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january/february 2017 ISSUE 20

January/February 2017



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Magazine of northern ireland chamber of commerce and industry








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January/February 2017 Issue 20

Editor: Adrienne McGill Publisher: Chris Sherry Advertising Manager: Catherine Patton Editorial Assistant: Joanne Harkness Email addresses: Websites: Addresses: Northern Ireland Chamber of Commerce and Industry, 4-5 Donegall Square South, Belfast, BT15JA Tel: 028 9024 4113







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Publisher: Ulster Tatler Group, 39 Boucher Road, Belfast, BT12 6UT Tel: 028 9066 3311 Printed by: W&G Baird, Antrim





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he political earthquake that has shaken Northern Ireland in recent days will have ramifications for some time to come. With the resignation of the deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness leading to the collapse of the powersharing deal and the prospect of a snap election, Northern Ireland’s hope of economic growth, which should accompany political stability, has been put in jeopardy. The fact is that economic growth and political stability are deeply interconnected. The uncertainty associated with an unstable political environment may reduce investment and the pace of economic development.

DRIVING AMBITION Seismic changes

Northern Ireland’s economy is fragile and the upheaval comes as one of the most important economic and political changes in decades is about to start with the UK government’s plans to trigger the Article 50 notification for leaving the EU by the end of March. The implications of Brexit are serious for Northern Ireland as it is the only part of the UK to share a land border with another EU country, in the form of the Republic of Ireland. Northern Ireland therefore needs to feature prominently in Brexit discussions. Then there is the new American President Donald Trump who will be inaugurated on 20 January and the potential lies ahead for some of our politicians to meet him in Washington DC for St Patrick’s Day celebrations at the White House in a few week’s time. Maintaining a strong relationship with the US is hugely important. Northern Ireland

needs to maintain its attractiveness to American investors as a place to locate their European headquarters. However, having a stable political environment is key to ensuring this continues. With new challenges ahead for 2017 and beyond, NI Chamber is taking its support for business to the next level with a new suite of dynamic business support initiatives. In this issue of Ambition, we tell you about ‘Learn Grow Excel’ which is aimed at growing companies to help them through every stage of development and to encourage more export activity in Northern Ireland. It is an exciting initiative which underpins NI Chamber’s ambition to support the development of the Northern Ireland economy. Then, in our Special Focus we get ‘On course with business studies’ and look at how academic institutions are meeting the needs of business through specific courses and partnerships. As well as a great range of features on companies who are achieving success in a range of markets, in ‘lifestyle’ James Stinson puts the stylish Audi A5 Sportsback through its paces, Keith Graham checks in with business travel, and Niall McKenna cooks up healthy options to start the New Year. So get reading – it’s going to be a challenging and busy year for NI Chamber members. We wish you all well in your business pursuits. Adrienne McGill Editor Ambition

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04 NI Chamber








usinesses experienced a more positive end to 2016 after an initial, largely negative, reaction to the outcome of the EU referendum vote announced in June 2016. This was one of the key findings in the latest Quarterly Economic Survey published by Northern Ireland Chamber of Commerce and Industry (NI Chamber) and business advisors BDO. The data is analysed by NI Chamber economist Maureen O’Reilly. Most key balances strengthened during Q4 for both manufacturing and services after what had been a poor Q3 performance. All of the 14 key services balances improved over the 3 month period and 9 of the 14 in manufacturing. Northern Ireland’s regional position also improved in Q4 having felt the initial fallout from the Brexit vote more keenly than most other UK regions. The majority of businesses who responded to the survey are positive about prospects for their business in 2017 – 62 per cent expect their business to grow (16% strongly) whilst 20 per cent expect it to contract. However, businesses are less optimistic about prospects for the Northern Ireland economy in 2017 – some 42 per cent expect the economy to grow (marginally) in 2017 while 37 per cent expect it to contract. There are however a number of concerns facing business in the year ahead: t&YDIBOHFSBUFTDPOUJOVFUPEPNJOBUF NI Chamber members’ concerns with 62

50 NI Chamber

per cent citing this to be the case compared to 53 per cent in Q3. Foreign exchange rates are driving up import costs (raw materials and foreign workers) and ultimately putting pressure on profit margins and ultimately prices. t5XPUIJSETPGNFNCFSTJOCPUIUIF manufacturing and the service sectors have experienced high levels of difficulties when trying to recruit new staff over the last 3 months. The issue has become much more prevalent for manufacturers during Q4 with 82 per cent stating that they had difficulties finding suitable staff (compared to 42% in Q3). t*OnBUJPOJTBMTPBNPSFQSFTTJOHDPODFSO for businesses, with 30 per cent of members citing it as a key concern compared to just 13 per cent in Q3 2016. NI Chamber’s quarterly Brexit Watch, which forms part of the overall Quarterly Economic Survey, focuses on how the process of the UK leaving the EU is impacting on member businesses. The second Brexit Watch findings would suggest that there is a core of businesses that have felt an immediate impact from the UK’s vote to leave the EU: t"SPVOEJOTUBUFUIBUUVSOPWFSIBT fallen because of the referendum result. t"SPVOEJOIBWFTDBMFECBDLHSPXUI and local investment plans because of the EU vote (this is down from 1 in 3 in Q3). t$PTUTBSFJODSFBTJOHGPSJOCVTJOFTTFT due to sterling’s devaluation, particularly rising raw material costs for manufacturers.

Chris Morrow (NI Chamber); Ann McGregor (NI Chamber); Maureen O’Reilly (Economist for the QES) and Brian Murphy (BDO).

Commenting on the survey, Ann McGregor, Chief Executive of NI Chamber, said: “Last year ended on a more positive note after the initial, largely negative, reaction to Brexit in Quarter 3 of 2016. Our findings suggest that local businesses remain resilient as they continue to trade through the uncertainty, with many expecting continued growth in the months ahead. “Despite this, Northern Ireland’s manufacturing base continues to struggle, with the significant rise in the cost of raw materials increasing the pressure on firms to raise prices in the coming months. The manufacturing sector also continues to TUSVHHMFXJUIMPOHUFSNTUSVDUVSBMJTTVFT  with businesses continuing to report considerable recruitment difficulties. Business and government must work together to address the skills gap, while also ensuring that businesses have access to the workers they need, including those from overseas. i*OnBUJPOIBTFNFSHFEBTBSJTJOHDPODFSO for many businesses. Both manufacturing and services firms say they are under pressure, particularly from the rising cost of inputs, which is squeezing margins and may weaken future investment. “In terms of Brexit, at this stage, our members expect HM Government and the Bank of England to deliver stability of markets, further clarity on the timetable for transition, and firm action on those matters that are entirely within Westminster’s gift, such as guarantees for existing EU workers in the UK.�



Time for clarity


n my New Year Message, I highlighted that there was a sense of optimism from businesses as they face into 2017 with determination and ambition. Consumer confidence remains in place and businesses are still exporting. I did however highlight a number of uncertainties around key issues: On the EU, it is crucial that no ‘hard’ border between the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland is put in place. Being able to trade as freely as possible with the Republic of Ireland with limited bureaucracy and freedom of movement of people living and working on both sides of the border should be a top priority for government in any negotiations. On the Programme for Government (PfG), NI welcomes the fact that priority has been focused on the delivery of a competitive economy. Also important will be the accompanying budget and the economic and investment strategies. It is vital that these documents receive a collective approach from Ministers across all Departments. On Corporation Tax, NI Chamber has always said that prior to the actual point of having a lower tax rate than the rest of the UK, the imminent cut would be a strong sales asset for Northern Ireland. That is helping to

06 NI Chamber

attract fresh investment and throughout 2017 it will remain an important factor for us. On growth through exports, the Department for the Economy, Invest NI and NI Chamber, via its recently launched ‘Learn Grow Excel’ initiative, will work together to deliver an export strategy and to meet demanding targets for indigenous firms. On investment in roads, this must not stall. It will do much to ease congestion, helping businesses to move products and goods more efficiently and in the process reduce costs. On addressing energy challenges, given that planning permission for the Southern section of the North South Interconnector has now been granted, we must now receive a positive decision from the Northern Ireland Planning Inquiry to be held in February 2017. On the introduction of the Apprenticeship Levy in April this year, there are still many questions to be answered. How will businesses access the fund? How will it work for businesses that are multinational and train centrally or businesses that have staff working outside NI? Will the funds received from the levy in Northern Ireland be ring-fenced for apprenticeship/skills funding only? Clarity and direction on the issue is necessary. On the introduction of the National

Living Wage, it is important that the UK government retains a flexible approach in line with economic conditions when setting rates between now and 2020 in order to protect businesses and jobs. These issues impact our members and they can be assured we are representing their concerns at every level as we go forward. As we go to print the deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness has tendered his resignation and an election is therefore on the cards. I therefore add the need for political stability to the list of issues facing the Northern Ireland economy. The hope and optimism that greeted the Fresh Start Agreement has now dissipated. Meanwhile, the global economy is growing, so too are the economies in the UK and the Republic of Ireland where they are working on ambitious economic growth plans. The sad reality is that Northern Ireland is falling behind, and we need political stability to deliver the ambitious plans set out in the new Programme for Government and Export Matters Action Plan to grow trade. Nick Coburn President Northern Ireland Chamber of Commerce and Industry

GEOGRAPHIC INFORMATION EXPERTS CONTINUE GROWTH Esri Ireland, the Geographic Information Software and Services company based in Holywood, County Down continues to expand its team in 2017. The Holywood office now has a total of 12 full time employees, with new Support, Sales, Consultants, and Customer Engagement professionals. Philip McLaughlin, Client Manager for Esri Ireland explains how its software and services are used in many sectors of society in Northern Ireland: “Our main goal is to ensure that our customers understand the powerful business, environmental & social benefits of Geographic Information. Many organisations use Esri’s mapping platform “ArcGIS” to help make a positive impact on our society. For example we’ve been pleased to help support Emergency services in Northern Ireland locate incidents and predict where resources should be deployed. ArcGIS helps reveal ‘where’ activity has taken place. Everything happens somewhere and many public and private sector companies use the power of ‘place’ to reveal patterns, trends, and relationships that would

not be possible without the use of a map”, McLaughlin continued. Esri Ireland has been growing steadily since 2002 by enabling Utility and Communication firms manage their assets with Mobile and Web Based applications. Our Software Development Kits and Application Programming Interfaces (API) have been used by Software Developers and social coders alike to build applications that put location at the centre of applications. Esri’s mapping platform provides tools to help increase employee productivity throughout Government and is helping deliver smarter, better public services. We know how important Geographic Information is and how it will continue to be used to drive Northern Ireland’s economic development, as well as empowering and informing its people. This is seen in our continued growth as a company and our ongoing presence in Northern Ireland”, says McLaughlin. The Northern Ireland team of 12 forms part of the Esri Ireland overall team of 50 full time employees in Dublin. The team is comprised

Philip McLaughlin, Client Manager, Esri Ireland

of 13 different nationalities with a further 17 contractors working on site with customers throughout the country. If you’re interested in harnessing the power of location based services for your business, say hello at:


Star role for Energia at Omniplex cinemas Energia is set to supply energy to all of Omniplex cinemas screens on the island of Ireland. Omniplex cinemas currently source their energy from Energia and the new deal sees the contract extended and will cover the cinema group’s 12 locations in Northern Ireland as well as their 13 cinemas in the Republic of Ireland. Carole King, Communications Manager Omniplex said: “Being able to group all our cinemas under the one contract makes the admin side really easy and we can compare all sites on line!” Michael Ringland, PR and Events Manager, Energia welcomed the contract. He said: “It is always extremely satisfying when a customer like Omniplex decides to increase their business with us. It is an essential part of our business success that sees us supply over 60,000 Irish businesses with gas and electricity.” Energia has offices in Belfast, Omagh, Dublin, Galway and Cork.

BOROUGH SHOWCASES ITS STRENGTHS Armagh City, Banbridge and Craigavon Borough Council recently marked another successful milestone by attending the UK’s largest investment and property event, MIPIM UK. As part of its mission to drive investment and promote economic regeneration, the Council secured the borough’s debut place at the major three-day event to showcase and promote its investment potential and test the market for new opportunities to explore. Hosting a series of meetings and networking events, council officials met with national and international investors, stakeholders and interested parties, raising awareness of the borough’s investment strengths, successes and developments earmarked for potential regeneration. Armagh City, Banbridge and Craigavon Borough Council was one of several UK regional and city councils attending the event, which welcomes hundreds of delegates from across the property and investment sector. Roger Wilson, Chief Executive, Armagh City, Banbridge and Craigavon Borough Council, said: “Carefully planned, our attendance was hugely successful in attracting the right calibre of delegate and we are delighted with how the borough’s profile was effectively raised and with the genuine interest in several regeneration projects which were widely discussed among a strong national and international audience.”

Lord Mayor of Armagh City, Banbridge and Craigavon Borough Council, Councillor Garath Keating with Deputy Lord Mayor Councillor Paul Greenfield and Chief Executive Roger Wilson at MIPIM UK in London.

08 NI Chamber

Carole King, Communications Manager Omniplex with Michael Ringland, PR and Events Manager, Energia.

Pete Hanlon, Jeremy Biggerstaff, Bill Mathers, Cormac Kernan and Mark McCann, Directors of Flint studios with Glenn Roberts (2nd left), Senior Partner, Deloitte.

FLINT STUDIOS LEAPS UP THE DELOITTE FAST 50 One of Northern Ireland’s leading digital agencies has featured in the top 20 ranking of the prestigious Deloitte Technology Fast 50. Flint Studios, based in Belfast, was ranked number 13 in the ranking of the 50 fastest growing technology companies in Ireland. Rankings are based on average percentage revenue growth over the last four years. Flint Studios’ Managing Director, Jeremy Biggerstaff said: “Constantly pushing new boundaries, we have identified the opportunity to take the company into larger and more lucrative contracts, setting Flint Studios on a clear path to become recognised as one of the top digital agencies in Ireland and the UK. “We are honoured to be ranked 13th fastest growing company in Ireland and a credible 3rd in Northern Ireland.”

The Deloitte Fast 50 measures Ireland’s fastest growing indigenous companies in the tech sector. The awards, which are in their seventeenth year in Ireland, recognise the contribution of indigenous companies to the overall technology sector in Ireland, and indeed the overall economy. Cumulatively, the 2016 Fast 50 winners generated approximately 1.6 billion in total annual revenues in 2015. Announcing the winners of the Deloitte Technology Fast 50 programme, Peter Allen, Partner, Deloitte Belfast said: “We are delighted to be recognising these exceptional and innovative Irish companies. Their contribution to the technology sector is critical to the success of the industry overall in Ireland and it is clear from the turnover derived from exports that they are having considerable success in global markets also.”

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Chocks away at BCA

Abacus’ Business Director Justin Rush with his wife at the event.

The planning restriction which limits the number of departure seats sold by George Best Belfast City Airport (BCA) is set to be lifted. The decision, by Infrastructure Minister Chris Hazzard, was revealed in a letter to Finance Minister Máirtín Ó Muilleoir and seen by residents groups. It follows a public inquiry into the issue in 2015. The airport has argued that dropping the 2 million seats cap would help moves to attract more European flights. The restriction will be replaced by new noise controls, recommended at the inquiry. In his letter, Mr Hazzard said his decision is subject to “resolving technical issues”. More than 2.5 million passengers use BCA annually - a figure representing both departing and incoming travellers. The airport’s current owners EISER are selling the facility, along with other UK assets, to a fellow investment company, 3i. No price has been disclosed for the deal. Meanwhile a new service between Belfast City Airport and Reykjavik is to begin in June. The three times weekly flight will be operated by Iceland Air’s sister airline Air Iceland.

Abacus celebrates 13 years in business More than 150 guests representing numerous companies covering all sectors across Northern Ireland joined the Abacus Professional Recruitment team recently to celebrate the firm’s move into its teenage years. Celebrations for the firm’s 13 years in business took place at Belfast’s Cabaret Supper Club. The black tie fund-raising event, in aid of SOS Bus NI, raised £4,276.00. Justin Rush, co-owner and Business Director at Abacus

said: “The event was held not only to celebrate Abacus’ 13 years in business but also to raise funds for SOS Bus NI – a very worthy charity. We are delighted the evening was such a success.” Belfast based Abacus is a multi-award winning recruitment agency which delivers recruitment services to leading high-brand companies across several professional sectors. This encompasses permanent, interim/contract and temporary recruitment solutions.

Ciaran Doherty, Head of Co-operative Marketing, Tourism Ireland, Anne McMullan, Director of Marketing and Communications, Visit Belfast, and Ellie McGimpsey, Business Development Manager, Belfast City Airport celebrate the announcement of a new air service between Belfast and Reykjavik.

Irish FA scores with top UEFA marketing award The Irish Football Association fought off stiff competition from 24 other national football associations to win first prize for ‘Best Fan Engagement Campaign’ at the prestigious 2016 UEFA KISS marketing awards which took place recently in Athens. The awards, held every two years, recognise and reward creativity in marketing across the European football family. The Irish FA’s application highlighted its work engaging Northern Ireland

10 NI Chamber

Guy-Laurent Epstein (right), Marketing Director of UEFA Events, presents the KISS award to Oonagh O’Reilly, the Irish FA’s Director of Sales and Marketing, and Neil Brittain, the Association’s Head of Communications.

supporters before, during and after the country’s historic participation at EURO 2016. The independent panel of judges voted the Irish FA number one ahead of three other shortlisted nations – Germany, Romania and Israel – and paid tribute to the association for putting Northern Ireland fans at the centre of its marketing and communications activity around the tournament. The judges also praised the Irish FA’s efforts in using creative content to help unite the country behind the team.

Oonagh O’Reilly, Director of Sales and Marketing at the Irish FA, said: “I am absolutely delighted that the Irish FA marketing and communications team has won this prestigious award and through it our fans have once again been recognised as the best in Europe. “This shows that although we are a small association our work in this area is world class. Our aim is to continue to inspire every young boy and girl across Northern Ireland to be part of our football family and to dare to dream of wearing the green shirt.”

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Trevor Annon, founder and Chairman of Mount Charles, Ireland’s largest food service and business support company, raises concerns over how Northern Ireland will benefit from this latest tax on business.

12 NI Chamber

s a company with around 2,000 employees, news of the apprenticeship levy will have a significant impact for us. The plan is to introduce an additional 0.5 per cent tax on all companies. However, as with most taxes there is an allowance of £15,000, therefore the levy will only have an impact on companies with a pay bill of £3 million or more. This fee will be collected via the Pay As You Earn (PAYE) scheme. The allowance will mean smaller businesses will not be affected, but for companies such as ours, and others like Moy Park, Translink and Wright Group, it will most certainly be a challenge. The Chancellor Philip Hammond has estimated that by 2019-20 the levy will have raised circa £3 billion. Perhaps the most concerning element is that there does not yet seem to be any real clarity on how local businesses will be able to access the fund generated. We understand that funds will be available through the block grant, but it is as yet unclear how this will happen in reality. It is a matter for the Westminister government to outline the practicalities of the levy from a devolved perspective but I understand that the system in England is much further developed, where an Institute for Apprenticeships has recently been established to oversee the distribution of the levy. In England each company will have access to a digital account which enables greater transparency with regards to the accessing and monitoring of funds. I also understand that the UK government is working with the devolved administrations to agree how the levy will work for and benefit employers in each country. Economy Minister Simon Hamilton’s recently announced public consultation into the proposals is to be welcomed, and I echo his concerns around the tangible benefits of the scheme for Northern Irish business. He is right when he talks about how essential a skilled workforce is to refocusing and building on a modern, competitive and export-driven economy and as a business community we must remain committed to ensuring we can employ the best, most skilled people for our jobs.

That means relevant and bespoke training and apprenticeship programmes that allow collective growth in the skills that businesses here really need. We are engaging with the Northern Ireland Chamber of Commerce and Industry on this issue, and have responded to their request for consultation. Aside from the huge question mark over when and how much we’ll be able to access from the fund, we have other fundamental concerns. The proposed restrictions on age present a big barrier for a company like ours. Where an apprentice aged 24 or younger might work for some sectors such as manufacturing, with 65 per cent of our workforce above this age group it would be much more useful for us to access funding to enable all age groups to benefit from any apprenticeship schemes. It also seems that funding may only be available for new employees or roles. What would be of more benefit to our organisation is if we were able to access funds that would allow the upskilling of existing employees rather than new recruits only. To date we’ve received limited funding for training and apprenticeships but given that we

will be paying a significant amount of money – northwards of £70,000 – towards this latest business tax, we certainly hope to derive some benefit in the form of increased support for training. It’s no secret that the hospitality industry is tackling skills shortages, partly due to reduced funding for vocational training and a low level of industry engagement at secondary school level, and this is an issue we do experience to some extent within our catering division. Increased money for apprenticeships and training wouldn’t fix the problem by itself, but as part of a collaborative approach it would certainly help. You might ask then, what is the outcome we desire when it comes to the implementation of this apprenticeship levy? Well, all we really want is transparency around how the money raised will be spent, how and when we can access it and how much we will be eligible to receive. We also want to see a fund that is fit for purpose for all business, with due recognition that there may not be a ‘one size fits all’ solution. Sounds simple, doesn’t it? We will watch this space with interest.

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opening the door to supply of new offices and hotels While Grade A offices are in short supply, a cascade of new hotel rooms are on the cards for Belfast as Brian Lavery, Managing Director, CBRE Northern Ireland tells Adrienne McGill.


he number of cranes swinging across Belfast’s skyline at the moment may be an indication of the health of the hotel sector with a stack of new builds taking place across the city – but the same can’t be said of the office market which appears to have hit a wall. With limited new development taking place, supply has fallen partly as result of constraints on bank lending to fund Grade A office space developments. Talks have been ongoing between developers, financial institutions and speculative tenants around whether mezzanine or equity finance for developers on commercial terms would act as a shortterm intervention which would stimulate the development of new Grade A office accommodation. Commercial property giant CBRE has acted for a number of Foreign Direct Investors in Northern Ireland seeking offices including Baker McKenzie, Allen & Overy and Herbert Smith Freehills and knows of the problems they encounter when trying to source space required for their workforces. Brian Lavery, Managing Director, CBRE Northern Ireland says: “There is a mismatch between tenants wanting to take up office space, developers having the sites and the finance being made 14 NI Chamber

available to bring the development forward. “There is no connectivity – tenants want offices and developers are ready to build them – but they can’t get the finance in place and our local Banks are still very risk averse. “Any investor looking at Northern Ireland is having to wait for at least 2 years to get the type of office they require. There are other cities elsewhere in the UK which have speculatively built space available and Belfast is competing against them. “However, there are alternative investors coming in and we are very busy looking at how mezzanine finance or another type of financial model could be put in place which could perhaps take the risk out of projects and then the banks would be happier to come along later on. We are trying to persuade people to make the connection and get development happening. “We have faith in the market that the right drivers are there – it is a case of getting them to connect.” There was approximately 859,000 sq. ft. of available office accommodation in Belfast at the end of 2015, however only 164,000 sq. ft. is considered Grade A. The Grade A stock that is available is highly fragmented so with a limited supply and a constrained development pipeline, upward pressure on rental levels looks set to continue.

By comparison, Brian Lavery points to the buoyancy of the hotel sector with a surge of new hotels either already under construction or in the planning process in Belfast. These include the new 188 room City Quays Hotel on the Waterfront which will operate under the Marriott International brand, a 17 room boutique hotel in the city centre’s Bank Square, the transformation of Windsor House on Bedford Street by Hastings Hotels into the 300 room Grand Central Hotel and the conversion of Harland and Wolff’s design offices into a 120 room boutique hotel. “We are definitely underprovided with regard to hotel rooms,” says Brian. “There are about 1,000 rooms coming out of the ground at the moment which is great. We are extending our provision by about one third – there are around 3,000 rooms at the moment. We definitely need more rooms but once these new hotels are built, I would like to see how they perform over the next 3-4 years before we see the next tranche coming through. “I think there is a need for more hotels at the Waterfront and definitely of a four-star standard. If we are going to build Belfast as a real centre for conferences, attendees want to stay in a hotel with a four-star offering near the conference centre. We have to be able to supply that.”

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PUTTING PAY TO NON-PAYMENT Selling goods and services overseas may be fulfilling but it does pose risks when it comes to getting paid unless you have the right financial products in place, Ruth Graham, Head of Danske Bank Trade Finance tells Adrienne McGill.


xporting is essential to the development of our open economy but it can be a complex and daunting business for those without experience. Exporters face a number of challenges such as increased costs, access to finance, the need for additional security and the risk of bad debts. Trade Finance is a specialist area of banking that can help exporters and covers a range of products such as letters of credit for exporters, documentary collections and guarantees. Having access to these services can provide alternative finance for trade than would be achieved through conventional lending. A Letter of Credit for example, is a secure method of guaranteeing payment from the buyer. It’s basically a letter from the foreign bank which is providing a conditional guarantee to the exporter where payment will be made within a specified timescale – provided documents are in accordance with the terms laid down in the Letter of Credit. When the goods have been shipped, the exporter presents the shipping documents and assuming the documentation is all in order, the bank will make payment to the exporter. If the exporter offers extended payment terms such as 30 or 60 days after shipment of goods, the bank can also apply a discount, meaning that payment can made in advance instead of waiting for payment from the buyer’s bank, thereby helping the exporter with their working capital. Trade finance is a huge driver of economic development and helps maintain the flow of credit in supply chains. It is predicted that 8090 per cent of global trade is reliant on trade and supply chain finance, and is estimated to be worth around USD $10 trillion a year. “When a company is exporting, they are operating in a different jurisdiction, they also have to deal with logistics, currency exposure and cultural differences but most importantly they have to ensure they are going to get paid. The best vehicle to use is letters of credit,” says Ruth Graham, Head of Danske Bank Trade Finance. “It is not uncommon for an exporter to demand payment up front when they initially trade with their customer, but as the size of orders increase over time that may not be

16 NI Chamber

practical. “The fact is that if a company does not receive payment for their goods, it will result in the business running into financial difficulty. So one of the most important consideration for an exporter should always be – how am I going to get paid?” “My team’s overall goal is to help customers minimise trade risk. Part of this support includes trade products designed to help the cashflow of customers when they are exporting.” Most businesses require financing at some stage, particularly those in the international export or global supply chain trade where capital costs are high and profitability is greater when order volumes are high. As well as economic benefits (job and wealth creation), individual companies benefit from export finance as it generally increases productivity, profitability and growth. Exporters should also consider support from UK Export Finance, the operating name of the Export Credits Guarantee Department (ECGD), the United Kingdom’s export credit agency. This can help UK exporters where they are able to access government-backed finance to support their export activities. The UK Export Finance’s support is given in the form of guarantees on working capital loans and contract bonds such as Advance

Payment Guarantees and Performance Bonds issued by the Bank. This means that the exporters can have access to the funds they need to fulfil export contracts. UK Export Finance looks at applications on a case-bycase basis, however, to be eligible you must be in business in the UK and the buyer must be overseas. Mrs Graham says with the current weakness of sterling, now is a good time for local exporters to capitalise on opportunities in international markets. “Foreign buyers need less currency to buy the same quantity of Northern Ireland goods. Therefore a weak pound means local exporters can sell their goods cheaper and/or increase their profit margins. “In the Trade and Export Finance team at Danske Bank, we work closely with colleagues across Danske Bank to help new and existing customers with the trade finance services they may need to export – this helps Northern Ireland’s emerging and established exporters enhance their business prospects.”

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MUSEUMS TELL THE STORY OF THE PAST AND SHAPE THE FUTURE Gone are the days when museums were regarded by some as boring institutions – instead they have become bright interactive places which involve visitors in learning about the past as Chief Executive of National Museums NI Kathryn Thomson tells Adrienne McGill.


useums are fascinating places to visit – every artefact tells a story and is multi-layered in history. A Roman goblet shows us how people drank and socialised, as well as encouraging us to think about the influence of class and status on feasting and socialising. Coins dating back over 2,500 years are one of the most important sources of information because unlike most other artefacts, they are often stamped with words and images which reveal a lot about different civilisations. Artefacts are therefore really important, especially when visitors can touch and interact with them. National Museums NI (NMNI) operates the region’s 3 foremost museums, which present inspirational collections that reflect the creativity, innovation, history, culture and people of Northern Ireland. The Ulster Museum in Belfast, which was transformed in 2009 into an interactive discovery centre, is a treasure house of the past and present and home to a rich collection of art, history and natural sciences. The Ulster Folk and Transport Museum in Cultra steps back in time and uncovers a way of life from 100 years ago with cottages, farms, schools, shops and costumed visitor guides demonstrating traditional crafts while nearby, visitors can climb on and off impressive steam locomotives or experience the sensation of flight in the transport galleries bursting

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with horse-drawn carriages, electric trams, motorbikes, fire-engines and vintage cars. Meanwhile, the Ulster American Folk Park in Omagh brings to life the story of Irish emigration with visitors taken on a journey from the thatched cottages of Ulster to the log cabins of the American Frontier. “We are one organisation – our DNA is our collections,” says Kathryn Thomson, Chief Executive of NMNI, who took up the role in March 2016 after an extensive career in Tourism NI. “We have 1.4 million objects in our collections which we care for and manage. They cover a range of different disciplines – history, arts, transport, folk life and agriculture, emigration and natural sciences. “We continually develop and add to them for both current and future generations – our role and purpose is to make those collections as accessible as possible to the public, primarily through our 3 museum sites. “As well as seeing them in the museums, we also make them accessible digitally and a lot of the collections are online. In addition, we have an extensive outreach programme, taking objects and exhibitions into communities or lending them to other museums. “We create an economic impact by making Northern Ireland better to live, work, learn in and visit. We are a critical part of the fabric of society. NMNI is a huge cultural asset. The museums tell

the stories of Northern Ireland and of its people and places.” While Northern Ireland’s most visited attraction is Titanic Belfast, followed by the Giant’s Causeway, the Ulster Museum is the third largest crowd-puller. Kathryn says the museums are a key part of the tourism infrastructure – about 25 per cent of people visiting them come from outside Northern Ireland but she believes this has the potential to grow substantially. “Our ambition is to reach 1 million visitors over the next 5 years but we will have to develop our sites to achieve that. “To stimulate international demand, the role that museums can play is to add breadth and depth to the visitor experience and offer them something that is unique to this place. We can help extend the length of tourists’ stay and spend in a region.” Over the last 5 years, NMNI’s budget has been reduced by 30 per cent and now totals around £13 million with input from government of £10.5 million and £2.5 million of self-generated income through a combination of ticket sales, venue hire, catering, retail and a range of grants and foundations. Kathryn stresses co-working with the public and local communities in projects is crucial to highlighting the value of museums. Brilliant events are held in the incredible buildings operated by NMNI ranging from talks, lectures, events,


Chief Executive of National Museums NI, Kathryn Thomson. Picture by David Cordner

exhibitions or gallery showings and formal learning programmes to support the schools curriculum. She points to the Remembering 1916 exhibition last year relating to major events including the First World War, the Battle of the Somme and the Easter Rising using museum and community-owned objects to interpret the events of 1916, their impact on society and their legacy. NMNI is currently inviting the public to share their stories for a Troubles archive that will form an evolution of the Ulster Museum exhibition on the social and political changes of the time. ‘Collecting the Troubles and Beyond’ aims to add to the museum’s contemporary collection with personal stories and artefacts and the gallery displays will be updated during 2017. “We can play an important role as a museum by stimulating debate and discussion, bringing contemporary issues to the fore and using our collections to challenge perceptions and help people to look at past events in a different way. “While we have a shared history, we don’t have a shared memory,” says Kathryn. Looking ahead, the Ulster Museum is to

host an iconic poppy installation later this year, which commemorates those who were killed in the First World War. The museum will be the venue for the ‘Weeping Window’ art piece, following a joint bid by NMNI and the Belfast International Arts Festival. The full installation was originally showcased at the Tower of London in 2014 where 888,246 poppies were displayed, in honour of every death in the British and Colonial forces of the First World War. ‘Weeping Window’ is a cascade of several thousand handmade ceramic poppies that pours from a window or other point high above the ground and has been created by Derby-based artist Paul Cummins and designer Tom Piper. It is part of a series of presentations of the sculpture on show at different locations around Britain which will continue touring until 2018. The artwork will be in place at the Ulster Museum from 14 October until 3 December 2017. Then from September 2018, visitors to the Ulster Museum will be able to observe the gigantic skeleton of Dippy the dinosaur as he tours the UK.

In display pose, the full 292-bone skeleton is an impressive 21.3 metres long, 4.3 metres wide and 4.25 metres high. Kathryn says: “This will give us a fantastic platform to uncover and connect to stories from our own extensive Natural Sciences collection. We look forward to creating an exciting programme of events for ‘Dippy on Tour: A Natural History Adventure’ that will appeal to all ages and inspire our visitors to engage more with the natural world in our area.” Kathryn Thomson is passionate about the critical role museums play in society and stresses they are both necessary and relevant today. They undoubtedly provide a unique interactive experience of getting up close to things we usually only see in books, newspapers or on the television. In terms of education, going to a museum can bring what is taught in schools to life, by seeing and hearing the stories of artefacts or paintings for example and they are also a significant factor in attracting tourists to an area and can therefore be instrumental in helping the local economy. “Museums tell the story of the past and challenge the present,” says Kathryn. “They also shape the future – and that is important.”

NI Chamber19

feature Jonathan Rose, Ofcom Northern Ireland Director.

Broadband needs to get up to speed More than 60,000 homes and businesses in Northern Ireland still don’t have “decent” broadband, according to Ofcom. Adrienne McGill looks at the findings of its latest report.


ood broadband is a must and there’s been significant progress in raising speeds across Northern Ireland over the last decade but there are big variations in the service you get, depending on where you live. Latest figures from Ofcom show that across Northern Ireland, some 63,000 homes and offices – or 8 per cent of properties – still can’t get a service that will deliver broadband speeds over 10Mbit/s, the speed Ofcom says is required to meet a typical household’s digital needs. The findings are part of Ofcom’s Connected Nations 2016 report – the regulator’s annual state of the nation look at the UK’s telecoms networks. The report shows good progress on the availability and take-up of communications services in Northern Ireland. However, it finds there is more to do in boosting mobile and broadband coverage, especially in rural areas. One in four rural properties in Northern Ireland can’t get a broadband service capable of delivering 10Mbit/s, says Ofcom, often because they are situated a long way from the local street cabinet or telephone exchange. Help may be on its way though, because Ofcom has also set out its advice to the UK

20 NI Chamber

Government on implementing its plans for a universal broadband service. This will give every home and small business in the country the right to request a decent, affordable broadband connection of 10Mbit/s or above by the end of the current parliament. Ofcom’s research shows that this speed is sufficient to meet the current needs of a typical household though it also accepts this is likely to change as new, data-hungry applications emerge. The final design of the universal service will be decided by the UK Government. Ofcom will then implement it. Jonathan Rose, Ofcom Northern Ireland Director, said: “Mobile and broadband coverage continued to grow this year, but too many people and businesses are still struggling for a good service. We think that is unacceptable. “So we’re challenging mobile operators to go beyond built-up areas, and provide coverage across the UK’s countryside and transport networks. We’ve also provided technical advice to support the Government’s plans for universal, decent broadband.” Superfast broadband, capable of delivering 30Mbit/s or more, is now available to eight in ten Northern Ireland homes and businesses (83%), up from 77 per cent last year. Interestingly, availability for SMEs is

lower, at 71 per cent. Ofcom says this is because many SMEs are based in rural areas or in business parks, areas that to date have not been targeted for network upgrades. The regulator says this picture will improve in the years ahead on the back of continuing government funded interventions and ongoing operator investment. Average broadband download speeds in Northern Ireland meanwhile have jumped by 21 per cent in the last year, from 28Mbit/s to 34Mbit/s. This reflects not only better coverage, but also people choosing to pay for faster broadband packages. Around a third of Northern Ireland premises (34%, or 254,000) have now chosen to take up superfast broadband – up from 29 per cent a year earlier. Mobile coverage has also improved in the last year. Six in ten premises in Northern Ireland (64%) can now receive an indoor 4G signal from all networks, up from 37 per cent last year, as operators continue to roll out faster mobile broadband. Ofcom’s Connected Nations report, which includes broadband coverage information down to a local authority level as well as up-to-date mobile coverage figures for Northern Ireland is available online at



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NI Chamber 21

Chamber chief’s



s always, Northern Ireland Chamber of Commerce and Industry is jumping into the New Year with energy and focus in the delivery of services to our members. This year, in addition to our usual extensive range of initiatives and programmes, we will be introducing a totally new and dynamic series of events under our ‘Learn Grow Excel’ strategy. The powerful new suite of business support initiatives, led and resourced entirely by the private sector and supported by Power NI, recognises the commitment from the private sector to assist local companies to scale-up and maximise business growth and export opportunities. We are very excited about the initiative which will open up a new world of bold opportunities for our members and help them expand at home and overseas. The New Year is of course a good time to reflect on the highlights of the previous 12 months and one of these was of course the annual President’s Banquet which ended 2016 in sparkling style. Around 750 guests from the world of business, politics and government gathered at Belfast Waterfront for the black-tie event to hear Hollywood Producer Mark Huffam, who hails from Antrim, being interviewed by BBC Newsnight presenter Kirsty Wark. Mark, who talked about his life and career in the film industry, has produced a number of blockbuster movies including Saving Private Ryan, Mamma Mia, the Martian and also the first series of Game of Thrones. The theme of the evening was a celebration of innovation and creativity both of which are to the fore in Northern Ireland’s booming film and television production industry and it was wonderful to hear Mark provide such inspiration to

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the sector on the night. Also rounding off 2016, we had a ‘Minister on the Move’ event in partnership with SSE Airtricity at Ballygawley-based Sandvik. Mark Huffam interviewed by Kirsty Wark.

Economy Minister Simon Hamilton delivered a departmental update to attendees, who also heard the growth story of Sandvik from Site Manager Eamonn Whelan and then enjoyed a tour of its facilities. The ‘Minister on the Move’ initiative provides businesses with the chance to speak directly with NI Assembly Ministers at a number of locations across the province. The Sandvik factory in Ballygawley is known as one of the world’s premier manufacturing facilities for mobile crushers and screens. Exporting to over 40 countries, spanning every continent, Sandvik has grown its export sales from Northern Ireland by 60 per cent over the Sandvik Site Manager, Eamonn Whelan.

past two years. Export growth was also highlighted at the last ‘Danske Bank Export First’ event of the year which took place at Genesis Crafty’s Magherafelt-based bakery. Agriculture Minister Michelle McIlveen, who addressed around 50 local businesses at the event, said the agri-food industry in Northern Ireland has considerable potential to grow in export markets. The Danske Bank Export First programme is a business-led support initiative by NI Chamber in partnership with Danske Bank and airlines partner Etihad. Attendees also heard about the success of Genesis Crafty, which produces a range of artisan branded and own label bread and confectionery items. The family owned business began as McErlain’s Bakery and was founded in 1968 by the parents of the six brothers who run the firm today.

Brian McErlain (Genesis Crafty), Liza Hammond (Etihad), Agriculture Minister Michelle McIlveen, Ann McGregor (NI Chamber) and Aaron Ennis (Danske Bank).

It has become a £22 million operation, supplying top retailers in the UK and Ireland including M&S, Tesco, Waitrose, Sainsbury’s, the Henderson Group and the Musgrave Group. Then, back in Belfast at the Europa Hotel, representatives from around 150 local businesses had an opportunity to ‘Meet the Buyer’ at NI Chamber’s ongoing ‘Connecting for Growth’ programme. The initiative, held in partnership with Bank of Ireland UK – which on the day was represented by Bank of Ireland UK’s

chamber chief’s update Director of Business Banking for Northern Ireland Gavin Kennedy – enables local companies to have face-to-face meetings with a wide range of major local businesses. The event also included a panel discussion with key business representatives and a ‘speed networking’ session aimed at building contacts.

Sandra Scannell (NI Chamber) and Gavin Kennedy (Bank of Ireland UK).

With regard to policy issues, we returned to Mid-Ulster for the latest meeting of the Energy Forum which took place at roller blind manufacturer Bloc Blinds in Magherafelt. The Energy Forum initiative is aimed at providing a bridge between energy providers and large energy users in Northern Ireland. Top of the agenda at the briefing, which was led by NI Chamber and System Operator for Northern Ireland (SONI) and attended by around 50 local firms, was the fact that Northern Ireland businesses could face an increase in electricity costs if the North South Interconnector is not given the go-ahead. The interconnector, an electricity overhead line between Co Tyrone and Co Meath, will provide a high-capacity link between the electricity systems in Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland. The Republic of Ireland’s planning body recently gave approval for the southern section of the £200 million cross border electricity project. The northern section has still not been granted approval, with a decision not likely until mid or late 2017. It will be taken by Infrastructure Minister Chris Hazzard following a public inquiry. At the briefing, SONI’s General Manager Robin McCormick said having the interconnector would send signals to Foreign Direct Investors that Northern

Ireland has a secure electricity supply and would allow the Single Electricity Market to operate efficiently, increase competition and drive down electricity prices. Another matter of concern is the Apprenticeship Levy. NI Chamber held a briefing in Belfast with the Department for the Economy on the issue which was hosted by Jackie Henry, Partner at Deloitte and attended by more than 40 businesses. The Apprenticeship Levy will be introduced across the UK in April 2017 and will affect all firms with a payroll of over £3 million and will account for 0.5 per cent of a company’s salary bill, paid through PAYE, alongside income tax and National Insurance on a monthly basis. This will have major implications for many of our members but there are still a number of unknowns around how the Levy will work in Northern Ireland. Meanwhile, the current Draft Programme for Government (PfG) was the subject of discussion recently between NI Chamber and the NI Executive Office. Hosted by A&L Goodbody, Joe Reynolds, Director for the PfG, briefed 40 firms on the document. The PfG is the highest level strategic document of the Executive – setting out the priorities that it will pursue in the current Assembly mandate, and the most significant actions it will take to address them. They touch on every aspect of government, including the attainment of good health and education, economic success and confident and peaceful communities. NI Chamber has submitted responses on the Apprenticeship Levy and the draft PfG, both of which were out for consultation until 23 December 2016.

Peter Stafford (A&L Goodbody), Ann McGregor (NI Chamber), Matthew McFarland (NISRA), Joe Reynolds (NI Executive) and Chris Morrow (NI Chamber).

Finally, we look forward to 2017 with confidence and hope that the year will bring an increase in exports and wealth for our members as they seek to grow their businesses at home and overseas with the support of NI Chamber. Francie Molloy MP, Cormac Diamond (Bloc Blinds), Robin McCormick (SONI) and Kirsty McManus (NI Chamber).

* ‘Learn Grow Excel’ – see pages 29-37:

NEW MEMBERS Agri Foods Natural Ingredients NI Business Services Godfrey North Limited Reed Specialist Recruitment Vector Improvements Ltd. Charity Social Enterprise NI Computer and Related Activiites Rockstar Data Storage Creative Industry Origin Digital Hotels and Restaurants Yellow Door Legal Johnsons Solicitors Manufacturing Smurfit Kappa Telecommunications Standard Utilities Training Core Leadership Blay Training Transport Uber Waste Equipment Suppliers CBS Waste Equipment NI CHAMBER MEMBERS UPGRADING TO CORPORATE LEVEL Our Corporate members represent the leading companies in Northern Ireland who help drive the development of the economy. Business Services MCS Group Securitas Legal TLT NI New Corporate Members: Computer and Related Activities Neueda Razormind Manufacturing MJM Group Seagate Public and Administration and Defence Fermanagh & Omagh District Council Mid Ulster Council NI Chamber Members Upgrading To Growth Level Manufacturing McCue Crafted Fit * To become a member of NI Chamber join online at www. or phone the membership team on 02890 244113

NI Chamber 23


NI Chamber’s events team - Petrina McAuley, Louise McCrea, Louise Turley, Gabi Burnside and Sarah Weir. Picture by Andrew Vaughan at Ten Square Hotel, Belfast.

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I Chamber organises an exciting array of more than 60 high profile events each year and is widely recognised for their scale and calibre. They range from banquets to company visits and from breakfasts to private ministerial dinners and offer the opportunity for members, who cover all sectors and sizes of business, to build relationships and open their companies to a substantial business network. The team has expanded in recent months in response to the growing number of inspiring initiatives devised by NI Chamber. The team includes: Louise Turley, Assistant Head of Business Services, who has led NI Chamber’s events team for the past 8 years. She is responsible for planning and delivering the extensive and varied schedule of corporate events for NI Chamber members, sponsorship and relationship management. “I ensure that our packed programme of events which span Northern Irelandwide conferences to small, topic specific gatherings, prestigious gala dinners for up to 900 guests and VIP speaking engagements, are not to be missed. They are always engaging and provide tangible benefits and opportunities for members to learn, to do business and to influence policy,” says Louise. “Our aim is to continually improve the event experience for our members. “The events team prioritise attention to detail and are enthusiastic and creative. Each of us communicates our own ideas clearly about the staging of an event and we get the most out each other’s talents. We all have a proven ability to manage pressure, multi-task and problem solve and have excellent organisational skills – those are the key elements of successful event management.” Prior to joining NI Chamber, Louise worked in banking and in freight logistics. Sarah Weir, Events Manager is a new appointment to the team.

With over 12 years’ experience in Event Management and Public Relations at JComms, she has been involved in the organisation of some of Northern Ireland’s most prominent and prestigious events including managing the portfolio of awards for a leading daily newspaper and providing all aspects of event management for them. She was also involved in the award winning televised Spirit of Northern Ireland Awards. Sarah brings a complete suite of event management skills for events of all genres; from corporate events, competitive sporting and recreation events, to awards ceremonies, product launches and fundraising initiatives. Gabi Burnside, Business Services Manager, joined NI Chamber in 2015 and was promoted to Business Services Manager in 2016. Gabi focuses on the Connecting for Growth meet the buyer initiative and the Danske Bank Export First programme – both designed to increase external sales. Prior to NI Chamber, Gabi managed a wide range of programmes, international conferences, and training throughout the whole of the UK and further afield for Ineque Group. Petrina McAuley, Business Services Assistant joined NI Chamber 2 years ago, providing high-level sales, marketing and planning support within the team. Throughout her career to date, she has organised a wide range of events in the media and publishing industry. She previously worked for the Ulster Tatler Group organising the annual Ulster Tatler Awards and the Ulster Bride show. She also has a BSc in Marketing. Louise McCrea, Business Services Assistant has been with NI Chamber since last September and works with Petrina on sales and planning. Louise has a First Class Honours Degree in Event Management and previously worked for the Special Olympics Ulster as an Events and Fundraising Assistant where she managed multiple sporting and fundraising events.

NI Chamber 25

president’s banquet 2.


More than 750 guests attended Northern Ireland Chamber of Commerce and Industry’s annual President’s Banquet which took place recently. The glittering event at Belfast Waterfront was billed as a celebration of innovation and creativity in business. It was compered by BBC Newsnight presenter Kirsty Wark, who interviewed guest speaker Hollywood film producer Mark Huffam about his work which includes Saving Private Ryan, Mamma Mia, The Martian and the first series of Game of Thrones. Also addressing guests was US-based aerospace engineer Sinead O’Sullivan, a graduate of Queen’s University and Harvard Business School. The event was supported by NI Chamber’s Communications Partner BT and supporting sponsors ABC Council; Charles Hurst Jaguar Land Rover; Power NI and Tughans.

3. 5.




26 NI Chamber


8. 10.




1. Kirsty Wark interviews Mark Huffam. 2. Paul Chesney, Emma Huffam, Eddie Bittles and Brian Miskimmin. 3. Phillip McBride, Dawn Ross, Angus Cameron and Gerry Kindlon. 4. Ed Vernon, Alastair Hamilton and David Sterling. 5. Ann McGregor, Paul Murnaghan and Minister Peter Weir. 6. Minister Peter Weir, Stephen McCully and Nick Coburn. 7. Ann McGregor, Nick Coburn, Kirsty Wark, Mark Huffam and Sinead O’Sullivan. 8. Gabi Burnside, Esther Letman, Faye Orr, Louise Turley and Sandra Scannell. 9. Cara Coburn and Nick Coburn, President NI Chamber of Commerce. 10. Patrick Brown and Minister Peter Weir. 11. Lisa and Mark Huffam. 12. Adam Kennedy, Amanda Kennedy, Ann McGregor, Sarah Sistern and John Dugdale. 13. Main banquet room. 14. Jonathan Buckley, Mark Baxter, Paul Greenfield, Olga Murtagh and Terry McWilliams.


NI Chamber 27


1. 1. Ellvena Graham (NI Chamber) with Ulster Rugby’s Darren Cave and Roger Wilson. 2. John McGuckian (Tughans) and Chris Monroe (Smiley Monroe). 3. John Glover (Sales Director at Rich Sauces) outlines how NI Chamber programmes have benefited Rich Sauces. 4. Nick Coburn (NI Chamber), Economy Minister Simon Hamilton and Alan Egner (Power NI). 5. Sprint runner Jason Smyth and Alan Egner (Power NI).




28 NI Chamber




NI CHAMBER HELPS BUSINESSES GET FITTER FOR GROWTH Northern Ireland Chamber of Commerce and Industry (NI Chamber) has launched a dynamic and powerful new suite of business support initiatives led and resourced by the private sector. Supported by its SME Partner Power NI, NI Chamber’s new range of services recognises the commitment from the private sector to assist local companies to scale-up and maximise business growth and export opportunities. ‘Learn Grow Excel’ was formed in response to the Department for the Economy’s ‘Export Matters’ strategy which sets out ambitious targets for growth in international markets, and has been designed to support growing companies at every stage of development and encourage more export activity in Northern Ireland. Businesses who take part in the initiative, which covers 8 elements, will be given the opportunity to participate in cross-border meet the buyer events, learn from those who have achieved export success, develop growth potential, secure export orders, expand networks, find out about scaling-up, take part in near market trade visits and also attend an export-led business conference in Belfast next year. Partnered by Bank of Ireland UK, Danske Bank, First Trust Bank, HSBC, Ulster Bank and Ulster Carpets, the focus of Learn Grow Excel is to: •

Inspire and share learning

Build capability and networks

Provide one-to-one support

Promote development & sales

Nick Coburn, President of NI Chamber, said: “The Department for the Economy’s Export Matters Action Plan sets the very challenging target of increasing the value of sales outside Northern Ireland by 33 per cent by 2020 and 80 per cent by 2025. “Through our current pioneering programmes such as Danske Bank Export First and Connecting for Growth in partnership with Bank of Ireland UK, NI Chamber has demonstrated that experienced exporters from the private sector can contribute to achieving these targets by sharing their experience, their expertise and their networks.

Nick Coburn (President, NI Chamber) with Economy Minister Simon Hamilton, Ann McGregor (Chief Executive, NI Chamber) and Alan Egner (Commercial Sales and Marketing Manager at Power NI) at the launch of Learn Grow Excel.

“Whether companies are in the early stages of growth, starting out in new markets, or interested in scalingup and expanding into additional export markets, the portfolio of programmes has something for every level of business. The only pre-requisites are the potential and commitment of businesses to grow in exports and a determination to succeed.” Welcoming the initiative, Economy Minister Simon Hamilton said: “Growing Northern Ireland’s exports is a critical element in creating an increasingly outward looking, globally competitive economy. It is encouraging to learn that we were the only part of the United Kingdom to record an increase in exports in the last quarter. I recognise that growing Northern Ireland’s external sales and exports requires a joined up effort led by companies supported by Invest NI and the NI Chamber of Commerce. As well as Export Matters, I am developing an International Trade Plan which will include a Trade Advisory Board and Trade Ambassadors to assist us in our efforts to open up new markets. There are many new opportunities globally and we need ambition, confidence and self-belief to grasp these.” Alan Egner, Commercial Sales and Marketing Manager at Power NI, also commended Learn Grow Excel. He said: “With a history and heritage going back over 80 years, Power NI has provided the energy behind many business export success stories from this part of the world. We are committed to helping the local SME sector prosper and are delighted to support the Learn Grow Excel initiative.”

“Our new Learn Grow Excel initiative, in partnership with a number of select organisations, has been designed to support growing companies at every stage of development and encourage more export activity in Northern Ireland. It demonstrates that the private sector has a key role to play in the creation of a strong, competitive, regionally balanced economy.


LEARN GROW EXCEL SUPPORT OFFERING WHICH INITIATIVE IS RIGHT FOR ME? The Learn Grow Excel initiative has been designed to support growing companies at every stage of development and encourage more export activity in Northern Ireland. Whether you are in the early stages of growth, starting out in new markets, or interested in scaling-up your business and expanding into additional export markets, the portfolio of programmes has something for every level of business. The only pre-requisites are the potential and commitment to grow your business for export and a determination to succeed.

HOW DO I GET INVOLVED? Getting involved in Learn Grow Excel is easy. You can register your interest for any of the programmes by emailing: learngrowexcel@, indicating which initiative(s) you are interested in, and one of our team will be in touch to provide further details.

Connecting For Growth Meet the Buyer Sales Opportunities

Danske Bank Export First Inspiration & Shared Learning Developing Your Growth Potential Capability Building & Networks International Trade Training Capability Building Learn Grow Excel Export Conference Inspiration, Capability Building & Networks Near Market Trade Visits New Market Opportunities & Networks NI Chamber Connections Capability Building, Opportunities & Networks

Scaling-Up Capability Building

/ 01

connecting for groWtH Creating cross-border business opportunities through meet the buyer events The Republic of Ireland is our nearest export market and brings with it all the challenges of doing business internationally, from currency management to legal requirements. The Connecting for Growth programme is designed to facilitate increased business between companies from Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland, enabling access to larger firms with procurement needs at meet the buyer events and improving sales opportunities through networking and advice. Consisting of two large-scale meet the buyer style events and a cross-border networking event, programme participation includes:

• • •

One-to-one pre-arranged appointments, where companies are able to make a pitch to large buying companies across a range of sectors Advice from key experts on a range of business themes, delivered in bite-size sessions Facilitated networking, increasing cross-border business opportunities.

word from our sponsor Bank of Ireland UK supports the Connecting for Growth programme because it is a great example of real tangible enablers that are making a difference. The Programme directly facilitates Northern Ireland businesses pitching and winning business with crossborder customers. Now in its third year, the Connecting for Growth Programme has facilitated over 2,000 introductions between buyers and suppliers as well as providing direct access to financial services and business experts.

NI Chamber in partnership with

DANSKE BANK EXPORT FIRST Be inspired through the success stories of experienced exporters In terms of global success, Northern Ireland companies have proven time and time again that they can punch well above their weight on the world stage through innovative thinking, quality products, effective strategies and sheer drive and determination. Danske Bank Export First seeks to encourage and grow export activity in Northern Ireland through the inspirational stories and shared learning of these successful exporters. New, aspiring and growing exporters have the opportunity to access leading business people, listen to how they have grown their businesses in international markets, and obtain advice on all aspects of commercial development through export. The initiative involves a series of private dinners with leading exporters and a range of company visits that include a factory tour of the host company.

word from our sponsor The key to sustainable economic growth is export. At Danske Bank, we want to encourage businesses to think strategically about export as a growth strategy, and to help facilitate that. The Danske Bank Export First programme does this by helping aspiring exporters through knowledge sharing and networking with experienced and successful exporters who have ‘been there, done that’.

DEVELOPING YOUR GROWTH POTENTIAL Enhance sales and leadership skills whilst building effective networks Business growth starts with strong leadership, moves forward with effective sales strategies and is maintained by utilising the right networks. Developing Your Growth Potential seeks to assist SMEs to develop their sales and leadership capacity and to build vital networks to enable increased sales and development of partnerships. The initiative will feature 5 events per year, held across Northern Ireland, focusing on: Leadership - Exceptional leadership can dramatically improve growth opportunities by boosting sales, profits and staff engagement. Understand the key elements and attributes of successful leaders and learn from the inspirational stories of top class entrepreneurs and those in top level leadership positions. Sales - Business is all about winning sales. Utilising highly trained, engaging and energetic facilitators, Developing Your Growth Potential offers structured sales training tailored to develop the sales skills needed to enhance and grow your business. Networking - Networking is the single most powerful marketing tool you can use to accelerate and sustain success for your business. word from our sponsor First Trust Bank is committed to supporting the ambition of local businesses so we are delighted to sponsor the NI Chamber’s ‘Learn Grow Excel’ Programme. By providing local entrepreneurs and businesses with practical advice, learning and networking opportunities, we can nurture and expand upon the talent embedded in our business community which is essential to growing our economy.

INTERNATIONAL TRADE TRAINING Training support for logistics and finance teams within exporting companies Securing the coveted export order is more than just sales; many factors need to be negotiated before the order is signed, sealed and can be dispatched to customers. Companies need to consider a range of factors – risk associated with payment, shipment responsibilities and who they lie with, and the required documentation which gets the goods through foreign ports. NI Chamber has over 25 years’ experience supporting manufacturing exporters with logistics and shipping requirements through its export document certification service. As an authorised issuing body and with an extensive international network, we have the knowledge and contacts to bring your team up to speed with the administrative requirements of shipping goods to foreign markets. The International Trade Training series will focus on supporting the logistics of export. Rolling out in one-day workshops, the series will support more experienced manufacturing exporters to build capability in the areas of:

• • •

Export Process and Documentation Letters of Credit and Overseas Payments Managing Risk of Trade Overseas

word from our sponsor International trade continues to play a fundamental role in the development of Northern Ireland’s economy and we’re pleased to be supporting this series of seminars hosted by NI Chamber. There is so much to gain from exporting and trading overseas and now is the time for businesses here to take advantage of opportunities abroad. Our local team provides relationship management with a global reach. With our award-winning Trade Finance services, we are uniquely placed to support companies currently trading across borders as well as those aspiring to do so.


LEARN GROW EXCEL CONFERENCE A collaborative conference to encourage export growth in Northern Ireland This conference is an unmissable event for businesses looking to trade internationally. The practical half-day of seminars and workshops will give tangible advice to exporters, as well as connect businesses with representatives from the worldwide Chambers of Commerce and Invest NI’s international team. Aimed at businesses of all sizes and sectors, with learning streams for both new and more established exporters, the day will have a strong practical focus. Delegates can look forward to a wide choice of informative workshops, lively panel discussions with businesses from both the goods and services sectors, and inspiring talks from pioneering exporters. There will also be plenty of time for networking with fellow exporters and international Chambers of Commerce representing a wide range of overseas markets.

Key elements of the Conference include:


LEARN from inspirational exporting companies and experts in the many facets of exporting, including access to finance, e-commerce, logistics and international payments.


GROW your business through networking, discovering new export destinations, and by getting the practical advice that you need to succeed.


EXCEL IN EXPORT by meeting trusted Chamber representatives from across the globe, who will give frank advice and explain the opportunities in their markets, as well as Invest NI who can help you get there.

word from our sponsor Ulster Carpets successfully export their products around the world, enabling the company to sustain growth over a number of years. Ulster Managing Director, Nick Coburn, hopes this conference gives other Northern Ireland businesses the confidence to expand and break into new markets.

NEAR MARKET TRADE VISITS: LONDON & BIRMINGHAM Explore new markets, build networks and create new business opportunities For many companies, Great Britain (GB) represents the first step to doing business outside Northern Ireland. NI Chamber’s near market trade visits aim to help local firms exploit the opportunities in larger GB cities such as London and Birmingham via a series of near market visits throughout 2017. With the uncertainty following the EU Referendum, GB represents a safe and easy alternative for the first steps to export and is a market where NI Chamber has an extensive and established network via the British Chambers of Commerce and member companies who have a presence in GB.

30-31/03 London As one of the world’s most competitive cities, London offers expanding international companies leading talent and transport links, light-touch business regulation and huge opportunities for growth. Among more than 4m workers, you’ll find 230 languages, tech specialists, 400,000 creatives and some of the world’s best professional services partners. A London base gives you access to more than 8m Londoners and 50m people in Europe, the world’s biggest single market. London is Europe’s most accessible city with excellent air and rail links.

21-22/09 Birmingham Home to world-class companies, major R&D facilities, innovative entrepreneurs, renowned universities and one of the youngest populations in Europe, Birmingham is a dynamic, thriving and business-focused region. The region is well connected, and centrally located in the UK, and is home to 70,500 companies including over 1,500 international firms. Major global players across various sectors are based here – including Jaguar Land Rover, JCB, Kraft, Amey, Deloitte and Cadbury.

word from our sponsor As part of a large UK-wide Banking Group with an expansive infrastructure and highly professional business offering across GB, Ulster Bank’s dedicated team is delighted to support this exciting new initiative which equips our local firms with the knowledge, networks and confidence to enter or expand in markets that are on our doorstep and uphold fantastic potential for expansion and continued success.

NI CHAMBER CONNECTIONS Utilising NI Chamber’s network of business people and international Chambers to achieve business growth Networks mean business, and having the right well developed network to tap into is invaluable to growing companies. No matter what business conundrum you are facing, someone has faced it before you. No matter which market you are trying to do business in, there are many forms of support which will make your journey easier. NI Chamber has a well-established network which local businesses can utilise. With over 1,200 member companies locally, led by some of Northern Ireland’s top business people and access to a wide-spread global network of Chambers, including the British Chambers of Commerce, Chambers Ireland, International Chambers and the World Chambers network in every corner of the globe, NI Chamber has the Connections to help you take your business to the next level.

Business Professional Links Led by NI Chamber Past President and Power NI Managing Director, Stephen McCully, NI Chamber has access to a pool of experienced business professionals who can offer advice, guidance and support across a range of business topics. We support local companies through highly beneficial peer to peer learning. Under the programme, NI Chamber facilitate matching based on individual business need. International Introductions If you are seeking advice on exploring a new market for the first time, are following up on a recent trade mission, or want to add scale to activity in current markets, NI Chamber’s international links can provide the on-theground knowledge to support you. NI Chamber will provide introductions to like-minded counterparts in Chambers across the world. Whatever the market, our network can answer your query and support market development.

SCALING-UP Improve scale and drive excellence for business growth The responsibility to become ‘a scale-up nation’, and create a business environment where a greater number of companies achieve global potential, rests with all who have an interest in supporting economic growth and those with the determination, capability and ambition to grow their business, locally and internationally. Growing companies have specific requirements for capital, management, skills, leadership and organisational processes, and most undertaking scale-up activities face similar issues. The Scaling-Up initiative will offer local companies the opportunity to tap into one to one support from NI Chamber’s new Head of SME Development, as well as become part of a group of like-minded business people, who can interact to support each other to add scale to their business. The initiative will involve:

• • • • •

Business Assessment One to One Coaching & Development Allocation of business professionals to companies Group workshops covering key scale-up challenges Peer to peer knowledge sharing and learning

* Participation on Scaling-Up is through application process only.

word from our sponsor Bank of Ireland UK is passionate about its role in helping businesses in Northern Ireland grow. This means encouraging business leaders to invest in innovative new products and services, markets, ways of doing business and, of course, in their people. We believe working with NI Chamber on the new Scaling-Up Programme will be of further value in developing confidence within the business community to seize the opportunities for growth.

SME PARTNER With a history and heritage going back over 80 years Power NI has provided the energy behind many business export success stories from this part of the world. We are committed to helping the local SME sector prosper and are delighted to support the Learn Grow Excel initiative. Power NI is Northern Ireland’s leading energy company supplying over 500,000 homes, farms and businesses. After 15 years of competition, we remain the largest supplier to the business sector with over 30,000 SMEs on our books.

support teams in Antrim and Omagh are on hand to provide specialist energy advice to help your business grow. Power NI is also committed to the communities we serve and is actively involved in grassroots sponsorships and supporting the work of local Chambers of Commerce and business representative groups. So with low prices, great discounts and outstanding customer service, it’s no wonder more businesses here choose Power NI than any other supplier.

But being the largest supplier means nothing if it doesn’t translate into great value for money and excellent customer service for our customers. We have a range of competitively priced, easy to understand tariffs, specially designed for small businesses. Our local business

Commercial Sales & Marketing Manager



Heading up the delivery of the Learn Grow Excel initiative is Sandra Scannell, Head of Business Services. Sandra leads on NI Chamber’s growth and export projects and has over ten years’ experience of working with local businesses to increase trading opportunities.


Sandra Scannell Head of Business Services sandra.scannell@

At the launch of the Barefoot Computing Programme at Fane Street Primary School, Belfast, are the Education Minister Peter Weir, P2 pupil Nicole Chrapkowski and Mairead Meyer, Managing Director of Networks at BT in Northern Ireland.

BT HELPS NORTHERN IRELAND PUPILS PREPARE FOR THE DIGITAL WORLD A new BT programme to help Northern Ireland primary school teachers bring computer science to life in the classroom has been launched. The Barefoot Computing Programme was established in 2014 with the original aim of helping primary school teachers in England get ready for the computer science element of a new computing curriculum. It was originally funded by the DfE and run by BCS in partnership with BT and CAS. BT took over the lead and funding for the programme in 2015, with the continued support of BCS and CAS, and has been working to enable the resources and workshops to be available to all primary school teachers throughout the UK. The resources have been tailored to the Northern Ireland curriculum by Dr Irene Bell, Head of STEM at Stranmillis University College (Chairman of CAS NI). The free resource, which is available to all primary schools in Northern Ireland, aims to equip teachers with the confidence, knowledge, skills and assets to teach computer science to pupils from 5-11 years old. Pupils use computational thinking in a fun and accessible way and the skills they develop can be used across the curriculum to help improve their maths, science and literacy. The Barefoot Computing downloadable resources and lesson plans are available for

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use by over 8,000 teachers in Northern Ireland, who may not have specialist computing knowledge, to help them educate almost 170,000 primary school pupils in computer science. Speaking at the launch of Barefoot Computing at Fane Street Primary School in Belfast, Education Minister Peter Weir said: “In today’s digital world, where business and social engagements are often conducted online, it is of paramount importance that young people learn computing skills from an early age so that they are equipped with the necessary tools needed to progress in our increasingly digitised world.” Mairead Meyer, Managing Director of Networks at BT in Northern Ireland, added: “This resource is part of BT’s longterm commitment to help build a culture of tech literacy and to use the power of communications to make a better world. As our first goal, BT aims to reach five million children by 2020. We are looking forward to seeing the programme take shape in Northern Ireland and having a real impact in our primary schools.” To download resources and request a workshop, teachers can register at www.


Finance Minister Máirtín Ó Muilleoir (third from right) with Paul Murnaghan, Regional Director for BT Business in Northern Ireland (third from left) with representatives of some of the tenants of the new Data Centre including Paul Wickens Chief Executive, ESS; Gordon Milligan of Translink; Seamus Doyle of NI Water; Liam McIvor and Karen Bailey of BSO.

A new Public Sector Shared Data Centre was opened recently at BT in Belfast by the Finance Minister Máirtín Ó Muilleoir. The leading communications provider, which signed a major £15 million deal with the Department of Finance, will now house much of the IT services, not only for the Northern Ireland Civil Service but also for the wider public sector. Anchor tenants for the new Data Centre include IT Assist, Business Services Organisation, NI Water and Translink. Paul Murnaghan, Regional Director for BT Business in Northern Ireland said: “We are proud to have been trusted to host public sector data for the next 10-16 years as part of our long established strategic partnership with our public sector colleagues. These cutting edge data centre facilities will significantly reduce their costs and provide them with enhanced services to benefit their organisations.” Finance Minister Máirtín Ó Muilleoir added: “I am keen to see change in the public sector which not only saves the public purse, but also helps us ensure that the public sector is at the cutting edge of the latest technology, driving forward efficiency.”

KEEPING CLIENTS AHEAD OF THE TECHNOLOGY CURVE Matthew Howse, Litigation and Dispute Resolution Partner at leading law firm Arthur Cox, explains how the firm is embracing technological developments to improve the litigation experience for clients.


ourts, and by implication lawyers, in Northern Ireland must embrace innovative new technology and move towards paperless business. That was the message in a recentlypublished interim report from the review of Northern Ireland’s civil and family justice system, which is being led by Lord Justice Gillen. It is a message which we at Arthur Cox warmly welcome, given that we have long-embraced digital advances and make effective use of modern technology for the benefit of our clients at every possible opportunity. Improving the litigation experience for clients is our continual aim, and to do that we ensure that all information relating to a case or matter is managed in the most appropriate fashion. As ever, key to this is our desire to provide the most cost-effective service possible to our clients. One tool which we have employed recently is electronic discovery, commonly referred to as ‘e-discovery’. Touched upon by Lord Justice Gillen in his review, e-discovery enables lawyers to identify, collect and produce electronically stored information (ESI) in accordance with discovery requirements in litigation cases or

in relation to an investigation. ESI includes, but is not limited to, emails, documents, presentations, databases, voicemail, audio and video files, social media and websites. The world has moved on from the days when most of our clients’ information would be paper-based. Today, a huge amount of information is created and stored electronically, and e-discovery facilitates a much more cost-effective review of this information. Hard copy documentation does, of course, still play a part, and both hard copy and electronic documentation can be uploaded to a review ‘platform’ for key decisions to be taken as to relevance and privilege. As can be the case with global legal trends, Northern Ireland is playing catch-up with the UK and Republic of Ireland in terms of how familiar our legal system is with e-discovery. One of the challenges is that the present Court rules here are broader and more traditional, and do not specifically reference the use of e-discovery, which can create a degree of confusion that doesn’t exist in England and Wales. In Northern Ireland, there is no specific guidance in the Court rules as to whether

an e-discovery process can or should be applied. Instead, it is down to the lawyers, in conjunction with input from clients, as to whether to adopt an e-discovery process in any given case. At Arthur Cox we have led the way as one of the few local firms to fully embrace the new technology and effectively implement e-discovery in a number of large cases, meaning that our clients receive a much more time-efficient and cost-effective service. Recent case law in England and the Republic of Ireland shows that the Courts in those jurisdictions are willing to embrace the latest technologies, including predictive coding, and technology-assisted review. At Arthur Cox, we will continue to monitor these developments closely, and identify all opportunities where new digital methods can be employed to bolster the service our clients are receiving. The Litigation and Dispute Resolution team at Arthur Cox is well positioned to advise on the emerging trends in the civil justice system in Northern Ireland. Please call +44 28 9023 0007 for further information from Matthew or your regular Arthur Cox contact.


bright young business brains

Stephen Wray, Director Cyber Risk Services at Deloitte Belfast briefing pupils from RBAI on how the technology sector in Northern Ireland is taking a lead on cyber security. The visit to Deloitte was part of RBAI’s Commerce Week, organised by Colin Johnston (left), MD Clear Group to give pupils an opportunity to meet business leaders from a range of sectors and gain insight into future career paths.

Seeing business as it is... S tudents from The Royal Belfast Academical Institution (RBAI) recently underwent a bespoke commerce week visiting 13 high profile businesses to experience the challenge, buzz, dynamism and energy of the workplace for themselves. RBAI’s Principal Janet Williamson explained the significance of the week and said: “This is an opportunity for our pupils to meet business leaders, ask questions, and gain real insight into potential future careers.” The boys had to compete to win a place on the programme, demonstrating transferrable skills, knowledge and a desire to work in business. Janet Williamson added: “At RBAI we are

40 NI Chamber

very mindful of future career trends and bridging the gap between school life and the work place. We are extremely fortunate to have such a strong alumni base, including business leaders like Colin Johnston, who are committed to helping the current generation of pupils succeed.” Colin Johnston, a member of the Board of Governors at RBAI and MD of Clear Group, explained said he felt the initiative was important. “Young people are the workforce of the future and through the selection process I’ve been very encouraged by the talent and ambition I have seen. We hope this week will deepen their understanding and fuel their ambition. It also brings benefit to employers;

fresh perspectives and insights, and exposes us to potential talent coming through.” The students also visited Bombardier Aerospace and Engineering Services, Sangers United Drug, Osborne King, Deloitte, Catalyst Inc, Danske Bank, Agnew Group, Hastings Hotels, Carson McDowell, Almac Group, Moy Park, Invest NI and Belfast City Council. Also during the week the boys were joined by 100 business leaders at a business breakfast in the school, where they heard RBAI alumnus Tom Kelly, former Head of Communications for the Blair government and current Strategic Communications Advisor to the HS2 rail project, give an analysis on how Brexit and the recent US election impacts business in Northern Ireland.


BDO NORTHERN IRELAND UNVEILS NEW FORUM FOR FUTURE BUSINESS LEADERS A ccountancy and business advisory firm, BDO Northern Ireland have revealed details of a new forum aimed at accelerating up-and-coming business talent. The free-to-join Young Professionals’ Group is open to anyone under 37 and designed to foster practical skills and business knowhow across a range of disciplines. The informal initiative will also develop links and commercial prospects between like-minded individuals. The group will host a series of crossprofession networking and training events, starting in February 2017, and organisers said plans were underway to secure a number of exciting high profile guest speakers. Laura Jackson, Partner at BDO Northern Ireland, said: “Like most local companies,

we strive for excellence and opportunities to grow, develop and harness emerging talent within our ranks. Half of our partners joined us as graduates and have forged outstanding careers. We’re pouring our experience and approach into the Young Professionals’ Group so a lot more young talent in a range of sectors and disciplines can move through the gears. “When people meet and share ideas, great things can happen. People coming together through this group will find support to help them grow and develop in their careers. We recognise that links made within a network have the potential to help shape business decisions in the years to come. The Group is an opportunity to meet people from across all sectors, and learn and develop new ideas through creative conversation and

networking.” The first four Young Professionals events have been scheduled for 2017 and the first event will be held on the 21st February with following events taking place during May, September and November. BDO Northern Ireland is an award-winning accountancy practice that employs more than 170 people in Northern Ireland and provides professional services to more than 1,000 local companies. To join the Young Professionals’ Group or find out more visit or contact Suzi Campbell on suzi.campbell@ or call 028 9043 9009

Young Professionals from BDO Northern Ireland pictured at the announcement of a new forum aimed at accelerating up-and-coming business talent. The free-to-join Young Professionals’ Group, which starts in February, is open to anyone under 37 and designed to foster practical skills and business knowhow across a range of disciplines.

NI Chamber 41

REGISTER NOW FOR THE AIB START-UP ACADEMY First Trust Bank is delighted to invite local start-ups and entrepreneurs to attend the AIB Start-up Academy Summit which takes place on Thursday 9th February 2017 at LIFE Church in Belfast.


he popular all-island networking series is free to attend and those joining the Belfast Summit can expect to meet a host of industry experts including leaders from Google, Grant Thornton, The Irish Times and Xcell Partners– all of whom will be on hand to offer practical business advice.

As well as networking with like-minded entrepreneurs, guests will also hear from a special panel of well-known and successful business leaders who will discuss issues important to the start-up community and share tips and advice from their start-up journeys. While networking and enjoying refreshments (sourced from local foodie start-ups!), attendees can sit back and hear

elevator pitches from companies who are battling it out to win a place on the AIB Start-up Academy mentoring and training programme. While free to attend, places will be limited. As last year’s event was oversubscribed, anyone interested in attending is advised to register as soon as possible at or

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.

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44 NI Chamber


hat are your expectations around wages in the year ahead? As a business do you expect to award pay rises and if so at what rate? As an employee, when was the last time you received a pay rise and what do you believe is in store for 2017? Strong wage growth is a crucial component of a thriving, productive economy and key to driving higher living standards and demand. In the halcyon days just before the crash, wages in Northern Ireland grew by as much as 4 per cent and 5 per cent per annum. They have taken a very bumpy path since then. Real wages, which is the amount of money you earn after factoring in inflation, fell for most of the intervening period meaning we were all feeling less well off. There has been some recovery over the last couple of years (Northern Ireland wages grew by just over 2 per cent in 2016) and real wages are almost back to 2006 levels but wage growth has struggled to maintain any momentum. The decline in UK real wages since the pre-crisis peak was actually one of the most severe in the OECD although on a positive note Northern Ireland did recover better than many other UK regions (albeit from the lowest wage base). Unfortunately it does not look like we will be feeling much better off in 2017. Most forecasts suggest that wage growth will remain subdued in 2017 and higher inflation will mean that living standards will fall. The Office for Budgetary Responsibility (OBR) forecasts that UK wages will grow by 2.4 per cent during 2017 but because of higher inflation real wage growth could be as low as 0.1 per cent. Other forecasts suggest that wages will grow by just 1.7 per cent meaning that real wages are more likely to fall next year. This is likely to dampen consumer spending which, as the biggest part of demand in the economy, is likely to lead to slower economic growth. The Bank of England and others have been grappling with what has been happening to wage growth in recent years. As expected, the rise in unemployment after the recession did depress wage growth because of ‘slack’ in the labour market. This is where there are lots of workers and not many jobs meaning that employers have a greater pool of labour to recruit from

and less need to incentivise employees through higher wages. However, as the economy has recovered the fall in unemployment has not led to any strong recovery in wage growth. The Bank of England suggests that this is because there may still be a small enough amount of slack in the labour market to suppress wage growth. They cite reasons including greater spare capacity in companies, a pool of unemployed people who are less well-suited to the jobs available now compared to those pre-crisis, the increase in nonnational workers within the UK and the introduction of the National Living Wage which may have led a slight weakening in demand as employers take into account the increased cost. There has been a growing school of thought that low wage growth is with us to stay at least in the short to medium term. In their paper ‘The Current 2 per cent UK Wage Growth Norm’, Blanchflower and Machin1 believe that average wage growth in the UK has settled at around 2 per cent representing a step change from the previous wage growth norm that prevailed pre-crisis at around 4 per cent. They examined a range of official and unofficial data sources, most of which pointed to a slowing of wage growth and expressed concern around the much more optimistic forecasts of wage growth by ‘the Bank of England’s Monetary Policy Committee (MPC), the Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR) and others, which have had to be continually revised down’. They cite evidence from the CIPD’s Winter Labour Market Outlook, Winter 2015-2016, supporting the 2 per cent pay growth norm which CIPD believes reflects the growing share of employers that have had to implement pay freezes because of an inability to pay any more. XpertHR confirms that 2 per cent is the

most common pay award, accounting for more than a quarter of basic settlements they review. Blanchflower and Machin would contend that there is considerably more slack in the labour market than the Bank of England would suggest. So as a business, if you are thinking about wage increases next year what will influence your decision? If your business is performing well then you may be in the fortunate position to offer wage increases to reflect that performance. Perhaps you have a ready supply of workers and feel under no pressure to raise wages at all. You could be feeling under pressure to offer higher wages simply because you can’t get the right staff regardless of your ability to pay. Will skill shortages force you to push up wages to recruit/retain staff? Existing staff may push for a pay rise because inflationary pressures mean their wages are not going as far. The strength of your employees’ bargaining position will be an important consideration in your decision here. Many local businesses, particularly manufacturers, are highlighting significant cost pressures from rising raw material costs (due in large part to sterling’s devaluation making imports more costly) which are eroding profit margins and making wage increases much less likely.2 Added into the mix, many businesses are still coming to terms with the costs imposed by the National Living Wage, auto-enrolment pensions and, for some larger employers, the Apprenticeship Levy. There are a lot of factors to consider as to what, if any, pay awards are offered by businesses in Northern Ireland during 2017. The question is will your business offer above or below the ‘2 per cent wage growth norm’? 1. Centre for Economic Performance, LSE, March 2016 2 NI Chamber/BDO Quarterly Economic Survey, Quarter 4 2016

Describe your Business Thomas are the largest privately owned global provider of people assessment tools and the only provider with bespoke Education and Sport divisions. Our assessments are being used to make sure clients pick the right person for the job, to help identify potential rising stars in management and help with creation of Personal Development Plans by identifying strengths and areas for improvement among other things. We work with central/local government, blue chip/private organisations, police and other blue light services and locally we are used heavily with some major manufacturing and banking companies. WHAT MAKES YOUR BUSINESS STAND OUT? For us it’s all about the personal touch, getting face to face with people and finding out about their business needs. We are unique in that we actually come in to a business and help with analysing the information and assist in putting a plan in place so there is much more of a consultative approach.


HOW HAS NI CHAMBER HELPED YOUR COMPANY ACHIEVE ITS GOALS? The Chamber has been instrumental for me in getting the Thomas message over to as many people as possible via the networking events and closed group dinners. I have made some meaningful relationships

and these, in turn, have developed into real sales. Subsequently, we have provided a real value solution to people we might not have been able to otherwise access. WHAT WOULD YOUR ADVICE BE TO OTHER NI CHAMBER MEMBERS TO HELP GET THE MOST FROM THEIR MEMBERSHIP? I would recommend that people use the NI Chamber website and get to know who you want to speak to. The site is a wealth of knowledge and a great place to do some research. If anything, this will have you well informed when you go to NI Chamber’s networking events or in-camera dinners. People buy from people so take the time to get to know who you are speaking to and be prepared to talk about yourself. I always plan my diary by looking at the Chamber website to see what events are upcoming, so again use the site to its full potential! HOW HAS CHAMBER MEMBERSHIP HELPED YOU AND YOUR STAFF DEVELOP A PROFESSIONAL SKILL SET? NI Chamber is a very professional business organisation and is always on hand to give advice on many aspects of business. Meeting new people at NI Chamber networking events is certainly one way of building confidence in teams within a business and this will carry through when they are meeting customers.



ow that the New Year has dawned, it’s a good opportunity to take stock of what’s been happening in your business and to make plans for the future. Many of the entrepreneurs in our Belfast Hatchery are busy developing products, pitching for seed funding and refining their marketing plans to build resilient businesses. But reflection is an important part of staying true to an entrepreneurial vision. Fundamentally, no matter how the unlikely or impactful events of 2016 may have turned out, it’s important to take careful note of the tangible ways in which things may have changed – and indeed remained the same – for startup and scale-up businesses in Northern Ireland.

The core qualities of what it takes to succeed as an entrepreneur haven’t altered – an ability to focus on your strengths and ask for expertise where you need it; a flexible approach to problem-solving that means you don’t get distracted from longer-term goals by firefighting; and a relentless focus on presentation so that you can articulate your business idea quickly and clearly to someone who has never heard of it. As opposed to macroeconomic or political trends, these are all elements that an entrepreneur can control and should spend their energy on influencing. Recently, I was pleased to see the fantastic turnout and hear some of the great insights at Opportunity Knocks, an event Ulster Bank cohosted with Belfast City Council to outline the vibrant ecosystem that’s

available to support entrepreneurs in Northern Ireland and share and develop these skills. I was encouraged by the questions, but also by the focus that our most successful entrepreneurs displayed in knowing when to step back, as well as leverage the support of others in growing to scale. Entrepreneurship shouldn’t be expected to flourish in isolation. Our support for the Entrepreneurial Spark programme is a clear demonstration of the action we’re taking to support a vibrant culture of enterprise across Northern Ireland – providing meaningful support for those who are taking risks, following their passion and building the businesses that will be the cornerstone of Northern Ireland’s private sector growth in the future.

NI Chamber 45


Resilience, exports and ambitious talent will power local businesses through uncertainties in year ahead, says Peter Burnside, Managing Partner at BDO Northern Ireland.



he unpredictability of 2016 has posed challenges that most Northern Ireland business leaders were simply not expecting but local firms are still better positioned than others to adjust quickly to new conditions. If there’s one thing that typifies Northern Ireland business – and entrepreneurs in particular – is that they are resilient. Business people from here are, perhaps more than most, used to dealing with difficult circumstances. We’ve lived through the Troubles, we’ve lived through Foot and Mouth, we’ve lived through all sorts of political uncertainties that maybe our competitors have not had to face. You develop an attitude of resilience. I like to think I have a better sense of Northern Ireland’s business pulse than most. I head up BDO’s 10-strong partners and a staff of 170 who provide professional services to more

than 1,000 local companies across all sectors. Business last year has been good but it would have been better without the Brexit vote. It has inserted a degree of uncertainty into the business world and businesses take a while to cope with planning for the future. However, manufacturing has been the standout sector of the last year. Where there is a modest cost advantage, the sector has overcome a geographical disadvantage to generate some strong success stories. Lots of Northern Ireland’s businesses are now exporting, including many sectors where you would traditionally think that we would not be big exporters. Concrete manufacturers, for example, are exporting products and competing on price and quality. You’d think that exporting something heavy over a big distance would create a price disadvantage and yet they are still

ahead of the game. A willingness to try new things has helped set local companies apart. Firms have embraced innovation as being business-critical. It may be investing in plant and production equipment, that puts them at the forefront of the market in a global sense, or certainly in a European sense. BDO Northern Ireland has been firmly among the innovators too, launching a number of initiatives aimed at growing its ranks and improving the wider business landscape. In February, the firm launched a new Financial Directors Network and just last month its Young Professionals Group. More recently we unveiled plans for 43 new roles in Belfast. These are in addition to our annual graduate intake of 18-20 people We had a great recruitment scheme again last year. Young talent is the lifeblood of our firm.

To find out more about Northern Ireland, Open for Business visit

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the end of the day it’s great to hear about the people we help, whether it’s a graduate getting their first job or a parent retraining for a new career. WHAT IS YOUR FAVOURITE PART OF THE DAY? The drive home! That might sound a bit negative at first, but to me that drive is an important part of the work day – it’s my time to reflect. Things are too busy in the office to take that time and once I set foot in the door at home the focus is on my family. The drive home gives me some quiet time to be mindful and consider how the day at work went well and what could have been done differently. Once that’s done, I get to look forward to enjoying the rest of the evening with the family and leave work at work. WHAT DO YOU DO TO ENSURE A WORK/LIFE BALANCE? I do everything I can to ensure work doesn’t disrupt home life, for both me and my staff, but it’s much easier said than done. The thing I have learnt to do is to be flexible: we don’t always need a strict delineation between ‘work time’ and ‘life time’ in order to achieve work/life balance. There are days where work simply needs to be done in the evening – whether it’s because of an event or a tight deadline for a client. And there are days where ‘home life’ creeps into the work day – a sickness, an important personal day, an MOT, whatever comes up. That being said, I am very strict about my weekends; that time is for my children and them alone!


DESCRIBE YOUR JOB I’m the Managing Director for the Staffline Group in Ireland, meaning I lead three companies on the island, including Diamond Recruitment and PeoplePlus NI in the North and Staffline Recruitment in the South. We have over 200 core staff and over 5,500 contractors, so it keeps me busy! Since it’s such an eclectic mix of recruitment, HR services, training and other public services, sometimes I feel like the Job Fairy so it’s also very rewarding. At

HOW DOES HAVING A CHILD IMPACT YOUR PERSONAL AND WORKING LIFE? Having a child changes your life completely. They become your number one priority. As far as my working life goes – I work harder because of my children. I want to meet my responsibilities to them, to give them the best life possible, and to be a good role model to them. Having children also forced me to take the regular breaks we all should take. I take a week off every quarter to make sure I have the time we need to relax together as a family. ARE WORKING MUMS IN GREATER NEED OF STATE SUPPORT THAN STAY-AT-HOME MUMS? No group has greater needs than the other, but working mums do have different needs when it comes to state support. Namely – childcare! Looking at Sweden, there is only a 5 point difference between men and women when it comes to employment levels (74% of women are in employment compared to 79% of men). In Northern Ireland, there is a 7 point difference (73% of men and 66% of women). Part of the reason for Sweden’s success in lowering that gap is that families have a childcare allowance for all children up to the age of 16 and a cap on childcare costs, making it much more affordable for mothers to re-enter the labour market full-time. DO YOU THINK YOU WILL ALWAYS REMAIN IN EMPLOYMENT? Of course! There may be ‘retirement’ eventually but when I’m older I see myself focusing more energy and time on causes I am passionate about, especially alleviating poverty, empowering women and building a better Northern Ireland for the next generation.

NI Chamber 47


Seagate drives ahead Groundbreaking technology involved in storing the world’s digital content is being developed at Seagate in Londonderry as Adrienne McGill hears from its Head of Research and Development Brendan Lafferty.


visit to the Seagate plant in Londonderry is like walking into a futuristic space-age facility with vast white clean rooms filled with some of the most hightech devices and instruments in the world each costing tens of millions of pounds. They are manned by an army of operatives dressed in white astronaut-type protective clothing who work in the clean rooms located along sterile corridors stretching for miles. The plant is also where some of the brightest brains in the IT industry

48 NI Chamber

and data storage research and development are based. American IT giant Seagate, whose operational headquarters are in Cupertino, California, builds hard disc drives for storing information on computers and established its operation in Londonderry at Springtown in 1993. Since then, the workforce, who are highly educated and comprise 25 nationalities, has grown to 1,400 of which 120 hold PhDs. Hard disc drives are high technology magnetic recording devices and the vast

majority of data in the world is stored on them. Seagate and Western Digital each have 40 per cent worldwide market share in this highly specialised area while Toshiba is another player in the market. Seagate in Springtown is responsible for the read-write transducer which is a critical component of the hard disc drive and the facility is involved in both manufacturing and high level research and development – a division which has expanded significantly in recent years. The read-write transducers produced


in Springtown – 500 million a year – are shipped to other Seagate plants around the world to make finished disc drives. “Effectively a hard disc drive is a spinning disc onto which information is recorded and from which the information is read back to the user,” explains Brendan Lafferty, Head of Research and Development at the Springtown plant. “We are in the business of making each individual magnetic storage ‘bit’ smaller so that more information can be packed into each disc. “The Springtown plant plays a strategic role in the worldwide production of readwrite transducers for hard disc drives. “We produce a quarter of the world’s transducers and are the largest supplier in the world which gives an indication of the

importance and scale of this facility. “The read-write device involves high-end technology – it is very difficult to build it elsewhere. On a daily basis we produce 1.5 million read-write devices.” The technology involves dealing with an extraordinarily small component and the challenge is how to manage something so minute. “It is hard to visualise how small it is – but the thinnest layer that we control in volume is 8 atoms thick and involves atomic layer engineering,” explains Brendan. “We are controlling something that is one hundred thousand times smaller than a human hair. “We have a huge amount of tooling and people skills to allow us to characterise those devices – visually you cannot see them so we use very sophisticated equipment like electron microscopes.” As with all things in the fast moving world of technology, new devices will always come along to challenge what already is in existence and rotating disc drives are facing a battle in the form of NAND-flash based storage, or solid state drives. These have numerous advantages over rotating-disc drives, ranging from the sheer speed of read-write operations, low latency in data access, relatively low power consumption, as well as lighter and more durable drives with a greater resistance to mechanical shock. However, Brendan believes there is room in the market for both technologies. “There is an interesting dynamic going on at the moment. There is a storage eco-system and it is necessary to supply different types of storage into the ecosystem. Five years ago the majority of computers would have hard disc drives in them whereas today, increasingly in laptops, there are solid state drives. “But our market does not operate on one application – it is a case of looking at what is the total storage requirement in the world and how that is supplied. “There has been an increased reliance on the cloud – which is effectively a big hard drive. The more you use your mobile devices such as phones and store data in the cloud, the more people use their lap tops and back it up to the cloud, the more people use Netflix and it goes to the cloud – that is all storage going to hard disc drives. “NAND-flash based storage has not decreased our market – in fact it has increased it. Most people who store on

NAND-flash and solid state drives back it up to a hard disc drive. The dynamic of where data is stored is shifting. “Seagate therefore has recognised that storage is changing from being predominantly focused on the hard disc in a lap top or PC to being predominantly focused on storage in the cloud. “Demand for our product continues to soar just as demand for solid state continues to soar – there is room for both type of technologies in the market. In one way they are in direct competition and in another way they help each other.” Seagate in Springtown is currently working on new technology which will lead to the production of the next generation of hard disc drives over the next few years. “This technology is called Heat Assisted Magnetic Recording (HAMR) in which a small laser is used to heat the part of the disc that is being written to. The effect of HAMR is to allow writing on a much smaller scale than before, greatly increasing the amount of data that can be held on a standard disc,” explains Brendan. In a bid to drive its technology further, Seagate is involved in a collaboration with Queen’s University, Belfast and several years ago set up a new research centre known as ANSIN. “Seagate believe that interactions with our academic partners provide a fantastic mechanism to develop the technological breakthroughs and skilled staff required to undertake research that could contribute towards our next generation products,” says Brendan. “In addition to project-based learning, we also see our close collaboration with Queen’s and ANSIN as a key enabler for recruitment of highly skilled and directly relevant PhDs.” Seagate has always been a leader; it developed the first 5.25-inch hard disc drive – the 5-megabyte ST-506 – in 1980 and was a major supplier in the microcomputer market during the 1980s. With its investment in supertechnologically advanced hard disc drives, Brendan says Seagate and the Springtown plant are looking forward to producing even more dynamic devices in the future. “In Springtown, the materials, the science, the physics, the chemistry, the manufacturing, the IT and data analysis skills, the equipment and the facility are all very high end…and the employees are first class. In terms of developing people and skills, Seagate is among the best in the world and is a very exciting place to work.”

NI Chamber 49





usinesses experienced a more positive end to 2016 after an initial, largely negative, reaction to the outcome of the EU referendum vote announced in June 2016. This was one of the key findings in the latest Quarterly Economic Survey published by Northern Ireland Chamber of Commerce and Industry (NI Chamber) and business advisors BDO. The data is analysed by NI Chamber economist Maureen O’Reilly. Most key balances strengthened during Q4 for both manufacturing and services after what had been a poor Q3 performance. All of the 14 key services balances improved over the 3 month period and 9 of the 14 in manufacturing. Northern Ireland’s regional position also improved in Q4 having felt the initial fallout from the Brexit vote more keenly than most other UK regions. The majority of businesses who responded to the survey are positive about prospects for their business in 2017 – 62 per cent expect their business to grow (16% strongly) whilst 20 per cent expect it to contract. However, businesses are less optimistic about prospects for the Northern Ireland economy in 2017 – some 42 per cent expect the economy to grow (marginally) in 2017 while 37 per cent expect it to contract. There are however a number of concerns facing business in the year ahead: t&YDIBOHFSBUFTDPOUJOVFUPEPNJOBUF NI Chamber members’ concerns with 62

50 NI Chamber

per cent citing this to be the case compared to 53 per cent in Q3. Foreign exchange rates are driving up import costs (raw materials and foreign workers) and ultimately putting pressure on profit margins and ultimately prices. t5XPUIJSETPGNFNCFSTJOCPUIUIF manufacturing and the service sectors have experienced high levels of difficulties when trying to recruit new staff over the last 3 months. The issue has become much more prevalent for manufacturers during Q4 with 82 per cent stating that they had difficulties finding suitable staff (compared to 42% in Q3). t*OnBUJPOJTBMTPBNPSFQSFTTJOHDPODFSO for businesses, with 30 per cent of members citing it as a key concern compared to just 13 per cent in Q3 2016. NI Chamber’s quarterly Brexit Watch, which forms part of the overall Quarterly Economic Survey, focuses on how the process of the UK leaving the EU is impacting on member businesses. The second Brexit Watch findings would suggest that there is a core of businesses that have felt an immediate impact from the UK’s vote to leave the EU: t"SPVOEJOTUBUFUIBUUVSOPWFSIBT fallen because of the referendum result. t"SPVOEJOIBWFTDBMFECBDLHSPXUI and local investment plans because of the EU vote (this is down from 1 in 3 in Q3). t$PTUTBSFJODSFBTJOHGPSJOCVTJOFTTFT due to sterling’s devaluation, particularly rising raw material costs for manufacturers.

Chris Morrow (NI Chamber); Ann McGregor (NI Chamber); Maureen O’Reilly (Economist for the QES) and Brian Murphy (BDO).

Commenting on the survey, Ann McGregor, Chief Executive of NI Chamber, said: “Last year ended on a more positive note after the initial, largely negative, reaction to Brexit in Quarter 3 of 2016. Our findings suggest that local businesses remain resilient as they continue to trade through the uncertainty, with many expecting continued growth in the months ahead. “Despite this, Northern Ireland’s manufacturing base continues to struggle, with the significant rise in the cost of raw materials increasing the pressure on firms to raise prices in the coming months. The manufacturing sector also continues to TUSVHHMFXJUIMPOHUFSNTUSVDUVSBMJTTVFT  with businesses continuing to report considerable recruitment difficulties. Business and government must work together to address the skills gap, while also ensuring that businesses have access to the workers they need, including those from overseas. i*OnBUJPOIBTFNFSHFEBTBSJTJOHDPODFSO for many businesses. Both manufacturing and services firms say they are under pressure, particularly from the rising cost of inputs, which is squeezing margins and may weaken future investment. “In terms of Brexit, at this stage, our members expect HM Government and the Bank of England to deliver stability of markets, further clarity on the timetable for transition, and firm action on those matters that are entirely within Westminster’s gift, such as guarantees for existing EU workers in the UK.�


ANALYSIS By Brian Murphy, Partner, BDO northern ireland


s we look forward to the year ahead there is no doubt that 2016 posed challenges that most of us were perhaps not expecting. With the EU referendum result, US presidential uncertainty and for many, a lack of business policy from local government, the last few months of 2016 held concerns for many. When talking to our clients, their primary concerns continued to centre on exchange rates, material costs and general investment intentions for the immediate future. The Quarterly Economic Survey confirms that our clients are not alone, with 1 in 5 businesses reporting reduced sales with a further 1 in 4 businesses planning on scaling back or putting local growth plans on hold. These results undoubtedly reflect the levels of uncertainty following the EU referendum, despite the ongoing calls for business leaders to go on with “business as usual.” Encouragingly, there were some very positive results to end the year with and these, I feel, are the things that must be remembered in moving forward. Increased recruitment intentions, increased sales and improving confidence surrounding cash flow and profitability were all reported not only within the survey results but also by many of our clients here at BDO Northern Ireland. These optimistic results point to the fact that Northern Ireland’s businesses have bounced back over the past few months and indicate further potential growth within the Northern Ireland economy. Perhaps Brexit hit us harder here but, if there’s one thing that typifies Northern Ireland business it is that we are resilient. As evidenced by these results, Northern Ireland businesses are adapting and in many cases looking to make the most out of the opportunities available. Let’s hope it continues and that 2017 proves to be a successful and profitable year for local businesses.

NI Chamber 51

AN EXCITING YEAR AHEAD FOR BUSINESS SUPPORT By Gavin Kennedy, Head of Business Banking NI, Bank of Ireland UK. Innovating, scaling and exporting are vital in achieving sustainable business growth in Northern Ireland. Underpinning our business banking proposition and our partnership with Northern Ireland businesses, we have developed Bank of Ireland UK’s Enterprise Programme. This is a market-leading innovative series of initiatives providing businesses access to support, knowledge and networks to help them grow. With over 8,000 businesses from across Northern Ireland engaged through 2016, it’s been another busy year. The annual programme includes two National Enterprise Weeks in May and November and partner events with industry bodies. These range from the Connecting for Growth programme with the Northern Ireland Chamber of Commerce and Industry, support for Catalyst Inc.’s INVENT

Awards, the Innovation Founder Award, and the recently published Knowledge Economy Index to supporting the CBI Medium Sized Business conference and the Belfast Twilight Market. Bank of Ireland UK has been supporting local businesses for over 150 years by helping customers scale their business through investment in innovative products and services. There’s no better demonstration of this than the Bank’s recent launch of their 2017 International Growth Programme in partnership with Trinity College Dublin and the British Irish Chamber of Commerce. Overseen by experienced mentors, businesses design a tailored plan for their expansion across borders into new markets. Finding new markets and exporting goods and services overseas is critical to the future growth of the Northern Ireland economy and in 2017 the Bank will launch a second scaling programme in partnership with the Northern Ireland Chamber of Commerce

and Industry, with up to 20 businesses receiving one-to-one support and guidance as they strive for success in international markets. 2017 is shaping up to be another busy and exciting year for local business and the Bank’s Enterprise Programme as it plans to continue to support value creation and nurture growth opportunities for all businesses across Northern Ireland.



eltic manager Brendan Rodgers spent Christmas Day morning visiting hospice patients and staff. The former Liverpool boss called in to the Northern Ireland Hospice in Belfast with his fiancée Charlotte Searle. The Co Antrim-born coach is a highprofile supporter of hospice services in his homeland, having experienced first-hand the care they provided his father Malachy as he battled cancer. Brendan, a hospice ambassador, donated the proceeds of his late parents’ house sale to the charity last year and also ran the Belfast marathon to raise further funds. During his Christmas visit he handed over a £26,000 donation for the children’s hospice in Belfast from himself and Celtic first team players. Speaking about his visit to the hospice, Brendan said: “The visit serves as a poignant reminder to me and hopefully everyone out there, of the importance of spending quality time with family and loved ones.”

52 NI Chamber

Celtic manager Brendan Rodgers and fiancée Charlotte Searle with patient Hubert Cowan from Whitehead, at the Northern Ireland Hospice in Belfast.

He added: “I would also take this opportunity to acknowledge the incredible staff and volunteers here at Hospice who are working extremely hard to make this day extra special for the patients and families.” Claire Bradshaw, Head of Communications at NI Hospice, said: “Since becoming an ambassador earlier this year,

Brendan has given his time selflessly to support the work of NI Hospice and of course his generosity in terms of funding has been of huge help to us here at the Hospice.” NI Hospice President and Ulster Television anchor Paul Clark accompanied the Celtic manager on his visit.

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The things I’ve learned in business Michael Blaney is the Managing Director of Newry-headquartered Autoline Insurance. The award-winning firm is one of Northern Ireland’s leading brokers, offering a range of personal and commercial insurance products including Commercial Vehicle, Liability and Farm. Autoline employs 190 people across five locations in Northern Ireland and enjoys a customer renewal rate of more than 90 per cent. Now into its 41st year of business, Autoline is also developing a presence in the GB and Republic of Ireland markets 1. Do what you say you are going to do This is one of the golden rules of business, be careful not to overpromise and under-deliver to customers, suppliers or colleagues. Treat others as you’d like to be treated yourself. It can take a long time to build a good reputation. However, getting a reputation, for being unreliable will take a surprisingly short amount of time and a long time to overcome. Business is about working with people – your reputation is one of your most prized assets, guard it carefully. 2. Believe in yourself Set yourself ambitious goals and believe in yourself. This will enable you to have the courage of your convictions when it comes to taking difficult financial decisions. A healthy sense of self-belief grounded in clear strategic objectives will empower you to take calculated risks for the good of the business. If you don’t believe in yourself, don’t be surprised if nobody else does either. 3. Deal with issues quickly If there were ‘Seven Deadly Sins’ for business people I’d definitely nominate ‘Prevarication’ as one of the worst. No matter what it is, be it employee or performance issues, don’t take the easy way out and sweep the problem under the carpet; it will only fester and get worse. Deal with problems head-on as they arise for the benefit of both the company and employees. There are enough stresses in business without needlessly adding to them through inaction. 4. Do the things only you can do There are only 24-hours in a day. Those who are the most successful don’t necessarily work the longest, but they do work the ‘smartest’. Focus your time on the things only you can do and trust others to take on the rest – that’s their job! Play to your own strengths and delegate. No one can do everything – be humble enough to recognise that other people’s skills may be better suited to some tasks than your own. 5. Make work fun A sign of a successful business is one where employees are happy to work above and beyond the minimum standards expected – it’s what’s known as ‘discretionary effort’. Creating a fun working environment has a big part to play in unlocking that ‘above and beyond’ mindset. It helps us to realise that as employees we’re all part of something bigger, whilst encouraging autonomy and accountability. An enjoyable workplace is one where teamwork thrives, but it’s also a safe place for healthy competition. 6. Make time for family When I was thinking of what my Super Six should be I imagined what advice I would impart to my children. I love work, but at times it does impinge upon my personal time. That, however, is the exception rather than the rule. Make time for your family and friends – you’ll be more effective at work, you’ll make better decisions and you’ll be a much more engaging colleague. The law of diminishing returns applies to your work life, so make sure you get the balance right.


Word from brussels AMBITION LOOKS AT RECENT DEVELOPMENTS BETWEEN THE EU AND THE UK AS PLANS FOR BREXIT TAKE SHAPE. First press conference of Michel Barnier Michel Barnier, Chief Negotiator for the Preparation and Conduct of the Negotiations with the UK under Article 50, gave his first press briefing on 6 December last year, where he said that the period for actual negotiations will be shorter than two years. He said: “At the beginning, the two years included the time for the council to set guidelines and to authorise negotiations. At the end, the agreement must of course be approved by the Council and European Parliament. Finally the UK will have to approve the agreement – all within the two year period. All in all there will be less than 18 months to negotiate. That is short. Should the UK notify by the end of March as Prime Minister Theresa May said she would, it is safe to say negotiations could start a few weeks later and an Article 50 deal reached by October 2018.” Mr Barnier also reiterated that the single market and its four freedoms are “indivisible” and said “cherry picking is not an option”. When asked about Northern Ireland, Mr Barnier said: “The UK decision to leave the

EU will have consequences, in particular perhaps for what are the EU’s external borders today. All I can say at this moment in time is I am personally extremely aware of this particular topic. We will throughout these negotiations with the UK and of course with Ireland, do our utmost to uphold the success of the Good Friday Agreement and of course retain the dialogue there.” Juncker Commission presents third annual Work Programme European Commission President, Jean-Claude Juncker, has presented the Commission’s Work Programme for 2017, which includes 21 key initiatives in ten priority areas to address the most pressing challenges the EU is facing and deliver a Europe that “protects, empowers and defends”. These include a Youth Initiative to boost jobs, growth and investment; a mid-term review of the Digital Single Market; implementation of the Energy Union Strategy with work on lowemission vehicles and mobility; a deeper and fairer internal market and implementation of the Trade for All Strategy.

New tax rules to support e-commerce and online businesses in the EU The European Commission has unveiled a series of measures to improve the Value Added Tax (VAT) environment for e-commerce businesses in the EU. The proposals will allow consumers and companies, in particular start-ups and SMEs, to buy and sell goods and services more easily online. By introducing an EU-wide portal for online VAT payments (the ‘One Stop Shop’), VAT compliance expenses will be significantly reduced, saving businesses across the EU €2.3 billion a year. The new rules will also ensure that VAT is paid in the Member State of the final consumer, leading to a fairer distribution of tax revenues amongst EU countries. The proposals would help Member States to recoup the current estimated €5 billion of lost VAT on online sales every year. Estimated lost revenues are likely to reach €7 billion by 2020. The Commission is also delivering on its pledge to enable Member States to apply the same VAT rate to e-publications such as e-books and online newspapers as for their printed equivalents, removing provisions that excluded e-publications from the favourable tax treatment allowed for traditional printed publications. NI Chamber 55


tech scene round up CLEANTECH STARTS TO SHINE AGAIN, BELFAST NETS CYBERSECURITY EVENT AND ‘OPEN INNOVATION’ PUTS COLLABORATION FIRST. IT’S ALL HAPPENING IN THE TECH WORLD AS PHIL HOEY FROM SYNC NI REVEALS. CLEANTECH SECTOR IS BACK IN VOGUE Clean technology companies raised a record US$6.8 billion in venture funding in 2008, but the sector quickly fell out of favour during the global recession, with companies that relied on public sector grants or subsidies to start up or scale up (such as renewable energy companies or smart grid startups) falling from grace as swingeing budget cuts and fiscal austerity became the new normal. The sector seems to have turned a corner, though, with cleantech once again on everyone’s lips following the news that Bill Gates and Jeff Bezos, amongst others, have launched a new cleantech fund with a cool $1 billion available to invest in green businesses. The new investment fund, Breakthrough Energy Ventures, has very big, very global, ambitions for the cleantech sector: “to provide everyone in the world with access to reliable, affordable power, food, goods, transportation, and services without contributing to greenhouse gas emissions.”

THE CYBERSECURITY WORLD IS COMING TO BELFAST Belfast is increasingly recognised as a worldleading cybersecurity cluster, thanks to the city’s globally renowned cybersecurity research organisations such as The Centre for Secure Information Technologies (CSIT), as well as its host of innovative cybersecurity startups and its wealth of infosec talent. Now the city will also play host to a major European cybersecurity conference, which will bring together cybersecurity experts from around the world in Northern Ireland’s capital city in May 2017. The annual AppSec Europe conference is organised by the Open Web Application Security Project (OWASP), which chose Belfast over numerous other cybersecurity clusters, including Israel, Cork and Stokholm, as the host city for the 2017 conference. OWASP’s AppSec Europe conference will come to Belfast’s Waterfront Hall from 8th to 12th May 2017.

Want to be the first to find out what’s happening in Northern Ireland’s tech scene? Stay up to date with or follow us on Twitter @syncni

‘OPEN INNOVATION’ TAKES CENTRE STAGE WITH NEW £5.7 MILLION PROGRAMME FROM INVEST NI insights. Collaboration has always played an important Christian Ketels, an economist at Harvard role in innovation, but a renewed focus on ‘open innovation’ by Invest Northern Ireland should serve Business School and a global expert on the growth and development of business clusters, has suggested to put collaboration front and centre for Northern that the new £5.7 million programme from Invest Ireland’s startups and small businesses. NI could pay dividends both for businesses and for Invest NI’s recently announced Collaborative the province, by helping companies to partner and Growth Programme has earmarked £5.7 million towards supporting collaborative innovation projects collaborate on innovation projects. The net result could be increased business growth for SMEs, in Northern Ireland, which could help SMEs and possibly even the creation of new ‘innovation develop innovative solutions to pressing business clusters’ in Northern Ireland. challenges by tapping into external expertise and

56 NI Chamber

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On course with business studies

“There is no doubt that partnerships between academia and business extend and enhance opportunities for students and industry and in the process create strong economies.”


artnerships between academic institutions and businesses are nothing new, but these collaborations have become especially relevant in the face of increasing economic pressure and global competition and the growing complexity of problems which need solutions. In recent years, an increasing number of partnerships have gone on to address many of the modern challenges to advancing research, innovation and technological development but, as the debate over the skills gap accelerates, developing partnerships has taken on a new urgency. There is no doubt that partnerships between academia and business extend and enhance opportunities for students and industry and in the process create strong economies. In this section we profile Northern Ireland’s universities and a number of further and higher education colleges and hear how their collaboration with business is helping to create future leaders, equipping students with the right skills to meet the needs of employers and developing a more entrepreneurial way of delivering courses.

Contents: 60 First in class – Ulster University’s Business School 62 Getting up close with distance learning – The Open University 64 Leading from the front – Queen’s University 66 Working in partnership with industry – South Eastern Regional College 68 Enhancing the learning experience – Northern Regional College 69 Schooled for success in meeting the needs of business – Belfast Metropolitan College

60 NI Chamber

FIRST IN CLASS Ulster University’s Business School is aiming to become the leading centre for entrepreneurial education, research and impact in the UK by 2021 as Adrienne McGill hears from Executive Dean, Professor Mark Durkin.


lster University’s (UU) £250 million building project is continuing to take shape in Belfast in a scheme which is set to bring thousands of students into the

city. It is the largest project of its kind in Northern Ireland and is focused at the top of Royal Avenue opposite the existing York Street Campus. When completed, it will see most courses transfer from Jordanstown to central Belfast and student numbers in the city rise from 2,000 to 15,000. It is expected that students will be welcomed at the start of the 2019 academic year. The first phase of construction at UU has already been completed and was opened officially last April. Leading UU’s Business School during this hugely ambitious expansion project is Executive Dean, Professor Mark Durkin. Prior to joining UU in 1996, Professor Durkin spent over a decade in various service, sales and strategic marketing roles within Bank of Ireland Group. Having joined the Bank at 18, he completed all his studies on a part-time basis including a Master’s degree in Marketing from Ulster University (1993) and his PhD from Loughborough Business School (2005). Throughout his academic career he has worked extensively with businesses in his teaching and research engagements. “We’re a service business so our people are our product which is why our staff are centrally important in delivering educational excellence – both in front of the students but also in how we professionally support that service delivery experience. The learning spaces in which learning happens are also critical. As student, learning styles change in an increasingly digitised environment and having state of the art learning facilities to enable that learning to reach its full potential is fundamentally important,” says Professor Durkin. “The Business School at Jordanstown is due to move from its present location to the new campus once it is complete and we are working with our colleagues around fitting out that learning environment in a very bespoke way so that the business learners who come, whether they be executives or undergraduates are going to have a world class educational experience. Parallel investment in facilities at the Coleraine and Magee campuses mean students across Northern Ireland can access higher educational excellence wherever they are based. “Ulster University is moving to a much more market driven focus. The Ulster Business School is one of four faculties and in the Business School we are focused on being the leading centre for entrepreneurial education, research and impact in the UK by 2021. That will be enabled through a relentless

focus on opportunity creation and being entrepreneurial not just in the subjects we offer but in how we deliver them and in how we, as educators, convey values aligned to that entrepreneurial aspiration.” The Business School, which has a staff of 140 of which 111 are academic with the remainder being professional services support colleagues, offers courses to 5,000 students, a growing proportion of whom come from countries across the world. As a member of Harvard Business School’s Affiliate Network and with strong links to the prestigious Babson College in Boston and a new emerging relationship with Philadelphia University, UU Business School has established itself as a major centre for management and business education of international standing. “Those types of partnerships and relationships are critical for us in globalising perspectives and in helping our students to see the world as their opportunity and not just Ireland, the UK and Europe. That is why our relationships with markets and universities overseas are so important. We are in the business of creating possibility,” says Professor Durkin. The UU Business School is one of the largest research-led business schools in Britain and Ireland with an award-winning curriculum which provides students with a professional education that prepares them for professional life. The UK’s National Student Survey ranked subject areas taught at the Business School as being top-rated in the UK with a 1st place for Economics and with Marketing, Accounting, HRM, Finance and Tourism programmes all in the top 7. With regard to the School’s performance in the assessment of research at business schools across the UK in 2014, known as the Research Excellence Framework, the world-leading economic and societal impact of the school’s research places in 7th in the UK out of 101 business schools. “The currency of what we teach is fuelled and indeed catalysed by the research that we undertake,” says Professor Durkin. “Having an academically excellent experience involves a fusion of the subject knowledge and the latest cutting edge research. When these operate interdependently this creates most value to the educational experience. “The research-led teaching we engage in is often channeled into a commercial context where it makes a real difference.

That happens at two levels – at the level of the owner/manager or leader of an organisation in which the research is being applied to allow them to think in a different way, and secondly by allowing the organisation to act in a different way. It is that movement from thought to action which is so powerful since thinking without action, or acting without sufficient thought does not maximize value in a business context. “So, there is a virtuous circle created between the teaching, the research and the resulting impact that adds real commercial value. We capture that impact with our colleagues in industry and bring the learning back into the classroom for subsequent classes to explore, refine and augment. In increasingly dynamic digital environments that active learning process makes learning outcomes very powerful.” This year, the Business School is also engaging very directly with the small business community across Northern Ireland and will be going out to the market in a listening exercise with SMEs to find out what it might do differently to help them. “We are a small business economy, so we are engaging with SMEs very proactively. We always have done that but it has been more implicit than explicit. Instead of saying ‘here are our solutions which will help start-up and growth

businesses’ we want to listen to how SMEs need us to help in deeper ways so we can refine and enhance our offerings,” says Professor Durkin. Another aim of the Business School this year is to help Northern Ireland businesses prepare for the challenges and opportunities they will face around Brexit and, with this to the fore, a new educational offering is being launched in the coming months. “No one really knows what the implications and the uncertainties around Brexit are yet. My view is that we can’t really wait to have the reality defined for us – we have to shape and define a reality for ourselves,” says Professor Durkin. “As far as I am concerned the opportunity comes through not necessarily providing a solution like ‘ this is how you deal with Brexit in your business’ but actually comes through getting the Northern Ireland business community more comfortable with the ambiguity and uncertainty about Brexit – in how they think about it. There is no one blanket solution for everybody but there is an opportunity in allowing people to broaden their perspective and comfort level with the uncertainty that is around us. From uncertainty and chaos comes opportunity…and that is why having an entrepreneurial outlook is so important.”

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GETTING UP CLOSE WITH DISTANCE LEARNING The Open University is highly regarded as a pioneer of distance learning as Adrienne McGill hears from its Director in Northern Ireland John D’Arcy.


he Open University (OU) is aptly named. As an educational body, it provides a learning environment which is open to people, places, methods and ideas and thereby offers a route into higher education for anyone who wants to learn. This is achieved through distance learning, where courses are delivered online. There are no traditional entry requirements to study although students may require certain qualifications for some courses. Over half of OU undergraduate students begin their study without standard higher education entry level qualifications, for example, one A Level or less. The OU has over 3,600 students across Northern Ireland enrolled in courses. It is a global leader in the development of Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs)

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through its own OpenLearn platform and also via ‘Future Learn’ which is a partnership between the OU and other universities and institutions with a huge archive of cultural and education material, including Queen’s University, Belfast, providing free, open, online courses to audiences across the world. John D’Arcy, Director of the OU in Northern Ireland says it offers a different type of learning environment to more traditional universities. “We don’t have any specific entry criteria for the majority of our courses but we have a great team of advisers who invest a lot of time with students to make sure the course they have chosen is right for them and that they have the capability to complete it. We also invest a lot in designing courses and producing course materials.

“The majority of our students are in employment and they average 31 years of age. They are people who have either gone into employment after leaving school or perhaps have a qualification and are in a job but are thinking of changing sector. The OU is quite a different university compared to traditional universities. We operate to the same standards and are accredited in the same way as every other university – but our cohort and our methods are very different. “We also differ because our students don’t have to travel to a physical building. The majority of learning is done in their homes or in their workplaces or online. “In the past we may have been perceived as an Arts or Social Sciencesfocused university but 38 per cent of our enrolments are in Science, Technology,

Engineering and Maths (STEM) subjects. Within the curriculum, we offer many courses in science, engineering, physics and high-end manufacturing subjects and of course we are a very high profile space research university.” The OU, which in Northern Ireland is funded by the Department for the Economy and through student fees, is the largest academic institution in the UK. Since it began in 1969, it has taught more than 1.8 million students and has almost 220,000 current students, including more than 15,000 overseas. Over 70 per cent of students are in full-time or part-time employment, and four out of five FTSE 100 companies have sponsored staff to take OU courses. Regarded as the UK’s major e-learning institution, the OU is a world leader in developing technology to increase access to education on a global scale. Its vast ‘open content portfolio’ includes free study units on OpenLearn, which is the University’s web access point for its open and free online resources and materials and also

on iTunes U which offers free educational content that users can download straight to their computer, iPad, iPod and iPhone. In addition, the OU has a partnership spanning more than four decades with the BBC which has moved from late-night lectures in the 1970s to prime-time programmes such as Frozen Planet, Bang Goes the Theory, James May’s Big Ideas and The Money Programme. “Through our partnership with the BBC, we identify interesting topics with it. The OU puts the educational curriculum development together and the BBC then makes fascinating television programmes around them,” says Mr D’Arcy. “Our students can access the materials they need on their smart devices. We have invested heavily to ensure that our systems are compatible with portable technology but we still have live tutorials with tutors. “The big challenge is maintaining the excellence we have in the use of IT to get learning to people wherever they are.” One of the OU’s most in-demand courses is its pre-registration nursing programme. The OU works in partnership with all five Health and Social Care Trusts across Northern Ireland to offer a pre-registration nursing degree programme to existing employees within the Health Service. Working with all of the Trusts, the degree takes 4 years to complete part time, and is funded by the Department of Health. Also much in demand is the OU’s tripleaccredited MBA programme which is designed for practising senior and middle level managers and has an emphasis on strategic analysis, interdisciplinary skills, creativity and innovation. Its strong international emphasis and global reputation makes it highly attractive to ambitious executives all over the world. The OU’s base in Belfast is located in a listed building and former banking hall,

prominently located within the legal and business district of central Belfast, and which was extensively refurbished and extended in 2009. “We try to make the best use of our city centre location,” says John D’Arcy. “The building is home to academic staff, external engagement, marketing, business development and academic services departments. It also incorporates a student zone on the ground floor where students can come in and access materials and tutors. “Our tutors and lecturers provide telephone, email and face-to-face support to students across Northern Ireland. Some may work for other universities while others may work for successful businesses which is great for our students because they are getting industry practitioners as their tutors.” Mr D’Arcy accepts that the OU has to operate within a complex framework in the UK – across Northern Ireland, England, Scotland, and Wales, there are four different higher education ministers, four different higher education policies and four different higher education funding regimes. “In terms of serving citizens in Northern Ireland, I am given a lot of autonomy by the OU to make sure that what we do here meets the needs of Northern Ireland industry. We were set up to serve people in a way which perhaps other universities had not been able to do in the past. “We complement what Queen’s University and Ulster University do. Together we are highly regarded universities but we are slightly different in terms of our missions. There is a real opportunity for Northern Ireland, through collaboration, to accelerate what businesses need and to provide students with the right sort of access to the right sort of higher education.”

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LEADING FROM THE FRONT Senior executives today are leading in a world of unprecedented change. Adrienne McGill talks to Anne Clydesdale, Director of the William J Clinton Leadership Institute at Queen’s University about their need for professional development in order to stay ahead.


he merger of Queen’s University, Belfast’s William J Clinton Leadership Institute with its Management School has created a unique academic institution for business leaders to hone their leadership and management skills. The strategic decision by Queen’s University to blend the two into a central hub at Riddel Hall, has been driven by an understanding of the need to be meaningfully engaged with employers across all sectors of the economy. “The University plays a pivotal role in society in terms of preparing people to lead in all different walks of life. Public engagement and employer engagement is central to our strategy,” says Anne Clydesdale, Director of the William J Clinton Leadership Institute. “Working alongside the Head of the Management School, Professor John Turner, we have ambitions through the merger to put us in the top echelon of premier business schools across the globe. Our ability to do that will be greatly enhanced by putting executive education alongside management education.” An early result of the merger has been the complete redesign of the MBA programme within the Management School. It is being introduced in October 2017 and will include a lot of the learnings that have come from the William J Clinton Leadership Institute. “It will be a modern MBA – very applied and designed to build leadership capacity for the participants. Our new MBA will be a truly global, premier product and will attract senior executives not just from Northern Ireland but from across the world,” says Anne.

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“That is crucial – it is about bringing international thinking and awareness into Northern Ireland.” As Director of the William J Clinton Leadership Institute, Anne Clydesdale is equally passionate about what it can achieve. Named after former US President Bill Clinton – who delivered the inaugural lecture – in recognition of his contribution to the Northern Ireland peace process, the Institute brings world class facilities, leading academics and industry experts together to deliver a high end portfolio of executive education and leadership programmes. “Our range of programmes for business leaders, which includes our Emerging Leaders Programme and Our Senior Leadership Programme – along with all of our portfolio – help capable departmental and specialist managers to become firstclass leaders,” says Anne. “We’re all aware of the time pressures facing business leaders, therefore our approach to leadership development recognises that most of our learning occurs on the job. That’s what lies behind our 70:20:10 model... meaning that our programmes can be split into 70 per cent application in the workplace, 20 per cent learning from others and 10 per cent learning in classroom situations.” The Leadership Institute can also offer bespoke and customised programmes for individual organisations in both the private and public sectors, based on face-toface contact and detailed analysis of the organisation’s training needs. The personal experience Anne Clydesdale has had in business for many years makes her exceptionally wellequipped to lead the Institute.

She spent more than 20 years as Director of Training at B.I.C. Systems, one of the team of five directors alongside Ed Vernon and John Convery. When the company was sold at the height of the market to BT Northern Ireland, she moved to BT to help manage the transition for former B.I.C. staff before taking a break from high-level professional life... opening a delicatessen on Belfast’s Lisburn Road. She then returned to the corporate world and joined PwC based in Belfast and London where she worked on leadership and management development programmes. But then the opportunity from Queen’s came and it was too good to miss. “The Leadership Institute forms an important part of Queen’s University’s master plan which revolves around a desire to engage with local businesses, to facilitate their growth and development and to contribute to the growth of the Northern Ireland economy,” says Anne. “Central to this was the transformation of Riddel Hall, which was once the home of the first women undergraduates to study at the university. Today, following a major investment in the facility in 2011, it is the home of the Leadership Institute and the Management School. “What is distinctive about the executive education that we do is the applied nature of it. “Typically our audience are senior people, usually people who are at the top of their career, who are not necessarily seeking to add more qualifications to their CV but who are looking for ways and advice and guidance on the latest thinking around driving their organisation and

managing changes alongside all the other challenges that leaders of organisations face. “Our programmes are designed to be applied so we work on making sure that everything that the leaders learn is something they can easily apply in the work place and ensure that it is going to work. Our programmes are focused on people who can benefit from what they have learned at a personal level and at an organisational level. “We have a menu of open enrolment courses which anyone can come on as long as they meet the criteria. We do a large amount of bespoke work where individuals say they like a programme which meets their needs but they may also want to

introduce a group of individuals in their organisation to some of the modules. We therefore can tailor courses to what they need. We can design something specifically to take them from where they are now to where they want to be strategically as an organisation. “We might be engaged to help around a certain issue such as succession planning, structural change as result of a merger or acquisition, or a change in the market place which requires a major leap culturally from the individuals in the organisation. “We also offer executive coaching – that is often the piece that senior leaders find most impactful. It could be around building confidence, changing personal or organisational behaviour or becoming a

more impactful communicator. The job of the executive coach is to help the leaders tackle those issues. “Very often, when senior executives come to us for executive education, they are not looking for something to improve their CV – they are looking for practical help on how to bring about meaningful change personally at a behavioural or organisational level or organisationally. They don’t want a qualification at all – that is not the measure. “However, depending on what they want to achieve, they can gain an Institute of Leadership and Management (ILM) or a Chartered Management Institute (CMI) qualification.” To date a total of 600 leaders have undertaken courses at the William J Clinton Leadership Institute. Programmes are funded by an individual’s company and while Anne admits the investment can be considerable, she says the return will be 5-10 times the amount invested. “The very best people in business recognise the importance of taking time out to ‘sharpen the saw’. Those individuals understand if they are going to lead an organisation, their knowledge and expertise is something that has to be fed for it remain current, for them to remain relevant in today’s market and in the organisations that they serve. That is massively important. “Every aspect of your behaviour as a leader impacts on the people in the organisation you serve. It is therefore crucial to be the best leader you can possibly be.”

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WORKING IN PARTNERSHIP WITH INDUSTRY A skilled workforce is the bedrock of a successful economy South Eastern Regional College’s Leadership and Management Consultant Jenny McConnell tells Adrienne McGill.


outh Eastern Regional College (SERC) has its origins in the rich history of vocational education in Northern Ireland which was introduced in the early 20th century. The technical schools of this time were designed to respond to the needs of the local community and courses were vocational or technical and included science, art and technology. Decades on and SERC has stayed true to its roots and has built a highly prized reputation as a trusted and respected part of the local community by delivering an industry focused curriculum. SERC, a regional further and higher education college in the south-east of Northern Ireland, has campuses in Bangor, Downpatrick, Lisburn and Newtownards. It is already recognised as a top UK college and aims to be world class by 2020. With over 35,000 enrolments across full-time and part-time courses and more than 1,000 staff, it is recognised as one of the leaders in Northern Ireland’s Further Education sector. As part of this sector, the college is the delivery arm for government to ensure that the Northern Ireland workforce has the skills to build a successful economy – one which can grow, innovate and operate on a global platform – and, as such, operates a range of apprenticeship and work based training programmes. This is in addition to further and higher education qualifications such as BTEC, HND, HNC and Foundation degrees. The college has a focus on meeting the challenges ahead for its staff, students and business partners. At its core is the belief that whilst the economy faces an

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uncertain future, it is skills which are the main driver for economic success and the Further Education Colleges of Northern Ireland – as the main skills providers – are instrumental in achieving this. “As we continue to grow our economy around knowledge-based industries – like ICT and Electronics – we will become increasingly dependent on higher level skills. These range from sub-degree qualifications, such as higher national diplomas and foundation degrees offered through further education colleges, through to undergraduate degrees at universities, and right up to postgraduate qualifications,” says Jenny McConnell, SERC’s Leadership and Management Consultant whose job involves working with businesses and developing bespoke programmes based on their needs and building partnerships between the College and industry. “But there are skills other than technical skills. Put simply, businesses are looking for good people. Education is one thing but businesses need their staff to have a can-do attitude. “In SERC we have built that around problem-based learning where we give the students a problem and we get them to create the solution. It is very much student driven and is one way of enhancing our learning and teaching strategy but it is also about building confidence and enabling a student to be the best they can be by drawing out their problem solving and investigative skills. When they are then working in industry, they will have had experience in coming up with solutions to a problem and that will be a real bonus.” SERC works in partnership with a wide

range of major companies including Royal Mail, Coca-Cola, Montupet (UK) Ltd. and Denroy Plastics who provide placements for students or who need the expertise available at the college to solve an industry problem. “The closer we can work with industry the better the opportunity we can give to our young people who will better understand the world of work,” says Jenny. “Businesses call on our expertise across a lot of areas and issues – a lot of it is about making the best of what they have got, building efficiencies and effectiveness – it is about looking at what they are doing and reviewing it and putting in measures to save money. However, it is also about developing their people. A lot of companies don’t invest as much in their people as they should. Many reports about leadership and management point to a dearth of leadership and management training within the Northern Ireland economy and we need to build strategic thinkers who think outside of Northern Ireland in order to grow our exports and build our business foundations.” Recently SERC has become the only accredited Siemens training academy in the UK. The collaboration between SERC and Siemens to offer the Siemens Mechatronic Systems Certification Programme (SMSCP), will equip engineers in the precision engineering, mechatronics and electronics sectors, with the latest skills base and help manufacturing companies increase efficiency. This industry-focused training programme has been designed to meet the increasing demand for highly skilled technicians within the

manufacturing engineering sector. Meanwhile, with the increasing emphasis on reducing carbon emissions, businesses and apprentices can now benefit from specialist heat recovery training at SERC after it was named as an accredited Fujitsu Training Academy. The Academy is the first of its kind in Northern Ireland and has been designed to support the industry with skills development. “We are very focused in aligning ourselves with the local economy and making sure we can drive it forward. We can do that by listening and understanding what businesses need, shaping our curriculum to ensure that we are meeting their needs and then delivering the best possible candidates that can fill those posts and drive the economy forward. In Northern Ireland there is a deficit of skills and the Further Education colleges are pivotal in making sure we fill those gaps. “But in addition – it is about delivering the person who can add value to a business and I believe that we transform people’s lives when they come to us. We inspire them to be the better persons

and to seek out and work through opportunities. By inspiring them, we enrich their value and through that we help build the Northern Ireland economy. “While an academic qualification is critical, we also look at the individual student so we very much have a student centred approach to everything we do whereas within the business world it is a client centred approach. We listen first, create the solution and deliver it.” SERC recently introduced a new graduate recruitment programme that could help businesses develop future leaders and save money in the process. The college, which won the tender to deliver the Entry to Management Graduate programme from the Department for the Economy (DfE), is set to take in an initial 50 graduates who will undertake the intensive training programme which will have a strong focus on leadership, innovation, creative thinking, management and communication. The programme is aimed at participants who have a minimum level 5 qualification and aspire to become future leaders.

Participants on the course will complete a Chartered Management Institute (CMI) level 5 leadership and management qualification. Jenny McConnell who will lead the programme says there has been strong demand for places. “We have worked hand in glove with the employers and the graduates to create the right fit. There will be tangible outcomes for them. This programme is a must for organisations who want to add value and attract talent to their organisation.” Overall, Jenny says students at SERC can be assured of finding a very strong support network to enable them to grow and develop and to make the best of the opportunity that they have been given. “On leaving the college, they will have a strong qualification and also have the softer skills which will allow them to present well at interview and at job opportunities. “We have our students and clients in industry at the very centre of everything that we do so that the best result for them is achieved. That is our purpose.” NI Chamber 67

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ENHANCING THE LEARNING EXPERIENCE Further education offers something different to students and businesses, Dr Steve Brankin, Vice Principal of Business Development and Transformation at Northern Regional College EXPLAINS WHY TO Adrienne McGill.


he mission of Northern Regional College (NRC) to “provide students with a lifechanging, supportive and innovative experience, which will equip them with the skills to compete successfully in the global employment market and meet the needs of local industry and employers”, is one it is achieving very successfully. NRC has six campuses spanning Ballymena, Ballymoney, Coleraine, Larne, Magherafelt, and Newtownabbey and catering for around 18,000 students. It is the main provider of further education across 3 Council areas in Northern Ireland, covering a population of 450,000. From engineering to hairdressing and from accounting to childcare – a huge range of courses are on offer to teenagers and mature students. As well as its further education provision, the College provides work-based learning through the Department for the Economy’s (DfE) Apprenticeships NI and Training for Success programmes. The College also supports organisations, whether large or small, in the social economy, private or public sector, by developing solutions specific to their training and development needs. The education sector has adopted a greater use of technology, as an important parallel to the need by employers to have ICT skilled employees. Indeed, technology has become an increasingly important part of both the curriculum and the teaching model within the further education sector. One of the people at the forefront of this fundamental change at NRC is Dr Steve Brankin, who is Vice Principal of Business Development and Transformation. Dr Brankin, who has been in the post for just over a year, is one of Northern Ireland’s most successful entrepreneurs in the ICT sector. With a PhD in Engineering from Queen’s University Belfast, he commenced his 68 NI Chamber

career with Harland & Wolff in 1983 and in 1986 joined BT as a software engineer, soon becoming a designer of BT’s operational support systems. Dr Brankin went on to become the founding CEO of Asidua following a management buyout from Fujitsu Telecommunications in 2002. He succeeded in growing Asidua from a small start-up to a company employing 140 people across three locations (Belfast, Birmingham and Dublin) delivering technology solutions to the public and private sector. In 2014, Dr Brankin and his fellow shareholders sold Asidua in a multi-million pound deal to Civica. In his current role at NRC, he leads business development activities and drives the College’s transformation and innovation agenda. “We have a very strong focus on the digitisation of our teaching operations,” says Dr Brankin. “We are enhancing the learning experience by structuring the lessons through a richer scheme of interactive work. This has the added benefit of making delivery consistent across our different campuses, and has a focus on ensuring best quality in every element of the material used in teaching. At Northern Regional College, we operate a blended learning experience which combines digitisation with teacher-led learning.” Engagement with local businesses is another key element of the equation for delivering on the College vision. “Through collaboration with employers, we have first-hand knowledge of where there are pressures for more skilled people

in businesses; this allows us to fine tune our curriculum delivery so that we match the skills of our students with the needs of businesses in the region,” says Dr Brankin. “The engagement model with businesses includes our provision of consultancy, training and skills services – much of which is fully or part-funded through programmes and initiatives from Department for the Economy and Invest NI. These include programmes such as Skills Focus, InnovateUs, Assured Skills and Innovation Vouchers. Business engagement has the added advantage of ensuring that our teaching staff keep their skills up to date with technology and working practices used by businesses today.” NRC is one of 10 knowledge providers in Northern Ireland recognised by Invest NI through the Innovation Voucher Scheme to provide knowledge and technology transfer support to SMEs. The scheme allows small businesses to access up to £5,000 worth of technical support by working with an expert from NRC who can help bring new knowledge so the firms can innovate, develop and grow. This can include ideas for new or improved products, processes and services; product and service testing; access to technical information and

expertise on new materials and tapping into research and scientific expertise. While NRC continues to have a strong track record in engineering and manufacturing, its Business, Computing and Creative Industries Department is also growing and now includes Foundation Degrees in Computer Science in partnership with Ulster University. “At NRC in Computer Science, you can start at Level 2 which is equivalent to a GSCE qualification, then move to Level 3 which is equivalent to an A Level and then to a Foundation Degree – and then if you wish, to proceed to a full degree,” explains Dr Brankin. NRC boasts four teaching Departments: • Engineering & Built Environment • Business, Computing and Creative Industries • Science & Service Industries • Care & Access Each provides flexible models for taking qualifications ranging from Level 2 through to Higher Education standard (HNC, HND, Foundation Degree). Dr Brankin believes that in many ways the further education route is more fulfilling, because students are engaging in vocational studies earlier in their career. “Further education offers something different from the traditional academic path. “I’d say too many people in Northern Ireland still look at further education colleges as a place to go if you find A levels too challenging, but the world has changed and the FE sector in Northern Ireland has changed too. “Right now at NRC we are delivering Higher Education programmes in Accounting, Business Studies, Childcare, Counselling, Electronic Engineering, Building Technology, Science, Sports & Exercise, Leadership & Management, Automotive Management and Hair & Beauty to name only a few of the options on offer. The range is hugely impressive and forms a valuable and differentiated route to excellent and vocationally relevant qualifications for our students.” “The apprenticeship programmes on offer are also highly attractive. The ‘earn while you learn’ structure allows apprentices to gain Level 2 and 3 qualifications on a part-time basis, attending colleges for part of the week, and actively working in industry for the remainder of the week. Progression options include moving on to a higher level apprenticeship, which facilitates study for a Foundation Degree while working for an employer. The fact that apprentices are employed by local businesses throughout, means that when these people finish their studies, they are already in employment.” Dr Brankin’s entrepreneurial zeal is still very much in evidence when he talks about the future for NRC. “NRC has an entirely new management team, and we are out to make the College the best that it can be. That means doing a lot of things that I would have done in my previous roles in the private sector – championing and having pride in the organisation and its brand, making sure everyone we deal with is satisfied. That means ensuring we deliver what was ordered – be that a course for our students, or a staff training or consultancy programme for a local business. It means dealing with any customer problems fast and professionally. It’s about keeping customers – in this case students – happy. Every organisation depends on a satisfied customer base – we are no different.”

SCHOOLED FOR SUCCESS IN MEETING THE NEEDS OF BUSINESS Steeped in history but boasting ultra-modern facilities, Belfast Metropolitan College is about to embark on the latest phase of expansion – a new business school. Adrienne McGill talks to the College’s Development Director Damian Duffy.


elfast Metropolitan College (Belfast Met) has been the seat of learning for some of the most famous names in industry and, in the early years, for helping the city become famed for its shipbuilding prowess. The College was founded as the Belfast Municipal Technical Institute at the start of the last century at the height of the city’s industrial might and in direct response to the demands of industry. When it was constructed on College Square East, opposite the ‘Black Man’ statue of Dr Henry Cooke, one of the first students through its doors on the 11 September 1906 was 25 year old Harry Ferguson, an automobile engineer of Little Donegall Street who was to become the ground breaking inventor (father of the modern farm tractor and mechanised farm techniques). Also, many of the naval architects who designed the Titanic were students at the Institute and Sir John Parker, one of the most successful engineers in the UK, studied there. Initially there were 73 full time staff, 103 occasional (parttime) staff and around 5,000 students. Now more than 100 years later, the College has become one of the largest further and higher education colleges in the UK, with more than 1,000 staff, over 20,000 learners every year and 37,000 annual enrolments. Belfast Met, which has an annual turnover of £60 million and injects £40 million into the economy in salaries and wages, operates across 4 campuses in the city – Titanic Quarter, Millfield, Castlereagh and Springvale. The College offers a wide-ranging selection of full-time and part-time courses and programmes to match every need and interest, from leisure classes through apprenticeships and up to university level. “Belfast Met has a strong offering across a range of different skills programmes and in recent years the variety has increased. We have business development programmes which offer very bespoke solutions to businesses in terms of product

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On course with business studies

development or skills development,” says Damian Duffy, Director of Development at Belfast Met. One of the most exciting developments recently has been the investment of £1 million in upgrading teaching and training facilities at Belfast Met’s Springvale campus, which will aid the delivery of its new Belfast Business School which is due to open in March 2017. The upgrade will accommodate a wider range of digitally delivered academic professional short courses and will be key to the new business school. With a mission to deliver “creative and innovative learning experiences”, the new school – the first business school in the UK to be established by a Further Education College – will also deliver a range of master classes on areas of interest such as digital transformation and social media marketing. “The business school will develop high quality, tailored courses such as sales training, key account management, consulting skills, project management and export development,” says Damian. “These areas are in high demand by employers. We have also developed a virtual learning environment where all of the material will be available online to both businesses and participants in the programmes. “The Belfast Business School will be agile and responsive to the needs of business – both large and small. “For instance, we can put together a foundation degree within six months to underpin a Higher Level Apprenticeship Programme when it would normally take two to three years to bring together a degree programme. That flexible approach is key for us. You need to be able to respond swiftly to the needs of business. “The College has had a business curriculum for decades and we will continue to do what we currently offer i.e. programmes on human resources, leadership and management, marketing and accountancy but the Belfast Business School will introduce a more up-to-date approach. It will be outward-looking and offer innovative programmes which are new and add value to what we currently do.” Belfast Met has been on a tireless growth trajectory since the completion of its flagship £44 million Titanic Quarter campus in 2011. This was followed in 2012 by the opening of the £18 million e3 economic development building on its Springvale 70 NI Chamber

campus in West Belfast which will be the home of Belfast Business School and is designed to accommodate up to 500 users on a daily basis. The name e3 stands for employability, enterprise and economic development – the site’s primary goals being to enhance the employability skills of its students, to stimulate enterprise through business incubation and the delivery of innovative development programmes, and to foster enhanced approaches to economic development. Given the focus for e3, it is appropriate that it will be the centre for this latest innovation for Belfast Business School. In conjunction with the Department for the Economy (DfE) and Invest Northern Ireland Belfast Met has, since August 2013, successfully delivered over 30 Academies under the Assured Skills Programme. Funded by DfE, this award winning suite Belfast Met’s Development of programmes provides Director Damian Duffy. an upskilled workforce within Northern Ireland which facilitates new inward Systems. investors, and provides existing employers “We are very actively engaged with with the human resource to enable employers, we consult with them and track business expansion and growth. their requirements for new skills areas,” The college consults with the says Damian. participating employers to identify “We have switched from being supply skills required and together with the driven to being demand driven so organisation develops a robust and relevant we know the type of skills needed by bespoke training academy. The Academies employers. We work with around 500 are developed to upskill participants valued partner employers and some of the making them recruitment ready upon biggest companies in Belfast – such as Citi graduation from the academy. and Bombardier – to deliver customised The success of the Academy Programme training programmes. The fact that most is demonstrated by the recruitment of the of our staff have industry experience substantial majority of participants, which means they understand very well the currently stands at 93 per cent. There requirements of business.” have been over 600 participants taking In 2016 Belfast Met celebrated its 110th part in academies in the past three years anniversary. across a range of sectors including, Data A cherished institution and part of Analytics, Cyber Security, Human Capital, the fabric of Belfast and beyond, it is Cloud, People and Processes, Contract recognised for leading the city to work Management and Recruitment to name but while making skills and education relevant a few. to the needs of business. There is no Companies who have recruited from doubt it will continue to do this with vigour the academies include Alexander Mann for many years to come. Solutions, Deloitte, EY, PwC and Revel

OCN NI is a leading Awarding Body in Northern Ireland. Our mission is to recognise and reward learning so that people of all ages achieve their goals in from Entry Level to Level 5 across a wide range of subject areas. are tailored to the needs of employers and their employees. OCN NI works with a number of employers to create skills and knowledge products which meet the needs of businesses. These products include:

providing employers with the skilled people they need within their workforce. help to close the skills gap in the current and future workforce. do not hesitate to call us on (028) 90 463 990, email us at, or visit our website:

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In uncertain times, focusing on the customer is crucial for Northern Ireland’s energy future, says SSE Ireland Managing Director Stephen Wheeler.


rying to manage and project energy costs represents an ongoing challenge for many consumers. Energy costs are a core expense in many industries, however managing them and predicting energy markets is not a central function of those businesses. Energy pricing requires the ability to balance security of supply, sustainability and competitiveness, with different needs for each customer. This has become an even greater challenge in the last year, with a number of geopolitical factors impacting on spot and future energy costs and currency exchange rates, including Brexit, the US presidential election, and the global commodities power play between the

OPEC oil glut and the US shale gas ambition. And as we enter 2017, the outlook is no easier to predict. This uncertainty presents significant challenges for business energy users, including our customers, in Northern Ireland. As a company whose core purpose is to provide the energy people need in a reliable and sustainable way, SSE has an important role to play in supporting customers in managing their energy costs. The traditional methods of energy procurement may no longer provide the most efficient outcome for consumers. Through our SSE Airtricity Business Energy team, we help energy users determine a path that procures energy in the way they want, balancing the risk of shortterm spot pricing with the security of hedging to meet their needs. This helps our Business Energy customers to hedge against potential geopolitical risks in the short to medium-term to protect themselves, and we have innovative

risk management products available to support this. While there are a number of potential challenges facing the Northern Ireland energy sector, there is one which I believe merits particular focus in the context of two key deliverables that will support secure, sustainable and competitive supplies for consumers – and that’s Brexit. Brexit is never far from the headlines, and with a range of hotly-contested issues and opinions in focus across the UK, it’s crucial that the voices and interests of Northern Ireland’s consumers are not lost in the debate. The referendum result does not present any immediate changes to how we serve the consumer. The energy fundamentals will remain the same. Our own role remains to deliver reliable, sustainable and affordable flows of energy to SSE Airtricity’s household and business customers – regardless of which

“Energy infrastructure projects should continue to be delivered during and postBrexit...”

side of the border, hard or soft, they reside in or operate from. In an energy context, Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland are unique, being relatively small, isolated (from an energy perspective at least!) and reliant on imported fuels. This is what motivated the creation of the all-island Single Electricity Market (SEM) back in 2008, allowing customers to benefit from improved market efficiencies and system stability from shared resources across the island. Since it was established, the SEM has successfully leveraged major investment in cleaner, greener and flexible forms of energy – SSE alone has invested almost £2 billion across the island since 2008, over half a billion pounds of which has been in Northern Ireland’s energy infrastructure.

Regulators and energy companies, including SSE, are currently working on a suite of changes to transform the SEM under the new Integrated Single Electricity Market (I-SEM) project to further integrate both markets and improve trading with neighbouring countries. This project is due to go live in 2018, stimulating future energy investment and importantly delivering energy cost reductions for customers in the years to come. Meanwhile, the North-South Interconnector – another key cross-border project – has received planning approval in the Republic, while the Northern Ireland element will go before a public planning inquiry in February. However, while we’re one positive planning decision closer, there are still a number of key milestones to be overcome, not least of

which is the political decision from all sides to proceed. The importance of political commitment cannot be underestimated – you need only look at the recent EirGrid and SONI Generation Capacity Statement which signals inadequate generation in Northern Ireland from 2021 unless this critical infrastructure is completed, an inconceivable scenario for our business community and for potential inward investors. SSE believes important energy market infrastructure projects should continue to be delivered during and post-Brexit, irrespective of the emerging UK and EU political arrangements. Exchanges of letters between UK Prime Minister Theresa May and leaders in Northern Ireland demonstrate they appreciate the importance and complexity of energy policy in a Brexit context and the unique nature of the all-island market. Energy may not be the most prominent issue in the Brexit debate, but it is critical to everyone’s future. As a company with operations, investments, customers and employees, across the UK and Ireland, we have a duty at SSE to ensure the impact of Brexit on energy users is not underestimated. As an energy provider to homes and businesses, we will continue to develop products that deliver secure and affordable energy to our customers, including new and more sophisticated products for business customers to help them manage energy market risks in what is an increasingly volatile environment. And as a leadership voice within the energy and investment community, we will consistently draw attention to the effects of Brexit on energy investment and the continued delivery of energy infrastructure. Most importantly, SSE will continue to advance the needs of energy customers in a post-Brexit world in our ongoing discussions with political leaders at Stormont, Leinster House and Westminster. If we continue to focus on the interests of customers, we will help create a scenario where stable, reliable and affordable energy supplies are maintained and improved into the future, for the benefit of all, within and without the EU.

“Energy may not be the most prominent issue in the debate, but it is critical to everyone’s future...”

NEW APPOINTMENT Earl Harrison is a highly skilled SAP Business One consultant and was part of the team to implement the second, if not the first, installation of SAP Business One in the UK. Since that time, Earl had been involved with the implementation SAP Business One throughout the UK, USA and Africa. Earl’s business experience covers a multitude of industries and is well suited to configure and implement SAP Business One to meet the need of a range of diverse industries. Earl has worked on the design and implementation of the Customer Care System for the Sony PlayStation 1 covering the UK and Ireland customer base. Earl joins the SAP Business One team as a senior consultant, and with his experience and systems implementation knowledge, he will help FUEL to maintain its position as one of the successful SAP Business One Partners throughout the UK and Ireland.

ULSTER TATLER GROUP TERMS & CONDITIONS Opinions expressed in Ulster Tatler Group publications are those of the individual contributors and do not necessarily represent the views of the publishers. NI Chamber of Commerce and Ulster Tatler Group do not accept responsibility for the views of the correspondents or contributors. Whilst every effort has been made to ensure that all the material within is accurate at the time of going to press, Ulster Tatler Group cannot be responsible for mistakes arising from clerical or printing errors. Advertisements for Ulster Tatler Group publications are accepted only on condition that the advertiser warrants that the advertisement does not in any way contravene the provisions of the Copyright Text and Advertising Trade Descriptions Act 1968. Where advertisements and art work have been specially designed for Ulster Tatler Group, copyright is strictly reserved. The entire contents of the magazine, articles, photographs and advertisements, are the copyright © of NI Chamber of Commerce and Ulster Tatler Group., and may not be reproduced in any form without written consent from the publishers. The publishers will institute proceedings in respect of any infringement of copyright. Please note that whilst every effort is made to ensure that any submitted items which you wish returned are sent back in the condition in which they were received, Ulster Tatler Group cannot accept responsibility for any loss or damage. All items submitted are at the owner’s own risk. Manuscripts and photographs/illustrations submitted should be accompanied by a stamped addressed envelope. If possible do not send original or irreplaceable material - to avoid disappointment please send copies only. The Publishers Ulster Tatler Group - reserve the right to reject any advertisement submitted.

Ulster Tatler Group, 39 Boucher Road, Belfast, Co. Antrim, BT12 6HR Tel: 028 9066 3311

RANDOX HEALTH HOLYWOOD NOW OPEN Marking the start of an intensive international roll out, Randox Health Holywood has launched the first of twenty new locations around the world. Global healthcare company Randox has devoted over 35 years to scientific excellence with tests and technology designed to save lives and eradicate illness. Now, the highly anticipated new Randox Health clinics offer innovation, prevention and personalisation directly to the public. Randox Health creates a full body health profile designed to find and fix early signs of illness within your body, before they develop. A Randox Health Everyman, Everywoman or Signature programme is designed to look after your body throughout the year, including hundreds of Biomarker tests, personal health plans, private consultations and repeat testing to track results and improve your health over 12 months. The Randox method has the power to reverse the

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he recent fine handed down to Mexrlin Attractions Operations by the Crown Court of England and Wales has brought the issue of prosecutions for health and safety offences back into sharp focus. In that case, Merlin was fined the eyewatering sum of £5 million following an accident on a rollercoaster at Alton Towers. The incident, which was widely reported in the media, left a number of people very seriously injured. The case reflects a continuing trend of increasingly significant fines being imposed on large corporate defendants. This follows on from the implementation in England and Wales of new sentencing guidelines in November 2015. The guidelines were produced following a review of sentences by the Sentencing Council in corporate manslaughter and health and safety cases. They reflected the Sentencing Council’s conclusion that there was a lack of consistency in the approach to sentencing and, more importantly, that the fines imposed on large corporate defendants were often too low to satisfy public policy requirements that fines should be proportionate and should deter future wrongdoing. The guidelines require a fine to be determined using a more structured

approach in terms of assessing the nature of the offence and by reference to a company’s turnover. The guidelines contain a number of defined categories which requires a determination as to the nature of the offence (ranging from “low” to “very high”) and the risk of harm created by the breach (ranging from a likelihood of “minor harm” to a “high probability of death or serious injury”). A court is then required to assess the means of the company, ranging from “micro” (turnover up to £2 million) to very large (turnover which very greatly exceeds £50 million). Once each of the factors is determined, the offence is then placed into a sentencing matrix which produces a financial range, subject to the court applying any necessary adjustment so as to ensure that the fine is proportionate. In the Merlin case, the company pleaded guilty on various breaches of the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974. It was accepted that the risk of harm was in the most serious bracket (Level A) and, despite representations from Merlin, the Judge found that the level of culpability was “high” (the second highest bracket). The judge determined that Merlin’s turnover (ranging between £367 million - £412 million) was “large”. After placing the offence into the matrix, the judge

concluded that the appropriate fine should be £7.5 million, albeit adjusted this downward by one third to take account of an early guilty plea. Whilst the Merlin case is an extreme example, it highlights the increasing risk to companies of significant fines for breaches of health and safety. The levels of fines attracted by the guidelines are significantly higher than before and, by focusing on turnover when assessing the level of fine, a large fine can have significant implications for the trading position of a company. Health and Safety prosecutions can also have significant implications for a company in terms of insurance cover and premium. Whilst the guidelines are not yet binding in Northern Ireland, they are considered relevant by courts in this jurisdiction when approaching sentencing and are frequently used as a benchmark. In addition, the Criminal Appeal Court in Scotland has recently held that Scottish Courts should fix penalties for health and safety offences by reference not only to existing Scottish case law but also to the England and Wales sentencing guidelines. Given the approach of the courts in Scotland, it is likely to increase pressure on the courts in this jurisdiction to follow suit and to apply those guidelines to their full extent.

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feature feature

QUALITY STREET FURNITURE Street furniture has become increasingly more visually interesting and technology focused. Alan Lowry, Managing Director of Environmental Street Furniture tells Adrienne McGill the secret of his company’s success in this growing market.


he Romans were the first to introduce street furniture, as we know it. In the days of the Roman Empire it was purely functional in the form of stone or wood milestone markers, horse troughs and tethering posts. But fast-forward to today…and it has become so much more – from benches to bike racks and from planters to post boxes – street furniture takes many shapes and forms. The collective term ‘street furniture’ refers to items which are placed within streets, along roadsides, or parks, for various uses, for benefit by the public. Street furniture is available in many styles, materials and finishes to suit any application and to complement the surrounding areas. But in recent years the design and installation of street furniture has taken on an arty edge. In many cases the furniture is distinctive and can create unique landscape transformations while high quality manufacturing ensures the furniture will last a long time. One of the leaders in this market is Newtownabbey based Environmental Street Furniture (ESF) which has experienced stellar growth since it was formed 4 years ago by Alan Lowry and his wife Caroline. Managing Director Alan Lowry set up the firm after many years working nationally as a lighting engineer, and also managing local electrical wholesale business Walter Allen Limited. Alan established himself in the trade during his time with his previous employer, English building supplies firm Burdens, where he

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looked after sales through their global offices in Australia, the Middle East, Europe and the USA. ESF is involved from concept to completion and designs, imports, sources, stocks and supplies a huge selection of exterior street furniture products, many of which are manufactured under licence all over the world. Its products can be seen across the UK and Ireland in a wide range of installations for public and private sector clients. These include the new £25 million Ballymena Health and Care Centre where ESF supplied stainless steel bollards to the exterior of the entrances. The company also supplied seating and litter bins for Lisburn Square and benches and tables with matching seating to Dyson’s headquarters in Malmesbury, England. “When researching the market we found that over the years landscape architects would put great attention into what trees they put in the ground and what paving they would use,” says Alan Lowry. “However, little attention was given to the street furniture – it was treated as a necessity rather than adding anything aesthetic to a streetscape or parkland. “When we started the business 4 years ago, we canvassed a lot of opinion to gauge what sort of street furniture was on offer. We discovered that very few suppliers were giving clients the opportunity to custom design street furniture – so there was a real gap in the market. That, added to the increased awareness and use of branding and IP, created a great opportunity. “Street furniture used to be cast iron products which were made in foundries in the UK but when China entered the

market the foundries closed as they were no longer competitive. The only way to bring products from China to the UK is in full containers but if you are customising a product you can’t fill a container. So there was a problem in that manufacturers were driving customers to order commodity standard products. When we looked at the market, we wanted to cater for what clients specifically wanted. We therefore set up supply chains with local fabricators and plastics specialists who were able to go into the marketplace and offer people a bespoke customised product to suit their needs – involving a wide range of colours, shapes, materials, logos and designs. That is what has set us apart.” The company has developed a healthy export market and is continuing to forge links in the UAE, with the hope of securing deals connected with the World Cup in Qatar in 2022 and the Dubai 2020 EXPO. Around 30 per cent of the firm’s business is conducted in Northern Ireland, 40 per cent in the Republic and the UK, and the remaining 30 per cent in international markets. Alan started out in street lighting from school and for 13 years developed street furniture for Bristol-based Burdens Ltd, a construction supply firm with a turnover of around £500 million which employed 1,500 people before going into administration due to the downturn of the construction industry. However, he took his knowledge of street furniture to establish ESF at home in 2012. He says: “I spent the first year or so establishing the core of the business in the home markets of the UK and Republic of Ireland and it’s only in the last couple

feature Alan Lowry in Lisburn Square which features some of his company’s street furniture.

of years that we’ve looked into export markets.” In the last 2 years the company, which employs 8 people and has a turnover of around £1.3 million, has supplied products globally to 22 different countries. The firm has achieved considerable success in the experience attraction industry which has involved supplying products to Disney World and Sea World in Florida, Palace Entertainment in California and most recently to IMG Worlds of Adventure in Dubai, the largest indoor theme park of its kind spanning 1.5 million square feet and to which ESF has supplied custom-designed benches and litter bins. “This contract is our largest and most prestigious export contract to date and clearly shows our capabilities in this specialised sector. We hope it will help catapult ESF to the forefront of global theme park supply.” In a new development, ESF is focusing its

attention on the integration of technology into street furniture to provide both phone-charging stations and tools for gathering valuable data. This is in response to the fact that as people become increasingly digitally connected, designers and developers are finding new ways to integrate technology, both indoors and outdoors. ESF’s Street Charge product is an exciting solar-powered, outdoor, public mobile phone charging station, originally designed in the USA and now available in the UK, Europe and the Middle East. “The Street Charge product is a revolutionary product with a very simple concept. It uses the sun’s rays to charge internal batteries which in turn allows the public to charge all makes of mobile phones or tablets at the same speed as a wall socket,” explains Alan. “We secured our first export business in Azerbaijan for the Baku European games, which gave us the skills and confidence to

pursue further deals in new markets. My previous experience of exporting globally helped to navigate the many problems, and Northern Ireland Chamber of Commerce and Industry helped greatly with advice and export documentation. “We also negotiated a deal with McDonald’s in Italy to supply and install two Street Charge units for Expo Milano 2015. We have also participated in an Invest NI trade mission to the United Arab Emirates which has given us the opportunity to build a relationship with a new trading partner and make connections which have been instrumental in growing the business. This has allowed us to secure an order to supply our Street Charge system to a company in Abu Dhabi. “We are currently developing a new more interactive product line using solar power for public outdoor technology hubs and illuminated litter bins,” says Alan. “Our future is definitely looking very bright.”

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The Electro Automation Group is widely regarded as Ireland’s premier automation specialist and designs, installs and maintains systems for automatic gates, automatic doors, access control. Formed in Dublin in 1984, Electro Automation Group offers true nationwide 24/7 support and has branches in Lisburn, Dublin, Surrey and Germany. Providing an enviable combination of quality equipment supported by an exceptional technical aftersales service, Electro Automation is synonymous with advanced technology and reliability of service. Continuous growth has resulted in using integrated solutions sourced from the leading worldwide manufacturers. Supporting a wide range of products, systems and services, Electro Automation (NI) Ltd is the recognised leader in automation and control in Northern Ireland. Since it’s inception, Electro Automation’s success has been based on strong international growth while servicing the core local markets in Northern Ireland, the Republic of Ireland and the UK market effectively. Excellence is a product of teamwork Since its foundation Electro Automation (NI) has gained a reputation for its world class customer service and product quality. “Our reputation is built on expertise, experience, innovation and reliability,” said Managing Director Jim Fleming. “Our philosophy

is simple - ‘it has to be the best’ - and we believe that providing our customers with the highest quality products combined with excellent service and support, ensures continued customer loyalty and promotes our prospects for winning new business.” He continues: “It’s exciting for us to recognise that the majority of our customers stay with us project after project.” This philosophy comes to the fore with Electro Automation’s service to architects and specifiers. They provide first class support to architects, specifiers, developers, surveyors, engineers and project managers using their dedicated sales team and automation consultants. This has been added to by the addition of Northern Ireland’s largest automation showroom in Lisburn, allowing clients to see interactive working examples of turnstiles, gates and doors, as well as a class leading range of access control systems. James Boomer is head of showroom demonstrations and CPD seminars at Lisburn and says: “We can help with every stage of the specification processes, from the simple provision of product literature to help designing a specific project. Our knowledgeable and experienced consultants can help save time, reduce workloads and reduce cost on a project. It helps reduce costs when a system is properly specified in a professional manner, and all parties involved are fully aware of what is proposed, how it will work, and how it will integrate within the overall control methodology.” “We believe that successful job completion occurs directly as a result of strong teamwork between all parties involved in a project. Working in partnership with architects, specifiers, surveyors, engineers and project managers, Electro Automation assists by utilising and sharing our 30 years of industry knowledge to recommend efficient workable solutions.” The company’s innovation extends not only to its customers and projects, but also inwards to the Group itself. “When you work with the Electro Automation, you work with people who have a passion for learning and a desire to innovate,” said Jim Fleming. “Our obsession with finding better ways to do things creates an exhilarating work environment and our new interactive showroom is just one example of our internal innovation in action.” For more information telephone: 028 9266 4583 or visit




what next for thailand?

ing Bhumibol of Thailand died on Thursday 13th October 2016 after a 70year reign. His death leaves our own Queen Elizabeth as today’s oldest living Monarch. Born in December 1927 in Cambridge Massachusetts, when his father was studying medicine at Harvard, Bhumibol was educated in Switzerland, where he gained an Engineering Degree at the University of Lausanne. He has been seen as a source of stability in a country that witnessed myriad coups since he ascended to the throne, and death has thrown uncertainty over the South-East Asian nation. The King was a daily presence in most Thai’s lives. His official portrait hangs in almost every restaurant, house and office. At the cinema the audience stands for the Royal Anthem before each performance. The vast majority of living Thais have no memory of any other King and views the monarchy as a sacred institution that pervades Thai politics and society. The dominant narrative among most observers is that the King has been a stabilising force, but this belies the decades of coups that have plagued Thai history. His death means that the Thai political system must find an alternative focal point around which to unite the country’s fractionalised population. The country has entered a period of national mourning. Officially this should last for 12 months during which time civil servants will be required at all times to wear black shirts. The King’s death was hardly unexpected in that he had been quite seriously ill for the past eight years. During this long decline there have been two attempts at establishing a more democratic form of government by the people under Thaksin Shinawatra and his family. In 2006, Thaksin, a billionaire with a populist touch was deposed in a military coup and his elected proxies were again toppled in 2014 by a military putsch and today the military are very much in control. Bhumibol’s death deprives Thailand of the only King that most Thais have known and leaves a vacuum which his official heir and son Crown Prince Maha Vajiralongkorn may not have either the training or character to

guarantee his succession. Like his father, the Prince is protected by stringent Lèse-majesté laws which have stifled reliable reporting of the many lurid rumours about his private life. He has spent most of his adult life living in Germany where his lavish jet setting lifestyle – and love of women, fast cars and poodles – has raised doubts about his suitability to be the next King. Like his grandfather, King Rama V who had more than 150 wives and consorts, the Prince is infamous for having had a succession of stormy relationships. The former US Ambassador to Thailand, Eric John, has written that the Prince ‘neither commands the respect nor displays the charisma of his beloved father’. It is no secret that the current head of the Privy Council, Prem Tinsunandonda, (who is acting as Leader in the absence of the King) is said to favour the King’s daughter, Princess Sirindhorn, as his successor, but this would fall foul of King Bhumibol’s confirmation in 1972 that his son would be his automatic successor. Needless to say a recent announcement from the Prime Minister that the Prince had decided to delay installing himself on the throne, apparently to show solidarity with his people at a time of mourning, has raised speculation about a behind-the-scenes power

struggle over the succession. I am often asked if I were to be given another overseas assignment which country would I choose. I have always said Thailand. I used to visit the country monthly from 1979 through 1982 and annually from ’85 to ’90 to develop business between my employer Philadelphia National Bank and the banks in Bangkok. I was also on the Board of a local finance company, MultiCredit Corporation in which we had a minority equity participation. This board role enabled me to sit monthly in meetings with four heads of the local banks and get to understand their philosophy for lending in the country. Thai Military Bank would have been one of my best customers and this enabled me to gain a unique understanding of the power behind the throne. I was fortunate enough to have attended the 21st birthday party of Princess Sirindhorn and the President of Thai Dann Bank asked me to accompany his wife to a concert starring Lionel Ritchie and the Commodores while he was one of the King’s guests. It is concerning to think that the country could be looking into a dangerous abyss should the military and the Palace not come to an amicable solution regarding King Bhumibol’s succession.

Portraits of the late Bhumibol Adulyadej, the King of Thailand, and his son HRH Crown Prince Maha Vajiralongkorn on sale at a memorabilia shop in the country. Picture credit: Jack Kurtz/ZUMA Wire/REX/Shutterstock.

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DRESS RED TO KILL HEART DISEASE Heart disease is the biggest killer of women in Northern Ireland today. Almost 3 times as many women die of heart disease than of breast cancer. Does this shocking fact make you see red? Join us this February to raise awareness, take action for your heart health and raise funds to fight heart disease. Dress Red with colleagues or friends; grab your red dress, red hat, red knee socks…absolutely anything RED and join us for this truly unique campaign. Or why not sign up for our Red Dress Run on the 11th February 2017 at Stormont Estate. The Red Dress Run has a choice of two distances and a real element of fun, there’s something for the ladies, men and kids alike to enjoy! Northern Ireland Chest Heart and Stroke is your local charity and we rely on your support, by donating a few pounds per person, together you can raise money for NICHS’s Heart Fund, which will help fund vital local heart research and awareness-raising campaigns.

Sign up today by calling 028 9032 0184 or visit dressred to get a free fundraising

pack full of tips to inspire you and help you plan the perfect Dress Red party!

RSM NORTHERN IRELAND MERGES WITH RSM UK TO STRENGTHEN OFFERING RSM Northern Ireland (formerly RSM McClure Watters), including its consulting business, PACEC Limited, has merged with RSM UK to strengthen the service capability and sector expertise of the Belfast firm, whilst enhancing its UK reach. The merger will bring together two complementary firms. All 70 staff from RSM Northern Ireland and its Belfast and Cambridge based consulting business, PACEC Limited, will join RSM UK bringing the total headcount for the combined business to almost 4,000. RSM Northern Ireland is a wellestablished firm with over 25 years’ experience in audit, tax, and consulting in Ireland and the UK, and the business will fully integrate as part of RSM UK. David Watters who has led the firm since its formation will leave as a partner, but remain in a consultancy role for an initial period of time. Richard Gardiner will take on the role of Belfast managing partner going forward. For more information call 028 9023 4343

Richard Gardiner, Robert Ross and David Watters.


People can often be so self-absorbed they notice little going on around them – even astounding music – so how good does advertising have to be? John Martin, Senior Art Director at Integrated Marketing company ICAN, takes note of the issue.

Joshua Bell Picture credit: Billy Farrell/BFA/REX/Shutterstock.



lmost 10 years ago on a cold January morning during rush hour, a man walked into a metro station in Washington DC. He was carrying a violin case. He stopped near the entrance where there were hundreds of busy commuters being channelled in and out through the station doors. He opened his violin case, took out a violin and carefully placed the open case at his feet in front of him. Composing himself he started to play. Over the course of an hour he played six of the most complex and intricate pieces of classical music ever written. “Chaconne” Partita No. 2 in D Minor Johann Sebastian Bach “Ave Maria” Franz Schubert “Estrellita,” Manuel Ponce “Meditation de Thais” Jules Massenet “dour Violin Concerto in G Minor” Max Bruch “Chaconne” (reprise) Johann Sebastian Bach

As he played, most people barely noticed him, a few glanced in his direction momentarily, while one or two paused briefly before moving on. Some more people tossed coins and notes as they quickly passed by. By the end of the hour only seven people had actually stopped and listened to him playing including a young boy who forced his mother to stop in her tracks. At the end silence took over, no one applauded and his meagre audience moved on. When he was finished, he packed away his violin and left the station with the $32.17 he had collected in his case. The man was Joshua Bell, one of the world’s finest classical musicians. He has been awarded the Avery Fisher Prize for outstanding achievement in classical music and regularly plays over 200 international engagements a year. He played each piece on a threehundred-year-old hand-crafted Stradivarius valued at 3.5 million dollars. A few days earlier in Boston’s Symphony Hall, the cheapest seats at his concert were selling for $100. Little did his metro

audience realise that they had got this performance for a bargain, from a man whose musical performances command the equivalent of a thousand dollars a minute. What was the point of this exercise? Well it was a study sponsored by the Washington Post about perception, priorities and the awareness of people going about their daily lives. I think it is a reminder to us as marketeers of how people are so wrapped up in the own lives and how little they take notice of the world around them. It’s also a reminder how difficult it is to interrupt them from whatever else they are doing and engage with them. If six musical masterpieces played to perfection by Joshua Bell on a Stradivarius can only stop a few people in their tracks and out of their everyday routine, imagine how good your advertising has to be? Watch Joshua Bell’s performance: watch?v=hnOPu0_YWhw

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rom the social, economic and environmental challenges presented by a growing population to unexpected political changes, disruption has become a defining theme of recent times. For businesses today, it is disruption of the digital kind that is creating one of the greatest upheavals. Across every industry, boundaries are being refined as connected technology alters the limits of what is possible. Last year, Fujitsu sought the views of decision makers on the opportunities and threats presented by increased digitalisation. The research concluded that the UK is increasingly a digitally confident nation and one that is seeking to move faster towards a digital future. Building on our initial research, we recently sought insight from 1,200 decision makers to gauge their readiness for this era of unprecedented digital disruption. Our new report, ‘Fit for Digital’ reveals that 98 per cent of executives say digital has disrupted their organisations. A large majority of business leaders (81%) recognise digital disruption as ‘a positive force for businesses.’ They do acknowledge that to thrive in a hyper-connected world, they need to collaborate with partners who can help them embrace its full potential. One industry that is already embracing collaboration to capitalise upon this era of digital disruption is the utilities sector. Suppliers are collecting and analysing consumer data to better improve customer services including tariffs and billing. Many energy

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providers now also embed Internet of Things (IoT) devices into their services. This means customers can monitor and adjust services in their home from a mobile app. The utilities sector has seen a marked increase in collaboration between stakeholders and are leveraging ICT to understand usage trends to improve their services. When examining in more detail how organisations are preparing for digital disruption, almost two thirds of business decision makers we spoke with said they are investing in new technology. In the last decade, we have witnessed how technological advancements – from automation to mobile technology – have been adopted by businesses who want to capitalise on digitalisation. Yet while some industries are still getting to grips with the potential benefits from smart ICT and the IoT, others are steaming ahead by investing in the next wave of digital transformation; Artificial Intelligence (A.I). Research in A.I is already yielding results in the field of healthcare where machines can mimic the way the human brain works and recognise patterns. These capabilities are being incorporated into image and speech recognition technology and translation applications. Uber is heavily investing in A.I. as it looks to progress autonomous driving as a way to future proof its place within the transport and travel industry. Fujitsu is also developing A.I technologies for our digital solutions and services including machine learning, deep learning and visual recognition. The aim

is to enhance a wide range of business applications and support functionality for learning and growth. While investment in technology is the primary choice for organisations seeking to capitalise on digital disruption, this is only part of the story. Business leaders have reported that aging technology and infrastructure is the biggest factor hindering their ability to respond to digital disruption. We can see evidence of this across the agri sector, which despite playing a significant role in the Northern Ireland economy, has little support in the way of ICT infrastructure. Innovative ICT can play a crucial role in helping the agri-food industry achieve its full potential. Agriculture is still largely a traditional industry, but is embracing changes such as enhanced on-site IT utilisation, which supports improved connections with suppliers, distributors and customers. ICT organisations have been exploring the role that technology might play in accelerating the transition to a sustainable world. At Fujitsu, we have been trialling greenhouse and vegetable cultivation techniques to yield plants with a higher nutritional value. Overall, our research shows that with ambition, energy, and imagination digital advancement is a path to increased innovation and prosperity. Companies are fast realising that when it comes to digital transformation you can either get on board or risk being disrupted yourself. In short, digital is no longer an optional extra, to thrive in this era means evolving, transforming and learning to create value from it.




took the, let’s say, slightly circuitous route to becoming a copywriter because, to be honest, it’s not the sort of career that one ever hears about as a potential career option in career guidance classes prior to leaving school! You see unlike most careers, copywriters only tend to become copywriters after they have already spent many years working within the marketing industry in various different roles. The reason is that being a good copywriter does not just mean being good at writing: it means really understanding what marketing is all about. By the time I left school, I really had no clear idea in my head as to what exactly I wanted to follow as a career. However, as I had always loved writing and was a naturally

curious person with a huge interest in culture and current affairs, I opted to study for a BA in History and Politics at University College Dublin – a course which, as it turned out, was invaluable in terms of developing not just my writing skills, but my ability to think creatively, edit, present and reason. After leaving university with my BA, I already knew that marketing (in some form or other) was the industry in which my skills would be best suited. As a result, I secured my first job working as a PR Account Manager with a leading Dublin agency. Over the next 15 or so years, I worked in a number of different marketing roles, across a number of different industry sectors, and I was extremely focused on

gaining as much industry experience as I possibly could. Why? Because unlike in many other sectors, marketing is not a one-size-fits-all profession and with so many diverse industries within the industry, experience is critical when it comes to finding the right role to suit one’s particular and unique skillset. Having learned a lot from working in many different marketing roles, I had learned that the storytelling/copywriting element was always the one I was drawn to more than anything else and, in any role I had ever had, I was usually seen as the go-to person for all things writing related! ‘The Right Words’, which I set up in April 2016, was really therefore the culmination of years of experience working with the marketing sector. Now just 9 short months down the road of self-employment it’s still early days but thankfully, so far so good and I have managed to build up a good steady client base, with clients from the Republic as well as from Northern Ireland. In terms of the services we offer, we specialise in writing words that sell and we deliver these in whatever form they are required: print ads, websites, website landing pages, blogs, white papers, and pretty much anything else in between. In terms of industry types, we are not sector specific and have worked on all types of projects, ranging from manufacturing machinery to high-end beauty products. We don’t specialise in any particular industries because, at the end of the day, we regard ourselves as tone of voice specialists: we are focused on helping brands to tell their unique story in their own unique way. To put it more simply, we specialise in helping brands to be different by making them engaging, exciting and 100% relevant. In terms of the future, my ambition for 2017 is to build on the solid foundations laid in 2016, our first year in business. We will do this by investing in our website (, investing in PR (North and South), attending more and more targeted networking events, building awareness of our brand through social media, and much more besides. At the end of the day, I am extremely ambitious for my business and because I strongly believe the demand is there for the services we offer, awareness is the key to the future success of The Right Words!

NI Chamber 83


new appointments

A new senior line up of Directors at the Mount Charles Group includes Leann Duffy (Group Director of Catering), Margaret Allen (Director of Procurement & Capital Projects) and Ian Todd (back right) (Director of Finance & IT) who join Jonathan McKinlay (Director of Cleaning, Security & Support Services), Cathal Geoghegan (front left) (Managing Director) and Trevor Annon (front right) (Chairman).

Alan Gibson has been appointed Chief Commercial Officer at Devenish.

RuairĂ­ McQuillan has been appointed as Network Engineer at Firmus energy.

Chris McCullins has joined Firmus energy as IT Project Manager.

Siofra Healy has been appointed new Fund Development Director for the Community Foundation for Northern Ireland.


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30/06/2016 07:51:00

co-founder of grafton recruitment awarded prestigious accolade Ken Belshaw has been awarded the first ever Lifetime Achievement Award given by the National Recruitment Federation (NRF) of Ireland for his support to the NRF and the Irish recruitment industry. A well-known figure throughout Ireland, both North and South, he co-founded Grafton Recruitment with the late James Kilbane in 1983. Today the Grafton Recruitment Group has 44 branches in 22 countries. Ken has worked in recruitment for more than 42 years. Originally from Belfast he joined SOS Bureau, part of Hestair plc, in Edinburgh in 1975. Starting in tele-sales as a Vacancy Controller, he progressed to Branch Manager with Hestair in Edinburgh and London. Returning to Ireland, he helped establish Marlborough Employment before opening Grafton Recruitment in Dublin in 1983 and in Belfast in 1985. In 1994 Grafton established its first international branch in Prague and today the company has 25 branches in Central and Eastern Europe. Commenting on the award Ken said: “I am very grateful to the NRF and my colleagues and friends over all the years. I look back and think of all the

Catherine Mallon has been promoted to Associate Solicitor (Litigation & Regulatory) at Pinsent Masons.

Ken Belshaw receives his NRF Award from Geraldine King, Director of the National Recruitment Federation.

people who helped set standards for our industry. I recognise their efforts and the professionalism we have achieved and I am overwhelmed by this award.” Ken (64) is now retired from dayto-day involvement with Grafton Recruitment. He was Managing Director when Grafton won the Queen’s Award for Enterprise in 2002 and 2006. In addition, he was awarded the

David Poots has been promoted to Associate Solicitor (Corporate) at Pinsent Masons.

prestigious Gratias Agit award by the Czech Nation alongside former US Secretary of State Madeleine Albright in a ceremony in Prague in 2006. A Visiting Professor of Ulster University Business School and Chairman of the Player Services Board of the Irish Rugby Union Players Association, he continues to mentor young people on their careers. He is Honorary Consul for Hungary in Northern Ireland.

Jennifer Lee has been promoted to Associate Solicitor (Litigation & Regulatory) at Pinsent Masons.

Ciaran Rafferty has joined Danske Bank as Corporate Acquisition Manager.


30/06/2016 07:51:00

NI Chamber 85

NOW IS THE TIME TO CONSIDER A SALARY SACRIFICE CAR SCHEME FOR YOUR COMPANY Agnew Corporate can facilitate a Salary Sacrifice Car Scheme for your company. Following the recent Autumn Budget Statement the tax saving element of these schemes has been removed, however, they still represent good value and in a significant number of cases has meant no change in the monthly costs to the driver. The scheme is an easy way for companies to offer their employees a brand new, fully insured and maintained car at an attractive monthly cost. What’s in it for companies? Companies generate NI savings because of the salary reduction, which can be passed on to employees. They can also enhance their standing as an employer of choice while maximising the ‘total reward value’ of their benefit package, which means they can increase employee motivation, recruitment and retention. Agnew Corporate offers a

market leading web application, which allows employees to select and price their car. We believe that a properly run car scheme can also enhance both the companies’ duty of care responsibilities and ‘green credentials’. What’s in it for employees? Along with a great value new car, NO DEPOSIT, all servicing,

vehicle maintenance (including tyre replacement), breakdown cover, and fully comprehensive motor insurance are included. For more information or to arrange a free consultation please contact Agnew Corporate on 02890386600 or email

NED RECRUITMENT CRUCIAL TO BUSINESS PERFORMANCE AND GROWTH IN 2017 2016 provided a somewhat unsteady and unpredictable landscape for businesses in Northern Ireland. With both challenges and opportunities similarly on the horizon in 2017, it will be crucial for companies to implement and maintain a strong strategic direction by closely examining their leadership structure, particularly within their Boards. The advisory role of Non-Executive Directors [NEDs] is becoming increasingly important to companies in Northern Ireland. NEDs often come equipped with high levels of knowledge, expertise, experience and the independent strategic outlook required for the success and growth of a business. However, a recent independent study by 4c Boardroom has revealed that only 42 per cent of companies in Northern Ireland have NED representation, meaning that over half of local firms could be losing out on the independence and vital experience that a NED can offer. For family-owned businesses in particular, addressing the skill gaps in their leadership teams through the recruitment of NEDs could have a significant impact on their performance and growth in 2017. The 4c study found that only one third [33 per cent] of family-owned businesses surveyed have NED representation on their Board. Given that only 3.2 per cent of family-owned businesses survive beyond the third generation, NEDs are vitally important in not only ensuring effective governance but, crucially, that a robust succession planning strategy is put in place.

The 4c study also found that 35 per cent of respondents are currently experiencing skills gaps on their Board, with a further 33 per cent of respondents stating their desire to recruit more NEDs in the coming months. ‘Access to talent’ was the greatest struggle that companies found when trying to identify suitable NEDs for their business. Last year, 4c Executive launched a specialist division, 4c Boardroom, in response to the growing need for an NEDspecific search service in Northern Ireland. 4c Boardroom focuses exclusively on the recruitment of NEDs across the private and public sectors of Northern Ireland and further afield. To contact a member of the team at 4c Boardroom, please call 028 9043 4343.


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AUDI SPORTBACK STEERS CLEAR OF THE MAINSTREAM Executive motoring needn’t be boring, writes James Stinson.


hen you’ve money to spend but family to ferry around, it must be tempting to opt for one of the dozens of SUV-type cars on the market. But if a car is more than just a mode of transport for you, this revamped Audi A5 Sportback could be just the ticket. The four-door hatchback version of the good looking A5 coupe is equally stylish, distinctive, and a unique motor. The latest model offers more cabin space than its coupé equivalent while sharing the same line-up of engines and class-leading technology. It’s a little longer than its predecessor while the rear seats boast an extra 11mm of shoulder space and rear knee room has grown by 24mm. Small numbers, yes, but critical because there’s a price to be paid for that sleek, sloping rear roofline. Even with this extra space, the rear seats are still best suited to smaller passengers. The boot is good though, helped by rear seats that split 40/20/40. Still, that’s not what this car is about. It’s a genuinely pretty car and you

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couldn’t really say that about the three box saloons – like the Mercedes C-Class, 3-Series, and Audi’s own A4 – which it sets out to take business from. The wave-pattern shoulder line is a key contributor to the A5 Sportback’s elegant stance. It is even more strongly accentuated than on the previous model. Audi’s latest corporate grille helps too, along with some striking lighting options, including LED headlights, daytime running lights and indicators that swoop outwards when activated. The interior is more inviting than ever and better equipped, something Audi continually excels at. All models come with leather seats, parking sensors, the latest smartphone connectivity systems and autonomous emergency braking. Like the coupé, the Sportback gets 2.0-litre TFSI petrol and 2.0-litre TDI diesel turbocharged four-cylinder units in various states of tune and the range is topped by a 282bhp 3.0-litre sixcylinder TDI diesel. Most buyers will opt for one of the diesel engines, and the 187bhp 2.0-litre is expected to be the biggest seller. Its

67.3mpg economy is impressive as are its low CO2 emissions, with the frontwheel drive automatic emitting 109g/ km; this will see you paying just £20 a year in road tax, while an even more efficient Ultra version will join the range later. Buyers can choose a six-speed manual or Audi’s neat seven-speed S tronic dual-clutch automatic gearbox. Front-wheel drive is standard, but quattro four-wheel drive is offered as an option and comes as standard on the 282bhp 3.0-litre and S5 variants. Some prices have yet to be confirmed but expect entry-level petrol versions to start around £33k while the popular 7-speed 2.0 litre diesel will cost from £38,000. So why would you buy one, say over a standard executive saloon, or indeed a high-riding SUV? Sportbacks are thin on the ground, with the BMW 4-Series Gran Coupe the one other one of note. So we know they are rare which, in itself, is a rare thing these days. It’s this uniqueness, the fact that this is a practical car but a pretty one too, that sets it and its owners apart.

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TAKE THE SCENIC ROUTE Renault pretty much invented the MPV back in 1996 with the Scenic, which others were quick to follow. But recent versions haven’t exactly set the pulse racing, especially when up against popular SUV-type rivals. This latest version is much sharper looking and should appeal to a wider and younger audience. It is, above all, a very practical car. It’s longer and wider than the old model, while the boot is class-leading for a five-seat people carrier.

Up front you’ll find acres of leg and headroom, while the seats have a wide range of adjustment. The Scenic also has quite a SUV-like driving position, too, which will appeal to those torn between the two classes. At launch, you can pick from two petrol and three diesel engines, with a hybrid due to join the range later in 2017. Prices for the five-seat version start from £21,445, with the seven-seat Grand Scenic available from £23,375.

Women are angrier drivers. Discuss? A new study claims women are, on average, 12% angrier than men when they’re behind the wheel. Researchers from the University of London have found driving sparks ancient ‘defence’ instincts from when humans were huntergatherers. These evolutionary traits kicked in during the test when women were either undertaken, shouted or beeped at, had to deal with a back-seat driver (women 14% angrier) or were faced with a road user who failed to indicate (women 13% angrier). In all test scenarios, which included more than 1,000 people, women were more likely to respond with anger than male drivers. Report author Patrick Fagan said: “Evolutionary theory suggests our early female ancestors had to develop an acute sense of danger for anything that threatened them and their young if their cave was undefended while men were out hunting. That ‘early warning system’ instinct is still relevant today, and women drivers tend to be more sensitive to negative stimuli, so get angry and frustrated quicker.”

GALLIC FLAIR TO THE FORE Nobody makes cuter small cars than the French. Can you imagine Honda, Toyota, Hyundai or anyone else making a little car that’s as funky as this new Citroen C3? It’s like nothing else around at minute and it’s likely your C3 won’t be like any other C3 either. It comes with a plethora of personalisation options. These include red, white or black contrasting roof colours, as well as exterior trim pieces including mirror caps. The C3 is set apart too by its ‘Airbump’ body panels – plastic panels filled with air – which help to reduce the impact of car-park dings and bumps. It also gets Citroen’s new ‘family face’ with the main headlights in the bumpers and thin horizontal strips of LED running lights above them. With family buyers in mind, it comes with plenty of airbags as standard, as well as other mandatory safety kit like electronic stability control, tyre-pressure monitoring and anti-lock brakes. Lane-departure warning is also standard, as is driver fatigue alert, speed-limit recognition and three ISOFIX child-seat mounting points – two in the back and one on the front passenger seat. Prices are from £10,995.

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Fleet Simplicity Tayto Group saves £72,000 by using Fleet Simplicity to implement driver improvement scheme


nack food giant Tayto Group has slashed its annual fuel spend by £72,000 and drastically reduced its carbon footprint, after using TomTom Telematics technology to transform driver behaviour.

ultimately, become better, safer and more environmentally-aware drivers.”

Tayto worked in partnership with Fleet Simplicity to develop processes that allowed them to make best use of the data provided by The Armagh-based firm has boosted MPG by 15 WEBFLEET to meet their specific business goals. per cent by reducing both speeding and idling Drivers are provided with weekly through a programme to improve communications on speeding, idling and driving performance. driver behaviour, as well as twice-weekly fuel awareness updates, monthly group reviews and The scheme is underpinned by WEBFLEET, targeted training. WEBFLEET also profiles each TomTom’s SaaS fleet management platform, which allows Tayto to monitor aspects of driving driver, giving them an Optidrive™ score from one to 10 based on how safely and efficiently style, including speeding, acceleration, fuel efficiency, idling time and harsh steering they are driving in terms of speeding, incidences or braking. of harsh steering or braking and MPG. As a result of being able to manage and communicate “By gaining unprecedented insight into the using the score, Tayto achieved a 42 per cent improvement in average Optidrive score in behaviour of our drivers, we have been able to address areas of poor performance and 12 months. drastically reduce inefficiency in the operation of our vehicle fleet,” said Peter Rush, Purchasing Tayto has also used WEBFLEET to monitor the use of its vehicles more closely, effectively and Fleet Manager at Tayto Group. eliminating any unauthorised out-of-hours usage. “The data delivered by WEBFLEET provided the The system also automatically logs vehicle perfect starting point for us to work with our mileage and reports on business and private staff in order to help them better understand mileage to simplify expenses claims and records for HMRC compliance. where improvements could be made and,

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NEW APPOINTMENT FLYNN are delighted to announce the appointment of Dean Gordon as Senior Contracts Manager of their growing term service division. Dean joins FLYNN from Lagan Construction where he headed up their projects team for four years, prior to which he was a contracts manager with Patton. Dean will be instrumental in assisting Flynn target key public sector term service contracts as well as diversifying their portfolio of commercial, retail and private clients. Flynn had turnover of ÂŁ20m in 2016, has 250 employees and received the CEF Awards for H&S and Training, as well as Investors in People Silver during 2016.

Lynn Graham, Jorge Lopez and Claire Hutchinson from Diageo Northern Ireland receiving the NI Company of the Year Award 2016 at the glittering gala awards ceremony in Belfast Waterfront Hall alongside Kieran Harding, Business in the Community (left) and Alex Crossan from category sponsor, BT (right).

Who will be crowned Northern Ireland Responsible Company of the Year 2017? The Responsible Business Awards in Northern Ireland honour organisations committed to making a positive impact on their people, the planet and the places where they operate. Last year, global drinks giant Diageo Northern Ireland received the top accolade of Northern Ireland Responsible Company of the Year. Read Diageo’s story online at Could you be a winner of one of the nine categories up for grabs this year? For details on how to enter, visit



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NI Chamber 93


Keith Graham, Managing Director of Belfast based Selective Travel Management, airs his thoughts on the expansion of business travel in 2017 and beyond.



s businesses prepare for life post-Brexit, we’re preparing for a rise in business travel. No matter how withdrawal from the EU plays out – and these are certainly uncertain times! – businesses are already looking beyond the twenty-eight EU member states and giving increased thought to wider markets. As Arthur Daley once so eloquently put it ‘The world is your lobster’. My own business, Selective Travel Management (part of World Travel Centre Group), has long been recognised as one of this region’s largest and fastest-growing independent travel agencies, and a significant player across the UK, providing managed travel to Government, Higher Education, B2B and Charity/NGO divisions. We’re ideally placed to chart patterns in business travel and we use our constantly-refreshed expertise to keep us ahead of the curve as new patterns emerge. We’ve already seen business expanding their horizons as they prepare to tap into new global markets and we see that trend developing in strength in the coming months and years, involving not only larger business but also, increasingly, SMEs. China and the Far East figure particularly strongly on the business agenda, with notable growth in South America too. Basically there is no corner of the world so far-flung that it is out of reach for a determined exporter. While it is possible to carry out international business using internet technology, there’s nothing as effective as personal contact, particularly when

94 NI Chamber

it comes to scoping and opening new markets. Actually visiting a country provides a completely different, more insightful, dimension into how best to do business there, while putting ‘feet on the ground’ illustrates how seriously you view the opportunities. It is of course perfectly possible to organise travel to practically anywhere in the world at the touch of a button, from the comfort of your own office, but savvy business travellers invariably seek managed travel solutions. Leaving it in the hands of the sector experts so that, when they travel for business, business is all they have to worry about. If they need to stay on a few days to seal a deal … if they face flight cancellations or delays … come across visa or security problems … require complex road or rail transfers … or need home in a hurry, then a professional company, such as our own, should be the preferred and costeffective solution. We pride ourselves on providing a full 24/7 service: an essential when you are working across international time zones. We also emphasise to our clients the benefits of managed business travel in terms of ensuring the fulfilment of ‘duty of care’ requirements affecting your staff, wherever in the world they may be working. Those of us who know business travel well, know how exhausting it can be to live – and work – out of a suitcase. There’s little pleasure to be had in getting up at stupid o’clock to catch a flight to an unfamiliar destination, only to find that your luggage hasn’t made the

same journey; your pick up driver hasn’t materialised; there are no taxis available and you don’t have any local currency to pay a driver even if you could find one. Effective travel planning ensures that you and your team arrive fresh and ready to do business and if things should go wrong, a single call will have a professional team resolving the case, usually in the time it takes to enjoy an airport coffee. While it’s all about doing deals, rather than accumulating air miles, business travel is still widely regarded (usually by those who are office-bound) as a bit of a perk. The cynical and well-travelled will doubtless chortle at that thought, but at Selective Travel Management, we work very hard to help our customers get to hold onto the pleasant side of international travel. If there is down time on a business trip, we’re happy to help our clients use it to maximum benefit, whether they opt for some relaxation or choose to take in some of the local sights and culture. It’s a happy bonus for those who are engaged on workplace travel: a reward for the extra hours which such work inevitably entails and, hopefully, an incentive for the future. This mix of business and leisure travel – almost inevitably dubbed ‘bleisure’ – is tipped for continued, indeed, major growth in 2017 and beyond. At Selective Travel Management we’re already helping more businesses than ever before to do more business right around the globe and we’re proud that so many of those global enterprises are supported by a professional team right here in Belfast.


CULINARY DELIGHTS CARROT, KALE AND ORZO SOUP Ingredients 1 onion, diced 2lb carrots, peeled & diced 3 cloves garlic, crushed 1 small chilli, chopped (exclude seeds) 150g kale, 100g orzo pasta 25g fresh oregano 1.5 litres vegetable stock Olive oil Salt and pepper In a heavy-bottomed pot, heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil on a medium heat adding in the diced onion, carrot, garlic, chilli and oregano. Once softened, season with salt and pepper and add in the vegetable stock or chicken stock and cook out for a further 25 minutes on a medium heat. Once cooked, use a stick blender to blend ingredients in pot and remain on heat. Add in the kale and in a separate pot cook the orzo pasta in water seasoned with salt. Cook the orzo until al dente and then sieve and leave to side.

Annually we make New Year’s resolutions in an attempt to start afresh and turn over a healthy new leaf. As eating a healthier diet tops the good intentions list for many, James St South owner and head chef Niall McKenna shares a couple of tasty options.

To serve add the soup to your bowl and top with the orzo. Drizzle with olive oil and serve with a homemade focaccia or crusty bread.

HAM, TOMATO AND BASIL OMELETTE Ingredients Allow 3 eggs per person for a large omelette Olive oil Salt and pepper For the filling 2 plum tomatoes, diced 2 thick cut slices of ham, diced 6 basil leafs If you are always making omelettes, use a 20cm non-stick pan specifically for this purpose. In a small pot add a tablespoon of olive oil and heat gently. Place in the tomatoes and soften, season with salt and pepper. Add in the ham and basil, leave on a gentle heat for 1 minute In a bowl beat your eggs lightly with a fork, season with salt and pepper and in your omelette pan add a table spoon of olive oil and heat gently. Pour in your beaten eggs and cook until they are beginning to set at the bottom of the pan. Scrape the sides towards the middle using your fork, shaking the pan with your other hand. Repeat until the eggs are nearly cooked. Take your filling and place to one side of the pan and carefully roll/fold over like wrapping a parcel. Leave in pan to colour and set. For a runny omelette, cook on a medium heat for 1.5 minutes, but cook to your preference. Be careful when moving to plate, one of the best ways is placing a plate on top of the pan and turning over: alternatively use a palate knife.

NI Chamber 95

columnist The Governor of the Bank of England, Mark Carney.



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or most people things are getting worse. In fact, the last time it was this bad Queen Victoria was on the throne in Britain and Ireland, and Abraham Lincoln was fighting the Civil War that threatened the very existence of the United States. The problem, we were told by one leading figure recently, is globalisation. Rather than ushering in a “new golden era” it has become associated with “low wages, insecure employment, stateless corporations and striking inequalities”. And who is this “expert” who speaks so bleakly about our economic condition? Surprisingly, this is no communist or luddite, but one of the world’s most renowned central bankers – Mark Carney, the Governor of the Bank of England. In a very significant speech, Mr Carney told his audience at Liverpool John Moores University that the UK was facing its first lost decade since the 1860s. “From the rising spectre of global terrorism to intensifying geopolitical tensions and financial crises, for too long, for too many people, the world seems to be getting riskier,” he said.

“The fundamental challenge is that, alongside its great benefits, every technological revolution mercilessly destroys jobs and livelihoods – and therefore identities – well before new ones emerge,” he continued. It’s a remarkable analysis, coming from a central banker. But it’s a valuable contribution to a global debate. The top banker in the UK is making clear that economic progress must be enjoyed by the masses. “Despite such immense progress many citizens in advanced economies are facing heightened uncertainty, lamenting a loss of control and losing trust in the system. To them, measures of aggregate progress bear little relation to their own experience. Rather than a new golden era, globalisation is associated with low wages, insecure employment, stateless corporations and striking inequalities,” he said. For someone so inextricably linked to the global capitalist system to make such fundamental criticisms of its operation is almost heresy. But Carney’s point is that unless the scale of the problem is properly acknowledged and addressed then

free markets and free societies are themselves under threat. He offered three priorities to help tackle this huge global problem. “First economists must clearly acknowledge the challenges we face, including the realities of uneven gains from trade and technology,” he said. “Second, we must grow our economy by rebalancing the mix of monetary policy, fiscal policy and structural reforms. “Third, we need to move towards more inclusive growth where everyone has a stake in globalisation.” Having set out the problem and some of the potential solutions, Mr Carney had to admit that most of the remedies lay “outside the Bank’s remit”. So, it’s over to the politicians. And here we get a sense of how Mr Carney is willing to stretch his remit. Of course, he’ll try and hit the inflation target set for him by the Government. But this speech demonstrates that despite his spats with politicians over Brexit, this central banker remains unbowed, even emboldened. These are wise words. The policy makers would do well to pay heed.





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Thursday, 10 November 2016 15:31



january/february 2017 ISSUE 20

January/February 2017



The Open University is incorporated by Royal Charter (RC 000391), an exempt charity in England & Wales, and a charity registered in Scotland (SC 038302). The Open University is authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority.

Magazine of northern ireland chamber of commerce and industry




Ambition Issue 20 (Jan/Feb 2017)  
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