JUNE 2013 Price £2.30 (23.75)
TECH CITY: Can we meet the demand for IT jobs? EXPORT NERVES: Why not enough NI firms are exporting READ MY LIPS: The next big thing in cyber security
Better, Faster, Stronger Capita’s John Chambers outlines how the company plans to grow its Northern Ireland business after acquiring Northgate Managed Services.
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What’s inside... 60
Volume 25 No.6
16 - Cover Story – Capita 22 - Economic Analysis 60 - John Simpson 64 - Ernst & Young on Tax 76 - Interview – Sir Tim Smit 78 - Women In Business 79 - BITC Awards
ICT QUARTERLY 28 - Profile – Liopa 30 - Export Technologies 32 - Analysis – IT Skills
MANAGEMENT & LEADERSHIP 42 - Replacing a great leader 44 - Learning with Lego 46 - Interview – Nesta 48 - Interview – Belfast Met 50 - David Meade
EXPORTS 54 - Encouraging Exports 56 - Quintin Oliver 58 - Selling to China 62 - Aerospace Opportunities
CORPORATE LAW 68 - Changes to Libel Law 70 - M&A Update 72 - Mediation
6 - News 83 - Motoring 90 - Appointments 92 - Photocall 98 - Gadget Guide 100 - Business Traveller 106 - People In Business
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Always switched on
he June issue of Ulster Business has, in years gone by, signalled the traditional lull that descends on Northern Ireland over the summer months. A lot of families take time off in July and many factories and engineering works would have completely shut down for several weeks over the 12th holiday. While I still expect my email inbox to be less clogged up with press releases over the summer, the time when the local economy could afford to just shut up shop are long gone. We now live in a global business world that operates, in a lot of sectors, 24 hours a day, seven days a week. That’s particularly true in the fast-growing technology and IT sector, where those working for international companies answer to bosses in different time zones and indigenous firms are increasingly employed by clients elsewhere in the world. Apple’s Steve Wozniak recently told a
conference in Derry that the computers he developed – and most technological advances – are supposed to make life easier for people but have tended to result in us all working for longer. There is a technology theme running through this issue that reflects the growing importance of the sector to the future prosperity of Northern Ireland. Our cover story features the team at Capita Managed IT Solutions, who explain why it bought the former Northgate Managed Services business and how it plans to expand in future. We also feature interviews with some of the other big employers in the IT sector to gauge the progress that has been made to ensure there are enough talented and qualified programmers coming through to fill the raft of IT jobs that Invest NI is helping bring to the province. With the G8 in Fermanagh this month,
the eyes of the world will be focused on Northern Ireland for a short time. What better opportunity to showcase how the Northern Ireland economy has moved on, from ships and shirts to a region with the potential to be one of Europe’s leading technology hubs. The spread of digital innovation into consumer technology, the rise of social media, and the fact that most of us have a smartphone in our pocket all of the time, means we are far more attuned to technology than we once were. Maybe, to some degree, we all work in IT now!
Editor: Symon Ross Manager: Sonia Armstrong Deputy Manager: Sylvie Brando Advertising Executive: Stuart Hackney Art Editor: Stuart Gray Production Manager: Stuart Gray Cover Photography: Richard Trainor Publisher: James & Gladys Greer
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JUNE 2013 5
Apple co-founder calls for “fair tax”
he co-founder of technology giant Apple believes criticism of his former company’s tax policy is absolutely warranted and called for large corporations to be taxed the same as the man on the street. Speaking at the EBN Congress in Derry, organised by the Northern Ireland business innovation centre Noribic, Steve Wozniak (pictured) said Apple should be treated “the same as the little guy” when asked about the company using its Irish subsidiaries to lower its tax bill. Wozniak, who set-up the company in the mid-1970s with the late Steve Jobs before leaving in 1987, was responding to criticism that Apple had paid just 2 per cent of tax on $74bn (£49bn) in overseas income, largely by using a loophole in its Irish subsidiary. “People are not taxed on profit, they are taxed on income. Corporations should be taxed the same as people in my mind, that is how it should be, that would make things fair and right,” the computer entrepreneur told journalists. “That means corporations pay taxes on all of their revenues or people only pay it on a tiny amount called profit and until we rectify that the whole problem will be with us forever. “That is why the rich get richer and the poor get poorer. I am always for the individual... that’s the reason I created the Apple computer at the start, it was to empower the little guy,” he said. The two Steves set up Apple in 1976, with Wozniak the technical driving force and inventor of the Apple 2 computer, which revolutionised the personal computer and made them affordable to the masses. Wozniak said that because corporations did not have “personal ethics” and were driven by the need to maximise profits for shareholders they would look for any opportunities afforded by tax codes. “They are just obeying the system, the big companies are all obeying the system of taxation, they are all doing the same things and you can say the system is bad to allow these things that people do not consider ethical. “(But) the system is that way because those with the power and the money, large corporations particularly, make sure that politicians create a system that will enhance the corporations.”
Entrepreneurs retreat to the Second City
ntrepreneurs from six Northern Ireland companies are this month jetting off to the 2013 Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year CEO Retreat, taking place between Chicago, Notre Dame University and New York. Over 110 of Ireland’s leading entrepreneurs will attend the retreat between June 12 and 18, including the 24 finalists from this year’s programme. Considered one of the ultimate international gatherings for Ireland’s top business minds, the week-long CEO Retreat will be geared towards challenging and inspiring Ireland’s entrepreneurs to enhance their strategy towards growth on both a domestic and international level and maximise their potential to compete and win against global market leaders, said Ernst & Young. World-class academics and prominent global business advisors have worked with Entrepreneur Of The Year to devise a bespoke business syllabus of executive education sessions as well as high level speaker and networking events with American entrepreneurs, political leaders and senior executives from Fortune 500 companies The heads of the Northern Ireland-based companies attending the retreat are: Mark Godfrey & Simon Cole from technology firm Automated Intelligence; Colin Williams from children’s television producer Sixteen South (pictured); Peter Dixon from Kellen Investments, owners of Phoenix Gas; Seamus McKeague of Creagh Concrete Products; Martin Hamilton from food company Mash Direct; and Eleanor McEvoy of Budget Energy.
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SPREADING SUCCESS: Students from a Lisburn school have been crowned winners of the overall Company award at the Young Enterprise Annual Awards. Wallace High School pupils, through their company Twist ‘N’ Spread, beat stiff competition from across Northern Ireland by manufacturing, marketing and selling the ‘Butter Finger’ – a twistable tube filled with butter which is a mess-free alternative to conventional spreading. Having clinched the top spot, the firm will now go on to represent Northern Ireland at the national awards in London, which will take place in July. Prizes were also presented to Tor Bank School, Dundonald, as the winners of the Team Programme – a competition for students with learning challenges – and Matthew Gibson, from St Malachy’s College, Belfast, as Young Entrepreneur of the Future. Pictured are Michael Hall of Ernst & Young; Chris Robinson of Twist ‘N’ Spread; Michael Mercieca of Young Enterprise UK and Carol Fitzsimons of Young Enterprise NI.
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Agri-sector targets creation News in Brief of 15,000 new jobs by 2020 Galgorm Castle Estates has announced an £8m investment that will see it create over 60 fulland part-time jobs in Ballymena. The estate, which consists of Galgorm Castle, a courtyard housing twenty businesses and a championship golf course, is to expand in three phases, which will include the development of a garden centre, a new business centre and essential restoration of the Castle itself. CDEnviro in Cookstown has secured its first major contract in Brazil after participating on a trade mission organised by Invest Northern Ireland. The project will see CDEnviro supply equipment to be applied to the washing of tomatoes post harvesting and the subsequent removal of soil from the water used for washing. This will allow the water to be reused and it will introduce significant efficiencies to the production process. Ultra Plant International, the Dungannonbased manufacturer of recycling machinery, has won business worth around £500,000 in France. The contract is to supply 12 compact Trommel machines for recycling waste and other materials to Mecasoud in Paris, one of France’s leading equipment distributors. Universal Pictures’ Dracula will be the next large-scale Hollywood production to film in Northern Ireland. Dracula, directed by Gary Shore and produced by Michael De Luca, will commence pre-production immediately with a three-month shoot that will last from August to November. Production will be based in Belfast with filming across various other local locations. NI Screen has awarded the film £1.65m in funding, which is expected to deliver £15m expenditure of goods and services. The Councils of the North West Region Waste Management Group (NWRWMG) have agreed to appoint a consortium consisting of Shanks, Brickkiln and Sisk as its preferred bidder in a £500m procurement exercise to deliver modern waste facilities. The consortium, known as SBS Waste Partnership, will now enter a final period of fine tuning with the NWRWMG in preparation for the signature of the contract to deliver a mix of Mechanical Biological Treatment (MBT) and gasification technologies.
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s many as 15,000 additional jobs could be created in the Agri-food sector, according to a Strategic Action Plan launched by the sector at the Balmoral Show. The Strategic Action Plan has been developed by the Agri-Food Strategy Board following extensive engagement with the Agri-Food industry and other stakeholders. It includes more than 100 recommendations aimed at accelerating the growth of farming, fishing and food and drink processing in Northern Ireland to 2020 and beyond. Key targets in the Strategic Action Plan to 2020 include: • 60% growth in sales to £7bn; • 15% increase in employment to over 115,000; • 75% growth in sales outside Northern Ireland to £4.5bn; • 60% increase to £1bn in total added value of products and services from local companies. First Minister Peter Robinson said: “Agri-Food has immense potential to contribute to economic recovery and longer term prosperity in Northern Ireland. The Agri-Food Strategy Board has identified a wide range of challenging recommendations which could lead to much needed additional employment for around 15,000 people.” The plan was presented by Tony O’Neill, Chair of the Agri-Food Strategy Board, who said: “The aim of the Board in developing the Strategic Action Plan has been to support the development of fully integrated supply chains which are focused on the needs of customers at home and in our international markets. Our primary producers and processors must work more closely than ever if we are to deliver sustainable profitability across the supply chain. “We are confident that implementation of the recommendations in the Plan will enable us to harness the huge global opportunities for our produce, as the provision of wholesome, healthy and safe agri-food products offers enormous potential in terms of feeding an ever more demanding global population.” The plan was released as Dungannon-based meat processor Linden Foods announced a £5m investment in its business, which will create 179 new jobs.
THINKING OUTSIDE THE BOX: Greiner Packaging in Dungannon has announced a £2.2m expansion that will see it also create 10 new jobs.The Austrian-owned company is investing in state-of-the-art In-Mould Labelling technology to meet demand for its packaging.The site saw over 17% growth in 2012. Pictured are Lord Morrow; Darryl McShane, Operations Manager at Greiner; Enterprise Minister Arlene Foster and Jarek Zasadzinski, CEO of Greiner Packaging UK
CHURCH BUSINESS: One of Northern Ireland’s most architecturally stunning buildings – and headquarters of the Presbyterian Church in Ireland – Assembly Buildings is developing an additional aspect to its life as it opens a major conference venue that’s set to bring “new business and commerce to the city” of Belfast. Following an extensive £8m refurbishment and restoration programme, a major new conference venue capable of accommodating up to 1150 people has been officially unveiled at the Presbyterian Church headquarters today. The new conference centre, while initially established to meet the needs of the Church, is expected to attract high-profile national and international organisations as well as local business groups. Attending the official opening event of the conference centre were First Minister Peter Robinson, Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness and Moderator of the Presbyterian Church in Ireland Dr Roy Patton.
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The BIG Numbers £40m
The value of the economic boost which Northern Ireland could receive from the G8 meeting in Fermanagh, according to research from Barclays. percentage increase which 17.8% The both Power NI and Airtricity
will impose on customers from July 1 as a result of rising wholesale energy costs. number of additional jobs 15,000 The the Agri-Food Strategy Board
thinks could be created in the agri-food sector.
amount a new Dracula film £15m The is expected to generate for the
local economy over the course of filming.
The number of jobs secured by the sale of six Botanic Inns pubs and bars to the Horatio Group, run by the its former MD Stephen Magorrian.
Momentum launch digital summit
omentum, the voice of the digital sector which represents over 300 companies, has announced it will hold a ‘Digital Summit’ on September 25 2013. The Summit, which is a key element of the Momentum Manifesto document launched in January, aims to discuss the issues of access to skills, access to funding and access to markets leading to the creation of 20,000 new jobs in the sector in the next five to ten years. Invest NI has highlighted its support for the summit; as well as Queen’s University, the University of Ulster and Belfast Metropolitan College. Speaking as Momentum launched the Summit, Chairman Rob McConnell (pictured with Employment Minister Stephen Farry) said: “We’re delighted to announce that our Digital Summit will take place in September, and to say with real confidence that our prediction of how we can create 20,000 jobs in this sector within five to ten years is no idle suggestion. The recent fantastic announcements from Deloitte and Allstate show what can be achieved, but what we are talking about here is a step change in Northern Ireland’s ability to cope with, and benefit from, the massive opportunity which exists to create substantial new employment in the sector. The fact that there are over 1,000 unfilled posts in Northern Ireland right now shows that while there’s great work going on within and across government, we have some way to go yet.”
consumer prices index grew 2.4% The by 2.4% in the year to April, down from an inflation rate of 2.8% in March due to lower transport costs.
number of new high value 177 The jobs that Deloitte is to create at its Technology Studio in Belfast, adding to the recent IT boom.
FTSE 100 hit highs last seen 6,755 The in at the height of the dotcom boom nearly 13 years ago.
Retailers have seen the amount of tax they have to pay rocket by almost two-thirds in less than a decade, says a report by PwC.
number of premium 898,000 The bond holders who National Savings & Investments says are owed a combined £44m in unclaimed prizes dating back to 1957.
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Inspiring Leader: Principal and Chief Executive of Belfast Metropolitan College, Marie-Thérèse McGivern, has been named ‘Inspiring Leader 2013’ at a national awards ceremony in London.The Women’s Leadership Network (WLN) award is presented annually to an individual from the learning and skills sector who has displayed exceptional leadership capability and who has actively and effectively encouraged other women to follow their lead. Described by the judges as having “the ability to galvanise support and embed a sense of collective ambition in those around her,” Ms McGivern was commended for her role in steering Belfast Met through a period of unprecedented organisational change.
Making a show of agri-exports By John Henning, Head of Agricultural Relations, Danske Bank
Hotel industry’s 2012 performance offers hope
otel occupancy increased by 15% in 2012, boosted by the NI 2012 Our Time Our Place campaign, according to the annual NI Hotel Industry Survey published by ASM Chartered Accountants. Based on the survey returns, ASM estimates that there were an additional 270,000 hotel bedrooms occupied in 2012, a 15% increase over 2011, while bedroom occupancy rates across Northern Ireland averaged 73.2% during the year, as against 64.7% in 2011. Spending in Northern Ireland hotels is estimated to have totalled £315m, net of VAT. Commenting on the survey results Michael Williamson, Director of Consulting at ASM said: “It is clear that in those regions where major events or openings occurred, that there was a significant and welcome boost to visitor numbers and overnight stays. For instance, of the 270,000 additional rooms occupied during the year around 150,000 relate to Belfast, which recorded an average bedroom occupancy rate of 78.4% for 2012. This is no surprise given the programme of events associated with the Titanic Centenary and the huge success of Titanic Belfast in attracting around 800,000 visitors in its first year.” ASM noted that 2012 saw Northern Ireland stage a series of other events, including the Irish Open, and the opening of new attractions such as the Giant’s Causeway Visitor Centre. While the bedroom occupancy rate increased overall, hotels located in rural areas recorded relatively small increases in demand compared to Belfast and Derry/Londonderry. The average rate per room sold (net of VAT) across the country was £65.50, a relatively small increase on the £62.74 recorded in the previous year given the large increase in bedroom demand – suggesting widespread discounting. And although income from room sales increased by an average of 18.4%, total revenues across the hotels were only up 6.3%, reflecting weak trading in food and beverage operations and the conference market. Overall profits increased by an average of almost 9%. There was also an increase in the number of out of state visitors, rising from 64% to 67%.
his year’s Balmoral Show, hosted for the first time at the Maze site, was an exciting new chapter in the history of the event. After a long stay at the King’s Hall, organisers were looking to expand, innovate and do things differently. The same could be said of those in the sector who are now looking to increase their exports. Export activity in the agri-sector isn’t new, of course. But it’s clear among the major players in the sector that there is a fresh desire to look at new techniques and new targets to encourage sustainable, export-led growth. The Agri Food Strategy Board has recently produced a report called ‘Going for Growth’ which outlines a set of key targets and recommendations to help maintain and enhance the ability of Northern Ireland’s agri-food sector to contribute to economic recovery. The goals laid out in the document – which run up to 2020 – are challenging but achievable. They include growing sales outside Northern Ireland by 75 per cent to £4.5bn and growing employment by 15 per cent to 115,000. What’s important is that these goals are accompanied by suggestions on how the Board hopes to achieve them, such as removing barriers to export in the form of charges for Export Health Certificates (EHCs). There is also a call to those involved in the sector to strive for innovation as a way of generating overseas sales in a sector where product is often perishable. This takes the form of product innovation, including shelf-life, to help deliver greater export opportunities to access markets even further across the globe. Such development is to be married to process innovation to develop more efficient and co-operative product distribution models. Although the UK and Ireland are sometimes seen as smaller players in the agri-food sector, the presence of some significant TNCs and the entrepreneurship within local companies enables us to punch above our weight on the world stage. We need to take advantage of that reputation and build on the economic fundamentals to grow this significant export opportunity.
To talk to us about how we might support your exporting ambitions, you can email me on firstname.lastname@example.org or telephone 028 9004 5000
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Disappointment over 18% News in Brief rise in electricity prices Newtownabbey-based Capita Managed IT Solutions has been awarded new multi-site schools information and communication technology contracts worth £11.6m. Working in partnership with the Leicester Miller Education Company and Leicester City Council, Capita will design and implement a new ICT infrastructure which will enable learning from a range of mobile devices.
Mivan has secured a number of major cruise ship outfitting contracts worth around £8m. The majority of the contracts are with current customers, Crystal Cruises, Princess Cruises and Carnival Australia. The work aboard the Pacific Jewel for Carnival Australia starts in August of this year, however design development, procurement and manufacturing has commenced. The re-fit will take place in Sydney, Australia over a three week period. The £4m contract to deliver the first phase of the Connswater Community Greenway project has been awarded to Maghera-based BSG Civil Engineering Ltd. The total project is worth £35m, with the second £23m phase due to begin next Spring, and the rest of the funding to cover public art, land purchase, employment and future management and maintenance of the Greenway. Construction work will be completed by Spring 2014. Belfast-based CEM Systems, part of Tyco Security Products, has secured the prestigious Khalifa Port & Industrial Zone in Abu Dhabi with its CEM AC2000 SE system. Khalifa Port is crucial to the ADPC (Abu Dhabi Ports Company) megaproject which includes Khalifa Industrial Zone Abu Dhabi (Kizad). Featuring the latest technology and designed to accommodate the world’s largest ships, Khalifa Port will become one of the biggest ports in the world. Firebrand Digital Strategies, a Belfast-based technology start-up specialising in digital marketing, has won a six-figure deal with a global manufacturer. The company has secured its first export business with Suominen Nonwovens, part of Finland’s Suominen Corporation, to provide an innovative digital marketing campaign that is designed to extend its engagement with its global consumer base.
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he Assembly’s Enterprise Committee is to quiz power company bosses after the two main electricity suppliers in Northern Ireland both announced plans to hike up prices by almost 18%. Power NI, Northern Ireland’s dominant energy company with almost 80% of the domestic and nearly 50% of the business market, announced that from July 1, prices would go up by 17.8% as a result of significant increases in the costs of purchasing wholesale electricity. Airtricity, which has around 19% of the domestic market and 28% of business customers, quickly followed suit and also announced a 17.8% hike citing similar reasons. The announcements will add an extra £90 to the typical household bills, the companies estimated. The Consumer Council’s chief executive, Antoinette McKeown, the announcements were “very unwelcome” for struggling consumers and businesses. “The biggest savings can be made by switching supplier and switching your method of payment,” she said. Chairperson of Stormont’s Enterprise Committee, Patsy McGlone MLA added: “There is a very fine balance in ensuring competition in the market, sustainability for our businesses and providing a fair price for consumers. However, we are very concerned about the price increase announcement – an increase of 18% for household electricity is quite considerable, especially given our current economic circumstances.”
Accountants pessimistic about outlook
hartered accountants are overwhelmingly pessimistic about Northern Ireland’s economic prospects in the year ahead, with the majority of the 400 polled in a new survey believing the region is still firmly in recession. The Chartered Accountants Ulster Society found that 56% of those surveyed view prospects as poor or worse over the coming year and only 6% are optimistic about the year ahead with 38% uncertain as to how the economy might perform. Of the 400 Chartered Accountants in practice, industry and the public sector, 83% said Northern Ireland was still in a period of recession. The survey also showed that the timescale for economic recovery has slipped. In 2011 most members thought there would be economic recovery towards the end of 2012. Now half of those surveyed say that it will be beyond 2014 before Northern Ireland returns to positive growth. Only 5% of Chartered Accountants Ulster members believe that there will be a return to growth this year. The top issues that respondents felt are contributing to uncertainty over the economy are political stability and a range of finance issues including availability of finance and a lack of working capital. Darren McDowell (pictured), Chairman of Chartered Accountants Ulster Society which represents over 3,600 Chartered Accountants in Northern Ireland, said: “This survey shows that Northern Ireland’s economic recovery has still some considerable way to go. Our members feel it may be 2014 or beyond before we see some positive growth. While there may be somewhat positive signs in IT, agriculture and for exporters, it looks as though the year ahead will continue to be challenging for local business.”
TECH AWARDS FAST APPROACHING: Deloitte is urging local businesses to look out for the launch of the 2013 Deloitte Technology Fast 50 Awards later this month, to be in with a chance of joining NI’s leading technology businesses including Rehabstudio, Novosco and Texthelp on the prestigious ranking. The awards, now in their 14th year, recognise and rank indigenous technology companies – from all over Ireland – with exceptional growth in turnover over the last five years. Fifteen Northern Ireland companies were included in the main list last year with Belfast based Rehabstudio leading the local charge. David Crawford, Partner with Deloitte Belfast (pictured with rehabstudio’s Jurgen Prause), said: “Last year’s Fast 50 showed that our indigenous companies are really holding their own against the global businesses based here, as well as proving the breadth of the sector within NI. I urge all local tech businesses to look out for the launch of the Technology Fast 50 Programme for 2013 this month.”
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Aepona in Belfast will become an Intel centre of excellence B elfast-based mobile telecoms software firm Aepona will play an integral role in Intel’s Software & Services Group following its acquisition by the global chip giant and is set to expand after securing several large contracts, according to one of the company’s senior management team. Intel confirmed in April that it had bought Aepona for an undisclosed sum, reported to be in the region of £80m. Michael Crossey, Aepona’s vice president of marketing, said the deal was “not just a typical technology acquisition” so Intel could get hold of Aepona’s intellectual property. “Intel acquired Aepona for its market presence, its skills, its knowledge and its customer base. We are now part of the Network Products and Service divisions within Intel, reporting into the Software & Services Group. This site here in Belfast is a centre of excellence for that part of the business and a route into Europe. It’s definitely not an IP or a technology acquisition,” he told Ulster Business. While globally recognised as a chip business, Intel also has a very large software business, which if it were a stand alone company would be one of the largest in the world. Its biggest software business is McAfee, the internet security software leader. Crossey highlighted the recent appointment of Renee James, previously head of the software business of Intel and chair[person] of McAfee to the position of President of Intel as being a clear signal that software was clearly very strategic for Intel. “Intel saw value in Aepona’s relationships with some of the biggest mobile players in the world. We already work with the likes of Vodafone, Orange, Vimpelcom in Russia, Rogers in Canada and Sprint in the US,” he added. “For both sides this was the right deal at the right time. This was very much a positive alignment of what we were doing with Intel’s larger plans. For investors it was the right opportunity and for our staff we are now the experts in a particular area for Intel.” With its core PC market flat, Intel is making a push into network and mobile software. Aepona is an industry leader in API exposure and monetization platforms for service providers around the world. Its solution allows Communications Service Providers to
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securely grant access to their network resources to Independent Software Vendors, network providers, enterprises and OEMs while achieving monetization opportunities. Intel also recently bought San Francisco-based Mashery, a business similar to Aepona but operating at the enterprise end of the market. “It is an area that Intel are very interested in developing. At the end of the day we’re helping operators to stay relevant and stay valuable in a world of Over-the-Top services where Google and Facebook and Amazon are taking the value. The operators are building the networks but not getting the revenues,” he said. Crossey said the company will keep the Aepona brand for the foreseeable future and noted there is continuity in the business, with its Belfast management and US heads of operations and sales all still in place. Before the acquisition Aepona had won a countrywide deal with Vodafone in India and
is on the verge of announcing another large contract in the country which Crossey says will require it to bring more software engineers on board – both in Belfast and Sri Lanka. “We have to build a distributed system that will serve the whole of the Indian market. The deployment and delivery of that project in the next 6-12 months is key for us and we’ll be hiring to help us deliver that. Right now we have open positions and we need to raise our profile as a place for skilled people to come and work,” he said. “IT skills are in demand but we have some leading edge technologies, we’re part of one of the world’s most attractive brands and our projects are international, which will hopefully attract people. The convergence of enterprise and mobile technologies is a good place to be and hopefully people will be attracted to the quality of the work. Belfast could just be a starting point for a career in a global organisation.”
Business as usual Ulster Business meets the leadership team at Capita Managed IT Solutions in Newtownabbey to find out about the new owner’s plans for the managed service IT business.
here is always a risk when a locally based company is acquired by a larger corporation that the identity of that organisation and the strengths that led to its success can be watered down and lost. Not so with Capita plc’s acquisition of Northgate Managed Services. Northgate was well known both in Northern Ireland and Great Britain for providing cloud based and infrastructure services to public, private and third sector organisations, as well as specialist managed IT services in the education,
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government, utilities and charities sectors. Capita agreed to acquire the business from its GB-based parent Northgate Information Solutions for an enterprise value of £65m in February this year. While the transaction only closed in March it is clear when I visit the company’s office in Newtownabbey in late May that the transition to becoming Capita Managed IT Solutions has been a smooth one. John Chambers, director of Capita Managed IT Solutions, says that is largely because Capita
had no intention of making radical changes when it bought the company. “We’re not fundamentally changing how the operation works because it does work and we’re very pleased with how it performs. We have plans and ideas around how we can compete better, but we’re in a good place,” he told Ulster Business. “Service excellence is core and the first thing we had to do was reassure clients that things are not changing. Our high standards will be maintained.”
Mr Chambers, who has 25 years of experience in the IT industry, the last three with Capita, explains that Capita was interested in Northgate for a number of reasons – the strength of its client base, its service delivery track record and its technical capability, not to mention the local delivery capability that the Newtownabbey delivery centre offers to the company. Northgate’s strengths were viewed as complementary to other divisions of Capita plc, a stock market listed provider of BPO and integrated professional support service solutions
with over 50,000 staff at more than 350 sites, including 70 business centres across the UK, Europe, India and South Africa. Already, Capita is working out how best to utilise the expertise in Northern Ireland, while teams from the wider Capita group are collaborating with the leaders of the former Northgate business to identify opportunities to offer additional services to existing clients. “There are projects that maybe Northgate wouldn’t have gone for previously because they were outside of its core areas of expertise which,
following the acquisition, they are going for. That’s an immediate benefit. There are areas which the rest of Capita is strong in which are already complementing what we do here,” said Chambers. “Capita as a wider organisation is growing rapidly. There is demand in the marketplace. The confidence the acquisition gives to the team here in terms of certainty means that we’re now developing the pipeline of work quite aggressively.” While he lives in England, Chambers >>>
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is originally from Newtownards and will be spending at least three days a week in Northern Ireland in his new role, while also overseeing the business’s offices in Scotland and England. “We have a very strong team here, which is why there hasn’t been a truck load of people from Capita who have showed up to take over. It is more about getting the connections going to see what we can achieve,” he said. “My role is to drive that collaboration and look at how we can accelerate the growth of the business. Having that knowledge of Capita and the team here and in GB is the primary objective at this stage.” POSITIVE REACTION Ed Brown, Service Delivery Director at Capita Managed IT Solutions and a long term Northgate employee, says that both his colleagues and customers have welcomed the alliance with Capita. “We spent a lot of time talking to our customers and the response has been overwhelmingly positive towards the acquisition. Many of them see the added value that Capita brings to the table as being very good for them as well,” he said. “It has been incredibly refreshing to see that collaboration is not just something that’s talked about, it is something which is executed on. Not only have we seen the benefits of the complementary skills sets and been able to bring that to existing customers, but it is a two way street. Capita have brought us to the table with their customer base to work on projects already. We hope it is going to be really beneficial for us both,” he adds. It’s a sentiment that Marketing Director Eleanor Lee agrees with, noting the communication with both staff and clients has been a priority. “We spent that first eight weeks communicating with staff and customers around what Capita is all about and giving them a chance to ask questions here and in all the other offices. The response has been good. A lot of people are still doing the same things and working with the same clients. But the leaders in the business are very comfortable with where we go next as part of Capita,” she said.
organisation which Capita recognised and they plan to really leverage those skills in areas we’re good at,” says Ed Brown. “A lot of contracts will come up for renewal and I think being part of the larger Capita organisation puts us in a position of strength to renew those contracts and also make more services available to those customers. We can bring many different services into play as part of Capita that we never had ourselves as Northgate.” He notes that with every organisation striving to be more efficient, reduce costs and at the same time deliver better service to their own customers, there are plenty of opportunities to provide additional services to both new and existing customers. “Increasingly customers are really evaluating when they go to tender whether a company is going to have the financial strength to deliver for the lifespan of a contract,” he adds.
GROWTH AREAS Northgate Managed Services made a pro-forma operating profit for its financial year to April 2012 of £10m on turnover of £141.6m. Geographically, business is split almost 50/50 between Northern Ireland and Great Britain and Capita’s directors aim to maintain that balance to keep the business competitive. The business is also set to remain focused on its core areas, namely the public sector (it has renewed a number of large public sector contracts since the acquisition); utilities; education; and increasingly the mid-market commercial sector. “I think it is very much a case of more of the same – hopefully much more of the same. We have real capabilities and skills in our
CHALLENGES That organisations are striving for ever greater efficiencies also means Capita’s market is a competitive one. “For everyone in this industry the market is quite tough at the moment. Customers are demanding an awful lot more for what they spend, which has not increased,” says Brown. “That drives us to be more efficient in what we do and we have to add a lot more value to demonstrate what we bring to them. For the next little while the market is going to remain tough so value for money is going to be incredibly important.” Brown says that while there are organisations which compete purely on cost, most of the firm’s customers put an emphasis on quality of
18 JUNE 2013
service, so going to the lowest cost provider isn’t an option for them. Far from just having the components in place, the best managed services providers are the ones who can extract the most value from the technology, he notes. Capita is also at the forefront of helping its clients deal with changes in the way organisations and their people use technology – for example the increasing trend towards mobile computing and Bring Your Own Device. Ed Brown explains: “What you end up with is multiple interfaces with the system – users may have a laptop and desktop computer, ipad, some form of android device, and they are using all of them to interface with their core enterprise system. That’s a huge challenge for internal IT departments and one of the areas we can help them with.” THE FUTURE Capita Managed IT Solutions has approximately 1,000 employees, more than half of which are in Northern Ireland. It has a low staff attrition rate and, having invested significantly in apprenticeships, remains a key player in developing the pool of IT talent in the province. Chambers says it is Capita’s intention to grow the business further in Northern Ireland and, while it is early days, the initial signs bode well. “Part of why we acquired the organisation is the centre that’s here and the ability to leverage it into other opportunities,” says Chambers. “We have ambitions of growing the business but we will go about that in a way that is sustainable. Having that core team that has worked for the organisation for a long time gives us real strength and technical skills that will allow us to onboard additional resource and have those people be productive very quickly.”
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Counting the Cost? How business costs are hampering business Professor Neil Gibson and Richard Johnston from the NI Centre for Economic Policy find there is more to the access to finance question than first meets the eye.
he perilous state of the Northern Ireland economy is well known given that it has been this way for half a decade. But rather than focusing only on the problems, the more relevant question is what to do in response? The challenging economic conditions have led to a number of policy responses in Northern Ireland including a new economic strategy focussing heavily on exports, a major push to increase access to finance and Invest NIâ€™s jobs fund. Of these policy areas access to finance has been the most high profile because it is an emotive subject and also that the banks remain a popular â€˜villainâ€™ to blame for our current economic woes. However, as is almost always the case, the real issues are much more complex. Many businesses face a fundamental lack of demand as a result of consumers reining in their spending and businesses scaling back or postponing investment. It is questionable whether in the face of this lack of demand, bank money, which is after all our money, should be lent to cure this ill. Only if it is to open up new markets or there is a genuine case to say that a pick-up in demand is imminent would lending of this type seem justified. Ensuring we have a functioning banking system that is willing and able to lend to good businesses is important, but there is a danger that access to finance may dominate the policy debate and cause us to miss other important areas in which policy could make a difference. The rising cost of doing business in Northern Ireland is one such issue that may be in danger of not getting the level of policy attention it deserves. If we know which costs are rising and by how much, it would be possible to consider policy interventions that could help to mitigate these cost increases that are pushing more and more firms into a position of non-profitability. The excellent quarterly IntertradeIreland survey (carried out by a local company, Perceptive Insights) asks some detailed questions of Northern Ireland businesses regarding costs in its latest edition. The results are revealing and suggest some areas in which policy makers could play a role. The harsh reality for business The most alarming figure contained within the IntertradeIreland survey is the proportion of
22 JUNE 2013
Chart 1: Which of the following best describes the current position of your business?
Source: Perceptive Insights survey for IntertradeIreland Business Monitor Survey, Q1 2013. Notes: NI Firms only
businesses in Northern Ireland that are in winddown, contraction or survival mode (41%). Fortunately, the numbers in contraction mode have eased in recent quarters but the figures demonstrate just how precarious the economic situation is and suggests that the rising numbers of insolvencies and bankruptcies in Northern Ireland are, sadly, likely to continue (see Chart 1). When we delve into the sectoral results, we can see that there are challenges across the whole of the economy, with a proportion of firms in all sectors reporting an unprofitable year. Predictably, a larger proportion of construction firms were struggling with two out of every five firms surveyed unable to remain profitable, which is twice the Northern Ireland average for all firms. Leisure, hotels & catering also had a significant proportion of firms (one in five) reporting an unprofitable year. One in five agricultural firms were also unprofitable and the survey reveals that rising energy and input costs are key factors. It is interesting that a much smaller proportion of manufacturers were unprofitable, given that they are also energy intensive and require significant non-labour inputs to the production process, but this may be suggestive of higher margins and better ability to absorb the increases in the cost base (see Chart 2).
Business costs a key issue When asked the extent to which different factors are an issue for business, overhead and energy costs are, by some margin, the most significant issues. Cash-flow and the interrelated issue of lack of demand are the next most significant issues. Former high priorities such as access to skills have slipped right down the list and the behaviour of competitors in the sector has also faded relative to rising costs (see Chart 3). Rising overhead costs and energy costs were a significant issue for all sectors, but as would be expected, sectors with significant material inputs and energy requirements (such as agriculture and manufacturing and leisure, hotels and catering) recorded relatively high levels of concern). Drilling down into specific business costs, energy and transport (which are related given the high energy content in transportation) stand out as the two areas that have had to absorb the most significant increase with 38% of firms recording an increase of more than 10% in energy cost over the last 12 months and 30% of firms reporting the same for transport costs. Notable in the analysis is the more mixed picture in terms of staff costs, showing that employers are, in some cases driving down this element of cost to compensate for rises elsewhere. Telecoms and insurance are the other areas in which there is some evidence of price reductions. Rental
Chart 2: During the past 12 months, has your business managed to remain profitable?
Source: Perceptive Insights survey for IntertradeIreland Business Monitor Survey, Q1 2013. Notes: NI Firms only
and property ownership costs have risen only marginally and this is reflective of the level of demand in the property market. Strikingly finance and credit costs have risen in less than one in five firms. Are businesses responding? In response to these rising costs, the obvious question to ask is – how are businesses in Northern Ireland reacting? The survey shows that the majority of firms are taking action to reduce costs; but it is both surprising and worrying to find that the proportion is not higher, as a significant minority of firms have not taken any action at all. More than half the firms suggested they had taken steps to reduce energy costs but less than one in five had done the same with transport. This partly reflects the challenge in avoiding transport costs with no obvious ‘switching
supplier’ route open to most firms. There is a sizeable proportion of Northern Ireland firms who have reported significant increases in their cost base, but have not taken any action to reduce these costs either by switching supplier, considering alternative sources or technologies or simply by cutting out any unnecessary consumption. Therefore, there are a number of companies in Northern Ireland that are likely to be suffering the pain of lower profits than they may necessarily have to (assuming identifying cost savings can be done and lower cost options exist). ROI firms much more proactive The IntertradeIreland survey has the advantage of being an all island survey, allowing for comparison of firms’ behaviours to be made. On the issue of business costs the results are striking. There is a significant difference between the
Chart 3: To what extent is each of the following an issue for your business currently?
Source: Perceptive Insights survey for IntertradeIreland Business Monitor Survey, Q1 2013. Notes: NI Firms only
behaviour of ROI firms and their Northern Ireland peers, with 38% of firms taking no action in Northern Ireland, compared to just 25% in the ROI. Negotiating better rates for insurance, energy, telecoms and suppliers was much more prevalent behaviour in the ROI. In the case of energy costs, this perhaps reflects much greater market choice than currently exists in Northern Ireland and thus the threat of supplier switching may have been more significant (though numbers on actual switching show little ROI/NI difference). But even allowing for greater choice in the market there is clearly a more proactive approach within the ROI business base than in Northern Ireland. The responses to questions on the cost of finance are very revealing and also quite surprising in that incredibly small numbers of businesses in ROI (8%) or Northern Ireland (2%) are doing anything about the issue, reflecting the more modest incidence of cost inflation in this area. This finding does, however, jar with the fact that finance is an area of great political interest at this point in time. Could the government help? The research clearly demonstrates the significant impact that rising costs are having on businesses in Northern Ireland (and the ROI) and this begs the question – can policy do anything to help? Clearly there are longer term strategies in place to look at the energy market and options surrounding alternative production, which is to be welcomed, but the immediate pressures suggest a more urgent look at the underlying issues may be required. Whilst much of the pressure comes from international fuel prices, which are beyond the control of local policymakers, there are ways that policy could make a difference. Clearly the role of Regulator is key in understanding what is driving bills and determining the extent to which any taxation adjustments are possible or how government might help with capital investment programmes. Helping to ensure a competitive and level playing field in areas such as insurance and professional services is also key. At a more basic level there is a need to ensure that firms get guidance and assistance on how to drive down costs via supplier switching or negotiation. In certain cases government could help to group smaller businesses into a consortium, where they would effectively become ‘single buyers’ for certain products to drive better prices (consumables or insurance for example). DETI are considering taking forward an update to previous research to understand business costs – this is commendable and should be accelerated given its prominence as an issue. The narrow focus on access to finance as the key business issue is clearly misplaced looking at this evidence and there is a clear need to consider ways to mitigate rising business costs – otherwise the ‘cost’ will be the loss of more businesses.
JUNE 2013 23
Why insolvency doesn’t always have to end in tears
hilst business failures have fallen sharply in the first three months of 2013, and are now at their lowest point since the third quarter of 2009, that doesn’t mean the wintry downturn is promising a summer of recovery. That’s the assessment of PwC Business Recovery Partner Stephen Cave, who says not only was 2012 the worst year on record for business failures in Northern Ireland, a comparison with the rest of the UK suggests a worrying level of distress still haunts the local economy: “Overall in 2012, there were 3,344 redundancies, twice the total of 2011. “What’s more, R3, the professional recovery and insolvency body says that up to 16% of Northern Ireland companies are so called zombie firms, whose trading position is untenable and where survival is reliant on the current low interest rates and a bank reluctance to precipitate action. As interest rates increase, many of these companies could fail, contributing to further increases in unemployment. “Coupled with the decline in the property market across Ireland, north and south, which is unlikely to recover in the short to medium term,
these statistics do not make pretty reading for many local businesses.” But despite the see-saw of insolvency data, Stephen Cave says the outcome of an insolvency process does not always end in tears: “We’ve managed many insolvency appointments where the business has been saved and most of the jobs retained with the main change being in ownership and the level of debt. Insolvency may be traumatic, but it is not necessarily fatal.” He points to one particular case as not just a textbook case in business recovery, but one where an insolvency process has led to a successful result for all stakeholders: “For 270 local workers in Thermomax, the Bangor-based solar heating business, 23 August 2007 was a day to remember – it was the day they didn’t lose their jobs after the company entered Administration.” Stephen recalls that just days previously, financial and cash flow difficulties had Thermomax teetering on the brink of collapse. Having secured funding and the support of key creditors, customers, suppliers and employees, the Administrators traded the business as a going concern whilst seeking a buyer and in less than 40 days the internationally-renowned, awardwinning company was successfully restructured and sold to the Environmental & Renewables Division of Irish building products giant, Kingspan Group plc, with the promise of further investment from its new owners. Since that day, with the funds realised from the sale of the business, the Administrators have not only been able to pay back the secured lender in full, but have paid back the company’s unsecured creditors in full together with statutory interest, a rarity in today’s recession hit economy and a significant boost to local business. “Creditors who stood to lose significant sums not only kept ongoing trading relationships with Thermomax but recovered their outstanding debt in full plus interest. Shareholders who had invested their time and resources into the business over many years, and who stood to lose everything, will be receiving a significant return on their shareholding,” he says He points to Thermomax as being less about the skills of turning around an ailing business and more about a new approach to an
age-old insolvency process: “Since the industrial revolution, businesses have been founded, built, expanded – and failed. But all too often failures tended to mean closure, break-up and forced sale disposal of assets with a reduced return to secured creditors only. Jobs are lost, local economies suffer and valuable intellectual property and patents often go overseas. “Thermomax was somewhat of a watershed in local insolvency practice through use of reforms brought in by the UK Enterprise Act focusing the minds of insolvency practitioners on creating solutions to save businesses, rather than simply implementing strategies to sell assets. Restructuring Thermomax with the support of the management, workforce, local development agency, its bank and suppliers, and successfully selling the restructured business with preservation of jobs was a win for everyone”, he says. There is little doubt that helping directors and shareholders to avoid business failure is more productive than liquidation, which comes at the expense of the business, the workers, the creditors and the wider economy. On the whole, and when possible, this ‘trade, restructure, and sell’ model has worked well for stakeholders in Northern Ireland. Even where jobs have been lost and payouts to creditors have not delivered 100 per cent of the debt due, many more businesses are still trading than would have survived under the old regulations and old approach. Stephen Cave points to the steady increase in insolvencies as a compelling reason why endeavouring to replicate the Thermomax model is important: “In 2007, the year Thermomax collapsed, there were 164 corporate liquidations, the highest for a decade; by 2012 that had risen to 410 and that’s a trend we need to halt. “A creative, empathetic and timely approach to business recovery won’t save them all, but as the various Thermomax stakeholders have discovered, this approach can lead to a good result all-round.”
Stephen Cave is a Business Recovery Partner at PwC and can be contacted on tel (direct): 028 9041 5096 or email: email@example.com
“We’ve managed many insolvency appointments where the business has been saved and most of the jobs retained with the main change being in ownership and the level of debt. Insolvency may be traumatic, but it is not necessarily fatal.”
nijobs.com a fresh look heralds a new approach At nijobs.com the desire to sustain a top quality service is resulting in a new look for one of the countryâ€™s best known and highly regarded online recruitment websites. Things are changing in recruitment. People still want to find jobs but research tells us that beyond 2013 they will be using mobile access and new communications channels on a regular basis. This means that recruitment sites must deliver fast, simple, streamlined, cross-platform services and a cost effective solution that delivers quality applicants. The team at nijobs.com is constantly adapting to new challenges. They have been in the sector a long time. Since 2000 they have been learning and modifying their approach. It takes best practice and customer insight to hone what the site does. They have a simple belief - the harder you work, the more opportunities come your way. For nijobs.com this means ensuring that the best people are recruited for all the jobs they advertise. To achieve this, success is required in three key areas of the recruitment site.
Appeal From their first contact with the site, users will feel that they are dealing with attitudes and information that are contemporary, relevant and dynamic. The rebrand of nijobs.com is focused on attracting and retaining jobseekers through clear, inviting graphics, an intuitive interface and a coherent and consistent message.
the site efficiently. The nijobs.com site is a fount of information, tips and resources for jobseekers and a fantastic opportunity for employers to establish an excellent means of access to the highest quality jobseekers. With added functionality in the next phase it will be even better!
Effectiveness Ultimately, by rebranding and restructuring their site nijobs.com are reaffirming their commitment to getting the best possible results from the recruitment process. The outcome of this has to be more satisfied jobseekers, more satisfied employers and more successful job applications. They are confident that this will happen. The nijobs.com rebrand will set a new standard for recruitment here and the ensuing extra functionality will be supported by an attitude that is human, personable, friendly and straight talking. It is the understanding and intuition of the people behind nijobs.com that results in a dynamic, pioneering and expert on-line facility.
Whoever chooses to use nijobs.com for their recruitment will discover that finding good people doesnâ€™t have to be hard work.
Functionality The next step will be to ensure that users have easy access to all the information they need and the ability to interact with
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Enable BYOD without increasing IT infrastructure By Kyle Johnston, Sales Manager, Leaf Consultancy
eaf ’s clients have adopted a new user work style which means that PCs and mobile devices are no longer located primarily on company premises. In fact, Leaf clients are now working from anywhere, on multiple devices, and may seldom find themselves within the company firewall. BYOD (bring your own device) work styles may historically have challenged Leaf who are accountable to ensure that all devices touching our clients’ corporate data resources are well maintained and secure. Providing assistance for remote and user-owned devices can sometimes create added financial challenges. This challenge becomes greater when remote users have multiple devices. For those of you who are new to Windows Intune, it is a cloud-based solution that can offer a variety of benefits to businesses of all sizes, including: • Unified Infrastructure: Manage PCs and multiple types of mobile devices in one unified solution, either through the cloud or by extending your existing on-premises infrastructure. • Integrated Management: Support multiple devices with Windows Intune – including Windows RT, Windows Phone 8, iOS, and Android platforms – without adding infrastructure. • Enhance Security: Whether using corporate or employee-owned devices, Windows Intune helps provide a security-enhanced environment with comprehensive update and policy management. • BYOD Enabled: Use Windows Intune to give employees access to the resources and applications they need on the devices they choose without increasing complexity. Because Windows Intune is a cloud solution, you eliminate the server and software licensing costs normally associated with on premise solutions. You can also manage up to five devices (Windows PCs, Windows RT, Windows Phone 8, Android, and iOS) per user. As your organization grows, you can choose to implement System Center 2012 Configuration Manager SP1 and create a hybrid solution able to manage up to 100k devices. Windows Intune £3.90 per user per month Windows Intune simplifies how businesses manage and secure devices. Buy a monthly subscription and get cloud services enabling your users to operate at peak performance, from virtually anywhere. Windows Intune SA £7.20 per user per month Get all the benefits of Windows Intune with the addition of upgrade rights to Windows Enterprise and rights to purchase the Microsoft Desktop Optimisation Pack (MDOP). Please note: Current Windows Software Assurance customers are eligible to get Windows Intune at a reduced price. To discuss how Windows intune could benefit your business please contact firstname.lastname@example.org or tel: 028 9089 7650.
26 JUNE 2013
Can I pay in Bitcoins?
n an increasingly digital world it is perhaps no surprise that digital currency is starting to make inroads into the world of finance, with Bitcoin the first off the blocks.
What are Bitcoins? Bitcoin is an open source peer-to-peer currency that can be traded like any other currency. It is the first form of cryptocurrency, money which uses cryptography to control its creation and management. The software behind it allows instant transactions, worldwide payments and low processing fees. How does it actually work? Managing transactions and the issuing of bitcoins is carried out collectively by the network rather than a central authority. A user can have one or more bitcoin addresses from which bitcoins are sent or received using either a website or downloaded software often called a wallet, like a digital wallet. Can I buy things in the shops using Bitcoin? Bitcoin is accepted in trade by merchants and individuals in many parts of the world although it is yet to come into widespread use. Prices for transactions are negotiated by users. So it is more of an investment? Although the Bitcoin Project describes bitcoin as an experimental digital currency, bitcoins are often traded as an investment. Bitcoins have been described as lacking intrinsic value as an investment because their value depends only on the willingness of users to accept it. However, reports have suggested that 1% of all Bitcoins are owned by Winklevoss twins, who famously sued Mark Zuckerberg over the creation of Facebook. It is still pretty risky then? Many commentators have criticised the bitcoin’s volatile exchange rate, relatively inflexible supply, and minimal use in trade. The USD price of a Bitcoin increased in 2013 from $13 on 1 January to $190 on 9 April, then fell back to around $50 before stabilising near $100 for several weeks.
Read my lips... The next company to spin out from Belfast’s Centre for Secure Information Technologies could spell the end for traditional passwords. Symon Ross reports on the opportunities which could be open to Liopa.
e’ve all seen the sci-fi movies where the security of the future is based on iris recognition, voice verification and facial scans. While those biometric technologies once seemed like a distant dream, the consumerisation of technology and proliferation of smart devices means that science fact is quickly catching up with science fiction. And one new company about to spin-out from QUB’s Centre for Secure Information Technologies - the UK’s largest cyber security academic research lab - is hoping to revolutionise the way we view password access. Liopa (gaelic for lip) is a mobile biometric authentication and speaker verification application, service and application programming interface (API). In layman’s terms that means it asks users to vocalise a random sequence of letters,
28 JUNE 2013
digits or words into a mobile camera which then records and processes the video, offloads it to a server and verifies the person’s identity against a database of enrolled individuals. The identity of that person is verified using a biometric characteristic known as visemes – the way your lips form words. After a decade developing and commercialising research into what’s officially known as pose invariant lip biometric authentication and speaker verification, Dr. Darryl Stewart, Dr. Michael Loughlin and Dr Fabian Campbell-West the team behind Liopa - say the technology has reached a point where it can create a viable business. David Crozier, CSIT’s Technical Marketing Manager and the fourth member of the Liopa team explains: “We’re getting to a point now where every smartphone and tablet comes with a forward facing camera
which allows us to use our technology to carry out speaker authentication. Our research has been waiting for this technology to be available. “It also happens that over the last couple of years password security has also come under increasing pressure. A lot of online systems are being hacked and cracked. Wired magazine, the bible for technology engineers, said in January that the age of the password is over, we just haven’t realised it yet,” he added. “A lot of financial transactions are moving to mobile. By 2018 it is estimated mobile transactions will be worth $18trillion a year. As money moves mobile, theft and crime will follow.” One of the key problems with passwords is that, through policy or necessity, industry has come up with password rules that are hard to remember for people but easy to crack by machines.
Because of the password security risks many countries are now mandating that online service providers use multi-factor authentication – whether that’s a physical device like a secure token or an additional process like the Verified by Visa password needed for some online purchases. However, online retailers report an up to 50% drop out rate of people who’ve abandoned online transactions because they have forgotten their Verified by Visa password, and physical devices like secure tokens run the risk of being lost. Liopa could be incorporated into existing solutions to remove these hurdles. “Using the Verified by Visa example, rather than typing in a password, the application will present you with a Liopa interface and a random sequence of numbers or letters which you speak into the phone. It will verify it is you and approve the payment,” he explains. Crozier says viseme analysis has been proven to be more accurate than face biometrics and voice biometrics, and a better indication of the “liveness” of the person as it can’t be fooled by a static image or audio playback. “As you age, as your appearance changes, the system evolves. It improves with the number of enrolled users. It will be more accurate with a million users than 10,000 because the more biometric data we have the stronger the algorithms will be and the fewer false positives we’ll have.” At present, Liopa’s algorithm is around 87% accurate but the intention is to get that up to 98% over the next couple of years. Financial institutions would like to see it get to 95% before they look at
“we do think there is a multimillion pound opportunity here for this company.” the system seriously, says Crozier. To gain traction the system will first be marketed for non-financial transactions and non-commercial websites, for example as an alternative to reCaptches, the blurred numbers you have to type in to comment on a blog or news story. ReCaptcha from Cylab at Carnegie Mellon University was acquired by Google in 2009 for an estimated $25m – an indication of the size of the potential market for Liopa. According to a recent MarketsandMarkets report the global multi-factor authentication (MFA) total addressable market which includes different types of authentication is expected to reach $5.45bn by 2017. Gartner predicts between 2013 and 2016 premium smartphone production growing from 601m units to 965m, media tablet production growing from 113m to 232m and premium tablet production growing from 94m units to 158m. Each device could have multiple apps using Liopa. “We do think there is a multi-million pound opportunity here for this company. If it reduces the amount of lost sales for ecommerce retailers it creates a saving for them. If it replaces a hardware token, that will enable us to make money. As a liveness indicator it is better than what has come before,” says Crozier.
Liopa’s development is currently focused on the Android platform, which IDC has predicted will continue to be the dominant smartphone mobile operating system until at least 2016. It is currently working on a project for the Technology Strategy Board around preventing and reducing fraud in mobile commerce and will release its mobile application and online service by July. Liopa is already speaking to financial institutions and potential partner companies who might license the technology, as well as investors. Like any new technology, the company does have competition. Rivals include OpenID, oAuth based services such as Facebook Login and Twitter Sign-in, reCaptcha, 3-D Secure (i.e. Verified by Visa), RSA SmartID, my1login ltd, Biometry.com AG and Mobbeel – some of whom have millions of users already. Liopa also says Google, Apple, Lenovo, Samsung, Hauwai, HTC and other mobile companies represent competition, but could also be potential customers and purchasers of Liopa IP or even the company as a whole in future. Selling through a tiered software as a service model the company hopes its software will ultimately appeal to banks, card and online merchant account providers as well as large e-commerce retailers and enterprise IT companies providing solutions to clients for challenges such as employees bringing their own devices to work. “Liopa will effectively be a package of software libraries that software developers can incorporate into apps, whereby our authentication database can be used to verify who people are, or they can purchase the back end database technology and software and manage their own enrolled database of users themselves,” adds David Crozier. “We’ll certainly be one of the first to market using viseme based profiling rather than facial or iris recognition. A lot of these technologies have not been widely used because you had to pay for additional hardware infrastructure, for cameras and doors. Now you don’t. Smartphone cameras are 1.3 mega pixels – that’s high enough resolution for us.”
JUNE 2013 29
Retail in a connected world Online retailing need not mean the death of the high street, writes Daniel Loughlin from leading ecommerce platform provider and consultancy Export Technologies. and pick the order up in the store. Successful multichannel retailers are handling all of these requirements and giving customers multiple options to buy and in return this gives the retailer multiple options to sell. Traditional high street retailers such as John Lewis and M&S have embraced this approach. M&S recently saw a 16.6% rise in online sales and an increase in users of its in-store pick up service, while John Lewis has invested more than £40m over the last three years in its website and attributes a multichannel approach as a key strategy in its online growth. Multichannel works across different boundaries by selling: • Through the high street store • Through the website • Through a mobile website • Over the telephone • Even through a third party marketplace like eBay or Amazon.
here has been an ongoing shift in how we buy from retailers. We want to buy in different ways, at different times of the day to suit our different needs. This evolution in buying patterns has led to retailers winning or losing customers, depending on how they have embraced it. Retail used to be a more defined process. When wanting to buy goods the consumer had to visit the retail premises as it was the only “channel” available to them. Success depended on having the right location, good service combined with the right products, and the market was generally the people who lived and worked in the catchment area of the shop. The internet has altered this permanently. The catchment area is much bigger and the
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online customer could be from a very different background, even from a different country, use different currency, or speak a different language. Discerning retailers have seized this opportunity to sell in different ways, as the potential for growth when selling to a wider market is very significant – providing they can combine the right products, with the right strategy and use the right technology. In our experience, clients that have adopted a “multichannel” strategy have seen a large increase in sales. This approach combines all the channels available to the retailer – online and offline, thus making the opportunity to sell to consumers much easier. Customers may want to buy in the retail shop, or buy over the phone, have the order delivered, or buy online
The success of John Lewis and M&S shows that online retail is significant and growing, but it is does not indicate the death of the high street – far from it. Standard high street retail is still and will remain a bigger market for decades. Statistically the UK leads Europe in online purchases, but online retail sales in the UK are projected to be just over 12% of total retail sales in 2013. The reason retailers take online seriously is because the online retail segment is growing at just over 10% annually and shows no sign of slowing down – and multichannel is a way of using all the channels to significantly boost overall sales. For retailers to succeed in multichannel they require a combination of business process changes, the right team and also investment in the right technology. Customers want a seamless choice of ways to purchase with clear and simple buying options. The success of John Lewis seems to indicate that investing in technology came before the online success, and this multichannel approach boosted the overall retail business. The customer wants to seamlessly buy from retailers across a number of channels – if the customer is always right, giving them this choice will be key to future success of many retail markets.
Hip to be ICT QUARTERLY
If you want a career in IT at the moment, Northern Ireland is the right place to be. But following another recent raft of jobs announcements, Symon Ross spoke with some of the big name employers in the sector to ask whether it has become more difficult to fill those positions with the right people.
hoever it was that said the geeks shall inherit the earth was on to something. At a time when jobs in most industries are still thin on the ground, graduates pursuing a career in IT can virtually write their own ticket. In the last month alone companies such as Deloitte (177 jobs), Allstate (650), Merchant Warehouse (70), Vello (71) and Latens Systems (76) have announced plans to create over 1,000 jobs between them in coming years. That is on top of the ongoing recruitment taking place in the burgeoning capital markets sector made up of international firms like Citi, Liberty IT, First Derivatives, Fidessa, NYSE Euronext and CME Group – who are also on the look out for hundreds of skilled IT graduates and experienced staff. There is definitely a buzz around Belfast and it’s clear we have the makings of a thriving, vibrant IT sector here in Northern Ireland. But there is also concern out there that the supply of people coming through to fill these jobs is struggling to keep pace. Programmers proficient in languages such as C#, C++, Java and .NET are wanted by all the employers listed above, and with Invest NI working hard to encourage more financial technology companies to establish sizable operations in Northern Ireland, the competition is set to increase.
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It is a problem the industry and government are aware of. Last year, Employment Minister Stephen Farry convened an ICT Working Group to identify the skills challenges faced by the sector and to put in place an Action Plan setting out how these issues will be addressed by business, government, education and training providers in the short and long term. One of the key issues identified in the plan was the need for more students to study Computer Science degrees rather than softer ICT-related courses and the Minister put in place funding for additional places in our universities. It is now predicted there will be a yearly output of at least 600 Computer Science graduates from the Northern Ireland universities each year over the next four years. Queen’s University and the University of Ulster have also
launched postgraduate MSc courses aimed at non-IT graduates to bolster the annual output of Computer Science graduates offering 90 non-IT graduates the opportunity to gain IT qualifications. But with a reported 1,000 tech positions currently unfilled is this enough? HOT IN THE CITI John Healy, IT Senior Group Manager at CITI and a member of the group that put together the ICT Action Plan, is very positive on what has been achieved so far to supply the sector with the right skills. He believes Minister Farry should be commended for working with employers to address industry needs. “This year has been a tremendous year for the universities in terms of interest in technology and computer science in particular – somewhere
“THE OVERARCHING CONTEXT IS THAT THERE IS A GLOBAL SHORTAGE OF TECHNOLOGY SKILLS, NOT JUST HERE, EVERYWHERE.”
around 400 people. It will probably take two years for some of that interest to work its way through into the centres like the one we have here at CITI,” he said. “I think they have also done a super job around conversion courses at the universities and all of us have been involved in those. We’ve hired a number of people off it, so it is doing the business. It is proper computer science that we’re looking for, not ICT skills. That has been the big revelation in the sector.” Citi now employs more than 1,000 people in Belfast and Healy thinks the industry body Momentum’s suggestion that 20,000 new jobs could be created in the IT and digital sector in the next five years is not an outlandish one. “If we can get people in to the right subjects and qualified through the universities or conversion courses there’s no reason we can’t (create 20,000 jobs). We’ve a fantastic product and sometimes we forget to talk it up,” he said. Healy said that from CITI’s point of view Northern Ireland is still a competitive location and that the company continues to find people that it wants to employ here. He believes the programmes and initiatives set in motion will ensure the supply of candidates will meet demand created by more jobs. “There has been tightness in the labour market and the sector has come together as one to address it. We haven’t yet finished all of the out-workings of that, the constraints are still there. But we’re definitely making inroads. “There is so much more we can do, which is something we’ve told the Minister. If we had the supply we would be able to bring more work here. We are continuing to build and deliver, you’ve seen that in recent job announcements from Deloitte, Allstate and Merchant Warehouse. There has been a lot happening. So far CITI is not suffering from that, which shows the supply is getting there,” he added. “The risks come from economies like India and China, where resource constraint isn’t really a problem for them. They have vast numbers. That is why it is at the very top end, high quality jobs that Northern Ireland is operating. The overarching context is that there is a global shortage of technology skills, not just here, everywhere. But we stand a good chance because we are a small group that can get together with government and hammer out a plan which is then acted on.” ALLSTATE CHAMPING AT THE BIT Allstate NI recently unveiled an expansion of 650 new jobs over the next few years, 200 of which have already been hired, with 95% >>> from the local talent pool.
A word from Woz G
ame-based learning would encourage more children to pursue STEM subjects and feed the future need for engineers and computer scientists, according to Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak. Speaking to Ulster Business at the EBN Congress in Derry, organised by Norbic, the man who invented the revolutionary Apple 2 personal computer, said that to increase the number of young people who grow up thinking a technology career would be “cool”, it first had to be fun in school. “I would try to organise courses around solving puzzles, solving puzzles from crosswords on up, but where they are also learning mathematics to solve puzzles. Some people like to solve puzzles but don’t realise mathematics is the way they are solving them. Likewise if you want to explain something about physics give them little devices with motors,” he said. “A lot of that science and math is very boring in books. Let them be able to build projects like I was lucky to my whole life. Start learning logic by building some things up with little switches and their own little microprocessors and then programming. Programming is real critical but I’m not for teaching programming before a certain age. Until you’re ready for algebra it’s not right. You can learn to modify a programme but not to think up a programme on your own if you’re too young. It has to do with cognitive development phase called symbolic reasoning that most kids don’t get until they’re 12 years old,” he explained. Wozniak, who left Apple in the late 1980s to become a fifth-grade school teacher, also extolled the virtues of “hackerspaces” as a means of encouraging innovation and the development of
ideas into new products. “Before I ever heard the word Hackerspace we had a tech centre in Silicon Valley where they provided a set of rare tools like laser cutters, 3D printers, terminals for 3D design, a whole lot of these specialised tools for you to make your own projects, and then they shared the cost. You bought a membership and you could use those tools any time. Everybody doesn’t want their own copy machine or 3D printer, so it is a shared arrangement. Hackerspaces are giving people access to these kinds of things now and I am really glad to see that happening,” he said. “When I was young I wanted to build things whether they had value or not. After a certain point in time, every time I built something cool, Steve Jobs would come and see it and say, I know where to sell that, let’s sell that.” The Apple co-founder also said large employers were key to fostering innovation, noting that in the 1970s his employer HewlettPackard had a policy of letting its engineers borrow or buy parts – something which ultimately led to him being able to make the first Apple computer. Wozniak believes young people generally start the most innovative companies because they don’t have an attachment to the way things have been done before and are often working for intrinsic rewards or personal motivations. “Young people don’t have to live by the standard rules. That means they are greater risk takers, they can go in a new direction that hasn’t been done before, that’s outside the book,” he said. “It’s okay to violate the rules if you have enough intelligence to make it work. You don’t have to go by the book.”
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The US-owned company, which has been in Northern Ireland since 1998 and has 1,900 employees, has become adept at training people internally to meet its needs, says Managing Director Bro McFerran. He estimates a third of the workforce currently providing key services to its parent, the US insurer Allstate Corp, have non-IT qualifications and as such doesn’t anticipate any problem meeting the 650 target over three years. “If you look at our growth over the last 14 years it is averaging out at about 150 people a year, so it is keeping up the same batting average as we have been doing,” he said. “We still need to keep the pressure on all the government departments in terms of skills. We could create so many more jobs if we had the appropriate skills. My thoughts would be to stack the shelves high and the investment will follow, rather than the other way round, which we’ve done in the past.” The new positions, he says, are front line IT jobs, not back office jobs, requiring analysts, mathematicians and statisticians. McFerran says the main difficulty Allstate has is in recruiting “the rock stars of the IT world” – those with eight to ten years of experience. “We are no different to a lot of other organisations, we need those people to sustain the quality of the organisation. That is where the air is very thin in Northern Ireland, in getting those people. It is a very competitive market for getting those sorts of skills and if you talk to any of our peers in the business they have exactly the same issues recruiting those sorts of people. “I think we are reaping the whirlwind of a lack of activity 10 to 15 years ago and the fact that the political climate that prevailed then meant a lot of people were looking elsewhere for opportunities. With the emergence of large organisations like ours, there are a lot of people who are seriously looking at potentially coming home to good opportunities,” he added. McFerran says there is interaction between the international investors to ensure the advantages that exist in Northern Ireland – namely the low cost base – are maintained. “We all want to behave as good corporate citizens, we don’t want to inflate salaries here. We realise we’ve got something good going here, that we have to remain competitive and by so doing it is good for Northern Ireland in the long run. We’re not going to over pay people and a lot of other organisations that are here and are potentially looking here have the same message. The last thing we want is someone coming in and overcooking things and pillaging the workforce here, that’s not good for Northern Ireland,” he said.
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“We still need to keep the pressure on all the government departments in terms of skills. We could create so many more jobs if we had the skills.” NYSE GROWING THEIR OWN Helena Woodward, Senior HR Business Partner at NYSE Euronext says her company continues to be very positive about Belfast and its advantages. The operator of securities exchanges including the New York Stock Exchange arrived in Belfast in 2008 after purchasing local software firm Wombat and it remains in growth mode. “Currently, we have 25 open roles, which has been about the same over the last five years. We have 300 employees based in Belfast now, up from 120 five years ago,” said Helena. “We don’t use many contractors and our staff turnover is low. The key for us is to develop the people we have in house and progress their careers through training and mentoring. It has always been our philosophy to grow our own at NYSE Euronext while also hiring people in from the skilled end of the market too.” Referrals and a strong brand have helped NYSE Euronext maintain its hiring schedule but Helena agrees that the IT recruitment landscape in Belfast has become more competitive in recent years. “Software development and testing was central to the expansion in Belfast but there have been so many other areas that have developed since 2008 – information security, network and application support, systems engineering and corporate functions. Some of them, like information
security, are real niché areas,” she said. “NYSE Euronext and several other Capital Markets companies in Belfast have come together to form a Capital Markets Collaborative Network in order to address skills shortages and provide a forum for us to discuss compensation as salary inflation is against what we want to do here. There are some anomalies in key skills sets but we are still maintaining the cost base,” she added. To meet its needs, the US-owned company has backed the Capital Markets Academy conversion course (see P35) and is hiring ten new people from the programme in June. “The calibre of candidates has been excellent so it may be 15,” said Helena. SWEET HOME BELFAST Mark Bennett, Executive Director of the Belfast office of CME Group, the operators of the Chicago Mercantile Exchange, also remains upbeat about Northern Ireland’s prospects as a technology hub. A year after arriving in Belfast the company has hired around 70 of the 100 positions it initially committed to and expects to reach its target before the end of this year. Bennett says the Northern Ireland technology centre was a “strategic play” for CME in terms of globalising its technology workforce in line with business growth opportunities, and Belfast
had many advantages over other locations. “Talent is a given. Wherever we go we have to have the availability of talent otherwise there is no point in us being here. The other key for us was proximity to our European customers and our London office who we collaborate with very closely. Belfast is a place that is geographically centred to reach into the US and the rest of Europe,” he said. “One of the things I found very attractive about Northern Ireland in particular was the collaboration between business, the government and academia, which is very good here. The universities are very good at taking input from businesses in terms of what sort of skillsets we’re looking for and what we may need in the future and preparing their students for the workforce.” Predominant skillsets for CME in Belfast are software engineers as well as network engineers and desktop engineers. “I would say that those languages, Java and C#, would be two of the most difficult to find software developers that we are looking for,” said Bennett. “It is never easy (to find the right talent) no matter where you are, and Belfast is no different. One of the key things for us is to work with the university system as well as primary and secondary schools to continue to increase the number of kids who are interested in STEM programmes. I think you’ll find a similar kind of feeling from our peers here as well,” he added. The bulk of CME’s hires have come from the local market and the promotion of the capital markets business community has also helped it attract candidates to come back home. “My feeling around that is that if you increase the amount of companies here, if you increase the awareness that it is a place with a lot of jobs, you’re going to attract candidates into it and you’re going to increase the number of kids that are interested in the career field. From the longterm perspective things that are good for the local economy are good for us,” he said. “I take a long-term perspective. Sure, competition can make things tighter in the jobs market but the long term benefits are very significant,” he added. DOUBLE-EDGED SWORD Newry-based capital markets software and consulting firm First Derivatives is set to take on 80 graduates and 40 experienced hires this year. Three years ago the company committed to creating 359 core consulting jobs and is on its way to hitting that target. But recruitment director Shane Mullholland agrees it is becoming hard to find enough C# and Java developers in Ireland. “We are for the first time hiring Greek, >>>
Neueda filling tech jobs gap
eueda, one of Northern Ireland’s largest IT Consulting and Training firms, has delivered the first Capital Markets Academy (CMA) training programme for financial markets companies including NYSE Euronext and First Derivatives. The programme produced 19 graduates ready to take up posts immediately in their new firms. The CMA is a 14 week Software Developer training academy for graduates with a degree from any discipline and has evolved from training programmes which Neueda delivers to many of the world’s leading investment banks in Asia, Europe and North America. The initiative, which is delivered in partnership with Invest NI, will run twice a year over three years, transforming at least 120 graduates into IT professionals. David Bole from Neueda told Ulster Business the programme feeds into the goals established by the Capital Markets Collaborative Network to help address the skills gap in the sector. “It is about looking at graduates coming out with good degrees in maybe civil engineering or chemical engineering, something with a science bent to it, but who wouldn’t be ready for a career in IT. These people are bright, they have problem solving skills, they get the engineering side – it was about going to those people who are one step removed from computer science and giving them the foundation both in capital markets but also technical skills to contribute to a career at a company like Citi or First Derivatives,” he said. “The real shortage for the employers in Belfast is around good programming skills, good software development skills, so that is our key
focus. Development and support are the big areas for a lot of these clients.” While David concedes that some conversion courses haven’t been that successful, he says the CMA has been much more selective in assessing who made it on to the course. Neueda’s training operation works with large clients in Ireland such as Google, and internationally it helps big clients such as Credit Suisse, UBS, Morgan Stanley and Citi induct new recruits. It also has a large consulting business that works with the likes of NIE, NI Water, Irish Water and Bord Gais. Bole believes it is imperative Northern Ireland meets the demand for computer science graduates as companies will act quickly if they can’t get the right staff. “The big downturn in 2000/2001 after the dotcom bubble burst probably meant parents were probably rightly advising their kids to stay away from IT because all they heard about was dotcom disasters – go for construction or engineering. That was fine for a few years, but the numbers coming out of university in IT started to drop. Now you’re starting to see more school kids going for STEM qualifications and going on into IT courses. That’s essential because if we don’t grow that workforce, the companies will just go elsewhere,” he said. “These companies are here for hundreds of jobs. We have to get to a critical mass where there are enough specialists in Belfast. The demand is definitely there. There’s no one big answer to these questions, there are a series of small answers. Our programme is just one of them,” he said.
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US firm Merchant Warehouse is bringing 70 jobs to Belfast
Cypriot and Spanish graduates, which on one hand is a good thing because we become a more cosmopolitan organisation. But from a business NI perspective, we’re just not finding enough of what we’re looking for. It is frustrating,” he said. “I am just back from Barcelona where they are awash with technology graduates who can’t find jobs. We’ve hired out of the university of Waterloo in Toronto, some of the US universities, the University of Capetown and Stellenbosch in South Africa. We’ve also hired out of Australia and as we’re now just kicking off a Singapore venture, we’re looking at Chinese students studying in Northern Ireland who want to go back to China again. The bulk of that 80 will come from traditional Irish and British universities but we’re widening the net.” While Mullholland notes progress is being made he says the high drop out rate for Computer Science courses across Ireland is still a major concern. “People move into less programming focused computer courses because they want to stay technical, but they are not programmers. They are not Java or C++ programmers. There is a significant deficit. For those that do make it
they are going to get a lot of offers. That’s only going to increase. We have law grads wanting to work for free to get their foot in the door but the flip side is that computer science grads are telling us they have four or five offers and they are going to take their time to pick the right one or that we’re not offering enough,” he said. First Derivatives have traditionally hired a lot of people with three to seven years’ experience who were young and prepared to travel internationally to work in its New York, Toronto and London offices. As the company matures, and having opened a product development centre in Belfast, it is finding roles for those people with 10 years’ experience who want a settled role in Northern Ireland – putting it in more direct competition with the likes of Citi. “It is a bit of a double edged sword for us. We are an indigenous company that has done well in this capital markets space and were happy to endorse the idea of making Northern Ireland a capital markets centre of excellence. But the challenge is we’re scrapping in the same pool for talent,” he said. “There’s definitely a disconnect between jobs in the marketplace and a clear understanding of those opportunities in schools.”
“WE DO GET SOME REALLY GOOD STUDENTS, BUT WE’RE NOT GETTING THEM IN THE SAME NUMBERS AS GO INTO MEDICINE, LAW AND ACCOUNTING.” 36 JUNE 2013
THE APPLIANCE OF SCIENCE Professor Richard Millar, Dean of the Faculty of Computing & Engineering at University of Ulster says that extensive work is being done to address that disconnect. Better information at school level about what computer science degree entails, as well as the rewards at the end, have already seen drop out rates go from 17% in 2006/07 to 9% in 2011/12. “The drop out rate has been consistently dropping. That has been down to a lot of work explaining to students what computer science is. When students have stayed with us our success rate is actually one of the best in the UK. But we had a high early leavers dropout rate people who got into it, quickly realised it was about problem solving mathematics and wasn’t for them. Now we explain the nature of the course better,” he said. “If I go back five years we would have been in clearing for computing courses. Therefore there were places there and people who hadn’t got anything else saw it and thought they’d give it a try. That didn’t help anybody. That’s changed. The demand has increased again this year and students have to think carefully, they can’t drift into it.” Prof Millar believes that the new A-Level in software systems development that will be taught from September will also help. “ICT as a subject in school has done us a lot of damage. People who were good at ICT thought they would be good at computer science, which doesn’t always follow. That didn’t help the retention rate,” he notes. “ICT in school is a lot about using spreadsheets and powerpoint, so the really good students looked at it and thought there was no challenge in computing, they thought that’s what computer science was. That hasn’t helped either of the universities. We do get some really good students, but we’re not getting them in the same numbers as go into medicine and law and accounting. A lot of them were switched off ICT in schools. The new A-Level is much more aligned with industry needs and attuned to the degree, which will help us attract more of the brighter people into computer science as a career.” University of Ulster has also introduced a generalist masters course aimed at getting graduates into the IT sphere, with 40 students taking part this year. It has also developed “earnas-you-learn” scheme with Kainos Software to bring part-time students into the IT workforce. The professor adds: “It is a strategy we are exploring with other employers at present and could be another part of the solution because there are no restrictions on the number of parttime students universities can take.”
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Addressing skills shortages
ews of Allstate’s three-year plan to add some 650 more IT and technology workers in sites across the province is testament to the strength of the local ICT sector. However, Northern Ireland is facing a dilemma. At a time of higher unemployment (and therefore higher job demand), many posts remain unfilled. And despite recent positive announcements, many of these unfilled posts can be found in the ICT sector – possibly over 1,000, according to Momentum. This skills dilemma is not unique to Northern Ireland. The UK market has suffered a number of years of economic uncertainty and this looks set to continue for some time yet. Skill shortages exist in sectors as diverse as energy, IT, procurement, engineering and finance regulation and there is also a tightening of immigration rules for skilled workers. In Northern Ireland, the IT and telecoms sectors account for nearly 30,000 jobs at present and it has been predicted that a further 20,000 new jobs could be created here within the next five years – given sufficient supply of skills. At Hays, for example, we’re seeing consistent high demand for key programming skills (particularly with JAVA, C++ and .NET) as well as developers, infrastructure architects,
analysts and project managers. These are key roles within an ecosystem needed to sustain a thriving and vibrant digital sector. But in order to future-proof that sector, employers need to take a strategic, long-term look at the skills they are lacking and commit to investment in developing talent in these areas, whether through training, apprenticeships, university bursaries or training people with transferable skills. Beyond this there are community initiatives like CoderDojo. It’s a free coding club for kids that we actively support, where professionals volunteer as mentors and show kids how to create games as well as play them. This project is having a major impact on the skills development and career pathways of our younger generation. I would urge anyone with a passion for technology to log on to http://coderdojo.com/ and find out more about how to get involved. Finding the right person can transform a business, but finding a supply of the right people can transform an industry – and a region. That is where Northern Ireland plc stands today: on the threshold of securing a foothold in a globally competitive arena, driving growth and opportunities and, ultimately, staking a claim to long-term prosperity.
Stay and you can surf for free with Hastings Hotels
ollowing a successful collaboration between Eos System and Dell Sonicwall guests staying with Northern Ireland’s leading hotel collection can now enjoy free Wi-Fi in the public areas of its six hotels.
By John Moore, Director at Hays Northern Ireland
Whether staying at any of the Hastings Hotels for business or leisure, residents are able to surf the internet for free, Howard Hastings, Managing Director of Hastings Hotels believes this new service will be well received by guests. “We are delighted to be able to offer residents
free Wi-Fi in the public areas of our six hotels. We have found a growing demand from guests and with more and more people using the internet and with greater access through their mobile phones, iPads and laptops, we feel this is a service which will be very popular”. “We were able to utilise all the security features available with Dell Sonicwall products and offered a totally robust Wi-Fi solution suitable for the Hotel, this rollout completes the first stage in a larger Wi-Fi solution. Dell Sonicwall Products will be able to expand the solution for future requirements,” said Peter Brown, Technical Director, Eos Systems. “Free Wi-Fi will be useful for residents whether staying for business, using it for video conferencing or for leisure guests who want to pass the time by keeping up to date with their social networking,” Peter added. Free Wi-Fi is available at the Culloden Estate & Spa, Slieve Donard Resort & Spa, Europa Hotel, Everglades Hotels, Stormont Hotel and Ballygally Castle. Guests will be given a password when they check-in which will be valid for the duration of their stay. If you require any information on the solution or other solutions please contact Peter from Eossystems on 028 9045 9222 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Peter Brown, Eos Systems (left) with Howard Hastings
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Allianz A4 Blue Arena Ulster Business ad PQ1.pdf
Shredding the Rulebook Philip Bain, Director and Co-founder of ShredBank, is the fourth of the alumni to be profiled in our “Ulster Business School – Leaders In Business” series.
Philip Bain, Director and Co-founder of ShredBank, BA Honours Business Studies Alumnus, Ulster Business School
What is your current role and why does it appeal to you? I am Director and Co-founder of ShredBank. My business partner James Carson and I set the company up in 2007 and we are now Northern Ireland’s largest on-site shredding company. ShredBank shreds confidential documents for clients at their premises using mobile shredding trucks. The business appeals to me because we provide a vital service in ensuring that all businesses are legally and environmentally compliant when it comes to the disposal of their confidential documents. Beyond that, the business is very community focused. Last year ShredBank raised over £20,000 for The Prince’s Trust in Northern Ireland by delivering 30 business growth seminars. The money raised went to help disadvantaged young people get into employment, education or training. We also provide a free shredding event between
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12.00am-2.00pm on the last Friday of every month at Forestside Shopping Centre. Voluntary donations go to The Alzheimer’s Society which is very close to our hearts. What is your own educational background? I did a business degree at the Ulster Business School and, after a serious amount of work, graduated with a First Class Honours in Business Studies. My time in University was a great grounding for my career and I learned a lot, particularly about Marketing from Professor Mark Durkin who was my lecturer then and my good friend now. Mark would ask me to speak to his students on many occasions and I have always maintained good links with the University. I am also a Chartered Fellow of the Chartered Management Institute and Fellow of the Institute of Consulting. How did you choose this career field and what has been your path? I have always loved business, which is great because I was useless at everything else! My father got me interested in it. When I was in my teens, my father brought the Pizza Hut franchise to Northern Ireland even though he had just gone into a period of remission from leukaemia. Before he died, he had set up four Pizza Huts in Northern Ireland within two years. After graduating, I became a Marketing Manager at the age of 22 and the rest of my career was in developing and growing small businesses. However, I always wanted to set up my own business. Providentially, I bumped into a lifelong
“MY TIME IN UNIVERSITY WAS A GREAT GROUNDING FOR MY CAREER AND I LEARNED A LOT.” friend of mine that I hadn’t seen in ten years, we met for coffee and by the time the cups were set down ShredBank was born! What is the most rewarding part of your job? The most rewarding part of my job has been to see ShredBank develop and grow over the years. We are now a multi award-winning business and we recently were awarded the Nectar Business Award by Karren Brady from The Apprentice! To see what ShredBank can do to make a difference in the community is very rewarding. As well as raising money for The Prince’s Trust and Alzheimer’s Society we are also interested in promoting entrepreneurship amongst young people. I deliver seminars on entrepreneurship at University of Ulster and Queen’s University and recently we delivered a business idea generation workshop to Newtownbreda High School in conjunction with Castlereagh Borough Council. In terms of our future plans for community and charitable activities... watch this space!
Management & Leadership
Follow the leader The retirement of football manager Sir Alex Ferguson highlighted the tricky situation facing organisations that must replace a great leader, as well as the huge expectations that rest on the shoulders of the person chosen to fill their shoes.
hen the Manchester United football manager sir Alex Ferguson retired there was, among the glowing tributes, a hefty amount of commentary about the pressures of following the great man. Having amassed a haul of 49 trophies in 26 years in charge at what is – love them or loathe them – one of the biggest football clubs in the world and a truly global brand, the man to step into Sir Alex’s shoes was always going to be under pressure from day one. That the Everton manager David Moyes was announced immediately as the club’s new boss showed that the retirement had been in the works for some time and that a succession plan was in place. Rather than promote from within, United chose to appoint an up and coming manager who had enjoyed some success – but won no trophies – at a smaller club and who, as a no nonsense Scot, is very much in the mould of
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Ferguson (remember the hairdryer). Moyes was Sir Alex’s choice as his successor, which raised some questions about the sort of power the outgoing manager would retain in his new role as a director. But in all, the transition was managed smoothly and with everyone at the club seemingly on board. David Moyes now has the summer to prepare before the real scrutiny of his credentials to take on one of the toughest jobs in football begins. Many businesses here in Northern Ireland are family owned and operated, often with their founder still at the helm. That creates a very real challenge when that person reaches an age where they need to hand the reins over to ensure the business survives. Decisions must be made as to whether the next generation of the same family is capable of running the business as well as their parent, is another candidate from within the company the better choice, or does outside expertise and
experience need to be brought in. Andre Spicer, Professor of Organisational Behaviour from Cass Business School says the retirement of great leaders usually results in great uncertainty for organisations. “Typically, the retiring leader casts a shadow over the whole organisation for many years. Losing a great leader is like enduring a death. Typically followers experience feeling of profound loss and emptiness – similar to when you lose a family member,” he said. “They also idealise the achievements of the leader, and the more negative part of their tenure airbrushed out of the picture. The result is it becomes impossible for a successor to fill the old leader’s shoes. Often they try by simply imitating what the great leader had done in the past or pushing through radical change to signal a break from the past. Often these two strategies are bound to fail. Instead a new leader needs to accept the old leader’s legacy but at the same
MANAGEMENT & LEADERSHIP
time slowly and steadily build their own style.” Neal Lucas, managing director of executive search company Neal Lucas Recruitment, notes that beyond winning trophies, David Moyes’ biggest challenge is to emerge from the shadow of the former Manchester United number one. This, he says, is a tough ask in any organisation – be it in sport or business – but says there are ways the new leader can avoid failure and ensure they make their own mark. “The first task when you step up to the role is to audit what the organisation does well. Understanding how the success to date has been
achieved and what the current and emerging changes which need to be addressed are, is vital to making future decisions,” he said. “Identifying the strengths of the business and enhancing those positives is key but covering weaknesses on a temporary basis until a remedial solution can be applied is just as crucial. “The new leader usually has the advantage of perspective and fresh ideas but this needs to be tempered and challenged through rigorous analysis and injections of expert advice.” In replacing a strong leader it is also important to reflect honestly on your own strengths and development needs, which makes the selection of your management team crucial, says the recruitment expert. “As it is highly unlikely that you will be an identical character to the person you are replacing you need to ensure that complementary skills are in place. This will inevitably mean having to let people go and bring in other new blood to the team for the good of the organisation. This process will further highlight the need to have a focus with clear targets and a robust deployment monitor,” he said. The importance of never being satisfied with current performance or success is also vital. “Good is the enemy of great. This is a maxim I think applies to a lot of people and businesses in Northern Ireland. We boast of our education system and talented workforce and it is true
that we have a lot of good businesses here and talented people, but the vast majority lack the real drive, passion and commitment necessary that ensure sustained success and growth are achieved,” said Lucas. “It is of course inevitable that you will have to accept some short term losses and make do with circumstance not of your choosing for a period, but always having a plan for excellence in all areas and striving for continuous improvement is essential to making your mark in a new role. “When the time comes to act in your new role it is the decisions you make that will define your tenure.” Neal Lucas advises that while you should ensure that a decision is based on thorough analysis and you have garnered all the facts and opinions of those around you, it is up to you to use your judgement and be ruthless in its implementation. “A lot of people struggle with making decisions, particularly when they are new to a role, however as long as your judgement is holistic, strategic and does not compromise your core values or is deflected by emotion then it will inevitably take the organisation in the right direction,” he said. It is important that any personal or team development is done in the context of trying to close a perceived skills gap. Successfully blending the old and new team, processes or cultures to constantly refresh the organisation is the real magic, he adds. “Accepted wisdom would suggest that Sir Alex Ferguson’s greatest skill was his ability to continually create new teams, which in truth evolved from one and other. Nothing from the old regime is sacred, so it was for Ferguson so it will continue to be,” says Neal. “With strong bonds and emotional relationships solidified by success and meeting challenges together, replacing people and changing the way things are done is the real acid test for all leaders.”
“A lot of people struggle with making decisions, particularly when they are new to a role.” NEAL LUCAS JUNE 2013 43
MANAGEMENT & LEADERSHIP
Pictured at the Lego Serious Play (LSP) workshop are Andy Rebbeck, Team Manager, Allstate NI; Doug Safford, VP Architecture, Allstate; Alan Branagh, owner of The Insight Factory and Opal Perry, VP Enterprise Testing and Release Management, Allstate.
Another brick in the wall l
ego may be best known as the building bricks beloved of children across the world, but it is now making a move into the workplace. That’s because major international companies, such as Allstate, are engaging in the Lego Serious Play (LSP) programme to help change the culture within their organisations. LSP is an innovative, experiential process designed to enhance innovation and business performance through team building exercises that require creative thinking. It is based on research which has shown that hands-on, minds-on learning produces a deeper, more meaningful understanding of the world, as well as supporting effective dialogue for everyone in an organisation. Workshops are carried out in Belfast by The Insight Factory, which has more than ten years’ experience in the discipline and is one of only three accredited LSP partners in the UK and Ireland. Alan Branagh, owner of The Insight Factory, explained: “LSP is designed to encourage maximum performance from all employees and enable a behavioural and cultural transformation through an imaginative
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interactive, learning process. “There’s a myriad of skills that businessmen and women can develop from LSP. Lego is an excellent medium with multiple applications from which we can learn in a business environment. Allstate Northern Ireland employees are already prototyping, modelling and trialling products virtually so bringing them together to do it with a tool such as Lego makes bonds even stronger and skills even more finely-tuned.” The Insight Factory’s aim is that through Inner Game Coaching, LEGO SERIOUS PLAY® and High Performance Management it helps individuals, teams and organisations to develop their full potential. Alan adds: “When our hands are used in thinking, such as when we use Lego, a process takes place that generates a powerful, emotional charge. As a result, thoughts and ideas that are built with our hands tend to be expressed in greater detail. They are more easily understood and better remembered and the process can be applied to enhance performance areas within a business, such as innovation and collaboration. Cultures can often vary from team to team and when we are looking at divisions spread
over the globe, this can become even more significant.” Andy Rebbeck, team leader in Allstate in Northern Ireland, said that with offices in Belfast, Strabane and Londonderry, as well as headquarters in Chicago and sites across America, Allstate teams work together virtually on a frequent basis. “Our overarching goal from the LSP experience is to encourage and promote a spirit of collaborative skills across the company so that teams can work even more productively and efficiently. Through this experience we should be able to take dialogues to deeper levels and we see LSP as a catalyst which can enable us to progress and impart a change in ethos within our company on a multi-site basis,” he said. “When you look at what collaboration can achieve with Lego, the opportunities are endless. You may see a car; someone else may see a rocket – put these two people together and they may just create something beyond what they could have imagined when working individually. We realise what collaboration can do for our business and our biggest assets – our staff, and this is an excellent, fun way to develop skills, understanding and stronger teams.”
Supporting Ulster businesses for over 40 years The Ulster Business School offers undergraduate and postgraduate programmes which are delivered on a part-time, full-time or distance learning basis. Expertise can be developed for individuals or business in areas such as: • • • • • • • •
Accounting Business Administration Business Improvement Corporate Governance Entrepreneurship Events Management Financial Services Hospitality Management
• • • • • • •
Human Resource Management Innovation International Business Leadership Marketing Sports Management Tourism Management
We invite you to drop into our Part-time Study Information Events to meet staff and discuss your options. Tuesday 18 June; 4pm - 7pm Martha Magee’s, Magee campus Thursday 27 June; 12pm - 7pm Foyer, Belfast campus www.ulster.ac.uk/up
We also design and deliver programmes for organisations to meet a specific training and development need.
For more information, please contact: Nicholas Read t: +44 (0)28 9036 8880 e: email@example.com
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MANAGEMENT & LEADERSHIP
Business leaders must drive innovation
orthern Ireland’s economy has strengths that other regions “would give their right arm for” but risks falling behind if it doesn’t invest in innovation. That was the warning issued by Geoff Mulgan, CEO of the UK’s innovation foundation Nesta, at a recent event staged by the organisation in Belfast. Mr Mulgan said that at a time when global spend on research and development was going up, particularly in powerhouse economies like China, India and Brazil, it was worrying that UK spend on innovation is shrinking. “In some ways the last 20-30 years has gone well in many industries. The UK has remained at the cutting edge in industries like pharmaceuticals, aerospace, the creative economy,” he told Ulster Business. “We are starting with many strengths and most nations would give their right arm for the capabilities we’ve got, but we will only retain what we have if we make the investment and value the future as much as the present. Our biggest risk is that our horizons shrink in because of economic and fiscal crises and people live more hand to mouth and don’t take actions now that will pay off in 5, 10, 20 years time.” A recent Nesta survey found more than half of Northern Ireland businesses are investing less than one per cent of revenue in innovation. Of 220 business leaders surveyed, 18 per cent said they had invested nothing and 38% invested less than one per cent of their business revenue in innovation in the last financial year. Just over a fifth (22 per cent) of business leaders said they
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invested between one to five per cent of their revenue in innovation. The survey also showed that public sector contracts are not providing much of an incentive to innovate, with half of Northern Ireland’s business leaders saying these contracts do not encourage businesses to be innovative. “Even before the financial crisis a lot of UK businesses were investing more in cash and concrete. They were hoarding cash and investing in buildings rather than investing in services and technologies and new ideas. I think that is partly the fault of our finance system, which has never sufficiently recognised the value of innovation by comparison with perhaps Japan or Germany or Silicon Valley,” said Mulgan. “Since the crisis there’s been a further squeeze which is partly about uncertainty and a lack of confidence. But I fear that financial markets still don’t value long term investment in innovation. Investing in innovation doesn’t guarantee you’ll grow but it is almost certainly a necessary condition for growth. When I go to countries like South Korea, which is dramatically increasing its investment in R&D, you sense we just can’t afford complacency.” The Nesta CEO said he had been impressed by the innovation being shown in Northern Ireland’s farming and food sectors – industries that don’t immediately jump to mind as being at the cutting edge of innovation. But Nesta’s poll showed that the majority of business leaders here (62 per cent) think that the Northern Ireland Executive is doing too little to give businesses the confidence to invest in new
products, services and ways of working. Mulgan said that there’s a need to educate our politicians that innovation no longer has to be centred on big expensive labs and that other types of incentives and rewards can be used to tap into creativity wherever it is. “There is a need for big science projects that are global and take big pools of knowledge. Northern Ireland is pretty well placed on those. But it is in addition to those that we need the quicker, leaner methods like challenge prizes, accelerators, crowd-sourcing platforms. We’d like more places to be consciously offering themselves as laboratories. Why can’t a medium sized town position itself as such, why can’t a school test out new educational technology? The more you can imbed that innovative spirit in everything, the better,” he said. “In an ideal world everything in the economy would be market driven, it would all be done by angel investors and banks, but when that doesn’t happen government has no choice but to act. What you want to happen is government doing more as an investor rather than a revenue funder. The problem with Northern Ireland, with its public sector dependence, is that it is dependent on year on year payments rather than on investment,” he added. “It is a bigger issue for the UK and western countries which have often tended to cut investment budgets in order to keep services afloat. You can understand why that makes political sense in the short term but you have to ask what the next generation will say looking back.”
CHARTERED DIRECTOR PROGRAMME Better directors, better boards, better business!
The Institute of Directors (“IoD”) sets the standards for leadership in the UK and Ireland. Our highly acclaimed Chartered Director Programme is designed to ensure that the directors of today and tomorrow from all sectors can contribute effectively to major organisation-wide decisions. With a current all-Ireland annual demand for 115 places, we are clearly the leader in our market segment – and all six current cohorts were oversubscribed. We offer 12½ days of face-to-face tuition over nine months including five two-day residentials on the themes of
• Role of the Director and the Board • Strategy and Marketing • Finance • Leadership and Change • Developing Board Performance Our programme leads to the IoD Certificate (“Cert IoD”) and Diploma (“Dip IoD”) – afterwards we help many go on to become Chartered Directors – the “gold standard” for professional directors in the UK and Ireland and increasingly adopted worldwide. We draw upon the IoD’s unrivalled resources – approved facilitators who work internationally and understand the implementation issues rather than simply the theory, state-of-the-art programme materials and highly accessible online support. The modules are delivered in an engaging, enjoyable style. Aimed at busy people there are no tedious assignments or dissertations. There are however two exams, for which our delegates are well-prepared, consistently excelling in terms of both pass-rate and number of Distinctions. The opportunities for networking and peer learning, during the programme and in our local Alumni group, feature highly in delegate feedback. The next NI programme starts on 25/26 Sept 2013 and finishes in June 2014. If the local dates for a particular session do not suit we have alternatives in Dublin. Some financial support towards fees may be available.
For details and endorsements call Peter Martin on 028 9064 1131 or email firstname.lastname@example.org P.S. It’s fun too!
MANAGEMENT & LEADERSHIP
Damian Duffy, Director of Development and Learner Services
Skills with a purpose Less than a year after opening Belfast Met’s e3 building has already become a thriving shared space for learners, businesses and community groups. Ulster Business went to find out more.
here has been a lot of talk in recent years about the need for our further and higher education institutions to listen to what businesses want and be attuned to their skills requirements. It is a conversation that the province’s largest FE college, Belfast Met, has been at the forefront of, and having made a huge investment in its physical infrastructure and technical capabilities, it is clearly also prepared to walk the walk. The completion of its flagship £44m Titanic Quarter campus in 2011 was followed last year by the opening of the £18m e3 economic development building on its Springvale campus in West Belfast. Designed to accommodate up to 500 users on a daily basis, the high-spec, high-tech e3 building houses specialist zones dedicated to digital media, manufacturing technology, catering, business incubation, SME training and renewable technologies. 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. On all counts e3 has got off to a flying start in
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its first nine months, says Damien Duffy, Belfast Met’s Head of Business Development. “The building has proved very successful because it is a shared space which enables learners, businesses and community groups to come together,” he told Ulster Business. The location of e3 within Belfast Met’s Springvale campus and adjacent to the College’s Community Learning Centre, placing it on the Peace Line, is deliberate. Damian Duffy says that opening the doors of e3 last September has enabled the college to have a “very positive community conversation,” and helped it deliver new solutions to assist young people Not in Education, Employment or Training (NEETS) through a DEL-supported programme called Threshold. “There’s a very positive vibe here because you have people coming here with different levels of ability. We are covering the full range of educational training from essential skills to degree level qualifications,” says Duffy. “We aim to get our students to understand the benefits of life-long learning. If we can do that, organisations will become more capable and that feeds into Northern Ireland being more innovative and competitive. Jobs and growth follow on from that. It is about trying to get that virtuous circle of skills and employment, skills with a purpose.”
Within its massive brief, which sees Belfast Met with over 37,000 student enrolments including full time learners and those undertaking professional development, many programmes have been designed to meet the specific needs of industry sectors and individual employers. “We are absolutely joined at the hip with business because we need to be responsive to the needs of business. It makes sense to listen if you have the chief technical officer of a company saying we employ 200 people but I could employ 90 more if I had these skills. We need to tune into those conversations,” says Duffy. “When we talk about Northern Ireland plc one of the strengths we have is human capital – a young, educated resource. If we’re going to be globally competitive we need to be creative and innovative about how we invest in that human capital.” In its drive to become a world class FE/ HE institution the college has invested in a dedicated business development team that talks to businesses to understand their needs and deliver training solutions to meet them. Solutions range from the Assured Skills programmes needed by Invest NI to support FDI investors, to INNOVATEUS, a knowledge transfer and mentoring programme and its award-winning creative thinking programme FRESH. “We can have a conversation with a business
MANAGEMENT & LEADERSHIP
and bring a qualification to the table for that business within six weeks. We can put together a foundation degree within six months when it would normally take two years to bring together a degree programme. That agile, flexible approach is key for us. You need to be able to respond to the needs of business,” explains Duffy. “We work with some of the biggest companies in the city – the likes of Citi, Bombardier, Delta Print & Packaging, Montupet – to deliver customised training programme and we’re developing a new training solution for SMEs to launch in September that has a bit more flexibility built in,” he adds. “The unique thing about Belfast Met is that most of our staff will have industry experience. We have people lecturing who are well connected, understand the needs of business and take a pragmatic, practical approach to it.” Throughout the history of Belfast Met the college has delivered on both academic and vocational solutions. It has been part of the fabric of the success of the city of Belfast and is taking responsibility for driving forward developments in key sectors. The priority areas for Belfast Met, as laid out in its Skills Matter Strategy, are energy and renewables; ICT; life & health sciences; and advanced engineering & materials. It has joined key groups such as the Energy Skills Network cluster and introduced IT programmes ranging from its Software Professionals Programme right down to the CoderDojo scheme designed to get children aged 6 to 16 interested in programming. The bright, airy, futuristic design of the e3 campus is certainly somewhere you can envisage innovation taking place. A quick tour shows the college’s investment in equipment that has created an industry leading composites autoclave, a renewable energy research hub and a cutting edge digital media technology suite – all with an eye on teaching skills students can use in the industries of the future. “We also have to be more entrepreneurial ourselves by diversifying and attracting new
Chris Corken, Business Lead for Energy and Sustainability with Foundation Degree in Sustainability students Saran Daly and Roisin O’Kane
revenue streams. We have to make the most of the funds we get from the Department and offer solutions to businesses that they are prepared to pay for, in part by offering them access to equipment they couldn’t afford themselves,” says Damian Duffy. Belfast Met is also working alongside the universities to help promote the broader innovation ecosystem in Northern Ireland. A collaborative approach between industry, academia and government will be absolutely crucial if the workforce in Northern Ireland is to gain the skills needed to drive the economy forward. Far from competing with Northern Ireland’s two universities that often means close collaboration with them, says Duffy. “Northern Ireland is too small a place for all the education and vocational training organisations to operate in isolation. We need to have more joined up, collaborative approaches. For example we’re using the Connected programme to work alongside the universities on
Belfast Met’s innovative and award-winning FRESH programme
areas like Connected Health to make sure what we’re doing is relevant,” he explains. The work taking place ar e3 is proof that what Belfast Met is doing is relevant and as it continues to refine its offering, the college believes it can export some of its expertise to other jurisdictions. “We have a world class capability here and we think there are opportunities for us to package that and bring it to other parts of the world. We’ve partnered with 20 other FE colleges in the UK to open an office in Delhi; we’re about to sign a collaborative agreement with Bombay Chamber of Commerce; we’ve a team in Saudi Arabia this week exploring the potential to support the development of technical colleges in Saudi; and we’re also increasingly talking about how we bring capability to overseas market as a cluster,” says Duffy. It is an approach that mirrors the goals for Northern Ireland’s economy to be more export-driven, less inward looking and more entrepreneurial. As the new economy takes shape, Duffy believes the rounded and practical skills gained by those who opt for the FE college route, will prove attractive in a Northern Ireland that has been fixated on academic outcomes for too long. “Historically people had a different impression of an FE college, it was just ‘the tech’. But it is not a second choice option now. In terms of enrolments they are increasing year on year and young people are making a positive decision to come through this route,” he says. “The economics of education and the increase in university fees has a lot of parents wondering how they are going to fund their kids’ higher education. That means many parents are not only considering the traditional route of university but also the employability chances offered by the FE college route. Some of the biggest employers in the region fully endorse that approach.” For further information, contact Belfast Met Business Development Team, Tel: (028) 9026 5069 or email@example.com
JUNE 2013 49
Going for Goals What makes a customer ‘loyal’, and keeps them coming back for more? The secret to retaining customers seems to elude even the most successful organisations. David Meade explores how one simple technique can DOUBLE the likelihood of a customer returning to your business again and again.
ustomer Loyalty is one of those ubiquitous buzzwords that is bandied around every sales meeting and boardroom, yet most organisations fail to properly grasp how to generate, nurture, and cultivate this valuable source of revenue. The cheapest, and most valuable leads are the ones that are already in our address book, yet very little seems to be known about what makes a customer buy from us again and again. So misunderstood is this golden egg laying goose that many organisations have come to erroneously confuse constant contact with loyalty; they think if they continue to send out sales letters, make courtesy calls, and distribute email newsletters that their customers are engaged and are therefore more likely to prop up their balance sheets all year long. THE QUICK FIX When faced with the challenge of building loyalty, even the most experienced organisations tend to fall into the well trodden, and vastly ineffective, track of ‘the gimmick’.
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Offering returning customers a discount for a second order, or an attractive bulk deal, or a BOGOF, or even a free gift all seem like viable options. In truth though, unless the customer specifically asked for some such incentive, they’re likely already fairly satisfied with your pricing model. Instead of encouraging a more engaged relationship with your clients, it may serve to debase the perceived value and quality of your product lineup and reduce the buying decision to ‘cheapest deal wins’. Even the term ‘loyal’ is misleading. Loyalty implies that customers need to be attracted and
seduced, at any cost, via some cleverly invented scheme when in truth loyalty is in more about ‘retention’ than ‘invention’. Retaining an already won client is less about the carrot and more about the likelihood that they’ll stick with your offering over any other when you’ve met their expectations. You can’t put a price on a promise, and the first step to retaining a client is keeping yours. According to Gartner, roughly 20% of your current client base are generating 80% of your profits, so the key for any businesses to survive and grow is to build sustainable sales stream from within your
“The key for any businesses to survive and grow is to build sustainable sales stream from within your existing base of customers.”
existing base of customers. So how do we build and retain loyal customers that continue to buy from us again and again? According to recent research, it’s much simpler than you might have hoped. PUNCH ME, PLEASE Coffee and sandwich bars are my office, and when I’m not at an event I can most likely be found surfing the circuit of free wifi wielding coffee shops in the city. I’ve accumulated an embarrassingly large collection of heavily punctured loyalty cards to prove it. Every time I order a sandwich, I get a single ‘smiley’ shaped punch in my card, and the server explains that I get a free lunch after ten stamps. Looking at my card I see they’ve actually made three punches. The goal is ten punches, of course, but this progress of three could be seen in two distinct ways. I’m either already 30% of the way to getting my promised free meal, or I’ve got 70% to go. The question is, which of these two views is more likely to compel me to get that card filled with holes? Which view is more likely to make me return again and again to get that elusive free meal? The answer is clear, and might offer organisations like yours a useful clue as to how to make your loyalty schemes more effectual, and in fact increase your likelihood of persuading anyone – even yourself – to do anything.
NEARLY THERE Recent research has found that a person’s likelihood to successfully achieve a goal of any kind is dramatically enhanced if they focus on the small incremental progress they have achieved so far, rather than the large amount of effort that may be left. According to the Chicago School of Business, one possible explanation for why focusing on even a very small point of progress might increase motivation is because the marginal impact of each action can appear larger. An action that takes someone from 20% completion of a task to 40% is a doubling of progress. In contrast, moving from 60% completion to 80% represents just 33% progress. To test the phenomenon, nearly 1,000 customers were enrolled in a loyalty scheme where they would receive a complimentary lunch after they had bought ten. 50% of the subjects were given a card that was rubber stamped with a sushi symbol every time they made a purchase from the lunch menu, thereby purposefully drawing their attention to the incremental progress they were making towards the freebie. The remaining 50% were given a card that already had the sushi symbols printed on it, and every time they made a purchase a sushi symbol was removed using a hole-punch, thereby specifically drawing their attention to the amount of effort that remained before their bonus meal. So which goal/target system was more likely to instill loyalty? The
results were clear. The first group, who were focusing on their incremental progress, was twice as likely to be retained as a customer and return to get their card stamped when compared against the group whose cards were being punched. Not only were they more likely to come back, but more interestingly they returned sooner and more frequently – on average returning four days sooner than the ‘punched’ group. By focusing on what’s been done, and not what’s left to do, we can increase customer loyalty by almost double, leading to a more engaged client base, a more active sales team, and demonstrably better sales over time. Even line managers will find that emphasising the smaller steps that their team is taking towards performance targets is more effective than focusing on the finish line. BACK IN THE OFFICE The corporate implications of these findings are huge. Put simply, whether your goal is improve your organisations ability to retain existing customers, to increase the likelihood of your sales team reaching their monthly yield, or to simply motivate someone (including you) of finishing something they’ve started, remember to focus on what’s been done, NOT what’s left to do. You’ve already taken the first step on the road by reading this article, after all, so that’s probably 30% of the work done – right?
JUNE 2013 51
MANAGEMENT & LEADERSHIP
Playing catch up
Employment Minister Stephen Farry announces free management and leadership training with Linda Brown, divisional Director of the Institute of Directors in Northern Ireland, and Tim Devine, Head of Management and Leadership at DEL.
t is hoped that a new free Government programme will increase the uptake of management and leadership training courses in Northern Ireland. The Department for Employment and Learning will provide 100% financial support to SME businesses and social economy enterprises that utilise the Department’s leadership and management suite of programmes. The initiative will initially run to 31 March 2014 and will apply to the training costs of the DEL’s Management and Leadership Development Programme (MLDP), Management Analysis and Planning Programme (MAP) and INTRO Graduate Management Programme. Under the scheme companies can receive up to £7,000 with a maximum of £3,000 available per participant per calendar year. The scheme is necessary because not enough Northern Ireland businesses are investing in management training, according to DEL’s head of management and leadership, Tim Devine. “In terms of the UK we would be either the worst or second worst region, depending on what measure you are using, in terms of management competency. We’re not great in comparison with the rest of the UK, and internationally we are below average, when you compare us to the US, Europe or Japan,” he said. “We know that we need to drive up the competence of our managers and leaders. The
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large organisations tend to have the architecture in house, it’s the SMEs and social enterprises that don’t. That’s where the government intervention adds value,” he added. “The Economic Strategy talks about rebalancing and rebuilding the economy. In order to do that you really need to have effective and competent leaders and managers, particularly in SMEs and social economy enterprises if they are to compete nationally and internationally.” Uptake of DEL’s suite of courses was down 70% last year and after consultation with business organisations, the department realised 100% funding was necessary in the current climate, says Devine. “Unfortunately we know from take up on our programmes that SMEs have really cut their cloth in the recession; they’ve downsized their staff numbers and that includes management. So we noticed last year that take up of our suite of programmes had really gone down and even with 50% funding the organisations we were talking to were telling us it was difficult for them to pay for the development of their managers, and even to release their managers,” he said. “Individual companies as well as the FSB, IoD and CBI were telling us their members couldn’t afford the cost, couldn’t afford to release them, and also that we needed to change the delivery mechanisms.” DEL has refreshed its suite to include 26
programmes, up from 14, and is putting more emphasis on blended learning that requires less time out of the office. In addition all MLDP programmes are now accredited, offering a full or part qualification. Courses will be flexible, with training relevant to first line managers through to board members, and all will measure business impact. “It is not our job to take the place of business schools and universities, they are offering full blown qualifications that take a lot of time. This is about us spotting a need for shorter interventions,” explained Devine. “People come on management development programmes because there is a business need so we are looking at how it has impacted the business three or four months later,” he added. It is expected that 500 managers will be trained up under the MLDP programme and about 200 will benefit from the Management Analysis Programme (MAP). Resarch from McKinsey in 2009 found that an increase of just 1% in productivity, achieved through better management, could add £200m in GDP to the Northern Ireland economy. “Research shows us that those businesses who invest in their management and leadership skills perform better than those who don’t,” said Devine. “In policy terms for the Department, it was clear we needed to focus our resources in this area.”
Exports: get on board Statistics show that ten companies account for 50% of NI’s exports and that only 2% of registered companies here are actively exporting. What is being done to change the situation? Symon Ross reports.
he announcement by Mayor of London Boris Johnson last month of an order for 600 new buses from Ballymena manufacturer Wrightbus was rightly lauded as a major success for Northern Ireland exports. The investment of £200m will safeguard around 220 jobs over the next three years and will see Wrightbus create 50 more positions as production ramps up. It is the latest success for the bus maker following contracts in markets as far afield as the US, Singapore and Hong Kong. Boris said the London bus, with components made right across the UK, would send a signal of confidence around the world about what British manufacturing can achieve. He also told assembled local business leaders in Ballymena that their companies could achieve similar feats on the world stage if they believe absolutely in what they are doing. However, at the same event Wrightbus Managing Director Mark Nodder warned that for all the recent talk about the importance of exports, not enough companies are actually selling into overseas markets. Quoting figures from the Northern Ireland
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Chamber of Commerce, of which he is current president, Mr Nodder said only 1,700 – or 2% – of the province’s registered businesses are actively exporting. In fact Government statistics for 2012 showed that just 10 companies account for 50% of Northern Ireland’s exports – a figure essentially unchanged from a decade ago. It is a situation the Wrightbus MD believes must be rectified urgently and with Government help. He joined a British Chambers of Commerce delegation to impress this upon Prime Minister David Cameron in May. The Wrightbus MD suggested that Government should introduce flexible support such as export vouchers to stimulate new exporters and provide an employment subsidy for those recruiting staff to develop international trade. Such measures would help smaller firms in particular to overcome the fear of making that first daunting move into new markets. Speaking to Ulster Business following the Mayor’s visit, Mr Nodder said: “99% of business in Northern Ireland are by definition SMEs and in fact most tend to be micro businesses, so often the fear of taking the first step is what
holds them back. We had a meeting with David Cameron with the British Chambers recently and made the same point – you need to help not just the bigger businesses but also the small businesses.” The Chamber of Commerce last year launched its Export First programme, sponsored by Danske Bank, to help provide knowledge to companies considering exporting. It aims to complement the work already done by Invest NI in terms of helping client companies identify markets and win business, by sharing the knowledge of experienced exporters and signposting where they can go for help. “A small business may not be on the radar of Invest NI let alone UKTI so we’re saying as a Chamber that has a lot of small companies as members, we should talk to one another. Big companies like mine have already hosted mentoring events, invited people in to talk about our sales and marketing plans, how we managed to win contracts in Hong Kong, how long it took, etc. Then we have assigned them business coaches to encourage them,” said Nodder. “Invest NI do super work for the slightly bigger companies in terms of targeting markets
“You can’t do it by yourself. I’ve spent my life selling overseas and you can’t do it by yourself.”
Prince Harry and David Cameron arrive on a Ballymena built bus at an event in New York
and running trade missions. We are saying, for the smaller end, can we not introduce export vouchers, similar to the business vouchers we’ve seen in the past. You could give companies a voucher for £25,000 or £50,000 but they have to spend it on getting export advice, or export market research, trade missions or hiring an overseas sales person for a year or two years. That would help overcome the trepidation over taking the first step.” Although Northern Ireland is trying to reduce its reliance on public sector funding, Nodder sees no reason a government backed voucher scheme shouldn’t be introduced, saying it will pay dividends over the long term. “I don’t think there is a magic bullet solution for this. But look at the economy in the South, it is export driven and it has been throughout their darkest days. They are still creating export jobs because they have an entrepreneurial culture and joined up thinking between government and business,” he said. “You’ve got to create an environment where enterprise can flourish, so we don’t think it is asking too much to ask the government to give a bit of judicial sprinkling of investment just to make the whole thing a little easier.” GLOBAL HEADWINDS The Wrightbus event came only a day after the release of Invest NI’s year-end results for 20122013. In an incredibly positive set of figures which showed the development agency promoting 7,400 new jobs and securing £608m of investment across jobs, R&D and skills, the one negative was exports. Manufacturing exports were down 2% to
around £5.58bn, reflecting the global slowdown and a general lack of confidence. “Exports continue to be a challenge,” Invest NI chairman Mark Ennis told journalists. “We still have a about a dozen companies doing the bulk of the heavy lifting. The way the global economy is at the moment means that companies are not replacing their tyres as regularly, they’re not buying new forklifts, they are holding off, and that is reflected in the figures.” The target set in the Programme for Government was for Invest NI to deliver 20% growth in the value of manufacturing exports from a baseline of £5.51bn – an increase of just over £1bn in monetary terms. A target of 6% growth was set for the first two years and 7% growth in year three and year four. Exports rose in the 2011/12 year to £5.74bn, up 4.3%, before the fall back to £5.58bn this year, putting the agency behind the 6% target. However, delving deeper into those figures, there is some evidence to suggest there is no need to panic just yet. The numbers don’t include sales to GB and don’t capture external sales attributable to services. In fact sales to GB rose to £7.64bn in Invest NI’s 2012/13 year from £7.3bn the previous year, and £7bn the year before that. “What’s happening at the moment, for example if you look at construction, those companies are automatically going into GB to make up the shortfall from ROI, but they don’t get caught in the numbers,” said Invest NI chief executive Alastair Hamilton. “Our exports to ROI are a third of our total exports (£5.5bn) – last year they went down by 6.6%. GB external sales went up 4.3% (to
£7.64bn) in that same time. So the sales to GB massively outweigh any downside, but they are not counted as exports,” he added. “Emerging markets are up 43% over the two year period, our target is 60% over the PfG period so we’re on track to meet that target... It is not just as gloomy a picture on external sales and exports as the export number suggests.” Chairman Mark Ennis said the agency is also likely to introduce a survey of client companies to help them quantify the level of service sector export activity, which are currently not captured. “Our manufacturing sector employs about 75,000 whereas services employs over 200,000,” he said. “So there is a major gap in knowledge.” Of course, it is harder for Invest NI to convert opportunities related to trade as closing deals ultimately comes down to the client company’s own ability to deliver a result. But it is not taking its foot off the gas in terms of helping companies prepare for export, with the number of trade missions and exhibitions to increase from 60 to 80 in its 2013/14 year and new people hired in key growth areas such as Asia-Pacific. While the cost of trade missions has been in the headlines for the wrong reasons recently, it is a strategy Mark Nodder says will be essential in getting more businesses exporting. “Using Invest NI is the ideal way to research a market and get some introductions to the market. The whole purpose of a well organised trade mission is that in advance the person gets some introductions to people on the ground,” he said. “It is about helping them take those first baby steps. You can’t do it by yourself. I’ve spent my life selling overseas and you can’t do it by yourself.”
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G8 – Gr8, innov8, do not DV8
With all eyes on Northern Ireland during the G8 meeting in Fermanagh, Quintin Oliver says now is the time to grasp the opportunity and really make ourselves known on the global stage.
he text-speak of the modern age still grates (gr8s in txtSpk) on old-fashioned grumpy grammarians like me, for whom the ‘m’ of that ‘who’ is a necessity even in a 140-character Tweet! But herein lies the nub of our problem – the pace at which we are embracing change. Unless Northern Ireland innovates and excels in this globalised, competitive marketplace, we shall fail. Let me offer eight pointers: • The Welsh used to promote their folksy image of dragons, witches in black hats, with funny bread and quaint sheep-strewn pretty hillsides, until they found that an image of modernity, cutting edge technology and winning rugby players drew inward investment more quickly, for longer and at a higher value; the fewer century-old sunken liners, crazy-shaped hexagons and leprechaun fiddlers dancing in musical pubs the better, perhaps? • Why have Game of Thrones, Sesame Street and now Dracula been attracted here? Probably because the savvy NI Screen and our energetically-supportive politicians have emphasised the skills of the creatives here, from firework techies to set chippies, embroiderers to jewellers, rather than our (pretty non-existent) tax incentives! It’s about people, stupid. • People buy from people, not from countries
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nor from corporations – and certainly not from catalogues; that’s why we should be asking our politicians sometimes why are they here, and not there? Of course they must travel to Brazil and China; Arlene Foster must cover from Kesh to Kurdistan, as she does, and win the credit for so doing, not criticism. • Be honest about the challenges – everyone knows, worldwide, about our conflict – they ask us as soon as we land. When I was young it was George Best – but then the bombs, bullets and Bobby Sands overtook that flawed genius. So, let’s trumpet our past, warts and all, open that Maze Long Kesh Peace Centre and invite the worlds to share our progress. We cannot hide it, airbrush it or insist on our version of history. Deal with the past, sensitively, explain the present, honestly, and define the future, imaginatively. • Think enterprise – the way we teach careers (‘Teacher: your son has no future. Parent: Why? Teacher: he wants to do computer games’), the job market and post-school opportunity remains woeful; the poverty of ambition is extraordinary, the deadweight of bureaucracy oppressive. Procurement paralysis, audit arthritis and public appointment sclerosis are stifling our growth; none of this is incompatible with the equality and social justice agenda, either, by the way – the two can bring growth and development
together, of course they can. • Inequality and poverty are drags on the economy – and on society – not inevitable consequences of success for the few; similarly, supporting two main education systems is an economic madness (as well as political and moral madnesses), just as quaintly termed ‘peace walls’ are barriers to progress, not defenders of communities. Unless we deal with those horizontal and vertical divisions we will run ourselves to a standstill, not soar to growth. • When the Secretary of State and Tánaiste asked the children of Good Friday 1998 last month if they wanted to stay in Northern Ireland – and they declined – the two leaders were shocked; what a dreadful comment on their approach, not of the youngsters! Unless we are internationalists, we shall be parochialists. Why are there more direct flights to the escape of the Med than to China, Zurich or Frankfurt? Get on them, kids. Go learn. • And finally, back to language – we all must learn not only text and Twitter-speak, but also Mandarin, Spanish and Arabic. Can we celebr8 our diversity and demonstr8 to innov8? Let’s try. Quintin Oliver runs consultancy www.StratagemInt. com and Tweets @QuintinOliver
Funding boost helps MSO export A n East Belfast-based designer and manufacturer of printed carton packaging and labels has secured an investment of £1.5m, which is says will help it develop its product offering and increase its export activity in foreign markets including China and India. The investment in MSO Group – which has been creating packaging for the food & drink and pharmaceutical sectors since 1876 and currently employs almost 200 people in Belfast – is made up of £1m from its shareholders, including Co-Fund NI, and a loan of £500,000 from the Northern Ireland Growth Loan Fund. According to MSO Group, the new funds will assist with the firm’s working capital requirements; maintain its investment in research and development for its portfolio of anti-counterfeiting, secure authentication and brand protection label and packaging solutions; and finance a sales drive into new export markets. Dominic Walsh, Managing Director of MSO said: “This combined cash injection of £1.5m into our business will be transformational in what we do and represents a high degree of confidence by the shareholders, the board of directors and third parties in our activities and plans.” David McCurley, Senior Investment Manager at WhiteRock Capital Partners, established to manage enquiries to the Growth Loan Fund in Northern Ireland, added: “The Programme for Government calls for Northern Ireland indigenous companies to focus on R&D and export in order to achieve sustainable economic growth and so it is very encouraging to note that this investment will enable MSO to further develop its product offering, which it will continue to export to foreign markets such as India and China.”
David McCurley, Senior Investment Officer, WhiteRock Capital Partners; Dominic Walsh, Managing Director, MSO; and Neil Simms, Finance Director, Clarendon Fund Managers, managers of Co-Fund NI.
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Burning a path to success in China
First Minister Peter Robinson and Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness recently met China’s commerce minister. China is worth in excess of £110m in terms of exports by Northern Ireland companies.
Kevin Kingston, Vice-President of Northern Ireland Chamber of Commerce and Deputy Chief Executive at Danske Bank, looks at how one small company achieved success in China, the world’s most dynamic market.
hile its economy has slowed somewhat in recent months, China is still on target for a relatively healthy GDP growth of around seven per cent this year. Recognition of the opportunities presented for local companies by such growth has influenced the development of the successful Danske Bank Export First programme, a Northern Ireland Chamber of Commerce initiative. A key objective of Export First is to help smaller companies in particular to develop the knowledge and capability to succeed in China and other high growth markets. Our programme is based on the recognition that exporting to such far-flung destinations is not always plain sailing. It seeks to prepare smaller exporters to benefit from participation in Invest NI missions and trade exhibitions in China. Our aim is to encourage smaller companies in particular to look for growth abroad by making expertise and resources, including financial guidance, readily available. We are doing so because we believe that smaller companies can, and indeed are, winning in markets such as China. And encouragingly the winners cover many sectors including engineering and food. Good examples include Fivemiletown Creamery, Whites and Crawford’s
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Food, the latter a husband and wife team in Portaferry who are supplying major supermarkets in Hong Kong. Asphalt Burner Services (ABS) in Magherafelt, a family business formed in 2005 and now employing eight people, also recently secured business worth around £400,000 in Shanghai. What has given ABS an edge in markets like China is the company’s extensive investment in R&D to produce an impressive range of asphalt burners that are much more fuel efficient and offer greater functionality than those of competitors. This small company also recognises that innovation is an ongoing journey required to ensure long-term success in its market... and is prepared to invest to maintain its market lead. The company’s Vulcan branded burners are based on the vast technical experience of Ian Lewis, an ABS founder. Recent innovations developed by the company include a system that can be retrofitted to an existing asphalt plant drying facility, eliminating the need to purchase a complete dryer. Like many Northern Ireland businesses, ABS has a track record of sales success in Britain, a solid platform for expansion into other markets. The success ABS is enjoying with major construction operators such as Cemex, Aggregate Industries and Eurovia Infrastructure
has provided tremendous endorsement of its innovative technology. And it’s easy to see why, because Eurovia, for instance, is reporting fuel savings of around 30 per cent. ABS has a flexible and responsive approach and is prepared to adapt its technology and sales approach to the specific needs of individual clients. Flexibility and customer focus are essential requirements for success in all markets. ABS is also prepared to market its technology aggressively and professionally at targeted trade exhibitions such as Intermat in Paris, Hillhead in Derbyshire and Bauma in Shanghai and has been quick to follow up inquiries from potential customers. Participation at trade events enabled ABS to identify a suitable representative with the right contacts in China. The support that’s now available for companies makes it easier than ever before to export to China. In addition, shipping products to China is probably easier because, as Britain is such a big importer of Chinese goods, many containers return there almost empty, so there is lots of spare capacity for manufactured goods being exported from the UK. Chamber members in transportation and logistics are very well placed to advise and assist companies on how best to access China and, indeed, other BRIC markets.
Northern Ireland needs to stay in the European Union As the debate about Europe rages in Westminster, John Simpson argues that leaving the EU would be detrimental for Northern Ireland and its ability to attract investment.
he arguments about the benefits and costs of UK membership of the European Union have become a major issue at Westminster. There is the worrying prospect of an uncertain four-year debate, until 2017, on whether the UK electorate can be offered renegotiated relationships within the EU in a choice on whether to remain part of the continuing EU. Northern Ireland will play a small part in the wider debate. Logically Northern Ireland has strong reasons for wanting to find an agreed renegotiation so that the UK remains in the EU. The debate about whether the UK should remain within the EU is much more complex than a straightforward ‘in-out’ choice. The least satisfactory prospect is of a four year debate that generates enhanced antagonism between
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the UK Government and the other European governments. The easier part of a renegotiated arrangement would be to maintain a full trading common market, for goods and services, linked to a framework that ensured that the trading arrangements functioned in a ‘level playing field’. Agreeing on the conditions for a level playing field, including competition rules for goods, services and people may be more difficult. The inherent contradiction in any renegotiation is the strain between (a) the UK government wishing to have authority to make its own decisions and avoid unwelcome EU decisions and (b) the need for an EU mechanism acceptable to 27 countries. If a decision by the UK to leave the EU lacked the degree of goodwill needed to minimise the
disruption of the decision this might create a fractious departure which would be the worst possible outcome. Despite any reservations, the status quo would be preferable to that outcome. Passive acceptance? There are many uncertainties influencing the debate. What are the features of EU membership that are most unacceptable? What EU legislation or rules are unnecessary and should be removed? The usual complaints tend to be generic by referring to undue Brussels interference, bureaucratic procedures and/or excessive costs of the EU mechanisms and the cost of the EU budget. To create a sensible debate, vague generic dislikes should not be allowed to dominate discussion. Specific identified concerns would help the debate and might, in their articulation,
help to reach an amicable renegotiation. Two critical assumptions might be made to narrow down the scope of the EU debate. First, there is no expectation that the UK will be asked to join the 17/18 countries that have adopted the Euro as a common currency. That prospect has gone. The Euro mechanisms have not yet been developed within a sufficiently developed monetary policy framework. Second, if the UK does vote to leave the EU, the current free trade (tariff free) access to the EU countries could be expected to remain in place. Even with an acrimonious UK departure, restoring tariff walls is not a likely option. These assumptions might encourage the response that, with the UK outside the EU, there could be minimal impact on the UK economy. That looks deceptive. The risks of such a passive attitude lie in the emerging perception of the UK as an outsider to the larger EU economies. The UK economy, outside the EU, would have a diminishing influence. If the UK was separated from the decision making Councils and Parliament, the UK influence would become similar to that of Norway or Switzerland. Renegotiation A critical feature for the UK Government is the way in which it intends to ask for a renegotiation of aspects of the EU Treaties. Is this a renegotiation solely from a UK perspective, in which only UK interests are identified? Alternatively, is this a renegotiation so that other Member States might see advantage for the whole EU in making agreed changes? In other words, is the UK bid an effort to make the EU function more acceptable for each Government? There are some signs that this more constructive approach might attract wider support, including the German Government. A constructive approach to renegotiation would reduce the impact of EU policies which are accepted as going beyond the logic of the original Treaty of Rome and the later Maastricht refinements. The renegotiation will have more chance of success if there continues to be agreement that the EU should ensure a well ordered common EU market. Selective opt-outs
“If the UK were to leave the EU, the UK, including Northern Ireland, would risk becoming less attractive as a location of inward investment.” to suit a small number of Member States but at the price of disadvantaging others would be unlikely to succeed. There are some EU policies which have Community-wide logic even when individual states disagree. Effective Common Fisheries Policies should offer collective benefit even when some countries wish otherwise. The (so-called) Social Chapter with its implications for working conditions has a core logic yet has dimensions that might be amended, including the Working Time Directive. The EU multinational trade negotiations are a form of mutual protection. The emerging Community patent legislation is a useful shared benefit. There is some misunderstanding of the relationship of the EU with the questions of Human Rights. The European Convention on Human Rights is separate and not affected by EU agreements. Northern Ireland interests Northern Ireland will take part in the EU debate with considerable direct and indirect interests. The direct interests include: • Arrangements that optimise the ability to attract foreign direct investment leading to increased employment and earnings. • Agreed rules and procedures to avoid unfair competition in State Aids with other EU regions. • Access and support for agriculture and the export of farming and food products. If the UK were to leave the EU, the UK, including Northern Ireland, would risk
becoming less attractive as a location of inward business investment. This could be particularly significant if the Republic of Ireland remains a full EU member. Although in Northern Ireland there are sometimes complaints that the EU rules on State Aid restrict the ability to compete with other regions (by imposing ceilings on the permitted levels of State Aid for new investment), if Northern Ireland was outside the EU and better able to offer higher State Aid, this poses the risk of a competitive bidding situation where taxpayers pay more in a less disciplined process. One of the largest concerns for Northern Ireland, if the UK leaves the EU, would be the consequence of the removal of, or substantial adjustment to, the Common Agriculture Policy. There is a risk that the interest of the UK Government to reduce the cost of the CAP would be contrary to the interests of local farming and food exports. From a Northern Ireland perspective, which would not be identical with the perspective in GB, the debate on EU membership has shortterm disadvantages and longer-term threats. In the short-term, the rebuilding of the local economy will be adversely affected by several years of uncertainty about the outcome of the renegotiation. In the longer-term, the emerging differences with the Republic of Ireland, if the UK leaves the EU, are likely to work to Northern Ireland’s disadvantage. Even more fundamental, if the UK moves to a marginal position with less influence on the wider European economies, that marginalisation would be to the disadvantage of the UK in general and Northern Ireland in particular.
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New UK aerospace strategy paves the way for future success By Gavin Campbell, Director Engineering at Bombardier Aerospace and MATRIX Panel member
n my role in Bombardier Aerospace I’m lucky to be part of many of the exciting and innovative things that drive our company forward and help us to compete globally. Our success and our future prospects are based on developing innovative engineering solutions that provide attractive products and services for our customers. As we all know, however, a company coming up with innovative new technologies and products isn’t enough on its own. The key to success is collaboration and long-term commitment. That’s why I believe the launch in March this year of the UK Aerospace Industrial Strategy is a major step forward in securing the future of our industry, and provides an opportunity for local aerospace SMEs to get on board and play an active part in growing this hugely important sector. The industry employs some 8,000 people here and generates over £900m per year for the local economy. The strategy is the outcome of almost two years’ work by the Aerospace Growth Partnership – a unique collaboration between government and industry aimed at promoting long-term growth and boosting the number of high-value jobs in aerospace. This partnership, in which Bombardier is involved, has recognised the need to pick up the pace to ensure the UK remains at the forefront of world aerospace manufacturing and addresses the challenges of increasing global competition and changes in technology. ‘Lifting Off: Implementing the Strategic Vision for UK Aerospace’ seeks to ensure the UK is positioned at the leading edge of key technology areas – wings, engines, aerostructures and advanced systems. More importantly, it will ensure the UK supply chain wins the lion’s share of new aircraft work packages that will be up for grabs. For example, between now and 2031, there is a global requirement for over 27,000 new passenger aircraft worth approximately $3.7 trillion and an expected demand for in excess of 40,000 commercial helicopters worth approximately $165bn. Industry and Government have agreed commitments to enable the industry to foster innovative technologies through, for example, a new £2bn joint industry and Government Aerospace Technology Institute; develop new manufacturing processes and a robust supply chain; and ensure all companies have the right training and skills in place. The latter includes
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joint support for a new bursary scheme to fund a number of university Aerospace MSc places, aimed at generating high-level skills and expertise. Accredited courses within the scheme are available at our two local universities and I would encourage people to take up this opportunity. This spirit of cooperation and collaboration will help our industry – and the local supply chain – meet the challenges from global competitors. It will enable us to deliver stepchange technologies that are vital to developing a new range of efficient, more environmentallyresponsive aircraft. And it will help ensure we have the people with the right skills and expertise to do this. It has been said many times before that the benefits of investing in research and development, and the return on that investment, can’t be underestimated. And it should not be the sole charge of large companies. It’s vital that SMEs engage in research in their own right. This is why collaborative centres like the Northern Ireland Advanced Composites and Engineering (NIACE) centre are so important – and not just for the aerospace industry. Its importance lies in the active promotion, encouragement and sharing of industry-led innovation across a wide range of sectors in Northern Ireland.
The backing of the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills and Invest Northern Ireland helped bring about NIACE, coupled with the support from the local universities. This kind of collaborative support network drew on the strategy set out by MATRIX – the Northern Ireland ScienceIndustry panel – another three way partnership between government, academia and industry. Bombardier is involved in NIACE and in MATRIX because we believe these approaches can help bring about a step change in the ability of Northern Ireland companies to compete on a world stage and ultimately help grow the local economy. I believe the new Aerospace Industrial Strategy is another major opportunity for local companies to step up to the mark. On June 10th, companies will hear how they can benefit from the strategy at an event being held in NIACE by the local trade organisation ADS NI. It’s crucial to the future success of the next century of aviation that companies are encouraged to extend engineering boundaries, and meet growing environmental challenges. By ensuring we take advantage of what this new aerospace strategy has to offer, I believe Northern Ireland can actively contribute to – and benefit from – a new world of aviation, in a sharing and collaborative environment.
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Working with what we’ve got B
usinesses must not lose sight of the tax reliefs already available to them as they await next year’s decision on devolving corporation tax powers to Northern Ireland. That is the view of tax experts Rob Heron and Ian Edwards from the Belfast office of accountancy firm Ernst & Young (EY). In particular they highlight three tax reliefs which came into effect on April 1 2012 that could have substantial benefits for many eligible Northern Ireland businesses: the Patent Box, an improved R&D tax scheme and the Creative Sector tax relief. “In principle we remain supportive of the reduction in corporation tax and hopeful it will happen. At the very best corporation tax is two years down the line. So we have to look at what we can do now,” says Rob Heron, Tax Partner with the firm. “These measures mentioned above are
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government promoted. They are part of an overall strategy to make the UK the most attractive tax regime in the G20.” It is hoped that the new regime will be a huge boost for innovation and the ‘knowledge’ economy in Northern Ireland. This regime should not only attract high value Foreign Direct Investment to the province but also reduce the tax burden of innovative indigenous companies and create opportunities for reinvestment in their business. PATENT BOX Chancellor George Osborne confirmed in this year’s Budget, that the Patent Box effectively provides for a corporation tax rate of 10% on profits arising from patented products and processes. While it has started to be talked about in the local business community, Ian Edwards, Tax
Director at EY, says there are still companies that don’t know about it or have limited understanding of its application. He explains, for example, if a company has a product or component in a product that is patented, the entire profit from that product falls within the 10% rate band. Furthermore if a company has a patented element within a process, profit attributable to that process it can also fall within a 10% rate. “A lot of people thought the Patent Box would never happen or that it sounded too good to be true. But it is here now and companies need to be ready for it. It may take years to get a patent but the benefits of the patent box is that they can claim it from April 1 2013 even if their patent is not actually granted for several years, provided they’ve applied for it,” he said. “R&D came out in 2000, but it wasn’t until 2007 that most companies in Northern Ireland
started looking at R&D tax relief. It took seven years for companies to make any claims. If we wait until 2020 for any companies to start thinking about patent box that’s seven years they’ve missed, and they won’t have the ability to go back and claim it. The Northern Ireland economy can’t afford companies not to obtain what is essentially free cash.” Rob Heron further notes that the Patent box is widely applicable to innovative companies across most sectors. “Historically, not many Northern Ireland companies focused on patents because very few had a fully thought through IP strategy. I think there was a misunderstanding around patents, we weren’t aware of the protection they brought and there was a misconception about the cost. The patent box has brought patents to the fore because the tax benefits are very attractive. It is one of the most attractive patent box regimes in the world,” he said. R&D RELIEF The new above the line R&D scheme has been billed as a “game changer” for inward investment. Companies claiming relief under the large company scheme will now be entitled to payable cash credits equal to 10% (pre-tax) of qualifying expenditure. The new measure will be particularly beneficial to companies without tax liabilities who under the old super-deduction scheme could only carry forward their increased tax losses and who saw no immediate cash benefit. It is the first time those companies will be eligible for a cash rebate, and means that all companies undertaking R&D can now get a return on their investment regardless of their tax profile. Ian Edwards says that with the new Patent Box scheme in place, the government is hoping to encourage companies to invest in R&D and then stay to exploit it within the UK. “The two regimes are linked. There is legislation in the patent box to encourage companies to keep investing in R&D. The more R&D you do in the first four years of Patent
Box, the more of your profits you’ll get at the 10% rate. It aims to encourage continuous innovation,” he explains. “The government’s aim is to support companies that are involved in innovation and R&D. Those companies usually employ a highly skilled graduate workforce and for Northern Ireland the more we invest in innovation the more we grow exports.” Rob Heron confirms that his clients who have used the R&D relief are already looking to invest it in new staff or facilities. “The automatic reaction was not to take money out of the business. It was to reinvest it in the business. In my experience highly innovative companies automatically think ‘what can I do with this money to make my business bigger and better’,” he adds. Although companies in Northern Ireland are claiming R&D relief, Ian Edwards says most are not maximising the benefits. “A lot of companies continue to do the same thing over and over again, using the same methodology, looking at the same cost categories. But every year there has been guidance and legislative changes which could as much double the claim, but companies just haven’t caught on to that. The rate of relief has also gone up,” he said. And with the definition of R&D for tax purposes being quite wide, Heron says companies from sectors as diverse as agrifood, construction, manufacturing, IT and pharmaceuticals can benefit from the scheme. “It is not dependent on sector and a lot of businesses are involved in R&D even if they don’t classify themselves as being engaged in it. There’s this misconception that R&D is only done in labs by people in white coats. One of our biggest challenges is convincing business owners they are doing R&D,” he said. CREATIVE SECTOR The third strand of the new tax reliefs which the EY experts highlight is the new Creative Sector scheme. Under it, new tangible cash benefits have been introduced for companies involved in high end television, animation and video games. With productions such as Game of Thrones filming in Northern Ireland, as well as a growing number of animation companies such as Sixteen South bolstering the creative sector here, the new reliefs have been welcomed. The relief, which takes the form of a cash rebate, can be used by companies to assist with funding gaps and to invest in new productions. It is just as applicable to small start-up businesses as it is to international producers. Rob Heron says the measures will help with cashflow and future investment: “There is a funding gap for these sorts of companies in their early years so the vast majority of them will take the cash back options to help cover the losses they made in those early years. Companies can obtain an enhanced deduction of up to 80% of core costs and then up to 25% of any loss as a
Rob Heron Ian Edwards
cash back option. “It is similar to the film tax credit and it is common for such businesses to borrow on the back of that refund. It enables them to say to their bank that they will be getting a refund in 12 months time.” Heron says his firm has vast practical experience in R&D and patent box, which has read across with the Creative Sector relief, and given its strong relationships with HMRC, he believes EY is well placed to maximise what will qualify. “There is real cash on the table with these regimes,” he said. “A lot of people will automatically focus on the FDI investors who’ll benefit. Yes it will help them, but the Patent Box, R&D, and Creative Sector reliefs are here now to help local indigenous companies. We have many great businesses here and this will help them to invest and grow.”
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Gas to the west project picks up pace
hoenix Natural Gas, Northern Ireland’s largest gas distribution company, has been on the ground in Fermanagh as part of a process of assessing demand for gas across the geographic area that is included in the NI Executive’s ‘gas to the west’ plans. There was confirmation from the NI Executive in 2012 that the project would benefit from government subsidy to help with its cost, and construction work could start as early as next year. It is currently proposed that both gas transmission and distribution pipelines will be built across Mid-Ulster and into Fermanagh going as far as Enniskillen and Derrylin. The process for deciding how this will be done is currently being managed by the Utility Regulator and the Department for Enterprise, Trade and Investment. It is not yet known which companies will carry out the work, but Phoenix Natural Gas are one of the companies on record as having registered their interest in looking at the project. Phoenix hosted a seminar in Enniskillen for local business leaders and key stakeholders. Alastair Pollock, Phoenix Business Development Director, reflected: “We had met with political representatives at Stormont to discuss the project and together we believed
(L-R): Tom Elliott MLA (UUP), Alastair Pollock (Phoenix Natural Gas), Lord Maurice Morrow MLA (DUP) and Phil Flanagan MLA (Sinn Fein).
it was likely that many businesses in the west were not fully aware of the benefits natural gas availability in their areas would bring. We decided to be proactive and were very encouraged by the response we had from
businesses on the day. There was a clear demand for more fuel choice to be made available and ultimately everyone present seemed to understand natural gas’s key role in providing economic, social and environmental benefits”.
Utilities united in Northern Ireland
evere weather in March put to the test a mutual aid protocol set up among Northern Ireland’s main utility companies. It is believed this approach in Northern Ireland is the first of its kind across the United Kingdom. It has been over a year since new structures were put in place by the Chief Executives of BT, Northern Ireland Electricity, Northern Ireland Water and Phoenix Natural Gas to identify ways in which the companies could provide mutual support and aid to each other during periods of extreme weather or other unforeseen situations. Trevor Haslett, Chief Executive of NI Water, explained: “Although all
NIE’s Pat McDonagh works alongside Robert Linton from BT to restore telecoms customers affected by storms earlier this year.
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of our companies require specialist skills to repair our networks, we have been able to identify a number of areas where we can work together for the mutual benefit of our customers in Northern Ireland. In particular we have looked at shared resources such as people, materials, equipment, transportation vehicles or access to buildings.” Heavy snow and strong winds in March damaged utility networks across Northern Ireland and affected electricity, water and telecoms services to thousands of customers. Alex Crossan, BT Managing Director Networks, said: “Although we had carried out a simulation, March’s storm was the first time we used the mutual aid protocol for real. Our plans worked well and we were able to share equipment and manpower to speed up repairs to the overhead telecoms network in some of the worst affected areas”. Experts believe that extreme weather across the UK and Ireland is becoming more commonplace and local Northern Ireland Executive Ministers have commended the utility companies for progressing a more formal process for working together in such instances if appropriate. Energy Minister Arlene Foster commented: “I very much welcome this initiative as a pragmatic and practical approach to prepare for emergencies, no matter what may cause them. The combined breadth of expertise between these companies will ensure that the impact of disruption to the services they provide is minimised for customers, particularly those considered most vulnerable during an emergency. It is an interesting approach to mutual aid which other organisations may wish to consider.” Regional Development Minister Danny Kennedy added: “I commend the proactive efforts of the utilities companies in coming together to share their knowledge and resources to further improve the vital support they deliver to all of us, often in very severe weather conditions.”
Libel law: should we be worried? The Defamation Act 2013 received Royal Assent in April, but the Stormont Assembly hasn’t consented to having the act extended to Northern Ireland, despite a strong lobby in support of such a move.
fter years of political argument the Defamation Act 2013 finally received Royal Assent in April, signalling a major change in libel laws in England and Wales. The act, its supporters say, introduces the first substantial reform of defamation law since 1843 following smaller changes set out in the Defamation Act 1952 and the Defamation Act 1996. The changes made to the act are designed to simplify the very complex laws around defamation and to weed out spurious claims. However, the NI Assembly rejected the notion of passing a “legislative consent motion” which would have enabled the Act to extend to Northern Ireland. The local press has expressed concern, noting that while libel law in Scotland has always differed from the rest of the UK, Northern Ireland is in all relevant respects identical to England and Wales.
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Olivia O’Kane, a solicitor specialising in libel and defamation at law firm Carson McDowell, says the decision leaves Northern Ireland with defamation laws based on a complex myriad of case law and statute, rather than an Act that provides a succinct guide. “It should not have been a flat refusal. The NI Assembly should at the very least reconsider halting the extension of libel reform to Northern Ireland without having a proper, open and public consultation on the issue. There must be an open debate in Northern Ireland about bringing it back into line with the rest of the UK,” she said. “The press are the eyes and ears of society and act as public watchdog. Chilling press freedom of speech damages the public community at large.” Ms O’Kane said that with the growth of online reporting, blogs and social media, there is a need to reform the laws to meet the needs of
modern society. “The recent reform of libel law does not only affect the traditional media outlets but affects citizens, corporations, human rights NGOs, website operators, bloggers, academics and scientists alike. The Act arguably strikes a careful balance of ensuring the protection of the right to a good reputation whilst acknowledging the right to freedom of expression,” she said. “The laws of defamation are a legal minefield, not just for journalists but for potential complainants. The Defamation Act 2013 provides legal clarity and simplifies the existing law defining the boundaries of free speech.” The solicitor says a two tier system within the UK could mean bloggers and tweeters here don’t have the same rights as online users in England. “Northern Ireland is being isolated and it must ensure that it keeps up to date with the modern world and that free and open investigative journalism is not censored
and protects a free press and public interest blogging,” she said. “Let’s hope the two tier approach will not encourage media organisations to exit Northern Ireland and curb economic growth and inward investment in Northern Ireland. We do not want to face a proposition that the UK media may have to sanitise news broadcast in Northern Ireland.” According to O’Kane the key changes to the defamation laws are: • The Act aims to assist in weeding out potential spurious claims with the introduction of a serious harm test which raises the bar for bringing a claim. A statement is not defamatory unless its publication has caused or is likely to cause serious harm to the reputation of the complainant. • The implication for corporate bodies is that the Act curtails the ability of organisations that trade for profit to sue for libel and provides protection to those that fairly or honestly opine on corporate products without fear of legal proceedings. Harm to the reputation of a company is not serious harm unless it has caused or is likely to cause the body serious financial loss. Companies are already prevented from
claiming damages for certain types of injury such as injury to feelings and were thus in practice likely to have shown actual or likely financial loss anyway. • The defences of truth and honest opinion replace the common law defences of justification and fair comment which broadly reflect the current law while simplifying and clarifying certain elements. • Introduction of the new defence of publication on a matter of public interest which is not intended to be a new departure from the current law but rather to be based on the existing common law defence. • Introduction of a new defence for the operators of websites where a defamation action is brought against them in respect of a statement posted on the website. It provides greater protection for website operators and content hosts. • Extension of qualified privilege to the publication of peer-reviewed statements in scientific or academic journals in print or electronic form. • Absolute and qualified privilege extends to fair and accurate contemporaneous reports of court proceedings or in public of a legislature for instance or press conferences or documents circulated by UK public companies.
• Under the new single publication rule claims must be brought within one year of their first publication. This replaces the multiple publication rule whereby each publication of defamatory material gives rise to a separate cause of action which is subject to its own limitation period. The change will benefit social media users and the online community. • Tighter controls on libel tourism, where cases with tenuous links to England have been brought in English courts. If a statement is published 100,000 times in Australia and only 5,000 times in England and Wales that should be good reason to prevent the action from proceeding in England and Wales. This provision aims to weed out trivial claims and prevent conflict with European jurisdictional rules. • Prohibition of an action for defamation being brought against someone who is not the primary publisher, author, editor of a statement complained of unless it is satisfied that it is not reasonably practicable for an action to be brought against the author, editor or publisher. • Removal of the presumption of a jury trial. • Courts have power to order a summary of its judgment to be published where parties cannot agree an apology or correction.
Opponents fear “open season” P aul Tweed (pictured), a libel lawyer well known for acting on behalf of journalists and celebrities, is against changing the system in Northern Ireland to bring it into line with England and Wales. Tweed, who works in Belfast, Dublin, London and the US, believes the changes will make it harder for ordinary people with a grievance against the press to go to court. “I’m opposed to it. I’ve been sitting on the Ministry of Justice panels in the UK and it was quite clear to me sitting through those meetings there was no need to reform. For all intents and purposes the Act has primarily been a sop to the press. There has been a very successful lobby campaign that’s the most successful since the tobacco industry campaign three decades ago,” said Tweed. Tweed said the jury system is the “last opportunity for the ordinary Belfast man” to express his displeasure at the media. “The politicians are depriving the electorate of the right to have their say. I am a massive fan of the UK and Irish media, they do a great job and that’s in no small part down to our libel laws. They have to give some credence to truth and that’s what makes them the excellent publications they are,” he added. “The ordinary man on the street has never had access to justice in Northern Ireland as far
as the libel courts are concerned. There is no legal aid here and while there’s no legal aid in England either what they have allowed is lawyers to work on a no win, no fee basis, which we’re not allowed to here. Also, and most importantly, in England there is a provision for recovery of after the event insurance premiums. That gives people who haven’t got a lot of money some protection.” Tweed believes claims Belfast will become a haven for libel tourism if its laws are out of step with England, are nonsense. “They keep talking about Russian oligarchs and Saudi business men. If you find any in Northern Ireland let me know,” he said.
“The judges are already asking us why so few defamation cases are being brought before the courts and the simple answer is that a lawyer can make more from a whiplash case. There will be no defamation cases in Belfast if the Act comes in.” Tweed also thinks changing the law could have negative implications for the Northern Ireland economy by making it “virtually impossible for a company to sue”. “A corporation under the new Act has to show evidence of serious financial damage. So if the publishers of a magazine made an allegation of bad practice, you couldn’t sue them unless you could show you are suffering significant financial loss as a result of that, which is very difficult to do,” he said. “It will make it much more appealing to set up in the Republic of Ireland rather than Northern Ireland because they will have much more protection there. They still have a jury and they don’t have to show financial loss.” With such a strong lobby in favour of extending the Act there is a strong chance it will happen, he believes. “It is going to be open season on the politicians if it does,” he said. “When they come to me looking for help I’m going to take great relish in reminding them they were the ones that changed the laws.”
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Confidence returning to M&A market The rise in the number of M&A deals completed in 2012 is set to continue in 2013, with the technology, agri-food and renewables sectors contributing most to the upward trajectory.
he first six months of 2013 have raised hopes that the number and value of M&A deals for the full year will surpass the improved performance in 2012, according to one leading corporate lawyer in the M&A space. Peter Stafford, chairman of A&L Goodbody in Northern Ireland, says there has been “a notable sense of confidence” returning to the market in recent months following an increase in activity in 2012. Figures from Experian suggest there were 52 M&A deals in the province in 2012, a 40% improvement on the year before, with the value of those deals topping £1.1bn, compared with £384m in 2011. “2012 was definitely much busier and I think I’m right in saying there’s a sense around town that that good level of activity has continued into 2013. People are optimistic deals which just weren’t happening 18 months to two years ago are likely to be transacted in 2013,” said Stafford. “There would be a sense of more confidence in the market that deals will be done now. We’ve probably hit the bottom of the market and it is all about confidence from here on in. The more deals get done the more people will look around, see things are happening and want to get involved – that’s banks, venture capitalists, family businesses that are thinking of succession
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planning, people who have put the brakes on over the last few years.” A&L Goodbody, which was involved in about a third of the 52 M&A deals last year, expects the most active sectors to be renewable energy, agri-food and technology. The tech sector in particular is likely to benefit from the launch of Invest NI’s two new venture capital funds later this year. Stafford also notes that deals such as Intel’s acquisition of Aepona and Proofpoint’s purchase of Maildistiller show there is also interest in Northern Ireland companies from global corporations, venture capitalists and private equity funds from outside the province. “We’ve noticed a real uplift in US interest in the island of Ireland generally. Partly that’s to do with exchange rates but I think the US sees Ireland as a good bridge-head into a couple of markets – the UK market and also Europe. We’re well placed in that being an all island firm,” he said. “There are businesses that have just been getting on with the day job over the last five or six years and in doing that they have made themselves very attractive propositions for people who are looking to get into new markets. They are coming to the market with a higher value proposition at a time when appetite is returning to the market,” he added.
While the tech companies in Northern Ireland are relatively well versed when it comes to equity investment, some work remains to be done in terms of educating companies in more traditional sectors such as manufacturing and agri-food, which have tended to rely on debt finance. “We as a professional advisory community have had to bring a little bit more to the table. As a group we’ve had to be more creative in terms of ideas we are bringing to companies and educating companies about other sources of finance,” said Stafford. “We’re working on a couple of EIS funding rounds where companies are going to high net worth individuals to help bridge a funding gap. As companies in Northern Ireland look at alternative sources of finance and they become more embedded in their DNA, I wouldn’t be surprised in the next three to five years if some of those companies are interested in going down the (stock market) listing route.” Ultimately, the corporate lawyer says that any significant uplift in activity in the local market will be driven by confidence. “More deals are being done and that inevitably drives confidence. It is confidence that will get us back to a normal market,” he said. “The difference this year is that people are talking about doing deals and then actually doing them, which is very positive.”
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New mediation website launched Michael Robinson, President of Law Society, Minister Ford and Alan Hunter Chief Executive of the Law Society.
he growing importance of mediation as a means of resolving disputes in Northern Ireland has been highlighted with the launch of a new website. www.mediatorsni.com is a dedicated information portal which has been launched to provide parties involved in a dispute with the option of selecting a mediator via the website’s
new online directory. Over the last decade mediation has become a central part of an ever changing legal environment in which courts are encouraging parties to seek resolution before coming to court. Evidence continues to show that it is an effective means of resolving disputes often in a
SPORTING SUCCESS: Carson McDowell staff and clients enjoyed an evening celebrating success with Olympic Medal Winner Richard Chambers in the Merchant Hotel. The event celebrated the success of a great Northern Ireland duo, Olympic Medal winners Richard and Peter Chambers, with Richard Chambers “In conversation” with BBC sports presenter Gavin Campbell. The event also gave law firm Carson McDowell a chance to unveil its new branding to clients.
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simpler, cheaper, quicker and less stressful way that going to court. In response the new website, which is hosted by the Dispute Resolution Service and administered by the Law Society of Northern Ireland, has been designed to provide a ‘one stop shop’ for users showcasing the benefits of mediation as well as the contact details for qualified local lawyer mediators trained specifically to work with disputing parties. Whether it’s a family, divorce, commercial or conveyancing dispute the new website provides litigants and the general public with options for consideration to help them. Brian Speers, Law Society Council Member and Chairman of the Dispute Resolution Service Project Management Board, said: “The Law Society and the legal profession in Northern Ireland have shown that they are receptive to the needs of litigants and responsive to the changing legal landscape. The opportunity to resolve a dispute in a satisfactory way through use of a legally qualified mediator is increasingly encouraged by the courts. Mediation in many cases is effective, quick and involves less cost than a court hearing. “We are therefore delighted to launch www.mediatorsni.com which provides access to information and a directory of professionally trained lawyer mediators who can help parties in the resolution of their dispute”. David Ford, Minister of Justice, who attended the launch said: “I welcome the launch of the ‘dedicated information portal on mediation’. It is clearly beneficial to individuals involved in a dispute and to society in general that they are resolved as early as possible, and, where possible, without the emotional and financial cost of litigation.”
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Wayne is young leader of the pack T he 2013 Herbert Smith Freehills Young Leader Award was presented to Wayne Nickels of Cunningham Coates Stockbrokers at the second annual Northern Ireland Young Leaders’ Conference. Wayne is pictured receiving his award from event compère Graeme Little and Libby Jackson of Herbert Smith Freehills, who sponsored the event. The 2013 Young Leaders’ Conference hosted more than 220 delegates at The MAC, Belfast, giving young professionals the opportunity to develop their leadership skills and network with some of Northern Ireland’s top business people. A host of business leaders addressed delegates including Alyson Hogg, founder of Vita Liberata who judged the 2013 Young Leader Award. Winner Wayne Nickels was selected from a shortlist of five for his exceptional leadership throughout his business activities with Belfast-based Cunningham Coates Stockbrokers as well as charitable fundraising activities over the past year for the Prince’s Trust. Young Leaders NI is an organisation formed by the Institute of Directors’ Young Directors Forum, Belfast Junior Chamber (JCI Belfast), the Northern Ireland Young Solicitors’ Association, and the Chartered Accountants Ulster Society Young Professionals. This year’s Young Leaders’ Conference was sponsored by Herbert Smith Freehills in association with Abacus Professional Recruitment, PwC, Ulster Bank and Wesleyan for Lawyers.
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The age of social innovation Sir Tim Smit, the visionary behind the Eden Project, spoke to Symon Ross about the future of social enterprise on a recent visit to Northern Ireland.
ocial innovation has the potential to drive the most important change in corporate structures in history, according to the founder of the Eden Project, Sir Tim Smit. Speaking at the EBN Congress in Derry, organised by Noribic, Sir Tim used tales from his own experience of setting up the biodome project in Cornwall – which cost £141m to build and has since generated over £1bn in revenue for the local economy – to illustrate the potential power of social enterprises. “I think social enterprise has the potential to be one of the most important business innovations in the last 250 years,” he told Ulster Business after his speech. “A great business by its very nature should have great outcomes. But the best outcomes are reached by social enterprises because they are able to optimise their profits rather than maximise them. Limited companies are obligated to maximise their profits.” The Eden Project visionary said the old cliché that a social enterprise was an organisation with the heart of the public sector and the management of the private sector was a flawed way to look the concept because “the public sector doesn’t have a heart and some private sector companies are very badly run”. “Social innovation is often seen as a rather fuzzy concept because social enterprises have largely been hi-jacked by Government who see social enterprise as an arm of the third sector, which is not how I see it. As a result a lot of social enterprises are, almost paradoxically, not very enterprising,” he added. “Most people look at problems, for example
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the health service, and approach them in terms of changing what is there. What I would say is imagine there is no health service, how do you start again? That’s one of the things we need to foster, that sort of thinking.” Sir Tim said the biggest challenge facing social enterprise was getting more smart people to work for them, rather than going into investment banking and management consulting. “Social enterprises should be set up so that if people are successful it is possible not only to see social gain but actually benchmark their success against the stakeholder’s success. If someone sets up a social enterprise and is turning over £30m and making profit of £10m there’s no reason in my mind, if it is done in a transparent way, why they shouldn’t make £1m themselves,” he said. “There is an unhealthy desire to portray social enterprise as though you should be wearing a hairshirt. If you are effecting social change in a positive way, the more successful you are, the more you should be able to earn.” He believes partnerships between community organisations and the private sector will become increasingly important, citing the Cornwall Together project in which consumers have clubbed together to maximise their energy buying power. “The danger is that an opportunity of creating new alliances is being missed because they seem to think social enterprises should be not for profit. If they are going to be social enterprises they ought to be charging enough to enable them to invest for the future, rather than just breaking even all the time,” he said.
Eight simple rules
ir Tim Smit has eight flexible rules for people who work at the Eden Project and which he says are applicable to other organisations. • You cannot start your workday before saying “hello” to 20 other people. • Read two books a year outside your sphere of interest that you would not normally read. • Do the same with plays – particularly if you don’t like the theatre. • Do the same with movies – take recommendations from co-workers. • Do the same with concerts. The idea of all these points is to “take the blinkers off your eyes” and intentionally seek new ideas and inspiration. • Once a year, stand up and explain why you love to work for Eden. If you have to do this, he believes that you’ll deal with all the reasons you don’t love Eden before giving your talk. • Eden’s top 80 team members must all do one guerilla act of generosity for other people once a year, without them knowing about it. • Once a year prepare a meal for the 20 people who make it worthwhile coming into work. “People are different when the sun goes down – most of the great decisions we’ve taken at the Eden Project have been made by wine-light.” • Sir Tim’s 9th rule, for himself, is to accept every third invitation he receives. “Magic is created by meeting the people you didn’t know you were meant to meet,” he said.
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Roseann Kelly, Chief Executive of Women in Business NI, is joined at the fifth annual conference by speakers Jo Fairley, founder of Green & Blacks, Susan Davis, Chair of Vital Voices Global, Lara Morgan of Pacific Direct and Chair of Women in Business NI, Kate Marshall.
Inspirational Women in Business NI Conference hailed as a huge success
he Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, Rt Hon Theresa Villiers MP, Minister Arlene Foster, conference speakers from Northern Ireland, the UK, the US and delegates from across Ireland and the UK, have all joined in hailing the fifth annual Women in Business NI Conference a success. In ten short years, the organisation has grown to a membership of 1,000 and more than 300 delegates packed into the Hilton Hotel in Belfast to connect and engage through a series of networking sessions and to learn from leaders in business. Rt Hon Theresa Villiers MP officially opened the conference and paid tribute to “the excellent work Women in Business NI does in forging networks to bring together aspiring entrepreneurs and those thinking about taking their first steps into commerce”. Following the Secretary of State’s official opening of the conference, Susan Davis, Chair of Vital Voices Global in Washington, told delegates there is one piece of good news to come from the global economic crisis. Susan said: “Countries and companies can’t be competitive by leaving half or their population behind so women have to become part of the solution. Instead of still having the same discussions about the glass ceiling, it’s about our fair share of the economic pie – women need to be part of the solution to
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economic prosperity.” She added that investing in women is smart economics and told delegates to “forget China, forget India, forget the internet because women are the emerging market” which was of course met by rapturous applause from the gathered audience. Minister Foster joined the conference by video. She said: “Northern Ireland women have determination and resilience and I encourage local businesses to use their enthusiasm. I commend the work Women in Business NI have done to bring you all here today and look forward to supporting Women in Business NI for next year’s global conference.” Lara Morgan of Pacific Direct told delegates of the lessons she has learnt on her entrepreneurial journey, noting that “business doesn’t happen by remote control – it takes persistence”. Jo Fairley, co-founder of Green & Black’s told how she changed the world, one square of chocolate at a time. Inspired by Anita Roddick of The Body Shop, Jo approached her bank manager for a loan of £20,000 to start the business. When he asked what the loan would be spent on, she replied ‘chocolate’. Jo said: “The brand has officially been named as the ‘coolest’ for the 7th year running by Cool Brands and sales are approaching 100 million per year although it did start off with a
humble beginning.” Following the keynote addresses, delegates had the opportunity to network and attend various workshops hosted by Invest Northern Ireland, Enterprise Ireland, Microsoft, Running Start and Department for Employment and Learning’s management and leadership team. Roseann Kelly, Chief Executive of Women in Business NI, said: “I am absolutely thrilled with the success of this year’s Conference and looking forward to our International Business Women’s Conference which will take place from 13 to 16 May 2014 and will see more than 750 delegates from across the globe descend on Belfast for what is promising to be a life changing experience. www.ibwc2014.com “The extent of real business connections that have been made through our conference will be manifested over the months to come but initially it’s been reported that more than half of those who attended left having engaged firmly with delegates who will be of benefit to their business and workplace. “The success of this conference is proof that if you are a woman in business in Northern Ireland, you should be a member of Women in Business NI. Whether you own your own business, or hold a senior management, leadership role, the networking opportunities will enable you to connect and engage with those you are trying to target.”
Responsible Business Rewarded The eighth annual Business in the Community Awards for corporate responsibility in association with Electric Ireland took place on 6 June at Belfast Waterfront. This gala event, attended by 500 people, celebrated businesses and organisations that demonstrate responsibility through their actions towards their People, the Planet and the Places where they operate. The keynote address was given by Jean Oelwang, Chief Executive of Virgin Unite.
“Interest in our awards is stronger than ever. We had some excellent entries and shortlisting them to choose the best in each category for our judging panels was no easy job. Each year the standard increases as more companies explore what it means to invest in doing business responsibly and reap benefits in terms of – their workforce, local communities and the wider environment.”
The Winners Northern Ireland Responsible Company of the Year McLaughlin & Harvey Environmental Improvement Ballyrashane Co-operative (Highly Commended H&J Martin)
Business and Biodiversity McLaughlin & Harvey Employer of Choice Firstsource (Highly Commended Michelin plc)
Roy Adair, Chair BITCNI & Chief Executive, Belfast Harbour
Local Community Impact George Best Belfast City Airport
2013 NI Responsible Company of the Year – McLaughlin & Harvey Founded in 1853, McLaughlin & Harvey (McL&H) is one of Northern Ireland’s leading building and civil engineering contractors. It also runs three specialist manufacturing and facilities management divisions. It undertakes a wide range of public and private sector projects. McL&H has gone to great lengths to invest Kieran Harding, Business in the Community and Charlotte Elliott from category sponsor in the social aspects Asda with Deborah Noble, Louise Friel and Charlene Jones from winning company of its Sustainable McLaughlin & Harvey along with Roy Adair, Business in the Community Chair. Development Strategy. It has a focus on establishing positive relationships with community partners and local residents, employing health and wellbeing initiatives and leading the way for future generations in terms of CSR. Through Codes of Best Practice, McL&H ensures that all feasible efforts are made to reduce disturbances created by its projects within local communities and undertakes a Good Neighbour Policy at all sites. Employee wellbeing is a core focus of McL&H’s corporate responsibility agenda and it truly believes in the benefit of investing in the health and wellbeing of its employees. McL&H has invested time and resource into its ‘You Matter’ campaign which focuses on ensuring the enhanced wellbeing of both internal employees and promotes health and safety within its supply chain. The judges said: “We loved McLaughlin & Harvey’s ‘You Matter’ project which focuses on employee wellbeing and by the clear targets and reporting being carried out as it strives to be a ‘green leader’. Engagement with sub-contractors is commendable, involving them with local community initiatives and giving them many of the same benefits it affords to its own employees. It also showed a proactive approach to research and innovation that will see it continue to lead the way in its sector.” All of this work has resulted in McL&H sites being placed in the top 10% of Considerate Contractors Scheme across the UK. It has produced bird tables made from post-construction cedar waste given to over 100 local schools as well as creating an ‘eco garden’ for one school. It also invested over £90k in its employee wellbeing campaign ‘You Matter’.
(Highly Commended BT)
Education Partner Equiniti-ICS (Highly Commended Ulster Bank)
Most Responsible Small Business ISL Waste Management Ltd Sustained Impact Ulster Bank 2013 National Big Ticks Diageo NI for the Bupa Workwell Award Moy Park for the Dairy Crest Rural Action Award and Diageo NI for the Workplace Talent and Skills Award Other companies also reaccredited with Big Ticks from 2011 and 2012 were: Adelaide Insurance; Allstate NI; Capita Managed IT Solutions; Phoenix Natural Gas and Translink
HRH Ambassador Michael Ryan, Bombardier Aerospace Sieff Future Leader Lauren Geddis, Citi Community Leader Kerry Anthony, Depaul Ireland (Highly Commended Anne Bill, FASA)
Mark Pollock Award for Hope Terry McCorran, City of Belfast Boxing Academy
Most Responsible Small Business ISL Waste Management (ISL) is a locally owned company providing holistic and recyclingfocused waste management services. Newtownabbey-based, ISL extracts recyclable fractions from mixed waste, achieving zero waste to landfill for most of its clients. ISL actively works to change its employees and other stakeholders’ perceptions of waste and delivers some unique, innovative solutions. It encourages staff volunteering and gets involved in a variety of initiatives to inform the community about recycling opportunities. It successfully incorporated a 30% blend of bio diesels into its fleet of 11 vehicles in 2012. Its work has resulted in 2,015 tonnes of waste being diverted from landfill, redirection of 20,000 disposable face masks from landfill to doctors in Burkino Faso and five tonnes of material donated and used in school projects across Northern Ireland.
Derek Russell, Electric Ireland presents the award to Joe McCrystal, Danny Paton and Barry Donaghy from ISL Waste Management along with Tony Dunlea, Electric Ireland.
David Hughes and Ian Campbell from Ballyrashane Co-operative receive their award from Catherine Mason, Translink and Tony Dunlea, Electric Ireland.
As it enters its 117th year in business, Ballyrashane Co-operative is one of the very few remaining operational co-operatives owned by local farmers. With over 150 employees, it is headquartered in Ballyrashane and has premises in Coleraine and Enniskillen. In 2012, it opened its first ever ‘green energy’ facility using organic dairy waste to generate electricity. The £3.5 million Anaerobic Digestion Plant has allowed it to maximise its own renewable energy generation and reduce carbon dioxide emissions. £1 million has been invested over three years to improve its environmental credentials, including replacing two oil burners with gas, new refrigeration and chilled water equipment which achieves >30% efficiency than before, dissolved air flotation and storage units to aid effluent treatment for water discharge. All of this work has enabled Ballyrashane Co-operative to produce seven million kWh of energy and save 3,500 tonnes of CO2 each year. Highly Commended in this category was H&J Martin.
Andrew Brammer, Allen & Overy presents the award to Tony Madden and Claire Colvin from Equiniti-ICS along with Tony Dunlea, Electric Ireland.
Equiniti-ICS is one of the fastest growing IT services and payroll outsourcing providers. Headquartered in Belfast, it employs around 350 people and is now the fourth largest business services provider in the UK. With one in four young people aged between 18 – 24 unable to find a job here and around 2,000 new professional IT positions created every year being left unfilled, it decided to actively address this situation. Given the tight labour market within the IT industry, it explored the alternatives to recruitment with a view to minimising the risk to its business. It developed a Business Education Partnership with the Northern Regional College in 2012. Part of the initiative involves the company providing positive role models for students. This has allowed the firm to make a positive impact in its local communities by making strong connections with its future workforce. It has developed a number of initiatives including steering meetings, presentations to students, interviews, mentoring and plans for equipment provisions. This work has made a significant impact with three students being offered one year long work placements, recruitment costs reduced by around £55k and 15 employees involved in mentoring roles. Highly Commended in this category was Ulster Bank.
Business and Biodiversity Building and civil engineering contractor, McLaughlin & Harvey (McL&H) is committed to ensuring biodiversity is a key focus on its agenda. It has designed a Sustainable Business Strategy, fully endorsed by top management which aims to halt biodiversity loss and positively influence McL&H’s stakeholders to do the same. Through its ‘Green Value Engineering’ initiative, biodiversity is considered during all stages of the construction project. Protective measures such as pollution prevention measures, planting native species, construction and placement of bird boxes and other biodiversity measures are put in place as appropriate. Its biodiversity projects range from local, such as developing a community nature reserve and providing bird boxes for local schools, to global. McL&H has supplied over 120 bird tables to schools, reaching 3,000 local pupils. It is the first UK main contractor and only Northern Ireland contractor to achieve FSC certification. It has invested more than £70k in biodiversity projects. Mark Miller, AES presents the award to Richard Robinson and Louise Friel from McLaughlin & Harvey Ltd along with Tony Dunlea, Electric Ireland.
Employer of Choice
Alan Bissett, Arthur Cox Solicitors presents the award to Grainne O’Kane and Laura Hourican from Firstsource along with Tony Dunlea, Electric Ireland and Minister for Employment & Learning Dr Stephen Farry MLA.
Firstsource is a global business process outsourcer located in 46 destinations worldwide, including Belfast and Derry/Londonderry. It supplies a range of services across the customer management spectrum, including customer acquisition, customer care, technical support, billing and transaction processing. With over 2,365 employees, Firstsource is proud to be providing meaningful career opportunities as well as providing a fun place to work and an environment that helps its people a successful work/life balance. In 2012, it introduced a wide range of flexible working options – homeworking, flexible family time and back to school initiatives – helping employees achieve their full potential. Firstsource engages with the long-term unemployed by working in partnership with Business in the Community and others. Through these interventions, it has successfully hired 223 long-term unemployed people. Last year, Firstsource promoted 69 people across Northern Ireland, reduced recruitment costs by £1.14m and achieved over 85% in staff satisfaction levels as well as saving public purse over £3.3m by employing those who were long-term unemployed. Highly Commended in this category was Michelin.
Local Community Impact
Michael Scott from firmus energy and Dr Malcolm McKibbin, Head of NI Civil Service present Stephen Patton and Michelle Hatfield from George Best Belfast City Airport with their award along with Tony Dunlea, Electric Ireland.
Regional airport George Best Belfast City Airport (GBBCA) has grown significantly in recent years and is a key strategic gateway to the province, catering for over 2.3 million passengers per year.
Richard Ennis from Ulster Bank receives the award from Tracey Meharg, Invest NI along with Pauline McKiernan, Ulster Bank and Tony Dunlea, Electric Ireland.
Established in 1836 and with over 136 branches, Ulster Bank, a subsidiary of RBS Group, employs 6,000 people and serves the needs of around 1.9 million personal and business customers. Ulster Bank believes in supporting its local communities and works hard to instil this culture into the heart of its people. As a socially responsible bank it believes that the key community issues should also be its key issues and invests time and resources into these. It has developed the largest financial programme available in Ireland – ‘MoneySense for Schools’ – a free online educational resource that teaches young people the vital finance and business skills they need for life. Ulster Bank’s financial education has gone from a ‘nice to do’ to a ‘strategic asset’, evident through its Community Impact Fund which has been developed to provide grants to community organisations to help them deliver financial education and enterprise support. As a direct result, Ulster Bank has experienced a 15% increase in employee engagement, 65% of secondary schools here use ‘MoneySense’, reaching over 29,000 students, with 238 volunteers participating.
Mark Pollock Award for Hope Terry McCorran, founder of the City of Belfast Boxing Academy, was nominated by Michael Copeland MLA. Situated in East Belfast, Terry has successfully run the Academy for many years. He has been steadfast in its development even when David Armstrong, pwc presents Terry McCorran, City seriously ill. Making a of Belfast Boxing Club with his award along with Tony difference to the lives of Dunlea, Electric Ireland. many local children from all sides of the community, it is widely accepted by local people as an oasis for community activities, running a variety of clubs as well as its core function – a place for children to develop their interest in boxing.
Community Leader Award
It is committed to delivering a safe, efficient and friendly service whilst seeking to reduce the impact of its operation on the environment and local community. Its programmes – Community Fund and High Flyers – seek to enrich and support its local community. Community groups in East Belfast and North Down have benefited from over £100k of support for 60 different projects. High Flyers offers participants aged 16-24 the opportunity to gain expertise and skills in a vast range of disciplines, including human resources, customer service and catering, over a one year period. The airport invests over 1,000 business hours each year into educational initiatives. It accommodates over 20 school visits per year accounting for over 160 man hours. Two employees participate in BITC’s Time to Read initiative, helping six children from Knocknagoney Primary School with their reading. GBBCA also works strategically with three local schools through BITC’s ‘Adopt A School’ programme. The results of GBBCA’s efforts include £50k invested in community projects in one year, an increase of 7% in employee volunteering and supporting over 35 students by providing work experience placement of 22 hours per week.
Winner Kerry Anthony was nominated by Jurys Inn Group Ltd. As CEO she is the inspirational driving force behind Depaul – a cross-border charity offering homeless and disadvantaged people the opportunity to fulfil their potential and provide both crisis and long-term support to homeless Richard Caldwell, Danske Bank and Simon Hamilton MLA, present Kerry Anthony, Depaul Ireland with her people in Northern Ireland. award along with Tony Dunlea, Electric Ireland. Kerry’s enormous passion and tireless work keeps funders committed. She has made the organisation more efficient, accountable and sustainable, ensuring it can continue to change people’s lives.
Highly Commended in this category was BT.
Highly Commended in this category was Anne Bill from FASA.
Moy Park scoops Rural Action Award Moy Park is a top UK food company and one of Europe’s largest poultry producers. With a turnover of £1bn, it employs 10,000 people in Northern Ireland and England and has over 700 farms in its supply chain. It supplies all the leading retail and food service customers. With youth unemployment at its highest in 15 years and 1 in 4 young people looking for employment here, Moy Park saw an opportunity to address this issue and the fact that it was facing a shortage of skilled agri-food people. It launched the Moy Park Academy in partnership with the College of Agri-Food and Brian Moreland, Moy Park receives a Big Tick Award with Ronan Sheehy, Electric Ireland and Gillian McKee, Rural Enterprise to encourage and support young Business in the Community. people to further their development and careers in the agri-food industry and help tackle youth unemployment in rural areas. It provides four bursaries and five placements each year. By actively supporting The Prince’s Countryside Fund, Moy Park has helped 366 rural enterprises and over 700 people by providing training opportunities for young people. It has provided one British Poultry Council (BPC) scholarship annually since 2011 and got involved in providing enterprise education to over 200 school children.
Diageo shows its talent and skills The world’s leading premium drinks business, Diageo in Northern Ireland has three manufacturing sites and employs over 400 people in Northern Ireland. Facing a skills shortage in some areas of the business, it took steps to address the issues. It developed a Manufacturing Excellence (ME) Capability Programme with a focus on increasing productivity and providing employees with training and accreditation opportunities for the work they do. It created a new performance appraisal process for employees and line managers Deborah McLean and Michael Hailes, Diageo NI receive reflecting the capabilities required within the their Big Tick Award with Ronan Sheehy, Electric Ireland programme and appointed a dedicated ME and Gillian McKee, Business in the Community. programme resource and trainer to ensure that reporting, monitoring and evaluation processes are implemented accurately. As a result, staff productivity increased by 60% and its values survey showed that 82% of employees are highly engaged and proud to work for Diageo. In both Belfast packaging and Baileys Mallusk, almost 10% of current employees have gained a new qualification and plans are in place to roll the qualification out to many more in 2013.
Sieff Future Leader Award
Roy Adair, Chair, Business in the Community and Simon Lucas, Marks & Spencer present Lauren Geddis, Citi with her award along with Kieran Harding, Business in the Community.
Lauren Geddis from Citi was described by her manager as “an ‘ideas’ person from which everything flows. She is dedicated to her own professional development, the development of her team, the wider Belfast legal team and enhancing the profile of Citi Belfast within the Citi community and also the local community. Lauren constantly explores innovative ways to add value and improve the service provided to the business and its clients.”
HRH Ambassador for Corporate Responsibility in Northern Ireland
Diageo Northern Ireland works well Employing over 400 people in Northern Ireland, Diageo, the world’s leading premium drinks business, is one of our most important exporters in the food and beverage sector. A Wellbeing Risk Assessment highlighted issues around staff feeling overstretched and lacking control of their work/life balance, so Diageo NI decided to address these issues. It launched its ‘You are Made of More’ health and wellbeing programme, providing education, support and health awareness activities for employees. Activities include a weight-loss programme ‘Made of Less’, a walking challenge, Lynn Graham and Michael McCann, Diageo NI receive their Big Tick Award with Ronan Sheehy, Electric Ireland ‘Know Your Numbers’ health checks, gym and Gillian McKee, Business in the Community. membership, a bike to work scheme and energy management workshops for people managers and healthy eating programmes. It addressed mental wellbeing using iPads, wellbeing guidelines and health webinars on issues such ‘handling pressure’ and ‘developing resilience’. The results are impressive, with programme participation increasing from 88% to 92% in one year. 97% of employees say it is a great place to work. Manufacturing productivity has increased by 8% in one year and staff turnover remains well below the national average at < 1%. Baileys Mallusk site achieved over 1,900 days without an accident. During 2012, 92 (25%) employees took part in the weight-loss programme with an overall weight loss of 730 lbs, raising £3,650 for charity, employees collectively walked over 11,600 miles during the ‘Walk for Wellbeing’ challenge and the company’s overall engagement score up 4% from 2011 figures.
Roy Adair, Belfast Harbour presents Michael Ryan, Bombardier with his award.
Winner Michael J Ryan, CBE, Vice-President & General Manager Operations, Bombardier Aerospace has been deeply engaged with Business in the Community for over ten years and was Chair of the NI Board of the organisation between 2005 and 2009. His leadership and vision have been truly valuable, not only to Business in the Community but to his own company and the wider community. Michael has been at the very forefront of efforts to encourage long-term unemployed people back to work. He has chaired the West Belfast & Greater Shankill Employers’ Forum for a decade and invested over £1m from Bombardier Aerospace in the Forum’s development which has now expanded citywide. It has helped over 1,300 people gain jobs. This accolade is very fitting as it comes during the tenth anniversary year of the Employers’ Forum that he is leading from strength to strength.
Executive Motoring By Pat Burns
www.fleetfinancial.co.uk Extra comes as standard
High Tech DS5Hybid4
he latest model in Citroën’s stylish DS range, the DS5 Hybrid4 is a technological tour de force. It uses the latest diesel engine to drive the front wheels while hybrid electric power drives the rear wheels meaning it can offer four wheel drive if required. The DS5 was designed to combine fun at the wheel with distinctive style, luxury, comfort and aesthetics. It is aimed squarely at business customers and retail buyers who want bolder design choices and the economic benefits of new technologies like Hybrid4. Obviously inspired by the world of aviation, the DS5’s cabin standout feature is the sweeping cockpit roof, which features pilot-style overhead switchgear. The large glass roof, divided into three areas, features individual electrically operated sunblinds, allowing occupants to control the amount of light entering the cabin both day and night. Authentic, premium materials such as finest-grain ‘Club’ leather are used. Other highlights include a wraparound dashboard and wide central console, both ergonomically positioned. The innovative retractable colour head-up display projects driving information directly into the driver’s line of vision. LED lighting appears throughout, bathing DS5’s interior in an ambient display of intermittent reds and whites, highlighting the various features. The DS5 is the first Citroën fitted with Hybrid4 technology. The innovative system delivers outstanding performance and low CO2 emissions from just 99g/km. Hybrid4 offers financial benefits to both retail and business customers in addition to the impressive fuel economy. The sub-100g/km CO2 model is exempt from VED and, for business users, the BiK tax rate is just 10%. The DS5 Hybrid4 offers drivers a selection of four different operating modes: AUTO: Activated by default on start up, the Auto mode optimises fuel consumption by automatically switching between the diesel engine and the electric motor. ZEV: For speeds up to 37mph, the Zero Emissions Vehicle mode enables the car to be driven using the electric motor only. SPORT: This mode uses the electric motor in tandem with the diesel engine to provide extra power when the driver requires more responsive acceleration. 4WD: On rough ground or in low-grip conditions, the 4WD mode increases traction delivering power through all four wheels. The front wheels are powered by the diesel engine, the rear wheels by the electric motor.
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Volvo’s Cross Country runner
he new Cross Country version of Volvo’s V40 model is designed for people who want a great road car with a high degree of versatility. As a rugged evolution of the V40, it features increased ride height, practical versatility and has the option of All-Wheel-Drive. Special attention has been made by the Volvo chassis engineering team to ensure the dynamic drive of the V40 is not lost with the increased ride height (40mm) of the Cross Country. It has been designed to offer the optimum handling, steering feel, agility and ride comfort. Safety is, and will always be a top priority when it comes to car design and features. The V40 Cross Country is fitted as standard with Volvo’s low-speed collision avoidance system, City Safety, and the world’s first pedestrian airbag. These, amongst the many other safety features fitted, ensures Volvo’s reputation for safety leadership continues. These features have helped the V40 receive the highest overall score in Euro NCAP’s tests. The fitment of City Safety as standard has also resulted in the car having lower insurance ratings after being tested by
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Thatcham on behalf of the Association of British Insurers. Seven different sensors in the front bumper register the contact between the car and the pedestrian. The rear end of the bonnet is released and at the same time elevated by the deploying airbag, which is sited under the trailing edge of the bonnet. The inflated airbag covers the area under the raised bonnet and approximately one third of the windscreen area and the lower part of the A-pillar. The raised bonnet – made from soft metal – helps to absorb the pedestrian impact, while the airbag helps to cushion the pedestrian from potentially dangerous hard points on the car, the windscreen and A-pillars. The V40 D2 Cross Country emits just 99g/km of CO2 which means both retail and business users benefit from low BIK and road tax. Benefit-in-Kind figures for the V40 D2 Cross Country starts from £52.10 for a 20% tax payer and from £104.20 for a 40% tax payer for the current financial year. The biggest seller is expected to be the
1.6-litre four-cylinder diesel D2, accounting for just over 60 per cent. The highly-efficient engine delivers an amazing 99g/km CO2, equating to 74.3mpg on the combined cycle. The other two diesel engines on offer are the five-cylinder 2.0 litre D3 and D4. The D3 produces 150hp and 350 Nm of torque from 1500-2750rpm. On the top diesel version, the D4, the extra turbo boost means power jumps to 177hp and maximum torque to 400 Nm. Maximum torque is achieved from 1750 to 2750rpm. Both fivecylinder engines also offer fine economy and low emissions. The D3 produces 117g/km of CO2 as a manual, which puts it in vehicle tax band C. The manual D4 emits the same CO2, excellent for a high performance diesel. Combined fuel economy for both engines is 64.2mpg. The V40 Cross Country is available in two specification levels, Cross Country SE and Cross Country Lux. Prices start from £22,595 on the road for the V40 D2 Cross Country SE, up to £33,875 for the V40 T5 AWD Geartronic Cross Country Lux Nav.
Dacia – don’t knock it until you’ve tried it
he first Dacia has arrived in Northern Ireland and while it offers bargain basement motoring, the Sandero, which is slightly bigger than a Clio, is surprisingly good. The diesel version, as tested by Ulster Business, is also tremendously economical. From humble beginnings, the Romanian brand has gone from strength to strength since Renault bought it in 1999 and transformed its fortunes. For the last eight years in a row it has been the fastest-growing automotive brand in Europe, rising from under 5,000 sales in 2004 to shifting a mighty 350,000 last year. Now Dacia has started producing right hand drive cars. Kicking off the budget priced Sandero range is the aptly named Access. At £5,995, the entry-level version offers ABS with Emergency Brake Assist, ASR traction control, ESC (Electronic Stability Control), driver, passenger and front side airbags and ISOFIX points in both outer rear seats For only £600 more, the mid-level Ambiance profers such niceties as radio CD player with fingertip remote controls, USB and AUX input, Bluetooth™, remote central locking, electric front windows, and body coloured bumpers. The top-of-the-range Sandero versions are called Lauréate. Dacia expects up to two thirds of buyers to plump for them. Starting from only £7,995, the range topping models come with air conditioning, heated and electrically adjustable door mirrors, cruise control and electric rear windows as standard. In this guise, Sandero really does offer big car features for small car prices. There’s even an optional fully-integrated 7-inch touchscreen navigation and multimedia system for just £250. For everyday motoring on an economical scale the Sandero is a perfectly pleasant car to drive. Don’t knock it until you’ve tried one.
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Kia’s seven seat wonder
ia has completely redesigned their seven seater people carrier, the Carens. It has undergone such a transformation that only the name remains from the previous model. The Carens is similar in size and style to the new Zafira and will continue the Korean manufacturers full scale assault on the UK car market. The all-new third-generation Carens completes the design-led revolution that President and Chief Design Officer Peter Schreyer began only a few years ago, by renewing every model in the range, and that has completely transformed Kia’s image and driven the company towards year after year of record sales. The new Carens features three highly efficient and modern engines – one petrol and two turbodiesels – two transmissions and three trim and equipment packages. MPVs exist to meet the varied needs of families rather than turn heads. Like the latest Sportage crossover – another radical departure from the model it replaced, and one that has been at the forefront of Kia’s rocketing sales – the new Carens is a car people will want to own rather than one bought out of necessity. The new Carens is 20mm shorter, 15mm narrower and 45mm lower than the model it replaces, which means that in size it sits somewhere between the five-seat and seven-
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seat models from competitors. Yet thanks to a 50mm increase in wheelbase and lower seat positions it more than matches them for space, with abundant head, leg and shoulder room in all three rows of seats, while delivering the additional benefits of increased luggage space and a lower loading lip. There are now three individual sliding and reclining centre-row seats in place of a split bench and two separate seats in the rear, all of which fold flat to ensure the ultimate in passenger-to-cargo versatility. A longer, wider and taller luggage area and – for the first time – an under-floor compartment to store the cargo screen adds to the practicality of the new Carens. The front passenger’s seat also folds flat to allow exceptionally long loads to be carried. The petrol engine is the 1.6-litre Gamma GDi direct-injection unit that, with 133bhp and 165Nm of torque, ensures relaxed motorway performance and easy-to-drive, flexible responses in stop-start driving. Combined fuel economy is 44.1mpg, with comfortably more than 53mpg possible when cruising, while CO2 emissions are 149g/km. It is also available with two versions of the European-designed 1.7-litre CRDi manual transmission turbodiesel engine, developing either 114bhp and 260Nm of torque or 134bhp and 330Nm. Those high torque figures are maintained over a wide rev range,
giving the Carens good driveability even with a full complement of passengers on board. The standard version delivers maximum torque from 1,250 to 2,750rpm and 0-60mph acceleration in 12.6 seconds with a 112mph top speed. The more powerful engine option develops its 330Nm between 2,000 and 2,500rpm, which allows 0-60mph to be completed in 10.0 seconds and a top speed of 119mph. Both 1.7 CRDi power outputs are extremely clean and fuel-efficient. Combined cycle fuel consumption and CO2 emissions are 60.1mpg and 124g/km and 56.4mpg and 132g/km respectively, and a diesel particulate filter is fitted as standard. The 1.7 CRDi version with the six-speed automatic transmission delivers 134bhp and 320Nm of torque between 1,750 – 2,500rpm, that allows a 0-60mph to be completed in 11.6 seconds and a top speed of 116mph. Fuel consumption and CO2 emissions are 46.3mpg and 159g/km. Kia’s Intelligent Stop & Go (ISG) engine stop-start system is standard on all manualgearbox models. Safety is paramount at Kia, especially in a model designed with family use in mind. With the arrival of the new model, several features previously unavailable in the Carens have been introduced, and as with every Kia, they are standard across the range. Hill-start Assist Control prevents the car from rolling backwards during uphill starts by maintaining braking pressure until the driver touches the accelerator, while the highlevel brake lamp at the rear now includes an Emergency Stop Signal which causes the light to flash during sudden braking to warn following drivers. The new Carens also features Brake Assist to ensure maximum stopping power in an emergency, regardless of the force applied to the pedal by the driver, plus Vehicle Stability Management. This links with the Electronic Stability Control to reduce the amount of steering assistance if the driver over-corrects in an emergency, and increases assistance if the driver under-corrects. Standard features include seven seats, projection headlights with cornering lamps, LED daytime running lamps, electrically adjustable heated door mirrors, driver’s seat height adjustment and tilt and telescopic steering wheel adjustment, a leather-trimmed steering wheel and gearshift, a centre console armrest, air conditioning, rear air ventilation, steering wheel-mounted controls, front and rear electric windows, cruise control with a speed limiter, remote central locking, a six-speaker RDS radio/CD player with iPod connectivity, MP3 compatibility and Bluetooth with voice recognition and music streaming.
Allroads lead to Audi
new, third generation A6 allroad quattro offering the all-weather reassurance of quattro all-wheel-drive and four-level height adjustable air suspension is now available. The Audi A6 allroad quattro with four powerful V6 engine options is priced from £43,150 to £49,445. It offers top performance and roadholding while still being capable of tackling the worst of our weather or driving conditions. Like the saloon and ‘standard’ Avant, the A6 allroad quattro has been constructed using the latest Audi ultra lightweight construction principles, and with aluminium components making up roughly 20 per cent of its body, total vehicle weight has been reduced by 70 kilograms compared with the previous model. The petrol-powered model is the 3.0-litre TFSI, which is boosted by a mechanically driven supercharger and produces 310PS and 440Nm of torque. It powers the A6 allroad quattro from rest to 62mph in 5.9 seconds on the way to an electronically limited top speed of 155mph, and yet can still achieve 31.7mpg according to the combined cycle test. The TDI range comprises three 3.0-litre V6 units, the first two of which deliver 204PS with peak torque of 450Nm and 245PS with 580Nm with the help of a single turbocharger. The 204PS version is the efficiency champion, achieving a combined economy figure of 46.3mpg with CO2 output of 159g CO2/
km, despite strong 7.5-second zero to 62mph acceleration. Its 245PS counterpart runs it impressively close, with 44.8mpg potential and 165g/km CO2 output combined, along with 6.6-second acceleration. The top-ranking diesel, the new BiTDI, uses two turbochargers to inject 313PS and 650Nm, enough to power the A6 allroad to 62mph in just 5.6 seconds on the way to a governed 155mph top speed. It complements this sports car-style performance with a surprisingly sports car-style engine note that comes courtesy of an innovative sound actuator in an auxiliary channel of the exhaust system, but its economy figures remain resolutely diesel-like, with up to 42.2mpg possible equating to 176g/km CO2 output. The three single turbocharger engines are paired with the seven-speed S tronic dual-clutch transmission while the BiTDI uses the latest eight-speed tiptronic automatic transmission. The power these refined units supply is handled by the latest generation quattro all-wheel-drive system with 40:60 front-to-rear torque split, and the body rises or lowers on its four-level air springs according to prevailing driving conditions and speeds, ensuring that the A6 allroad quattro feels equally at home in the tightest of corners or on the roughest of tracks. The rough-and-tumble capability of the A6 allroad quattro is reflected in exterior
features such as extended side sills, flared wings and protective front and rear stainless steel underbody guards. The interior of the Audi A6 allroad quattro offers plenty of space thanks to the long wheelbase It combines a clean, elegant design with a suitably ample quota of equipment. This includes 18-inch alloy wheels, Milano leather upholstery, satellite navigation, the Multi Media Interface (MMI) linked to a 6.5-inch retractable colour display, the Audi parking system plus, cruise control, Bluetooth mobile phone preparation, light and rain sensors and the Audi drive select adaptive dynamics system. Audi drive select enables the driver to adjust the operating characteristics of the steering, the air suspension, the throttle, the automatic transmission, the automatic air conditioning and the lighting. It offers five modes – Comfort, Dynamic, Automatic, Individual and Efficiency, the latter configuring the most economy-focused settings for all the functions controlled. A wide choice of options is also available, including a head-up display which can project important information onto the windscreen, the hard drive-based MMI Navigation plus system with touchpad operation (MMI touch) and retractable eight-inch monitor, a 15-speaker Bang & Olufsen audio system, comfort seats with a ventilation and massage function and a panoramic glass roof.
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Saville Audio Visual, has announced the appointment of Steve Kennedy as Business Development Manager. Although based primarily in Belfast, Steve will be developing strategic business relationships with clients throughout the whole of Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland. Vince Arkins has been appointed Business Development Manager at Fleet Financial. Vince has 20 years’ experience in the finance and leasing industry, with the majority employed by Lombard Finance Ireland. Ross Moffett has been appointed Business Development Manager at Fleet Financial. Ross has been employed for the last five years with Mercedes-Benz Belfast in both the roles of Sales and Business Executive.
Patricia McIlroy has been appointed Sales Executive at dotRetailer.com. In her new role, Patricia will focus on developing new business opportunities and expansion into new markets. Patricia has an MSc in International Business and has over five years’ commercial sales and marketing experience. Andy Murphy has been appointed UX/UI Web developer at dotRetailer.com. In his new role, Andy will be designing, developing and creating mobile optimised ecommerce web sites. Andy has a BSc (Hons) degree in Interactive Multimedia Design and has over six years’ experience in the creative industry. Sally Smyth has been appointed Business Development Executive at Noonan Services Ltd. Sally worked as Deputy Centre Manager at Victoria Square for four years, prior to which she gained ten years’ experience in the voluntary housing sector.
dr rochelle o’hara
Dr Rochelle O’Hara has been appointed as Senior Project Manager for Sentinus. Rochelle has a BSc Hons in Biomedical Engineering from the University of Ulster and a PhD in Spinal Fractures from Queen’s University Belfast. Previously Rochelle worked for Boston Scientific. James Woods has been appointed as Finance Manager with Northern Ireland Chamber of Commerce. James has previously worked with PwC and BDO in Belfast and joins the Chamber having most recently held the position of Management Accountant with Capita Managed IT Solutions. Malachy McAleese has joined Henderson Foodservice as Business Development Executive for Co. Antrim, responsible for developing, managing and growing the existing customer base sales while maximising sales through building and maintaining sound customer relations with outlets not currently trading with Henderson Foodservice.
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Aisling Bremner has established Aisling Bremner Strategic Marketing. As a freelance consultant she specialises in developing marketing strategies and implementing marketing campaigns, providing an outsourced marketing service. Aisling has over 13 years experience, working with C&C Group, Heinz and Maxxium.
ALISON McCULLOUGH has joined the Lough & Quay Lettings and resale’s team and will be responsible for rental valuations, advising landlords of legal requirements prior and during renting, viewings and tenant or landlord enquiries. Alison has five years experience in Estate Agency. P&O Ferries has appointed Neal Mernock to the role of Sector Director Irish Sea. Neal will be responsible with the local and head office management team for the strategic growth and direction of the business across all Irish Sea activity. Neal is an experienced chief executive and managing director of various household name businesses.
Gary Bell has joined Sure2Sell Property Services as a personal property manager. Gary is responsible for helping vendors sell their property and has over 28 years experience in the sales industry. Tom McBride has also joined Sure2Sell Property Services as a personal property manager. Tom is responsible for helping vendors sell their property and has over 17 years sales experience in the buy to let property industry. Jamie McIlwee has been appointed as Graphic Design Marketing Executive of Whitespace Design Consultancy Ltd. Jamie recently graduated from the University of Ulster. In his new position Jamie is responsible for designing Whitespace’s monthly eZine, designing adverts for magazines and updating the company website.
Linda Kennedy has been appointed as Multi-Platform Manager for UTV, based in Dublin with responsibility for further developing UTV’s television and cross platform revenues with agencies and clients based in the Republic of Ireland. Linda has more than 16 years’ media sales experience. Andy Tough has joined Belfast-based property consultancy, RHM Commercial, as a partner. Andy will be responsible for managing the firm’s asset management practice. He is a chartered surveyor and experienced property professional with almost 30 years’ experience and joins the firm from Strathkeen Property Consultants. Paul Ritchie has joined Belfast-based property consultancy, RHM Commercial, as a Partner and will be responsible for the firm’s property management practice. Paul joins from his own firm, Commercial Property Solutions, which recently merged with RHM Commercial. Paul has over 20 years’ commercial property experience in the local market.
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1. Marking the introduction of the New Blackberry® Q10™ to local businesses, Connect Telecom held an information event recently in the Europa Hotel. Pictured are Matthew Brown from Connect Telecom; Niall McKeever, from Airporter; Harry Girvan from Connect; Robin Johnston, Enterprise and Commercial Manager BlackBerry UK and Ireland and Robin Brown of Connect. 2. At the opening of a new Santander branch in the University of Ulster are Matt Hutnell, Santander Universities Performance Director, ViceChancellor, Professor Richard Barnett, Laura McDonald, Manager, Santander University branch, Professor Alastair Adair, Provost (Jordanstown & Belfast) and Luke Ellis, Santander Relationship Director.
3. Justis Publishing Limited, a London-based legal publishing company, is establishing a base in Northern Ireland, creating eight new jobs with support from Invest Northern Ireland. Pictured are Barry McBride, Invest NI’s Executive Director of International Business and Rory Campbell, Editorial Manager at Justis Publishing.
4. Gordons Chemists has energised a local business by becoming the first independent pharmacy chain to stock its new, high energy biscuit. Gordons is to stock the innovative CalBisc 100 biscuit, which is made by Calerrific Ltd, in all of its 52 stores in Northern Ireland. David Lightbody, pharmacist at Gordons Chemists Bangor, took delivery of the CalBisc 100 from Alan Baird, Managing Director of Calerrific Ltd.
5. William Allen, Invest NI joins Yalcin Cubuk, owner of Domestic Sheepskins and Neil McCabe, Senior Investment Manager, WhiteRock Capital Partners to announce the Co. Armagh company has secured a £500,000 loan from the Growth Loan Fund to assist in its international expansion plans.
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6. The Unreal Grass Company, suppliers and fitters of realistic artificial grass, is among the businesses taking part in Bank of Ireland UKs Enterprise Week. Pictured is Sean Sheehan, Regional Manager, Bank of Ireland UK Northern Ireland with Richard Snape, Managing Director of The Unreal Grass Company who showcased their product at the Lisburn Road branch.
7. Rose Kelly of Allstate NI is presented with the HR Professional of the Year award at the CIPD Northern Ireland Awards. Handing over the prize is Gareth Walls from category sponsors A&L Goodbody.
8. Renowned Chef Danny Millar and Director Jennie Sweeney are pictured at Balloo House with its award-winning ingredient - locally sourced food. The restaurant was named ‘The Good Food Guide Readers’ Restaurant of the Year’ in Northern Ireland. 9. Belfast law firm Tughans and corporate financiers Horwood Neill Holmes advised on the transaction which landed the prestigious Deal of the Year Award. The award judges singled out the investment by YFM Equity Partners in Northern Irelandbased Seven Technologies for the top accolade. The £6.6m investment was one of the highest secured by a local company in 2012. 10. BDO recently organised a seminar on the introduction of new accounting standards, FRS 102. This is a big deal for all businesses who by January 2015 will have to adhere to the new standards. The seminar was attended by just over 200 business people. Pictured are Nigel Harra and Laura Jackson from BDO.
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11. Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness was the special guest at a Sales Institute of Ireland seminar in the Hilton Hotel in Belfast, sponsored by Belfast-based ICT solutions specialist Leaf. He was welcomed to the event by SII Northern Ireland region chairman Noel Brady, Leaf business development consultant Ciaran Mullin and Leaf sales manager Kyle Johnston. 12. The Northern Ireland Retail Consortium has launched their report on Social Mobility in the retail sector entitled Retail in Northern Ireland’s Society: Opportunities for All. Pictured are Glyn Roberts, NIIRTA, Helen Dickinson, BRC, Stephen Lynam, Retail Ireland and Aodhán Connolly, NIRC. 13. Ellen Hillen, Corporate Fundraising Manager at Northern Ireland Hospice, is joined by Michael Rodgers from Openwave Mobility. He was part of a 20-strong team taking part in a charity cycle for the NI Hospice ‘Buy a Brick’ campaign the aim of which is to to help fund the rebuild of a new hospice at Somerton Road, Belfast.
14. Media and communication is constantly changing and more of the world is going online. So the latest PANI event saw over 110 delegates enjoy a networking breakfast at The Holiday Inn, Belfast to hear from guest speaker, Martyn Gates, Executive Director of ABC. Pictured are Martyn Gates, Executive Director of ABC; Tony Axon, Navigator Blue and John Brolly, Irish News. 15. Pictured at the CBI Northern Ireland Annual Dinner at the Culloden Hotel are Adrian Doran, Barclays (Senior Sponsor); Eric Reynolds, Urban Space Management (Keynote speaker); Ian Coulter (Chairman CBI NI); Colin Walsh (Vice Chair CBI NI); Darren Lemon, eircom UK (Headline Sponsor)
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16. Building on their success, Eos systems has been accredited an Oki Authorised Premier Partner for Managed Print Services. Accepting the award from Paul Cinnamond of Oki is Eos Systems Technical Director Peter Brown. 17. Elaine Molyneaux, Bangor Branch Manager with Progressive Building Society, is pictured with the Society’s coveted Branch of the Year Award, along with the Society’s Chief Executive Darina Armstrong and Chairman Timothy Quin. Elaine received the news she had won this award following the Society’s Annual General Meeting, which took place recently in the Everglades Hotel, Derry.
18. David Meade brought his powers of persuasion to this year’s launch of Byte Night at the Northern Ireland Science Park. Byte Night is the technology industry’s annual ‘sleep out’ in support of Action for Children. The Belfast event will be taking place at the Belfast Activity Centre on Friday 4th October. Attending the launch were, from left: Danielle Campbell from Proofpoint; entertainer and corporate speaker David Meade; Clare McClintock from Action for Children; and Damien Stone from Concentrix.
19. Three young and enthusiastic Kainos staff, Ciaran McGinn, Richard Barbour and Laura Girvan, look forward to working with a new influx of students on the “Earn as you learn scheme”. The scheme will allow students to earn a living and develop real-world expertise and experience, as trainee software engineers, while simultaneously studying parttime for a degree which Kainos will also fund.
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Premier Bakeries take home main prize at annual Ulster Grocer Marketing Awards
remier Bakeries took home the biggest prize of the night at the recent Ulster Grocer magazine Marketing Awards for their 2012 Ormo campaign. Mash Direct won the award for Best Brand for their innovative marketing strategy, while Linwoods’ niché market campaign and excellent packaging was recognised as the Best New Product Launch of 2012. Eurospar and ViVOXtra’s charity partnership with the NI Cancer Fund for Children which in less than two years has raised £170,000 won the Best CSR Initiative award, while Sainsbury’s came out the winner of the best Green Retailer award for the impressive breadth of their environmental programme. PRM Group were awarded a prize for their export of more than four million cheesecakes to Holland, a phenomenal achievement, especially given the fact they were selling cheese to the Dutch! 1
Best Marketing Campaign winner Premier Bakeries: Ryan McFarland (sponsor Bacardi BrownForman Brands), Miss Northern Ireland Tiffany Brien, Jackie Kirk (Ormo) and James Greer (publisher Ulster Grocer).
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1. Best In-store Consumer Sales Promotion winner Tayto Group Ltd: Ryan McFarland (sponsor Bacardi Brown-Forman Brands), Tiffany Brien and Elly Hunter (Tayto Group Ltd). 2. Best Brand winner Mash Direct: Ryan McFarland (sponsor Bacardi Brown-Forman Brands), Tiffany Brien and Martin Hamilton (Mash Direct). 3. Best Food Export winner PRM Group: Karl Devlin (sponsor Invest NI), Tiffany Brien and David Connolly (PRM Group). 4. Best CSR Initiative winner Eurospar & ViVOXtra: Martin McClinton (sponsor Northern Snack Foods), Tiffany Brien, Bronagh Luke and Paddy Doody (Henderson Wholesale). 5. Best Green Retailer winner Sainsbury’s: Alan Egner (sponsor Power NI), Tiffany Brien, Stuart Lendrum and Nigel Macaulay (Sainsbury’s). 6. Best New Product Launch/Relaunch winner Linwoods: James Greer, Christine Adams (sponsor Abbey Bond Lovis), Tiffany Brien, Emma Gribben, Karla McAviney (Linwoods Foods) and Michelle Kearney (Ulster Grocer).
Technology journalist Adam Maguire reviews some recently released and soon to be available gadgets. REVIEW: HTC ONE
he Icarus of the modern smartphone era, HTC is hoping its newest flagship ‘One’ device will help it reclaim some of its former glory. There was a time when Samsung and HTC were neck and neck in terms of Android leadership - then HTC fumbled and Samsung hit breathtaking form. The HTC One is an attempt to stop this rot, introducing a flagship brand for the company that it sees as a rival to Samsung’s Galaxy and Apple’s iPhone. With an sleek, curved aluminium body and a sharp 4.7in screen, the One is clearly pitched at the premium level. To compliment that it also has plenty of premium features, like a high quality camera and speakers, as well as access to 25GB of Dropbox storage. All of this makes the HTC One a solid device; you only wish the company had gone down this route sooner. Because they did not, it is anyone’s guess as to whether the device will be enough to reverse the company’s fortunes. The HTC One is available on contract from a number of networks.
PREVIEW: XBOX ONE
ith existing games consoles in their twilight years, Microsoft has given the world a first peak at what it next has in store. As you would expect, the Xbox One is a significant step up from its predecessor in terms of performance. Graphical and processing power are all ramped up to allow for even more detailed and complex games - though details on those games is not yet available. However the real shift with the One sees Microsoft pitch the console as an entertainment hub rather than a purely gaming-focused device. It can integrate with your television service to bridge the gap between what is on TV and what is on your Xbox, connect to the internet and utilise online services like Skype. The movement-sensing Kinect has also been upgraded and is now an integral part of the console rather than a belated accessory. This means futuristic features like voice control, facial recognition and even heart-rate monitoring... which does not sound creepy at all. The Xbox One will launch in Europe towards the end of the year.
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REVIEW: MICROSOFT SURFACE PRO
n its quest to stake a claim in the tablet market - and to regain some momentum in personal computing in general - Microsoft has debuted its souped-up Surface Pro. As the name suggests, the device is pitched at heavy-duty users, with the cheaper Surface RT the main attraction for more casual customers. To that end Microsoft has ramped up the tablet’s specs, giving it a full version of Windows 8, a faster processor and a HD screen. There are trade-offs, however, with the tablet’s weight increasing and battery life being cut to five hours. It is also a pricey device. The Surface Pro starts at £719 - £20 cheaper than the dearest iPad (which boasts twice the storage and a SIM slot). These trade-offs are somewhat explained by viewing the Surface Pro as a laptop in a tablet’s body - but surely that misses the point of making a tablet in the first place. All told, it is hard to see how Microsoft’s high-end tablet will do much to turn the battle for market share into a three-way contest. The Microsoft Surface Pro can be bought from Microsoftstore.com
PREVIEW: SAMSUNG GALAXY S4 MINI
iding high on the success of its Galaxy S4, Samsung has unveiled a smaller (and cheaper) version of its leading light. You could set your watch by Samsung’s phone release schedule. First, the company brings out the latest version of its headline Galaxy device. Some time later it unveils a smaller, mid-market version of this device and then it churns out a couple of low-end phones that can be bought for next to nothing. The Galaxy S4 Mini is the aforementioned mid-market device, with each component being taken down a step or two when compared to its bigger brother. The screen is an inch smaller, the camera a few megapixels weaker and the processor is short a core or two. However there is still plenty of power on offer and the look mirrors that of Galaxy S4 proper, making it an attractive alternative to those on a budget. Based purely on the strength of the Galaxy brand, and with this device available for that bit cheaper, there is little doubt that it will be a solid seller when it hits the shelves. Samsung has not given a release date for the Galaxy S4 Mini as of yet
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Philip Verner, Regional Sales Director, CEM Systems How often do you travel, where to and why? It varies but can be two weeks in a month. As Sales Director for EMEA region I would currently travel throughout Europe, the Middle East and Africa to support our business, particularly the Middle East. What are the three things you couldn’t do without when travelling on business? Passport, credit card and iPad. Have you found a good way to work while you are on the move? With the availability of BlackBerry, laptop and VPN access to the company internal networks it’s pretty easy to work when away and still be as connected as if you were in the office. What would be your top tips for anyone embarking on a job that involves a lot of travel? Understand how much travel is involved in the role. I have found that each person has a different threshold on what is too much travel for them. What’s your favourite App for passing the time? No one particular App, it varies over time and is generally downloaded by my kids! What do you enjoy most about travelling for work and what are the biggest challenges? Getting to meet and develop business relations in other countries is definitely a challenge but also enjoyable. It can also be very rewarding as there are much bigger opportunities in many overseas markets to develop our business. What location have you been most pleasantly surprised by or disappointed by? My first time in Mumbai, India was a major surprise. I had heard about the poverty in India, which there definitely is, but with its huge population, vivid colours, noise and bustle of the cities; it was definitely a culture shock. I found the country fascinating but it is also a hard place to do business. What do you look for in a good hotel when away on business? Clean hotel with WiFi and ideally an onsite bar that shows Premier League football so I don’t miss any Manchester United games whilst away! What’s your favourite airline and the best hotel you’ve stayed in? Favourite airline is Emirates, they have the newest A380 planes and great facilities. They are the major airline at Dubai Airport (one of our customers) so I use Emirates to travel regularly to Dubai and throughout the Middle East region. Best hotel I have been in (although unfortunately I have not actually stayed there) is Burj Al Arab in Dubai. Where are you off to next? Next long haul trip is to Abu Dhabi and Dubai.
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Business Books MONEY: THE UNAUTHORISED BIOGRAPHY By Felix Martin (Random House) Money: the Unauthorised Biography unfolds a panoramic secret history and explains the truth about money: what it is, where it comes from, and how it works. Drawing on stories from throughout human history and around the globe, Money will radically rearrange your understanding of the world and shows how money can once again become the most powerful force for freedom we have ever known. SEVEN LEVELS OF COMMUNICATION By Michael Maher (Little, Brown) Michael Maher tells the inspiring story of real estate agent Rick Masters who is suffering through a down market when he meets a mortgage professional who has built a successful business without advertising or personal promotion. Step by step he learns to change the way he interacts with his clients and begins to focus on people instead of numbers. Yet with each new success comes a new challenge and Rick soon realises that if he is to fully utilise the lessons of the “(7L)”, he must be willing to change himself as well as his business. He soon learns, however, that the rewards for doing so are far greater than he had ever imagined. WHEN THE MONEY RUNS OUT By Stephen D King (Yale University Press) The Western world has experienced extraordinary economic progress throughout the last six decades, a prosperous period so extended that continuous economic growth has come to seem normal. But such an era of continuously rising living standards is an historical anomaly, economist Stephen D. King warns, and the current stagnation of Western economies threatens to reach crisis proportions in the not-so-distant future. The lessons of history offer compelling evidence that political and social upheaval are often born of economic stagnation. King addresses these lessons with a multifaceted plan that involves painful – but necessary – steps toward a stable economic future.
All titles are available at easons. To win copies of the featured books go the Ulster Business facebook page.
Stena revamps Liverpool service F
erry company Stena Line has completed an investment of £4.6m in its ships on the Belfast – Liverpool route. The new look ships, the Stena Lagan and Stena Mersey, have been refurbished at a cost of £2.3m each to offer improved facilities and additional services for customers with the aim of making travel between Belfast and Liverpool affordable and hasslefree. The ferry giant can now offer customers the same experience travelling the Irish Sea, whether they are going by Superfast from Belfast to Cairnryan or Supercruise to Liverpool, said Diane Poole OBE, Head of PR and Communications for Stena Line. “Since acquiring the Belfast – Liverpool route in 2010, we have been working on bringing the ships and service into line with the rest of the Stena Line proposition, providing our freight and travel customers with the best possible service and facilities on the Irish Sea,” said Diane. “We started work on the two ship refurbishments last year and successfully completed the project earlier this year. With improved facilities and additional services customers can now enjoy the most indulgent, fun and relaxing way to get to Liverpool,” she added. “We have invested in new lounge areas, kids play area and in our food offering. We have also upgraded our Outside Cabins and Family Cabins and have introduced five new Comfort Class cabins per ship which offer the ultimate in relaxation and comfort. “We know our customers want space to relax which we now offer in the new Living Room area, Stena Plus lounge and a new dedicated News Lounge. Customers want to stay in touch while they travel so we offer free Wi-Fi and complimentary use of iMacs in our Pod Lounge.”
HOPEFULS SEEK FAME AT BELFAST CITY AIRPORT
eorge Best Belfast City Airport has been announced as the principal sponsor of a local youth production of the 1980s classical musical film Fame. The airport threw open its doors to hundreds of young performers and West End fans from across Northern Ireland to host X Factor style auditions as Music Theatre 4 Youth (MT4Uth) began their search for young people keen to star in their upcoming interpretation of Fame – The Musical. The chosen cast members will have the experience of a lifetime as they are put through numerous master classes, legwarmer worthy choreography sessions and an intense ten day performance boot camp before the production is staged at T13 Shared Cultural Space in the Titanic Quarter of Belfast in August. Ruth Morgan, Communications Executive at George Best Belfast City Airport which has
sponsored the musical theatre initiative through its Community Fund said: “We are delighted that once again the airport Community Fund has been able to support one of Music Theatre 4 Youth’s amazing productions. Changing the lives of young people locally is key to our Community Fund, which sees the airport impose a fine on airlines which operate late flights. This money is
then re-invested back into projects and groups within neighbouring communities. To date, our Community Fund has invested almost £100,000 into local projects.” Following the cast announcement, the 60 young people will undergo a ten day residential camp which has been sponsored by Phoenix Natural Gas.
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SPORT & HEALTH
Unhealthy workspaces ‘cost UK billions’
nhealthy workspaces are costing UK businesses more than £7bn a year in sick pay, according to a new survey from workspace ergonomics specialists Fellowes. Badly set up or poorly equipped workstations result in one in five office workers missing almost three weeks of work a year from health problems such as backache (40%), tense shoulders (37%), eye problems (30%) and even depression (17%). Creating a comfortable, healthy and productive environment for employees is not a big investment and can positively affect firms’ bottom lines although half of office workers report that they’ve not had workstation risk assessment in the last 12 months despite it being a legal requirement, the survey said. The research found that almost half of those questioned said health problems caused in the workplace were having a negative impact on their personal lives too – with 16 per cent saying it damaged relationships and one in five suffering lasting depression as a result. Employees’ well-being is compromised further with a quarter of people have seen their personal interests and activities suffer with 14% having taken time off sporting activities, 11% giving up the sport altogether and another 11% giving up interests and hobbies such as gardening. General practitioner and health broadcaster, Dr Sarah Jarvis, said: “The impact of the working environment on office workers’ health is
all too often overlooked by businesses. “What is very clear from the research is that the way you work and the equipment you use has a major impact, not just on your workplace health, but on your wider health too. “On a daily basis I see many patients suffering particularly from back pain, and I ask routinely about workplace set-up because I know the consequences of poor posture and spending long
periods sitting in the wrong position.” Louise Shipley, from Fellowes, added: “Most of us spend a great deal of time at our desks so we need to think harder about the conditions we’re working in – and invest in protecting our health and ultimately, our quality of life. “Employers have a responsibility to their employees and that includes making sure they can work safely and productively.”
Ultra race hopefuls aim to smash 130 miles
Tom Gillan, COO of Energia, sponsor and relay runner of this year’s 24 Hour Race joins event organiser, Ed Smith and runner Iryna Kennedy to launch this year’s event, taking place 19-20th July.
he toughest running race in Ireland, the energia 24, is set to start on the evening of July 19 at the recently upgraded Mary Peters’ track in Belfast.
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This will be the fourth year of the Irish Championship event, which has gained international status among the ultra running community.
“The competition, which attracts participants from as far as New Zealand, is an official Irish Championship event now and this status means everything to competitors,” said organiser Ed Smith. The energia24 has been won for the last two years by Kildare man John O’Regan who holds the track record set in 2011 at 132 miles (213km). The women’s record is held by Deirdre Finn from County Mayo with 112 miles (181km). Ed Smith says he’s looking forward to a clash between O’Regan and the Irish 24-hour track record holder Eoin Keith. “Keith recently ran 300 miles in Phoenix, Arizona in three days – only the fourth runner in the world to achieve that. If he is in that sort of shape he’ll be aiming to improve his Irish track record of 147 miles,” he said. The race is sponsored by Belfast-based energy company energia and Belfast City Council through its Support for Sport scheme. Tom Gillen, Chief operating officer of energia said: “Events such as these are headline-grabbing and good news for Northern Ireland and I am very pleased that energia can be associated once again with the race.”
TO PLACE A CLASSIFIED ADVERT CONTACT ULSTER BUSINESS ON 028 9078 3200
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TOTAL FLEET MANAGEMENT ANY VEHICLE, ANY MANUFACTURER
Business Diary Summer 2013 date
Renewable Heat Incentive Conference. Organiser: Action Renewables
Ramada Plaza, Shaw’s Bridge, Belfast Cost: £75.00 +VAT each
Action Renewables on 028 9072 7760 or email: email@example.com
26 June 10.00 - 17.00
Design Advice Clinic Organiser: Invest NI
Invest NI, Bedford Square, Bedford Street, Belfast BT2 7ES
Grace Bunting on 028 9069 8546 or email: firstname.lastname@example.org
27 June 08.00 - 09.30
Law & Legislation Lisburn Entrepreneurs Network
Cherry Room, Lagan Valley Island, Lisburn
Simone Lam, Lisburn CC on 028 9250 9465 or email: email@example.com
1 July 09.30 - 16.30
Developing Confident Negotiating Skills Organiser: Consensa
Consensa Head Office, Belfast BT1 2GT Cost: £390.00
For more information call: 028 9043 9624 or email: firstname.lastname@example.org
18 July 09.00 - 15.30
Protecting and Exploiting Intellectual Property in Healthcare Organiser: Invest NI
Invest NI, Bedford Square, Bedford Street, Belfast BT2 7ES
Colin Graham on 028 9069 8790 or email: email@example.com
19 July 09.30 - 16.30
Inspirational Leadership Skills Organiser: Consensa
Consensa Learning & Development Ltd, 64 Donegall Street, Belfast Cost: £390.00
For more information call: 028 9043 9624 or email: firstname.lastname@example.org
9 - 15 Sept
CultureTECH: Festival of digital technology, media and music
For more information visit culturetech.co
27 Nov 09.30 - 13.00
Global Technical Compliance Seminar Organiser: Queen’s University, Belfast
Invest NI, Bedford Square, Bedford Street, Belfast BT2 7ES Cost: £75.00 +VAT
Martin McAteer on 028 9069 8825 or email: email@example.com
If you would like to promote an event or conference please contact Stuart Hackney (firstname.lastname@example.org)
People in Business a good rapport with my clients and suppliers but it would be difficult if they were either of these.
What is your most hated business expression or cliché?
‘Going forward’ is one of those terms that I find very irritating.
If you hadn’t been in business what would you have liked to have done? I would have loved to have been a snowboard instructor – living in the Alps.
How important is money to you?
Money is important to provide the best future for my family, but I do strongly believe in the expression ‘Your health is your wealth’ – you can’t put a price on that.
What’s the most treasured possession in your office?
My daughter’s first ever painting, she did when she was 11 months. It is lots of messy little hand prints.
What are you currently reading?
I’ve just started The Life of Pi by Yann Martel – I want to read it before I watch the film.
NAME: BORN: CAREER:
What has been your toughest challenge?
Tori Higginson, Partner at Stamp Promotions May 1980
Worked in the promotional merchandise and corporate gifts industry for five years. Co-founded Stamp Promotions in January 2012
FAMILY: Married, with a one-year-old daughter INTERESTS: Tennis, snowboarding and wakeboarding What was your first paying job?
I was a waitress at the Culloden Hotel for two years.
What do you like most about your current role?
At Stamp Promotions every day brings new and interesting challenges. We supply promotional products to such a wide variety of clients – one day I could be sourcing branded USBs and conference folders for a law firm, to the next day sourcing branded lollipops and pencils cases for a primary school.
What’s the worst job you’ve ever done?
I worked as a hotel host in a ski resort in France which I absolutely loved, but one of the many roles of this job was housekeeping, which meant cleaning the guest bathrooms, which I hated doing – that was definitely the downside to an otherwise great job.
Are you switched on 24 hours a day?
Our office phone is diverted to my mobile after 5.30pm in case in the rare event a client needs to get in touch, so yes, I’d say I’m switched on 24hours.
Who or what has been your biggest inspiration?
My parents have been my biggest influence – they have taught me to believe in myself and given me the confidence to get where I am today.
Do you have any “golden rules” in life or work?
To work hard and play hard. It is important to get a good work / life balance. I work hard running Stamp Promotions but I always make sure I have plenty of time for my family and socialising.
What would you regard as a “cardinal sin” for anyone doing business with you? Being unreliable or dishonest. I like to build
Setting up a competitive business in the height of a recession. We have always had a strong work ethic that if we can start up and expand in hard times like these, then it will stand us in good stead when the economy recovers.
What do you worry about?
I worry about everything! I have always have done since a little girl, I don’t know why, and it is absolutely pointless, because worrying about something is not going to fix it!
What advice would you give to the 18-year-old you?
To take a couple of years out after university to travel the world, because you won’t get opportunities like that when you are older.
Which person, living or dead, would you like to have met, and why? Both my Grandfathers, sadly they both passed before I was born – I would have loved to have got to know them.
What do you think you’ll be doing in 10 years time?
I would like to think Stamp Promotions will have expanded, and we will be leading a highly motivated, successful sales team into another ten years of business.
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11/30/11 1:26 PM
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KBS are a locally owned business selling and servicing Ricoh products and Document Solutions for 25 years in Northern Ireland. AirPrint is the native printing function offered by Apple. This makes it possible for people to print business documents and images to a Ricoh device directly from an iPad, iPhone, or iPod touch without installing a printer driver or an application.
Order a new Ricoh Colour MFP from KBS and you will receive a fantastic iPAD*. Just call Michael Stewart at KBS today on 028 90370073 or email firstname.lastname@example.org *Terms and Conditions apply