovation into our programmes, moving our game to the next level and competing with the big global players in the executive education field.”

“We have been and we will be stepping up our international footprint, integrating technology innovation into our programmes, moving our game to the next level and competing with the big global players in the executive education field,” Laith adds. “This will help us here in Northern Ireland by bringing a global perspective to the work we do with local organisations. Along with his management team, he’s cautiously optimistic that some in-person learning could re-commence at the Riddel Hall campus by late summer, and certainly into the autumn months. The complex is currently being enhanced with the expansion of Queen’s Management School (QMS) through the creation f a new purpose-built teaching facility at Riddel Hall, due to open its doors in the autumn of 2022. “Innovation is a constant for us at the Institute. We’re always looking at how we can engage better and at how we can develop products to suit our business customers, whether organisations or individuals.”


The William J. Clinton Institute works with some of the big names of Northern Ireland business, including brand names like Danske Bank, Henderson Group, PwC and Dale Farm. “We’ve used the Clinton Institute’s leadership programmes for different levels of management in this organisation, developing a bespoke leadership programme complete with its own graduation ceremony,” says Sam Davidson, Director of HR and the Henderson Group. “We liked the way the Institute listened to us and worked alongside us throughout the process. “We see real benefits in encouraging emerging leaders throughout our business. Our people have to work at the sharp end in a very complex and demanding business so it’s important that we support them and get the training and education element of their role right. Our partnership with the William J Clinton Institute is crucial to that.” Laith Dajani believes that leaders have a responsibility to make a positive impact and create value for

organisations and the community at large. “Our aim at the Institute is to develop internationally minded leaders by enhancing their selfawareness and their abilities to motivate and influence individuals, their teams and their organisations. “We can and do produce multidisciplinary programmes for middle and higher level management, both as bespoke programmes tailor made and crafted for organisations and their requirements, or as open programmes designed for managers and executives across different industries. “What’s important to stress is that we’re talking about lifelong learning; learning that can be applied across the generations. Today’s managers are much more aware of personal and professional development and they’re keen to embrace it. “But we know all too well that these people don’t have a lot of spare time on their hands. What we’ve become very adept at is designing and delivering short, intense and impactful experiences in learning.

“The challenge for us right now is to embrace the change that is happening, that is being driven by the global pandemic. Will it ultimately increase the appetite for learning and executive development? We think it will. “Here at the William J Clinton Institute, we have the means at our disposal to address most training and development needs. And we have the capacity and expertise in research and education of the Management School and broader Queen’s University behind us to help us succeed.”

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True to you

Eye on Health & Wellbeing

Healthy Place to Work – A Holistic Approach To All Our Futures 24

Eye on Health & Wellbeing It’s probably fair to say that Dublin-based John Ryan and his Belfast-based business partner Peter Morris couldn’t have picked a much better time to launch their Healthy Place To Work concept on a worldwide basis.


ne of the undisputed results of the Covid-19 pandemic will be that the future of work, ways of working and workplaces will be changed...and changed forever. Put simply, Healthy Place to Work is a global standard for workplace health certification in the same vein as global standards covering areas like quality, training and the environment. But it’s a concept that goes way further than a form-filling exercise that leads to a framed certificate down the line. Instead, it looks at just about every aspect of working practices, the working environment and employee wellbeing. John Ryan, who came up with the original idea for Healthy Place to Work, has teamed up with TJ Byrne and ex-BT senior executive Peter Morris to launch the business from Northern Ireland. “2020 has shown the importance of health more than ever before and underlines how business needs to focus resources where they are needed most in order to thrive,” says Ryan. “This means looking at a strategic level at how the health of employees impacts directly on business. Doing that will enable more companies to recover from Covid.” Ryan tells the story of how Healthy Place to Work came about and of the influences that lie behind it. Ryan was CEO of the Great Place To Work Institute in the Republic of Ireland for 10 years so is well used to workplace standards and certifying organisations. “In 2014 I was at a conference in the US and came across Professor Jeffrey Pfeffer of Stanford University. He talked about how workplaces are killing people but no one cares. At the time, I thought it was a bit overstated. But he went on to demonstrate just how much ill health is caused by workplace problems – stress, bullying, overworked, underworked and lots of other issues. “Work is precarious. Your boss can come in any day and tell you that you’re no longer needed. That adds a horrible uncertainty

to some people’s lives. In some countries, they actually have a word meaning death by overwork.” If Professor Jeffrey Pfeffer’s presentation sowed the seed of Healthy Place to Work, American Israeli sociologist Aaron Antonovsky’s work helped to drive it forward. Antonovsky is best known for his work on the relationship between stress, health and wellbeing – known as salutogenesis. “His approach was that health doesn’t mean an absence of disease,” says John Ryan. “His view was that we must equip and resource ourselves for when things go wrong. We must proactively understand the factors that make us healthy and equip and resource oursevles to be ready and prepared for when things go wrong.” Along with a team of colleagues, Ryan started to build a model with the research and academic findings in mind. But he started with one basic premise. He quotes the 1999 film The Sixth Sense in which Bruce Willis plays a child psychologist whose patient (Haley Joel Osment) can talk to the dead. “I see dead people,” is

one of the child’s opening lines. “In a way, and without being flippant, I can see dead people too in a manner of speaking,” Ryan adds. “I’ve been in lot of workplace where I’ve seen people with their eyes glazed over, with no interest in the work they’re doing. They hate what they’re doing, they hate the company, they hate the leadership and it hugely affects their lives. “Compare and contrast that with someone who is doing a job they enjoy and who gets real satisfaction from it. So work and the job you choose is one of the biggest health decisions you’ll make in your life. Make the right calls and it will make a huge difference to your life, and your resilience, going forward. “So we look at whether the people we’re assessing are aligned to the organisations they work for. It’s called purpose and it’s one of the main pillars of what we do.” Then there’s the question of mental resilience. There are too many bland generalities around on mental health, says Ryan. “We needed to be clear that mental health is a spectrum, its not binary that you are either mentally healthy or not. People need to recognise when they are struggling and understand the steps they need to take and the things they need to do to get back on track.” The organisation tests for self efficacy – defined by psychologist Albert Bandura as one’s belief

in one’s ability to succeed in specific situations or accomplish tasks – and for optimism and a range of other elements. “We’ve found a lot of pessimism over change and how change threatens jobs, particularly in the public sector,” he comments. “It’s important that people believe that they can learn, grow, develop and change within their working environment. Lifelong learning is critically important. “It’s about giving people responsibility for coming to work ready to go, for being able to adapt to change. But the organisation has to match people’s personal resources with organisational resources. It also has to apply balance.” He quotes examples of workplaces where staff are overwhelmed by the amount of work facing them, but others where the opposite applies and workers show signs of being bored. The health service right now is a perfect example. “Pressure is important to drive our performance but again balance is vital. When it tips over into negative pressure, you stop performing at your best.” The pandemic, he says, has had a huge effect on people missing human face to face interactions and the connections that we crave as human beings. “The last piece of the jigsaw


Eye on Health & Wellbeing

“Here’s the bottom line. It’s impossible to be a healthy person if you’re working in an unhealthy organisation. And it’s impossible to be a healthy organisation if you’re full of unhealthy people.”

for us is the physical health piece – ranging across factors like sleep, exercise, diet and – of real importance going forward – whether the actual workplace is safe for those who work there. “So we’re coming back to organisations with a set of findings that illustrate the health and wellbeing of their people. Now, more than ever, that is hugely importance. It’s just not enough to send everyone a bowl of fruit and organise online yoga sessions. “The organisation has to change so that it’s able to support its people to be healthier. It needs to look at everything it does through the lens of health, from the board downwards. It’s about looking at every aspect of what you do and how you do it.” But does all of this mean a major commitment for businesses? John Ryan says no. “We do all the hard work,” he adds. “We ask for your input, of course, but we run the survey and we come back with the data. Then we’ll work


with the company as they come up with a plan for the future. “Here’s the bottom line. It’s impossible to be a healthy person if you’re working in an unhealthy organisation. And it’s impossible to be a healthy organisation if you’re full of unhealthy people. Get both right and you get sustainable high performance and that’s what we’re aiming for. But it’s everybody’s responsibility to help the organisation get there. “It’s less about commitments and time pressures and much more about a philosophy.” Hughes Insurance, the US-owned business headquartered in Newtownards, was the first NI company to sign up for the Healthy Place to Work programme. “They’re facing the same challenges as everyone else is around working from home for their 260 employees. And one of the first questions they asked was how much time commitment this would require from them. “We were able to allay their fears by reassuring them that we’d do

most of the heavy lifting. Now that we’re into the process, they’re really engaged and interested in what it’s going to tell them about the company they’re running. “We take every company on a journey with us. We appreciate that some might be a bit afraid of taking the first step. Our message is that they’ll see the benefits quickly and they’ll see them clearly. Then they can change the whole dynamic of their organisation.” Everybody, says John Ryan, is talking about how the post-Covid workplace will look. “There’s a reason why good workplaces work. Bring people together and you can get interaction, creativity, ideas and energy. I think we’re going to see more hybrid arrangements but I also think employers are going to want to see people back in the workplace, at least for some of the time.” Healthy Place to Work spans every part of the private sector economy, but, according to Ryan, it also applies to the public sector, where its ethos and objectives are just as relevant.

Peter Morris sees a future several months down the line where Healthy Place to Work will have started to build a community of like-minded employers. The concept has already been endorsed by Business In The Community here in Northern Ireland. “This isn’t about health promotion and it’s not about an ad hoc approach. This is fundamentally different, heavily researched and successfully piloted. It’s a different and very effective way of looking in depth at the health of the organisation. “For organisations who embrace this when they are asked how their people are people are doing, they’ll be able to tell and tell accurately. Hopefully the answer will be that they are healthy.”

For all the information on Healthy Place To Work, visit

Eye on Health & Wellbeing CASE STUDY


Version 1 delivers IT services and solutions. Their customers include top global banks, many FTSE 100 listed companies in the Financial Services, Utilities and Commercial sectors as well as Public Sector organisations across local and central government. Founded in Ireland in 1996, Version 1 has grown to a 1350+ strong team across Ireland, the UK and India.

2017 There was no denying that consistent high performance and a fast, hardworking environment comes with its challenges. Which is often encapsulated in the quote “Version 1 is a great place to work but not an easy place to work�. At this time their health initiatives were singular events. With significant growth in Version 1 and further growth planned, they needed a health strategy that allowed their employees to be able to bring their “A� game in order to deliver excellence to their customers. To achieve this they needed to; t %FWFMPQ B IFBMUI TUSBUFHZ UIBU BMJHOFE to the overall company strategy t 5P IBWF MFBEFSTIJQ CVZ JO t &OIBODFE DPNNVOJDBUJPO

2018 Overall Health Score 2018 – 68% Version 1 began their Healthy Place to Work journey and developed their health and wellbeing strategy, to allow their employees to thrive, be resilient, empowered and engaged, further embedding wellbeing into their already well-established culture of trust and empowerment.

Their My Wellbeing Model was launched in late 2018 - A holistic health and wellbeing framework. The Healthy Place to Work survey results and Healthy Place Development Plan enabled Version 1 to strategically base their health initiatives around the needs of their employees, going beyond a focus of ‘event’ to examining their ways of working, leadership styles and incorporating health into everything they do. Communication and transparency were key to their success; leadership support being key, with their CEO and senior management team promoting wellbeing initiatives through roadshows, monthly CEO updates and quarterly briefings. Health and Wellbeing was integrated as a core module of their managers training programme (Strength in Balance). The workshops involved reviewing the My Wellbeing model and wellbeing strategy, as well as exploring what managers could do to allow people to stay on top of their wellbeing. Over 160 managers have participated in the wellbeing module.

2019 Overall health Score 2019 – 72% Version 1 launched their Health and Wellbeing champion network to drive initiatives and create local events based off HPTW results Quarterly meetings were held to discuss HPTW survey results and create actions for areas of improvement HPTW results and follow up initiatives were communicated company-wide for transparency All initiatives and events were communicated through their dedicated weekly newsletter and employee experience calendar A new employee experience team was created to lead Health & Wellbeing, allowing for further in-depth analysis of their HPTW results and supporting managers and champions in creating follow up actions.

2020 Overall Health Score – 79% A digital approach to health and wellbeing was further embedded. Working with a diverse workforce, across multiple locations in different time zones, they needed to ensure that everyone received the same information, in the same way, at the same time, allowing everyone across the organisation to have the same experience. 42 company-wide health and wellbeing specific events were conducted in 2020. Another key focus for 2020 was related to the Purpose pillar, with recognition being central to this. They launched their Digital Excellence Awards – with over 126 submissions, exceeding their total award submissions of 2018 and 2019 combined. They also launched their new CallOut Platform – enabling peer to peer reward and recognition. Overall allowing them to improve their ways of working from practices to policies, creating a sense of belonging for all their employees.

Key Stats Participation in Health and Wellbeing Specific Events

Participation rates have increased significantly since 2018. In 2018 Version 1 had 820 engagements in wellbeing related initiatives, in 2019 - 2,036 engagements and 2020 - 4,200 engagements! Key to this has been the digital approach to wellbeing and utilising HPTW feedback, enabling Version 1 to have a far better reach to employees. HEADCOUNT

2017 - 1081 2018 - 1240 2019 - 1250 2020 - 1377 REVENUE

2017 - ₏104m 2018 - ₏116m 2019 - ₏130m 2020 - ₏140m Key question improvement - Taking everything into account, I would say this is a healthy place to work 2018 – 67% 2019 – 72% 2020 – 87%


Eye on Finance & Business Planning

FREE webinar: 3 things that will make the difference between surviving and thriving in a post pandemic world. Business Eye is delighted to be promoting a webinar that will be of interest to many growth-focused businesses throughout the UK and Ireland as many enter the new year more optimistically than they finished 2020.


ntitled ‘3 things that will make the difference between surviving and thriving in the Post Pandemic world’ the one hour FREE online event at 11am on 18th February 2021, will feature speakers from Upstream, Willis Towers Watson and Simple Scaling. Hosted by award-winning Business Eye Editor, Richard Buckley, the webinar will bring together the topics of access to finance, business credit ratings and business planning in an easy to understand and user-friendly environment.

Speakers: Alan Wardlow Sales Director, Upstream. Alan is a highly experienced Senior Banker with over 25 years’ experience working in Commercial and Corporate


Banking across Northern Ireland and RoI. He joined Upstream in January 2016 and was appointed to the Board in 2017. Brendan McGurgan co-founder Simple Scaling Ltd, brings almost 25 years’ experience of growing businesses. Prior to setting up Simple Scaling, Brendan spent 16 years as a global business leader with CDE Global, 12 of those as Group Managing Director. Nigel Birney Willis Towers Watson’s Northern Ireland Head of Trade Credit and Surety. Nigel also has 25 years senior banking experience with Danske Bank specialising in International Trade and Trade Finance. Judith Totten MBE founded Upstream ten years ago this year. Prior to establishing Upstream, Judith had a successful career in banking, principally with Danske Bank. Judith is a board member of Invest as well as being involved as a mentor / advisor to several small business owners.

During the event Upstream’s Alan Wardlow will provide insights to the key challenges faced by companies, the finance market and the implications for funding - as well as opportunities for business finance throughout NI, RoI and GB.

Nigel Birney, Willis Towers Watson

Willis Towers Watson’s Nigel Birney will share how crucially important it is for businesses to takes steps to protect their credit rating with insurers in order to prevent supply chain disruption and how having credit

Eye on Finance & Business Planning

Alan Wardlow and Judith Totten MBE, Upstream

insurance can improve access to working capital facilities. Meanwhile, well known mentor, author and business growth accelerator, Brendan McGurgan will share some of the lessons he has learned from almost 25 years’ experience in scaling a business. Brendan McGurgan said he was delighted to participate in the Business Eye webinar and said he was confident the event would deliver real value for delegates. “My focus will be on business planning, which all starts with the end in mind and involves identifying no more than four key strategic themes to undergird your Plan. I’ll be advising on how

to move from this position to ensuring success by including disciplines such as agreeing objectives and key results every 90 days underpinned with a commitment to ‘execute like hell’ (in the words of Jack Welch). After the three short speaking contributions delegates will have the opportunity to tap into the wide experience of Upstream’s founder, Judith Totten MBE, Brendan McGurgan and Nigel Birney in a question and answer session hosted by Richard Buckley. To register for this free online event at 11am on 18th February 2021, please email Brendan McGurgan, co-founder Simple Scaling Ltd


Eye on News

Deloitte Appoints Aislean Nicholson As Tax Partner In Belfast Professional services firm Deloitte has appointed Aisléan Nicholson as its new Business Tax Advisory Partner in Belfast. She joins a team of seven partners and more than 1,000 colleagues in Northern Ireland.


isléan joins Deloitte Ireland and the Belfast team from Deloitte’s London office, where she has spent more than 18 years advising domestic and multinational companies on UK corporate and international tax matters. Her expertise includes business restructuring, mergers and acquisitions, establishing operations in new territories and tax strategy. A graduate of Queen’s University Belfast, she has vast experience across a range of industries, with a particular specialism in the Technology, Media & Telecom (TMT) sector where she worked closely with numerous technology, media and entertainment companies.


Aisléan’s clients have ranged from nascent start-ups and private equity-backed groups, to Fortune 500 and FTSE listed businesses and her projects have spanned the globe, requiring the co-ordination and interpretation of local tax rules in the UK, EMEA, Latin America and Asia-Pacific. She also led the UK firm’s delivery of advice on the UK Creative Industries Tax relief, an incentives regime which has helped promote the use of Northern Ireland as a location for film and TV production. Harry Goddard, CEO Deloitte Ireland said: “We are delighted to welcome Aisléan to Deloitte Ireland where I know she will

bring a wealth of knowledge and expertise to our Belfast practice. This is a pivotal time for the economy and as we look forward to emerging from the Coronavirus pandemic in 2021, Aisléan is joining the team at the perfect time.” Glenn Roberts, Partner at Deloitte in Belfast, said: “Our business in Belfast has continued to grow in recent years and so we are thrilled to be able to offer Aisléan’s wide range of expertise for our clients here. The tax issues associated with technology and data, which are core to value creation in the TMT sector and on which Aisléan has advised extensively, are becoming increasingly important to a number of industry sectors.” Aisléan notes that she is joining the Belfast office at a time of uncertainty caused by the Covid19 pandemic and new post-Brexit trading arrangements, but that opportunities remain for companies. “2020 was a year of significant challenges for many Northern

Ireland businesses. The role out of the Covid-19 vaccine, along with Northern Ireland’s unique position as a member of the EU Single Market for goods and unfettered access to the Great Britain market, means that 2021 should offer greater hope for positivity and opportunity; albeit certain industries still face practical challenges in terms of recovery from the pandemic and bedding in new processes post-Brexit. “Having advised both UK groups seeking to expand their business abroad and overseas multinationals establishing operations in the UK, I have built up a strong network of colleagues across Deloitte globally and together we have worked with those clients, to ensure that they are appropriately established in respect of both their UK and international tax positions. I look forward to further supporting local businesses seeking to expand their global footprint and helping them achieve their international ambitions.”

Eye onBusiness Leaders Forum


Eye on Business Leaders Forum


Are you optimistic or pessimistic about the prospects for business in 2021? What do you see as the key issues over the coming 12 months?

Richard Buckley Editor, Business Eye


s we reach the second month of 2021 and approach the 12-month ‘anniversary’ of the start of the Covid-19 pandemic, almost every one of our business leaders identifies two themes for the year ahead of us. First and foremost is Covid. We’re working our way through a lockdown period which started at Christmas, will run until the start of March at least, and possibly a bit further than that. But the clear success of the vaccine rollout programme here in Northern Ireland gives us all hope of much brighter times ahead. That said, it remains unclear what the economic and business landscape will look like once we

move into more normal times. The economists are pessimistic. But business leaders, almost to a man or woman, are much more optimistic. The second issue, quite a few points behind in the league table, is Brexit and the clear effects being felt on the supply of goods coming from GB to Northern Ireland. Opponents of Brexit have been quick to highlight the negatives, but there’s a strong argument that disruption may still be temporary. Looking forward, Northern Ireland can and should grasp the clear opportunities that its unique status affords. It would be a crying shame if we didn’t. Reasons to be cheerful? There are many.

Judith Totten Managing Director, Upstream


020 was a challenging year for everyone. Cashflow, staff wellbeing, disrupted supply chains and BREXIT. Our lives have changed beyond recognition and 2020 forced us to ‘reboot’. So - now that vaccines are here, and BREXIT is done, some reflections: t 1SPWJEJOH CBMBODFE AIZCSJE XPSLJOH PQUJPOT coaching, improving online communication, and mental health awareness seem to be the hottest topics for employers. Although many people are keen to return to the workplace, the need for flexibility is clear. t .PUJWBUJPO ESJWFT JOOPWBUJPO 1SPEVDUJWJUZ has dipped, and one of the reasons is that ‘real’ connections have disappeared. t "NPOHTU PUIFST XPSLJOH QBSFOUT GFFM isolated, so we need to ensure that the balance and diversity we have worked so hard for is not lost.


t 0OMJOF DPNNVOJDBUJPO XJMM DPOUJOVF but we need to co-ordinate the real world, with the virtual. t 1PTU #3&9*5 /PSUIFSO *SFMBOE DBO OPX PGGFS inward investors a unique opportunity to access both UK and EU markets whilst driving a new dynamic between NI, ROI and North America. t 0VS TLJMMFE UBMFOU QPPM TUSPOH CVTJOFTT ethos, quality of life and low cost base remain key to NI success globally. Upstream had a disrupted year, like everyone, but we learned a lot. We are looking forward to working closely with business owners across Ireland again, and to funding their recovery. As ever, we have proven ourselves, as a population, to be resilient and adaptable. Above all, we have made it this far with our customary good humour and empathy. We now need to be tactical, as we regenerate our economy. Now is not necessarily the time for grand strategies –

we can do that later. We need strong leadership and access to investment and funding , to avail of the opportunities we clearly have. Key priorities – achieved, will rebuild confidence quickly in 2021.

Eye on Business Leaders Forum

Johnny Hanna Partner-in-Charge, KPMG in Northern Ireland


welcome the boost to growth prospects which the Covid-19 vaccines offered. It’s important now that companies return to a more normal trading environment as soon as possible and to do that, continued government support is imperative to allow time for businesses to recover. On the upside, many Northern Ireland firms have invested in their technology platforms and accelerated their digital agenda during the pandemic with the result that they are displaying more resilience, more agility and more customer focus. Additionally, the pandemic has prompted a greater focus on sustainability and physical and mental wellbeing. The post-Brexit landscape brings its own challenges for some existing businesses importing goods from GB as they get to grips with the incredibly complex new customs rules and procedures. It is positive that many businesses (those trading primarily across the island of Ireland, the rest of the EU and those selling into rather than buying from the GB market) will find themselves operating in a much more favourable

trading environment in respect of goods than their competitors based in the rest of the UK and the EU and will continue trading as before. While too early to appraise the potential for Northern Ireland arising from the Protocol, I would expect FDI opportunities to arise as investors considering setting up in either the UK or EU weigh up the benefits of establishing businesses here in order to avail of its unique position as a frictionless gateway selling into both the UK and EU markets. But to ensure long-term economic success post Covid-19 and Brexit, Northern Ireland needs investment in skills, initiatives on exportled growth, a re-consideration of tax policy options, powers to turbo charge the private sector collaboration between the education sector and business, a focus on high-growth sectors, an infrastructure strategy and a focus on the green economy. Another key ingredient for that success is certainty for investors, a stable political landscape and a Clear Economic Vision & Strategy for Northern Ireland in the New Reality – that everyone can get behind.

Brian Gillan Head of Retail & NI, AIB


usinesses will continue to face many challenges in 2021 as COVID-19 continues to impact on all aspects of life, and the UK’s exit from the EU will be strongly felt as companies contend with new rules and regulations. The agreement that was reached with the EU in December has been largely welcomed, but the detail is still to be worked out and it will take time to absorb and adapt to the changes. The increased friction along previously frictionless trading routes will inevitably mean more costs for businesses. It is also clear that clarification is required in certain areas, such as Rules of Origin, if supply chains are to operate as normal. Hopefully some of the challenges will be temporary and the flow of trade will begin to get back to close to normal once initial

issues have been ironed out. We should also be working now to better understand what potential commercial benefits and competitive advantages the Northern Ireland Protocol might offer. The ongoing vaccination programme is certainly a very welcome development and will help to restore economic confidence over the months ahead. We will continue to support our customers in whatever way we can. Any businesses which require working capital funding as a consequence of Brexit to support their cashflow should get in touch to discuss how we can help. AIB is investing to grow and we intend to play our part in ensuring access to finance for businesses, which in turn will support economic growth in Northern Ireland.


Eye on Business Leaders Forum

Jackie Henry Office Senior Partner, Deloitte


am always optimistic about the prospects for Northern Ireland business as the talent and ingenuity of the people in our business community will ensure we deliver on whatever challenges arise. There’s no getting away from the fact that there are difficult days still to come. I’m hopeful that vaccine developments will ease the pressure on the health service and enable sectors of the economy that have effectively been closed to get up and running again. But it seems likely many people will continue to work remotely for a while longer, which means ongoing pressures on mental health and the need for flexibility to manage work around family and caring responsibilities. The new Brexit trading arrangements have caused some issues as new rules bed in, and we must be hopeful that any problems experienced early in 2021 are simply teething troubles and not systemic problems that will disadvantage our trading businesses in the long term.

For leaders in all parts of society, we’re now at a point where it’s essential that we continue to manage the immediate issues but also build for the future. One area I’d like to see a major focus on this year is investment in skills development as this will be crucial to the recovery of our economy. In my role as chair of the Department for the Economy’s Skills Strategy Advisory Group I have urged the Executive to create a ringfenced skills fund to support investment in priority growth areas like cybersecurity, fintech and clean technology as well as supporting skills in the health and care sector. Our growing tech sector provides strong opportunities for the economy to be revitalised, but we have to invest in digital skills to address the increasing demand from employers or we risk missing our window. We need to address current skills imbalances and create a culture of lifelong learning in our workforce to maximise the industry’s potential to drive economic growth.

Gillian Morris Head of Corporate Banking in Northern Ireland, HSBC UK


he disruption that businesses have felt during the last 12 months has been unlike anything most have experienced in their lifetimes. As we look ahead, while it may not feel like it right now, there are green shoots of positivity beginning to emerge. “The vaccination programme gives us all hope of moving on from the pandemic and history has taught us that from this kind of economic disruption comes innovation and opportunity. “There remain immediate concerns around how supply chains will fare as businesses come to understand the full impact of Brexit and the additional administrative tasks and costs associated with the UK’s new trading relationship with the EU. Our own research showed that 90% of businesses have supply chain concerns and building further resilience into suppliers and assessing opportunities within new markets will be key to future growth.


“Building a deeper understanding of cash flow will also be imperative for firms this year. Efficient cash flow forecasting is essential for liquidity management and the recent disruption and the current economic environment makes this even more important. Using a cash flow forecasting tool will give companies insights to help secure their business and prepare them to take opportunities and find much needed growth when the time comes. “Ultimately, 2021 will require businesses to be even more agile than they have been to date and I am confident that having the vision and energy to seek new opportunities outside their traditional markets and products will put them on the right path to success.

Eye on Business Leaders Forum

Rajesh Rana Director, Andras Hotels


or 2021 I am taking an optimistic stance, if only because it can’t get any worse than 2020. More seriously, we do have a lot to look forward to in terms of infrastructure and investment planned for Belfast which will help to kick-stat the regional economy. Projects such as the Transport Exchange at Weavers Cross will make a new lease of life to the southwest quarter of Central Belfast. Development projects at TriBeCa, the Northwest Quarter, Belfast Harbour and east of the river at Titanic Quarter and Scirocco will make a major change to those quarters of Belfast. The Belfast Region City Deal will see £1billion of investment in innovation and digital capability, tourism projects, including a Belfast

Story Destination Hub, and infrastructure, notably the much needed Glider Phase 2 connecting north and south Belfast. Probably the biggest single project of all will be the £250m Ulster University new Belfast campus which is set to open for the next academic year. These is a saying that for a city to be successful it need Meds, Eds and Beds, being major medical facilities, universities and tourism. If the investment that is planned for the Belfast region is delivered within reasonable timescales, which granted is a big if, one has to be optimistic for the future.

Julie Gibbons Managing Director, AbbeyAutoline


here is no doubt that throughout 2020 businesses here have dealt with challenges on an unprecedented scale. The continuation of Covid-related restrictions and new trading arrangements as a result of Brexit will continue to take their toll and weigh heavily on the growth and survival of many Northern Ireland businesses. “Hauliers are facing issues with agri-food products being removed from groupage due to documentation issues, leaving gaps in cargo and leading to increased costs. Brexit has also disrupted the supply chain of micro and larger enterprises who now have GB vendors deciding that the rising costs in freight make selling to NI businesses untenable, leaving companies having to identify new, and frequently more costly suppliers from different markets. “The insurance industry will suffer its own setbacks with our insurer partners facing similar challenges including hardening premiums to offset rising costs, which may ultimately have an impact on consumer pockets.

“The big challenge for 2021 will be to make sense of the past year, assess the impact on business and figure out how we regroup and move forward with a renewed vigour. “It’s important for the business community to remain optimistic and to recognise resilience, to celebrate success and to foster innovation. “The current economic situation will force a survivor mentality where leanness will be sought in processes and workforce, and businesses will be compelled to be more innovative and to identify opportunities to diversify. Digitisation is undoubtedly key for all businesses as the crisis has indelibly changed consumer buying behaviour. “As the engine of the economy in Northern Ireland, the private sector must continue to hold our political leadership to account so that they understand and appreciate our business challenges and continue to support us in our economic recovery throughout 2021. “AbbeyAutoline remains optimistic about this year and indeed we remain focused

on growth, particularly on our business insurance side. We are targeting both organic and acquisitive growth and remain very much open for business in all the markets in which we currently operate.”


Eye on Business Leaders Forum

Colin Neill Chief Executive, Hospitality Ulster Economy reliant on recovery of the hospitality sector here – making it a priority is key.


ntering into 2021 the outlook for hospitality, simply put, is not good. The sector has been shrouded in pessimism as support and financial packages for an industry on its knees, whilst is welcome, has fallen short of what is needed. A long list of restrictions, a third lockdown, and the end of the Furlough scheme fast approaching means the devastation of the industry is far from over. With hospitality likely closed until after Easter, an injection of greater financial assistance is needed from our Executive to support businesses who have survived this far to help plan their eventual reopening. This is a sector which has been vibrant here for nearly two centuries and we must be optimistic that things can change for the better. That, however, will be wholly reliant on how much emphasis the Executive places on

reigniting a vital aspect of the local economy – one that generates around £2billion per year. Hospitality has long been the cornerstone of our cities, towns and villages, employing upwards of 65,000 people this time last year. These hospitality businesses draw the high street together; they are the social point of many rural communities. The maintenance of rates relief holidays in the recent draft budget; liquor licensing legislation being address for the first time in a generation; and a sector made up of people eager to get back at it, provides us with hope. We also need to see changes to VAT, how a government backed voucher scheme can be directed towards the industry and how we rebuild skills out of the rubble created by Covid. Hospitality Ulster is now in the formative stages of developing initiatives and ideas about how we prepare our sector for post-pandemic recovery. This is a pathway developed by the industry for the industry and we need the relevant Ministers and the wider Executive to take this plan onboard and assist in its delivery. I think we can be forgiven for our enduring optimism taking a bashing in the last year, but this

Chris Conway Group Chief Executive, Translink


t will be another unprecedented year requiring immense agility and resilience within the sector - emergency preparedness remains critical. We will continue to keep people safe while also looking forward to recovery as the vaccination programme progresses and society opens up. We are optimistic about the future and are committed to building back responsibly; we believe a sustainable transport future is vital to the successful recovery of our economy, health, education and the environment. Before the pandemic we had ambitious plans for the future of public transport in Northern Ireland and we are now accelerating these plans which are essential for a healthier, more sustainable and vibrant society. Ongoing investment in sustainable transport will be essential, making it an attractive option for more people and ensuring we


have the right services and infrastructure in place for a zero carbon future. Key projects like our Future Ticketing System, New Trains 3 programme, zero emission fleet rollout and Belfast Transport Hub will continue to drive forward this year. Alongside responding to the health emergency we’re tackling the global climate emergency and making important strides in our aspirational Net Zero Emissions Strategy with the overall aim to achieve business-wide net zero emissions by 2040 ahead of the UK 2050 target. While Covid19 has been a tragedy for many and a challenge for us all, it’s important we don’t lose sight of the huge opportunity to make things better than before. We will continue to collaborate with colleagues across the business sector to Build Back Responsibly.

is a sector that has to adapt and transform for the benefit of the wider economy – it’s far too important as a job creator and wealth generator not to. I, for one, believe our hospitality sector can rise from the ashes and rebuild, but only with the support of our Government.

Eye on Business Leaders Forum

Stephen Kelly CEO, Manufacturing NI


ast Autumn only 9% of manufacturers believed they were ready for Brexit and this was before new agreements and a flood of new advice, systems and services went live in the last 3 weeks of 2020. It is no wonder that 2021 started with such turbulence. As was warned, Brexit is a fundamental shift in how we do business on these islands. It could never be business as usual despite the flighty claims by those who sold it. Yet, the realities of being outside the EUs Single Market and the Customs Union have been a sudden and aggressive for businesses here, in GB and in Ireland and have left firms scrambling to reengineer and reorientate their supply chains particularly as so many GB firms are either unaware, unprepared or simply unwilling to get to grips with the new requirement

to send goods across the Irish Sea. That disruption will continue for much of 2021 particularly as parts of the economy begin to be released from lockdown. Despite the challenges, to their huge credit our manufacturers and logistics partners continue get stuff done. Their ability to be agile and problem solve should be no surprise. These are the people who demonstrated during Covid that they run towards problems. It is this attitude which will see our manufacturers quickly identify how they can win given our new unique status of having unfettered access to the GB market and their goods freely circulating in the EUs market. 2021 will be difficult given the combined challenges of Covid and customs. But if 2020 proved anything, it is that our sector is resilient, creative and determined. They will find a way.

Karl Hanlon Chief Commercial Officer, FinTrU


t’s perhaps clichéd to say it now, but 2020 may prove to be one of the most profoundly disruptive years most of us will live through: personally, economically, politically and socially. Nobody has come through this unaffected and whilst we at FinTrU are very optimistic for the business outlook in 2021, I am also mindful of the human experiences we all will bring with us and how this will shape our response. The pandemic in particular has led to a lot of introspection: Quality of life, Purpose and Wellbeing. Companies that succeed in this new reality must demonstrate an authentic response to the needs of their workforce from this new ‘day zero’, recognising social as well as economic progress. On the economic front, Northern Ireland GDP is projected to show a modest recovery of 5-6% in 2021 thanks largely to the resilience of the public sector and professional services sector. Of the latter, over 80% of professional services employment in NI is in the financial and FinTech/ RegTech sector (with Belfast named the world’s number one destination globally for FinTech/ RegTech development investment projects).

The forces which have led to this success (agility, resilience, competitiveness, and innovation) are, as it happens, the same forces that all progressive companies need to thrive in the post-Covid world. Supported by central banks and fiscal policy, global financial institutions have had a very strong year driven by increased trading activity and a resurgence in deal making. This increases the likelihood of further investment in transformative change programmes and RegTech in particular, something Northern Ireland is well placed to capitalise on. No surprise also that Brexit remains a key issue for the NI economy this year. The UK government has indicated plans for extensive de-regulation within Financial Services, a move that City of London bosses have urged caution on. With equivalence rules not yet established with the EU, the NI economy is better served with re-regulation rather than deregulation. At FinTrU we have our sights firmly set on these opportunities. As spring approaches there is a palpable sense of optimism and energy to make 2021 a special year!


Eye on Business Leaders Forum

Judith Owens CEO, Titanic Belfast


s we come to the end of the first month of 2021 its difficult to sustain those fresh hopes that we had as we faced a new year after the catastrophic impact that 2020 has had on our lives and our businesses. Tourism has been decimated, with many of us only able to trade for 2 out of the last 10 months and the events industry has come to a complete standstill. However, alongside the positivity created by the global roll out of the vaccine there is no doubt that there is pent up demand to travel, to explore and to engage. Whilst our Industry is still in the survival mode I believe we are ready for recovery, personally our own business is leaner, more focused and more resilient to change and we have never known more about our business than we do now. I believe that Tourism will see a steady level of International market recovery near the end of 2021, overall recovery will be slow and will be kickstarted again by domestic markets

but I am optimistic for steady growth given the quality and strength of our product, the covid safe environments we have developed and the determination of our Industry to succeed and to contribute to our countries economic recovery. One of the key things we as a business have learnt over the last year is that we need to react quickly to the changing landscape, we need to be creative, our managers need to think laterally and try to keep ahead of the big shifts in consumer demands, change is happening overnight, to survive we can’t stand still and we no longer have the luxury of procrastinated deliberations, we need to face change, we need to embrace change. This is now the time when we need decisive leadership from both our political and our business leaders, a time for strong business and political collaboration, a time for unity, optimism and determination.

Brian Murphy BDO Northern Ireland


fter the challenges we have faced in 2020, which unfortunately continue into the current year, ‘optimistic’ doesn’t feel like an appropriate word to describe the prospects for business in 2021. However, I would say that I have a very real confidence in the resilience and in the desire of the business community in Northern Ireland to forge ahead with the economic recovery. Working in conjunction with Government, the business community has adapted to the challenges and has begun to rebuild its momentum. The learning curve has been steep, but after the initial lockdowns, they really have shown that they can adapt and evolve. The pandemic remains the primary challenge to our economic recovery, but I believe that with the rollout of the vaccination programme, there may be light at the end of what has been a very long tunnel. Financial support from


Government has played a critical role over the last 10 months and the combination of grants, loans and the furlough scheme has created a lifeline for many businesses. As we come to terms with living and working with Covid19, we must now prepare for Government assistance coming to an end, particularly in relation to furlough. Timing is everything, and it is hoped that the pace of the recovery will increase and in doing so, minimise the impact of potential redundancies when the furlough scheme comes to an end. Brexit will also continue to be a factor in the coming months, as solutions are sought for the efficient import and export of goods between the UK and EU. Despite these challenges, I believe that the business community will prevail and has the potential to come back stronger than before.

Eye on Business Leaders Forum

John Keane CEO , Ardmore


ast year will have been one of the most challenging many of us have ever faced – both personally and professionally. At Ardmore and LK Communications, we have the privilege of working with a wide range of organisations across NI, ROI, GB, Europe and the US, supporting them to deliver impactful marketing communications to their customers and audiences. As shareholders in Worldwide Partners Inc., the world’s largest network of independent agencies, we have witnessed an incredible resolve that typifies people not only in NI, but across our global partnerships since the outbreak of this pandemic. Whatever lies ahead of us, it is this that gives us cause for optimism. Dealing with uncertainty is one of the fundamentals of business – possibly no more since COVID-19. But whatever awaits us this year, doing nothing is not an option. Businesses will have to continue to demonstrate the same

agility, creativity and resilience, alongside responsiveness to changing consumer behaviour, they have shown so far. The pandemic has greatly accelerated a paradigm technological shift that was already well underway. In our business, we have seen more development in this area in the last six months than in the previous three years. Figures vary but globally it’s accepted that roughly 70% of retail transactions are now made online. As globally connected communications businesses, we have access to a wealth of insight data and research that has, and continues to, help us advise the organisations with whom we work through this unprecedented period of change. It will be those who maintain their sense of purpose in shifting sands and balance the need to innovate with the integrity of an exceptional product, service and customer engagement strategy that will be best placed to avail of the economic opportunities ahead.

Adrian Doran Chair, CBI Northern Ireland Are you optimistic or pessimistic about the prospects for business in 2021? fter the incredibly tough year we’ve just been through, there are reasons to be more optimistic about this year. The good news is we finally have some clarity around Brexit, and likewise we’ve had the positive news regarding the Covid19 vaccines. Whilst not to underestimate the challenges both these issues still present, we now have some light at the end of the tunnel, and we have to start looking forward and thinking about how we are going to “build back better”. Serious thought now needs to be given to thinking about how Northern Ireland capitalises on its unique post Brexit trading position, and how we reposition our economy post-Covid. If we get this right, I believe there are big opportunities for us to grow our economy.


What do you see as the key issues over the coming 12 months? or me, a key issue is that Stormont has to articulate a clear vision for our post-Brexit and post-Covid economy, and deals with global issues like climate change – the world has changed, and we have to react accordingly. There will undoubtedly have to be changes to the way government allocates resources, how we improve our skills base, and ultimately how we can boost our productivity. We have to have a plan to retrain and redeploy people into high growth/high value-add sectors, as well as ensuring our school and university leavers are properly equipped for the future economy. Finally, we need major reform of our public services such as health and education. This has been talked about for many years, but progress has been frustratingly slow. We’ve seen Stormont having to operate at speed in dealing with Covid – we now need this same focus on reforming public services and growing the economy.



Eye on Business Leaders Forum

Michael Neill Head of Office, A&L Goodbody Belfast


hilst the coming 12 months will continue to bring many challenges for businesses in Northern Ireland, I do feel that we have reason to be cautiously optimistic. Indisputably, 2020 was a year dominated by the disruption and uncertainty caused by Covid-19. Thankfully, however, 2021 heralds the rollout of the vaccination programme across the province and with it springs hope, positivity and a degree of certainty. This will undoubtedly spark renewed energy and ambition across the business community as we seek to ‘build back better’. It is true that the long-term economic impact of the pandemic will necessitate the restructuring of debt, both at a macro and micro level, but business in Northern Ireland

is known for its resilience and we’ve been impressed at how our clients have managed to navigate through both the pandemic and the post-Brexit trading environment. We are already hearing some companies herald the NI Protocol as a positive for their business in safeguarding existing all-island contracts or securing new business that might have otherwise been compromised by new trade arrangements. Everyone, whether in the business sector or not, is navigating through an unprecedented time of change. Our objective at ALG is simply to support our colleagues, our clients and society as best we can through these difficult and uncertain times.

Richard Gardiner Regional Managing Partner, RSM Belfast


SM’s regional managing partner in Belfast, is cautiously optimistic for the year ahead and highlights key predictions for the year ahead. Resilience in the middle

Northern Irish middle market businesses have yet again shown resilience through unprecedented times; and the mix of sectors and international focus to many businesses, particularly large scale outsourcing hubs, has meant that in certain sectors, and compared to other regions outside of London and the South East, we’ve borne less economic pain over the last year. This is not to minimise the very significant concerns in hospitality and retail. Northern Irish businesses will need to be sufficiently agile to be able to respond quickly to pent up demand whilst adapting to regulatory changes that could hinder recovery in 2021. A macro view

The firm’s latest Financial Conditions Index, an aggregated performance indicator of currency, bond and equity markets, has made a slow climb, from -0.9 below normal


stress levels in Q3 2020, to a reading of -0.1 today – showing cautious optimism. The climb has been bumpy, reflecting the nervousness fuelled by the further UK lockdown restrictions since Q3 and the uncertainty surrounding Brexit negotiations. Nonetheless it seems the commencement of the vaccine rollout; clarity around the trading agreement with the European Union; and a sustained increase in household spending is allowing businesses to take a more optimistic long-term view for 2021 that will start to accelerate during Q1 2021. Staycations

Looking to the positives, the travel, leisure, hospitality and retail sectors will all experience marked increases in consumer demand by mid/ late-summer 2021 if current projections persist. As a staycation destination, Northern Ireland could see an increase in visitors throughout 2021 as consumer choose to holiday in the UK rather than travelling abroad – which would be a real boost for these sectors which were hardest hit by the pandemic and where the Northern Ireland offering is of an exceptionally high quality.

Eye on Business Leaders Forum

Angela McGowan Director, CBI Northern Ireland


t won’t surprise you that NI companies were apprehensive about 2021. Faced with the unprecedented challenges of getting ready for our new relationship with the EU, while managing mounting Covid pressures. Business leaders have been working around the clock to manage both as best they can. Yet it’s fair to say there have been bumps in the road. On trade, the UK Government has acknowledged its responsibility to get GB companies up to speed with the new paperwork requirements and have promised to rectify the situation asap. And then there’s the continued lockdowns which have hit businesses hard. Health is always the priority and Government support for businesses must match our economic reality. VAT deferrals and business rate holidays are critical support lifelines. The Minister of Finance must

press on and use the allocated £150 million for a business rates holiday for NI companies from April 2021 onwards. Businesses braced and expected this period to be rocky. But there is real hope on the horizon. Mass vaccine rollout and rapid testing could be game changing to unlocking our economy recovery in the months ahead. And despite the teething problems with trade, companies now know the direction of travel and what’s expected of them in terms of administration and adjusting supply chains. 2021 no doubt will continue to change at pace. Northern Ireland knows it and needs to be ready with a detailed long-term economic strategy agreed by the Executive – addressing our unique challenges and building on the potential opportunities ahead.

Britt Megahey Managing Director, Barclay Communications


here are many things to be optimistic about in 2021, including the potential return to routine thanks to the rollout of Covid-19 Vaccine. “While this could mean a return to the bricks and mortar office, for many, as WFM fatigue beds in, there is no doubt that the pandemic has put the spotlight on flexibility and reliable communications solutions, benefitting the entire comms community and I believe that demand will continue. As a business owner in the sector, I’m optimistic that the buoyancy we enjoyed in 2020 will continue this year. That need to consume more data will also continue and we will see a lot more investment in comms from an increasingly discerning consumer who wants the best, from the best. This has been particularly rife in Northern Ireland, where local companies are swaying towards newer technology. We have experienced a massive uptake in our mobile workforce management software, WorkPal,

and we’ve seen a boost in sales in the likes of VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol) and its integration with mobile as a result. In line with that appetite for better, more powerful and more reliable comms packages, we’re going to see more 5G capabilities and the switch off of 2G and 3G while the rollout of FTTP (Fibre to the Premises) will see rural connectivity ramp up. And as Northern Ireland consumers invest and adopt new systems, they will lean towards suppliers who have the best reputations spawning a survival of the fittest chain reaction, resulting in amalgamations and mergers, not only within the communications sector but most industries. Any slowdown we may experience in our specific sector will be a result of the loss of businesses through the pandemic, which will narrow the customer pool, but for us, we are confident about the turn of this new decade.”


Eye on Finance

GM G Corporate Finance records its strongest year to date c

Eleven deals completed during a year that has seen more than its fair share of challenges.


Eye on Finance


s the pandemic continues to create difficult trading conditions for businesses of all sizes and across virtually all industry sectors, GMcG Chartered Accountants remains resolute in its commitment to ensuring clients receive the levels of advice, service and expertise that are needed at this time. In addition to compliance services related to Audit, Accounts and Tax, GMcG continues to provide business owners with specialist advice in the areas of Forensic Accounting and Investigation, specialist Taxation services, Digital Accounting and Corporate Finance. Leading GMcG’s Corporate Finance team is newly appointed Director Robbie Milliken. Having spent more than 7 years in corporate and business banking, Robbie joined GMcG in 2018 with significant experience in company disposals and acquisitions, MBOs/ MBIs, fund raising, debt advisory, business plans and company valuation projects. After taking up the Corporate Finance reins at GMcG, Robbie wasted little time in using his experience and extensive contact list to lay the groundwork for projects with clients across the firm’s Belfast, Lisburn and Portadown locations. Over the past twelve months Robbie has worked with directors and shareholders from a wide range of client businesses and from across a number of industry sectors, providing advisory services in corporate finance and business restructuring. 2020 was a particularly busy period for GMcG Corporate Finance regarding the completion of business disposals, having acted for shareholders in the sales of five separate businesses. Robbie and his team added to this tally with work on three acquisitions and three management buyouts during the year. Significant projects included acting for Willis Insurance on the acquisition of two UK based commercial brokers and the disposal of College View Nursing Home to Grace Healthcare Ireland. The momentum from 2020 has continued into 2021, with GMcG Corporate Finance acting for two clients on the disposal of their respective business

Robbie Milliken , Director, GMcG Corporate Finance

with completion anticipated before the end of March 2021. Robbie’s team is also in advanced negotiations to complete a growth capital investment for a client experiencing significant growth.

different types of transactions across industries as diverse as healthcare, insurance, pharmacy, engineering and technology, as well as a range of clients from large privately owned

“Proactive approach, experience and innovative solutions have been key to delivering successful outcomes for clients involved in a wide range of transactions.” Commenting on recent Corporate Finance activities, Robbie Milliken said: “Last year turned out to be a very strong year for the Corporate Finance team, having benefited from considerable groundwork in late 2019 and the early part of 2020, leading to a strong finish in the latter part of the year. 2020 will clearly go down in history as one of the most testing environments for M&A activity with the ongoing global pandemic impacting many sectors and leading to limited face to face meetings.” Robbie is delighted to have had the opportunity to have been involved in a number of

Northern Irish companies to SMEs and high growth early stage businesses. Robbie adds: “What was most encouraging was the willingness of the Northern Ireland business community to demonstrate such great resilience and the ability to adapt to the circumstances and to keep moving forward to complete transactions.” GMcG’s growth in recent years can in a large way be attributed to the approach the firm takes with its clients, helping growing companies not only achieve their strategic objectives but also having the resources and experience to provide leading edge expertise

beyond compliance services. Commenting on the level of Corporate Finance activity, GMcG Managing Director Susan Dunlop said: “Corporate Finance has always been a key service offering of the firm, for new and existing clients. Notwithstanding our current economic climate and the challenges we face, it is encouraging to see businesses looking at new opportunities and being active in the marketplace. We are delighted to have been in a position to appoint Robbie as Director of Corporate Finance in January 2021. His proactive approach, experience and innovative solutions have been key to delivering successful outcomes for clients involved in a wide range of transactions.”

For more information on GMcG Corporate Finance, contact Robbie Milliken on 028 9031 1113, or


Eye on News

Northern Ireland public relations professional Sonya Cassidy has been awarded a Fellowship by the Chartered Institute of Public Relations (CIPR) for her dedication and contribution to the industry.

Northern Ireland PR Professional Awarded Distinguished Communications Status


he accolade was awarded to Ms Cassidy for her “outstanding” work in the field over the past 25 years. It not only demonstrates her devotion to the industry but best practice, professionalism and role as an advocate for CIPR, which is the world’s only Royal Chartered professional body for public relations practitioners, with nearly 10,000 members. Ms Cassidy was one of seven members to be awarded a Fellowship so far this year. To date, Ms Cassidy’s career has seen her work with some of the biggest private and public sector organisations in Northern Ireland and further afield. Specialising in strategic, creative and resultsdriven communications, her clients span a wide range of industries including financial services, property, renewable energy, social enterprise, hospitality, food and drink and travel and tourism. Locally, Ms Cassidy’s client list includes Action Cancer, Agnew Group, MCL InsureTech, Northern Ireland Hotels Federation, Ilimex Limited, Hinch Distillery, Simpson Developments, The Salthouse and Bishop’s Gate Hotel. She has attracted almost two dozen awards over the years for her campaigns including her work with the £1.7m Tellus South West Project, a geological mapping project which uncovered the environmental makeup of Cornwall, Devon and parts of Somerset. For this particular project she was the recipient of a gold award at the CIPR PRide Awards. Prior to setting up her own agency — a role Ms Cassidy has undertaken for the past decade — she made her mark in a number of communication agencies around NI and globally including Weber Shandwick.


She also spent a secondment in-house at Nespresso’s global headquarters in Lausanne, Geneva. Most recently Ms Cassidy has expanded her portfolio to welcome some of the pandemic’s most entrepreneurial seedling firms including the creators of a new air steriliser, the Ilimex UV-C Air Steriliser, which can kill up to 99.9999% of airborne pathogens including Covid-19. Speaking about the Fellowship, Sonya Cassidy said: “I am honoured to join the ranks of PR Fellows. Championing our profession and advocating learning are two hugely important areas for me. This Fellowship not only gives recognition for all the work I’ve put in over the years but it also provides an opportunity to take what I have learned and share it with others on their PR journey.” Congratulating Sonya on her Fellowship, CIPR Northern Ireland Chair, Arlene McPhillips said: “On behalf of CIPR Northern Ireland I would like to congratulate Sonya on her CIPR fellowship

appointment. The appointment is testament to her experience and dedication to the public relations profession here in Northern Ireland and underpins her commitment to CIPR. I am thrilled that she joins 20 practitioners in Northern Ireland who have already been recognised by CIPR as our Fellows play an important role in helping promote professionalism, demonstrate best practice and raise awareness of the benefits of CIPR membership.” CIPR President, Mandy Pearse Chart PR, FCIPR added: “Many congratulations to our seven new Fellows. This is a much-deserved recognition of your professional achievements and the time and expertise you have each given back to our community. As ambassadors for the CIPR you drive forward our values of a commitment to life-long learning, professionalism, and ethical practice which does so much for the whole profession and demonstrates our value and purpose to the outside world.”

Eye onOffice, Retail & City Centres


Eye on Round Table

Office, Retail & City Centres – What Does The Future Hold? The Participants


Brian Lavery, Managing Director, CBRE Belfast

Simon Hamilton, Chief Executive, Belfast Chamber

Nial Borthistle, Business Development Manager, Glandore

Laura McCarthy, Senior Asset Manager, Killultagh Estates

Cathy Reynolds, Director of City Regeneration & Development, Belfast City Council

Brian joined CBRE in March 2001 having previously been a Director with the Belfast office of Lambert Smith Hampton since 1992. Previous to this, Brian worked with Royal Life based in Belfast and Cluttons based in Knightsbridge, London. With 35 years’ experience in the commercial property sector, the last 30 of which have been based in Northern Ireland, Brian has an in-depth knowledge of the market and has acted as expert witness in some of the most influential property cases to come before the Lands Tribunal and Private Arbitrations. Brian has also been involved in some of the largest portfolio valuations in Northern Ireland and is in constant contact with the leading property institutions regarding their operational and valuation requirements. He has specialist knowledge in the valuation of trading entities including care homes, hotels, licensed premises and car parks. In January this year Brian led a successful MBO of the Belfast business which will continue to trade as CBRE.

Simon is Chief Executive of Belfast Chamber of Trade and Commerce. After graduating with degrees in history/politics and law from The Queen’s University of Belfast, Simon began his career as an auditor at PriceWaterhouseCoopers. Prior to taking on his current role with Belfast Chamber, Simon served as Minister of Finance, Minister of Health and Minister for the Economy in the Northern Ireland Executive.

Nial has over 20 years’ business development experience selling products and services across various industries and regions throughout Europe and the United States. He is Business Development & Community Manager for Glandore, Ireland’s leading Flexible Workspace Provider helping companies from both Northern Ireland and abroad to grow by offering flexible and collaborative workplace solutions and facilitating connections between their Glandore Network and the wider business community. Glandore Belfast has been supporting companies since 2006 and is home to over 40 companies covering scaling start-ups, SME’s and international FDI.

Laura has been a member of the RICS since 2004. She began her career in Lambert Smith Hampton Commercial Surveyors in 2001 within their Property Management team where she was responsible for the Asset Management of 7 Shopping Centres throughout the UK during her 10 year tenure. Laura then joined the Colliers International Management team in October 2010 where she was promoted to Head of Investment Property Management in 2013 overseeing a team of 15 Chartered Surveyors whilst having specific responsibility for Killultagh Estates Portfolio consisting of 5 Shopping Centres. In 2015 Laura joined Killultagh Estates as an in house Asset Manager. Killultagh Estates currently operates a portfolio of major rental and investment projects spanning the industrial, retail, office, development and residential sectors, with a net value in excess of £200 million. Laura is responsible for overseeing all Retail & Office transactions within the portfolio.

Cathy is a Chartered Surveyor by profession and has over 25 years’ experience in development, regeneration and strategic asset management. Working with other stakeholders across the public and private sectors Cathy is responsible from a Council perspective for leading on city regeneration and development to drive delivery of physical, social and economic outcomes for Belfast. This includes leading on the Belfast City Centre Regeneration & Investment Strategy and policies, programmes and projects aligned to the regeneration and development of the city. Cathy previously headed up the Asset Management service within Belfast City Council’s Property & Projects Department and led on the delivery of a number of property and development projects and initiatives, working with a range of stakeholders across the public and private sectors. She also had responsibility for the management of the Council’s extensive land and property estate.

Eye on Round Table

Business Eye linked up with leading law firm TLT to stage a virtual round table discussion event to look at what the future holds for office working and for the retail sector as Northern Ireland emerges from the Covid-19 pandemic.


hen will we see a large-scale return to office working? Will patterns of work change for ever? What are the implications for the city centre? How can retail work to recover from the devastating effects of the pandemic? Richard Buckley of Business Eye and TLT’s real estate partner Kevin Murphy hosted the discussion from NIAVAC’s studio in East Belfast and were joined remotely by:-

is still very important. That’s been reflected in the market where there have been new development and new occupiers coming into Belfast. That shows both resilience and a desire to have a central office location. BL – The pandemic has brought office design forward, probably by five to ten years. We’re already seeing more green elements, things like bike storage, showers, additional open spaces. We already know that we have to design places where people will want to come

in and work. So, rather than offices being dead, I think that the crisis has moved us forward and forced us to think more about good design. SH – The office delineates work from home and it’s good for mental wellbeing. I think there has been a change in attitudes over recent months. Back at the start of the pandemic, working from home had a novelty factor and the weather was great. But working from home became living at work. The break between work and home is incredibly

Brian Lavery, Managing Director, CBRE Belfast Simon Hamilton, Chief Executive, Belfast Chamber Niall Borthistle, Business Development Manager, Glandore Laura McCarthy, Senior Asset Manager, Killultagh Estates Cathy Reynolds, Director of City Regeneration & Development, Belfast City Council

RB – Back at the start of the pandemic, we were hearing people almost predicting the death of offices and office working. But there seems to have been a change in those attitudes. What is the view of the panel? KM – Working from is going to be with us in the future, but so are offices. The office as a central home for a business


Eye on Round Table towards much more flexible working and days of the 9-5 office might well be numbered. That’s not to say that offices will become redundant but we’re looking at a mix, the hybrid model is it’s called. RB – So we’re looking at higher quality, higher specification office space. Are we well enough equipped as a city?

important for our health and for our productivity. We’re social animals, we miss each other and we miss the innovation and collaboration that comes from working together. This is a useful format and it has served us well over the past nine months, but I really do think the pendulum is starting to swing back towards office working. RB – Niall, this is central to what you do. How do you view the future? NB – Even before the pandemic, the nature of how people used offices was changing.We’ve seen that in the rise of flex space. For us at Glandore, our space is design led. We have communal space, open space, collaboration spaces. The pandemic has forces companies who’ve never embraced working from home to adapt it so that will result in some change. From our own perspective, I think we’ll see further growth in the flex space marketplace. Companies want flexibility when it comes to their requirements. LM – We’ve been in our office full time ever since we were allowed to return in July. Our view is that property is a people business and it’s important for us to be here as a business space developer. Offices will still be the future although the environment will just look a little different. As Brian said, what we’re


going to see is a better office, not the death of the office. The onus is on people like us, developers, to create a better product whilst taking into consideration that working from home will also be much more prevalent than it used to be, so we’re looking at a hybrid way of working for the future. I was lucky to have a preview of Rapid7’s new offices in Belfast, an £8 million fit out of 45,000sq ft completely focused on productivity and their employees well being. This has set the standard for the city and should make all developers think about the design of their space to accommodate this hybrid way of working. RB – Cathy, it’s clear that all of this has had a major impact on the city centre. What are your hopes and fears? CR – I agree, first of all, that the office definitely isn’t dead. People want to get back to normal work in some shape or form. It’s about people and not about buildings and social and business interaction is really important. Of course all of this has had a negative effect on the city centre and there is no doubt that there are many challenges ahead. However, as Laura has pointed out, there has also been good news from new investors. Going forward, we need to focus

on what we talked about pre-Covid and some of the areas of focus and changes that were already happening may not accelerate. Increased city centre living and enhanced connectivity, for example. RB – Simon, you’ve been the spokesman for the city centre through all of this. Put what’s been happening into perspective for us. SH – It has been tragic for Belfast city centre. There’s no way to dress that up. Footfall has been down to 25% of where it would have been and we’ve seen how crucial office workers are to the city. We have to remember that we’re not alone. Cities across the country and worldwide are suffering in the same way. Looking to the future, we have to look at encouraging more city living, at having more family friendly leisure activities in the city centre and at cycling and walking infrastructures. KM – When I started out in my career, incoming companies used to complain about the lack of Grade A office space here. But I think we’ve stepped up our game significantly. Today’s employees want first class offices. We were among the many companies who weren’t set up for home working, but we adapted quickly as did a lot of organisations. I think there’s bound to be a move

BL – I think we’re well placed, and more offices are coming out of the ground at the moment. We also have to remember that we have a very large public sector here and a lot of public sector offices in the city. It’s really important that we get those workers back to offices, and I’d be interested to hear Cathy’s views on that. I was pleased to read that PwC intends to get back to office working as soon as it can. That’s the kind of message we need from the private sector but just as importantly from the public sector. CR – We’re working to government and public health advice at the moment, but as soon as it’s safe to do so, we’ll certainly be looking at a return to the office in line with health guidance. I agree with Brian that office occupation is critical to our city centre, not only in terms of development and bricks and mortar but for the contribution their occupants make to the wider economy. RB – Now that the vaccination programme is underway, is it possible that we’ll find ourselves back working exactly the way we used to work in a few months time? SH – It’s a question I’ve asked our members. We’re hearing from big employers about a phased return in April working towards a full return by September. The pessimist might think that September is a long way off, but the optimist homes in on any return to office working. But Brian is right, it’s important that the public sector makes a similar move. LM – We have an office site at Donegall Square South - The Mercantile - and we have been talking to potential occupiers over the last 12 months. Those conversations have become significantly more positive in

Eye on Round Table recent weeks with the vaccination programme underway, businesses can now plan in a way that they haven’t been able to do for the past nine months. I am excited about the market for 2021 as so many requirements have been on hold and with so many lease events happening next year, this will trigger activity. NB – Whether they wanted it or not, companies have had time to take stock. It’s been mentioned before but there’s no doubt we’ll see a lot more flexibility around how employees work and how firms operate. Certainly, as a serviced business centre, we’re seeing a lot of enquiries coming through. And I think we’ll see a change in atmosphere when we get into the New Year. RB – Let me shift to retail. On my short drive here this morning, I passed four Amazon delivery vans. Covid has had a huge effect on retail and has helped drive many customers into the hands of the online retailers. What can we do to help bring retail back to life? SH – A theme throughout the pandemic has been the acceleration of trends. With retail, there was already a trend towards online sales but I don’t think anyone expected it to double. I don’t see it swinging back again. In Belfast, we’ve seen Easons go, we’ve had bad news on Debenhams and Arcadia. To use pandemic language, they all had pre-existing health conditions but government-enforced closures were the final nail in the coffin for them. The policy of locking down, opening and locking down is incredibly difficult for these businesses. We have to work towards a city that is less reliant on retail and that gets us back to the living and leisure we talked about earlier. KM – We carried out a Retail Agility Report recently and it showed that bricks and mortar retail is still very important and very relevant. But the pandemic has helped a lot of retailers to improve their online offering, and that’s a good thing. So, just like offices have to embrace a different future, so does the retail sector. Office space and retail space will blend together more easily.

BL – We’ve mentioned Amazon. Not everyone is aware that Amazon has built a multi-storey van park at its Titanic base, the first of its type in the UK and capable of holding 470 delivery we’re going to see a lot more of them. Online retailers thrive through their agility and retailers are going to need that kind of agility as well. Those who didn’t plan for online are the ones who’ve fallen by the wayside. Retail can be flexible and retail can be re-positioned. It just needs to happen pretty quickly. LM – We have six shopping centre assets across the UK and have been working closely with our tenants this year to try to help them sustain their business. What we have seen is some sectors have performed extremely well during this period, the grocery and value led retailers who have been able to trade throughout lockdown and the retail parks where you have ease of access. Where we’ve felt the pain is in the shopping centres and that’s because of the number of fashion retailers who have really struggled as a sector. I believe that retail can and will recover, but we’re going to have to look at re-purposing part of our schemes as we simply have too much space and we don’t have enough new occupiers coming through.

CR – In the short term, we’ve looked at things like our Buy Belfast Christmas Market to encourage customers to buy locally online. I do think that it may not be a case of being either online or bricks and mortar, but havinng a complimentary offer. In the longer term, it is about having a variety of uses within the city centre to encourage people to come into it and this should help support the retail sector. This includes more family centric, cultural and leisure offerings as well as city centre living. There appears to be a consensus for the need for additional homes within the city. There is

also an increasing interest and a significant number of residential units within the planning system at the moment and purpose built student accommodation on top of that – which is all positive. But it goes further than that and there is a need to consider this in the context of enhanced sustainability, open space, connectivity, pedestrianisation and cycling. We need more than just retail, in other words, to bring people into our city centre. NB – The pandemic has highlighted our reliance on retail. The old analogy ‘Build It And They Will Come’


Eye on Round Table our city centre to become. As I said earlier, city centre living has an important role to play in that wider vision and we’re starting to see real progress on that. KM – I don’t think any part of government is holding things back. The commitment is there and it’s a case of maintain progress. The City Deal represents a great opportunity for Belfast. With the goodwill of politicians including local councillors we can make a lot more progress. In fact, I think we can lead the way as a city.

isn’t far off the mark. We need to be a bit more imaginative, but change can’t be forced. It has to happen organically for it to be lasting. By way of example, we’ve taken over the old Cath Kidston space to open new facilities for our members.

towards making our city greener. The public sector needs to back what the private sector is doing.

RB – Let me bring office and retail back together. How can our city centres and town centres be helped to recover? And what role can the Northern Ireland Executive play in all of this?

CR – Simon is right. Public/private partnership is absolutely crucial. There are joint priorities around connectivity, enhanced public realm and open spaces, increased city living, innovation and digital

RB – Belfast City Council is part of government at a local level, Cathy. What are your priorities?

BL – We launched the Weaver’s Cross development at the end of the year and it is really positive story of muchneeded infrastructure. Here is a government-led scheme which is actually coming out of the ground, so it’s a positive message. Ease of doing business is hugely important. We still need to look at our planning system and make it much smoother and more effective. If we don’t, investors will simply move on. RB – Can we take the opportunity of the Covid crisis to change our city centre for the better? KM – I really do think so. We could simply end up back where we were, but I don’t see that happening. Employers have put a lot into making remote working work for them and I can’t see that going away completely. We also saw visible environmental improvements during lockdown and those can’t be thrown away. I think we will be doing things differently.

SH – I think that the private sector is backing Belfast. There are a lot of developments in the pipeline and some of them have the potential to be game changers. What they want to see from government aren’t just the big public schemes like the York Street Interchange and the Transport Hub. They want to see investment in Royal Avenue, for example. They want to see progress


technology, opportunities arising from the City Deal, etc. The Council is working with DfI and DfC on a study around how best we use our city centre to provide enhanced connectivity, sustainability and support business and communities. Pilot projects have already been brough forward. We do need to have this bolder vision and be able to envisage what we want

SH – A lot of the changes we want to see aren’t new ideas. They’ve been around for a while. Such has been the trauma of what we’ve been through over the past few months that we’re keen to embrace real change going forward. We’ll certainly be a lot less resistant to that change. It’s going to be difficult and expensive to do some of these things, but there is a real drive and an impetus for change now and that can only be positive. We’ve been through worse than this, we’ll come out the other side and, if we embrace change, we’ll come out all the better.

BL – We’ve certainly come through change and we’ve proved ourselves resilient. We’re looking forward now to an energised office market and to a changed but recovering retail sector. We also have to get our tourism and hospitality industry back on its feet again. These are challenges that we succeeded at beforehand and we’ll succeed at again. LM – I’m feeling very positive about the markets in 2021. We’re going to take on board the lessons that we’ve learnt. We’ve had to adapt at a rate of knots that we’d never have anticipated. To put it simply, we have to take those lessons and apply them going forward as we look at how we improve our retail and office environments and move back to some kind of normality. NB – Belfast has punched above its weight in a lot of different ways and it can continue to do so. Yes, we’re going to see changes to the office market and to how we all work. We’ll have to take small steps and government can help by making it easy for people to get back to work. It’s worth mentioning too that the city’s loss has been the suburbs’ gain. But this city has come a long way. We can take stock now and move towards a positive future. CR – One thing the pandemic has shown us is that we all need social contact. Covid 19 has highlighted many of the challenges that already existed, and I believe there is a general consensus about the need to accelerate many of the collective priorities that existed pre-Covid. Everyone wants to see the city centre bounce back and become vibrant once again and that will require a joined up approach across all sectors. RB – I think that last question and your responses to it are a good way to wrap us this discussion. On behalf of both Business Eye and TLT, can I thank all of you for taking the time to be with us today.

Eye on Economics

Covid & Impacts On The Financial System The Bank of England’s Financial Policy Committee (FPC) works to ensure that the financial system is ready for any risks it might face, so that it can continue to serve households and businesses in bad times as well as good.


his year, more than ever, those households and businesses have needed support from the financial system to weather the disruption brought by Covid. Underpinned by guarantees from government, businesses have borrowed £80bn so far this year, four times the amount they had raised by this time last year. The hardest hit have had their incomes protected by the extension of the furlough scheme, while households have been supported with payment holidays on mortgages, loans and credit agreements. Thanks to the resilience built into the system after the financial crisis over a decade ago, UK banks have been able to provide this support despite the challenges brought this year. The reforms to our banking sector since the financial crisis, largely through increasing the amount of financial resources they have to hold, has meant that they have been able to continue to lend despite losses as a result of Covid. Banks now hold three times more capital, known as their loss absorbing ability, than they did before the financial crisis. To date they have provisioned for £20bn of credit losses as a result of the economic effects of Covid to date. However, their capital buffers mean that they could absorb losses of almost ten times that amount. We are also reaching the end of the transition period with the EU. Since the referendum over four years ago, firms and authorities in the financial sector have made extensive preparations and as a result most risks to financial stability have been mitigated. However, financial stability is not the

same as market stability. As we move to new arrangements with the EU, some market volatility, particularly in foreign exchange and equity prices, and disruption to financial services could arise. Whatever our future relationship with the EU, the FPC remains committed to maintaining high regulatory standards in the UK. One of the economic effects of Covid is that the mortgage market has tightened this year and there has been less availability of high loan-to-value (LTV) mortgages. History shows us that financial crises can often be associated with the property market which is why we guard against the biggest risks here. One of those is the FPC’s mortgage market recommendations which limits the proportion of new high loan-to-income (LTI) mortgages. Its aim is to protect households against shocks to their income and jobs and future increases in interest rates. But those risks change over time, especially whether the measures are calibrated correctly, which is why we will be reviewing our recommendations again next year.

“Banks now hold three times more capital, known as their loss absorbing ability, than they did before the financial crisis. To date they have provisioned for £20bn of credit losses as a result of the economic effects of Covid to date.”

Finally, Covid has accelerated the trend toward digital payments. The FPC have been considering the potential effects on the financial system were stablecoins – the most commonly heard example being Libra (recently renamed as Diem) - to be adopted widely. Stablecoins are digital tokens that claim to maintain a stable value in relation

Frances Hill.

to existing national currencies. As part of our work on this, we will also consider the issues that may arise from the introduction of a central bank digital currency, or in other words an electronic form of Bank of England issued money that could be used by businesses or households. This year, Covid has presented unprecedented challenges for the UK and global economy. To end on a positive, the financial system has proved resilient to those challenges and the work that the FPC and the Bank of England does will mean that this continues to be the case into the future. We at the Bank of England, Northern Ireland Agency, wish all of you a Happy Christmas and a safe and prosperous 2021.

Frances Hill is Agent for Northern Ireland. @BoENIreland


Eye on Private Equity

NI can remain fertile ground for private equity investment in 2021 By Richard Kyle, Partner, Corporate, Eversheds Sutherland

During the summer, Eversheds Sutherland Private Equity specialists published a series of weekly bitesize articles focusing on issues likely to be relevant to investors and their portfolio companies at that time and in the future.


espite some good predictions, some are still to play out. When I think back to that time, a number of clients had FOMO (the Fear Of Missing Out) on good quality businesses, but deal volume had certainly slowed down. September came, schools returned, and our phones started to ring off the hook to ask for support on new processes. It felt like a normal September and the run into Christmas has been as busy as ever - if not more so. In terms of the issues and challenges that we anticipated, we have advised sponsors on steps taken to protect their portfolio companies and “right-size� debt; advised directors on their duties and the change of emphasis on those duties when businesses start to tip towards insolvency; and portfolio companies on their applications for CBILS and good tax housekeeping to maximise cashflow. We have seen lenders remain open for business, and debt funds continuing to be relevant and provide alternative lending solutions to the market. In relation to deal processes, as we expected, the businesses of the highest quality in the healthcare and technology spaces have driven incredibly competitive processes and high multiples, with deal certainty, flexibility, and speed of execution being key determining


factors in the success of bids. As we move into 2021, I expect to see deal activity remain high. Sponsors still have cash to invest and deployment targets to meet. Vendors - perhaps fatigued by dealing with the impact of Brexit, then Covid and with the upcoming anticipated changes to CGT - may be very much ready to sell and complete disposals by the end of February 2021. Whilst we have sadly witnessed some businesses fail, we believe as government funding continues to tail off, we will start to see opportunities for special situations and turnaround investors to step in and support really strong businesses across other sectors that would have continued on strong growth trajectories but for the pandemic. For Northern Ireland, the unknown longer-term implications of what is ultimately agreed as result of Brexit will of course be relevant. Focusing on the known positives, the quality of our businesses, and the people who run those businesses, the great work of indigenous funds like Crescent Capital and Clarendon Fund Managers to support entrepreneurs to grow their businesses, and the investments made by funds like H2 Equity Partners, Perwyn, LDC and BGF, I believe that Northern Ireland will remain a fertile investment location for private equity investors throughout 2021.

I am quietly optimistic about what next year can bring. The roll out of the vaccine, a return to semi-normality and, from a personal and professional perspective, to continue to see NI businesses flourish and private equity investment remain at the heart of M&A activity for the next 12 months and beyond.

AIB Business Eye AWARDS 2021


Eye on Awards AWARDS 2021

Company of the Year

Covid Business Hero Award

Northern Ireland’s overall company of the year in the opinion of the judging panel. Companies can be of any size/scale, number of employees, and must be able to exhibit exceptional performance, especially but not exclusively during the 12 month period to 28th February 2021.

A new award reflecting the Covid era and recognising the outstanding contribution made by an individual on behalf of a specific sector or the wider business community during the crisis.

Sponsored by AIB

Young Business Personality of the Year

Employer of the Year This category sets out to recognise those local organisations exhibiting best practice in terms of people management. The judging panel will look for clear evidence of class-leading initiatives designed to make the organisation a better and more caring employer. Sponsored by Lockton

Covid Response Company of the Year A second Covid era award, this time spotlighting innovation, adaptation and/or a change in business direction of leading NI companies in direct response to the challenges of the coronavirus crisis.

Research & Development Award The Research & Development (Innovation) project which, in the opinion of the judges, is the best example of how companies can harness research, development and innovation to further their business aims and objectives. Sponsored by U105

The category is open to senior managers and leaders in businesses and organisations across the private, public and voluntary sectors, whose leadership and achievement can be clearly demonstrated.

Tourism & Hospitality Award The company or organisation making the most valuable contribution to the continued development of tourism & hospitality here in Northern Ireland. Possible entrants might include hotels/hotel groups, other forms of accommodation, tourism development organisations, restaurants, travel facilities, etc. Sponsored by Visit Belfast


Medium/Mid-Sized Business of the Year

Covid Era Innovative Company of the Year

This category will recognise a leading player in the 50-250 employee sector of the Northern Ireland economy, a key sector which includes a number of our leading private sector companies. As with Company of the Year, entrants must demonstrate exceptional performance across the board.

Innovation has taken on a whole new meaning during the Covid crisis. This award sets out to recognise outstanding product or service innovation by a local company as a response to the pandemic. Sponsored by NIE Networks

Eye on Awards AWARDS 2021

Business Personality of the Year

Community (CSR) Award

Family Business of the Year

The keynote award will honour Northern Ireland’s outstanding business personality over the past 12 months, an individual whose leadership achievements have contributed to business success and to the wider local economy.

Corporate social responsibility plays an important role for NI companies and this specialist category sets out to recognise an organisation from the private, public or voluntary sectors making a clear and impactful contribution to its local community as a whole.

Northern Ireland’s economy is built on family business success and this key category will recognise the family-owned business, of any size of scale, which can demonstrate exceptional achievement during the year to 28th February 2021. Sponsored by Harbinson Mulholland

Sponsored by Community Foundation NI

Small Business of The Year The organisation with 50 employees or less which, in the opinion of the judges, exemplifies best practice and achievement across the board. Evidence of growth and development, clear vision and strategy to deliver growth, commitment to superior customer service, demonstration of innovation across the business.

Professional Services Firm of the Year This category sets out to honour Northern Ireland’s leading accountancy, legal or other professional services firm working with and providing key advice to clients in the local business community.

Manufacturer of the Year

Executive Support Professional of the Year This award will honour one of the ‘unsung heroes’ of the business world here, Northern Ireland’s leading Executive Support Professional, a key member of staff in any organisation providing exemplary support services to management within the organisation.

A very important category, this one is open to all manufacturing organisations, of any size and scale, operating in Northern Ireland. The judging panel will look for evidence of innovation, attention to detail, state of the art engineering and product market success. Sponsored by RSM

Sponsored by Honeycomb

Sponsored by Davy

Full details are available online at





Backing Brave The AIB logo and AIB (NI) are trade marks used under licence by AIB Group (UK) p.l.c. incorporated in Northern Ireland. Registered Office 92 Ann Street, Belfast BT1 3HH. Registered Number NI018800. Authorised by the Prudential Regulation Authority and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority and the Prudential Regulation Authority. Customer received a gratuity.

Eye on Charity

Belfast Boxing Club Lands A Business Eye Bonus Star Boxing Club gains Christmas bonus from Business Eye and Community Foundation partnership.


ne of Belfast’s leading amateur boxing clubs has gained a £2,000 boost with a donation from the Business Eye Fund, administered and backed by the Community Foundation for Northern Ireland. Star Amateur Boxing club has been an integral part of the New Lodge community for 82 years. So much more than a boxing club, the organisation works hard to reach young people in the area and help them to build healthier lifestyles, bring communities together and reduce antisocial behaviour and crime. Liam Corr, one of the club’s current coaches, has been involved with Star since he was just three years old. Following his father’s footsteps, Liam is a passionate coach providing young people with a new outlet to channel their energy. “We provide a safe space for young people, encouraging them

off the streets and away from the risks of anti-social behaviour and crime. We hope to help build selfconfidence in these young people giving them a new challenge keeping their bodies and minds healthy, as well as giving them targets and focus within their youth. People like David, (not his real name) an ex-offender who in the past abused drugs and alcohol from a young age. After getting involved with Star Boxing a few years back he became a keen keep-fit fanatic who has been helping out in the club. Star Boxing fuelled David’s interest in fitness and leading a healthy lifestyle, he is now back in education, working towards the goal of becoming a personal trainer supporting others on their fitness journey.” “We have a past to be proud of and a great future to look forward to, all thanks to these young people!” Business Eye partnered with the Community Foundation for Northern Ireland in early 2019 to establish a fund with monies raised through the annual Business Eye Awards. The Community Foundation matched the funds raised,

awarding sums to charitable organisations making a real impact. Last year, Business Eye and the Community Foundation supported the Simon Community with the costs of welcome packs containing new towels, facecloths, basic clothing (where required), a holdall, sanitary items and essential food and toiletries.. . The charity supports around 3,000 individuals across 21 accommodation projects each year, supporting the homeless. Richard Buckley, Editor of Business Eye explains, “Working with the Community Foundation has connected us to organisations which can make a real difference to young people. We’re delighted to be able to provide this support to Star Boxing club, empowering young people and teaching them the value of working with others, self-discipline and commitment which in turn helps to create positive attitudes and build selfesteem - often in people that had

previously lacked confidence.” Síofra Healy, Director of Philanthropy at the Community Foundation for Northern Ireland said, “Our valued partnership with Business Eye allows us to do what we do best, which is connecting people who care with causes that matter and ensuring funding reaches those most in need. We have already seen the benefits of the Business Eye Fund for young people through the work of TAMHI and the Simon Community. We look forward to working with Business Eye to support future initiatives which positively impact the lives of young people.”

To learn how you or your business could support the organisations the Community Foundation for Northern Ireland works with, visit www.


Eye on Recruitment

Getting The Right Person– Belfast Recruitment Firm Launches Results-Driven Solution Almost every business owner or senior manager anywhere in Northern Ireland will have his or her own horror story about appointing the wrong person to a key role in their organisation. Candidates who seem right at the time can quickly turn out to be the wrong fit...and often a whole lot worse than that.


an Weatherup quotes an alarming piece of research into the jobs market by the Recruitment & Employment Federation, carried out in 2017. It revealed that two out of five new hires turn out bad within 18 months. A bad hire at a salary of £30k can cost a business £90k, while a £40k bad apple can lead to an eventual bill of £120k. What’s more, replacing those people is estimated to cost the UK economy a cool £3 billion a year. It’s with those startling figures firmly in mind that Ian Weatherup and his colleagues at Corvus have introduced Corvus Assured, a new science-based recruitment methodology aimed squarely at matching the right people to the right jobs and increasing employee retention. And, such is their belief in the new approach, that they’re backing it with a 12-month guarantee on every new hire recruited using the system.


Ian Weatherup is a seasoned professional in the recruitment sector here with 25 years under his belt. He started with Diamond Recruitment back in 1992 before moving over to Scotland for a number of years to work in the IT industry, returning to Northern Ireland in 1998 to set up Diamond’s dedicated IT recruitment business, the first of its kind in the region. He parted company with Diamond 10 years ago to set up Corvus alongside business partner Julie Scates, a former senior manager with Grafton Recruitment. Julie sadly passed away a couple of years ago after a long battle with ovarian cancer. “We liked to say back then that we were taking the Jerry Maguire approach to how we did businesses...working with fewer clients but aiming to give them a much more focused and dedicated service.” Corvus has an experienced

team of six recruiters, all of them currently working from home, and the firm covers the wider recruitment marketplace in Northern Ireland, with a focus on technology, construction and on working with SME’s. “I’d become a bit frustrated by the noise around the recruitment industry. Everybody had the biggest database, everybody had the biggest team. Four years ago, I stated to look at creating a recruitment calculator. Then we would sit down with clients and try to create a real solution for them. “What we discovered was that decisions weren’t being made based on data. They were being made, all too often, on gut feeling and we reckoned there had to be a better way to do it. “The net result is our Corvus Assured process. We set out to save companies time and money as well as improving their retention rate. The net effect of bad hires is alarming. But, conversely, it’s worth remembering that the benefits to any company of recruiting the right talent are huge.” He goes on to say that Corvus Assured is one way of shaking up an industry that hasn’t witnessed a lot of change in how it does things over many years, apart from the move to online channels. “It can only change so much, though. When I was with Diamond, we looked at ways of automating

the recruitment process. Automation could do some of the heavy lifting at the bottom end, but it’s a people business. It needs professionals who can nuance and who can be diplomats.” The Corvus Assured solution uses two-way psychometric testing. The client company completes a test first, then the candidates go through the process and their results are mapped over the top of the client result. Candidates also get the chance to introduce themselves by pre-recorded video “The result is a much better fit,” says Ian. “And it helps avoid the leap of faith that can be involved in the recruitment process. What’s more, companies really do see the value in a science-led approach. Times have changed.”

Eye on Recruitment

Ian Weatherup, Managing Director, Corvus.

To back that up, he quotes the case of a marketing director and managing director in a particular firm sitting the assessment with the net result that they were both looking for a completely different kind of candidate. “They had been through three different recruitment phases already and it was no surprise that they could never reach agreement on the right candidate for the vacancy.” The firm’s 12-month guarantee is the only one of its kind being offered by a recruitment firm on the island of Ireland. “It’s a case of putting our money where our mouth is,” he says. “But it’s something that sits fairly comfortably with our values and how we do things as a company.

There is also a dedicated Corvus Assured portal where candidates can log on and answer initial competency questions for clients to review and assess profiles. It’s also, he says, a development tool. Corvus Assured can help with the onboarding process and to build a platform for training and development. Today’s recruitment environment means that companies like Corvus can and do recruit well outside the geographical confines of Northern Ireland. In the latter part of last year, it recruited a senior candidate from Brazil to take up a key role with a telecomms company in Texas. “Where we add the most value is with locally owned, locally managed businesses looking

for critical hires. Companies who care about who they are hiring. People might be the most important asset for any business... but some businesses are still using some outdated means of finding the right people. “Typically, recruiters will work on 10 to 20 vacancies per month. We’ll work on one or two. That’s a key difference. Clients will get close to 100% of their consultant’s time.” The industry has witnessed a lot of change in the ten months of the Covid pandemic, not least the complete switch to online channels and away from face to face interaction. “Like everyone else in this business, we’ve been really surprised at how well we’ve

adapted and at how effective recruitment can be despite the absence of face to face contact,” says Ian Weatherup. “Our challenge is to create a win, win, win for clients, candidates and for Corvus,” he says. “Everyone has risen to this challenge and I think everyone in our team at least knows that they’ve developed professionally over the past number of months. “Corvus Assured isn’t the end game. Our next step will be in the direction of HR consultancy services and helping companies with the professional development of teams and managers. We’ll even help companies to recruit for themselves...which might seem counter intuitive for us, but it’s the right thing to do.”


Eye on Finance

Adapting To A New Future...


Eye on Finance

Rugby’s Paddy Wallace Maps Out A Career In Financial Management Paddy Wallace isn’t the first high profile former Rugby Player to find his way into the heady world of Wealth Management and Financial Advice, and he won’t be the last. But the former Ulster and Ireland star readily admits that he could hardly have picked a more challenging time for his move into financial advice.


had gained experience as a practice support specialist for PFP Wealth for a couple of years and had managed to complete my exams and qualifications just as the pandemic hit. I was so excited to get up and running as an advisor so it couldn’t have been worse timing.” “I suppose I am a people person, interacting and networking plays a big part in building a client base from scratch business so it will be great to be able to get back – eventually - to much more regular face to face meetings with existing clients and potential new ones.” Paddy is now a fully qualified Financial Adviser with PFP Wealth Ltd, a Senior Partner Practice of the highly regarded St. James’s Place, a FTSE 100 business with some £119 billion worth of client funds under management. He hung up his boots for the last time back in 2014 when a knee injury put paid to a distinguished playing career that started at Belfast’s Campbell College and saw him become part of the Ireland Under-19 side that lifted the Under-19 World Cup back in 1998, a side which also included one Brian O’Driscoll. After a spell at UCD in Dublin, he went on to join the Ulster setup in 2001, under South African coach Alan Solomons and he was a dedicated ‘one club’ man for the rest of his career. A career which also saw him lift a Celtic League title with Ulster, win 30 Ireland caps and

be part of the 2009 Grand Slam winning squad under Declan Kidney. Perhaps his interest in all things financial shouldn’t come as too big a surprise. Accountancy, it seems, is the family business. Paddy’s father and two brothers work as Accountants, but a period with a large accountancy practice told him that he wanted to go in a different direction. “As much as I appreciated the opportunity it just wasn’t for me,” he says. “Maybe it’s something to do with the face-to-face element that Financial Planning brings with it. That is something that is important to me, and I enjoy talking to people about how they view their finances and trying to come up with solutions that can help them and deliver financial security and save tax. His time to date with PFP Wealth has told him that it’s a lack of financial planning that is the root of many people’s financial woes. “I’ve heard Financial Advisers say this before, but I’ve been amazed by the number of people I’ve talked to who haven’t put any kind of proper planning behind their future financial health,” says Paddy. “More often than not, they’re really glad when someone sits down with them and takes a closer look at where they stand”. “It’s not rocket science, after all. What we do is talk to our clients, find out what their issues are, diagnose the problem areas and come back with a plan to

help solve those problems.” He’s delighted to be working with an organisation as experienced and as widely recognised as St. James’s Place., The UK wide group has a number of Partner Practices across Northern Ireland as well as a regional office in Belfast. “What’s crucial here is that the advice that St. James’s Place offers to its clients is guaranteed by the firm itself. That’s a key reassurance for any potential client.” After many years following the training, travel and matchday routine of a professional sportsman, and a period during which he ran rugby camps for

kids and young people, Paddy Wallace finds himself in a very different working environment. Is he enjoying it? “Yes, I am. I’m really enjoying working with a growing number of clients, some of whom I know from rugby, some of whom have no links to that world at all”. “And once we start to move into the post-Covid landscape, I’ll be able to enjoy it all the more.”

Contact Paddy via

The Partner Practice is an Appointed Representative of and represents only St. James’s Place Wealth Management plc (which is authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority) for the purpose of advising solely on the group’s wealth management products and services, more details of which are set out on the group’s website The ‘St. James’s Place Partnership’ and the titles ‘Partner’ and ‘Partner Practice’ are marketing terms used to describe St. James’s Place representatives.


Eye on News

Supervalu & Centra Raise £130k For Action Cancer

In what was an exceptionally challenging year, SuperValu and Centra retailers across Northern Ireland raised a monumental £130K for longstanding charity partner, Action Cancer.


ue to the ongoing COVID19 pandemic, the brands challenged themselves to reassess their initial fundraising plans which support the lifesaving services offered by Action Cancer across Northern Ireland. Desi Derby, Marketing Director for SuperValu and Centra, commented on the fundraising achievement: “When the pandemic hit at the beginning of last year, our rally call became ‘together we are stronger.’ We knew how detrimental the impact of having to cancel traditional fundraising events and activities would be to Action Cancer, so as a team, we worked collectively to


come up with ways in which we could support our long-standing partner in these difficult times.” “This significant figure is a testament to the dedication of our retailers, colleagues and customers, who have worked tirelessly over the last year to both serve their communities and to help us achieve this impressive fundraising total.” Five key initiatives were developed including, the sale of limited-edition Action Cancer face masks which to date has raised almost £25,000 and are still available in stores priced at £4. This followed on the heels of a successful Halloween initiative, partnering with local

SuperValu ambassadors Kerry and Tara of Sisters & Sons and Centra Ambassador Pete Snodden pictured with Lucy McCusker of Action Cancer.

Armagh supplier Gilfresh, which saw the brands pledge a 50p donation from each pumpkin sale. Throughout the pandemic, SuperValu and Centra have continued to champion their local communities and in June, the brands called on the public to nominate their ‘local store hero’ – a store colleague recognised for going above and beyond to help their local community – a £1 donation was made for every nomination received. In April, the brands announced their partnership with a local charity initiative showing support for the NHS and all frontline workers – selling balloon shaped stickers for customers to display on their car or home windows. In addition, SuperValu honoured their annual sponsorship of Action Cancer’s Bra Walk which

took place in September and went virtual for the first time. Gareth Kirk, CEO of Action Cancer, added: “Throughout 2020 the ongoing support of SuperValu and Centra retailers to Action Cancer has been truly outstanding and vital, enabling us to continue with many of our supporting services throughout the year. Without the ongoing support of Musgrave NI our impact and the difference we make in helping to save lives and support people with cancer in Northern Ireland would be considerably less. Thank you, SuperValu, and Centra for your tremendous ongoing and continuing support to Action Cancer and for the contribution you make daily to our local community.”

Eye on News


elfast is primed to reach net zero carbon emission aims by honing its investment proposal for global and local investors, embedding sustainability into every business decision and by working in tandem with all other regions of Northern Ireland.. That was the message from the latest Renewed Ambition event which heard from some of the world’s leading sustainability thought leaders who praised the city for launching its ambitious Climate Plan and said it is ideally placed to become an example of best practice in the global drive towards net zero. Fermanagh native Alice Charles – the Lead for Cities, Infrastructure & Urban Services at the World Economic Forum in Geneva – said Belfast can take its lead from others, such as Copenhagen, which is further along the path to net zero by embracing an integrated approach focused building sustainable practises into economic growth plans and by delivering efficiency, clean electrification, smart digital technology, and efficient buildings and infrastructure, along with a circular economy approach to water, waste and materials She said there is plentiful available funding for projects which reduce carbon emissions but cities such as Belfast need to focus on creating investable projects. “Funds say they have lots of money for investment in carbon reduction but there aren’t enough bankable projects. Cities which have been successful on their journey to decarbonisation have put capacity into their system to create projects with the risk profile and structure to attract investors.” Nick Robins, Professor in Practice Sustainable Finance, London School of Economics’ Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment, agreed, saying that the net zero economy requires a significant scale up in investments, growing fivefold this decade, as per a recent report for the UK’s Climate Change Committee. “The prize is huge: an investment-led recovery which will yield real benefits in terms of economic development and social progress, for example, by cutting spending on fossil fuel imports and channelling capital into

Global experts say Belfast primed to hit net zero carbon ambitions

local infrastructure and people. But it needs every decision to be made with net zero in mind and linked to social impact; that’s what investors are looking for. Every financial institution needs a net zero plan and needs to be thinking about it as a core focus. Belfast has huge potential to embed this at the core of its climate and economic planning to mobilise investment.” He added that the city doesn’t necessarily need to look far for funding of projects based around net zero carbon emissions. “Cities don’t always need to focus on attracting capital from outside. On average in the UK, there is £4 billion of investable wealth per 100,000 people, and COVID means we have unprecedented levels of savings. So it’s worth exploring mechanisms to tap those savings, such as the new generation of local authority bonds that’s emerging. Locally rooted financial institutions can play a key role in making the links between these savings and investable projects whether in buildings, transport, industry or nature,” he said. Russell Smyth, Partner at KPMG in Northern Ireland and Head of KPMG’s Sustainable Futures, said a national energy strategy for Northern Ireland would “provide wider support to Belfast’s own net zero strategy and provide citizens and businesses

with clarity on expectations and policy direction”. He also said there are a number of priorities areas to reduce carbon emissions. “The most obvious priority is in domestic housing where 39% of Belfast’s carbon emissions originate. Reducing that by moving away from the likes of oil central heating doesn’t require technical innovation and be quickly rolled on a cost neutral basis. “The transport sector represents another priority area, where Northern Ireland’s historic reliance on cars presents an opportunity for electrification and greater use of public transport. An active programme of education for business leaders on the threats and opportunities from climate change should also be progressed, as this is a topic which has quickly climbed up the agenda to become the number priority as our recent Global CEO report highlighted.” Dr Iain Percy, Chief Executive, Artemis Technologies, said Belfast already holds a draw for businesses such as his which are focused on producing green technologies. Artemis Technologies provides engineering services to the maritime industry, and chose Belfast as its base from a list of global possibilities, to develop and manufacture transformative zero emission high-speed ferries.

“The real reason we came here was collaboration and consortium. Here I found industry, academia and council all wanting to work together, wanting to find solutions in a way which is unique compared to other cities. I’ve lived in many cities and Belfast was the best I’ve found, the most ‘can-do attitude’ and the most open door. “We have an opportunity to decarbonise Belfast and help showcase the city to the world and that aim can be reached through the kind of collaboration we have found. It is also building key skills in the net carbon economy with two world-class universities and the likes of Belfast Met, which we work with, developing skills in electrification and lightweight carbon manufacturing.” Event chair Grainia Long, Commissioner for Resilience at Belfast City Council, noted that the city’s new Climate Plan aims to integrate economic and climate strategy. “The plan aims to achieve this through the delivery of a number of transformational projects which have been designed in partnership between key stakeholders across the city. A core feature of this work has been the development of a Net Zero Emissions Roadmap for the city which prioritises buildings and transport in the city’s decarbonisation pathway,” she said.


Eye on Young Enterprise

(NEARLY) BUSINESS AS USUAL… How to run a business when you can’t trade face to face? It’s a challenge many have faced this year as they pivot online.


or the student companies in Young Enterprise this year, they have started their business journey with this pivot, constantly learning how to build resilience and scenario plan for a range of situations. Each year hundreds of students from across NI set up in business with Young Enterprise, developing their enterprise skills and gaining an insight into what it’s like to run a business. Come Christmas, they pack out St George’s Market in the Big Market product launch event. That was not an option this year, so the charity worked with its corporate patrons to ensure the students don’t miss out on this vital sales experience. The charity has launched the bespoke online trading platform, YE Trading Station, to allow the students to trade online this year. Schools from across N Ireland have got involved including St Patrick’s College, Dungannon with their diversity campaign ‘POC’, Lurgan College with a range of ‘Inspire Natural’ handmade soap products, and ‘Monkey Business’ from Banbridge Academy with a fun American sweet shop. CEO of Young Enterprise Northern Ireland, Carol Fitzsimons MBE, said, “we

L-R: Carol Fitzsimons, MBE, CEO, Young Enterprise NI; Jacob Patterson, MD of Offshore, Belfast High School, Young Enterprise Company of the Year Winners 2020; John Healy, Vice President & Managing Director, Allstate Northern Ireland (Company Programme Patron) and Professor Gillian Armstrong, Director of Business Engagement, Ulster University Business School (Company Programme Patron)

wanted to ensure that this year was no different for the students that we work with. Given the disruption to their schooling and concerns about future youth employment prospects, the charity wanted to make sure that they still got the opportunity to develop an enterprising mindset and build their business.” This has extended to all aspects of the student experience. The students have been supported through online webinars as they move through the different stages of idea development, marketing, and selling. The Patrons for the Company programme, Allstate, Ulster University Business School and PWC have all got involved with volunteers passing

on their knowledge to the students in the webinars, and they even got the chance to gain sales skills advice from a special event led by David Meade. Carol continues, “It’s a real representation of how business works at the minute – students have online calls with their mentors to get guidance on how they develop their business, and are learning how to make use of social media to get their message out there”. Whilst it has been a huge shift for many established businesses, learning how to be agile and responsive to a changing external environment has been business as usual for these young entrepreneurs. Through the ‘Big Market’ judging stage,

Kevin MacAllister, Northern Ireland Regional Market Leader, PwC (Company Programme Patron)and Carol Fitzsimons, MBE, CEO, Young Enterprise NI with Company Programme 2020-21 participants from Fort Hill Integrated College, Lisburn and St Malachy’s College, Belfast.

students got feedback from business volunteers, including YE Board Member Nick Whelan of Dale Farm who said, “It was nothing short of brilliant to see the creativity and thought that went into the submissions especially in the context of the pandemic. The future of NI business is in good hands” The Company Programme Patrons were committed to ensuring that students had the opportunity to get involved in developing their enterprise skills, regardless of the challenges this year. John Healy, Managing Director for Allstate Northern Ireland, said, “This is a fantastic opportunity for young people to get an insight into the world of work and to help them develop the vital skills that employers look for such as communication, creativity and resilience. To us, these skills are key to anyone wanting to have a successful career here at Allstate. We’re proud as a company to be able to collaborate with Young Enterprise, especially this year to ensure the young people involved don’t miss out on the opportunity to gain these all important employment skills. I’d encourage other companies to get involved in this fantastic programme and help shape the future workforce here in Northern Ireland.”

To find out more, contact


Eye on Broadband

Northern Ireland Is Setting The Pace On High-Speed Broadband Northern Ireland is leading the way when it comes to high-speed broadband, according to Ofcom.


ore than 400,000 homes in Northern Ireland can now access gigabit-speed broadband, says the regulator. And among the four UK nations, Northern Ireland has the highest coverage of gigabit capable broadband. The findings are from Ofcom’s annual Connected Nations report, which analyses the availability of broadband and mobile services across the UK and each of its nations. This year’s report comes as millions of people across the UK continue to work from home due to the coronavirus pandemic, which has seen a significant shift in when, where and how people get online and make calls. Gigabit-capable broadband offers download speeds of up to 1 Gbit/s, many times faster than the UK’s current average broadband speed (72 Mbit/s). This faster connection can better support households wanting to stream, work and study online – all at the same time. More than half of Northern Ireland homes (56%) – 422,000 - can get gigabit broadband, says Ofcom. Northern Ireland has the highest availability of these faster services, compared to 42% of Scottish homes, 25% in England and 19% in Wales.

Full fibre build-out continues And this is set to improve further with the main network providers planning further investment. Openreach says it expects its full fibre network to reach 60% of premises in Northern Ireland by March 2021, while Virgin Media and Fibrus are continuing to expand their full fibre footprints. Virgin Media’s recent speeds upgrade to its network in Northern Ireland will further boost gigabit coverage.

One of the main advantages of new networks is its greater reliability. This is important, as Ofcom data shows Northern Ireland’s data-hungry households used an average of 444 gigabytes (GB) of data each month in 2020 – up 38% from last year (322GB), and 255% from four years ago (125GB in 2016). For those premises that still can’t get good broadband, the report highlights the key role of Project Stratum. Project Stratum, which is being funded by £150m from the UK Government and £15m from the Department for Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs, aims to bring next generation broadband to premises across Northern Ireland, which are currently unable to access superfast broadband (offering speeds of 30 Mbit/s or more). The Department for the Economy, which is managing the project, estimates it will benefit 97% of those premises.

The winning bidder to deliver the project, Fibrus Networks, is proposing to connect more than 76,000 premises with a “full fibre solution” - capable of delivering 1 Gbit/s download speeds. The contract was awarded in November 2020 and will run until March 2024. Ofcom Northern Ireland Director Jonathan Rose, said: “Lockdown would have been even more difficult without reliable broadband to work, learn, play and see loved ones. “So, it’s encouraging that future-proof, gigabit broadband is now available to more than half of homes in Northern Ireland, and we expect that to rise even faster in the coming months.”

have continued to deploy 5G, largely on existing mobile infrastructure. The main focus of this activity has remained predominantly in urban areas where such deployments provide additional capacity in areas of high demand. For example, more than half of the 5G sites in Northern Ireland are in Belfast. Ofcom says this is in line with its expectations, with current 5G deployments for customers largely focusing on delivering mobile broadband and providing enhanced capacity to 4G services, particularly in areas of existing high demand.

5G rollout Elsewhere, the Ofcom report shows that since the initial rollout of 5G networks last year, UK mobile network operators

The full Ofcom Connected Nations reports are available at


Eye on PPE

Northern Ireland PPE Manufacturer Launches New Innovation A Lisburn-based company has designed a revolutionary, reusable, all-in-one face and neck guard, designed to help protect against Covid-19.


i Viso, the creation of Belfast entrepreneur, James Leckey offers full-face visibility making it suitable for client facing settings and where social distancing cannot be achieved. Design engineer James sold his former business Leckey, a global leader in adaptive equipment for children with special needs, in August 2020. The idea for Hi Viso came about at the beginning of the pandemic, after hearing numerous reports of discomfort for health care workers and for those key workers who needed to stay in the workplace but could not socially distance safely. James was determined to design a solution to get his own employees back working comfortably and safely. James said: “Like so many households my wife Jayne and I would watch the news every day during the start of the first lockdown and we could not believe that masks and visors were the best solution for everyone – there had to be something more comfortable and


durable that gave full-face visibility. “ “We could see there was a need for more effective face protection that didn’t irritate the wearer and immediately got to work with rapid prototyping and trials with local designers and professionals.” Lightweight, comfortable and breathable, Hi Viso encompasses an all-in-one mask and visor with an innovative headband designed for comfort and improved ventilation. The company has partnered with Usel, a leading provider in helping people with disabilities or health conditions gain employment in Northern Ireland, on the production and distribution of Hi Viso. “Hi Viso is reusable and easy to clean and sanitise so more cost effective in the long run. Currently there has been more than 32 Billion items of PPE purchased in the UK alone. The disposal of this is having a huge impact on the environment. “Hi Viso was initially inspired by healthcare workers however, we have seen an uptake amongst

a range of customer facing professionals,” explains James. He added: “Its full-face visibility improves communication and makes it perfect for environments where masks are not an ideal option, such as in schools, close contact and community services. Beyond that though, we’ve had uptake from beauticians, hoteliers, corporate businesses and sports clubs.

We’re hoping Hi Viso help’s people feel safe in the workplace and going about their everyday activities.”

For further information check out

Eye on News

DELI LITES Celebrates Sandwich Deal With Boots

Jackie and Brian Reid, DELI LITES Ireland

DELI LITES – the County Down artisan foodto-go firm - has started 2021 on a high after securing a major deal to supply sandwiches to Boots stores across Northern Ireland.


he new deal builds on the Warrenpoint company’s already strong relationship with the leading pharmacyled health and beauty retailer, with whom it has worked in the Republic of Ireland for four years. DELI LITES, which is run by husband and wife entrepreneurs, Brian and Jackie Reid, and employs a team of almost 300 people supplies a range of products to a host of other major retailers such as Sainsbury’s, Tesco and Costa.

The business produces more than 20 million products every year, including gourmet sandwiches, nutritious salad bowls, hot sandwiches, heat-toeat meals, award-winning bakery treats and a new chef-led vegan friendly range. As well as selling throughout the UK and Ireland it exports to a range of European and other international countries. DELI LITES will be the first local food company to supply fresh food-to-go solutions to Boots stores in Northern Ireland, which had previously relied on GB-based suppliers.

CEO Brian Reid commented: “We have had a fantastic working relationship with Boots for four years and we are excited to now be supplying the Northern Ireland stores. “It is an exciting opportunity for us to profile our ranges and work together on new products over the coming years. “Given the supply chain benefits and the ‘source local’ advantage it is of mutual benefit to both companies to be working together at this time.” The multi-award winning firm, set up by Brian and his wife Jackie in 1998, has been a huge local success story. The company has built its reputation on quality,

using only the finest ingredients from the best of Irish producers. A team of chefs are constantly innovating with a food range which is inspired by emerging global food trends. This innovation continued throughout the pandemic when the company also focused on strengthening its branding and ranges of products into retailers and Cafes. In September Brian Reid was honoured in the 2020 Institute of Directors Awards when he was named International Director of the Year.


Eye on Marketing

TOP 2 MARKETING THEMES DRIVING GROWTH IN 2021: Brand Reputation and Digital Transformation. Strategic Marketing Consultancy, Mammoth, share their views on what the key drivers for business growth will be for companies in 2021. For many organisations, marketing was put on hold in 2020.

Much like everything in the world. And it seems that 2021 greets us with much the same trepidation. However, two certainties that we are seeing emerge in marketing themes (after a year when we were driven into isolation and further online than ever before) are that companies which have the strongest brands and best digital ecosystems will stimulate higher loyalty from their audiences and ultimately flourish more than their competitors. And notably this is as true in the B2B space, as it is in the fast moving B2C arena. The dramatic and accelerated ‘pivot to digital’ may be forever.

Those that are waiting for the ‘world to go back to the way it used to be’ in marketing terms are in trouble. 2021 will cement this fact…as we witness companies having to adapt or die. Event companies moving to hybrid versions with a special few attending in person and the majority via Zoom; fashion boutiques selling direct-to-consumer by Facetime appointment; chef demos and mixology classes by Whatsapp and House Party…small fast innovative routes to market to keep the wheels turning will become the new norm. ‘Performance marketing’ surges as the new battleground.

The use of ‘big data’ to serve us adverts and track our every online move or ‘Ask Alexa’, is a phenomenal world powered and steered by the algorithms and data scientists of Google, Facebook and Amazon. Those tantalising 6 repeat adverts that trail your every social channel until you submit to purchase are here to stay. We have witnessed this trend via our own in-house Performance & Data Team, where B2B


corporates are harnessing this to download a product white paper… in much the same way a sports brand will trail you to buy new trainers. Brands must be ‘digital first’, capture spirit and emanate trust.

Having a corporate or product brand that is ‘true’, ‘genuine’ and ‘engaged’ with its audiences (particularly leveraging digital and social channels) has been dramatically amplified in 2020. For example, when Mammoth was tasked with creating a new global brand for Ed Sheeran & Lowden Guitars in just 4 months and launch it at the largest global guitar event in LA – it was built around these same two pillars : creating a strong brand and leveraging the power of digital to drive awareness

Mammoth Co-founders, Paul Martin and Jeremy Poots

and sales growth. In practical terms, this meant creating a story behind the brand that would resonate and making video content that could be used by the social and performance teams. We shot footage of Sheeran at the factory near Downpatrick, playing the guitars and talking with

George Lowden (the designer and manufacturer of all Sheeran’s guitars, including this new guitar range, ‘Sheeran by Lowden’). These multiple pockets of video and ‘insta’ content were the ammunition needed to ensure it made it onto BBC, CNN, NY Times and Rolling Stone the next day. Brand Image & Digital Ecosystem – platform for growth in 2021

This will be the year where organisations of all shapes, sizes and sectors will seek an ‘extraordinary’ return on their marketing investment. Marketing spend will need to be strategically mapped out against defined audiences and targeted with clear tactics that have specific KPIs and targets. Again, this will push ‘digital’ and ‘paid performance’ into a league of its own for transparency and ability to pivot and react instantly to improve results. Running multiple different ads at the same time to monitor best reactions; retargeting customers on social channels; establishing end-toend customer acquisition strategies and defining ‘customer acquisition models’…all of these will become commonplace marketing speak in the months ahead. And makes it clear that ‘brand + digital’ will cement their position as two of the most important pillars for growth in marketing in 2021.

Eye on Communications

Covid-19: A Timely Reminder of the Need for Authentic Communications Almost a year in, the coronavirus pandemic continues to present organisations with major operational challenges as they grapple to adapt to evolving conditions as well as old and emerging restrictions in a bid to keep moving, or, in some cases, survive.


hat hasn’t changed is that effective communications – internally and externally – are every bit as important as they were a year ago. Carefully considered, reasoned, clear and consistent, they can instil confidence and calm, strengthen reputation, build brands and will help in navigating the seemingly insurmountable challenges in front. The organisations that have scored well are those which have carefully considered and prioritised who they want to speak to, and how. Embracing new technologies and embracing social media like never before, more of us can now be readily reached live through MS Teams or zoom calls and webinars, online, by video and in print. In the midst of a health crisis, it’s also important to differentiate between corporate and brand communications, the latter being slightly more challenging as organisations work through their messaging in a bid to resonate with consumers but without being seen to be opportunist. Above all, be authentic. Hence, corporate and brand communications should be carefully aligned, with brand messaging only deployed if you have something worthwhile, useful and compelling to say during this crisis. Being supportive, and doing the best for staff, suppliers and customers in an innovative way is vital. Anything else deserves close scrutiny, so think critically about how you want to tell your story. That said, brand visibility remains a key objective for many organisations, and updating your audiences – both internally and externally – should always be considered. In the hard-hit tourism sector, for example, destination brands such as Visit Belfast have worked hard in a virtual world to safely keep the city front of mind among its consumers for when travel returns. Lidl Northern Ireland, ensuring that staff and customer safety is the number one priority, consistently communicates across both tiers, advising and informing on growth

and ambition, logistics, quality and price – all of which resonate deeply with thousands of its weekly shoppers, more than 1,000 employees, suppliers and partners. With little sign of an end to the crisis for a few months yet, most communications strategists will agree that those who approach their messaging and audiences with care, integrity and purpose will retain the credibility they need for the future. Purposeful messaging which reflects empathy and support speaks volumes for reputation. What’s just as important is listening to and talking to your audience and insights gained here will really help develop the right tone. For example, are there initiatives your organisation is already doing, have done, or can be doing, that audiences would warmly welcome? Perhaps you are opening earlier, working longer, supporting more online or providing new or additional support for those more acutely affected by the crisis – because everything you say will be scrutinised more than ever before. In corporate communications, in the current environment, visibility remains important. Stakeholders will want to know you’re still there, still relevant and doing well. News, updates and views from the senior team are received well, particularly if the shared information contains useful insights which others can use. Out of the dark, and in living up to your brand values, you’re seen, heard and listened to when your messaging is genuinely helpful. Stay connected, be knowledgeable on every aspect of your business and the external media and political environment and don’t be afraid to try new ways to reach people if you haven’t already. Yes, we miss - if not crave - more faceto-face communication, but the technology we’re all used to now means our interactions can be more purposeful and productive. Few of us would have thought that in January 2021, we’d be where we are. However, corporate and brand reputations need a

long term approach. It takes thought, time and perseverance. For many organisations, this crisis has been a wake up call for their communications approach and which will serve them well long into the future. For many, never before has the role of PR and communications been as relevant, which is borne out by the significant increase in senior team engagement over the last year. As reset and recovery begins, this will grow. Above all, listen, be responsive and explore new ways to reach your audience effectively and seize every opportunity to communicate the right message well. There are even busier times ahead.

Dave Cullen is a director at leading integrated communications agency LK Communications which specialises in corporate, consumer and political affairs.


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Eye Moving On


1 Cormac McGreevey

2 Stephanie McVeigh

3 Gina McCourt

4 Melissa Patton

5 Kevin Duffy

6 Brendan Hughes

7 Emily Spackman-McKee

8 Dr. Julie Humphreys

9 Alastair Hamilton CBE

1 Cormac McGreevey has been appointed as Business Development Manager with Ballymena Headquartered Employment Law and HR Consultants, BeyondHR. Cormac has more than 20 years’ experience in Senior Account Management and Business Development roles, most of which was gained at YELL, Citation and Diageo. Cormac has a BA Honours degree in Business Studies from the University of Glamorgan, South Wales.

2 Stephanie McVeigh has been appointed Connections Manager at Barclay Communications. She will be responsible for a team of people who ensure customers contracts are implemented in a timely and efficient manner. Her role will see her liaise with senior members of the support and sales teams to keep on top of customer service level agreements (SLAs). Also 3 appointed as Connections Manager is Gina McCourt. Gina has worked at Barclay Communications for 14 4 years. And Melissa Patton has been appointed Stock Manager at the Belfast company. She has been at the company since 2014 and will be responsible for analysing different suppliers to ensure the businesses can offer the most competitive rates to its client base.

5 Kevin Duffy has been promoted to the post of Managing Director at FinTrU. He has over 20 years’ experience leading large-scale change in banks, government departments and health institutions. Kevin specialises in business design and technology strategy. Kevin is a graduate from Queen’s University Belfast (BSSc, Information Management) and the University of Manchester (MSc, Technology Management).

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Eye Moving On

10 Davan Nagle

11 Chris Thompson

12 Adam Johnston

13 Robbie Milliken

14 Vicky Leitch

15 Paul Black

having grown up surrounded by her family’s business, Belfast Academy of Marketing, where she gained a wealth of experience massively enhanced by a year-long internship in Corporate Communications at The Walt Disney Company in London in 2018. 8 Reach has also appointed Dr. Julie Humphreys as Head of Diversity and Inclusion. Humphreys joins from the FTSE 20 Compass Group, where she was Group Head of Diversity and Inclusion, responsible for the global D&I strategy. Reporting directly to CEO Jim Mullen, Humphreys will be part of the senior HR leadership team.

16 Emma Dickson

Belfast Live has announced the appointment 6 of Brendan Hughes as its first dedicated political reporter. The ex-Irish News journalist joins the Belfast Live team at a time when “there is a lot happening in the world of politics in Northern Ireland, from Brexit and all of its implications to the latest machinations at Stormont”, according to the publisher’s Audience and Content Director, Chris Sherrard. 7 Emily Spackman-McKee has joined the Reach marketing team in July 2019 working part-time throughout her final year studies at Ulster University. Marketing is in Emily’s DNA

Pinnacle Growth Group has appointed former Invest Northern Ireland Chief Executive 9 Alastair Hamilton CBE as its Chair. The north Antrim man played a key role in the strategic development of Northern Ireland’s economy and is synonymous with attracting major foreign direct investment together with encouraging the expansion of local companies. Pinnacle Growth Group provides full service consultation, training and support services for businesses across Northern Ireland, Great Britain and Republic Of Ireland. 10 Davan Nagle has been appointed Senior Software Consultant at WorkPal where he will further build the business’ customer base in Ireland through direct sales. He joined WorkPal in 2018 as a Business Development Manager. He has successfully grown WorkPal’s Irish customer base to over 100 customers. 11 Chris Thompson has been appointed to the same role at WorkPal. He will also provide bespoke demonstrations to prospective customers, and

12 holds an Associate CIPD accreditation. And Adam Johnston has been appointed iOS Software Developer at the company. He has over six years’ experience developing iOS applications in a wide variety of markets and organisations. GMcG Chartered Accountants has announced three 13 senior level appointments. Robbie Milliken has been appointed Director of GMcG Corporate Finance. Having spent more than 7 years in corporate and business banking, Robbie joined GMcG in 2018 with significant experience in company disposals and acquisitions, MBOs/MBIs, fund raising, debt advisory, business plans and company valuation projects. 14 Vicky Leitch and Paul Black become Associate 15 Directors in GMcG’s Forensic Accounting & Investigation department. Vicky is a fellow member of the institute of Chartered Accountants Ireland and has over 22 years’ experience in forensic accounting, specialising in personal injury, medical negligence and fatal accident claims. Paul, also a fellow of the Institute of Chartered Accountants Ireland, has over 15 years’ experience in forensic accounting, with responsibility for a portfolio of cases relating to commercial litigation, share valuation, ancillary relief and financial investigative work. 16 Emma Dickson has joined Bauer Media Group Northern Ireland as Digital Content Editor, responsible for managing and driving Bauer Media NI’s digital offering and commercial opportunities across its stations – Cool FM, Downtown Radio and Downtown Country. Emma joins from Penton Publications, where she was most recently the Acting Editor for key titles such as Wedding Journal and Ireland’s Homes, Interiors & Living.


Eye on News

ARTHUR COX APPOINTS NEW PARTNER law firm Arthur Cox has appointed TO CORPORATE TEAM Leading David White as a new Partner in its Corporate and Commercial team in Belfast.

Arthur Cox has announced the promotion of David White to Partner in its Corporate and Commercial team in Belfast. He is pictured, centre, with Arthur Cox Northern Ireland Managing Partner Catriona Gibson and Chairman Alan Taylor


avid, who joined the firm in 2013, works across a range of company and commercial law areas with particular expertise in advising on mergers and acquisitions, investments, and regulatory matters in the energy sector across the island of Ireland.

Catriona Gibson, Managing Partner, Arthur Cox Northern Ireland commented “We are pleased to welcome the promotion of David to Partner in our Corporate and Commercial group, adding further strength to this already highly-respected team.

“His capacity to provide sound and nuanced legal advice across a wide spectrum of complex matters has been evidenced throughout his career as an Associate with the firm. “With a strong reputation for his knowledge of the energy sector locally and further afield, David also significantly broadens our allIreland offering in that sector.” David becomes Partner in a team comprising some of the most sought after corporate lawyers and headed by respected practitioner Lynsey Mallon. He works with private and public sector clients across a range of industries with significant experience in advising on acquisitions and disposals of utility companies and large renewable energy portfolios, including large and small scale wind, solar, anaerobic digestion and combined heat and power projects. Alan Taylor, Chairman, Arthur Cox Northern Ireland, added: “It is particularly pleasing to welcome David’s promotion from within our existing group of Associates. “Having watched David develop

throughout the course of his time with Arthur Cox. His expertise enhances not just our Corporate and Commercial team, but the wider firm. “I look forward to continuing to work alongside him as he enters this new phase in his career.” Prior to joining Arthur Cox, David worked for a leading international law firm in London. He said: “It is an honour to become Partner at one of Ireland’s foremost law firms alongside an illustrious group of Corporate and Commercial lawyers. “I look forward to continuing to work with colleagues in Belfast and our offices in other jurisdictions as we continue to advise leading indigenous and global organisations on the full spectrum of company and commercial law areas, including acquisitions, disposals, investments, reorgansations, commercial contracts and corporate governance.” Arthur Cox advises leading corporate clients, government, and the SME sector. In addition to Belfast, the firm has offices in Dublin, London, New York, and San Francisco.

M&A market expected to see busy year despite challenges - KPMG


he mergers and acquisitions (M&A) market in Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland is expected to see an uptick in activity this year despite the headwinds presented by a challenging economic environment, according KPMG’s M&A Outlook Survey. A total of 95% of those surveyed – consisting of the island of Ireland’s leading M&A executives and advisors – expect M&A activity to be at or above 2020 levels this year, a jump in confidence of 5% from last year’s survey. Appetite for pursuing M&A activity in 2021 is also very strong, with 86% of respondents intending to pursue M&A opportunities this year. This activity will be enabled by readily available funding from private equity and corporates, as


well as the quality of assets available here. Unsurprisingly, the top two sectors predicted to attract interest are technology and healthcare. The impact of the Covid-19 global pandemic may have triggered a shift in the market towards buyers, with more than half (55%) of respondents predicting 2021 to be a buyer’s rather than a seller’s market (25%), and the remainder being neutral. The economic upheaval over the last 10 months will likely create opportunities for buyers, however, given the uneven impact of Covid-19 and Brexit, this is likely to vary significantly by sector. The global pandemic also disrupted the process of deal making in 2020 with respondents citing relationship building as the most challenging element of

M&A activity during 2020, followed by deal origination and approach to valuation. With interactions between buyers and sellers limited to online, more innovative ways of doing deals arose in 2020 to establish personal connections, conduct due diligence and manage valuation discussions. Commenting on the findings, Russell Smyth, Partner and Head of Deal Advisory, KPMG in Northern Ireland, said: “M&A activity was remarkably resilient last year despite the headwinds faced by the economy. That momentum, combined with more good news around the range of Covid-19 vaccines paint a positive picture for the market this year and chime with the strong appetite we have witnessed from both private equity and large corporates.

Russell Smyth, Partner & Head of Deal Advisory, KPMG in Northern Ireland

“KPMG in Northern Ireland worked on a number of deals over the last 12 months including the acquisition by Eakin Healthcare Group of Armstrong Medical Ltd, a Northern Irelandbased manufacturer and supplier of respiratory care medical equipment and other breathing support systems. We look forward to closing out further deals in 2021 as the local economy recovers and confidence returns.”


Eye on Motoring

Volkswagen Launches New Electric SUV The new Volkswagen ID 4 electric SUV is now available to order, as a special First Edition model with a 310-mile range and a price of £37,800.


he SUV is the second model built on VW’s MEB electric architecture, following the D3 hatchbackthat was launched last year. The ID 4 is already available to buy in

Germany, and the first UK models are expected to arrive in dealerships in March. It will eventually be offered in reardrive single-motor and four-wheeldrive dual-motor forms and with a range of battery sizes, but the First Edition will be offered only in reardrive form with a 77kWh battery. The battery offers an official range of 310 miles, while the motor on the rear axle produces 201bhp and 229lb ft of torque. That enables a 0-62mph time of 8.2sec and a top speed of 99mph. The ID 4 First Edition features a 125kW rapid-charging unit, which Volkswagen says allows for 199 miles of range to be added in 30 minutes.

First Edition models feature a number of exclusive design features, including special badges, brown interior highlights and a choice of four exterior colours. Standard kit offered with the ID 4 First Edition includes 20in alloy wheels, LED lights, tinted rear windows and a reversing camera. The interior features a 10.0in infotainment touchscreen, heated seats, a heated steering wheel and 30-colour ambient lighting. The ID 4 is also the first electric

Volkswagen that can be fitted with a tow bar, with it capable of pulling trailers that weigh up to 1000kg. Orders for regular ID 4 models will begin next year, once the First Edition examples have been delivered. The ID 4 will be manufactured alongside the ID 3 at Volkswagen’s Zwickau factory in Germany. It will eventually also be produced at the company’s plants in both the USA and China.

It’s A BMW...But Not As We Know It

For those of you out there who fancy a BMW executive saloon with a more than useful turn of speed, here’s a spot of news for you. BMW’s new M5 CS ranks as the most powerful and fastest-accelerating road car that the company has ever produced.


ut there is a but. It’s likely to set you back close to £141,000. That’s a cool £38,000 more than any other M5 model. The ultimate version of the acclaimed super-saloon will join the M2 CS, as well as upcoming CS versions of the


M3 and M4, in adopting the rangetopping Clubsport tag. BMW describes it as a “specialised performance model combining everyday usability with exceptional track performance”. The M5 CS features a number of upgrades over the existing M5

Competition. These include a more powerful engine, a reprogrammed four-wheel drive system, bespoke chassis tuning and a series of lightweight carbonfibre parts that contribute to a 70kg weight reduction over the M5 Competition. The M5 CS’s reworked version of the standard M5’s twin-turbocharged 4.4-litre V8 petrol engine produces 626bhp at 6000rpm and 553lb ft of torque between 1800rpm and 5950rpm. This is 9bhp more than and the same torque loading as that offered by the M5 Competition, allowing the headlining M5 model to manage an official 0-62mph time of 3.0sec, 0-124mph in 10.4sec and an electronically limited 189mph top speed. Although it isn’t a direct rival, the four-wheel-drive Mercedes E63 twin-turbocharged 4.0-litre V8 petrol engine develops 603bhp and 626lb ft of torque, endowing it with a claimed 0-62mph time of 3.4sec and a governed 155mph top speed. Along with the increased performance, the revised M5 CS engine also gains a redesigned oil pan with an additional sump and indirect charge air cooling.

Further changes are focused on the engine mounts, which has a spring rating of 900N per mm for a more rigid mounting and a smoother transmission of power to each wheel, according to BMW’s performance division. The increase in performance has resulted in M carbon-ceramic brakes being fitted as standard. They use six-piston fixed calipers at the front and single-piston floating calipers at the rear and are claimed to weigh 23kg less overall than the steel disc system that comes as standard on the M5 Competition. Among the car’s other unique touches are door sills with illuminated M5 CS badges and various trim elements featuring BMW’s darktinted Shadowline treatment. Inside, the new car has four individual M carbonfibre bucket seats. Those in the front have integrated headrests imprinted with a map of the Nürburgring, plus electrical adjustment and heating as standard. There’s also an M Alcantara steering wheel with shift paddles made from carbonfibre, Alcantara headlining and a reworked armrest devoid of the stowage box seen on other M5 models.


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Eye on Motoring

Fiat Range Gets A New Year Upgrade

The Fiat 500 model line has been updated for 2021 to coincide with the arrival of the all-new 500 Electric.


he 500 is is now powered only by Fiat’s 1.0 litre ‘mild hybrid’ petrol engine with 69bhp and 68lb ft, while the 500X model is offered with a 118bhp nonelectrified 1.0-litre engine or a 148bhp

1.3-litre unit. The 500L, meanwhile, gets a 1.4-litre engine with 94bhp. The 500 city car, 500X crossover and 500L MPV are each available in five new trim levels that promise “a high standard of specification”. Whatever that means. Pop trim opens the range for all three models, bringing a new Sicilian Orange paint option and blue interior upholstery. Prices start from £13,270 for the 500, £19,860 for the 500X and £18,030 for the 500L. Higher up the range is Connect trim, which adds an upgraded infotainment system, cruise control, parking sensors, a sports steering wheel, 15in alloy wheels and foglights for the 500. At this level, the 500X gains rear privacy glass, LED daytime running lights and rain-sensing wipers, while the 500L gets colour-coded wing mirrors.

The range splits above Connect, with the smaller 500 receiving a bespoke Dolcevita trim and the two larger cars offered in ruggedly styled Cross trim. Dolcevita, from £15,000, gives the city car retro-inspired design cues, including a colour-coded dashboard and chrome trim details, as well as an optional two-tone livery. Cross brings camouflage-style seats, a chunky bodykit and a raft of added equipment for the bigger cars from £20,430. The three 500 variants share a top-spec Sport trim, which brings optional matt grey paint and bespoke badging, performance-inspired wheels and added interior technology. Fiat will start taking orders for the refreshed model range in early February, with customer deliveries following shortly afterwards.

Skoda’s Eye-Catching Kamiq

On the face of it, there isn’t a very obvious link between the opulence of Monte Carlo and a value car brand like Skoda, but the car manufacturer has used the name through the years to signify its range topping models.


h, and it’s actually a reference to Skoda’s pretty impressive record through the yesrs at the Monte Carlo Rally, one of the mainstays of the World Rally Championship. The Monte Carlo trim level has been added to one of Skoda’s latest range


additions: the Kamiq. For those who don’t know it, its the company’s smallest SUV. This special edition comes with a 148 bhp 1.5 litre TSI petrol enigne, 18-inch wheels and a unique paint job. That’s about it in a nutshell. But it does go further than that.

The Kamiq Monte Carlo comes with a red-stitched handbrake and steering wheel, plus a line of red plastic trim across the doors and dashboard. Drastic it isn’t, but the detail changes do lift what is otherwise a cabin that prioritises ergonomics over design flourishes. Although Monte Carlo trim is the most expensive, it’s not strictly a trim that takes all the kit from SE-L spec (one rung below). Some of the SE-L’s kit - such as dual-zone climate control, electrically folding door mirrors and keyless start - becomes optional, but items such

as a panoramic sunroof and full-LED headlights with scrolling indicators are brought in. Which you prefer comes down to personal choice, but manual HVAC knobs on a near-£28,000 small Skoda might seem a bit on the mean side. This being a Skoda, it’s one of - or quite possibly the - most practical car in its class. It’s a full 10cm longer than the similarly positioned Seat Arona, with clear benefits to rear leg room. It’s also plenty roomy enough up front and the 400-litre boot shows that this is considerably more C-segment than B-segment in its usability.


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