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Contents 06 News All the latest news and exclusives from the world of Northern Ireland business

14 Cover Story The ABL Group speaks to Ulster Business about its growth and seeking new opportunities

18 In Focus Allstate NI boss John Healy on political deadlock impact and further job creation

23 Energy, Waste & Environment John Simpson on NI power post-Brexit

82 84 35 Executive Search & Recruitment What does it take to make the big bucks?

47 Risk Management & Security The firms keeping your businesses safe

59 Office Environment & Interior

75 Motoring Pat Burns on coupes, Ceeds and getting a life with a brand new Vauxhall

84 Photocall Everything from awards and job creation to fresh fundraising and investment

90 The Chairman

Dull and lifeless workplaces aren’t cutting it...

January’s normally a slow month, but it hasn’t stopped him from getting out and about

72 Business Breakfast

90 Technology

BDO NI’s Brian Murphy sits down with the editor over a croissant and scone

After a big slump in Bitcoin value, is crypto becoming a dirty word among investors?

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Who knows what’s around the corner


t looks like I’ll have at least another month of writing the introduction to the magazine right on deadline, with one eye on the Twitter feed and news channel, judging by the evolving situation on Brexit.

As a result of what’s facing companies in the coming weeks, while the spotlight will be on the challenges and changing environment, there also must be a spotlight on the day-to-day ingenuity and resilient success stories out there.

I’d imagine most business owners and leaders are probably tired of being told by arms-length politicians that they’re wrong, and that a new world of possibilities exists just weeks away now.

And the bulk of Northern Ireland businesses will adapt and overcome what will become something of an altered business landscape. However, if you were a staunch Brexit backer who deals in fancy vacuums, you might just decide to pack up a chunk of your operation and move to the other side of the world.

Welcome to February’s edition of Ulster Business. Inside, we’ve another packed issue, including a couple of exclusives in the world of big end property, features, a sit down with Allstate’s John Healy, and we examine our energy market post-Brexit, and hear from experts across the sectors.

While the CBI has warned that Northern Ireland’s economy could suffer a loss of £5bn by 2034 in the event of a ‘no deal’, there’s been some positivity in job creation

Publisher Ulster Business c/o Independent News & Media Ltd Belfast Telegraph House 33 Clarendon Road, Clarendon Dock, Belfast BT1 3BG

and investment in the last few weeks. That included Boyce Precision Engineering announcing 27 new jobs for Portadown, while Bombardier/Airbus received a fresh boon in the form of Delta Air Lines buying another 15 of its passenger jets – partmade in Belfast. We’re well into another year of business, and what a year it looks like it’s going to be. But, Ulster Business will be with you all the way, so enjoy this issue. Remember, you can follow us on Twitter and Facebook for all the latest news and announcements, as well as visiting our website www.ulsterbusiness.com for more news and insight. ■ John Mulgrew

Editor John Mulgrew Manager Sonia Armstrong Deputy manager Sylvie Brando Sales executive Sarah-Ann Gamble Production manager Irene Fitzsimmons

Printer W&G Baird Greystone Press, Caulside Drive, Antrim BT41 2RS www.wgbaird.com

Graphic design Stuart McKinley, INM Design Studio Cover photo Darren Kidd, Press Eye Contact: 028 90 264260 www.ulsterbusiness.com


Ulster Business Magazine

Independent News & Media Ltd © 2018. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form, or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise without the prior permission of Independent News & Media Ltd.




month IN Impact of lack of numbers Executive ‘can’t be A


The number of votes backing Prime Minister Theresa May in her vote of no-confidence. The second vote followed her unsuccessful attempt to get Commons backing for a Brexit withdrawal deal.


The figure in billions that the CBI says Northern Ireland could lose in economic output by 2034.


The value in billions of mergers and acquisition deals in Northern Ireland during 2018. Belfast law firm Tughans topped the list, based on the number of deals it was involved with.


By John Mulgrew


he impact of two years of a lack of government on Northern Ireland business cannot be underestimated, one leading company boss has told Ulster Business. As Northern Ireland marks more than two years without a functioning Executive, Allstate NI boss John Healy said: “Brexit is Brexit. But I don’t think we should underestimate the importance of how it looks to not have a functioning government here. While there are all sort of strategies and contingencies in place, we are losing an opportunity around moving forward with things that are important. “That’s things like the fundamental elements, such as skills and infrastructure… people from the outside, looking at investing here, do see that there is no government in place and I would be very surprised if that wasn’t impacting on a lot of people’s decisions.” As for the impact of Brexit, he says because of the type of export business Allstate is, it’s “pretty shielded from Brexit”.


Northern Ireland’s unemployment rate for the period between September and November. While the figure is lower than the UK average, economic activity here is much higher.

“Short term, the devaluation in sterling has been positive for us, as an exporter,” he says. “In the medium term, we have an eye on Brexit, because 15% of our workforce in the North West comes across from Donegal on a daily basis. It’s important for us that (a common travel area) is maintained.” Meanwhile, The majority of businesses here believe that the lack of an Executive will have a negative impact on the Northern Ireland economy in 2019. And more than


John Healy

half believe that this will also negatively impact on their own business, according to the NI Chamber and BDO’s quarterly economic survey. “While the economy is not contracting, it is clearly not growing robustly either. This quarter’s survey reveals that weak order books along with falling investment intentions made for a muted end to 2018 for local businesses,” Ann McGregor, chief executive of the NI Chamber said. “Throughout much of 2018, businesses were subjected to a barrage of political noise and drama, so it’s no surprise that Brexit, along with a lack of an Executive, are having an increasingly negative impact on business growth and investment plans. With little clarity on the trading conditions they’ll face... some companies are understandably holding back on investment plans and making big decisions about their futures.” Read the full interview with John Healy on page 18-19


Lisburn’s Bow Street Mall sold By John Mulgrew


Co Antrim shopping mall on sale for £18m has been sold to new owners, Ulster Business can reveal.

Bow Street Mall in Lisburn is home to anchor retailers Primark, Dunnes Stores, Poundworld and Menarys. Agents McKibbins and Savills were instructed to sell by owner Pat McCormack, describing the centre as “the dominant retail offer” in the city, but said it also served the wider Belfast area. Ben Turtle, director, Savills NI, told Ulster Business: “Despite the welldocumented political and economic uncertainties, the sale of Bow Street Mall generated significant interest from a number of parties, and the eventual sale to a Dublin-based investor indicates there is still an appetite for retail investment in Northern Ireland.” It’s one of the largest single commercial property deals to take place here in the last 12 months. It follows the sale of the Metro Building – which was being marketed by Osborne King. The Donegall Square office building was sold for well over its £21m asking price.

Expert digital analysis will fuel online business results


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Quotes OF THE month “It’s important not to get too fixated about Brexit. The inevitably badtempered Brexit endgame definitely adds to the uncertainty, but all the evidence suggests that, in the end, it is the economic cycle which really drives commercial property.” Miles Gibson of CBRE speaking at the firm’s annual outlook event at ICC Belfast.

“I would like to commend all of the people who have supported us and the rest of the business community at this time, it is great to see.” Ciaran O’Neill, manager of the Bishop’s Gate Hotel in Londonderry, speaking after a car bomb exploded close to the city’s courthouse, just metres from the hotel.

“The move is nothing to do with Brexit or tax, it’s about making sure we are future proofed. There are huge revenue opportunities in Singapore, China is the poster child of that,” he said. Dyson chief executive Jim Rowan revealing the vacuum giant is moving its head office from the UK to Singapore, sparking eyerolling all round, as founder James Dyson was one of the leading proponents of Brexit.

Tesco NI job cuts feared


here are fears of job cuts at Tesco in Northern Ireland as the supermarket giant announces the potential loss of up to 9,000 roles across the UK.

service altogether. Trade union Unite has called for urgent talks with Tesco bosses. Unite is recognised at four distribution centres with about 1,000 members. The centres are in Belfast, Oxfordshire, Doncaster and Essex.

The supermarket, which employs some 9,000 staff here, said it expected around half of the affected employees could be redeployed to new roles. It said the job cuts are part of efforts to “simplify” the business.

Regional officer George Brash said: “It is not acceptable that a company which has just reported its twelfth consecutive quarter of growth and profits in the billions to treat its workers like this.

Sweeping changes across the business will include a reduction in deli, fish and meat counters, with 90 stores set to lose the

Firmus sold to new UK fund


orthern Ireland gas supplier Firmus has been sold to a UK infrastructure manager for an undisclosed sum. The company owns and operates the natural gas distribution network in 10 major towns outside Belfast, and has 43,000 customers. It also owns two gas supply businesses, one for greater Belfast and another operating outside the city. It supplies gas to nearly 50,000 customers across the two supply businesses. Now owner iCON Infrastructure is selling the network to Equitix Investment Management, with the deal to be finalised around the middle of February.


“This decision is designed simply to maximise the return to shareholders. This is a case of corporate greed trumping the needs of their workers and even the quality of the offering they provide consumers.”

Firmus’ parent company Deka Energy Associates reported pre-tax profits of £8.6m on sales of £93.3m in results for 2017. Firmus Energy was bought for £78.4m in 2014 by iCON, the ultimate owner of Deka Energy Associates.


Delta extends order for 15 Bombardier jets By John Mulgrew


S carrier Delta Air Lines is buying an additional 15 partBelfast made passenger planes.

The Airbus A200-300 jets – formerly Bombardier CS300s before the firms agreed a tie-up – will bring Delta’s order book to 90 planes. The wings and significant parts of the aircraft fuselage are made in Bombardier’s Belfast plant. “Delta has always been deeply focused on the passenger experience, and the A220 fits perfectly with that philosophy,” Christian Scherer, Airbus chief commercial officer said.

“You just need to take a look at Delta’s cabin on the A220 to see that it is setting a new standard in short-haul flying. The A220 will provide passengers with a level of comfort and convenience that makes flying a pleasure again, while also meeting Delta’s high standards for efficiency and reliability.”

further advances in the customer experience and serve as an excellent investment for our customers, employees and shareowners for Delta into the next decade.

Gil West, Delta’s chief operating officer, said: “These additional A220 aircraft will continue to strategically enable Delta to refresh our fleet, drive

“We look forward to taking our first A220-300 in 2020 at the Airbus assembly facility in Mobile, Alabama.”




NI ‘could suffer £5bn fall by 2034’


orthern Ireland’s economy could suffer a £5bn drop in output by 2034 in the event of a ‘no deal’ Brexit, it’s been claimed. According to the CBI, its analysis of government figures published at the end of last year shows if the UK fails to secure a deal with the EU, by 2034, GVA could be “9.1% lower than under the UK’s current arrangements with the EU according to government analysis”. The CBI calculates this could amount to an annual loss of output worth almost £5bn by 2034, based on today’s prices.

It says “manufacturing activity is particularly important in Northern Ireland, and the agri-food sector, which employs thousands of people, is likely to be severely impacted as it is particularly exposed to the risk of higher tariffs and trade costs”. Angela McGowan, Northern Ireland director of the CBI, says: “Our members across Northern Ireland are clear: if the new approach to finding a Brexit deal continues to be a game of who blinks first, the Northern Irish economy will pay the price.”

Angela McGowan

Fergal McFerran

Four NI firms make LGBT list By John Mulgrew


our firms with major Northern Ireland operations have made it on to a list of the top LGBT-inclusive workplaces in the UK.

Law firm Pinsent Masons came in at number one, according to Stonewall’s Top 100 Employers list. Elsewhere, Citi came in at number nine on the list, with global law firms Baker McKenzie and Allen & Overy also making it in. Richard Foley, senior partner at Pinsent Masons, said: “This is a very special achievement for us. It isn’t about reaching the top spot – it’s


about what the Stonewall Workplace Equality Index stands for and what everyone engaged in it is working so hard to accomplish.” And Fergal McFerran, client account manager with Stonewall in Northern Ireland, said: “LGBT-inclusive employers play a crucial role in changing society by using their power and influence to protect and support LGBT people. “With so many organisations displaying such a strong commitment to LGBT equality, we are one step closer to creating a world where all lesbian, gay, bi and trans employees are welcomed and accepted without exception.”


Deloitte taking on £85m city office


eloitte will take on the Bedford Square building as its new Northern Ireland headquarters, it has emerged.

The professional services firm will relocate to the development as anchor tenant, which will is centred around the regeneration and refurbishment of the listed Ewart Building.

The £85m development project, is a 213,000 sq ft grade A office development to be delivered by McAleer & Rushe which will accommodate more than 2,000 people upon completion. Jackie Henry, senior partner at Deloitte in Belfast, said: “After a long selection process we are delighted to be able to announce the choice of Bedford Square as our new home in Belfast. It is a symbol of Deloitte’s commitment to this city that we have chosen a development which will breathe life back into one of Belfast’s beautiful but neglected heritage buildings, contributing to the regeneration of the city centre while at the same time delivering an exciting and flexible modern work environment for our increasingly diverse and connected workforce. “Deloitte’s operations have been growing rapidly over the past few years, driven by increased requirements for our services across traditional areas


such as tax, audit and consulting, but also our wider expertise in exciting new areas such as digital analytics, cloud services, cyber-security and robotics. “This new office will bring Deloitte’s expertise in Belfast together under one roof, which will foster even greater collaboration between teams and enable us to create a campus environment that is ideally suited to the agile and augmented jobs of the future.”



Four in 10 manufacturers ‘not preparing for Brexit’ By John Mulgrew


ore than 40% of Northern Ireland manufacturers haven’t carried out any form of planning for the UK’s exit from the EU, according to a survey. Some 43% of those quizzed as part of the Manufacturing NI and Tughans poll said they had yet to take any preparation in advance of Brexit – which includes areas such as legal advice, conducting a risk assessment or putting in place contingency measures. Another stark figure from the survey, which was carried out by Perceptive Insight between December 7 and December 31, shows a big surge in the number of firms reporting a reduction in migrant workers. Around 37% say number of migrant workers decreased in last 12 months. But there remains positivity among companies, with many performing well. Around 81% said they were profitable over the last 12 months.

Stephen Kelly, Manufacturing NI with Maureen Treacy, Perceptive Insights alongside James Donnelly, Tughans


And as As Brexit looms, 50% of respondents “believe that it will have a negative impact on business.”.

Number of manufacturers which haven’t prepared for Brexit

“The survey demonstrates this continues to be the case despite some dark economic clouds on the horizon. Firms want a business environment which allows them to succeed, to be agile and take action on areas which allow them to create more wealth and work.”

Around 33% of businesses have conducted a Brexit risk assessment, James Donnelly, corporate partner, However firms, like those 30% having put Tughans, said: “The generally in other sectors, are finding it in contingency positive mood revealed in the difficult to recruit staff with the plans in place and survey is encouraging despite suitable skills for the roles. Some 81% said 16% already stockpiling the many real and potential Firms which are it was quite difficult or very difficult to find in anticipation of supply challenges the sector is finding it hard to suitable workers. That’s up from 74% from disruption, according to facing. find the right the previous survey in May. the manufacturing staff report. “Another “With the majority of surveyed The survey also shows that 42% plan to businesses (89%) actively recruiting, 67% of respondents (up stockpile to ensure it remains a concern that 81% have found from 56% in May 2018) continuity of supply.” difficulty in recruiting the skills required and Majority of companies consider the uncertainty that 21% are turning down potential business who cite Brexit of Brexit to be the biggest “By nature, business will be opportunities as a result. While the sector is uncertainty as issue currently affecting positive, seek opportunity doing its best to mitigate against the skills biggest concern business, out-polling other and plan for the future,” deficit, there is no doubt that a restoration of issues such as the cost of doing Manufacturing NI chief local government would be of great benefit business and political uncertainty. executive Stephen Kelly said. to address this.” ■





Looking to the future and expanding an industry stalwart Ulster Business speaks to Maurice Boyd and Stephen Carlisle of leading insurance broker ABL Group about its ongoing expansion plans, its top client base and growing the next generation of its workforce


s one of Northern Ireland’s leading insurance brokers, ABL Group is far from standing still.

ABL Group, one of the largest commercial firms here, has already expanded significantly in the last two years, and grown its overall group workforce to around 125. But it’s still eyeing up further expansion of its existing business, developing its burgeoning team and seeking out fresh opportunities, while maintaining its core focus on the Northern Ireland market. The firm’s core business is corporate, and it also transacts in commercial – such as small and medium-sized firms – along with personal lines. It’s dealing with corporate clients across a wide range of sectors, some of whom


require complex and bespoke insurance solutions. Stephen Carlisle is now the man at the helm of ABL – the main business in the overall ABL Group which has its headquarters in Belfast, along with offices in Armagh and Coleraine. He took over as managing director from Maurice Boyd, who now heads the ABL Group as a whole.

And in 2016, it completed the takeover of insurance broker McGrady Insurance, funded by Global Risk Partners (GRP).

“While the overall group is continuing to grow through acquisition, it is key that each group entity shows real organic growth,” he told Ulster Business.

It’s about growing the firm’s corporate identity, while retaining the customer focus – primarily in the burgeoning Northern Ireland market.

For ABL Group, it’s very much a hub and spoke operation with ABL being the hub and the company’s acquisitions forming the spokes. That’s included ABL Group taking businesses under its wing, including a majority share in Digney Grant Ltd last year.

As part of his role, Stephen will be focusing on continuing to build the ABL external and internal brand and also developing and enhancing the company’s current digital marketing strategy.

“We want to promote growth in ABL, in the group and look at acquisition opportunities,” Stephen said.


Stephen Carlisle, Maurice Boyd and Gary Crabbe

ABL Group is a business which now handles premiums in excess of £40m each year, across the group’s six offices in total. One of the company’s strengths is its concentration on Northern Ireland businesses, and it boasts a high level of autonomy, focusing its decisions on what’s best for its long list of clients. ABL, formerly known as Abbey Bond Lovis, employs around 90 staff – with that number growing to around 125 across the overall group. Following a management buyout in 2015, the ABL Group has expanded its reach with its acquisitions and headcount. Maurice says that it’s been in line with the medium term plan and we want to grow further still.


He says the company is already engaged in talks with a number of companies. “We are only interested in businesses where we believe we can make a difference. We can offer support with corporate governance, regulatory matters, finance and HR functions allowing businesses more freedom to service and interact with their clients.

align ourselves to a company which has a similar business profile and we need to make sure they fit with us culturally. “We understand the importance of local identities and many businesses spent years building their own brand and reputation in their sector and therefore we will ensure that this is retained.” For ABL, it’s also focusing heavily on its people. “We are keen on attracting good people to the business, but also keen on developing our own people,” Stephen says.

“Acquiring other businesses is part and parcel of our organisation as a group. But while we acquire, we still retain the identity of the businesses which we take on.” And for Maurice, it’s also about finding the right company to partner with.

“We spend a lot of time, effort and money on developing the staff internally.”

“There are a lot insurance broking businesses in Northern Ireland but for us it is important we

It’s a view echoed by Maurice and the group as a whole – with the best people helping to feed >



down to the top level of service which their clients receive. “Within the whole group, it’s about getting the culture right, and the working environment,” he says. “We want people to have a good quality environment, and a great place to work. If we look after them, and they are happy in the workplace, then that will flow through to our clients.” And this year the group will expand on that further with its ABL Group Academy. That will see younger members of the team being given the chance to develop their skills further, through professional qualifications. “We want to add to our career development opportunities,” Stephen says. “We want people to join us, and stay with us, throughout their career. “In an effort to improve our service levels to clients, we will continue to upscale our team.”


And with Stephen taking on the role as managing director of ABL last year, Gary Crabbe – who has more than 30 years in the industry – was appointed as director, overseeing the firm’s corporate division.

Northern Ireland has “ been a tough economy, but from our perspective we have been fortunate to enjoy growth in the last number of years

“The role is an important one, and it’s a great opportunity. I’m now helping to drive that area of the company, and it’s been a very positive move,” Gary says. The ABL Group has operated in a tough post-recession economy, like hundreds of other companies, but has continued to weather and blossom in a competitive marketplace.

“Northern Ireland has been a tough economy over the last number of years,” Maurice says. “But from our own perspective, we have been fortunate to enjoy growth in recent years – and that’s something we are very pleased about. “The company is also keen to attract young people in to considering the profession of insurance broking. ABL also boasts a hugely experienced workforce – with a significant number of staff working for the business for more than 15 years. “The experience and quality of our people is very high,” Stephen says. And for the company its business as usual with ABL Group continuing to grow its client base. “We are always keen to hear from companies where shareholders are looking to execute an exit strategy or where they feel they would enjoy the benefits of being part of a larger organisation. Our door is always open for a conversation,” Maurice said. ■


Two years of political deadlock ‘still impacting investment decisions’ Allstate NI boss John Healy speaks to John Mulgrew about continued growth, weathering the storm of Brexit and the ‘lost opportunities’ caused by a lack of devolved government 18



llstate is continuing to eye up further expansion and growth across its Northern Ireland operations, despite the current economic and political headwinds. But John Healy, who heads up Allstate NI – a company now with 2,300 staff across three sites – is, like many others, continually frustrated at the impact a more than two year political deadlock is having on Northern Ireland’s growth and prosperity.

“It’s not good. We are missing out on opportunities around education, funding for universities and colleges – the fundamental elements of infrastructure, whether it’s the interchange (at York Street) at the end of the motorway in Belfast,” he told Ulster Business. Allstate is one of the world’s largest insurance businesses, but the focus of the Northern Ireland operation is around the technology surrounding the company. It’s recently moved into a new £32m office behind Lanyon Place train station in Belfast, and it’s also looking for a new home at its Londonderry base. “It’s a real symbol of Allstate and what it’s hoping to do. It puts everyone in the one place and it gives us the modern, 21st century workplace. We built it with growth in mind, and we do have space on the first floor.” The firm employs around 1,400 people in Belfast, with a further 500 in Strabane and 400 in Derry. “The building has the capacity for growth, and we are looking for space in the North West – we are looking at bringing it under one roof,” he said. John has also now taken up the role as Northern Ireland Chamber of Commerce and Industry president – taking over from former Ulster Bank head in Northern Ireland, Ellvena Graham.


“There is plenty of opportunity (for growth). People have always thought of us as being a big tech company, and that’s what the dominant gene is. But there is plenty of opportunity to move into other parts of the business. We have just built a big finance and accounting function here, with about 60 people – there will be about 100 people. Technology is our core, it’s what we are about… but we will do other things. “Allstate is all about the employee value proposition. We have any number of awards that demonstrate that we are good at what we do, in terms of that employee engagement. Growth has been steady in Allstate, while attrition levels are extremely low, according to John.

Brexit is Brexit. But “ I don’t think we should underestimate the importance of how it looks to not have a functioning government here

As for the impact of Brexit, John says because of the type of export business Allstate is, it’s “pretty shielded from Brexit”. “Short term, the devaluation in sterling has been positive for us, as an exporter,” he says. “In the medium term, we have an eye on Brexit, because 15% of our workforce in the North West comes across from Donegal on a daily basis. It’s important for us that (a common travel area) is maintained. “The Brexit concern that we would have is much more long term – the pipeline of talent, and making sure there was nothing that would break that pipeline of talent, coming from the universities and colleges.” Allstate also draws its workforce from countries such as India, along with other European nationals as well.

John says, like others in the field, that Allstate is in direct competition with Dublin in terms of attracting top talent. “If there’s a talented engineer from Spain or France – if it’s easier for them to go and work 100 miles down the road… that would be a problem. At the moment, it’s a level playing field.” For John, the main challenge facing the business, and others, is skills. “We need to make sure we are investing in skills, at all levels – ensuring that the workforce of the future is ready.” “We are 1.7 million people – we need to bring in skills from elsewhere to supplement what we are doing here.” Plugged into the senior leadership in Chicago, John is able to highlight what the Northern Ireland operation is able to bring to the table. “The perception of Northern Ireland is very strong, and people like what they get when they work for us,” he said. “The quality of the work that is delivered from here is world class.” Of course, while the focus has somewhere deviated from it as the Brexit deadline approaches, we need to talk about our devolved government – or lack thereof. “Brexit is Brexit. But I don’t think we should underestimate the importance of how it looks to not have a functioning government here. While there are all sort of strategies and contingencies in place, we are losing an opportunity around moving forward with things that are important. “That’s things like the fundamental elements, such as skills and infrastructure… people from the outside, looking at investing here, do see that there is no government in place and I would be very surprised if that wasn’t impacting on a lot of people’s decisions.” ■



Osborne King: developing and nurturing talent within We speak to three of Osborne King’s team about moving up through the commercial property firm and what sets it apart from the competition


rom the outset, it’s clear that Northern Ireland commercial property firm Osborne King puts its people at the forefront of how the business operates and succeeds. Growing into a team of more than 40 staff, it’s a specialist commercial property consultancy based in Belfast – working for clients across the UK and Ireland. Its surveying team are members of the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS). Nurturing talent and progression is a core principle that the firms stands for with 13 of their surveying staff having become qualified throughout the firm’s training program. We sat down with three members of the team.

GAIL PRENTICE-JACKSON, ASSOCIATE DIRECTOR Over the last 27 years, Gail has worked right across the business, now within the asset management department. She manages a large mixed-use portfolio of property which includes leading shopping centres and retail parks right across Northern Ireland. Within that her role is varied and includes managing one of Northern Ireland’s most successful retail schemes. Day-to-day this can include everything from managing service charge budgets to maximising rental income through lease renewals and rent reviews. Another key role is to provide regular accounting and financial reports to clients. “One of my key roles is to support my agency department colleagues in their acquisitions of investment assets and upon completion ensure that a comprehensive management


regime is followed to ensure continued growth of our clients assets,” she says. “The role of a ‘property manager’ has evolved significantly over the course of my career with much of our work now focusing on compliance and risk management. We pride ourselves on making sure our clients are well advised, mitigating any risks that may be involved with their particular property.” Some of those clients include retail sites such as Rushmere Shopping Centre in Craigavon. Gail is also one of just eight female surveyors in Northern Ireland with the designation of FRICS, a Fellow Member of RICS. “While females still only make up 14% of the surveying profession as a whole there are a

significant number of women working within the commercial property sector in Northern Ireland, it’s no longer a male orientated profession.” As for the business landscape Gail says that whilst there is general economic uncertainty they are seeing an increase in demand for their services as investors seek to maximise return from their investments. “Interestingly we took on a number of new properties over the course of 2018, often on behalf of investors who were keen to maximise rental returns and ensure their property is run as efficiently as possible.” For more information contact Osborne King on 028 9027 0000, email property@osborneking.com or visit the website at www.osborneking.com


MARIAN McFLYNN, SURVEYOR Since graduating from Ulster University in 2011 with a degree in property investment and development, Marian’s career began on the other side of the globe – working for multi-billion dollar US-owned LaSalle Investment Management at its offices in Sydney. “In Sydney, as part LaSalle’s centre management team, I was responsible for leasing, marketing, administration and operation of a bulky goods shopping centre, home to over 75 homemaker and lifestyle stores,” she says. “I returned to Northern Ireland, and joined the property and asset management department of Osborne King as a graduate surveyor in June 2014,” she adds. And following training, Marian became a chartered surveyor in 2016. She’s now responsible for managing a range of commercial assets on behalf of clients.

“This involves asset enhancement advice, tenant liaison, building maintenance, health and safety management, rent collection and accounting, service contract tendering and service charge administration,” she says.

“I continue to build on my client and property portfolio.”

Property Services on the clients behalf at application and appeal stages. Following the 2015 revaluation Osborne King saved clients in excess of £2.5m. Lisa is working on the upcoming 2020 non-domestic revaluation on behalf of a variety of clients.

“I am fortunate to be involved in a wide range of work, some of which involves regular reporting to key clients such as one of Northern Ireland’s largest car showroom operators and well-known supermarket, convenience store businesses and global coffee brand.”

And Marian also says that uncertainty hangs in the air for investors, while the ongoing lack of clarity over a post-Brexit landscape still exists.

LISA McCAFFREY, SURVEYOR Lisa has five years at Osborne King under her belt. Having graduated from the property investment and development course at Ulster University’s Jordanstown campus in 2012, she worked at a Belfast estate agents before joining Osborne King in 2013 becoming a chartered surveyor in 2016. She works within the professional services team which sees her carry out valuations for a wide range of clients including private individuals, large companies and the major lending institutions. As part of this Lisa is a member of the RICS Registered Valuers Scheme. Lisa also provides rent review and lease renewal advice to landlords and tenants throughout Northern Ireland. Additionally, Lisa was involved in the 2015 non-domestic rating revaluation providing advice to a wide range of clients and negotiating the valuations with Land &




Brexit shouldn’t overshadow good news of 2018 By Jordan Buchanan


he New Year year has begun in a similar fashion to how 2018 finished – with political turmoil, locally and nationally, and without any clear progress in the Brexit negotiations.

components of success in the local economy. The favourable combination of skilled workers, competitive cost base and attractive tax regime makes Northern Ireland a prime location for investment. To date, over 900 international companies have invested in Northern Ireland across a range of sectors from industrial machinery to software and IT services. Impressively, Belfast is deemed the number-one destination globally for cyber-security projects.

This will continue to dominate the economic narrative in the coming months, but it’s important to reflect on the good news and the positive performance of the economy in recent years. In my capacity as an economic forecaster, it is natural to become fixated on understanding what the economy will look like next year or in 10 years’ time. My realisation – not least in the light of forecasting with so many unknowns due to Brexit – is that building models is as much about understanding relationships and observing patterns as it is about divining the future. Economies across the world will always face their respective challenges, whether currency crises, trade wars, debt levels or, in the UK’s case, our future trading relationship with the EU. Economists naturally tend to focus on the downside risks and perhaps this is a requirement of our role to inform the relevant stakeholders of future threats which have the potential to destabilise economic growth in the longer term.

On the housing front, homeowners will have enjoyed recent house price appreciation. House prices are estimated to have grown at a strong annual rate of almost 5%, exceeding the UK as a whole where growth has been closer to 3%, largely driven by flatlining prices in the London/South East England areas. Jordan Buchanan

continued to defy expectations, creating 13,000 new jobs alongside unemployment falling by over 8,000. Taking a longer-term view, the economy has experienced seven consecutive years of job creation and to date there are more people in work than there were at peak levels in 2008 before the financial crash. The booming labour market has led to workers receiving a wellearned pay rise after a long period of limited growth in earnings.

However, it is also important to commend and celebrate the successes of the economy we live and work in and use these to provide a solid foundation as we move forward in such uncertain times.

Indeed, a typical full-time worker received almost £500 of additional income last year (annual after inflation) compared to only £200 across the rest of the UK. Coupled alongside inflation at close to 2%, consumers should begin to feel that their money goes that little bit further, particularly as weaker oil prices feeds through to lower prices at the pumps.

Last year was a particularly encouraging year from an economic perspective for Northern Ireland. The labour market

Northern Ireland’s foreign direct investment (FDI) and tourism industries have expanded rapidly in recent years and are key


Looking forward – and returning to Brexit gloom – the next few months will be critical in determining the medium to longterm growth prospects for the UK and NI economies. Following Theresa May’s overwhelming defeat in Parliament on the Withdrawal Agreement and despite the survival of the vote of no confidence, this will force a radical shift in the approach to negotiations. I share the view across the business community and many fellow commentators that avoiding a no-deal will be of utmost importance for Northern Ireland. I still believe, despite the looming deadline, that common sense will prevail and there will be a deal with the EU, giving businesses much-needed clarity. Alternatively it is increasingly plausible that Article 50 may be extended beyond March 29 to give more time to work out an agreement. ■ Jordan Buchanan is an economist at the Ulster University economic policy centre

Energy, waste & environment


Uncertainty, interconnectors and the future of NI energy post-Brexit With a potential ‘no deal’ around the corner on Brexit, what will that mean for the future of Northern Ireland’s energy policy – especially on renewables, the I-SEM all-island market and power generation? John Simpson takes a closer look


n the last working day before Christmas 2018, the System Operator for Northern Ireland (SONI) published draft proposals of how the electricity systems and grids on this island may operate in 2019-20. Subject to confirmation by the all-island Single Electricity Market Committee, the auction for electricity generators to be awarded capacity contracts, on an all-island basis, has identified electricity capacity (as measured in terms of de-rated capacity) of 8,397 MW which will be in place for the year starting October 1, 2019 – 1,999 MW of that all-island total is attributed to Northern Ireland. This is a critical series of draft decisions which will reassure the large conventional generators about their contracts and will impose the discipline of revenue limits constrained by the capacity auction. The draft decisions also point to the expectations in terms of the capacity earmarked from renewable sources, from


inter-connection with the Scottish grid and the capacity adjustments that may follow from demand-side adjustment contracts. SONI has not been as open and transparent as should have been possible. Readers must make the assumption that ties location to where capacity payments are identified in sterling and euro.


The SONI statement lists 36 generator names (from 26 businesses in Northern Ireland), 17 of which are identified as DSUs (demand side units) which leaves 19 others. Eight are shown as part of the AES capacity in Ballylumford and Kilroot: four are small capacity generators, six each have capacity of over 45MW (which also seems to include Coolkeeragh and two large units at Ballylumford), and the last capacity source linked to Northern Ireland is the Moyle Interconnector.

SONI does not present the capacity awards in a way that allows readers to identify the location of each successful unit. The Utility Regulator has agreed that the available Northern Ireland capacity should include 216 MW from the Moyle Interconnector which represents over 10% of locally available capacity. This is a judgement that might be queried. Is the interconnector (and also the east-west interconnector to

Dublin) a guaranteed source of capacity? If, at a time of peak demand in Northern Ireland, demand in the grid in GB had no spare capacity, presumably the capacity might not be available for supply to Northern Ireland. The regulator and SONI are well placed to judge the probability of this outcome and might argue that it is a minimal risk. There are some interesting features stemming from the assumptions made in setting the framework for the capacity auction. First, Northern Ireland has been treated as meriting some contract variations because of locational constraints. This is a reflection of the limited capacity of the electricity grid on the whole island to send electricity to the places where there is demand. Both the Dublin area and Northern Ireland (treated as separate areas) did not attract auction bids adequately to supply these area >




locational constraints. For Northern Ireland. the easy explanation lies in the absence of the long awaited north-south grid expansion from/to the planned distribution hub in Co Tyrone. The capacity auction allowed for the acceptance of bids with prices which are higher than the main auction prices which would match supply and demand across the whole island. Because of the locational deficit, some Northern Ireland bids now show capacity payment prices above the all-Ireland ceiling of £36,960 per MW which applies to most of the successful bids. In the quotation from AES for the two large fossil fuel burning units, the proposal is that they should attract payment prices of £46,708 and £47,200 per MW. At first sight this appears to allow a premium of nearly 28% on the payment price for each MW. This seems more than a marginal cost and points to the possible cost savings if the proposed new north-south link had been operational. This answer for the older high capacity units at Kilroot is a further reflection of the doubt about the continued viability of these units.

If Kilroot power “ station survives for a further three to four years, then the experimental storage capacity on that site may become an attractive asset

It will be remembered that a year ago, these same two units were deemed unsuccessful in the auction but, at a late stage when faced with a request for a derogation to be allowed to close these units, the initially agreed settlement was revised. A year ago, the first capacity auction under the rules of the newly instituted I-SEM, was accepted with a capacity supply of near to 1,700 MW for all of Northern Ireland. Now, in early 2019, SONI has concluded that for security of supply Northern Ireland should contract for just under 2,000 MW. There is no


John Simpson

obvious major uplift in demand in Northern Ireland so that, quietly, the suggestion is that the arithmetic in late 2017 may now be thought to have been slightly too risky.

In turn, the caveat about the possible role of renewables points to the possible value of further investment in energy storage for which no major scheme has been launched. If Kilroot power station survives for a further three to four years, then the experimental electricity storage capacity on that site may become an attractive asset.

The capacity auction is a fundamental building block of electricity supply policy for Northern Ireland. However, on its own, the allocation of capacity and the possible scope for investment in new generating There are several continuing capacity must also be seen in questions about Northern the context of increasing, Ireland’s security of if market forces allow, the electricity supply. Will proportion of electricity Kilroot be given further of Northern Ireland’s supply that is supplied from stays of execution after generating capacity renewable sources. 2021? Will the North comes from gas and South interconnector (indirectly) coal The distribution of generating eventually be built? Will the capacity is still dominated proposed large natural gas by fossil fuels. Northern Ireland’s burning power station be built capacity is nearly 85% from gas and in Belfast? Will the politically unpopular (indirectly) coal. However, the statistics investment in anaerobic digestion plants be showing the proportion of electricity tackled? supply from renewables points to average consumption from renewables of nearer to Will the Brexit settlement, or lack of it, 35-40%. Because of the variability in the damage the continued operation of the allcontribution of wind based renewables, island single electricity market? But... it seems it would be hazardous if greater security Kilroot has been given a temporary extension dependence was allocated to renewables. of its role in keeping the lights on. ■



Is the future bright for the NI energy market? I

t is clear that there are a number of significant challenges facing the energy sector in Northern Ireland but where there are challenges, there are also opportunities, according to law firm Cleaver Fulton Rankin.

heat, electricity, transport and energy efficiency which it aims to make public some time in the spring. Whether or not this region has its Assembly back to adopt such a framework will remain to be seen, but in the meantime it will ensure the subject remains live and high on the agenda.

Hilary Griffith, Brendan Martyn, Joe Marley, Karen Blair, Stephen Cross, Peter Moorhead and Nemonie Fulton

THE EXECUTIVE Northern Ireland has just completed its second year without a functioning local government and in the words of David Sterling, head of the Northern Ireland Civil Service, the Civil Service is “… doing everything we can in the prevailing circumstances…but civil servants cannot take the place of ministers when it comes to strategic policy development or in taking transformative decisions”. This is very much the case with regard to energy policy. The Department of the Economy’s Strategic Energy Framework, which was endorsed by the Executive in 2010, has over the last nine years, led to some very positive changes to the energy generation and supply mix, particularly from renewable sources. However the 10 year framework is nearing its end and needs to be replaced. The Department is making such preparations as it can on a draft Strategic Energy Framework across the areas of


BREXIT AND I-SEM The new wholesale electricity market known as the Integrated Single Electricity Market (I-SEM) went live on October 1, 2018. It is designed to deliver increased levels of competition which, it is hoped, will help put downward pressure on prices as well as encouraging greater levels of security of supply and transparency. While the island of Ireland is now integrated more closely with European markets, there is a risk that Brexit could halt this integration.

While Brexit may present challenges and continuing uncertainty, there are certainly opportunities for investment and acquisition in the electricity market as more complex, specialist expertise will be required to effectively trade power on the I-SEM. Policy barriers or inaction cannot be allowed to prevent I-SEM from realising its potential of fully integrating the market by efficiently moving energy from producer to demand.

RENEWABLE INCENTIVE SCHEMES British and Irish business groups and energy trade associations such as the CBI, IBEC, Electricity Association of Ireland, RenewableUK, British Irish Chamber of Commerce and EnergyUK all refer to the delivery of I-SEM, or to the UK’s continued access to the IEM, as post-Brexit priorities for security of supply and/or consumer protection. I-SEM is clearly a priority that must be preserved.

Despite being on track to hit its target of 40% of electricity generation from renewables, Northern Ireland risks being left behind. The lack of a replacement for the development support mechanism, Renewables Obligations Certificate (ROCs) after its closure in April 2017, means Northern Ireland is lagging behind Great Britain which has established the Contract for Difference regime and Ireland, which


THE ENERGY TEAM Cleaver Fulton Rankin’s Energy and Renewables team understand the key issues faced by organisations involved in the energy and utilities sector, the political and regulatory background and the specialist nature of the work involved. has started work on its Renewable Electricity Support Scheme (RESS). While neither scheme is perfect, doing nothing is not an option. The devolution of energy presented Northern Ireland with the opportunity to shape its own policy but without a government, will the sector and the infrastructure be able to remain fit for purpose?

GAS With its development over the last 20 years, the gas network in Northern Ireland, with its low population density, must be seen as a success story. Consumers and businesses have been offered greater choice in terms of price and security of supply. Nevertheless there are certainly further opportunities for gas distributors and suppliers to expand the natural gas network, particularly in the west of the country and east Co Down.


So despite the apparent obstacles and challenges, there is opportunity for development and progress in Northern Ireland’s energy sector. The benefits for Northern Ireland will be in terms of security of supply, price and environmental sustainability. ■ Cleaver Fulton Rankin, 50 Bedford Street, Belfast BT2 7FW. To get in touch visit www.cfrlaw.co.uk or call 028 9024 3141

The team act for developers, utilities, investors and funders across the full spectrum of energy related projects and deals, and have been at the forefront of renewable power development since 2002. The team has recently been providing regulatory advice in relation to the Single Electricity Market in Ireland and electricity market reform. In addition, they have worked on most of Northern Ireland’s major (ie 10MW plus) operating wind farms and large scale (5MW plus) solar farms and many of the region’s successful biomass projects. The team combines energy lawyers from across all of Cleaver Fulton Rankin’s legal disciplines. Lead by Stephen Cross, director, the integrated team brings together expertise in real estate, construction, planning and environmental, corporate, banking and finance.



Airbus ‘could leave Belfast over ‘no deal’ Brexit’


he boss of Airbus has warned the UK Government that his company could pull out of Belfast if the UK leaves the EU without a deal. Airbus has partnered with Bombardier – one of Northern Ireland’s largest employers – over its passenger jet series, formerly known as the C Series, now the A220. The wings and part of the fuselage are made in Belfast, and a staff of around 1,000 work on the planes in Northern Ireland. But Tom Enders has said London’s handling of Brexit “a disgrace”, prompting him to warn that he could move production of the aircraft wings elsewhere in the event of a ‘no deal’ exit.

would not be possible to immediately move large factories based here to other parts of the world. “However, aerospace is a long-term business and we could be forced to redirect future investments in the event of a no-deal Brexit,” he said. Airbus is investing millions in upgrading production lines to overcome a backlog of 500 jets on its order books. The company is also seeking to introduce costcutting measures across its operations, and has broken ground on a new A220 assembly line in Alabama.

“Make no mistake, there are plenty of countries out there who would love to build the wings for Airbus aircraft,” he said.

Bombardier has also announced it has acquired a new wing production programme from Triumph in Texas, for its smaller Global 7500 jet.

While Mr Enders warned the UK no longer had “the capability to go it alone”, he accepted it

Meanwhile, eight part-Belfast made Bombardier/Airbus passenger jets were


delivered at the end of last year – bringing the total number to 32 during 2018. The A220 aircraft made up a total of 1,618 aircraft delivered last year, according to ADS. That’s an increase of 120 from 2017. However, the industry is warning of ‘no deal’ Brexit danger to UK rewards from future global growth. “Global aerospace manufacturers are rising to the challenge of boosting productivity to satisfy strong international demand for modern, fuel-efficient and technologically advanced aircraft,” ADS chief executive Paul Everitt said. “In recent years UK industry has played a vital role in this success story, helping to spread the prosperity generated by this high-value industry to communities in every part of the country. “As Brexit draws closer, uncertainty is overshadowing the potential for continuing growth in UK aerospace.” ■


Keep retention high on the corporate agenda


nderstanding why an individual chooses to leave an employer, this is one of the first issues a recruiter will explore with a client seeking a new role. As such, recruiters are uniquely positioned to access information on many aspects that affect staff retention. Gone are the days when someone resigned solely due to feeling their reward was below the market rate.

Justin Rush

Here are some of the main reasons employees choose to seek employment elsewhere: • • • • • •

Poor relationship with managers Hitting the promotion (glass) ceiling Lack of development opportunities Negative company culture To improve their work/life balance Having no buy-in to company vision

Now that you know these contributing factors, what can you do to counteract and improve your retention levels? Well there is no quick fix and usually, for most organisations, not one glaring issue to be corrected. However, retention levels can be improved, here is how: Take more time when recruiting Poor appointment decisions directly affect retention levels. Do not lower your bar or settle just to fill the slot. Go back to the drawing board if needs be. On-board with great care The experience of new-starters when joining your organisation is vital. Do not assume that you will be able to retain just because you appointed. The occurrence of resignations from staff with less than six months service is increasing.

a luxury item, for the modern employee it is a basic essential. It is also a significant item within the retention mix, ignore it at your peril.

Conduct staff satisfaction surveys Direct, honest and confidential feedback from your staff team is massively valuable. If you do not act on the aspects highlighted (no matter how trivial), you are making a massive mistake and wasting the effort made.

Invest in wellbeing, CSR and social initiatives. Successful, modern employers understand that creating psychological bonds (employee to employee and employee to organisation) in their teams outside of core work, directly supports loyalty and retention.

Give staff control over learning and development Learning and development is not a reward or

Implement effective flexible working regimes It may not be ideal for all organisations, but if faced with the decision to retain or lose,


perhaps a trade-off in terms of flexibility is worthwhile. Many would argue that you cannot replace the knowledge and experience some people take when leaving an organisation. Whether you believe this or not, most can agree that the time, opportunity and financial costs, associated with replacing valuable staff is hugely significant. ■ Justin Rush is managing director at the Abacus Talent Group and can be found on justin@abacustalentgroup.com

Executive search & recruitment




How to find the right person for the top Finding the right person for a job is already tough enough, but what about searching for the best executive to head up a business? John Mulgrew examines what it takes to find top bosses


ancy earning a six-figure sum? Hitting the top end of the recruitment spectrum might be something many in business aspire to – but finding the right person for such a specific, and well-paid role isn’t as simple as sticking an ad in the paper.

Salaries at the top in Northern Ireland, while certainly lower than in Dublin and in larger cities in GB, still range from in excess of £90,000, to around the £120,000, £150,000 and upwards. However, private sector salaries in other industries here can command well in excess of those pay packets.

typically the where the most successful talent exists,” he says.

“Top talent is scarce, very valued and much indemand,” according to Justin Rush, managing director of Belfast-based Abacus Talent Group.

Gordon Carson, managing director at 4c Executive – a recruitment business which specialises in finding top-level roles for businesses across Northern Ireland – says that the “market is tightening and organisations are conscious of the political and economic environment so there is some hesitancy around investment in people but there is also greater need for targeted search”.

“It’s a broad range for one managing director in one sector, a small family-run company or large company. Salaries for the roles we are hiring would average out at around for tend to be over £90,000 a year.”

“This is because there is a consensus that strong leadership is critical to the success of businesses, this is especially the case due to the range and complexity of challenges all businesses are facing, such as the globalisation of services, disintermediation of providers Brexit uncertainty – especially for those in manufacturing.” There’s also far from a ‘one size fits all’ approach, when it comes to finding someone to take over a the helm of a company.


“The uncertainty means people are wary about moving so traditional ad-led recruitment will struggle to find the right candidates whereas we are reaching out to the inactive part of the market which isn’t necessarily out looking for a job and is

On to the topic of salaries, Gordon says they range considerably, and are “dependent on a number of factors, including the size of the company, turnover”.

Justin Rush says the requirements of those top-level executives in line for that seat at the boardroom table are “many and varied”. It’s not just about ensuring a healthy bank balance each month. “There is no ‘one-size fits all’,” he says. “Small firms can be nimble and offer more attractive terms than larger firms if they have a clear and robust business plan. >



“More often than not, equity buy-in options need to be on the table for those who will step into the top jobs. Larger firms will offer the typical range of bonuses and perks on top of six-figure salaries. Interestingly, SMEs are offering salaries and benefits that can compete with the corporates. Perhaps more from necessity and competitive factors.” And while salaries are more competitive here, compared to other neighbouring economies, “that is more than countered not only by the lower cost of living but also by the standard of living in Northern Ireland”, according to Gordon Carson. “In reality we’re in a much richer place. The challenges are that the talent market is getting tighter because of Brexit and it’s harder to find the best talent because it isn’t actively looking for a job so it’s therefore necessary to reach out to them to present to persuade them that the opportunities that are there.” According to Justin, it’s about offering a “proposition that will focus on culture, vision, leadership style, and a clear outline of what the purpose of the business is”. “Only then will we go to market, the terms and conditions are almost assumed,” he says.


Part of the difficulty is getting executives in already well-paid and senior posts, to jump ship, and see whether things are greener on the other side. “Trying to get top executive talent to move jobs is a big ask in today’s market,” Justin Rush says. “Uncertainty causes a ‘better the devil you know’ attitude. On top of that , there are long notice period tie ins and restrictive, while non-compete clauses in contracts are very common. It can take six to nine months to get the identified person on site.” Meanwhile, a survey of top UK company bosses shows that they remain relatively positive when it comes to recruiting in the next year. The majority of UK business leaders – around 61% – expect to increase headcount in 2019 fuelled by a desire to access key skills. That’s up from 54% last year, and compares with a figure of 53% among chief executives across the world, according to PwC. Kevin Ellis, chairman and senior partner of PwC, said: “Uncertainty is at the forefront of UK chief executives’ minds, but they know regardless of market conditions, there are always opportunities for growth.

“By investing in talent, technology and developing new business models, companies can adapt and innovate to thrive. Chief executive confidence on hiring is a very positive sign.” According to the survey, the availability of skills is the top business concern for UK bosses, with 79%. And around 72% of UK chiefs agree that artificial intelligence (AI) will “significantly change the way they do business in the next five years”. “However, at this point in its adoption curve only 2% of UK chief executives have introduced AI initiatives wide-scale and 36% have no plans to pursue any AI initiatives in the next three years,” it says. Kevin Ellis said: “For the UK, chief executives’ growing uncertainty about where to expand presents an opportunity to attract new investment following Brexit. It’s time to talk up the UK’s credentials, not only as a competitive place for business, but as a fair and trusted one. We’re at a pivotal moment in economic and political history. “Now more than ever, chief executives have the chance to reset the narrative on the role of business in society and build trust.” ■

AI advances should drive finance leaders to upskill their teams By Luke Fuller, director, Hays


he challenges facing finance leaders in a fast-changing world are numerous, with skills shortages and staff retention near the top of the list. In our report, What’s Challenging Finance Leaders 2018, confidence in the economic environment, Brexit, regulatory change and rapid internationalisation were seen as the big external barriers to success, while sourcing talent, particularly for technical roles, emerged as the most significant internal business challenge.

But finance leaders said their greatest personal challenge is managing their work-life balance and finding time to pursue career development while executing pressurised roles that carry responsibility. Even in organisations that offer career development opportunities, many don’t find time for personal development because they are too busy with day-to-day work. Advocating a balance in the workplace when hiring can set an example, but existing finance leaders also need to also show they have a life

outside the office and take time to refresh their own skillsets. Finance leaders recognise the need to keep staff up-to date with new skills, technology and software. But it’s clear those in senior roles must themselves be prepared to embrace innovation to remain on top of their industry. Rather than rendering them immediately obsolete, it’s likely that over the next five years artificial intelligence and robotic process automation will change the way workers perform their existing roles.

Luke Fuller

Finance is still an industry built on relationships and personal interaction, and technology won’t fully replace this. But to make sure your best people remain relevant, you must replace the functions taken over by AI with new skills so they can still add value.

Research suggests accountancy and finance is particularly at risk of having some jobs supplanted by new technology. And yet our survey showed some finance leaders remain sceptical of the influence that AI will have on the profession, preferring to focus on more traditional automation techniques to improve the efficiency of the finance function while recognising the impact it may have at a transactional level in future.

Management of change is the greatest professional challenge facing finance leaders, so repurposing roles and responsibilities in the wake of technological developments should be addressed sooner rather than later.

But as more is able to be achieved with automated technology, finance leaders will have to drive innovation, change the scope of the finance function and upskill those employees they want to retain.

Department for Communities and Young Enterprise tackle social problems together


orthern Ireland’s leading education and enterprise charity, Young Enterprise, is collaborating with the Department for Communities to increase awareness of social innovation through this year’s company programme. Students, gearing up to trade at regional trade fairs throughout the country, will be encouraged to think about social challenges that need addressed, and how they can create a social practice that aims to meet needs in a better way than the existing solutions.

Speaking about the collaboration, Young Enterprise chief executive Carol Fitzsimons MBE said: “The businesses our students create can be for-profit or social enterprises. Through the Social Innovation Awards, supported by the Department for Communities, we encourage our students to think about how their business can ‘do good’ for society, whether that be in relation to education, community development or health”


of plastic waste, Compresso cups that reduce recycling to baby hats where if a customer buys one, the student company will donate a second to the neonatal baby unit in Belfast. Social Innovation winners from each of the six regional trade fairs throughout the country will be recognised in the month ahead.”

James Elliott, Department for Communities, with Natasha Black and Jan Donaldson,Young Enterprise NI

“The Department for Communities compliments our aim to encourage young people to think socially while they are also thinking entrepreneurially. Our company of the year finalists last year, Belfast Boys’ Model School and Mercy College, went on to win the ‘Pursuit of Opportunity Award’ at the national final with an app they created to breakdown the stigma surrounding the sensitive topic of mental wellbeing. “Already this year we are seeing some great ideas – from metal straws to challenge the issue

Department for Communities’ Sharon Polson said: “The Department for Communities is delighted to sponsor the Social Innovation Award at this year’s Young Enterprise Northern Ireland competition. It is a great opportunity to embed the concept of social innovation in our entrepreneurs of the future and pave the way for them to impact on real social issues. The whole process is a fantastic experience for the young people and we look forward to seeing the products and services which emerge with the potential to improve people’s lives.” For more information on the Young Enterprise NI Company Programme or to register your school, visit www.yeni.co.uk


Titanic firm taking on 150 new staff


itanic Belfast and a number of other related companies are hiring 150 new staff to deal with the upcoming busy summer season. TBL International’s recruitment drive is for more than double the number of temporary jobs the organisation was aiming to fill in January 2018. The firm, which also runs the SS Nomadic as a tourist attraction, said a number of the new roles would cover the summer high season at Titanic Belfast. Job areas include ticketing, hospitality and retail. The organisation already has 280 staff. The exhibition on cult series Game Of Thrones, which is part-filmed in Northern Ireland, will make its first stop in the UK and Ireland at Titanic Belfast in April. TBL said it would be holding a showcase day to attract the new temporary staff. Judith Owens, chief executive of TBL International, said: “From the very beginning, we have valued our staff as one of key reasons for success.”

Judith Owens is pictured alongside Nicola Wharry, Tom Jackson and Paul Whitla

‘Action needed’ to stem retail job losses


rgent action is needed in the retail sector after it was revealed that almost 70,000 jobs were lost across the sector in the UK last year, it’s been claimed.

Aodhan Connolly, director of the Northern Ireland Retail Consortium, was responding to a survey released by the British Retail Consortium (BRC) showing the significant job losses occurred during the fourth quarter of last year. The number of employees in the sector fell by 2.2% over October to December, compared with the same period in 2017. Total hours fell by 2.8% and full-time hours fell by 2.9% compared to Q4 2017 – a slower decline than seen in the previous quarter when


Aodhan Connolly

it declined by 4.2%. Part-time hours fell by 2.8% compared with the same period. Almost a third of retailers (29%) plan to reduce staff numbers in the next few months, a similar number to a year ago. Mr Connolly said: “Retail is undergoing a profound transformation, driven by changes in shopping habits, squeezed family finances, fierce competition and rising costs.”

Relationships at core of PRL Recruitment B uilding long-lasting and strong relationships with businesses of all shapes and sizes across Northern Ireland is at the core of PRL Recruitment.

“It’s all shapes and sizes – the clients we work with could range from a small Northern Ireland business, right through to international companies and brands. It’s about providing the client, regardless of the its size, with a total recruitment solutions package.”

The company, part of the overall PRL group – which employs around 1,100 staff across the island – is working to find the best people for its extensive list of clients, throughout the spectrum of Northern Ireland business. “We connect companies and brands with people,” says Glenn McCormick, interim recruitment manager NI at PRL Integrated services. He’s been with PRL Recruitment in Belfast for the last five years, and in that time has helped the company find some of the best people in the market for a vast range of clients. “We provide bespoke recruitment solutions across permanent, temporary and payroll positions covering all sectors,” he says. “I’ve been here for five years. It’s a competitive marketplace, but the key is getting to know what our clients want, finding the correct candidates and then having a detailed knowledge about the businesses we are working with. “Our philosophy is straightforward and uncomplicated. We offer excellent service, value for money, and we treat clients and candidates with courtesy and respect. Above all, we make sure that the advice and support we give is always honest and factual.”


And the recruitment marketplace is continuing to evolve right across Northern Ireland, with areas such as IT and finance seeing a particular growth in the last few years. Glenn McCormick

The company cites its USP as understanding its client base from the ground up, and forging long-term relationships with businesses which continue throughout the years. “We have clients which we have worked with for 10 to 15 years, and with new clients coming to us on a regular basis,” Glenn says. “When we get the first call, we build partnerships and strong relations with clients. It’s about building a trust in what we do, and developing that – we have lots of longstanding business relationships, but also lots of new clients.” PRL Recruitment works across the sectors, with clients ranging from the very small, to those which are selling and working right across the global stage.

“We are finding that IT and finance are big areas of development within our business,” Glenn says. “It’s definitely a big growth sector in Northern Ireland, and certainly an area which we are looking to broaden. “We understand the businesses we work with from the front door, through to the warehouse, admin support, commercial sales departments, HR, finance, operations and middle management.” And looking forward into 2019, he says the company is planning to grow and boost its brand and presence across Northern Ireland. ■


Kay Neufeld of CEBR, George Rankin, Asda and journalist Jamie Delargy

NI spending power still lagging behind UK average


orthern Ireland may be narrowing the income gap with the rest of the UK with a 5.5% increase in weekly spending potential for families, according to a report. The Asda Income Tracker said the quarterly jump in discretionary income here – to £109 a week for a typical family – compared with a UK average of 4.7%.

But while Northern Ireland’s rate of unemployment has been falling, its rate of economic inactivity – those neither working nor looking for work – has The average weekly remained the highest of all UK discretionary regions at 27.9%.

Asda said falling joblessness in the province and a decline in inflation had contributed to the rise, the strongest in over two years.

£109 income in NI

Nonetheless, spending power here was still the weakest in the UK at £97 below the average household. The supermarket giant said: “With Northern Ireland unemployment in the fourth quarter


falling below the national average to 3.4%, after an increase over the summer months to over 4%, NI has reclaimed its spot at the top of the regional league table for quarterly discretionary income growth.”

There was also gross income growth of 3.2% quarter-on-quarter though no acceleration year-on-year, unlike other parts of the UK. It’s the 10th anniversary of Asda’s income tracker, which is complied by CEBR. Kay Neufeld, managing economist of the CEBR, said: “After a lost year in 2017, households

across the UK have seen healthy gains in the Asda Income Tracker in 2018. “The positive developments in the labour market have translated into sustained wage growth of over 3% and with inflation falling back, households are left with more money in their pocket. “The improvements have been particularly felt in Northern Ireland, where in the fourth quarter of 2018 family spending power increased by more than in any other country or region in the UK.” George Rankin, Asda senior director in Northern Ireland, said: “It’s great to see that the available weekly income is finally on the up and the gap between NI and other UK regions is narrowing. “There may be uncertainties ahead, but the Income Tracker clearly indicates that we’re making progress.” ■


Accidents in the workplace – examining recent trends There were almost 1,900 reportable injuries in workplaces across Northern Ireland last year. Chris Ritchie, a litigation and dispute resolution partner at leading law firm Arthur Cox, discusses how employers should prepare to deal with accidents and their consequences


n its recently published annual report, the Health and Safety Executive Northern Ireland (HSENI) outlined the extent of accidents in workplaces throughout 2017-2018. Over the 12-month period to March 31, 2018, there was a total of 1,898 reportable injuries across all sectors. It was encouraging to note, however, that the number of fatalities had reduced by almost a third on the previous year. No single sector dominated, although the manufacturing industry recorded the most injuries representing 28% of the total number, followed by public services (25%), and the education sector (20%).

The overall number of reportable injuries was lower than three of the previous four years, a positive indication that employers are continuing to take seriously their responsibilities to follow health and safety guidelines in the workplace. The report also outlined the level of fines administered over the period, which reached £173,750 following the successful completion of seven prosecutions brought by HSENI. Taking an aggregate look across the five years from 2013-14 to 2017-18, the body has been effective in 53 prosecutions, leading to fines totalling just under £1m. It is therefore clear that for those employers that do not adhere to regulations the penalties can be considerable. However, these will not always be purely financial – in some cases, imprisonment may be ordered for individuals who contravene the law. Recent legislation and case law in relation to corporate manslaughter has also enhanced focus in this area.


Chris Ritchie

Consequently, it is more important than ever for employers to ensure their organisation has a robust system in place to respond to accidents when they do occur. It is also imperative that such a system, as well as the corresponding HR procedures, are kept fully up to date. Health and safety compliance touches all employers and workplaces, with some facing greater risks than others, such as food manufacturing, industrial engineering, retail and leisure, energy companies and commercial landlords. Seeking sound professional advice that is commercial and pragmatic, in relation to health and safety compliance, will assist with the process of ensuring full adherence. This should

include policy reviews and drafting and legal enforcement audits to help employers test their safety management system and safety culture. Over many years, Arthur Cox has advised companies and individuals in relation to health and safety investigations, large and small, involving HSENI, local authorities, and the police. Accidents do happen but, with sufficient levels of planning, employers can be confident that penalties for non-compliance should not form part of the aftermath. ■ The health and safety team at Arthur Cox is well positioned to advise on how to ensure you are fully compliant with workplace health and safety law. Please call 028 9023 0007 for further information from Chris or your regular Arthur Cox contact.

Risk management & security


From CCTV to GDPR: the people keeping your business safe Ulster Business examines an ever-changing approach to business security and what companies are turning to in an increasingly digital age


s Big Brother watching you? For many, the idea of a society peppered with cameras and other forms of security harks back to the view of a dystopian Orwellian society. But with the UK having some of the highest levels of CCTV cameras in the world, businesses in particular are ensuring that both their physical security, along with digital and paper footprints, are protected. Angela Bennett, joint managing director of Belfast-based Diamond Systems says the role of the security system has evolved hugely in the last few years to become something of a capital investment. Offering more than surveillance, the new security systems we are using provide everything from analysis of the way a firm works to conventional protection. And she says an “ever-increasing” demand around health and safety in the workplace is encouraging more investment in reliable security that is as integral to a firm’s operations as its IT network.


“Businesses now treat security systems as a capital investment in technology designed to ensure business continuity, monitor workflow processes, and help manage the ever-increasing demands around health and safety in the workplace,” Angela says. “We are seeing more reliance being placed on security systems, particularly CCTV, as an integral part of site safety management systems. Intelligent system design is essential at the outset of any CCTV project, to ensure adequate coverage and image usability, even in low light conditions.” There have been sophisticated advances in video camera technology in the last few years which have offered businesses new capabilities including motion detection that records only the things that matter, ‘heatmapping’ to determine where the most traffic flows in an area to people counting and unusual motion detection. These new abilities shift the former role of the CCTV camera to a new level, allowing it to file more information about the operations and trends in your business, and Angela agrees.

“CCTV is also being used as a value-added tool, where analytics are incorporated into the video management system platform,” she says. “Software analytics are currently benefiting the retail sector for example, helping to plan store layouts, the locations for promotion points, and the forecasting of required staffing levels.” Increasingly sophisticated security also demands its own security, Angela says. “Businesses do however need to be aware of the emerging cyber risks associated with CCTV systems, and how to proactively address them. Choosing a specialist such as Diamond, will ensure that cyber risks are addressed at system design stage, and that systems installed are both future-proof and intelligent,” she says. Beyond CCTV other trends prevalent in business security include compliance with GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation), cloud security, and artificial intelligence and among the top trends for 2019 will be a boost in heightened cloud security. Wikibon, the open source technology knowledge sharing community, projects that the cloud’s share of enterprise computing will grow from 10% currently to 45% by 2026. >





“In terms of future trends, artificial intelligence, sensor integration and environmental smart tech are all future demands that will shape the security industry’s offering,” Angela says. “Through partnerships with the leading global innovators, Diamond are at the forefront of this new technology and we will see change coming at a rapid pace over the next few years.” Headquartered in Lisburn with locations in Dublin, Limerick and London, Mercury Security & Facilities Management is a security firm and facilities management business. And according to boss Frank Cullen, the service it provides has transformed considerably since the company was formed back in 2001. “In order for security companies to truly provide fit-for-purpose security solutions to clients, it is crucial that they move with the times – embracing advances in technology, adapting to changing legislation and understanding the changing nature of crime itself. “Cyber-security, in particular, has become a massive issue so the importance of a high degree of IT competence within your security company cannot be overstated. By their very nature, most security systems require external connections to the public internet and are therefore potentially vulnerable. So very good firewall protection must be employed and the


In order for security companies to truly provide fit-for-purpose security solutions to clients it is crucial that they move with the times

support of a dedicated and knowledgeable IT department is essential.”

While it is now very easy to provide managers with access to images on their mobile phones and portable devices, doing so could well mean that you would be breaking the law if very carefully controlled procedures are not in place to protect the image data, how it is to be observed and by whom. “From a hardware point of view, it is important for security providers to have the competence and capability to assess potential manufacturers and their equipment at the most detailed of levels and to have awareness of the regulatory requirements in which they must work.”

Some of the firms specialising in cyber-security Elsewhere, there’s been some movement in here include Sophos – a UK-based business which other elements of the security business in develops products for communication endpoint, Northern Ireland. encryption, network security and email security. Newtownabbey firm Environmental Street And for the digital and hard copy, Belfast-based Furniture (ESF) has announced the acquisition Morgan Document Security works with both of Co Down based specialist perimeter security the private and public sector around storing, company, Sentry Posts. archiving, retrieving documentation, records, legal papers and files. Sentry Posts is a supplier of bollard systems, perimeter security and traffic products in As with others, Mercury’s Frank Cullen says that Ireland. Since establishing in 1998, the company the introduction of GDPR in May last year has had has partnered with ATG Access, supplying a “massive impact on security with significantly prestigious projects including Arsenal Football increased financial penalties for companies that Club’s Emirates Stadium, Wellington Arch in do not carefully protect the rights of individuals – London, as well as the Europa Hotel and Charles and this includes how CCTV images are handled Hurst and Trust Ford dealerships in Northern and controlled”. Ireland. ■


This year will bring more targeted cyber attacks – is your business prepared? different – it’s used in targeted attacks by a skilled team who breaks into a victim’s network, and then runs the malware manually. These hand-delivered, time-zone friendly attacks are earning cyber criminals millions and affect businesses of all sizes. We believe the financial success of SamSam, BitPaymer and Dharma will inspire copycat attacks and we expect more to happen in 2019.

THE FUTURE FOR BUSINESSES Targeted attacks may be sophisticated and are definitely giving organisations plenty to worry about, but the criminals behind them are looking for the low hanging fruit, not a complex challenge. To avoid being their next victim, it is all about making your organisation less vulnerable, and this can be achieved by getting the basics right. Staying on top of patching and maintaining good password discipline will provide a tough barrier to attacks. This barrier can then be strengthened significantly with these simple steps:

Peter Craig

By Peter Craig, security specialist, Sophos


he threat landscape is swiftly evolving. One of the biggest challenges for those working in cyber-security is not only how we keep pace with cyber criminals, but how we actively anticipate their next steps. Right now, this is more challenging than ever, as we see cyber criminals raising their game in response to more sophisticated security practices.

SophosLabs researchers have highlighted one key trend for 2019, which is the rise of targeted ransomware. These are stealthier and more sophisticated ransomware attacks – attacks that are individually more lucrative, harder to stop and more devastating for their victims than attacks that rely on email or exploits to spread. As Sophos reported in 2018, a great example of this was SamSam. Most ransomware is spread in large, noisy and untargeted spam campaigns sent to thousands of people. They use simple techniques to infect victims and aim to raise money through large numbers of relatively small ransoms of perhaps a few hundred pounds each. SamSam was very


• Restrict RDP access to staff connecting over a VPN • Use multi-factor authentication for VPN access and sensitive internal systems • Complete regular vulnerability scans and penetration tests • Keep backups offline and offsite It is important to remember that there is no single silver bullet to ensure we are protected from attacks. However, it is important to ensure that strong layered security practices are in place to maximise the chances of deterring the most determined of hackers, especially as they develop increasingly more sophisticated ways to make money out of us. ■ Sophos is a leader in next-generation endpoint and network security, and as the pioneer of synchronized security develops its innovative portfolio of endpoint, network, encryption, web, email and mobile security solutions to work better together. More than 100 million users in 150 countries rely on Sophos solutions as the best protection against sophisticated threats and data loss. Sophos products are exclusively available through a global channel of more than 26,000 registered partners. More information is available at www.sophos.com.

OfďŹ ce environment & interior Sponsored by


changing face of the office The

The beige, dull and lifeless workspace is out – and top NI firms are spending big money on top-end places work for their staff. Emma Deighan looks at the trends in office interiors and the businesses here that marry style with substance 60


he traditional corporate setup, synonymous with offices of the past, is no longer cutting it for those firms wanting to draw in the right talent and sustain that workforce, which is why the classic office environment as we once knew it has little place in a successful company. From savvy use of space that allows employees to feel free and inspired, to collaborative areas which break the mould and work stations which promote movement and activity – the office space has evolved. And it’s an evolution that hasn’t gone unnoticed by director of the Royal Society of Ulster Architects (RSUA), Ciaran Fox. He says office owners are increasingly seeking spaces that shout character, their expectations are heightened, and he says despite a focus on more aesthetic set-ups, office spaces are shrinking. “Tenants’ expectations have risen,” Ciaran says. “Developers are reacting and those who are spending a bit more on design and finishes


Novosco’s Belfast office

are reaping the benefits. There is a widespread realisation that the office environment is a major factor for businesses in terms of recruitment and retention of staff. As a result we’re seeing a much greater focus on those elements that affect health and happiness.” Ciaran says office designs aren’t all about supporting workloads but more about supporting the physical and emotional wellbeing of those who work in these spaces. He says features like the provision of showers and communal exercise facilities for the active employee, places to unwind and social spots “are being given equally high priority”. “Generally businesses want a great working atmosphere. This has resulted in a move away from the dreary corporate fitout towards offices with more natural daylight, a greater sense of

space and an emphasis on beauty. In practice this has meant more exposed finishes, better materials and a sense of character. “Indeed the search for character has seen a welcome increase in the reuse of existing buildings for offices. This is perhaps one of the most important trends with regards to sustainability. We are also starting to see more energy efficient office buildings however there is plenty of room for further improvement in this regard. “Typically, the space for each person in offices has been reducing but that is being offset by an increase in shared space. It’s a response to flexible work patterns and sit/stand/on-the-go working. In line with these changes offices are investing in ever-better IT and communications services.” >



One employer which has taken on board the needs and desires of its workforce is Allstate, which opened its new premises in Belfast last year. The new building took two years to construct and spans six floors which include large, sociable working spaces, a restaurant, break-out areas, outdoor terrace and high-tech software development labs. The cost was £30m and the result is over 140,000 sq ft of space, which will accommodate 1,800 employees. Its desks are height adjustable, there are showers on all floors, with a ground floor ‘shower block’, a bike rack, communal glass boards, walk-up tech support in a ‘tech cafe’ and meeting rooms, named after Belfast streets. Managing director John Healy says the space is “inspirational” and provides a setup which promotes creativity. “The new Belfast office is a ground-breaking facility for Allstate”, John says. “The new development has provided us with the opportunity to create an inspirational working space fit for a world-class technology organisation with a commitment to innovation, imagination and building digital technology of the future. Technology is at the heart of our progressive new workspace, and gives everyone at Allstate NI the freedom to work creatively and collaboratively. “The investment in a modern new workplace is part of our corporate business transformation, which is focused on innovating to better serve our customers. The building delivers a stimulating, collaborative working environment for employees.” One of Northern Ireland’s leading fitout firms, Portview, has carried out work with high-profile clients across the UK. Some of its work includes working on offices for Lush in London. Meanwhile at over at cloud solutions firm, Novosco, an office environment with a different culture is core to its success. Novosco director, John Lennon, said: “We have been in our current office since 2016 and, alongside our company culture, it plays a key role in helping us attract and retain talent. It has things like a staff gym, a library, a virtual


Portview carried out the work on Lush’s top end London offices

reality room, a coffee dock, and quiet pods for members of our team to make private phone calls. We also have a range of spaces for team working and we’ve spent a lot of time getting the lighting and the acoustics right. “We want our team to have a good work-life balance, but we also want them to be happy in the office so that they want to come to work, they want to be in work, and they are motivated to deliver excellent results for our clients.” Financial services firm FinTrU also prides itself on its ability to offer its workforce a quirky but productive office environment that is home to pool and ping pong tables. “This location has the potential to house the forecasted growth 605 jobs over the next five years and has been redesigned as a fullymodernised, fit for purpose, energy-efficient and high-quality workspace, with recreational facilities to provide a rewarding working environment for all FinTrU employees,” founder Darragh McCarthy says. Les McCracken, managing director of McCue Crafted Fit has noted that a trend to create an “immersive experience” that was once confined to public facing sectors, has now made itself a home in the corporate world. He said: “They (offices) too look to have a working environment, which not only optimises the space but also ensures that the workers or

employees are motivated and stimulated because of the space they work in. “McCue’s experience is that this change in culture and trends is across these many sectors. For instance, the likes of Odeon Cinemas have upped their standards to offer a luxury cinema instead of a regular cinema; the fresh handmade cosmetics brand Lush has created its very own experience for customers visiting their stores all looking at new and innovative ways to attract their customer. “This trend in turn seems to be encroaching into the corporate world. Until recently the finance industry and banks in particular were making little change to their shop windows and offices. Danske Bank is one such organisation that has updated its interiors to reflect the brand in the last 12 to 18 months. “This is most evident in their flagship bank in Donegall Square West, where McCue was responsible for the fit-out. It saw a much improved and efficient entrance for staff to the building; open plan office space incorporating brightly coloured bespoke soundproof booths, all within a large area providing both private spaces and social areas. This was no doubt to improve processes and efficiency for their staff. “Much has been made in the design world that collaboration and relaxation zones, colour, transparency as well as bright offices, contribute to a happy workforce therefore a productive workforce. All of which are incorporated in many new corporate fit-outs.” ■

‘City hub’ in the heart of Lisburn


isburn’s ‘city hub’ offers coworking and meeting facilities in the heart of Lisburn city centre. Lisburn & Castlereagh City Council understand that setting up a new business can be a stressful experience particularly when looking for premises, negotiating leases and connecting with utilities.

‘city hub’ provides superfast broadband connection, hot desks and secure storage space with printing facilities on-site.

The ‘city hub’ removes that burden, offering a flexible working space at a competitive cost where you can create, innovate and grow your business.

Alderman Allan Ewart MBE, vice-chairman of the council’s development committee, said: “It is fantastic to see the council providing a shared workspace like this in Lisburn city centre.

A private room is also available for meetings with business clients and colleagues. Staff will also be on hand to welcome ‘city hub’ users and clients into the building with free tea and coffee.

“The ‘city hub’ is a place where people can work with no distractions, where they don’t feel isolated, but also somewhere where like-minded people from all sorts of businesses can bounce ideas off one another. “We want this to be a relaxed environment for home workers, freelancers, entrepreneurs and the self-employed.


‘City Hub’ user photographer Jamie Trimble and Melanie Coey, MC Business Accounts with alderman Allan Ewart MBE, vice-chairman of the council’s development committee, alongside the council’s director of service transformation Donal Rogan

“We would also encourage these users to avail of the existing retail and hospitality offering in the city centre during their working day.” For information, please contact Melanie Finn by emailing melanie.finn@lisburncastlereagh. gov.uk or telephone 028 9244 7542.



Office design evolution ‘seismic’ T

he evolution of office design in the last 10 years has been seismic. With workplace well-being, sustainability and interconnectedness taking priority over functionality and capacity, employers are taking a more holistic approach to office design. Belfast-based fit-out specialist, Portview, is no stranger to working with imaginative design schemes. With a portfolio of interior projects for the likes of Harvey Nichols, Kate Spade, Lush, Wimbledon and Tiffany & Co.

With the company currently fitting-out a number of offices in Belfast and London, managing director of Portview, Simon Campbell, offers his predictions for workplace design in 2019. “The way we work is changing and the blueprint of today’s modern work environment is completely different from what it was a decade ago,” he says. “New technologies and research are fuelling exciting opportunities for workspaces, where quirky and unconventional concepts are now the norm. Simon Campbell

GREEN SPACES “The change in environmental thinking over the last year has undoubtedly left an imprint on the corporate landscape, motivating companies to take a greener approach to workplace design. “By adding plants, greenery and natural light in an office, the mood and energy levels of employees can increase by as much as 15%, as well as improving cognition and overall health. Outside workspaces also allow us to organise more informal meetings, find inspiration, or focus on a task that requires concentration. “Offices who adopt this green approach are also more likely to see a decrease in stress levels, illness and absenteeism.”

COLLABORATION ZONES “The days of the office cubicle are very much becoming a thing of the past – 2019 is all about collaborative working and shared space. “Open workspaces help create a sense of community and encourage the exchange of ideas and free-flowing information. Therefore, many office fit-outs now involve the introduction of versatile spaces that stimulate creativity and innovation. “No longer content with fixed desks to carry out monotonous tasks, workplaces are adding features such as lower walls between desks, breakout meeting areas, and mobile workstations with strong colours, to add fluidity and flexibility to a space.


QUIET ROOMS “For more introverted types, ‘quiet rooms’ are often installed to give employees the option of privacy. This can come in the form of small, enclosed spaces such as pods and booths, or glass-fronted offices that allow employees to focus on more demanding tasks and collect their thoughts. “By having quiet areas, employees can comfortably take phone calls, conference calls or conduct research without noise or distraction.

VISITOR EXPERIENCE “Whether it’s a client, employee or job candidate, workplaces need to make a positive first impression on whoever walks through the door. In doing so, visitors are more likely to gain a deeper understanding of the company’s culture and values. “A survey carried out by YouGov found that the room in which people were interviewed had a major impact on whether or not they wanted to work there, with 50% saying it influenced their decision. Reception areas, boardrooms and the circulation of an office will be under the most scrutiny from visitors, so as a priority, the fit-out of these spaces needs to be exemplary to help showcase the very best image of the brand and enhance its overall appeal.” ■ For more on Portview’s latest developments visit www.portview.co.uk or follow @PortviewFitOut on Twitter.


Jackie Henry, Donal Lyons and Gareth Graham

Property developer backing Belfast visit to MIPIM


roperty developer Gareth Graham’s company will headline the sponsorship of an 80-strong Belfast delegation travelling to Cannes for this year’s MIPIM conference. Oakland Holdings, which is behind Merchant Square – which will become home to PwC when completed – is the latest sponsor to back the Belfast MIPIM 2019 campaign and will travel to Cannes with the delegation in March to help market the city as a global destination for major investment. MIPIM brings together the most influential global players from all international property sectors.

“We return to MIPIM 2019 with a hugely positive story to tell, underpinned by our confidence that the Belfast region, and indeed Northern Ireland, is an outstanding place to invest.” Gareth Graham of Oakland Holdings, said: “We undertook the Merchant Square development speculatively because we believed that the quality of the development would be a major attraction and that has proven to be the case. “That is the message we are bringing to MIPIM later this year. Belfast is a city with the imagination and entrepreneurial spirit to meet the demands of the commercial sector.”

This year it is expected to attract around 2,000 exhibitors and 20,000 investors, developers, occupiers and other influencers from more than 80 countries.

Jackie Henry, senior partner at Deloitte Northern Ireland and chair of the Belfast MIPIM Taskforce, said that Belfast is reaping the benefits as a result of the collaboration between the public and private sectors throughout the delegation.

While this will be the fourth consecutive year that a group has represented Belfast MIPIM, this year’s delegation will include representatives from each of the five councils partnering with Belfast City Council in the Belfast Region City Deal bid.

“A number of the strong business connections made at MIPIM to date have resulted in a number of major schemes being brought to the market in Belfast, and we are thrilled to welcome more new sponsors such as Oakland to the growing Belfast MIPIM delegation,”she said.

Councillor Donal Lyons, chair of Belfast City Council’s city growth and regeneration committee, said: “Any major city in Europe serious about promoting itself will be at MIPIM, and Belfast is no different.

“Once again, at MIPIM 2019, we will be delivering a programme of exciting events to ensure that Belfast’s compelling investment proposition is reaching new audiences and international investor networks.” ■





t may be small, but when it comes to ambition, scale is not an issue for Belfast firm B-Secur. Based in the city’s bustling start-up hub Catalyst, the tech firm’s chief executive is a man with a billion-dollar goal. “I have a vision that we will make this the first, or one of the first, unicorns to come from Northern Ireland,” Co Down man Alan Foreman says. Such a claim might earn a swift rebuke in any of Belfast’s many drinking establishments, but in Las Vegas, where Alan has just returned after launching the firm’s latest product at the world’s biggest tech event, CES, the industry is sitting up and taking notice. B-Secur uses the human heart as the source of its next-level biometric technology. From early incursions into electrocardiogram (ECG) based security, the company is now adopting its software for use in the motor and wearable tech industries. “Through our technology, I can tell you how stressed you are in real time, I can tell you what your heart rate is like, I can tell how fatigued you are and I can tell if you have any health problems,” Alan said. Introduced into a vehicle or an item of clothing and the applications are immeasurable. “By simply touching your steering wheel, or through the watch or T-shirt you are wearing, we can see in real time and detect how well you are. “That has huge implications for the NHS, and for drivers. A quarter of all driver road deaths are caused by fatigue. We know about three minutes before a driver is in a fatigued-enough state where they cannot drive the car. So we can save lives.” Founded in 2002 by Colin Anderson, B-Secur emerged out of efforts to understand the differences between people for security purposes. The company remained largely dormant for a number of years, until it gained new momentum just over four years ago when Alan Foreman came on board. The Co Down man, who had been out of Northern Ireland for some 25 years, was at the time the global managing director for tech firm Accenture.


Northern Ireland’s first £1bn tech firm? Alan Foreman, chief executive of B-Secur tells Ryan McAleer how the Belfast biometrics business is making waves on a global stage “Colin said, ‘Why don’t you look at this little dormant project and pick it up? The world is now right for the next generation of biometrics.’”

B-Secur believes it has the answer in the guise of its ECG/heart technology. It has already developed prototype T-shirts and steering wheels to demonstrate the technology’s potential.

The adoption of biometrics into smartphone devices has resulted in an explosion of the technology, with millions of people using fingerprint, iris, voice and facial recognition daily.

It’s already understood to have attracted the interest of a number of major car manufacturers, with one of Europe’s biggest motor firms believed to be among those currently testing the tech.

“Until Apple put it into the iPhone four years ago, no one was comfortable about sharing that type of biometric data,” Alan says.

While the potential adoption by major German car makers is an exciting turn for the firm, Alan believes its application could have an even greater impact in the heavily regulated world of truck driving, where drivers face restrictions on their time behind the wheel.

“Now everyone accesses their bank account or personal details using biometrics. So the world has really moved on in recent years, but those traditional methods of biometrics are really quite rudimentary and now the tech world is looking for the next evolution.”

Despite the market for wearable tracker devices becoming increasingly crowded, Alan remains undaunted.


“The stuff that Fitbit and Apple and what everybody has come out with is very rudimentary technology. They use a little light that shines into your skin, it’s old technology. So all of them are coming to us now to give them ECG or medicalgrade technology. “We can build that into a Fitbit, for example, and allow it to move from just a fitness tracker toward a health or medical device. That’s where the world wants to go. Apple and Google have already announced that they (each) want to move to become a medical and health-related company. That’s where the big market is for the tech guys in the world.” Apple is currently developing their own in-house ECG programme. But Alan said other firms who have attempted to deploy similar software to date have eventually turned to B Secur and


Belfast. “We’re working with every other player in the market.” B-Secur has also developed a new T-shirt which similarly will detect stress and fatigue. And after four years of development, things are beginning to move fast at B-Secur. In July 2017, the company sealed the largest funding round of any Northern Ireland start-up that year, when it raised £3.5m from a syndicate of investors including Accelerated Digital Ventures (ADV) and Kernel Capital. In December, B-Secur gathered another significant investment, understood to be in excess of 2017’s record-breaking round. “It allows us to really accelerate into delivering to our customers in many geographies and allows us to grow,” Alan says.

In the past 12 months, B-Secur has grown from five to 36 staff. It expects to add another 10 and a new office in San Francisco this year. It will also soon move into a larger space at its base in Catalyst. And the proximity to Queen’s University’s two key tech hubs in the Titanic Quarter — the Centre for Secure Information Technologies (CSIT) and the Institute of Electronics, Communications and IT (CSIT) — was one of the draws. B-Secur has also successfully encouraged some of its recruits to move from England to Northern Ireland, including its chief commercial officer, Ben Carter. Along with chief technology officer Adrian Condon, the pair have been key to the start-up’s success to date. ■


Global slowdown yet to hit Ireland Economist Dan O’Brien takes an overall look at the state of the Republic of Ireland’s economy as it heads into 2019


espite the quite extreme uncertainty facing the economy, along with signs of slowdowns among Ireland’s main trading partners, the good news from the early weeks of the year is that there is little sign of Irish growth faltering. The hard data and a couple of important surveys released so far in 2019, coming on top of a range of previously published indicators, point to an economy that is showing considerably fewer signs of slowing than many of its peers.

This happy state of affairs is unlikely to last. If the incipient slowdowns in Europe and the US continue, they will show up in Ireland’s economic performance, and sooner rather later. But so far, so good. While you keep your


fingers crossed, here’s what you need to know about what we’ve learned about the economy so far in 2019.

THE LIVE REGISTER Unemployment benefit recipients continued to fall in December, almost breaching the 200,000 threshold for the first time in a decade. At their worst, in 2012, dole queues reached 450,000. Since then they have shrunk without interruption and across every region of the country. Another positive from these figures is that the rate of long term welfare dependency is falling faster than short-term joblessness.

term jobseekers were down by 13% over the same period. An important threshold was breached in December when the number of young people on the dole fell below 20,000 for the first time in 38 years. Much of this has to do with more opportunities — in work and in education. There is no doubt that youngsters were disproportionately affected by the crash of a decade ago, but the commonly held notion that this age group is enduring a permanent change in its employment fortunes is short on evidence.

INFLATION As of December, there were fewer than 80,000 people on jobless benefits for a year or longer, down by almost 20% on a year earlier. Short-

Last November Ireland had the second lowest (annual) rate of consumer price inflation among the EU28. Prices were just 0.7% higher than in


rapid inflows of new jobs-rich investment. This reflects a still-lean economy and it augurs well.

THE PUBLIC FINANCES The flood of profit tax revenues into the exchequer’s coffers, a very large share of which come from foreign multinationals, continued right up to the end of the year. In December alone, figures published by the Department of Finances early in January revealed that companies had paid almost €1bn in profits taxes. Over the course of the year, corporation tax revenues exceeded expectations by €2bn. Despite this, the Government only just about balanced its books last year, something that could come back to bite if any of the (huge) risks that the economy faces materialise.

CONSUMER CONFIDENCE the same month in 2017. In January, the CSO published the December figures. There was no change in the price level over the month.

Among other things, that reflects a continued increase in new builds, bringing supply closer into line with demand.

For the full year, prices were up 0.5% on 2017. This is a historically low rate of inflation. The incredible absence of price pressures in Ireland over more than a decade — despite more than half a decade of strong economic growth — is quite something. It certainly does not point to an economy that is overheating, as some have been warning about for the past couple of years.

All that said, it will, in all likelihood, take at least another couple of years before inflation falls to low single digits, if that happens at all. A final point on property prices, which is often lost almost seven years since prices stopped falling, is that they remain far below their pre-crash peaks.

It is further evidence of an economy that is enjoying a Goldilocks moment — it’s neither too hot nor too cold. Of course, it is not all rosy. The basket of consumer goods and services that go into making up the headline inflation figure is huge. At any given time, some prices will be rising while some will be falling. Predictably, the cost of housing — including rents, heating, electricity and everything else that is involvement in running a home — accelerated last year to 5%. That might ease this year, as energy prices fall back, but it will remain an issue owing to the housing shortage.

In Dublin in November, they were still onefifth below 2007 levels. Outside the capital it was closer to a quarter.

HOUSE PRICES Last month also saw the publication of the latest house price figures by the CSO. They showed the first monthly drop in two years in November. Over the course of 2018, property price inflation was down significantly over the previous year and back into single digits.


FOREIGN INVESTMENT In the first days of the year the state agency tasked with attracting export-focused foreign firms here published its first estimate for the number of people employed in the companies it assists. Those figures show that another all-time record was set in 2018. Almost 230,000 went to work each day in foreign multinationals. That amounts to more than one in eight people employed in the private sector. During the 2000s, multinational employment stagnated owing to a loss of competitiveness. In recent years, the competitiveness gains made during the recession have meant

All the figures cited above are backward looking. Sentiment surveys, which given an indication as to how economic agents will behave in the future, are forward-looking. The monthly KBC-ESRI consumer sentiment index shows some nervousness. Confidence is high by the 20-year standard of the survey, but down on 2017. That likely reflects the intensifying bombardment of Brexit woe we’ve all been subjected to. That said, the December reading was stable on November, and both months were marginally up on October. That reflects how consumers are benefiting from a strong economy, in particular via healthy pay growth. However, these positive developments are being offset in consumers’ mind by the uncertainty coming from beyond these shores.

BUSINESS CONFIDENCE A monthly survey of people who buy for their businesses shows a broadly similar pattern. The Investec Purchasing Managers’ Index for manufacturing in December showed that business buyers are still upbeat, believing the economy still to be on an expansionary path. But the headline PMI reading cooled to a ninemonth low. This was in part caused by smaller order books, possibly reflecting the slowdown in Ireland’s main export markets. A portend of things to come perhaps? ■



Breakfast BUSINESS

The column that doesn’t have time for lunch...


By John Mulgrew



business is doing, almost without exception they will say ‘not too bad’. If you get behind that, they are normally doing OK… it’s not in our nature to extrapolate.

But, I meet my interviewee Brian Murphy – managing partner at accountancy and business advisory firm BDO NI – for a catch-up on all things.

“When we look at the results, there are challenges but my mindset is the that the challenges are there to be addressed. We are starting with a strong base, where businesses are, the majority, have an optimism, and have a success behind them.”

cold and rainy Belfast morning conveys roughly the right tone for the current state of affairs surrounding the disparity and apparent chaos around what will happen to the UK on March 29.

The breakfast marks a return to Cafe Parisien as a backdrop for this casual coffee over a scone and croissant. There’s also the usual variety of caffeinated beverages – including me mixing things up with an Americano and a flat white – while Brian opts for the chilled fizz of a diet Pepsi. Kicking things off, Brian has a positive outlook on how Northern Ireland companies are faring, despite the headlines. Referring to the latest quarterly economic survey from the NI Chamber and BDO, Brian says the majority of companies surveyed say they are expecting to see growth in the coming 12 months. “Those issues (Brexit and devolution) have being going on for some time now. The encouraging thing is that beneath that, businesses in Northern Ireland have been getting on with it,” he says. “Despite the difficult trading conditions, and everything that goes with that, they have been focusing on their businesses and getting on with that. When you look at some of the stats, the majority of businesses are confident going forward, that they will grow in the coming year.”

Brexit, he says, is largely out of our control. But he’s keen to see decisions being made at Stormont, despite the lack of an Executive. However, he’s worried that some may see the Brexit deadline as the end to the uncertainty and difficulties experienced by businesses and all shapes and sizes here. “I fear people think this is going to go away on March 29 – it only starts,” he says.

BREAKFASTING VENUE: CAFE PARISIEN, BELFAST compatible level. We don’t need to suffer that – we need to get a deal. I don’t think we will crash out, and I think it will be extended to find a level.” But while he’s positive that businesses will continue to work through the Brexit process, he says some remain terrified over the potential impact of a lack of key resources, such as a fuel or medicine, in the short-term.

“When we are sitting down with our clients, we are challenging them that the uncertainty is going to continue for the two-year transition period, or longer.

On the upside, there’s likely to be a shortterm boost for exporters – with continued devaluation in sterling, while property and investment in the UK will be more attractive for those working in US dollars and other currencies.

“Can we afford, in general, to sit back and wait? Looking at our closest competitor in the Republic of Ireland, in the last two years they have secured a minimum of 4,000 new inward investment jobs – that’s as a direct result of Brexit.

And with that, it’s back into the mizzling rain before heading to the Ulster Business headquarters for additional caffeine to help fuel the rest of the day. ■

“What have we done? We’ve done nothing. We’ve probably suffered. Could some of that 4,000 have come to us? If it wasn’t for Brexit, absolutely. Our cost proposition and quality of life – cost of living and education – trumps what they have in Dublin.

The survey did also point to something of a dichotomy – with companies having a considerably less positive view of the Northern Ireland economy’s overall economic prospects.

“The realisation is starting to dawn. We have a really good team of people working for our global network, based in Belfast. The feedback we have been getting from the global network is so positive, about them.

“We are a conservative bunch. If you ask a business owner in Northern Ireland, how their

“If there was no deal, it will be difficult in the short-term, but it will evolve into a business



THE BILL: Scone of th e day Croissant Americano Flat white Pepsi x2 Total:

£4.00 £2.50 £3.00 £3.20 £4.90 £17.60



James Pau with Albert and Spencer Pau

Entrepreneur OF THE month JAMES PAU, ASIA SUPERMARKET How is business? The business has grown steadily over the decades however we constantly strive to remain competitive in the market place and provide the best customer service we possibly can. How did you get started in the industry? When we first opened Asia Supermarket in 1983, it was the family’s ambition to bring a taste of home to Belfast. We brought the Chinese culture to the local community through cuisine and provided authentic and tasty ingredients for the hospitality trade here. We branched out due to demand to also provide Indian, Korean, Philippine, Thai and Middle Eastern food and are always looking for opportunities to extend our range. Typically, who are your clients or customers? Our customers would be both wholesale and retail to include restaurants all over Northern Ireland, as well as consumers who want to create some unique dishes in their home kitchens. Do you enjoy what you do, and what in particular? Yes, and in particular having just completed the new build we have enjoyed being involved in the day-to-day aspects, given the bespoke


nature of the project, coupled with the hustle and bustle of the day to day challenges of satisfying our customer needs. What is the most difficult part of your job? One of the most difficult parts of the job is sourcing good quality produce at competitive prices and enhancing the range of products available. However, we’re very proud of our new supermarket and warehouse which provides even more quality and choice for our customers. What are the challenges facing your sector, and the economy in general? One of the biggest challenges facing our sector is the cost of goods from our suppliers, particularly those procured in foreign currencies which in turn has a knock-on effect on what we charge our wholesale and retail customers. To maintain our share of the market we constantly endeavour to get the best prices from our suppliers so that we can pass on competitive prices to our customers to maintain and grow our market share. With Brexit looming it will bring a major impact on imports costs and supplier prices which will present a major challenge for our business. â–


Motoring By Pat Burns

Sponsored by




Executive express gets a

coupe look


eugeot has raised the bar in the D-class segment with its all-new 508, sporting a radical new aerodynamic design aimed at taking on the ubiquitous Germanic opposition. Moving away from the traditional, four door saloon silhouette this new model combines a bold new low coupe design with the enhanced practicality of five doors. Its striking new look takes inspiration from a sports coupe, with sharp side window design, elegant frameless doors and alloy wheels designed to fill the wheel arch housings. It showcases a beautifully integrated rear hatch, offering a significantly larger aperture to the generous 487-litre boot whilst carrying all the hallmark features of the latest Peugeots, including the full LED ‘claw-effect’ rear lights. The 508 features Peugeot’s new i-Cockpit which contains the three main characteristics including the compact, full grain leather trimmed steering wheel, a large 10-inch capacitive touchscreen angled towards the driver and a 12.3-inch head-up digital instrument panel. It also features i-Cockpit Amplify, which enables the driver to choose


between two levels of ambience – ‘boost’ and ‘relax’. Available with a range of six highly efficient petrol and diesel engine/transmission combinations, covering 130 to 225hp, the 508 offers an exceptional driving experience. The new flagship model comes equipped with class-leading levels of advanced driver assistance systems, including a new night vision system, which is new to the segment and uses an infrared camera with the ability to detect pedestrians at night and in cases of reduced visibility. For the first time, there will also be a hybrid version of the 508. The high voltage lithiumion (300V) battery, has a capacity between 11.8 KWh and 13.2KWh, allowing the cars to drive up to 30 miles on a single electric charge. Energy conservation is further enhanced through intuitive features on the hybrid engines, including i-Booster, a braking system which conserves power as the car brakes or decelerates, and e-Save, allowing drivers to reserve electric energy for planned routes ahead.

The vehicle can be recharged in less than two hours by using a Wallbox (6.6 kW 32A). Guide lamps surround the charging socket so you can easily and quickly check the battery charge. Once the plug is connected, colours will indicate the progress of the battery charge. Discreetly installed, the charging hatch is located on the rear left wing of the vehicle. The charging system fits easily into specific storage under the boot floor. Accessibility to the new hybrid engines is made easier with the hybrid version of the i-Cockpit, giving the driver access to all essential hybrid functions at their fingertips. With a direct access button available on the touchscreen, drivers can see information regarding their engine’s efficiency, such as electricity consumption and fuel consumption. Key driving information, such as driving mode, electric gauge level and available electrical distance, is displayed in the driver’s field of vision. The 508 hybrid brings together the PureTech 180hp engine with a 110hp electric motor for a combined maximum power of 225hp producing less than 49g of CO2 per kilometre. ■


Sowing the Ceed T

he all new Kia Ceed is lower, wider and with a dynamic and sportier appearance. It can match the Golf and the Focus on driving experience, but offers a better price and a longer warranty than its counterparts. There are 11 versions of the Ceed, based on four trim levels. All models are frontwheel-drive and feature a practical five-door hatchback bodystyle. This car is the first of a whole all-new family of Ceed models to be launched over the next two years. Inside the cabin, the Ceed is more ergonomic with higher-quality materials used throughout. The cabin architecture from the most recent Kia vehicles has been adapted for the Ceed, with the dashboard laid out horizontally for a more slimline appearance. This design also creates greater space and a sense of openness for the front passenger. The Ceed range will be powered by a wide choice of powertrains developed to meet diverse buyer needs. Petrol options include


an updated version of Kia’s popular 1.0-litre T-GDi (Turbocharged Gasoline Direct injection) engine, producing 118bhp, as well as an all-new 1.4-litre T-GDi power unit. Replacing the earlier 1.6-litre GDi engine, the ‘Kappa’ 1.4-litre T-GDi engine produces 138bhp, more than its predecessor despite its smaller size. The Ceed is also available with Kia’s all-new ‘U3’ diesel engine. Designed to go beyond the stricter limits laid down by the latest Euro-6d-Temp emissions standard, the ‘U3’ 1.6-litre CRDi unit uses selective catalytic reduction active emissions control technology to regulate emissions. The engine produces 114bhp and 280Nm of torque when paired with a manual gearbox or 300Nm of torque when fitted with dualclutch transmission (DCT) and is available with an eco pack on manual gearbox derivatives. Fitted with the ‘U3’ 1.6-litre CRDi engine, the Ceed’s carbon dioxide emissions are designed to be as low as 99g/km using the new Worldwide Harmonised Light Vehicle

Test Procedure (WLTP), when converted to the New European Driving Cycle (NEDC). In addition to the car’s seven standard airbags, advanced driver assistance technologies further enhance occupant protection, using active safety systems to mitigate the risk of collisions. Standard safety technologies include high beam assist, driver attention warning, lane keeping assist and forward collision warning with forward collision avoidance assit. In keeping with every Kia, the Ceed comes with a seven-year or 100,000-mile warranty, subject to certain wear and tear conditions. The warranty is fully transferable should the car be sold before the time or mileage limits have been reached. The Ceed is available with Kia’s ‘Kia Care’ service plans, which have been developed to provide customers with a wide range of service plan options for any Kia model within the first seven years of the vehicle’s life – matching its industry-leading seven-year warranty. Prices start at £18,295. ■


Time to

get a life...


auxhall’s all-new Combo Life is Europe’s Best Buy Car 2019, highlighting the family car’s excellent value for money and outstanding practicality.

The Autobest awards are highly regarded among the most important European accolades, with an independent judging panel composed of expert motoring journalists from 31 countries. Every year, Autobest judges a range of cars against criteria such as efficiency, technology and safety to determine the Best Buy Car of Europe. A practical and versatile vehicle perfect for with loads of space, premium comfort and smart safety features, the Vauxhall Combo Life is in showrooms now and available from £19,610. The Combo Life is full of innovations that make it a great choice for the whole family. The spacious, highly practical and versatile model is equipped with two rear sliding doors and can be ordered as a five- or seven-seater, with each configuration available in either standard or XL wheelbase. This versatility makes the Combo Life perfect for those needing plenty of room for people and luggage, such as a small sports team and its equipment. The Combo Life raises the bar for safety and comfort in this segment. It is fitted with technologies and driver assistance systems that are more commonly seen in the compact or SUV segments, such as driver drowsiness alert, rear view camera with 180 degree bird’s-eye view, head-up display, and IntelliGrip, as well as improved comfort features such as heated seats and a heated steering wheel.


Combo Life customers can choose between a variety of turbocharged, direct-injection petrol and diesel engines, all of which combine driving pleasure with low CO2 emissions from 111g/km and fuel economy up to 67.3mpg. All powertrains meet the stringent Euro 6d-TEMP emissions standards, mandated from September 2019. The all-aluminium units are available with modern five or six-speed manual transmission. In addition, in a segment first, a low-friction eight-speed automatic with Quickshift technology can be ordered in combination with the top-of-the-range 1.5-litre (130PS) diesel. Aimed at active families and empty nesters, the Combo Life comes in two trims: design and energy, with energy models available as either a five or seven-seater. Customers can also choose between two wheelbases: standard and XL. Its diverse powertrain portfolio includes petrol and diesels with either manual or automatic transmission. The entry-level Design 1.2-litre (110PS) turbo start/stop six-manual model’s standard specification includes air conditioning, DAB Radio with USB and Bluetooth audio streaming and 16-inch steel wheels with styled wheel covers. If you need space for more passengers, the Energy seven-seater starts from £21,710 on-the-road for the 1.2-litre (110PS) Turbo Start/Stop 6-manual model. A high level of standard specification includes 35/30/35 split-folding second-row seats with fold-flat facility, two removable third-row seats and two foldable tables with cup-holders. ■


A word from

The Wise The column with an ear for experience...

Name: Judith Owens Position: Chief executive, TBL International

How did you start out in business? Prior to finding my passion for event, tourism and venue management, I originally started out in advertising at the age of 16. Over three decades, I honed my skills leading front-of-house operations and managing signature events for UTV, the Waterfront, the Ulster Hall and of course, at TBL International (Titanic Belfast, SS Nomadic and TEC Belfast), where I was privileged to be appointed chief executive, back in 2017. What have you found the most challenging during your years of business, so far? Finding that work life balance... if it exists. I have always loved what I do and I’m happy to work weekends, get up early or work late but with the ever increasing levels of connectivity over the years, I have noticed that I have to work much harder to relax and take time out. I always seem to be checking my emails. How would you describe your management style? I have a hands-on management style and try to lead by example. What would you change if you could go back and do it all again? I’m privileged to be where I am today and would not change my role. However, if I had the choice to go back and do it all again, I would consider taking a few years out to experience another culture before retuning to Northern Ireland, I have never worked abroad for a considerable amount of time, despite travelling a lot as part of my


role. I feel strongly about encouraging young people to study or work abroad and then return to be part of Northern Ireland’s future. Have you done it all on your own? Mentors have played a huge role both professionally and personally. Mentoring for me wasn’t formal but I have always consciously learnt from those around me. For example, my dad, who had one of the strongest work ethics that I have ever seen, taught me to work hard and voice my views or my first boss, who encouraged me to go further in my career and supported me in my decision to do so even though it meant leaving her business. I also learnt from a young age it was important to have good people around you and at TBL International, I have a strong, driven and talented team and I’m a firm believer that’s why we continue to go from strength to strength. How would you like your business to be remembered? For driving the transformation of Northern Ireland’s leisure and business tourism by bringing ideas, stories and venues to life. What piece of advice would you give to a 20-year-old you? I’m a great believer in serendipity – encounters that occur in everyday life can, under the right circumstances, serve as life altering if you deal with them in the right way. Therefore, I would say to myself to keep an eye out and ensure you seize those opportunities. ■


Wendy Close has been appointed as group HR director for Prestige Insurance Holdings, the parent company of Abbey Insurance Brokers. She was previously Bank of Ireland’s senior HR business partner for Northern Ireland. Northern Ireland pharmaceutical company Galen Ltd has appointed Dr Dennise Broderick as its new managing director and president. She will report to Alan Armstrong, head of Almac Group. Chris Kilpatrick has been appointed strategic communications manager for Mid and East Antrim Borough Council. The former journalist was previously media relations and communications officer with the council.

Helen Skeffington has been appointed payroll manager at Mount Charles. She is an associate of the Chartered Institute of Payroll Professionals and has worked in payroll for more than 13 years. Norbrook has appointed Brendan McVeigh as regional head of sales and marketing in Ireland. This role will see him leading all sales and marketing activities in Northern Ireland and Republic of Ireland. Law firm TLT has taken on Patrick O’Hanlon as legal director in NI. He brings a wide range of experience to TLT’s leading real estate team.

Pedro Torres has been appointed business development executive at Northern Ireland Chamber of Commerce and Industry. He will be responsible for recruiting and retaining NI Chamber essential level members. Chloe Ferris has been appointed business development executive at Northern Ireland Chamber of Commerce and Industry. She will be responsible for recruiting and retaining NI Chamber growth level members. The British Business Bank has appointed Mark Sterritt to a new position as senior manager, UK network for Northern Ireland.



Accountancy firm McAleer Jackson has announced the appointment of Michael Barnett as director. Mr Barnett brings 20 years’ experience with two mid-tier firms to the company. Eoin McGrath is now luxury leisure sales manager at Hastings Hotels. He has 10 years’ experience in the hospitality industry and has worked for Hastings Hotels for three years. Gary Blair from Farrans Construction has commenced his term as chairman of the Chartered Institute of Building (CIOB) Belfast Hub.

Clare Daly has been appointed as communications director with Morrow Communications. Specialising in corporate PR, she is responsible for the strategic direction and delivery of campaigns for a number of clients. Morrow Communications has appointed Fiona Anderson as senior communications executive. She plays an integral role in delivering strategic campaigns across a number of account teams. Joanne English is now senior events manager with Morrow Communications. She works closely with clients including Tourism NI, Devenish and the Northern Ireland Food and Drink Association (NIFDA).

Nicola McClean has been appointed as senior communications director with Morrow Communications. She leads a number of accounts including Asda, Flahavan’s Porridge and Greggs. Sean Boyle has been appointed delivery co-ordinator for Into Film’s new ScreenWorks project. The aim of the project is to give young people high quality work experience opportunities in the industry. The Health and Safety Executive for Northern Ireland (HSENI) has appointed Robert Kidd as its new chief executive. He joins HSENI from the Department of Justice (DoJ) firearms and explosives branch.





1. Ogilvie Fleet has launched its personal contract car hire company in Northern Ireland, the Tilsun Group, and will sponsor the Belfast Giants. Pictued is Lewis Hook of the Belfast Giants, Paul Griffiths, Ogilvie Fleet, and Hunter Bishop of the Giants. 2. Pictured at the ADS aerospace event in Belfast are Philip McBride, general manager, Thales, Ciara Kennedy, vicepresident, procurement and supply chain at Bombardier, Paul Everitt, ADS chief executive, Katherine Bennett CBE, Airbus UK and Noel Lavery, permanent secretary, Department for the Economy. 3. Niall Casey, director of and competitiveness, Invest NI with Howard Hastings, managing director of Hastings Hotels, after the hospitality business announced a ÂŁ2m staff training scheme.


4. Ashfield Girls High School School students Beem Johnston and Eden Haycock with Stephen Barr, Almac and Eric Porter of the Odyssey Trust following the launch of a new interactive medical themed exhibition. 5. Tom Doran, Chartered Management Institute (CMI), Sean McGahan, Oonagh Murtagh, Patrick Leggett, Teresa Campbell, Bill Manson and Clare McAllister pictured at the launch of the MLN’s Management Month Festival which will include a series of free masterclasses during February.






PHOTOCALL 6. Jessica McIlwaine and Stephen McCann from P2V Systems with David Jeffreys and John Savage of ActionPoint, after the firm paid an undisclosed sum to snap up P2V Systems. 7. Conall Wolsey, director of Beannchor and Petra Wolsey, group marketing director for Beannchor after the company announced a £350,000 revamp of the National Bar in Belfast city centre. 8. Jonathan Rea (centre) receives the Sports Star of the Year Award from Sarah Little, publishing director INM NI and Chris Nelmes of the Boulevard, Banbridge, at the Belfast Telegraph Sports Awards. 9. Ciara McClafferty, trading director, Musgrave and Una Lilley, Lilley’s Centra Drumlyon, Enniskillen toast the opening of the 100th Frank and Honest site in Northern Ireland, following a £2.25m investment over the last two years. 10. Jonathan Lamberton of NI Hospice alongside Lisa Anderson of commercial property firm Osborne King, as it marks the firm’s raising of more than £3,500 for the charity.


8 9






11. Law firm A&L Goodbody is continuing to grow its talent base in Belfast as six members of the firm complete traineeships and take on roles as newly-qualified solicitors, while a further seven trainees join the firm. They are pictured with Michael Neill, head of office in Northern Ireland. 12. Andrew Gawley, director at Lisney Belfast, Maria McGranaghan, sales manager at Smiths Metal Centres and James Eyre, commercial director at Titanic Quarter, as Smiths opened a new service centre in Northern Ireland. 13. Brendan Monaghan of Neueda and Paul McGurnaghan from the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA) after the Belfast-based firm landed a new contract with the department.


14. The Boulevard centre manager Chris Nelmes and Ninja Boxx directors Scott McMillan and Lee Thompson announce the opening of a brand new ‘ninja warrior’ inspired assault course at The Boulevard in Banbridge. 15. Danny McConnell, Deloitte Technology partner in Belfast announcing the latest TMT Predictions report. It says that the increasing popularity of smart speakers, the resurgence of radio and 3D printing are among the top tech trends.






PHOTOCALL 16. Terence Donnelly of Donnelly Group (second from left) is selected as the 2018 recipient of the Volkswagen Diamond Pin. He’s pictured with Manfred Kantner of Volkswagen, Darren Cooper, Peter Cooper Motor Group and Volkswagen’s Stefan Timmermann. 17. Owners Gareth and Lorna Murphy, of Belfast-based leisure and adventure company, We Are Vertigo, have opened the doors to Ireland’s largest inflatable assault course, based at their Newtownbreda site in south Belfast. 18. Kitchen door and component supplier Uform has secured a multi-million pound funding package from BGF and Danske Bank. Pictured are Simon Oliphant, Paul Donnelly and Eamon Donnelly from Uform.



19. Devenish is investing in future talent through two initiatives, one training graduates and one at supporting PhD students. Pictured are Gillian McAuley, Ryan Connor and Anna Carmichael of Devenish. 20. Westland Horticulture has completed the acquisition of English firm Unwins, with support from Danske Bank. Pictured is Dominic O’Neill, corporate acquisition manager, Danske Bank with Scott Dougherty, Westland Horticulture and Rory Clarke, head of acquisition at Danske Bank.







21. The Management Leadership Network (MLN) held an event at which attendees gained insights into how they can look after their own mental health. Pictured are Gerry Hussey, Miriam Kerins, Clare McAllister, and Kevin Kelly, Management Leadership Network. 22. House builder Braidwater has announced that it is to merge with its sister company BW Homes & Construction to form Braidwater Group. Pictured is managing director Patrick McGinnis with his son and fellow director Joe McGinnis. 23. Cancer Focus Northern Ireland has launched a campaign to raise £100,000 for breast cancer research to mark the charity’s 50th birthday. Pictured are chief executive Roisin Foster, Donald Hunter and Debra Rice.


24. MW Advocate has launched a new film and video service. Brendan Mulgrew, managing partner (centre) is pictured with Rhys Green and Laura Stark. 25. Diaceutics, the diagnostics data analytics and implementation services company, has announced it is opening a new regional hub in Asia. Pictured is chief operating officer, Damian Thornton.

24 88




PHOTOCALL 26. Brian Donnelly and Jenny Holland of top Belfast ramen restaurant Bia Rebel pictured showing their support for Addiction NI’s ‘Race to Recovery’. The organisation is asking people to get involved in the race, which takes place on March 10 at Ormeau Park. 27. Seven top science students, and their schools, have been recognised for their excellence through the Hans Sloane Medal and the Sloane McClay Award. Pictured is Samantha Collister, Sloane McClay Award winner and Fionan McBride, Hans Sloane Medal winner.


28. Onecom has secured a five year agreement with FinTrU to provide telecoms solutions to both its Belfast and North West offices. Pictured is Paul Lawther, Onecom NI and Richard McGuinness of FinTrU.


29. Gary Blair from Farrans Construction has commenced his term as chairman of the Chartered Institute of Building (CIOB) Belfast Hub. He’s pictured alongside Gerard Graham, immediate past chairman. 30. Launching the DANI Awards is founder Naomh McElhatton, Adrian McCourt, group sales and marketing director Ireland, Grafton Recruitment, Sharon McKinley of Grafton Recruitment and Patrick Moore, Grafton Recruitment.






sport was melded during a breakfast at the National Stadium at Windsor Park. Northern Ireland manager Michael O’Neill was joined by legendary player Gerry Armstrong, IFA chief operating officer, Sean Murphy, along with around 180 members of the business community – with photographer and part-time horologist Matt Mackey on snapping duties.

The Chairman Off to a slow start? Maybe, but for the Chairman the diary is already filling up for the start of 2019, with plenty more around the corner


ook, it takes a while getting back into the swing of things following the festive period.

And while there’s been a few early starts for some, the late nights tend not to get back into full flow until everyone has managed to survive January.

Over to another heady mixture of work and pleasure, the Allianz Arts & Business Awards NI saw the world of business and culture coming together. The awards pieces presented to the winners on the evening were designed and created by artist and silversmith Claire Mooney, a graduate of Ulster University. The event was hosted by journalist and broadcaster Dr Wendy Austin MBE. Peter Kilcullen, chief customer officer, Allianz, who was presenting the awards, highlighted the importance of the arts sector and applauded the commitment of businesses to the sector, with other winners including Joe O’Neill, chief executive of Belfast Harbour. Mary Nagele, chief executive Arts & Business NI joined Marianne McVoy and a host of others.

More than 300 people attended the sell-out Burns Night event in the Stormont Hotel, which was held in association with George Best Belfast City Airport and hosted by BBC presenter Tara Mills. The finalists were treated to a VIP reception courtesy of The Waterside Belfast and later guests were entertained by musicians from Grosvenor Grammar School and performances by the Bright Lights Dance Group and Murray School of Irish Dancing. Those turning out included Michelle Hatfield of principal sponsor George Best Belfast City Airport. Winners included Sonia McCay and Gillian Duggan of Belfast Pilates & Physiotherapy, who were joined by their team – Denise O’Hagan, Jane Carson, Rachel Norwood and Sinead Boyle, and Neill Boyd of sponsor Ulster Bank. The event, marking the best of east Belfast, also included Eastside Awards chairman Jonathan McAlpin. The top accolade for Outstanding Contribution was awarded to the former chief executive of Allied Bakeries, Mervyn Hempton, in recognition of his contribution to creating employment and wealth across the city through economic development. As chair of East Belfast Enterprise, he was instrumental in the building of the business park.

And not far from the Big Smoke, down Holywood way, it was the launch of Veriteer’s new offices. The company, which launched in 2017, tries to bring something different to retail and consumer-facing businesses.

Those turning up in style included Caoimhe Hurl, Megan Hayes and Cara Morgan, Sarah Smyth and Mark Brown.

Elsewhere, it was over to the Crowne Plaza hotel in Belfast for Baker McKenzie’s Christmas bash. Those turning out included Olivia McGivern, Joanne Robinson and Margaret Curry, Shakira Kitson, Carolina Mitela, Fiona Matson, Nicola Crothers, Marie Sinnamon, George Healy and Greg Winner.

Now, while the Chairman hasn’t knocked a football around since he was knee-high to a grasshopper, the world of business and

And over in the east, the best of the area was toasted during the third annual Eastside Awards.

The calendar is already filling up for the coming weeks, so keep an eye for the man in the tux, and or, tie... ■

Shortly before the New Year, those with a penchant for the ponies popped down to Down Royal for the Boxing Day races.


A host of guests were joined by the Veriteer team, including Keith Anderson, Niall Lavery, David Bradley and Leighanne Montgomery.


Hundreds gathered for a business breakfast with Northern Ireland boss Michael O'Neill

Mary Nagele, chief executive Arts & Business NI, Marianne McVoy and Peter Kilcullen, Allianz present the Allianz Community Art Award to volunteers Stanley Woods and Steve Diamond, Whitehead Wombles

Caoimhe Hurl, Megan Hayes and Cara Morgan pictured at Down Royal

Sarah Smyth and Mark Brown pictured at Down Royal

Shakira Kitson, Carolina Mitela, Fiona Matson, Nicola Crothers, Marie Sinnamon, George Healy and Greg Winner

Eastside Awards chairman Jonathan McAlpin and Michelle Hatfield

Olivia McGivern, Joanne Robinson and Margaret Curry


Michelle Hatfield and host Tara Mills at Eastside Awards

Sonia McCay and Gillian Duggan of Belfast Pilates & Physiotherapy, with Denise O’Hagan, Jane Carson, Rachel Norwood and Sinead Boyle



Allianz Arts & Business NI Awards 2019 celebrates creative connections During the evening, guests were entertained by a vibrant line-up of artistic talent. This included a performance of ‘Rough Girls’, a new commission by The Lyric, written by Tara Lynne O’Neill, and directed by Emma Jordan. Belfast composer Conor Mitchell’s, The Belfast Ensemble, performed part of their stunningly original show ‘The Doppler Effect’. A performance from ‘Good Vibrations’, the musical version of the popular movie charting the life of Belfast punk legend Terri Hooley, won rousing applause, while Kwa Daniels of Bounce Culture, entertained guests before and after the ceremony.

AWARD WINNERS Martin Bradley MBE, chairman Arts & Business NI, Dr Wendy Austin MBE, with Karen Reynolds JTI, who supported the creation of the awards by Claire Mooney, Arts & Business NI chief executive Mary Nagele, Peter Kilcullen, Allianz, Tracy Meharg, permanent secretary, Department for Communities, Damien O’Neill, Allianz and Damian Smyth, Arts Council for Northern Ireland


ore than 300 guests packed into The Lyric in Belfast as the venue played host to the Allianz Arts & Business NI Awards 2019. The annual awards, supported by Allianz, recognise the creative and pioneering partnerships between the worlds of business and the Arts in Northern Ireland. Ten awards were presented on the evening, across categories highlighting how creative collaborations are delivering benefits for both business and the arts sectors. The awards pieces were designed and created by local artist and silversmith Claire Mooney, a graduate of Ulster University. Speakers included Tracy Meharg, permanent secretary, Department for Communities. The event was hosted by Dr Wendy Austin MBE. Forestside Shopping Centre won the Allianz Arts & Business NI Business of the Year Award 2019 in recognition of its partnerships with several professional music festivals, and its ongoing commitment to supporting emerging young musicians and songwriters in Northern Ireland.


The Allianz Arts & Business NI Arts Award 2019 which comes with £3,000 support was won by Belfast Photo Festival for its progressive and creative approach to business partnership. The Allianz Community Art Award which is chosen by Allianz NI staff and funds a £2,000 arts initiative within a local community was awarded to Whitehead Wombles. Peter Kilcullen, chief customer officer, Allianz, who was presenting the awards, highlighted the importance of the arts sector and applauded the commitment of businesses to the sector. “The arts helps us understand and evolve our national identity amid change – serving as a compass, enabling society to navigate the unknown and renew in a changing world. “While this is true and well acknowledged what is perhaps in need of amplification is that the arts sector also contributes significantly to the commercial and financial health of Northern Ireland,” Peter said.

ALLIANZ COMMUNITY ART AWARD WHITEHEAD WOMBLES Chosen by Allianz NI staff, this Award comes with £2,000 cash support from Allianz. Whitehead Wombles is a group of volunteers who collect rubbish locally. The group was inspired by Whitehead Wombles Juniors, a group of schoolchildren and their parents who gather rubbish from the local shoreline. To illustrate the volume of rubbish, the group engaged local artist Steve Diamond to create a Loch Mess Monster inspired sculpture to be filled with the plastic waste collected by the children. The piece will tour schools, beaches and parks, showcasing what Whitehead Wombles are doing, and will hopefully nudge more responsible rubbish recycling locally. ALLIANZ ARTS & BUSINESS NI CULTURAL FUNDRAISER OF THE YEAR AWARD RACHEL KENNEDY, EASTSIDE ARTS Before taking up her role with EastSide Arts in 2015, Rachel had no previous fundraising experience. Through the Arts & Business NI LEAD Programme, funded by Arts Council, she worked with a mentor to refine sponsorship proposals, which looked at the EastSide Arts story and how to successfully engage sponsors.


ALLIANZ ARTS & BUSINESS NI NEW SPONSOR AWARD BOUNCE CULTURE & BAKER TILLY MOONEY MOORE Baker Tilly Mooney Moore was looking to reach new audiences, attract talent and engage staff creatively. Working with Bounce Culture they developed a series of thought leadership podcasts and a graduate training programme.

Mary Nagele and Martin Bradley, MBE Arts & Business NI join Peter Kilcullen of Allianz (right) to present the Allianz Arts & Business NI Award to Michael Weir, Belfast Photo Festival. The award is supported by £3,000 funding from Allianz

ALLIANZ ARTS & BUSINESS NI ARTS BOARD MEMBER OF THE YEAR AWARD JOE O’NEILL, THE MAC Joe O’Neill chaired the MAC from 2014 until the end of 2017 steering the organisation through some challenging times. According to Anne McReynolds “his tireless commitment to the cause and generosity of spirit were inspirational.” ALLIANZ ARTS & BUSINESS NI CULTURAL SOCIAL RESPONSIBILITY AWARD ARTS CARE & FARRANS CONSTRUCTION Farrans Construction partnered with Arts Care to address mental health and wellbeing on construction sites and in the wider community. Arts Care’s artist-in-residence at Altnagelvin Hospital conducted workshops with groups resulting in 50 artworks being created which were displayed on the hoardings around the construction works at the hospital, creating an Inside Outside Gallery.

ALLIANZ ARTS & BUSINESS NI CULTURAL BRANDING AWARD EASTSIDE ARTS & TRANSLINK EastSide Arts and Translink worked together on three creative projects to promote and publicise Glider. ‘Come Glide with Me’ involved performances on the vehicle itself as part of the EastSide Arts Festival. The Big Sing Community Choir brought seven choirs together to perform transport-inspired songs at the launch of the Glider service. ALLIANZ ARTS & BUSINESS NI STAFF ENGAGEMENT AWARD C21 THEATRE COMPANY & DOYLE SHIPPING GROUP Doyle Shipping Group and c21 Theatre Company worked together in a special way to raise awareness about disability. The partners used the medium of drama to educate and raise awareness about disability and attitudes towards people with disabilities.

ALLIANZ ARTS & BUSINESS NI LONG-TERM PARTNERSHIP AWARD REPLAY THEATRE COMPANY & FIREFLY BY LECKEY Since 2015, Replay Theatre Company has worked with Firefly by Leckey to develop ‘Yes Sir, I Can Boogie’, a special show for children with physical impairments which utilises the Upsee harness. Upsee allows the performers to harness children with limited motor abilities, enabling them to fully participate in the show. ALLIANZ ARTS & BUSINESS NI ARTS AWARD BELFAST PHOTO FESTIVAL The Belfast Photo Festival is Northern Ireland’s premier visual arts festival, celebrating the finest national and international contemporary photography through exhibitions, symposiums, workshops, screenings and tours. Strong and inspiring partnerships exist with Alexander Boyd Displays and Quilter Cheviot. ALLIANZ ARTS & BUSINESS NI BUSINESS OF THE YEAR AWARD FORESTSIDE SHOPPING CENTRE As part of its strategy to reach future customers Forestside Shopping Centre combined the support for musical festivals with nurturing new musical talent in the community. The relationship with Panarts started out with Forestside launching the Forestside & Panarts Youth Singer Songwriter Challenge, and Forestside partnered with EastSide Arts to develop The EastSide House Band. Arts & Business NI would like to thank Allianz, Diageo, JTI, Aaron McCracken Photography, Nicholson Bass, Whitenoise, The Lyric, Yellow Door, Third Source and Keens. Arts & Business NI’s principal funder is the Arts Council of NI.

Mary Nagele and Martin Bradley MBE, Arts & Business NI join Peter Kilcullen, Allianz (right) to present the Allianz Arts & Business NI Business of the Year Award to Lee Cutler, Forestside Shopping Centre


Contact Arts & Business NI via 028 9073 5150, www.artsandbusinessni.org.uk or email info@ artsandbusinessni.org.uk. Follow online at Twitter @arts_businessni and YouTube ArtsandBusinessNI. A digital supplement for all the partnerships is available online www. belfasttelegraph.co.uk/allianzartsbusiness2019.




year ago, Bitcoin was trading at €16,000 (£13,900). Today, it’s €3,000 £2,600). So was it all just a bubble? Yes, say some. No, say others. “Demand has fallen, no question,” Peter Nagle says, co-founder of the Cork-based cryptocurrency exchange Bitcove.ie.

“There was an element of a bubble involved. But while there’s been a big drop in price, there have been before too. It’s cyclical and interest is still there.” This year, analysts say, will go some way to sorting things out. But the last few months in Ireland have not been particularly promising. Towards the back of 2018, the country’s highest-profile project – Ireland’s ‘Crypto Coast’ initiative – petered out for a variety of reasons, according to one of its founders, Reuben Godfrey. Meanwhile, a succession of court cases and high-profile hacks placed Bitcoin and Ethereum in a negative light, associating them with the proceeds of crime rather than efficient alternative payments. And there appears to be a line of small-time investors that dabbled in cryptocurrencies for the first time in 2018, only to get financially burned. “People got overly excited and now they’re overly depressed,” John Gleeson says – a Dublin-based Bitcoin trader and writer. “It’s dropped a lot, but it’s the fourth time it’s dropped 85% or more. A lot of what happened is related to the false promises


of other alt-coins that have come to light. But if you bought and held Bitcoin for any longer period than two years ago, you’re actually up.” How many people actually own or have traded Bitcoin? Some industry practitioners estimate it at around 100,000. “We’ve dealt with around 40,000 ourselves in Ireland,” Peter says. One difficulty in estimating the size of the Irish crypto market is a policy of nonengagement by banks and conventional equity-trading firms. None of the major financial companies that people usually go to will deal in crypto-assets such as Bitcoin. “Goodbody does not advise on or invest in cryptocurrencies on behalf of clients and does not have any plans at this time to offer access to that asset class,” a spokesman for the brokerage said. Other main brokers here have a similar rule. This doesn’t mean that Irish investors using such companies don’t invest in cryptocurrencies. Within mainstream financial firms, some funds have allocated percentages for what are called ‘alternative strategies’. This sometimes includes crypto-related enterprises or funds, although brokerages here say that they don’t provide advice on such entities.

The biggest problem in tackling crypto assets, bankers say, is its unregulated status. The rules aren’t transparent or reliable enough, nor is there an administrative chain of responsibility that regulated investors can live with. In the US, some institutions are moving to address this. The owner of the New York Stock Exchange, Intercontinental, is launching a new crypto-focused exchange called Bakkt to let people buy, sell and spend digital currencies like Bitcoin. Its big draw is that it promises to be regulated, giving a degree of assurance to those interested in cryptocurrencies. (It is still waiting for approval from the Commodity Futures Trading Commission). But even if cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin become more acceptable as traded commodities, they still face the enduring problem that cryptocurrencies have had since the beginning: when, if ever, will ordinary people feel they can use the technology? From the effort to setting up a Bitcoin wallet to finding somewhere you can actually spend it, cryptocurrencies are simply out of bounds


As cryptocurrencies reel... blockchain moves into position for 2019 After an 80% fall in the value of assets like Bitcoin, cryptocurrencies are a dirty word among small investors, but firms may not be turning their backs on the underlying technology, writes Adrian Weckler

for the vast majority of ordinary people. “We have a cryptocurrency ATM in Cork and are going to put one in Galway and then hopefully in Dublin,” says Bitcove.ie founder Peter Nagle. The idea is to let people exchange euros for Bitcoin and vice versa. But even if this works, it’s not clear that people have many options to use cryptocurrencies for the kinds of activities they associate with conventional money. While retailers such as Microsoft’s Store and Overstock.com have accepted Bitcoincompatible payment systems (such as Coinbase) for a while, most online retailers do not. For example, two-thirds of Irish shoppers use Amazon, but the web giant doesn’t take cryptocurrencies. In some respects, things have actually gotten worse. The influential online payment firm Stripe recently stopped processing Bitcoin payments because it took too long for transactions to go through.


The lack of regularised commerce that involves cryptocurrencies places an inordinate spotlight on shadier activities where crypto is front and centre. Fraud, too, is a problem. Because so much activity around crypto currencies is unregulated, scams and flim-flam operations are common. Last year, US authorities undertook hundreds of formal crypto fraud investigations with 50 cases taken. But it’s not all doom. Among the scepticism and doubt lies enthusiasm for the most important enabling technology behind cryptocurrencies – blockchain. Here, business looks brisk. Dozens of Irish institutions have committees or steering groups committed to integrating more blockchain principles into their own systems. Banks such as AIB, Ulster Bank and Permanent TSB are trialling blockchain-based payments through schemes like Project Greenpay.

“This is a big year for adoption of the technology in real life applications,” Lory Kehoe says – managing director of ConsenSys’s Ireland office. ConsenSys is a blockchain company set up by one of Ethereum’s co-founders, Joe Lubin. “A number of companies are bringing their solutions into the world for consumers to use,” Lory says. ■




love a good island, so was intrigued at the idea of Menorca, the quieter relation of Balearic neighbours Majorca and Ibiza. But, do not be fooled, Menorca punches way above its weight for a great holiday. The hurly-burly of the resort, lounger wars by the pool and umbrella feuds on the beach are not for me. From the windier moonscape of the north coast to the turquoise sea beauties of the south, Menorca has plenty of stunning beaches with every kind of water activity available, but it would be a shame to miss out on the wealth of diverse natural and cultural adventures to be found throughout the island by ‘doing’ beach only. Situated in the desirable and strategic heart of the western Mediterranean, evidence of invasions by Greeks, Romans, Moors, Americans and the British abound in the architecture, defence towers, lighthouses and fortifications throughout the island, making it history heaven. With a gentler pace of life, car hire and driving is not the usual hair-raising affair of other islands, and, indeed, the Spanish mainland. The island measures just 48km at its widest from east to west, so from the airport in the south east we were soon on the west coast, in the original capital Ciutadella. What’s not to like about a town that has banned plastic street furniture? Locals and tourists alike sit on canvas director-style chairs, watching the world go by in various tree-lined squares. Everybody was busy preparing for the celebration of the Feast of St John, the town’s patron saint, with its unique festival of dancing horses.

Diving into what Menorca has to offer large, deep labyrinths, the results of limestone quarrying for the building trade over centuries.

Ciutadella’s compact historic centre is easy to explore. A successful spot of shoe-shopping for traditional leather sandals, avarcas, was swiftly followed by a visit to a gourmet delicatessen showcasing some of the wonderful artisan food of Menorca. Next door, the 19th century Oliver Palace has centuries old furnishings, drawings, paintings, prints and maps throughout the original grand salons, with magnificent animal and bird friezes decorating the ceilings.

The quarries had been used as vegetable and fruit gardens by farmers, but have gradually been taken over by the natural flora and fauna. More recently, the area has been turned into a diverse botanical circuit, where you can stroll out of the heat of the sun, through medicinal and aromatic herbs and plants accompanied by the sound of water from a rose canopied fountain.

Driving out of the city, and intrigued by a signpost for the Lithica Foundation’s quarries, we were soon walking through a series of

Tourism is serious business in Menorca, many people working hard to develop different incentives to attract visitors to the island. The


Farmers & Co co-operative is an island-wide movement that promotes seasonal foods (honey, salt, olives, gin and even saffron) to bring tourists into the countryside to meet these producers in their homes and farms. One such producer, David Pons, showed me how they make their Son Piris artisan cheese on his family run farm. Started in the 1970s as a hobby by a local man, Binifadet is now one of the biggest producers of wine in Menorca, and its only producer of sparkling wines. My guide took me through rows of vines protected by beautiful dry stone walls, and into the restaurant for a lesson in tastings, and food and wine pairing.


Throughout my travels I noticed that practically every field contained an archaeological ruin. I discovered there are more than 1,500 prehistoric sites on the island (two per kilometre) preserved and open to the public. Menorca has been nominated for inclusion on the UNESCO World Heritage List due to the uniqueness, number and density of these ruins. Talaiotic Menorca is the only remains of a Mediterranean society which existed in the Bronze Age, roughly 2,000 BC. We visited the Naveta des Tudons, discovered and excavated in the 1960s, the only complete funerary structure of its type ever found.


Cami de Cavalls is a 185km path around the island which dates from the 14th century and is another fantastic tourism initiative. The path is now divided into 20 accessible segments of differing lengths and difficulty, which can be used for walking and rambling.

Our last meal was a late lunch taken outside the restaurant Passio Mediterrania, overlooking the port of Mahon. It is run by Theresa and Alexis who lived in Barcelona for many years, but returned home to open their restaurant to showcase their love of food.

Our final day saw us take a boat ride from the largest natural harbour in the Mediterranean at Mahon, the capital of Menorca. Heading out of the harbour, we passed not only the contemporary posh villas of wealthy Menorcans, but also remnants of British invasions, including the Lazaretto (quarantine hospital), which was in operation until 1917.

The meal consisted of top ingredients with a slightly oriental twist — aubergines with miso and honey, and a vegan paella, with a final glass of lovely chardonnay from Bodegas Binitord. Warmed by the sun, under a cloudless sky, and listening to the gentle slapping of waves on the marina, I had a sudden realisation that, despite my best efforts, I had barely scratched the surface of this fabulous island. ■



Uncovering the 9-5 Name: Niall Devlin Position: Head of regional business centres, Bank of Ireland UK

6.15am With two young children, the mornings are busy in our house. I get up early to help get the children ready for school – it’s time that I enjoy. I will typically leave the house about 7.30am most mornings. While I spend a lot of time in the car travelling, I use it as a time to proactively check in with customers – the personal touch, one of the things that is at the heart of how we do business in Bank of Ireland. 8.30am I’m in the office and starting the work day – I try to spend the first 30 minutes of the day planning. I lead Bank of Ireland’s five business centres across Northern Ireland (Derry, Omagh, Magherafelt, Portadown and Newry) and I rotate where I base myself. The teams look after businesses of all sizes and across all sectors of industry. With 2018 being a year of further growth in both lending approvals and drawdowns for Bank of Ireland, we want to ensure that 2019 continues in the same vein. 9.30am I’m meeting with Diane McCall (senior business manager, Newry) and her team to plan for the year ahead. Having re-opened our business centre in Newry in January 2018 we are busy co-ordinating our business development activities for the first quarter. Our meeting is with our product specialists in global markets, commercial finance and asset finance which helps bring a holistic funding solution for customers. 10.45am We’re off to meet a new customer introduced through our recent Enterprise Week activity. This customer wants to purchase a new property in Dublin to complement its operations in Northern Ireland and views Bank of Ireland’s all island presence as an ideal partner for his business. With many businesses in Northern Ireland having cross-border trade,


this is a typical opportunity for us where we work together with our colleagues in the Republic of Ireland to support our customers. After a productive meeting positioning our experienced team and a bespoke funding package to meet their needs, it is back on the road again. 1pm I’m at a lunchtime meeting in Dungannon with Alastair Kane (senior business manager, Magherafelt) – we are meeting a firm of accountants that represent many of our customers. At the meeting we gain some valuable insights into the challenges and opportunities that they are seeing with their clients and the market at present. We use the time to share knowledge and agree to present at their next team meeting on how a bank assesses the risks within a funding proposal. 2.30pm Alastair and I have a short commute to our next meeting, at an award winning engineering firm, who exports their screening equipment around the world. With Tyrone being a global centre of excellence in this industry, we support their banking needs for international trading, working with our colleagues in global markets

and trade finance. We are here to discuss the acquisition of another company that needs to be concluded within a month. Exciting times for the company and I’m delighted that Bank of Ireland will continue to support their growth. 4.30pm I take some time out to return calls and check my emails – my car is often my office. 6pm I arrive home and get to enjoy some time with the children before we all have dinner. Dinner time in our house involves plenty of chat as the children recount their day at school. 7.15pm I’m off to the football – Tyrone are playing Fermanagh in Omagh in the Bank of Ireland Dr McKenna Cup. Bank of Ireland is involved in many community and charitable events and I enjoy helping out where I can. I have volunteered to present the ‘man of the match’ award, and I am delighted to give it to a Tyrone man – Hugh Pat McGeary. 10pm I leave Omagh and head home – it has been a long day… but a productive one.

Profile for Ulster  Business

Ulster Business - February 2019  

Ulster Business

Ulster Business - February 2019  

Ulster Business