Business Eye February March 2018

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• Job Management • Quotes & Invoicing • Forms & Signatures • Time Tracking Issue 176 Feb/Mar 2018 £2.50 Voted best Business Magazine in Ireland and Magazine of the Year for Northern Ireland

The Resolution Centre... Unique Facility & Unique Service Features: 02


BDO’s Dedicated Approach To NI Market


BEFTA’s 2018… Small Business Awards Launched

Hickson’s Point, TiTanic BelfasT’s newesT evenT space... see Page 5

T i Ta n i c v e n u e s B e l fa s T t i ta n i c V e n u e s B e l fa s t. c o m


Orion Health….Powering Health Service Systems

Proud to support businesses in Northern Ireland Your relationship team has the in-depth sector knowledge and contacts to connect you with local and international partners, market intelligence and financing – helping you achieve your ambitions. Call 0330 150 1244* or visit to find out how we can support your business. We think outside the boundaries, to support businesses across Northern Ireland.

*Lines are open Monday to Friday, 8am to 6pm. To maintain a quality service we may monitor or record phone calls. Call charges may vary. Barclays Bank PLC is registered in England (Company No. 1026167) with its registered office at 1 Churchill Place, London E14 5HP. Barclays Bank PLC is authorised by the Prudential Regulation Authority, and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority (Financial Services Register No. 122702) and the Prudential Regulation Authority. Barclays is a trading name and trade mark of Barclays PLC and its subsidiaries.


Feb/Mar 2018 ISSUE 176

Cover Story


The Resolution Centre… Unique Facility, Unique Service

Specials The Search Is On For NI’s Greatest Innovations The Invent 2018 competition has been launched by Catalyst Inc with backing once again from Bank of Ireland… recognising Northern Ireland’s more innovative achievers of the past year.

Belfast’s brand new Resolution Centre has only been open since September, but it’s already proving popular not just amongst lawyers seeking a dedicated and private venue for alternative dispute resolution but amongst a variety of other business users as well.


Economy Back On An Even Keel

Business Services


BDO’s Dedicated Approach To The NI Marketplace

The fact that the Bank of England has raised interest rates doesn’t mean that the brakes are being applied to the UK economy. Frances Hill, the Bank’s Northern Ireland Agent, argues that things are looking up from a BofE perspective.


Council Set To ‘Amplify’ Business Mid and East Antrim Borough Council has launched an exciting new economic development strategy called ‘Amplify’, to boost the economy across the borough.

The three lead Partners at BDO Northern Ireland form a cohesive team when it comes to getting across the key message. We catch up with Brian Murphy, Sean Lavery and Nigel Harra at the international firm’s Belfast base.


Silver Swipers & Smartphone Zombies Older online users are starting to catch up with the youngsters, according to new research. What do the demographics mean to the world of communications?

Top Companies


BEFTA’s 2018… Small Business Awards Launched Northern Ireland’s premier awards for small businesses, the Business Eye First Trust Bank Small Business Awards, will be staged for the fourth time on 31st May at the Crowne Plaza Belfast and are now open for entries.

Corporate Governance 2018 Dr. Roger Barker, the Institute of Directors Head of Corporate Governance, takes a look at the top trends in the field of corporate governance for the coming year and beyond.

Ad-Vance Engineering, the award- winning Lisburn manufacturer of precision moulds for industry, is embarking on another successful year serving customers across Ireland and the UK.

Pharmacy Awards Celebrate The Best In The Business


Orion Health… Driving Efficiency In The NI Health ServiceIndustry Michael McCambridge readily admits that not everyone has heard of Orion Health. But the simple fact is that all of us, at one time or another, has benefited from Orion Health’s products and services.


From superbly innovative projects to state of the art technological advances, the annual Pharmacy In Focus Awards don’t just show what community pharmacy is capable of.... but what it is currently providing on a daily basis to its local communities.

Eye on Law


Eye on Investment


Eye on Agri Food


Eye on Leadership


Eye on Futures


Eye on Architecture


Eye on Succession


Eye on Law Profile


Moving On


Eye on Technology


Eye on Energy


Eye on Motoring


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Dedicated Team Meets Engineering Challenges

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With political progress at Stormont not just stalled, but postponed for the foreseeable future, it’s abundantly clear that everything in the coming months (and possibly years) will revolve around the one issue – Brexit.


“The people were sold a pup. As things turn out, there’ll be no financial bonanza, only more cost. The potential damage to the UK economy is becoming clearer every day. And it’s clear that no one really thought through the border issue on this island.”



ere in Northern Ireland, some form of ‘direct rule lite’ will be put into place, if it hasn’t already been quietly kicked into life, to ensure that budgets are struck and that departments receive the basic level of funding that they should. But that’s not the problem. The clear issue is that big infrastructure projects, potential tax moves to give Northern Ireland a competitive edge (….remember those?), and anything that involved a spot of political leadership won’t happen. It’s as simple as that. Whilst we hate to paint a bleak picture, there’s nothing too cheery about the landscape out there. There’s no doubt that Brexit has brought polarisation. And in a place like Northern Ireland, that can never be a good thing. We’ve yet to meet a Brexit-supporting Northern Ireland businessman or woman. They must exist, albeit in small numbers, but we’ve yet to meet one in the flesh. A living, talking, nosebreathing Brexiteer who isn’t a DUP politician. Arlene Foster knows that, the DUP knows that, but it doesn’t stop the party clinging grimly to its support for a plan that everyone in business is dreading. Brexit was sold to the people of Manchester, Leeds, Liverpool, Leicester and elsewhere – as well as the population of Northern Ireland – as a way for Britain to escape the shackles of the bureaucratic EU and to save billions upon billions along the way, money which could then be spent with overwhelming generosity on the people of the UK, their health service and so on. But the people were sold a pup. As things turn out, there’ll be no financial bonanza, only more cost. The potential damage to the UK economy is becoming clearer every day. And it’s clear that no one really thought through the border issue on this island.

Richard Buckley EDITOR Irish Magazine Editor of the Year 2005

It’s not a good thing that local government here is having to take a back seat to Brexit. But it’s inevitable that the issue takes over the political agenda. It’s all getting very interesting. Jeremy Corbyn’s move towards backing a Customs Union has been roundly welcomed by business. And the recent intervention of a very eloquent and passionate Sir John Major was also illuminating. Leo Varadkar’s Irish Government remains steadfast and it remains vocal, and it’s very clear that Europe’s other nations are united in their determination to spotlight Britain’s utter folly. Whatever nonsense the DUP cares to peddle, there is only one solution for Northern Ireland, and that’s the softest of borders with the Republic of Ireland and, on the other side of the fence, no effective barriers to trade across the Irish Sea. Of course, if we do stay in the EU Customs Union, some form of checks will be needed on goods coming in from the rest of the UK..... although to call this a ‘sea border’ is disingenuous. And our friends in the DUP don’t like that. But, with a little bit of give and take, there’s an opportunity here to come up with a way that Northern Ireland can have the best of both worlds. We could, with imagination, have access to EU and UK markets with few or no barriers. Just imagine what we could achieve...! But give and take and imagination aren’t words that we can readily apply to our politicians, are they? Once again, it’s time for business here to speak out. Brexit is far too dangerous a threat for the kind of mealy-mouthed deference to political parties that we’re used to hearing. Speak up for business and the economy....or regret it for ever.

Image for illustrative purposes only ©Tourism NI

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Eye on News

£5 Million Investment At Crowne Plaza Belfast Leading Belfast hotel, the Crowne Plaza, has embarked on a major £5m investment programme, which will see a significant upgrade and extension of the property’s guest bedroom accommodation.


wned and operated by Andras Hotels, Belfast’s largest hotel group, the project is the final stage of the transformation of the award-winning, four-star hotel. Over the past 24 months the Crowne Plaza has enjoyed an upgrade of all public areas including a complete refurbishment of the Grand Ballroom and of the Malone and Laganview wedding suites, a remodelling of the lobby and creation of the Great Oak Conference Centre. The current investment, awarded to local fit-out specialists MSM Contracts, will see all 120 bedrooms completely refurbished in a design-led approach, with new bespoke furniture and soft furnishings, airconditioning, Wifi and all new bathrooms. In addition the hotel will see a further 36 bedrooms rooms added including 16 new executive Club Rooms, 6 Bridal Suites and a stunning Presidential Suite. The work commenced in January and will be completed in two phases, completing early 2019. The refurbishment and extension has been designed by award-winning local architects and designers Consarc Architects and Philip Rodgers Design who collaborated on the design project. The result is a decadent, vibrant mix of colours,

Paul Jackson, Consarc Design is pictured alongside, George Graham, GM at Crowne Plaza, Stacey Feeney, Conference and Banqueting Manager, Crowne Plaza and Ronan Donaghy, Philip Rodgers Design.

tones and rich fabrics, combined with a clever use of space, designer furniture, exceptional beds and luxury bathrooms rivalling any luxury hotel in Ireland. Crowne Plaza Hotels and Resorts is the upscale, full service hotel brand from InterContinental Hotels Group (IHG). IHG awarded Andras Hotels the first Crowne Plaza franchise in Northern Ireland franchise in 2016, showing commitment and confidence for the 37-year-old company whom it has a long-standing relationship with. Rajesh Rana, Director of Andras Hotels, welcomed the start of the upgrade work on the Shaw’s Bridge property, which is sited in an Area of

Outstanding Beauty, located within the Lagan Valley Regional Park. He said: “We are delighted to reach the final stage of our investment and upgrade plans, meaning that we are on-target to become the leading conference, wedding and leisure hotel in Northern Ireland. “Our new, enhanced range of bedrooms rooms, bathrooms and event space combined with our awardwinning chefs means that we are now attracting conferences, weddings and events on a national scale. “This upgrade of our bedrooms will complete the repositioning of the hotel for corporate and leisure guests while the additional

bedrooms will confirm our position as Northern Ireland’s largest residential conferencing and banqueting venues. “We have over 20,000 square feet of events space which extends over 21 meeting rooms and are happy to say that our occupancy in these spaces has exceeded all targets.” Rajesh concluded: “This is a major investment and a vote of confidence in Belfast and Northern Ireland by Andras Hotels and IHG for future business prospects in this discerning and buoyant market. I would like to thank our exceptional team of builders, designers and our in-house staff for their continued level of excellence.”

Nudge Towards Compliance Ann McGregor (left), Chief Executive of NI Chamber of Commerce, and James Griffiths (right) Senior Associate at international law firm Pinsent Masons welcome Mentalist David Meade to a seminar on Nudge Theory. Over 40 local businesses attended the event on how to use the behavioural science of nudge theory to improve compliance on issues such as data protection, health and safety, and employment law.

Eye on News

Law Firm & Marketing Agency Join Forces On GDPR Belfast law firm, Tughans, and leading integrated communications agency, Ardmore Advertising, spearheaded a General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) Breakfast Briefing at James Street South recently ahead of the introduction of the new regulations later this year.


ith GDPR being enforced from 25th May 2018, the breakfast event brought together representatives from NI-wide commercial, residential, tourism and retail sectors to help them gain a better understanding of what the new regulations mean and how this will impact upon their businesses. Speakers, Adrian O’Connell, Tughans, and Richard Lindsay, Institute of Practitioners in Advertising (IPA), shared their extensive experience in the UK Data Legislation field.

Speaking about the event, Adrian O’Connell, Head of Contracts and Technology at Tughans, said: “Data Protection is one of the specialist practice areas at Tughans. When complying with UK Data Protection legislation, it is important to respond quickly and commercially to issues raised by our clients, as well as demonstrating a comprehensive and specialist knowledge of the applied UK legislations. Local businesses are very aware that GDPR is coming but are less confident about how it will impact them. Therefore, this

Pictured (L-R) are Mark Irwin, Managing Director at Ardmore Advertising; Richard Lindsay, Director of Legal & Public Affairs at Institute of Practitioners in Advertising and Adrian O’Connell, Head of Contacts and Technology at Tughans.

event offered an important opportunity to dispel the myths and help businesses make practical moves to be prepared.” Mark Irwin, Ardmore Advertising’s Managing Director, who worked in partnership with Tughans to deliver the event, said: “Within the advertising and marketing communications sector, it is essential for us and our clients to be aware of data protection when creating and delivering campaigns, especially those involving social media and direct marketing. This includes considering who is responsible for the process, what are the main principles and lawful bases for processing and how personal data will be handled and administered. These new regulations will soon come

into effect, so it’s important for local businesses to be aware of how they will impact on their usual practices and what changes they need to make.” “As a leading integrated agency, it’s crucial that we stay ahead of regulatory changes within our industry and these which might affect our clients. It’s important to us that we continue to keep our clients up to date with professional developments in the sectors they operate.” The GDPR Regulation (EU) is a regulation by which the European Parliament, the Council of the European Union and the European Commission intend to strengthen and unify data protection for all individuals within the EU.

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Eye on News

Brewers At St. James’s Gate Are Proud To Unveil ‘Rockshore’: A New Refreshing & Light Tasting Irish Lager Brewers at St. James’s Gate Brewery are proud to unveil an exciting new Irish lager ‘Rockshore’ which has been inspired by the rugged refreshing experience of the West Coast of Ireland.

Head of Beer Innovation, Diageo Europe, Niki Maccorquodale


peaking at the unveiling of Rockshore, Head of Beer Innovation, Diageo Europe, Niki Maccorquodale commented; “We are absolutely delighted to introduce Rockshore - a light, refreshing tasting lager inspired by the West Coast of Ireland from our Brewers here at St James’s Gate. Undoubtedly, one of the most captivating parts

of Ireland, the west coast is home from home for many of us. From weekend trips with mates, to the salty spray of the Atlantic sea, when the people, playlists and pit stops matter more than anything else in the world, at that moment in time.” Maccorquodale continued “People are increasingly looking for choice, particularly among beers and

lagers offering a refreshing and light taste. Brewed using only four quality ingredients, Rockshore is the best light tasting lager our brewers have ever created and we can’t wait for people to try it”. Over the summer months, Rockshore is planning a series of collaborations, experiences and partnerships so watch this space The launch will also be supported by a heavyweight TTL marketing campaign encompassing TV, Outdoor, Digital, PR and experiential, which will kick off from 1st April.

With an ABV of 4% and 106 calories per bottle, Rockshore Irish lager is being rolled out nationally from today and will available in pubs, bars, restaurants, off-licences, supermarkets and convenience stores throughout the country over the coming weeks.

For more information go to Rockshore’s social channels:

Queens Launches New MBA Programme


ueen’s University Belfast has launched a new MBA programme in response to the increasing demand from employers for MBA and business school graduates. The new programme was officially launched today at an event, hosted by Dr Wendy Austin at Queen’s Management School. Pictured (L-R) are: Anne Clydesdale, Director of the William J Clinton Leadership Institute at Queen’s; Alastair Coulson, Asset and


Property Management Director, The Lotus Group; Dr Wendy Austin; Vicki Hassan, Head of Transaction Banking, Danske Bank; Richard Kirk, Regional Director, Institution of Civil Engineers; and Professor Nola Hewitt-Dundas, Head of Queen’s Management School. For more detail on the new MBA programme, please visit: uk/courses/postgraduate-taught/ master-business-administration-mba/

Eye on News

The Search Is On For NI’s Greatest Innovations! For over 10 years the Invent competition, run by Connect at Catalyst Inc, has identified, supported, rewarded and celebrated the most successful local innovations and 2018 is set to be no exception.


tarting out as a small event at the Titanic Dock and Pump House, the event has grown to become one of the most anticipated competitions to showcase and recognise NI’s best product innovations. For the last 10 years, Bank of Ireland UK has been the headline sponsor of Invent. For previous winners and participants, Invent has been a springboard to successfully growing their companies and exporting innovative products and services across the globe. Take Plotbox, who were the overall winner of Invent in 2014. A technology product for Cemetery managers, they were very much a start-up with 7 people when they applied. Co-founder Leona McAllister says of their experience ‘Invent was the catalyst to make us move forward and take that next step.’ Throughout the Invent process they were able to develop their product and brand, demonstrating they could be a global business. 4 years on, Plotbox are a scale-up and have grown to 27 people across 3 offices in Ballymena (Catalyst Inc Innovation Centre), Boston and California. Co-Founder Sean McAllister would recommend people to apply for Invent 2018


Fiona Bennington (Hug 2017 Engineering Category Winner), Gavin Kennedy (Bank of Ireland UK), Helen McCarthy (Phion Therapeutics Overall 2017 Invent Winner), Kerry McGarvey (Catalyst Inc), Andrew Cunningham and Niamh Tohill (Evy 2017 Electronics Category Winner)

‘Invent was the kick-start of our process to move forward to be a real business. We want to be a truly global company and we aren’t going to stop until we get there.’

“My winning innovation was a drug delivery platform that started as an 11 year research project. The Invent competition helped me to refine my business plan and create

“ Invent offers the opportunity to gain validation for your idea, gain valuable exposure and develop your business objectives with a quality network of business experts and influencers.” Invent offers the opportunity to gain validation for your idea, gain valuable exposure and develop your business objectives with a quality network of business experts and influencers. Last year’s winner Helen McCarthy of Phion Therapeutics, said of her experience:

easily understood messaging for going to market. The competition process helped to validate my idea and gain access to a wide network of business contacts” Applications are now officially open for Invent 2018 which is open to anyone in Northern Ireland offering an opportunity

for enthusiastic and passionate innovators and entrepreneurs to be part of a unique competition. With a prize pot of £33,000 now is the time to apply - applications close on Friday 23rd March. The highlight of the Invent 2018 competition will be the annual awards ceremony, on 11th October 2018, where around 700 business leaders, innovators and investors will gather to discover NI’s best product innovations and be the first to know who will be crowned Winner of Invent 2018. It’s time to put your innovation in the spotlight!

For more information on Invent 2018 visit

Eye on News

PHION THERAPEUTICS WINS INTERTRADEIRELAND SEEDCORN COMPETITION Belfast-based Phion Therapeutics has been crowned Overall Winner of the 2017 InterTradeIreland Seedcorn Investor Readiness Competition, winning a cash prize of €100,000. The other main winner was Cerebreon Technologies from Donegal, which was named Best New Start Company, winning a cash prize of €50,000. The winners were announced at the grand final of the competition in Dublin.


ow in its 15th year, Seedcorn is the island’s biggest business competition for new start and early stage companies in any sector, from any part of the island. With more than 275 competition entries, the winners went up against companies in a range of sectors including Medical Devices, Technology, FinTech, Design Engineering, Diagnostics and even Digital Ticket Sales. This year’s competition saw an unprecedented number of submissions from female entrepreneurs, with five

women among the regional winners who went forward to the national final. Phion Therapeutics was established in May this year and sells services (contract research) and licenses (right to use their technology for pharmaceutical development and therapeutic applications). It intends to launch a third, more tangible, product that is defined as a research use tool kit that allows access to its technology in a less expensive and smaller kit that allows each end user the ability to test the technology.

InterTrade Chairman Ken Nelson with Professor Helen McCarthy and Darrach Neeson of Psion Therapeutics.

Donegal company, Cerebreon Technologies is developing fintech software targeted at the UK insolvency industry. It brings an advanced level of machine intelligence and automation to the processes involved in insolvency. Its software also improves compliance with financial regulators and will reduce the amount and duration of the debtor’s arrangement. Commenting on the announcement of the winners, Ken Nelson, Chairman, InterTradeIreland said: “It’s very rewarding to be in a position to promote the growth of new start companies in Northern Ireland and Ireland. Entrepreneurs and innovators are essential to the health of every economy and InterTradeIreland is proud to support them as they turn

ideas into action. It’s great to see so many female entrepreneurs involved in the competition this year. I warmly congratulate both of our winners on their success in our very challenging Seedcorn competition. I wish them and indeed all those companies who entered this year all the best for the future.” Previous overall winners from Northern Ireland include Catagen in 2012 and Sophia Search in 2009. Catagen manufactures a range of rapid age testing equipment for the Catalytic Converter Testing market while Sophia Search had developed ground breaking semiotic search technology enabling organisations to intelligently search their ever increasing volumes of documents and unstructured information.

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Eye on News

Kingsbridge Lands Bupa Clinic Deal (L-R) Mr Ashok Songra, Medical Director 3fivetwo Group, Sarah Melia, Clinics Director, Bupa Health Clinics, Alan Cole Head of Partnership Centres, Bupa Health Clinics and Dr Suresh Tharma, Medical Director 3fivetwo Group.

The contract to run the Bupa Clinic for Northern Ireland has been acquired by Kingsbridge Private Hospital, Belfast, which is part of the 3fivetwo Group.


he health clinic has relocated from it’s former base on Great Victoria Street to the hospital at Kingsbridge on the Lisburn Road, offering local customers a wide range of health services from

a GP appointment through to health assessments all within a new facility. Five staff have been transferred to the new centre, joining eight new GPs and three new health advisers and it’s expected that the associated increase

in capacity following relocation to the 5-star hospital could see turnover double in the next 18 months. Alan Cole, Head of Partnership Centres, Bupa Health Clinics, comments: “We’re really excited to have moved to this larger, world class location, and are looking forward to welcoming both existing and new clients through its doors.” The Bupa Clinic is situated in a self-contained area of Kingsbridge Private Hospital, which offers free onsite car parking. Customers can enjoy the dedicated Bupa Diamond Lounge - a private waiting room with free wifi, daily newspapers, fresh fruit, home-made scones, shortbread and a range of refreshments while they wait for their appointment. Mark Regan, CEO at Kingsbridge said: “Having been a Bupa partner facility for the last 7 years, we are delighted to be offering these additional services and welcome the fact that the Bupa Belfast clinic is now based at Kingsbridge. “Access to Bupa health screening at Kingsbridge ensures that employees and individuals can take stock of their own health. They can also get advice on improvements and if required,

guidance onto a seamless medical pathway should they need onward referral to a specialist Consultant, further diagnostic tests such as CT, X-ray or MRI and of course access to surgical services, all within the facility.” The centre is open from 8am to 8pm, Monday to Friday. To book an appointment or to find out more about our services please go to https://www. our-centres/regions/northern-ireland. Services offered at the centre include: Health assessments: Bupa’s range of health assessments can help patients understand their health and identify any future health risks. As well as a range of clinical tests, each health assessment includes time to speak to doctor about any health concerns, and practical advice on the test results, offering ways to become healthier and fitter. Private GP appointments: Same day or next day appointments will often be available. The central location and choice of appointment times make visiting the GP as convenient as possible for City workers and local residents. Muscle, bone and joint treatment: The musculoskeletal team offers consultations, diagnosis and treatment for muscle, bone and joint conditions including injuries, arthritis and back or knee pain.

New Name For Northern Ireland Outlet


eading Northern Ireland shopping destination, The OUTLET, will change its name next month as part of ongoing investments in the Banbridge based centre. Set to become known as The Boulevard, the rebrand will form its owners’ commitment to improving the outlet shopping experience in Northern Ireland. Over the coming months, new signage will be rolled out across the site as the look and feel of the scheme evolves to rival other major shopping destinations. The new brand has been created to reflect the centre’s positioning as the perfect alternative to shopping in the city, with convenient transport links between the North and South of Ireland. Since Lotus Group acquired the centre in 2016, the stores have seen a total investment of over £8m. The outlet shopping destination has also enjoyed a rise in footfall of 20% since April 2016 and an increase in sales of 26% in the last 2 years. Within the past 6 months, a modern new mall covering has been installed to provide a sheltered walkway for shoppers, created from a material similar to that used at the Eden Project in Cornwall, Beijing’s National Aquatics Centre and FC Bayern Munich’s Allianz Arena. A new guest services area was also developed in recent


months, placing a key focus on customer service. The shopping destination has introduced a number of key new brands over the past year, including ProCook, Jack and Jones, Ulster Weavers and The Beauty Outlet. The new stores have joined a significant selection of other well-loved brands situated within the centre, including Nike, Timberland, Calvin Klein, L.K. Bennett, Paul Costelloe and Jaeger. Chris Nelmes, centre manager, The OUTLET, said: “The launch of The Boulevard signifies a real turning point for the centre. We feel that we now have a much stronger brand identity that reflects everything that we have to offer to both local and international customers. “We can’t wait for people to come down and experience the new look and feel of the centre for themselves throughout a series of events starting 24thMarch, which will officially mark the arrival of this new era in the shopping centre’s history. “We are continually working on attracting further brands that shoppers want, and consumers can expect to see more exciting developments in the pipeline this year.” Alastair Coulson, asset and property management director of The Lotus Group, said: “We have been working over the past two years

to enhance the shopping experience for customers visiting The OUTLET site. We’re confident that the relaunch, along with various other improvements already made to the centre will provide Banbridge and the surrounding area with a real boost. “We plan to build upon the success of improvements already made to the site throughout the course of 2018 and we are confident that our new brand will not only give us a competitive edge but will encourage new high-profile tenants to set up shop.”

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Eye on Entertainment

So You Want To Sing... The enduring popularity of TV’s musical talent shows has given a serial Belfast entertainment and media industry entrepreneur the idea for a brand new business.



teve Martin, one of our most prolific local voice over artists, and the man behind The Sound House in Belfast, has launched a new venture appropriately called... So You Want To Sing. It’s a simple idea which makes use of The Sound House’s state of the art recording studio facilities at its Holywood Road centre... and it’s one which is bound to appeal to a wide range of potential customers. “I’ve had the idea in my head for a couple of years but haven’t really pursued it,” says Steve, an experienced singer and former band member in his own right. “But I think that with the popularity of TV shows like The Voice, X Factor and All Together Now, the time might just be right.” Steve’s company, The Sound House, has been producing award winning radio and television commercials as well as multimedia and corporate video for more than 30 years. “So I think we know how to do it by now,” he smiles. “ And we can promise our customers not only a top quality and professional recording opportunity... but an experience that will be lots of fun as well.” So You Want To Sing is aimed at a vast range of potential customers... Anyone who wants to make a professional demo to audition for the big TV shows and there are lots of them today, anyone who enjoys singing karaoke at the weekend or sings in a choir or quite simply, anyone who ‘loves to sing’ and has always wanted to make a professional recording of their favourite song. It’s also a great opportunity for singer/song writers to


NOW YOU CAN !! Demos – auditions – original songs - or just for fun. with ten’s of thousands of backing tracks .... You name it – we’ve got it! Call today email

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record their own material for A&R demos and YouTube. The process is simple. Contact the team at The Sound House on 028 9076 9200 with your name, contact details and the song that you would like to record. The team will then arrange a date and time that suits, a small deposit is required to confirm the booking and under16’s will require parental permission. “We’ll then send out a copy of the track so that ‘our singers’

can practice a few times before they come in to the studio, Steve explains. “The old adage that practice makes perfect still holds true. We recommend that our singers spend about a week doing a spot of practice... unless they are very confident of their abilities.” “Then you come into the studio and sing your heart out, what could be easier?” You’ll get an hour in the studio, around 30+ minutes to record your

track a number of times and the remainder for the sound techs to select the best takes, mix them, add a little reverb and EQ and master the finished product onto CD, MP3 or whatever your preferred format. And of course it ‘would’ make the perfect present... Birthday, Mother’s day, Father’s day and... Christmas Day! even better you could make it the ‘perfect present’ to ... Yourself ! So You Want To Sing? .... Just give us a call.

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Eye on Economics

Economy Gets Back On An Even Keel By Frances Hill, Bank of England Agent for Northern Ireland


he Bank of England has been providing significant support to our economy for more than a decade. We cut interest rates to exceptionally low levels during the financial crisis to support spending and to reduce the number of people out of work. And we’ve kept rates very low over recent years to help the economy recover from the global financial crisis. To use a motoring analogy, we’ve kept our foot firmly on the accelerator. Now things are changing: the world economy is growing strongly. And here in the UK the share of people without a job is at its lowest level for more than 40 years. At the same time, we’ve seen inflation rise above the Bank’s 2% target since the big fall in the pound following the Brexit vote, which pushed up the cost of imports. Businesses typically have to pass those rising costs on to their customers. So we’ve seen higher prices in the shops. The weaker pound also brings advantages. For example, it has helped increase the competitiveness of some UK exports, at a time when demand is being supported by strong growth in Europe, the United States and other countries. This growth should encourage exporters to invest and recruit more staff. Whilst we have seen some evidence of this happening, the pick-up in investment has been weaker than we might otherwise have expected based on past experience. It is likely that uncertainty surrounding Brexit has weighed on some companies’ investment decisions. Of course, economies don’t


just involve businesses. People play a vital part too. Over the past year, prices have been rising faster than wages and that has squeezed the spending power of households. This is something we’ve heard a lot about through our conversations with charities here in NI. The good news is that we think that squeeze is likely to start easing. The share of people out of work is now at its lowest level since 1975; the NI unemployment rate is at 3.8%, this is the lowest rate recorded since June-Aug 2007. And there are a lot of job vacancies. We hear from our

Frances Hill.

“ This isn’t a case of putting the brakes on; we’re just easing the foot off the accelerator a little. And we’re doing that because, ten years on from the financial crisis, the economy is finally returning to normal.” business contacts in NI about how they need to compete hard with each other to recruit and retain workers, which is leading some to offer higher wages. Of course, higher wages can also lead to inflation, as businesses look to recoup their increased costs by increasing their prices. Faced with these inflationary pressures, the Bank needs to think carefully about whether the level of support we’re providing to the economy is appropriate. If we set interest rates too low, then the economy will grow too fast, keeping inflation above our 2% target. But if we set interest rates too high or raise them too rapidly then growth will be too slow, and inflation could fall below target.

Put another way, we need to keep the economy growing at its ‘speed limit’. We think the current speed limit of the UK economy is annual growth of around 1.5% but our latest forecast suggests it is on track to grow a bit faster than that. So we think it needs a little less support from us. Last November we raised the official interest rate we set, known as Bank Rate, from 0.25% to 0.5%. Although the Bank’s Monetary Policy Committee voted to keep rates at 0.5% this month, they also indicated that, if the economy performs as expected, it would be necessary to raise them again to prevent the economy from overheating.

But they also stressed that any further rises are likely to happen at a gradual pace and to a limited extent. So interest rates are likely to remain substantially lower than a decade ago. This isn’t a case of putting the brakes on; we’re just easing the foot off the accelerator a little. And we’re doing that because, ten years on from the financial crisis, the economy is finally returning to normal. That’s got to be welcome news for households and businesses here in NI.

Frances Hill is Agent for Northern Ireland. You can read the Bank’s latest Inflation Report in full here or the Agents’ latest Summary of Business Conditions https://www.bankofengland. february-2018 @BoENIreland

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Eye on Cover Story

The Resolution Centre... Unique Facility & Unique Service Belfast’s brand new Resolution Centre has only been open since September, but it’s already proving popular not just amongst lawyers seeking a dedicated and private venue for alternative dispute resolution but amongst a variety of other business users as well.


he Centre, established with the support of the Bar Council for Northern Ireland, is a tailor-made facility for mediation and dispute resolution, complete with a range of soundproofed private meeting rooms, break-out areas, state of the art video conferencing as well as wi-fi internet and catering facilities on demand. Located on the third floor of one of Belfast’s landmark buildings, The Boat on Donegall Quay, and with stunning views across the city and beyond the centre was designed to create an environment that would inspire parties to literally see the big picture and find common ground but it’s also proven itself as an adaptable venue, capable of meeting a wide range of potential uses. Business Eye spoke to three leading barristers – Monye Anyadike-Danes QC, Brian Fee QC and Jill Comerton – as well as Bar Council for Northern Ireland Chief Executive David Mulholland about the new Resolution Centre and how it is being put to use. BF - I’ve used it a lot, both as a mediator and as a participant in mediations and I’ve found it very useful for multi-party cases where you have four of five parties and a mediator and you need everyone in close proximity,


Here you have the advantage of a lot of rooms on the same level. There are even two distinct sides to the centre for situations when parties need to be kept separate. As well as mediations, I’ve used the centre for consultations with larger groups and perhaps with a lot of documents to consider. MA – I’ve only used the centre for mediations as a participant on five or six occasions, with more in the diary. Before this centre opened, we used a variety of other locations. This place is just as close to the Bar Library and the court, but its rooms, its layout and its facilities are much better suited to the job we’re trying to do. The IT facilities are particularly good. We can have information up on big screens and the same information can be on everyone’s laptops at the same time. You can also involve people through Skype and obtain their documents through the wifi facilities. It’s all so easy. The other big advantage, as Brian has said, is the number of private rooms available here as well as the break-out areas. It’s designed for mediation and it works really well. And, finally, the views are outstanding.... It might sound flippant, but views like these can help to take the pressure off and maybe even encourage a bit of productive chat!

JC – Whether you’re using a hotel or a business centre, they’re intended primarily for other purposes. This place is bespoke and intended for mediation and arbitration. The staff here understand that and cater for individual needs in a way that other venues can’t. I’ve been here with a range of different parties and all of them have been seriously impressed. The location and the degree of service that can be delivered is outstanding. BF – Yes, the fact that it is custom-built is crucial. Hotel and other venues just don’t meet these standards and that’s because they’re simply not designed for what we need around areas like privacy and confidentiality. I’ve been involved in mediations at hotels and had participants spread all over the place. It’s not ideal. MA – There is another aspect to this centre. It would also be ideal for family disputes and for judicial reviews. The latter is an area that the courts would like to see mediations in. We had one judicial review lined up for mediation which would have been very interesting, but it didn’t take place. What is important here is that you can meet people, but you can also not meet people....and that’s important in area like family disputes. In fact, using this centre, different parties need never meet. There are even separate exit routes available.... and that’s the kind of advantage you just can’t get elsewhere. DM – We’re keen to see more family disputes coming to the centre. We have hosted a few, and we’re keen to welcome more. Another big plus here at the Resolution Centre is that everyone doesn’t have to pack up and leave


Eye on Cover Story

at 5 o’clock. We have the flexibility to stay open late into the evening or into the weekends. We had a meeting which ran until close to midnight recently, and that can’t really happen elsewhere. JC – On that note, with the catering that is available here, there is no need to leave. Any food or other requirements can be brought in, so everyone’s minds can stay focused on the matter at hand. DM – We’re still in the first six months and we’re really pleased with progress so far. The feedback from those who’ve used the centre has been great. Most of the usage has come from local solicitors working with members of the Bar. We’ve also had a few visiting solicitors and members of the Bar from England and Wales.


And we’ve seen non-lawyer use for everything from senior level interviews to disciplinary meetings and training events. Outside of the legal calendar, we plan to keep this place busy with other uses. We’re pleased, and we can grow on what we have achieved. Last week we were fully booked.

Is mediation itself growing? BF – Yes, there is pressure from the courts across all areas to make use of mediation. The courts feel that they are hearing cases that were capable of being resolved at a much earlier stage. MA – I don’t think there is a single commercial case that I’ve been involved in where mediation hasn’t been proposed and, more often

than not, tried. It’s important to note that mediation can be used more than once. For example, you can try an early mediation, it might not work, but can come out of it more focussed and then go back to mediation further down the road. Mediation can even be used even when a case has actually started. I’m involved in a case where we’re on our third mediation, and it looks as though it might now be resolved. And, in cases with six or seven parties, why not mediate to try to settle matters for two or three of those parties and refine things. Alternatively, involve parties who could be made part of a wider settlement even though they could not all be brought into the same litigation. The great advantage of mediation is the fact that it’s flexible. Once everyone understands that flexibility, this place will be very busy. Commercial lawyers are probably the first to see the advantages of mediation, but others will undoubtedly follow. It’s a more cost-effective option by far and if you resolve a matter, the parties own that resolution. If you go to court, the judge will resolve it for you and that’s not ideal. JC – It’s very flexible, as Monye has said. It can address the immediate problem, but it can also address peripheral issues as well. It can even find a way for parties to continue to have a commercial relationship. Running

a case in court simply doesn’t have that flexibility. You have strict parameters and judges tend to keep you to those parameters. BF – There is a significant advantage in a solution that the parties can shape for themselves. As opposed to a judge listening to a highly organised set of evidence and then imposing a solution. MA – The point we haven’t touched on is that by coming here for mediation, or even consultation, we get away from the court environment and it feels a lot less aggressive. It looks and feels like neutral territory. I know of one law firm specialising in commercial work that hasn’t had a single mediation outside of this centre since it opened its doors. And the same goes for me. So, the centre is off to great start and it has plenty of potential for further growth. DM – Its certainly been pleasing to hear the feedback so far including from those who W have come over from London and told us that this centre can be compared to anything available over there. So, there’s no longer any need for local organisations to go to London for their mediations. We’ve got the capability and expertise amongst our local lawyers. Now we’ve got a dedicated mediation venue. So, we have a very strong proposition here in Belfast.

Eye on News

Randox Announces £50 Million Investment A record £50 million investment which will deliver cutting-edge technologies to diagnose conditions like cancer, heart conditions and infectious diseases has been announced by Northern Ireland diagnostics company Randox Laboratories and Invest NI.


his major project involves the establishment of three Centres of Excellence, enabling Randox R&D scientists to work collaboratively with colleagues from Queen’s University Belfast and Ulster University. Advanced diagnostics have been identified as key to delivering sustainable improvement to healthcare systems struggling to cope with increasing levels of chronic and preventable conditions. Having been focused in this field for over 36 years, Randox has a successful track record of developing new and innovative tests - examples include assessing those at risk of Alzheimer’s disease and genetic cardiac conditions, to promote and enable preventive treatment, and a new clinically-approved test to diagnose prediabetes. Managing Director of Randox Laboratories, Dr Peter FitzGerald, who today launched the three Centres of Excellence, said; “When almost a quarter of the deaths of people under 75 in the UK are considered preventable, we need to ask ourselves what can be done to improve healthcare outcomes. There is an undeniable case for radical change in the way healthcare is delivered, and sophisticated diagnostics will be at the fore of this revolution. “Enabling earlier and more accurate diagnosis, to identify those at the earliest stages of illness, ideally before the onset of any symptoms, is a game-changer. Through early intervention we can restrict the development of chronic

Dr. Peter FitzGerald with Invest NI’s Alastair Hamilton and Sir John Bell.

conditions and improve people’s lives. Our view of the future is one where people are empowered through earlier diagnosis to stay healthier for longer, and where healthcare systems are freed to deliver quality services to patients. Our announcement today demonstrates our continuing commitment in this field. “We are grateful for the support offered by Invest NI and look forward to addressing these pressing healthcare needs.” The Centres of Excellence will focus respectively on clinical diagnostics, engineering for biosciences and quality control. The project, which will strengthen collaborative partnerships between Randox, Queen’s University Belfast and Ulster University, will accelerate the development of new technologies and drive healthcare improvements regionally, nationally and across the globe. Of the £23m of support offered by Invest NI, £5m will go toward research projects at Ulster University and Queen’s University Belfast. Welcoming the investment,

Alastair Hamilton, Chief Executive of Invest NI said; “Randox has a long history of investing heavily in innovation and R&D which has enabled it to create a globally competitive export driven business, capable of developing world leading research. This major investment will enable Randox to perform cutting-edge R&D which has the potential to revolutionise the global healthcare industry. This is excellent news for Northern Ireland’s life and health sciences sector. Northern Ireland is enjoying a growing international reputation as a region of expertise and knowledge in key areas such as Diagnostics, Precision Medicine and Advanced Manufacturing. The three new Centres of Excellence will help build on this and enhance Northern Ireland’s credibility, provide supply chain opportunities, and encourage knowledge transfer with our universities.” Sir John Bell, commenting on the potential for the UK Life Sciences sector said; “The life sciences industry represents one of the dominant

economic sectors in the UK, and one with considerable potential for growth. However, whilst we have many natural strengths we cannot afford to be complacent. We must strive to optimise our science base, to encourage collaboration across academia, industry and the NHS, and grow our industrial capabilities. To do so we need to use our extensive data sets to best effect, and have in place a strong skills strategy. Success requires vision and drive. To that end I would like to congratulate Dr FitzGerald and Randox in the establishment of these three R&D collaborative Centres of Excellence – these are assets of national standing and will have a meaningful impact in enabling earlier and more accurate diagnosis, driving improvements in patient care, regionally, nationally and globally. They are leaders in this field, committed to innovation, and I wish them every success.” Invest NI’s R&D support is part funded by ERDF under the EU Investment for Growth and Jobs Programme 2014 – 2020.


Eye on Growth

Council set to ‘Amplify’ business growth in Mid and East Antrim

The Economic Development Team with Cllr. Paul Reid (Mayor, Mid and East Antrim Borough Council) Anne Donaghy (Chief Executive, Mid and East Antrim Borough Council) Linda Williams (Director of Economic Growth, Regeneration and Tourism) Ald. Maureen Morrow (Chair, Economic Growth, Regeneration and Tourism Committee)

Mid and East Antrim Borough Council has launched an exciting new economic development strategy called ‘Amplify’, to boost the economy across the borough.


rowing the economy is Council’s top priority. ‘Amplify’ aims to support the development of businesses in the region from start-up to growth phase, right through until 2030. The strategy was prepared by Council working collaboratively


with a number of key stakeholders including Invest Northern Ireland, Northern Regional College, Catalyst Inc., local enterprise agencies and various Stormont Departments. As a region, Mid and East Antrim has a population of over 138,000 with

4700 registered businesses, some of which include Northern Ireland’s most successful companies such as Wrightbus, Moy Park and Caterpillar. Traditionally, Mid and East Antrim is recognised as the manufacturing heartland of Northern Ireland, with significant strengths in advanced manufacturing, accounting for 1 in 5 jobs in the region. It is also home to a vibrant agri-food sector with 1 in 5 people working for the 1363 agri-food businesses based in the region. Despite this expertise, the area has

experienced significant challenges in recent years with job losses seen within the manufacturing sector in the region. Amplify seeks to provide innovation, certainty and stability for the benefit of our businesses and communities who have suffered because of these challenges.

The Future The key focus of Amplify is job creation and growth. Council is committed to creating a vibrant business culture,

Eye on Growth

Gwyneth Evans (HR Manager, Ryobi Aluminium Casting (UK) Ltd.) Leona McAllister (Chief Commercial Officer, Plotbox) Andrew Hassard (Managing Director, Mango Bikes) Linda De Vecchis (Managing Director, Linda’s Originals)

Alastair Hamilton, Chief Executive, Invest NI.

which not only builds on our strengths in advanced manufacturing and agri-food but which supports the growth of emerging sectors in the region such as tourism, financial and business services and digital. In support of this change in business culture, a number of exciting new strategic infrastructure projects are either live or under consideration. The redevelopment of St Patrick’s Barracks in Ballymena, the creation of an Advanced Manufacturing Centre of Excellence, broadband improvements and key tourism and regeneration masterplans are just some of the flagship projects, which demonstrate Council’s commitment and dedication to growing the economy of the region. To facilitate and navigate the growth of both existing and emerging sectors, Amplify is built around 5 critical strategic economic priorities: Enterprise and Entrepreneurship; Innovation; Employment and Skills; Infrastructure and Inclusion and Wellbeing.

Enterprise and Entrepreneurship Amplify will create a culture of enterprise within Mid and East Antrim. Encouraging enterprise, increasing business birth rates and the growth of Small and Medium Enterprises is key to the achievement of this. Traditionally growth in this region was attributed to a small number of large manufacturing and agri-food employers. By focusing on the emerging sectors identified in Amplify, an opportunity exists for a number of new startups in those areas to be created. As part of Amplify, a series of business mentoring programmes were launched, which support businesses in the region from start-up; Go for it and Kickstart

right through to growth phase; Business Escalator. Each of these programmes offer free mentoring support for all aspects of business planning and growth and will help to create new employment opportunities in Mid and East Antrim.

Innovation As a Council, we will create an effective innovative ecosystem in which support agencies, businesses and communities work together to encourage innovation and economic growth. The redevelopment of the ECOS Centre in Ballymena into a Science Park style workspace in partnership with our managing agent Catatlyst Inc. brings an exciting new opportunity for digital and technology firms to set up their business in Mid and East Antrim. The site comprises of 20,000 sq ft of Grade A business accommodation, including shared and private workspaces with meeting space and business support. 70% of the innovation space is already let and we are well on our way to creating 125 high value knowledge economy jobs.

Employment & Skills Amplify aims to improve the skills of young people to better equip them for the world of work so that they are encouraged and inspired to adopt a “can –do” attitude. Working closely with businesses in the region, along with Northern Regional College, Department for the Economy and Invest NI, we want to encourage a culture of enterprise. A range of skills and training programmes are already available within the Mid and East Antrim area to provide people with the skills support they need to be successful in the workplace.

Alastair Hamilton (Chief Executive, Invest NI) Cllr. Paul Reid (Mayor, Mid and East Antrim Borough Council) Anne Donaghy (Chief Executive, Mid and East Antrim Borough Council)

Infrastructure Mid and East Antrim is a diverse area with a complex mix of urban and rural communities. The strategic location of Mid and East Antrim means that it benefits from good transport infrastructure. With its close proximity to both Belfast International and Belfast City airports, as well as Belfast port and the port of Larne, it makes it a very easy location for companies to do business. As part of Amplify, Council will focus on improving the profile of the borough for investment and tourism. Within Council, we have recently set up a new Investment and Place department, which will focus on providing support for businesses to reinvest in the region and secure new inward investment to the area. To facilitate a growth in inward investment, we need to ensure we have enough start-up and grow-on workspace available to potential businesses. We have already secured 20,000 sq ft of new accommodation space for start-ups at the Ecos Centre in Ballymena, through a partnership with Catalyst Inc. and have set aside a number of sites across the borough to be developed with larger businesses in mind.

Inclusion and Wellbeing The objective of Amplify is to grow the local economy through helping local businesses and promoting more social enterprise start-ups. The social economy in Mid and East Antrim has a key role in terms of promoting social cohesion, neighbourhood renewal, helping people into work and improving the environment. We have a number of successful social enterprises in Mid and East Antrim and we will continue to support the good work they do and encourage more to start up.

Securing Success Council are committed to growing the economy of Mid and East Antrim and Amplify is a step in the right direction. With the strategic direction provided by Amplify along with the commitment and dedication of Council and our key partners, we are already making steady progress to position the region as a competitive business hub within Northern Ireland and further afield.

To find out more contact Mid and East Antrim Borough Council: Email: Tel: +44(0)28 2563 3195

Eye on Tax

(L-R) Sean Lavery Partner & Head of Tax, Brian Murphy, Managing Partner & Head of Advisory and Nigel Harra, Senior Partner & Head of Audit.


Eye on Tax

BDO’s Dedicated Approach to the Northern Ireland Marketplace The three lead Partners at BDO Northern Ireland don’t quite finish each other’s sentences, but there is no doubting the fact that they’re a cohesive team when it comes to getting across the key message.


nd that message is that BDO might be a global name in accountancy and business services, but it’s Belfast office is a ‘local firm working with local businesses; with the reassurance and strength of a global firm behind it.’ Certainly, the three Partners who make up BDO’s top team in Belfast aren’t short on experience....or dedication to BDO, for that matter. Both Managing Partner Brian Murphy and Head of Tax, Sean Lavery have been with BDO Northern Ireland for 25 years, while Nigel Harra, the firm’s Head of Audit, is a relative newcomer with just 21 years under his belt. BDO’s Belfast office at Lindsay House in Callender Street can be deceptive. It’s home to a growing complement of 164 members of staff, boosted by more than 20 over the last year. “Our culture is very important to us,” says Brian Murphy. “We believe in our people and we invest in their future. Our clients see this and feel the kind of commitment we have to providing them with the best quality service.” Over the last year, BDO recruited 18 new accountancy graduates

but it has also strengthened its higher-level team. In Sean Lavery’s tax department, Claire McGuigan has been promoted to Director level, and has been joined by senior tax specialists Angela Keery, Geraldine Browne and Richard Todd. The tax department, says Sean Lavery, has a total of six directors and continues to grow to cope with an increasing number of clients, particularly NI-based family businesses. “We have considerable expertise right across personal and corporate tax, and we find ourselves advising a lot of local, family businesses on issues such as long-term succession planning. “The theme amongst companies nowadays is one of tax compliance,” Sean adds. “In the wake of the Paradise Papers and other such issues, clients are coming to us for help to make sure that they’re compliant and paying the tax that they should be paying. “We’re fortunate to have a tax team of 50 people, including Partners and Directors. That makes BDO a formidable force when it comes to tax and working with Northern Ireland companies.” Eighteen new graduates also joined BDO’s audit department,

headed up by Nigel Harra, over the past 12 months. In fact, building tangible and practical links between students and businesses has a been a vital part of BDO’s approach to future proofing their operation and fostering a pipeline of potential leaders. “We have carefully invested time and resources into partnerships and initiatives with Queen’s University Belfast, Ulster University, Belfast Metropolitan College and local schools, all to help our longterm strategic goal of attracting enthusiastic and engaging people for our business.” says Nigel. The Belfast-based Audit Department, like its Tax counterpart, has a 50-strong team and continues to look at opportunities to grow its strong client base. “Our clients value the expertise that we have in our team,” says Nigel Harra. “They get a great deal of exposure to Partners and Directors, and I think they value that we’re approachable and accessible. As a result we have many longterm client relationships.” The third and final part of the BDO Northern Ireland jigsaw is the firm’s Advisory Department, headed by Managing Partner Brian Murphy. It’s a department that includes BDO’s specialist corporate finance, forensic and restructuring units. “We are now working in a very different climate,” says Brian Murphy. “Northern Ireland has come through a challenging time

and there is now, a great deal of positivity in the marketplace, as well as opportunity. “Of course, there are still challenges ahead, not least Brexit and the ongoing lack of government here in Northern Ireland, but on balance there is a positive energy and real business is being done. All too often, we apply a self-imposed ceiling on what we can achieve. But we’re better than that, and what business here is actually achieving is testament to this.” “The return of a devolved administration would most certainly help. While we have worked through 2017 without a local government, the longer this goes on the more of a challenge it will become.” Brian Murphy isn’t slow to address the Brexit issue either. “Initially business leaders were shocked by the Brexit result, but this shock has turned to a fatigue since then” he says. “Recently, companies are being more proactive and are looking to capitalise on the opportunities that have arisen.” As for BDO itself, Brian Murphy and his senior colleagues say that the firm will continue to invest in its people and in its Northern Ireland operations. “This is a great place to do business,” he says. “Business people in NI sometimes lose sight of that fact and we also tend to sell ourselves short. But it really is a great place to live and work, and we should be proud of what we have achieved.


Eye on Law



‘Would you put that phone down…’ said the child to their parent. Yes, you heard me right. 55-57 year olds are the fastest growing demographic in relation to adopters of smartphones. 2

DEFAMATION Online defamation is a serious threat to the reputation of your company. The greatest risk of a defamatory statement comes from a disgruntled employee or an ex-employee. The speed of re-publication coupled with the truly global reach of the internet can make defamatory content potentially devastating. • Be aware of the potential for an online attack on your business reputation and regularly monitor relevant websites. • Take legal advice on defamatory postings and consider putting the website owner on notice to take down a post.



he young smartphone zombie usually cuts a frustrated figure as it reluctantly demonstrates to the silver swiper how to ‘like’, ‘share’ and ‘snap’. Whether it’s a swiper or a zombie, it is clear that the use of smartphones and social media continues to grow amongst all generations. In the internet age, an everincreasing number of companies use social media as part of an effective marketing strategy. The commercial benefits of being able to advertise your products or services across the globe free of charge are extensive. However, with such benefit comes risk. We have seen a linked increase in the legal issues resulting from such increased use. So, what are the legal risks?


When using social media, businesses can encounter issues around copyrights and trademarks. Common copyright violations in a social media context include copying and pasting content, or posting a third-party photograph. • If you share a story or photo from a third-party website, always ensure that you have sought permission and the source is quoted. • If you plan to link to another site, seek permission to establish the link on a permanent basis. The unauthorized use of trademarks whether by you or by a competitor raises the issue of passing off and potentially a depreciation in the company’s goodwill. To protect your IP rights, you should register any trademarks related to your business with the Intellectual Property Office. • Ensure your business’ social media usernames do not infringe any other businesses’ IP rights – for example inadvertently using their business name.

EMPLOYEES Employees communicating on behalf of the company through its official social media channels need to be aware of what is appropriate and inappropriate comment. By putting in place a social media policy you can mitigate the risk of an employee bringing the company into disrepute. • Review regularly those who have access to your social media accounts and assess the risk of inappropriate online behaviour, including implementing a social media policy and ensuring effective enforcement.

MILLS SELIG CAN HELP Social media is important to modern business marketing, if managed in the correct way. Having the right legal advice at the right time is crucial. At Mills Selig our talented and experienced lawyers provide advice on issues arising out of the use of social media to include provision of social media policies, employment, intellectual property and defamation advice.

Mills Selig is a leading, full-service corporate and commercial law firm in Northern Ireland offering expertise and understanding in all transactions to ensure the best outcome for its clients.

1 ( State of the smart. Consumer and business usage patterns. G lobal Mobile Consumer Survey 2017: UK Cut. Deloitte. img/download/global-mobile-consumer-survey-2017_ uk-cut.pdf) 2 Ibid.

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Eye on News

Ulster Bank continues to light the way for NI entrepreneurs Ulster Bank has released the Northern Ireland findings of its 2017 Impact Report regarding activity at its Lombard Street-based entrepreneurial hub in Belfast.


ince its inception in 2015, the venture - now called the Ulster Bank Entrepreneur Accelerator - has made a significantly positive impression on the entrepreneurial community in Northern Ireland, with a cumulative total of 264 entrepreneurs supported, 658 jobs created and £15m raised in investment for businesses based in the hub. Lynsey Cunningham, Entrepreneur Development Manager for the bank, welcomed the news: “These figures show that the model of connecting brilliant ideas and people with practical support and guidance can deliver outstanding results. I’m proud of the work that we’ve done to date to build a vibrant entrepreneurial community in Northern Ireland, and I’m excited about what we still have to do.” As part of continuing to build on the success of the work to date, Ulster Bank has brought the hub – formerly called Entrepreneurial Spark – into the bank as a fully managed accelerator,

becoming the Ulster Bank Entrepreneur Accelerator. This move mirrors similar changes made across the UK. Lynsey Cunningham continues: “The Ulster Bank Entrepreneur Accelerator will continue the fantastic work done to date, with the same outstanding and expert team, and we’ll be bringing greater clarity to how we support both early stage businesses, as well as those highgrowth prospects that want to scale up.” “Our aim is to support even more entrepreneurs, help create even more jobs, and facilitate start-ups to bring in even more investment. We know this is a really compelling proposition and we’re pleased to be offering start-up and scale-up businesses fully-funded office space, mentoring, access to expertise, knowledge, networks and supply chains,” she adds. As part of the new structure, the bank will be making changes to the model to better encourage further business growth:

Lighting the way for NI entrepreneurs is Lynsey Cunningham, Entrepreneur Development Manager, Ulster Bank along with Entrepreneur Acceleration Managers, Matthew Teague (centre) and John Ferris (right) at the Ulster Bank Entrepreneur Accelerator.

The Acceleration programme is a 6 to 18-month programme for entrepreneurs with high growth businesses looking to scale up. Designed to ensure that these businesses get the best chance to succeed, entrepreneurs will receive free office space, free wi-fi, free business support and mentoring, bespoke coaching, and access to the bank’s networks and supply chains. The Pre-Acceleration programme is an intensive, 12-week programme for up to 50 early stage start-ups. Run simultaneously in each of our Hub cities, entrepreneurs benefit

from an introductory immersion day, online learning materials, webinars, digital ‘nutshells’ and a concluding celebratory awards event. This programme is complemented by a variety of events, run by the bank’s Business Growth Enablers, as well as the bank’s local partners. In 2017, the bank’s Entrepreneurial Development Academy, which supports the development of intrapreneurial skills and understanding among staff, received external accreditation from the Institute of Enterprise and Entrepreneurship. 256 Ulster Bank colleagues are part of the Academy.

Cookstown Project Manager Wins Top Construction Award


argarget Conway from McAleer & Rushe has picked up the coveted Construction Manager of the Year Award at the annual Chartered Institute of Building (CIOB) Regional Dinner & Awards held at the Belfast Hilton, and attended by more than 200 construction professionals from the public and private sectors. Gerard Graham, Chair of the CIOB Belfast Hub, commented, “This award is basically the Ballon d’Or of the construction


industry. It is a tremendous achievement for Margaret and her employer McAleer & Rushe. She showed strong leadership skills and initiative in identifying opportunities to improve the design and add value for the client. This is the first time a female has won the award which is great news for the construction industry. We wish Margaret ever success with the rest of her career”. This is the second year an employee from McAleer & Rushe was won the UK-wide

award. In 2017, Paul Marlow beat over 80 finalists to the title for his work in project-managing a £29m student accommodation project in London. Other speakers at the event included Terry Watts, Managing Director of the CIOB and Belfastborn Stephen Martin, the Director-General of the Institute of Directors, who currently holds one of the most influential positions in UK business.

Eye on Law

Knowledge Of Changes To Immigration Laws Can Help Economy Prepare For Growth Following the recent publication of a report that placed Northern Ireland’s knowledge economy as among the fastest growing in the UK, Rosemary Lundy, Employment Law Partner at leading law firm Arthur Cox, explains how the sector could benefit from recent changes to immigration rules.


orthern Ireland is home to the second fastest growing knowledge economy in the United Kingdom aided, according to a recent study, by our strong third-level education sector. However, the most recent Knowledge Economy Report, commissioned by Connect at Catalyst Inc, found that its growth, which had been strong since the recession, slowed down in 2017, particularly in the measures of profits, salaries and productivity. The knowledge economy relates to sectors such as pharmaceuticals, software development and financial services. It is a significant driver of prosperity locally, providing a third of all export sales, while salary and productivity levels are 45% and 30% higher than the Northern Ireland average respectively.

Agility But to compete on the global stage, the local economy currently relies on the skills of workers born outside Northern Ireland, including many from beyond the European Union, meaning that any change in immigration law should be monitored closely. Universities, in particular, need a system that builds agility into the process of enrolling students and recruiting academic staff from outside the EU, and that also allows their progression into the world of work to be as seamless as possible. While the UK is a first-choice

destination for many international students and talented academic staff, uncertainty over Brexit and the prospect of stricter immigration rules have led to many university students and staff already looking elsewhere - typically Canada and Australia. In order to maintain access to this pool of talent, the education sector has called on Government to relax visa rules for international students. The Government appears to have taken heed, with a new set of immigration rules - which include granting work visas to international students with more flexibility - having come into effect on 11 January 2018.

Tier 4 There are a number of details included in these new rules that are to be welcomed. For example, Tier 4 visa holders on non-PhD courses can now apply to switch to a Tier 2 or skilled worker visa without the sponsor being required to undertake the Resident Labour Market Test (RLMT). They will also no longer have to wait until they have received their final results but, instead, the requirement will be that they have completed their course and are able to evidence this. In theory, this should allow students to apply for Tier 2 visas much more quickly, without having to wait for their exam results, while students with Tier 4 or study visas will now be able to stay longer in the UK. Tier 4 (general) students

can now apply to study a parttime course under their visa, as long as the course is studied at an appropriate academic level. To encourage highly-talented people in the fields of science, engineering, medicine, humanities, digital technology and the arts to come to the UK under favourable immigration conditions (i.e. the ability to work on a freelance basis), the number of Tier 1 Exceptional Talent Visas issued each year has been doubled to 2,000, along with accelerated settlement for certain applicants. Exceptional talent visa holders are now permitted to qualify for Indefinite Leave to Remain after three years, while Tier 1 (Exceptional Talent) visa holders who are classed as “world leaders” in their field may be able to qualify for accelerated settlement after three years of continuous residence, instead of five years. With the recent Knowledge

Economy Report reaffirming the importance of this sector to Northern Ireland’s overarching economic growth, the significance of the new immigration rules should not be underestimated. The ability to attract and retain talent is a key driver of economic success and the changes introduced in January should help in this regard. Brexit could present further opportunities to re-engineer the immigration system to align it with business needs and ensure it maintains the flexibility required to bolster growth across all sectors.

The Employment Law team at Arthur Cox is well positioned to advise on all aspects of employment law in Northern Ireland. Please call +44 28 9023 0007 for further information from Rosemary or your regular Arthur Cox contact.


Eye on Management

An Insight Into The Top Trends In Corporate Governance In 2018 Dr Roger Barker - IoD’s Head of Corporate Governance

Corporate Governance has rarely been out of the papers for the past few years and sadly this has in a large part been down to corporate failures and examples of poor governance.


rom BHS to Carillion we have seen real life examples of how decisions made at the top of a business can cause real harm further down the pyramid. While there is no magic bullet against corporate failure, being a natural and necessary component of our market system, corporate governance attempts to reduce the likeliness of this happening. While there isn’t a universally agreed definition of corporate governance, most explanations of the term tie it to the control of a company. It refers to the interrelating rules, frameworks and behaviours that influence how organisations are directed. Corporate governance, when properly applied in a business, can promote its growth and contribute to improvements in efficiency and risk management. The UK’s corporate governance is world-renowned and replicated in large part due to its flexibility and recognition that no two business or boards are the same. The ‘comply or explain’ model that listed companies are obliged to adhere to could be voluntarily replicated by startups, scale ups, and SMEs. These organisations should verse themselves with the regulatory environment they inhabit, map out their objectives and risks, and then replicate examples of best practise to comply with while explaining to themselves the ones which are not appropriate. This level of self-discipline may seem onerous from the


outset, but it will show investors, suppliers, and customers of the sincerity you have in your operations. As well as displaying a prudent attitude to risk, it can also help to display recognition of your organisation’s footprint on the community you interact with, and that you take the interests of your employees, customers, and supplier into account in your decision making processes. Over time some these behaviours can start to become second nature and you will have a base framework to refine and build on as your organisation matures and grows. It is as much about increasing efficiency and business performance as it is mapping management actions. Good governance is about more than regulation and corporate law, it also requires for willing participants on the part of directors. The role of the modern director is increasing complex and specialised and therefore requires specific training, mentoring and skills development. Indeed the UK Corporate Governance Code currently states that a “company should provide the necessary resources for developing and updating its directors’ knowledge and capabilities.” The need for effective governance is of such enduring importance that the IoD has the pursuit of it enshrined in its Royal Charter, tasked with fostering good practice in corporate governance and helping British directors to attain high levels of

knowledge and skill, which we achieve through its professional development department and the IoD Academy offering. It is this pursuit of best practise, good governance and high standards in UK Directors that the IoD Northern Ireland is proud to be the first region and branch to pilot the new IoD Academy locally. Building on the legacy of establishing best practice across so many industries, Northern Ireland is yet again at the forefront of setting standards of excellence – this time through the IoD Academy in NI. Join us for the launch of the IoD Academy NI, where we are setting the standards of excellence for Directors in Northern Ireland!

Learn about our exceptional portfolio of professional development programmes to support you in your career through the IoD Academy, as well as the bespoke in-company training and board evaluations available Or call Emma Jayne Mawhinney on 02890912829 or email


BUSINESS EYE FIRST TRUST BANK SMALL BUSINESS AWARDS Northern Ireland Small Businesses To Take Centre Stage Northern Ireland’s premier awards for small businesses, the ‘BEFTAs’, will be staged for the fourth time this May and are now open for entries.


op business publication Business Eye has joined forces once again with lead sponsor First Trust Bank to launch the 2018 Business Eye First Trust Bank Small Business Awards which will be held at Belfast’s Crowne Plaza Hotel on Thursday, 31st May 2018. Known in the business community as the BEFTAs, the awards have become an important part of the business calendar over recent years and have produced some notable winners including leading technology company Yelo and engineering firm M&M Contractors. This year, a total of 14 different categories will be open to businesses based in Northern Ireland with 50 employees or less. As well as a headline ‘Small Business of the Year’ Award, top performers in key sectors such as technology, agri food, manufacturing and tourism and hospitality will also be recognised. There will also be awards for our leading small business exporter, most innovative and customer focused businesses as well as top marketing and community initiative. One new award joins the line-up this year and we will recognise a leading ‘Family Business of the Year’ for the first time. Hundreds of entries are anticipated across the 14


Seamus McGuckin, Head of Business Banking, First Trust Bank and Brenda Buckley, Commercial Director, Business Eye call on small businesses across Northern Ireland to enter the Business Eye First Trust Bank Small Business Awards which is now open for entries.

categories and the winners will be chosen by an elite panel of judges from Northern Ireland’s business community led by First Trust Bank’s Head of Business and Corporate Banking, Brian Gillan, and Business Eye’s Richard Buckley. Closing date for entries is Friday 27th April 2018, and local small businesses can enter via the dedicated awards website – www. Speaking about the Awards, Seamus McGuckin, Head of Business Banking, First Trust Bank said; “We are delighted to partner with Business Eye once more to

recognise best practice in our vibrant small business sector. Amidst ongoing economic and political uncertainties that continue to test the resilience of our business community, we see a commitment to creativity, innovation and ambition from our SME sector. The role and the voice of small businesses - which account for the vast majority of our private sector - is therefore more important than ever, and we look forward to celebrating excellence at the BEFTAs ceremony this May.” Richard Buckley, Editor of Business Eye, says that the BEFTAs have helped to place

a number of our leading small businesses onto a wider stage. “Our small businesses have to compete with the big names in the business world in most of the awards which exist on the local front, but these awards are different in that they turn the spotlight on the most important part of our economy.” “These awards give small businesses right across the spectrum the chance to go head to head with businesses of a similar size and scale, and we’re very confident that we’ll be seeing some excellent case studies emerge between now and the start of May.”

Award Categories & Criteria

There are fourteen categories for the awards this year... AGRIFOOD BUSINESS OF THE YEAR AWARD


Northern Ireland’s leading small business operating in the agri food sector, to include food and drink producers, farm-based enterprises and companies providing products and services to the agri-food industry here.

Open to companies operating in any business sector, this award will go to the organisation which best illustrates the most effective use of innovation through investment in innovative practices, leading edge products and/or services to contribute to overall business success.


CUSTOMER FOCUS AWARD Our judging panel will single out the local small business which most effectively brings to life best practice in customer service across all of its operations. The judges will look for clear evidence of customer satisfaction.

COMMUNITY CONTRIBUTION AWARD Despite smaller budgets, corporate responsibility plays a role for small businesses in Northern Ireland. This special award will recognise the best example of how small businesses here can help to make a difference in the communities they serve.


HOSPITALITY & TOURISM BUSINESS OF THE YEAR AWARD A special category aimed directly at Northern Ireland’s growing number of small tourism and hospitality-related business enterprises, including pubs, restaurants, cafes, smaller hotels, tourism activity businesses and transport and travel providers.

A new addition to the line-up for 2018, the Family Business of the Year category is open to all businesses (less than 50 employees) which remain in family ownership and are based here in Northern Ireland.



The small business enterprise of 50 employees or less which, in the opinion of the judges, exemplifies best practice and achievement across the board. Entries for the this premier award category can be made directly and winning entries in all other categories will also be considered. SPONSORED BY

This award is open to all small businesses based in Northern Ireland who provide products and/ or services in the wider technology field, including IT services, software development, technology product innovation and consultancy.




A category open to all small businesses engaged directly in the manufacture of products for sale in Northern Ireland and in export markets. The judges will look for evidence of research and development and innovation in manufacturing.


This award will recognise a leading player from Northern Ireland’s traditionally strong independentlyowned retail sector. The category is open to locally-owned retail businesses, including both single site retailers and independent retail groups who meet the overall Small Business Awards critera, ie 50 employeers or less. The judging panel will look for evidence of innovation, strong business performance and both customer focus and customer satisfaction. SPONSORED BY

Another specialist category, aimed at small business enterprises in the healthcare field here in Northern Ireland. This category is open to all business-led healthcare related organisations including opticians, dental practices and enterprises such as care homes for the elderly.

SMALL BUSINESS MARKETING AWARD Open to companies in all sectors of the local business community, this award sets out to recognise and showcase the organisation which best uses marketing – including advertising, PR or the strategic use of digital platforms and social media - to enhance business performance across the board.

EXPORTER OF THE YEAR An award which will recognise the top achieving exporting company from Northern Ireland’s small business community, recognising sales achievement in all markets outside of Northern Ireland itself, including both the Republic of Ireland and Great Britain. SPONSORED BY

START-UP BUSINESS OF THE YEAR AWARD This award will recognise Northern Ireland’s most promising start-up enterprise. The award will go to a young company of one year old or less since establishment which, in the view of the judging panel, best illustrates what can be achieved by start-up businesses across any sector here in Northern Ireland.

For further information please contact Ciara Donnelly at Business Eye on 028 9047 4490 or

enter online at 35

Eye on Awards (1)






1. Barry Smyth, MCS Group, Richard Wilson, Salt DNA & Glyn Roberts, Retail NI. 2. Brenda Buckley & Ciara Donnelly Business Eye with Seamus McGuckin, First Trust Bank. 3. Colm McMullan & Angela Craigan, Harbinson Mulholland with Susan Nightingale, Invest NI. 4. Barry Smyth, MCS Group addresses the audience. 5. Gary McDonald, Irish News, Roger Pollen, Federation of Small Businesses & Kelan McMichael, Bull & Ram. 6. David Sinclair & Richard Furey of Yelo & Paul Beattie, Hexagon Design.


Eye on Awards (7)






7. Mark McKeown, First Trust Bank, Malcolm McCully, First Trust Bank, Richard Buckley Business Eye & Seamus McGuckin, First Trust Bank. 8. Richard & Brenda Buckley, Business Eye with Seamus McGuckin, First Trust Bank. 9. Gerry Hawkins, First Trust Bank, Joanne Earley, First Trust Bank, Brenda Buckley, Business Eye. 10. Richard Buckley, Business Eye addresses the audience. 11. Seamus McGuckin, First Trust Bank addresses the audience. 12. Gary McDonald, Irish News, Barry Smyth & Louise Smyth, MCS Group.


Eye on Awards (13)




13. Conaill McGrady, McGrady & Co, Olivia Hall & Rachel Megrath, Binkys, with Oliver Hughes, First Trust Bank. 14. John Byrne, Byrne McCann, Ciara Donnelly Business Eye, Tommy Traynor, First Trust Bank & Raymond McCann Byrne McCann. 15. Barry Smyth addresses the audience. 16. Ciara Donnelly, Business Eye, Maureen Fox, Ulster University, Orla Farren, Tourism Northern Ireland & Louise Smyth, MCS Group.


Eye on Awards (17)





17. Clare Daly & Kieran Donnelly, Morrow Communications with Brenda Buckley, Business Eye. 18. Tom McCreery & Archie McAvoy, Lockton with Brenda Buckley, Business Eye. 19. Roisin Hackett, First Trust Bank, Richard Buckley, Business Eye & Sandra Scannell, Northern Ireland Chamber Of Commerce. 20. Seamus McGuickin, First Trust Bank. 21. Mark McKeown, First Trust Bank, Karen Carmichael, MX Brandcom, Noelle Mullan, First Trust Trust Bank & Sean McIlhatton, Stevenson Wilson.



BRANCH. PHONE. ONLINE. Business Start-up means Sole Trader, Partnership, Limited Liability Partnership and Limited Companies, who are new businesses or have been in operation for less than three years.You must be opening a First Trust Bank Business Current Account for the first time for that business to qualify and this package extends to one account per customer. Daily Banking Transaction Fees (as described under the heading Price List for Business Customers) will be waived for two years from the date the Account is opened. Full terms and conditions for offer and business account available on request. First Trust Bank is a trade mark of AIB Group (UK) p.l.c. (a wholly owned subsidiary of Allied Irish Banks, 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.

Eye on Law

MIPIM 2018 preview: What does the transformation of Belfast city centre mean for investors, developers and occupiers? There has been significant public and private sector investment in regeneration projects in recent years which has transformed the City into an exciting place to live, work, study and visit.


he number of projects currently on-going and proposed means the transformation will continue and the real estate market will ultimately benefit as a result. MIPIM, the global property conference, taking place in Cannes on 13 – 16 March 2018, is an excellent opportunity for Belfast to continue to attract inward investment by delivering the message to the premier real estate event that this is a great time of opportunity for Belfast. TLT are delighted to be the lead legal sponsor of the Belfast delegation in 2018, supporting Belfast City Council as they take their positive message onto a global stage. Attending MIPIM as part of the Belfast delegation, real estate partners Judith Allen and Kevin Murphy, are expecting to see a high level of interest in the impressive Belfast showcase. And there is a lot to talk about! The Royal Exchange mixed use development, the enormous Giants Park opportunity on the northern outskirts of the City and the proposed east bank development that takes in the vast Sirocco works site will breathe new life into large parts of the City, presenting exciting opportunities for developers and investors. The recent launch by Belfast City Council of the Inner North West masterplan, a large mixed use development scheme within the city centre, will further regenerate areas throughout Belfast.

Alongside these regeneration projects, the office, visitor accommodation, event space and education and student accommodation markets have been particularly buoyant, as developers seek to keep up with demand for useable space. This in turn has had a significant impact on commercial and employment opportunities for businesses in Belfast. There is a real drive to make the city centre an attractive and practical space for locals and visitors alike – taking into account the latest trends in how we live, work and spend our time. The real estate market has a significant role to play in realising that vision. Visitor numbers continue to rise and the most obvious knock on effect of this is the need for more visitor accommodation. In 2018, we expect approximately 1,100 new rooms to be ready for occupation, with several new build and extension schemes under construction and more in the planning stage. Demand can often outstrip supply, so there is a need for further investment on top of this. There is a vibrant arts community, and we have witnessed the redeveloped Lyric Theatre and new Mac theatre in the last decade help with the transformation of the city. There is still opportunity and room for growth in this space. Today, Belfast city centre offers brand new, market leading student accommodation with super-fast

connectivity, an area that has seen much transformation. One of the drivers for this new wave of student accommodation is the relocation of Ulster University to the city centre. The knock on opportunity for employers is the volume of hugely talented and excellently educated employees in the market place, in a wide range of areas including IT, financial services, legal services and creative media. Last year saw another strong year in office take up in Belfast, with some notable transactions completing. Headline rents have increased and commentators expect the figure to continue to grow, but remaining competitive with comparable cities in Great Britain. Our TLT Belfast office continues to go from strength to strength and we

have ambitious plans for our own further growth. The now 60 strong Belfast team has sector specialists across financial services, energy and renewables, public sector and housing, retail, investment and development providing commercial legal advice to a range of clients from entrepreneurial businesses to large corporates and plcs across the region. TLT have one of the UK’s largest real estate groups, with over 100 property lawyers advising on thousands of transactions across England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland each year. The strong team of specialists are ambitious for their clients who instruct them for their experience, depth of expertise and sector know-how.

Judith Allen and Kevin Murphy, TLT Real Estate Partners, who will be attending MIPIM 2018 as part of the Belfast at MIPIM delegation.

If you would like to meet our team at MIPIM or talk about the investment opportunities in Belfast contact:

Judith Allen Real Estate Partner +44 (0)333 006 1591

Kevin Murphy Real Estate Partner +44 (0)333 006 0361


Eye on Accountancy

Succession Planning In Family Business In this article, Alistair Cooke, ASM Chartered Accountants gives us an insight into why succession planning in advance makes sense for your family business.

Alistair Cooke, ASM Chartered Accountants


ccording to a recent report by the Institute of Family Business (IFB) the number of familyowned businesses in the UK increased by 31% from 2010 to 2015 and the number now stands at 4.7 million firms which employ 12.2 million people. These businesses contribute over £460billion to the economy each year and therefore play a vital in the overall UK economy. Whilst there is some very successful business falling into this category one area which seems to cause a lot of problems for family companies is succession planning and successfully managing the process of transferring the business to the next generation. Research published recently by Legal & General found that only 30% of family businesses survive the transition to the second generation and only 10% make it to the third generation.


So why this is and what can businesses do to help improve these statistics? 1 area of weakness revealed in the Legal & General research was that only 42% of family-owned businesses had any form of succession planning in place. So when should succession planning start? There is an argument that succession planning should start the day a new business is started. There are 2 key areas to consider in deciding the future of a family business – management and ownership and these do not always have to be the same people or group of people. In terms of management it is vital that the future management of the business have both right skills and capabilities to run a successful business. If it vital that the correct person is chosen to manage the business and in some cases this may not be a family member. In deciding who should succeed in managing a business the current owner should objectively try to determine who is best placed to take the business forward. As far as possible, emotions should be kept out of such a decision. Questions that should be asked in determining the successor could include • Does my intended successor have the right skills and abilities? • Does my intended successor actually want to take over? • Is my plan fair to all family members? • Does it minimise the potential for conflict? Early and open discussion about the future ownership of the business reduces the risk of future confusion. As it is not always possible or practical for all future owners of the business to be involved on a day to day business many family businesses

changing the way important decisions are made. A board of directors may run the business on a day to day basis but a family council or constitution may be set up to help resolve disputes and improve communications. Although these family constitutions may not be legally binding they can be important in articulating a family’s values and may include a stewardship declaration which can include rules about managing family and business assets, the policy for dividend distributions, personal financial planning and succession planning and family members’ obligations to a business. In determining the future ownership of a business parents have to think through what is right for the family and what is right for the business and unfortunately these aren’t necessarily equal. Although quite often the majority of a family’s wealth might be tied up in a family business it can be helpful to retain some wealth outside of the business to pass on to those family members not involved in the business. Any succession plan will need to consider tax, of course. The good news for families is that the UK tax system for transferring business assets or ownership of a business is fairly generous. It’s possible for a business owner to pass on their business free of tax when they’re alive or after their death. But only if all tax reliefs are claimed. Holdover relief means that instead of paying Capital Gains Tax when you pass on the assets, the tax is deferred and the person you give the assets to pays Capital Gains Tax on any gains when they sell or ‘dispose’ of them. This effectively defers the tax until such times as the assets are turned into cash. Business Property relief from Inheritance Tax can reduce the value of a business or its assets for inheritance tax by either 50% or 100% depending on the type of asset and is an important relief for those people who have not passed on all of their business assets or interests in their lifetime and can save their estate or beneficiaries from having

to pay large amounts of Inheritance Tax. The rules for both of these reliefs are not always obvious. For example, businesses that derive a large proportion of their income from property rental, separate to the main business and classed as an investment, may not qualify for the inheritance tax relief normally applicable when business assets are passed on. There are further qualifying criteria for each type of disposal so it is vital that you check that you meet all of the relevant criteria before proceeding with any disposal. Early planning is also important here to ensure that the value of the reliefs are maximised. These reliefs are important if giving away your share of the family business however another important relief is Entrepreneurs’ relief. This relief allows you to pay Capital Gains Tax at a rate of 10% on gains on qualifying assets and can be very useful when money is being received for a share of the family business which will be used to fund your retirement. The worse thing a business can do in relation to succession planning is bury its head in the sand. A lot of value can be added to a business by taking professional advice at an early stage. ASM Chartered Accountants has six offices, Dungannon, Belfast, Dublin, Dundalk, Magherafelt and Newry. The 120 strong team specialises in a range of accountancy disciplines including, corporate finance, Insolvency services, forensic accounting, Audit & accounting, consultancy services, internal audit, tax, hotel, tourism and leisure. They are dealing with family business on a daily basis and can help and advise you on what needs to be done to ensure your family business can be successfully passed to future generations.

To contact Alistair Cooke, ASM Chartered Accountants, Dungannon email: or call 028 8772 2139.

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Handheld Banking... Are We Ready For It?


ost of us do at least some our everyday banking on our smartphones, but would you be prepared to manage all your finances through your smartphone? This is the hope of many financial technology - fintech start-ups aiming to transform our money management habits. They think we now trust our mobile technology enough to carry out banking, money transfers, investments and loan applications without ever stepping into a bank branch or writing a cheque. But are they right? One start-up is going a step further, bringing many financial services together onto one app so that you have complete visibility of all your cash transactions in one place. The app, called Bud, has


been developed by 26-yearold Ed Maslaveckas. He says: “Many people simply don’t have the time or expertise to track down the apps that can help them manage their money. “So we’ve created an independent, universal banking app for my generation and anyone else who wants to make their money work harder for them.” As well as several mainstream banks, many other fintech firms have joined Bud, including global “send and spend” money app Revolut, peer-to-peer money transfer firm CurrencyFair, and crowdinvestment platform Crowdcube. The idea is that customers will be able to aggregate all their bank and credit card accounts into one place and switch money between them quickly and easily,

as well as make payments to other people at the click of a button. “The Bud app fits into a wider trend in the market as banks battle it out to make their online services as effortless as possible,” says John Rakowski, director of technology strategy at AppDynamics. “As consumers become increasingly used to intuitive tools such as Siri and Google Now... the idea of using multiple apps to do their banking is becoming outdated.” But Bud has its work cut out to raise awareness, given that its own research suggests nine out of 10 young people have never even heard of fintech. Anna Laycock, lead strategist at the London-based Finance Innovation Lab, warns that while the market is exploding with innovative ideas, those that succeed will be

the ones that people can easily understand and engage with. “Companies need to be able to articulate how their products help people,” she says. “Anything that empowers people with information they can understand and that can help their money management is a positive development.” The advent of smartphones and apps has given the global financial services industry - and techbased start-ups in particular - the opportunity to change the tone and style traditionally associated with finance, believes Mr Maslaveckas. “For years financial services were loud and in your face. Companies were always trying to sell something to you that often wasn’t to your benefit,” he says. “We’re looking at things the other way round and offering people services that will benefit them.” In June, Bank of England governor Mark Carney, said: “Fintech will change the nature of money, shake the foundations of central banking and deliver nothing less than a democratic revolution for all who use financial services.” Banks are having to respond to the fintech challenge with innovations of their own, whether that is voice biometrics or mobile codes for authentication purposes. Some are experimenting with personalised video to improve customer service, while others are expanding the way they communicate, using social media platforms such as WeChat, Facebook Messenger and Whatsapp. Others are even moving beyond banking. For example, Poland’s award-winning Idea Bank focuses on providing services to entrepreneurs, including a cloudbased space where people can work, meet and collaborate. All this innovation should mean that, as Mr Carney said: “With time, fintech could mean a more open, more transparent, and more democratic global financial system.”

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How Tech Is Changing Everything

As working styles and technology are evolving, so too are offices. To be fit for the future, offices must become spaces focused on human interaction and flexibility.


ver the last 10 years or so, there has been much talk of the death of the traditional office as working styles and technology have evolved. However, most people who do office-type work continue to do so from what most of us would still call an office. So, what’s going on? A Nod To Tradition The reality of this evolution is that the workplace is becoming ever-more central to an organisation’s purpose, brand, way of working and means of driving productivity and success. Offices are changing, of course, but their centrality as the environment where employees

come together to interact, socialise, share and generate ideas is increasingly important, often serving as the glue that holds an organisation together. Obviously, this also means innovation in office design is essential to maximise value from the space available, motivate employees and drive productivity. The result is more emphasis on open plan, communal spaces, a multiplicity of working environments and room for collaboration. The Rise of The Co-Worker The rise of the co-worker is another theme that is changing what is understood by an office environment. One of our own research studies

estimates that over one million people will work in a co-working environment by 2018 which, coupled with space matchmaker apps, is revolutionising the way offices are accessed. The theme of ‘space on demand’ means providing as much space as is needed, where it’s wanted, when it’s wanted and, invariably, at an affordable price. This means working spaces are becoming more and more akin to a service industry and moving away from a traditional property transaction of yesteryear. Workplace Wellness Another trend shaping workplaces is the increasing emphasis on wellness and how the office environment can contribute to our health, sense of wellbeing and, if all the stars align, our productivity. Gone are the days when you were sat at your desk, told what to do and expected to get on with it. Now, it is

essential that the specific needs of employees are listened to such that an environment can be created that has an uplifting impact on employees all with the aim of enhancing productivity, boosting retention and, as a result, securing cost efficiencies. While getting this right can be complex, some seemingly mundane factors such as comfort, lighting and temperature play their part in improving wellness in the office and a little thought in this area goes a long way to driving benefit for an employer. Whatever the exact future of the office, it is without question that the need for human contact to discuss and generate ideas will not diminish. In fact, it is likely that this need will define the workplace of the future with working environments becoming spaces focused on human interaction and flexibility above all else. And technology plays a vital role across the picture.


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What is 5G and when can we get it? The next evolution of mobile data could be the last big stepchange we see in mobile data transmission, according to some commentators. But could that really be the case?


obile data use has rocketed over the past five years – increasing 74 per cent alone in 2015 – taking the overall global figure to around 3.7 exabytes per month. Underpinning this explosion is the growth of streaming services and people’s growing use of apps – all underwritten by the expectation of having a high-speed data connection at all times. And when 4G can no longer cope, 5G will step up. Apple is testing next-generation, 5G wireless technologies, suggesting a future iPhone will run on the advanced connection. The application for an experimental license to use millimeter wave technology says: “Apple seeks to assess cellular link performance in direct path and multipath environments between base station transmitters and receivers using this spectrum. These assessments will provide engineering data relevant to the operation of devices on wireless carriers’ future 5G networks.” What is 5G? Next-generation mobile networks are expected to handle more data, connect more devices, significantly reduce latency and bring new levels of reliability. 5G has been designed to meet these needs by pooling bandwidth to boost range and speed. According to a recent report from the National Infrastructure Commission, “5G means seamless connectivity. Ultrafast, ultra-reliable, ultra-high capacity transmitting at super low latency. It will support the ever larger data requirements of the existing network and new applications from augmented reality to connected vehicles and the Internet of Things, and many more, as unknowable today as the 4G services we take for granted would have been a decade ago.”


How much faster is 5G compared to 4G? 5G will have average speeds of 100Mbps. This isn’t a huge step-up for networks already using LTE-Advanced, which tends to deliver download speeds of between 30-50Mbps in real-world conditions. In lab conditions, the technology can handle up to a theoretical maximum of 150Mbps. This maximum depends on the category of the device and connection, however. Category 4 LTE maxes out at 150Mbps, but Cat 9 goes up to a theoretical maximum of 450Mbps. Just to confuse things further, due to the technical definitions of wireless technologies – and the lack of a universal standard – you could see LTE-Advanced marketed as 5G, or 4G+, or LTE-Advanced+. In summary, it’s a marked improvement but the exact numbers will vary. How is it so much faster? 4G LTE-Advanced, 5G or whatever else it’s called splits the data into bands, each of which has its own particular bandwidth limitations. By aggregating these different bands and pooling the bandwidth, the end-user essentially gets speeds far closer to 100Mbps and beyond. 5G, however, could be the last stepchange in mobile technology, with some predicting a more additive and iterative upgrade process would remove the need for a full jump to ‘6G’. The current process is one of evolution (rather than revolution) for both hardware and software, but one that’s aiming at a potential 100 times increase in speeds eventually. Why is 5G so important? By 2035, when 5G’s “full economic benefit should be realised across the globe”, a Qualcomm-led study claims the industry could produce up to $12.3 trillion worth of goods and services enabled by 5G.

5G itself could potentially generate up to $3.5 trillion in revenue in 2035 and support 22 million jobs. The study continued that, over time, 5G will boost real global GDP growth by $3 trillion dollars cumulatively from 2020 to 2035, roughly the equivalent of adding an economy the size of India. Who is working to introduce 5G to the masses? In addition to Apple, Nokia recently took a step closer to 5G mobile networks by announcing it is bringing 4.5G Pro to mobile operators. According to the firm, 4.5G Pro delivers ten times the speeds of conventional 4G networks, allowing network operators to offer peak speeds of one gigabit (1,000 megabits) per second. Although the Finnish firm hasn’t announced a release date, Nokia is also poised to release 4.9G in the ‘near future’ – an upgrade which it says will push data speeds to several gigabits per second. In the US, AT&T and Verizon have begun trialling 5G across a controlled number of sites and will roll this trial out further over the next decade. The trial and roll out formed part of the Obama administration’s Advanced Wireless Research Initiative led by the National Science Foundation (NSF). More recently, Ericsson and Orange announced they are working on the development and testing of selected 5G use cases based on Orange’s network, using Ericsson 5G technology. The partnership will enable so-called “5G technology building blocks”, proof of concepts, and pilots across Europe from 2017 onwards. These include wireless multi-gigabits internet access, “ultra large mobile coverage solutions” and connected cars. As well as Orange, Ericsson is partnering with NTT DOCOMO and Intel to build a 5G trial environment

in central Tokyo, starting next year. The purpose of the trials is to test use case applications and radio performance. Ericsson will provide 5G end-to-end systems including 5G radio and core networks, and Intel will contribute its chipset in user devices. The trial will be conducted using the 28GHz frequency band; a candidate band which the Japanese government is considered designating for use by commercial 5G networks in Japan. Samsung is additionally heavily involved in 5G research. At Mobile World Congress 2017 in Barcelona, the company announced a range of new 5G developments. Top of that list is a 5G router for the home, which supports a top data rate of 1Gbps. Samsung announced a 5G radio base station that will one day boost network capacity in busy areas. What about 5G in the UK? Philip Hammond announced a commitment to 5G in the recent Autumn Statement in November. He dedicated £740m to be used for the development of 5G, but mentioned no set launch date for the 5G service. The country ranks 54th in the world for LTE connections and a typical Brit can only access 4G 53 per cent of the time so we’re a long way off achieving national 5G speeds. In the 2017 Spring Budget, Hammond announced a further £16 million investment in 5G research. And when can we expect it to arrive? As it stands now, 5G is expected to start rolling out globally in 2020, with Ovum’s figures suggesting there will be 24 million 5G subscribers by 2021. It says that less than 10 per cent of those connections will be in Europe though. It could be even fewer if operators follow through on threats to delay 5G rollouts if strong net neutrality laws are adopted.

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Eye on TechEye

The Robots Are Coming... The future of the world of work and technology is often presented as a binary choice: robots vs people, technology vs humanity, automation vs emotion. But does it need to be like that?


he truth, as always, is more nuanced. Opinion, even among academic experts, is divided over whether machines will cause large scale job losses. There is compelling evidence from both sides of the argument, despite the breathless headlines pumped out about the ‘Rise of the robots.’ But it is not a zero-sum game. To paint the outcome as one where any increase in the use of technology automatically leads to the decline of jobs is to oversimplify the issue. AI, machine learning, digitisation and automation are becoming increasingly more efficient at many tasks that people do, and the pace of innovation and development in these technologies is accelerating. But there are gains to be made for workers, employers and society if we can harness the powers of technology in order to create new, better jobs and augment people’s productivity, rather than simply replace them at work. Using

technology to boost human skills like creativity, critical thinking, collaboration, empathy and ethical competence should be at the heart of good work, and sustainable and successful organisations. Technology can improve well-being We are already seeing examples of how technology can work alongside people in the workplace. Take the automotive industry, who are making huge strides in using ‘cobots’, robots that work alongside people, for example to reduce the amount of heavy lifting their workers are doing on their assembly lines or reduce the low skill repetitive tasks. By investing in technology that augments their workforce, they are ensuring that people are focused on the tasks that are more fulfilling, better utilise their skills and capabilities, and through that, improve employees well-being and contribute to better organisational outcomes.

Defining ‘good work’ To be able to make these kinds of choice it is crucial that we have an understanding of what ‘good’ looks like in the context of tech/human interaction in the workplace. This is part of a growing debate about the nature of ‘good work’: work, jobs or roles, that make the best of our human skills... that is meaningful and purposeful, inclusive and gives people voice or a say. These attributes are critical in driving the outcomes of productivity which we have to address, but also in wellbeing and engagement which are very human outcomes and themselves help to enhance performance. HR as the profession focused on people, work and change should play a strategic role in these big agendas, and need to bring the insight and understanding as well as the processes and practices that help us all deliver on this future. The ethics question But as has been said, the future is already here, it’s just unevenly distributed. There are many challenges and questions about business practice today, from ethics and behaviours, to stress and mental health and the challenges of mismatches of skills and

productivity. Technology itself won’t necessarily improve these things. We also have significant issues of trust. As more data is collected about people, together with the growing threats of hacking and cyber security, we have to make sure that people feel safe, that their rights are respected. If people don’t trust the technology they are using, or the people who are implementing or supporting it, they won’t use it effectively or may even seek to avoid it. And we have to make sure people are properly trained and they have the opportunities to grow their skills as the nature of work and the roles they perform change. It is not the first time that the nature of work is being transformed by technology. Yet, never before has the speed of change been so dramatic, and the shift in the technological capability so fundamental. We talk now about the fourth industrial revolution being upon us which is very profoundly about how technology and people will work together. We all need to work together to ensure that the future of work is human, and that work itself is seen and experienced as a force for good.



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Eye on News

Tourism Boost.... 117 Cruise Ships to Arrive in Belfast in 2018

Cruise Belfast has confirmed details of its 2018 cruise schedule, heralding another record cruise season for Belfast and Northern Ireland with 117 ships expected to dock in Belfast Harbour bringing more than 200,000 visitors to Northern Ireland. 25% more ships are booked to arrive in Belfast Harbour compared to last year. These include eight new Cruise Lines which have added Belfast to their itineraries, joining the

cruise industry’s leading operators Carnival, Royal Caribbean and Cunard. The city is also becoming increasingly popular with ‘Exploration and Adventure’ ships which operate at the luxury end of the market. More than half of the ships calling will each bring over 1,000 visitors to Belfast with the largest ship, the 330m long Royal Princess, bringing more than 61,000 passengers to the city during her 12 calls. August will be the busiest month with 26 cruise calls bringing over 40,000 passengers and crew.

Among the new lines calling is Swiss-based Viking Line which has recently diversified into ocean going cruising having previously concentrated on the popular European river cruise market. Viking Line has scheduled four calls to Belfast in 2018 bringing almost 6,000 visitors in total. Other first time callers include ‘mega-yacht’ operator Variety Cruises which is scheduled to call ten times this summer. The length of Belfast’s cruise season has also extended with the first call due in mid-March and the last call in mid-October. For the first time it’s expected that passenger and crew numbers to Belfast will break the 200,000 mark, up almost 50,000 in a year. Michael Robinson, Belfast Harbour’s Commercial Director said: “Our partnership with Visit Belfast on the Cruise Belfast initiative continues to bear fruit. Belfast’s popularity as a cruise destination continues to grow and this is evidenced by the record numbers of passengers and ships due to call this year. “It’s particularly encouraging that the profile of the cruise lines choosing to come to Belfast continues to diversify, including boutique vessels as

well as large operators such as Princess, Celebrity, Cunard and TUI continuing to schedule Belfast. This year Belfast will play host to an unprecedented 117 ship visits which is testament to the work of all involved in developing the sector.” Mary Jo McCanny, Director of Visitor Services, Visit Belfast added: “Belfast’s profile as a travel destination couldn’t be better with recent accolades from National Geographic Traveller and Lonely Planet. The cruise market is one of the most competitive so we work hard with Belfast Harbour to ensure we deliver on our sales and marketing promise, by delivering a first-class welcome and visitor service when each cruise passenger or crew member comes ashore in Belfast. “This year we will have the opportunity to welcome a record 200,000 cruise visitors, demonstrating just how far the region has come and a testimony to the world-class visitor attractions and experiences Belfast and Northern Ireland now have to offer the cruise visitor.” By the end of the season Belfast Harbour will have welcomed over 700 ships and 1.2M cruise visitors since the first cruise ships visited the Port in 1996.

ZENITH NETWORKS UNVEILS NEW OFFICE Leading Belfast Information Technology company Zenith Networks has officially opened a new headquarters and announced the creation of several new permanent jobs at the company, which is based in the east of the city.


enith Networks was founded in November 2011 and is headed up by Martin Lyons. The company works with organisations and businesses across the UK, Republic of Ireland and beyond. Martin said, “The move to bigger premises and the recruitment of key additional staff is a signal of our lasting commitment to building Zenith Networks here in Belfast. The companies we partner tend to be in growth phase, widening their horizons and looking to new markets. In order to focus on their core business activity they need

to be sure that their underlying IT infrastructure is up to date, reliable and meets their growing needs. That is where we come in and that is the service we provide. We are a local firm and can respond in real time to any situation which requires attention or needs an immediate response. “This is an exciting time for us as a company and we are confident about what lies ahead.” As well strengthening a partnership earlier this year with award-winning hotel and hospitality business lynchpin the Beannchor Group, Zenith Networks has also announced

new deals with Victoria Square shopping centre and Eastside Partnership in east Belfast. The official opening of the new and expanded premises was carried out by Belfast City Council Chief Executive Suzanne Wylie. Speaking at the event, Belfast City Council Chief Executive Suzanne Wylie said: “It is great to be in the new home of Zenith Networks, right in the heart of east Belfast. City Council has plans and ambitions which are not confined simply to the city centre. We are determined to see prosperity and growth sustained across all of Belfast, north, south, east and west. I am pleased to wish Zenith well on behalf of the Council, to celebrate a business success story in east Belfast which will lift the whole city and to say congratulations and continued success.”

Martin Lyons with Suzanne Wylie


Eye on Engineering

Ad-Vance Engineering... A Dedicated Team Meeting Engineering Challenges

Ad-Vance Engineering, the awardwinning Lisburn manufacturer of precision moulds for industry, is embarking on another successful year serving customers all over the island of Ireland, the British Isles and beyond. 50


he company, based close to the Maze re-development site, is already Northern Ireland’s only bespoke maker of injection moulds for use in the plastics manufacturing sector. Ad-Vance Engineering’s competitors in the high-tech engineering field are based elsewhere in the UK and Ireland. Not only is Ad-Vance Engineering

a growing indigenous manufacturer with a crucial role in the industrial supply chain, but it’s also a company built on innovation, customer focus and one with growing export success. The company was founded 14 years ago by Roger Vance. A toolmaker by trade, Roger worked at the old Ford Motor Company plant at Finaghy in Belfast before

joining the team at Wilsanco Plastics (now Greiner Packaging) in his native Dungannon. He established Ad-Vance Engineering at Lisburn’s Altona Industrial Estate in 2004 but the company moved to the larger Maze site in more recent years. Like most engineering companies, and other companies for that matter, Ad-Vance Engineering is a team effort.

Eye on Engineering

Roger Vance has been joined in the business by his son, Samuel Vance, who is the company’s Technical Director. Samuel has Masters Degree in Mechanical Engineering from Cardiff University in Wales, and has a background in aerospace engineering, having worked at global jet engine manufacturers GE Aviation before joining the Ad-Vance Engineering board. He’s in charge of the complex design and pre-manufacture process at Ad-Vance Engineering. “Our customers want moulds designed and manufactured to help them produce a wide range of end products. “My job is to take the product, design a mould around it and ensure that it will work in the customer’s manufacturing process. And there are a lot of factors that need to be taken into consideration....from the complexity of the end product to whether the customer intends using the mould to make 2,000 products or 2 million products. “We use the latest CNC (computer numerical control) technology, including high speed machining and 3d printing, to both design and manufacture our finished moulds, which could be destined for use in a number of different industries,” he says. “Whilst our business was built on the back of tool manufacture for the building products marketplace, as we’ve expanded, we have developed expertise

in new sectors such as medical devices and pharmaceuticals.” The Ad-Vance Engineering team reflects a mixture of experienced technicians and emerging talent combining tool making expertise with the latest high technology methods. Like Roger Vance, Lisburn man Roy Thompson is steeped in the engineering industry and is a toolmaker by trade. He is now the production floor supervisor at Ad-Vance Engineering in Maze, looking after a team of toolmakers and apprentices. With a senior production background in leading local engineering employers such as Fisher Body/European Components Corporation automotive components plant in Dundonald and the former BMAC in Lisburn, Roy works closely with Samuel Vance on upcoming jobs, ensures the smooth day to day running of the factory floor and makes sure that customer jobs are completed and out for delivery on time. Dessie O’Haire, with a background of senior roles in the financial services sector, leads the accounts department with responsibility for looking after the all-important sales and purchase ledgers. Barbara Coleman, Ad-Vance Engineering’s Administration & Customer Service Manager, runs back office operations at the company, from managing the payroll through to liaising with customers and suppliers

and organising business travel. Coming from a corporate background, Barbara brings a wealth of knowledge from previous employers such as BT. She brings a sharp focus on customer service and marketing into an industry traditionally characterised by a lack of understanding and appreciation of the importance of putting the customer at the centre of things. “What sets Ad-Vance Engineering apart from our competitors is that we genuinely seek to work in partnership with our customers. We take the time to understand their business needs and always make the extra effort to be available at every stage of the manufacturing process. “Our team think nothing of jumping on a plane for a planning meeting with our GB-based customers who need our input into complex and innovative tool designs. “In recent years, we’ve also

brought a sharper marketing-led focus to our business development activities, with a new website, corporate branding and a suite of marketing literature that supports our brand proposition based on customer service excellence allied to innovative design-led solutions. This sets us apart from the less pro-active tool makers out there and our customers tell us that they really value this approach.” Roger Vance reflects on the continued success at Ad-Vance Engineering with quiet satisfaction. “A few years ago, we could have chosen to tread water in this industry. Instead, we took the time to rethink our business model and what has emerged is a company now reaping the benefits of export success with leading injection moulding customers that value our focus on innovative solutions based on putting our customers first.”


Eye on Investment

Northern Ireland: Brexit Issues Closer To Home By Kristian Healy, Investment Analyst, Davy Private Clients

The collapse of the Northern Ireland (NI) Executive at the start of 2017 epitomised a turbulent year. Since then the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) and Sinn Féin have failed to reach an agreement to get Stormont up and running.


he lack of a government and uncertainty surrounding Brexit has put the NI economy in a precarious position.

Brexit weighs on NI NI’s economic performance continues to lag the rest of the United Kingdom (UK). The economy is expected to have grown by just 1% in 2017 compared to 1.5% for the UK against the backdrop of Brexit, this figure is expected to fall to just 0.9% in 2018. This is disappointing as the labour market has shown steady signs of life. Unemployment today is just 4%. This is the lowest level since 2008 and below the national average for the first time since 2013. Wage growth however remains disappointing, and thanks to inflation running at 3%, take-home pay is falling in real terms for many households. On a more positive note, exports and manufacturing have performed well due to

“ NI’s economic performance continues to lag the rest of the UK.”


the fall in sterling. Exports for the first half of 2017 were an impressive 12% higher than 2016, while the manufacturing sector has been the fastest growing sector of the economy over the last number of years. But overall the impact of falling real incomes has led to lower consumer spending which is a key driver for economic growth. Unfortunately falling levels of consumer confidence, a slowdown in economic growth and uncertainty around the border and wider Brexit issues mean weaker spending trends look set to persist into 2018.

The border issue The outlook for the economy is still very much dependent on the outcome of Brexit negotiations. The DUP and the Conservatives are trying to come up with a suitable arrangement at the Irish border and the DUP is determined that any arrangement will allow NI to get the same Brexit deal as the rest of the UK. However, they must make sure that the Irish government is happy with the solution that they put forward to the European Union. The Conservative Party has insisted that the Common Travel Area (CTA) between Britain and the Republic of Ireland is one of its main priorities as part of Brexit negotiations. According to data from the NI Statistics and Research Agency and HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC), the Republic accounts for around 15% of NI’s total exports (see Figure 1) and more than £5 billion in trade each year. To put this issue in economic terms, it is estimated that a hard border with the Republic and removal of the CTA would affect more than 7,300 businesses that export to the south. This is roughly 15% of all NI businesses, with the agriculture sector the most at risk to the possible loss of EU subsidies and the introduction of tariffs. Due to the North’s heavy reliance on EU trade, the NI Assembly estimates that Brexit could reduce NI’s gross domestic product (GDP) by 3%. NI is also one of the largest recipients of EU funding and is due to receive about €3.5 billion between 2014

and 2020, covering agriculture, infrastructure and peace-building grants. It is not yet known how the gap will be filled if these funds end.

Tax devolution may not be the silver bullet Many economists have argued that one way to boost growth in the North is to devolve corporation tax rates and bring them in line with the Republic. However, the UK rate is due to be reduced to 17% by 2020 and the difference between that and the 12.5% proposed for NI may not be enough to boost the region’s international competitiveness when access to the single market is lost. As there is still no clear plan for Brexit and limited options for boosting the economy when the UK leaves the EU, 2018 could turn out to be a more difficult year than expected.

Read more at #outlook2018

Eye on NI Media

TLT expands corporate team into Belfast TLT has appointed Andrew Jennings as a corporate partner in its Belfast office, completing the firm’s full service offering in NI and demonstrating its ambitions in the NI legal market.


LT celebrated its fifth anniversary and five years of sustained growth in Belfast in 2017. With this appointment, TLT offers NI clients a full service corporate commercial offering out of its Belfast office backed by a national team of leading experts. Jennings is recognised by his peers as a talented and ambitious lawyer. He has a wide range of corporate experience including leading sales, acquisitions, reorganisation and restructuring projects and joins TLT from Arthur Cox. The corporate expansion follows TLT’s successful corporate launch in Manchester in 2013 with a series of lateral hires of senior market-facing corporate lawyers. TLT’s corporate team in Manchester has grown in just four years to a fifty-strong full service offering in the North West. Katharine Kimber, head of TLT NI in Belfast, comments: “TLT has a strong track record of expanding into new markets and attracting some of the best talent around, and the NI market is no exception to this. We have delivered a very strong performance since our launch in 2012, and we see a huge amount of potential to continue to support our clients and expand our offering further.” John Wood, national head of corporate at TLT, comments: “The appointment of our first corporate partner on the ground in NI is just the start of our ambitions for the Belfast market. We plan to replicate our fast growth in other regions, where TLT’s quality and drive has allowed us to attract the best talent and gain significant market share. “Our ability to attract the best talent in the UK means that our national team can provide the excellent service delivery and scale that clients are looking for. Andrew is

a talented and dynamic young lawyer and we are delighted that he has joined TLT.” Jennings adds: “I am excited to be joining TLT at this next stage of its growth in Belfast. TLT is a dynamic, innovative firm with an impressive client list and quality people. I look forward to being a part of the realisation of its ambitions in Northern Ireland.” In December 2017, TLT announced the launch of TLT LegalSifter – a “combined intelligence” solution for contract negotiation combining powerful artificial intelligence software with in-built legal

advice and ad hoc support from TLT’s leading commercial lawyers. The worldfirst solution is designed to be used by in-house legal, procurement and operations teams across the UK, to help increase the speed and efficiency of contract reviews and minimise the risks.

Eye on Awards AWARDS

Pharmacy Awards Celebrate The Best In The Business



From superbly innovative projects to state of the art technological advances, the annual Pharmacy In Focus Awards don’t just show what community pharmacy is capable of.... but what it is currently providing on a daily basis to its local communities.

he Awards, held recently at Titanic Belfast and hosted by Eamonn Holmes, attracted more than 500 industry professionals to the iconic Belfast venue. Guests included John Clark, Chairman of CPNI, Ian Strachan, Chair of the National Pharmacy Association and Cliff McElhinney, the Ulster Chemists’ Association

President, who addressed the audience at the start of the evening. The Belfast event was backed by a range of sponsors, including award partners Numark, whose Managing Director, Jeremy Meader, also spoke on the evening. Sheelin McKeagney was recognised for his Outstanding Contribution to pharmacy at the event.

Ian Strachan of the National Pharmacy Association with winner Rebecca Adair, Medicare Pharmacy.

Keith McLernon Manging Director McLernon Computers with winners Lezley-Anne Hanna & Maurice Hall OTC Consult.

Eye on Awards AWARDS

Kurtis Moffatt, Young Community Pharmacist of the Year recipient and Paul Murray, PCM Associates.

In addition to the fact that Sheelin’s pharmacies are all heavily involved in community-based healthcare projects, Sheelin himself has made a significant contribution to the promotion and progression of pharmacy within the health sector. Castle Healthcare, McDonald’s Pharmacy on the Castlereagh Road in the east of the city picked up the Community Pharmacy Service Initiative Award, supported by Accord Healthcare. This category seeks to recognise the sterling work carried out by a pharmacy team to benefit local healthcare. Pharmacist Bronagh Ward picked up the trophy on behalf of the team. Lezley-Anne Hanna and Maurice Hall from OTC Consult picked up the eHealth & Innovation in Pharmacy Award,

supported by McLernon Computers, for their innovative app, which provides quick access to more than 70 self-treatable conditions that are managed in community pharmacy practice. The judges were particularly impressed that the app was developed by the team despite that they had no previous experience in this field! And the Young Community Pharmacist of the Year Award, supported by PCM Associates,went to Kurtis Moffatt. Despite his young age, the judges were very impressed by Kurtis’ leadership roles – particularly in implementing plans with GPs and in organising health promotion days. Pharmacist Rebecca Adair and her team at Medicare on Dundonald’s Comber Road picked up the coveted Health Promotion Award, which was supported

Rebecca Cabrejas, Generics Business Manager, Accord Healthcare and Bronagh Ward, McDonalds CastleHealthcare.

Sheelin McKeagney, Outstanding Contribition to Pharmacy recipient.

by the National Pharmacy Association. Rebecca and her team worked in partnership with local Belfast charity Brain Injury

Matters to deliver a programme promoting positive emotional wellbeing for people affected by an acquired brain injury.

P.C.M. Associates Training and Consultancy Services 55

Eye on Health

Orion Health…Driving Efficiency In Northern Ireland’s Health Service

Michael McCambridge readily admits that not everyone has heard of Orion Health. But the simple fact is that all of us, at one time or another, has benefited from Orion Health’s products and services. 56


ut simply, the Belfast operation of a global leader in healthcare technology provides and manages the technology systems which form an integral element of the Health Service here in Northern Ireland, right from GP’s surgeries

to our major hospitals. Orion Health is responsible for Northern Ireland’s Electronic Care Record (NIECR). As Service Director, Michael McCambridge heads up a small Belfast city centre based team managing and maintaining the vital system.

What is the Electronic Care Record? It’s the system that ensures all of our patient records and notes are available at any time – and instantly – to GP’s, to hospital consultants and doctors and even to front line staff in A&E departments. “Not only does NIECR ensure that our own GP’s can keep on top of our medical records, but they’re right there at the touch of a button for any medical professional who we might come into contact with....on a planned basis or otherwise,” says McCambridge, a Masters graduate in Telecommunications and Internet Systems from Ulster University who joined Orion Health in 2013 to head up the Northern Ireland projects. Headquartered in New Zealand, Orion Health employs more than 1,000 people across 25 offices in 15 countries, and its information technology solutions are used to facilitate healthcare for more than 110 million patients worldwide. “We started small here with a team of four people, but we’ve grown steadily and we work closely with our other key UK offices in Glasgow and London,” he adds. The company’s first big contract here came in 2009. It was a one-year pilot for the NIECR system and it was implemented at Belfast City Hospital, the Ulster Hospital and at GP practices across two of the Health & Social Care Trusts. The success of the pilot led Health & Social Care NI to contract Orion Health in 2012 to unify and streamline patient records right across the Health Service here. “It’s very simple at the point of use,” says Michael McCambridge. “The system provides one-stop, one-window access to fully updated patient records. It’s a major benefit for the medical professionals, but it’s also really important for patients.

Eye on Health

“ There’s no doubt that doctors love having a system like this. You can see that they appreciate it when you’re talking to them. Many report that using the NIECR saves them up to two hours a day in terms of time spent searching for patient information.”

“Some of us remember the days when patient records could literally be held up because they were in a van somewhere between surgeries and hospitals. “And there are major advantages, too, when it comes to emergency care. As soon as a patient is brought into hospital, doctors and nurses can see their medical history and which medications they are on at the moment. That kind of information can be crucial. “It even means that doctors can cut down on the amount of times they need to put holes in people.....! Blood tests, for example, will show up on the system and negate the need for more bloods to be taken. So there are lots of advantages.” The job of Orion Health’s Belfast team is to ensure that the system works smoothly at all times. “It has to be resilient, it has to be effective and it has to be secure,” says McCambridge. “Our guys are monitoring the system all the time, and they’re available on a 24/7 basis 365 days a year if they’re needed.” The rapid flow of patient information, he reckons, can have a positive effect on health service waiting lists, a topic never far from the news headlines. GP’s, in particular, have welcomed

the fact that the NIECR system means that patient test results can be accessed as soon as they are available....and much quicker than under the old system. The whole system, Michael McCambridge adds, can be and is customised. “That is crucial. We can design the system, but it’s vital that we get feedback from doctors and other professionals and build that feedback into the system’s functionality. IT systems can and do fail in the field if they don’t have the benefit of feedback and customisation. Examples of that customisation and the addition of specific applications include dedicated functionality for diabetes patients, for radiology orders and a new e-triage referrals system....aimed at speeding up the time it takes patients to pass through the hospital system from A&E. “So it’s important that we have a very close relationship with medical staff and management right through the health system here in Northern Ireland, and that’s not going to change. “Our technology isn’t going to cure chronic diseases... but the instant availability of data is a major benefit for doctors, nurses and

a whole medical system here.” There are challenges on the horizon, not least the advent of GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation) which comes into force soon and has clear implications for patient data and records. “We’re prepared for it and have been for some time,” says Michael McCambridge. “We’ll navigate what happens in May and push on from there.” And, of course, the NIECR system means that some progress has been made towards eliminating paperwork from a sector wellknown for being paper-heavy.

“There’s no doubt that doctors love having a system like this. You can see that they appreciate it when you’re talking to them. “Many report that using the NIECR saves them up to two hours a day in terms of time spent searching for patient information.”

Michael McCambridge is Service Director (Ireland) at Orion Health. You can contact Michael at michael.mccambridge@ or find out more on


Eye on Futures

Impact of Automation On 500,000 Jobs in Northern Ireland Tackled At Belfast Summit.

There is no reason why Northern Ireland could not be a significant economic global player but the question we must ask is not how many jobs will be replaced by artificial intelligence and robotics, it is how can we get ahead of the rest of the world by changing work to get the best out of our people and automation?



hat was the message from two of the world’s leading experts in automation to an audience of 250 business leaders, policy makers and educationalists at the Catalyst Inc Future of Work Solutions Summit, in association with Bank of Ireland UK, in Belfast today. The Solutions Summit was organised by Catalyst Inc as a follow up to their Knowledge Economy Report last month which contained specific research on the impact of automation on half a million jobs in Northern Ireland. Steve Orr, Director of Connect at Catalyst Inc said it was not enough to simply sound the alarm bells. “We had to provide a substantial opportunity for our business community and

our educationalists to have a real say not just in identifying the threats, but in making very real suggestions as to how we tackle this global issue.” Ravin Jesuthasan, a contributor to the World Economic Forum and MD & Global Practice Leader at Willis Towers Watson in Chicago was the keynote speaker and his message to Northern Ireland was, “It’s time to move beyond alarmist rhetoric about workplace automation and consider how human-machine collaboration can deliver a higher level of productivity.” That sentiment was echoed by NI based companies Coca Cola Hellenic, Willowbrook Foods Ltd, AuditComply and Liberty IT, who gave their experiences of implementing automation as an essential move to maintain their competitiveness.

Jonathan Downing from Northern Ireland, another keynote speaker and researcher at Oxford Martin School, Oxford University, is part of a world leading team that has produced the most globally recognised information on the impact of automation on jobs by 2030. “Whatever job you do if you invest in developing the right skills you can leave yourself in a better place to benefit from the opportunities of the future,” he said. As the event Sponsor, Ian Sheppard, Bank of Ireland UK MD in Northern Ireland said: “Investing to grow the Knowledge Economy is fundamental to the sustainable success of Northern Ireland. We have a heritage of invention and innovation but collectively we need to think differently. New

Eye on Futures

“ It’s time to move beyond alarmist rhetoric about workplace automation and consider how human-machine collaboration can deliver a higher level of productivity.”

thinking combined with robust planning and key policy changes, will ensure businesses and communities are well equipped to learn, compete and thrive.” The Future of Work Solutions Summit has also driven a significant business coalition including CBI, IOD, Manufacturing NI, FSB, CIPD and Women in Business, who have lobbied their members on this issue. “Today was just the start

of business leaders sharing what they know about how we can thrive in the age of automation. Going forward, we will work to build a coalition of business, acadamia, elected and civic leaders to work together to ensure that Northern Ireland business and citizens are best positioned for a challenging economic future,” promised Steve Orr.


Eye on Law

Millar McCall Wylie 21 and fully legal

(L-R) - Peter McCall, Clare Lenaghan, Christopher Neill.

2018 marks a landmark 21st anniversary for Millar McCall Wylie. From modest beginnings above a Ballyhackamore café, the practice has quickly matured to its current position as one of the leading full service law firms in Northern Ireland with offices in the City Centre and at Ballyhackamore.



illar McCall Wylie is consistently recognised by independent legal directories, Chambers and Partners and the Legal 500 as a firm at the forefront of its core practice areas of Corporate and M&A, Commercial Property, Banking and Finance, Employment Law, Dispute Resolution, Trusts and Probate and Insolvency and Corporate Recovery. Reflecting on the early days of the practice, Managing Partner Peter McCall commented, “When Conor Wylie, David Millar and I started the practice 20 years ago we had no files – just a word processor, four telephones and one secretary. Looking back on it now,

we took something of a leap into the unknown. It has been quite a journey to the point where our client base comprises a number of the country’s top businesses, national and international corporates and lending institutions and we are now recognised as one of the leading commercial legal practices in Northern Ireland”. Peter was clear when asked about the key factor behind the growth of the practice “The secret to any successful legal practice is the quality of the people. At MMW, we have always prided ourselves on our technical expertise and commercial acumen. It is only by continuing to provide a first class client service that

we have been able to grow our client base year on year.” Recent work highlights have involved clients from the banking, energy, hospitality, technology and real estate sectors, including acting for the funder in the acquisition of Castle Court by Wirefox Investment Group in one of the largest commercial real estate transactions to have concluded in Northern Ireland in recent years. The MMW Corporate Team has also had a strong year advising on investments into Humain Ltd, We are Vertigo and Diaceutics Group. All four deals are shortlisted in this year’s Dealmaker awards, where the firm is also nominated for Corporate Law Firm of the Year.

Eye on Law

Christopher Neill.

The past year has seen strong growth in transaction volumes and values across the firm’s key practice areas and the firm is consolidating on this growth through a number of senior appointments including the addition of Scott Kennedy as a Partner in the Corporate Team and Christopher Neill as Partner and head of the firm’s Banking and Finance Team. Peter reports, “Scott has settled in well to the firm’s Corporate Team and his expertise includes advising clients on corporate acquisitions and disposals, venture capital, private equity and other investments, venture capital fund structuring, joint ventures and business start ups and all aspects of commercialisation and exploitation of intellectual property. Christopher has a wealth of experience in advising local and international banks, borrowers, financial institutions and other lenders across the entire spectrum of banking and finance matters. His expertise is recognised by his ranking in both the Legal 500 and the Chambers and Partners Guide as a leading banking and finance lawyer and he will build on the firm’s recent new client wins and transactional success in the banking and finance sector.

Clare Lenaghan.

Whilst constantly expanding on its commercial work, a 21st birthday is a good time to reflect on the success of the firm’s private client offering which has also seen a surge in client instructions and continues to grow as a thriving general practice from its offices in Ballyhackamore. Conor Wylie leads the Private Client Team and provides niche advice on effective wealth and succession planning. In that continued expansion, the firm has appointed Clare Lenaghan as Head of Family and Matrimonial. Prior to her appointment, Clare was a barrister of 26 years standing and specialised in all aspects of family and matrimonial law. As part of the firm’s full service offering, Clare brings significant expertise in advising clients on divorce, ancillary relief, financial agreements (including prenuptial agreements), protection of assets and pensions. Her experience also includes the law relating to children, particularly contact and residence disputes.” The firm’s outlook for the future is a positive one and for good reason. The recently released ‘Experian Market IQ United Kingdom and Republic of Ireland M&A Review’ league table

Scott Kennedy.

for Northern Ireland confirms that the firm is a key player in the Northern Ireland legal market by virtue of the number and value of commercial transactions it advises on. Looking to the future, Peter McCall remarked, “It is an exciting time for the

firm as we build upon the recent successes across our practice areas and continue to grow the depth of talent across our team. We have started 2018 as we mean to go on and look forward to another successful year in the Millar McCall Wylie story.”


Eye on AgriFood

NFU Mutual Launches ‘Tidy Farmyard Awards’ to Highlight Risks to Family Members and Workers A new award scheme to promote farmyard safety on Northern Ireland’s farms is being launched by leading rural insurer NFU Mutual.


he Tidy Farmyard Awards 2018 offer cash prizes to farmers who have addressed common hazards in their farmyards. Designed to raise awareness of the perils of modern farmyards, the idea for the awards has come from NFU Mutual’s staff and network of agents in Northern Ireland. The Tidy Farmyard Awards 2018 will be launched on 1st March 2018. Winners will be recognised at county level, with winners from each county going through to the final. There will be a £1,000, £500 and £300 for the Northern Ireland’s first, second, and third place winners respectively. Other finalists will receive a £100 runners up prize. Farmers can nominate themselves – and neighbours, family members and friends can also make nominations. Entries will be judged on four submitted photographs which show how common farmyard hazards have been addressed to reduce the risk of an accident. These are: - How the farm and farmhouse are separated - How machinery and equipment is stored - Are signage, warnings and marked routes in place - Have potentially dangerous areas been fenced off Details of the award and how to apply are on a dedicated page on NFU Mutual’s website: www. tidyfarmawards The winners will be announced


at an awards ceremony taking place at the Balmoral show in May. The award judges are: Stephanie Berkeley, Farm Safety Foundation; Barclay Bell, President UFU; Malcolm Downing, HSENI; Martin Malone, NFU Mutual Manager for Northern Ireland. The initiative is being supported by NFU Mutual Risk Management Services and the Farm Safety Foundation, the charity set up by NFU Mutual to help farmers work safely. “Recognising the hazards of modern farmyards to family members, workers and children, NFU Mutual has joined forces with the Farm Safety Foundation to urge farmers to assess the risk involved of everyday farming tasks which continue to cause high levels of injuries and deaths,” said Martin Malone, NFU Mutual Manager for Northern Ireland. “As a mutual insurer which is closely connected with most of Northern Ireland’s farms we are all too aware to the heartbreak farm accidents cause. Because most farms are homes as well as a workplace, there’s always a risk that

we can become complacent about the hazards of large machinery working close to homes and children so we’re running an award scheme which will act as a reminder. “Unfortunately, today’s farmers are under huge pressure to get work done, often alone, and familiarity does breed contempt when we do the same tasks day in day out - and eventually luck runs out and the result is all too often horrific injuries and fatalities. Stephanie Berkeley, who heads the Farm Safety Foundations said: “Farming remains a vital part of the

Northern Ireland economy providing employment to nearly 47,700 people across 24,500 farms. But the facts are shocking: In 2016 there were seven fatal injuries recorded in farming as well as countless other life-changing injuries. “Each and every farm accident is one too many. Since 2012, the NI Farm Safety Partnership, with their emotive messages and innovative training, have been working to drive down these figures but there is more work to be done to reduce these figures and we all have our part to play in this.”

Eye on News

NI Health-Tech Start-Up Modius Reaches 3,000 Users Neurovalens, the Belfast based tech company behind the revolutionary health-tech wearable headset, Modius, is pleased to announce its 3,000th customer is now trialing the headset. It reached this milestone as it exhibits at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona recently and attends the associated Show Stoppers 2018 showcase.


he product has also this week been shortlisted in the Best Innovation category in the Sports Technology Awards 2018. Other short-listed names include FC Barcelona, NASCAR & Microsoft, Fitbit, Puma, the Marylebone Cricket Club, Leicester Tigers, USA Hockey and the NBA. “With more than three thousand Modius devices in the hands of consumers around the world, we’re now getting really meaningful data in via the app of users. “We’re seeing consumers lose approximately half a stone in an average period of three months, this equates to around 4% body-weight being shed. Our top 10% of users lost 18lbs

after three months daily usage and 25lbs over four months.” “We are seeing, as expected, a spectrum of results with one user having lost 32lbs (almost two and a half stone or 13.5% body-weight) and its clear that the more you use Modius, the leaner you become.” said CEO and co-founder Dr. Jason McKeown M.D, originally from Portglenone in County Antrim. “So far, we are seeing no particular differences in men and women with both becoming leaner at approximately the same rate. Similarly starting size doesn’t matter, the heavier you are at the start clearly the more there is to lose, but the pace at which people become leaner

Dr Jason McKeown with the Modius headset.

is the same. And nor does age matter, most of our results are from people in their 30s, 40s and 50s and all are becoming leaner at broadly the same rate.” “We see Modius as the first generation of ‘careable technology.’ In our case, helping people get lean simply through stimulation of the vestibular nerve. We’re in the early foothills of a neuroscience-led revolution in global health and proud to be leading such a massive push in this direction.” Modius user David Brown, 55, from Belfast, Northern Ireland says “The headsets arrived at the end of September and I have used it every day, early evening, and have never missed a session. Within a

week, changes were happening, I was feeling less hungry, sleeping better and wanting to eat healthier foods. The journey continues but so far I have lost almost 30 pounds and I am down to 190 pounds.” A successful Indiegogo campaign for Modius last summer saw the brand surpass its target goal of £37,000 in just four hours, and, in total, it has raised close to £1.5 million from 4,000 backers across more than 80 countries. Neurovalens, the parent company to Modius, is using these additional funds raised to invest in additional research and further develop Modius and to continue to build its team which has grown from just three to almost twenty in just 14 months.


Eye on Energy

42% of Households in Northern Ireland Affected by Fuel Poverty Nigel Brady, Director of Bryson Energy, calls for a new approach to the problem of fuel poverty in Northern Ireland...


orthern Ireland has the highest level of fuel poverty in the UK and one of the highest in the European Union, with current estimates indicating that 42% of households are affected. Fuel poverty is a problem that has severe consequences. These include restricted use of heating, cold and damp homes, debts on utility bills and a reduction of household expenditure on other essential items. In addition, fuel poverty is not only associated with excess winter deaths, but with a wide range of physical and mental health illnesses, such as depression, asthma and heart disease (Marmot Review, 2011). The main reason for this is a combination of our climate, lower incomes, higher fuel price and a high dependence on oil. In Northern Ireland oil is the most common home heating fuel. Around 68% of households use oil and this rises to over 80% of households in rural areas. This over-dependence on one unregulated fuel means fuel poverty initiatives in Northern Ireland need to address a unique set of challenges which do not exist in other regions of the UK. The Department for Communities, formerly


Department for Social Development NI, has run a fuel poverty programme since 2001 which has assisted over 120,000 households at a cost of £150 million. Despite this investment, fuel poverty has increased steadily since 2001. It is clear that a much wider intervention is needed. Informed by many years’ experience of developing and implementing fuel poverty initiatives Bryson Energy firmly believes it is time for a ‘whole house’ approach to tackle fuel poverty here in Northern Ireland. This should involve partnership working, trusted delivery partners and targeting to ensure that those most in need are identified. It should also feature a one-stop shop approach including advice and handholding services around energy saving, fuel budgeting and brokering, switching, income maximisation and debt management. Importantly it also includes a ‘whole house’ approach in terms of the dwelling itself. Identifying and installing a range of measures that will go some way to ‘fuel poverty proofing’ the house, rather than the installation of part measures as many schemes have done in the past. It is time to look at retrofit solutions. This will require a large level of investment and

development of a costed plan involving all key stakeholders if it is to be carried out on any meaningful scale. Nigel is the Director of Bryson Energy which is part of the Bryson Charitable Group of Companies. Bryson Energy is the regional Energy Agency for Northern Ireland and is one of some 420 energy agencies operating across Europe. Nigel is a past Chairman of the Association of Irish Energy Agencies.

He was also founder and Chairman of Drumlin Wind Energy Cooperative, NI’s first Wind Energy Cooperative. He is particularly interested in fuel poverty solutions and the role of energy efficiency and renewable energy in reducing dependence on imported fossil fuels.

Eye on Law

Debunking 5 Common GDPR Myths

By Shane Fuller- Lead Privacy Advisor at MetaCompliance and Co-Author of the official ‘GDPR for Dummies’


he General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) is causing quite a stir in the business world - and rightly so. The new regulation is a substantial overhaul of over three decades worth of data protection laws, accommodating the dramatic changes our increasingly digitised world has had on personal data. Designed to ensure data privacy and control how the personal data of European residents is used, GDPR will change how data is shared, collected and used across all sectors and professions, irrespective of business size. Confusion is at an all-time high for businesses as they face having to completely rethink their approach to managing personal data. In my recent stop-off in Belfast as part of the GDPR for Dummies European roadshow, hosted by MetaCompliance, it was interesting to understand the recurring concerns that arose across sectors as diverse as financial services, the transport industry, the public sector and higher education. To help make sense of some of the common misconceptions and anxieties Northern Ireland’s professionals are grappling with ahead of the GDPR deadline date in May, I wanted to separate the myths from the facts. 1 If your business isn’t in Europe, you don’t need to comply. Not necessarily. For example, if your company is based outside the EU but engages in business transactions with an individual based in Europe, then the GDPR does apply. Similarly, businesses headquartered outside the EU but with European operations must also comply. If however, a European citizen is travelling and engaging with a non-EU business entity, local privacy laws will then

apply. The person’s locality at the time the data is collected is the key determination of applicability, not their citizenship. 2 The legislation is consistent across the board. Not exactly. The implementation of the legislation does have a level of flexibility, depending on how individual countries decide to enact certain areas of the legislation. The age at which someone can submit data without parental consent, for example, can vary across borders, so it’s worth looking out for points of difference and how you may need to alter your personal data management approach accordingly. 3 “My business is B2B and doesn’t store any customer data, so I’m free from GDPR right?” Wrong. It is not just customer data that is covered by GDPR, but employee data too and therefore any business that employs staff in the EU needs to comply. Whilst those companies with under 250 employees (and don’t carry out high risk processing of personal data) have considerably fewer obligations in terms of maintaining a record of their processing activities to consider, these businesses still need to align their processes with the new rules. The public sector, voluntary groups, member clubs and charities aren’t exempt either, and may have a few organisational changes to make too. 4 Businesses must complete a full end-to-end mapping of data flows. Not quite. Many believe a full Data Flow Mapping exercise is a mandatory requirement of the regulation, but this simply isn’t the

case and as a result you may have less to do than you think. Whilst extensive end-to-end personal data and business process mapping can be a useful exercise, it is extremely time consuming. So long as you understand your core data management processes and their relation to personal data, you should be well equipped to evaluate and mitigate your key risks without such an extensive project. 5 “We don’t need to meet the deadline,there’ll be a grace period.” Definitely not. The ‘grace period’ has actually been and gone. With the legislation introduced over two years ago, the May 25 deadline is very real. At a minimum by the end of May, your team members should be fully versed in their roles and responsibilities as they relate to GDPR. You also need to have your key risks identified along with a clear action plan to remediate them. There is a lot of noise surrounding GDPR, not all of it worth listening to. The regulation will undoubtedly require big changes, but the key here is pragmatism. This is not something that can be addressed all at once, so start with identifying and addressing your key risks. The deadline may be looming, but being able to demonstrate that a pragmatic and structured plan is in place can act as a safeguard against the non-compliance risk facing your business. It is vital to deal with GDPR head-on with a practical, sensible, risk-based approach that cuts through the white noise and puts you on the right track to compliance. Download a free copy of the GDPR for Dummies guide to learn more about developing your GDPR strategy, or visit the MetaCompliance website.


Eye on Awards

Cathal Geoghegan, Managing Director at Mount Charles, Orlagh O’Neill, Partner & Head of the Employment at Carson McDowell, Sam Davidson, Group Human Resources Director at Henderson Group, Damian McGivern, Director of Employability at Ulster University, Laura Cowan, Head of Business at Titanic Belfast, Janet Calvert, Health & Social Wellbeing Improvement Manager at Public Health Agency, Isabel Jennings, Director of Marketing, Recruitment, Communications & Internationalisation at Queen’s University & Jonathan Martindale, Director of Sales & Marketing at Phoenix Natural Gas

WEA makes history with launch at unique new Hickson’s Point venue It was an historic launch ahead of a heavenly lunch at a heaving new Hickson’s Point as the 2018 Irish News Workplace & Employment Awards got officially up and running.



ow in their 12th year and acknowledged as one of the premier awards initiatives anywhere in Ireland, the gongs will be handed out on Thursday June 14 in the lavish Belfast Titanic, named last year as the world’s leading tourist attraction and which currently attracts close to a million visitors every year. But it was Titanic’s “baby sister” venue which took centre stage for a food-fusioned launch, attended by guests from a

number of business organisations including the CBI, NI Chamber of Commerce, Chartered Institute of Public Relations, Hospitality Ulster, Retail NI and the Chartered Institute of Marketing, along with a number of past winners. When the Irish News moved the Workplace & Employment Awards (WEA) to Titanic Belfast in 2012, it narrowly missed out on being the first major black tie extravaganza at the iconic setting. But patience paid – the paper hosted the very first event at

Hickson’s Point, giving guests a unique preview of a venue which builds on the heritage of the Titanic Quarter, one of the world’s largest urban waterfront regeneration schemes The building, located at the front of the main Titanic Belfast and which won’t officially open until St Patrick’s Day, is inspired by one of the first ship builders in the city, Robert Hickson, who is credited as being the founder in 1853 of what was to become the shipyard which built the Titanic.

Eye on Awards

Gareth Chambers, CEO at Around Noon.

Hickson’s Point rolled out the red carpet and the Titanic bell, providing guests with a sumptuous fare which included yardsman breakfast rolls, sour dough bread, smoked salmon and ‘clangers’, a traditional type of roll favoured by shipyard workers in the early 1900s. Guests were welcomed by Irish News editor Noel Doran, who said the WEA event has grown steadily over the years because organisations both big and small understand its value and want to be associated with it. He added: “They also know that the standards they have to reach in the course of their entries are exceptionally high and those who are ultimately recognised will be the brightest and best in their fields.”

Cathal Geoghegan, Managing Director at Mount Charles Judith Owens, Chief Executive Titanic Belfast Isabel Jennings, Director of Marketing, Recruitment, Communications & Internationalisation at Queen’s University Gary McDonald, The Irish News Business editor Dominic Fitzpatrick, The Irish News Managing Director John Brolly, The Irish News Marketing Manager.

Guest speaker at the launch was Gareth Chambers, chief executive of Newry-based foodto-go firm Around Noon, which last year won the Entrepreneurial Spirit Award at the WEA. Around Noon was established in 1989 by his parents Francis and Sheila Chambers from the kitchen table of their family home in Newry and has grown to international prominence, supplying millions of sandwiches and wraps every week to hundreds

“ The building, located at the front of the main Titanic Belfast and which won’t officially open until St Patrick’s Day, is inspired by one of the first ship builders in the city, Robert Hickson, who is credited as being the founder in 1853 of what was to become the shipyard which built the Titanic.” He commended the Workplace & Employment Awards’ eight key business partners – Ulster University, Phoenix Natural Gas, the Public Health Agency, Mount Charles, Queen’s University, Henderson Group, Carson McDowell and Titanic Belfast.

of clients including the likes of the Henderson Group and Starbucks. Gareth – who was named Herbert Smith Freehills ‘Young Leader of the Year’ in 2017 – attributed the business’s spectacular grow to the power of its people, and outlined the company’s ethos of passion and enthusiasm in

Gareth Chambers, CEO at Around Noon

everything it does, allied to honesty, humility and humour. Around Noon dished up a second food helping at the launch by supplying a complimentary healthy lunch to all of the guests – “free” in so far as recipients were urged to to pay for it by spreading the word about the awards within their wider organisations and client groups. For 2018 a number of the nine WEA awards categories have been revised (full details at, while a significant addition to the judging panel will be Ellvena

Graham, chair of the NI Economic Advisory Group and president of the NI Chamber of Commerce. She will chair this year’s session on May 16, adding an extra level of scrutiny to the submissions, which are again expected to surpass the three-figure mark. The Irish News Workplace & Employment Awards take place in Titanic Belfast on Thursday June 14. Entries must be submitted by noon on Friday April 27 and the short-listed companies will be revealed in the Irish News on Thursday May 17.


Eye on AgriFood

Smaller Food Firms Grasp Global Business

David and Jill Crawford of Just Live a Little in Portaferry has won business in France, Germany, China and the Middle East for their breakfast granolas

Smaller food and drink businesses are increasingly winning significant business in markets beyond the British Isles. Sam Butler talks to several businesses which have recently announced major export sales.


onsumers in China, India, the US, Russia, Denmark, Switzerland, the United Arab Emirates, France and Spain have recently been able to experience premium food and drink from a number of Northern Ireland’s smaller producers. The business won includes listings from major retailers such as China’s Ole Supermarkets, El Corte Ingles in


Spain, Auchan and Franprix in France and Marianos in the US. Products featuring in the new deals range from coffee beans to traditional Irish oat biscuits and breakfast cereals, whiskey, gin and rum. Kircubbin’s Glastry Farm, headed by dairy farmer Will Taylor, has also just shipped ice cream and sorbets to Dubai. Pure Roast Coffee, a small coffee roaster in Lisburn, which employs just 10 people, achieved a hugely important breakthrough in China in the shape of a deal to assist Ole Supermarkets, part of China Resources, one of the company’s biggest trading conglomerates, set up a network of in-store coffee houses, particularly in major cities now embracing western coffee culture. Pure Roast, founded by food industry veteran Martin Symington is advising China Resources, which

has around 5,000 stores, on the cafes and also providing coffee beans and ground coffee. The cafes are all being branded Pure Roast Coffee, the first one opened in January in Shanghai and a second is scheduled for Hangzhou in April. In addition, Pure Roast and China Resources have formed a joint venture company to explore other opportunities there. And China Resources has taken an equity holding in the Lisburn roaster. “The new coffee shop in the store is a hugely impressive and an immensely exciting development for us,” Mr Symington says. “It’s a tremendous showcase of our premium coffee in China, now the world’s most dynamic marketplace, a market with a rapidly developing coffee culture, especially in centres such as Beijing, Shanghai, Hangzhou

and Hong Kong. We now have a very close relationship, indeed friendship, with the management at China Resources, a Fortune 500 business. As a result, we are positioned for a very exciting future in China,” he adds. Winning its first business in India last month was The Quiet Man Irish Whiskey from Derry. The small company, which will start distilling its own whiskey shortly, signed up with Mumbai-based Fipsydee to sell what will be the first single malt Irish whiskey in India. The Quiet Man’s commercial director Michael Morris, who covered almost 160,000 miles last year selling the whiskey, says: “Flipsydee had heard about our whiskey and approached us. We researched the business and decided to sign with them. India is a huge market for us, and whiskey is becoming an extremely popular spirit in huge centres such as Mumbai, Delhi and Kolkata. They are marketing The Quiet Man as the first craft Irish single malt available in India. It is the 26th global market in which our whiskey is on the shelves. We also expect to be selling in New Zealand soon,” he adds. The brand’s two biggest markets are the US and Russia. Another local spirit making a breakthrough in Russia is Butterfly Rum and Spiced Rum, products developed by Bot’l, the leading Belfast-based distributor of a range of beverages. Bot’l, headed by industry stalwart Jim O’Neill, is to supply its Jamaican rums to major retailers there in a substantial deal, according to Mr O’Neill. “We are very excited by what is our biggest export deal to date,” he adds. Another local distillery, Boatyard in Enniskillen, has also announced significant export business for its unique double gin in Sweden and Switzerland. Joe McGirr, who founded Boatyard on the shores of Lough Erne in

Eye on AgriFood

Tim Graham of Graham’s Bakery in Dromore has driven sales of its Irish oat cookies and shortbread to the US, the Middle East, France, Spain and the Middle East

2016, says the distillery, which is also distilling a malt whiskey, has won business with Sprit and Co in Copenhagen. “We are really excited to be working with Sprit & Co. which will be distributing our spirits in Denmark. “For over 10 years, Sprit & Co. has been using its understanding of the drinks industry to help strengthen the brands it works with, to help them thrive in a busy market. “The Boatyard Distillery is really proud of the brand that we have developed over the past two years and believe that Sprit & Co is the perfect partner to propel us into the Danish gin market,” he continues. Just Live a Little, Northern Ireland’s luxury breakfast granola producer, also revealed business with Auchan in France, among

The Quiet Man Irish Whiskey from Londonderry is now on sale in 26 global markets including the US, Russia, China and, most recently, India

the world’s biggest retailers. The Northern Ireland company, which is based at Portaferry, is supplying two of its artisan granola products – Whole Almond and Cranberry and Cashew – to 100 Auchan supermarkets in Paris and other centres across the country. Just Live a Little was established by husband and wife team David and Jill Crawford in 2011 and has since become one of our most innovative food businesses and a very successful exporter. Commercial director Jill Crawford, commenting on the Auchan listing, says: “This is a tremendous breakthrough for us with one of the world’s biggest retailers. The listing is the outcome of our strategic focus on building business abroad and especially in France and other major European markets over the past five

Martin Symington of Pure Roast Coffee in Lisburn is setting up coffee shops in China in partnership with China Resources

years. France is a pivotal European market in which consumers appreciate premium quality products, especially from artisan enterprises, that offer outstanding taste. “Auchan has been our radar in France for some time. So, it was immensely encouraging for us to secure this initial listing for 100 stores for two of our premium artisan breakfast granolas. We are keen to work with the Auchan team to build on this hugely important business for us,” Mrs Crawford adds. The company has also recently won business from Franprix, another leading retail chain in France. The granolas, all handcrafted, are currently exported to other European markets including Germany, Ireland, as well as Scandinavia, Hong Kong, Malaysia and the United Arab Emirates. In the UK, Just Live a Little supplies major retailers including Waitrose, Sainsbury and Tesco. It is also listed by Ocado, the leading on-line retailer in the UK. “As a result of our commitment to sales outside Northern Ireland, we now export more than 60 per cent of our products. We recognised when we launched the business that success in international export markets would be essential if we were to grow the company,” Mrs Crawford continues. And shoppers at two major US supermarkets are now able to enjoy traditional Irish oat cookies and shortbread biscuits from Graham’s Bakery, a small business in Dromore, Co Down. In addition, Graham’s is supplying its biscuits

to El Corte Ingles in Madrid, Spain’s iconic retailer. The US customers are Mariano’s in Chicago and Smart and Final in Los Angeles. The bakery’s Traditional Irish Oat Cookies and Irish Butter Shortbread products have become a major export success for the small business. The growing success of its traditional Irish biscuits has also led the bakery to extend the range of oat–based cookies to include Cranberry & Yogurt and Dark Chocolate & Ginger flavours. The two new biscuits were launched at start of February. Graham’s has a portfolio of 20 different products all baked on site and using quality ingredients, especially Northern Irish fresh creamery butter. The bakery, a UK Great Taste award winner, is a third generation family business that started producing a range of freshly baked breads, cakes and buns in 1956 in premises at the heart of the county Down market town Tim Graham, commercial director, says: “We are really delighted with recent export successes in the US, France and Spain especially with quality-conscious retailers. It’s immensely encouraging and a great confidence boost to have great new customers such as El Corte Ingles, Smart and Final and Mariano’s in our expanding portfolio. We are also selling the biscuits in Mexico.” Several of the smaller food exporters have also been assisted by Invest Northern Ireland in winning new business abroad.


Eye on News

Almac Group Opens £20 million Cold Chain Facility at Craigavon HQ Campus

Almac Group, the global contract pharmaceutical development and manufacturing organisation, has announced the completion of a £20 million investment in its cold chain management capabilities with the opening of a 95,000sq ft custom built cold store facility at its global headquarters in Craigavon, creating up to 100 additional jobs.

Dr Robert Dunlop, President & Managing Director, Almac Clinical Services; Alan Armstrong, Chairman & CEO, Almac Group, and Graeme McBurney, President & Managing Director, Almac Pharma Services at the new facility at Almac’s global headquarters in Craigavon.


ith over 30 years’ experience in the field of global distribution and management of temperature sensitive drug products, this expansion strengthens Almac’s ability to provide a seamless, bestin-class service to its growing global client base by ensuring efficient and effective delivery of both clinical supplies and commercial drug products. The cold store, which is one of the largest of its kind in Europe, has been purpose built in response to customer requirements which includes consideration to the rapidly growing area of orphan drug products, changes to regulatory compliance and a more stringent focus on data across the supply chain. The additional capacity and tailored


design also offers clients the opportunity to scale up with Almac as their biologic/biosimilar product portfolio increases. The new facility complements Almac’s existing global clinical supply and drug product capabilities by boasting over 3,000 pallet spaces including -15°C to -25°C storage capacity, additional 2°C to 8°C secondary production rooms, 3PL processing areas and a custom designed clinical labelling suite. Supplementary office space has also been included to accommodate an additional 100 new employees who will be recruited as a result of the expansion. Alan Armstrong, CEO Almac Group, commented: “Today’s announcement reaffirms Almac’s commitment to our global Headquarter campus in

Craigavon, and Northern Ireland as a whole with the creation of 100 new jobs. We have, once again, set the industry standard with an additional £20 million investment in our comprehensive global clinical and commercial supply chain offering. This new facility expands our cold storage capacity by 300% and our frozen storage capabilities by over 50%, enabling us to better serve our clients, and ultimately patients, worldwide thereby maintaining our position as a global leader in the life sciences sector.”

Eye on Engineering

Continuing the legacy of Northern Ireland’s engineering prowess By Professor Sir John McCanny CBE FREng FRS, MacRobert Award judge and former Regius Professor of Electronics and Computer Engineering at Queen’s University Belfast.


or centuries Northern Ireland’s innovators have been transforming industry and our everyday lives. Our automotive sector produced the world’s first ever streetcar, designed by 22-year-old John Stephenson from Co. Armagh back in 1833, while one of the most transformative agricultural innovations, the modern tractor, was invented by Co. Down’s Harry Ferguson. Co. Down can also boast that cardiologist Frank Partridge invented the portable defibrillator. Dubbed the ‘Father of Emergency Medicine’, his work has saved countless lives worldwide. More recently, in 2012, Ballymena’s Wrightbus created the new London Routemaster. The firm’s diesel-electric hybrid is a 21st century update on the 1956 design classic, and 600 ‘Boris Buses’ alone were commissioned from its Northern Ireland base for delivery by 2016. The Royal Academy of Engineering MacRobert Award, first presented in 1969, is the UK’s longest running and most prestigious prize for engineering innovation. Companies from Northern Ireland have previously been recognised by the Academy for their outstanding innovations. Belfast-based Bombardier Aerospace, for example, reached the MacRobert Award final in 2001 for a new aircraft engine thrust reverser, which helps stop an aircraft after landing. It delivered 10% more stopping force than previous designs, so the engines could run slower but produce the same braking power -

a great benefit that reduced both environmental noise and wear and tear on the engine. The reverser is in successful operation with regional airlines in Europe and North America and is an excellent example of the outstanding engineering innovation the Award recognises – combining a tangible social benefit with proven commercial success. Northern Ireland later produced a winner in 2003 with Randox Laboratories and its Evidence ® rapid analysis system, which could run over 4,500 blood tests per hour, a market-leading achievement at the time. But what about Northern Irish innovation since? Just over 15 years ago the area around where the Titanic was built had become derelict with little business activity around it. Today it’s home to nearly 200 innovative companies that are pushing the boundaries of computing, electronics, cyber security and fintech – it has become our very own ‘silicon roundabout’. Innovation is currently a major focus for the Northern Ireland Executive, with its strategy to ensure that by 2025 ‘Northern Ireland will be recognised as an innovation hub and will be one of the UK’s leading highgrowth, knowledge-based regions which embraces creativity and innovation at all levels of society’. Invest NI, the region’s business development agency, is also championing a booming tech sector. I am confident that there are many examples of outstanding

engineering innovation here and I would like to encourage engineering businesses of all sizes and disciplines to consider entering this year’s Royal Academy of Engineering MacRobert Award. Winners receive a £50,000 cash prize, gold medal and national acclaim. Entering could put you in the running alongside some worthy peers who have transformed industries and had a positive impact on our everyday lives. These have included the engineers behind innovations such as the Pegasus jet engine used in the iconic Harrier aircraft, catalytic converters and the roof of the Millennium Dome. The 2017 Award went to the creators of Raspberry Pi, which is now the

third best-selling computer of all time and has encouraged over 85,000 children to learn to code. We have a proud history of engineering in Northern Ireland, and over the past decade it has really begun to thrive. Countrywide we are innovating in a variety of sectors, from agritech to manufacturing and everything in between. There has rarely been a more exciting time for Northern Ireland’s engineering industry. Being selected as a finalist for the MacRobert Award brings with it both national and international prestige, and will provide an excellent platform to showcase your most innovative product. Applications for the MacRobert Award close on 31 January 2018.


Eye on Architecture

Johann Muldoon...

Fast-Moving Architect With A Vision Businessmen and businesswomen can be driven and they can be inspirational. Some of them, like Johann Muldoon, can be so driven that they verge on being exhausting....


n the face of it, Johann Muldoon is an awardwinning architect who lives in Ballymoney, has her main offices in Moneymore, and has far-reaching ambitions to be the very best in her field. Her firm, Manor Architects, has already built up a strong reputation for a wide range of work, from large-scale private houses through to commercial projects as diverse as hospitality, tourism, nursing homes and sports grounds as well as a niche market in the heritage sector. Johann is one of the few RIBA specialist conservation architects in the UK. But behind the bald facts lies a fascinating back story. For starters, Johann Muldoon finds time to travel all over Northern Ireland to work on projects and liaise with existing and potential clients. When we meet, in Glengormley, she’s just back from the Antrim Coast and she’s heading for the city centre, then Castlederg. And, although Johann insists that it doesn’t have an impact on her professional drive, when

she’s not out and about on Manor Architects business, she’s mother to three young children... only one of whom has reached the ripe old age of three. And her husband is a busy dairy farmer. Brought up in Castlederg, Co. Tyrone, she was profoundly deaf until the age of eight, but went on to make it to Queen’s University in Belfast, initially studying Philosophy & Psychology before ‘talking her way’ onto the Architecture degree course. She won a couple of best student awards during those years before moving on to The Mackintosh School at Glasgow University, where the awards continued to come. She won the RSA Architecture Prize while her mother was embarking on cancer treatment back at home. And she tutored in Glasgow before returning to Northern Ireland in 2008 to take on a tutoring post at Queen’s before joining Manor Architects... until then a small firm specialising in conservation projects. “I made it into a very different business,” says Johann. “My

Mark McKeown (First Trust Bank), Professor James McElnay (Acting ViceChancellor), Johann Muldoon, Fergal McFerran (President, Queen’s Graduates’ Association), Mark Simpson (Queen’s graduate and MC) at the presentation of the Queen’s Graduate of the Year Award for 2017.


ambition is to build the practice into one of the best in Northern Ireland. It’s as simple as that.” She’s quick to admit that the practice’s West of the Bann base can cause an image problem... even though it shouldn’t. Manor Architects has worked on projects in the Republic of Ireland, in Scotland and as far afield as the USA. “We do have to battle against parochialism,” she says simply. “People think that because we’re based in Moneymore we’re a small, local firm of architects and not capable to tackling the big jobs. But they’re wrong. “We’ve completed projects all over Northern Ireland and the UK and our next target is to break into the London marketplace. “We have already expanded successfully into quite a few new sectors – among them tourism, recreation & leisure, and a range of commercial and industrial projects,” she adds. “We’ve secured 12 new

projects in recent months, including 600 new houses in developments across Northern Ireland, and close to 70% of our clients have returned to us with further projects... so we must be doing something right.” Johann’s professional and business achievements haven’t gone unrecognised. She’s a past finalist in awards like Young Director of the Year and Young Businessperson of the Year, and she’s a past winner in the Women In Business Awards. On the wider stage, she’s been the youngest and only female architect to have been honoured with an MBE, she was awarded WICE Best Female Architect in Europe and was named as the Queen’s University Graduate of the Year for 2017. “But it’s not the awards that are important,” she says. “It’s the growth of the practice and the fact that we know we can become a leading architectural firm here in Northern Ireland and well beyond.”.”

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Eye Moving On 1 Pamela McCreedy has been appointed as Local Government Auditor (LGA), with the responsibility for leading all local government audits across Northern Ireland. She trained as a chartered accountant with KPMG and has held a series of key public sector posts as Director of Transforming your Care, where she led the reform of health and social care services in Northern Ireland; and at the Northern HSC Trust, where she was Deputy Chief Executive & Director of Operations. Pamela is the current Chair of Ulster Society of Chartered Accountants Ireland.

1 Pamela McCreedy

2 Andy McNeill

3 Elise Quigley

2 Andy McNeill is the new General Manager at the Hastings Stormont Hotel in Belfast. He moves to the Stormont from the Europa Hotel where he has served as Functions Bars Manager, Front Office Manager and Front of House Manager. 3 Elise Quigley has joined the Commercial Litigation Team at Carson McDowell. She has previous experience in defamation, privacy and data protection cases. Elise is also admitted to the Roll of Solicitors in England and Wales. 4 Hannah McKeague has joined Carson McDowell’s Banking and Finance Team. She gained experience working for a Capital Markets consultancy company in London, Canada and Dublin. Hannah gained her professional qualification at the Institute of Professional Legal Studies in September 2017.

4 Hannah McKeague

5 Rosanne Brennan

6 Dr Stefan Mix

5 Rosanne Brennan has joined the Corporate/ Commercial team at Carson McDowell as an Associate Solicitor. She previously worked as a Senior Associate at Eversheds LLP. Rosanne is an experienced commercial contracts solicitor with expertise across a number of sectors including education, retail and nuclear. 6 Dr Stefan Mix becomes Head of Biocatalysis at the Almac Group. Stefan has worked at Almac as a chemist since 2005, and was promoted to biocatalysis team leader in 2012. He has played a significant role in the development and growth of Almac Sciences’ biocatalysis technology platform.

7 Alan Crowe

8 Aidan Larkin

9 Craig Walker

The Royal Ulster Agricultural Society has announced the appointment of their new 7 Chief Executive Designate, Alan Crowe. Alan was previously the Chief Executive for Northern Ireland Co-Ownership Housing and its subsidiary Own-Co, a Regional public body under the Department for Communities and Local Government, for almost 14 years. 8 Aidan Larkin has been promoted to Group Asset Recovery Manager in Wilsons Auctions. Reporting directly to the Group Operations Director, Aidan heads up the Asset Recovery 9 Department. Also at Wilsons Auctions, Craig Walker has been promoted to Group Operations Manager in Wilsons Auctions. Reporting directly to the Group Operations Director, Craig heads up the Contracts and Logistics department. 10 Mark Woods joined Wilsons Auctions in January 2018 as an Asset Recovery Executive. Reporting to the Group Asset Recovery Manager, Mark manages the asset realisation process for government and corporate clients.

10 Mark Woods


11 Matthew Jeffrey

11 Matthew Jeffrey has been appointed as an Associate at Lanyon Communications. He will continue to service the firm’s growing portfolio of high-profile clients across a range of sectors – including commercial property, law, finance, fin-tech, utilities and local councils.

Eye Moving On 12 Stephen Staerke has been appointed to the new role of Business Development Manager for Selective Travel Management one of the leading travel management companies in the UK and Ireland. 13 Tracy Flannigan has been appointed as Director, Advisory & Transaction Services at CBRE. She will be advising both landlord and tenant clients in respect of lease renewals and rent reviews across the full range of property types, providing comprehensive business rates advice and acting as an expert witness in both rating and landlord and tenant matters.

12 Stephen Staerke

15 Andrew Burns

18 Oliver Loughead

13 Tracy Flannigan

16 Peter Murray

19 Aine Gillie

14 Dr Donna Hamilton

17 Declan McAlister

20 John Tougher

14 Dr Donna Hamilton has joined local R&D tax credit specialists, the award-winning Momentum Group. Donna joins Momentum with considerable experience in technical industries including pharmaceuticals, diagnostics, medical devices, agri-food, statistical consultancy, biotechnology and life science software. Donna holds a PhD in Biological Sciences from Queen’s University, Belfast. Brewin Dolphin Belfast has made four 15 new appointments. Andrew Burns becomes Divisional Director. A Chartered FCSI, Andrew has been with the company for 10 years and is responsible for Agent Business Development and Portfolio 16 Management. Peter Murray has been promoted to Assistant Portfolio Manager within the Portfolio Management Team at 17 Brewin Dolphin Belfast. Declan McAlister as 18 a Graduate Trainee while Oliver Loughead joins Brewin Dolphin’s Financial Planning Team as a Financial Planning Assistant. Mills Selig, Northern Ireland’s leading commercial law firm, has announced three new appointments. The recruitment of the three new solicitors enforces the firm’s continued growth and expansion of their specialist practice areas. 19 Aine Gillie has joined Mills Selig to boost the firm’s first banking team. Aine has considerable experience in all areas of banking matters and has worked on a substantial number of projects dealing with LMA documentation. In addition, she is dual qualified for Northern Ireland and England and Wales. 20 John Tougher has joined the Property team and specialises in commercial property matters including landlord and tenant law, property development and regeneration. John also acts for a wide range of commercial and institutional clients (including major UK pension funds) as well as private investors in Northern Ireland. 21 Sara McGaughey has joined the firm’s Property team as a solicitor and brings with her significant experience in all aspects of commercial property work, particularly in the field of telecommunications. Sara also acts for private individuals and developers in relation to residential property matters. In addition, Sara is part of the Energy team and advises clients in the property aspects and due diligence surrounding the acquisition and disposal of wind farms.

21 Sara McGaughey

22 Jane Williams

22 Jane Williams has been appointed to the new role of Brand Communications Director at PR and content agency JComms. Williams takes on the position having been with the company for more than six years, the past three as a senior consultant. The new role has been created to support the continuing growth of JComms’ consumer PR business.


Eye on News

QUEEN’S UNIVERSITY BUILDING PROJECT WINS NATIONAL RECOGNITION A Belfast building project has been highly commended at the Grand Final of the RICS Awards in London.


he main site tower and Peter Froggatt Centre at Queen’s University gained national recognition in the Design Through Innovation category at the prestigious awards ceremony. The 1960s buildings were refurbished in a scheme which judges praised for “successfully linking new and old to create a stimulating teaching and learning environment”. Local companies involved in the project included quantity surveyors Hood McGowan Kirk, building contractors Felix O’Hare & Co and Todd Architects. The redevelopment included partial demolition, restructuring

and extension of the multistorey tower to be used by the School of Law and School of Music and Sonic Arts. The tower was linked with the Peter Froggatt Centre to form a student hub for informal study while comprehensive refurbishment of lecture theatres and classroom in the centre also took place. The work on the tower and the integration of new and old presented particular challenges requiring an innovative approach. Design and construction teams ensured effective co-ordination between structure, services and fabric. Judges were also impressed by the approach to sustainability and low energy design. In May the project was crowned the regional winner in the Design Through Innovation category of the RICS Awards, Northern Ireland, and in London it was competing with

top projects from across the UK. RICS judges said: “Creativity and design excellence have transformed two unattractive 1960s buildings which are now integrated into the Queen’s University campus, with a new pedestrian link and entrance courtyard. “Triple height spaces with bridge links assist internal circulation and connectivity, with atria and voids providing a continuous air path and natural daylight contributing to a low energy design solution. “The constraints of low floor to ceiling heights have been overcome and the materials and detailing of the facades are sympathetic to the setting of neighbouring Victorian buildings. “The scheme successfully links new and old to create a stimulating teaching and learning environment.” The Queen’s project came runner up to the overall Design Through

Innovation Category winner at the national awards, the British Airways i360 in Brighton, which is the world’s tallest moving observation tower, designed by the creators of the London Eye. The 2018 RICS Awards, Northern Ireland are now open to enter. The deadline to nominate a project is 26 January 2018 and an early bird discount applies for entries submitted by 30 November 2017. Visit awards to apply or contact Susan Mason at RICS on 028 9032 2877 or

GROWTH FOR HUGHES INSURANCE Hughes Insurance is recruiting 20 full-time employees to support the growth of its personal lines business which has accelerated during the past six months of 2017.


he recruitment drive will ensure the business is well resourced with sales and service staff for 2018, as the Newtownards based brokerage expands its share of the insurance market in Northern Ireland. Earlier in 2017, the business underwent a management restructure when David Egan, the former Managing Director of Post Insurance, was appointed as Chief Executive. David has brought a wealth of industry and financial services experience to the company.


David commented: “Hughes Insurance is Northern Ireland’s best known insurance brand and our performance over the last six months, together with forecast growth in 2018, has resulted in a commitment to invest in 20 new full-time employees. This process is already well underway.” David’s experience also includes previous Executive and nonExecutive roles with Post Insurance; AON where he was Chief Financial Officer and Company Secretary; and American Insurance Group (AIG).

David Egan with Richard Fulton

Richard Fulton has also joined David on the Executive Team as Chairman. Richard has significant experience, in many business sectors, acquired over 25 years practising corporate law in a leading Belfast practice. During this period he held a range of board level appointments across and advised many of Northern Ireland’s best

known companies including First Derivatives PLC, Phoenix Natural Gas Limited and Galen Pharmaceuticals. David concluded: “It’s an exciting time to drive the business forward. We have ambitious plans for 2018 that will be delivered by a best-in-class team who are 100% committed to growing our footprint in this market.”

Eye on Internet

I Gave You Everything You Ever Wanted; It Wasn’t What You Wanted By Gareth Dunlop, Fathom.

The classic criticism levelled at consultants of many hues is that they ask for your watch then tell you the time.


hey are notorious for asking lots of questions and reporting back with little more than a glorified transcription in a 50-page report, 40 pages of which are part of an off-the-shelf template. This same criticism, viewed through the lens of the consultant rather than the customer is that consultants are under constant pressure to give those who have commissioned them the exact outcome they desire and so generally need to start any engagement by earning the right to provide a challenge function, so essential if genuine value is to be added. At the risk of over-generalising, this right is earned by assuring the client of two important things.

improve efficiency, cut costs, enhance marketplace position, increase customer satisfaction, ward off competitive threat and build brand. And perhaps counterintuitively this is most-commonly achieved not by seeking to control the customer more but rather by letting the customer control the experience.

1. The consultant has invested substantial time and has adequate intellectual capacity to comprehensively understand their business needs and the problem they have been engaged to solve.

For example, it’s not uncommon that conversion ratios are improved for e-commerce providers when they talk less about themselves not more. Frequent studies inform us that design trends which remain popular, such as use of the hamburger menu and parallex-led long home pages, frequently under-perform against a range of heuristic criteria. We know from years of research that the “hero shot” decreases user trust and propensity to buy, it doesn’t increase it. Hero shots include transport companies boasting about the size of their fleet (users are usually happy to take on trust that the company will have a bus to take them to their destination), universities putting shiny pictures of their buildings on the home page (it turns out that users are prepared to take the step of faith that the university will have rooms in which to conduct the lectures),

2. The consultant has a strong grasp of their own specialism, through a mixture of commitment to the theory, experience over many years and the application of the theory to the problem at hand. Yet still consultants and agencies can come under pressure not just to solve problems for customers, but to solve those problems exactly the way the customer wants. This is a challenge across many disciplines but is particularly acute in the world of user-experience. The problems which UX design typically helps solve are to sell more,

and (my own bête-noire) the large organisation which leads on its home page with a “web version” of their TV ad or billboard (in all my years involved in digital I have never been involved in a single project where the replay of a TV ad registered over half of one percent of home page activity).

“ Consultants and agencies can come under pressure not just to solve problems for customers, but to solve those problems exactly the way the customer wants. This is a challenge across many disciplines but is particularly acute in the world of user-experience.”

At the time of writing, far too many such Irish websites remain live. Rather, users value a range of things which too many comms professionals find too dull. Invite a group of people to a meeting to talk about brand and visual aesthetic and you’ll fill the room. And so you should – these are important considerations. Yet try to pull together a group to talk about findability, task-completion efficiency, navigation speed, or internal site search you’ll discover that no amount of strong coffee or sticky donuts will persuade people to come along. To our loyal clients and those who one day might become customers, I assure you of the Fathom team’s commitment to credible challenge function. In return, I ask you to accede to the paradox that if we simply gave you everything you ever wanted, it wouldn’t be what you wanted.

Gareth Dunlop owns and runs Fathom, a user-experience consultancy which helps ambitious organisations get the most from their website and internet marketing by viewing the world from the perspective of their customers. Specialist areas include UX strategy, usability testing and customer journey planning, web accessibility and integrated online marketing. Clients include Three, Tourism NI, PSNI, Permanent TSB and Tesco Mobile. Visit Fathom online at


Eye on Security

Millbank Solutions...

Taking The Strain On Security & Risk Management

‘There is a general failure at executive level within business to identify risks correctly and plan appropriately. Those businesses become vulnerable, and even more so when they are considering operating in an unknown or hostile environment’.


illbank Solutions is a Specialist Security and Risk Management company, who provide businesses and organisations with specialist security and risk management services wherever in the world they may be based. Its primary objectives are to ensure business continuity and the protection of assets globally. So how is this achieved? Mike George, Managing Director of Millbank Solutions explains: “If I give a basic example of a company who wish to open a factory in a developing country, then they would need a comprehensive overview of the operating environment, any potential political and social instabilities, threats from terrorism or dangers in terms of travel safety. We will provide stakeholders with all the information required to make informed decisions, reduce risk and to keep assets safe.” Their services don’t stop at the submission of the report, however. “Once we have identified threat and risk, we will recommend mitigation. That could be the provision of protection officers, implementing a journey management plan, or the formulation of a media


strategy to name but a few examples. We will then continue to monitor events in the background, whilst the company goes about business as usual. This is vitally important as the threat picture can change quickly and often without warning, as we have seen many times in the past. Of course, security risks aren’t always to be found abroad either. We see regular media reports regarding community opposition to industry or controversial businesses opening closer to home. An obvious example would be the hydraulic fracturing industry and the activist demonstrations that inevitably follow any site opening. Some risks such as this, can’t be removed, only reduced. It then comes down to proportionality and of course whether the proposed development makes financial sense to the company having considered all those risks. We have found ourselves playing catch-up in the past, which is more of a challenge. This has usually been due to a business’s previous lack of exposure to risk. There is a general failure at executive level within business to identify risks correctly and plan appropriately.

Those businesses become vulnerable, and even more so when they are considering operating in an unknown or hostile environment. It is important therefore to consider the ‘what-ifs’ such as reputational harm. Once we have pointed those out, we tend to get their ‘buy-in’.” Millbank Solutions do offer several other services associated with the security risk management industry, such as executive protection, corporate investigation and intelligence, and training packages intended to aid individuals to identify hostile surveillance. Mike told us; “The monitoring of individuals in key positions has become more commonplace. With ever more sophisticated cyber security (or info-sec) comes the added problem of the insider threat. This isn’t just individuals acting consciously

against a company’s interests, it is people’s good manners, willingness to help and ability to do so, being exploited to achieve an aim and bypass security measures. We help management and staff to understand their responsibilities around their own security policies and procedures and empower staff to take control of their personal security. Of course, we can assist ‘on the ground’ should we be required. As I mentioned earlier, we are all about ensuring businesses can carry on regardless.”

If you would like to know more, visit uk, or contact the Millbank Solutions team at enquiries@

Is it true that, the less miles I put on the car, the less I pay?

To find out the answer, visit:

Eye on Motoring

Motoring with Derek Black

Alfa Stelvio Has That Familiar Alfa Feeling... But On Stilts Alfa Romeo is one of the most evocative car names in the world. It is all about enthusiastic driving in the Italian tradition. Now they are deploying their DNA to a new SUV called the Stelvio.


he very idea of this might cause some aficiandos to take a deep intake of breath. They need not worry for this handsome newcomer is full of the responses that you would expect from an Alfa. It is built on the floorpan of the recently-launched Giulia, which has already been much praised for its abilities on the road. While it stands higher on the road, the Stelvio has a similar lithe feel and sharp responses to its sibling. Driving it on rain-lashed Fermanagh roads was a reassuring process thanks to its all-wheel

drive and sound roadholding. This is a rare SUV that can honestly claim to have car-like handling. There’s lots of aluminium in the new platform which is both light and very rigid and that makes for a car that drives with precision. In terms of power, there is a choice between a rorty 2.0-litre turbo-charged petrol engine offering 276bhp or a a 2.2-litre aluminium turbo diesel with either 178 or 208 bhp output. All Stelio models come with a fast-acting eight-speed automatic gearbox as standard. Most of the time the Stelvio drives the rear-wheels with that traditional feeling of control - but the frontwheels can quickly be called in to action as well if the system detects that extra traction is needed. Add a 50:50 weight distribution and you have a car that feels pleasantly balanced.

Performance is lively with 62mph coming up from rest in from 6.6 to 7.2 seconds depending on the engine. Economy is rated at 40mpg combined for petrol cars and at 58mpg for diesels. Prices range from £31,680

to £43,990 depending on choice of engine and trim. The Stelvio gives Alfa Romeo a formidable contender in the growing premium SUV sector - but it faces some equally formidable opposition from Volvo, Audi and BMW to name but three!

LATEST AUDI LIMO LETS YOU DRIVE BUT NOT FOR MUCH LONGER! It is a car to be driven in rather than to drive yourself. A perk of the motoring writing trade is that Audi always send an A8 to pick you up from the airport.


his means that, for an hour or so, you can forget you are a pauper and lie back in the leather and, for once, not have your knees pressed into the back of the driver’s seat. This car makes its own wifi and has iPad sized screens everywhere with touch control. More than that, Audi say it paves the way for driverless cars with almost everything automated. There will eventually be 40 driver assistance systems. The future treats will include a car that

can park itself in your garage at the touch of a button or take control of itself in a traffic jam! So as I don my imaginary chauffeurs cap and slip behind the wheel of an A8 for a change, I reflect that the days of this honourable profession may be numbered. You command an A8 rather than drive it although you still have to steer. Back in the reality these limousines start from around 70k and come with three-litre petrol and diesel engines for every day use. A twin turbo V8 may be offered for the indulgent enthusiast. And a 443bhp hybrid to keep the greens happy. The three-litre diesel is well subdued and can whisk even the long wheelbase car up to 62mph in around six seconds and is limited

to 155mph top speed should you stray onto an unrestricted autobahn one day. Emissions of up to 196g/km mean you will pay 37% benefit in kind tax. But, if you have got the cash, then you are getting one of the

most civilised, comfortable and refined executive expresses you can buy. It glides long effortlessly, is beautifully finished and lavishly equipped. It’s an ideal world of motoring far removed from the family hatchback.


Eye on Motoring

Essential Advice For Financing Your Vehicle “ If it appreciates, buy it. If it depreciates, lease it” Billionaire oil tycoon J.Paul Getty


o buy or to lease? When it comes to financing vehicles, it’s an important question. What about other running costs that should be factored into the purchase price, such as fuel consumption and servicing? What are they and how do you estimate them up front? Perhaps you should follow Mr Getty’s advice and lease. You won’t own the asset, but do you really want a depreciating asset? One you later have the hassle of disposing of, or selling. The reality is, the finance option that is right for you, will always depend on your circumstances. We will simplify many of the issues surrounding vehicle finance and give you the knowledge that will help you to make an informed decision.

‘Whole life costs’ Firstly we look at the ‘Whole Life Costs’. To calculate the total costs of operating a vehicle, you need to consider more than just the purchase price. Calculating ‘Whole Life Costs’ is the only accurate way of assessing the true cost of running a vehicle. DFC can show you the true cost of running a vehicle over the lifetime of ownership. ‘Finance options’ Next we will discuss the types of finance available and help you decide which is right for you. Knowing what form of car finance is best value for money, given your unique set of circumstances, can have a significant impact on the overall costs. Purchase and leasing are the most popular options and these are the ones we will be looking at in this report. By looking at the pros and cons of each option, you’ll have a better idea of which is best for you.

Which Funder? We will choose a provider who can best meet your needs. It’s difficult for many individuals to have all of the knowledge, skills or time necessary to get the best finance option for their vehicle. This is where our support and knowledge is invaluable We’ll also give you details on what other benefits our company, DFC can offer. We are not tied to any make, model or dealership and have access to numerous funding options from some of the biggest financial institutes in the world.

Local Company Local People Local Service

DFC is Northern Ireland’s only major independent locally owned Vehicle Management Company. For over 25 years DFC have supplied, funded and managed cars and vans. We are confident we can provide a cost effective solution for your business or individual needs.

Call us today for more information on our car and van offers on 028 9073 4222 or email


If you are interested in a free consultation with us please call us on 028 9073 4222 or visit contract-hire-offers, email

Eye on Motoring

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VOLVO S90 2.0 D4 190bhp MOMENTUM THESE MONTHLY RENTALS ARE BASED ON: 48 months with 47 monthly payments, 6 months deposit and an annual mileage of 8,000 including road tax for the duration of the contract. Other payment options are available.

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Is tax included in the monthly payments?

To find out the answer, visit:

Eye on Motoring

Motoring with Derek Black


As seven seaters go, the Sorento makes a better fist of squeezing a couple of little ones into the boot space than its rivals.


hile this may be good for the school run, there is not much of a business case for this aspect of its abilities. Yet the latest model has a lot more going for it than that. Big SUVs are not driver’s cars by

their sheer nature. This granted, I found the Sorento to be a rather agreeable and comfortable carriage. Nowadays there is more to Kia than that headline grabbing seven year warranty. They have advanced impressively in terms of build quality and their new Stinger sports saloon sees them ambitiously getting more dynamic. The Sorento comes with a sixspeed automatic, four-wheel drive and a 195PS turbo diesel engine as standard. This has decent grunt and stays quiet when cruising but grumbles a bit if you are pushing it - par for the course in this kind of machine. An eight speed auto is available on top models. Otherwise, it just gets on with its job without demanding much from the driver. Its laid-back nature would lend itself well to the

automatic gearbox but for business users the manual does the job. This makes a competent towing car too, pulling up to 2,500 kg. While it is not as nice to drive as a BMW X3 or an Audi Q5, the Sorento is surprisingly refined and well equipped for its substantially lower asking price. The starter KX-1 model is listed at £28,995 (before discount) and makes the best business sense. The 2.2 CDRi can reach 62mph from rest in less than nine seconds which is creditable for its size and weight. With a claimed 49mpg Combined and emissions of 149g/ km, it falls into the 33% company car tax bracket. Again this is in the ball park for this type of vehicle. All credit to Kia who are pushing ahead on all fronts, the Sorento steps up with a package that is surprisingly good on almost every front.

as a hot sports machine. Petrol choices include a 150PS version of the likeable 1.4 TSI engine with active cylinder technology or a powerful 180PS 2.0litre TSI with a six-speed manual or a seven-speed automatic gearbox. The workaday option is the 150PS 2.0 TDi which is brisk enough off the mark and has fairly respectable statistics. Fuel consumption of 56mpg on the Combined Cycle (aspirational) and emissions of 131g/km put the Allspace into the 31% company car tax bracket. There is an impressive safety package as standard with sophisticated

features such as lane assist and emergency city braking. Also to be factored into the value equation is the prediction of strong residual values. Prices are in the low 30k range… VW is offering very similar machines, running on the same platform, with Skoda and SEAT badges for significantly less money… this must be a gamble that VW loyalty will outweigh price advantages. So far this reality has not hit residual values but as more people realise that these cars are virtually identical then that could change.

Bigger Tiguan Ticks The Boxes But Has Serious Sibling Rivals! The Tiguan has stood alone for many years as the sole VW compact SUV and has sold on the brand’s wellknown merits of quality and solid engineering.


ostly bought as a ‘soft road’ with front-wheel drive it can nonetheless be obtained - for more money - as a fully fledged off roader with all-wheel drive and even styling pack option to


underline its capabilities in the mud. The Allspace does what it says on the tin but with a roomier interior and - for family buyers - seven seats suitable for occasional use. Business buyers may appreciate the extra carrying space and are catered for by two versions of the respected 2.0 TDi engine, offering 150 or 190PS power outputs. There is also a 240PS twin turbo version aimed at more sporting drivers. As one of the more car-like SUVs, the Tiguan is pleasant to drive and civilised to ride in. The sporting version reflects VW’s ambitions to develop its potential

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