JANUARY 2018 Price £2.30 (¤2.60)
Leaders in Business
The business people taking Northern Ireland into 2018 and beyond
TA I L O R E D C O M M E R
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Contents 8 News
87 Venture Capital
All the latest news from the Northern Ireland business world, and beyond
Finding the right type of alternative finance and explain how to go about securing it
The best of the last month’s shots are here to keep you up to date with the latest news
94 Business Breakfast
114 The Chairman
Experts from all sectors of the economy look into their crystal balls for the year ahead
We head out for the first meal of the day to Ross’s Cafe with property guru Dave McClure
He’s been out and about during the festive season and might have spotted you...
We profile eight Leaders in Business who are making waves in their respective sectors
New year, new motors for our man with his foot to the floor and his eye on the finish line
Our resident expert Adrian Weckler brings you the latest from the tech world
69 Ones to Watch
122 My Day
The eight people set to take the business world by storm in the very near future
Who has moved where, and to do what? All the movers and shakers are here
Your chance to find out how Robin Totten from Translink spends his busy day
3 NO arrangement fees 3 NO legal fees 3 NO valuation fees
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The start of a year of opportunity for all
elcome to the January issue of Ulster Business, one which comes to you at the start of a year brimming with hope for the business world.
They range from all sectors and all corners of Northern Ireland and have all demonstrated an ability to steer their particular ships through some choppy waters.
The past year or so has been weighed down by a list of political unmentionables which would have been dismissed as far fetched in a film score, but which have become all to common for companies from all corners of Northern Ireland.
We also profile eight Ones to Watch, the people who are at an earlier stage of their leadership journey but are equally, if not more, exciting. All of them offer a little insight into what drives them on a daily basis and how they’ve got to where they are and how they plan to take their businesses and us into the future.
But no more. Let’s raise a glass to a more collaborative future where the business community comes together with the political world to not only grow profits but also improve society in this small corner of the world. How that can happen given the current stalemate at Stormont and the impending Brexit is difficult to fathom but one thing is for sure, the situation we have dealt with over the last 12 months has been far from perfect yet the economy has still grown.
We also have a few predictions for the next year from the people in the know, while also taking a look at the venture capital and private equity market on these shores. Enjoy the magazine and get set for a year of opportunities, ones which might be hard to find but which are there if you look hard enough. ■
Imagine what we could do with some stability? David Elliott As luck would have it we have profiled a bunch of the finest leaders in Northern Ireland to take us into a more prosperous future.
Publisher Ulster Business c/o Independent News & Media Ltd Belfast Telegraph House 33 Clarendon Road, Clarendon Dock Belfast BT1 3BG Printer W&G Baird Greystone Press, Caulside Drive, Antrim BT41 2RS www.wgbaird.com
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.
Editor David Elliott
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Manager Sonia Armstrong
Contact 028 90 264260
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Sales Executive Sarah-Ann Gamble
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A month in numbers 292 The percentage of trade duties levied against Bombardier imports by the US Commerce Department. The level was slightly lower than the initial finding but will still weigh heavy on the Canadian aeroplane maker which has a significant base in Belfast.
Dr Paul Kerr, Managing Director of Fusion Antibodies, right, pictured in 2016 with then Economy Minister Simon Hamilton
1.1 The percentage growth of the Northern Ireland economy in 2016, according to the latest data from the Office for National Statistics. That was the lowest recorded growth of all UK regions with Belfast the weakest performance of all UK capital cities.
FAB listing for Belfast biotech company
usion Antibodies has joined the small band of Northern Ireland companies listed on the London Stock Exchange.
1.6 The predicted percentage growth of the UK economy in 2017, according to the International Monetary Fund. It said that level would fall to 1.5% in 2018 as a result of Brexit uncertainty and the inflationary squeeze on household spending power puts the brakes on the UK economy.
170 The number of jobs created by US company Cayan at its Belfast base. The firm is growing its team here to 240 workers, adding customer services roles, which includes client services representatives, team leaders and case managers.
The biotech company, a spinout from Queen’s University, made its debut on the Alternative Investment Market – the LSE’s market for smaller, growing companies – on December 18 under the FAB symbol with the aim of raising £5.5m with a market capitalisation of £18.1m. In the event, it launched at a price of 82p a share before climbing to around 196p at the time of writing. The company said the funds will be used to expand its laboratory space at Springbank Industrial Estate, develop new service lines and provide additional working capital so it can meet growing demand for its contract biotech research which is focused on antibody generation and production. It was initially a drug development business but made a strategic decision to focus its efforts on the contract research arm in 2011, one which has proven particularly popular with its broad range of global drug companies, including some blue chip names.
Following its listing, Belfast venture capital fund Crescent Capital II will remain the company's biggest shareholder, with 12% of enlarged share capital, followed by Viridian Growth Fund at 8.29%. Economic development agency Invest NI is another shareholder with 4.41%. In a sign of confidence, Crescent is also committing £600,000 from its third fund Crescent III. “Crescent believes that this is just the end of the beginning for Fusion,” Colin Walsh, Managing Director of Crescent Capital, said. “The opportunity to build on the business base it has established with global life science companies looks very promising and we have confidence that with the additional investment the team at Fusion has the capability to build a substantial business.” Chief executive of Fusion Antibodies Dr Paul Kerr said he was pleased with the level of interest generated by the listing. "We have established Fusion as a onestop shop for antibody engineering and humanisation, and cell line development for the world's largest developers of antibodybased therapeutics drugs and diagnostics.”
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Arts & Business reveal awards shortlist
he 2018 shortlist for the Allianz Arts & Business NI Awards has been revealed.
The organisation said the partnerships making up the 2018 shortlist reflect strong creative connections between the worlds of arts and business. Showcasing the strength and success of commerce and culture when merged, creating something amazing together. The businesses shortlisted range from the worlds of accounting to transport and retail to insurance. Arts entrants cover a diverse variety of art forms ranging from theatre to festival and literature to visual art. “The 2018 Allianz Arts & Business NI Awards demonstrate again how business and arts organisations have successfully collaborated to create value,” Sean McGrath, CEO of Allianz plc, said.
Back row: Rachael Campbell-Palmer, The Black Box; Sean Kelly, Cathedral Quarter Arts Festival; Gavin Killeen, Nuprint; David White, Arthur Cox; Katharine Strain, Moy Park and Gillian Orr, Ulster Bank. Front row (seated): Mary Nagele, Chief Executive, Arts & Business NI (Chair of judging panel); Damien O’Neill, Group Head of Marketing, Allianz and Rhonda Gibson, Ulster University
”We never fail to be impressed by the substantial economic and social dividends that come from all of the nominated engagements. “Cultural output not only reflects and defines who we are as a people, but when combined
with the genius that exists within our commercial sectors, develops real financial and community benefits for us all.” The winners will be revealed at the Allianz Arts & Business NI Awards ceremony in January 2018.
Inspiring Memorable Events galgorm.com JANUARY 2018
MAPPING YOUR FINANCIAL FUTURE
Quotes of the month “Brexit will only really be visible if we leave the EU without a deal which sees businesses able to trade as we do today. Outside of the EU there will be significantly more cost and complexity, even with a good deal, so we need to ensure we have a cost base from which our manufacturers can compete in external markets.” Stephen Kelly, chief executive of trade group Manufacturing NI
Payment company Cayan creating 170 jobs in Belfast office expansion By John Mulgrew
US tech firm is expanding its base in Belfast and creating 170 new jobs. Cayan, formerly known as Merchant Warehouse, is based at the City Quays 1 building. The company, which provides payment processing platforms to its clients, is growing its team to 240 workers and hiring an additional 170 staff. It is adding customer services roles, including client services representatives, team leaders and case managers. Paul Vienneau, chief technology officer of Cayan, said: "Our Northern Ireland operation
is incredibly significant to our overall business strategy, with our Belfast development team consistently delivering product engineering excellence." Invest NI has offered Cayan £680,000 towards the creation of the new posts, of which around 100 are in place already. The new jobs are expected to be worth £3.6m to the economy each year. Jeremy Fitch, Invest NI's executive director of business and sector development, said: "Since opening its Northern Ireland office in 2013, Cayan has grown into an exemplary software development operation, producing industry-leading payment processing products.
“Overall, 2017 has been a good year for the local housing market. We have seen relatively healthy rates of price increase and rising sales activity. Looking ahead to 2018, there will be a number of headwinds, including the limited supply, alongside rising inflation and the fact that interest rates are edging upwards,” RICS spokesman Samuel Dickey reacts to another positive report from the organisation on the state of the residential property market.
2018 Responsible Business Awards in Northern Ireland launched “Recent events such as the impending Brexit, the planned introduction of a new corporate tax rate in Northern Ireland and a new political leadership in India present fresh opportunities for higher value FDI, trade and education.” A spokesman for Invest NI said it is targeting India for both exports from Northern Ireland and inward investment to these shores.
ictured launching the 2018 Responsible Business Awards in Northern Ireland are (front row from left): Ciaran McConnell, JP Corry; Kieran Harding, Business in the Community; Sonia Armstrong, Ulster Business; (back row from left) Rosemary Lundy, Arthur Cox; Chris James, Fujitsu; Michelle Hatfield, George Best Belfast City Airport; Ciaran McCallion; Allen & Overy; Jenni Barkley, Belfast Harbour; Adrian Doran, Barclays; Judith Marrs, Survitec. Applicants can apply online at www.bitcni.org.uk and must submit their entries by Friday 23 February 2018. Winners will receive their awards at a gala event on Thursday 24 May 2018.
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Hastings Hotels awarded China Ready accreditation
oward Hastings (centre) from Hastings Hotels was joined by Gerry Lennon of Visit Belfast, Dr Tony Lenehan from the Centre for Competitiveness and COTRI (Ireland), John McGrillen of Tourism Northern Ireland and Niall Gibbons of Tourism Ireland at the announcement that Hastings Hotels has become the first hotel group on the island of Ireland to achieve the China Ready accreditation which has been awarded by the Chinese Outbound Tourism Research Institute. To mark the EU-China Year of Tourism in 2018, Hastings Hotels, with assistance from Fáilte Ireland, Tourism NI and COTRI, has implemented a series of specialist training and standards workshops in its three Belfast hotels to support front line employees in understanding the needs of the Chinese tourist. China is the world’s largest and fastest growing
outbound travel market and Hastings Hotels has made a number of changes to its communications throughout the hotels to ensure it is ‘China Ready’ including
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Dunnes Stores NI unit pays £250m dividend
Republic economy set to accelerate further ahead of Northern Ireland
By Gordon Deegan
By John Mulgrew
he Dunnes Stores retail empire last year received a £250m dividend from its main Northern Irelandbased company. The secretive family-owned business recently recaptured the top spot amongst the retail giants operating here and new accounts filed by the business's main Northern Ireland and UK arm, Dunnes Stores (Bangor) Ltd show that last year it paid out £250m in dividends to connected firms in the group. The dividend payout is a major departure from recent years where the company paid out much smaller dividend payouts of £310,000 in 2015 and £760,000 in 2014. Confirmation of the dividend also follows a shake-up at board level at Dunnes this year where daughter of driving force in the group, Margaret Heffernan, Dr Anne Heffernan and her cousin, Sharon McMahon were appointed as directors to Dunnes companies. Dr Heffernan and Ms McMahon join Margaret Heffernan and Frank Dunne on the board of Dunnes Stores (Bangor) Ltd and confirming her increased influence within the Dunnes group, Dr Heffernan signed off on the 2016 accounts. The accounts show the company recorded a pre-tax loss of £5.1m last year, though the main factor behind the loss was the firm writing down the value of assets by £7.5m. It recorded the loss after revenues declined by 21.7% - going from £127.56m to £99.85m. However, the drop in revenues can be largely attributed to the accounts covering 47.5 weeks to December 22 2016 compared to the prior 52-week period and the period not covering two traditionally very busy preChristmas Day days and the period covering New Years.
he increasingly faster expansion of the economy in the Republic - three times that of Northern Ireland - could advance further amid predictions of slow job creation here over the next two years, new research has shown. EY's Economic Eye is forecasting 4.9% growth in the Republic this year, compared with just 1.4% in Northern Ireland. And the economy here is also predicted to see GDP growth of just 1.1% in 2018. The jobs market is also predicted to expand at a much slower level in Northern Ireland, with just 5,800 new posts created here by 2020. Neil Gibson, chief economist with EY in Ireland, said the real concern for Northern Ireland is an increased pressure on consumers and their incomes. "The real story is if we are looking at pay rises either side of 2% across the island, that's a pay cut in Northern Ireland but a rise in the Republic. "For us in Northern Ireland, consumers had it good in 2015/16, but it will be tough in 2017 and heading into 2018.Tourism and cross-border shopping helps Northern Ireland, because we are doing well in tourism and getting good cross-border flow from the Republic. "It could be more challenging without those factors. Retail is a sector of great importance. It employs about a quarter of the Northern Ireland workforce. "We are now saying that we need to ask about differences in tax. If we are going to keep streets vibrant, we may need new ways of taxing. Thinking about whether funding around bricks and mortar-type income is the way to go, or more from the consumption.
"However, rates is a big thing as a revenue raiser. But modernising the tax system regionally we may have our own nuances around that." And the divergence in growth is "important" as it could become even greater, as GDP in Northern Ireland is predicted to slow to just 1.1% next year. "People will feel the jobs market, which we think will be pretty flat in Northern Ireland," he continued. The research also shows that shoppers from the Republic spent around £368m in Northern Ireland in the last year. "Higher dependence on consumer and government spending in Northern Ireland, and very different inflation levels, are creating divergence in spending power between the north and south, which is contributing to a weaker NI outlook," Mr Gibson said. Michael Hall, managing partner, Belfast, EY Ireland, said "the retail and consumer sector appears to face a profoundly challenging time in Northern Ireland". "As well as traditional cross-border shopping, tourism between Northern Ireland, the Republic and the UK is also a critical economic consideration.”
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Host of new hires for law firm
orporate law firm A&L Goodbody has announced its 25th new hire at its Belfast office this year. Taking its headcount in Northern Ireland to over 110 people, the firm says the expansion of its team comes in response to a growing market demand for its services, locally and internationally. Solicitor Charlotte Turk joins 15 other new solicitors and associates appointed in the firm’s Belfast office this year – representing a 20 per cent increase in lawyers for the firm in Northern Ireland. A number of new hires in business support services have also been recorded this year. Pictured are Mark Thompson, Head of Office, A&L Goodbody (centre) is pictured with four of the firm’s 25 new hires in 2017 – (L-R) Robert Tubman (solicitor), Charlotte Turk (solicitor), Barbara Creed (partner) and Jill Michael (HR lead, Belfast office)
How to handle dismissal in the workplace Handling a workplace dismissal unfairly can be very costly for employers but help is at hand, says HR Team Director Breda Cullen. Thankfully, when proper procedure is followed prior to dismissal, employers can avoid risk. There are two key factors to take into consideration to establish whether a dismissal is fair: (a) did the punishment fit the crime and (b) was a fair procedure followed. Employers are regularly found to have got it wrong in administering punishment. However, failing to follow fair procedure is where a large number of employers fall down. Many employers leave themselves exposed with poor investigation and disciplinary procedures. It is crucial that an effective investigation is conducted to ensure employers follow the principals of ‘natural justice’ when dealing with an employee. Should no investigation take place and the dismissal case end up in tribunal, the
procedure would be deemed to have not followed the path of natural justice. This would more than likely result in the employer ending up in a very costly situation. An investigation both protects the employer and affords the employee an opportunity to respond to the allegations in an informal capacity. Workplace investigation checklist Following investigation and prior to disciplinary action, the employee should be provided with the following: 1. All evidence in relation to the case. 2. All witness statements. 3. At least 48 hours’ notice. 4. An option to be accompanied to disciplinary hearing. 5. A letter outlining allegations against them. 6. A full investigation report. 7. A copy of minutes of the investigation.
HR Team Director, Breda Cullen
Point to note: The investigation and disciplinary hearings should not be carried out by the same person. Learn more at HR Team’s seminar series. The next seminar is a Masterclass in Performance Management, held in Catalyst Inc, Belfast on Thursday, January 25. To register, email hello@ hrteamgroup.com. Entry is complimentary for retained clients and £65 (excl VAT) for nonclients. For a full list of HR Team seminars log on to hrteamservices.com. For assistance with HR, employment law or performance management, please email or call HR Team today on 028 71 271 882.
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SHS Group profits soar as reward for innovation By Samantha McCaughren
HS Group, a major Northern Ireland distributor of consumer brands and goods in Ireland and the UK, saw revenues soar by 23% last year as turnover hit £468m. Profits before tax reached almost £25m. According to the directors’ report, "all group trading divisions delivered excellent top line growth driven by innovation, new business and brand investment". It stated that profits were boosted by "prudent management of operating costs and foreign exchange exposure". As well as distributing brands such as Colgate, Ryvita and Twinings, SHS owns several brands including drinks Shloer, Merrydown cider and WKD. The report stated: "The WKD and Merrydown brands were relaunched and the soft drinks portfolio was reformulated in preparation for sugar tax legislation." It said that the SHS condiments and sauces division consolidated its position in the private labels segment. The company employs 781 people, which was 17 up on the previous year. The Belfast-headquartered company is owned by the Salters and Sloan families, with shareholders enjoying a dividend a £9m in 2016 and £6m in the previous year. Earlier this year, SHS, which was set up in 1975, paid an undisclosed sum for Standard Brands, which includes the Zip range of fire products.
Howard Watson, CEO of BT Technology, Service and Operations, with Alastair Hamilton, CEO of Invest NI, and Ulster University Vice-Chancellor, Professor Paddy Nixon, at the launch of the multi-million pound BT Ireland Innovation Centre in Belfast
BT creates 50 jobs at new Belfast innovation centre
T is to create 50 new graduate jobs by establishing an innovation centre in Belfast.
The cutting edge global research base will focus on the internet of things (IoT), artificial intelligence and data analytics for customer experience, cyber security and 5G communications Research and development at the BT Ireland Innovation Centre will represent an investment of £28.6m over the next five years, backed by £9m of support from Invest NI. BT will work alongside Ulster University for some of the research, a move which will create 25 new university research posts. These posts, plus the 50 graduate jobs, will generate additional salaries of £1.4m for the Northern Ireland economy. “This is an exciting and significant investment for BT and for Northern Ireland,” Howard Watson, BT Technology, Service and Operations CEO said. “Our new Innovation Centre will operate alongside our existing Belfast Global Development Centre, the BT Labs in Suffolk, and our global network of technology scouts to further strengthen our research and innovation capability, bringing together industrial engineers and university researchers.
“The areas of expertise in the new hub will include the Internet of Things, Artificial Intelligence and Data Analytics for customer experience and cyber security. We hope the opening of this world-class facility will help attract and retain Northern Ireland’s considerable IT talent.” Invest NI’s Chief Executive, Alastair Hamilton, said the decision to centre the base in Belfast is an endorsement of BT’s commitment to Northern Ireland. “The centre will become an internationally recognised centre of excellence for innovation and will complement BT’s international research centres,” Invest NI’s Chief Executive, Alastair Hamilton, said. “The collaboration between industry, academia and government is creating a unique environment in which research and creativity can flourish and it is one that we are immensely proud to be a part of.” BT Group currently employs 3495 people in Northern Ireland, including contract staff, and is the largest investor in communications and IT infrastructure, services and skills in the market. Ulster University Vice-Chancellor, Professor Paddy Nixon, said the collaboration is unique between such diverse organisations.
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First Derivatives buys telecoms analytics firm By Ellie Donnelly
ewry firm First Derivatives has purchased a Spanish company in a deal worth up to €2.5m.
Telconomics is a privately-held provider of telecoms analytics software. The initial consideration for the acquisition is €900,000, of which €400,000 is payable in cash and the balance in 12,199 new ordinary shares in First Derivatives. A deferred consideration of up to €1.6m is payable depending on certain performance targets being met over the next three years. In the year to December 31, 2016, Telconomics generated revenue of €800,000 and earnings of €300,000. The acquisition forms part of First Derivatives' continuing strategy to target
the telecommunication market with its Kx technology, where it sees significant opportunities. Based in Madrid, Telconomics was founded in 2009 to provide analytics consulting for telecommunication network operators. The company has also recently developed a number of software products, including INTEF, a platform to perform critical activities such as network development strategy, network planning and network optimisation. Telconomics founders Alfonso Campo, Javier Lazaro and Juan Blazquez will stay with the business. Newry-based First Derivatives generated pre-tax profits of €7.2m in the six months to August 31.
Brian Conlon, founder of First Derivatives
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Chief Brexit negotiator for the EU Michel Barnier
Transition deal on Brexit will not run beyond 2020, Brussels believes By Colm Kelpie
Brexit transition deal will not last beyond the end of 2020, the European Commission has said.
The Commission has formally sent a recommendation to the European Council to begin discussions on the next phase of the Brexit negotiations. While it sets out the length of the transition period, it also states that issues related to Ireland should be dealt with as a specific strand within the phase two talks. The Commission also warns the UK against “cherry picking” during the transition period. “The United Kingdom will continue to participate in the Customs Union and the Single Market, with all four freedoms,” the Commission states. “The Union acquis [the accumulated legislation, legal acts, and court decisions
which constitute the body of European Union law] should continue to apply in full to and in the UK as if it were a member state. “Any changes made to the acquis during this time should automatically apply to the United Kingdom.” The Government here had said a transition period of four to five years would be preferable. The four pages of new directives for the EU’s chief Brexit negotiator were in line with guidelines issued by EU leaders at a summit on Friday and will form the basis of talks on the transition that he hopes to start next month. The directives spell out that Britain will effectively remain in EU institutions, bound by all their rules including new ones, while not having a say in their making.
The document said that all existing Union regulatory, budgetary, supervisory, judiciary and enforcement instruments and structures will apply, including the competence of the Court of Justice of the EU. The transition period needs to be clearly defined and precisely limited in time. The Commission recommends that it should not last beyond 31 December 2020,” the Commission said. The recommendation also recalls the need to translate into legal terms the results of the first phase of the negotiations, as outlined in the Commission’s Communication and Joint Report. UK Prime Minister Theresa May had sought a two-year transition, but EU chief negotiator Michel Barnier said the 2020 deadline was logical and avoid complications in the next 2021-2027 EU budget period. ■
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Why leadership matters 4
c Executive, Northern Ireland’s leading and largest Executive Search firm, says a strong focus on leadership has underpinned its growth over the last four years. Newlyappointed Managing Director Gordon Carson discusses the importance of leadership in driving a business to success. “This special edition of Ulster Business recognises the achievements of some of Northern Ireland’s best known and up-andcoming business leaders and entrepreneurs,” he says. “Some are ‘first movers’ or innovators that have been at the forefront of the latest developments in technology, engineering and manufacturing. Others are perhaps only at the beginning of a promising business growth journey but have already demonstrated outstanding potential to be future leaders.
culture and ethos of every organisation. At 4c, we spend time getting to know that culture and ethos first and then focus on a very methodical, genuine search process – enabling us to find great leaders for our clients, every time,” he explains. “In different ways, each of the companies and individuals featured in the 2018 Ulster Business ‘Leaders in Business’ edition have demonstrated excellent leadership in their sector in what continues to be an unsettling time for Northern Ireland and the local business community.” Gordon believes that Northern Ireland’s workforce is living proof of the world-class talent pool that the region has to offer, particularly at a senior leadership level. He says that, given the ongoing period of political and economic uncertainty, the need for exceptional leadership in businesses has never been more important.
“4c Executive specialises in searching the market, locally and internationally, for people just like this – the best available talent to fill senior-level, business-critical roles in companies across a wide range of sectors. As a result, we spend a lot of time with our clients consulting about what makes a good leader.
“Throughout my 25-year career, most of which has been spent in various senior management positions in the manufacturing and services sectors, I have seen one common trait emerge again and again when it comes to leadership,” he says.
“The reality is that the definition of a ‘good leader’ differs somewhat depending on the
“The organisations that have achieved the greatest success have been
underpinned by solid business decisionmaking, careful strategic planning and bold risk taking; coupled with sheer hard work, determination and a willingness to evolve. Exceptional leadership will drive any business to success, whether it is an ambitious start-up, an SME or a large corporation.” Gordon explains that the need for excellence in leadership has played a pivotal role in driving such a high demand for 4c Executive’s professional search services in Northern Ireland since its inception in 2013 – helping the firm to grow to a team of 11 and successfully deliver over 200 senior-level assignments. “At 4c, we place a lot of emphasis on leadership internally, not just in terms of the people we employ, all of whom are leading the way in their field, but also in terms of our ambition to continue growing our reputation as market leaders in true executive search in Northern Ireland,” he says. “From all at 4c Executive, we would like to congratulate those whose achievements are recognised in this year’s ‘Leaders in Business’. We look forward to following their progress throughout 2018 and beyond, and hearing many more success stories in Northern Ireland.” ■
Aer Lingus TakeOff Foundation Business Awards launch Business Awards and we can’t wait to begin the search for this year’s winners. “We have really enjoyed watching previous winners flourish over the years and expect the badge of honour which goes with the awards to give a leg up to some of the best companies and leaders in 2018.” Eight awards will be made at the 2018 Aer Lingus TakeOff Foundation Business Awards, in the following categories:
er Lingus’ annual business awards are back, and for their 10th year have a brand new name; the Aer Lingus TakeOff Foundation Business Awards!
“The very fact that we created this programme so soon after entering the market demonstrates the confidence we have in Northern Irish businesses; many of whom are competing amongst the very best on a global scale.
Since first launching in 2008, Aer Lingus’ business awards have celebrated in excess of 100 of Northern Ireland’s best and brightest organisations and individuals, flying each and every one of them to London to enjoy an awards ceremony in some of the capital’s finest establishments.
“Having participated on the judging panel for several years, I have been amazed at what some of our local companies are doing – and it’s not just the ‘big’ players either, there are some incredible small businesses, who are innovating and delivering world class goods and services.
Entries are now officially open for year 10, and while the submissions over the years have come from many and varied types of businesses they all have one thing in common; they truly excel at what they do. Head Judge and Business Development Manager of Aer Lingus in Northern Ireland, Andrea Hunter said: “We’re excited that the awards have a brand new look and feel this year, bringing them under the Aer Lingus TakeOff Foundation banner. “The TakeOff Foundation is our CSR programme; a key strand of the which is supporting businesses across Ireland through a number of initiatives; and so the awards fit perfectly given they’re designed to celebrate and champion local firms. “We’re very excited to have reached 10 years of our business awards, coinciding with the 10th anniversary of Aer Lingus establishing a Belfast base.
“This year will be no different, and I’d encourage any of you reading this who are thinking ‘we’re pretty good at what we do’, to get your entry in. It’s a great way to benchmark yourself against other successful companies, and of course to gain a bit of recognition and celebrate a job well done,” she added. Judged by a panel of esteemed figures from business organisations and media in NI, the Aer Lingus TakeOff Foundation Business Awards are considered one of the premier events on the professional calendar. Last year’s winners included The Deluxe Group, Equi-Nutritive, CDEnviro, MJM Group, Babocush, Mount Charles, John Toner (WIS Group) and Allstate. Commenting on behalf of media partner Ulster Business, Richard McClean, Managing Director of Independent News & Media (NI) said: “Unearthing some of the best business talent in Northern Ireland is one of the most exciting aspects of the Aer Lingus TakeOff Foundation
• Innovator of the Year Award • Exporter of The Year Award • Best SME Award • Best Business Start-Up Award • Business Person of the Year Award • Excellence in Marketing Award* • Lifetime Achievement Award** • The Overall Excellence Award *New category for 2017 ** Chosen by the judges The finalists will be flown to London Heathrow from George Best Belfast City Airport courtesy of Aer Lingus for an awards ceremony which will take place on 8th May at the IoD headquarters at 116 Pall Mall, London. The deadline for submissions is 16th March 2018 at 5pm. For entry forms and further information please visit (insert web link once confirmed). ■
About The Aer Lingus TakeOff Foundation The Aer Lingus TakeOff Foundation is the overarching corporate social responsibility (CSR) programme for Aer Lingus, which encompasses all of Aer Lingus’ charity and corporate social responsibility activities. This includes continued work with chosen charity partners, UNICEF Ireland and Special Olympics Ireland as well as a number of charity initiatives undertaken by Aer Lingus staff and volunteers, initiatives to support Irish businesses, supporting Culture and the Arts, and a new Charity of the Year Programme. Media partner
442 stores and counting for Henderson Group S peaking with Patrick Doody, Sales and Marketing Director at Henderson Group, it’s clear that as the family-run company celebrates its 120-year anniversary, 2017 was a year dominated by growth on all fronts.
of the success is down to reinvestment and marketing. This year, our independent retailers added a further 14,000 sq. ft. to their premises and two new-build forecourts are on schedule to open in the first quarter of 2018.”
It witnessed significant increases in new independent and company-owned – known as Henderson Retail – store developments, substantial investment in new commercial property and company infrastructure, continued investment in its marketing initiatives, and the rollout and development of new and existing services to capitalise on sales potential across its SPAR, EUROSPAR and ViVO store network throughout Northern Ireland.
Indeed, in September Henderson Group opened the latest phase of its multi-million redevelopment at its headquarters at Hydepark, Mallusk; the 180,000 sq. ft., £12.5m ambient warehouse.
To understand just how successful 2017 has been, Patrick delved into the make-up of the convenience sector in Northern Ireland. At times a congested marketplace, the total convenience sector in Northern Ireland currently sits at approximately 992 stores. “We’ve now reached 442 stores in our network, both independent and company-owned, said Patrick. “That’s an unprecedented 32 new stores this year alone, up from 14 stores in 2016 which was an immensely successful year in its own right,” he added. When asked what has been the driving force behind this, Patrick commented: “Much
Boasting an industry-leading 99-percent availability for orders and an impressive 24-hour order lead-in time, investment in company infrastructure in turn supports sales and profitability for Henderson Group’s farreaching store network. From TV, radio and outdoor to online and direct mail, Henderson Group regularly promote stellar deals. Patrick went into further detail on the group’s marketing for in-store promotions. “We spend £4.3million annually in marketing our brands, services and promotions. Most recently, our annual 12 Deals of Christmas promotion represents significant investment, driving footfall into our network of stores and passing on genuinely fantastic savings to the customer while supporting our retailers’ profitability and sales.”
Coming to the end of an immensely successful year, we asked how the group would maintain momentum in 2018. “We saw a significant number of store conversions this year,” said Patrick, “and this is something we want to continue to encourage in 2018. We continue to develop new tried-and-tested services and invest significantly in promoting them once introduced to the market.” Some of Henderson Group’s most successful services in recent times include its Daily Deli, the new Occasions range of flowers, cards and gifts, and the immensely popular Barista Bar retail coffee experience, which is now available in over 350 stores. “Independent retailers see innovation, they see a commitment to passing on genuine savings to customers and they see our drive to support them in developing and increasing the commerciality and profitability of their stores,” Patrick added. “2017 was a phenomenal year, and we have every confidence in our strategy and service offering to build upon that and make 2018 equally successful.” ■ For more information on Henderson Group or the SPAR, EUROSPAR and ViVO brands, visit henderson-group.com.
EST. 1897 with 120 years of experience and five award winning brands, we know the key to success!
Henderson Retail crowned the
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stores opened in 2017 so far.
SPAR, EUROSPAR and VIVO stores in Northern Ireland.
ÂŁ4.3m each year towards footfall driving promotions for retailers
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rise in employment to 3,415 employees
Developed by Henderson Foodservice,
stores in Northern Ireland .
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New yearâ€™s (Re)solution Benchmark your offering Donâ€™t run to the market with your requirement and not consider what others are offering. You need to be more attractive than your peers in a range of ways not just financially. For example, what are you doing in your community that makes your team proud? Align marketing and recruitment activities This may seem strange but if you are investing in launching a new product or service why not make sure you maximise your potential returns. Ensure that plans to grow and invest are highlighted as the reason for new appointments. After all everyone wants to join a successful business.
018 is here and we are all at our most idealistic and best intentioned. Growth is on the agenda for many businesses and that means bringing on board high quality people who can add real value. I am lucky enough to have seen which tactics work with top performing businesses, so here are some best practices I can share.
Review staff regularly This may seem like a chore, but research shows that staff who are regularly reviewed (at least once per quarter) are more satisfied, have higher levels of engagement and are ultimately more productive. The biggest reason staff leave is underappreciation, reviews address this and will directly improve retention.
Make your website mobile friendly Your website is your front door but it is being viewed on mobile devices 60% or more of the time. If you want to gain more applications for jobs directly make the interface easy for mobile users. It is worthwhile noting that most website visitor traffic peaks during commuting time. The cost is minimal.
Conduct detailed exit interviews January is the month when job applications soar, like it or not you will lose employees this month. If you cant retain a staff member find out why, be open to the comments and accept the opinion. If the feedback is relevant make a change or improvement. Ignore this feedback at your peril.
Be attractive to millenials Appointing graduates in 2018 will be even more difficult, have your recent joiners blog about their experiences and let them use social media to magnify PR reach. By allowing some of your engaged employees to comment upon company developments and plans, it illustrates the openness and collaboration that exists in your culture. Senior leadership attract more applicants Nothing adds weight to a recruitment exercise like a senior leader participating. It may be a simple note to say they are open to answering queries, an appearance on a webinar or an address at an information evening. Their presence shows how important future appointments are. Make 2018 a bigger success, these are simple tactics to apply and will give high return. â– Justin Rush is a career recruiter and Director at Abacus Professional Recruitment. He can be contacted on email@example.com
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Outlook for 2018
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Limping along: prospects for the year ahead John Simpson
John Simpson assesses the outlook for the Northern Ireland economy in the coming year and finds the focus needs to be on boosting productivity if living standards are to be raised substantially...
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he challenge facing Northern Ireland in 2018 is how to cope with the differing levels of uncertainty facing businesses and about the delivery of public services. Uncertainty and hesitation will both be working against economic development. Unhappily there are serious question marks which pose threats and challenges rather than features offering prospects for early significant gains or new benefits. The best that the forecasters for the local economy can offer is a timorous hope that the economy may continue to grow but at such a slow rate that the number of people in full-time work may be expected to fall. During 2017 the economy has performed slightly better than some of the forecasts predicted a year ago. Even to describe 2017 as doing slightly better than expected is contentious. A ‘slightly better’ comment is drawing on the continuing and sustained high level of employment. There is, however, a more serious comparator in recent trends in the best measures of economic activity: the Northern Ireland Composite Index of Economic Activity. During most of 2017, economic activity was higher than in 2016 but by less than 2%. That was welcome but, in an improving UK economy, Northern Ireland has been doing less well than most other regions and has lagged when compared to the overall UK performance. Sadly, Northern Ireland’s recovery after the recession following 2008, whilst now going in the right direction, has still not recovered the output levels of that year. In the search for a stronger local economy there are four features that might, singly or in combination, be a source of improvement. These are: a. The level of private sector investment spending b. The level of public sector spending, current and capital c. The strength of the order books to supply exports of goods and/or services d. The internal demand generated by changes in consumer spending Underpinning an assessment of these possible sources of economic change there are other on-going developments which impinge on the outcomes. Two of these are: the influence
of UK domestic policies and budgetary management as well as the still ill-defined expectation of the settlement of the EU Brexit negotiations. UK government economic management policies have become slightly less austerity orientated. That will help to ease the downward pressure on public spending and public sector earnings. However, the change is rather ‘an easing of the brakes than a foot on the accelerator’. There is now a little clarity on the application of the extra funding promised as part of the agreement between the DUP and the Conservatives. However, that deal will have its impact over more than two years and, whilst welcome, is more marginal in an annual public sector spend in Northern Ireland of over £16bn. The Brexit negotiations are, at the time of writing, confused and pulling in contradictory directions in London and Brussels as well as generating debating tensions in Belfast, Dublin and Edinburgh. Few, if any, of the professional commentaries are posing arrangements (whether legal or fiscal) that meet the ambitious ‘no border’ language of the Governments. Critical to the Brexit negotiations will be the influence of the final deal (or if there is no deal) on trade and payments incentives north and south on this island. At this still unfinished stage, the weight of business opinion and business behavioural strategies are that there will be continuing Irish membership of the EU, combined with Irish initiatives to attract investment in Irish locations, which will give a marginal advantage to the Republic of Ireland. Regrettably, Northern Ireland will face unhelpful comparisons from an unfinished Brexit expected to make investments here more peripheral to the larger EU market place. Whatever the final deal on Brexit, or if there is still no deal, 2018 will be a year of uncertainty. There will be considerable reservations about the ability of Northern Ireland to generate even normal levels of private sector investment in industry and services. This may ripple into a poor level of confidence affecting private sector demand in the construction industry meaning a possible slowdown in private sector house building. The public sector budget, as converted using the Barnett formula, constrains the scale of
spending on public services. The UK budget for 2018-19 slightly eases the restraint of the last 2/3 years but not enough to be a source of general support for the economy. For the years 2018-19 and even further ahead Northern Ireland is committed to implementing the general details of welfare reform, including universal credit and the knock-on effects of changes to housing benefit. Suffice to conclude that public sector spending, even including capital allocations, is not a likely source of economic expansion. The other potential sources of improved performance lie, first, in possible increases in exports of goods and services from Northern Ireland and, second, in the buoyancy of local consumer demand as it impinges on the local economy. The downward adjustment in the value of sterling following the referendum, even though it has been partially recovered, has given renewed hope of extra orders and extra work for the providers of professional services both to international markets and for contracts with other parts of the UK. Perhaps the most worrying feature of the economic landscape in 2018 is the expected dependence on local demand from local consumers. Over 70% of the income generated in NI comes from local household spending. That spending is sensitive to changes in the number of people in employment and their earnings as well as changes in the willingness (and wisdom) of households to spend more by increasing their indebtedness or a collective process which leads to a repayment of indebtedness with a consequential reduction in domestic demand. Household spending decisions in 2018 may be more influenced by precautionary motivation and, if so, could add to a shift towards a mild recession, rather than maintaining the recent inadequate growth pattern. Northern Ireland Government policymakers face a challenging year. Dispelling caution and doubt is to be commended, but how? Productivity has not been improving as much as would be desired: earnings are, therefore, restrained. A game changing shift in productivity is needed to lift living standards. ■
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IT trends for 2018 that your business should know about By Patrick McAliskey, Managing Director of Novosco
f the past few years have taught us anything, it is perhaps that every company is now a technology company, no matter what product or service it provides. You can’t make, deliver or market a product or service without using technology. Companies that know the coming technology trends and adapt quickly are the ones that get ahead. So here are some of the key IT trends that we are likely to see in 2018.
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CYBER SECURITY If 2017 was the year when cyber-attacks hit the headlines, 2018 looks set to be the year when cyber security really comes to the fore. WannaCry was one of the most high profile cyber incidents of the past 12 months. It was a strain of ransomware that spread around the world, impacting hundreds of thousands of organisations, including large companies and public sector bodies - perhaps most notably the NHS. But even with massive outbreaks like this making global news, most organisations continued to rely on a strategy of detection and response after an attack has occurred rather than prevention. That, though, could be about to change significantly in 2018. One of the big trends of 2018 will see organisations seeking to really understand emerging threats and implementing the latest prevention techniques and technologies. We’ll see threat detection capabilities embedded into platforms, supporting everything a business does. These will include end-to-end managed security infrastructure. We’ll also see security taken a step further. Proactive, predictive analytics will play a central role in helping organisations harness intelligence from data that moves on a network.
We will also probably see the return of ‘zero-trust’ models, where businesses require people logging onto their systems to go further to prove who they are. Multi-factor authentication will play a big role in this. Organisations that get cyber security right will be trusted more than competitors by customers, regulators, investors, shareholders and others. They’ll also avoid potential threats that can be a drain on time, energy, resources and confidence.
PUBLIC CLOUD Cloud services are increasingly becoming an integral aspect of running a business. In the light of that, you should expect data storage to increase exponentially in 2018. A recent report by IDC indicates that worldwide spending on public cloud services and infrastructure will reach $266 billion in 2021. More and more organisations will move to using public cloud storage from the likes of Amazon and Microsoft. Research by Forrester suggests that 50 percent of enterprises will embrace a public-cloud-first policy in 2018 for data, big data, and analytics, as they look for more control over costs and more flexibility than on-premises software can deliver. Clever organisations will take appropriate, expert advice on their cloud strategy, so that they
A recent Forrester Research report predicts that in 2018 enterprises will finally move beyond the hype of AI (Artificial Intelligence) to realise that it requires hard work - planning, deploying, and governing it correctly. But Forrester also expects improvements in AI, with better interfaces that facilitate improved human and AI collaboration, as well as other enhancements. Forrester’s research therefore suggests that 70 percent of enterprises will implement AI over the next 12 months, up from 40 percent in 2016 and 51 percent in 2017. Interestingly, the research shows that 20 percent of enterprises say they will deploy AI to make decisions and provide real-time instructions, meaning, for instance, that AI will suggest what to offer customers, recommend terms to give suppliers, and instruct employees on what to say and do — in real time.
5G Just as the amount of data generated and stored around the world is poised to grow massively in 2018, connections from network providers will also improve. There should be strong movement to full 5G networks, with speeds of 100 megabits per second and above. This enhanced network quality will increase expectations for highlyresponsive, fast-loading services and apps. Savvy business owners will move quickly to re-evaluate and upgrade their platforms to be more responsive. The Internet of Things and Internet of Everything industries will also benefit from faster network speeds by allowing organisations in this space to receive and deliver data more efficiently in real time. It looks like we are on a path to having 20billion sensors involved in the IoT globally by 2020. ■
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Manufacturing a third way Stephen Kelly, chief executive of trade body Manufacturing NI, says the manufacturing sector in Northern Ireland should be the bridge between the UK and Europe in a post-Brexit world
eâ€™re hoping that 2018 is a boring year! Events from the past 18 months may have been exhilarating for political scientists and pundits, but theyâ€™ve really not helped those who are a planning for the future, shaping strategy and creating and securing work for thousands across Northern Ireland. Stability is required and that will only come with clarity, certainty and continuity. Our sector dominates exports, external sales and R&D spend with one in four jobs in Northern Ireland dependent directly or indirectly in great firms located in every city, town and townland.
On the face of it, as we go into 2018, things look not too bad. But beneath hides a story of uncertainty and risk which makes this success insecure. Thanks largely to the sudden devaluation in Sterling after the EU Referendum, our firms have been quick at securing new export markets and fulfilling orders at home and in GB as customers switched to import substitution. Order books as we close our 2017 are strong with the latest InterTradeIreland Business Monitor painting the picture of a buoyant manufacturing economy. The monitor sees 99% of the manufacturing sector stable or growing (52% stable, 47% in growth) with 90 per cent of those questioned close to or at full capacity.
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Our firms have once again proven that can been creative and agile in making the most of the opportunity presented to them. But, as our firms know well, building an economy or a business on the vagaries of the currency exchange is risky particularly as four out of five manufacturers operate on a profit margin of less than 10% with agri-food businesses closer to 2%. Whilst large corporates may be equipped and resourced to plan for Brexit – with some, like Almac, having already taken action or highlighting what they will do – it’s worrying that only 6% our manufacturers have a plan particularly as one in three say Brexit is already having a negative effect on their business. Our employers need to be prepared and take action and so too must Government. The UK has started with its publication of the Industrial Strategy White Paper and at first glance there appears to be opportunities for our local economy. More fundamentally though, we need our local politicians to form a government and make informed decisions to benefit the local economy, skills, rates, energy and a raft of other policy areas. Given events and the opportunity, a bespoke Manufacturing Plan is now, more than ever, needed. Focusing on building a competitive, skilled, innovative and growing sector with a target of 20% of local GDP will bring some certainty in an uncertain world. An agreement early in the New Year on a transition period for the UK to exit the EU is essential. This will buy some time for business and Government to make the necessary adjustments and investments. A credible plan that ensures there are no barriers to trade across or between these islands is urgently required. Three quarters of
manufacturers have no experience of tariffs and non-tariff barriers such as rules of origin, tariff limits and freight forwarding. An Irish Sea border could put barriers in the way of a market representing almost 60% of our external trade and over 70% of our imports but equally, two thirds of manufacturers believe it is important to have access to an all-island market. Both of those border options would harm the economy and relationships so it should not be accepted that a solution should be a choice of either. It is essential to focus on ways which ensure there will be no delays, hindrances, costs or over-burdening complexity which will threaten the future of businesses and jobs. A third way is needed. A way in which we can be a full participant in both the EU and the UK markets. An agreement which positions Northern Ireland as the bridge rather than the border between the UK and the EU post-Brexit. This could, if the UK asked for it, be transformative for the local economy positioning Northern Ireland as one of the most attractive regions in the world in which to invest and create thousands of jobs. Many see an Irish or an Irish Sea border as an existential threat. But for many businesses, choosing between those options would be an existential crisis. Being the bridge between the UK and the EU need not undermine sincerely held views on identity and would not require any additional barriers to trade. Instead, it would present an extraordinary opportunity to create more wealth and work. As evidenced in this past year, when the winds are blowing in their favour, our manufacturing leaders are quick and capable to making the best of it. We need more of those favourable conditions in 2018 and beyond. There is an opportunity to reindustrialise Northern Ireland and we know that when manufacturing grows, the whole economy grows with it. That’s a hugely attractive outcome, but are we willing to grasp this opportunity? ■
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Hedging: the answer to Brexit’s uncertainty? Barry McCarthy, CEO at AssureHedge.com, assesses how to manage your currency risk as Brexit approaches
rexit is looming. International, national and the local disagreements could have farreaching implications for small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) and cross-border trade.
light. To protect future cash flows SMEs can make three simple adjustments:
Cross-border trade accounts for over 12% of Northern Ireland’s total gross domestic product (GDP). But according to InterTradeIreland’s Q3 2017 Business Monitor survey, 91% of firms with cross-border sales have made no plans to deal with Brexit.
BREXIT VOTE For these firms, a Brexit plan must consider exchange rate volatility between euro and sterling. When projecting forwards, we should consider previous performance - and most particularly how sterling lost 18% of its value against the euro in the months following the Brexit vote (May 2016 to Oct 2016). Could a favourable Brexit see a reversal or will there be more bad news for sterling?
FORECASTING AND PREPARATION As a financial trader with more than 10 years’ experience, I habitually forecast the consequences of definitive events and try to prepare accordingly. For example, if interest rates are raised at the next meeting of the Bank of England’s Monetary Policy Committee (MPC), what will happen sterling and what will we do? This is a definitive event and, while you can’t predict the outcome of an MPC meeting with certainty, you can map out the likely scenarios and prepare for their consequences. But Brexit is not definitive. The deadline is March 2019 but rumours and news will constantly trickle out along the way. A
positive piece of news could send sterling soaring, only to be followed by a breakdown in talks which could send it tumbling again. At this stage, we simply don’t know what is going to happen. We don’t know if there will be a hard border. We don’t know if sterling will favour Brexit in the end. We don’t know what interest rates will do in the face of Brexit. We don’t know - but we can prepare.
PROTECTING FUTURE CASH FLOW That same InterTradeIreland business monitor showed that 71% of businesses have a less than 10% profit margin. In the event of a hard border, costs for importers and exporters will increase significantly. An unfavourable Brexit could damage subsidies and grants from the EU reducing revenue. Favourable Brexit negotiations could see sterling regain its strength, compounded by interest rate hikes. 2018 could see any of these events come to
1. Re-examine your costs: budget now for the increased transport costs, preferably negotiating fixed prices ahead of Brexit, taking back control regardless of a hard border. 2. Diversify your markets: don’t rely exclusively on purchasing or selling into ROI. If possible move some business online to a wider audience or consider other currency denominated markets. 3. Hedge your FX exposure: a Northern Ireland importer budgeting costs of £50,000 for Q3 2016 would have lost £9,000 in the FX change following the Brexit vote. This could have been avoided through hedging.
HEDGING FX CURRENCY EXPOSURE Most SMEs are unaware that you can exchange one currency for another today to cover an agreed date in the future. This is known as an FX Forward. Forwards have been around for centuries - Galileo would use it to sell grain to merchants after using his telescope to identify when the grain ships would arrive. Another way of hedging FX exposure is to use FX Options. These allow you to pay a premium up front to guarantee a worst-case FX rate for a date in the future like an insurance quote. However, unlike an FX Forward, you are not obliged to complete the currency exchange if you don’t need to. Monitoring the relationships between our political leaders is a national pastime, and often entertaining. But monitoring the relationship between sterling and the euro is a lot more serious. Mind you, at least you can hedge against the volatility arising from one of those relationships. ■
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Rewards for the plucky but caution as always Henk Potts, Director of Global Research and Investments at Barclays Wealth and Investment Management, asks where financial markets are headed in the year ahead
ver the past few years, political white noise, often conflicting signals from data, and misleading economic and investing dogma have served to shroud magnetic north for many investors. However, for much of last year, those clouds parted. The increasingly vibrant health of the world economy has become less debatable. The constitutional restraints have so far worked in the US, while electorates in Europe were perhaps tamed a little by a more visible turn in their economic fortunes. As we look towards 2018, central bankers in the US and Europe will likely remain keen to wean their patients off emergency monetary support. This, alongside an increasingly vibrant world economy, should make life tougher for the bond market in 2018. Rising interest rates across the curve should, in
The primary risk for us now centres on the bond market and monetary policy. Central bankers have a wobbly tight rope to tread, perhaps buffeted by a bond market that has become too used to falling yields.
turn, provide a stiffer headwind to equity markets than was witnessed for much of 2017. This should be the case anyway, in truth. The investor community is less obviously gloomy about the economic and political prospects for the world – the health of the global economy has become less debatable as past turbulence in the dollar and oil prices has gradually relaxed its grip on various economic statistics, including corporate earnings. Stock markets are simply pricing the outlook for the world economy more sensibly than they were at the beginning of 2016. However, even though expectations look closer to reality and bond markets less friendly, we still see stocks continuing to reward investor pluck. The decent earnings growth forecasted by surveys, consistent with the increasingly rosy health of the US and global business cycle, is central. Investment is also picking up, suggesting that global demand has become less reliant on the broad shoulders of the developed world consumer. Meanwhile, the emergence of a plausible upside scenario in Europe, distinguished by a more collegiate political backdrop, a healthier banking sector, and even meaningful steps forward in the construction of a credible fiscal and political architecture for the euro, should help continue to drag the whole distribution of outcomes for European risk assets higher. Of course, not all risks have disappeared, just those that mistakenly preoccupied many at the beginning of last year. The primary
risk for us now centres on the bond market and monetary policy. Central bankers have a wobbly tight rope to tread, perhaps buffeted by a bond market that has become too used to falling yields. Remember that you have to go back to the election of Charles V as Holy Roman Emperor to find an interest rate rally of comparable scale to that seen since Paul Volcker’s ‘war on inflation’. It may be wrong to assume that this historic bull run in interest rates ends in benign fashion, as we currently do. There are certainly scenarios where central bankers, still locked in post financial crisis fire-fighting mode, react too slowly to the signs that heat is rising in the world’s important economies. To that end, the more resilient hawkishness on display from the world’s central bankers in the final stages of 2017 should be a source of reassurance as we look into 2018 rather than alarm. ■
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Customer remains key to hospitality’s future By Eugene McKeever, Managing Director of McKeever Hotels
017 has been an interesting year with many highs and lows. Thankfully, this year our company has experienced mostly highs with the acquisition of the iconic Dunadry Hotel in June 2017.
rising inflation which is having an impact on disposable income, Brexit uncertainty and a lack of local Government. All of these have an impact on our trading and therefore controlling costs, innovating services and driving sales is still at the forefront.
For us, continuous investment in people and product is important and this year saw the refurbishment of 50% of Corrs Corner Hotels bedrooms which now has USB connectivity sockets, rainfall showers and a complete new look for the business client. At the beginning of the New Year we are preparing to go onsite at Dunadry Hotel and begin the development project. The first phase will see the complete refurbishment of the Grand Ballroom, Garden Conservatory and Raceview Mill Bistro. Throughout 2018 we will also hope to be rolling out our bedroom refurbishment project and aim to have this project completed by the end of 2018. We have some smaller projects in the pipeline as well at Dunsilly Hotel with the complete refurbishment of Laburnum Conference Suite as well as a new frontage entrance for the Adair Arms Hotel to better highlight the historic 1846 building whilst making the front entrance more accessible. The growth across the Group this year has been driven by the strengthening tourism market, the return of positivity to the corporate and conference market and of course the continued support of our local loyal customers. Although trading at Dillons Hotel in Letterkenny has presented it’s challenges with the weakening pound and the ongoing uncertainty around Brexit, it has also taught us to be increasingly focused on cost control,
develop innovative competitive advantages and fully understand the impact of the 9% tourism VAT rate has on your ability to be competitive in what is ultimately a global market. The biggest concern facing the industry presently is access to a skilled workforce. With new hotel developments across the provenience, this issue is at the forefront of the industry. Although we hold Investors in People Silver Award with our continuous training courses, we are now looking at developing it into our own structured training academy. Going forward many challenges remain for the majority of industries, namely the
Going forward many challenges remain for the majority of industries, namely the rising inflation which is having an impact on disposable income, Brexit uncertainty and a lack of local Government.
Ultimately our customers are the most important people in our business but the strength of the relationship we have with them depends entirely on how we interact with our staff and suppliers.
There is a lot to be positive about looking forward into 2018 for the Group, especially with the planned developments for Dunadry Hotel. However it is still important to keep to the basics of hospitality, with the simple motto to serve others the way you would like to be served. Our main priority for 2018 is to ensure that the customer is at the forefront of any changes implemented, whilst seeking ways to become more efficient and cost effective. ■
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Equality & diversity essential for global competitiveness By Roseann Kelly, Chief Executive of Women in Business
ompanies around the world are being affected by globalisation as it impacts on the ability to access a more mobile, qualified and skilled talent base. Competition remains fierce and research* indicates that diversity can be key to helping a company recruit and retain top talent. As Northern Ireland seeks to compete in the global economy we must ensure our best talent is at the forefront of this effort. Equality and diversity, a topic thatâ€™s relevant for all workplaces, regardless of size and sector, is vital to this and as a local business organisation that seeks to represent women and ensure they achieve their full professional potential, Women in Business is committed to driving the diversity agenda. Indeed, with the evidence clearly recognising that businesses with diverse workforces, senior management teams and boards being more successful and profitable than those that have not, we were inspired to create a Gender Diversity Charter Mark for Northern Ireland which provides proof of diversity initiatives and ethical practises. The Charter, the first of its kind was launched in October and was brought to life through working hand in hand with five local champions Malcom McKibben, John Healy, Ray Hutchinson, David Gavaghan and the late Paddy Johnston who all realised the importance of diversity and have protocols and practises running throughout their organisations and institutions.
Businesses that sign up to the Charter will commit to advancing gender diversity by addressing areas of unequal gender representation at all levels; removing obstacles faced by women at key points of career development; implementing structural and cultural changes that whelp advance gender diversity; and putting in place a strategy and action plan to effect change. Locally large global companies such as Fujitsu, Allstate, Deloitte, and Citi are leading the way in gender equality and research carried out in 2017 by McKinsey Consultants suggested that there is a correlation between gender diverse companies and better results. These global enterprises are ahead of the game and are very aware of the benefits gender equality
brings, not only in relation to improved bottom line results, but also alternative viewpoints and easier access to resources Women in Business is committed to creating a new economy in Northern Ireland, one based on inclusive growth and we should be inspired by the great work that is already being done. I am firm in my belief that gender diversity in the workplace will encourage this growth and the Charter will support this by ensuring that organisations at the very highest level have embraced this cultural shift. I would urge all local businesses to address the issue of diversity within their workplace and looking forward to 2018 sign up to the Charter at www.chartermarkni.org. â–
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Don’t let Brexit undermine the key economic pillars By Angela McGowan, CBI Northern Ireland Director
about its needs and priorities, we now need political leadership to put in place all the necessary policy support.
f 2017 was a rollercoaster year, what can we expect from 2018? It is highly probable Brexit negotiations will continue to dominate, particularly as we look to move onto the all-important trade deal stage of the negotiations. However, it is also crucial that we don’t take our eye off the ball when it comes to fixing the very foundations of economic growth – education and skills, infrastructure, innovation and raising productivity. Outside of Brexit, one issue has been foremost in the thoughts of the Northern Ireland business community - the restoration of a well-functioning Executive at Stormont. Since January businesses across the region have been adamant that getting powersharing institutions back up and running has been the number one priority. Every passing month since the Executive collapsed has seen public pronouncements on the issue grow ever more exasperated, as negotiation after negotiation has failed to break the deadlock. We simply have to reach an agreement in early 2018. From a practical point of view, the absence of a local Executive is having a clear impact on the domestic agenda in Northern Ireland. Decisions on infrastructure, energy, corporation tax and other key issues of paramount importance to business are starting to mount up. The economic development that has taken place in Northern Ireland over the past couple of decades may have been built on a foundation of peace and stability, but it has been driven forward by an ambitious and innovative private sector – businesses that are now increasingly impatient for political deadlock to be broken. While we rightly celebrate the many successes of our economy, from fintech to cyber
security, film and TV to agri-food, we should be very concerned about the message that our current political deadlock sends to the world. With the Irish Border question having become of paramount importance to Brexit negotiations, all eyes really are on Northern Ireland for once and the sight of political instability at the heart of our devolved government paints us in a poor light. The fact that we can’t effectively press ahead with key productivity enhancing measures could well make us less competitive and discourage much needed inward investment. Take energy policy for example. The Executive’s current flagship energy policy framework, the Strategic Energy Framework, lapsed in 2015 and is in urgent need of replacement. As a modern, forward looking place to do business, we hope to achieve this with a new holistic decarbonisation and energy strategy that takes us through to 2035 at the very least. This new strategy should be developed in partnership with industry, seek to take advantage of future energy trends, and conform to the aims of the Executive’s Industrial Strategy. Business has been clear
On infrastructure, we are all too aware the decades of underinvestment have started to take their toll. Belfast’s city centre faces gridlock on a daily basis and we simply lack the high quality public transport options needed across the whole region. Ensuring people can easily access their workplace and that businesses can swiftly transport goods and services is a key component of a thriving economy. The previous devolved administration made progress on a number of major infrastructure projects, including the much needed A5/A6 upgrades, the Belfast Transport Hub and the long-delayed Belfast Rapid Transit System. Unfortunately this isn’t nearly enough and we desperately need a step change in the way we approach and fund major infrastructure projects. In the absence of a functioning Executive to take the lead, it may be some time before we can realise this goal. In 2017 it felt like businesses across Northern Ireland were long on questions but short on answers across a whole range of issues, both domestic and international. Hopefully early in the New Year we will see some aspects of Brexit being resolved, or at least partially resolved. This once in a lifetime constitutional change requires a Northern Ireland voice - one that represents all communities and all industrial sectors. Without doubt Brexit will continue to dominate next year’s headlines. Thus for the business community, 2018 will be all about scenario planning – thinking about market access, assessing labour and technology requirements, looking at supply chains and trying to mitigate risk. All the while companies will be doing what they do well – trying to grow revenues, gain market share and deliver a great product or service to their customer base. ■
Jonathan Forrester, Managing Director of Cleaver Fulton Rankin, who are The Legal 500 Law firm of the year
Happy Birthday Cleaver Fulton Rankin Cleaver Fulton Rankin is Legal 500 Northern Ireland Law firm of the year for 2018
s the holidays fade and January starts to creep in, Cleaver Fulton Rankin settles in to its 125th year of providing legal excellence for Northern Ireland. Formed in 1893, Cleaver Fulton Rankin is particularly well-known for its expertise in commercial law, commercial property, construction law, intellectual property, employment, banking, dispute resolution, planning and environmental law, corporate recovery, IT, private client and charity law.
accolade which had particular significance given the process by which the winners were selected. “The Legal 500 Awards are amongst the most prestigious out there for our profession. This is a real tribute to the energy, talent and professionalism of our growing team and is particularly fitting as it comes on the eve of our 125th year in business.”
As one of Northern Ireland’s largest commercial law firms, Cleaver Fulton Rankin is very well respected in both the local market and from a wider global perspective. This high level of service has not gone unnoticed and in December the firm received the prestigious award of ‘The legal 500 Northern Ireland Law firm of the year’ for 2018.
The firm is listed as one of just a few ‘key players’ among Northern Ireland practices and with eight of the firm’s directors having been rated as ‘leading individuals’ within their respective fields it is no surprise that they have been chosen for some of Northern Ireland’s most exciting projects, such as the planning and construction of the iconic Titanic Belfast building as well as its recent refinancing deal.
The Belfast-based firm, which employs 100 staff at its city centre location, fought off stiff competition from other leading practices to clinch the title. Cleaver Fulton Rankin’s Managing Director, Jonathan Forrester, said he was delighted with the firm’s latest
2017 brought Cleaver Fulton Rankin one of its most successful years ever in terms of industry awards, with Director Aaron Moore named on Business First’s ‘Northern Ireland 40 under 40’ List 2017 and Senior Solicitor Rachael Gamble having recently
won the ‘Young Lawyer of the Year’ award at the 2017 LawNet Awards. In addition to the awards the firm has won, they were a finalist in the Belfast Business Awards 2017 for ‘Best Company to Work For’ and Associate Anna McClimonds was shortlisted for the ‘Young Leader of the Year’ Award 2017. Jonathan Forrester is delighted with the strong performance but points out that it’s not a case of the firm resting on its laurels: “Whilst we celebrate our 125th anniversary we are determined to maintain our exciting strategic development of recent years. These results provide further evidence that Cleaver Fulton Rankin is a firm with industry-leading expertise. “Our continual focus upon our clients’ objectives and a strong commercial awareness has helped drive the growth of our business in recent years.” Having had the privilege of 2017 being one of their most rewarding years to date, Cleaver Fulton Rankin is excited to continue on this upward trajectory into its 125th year. ■
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Leaders in Business The personalities driving the Northern Ireland economy
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Leading with decisiveness and innovation By Stephen Felle, CEO Davy Private Clients UK
nnovation distinguishes between a leader and a follower,” said the great technologist Steve Jobs, and nowhere could the words be more relevant than when showcasing the 2018 Ulster Business ‘Leaders in Business’ and their organisations. These managers and business owners symbolise the innovative and entrepreneurial spirit of Northern Ireland, spanning diverse commercial sectors and including both long standing and recently established business; all focused on becoming innovators in their field and being at the forefront of economic and technological change. Undoubtedly, two of the bigger “shock” events of the recent past have been Brexit and the election of Donald Trump as President of the United States. Despite the uncertainty that both events present, the global economic recovery that commenced in 2012 continues, virtually unabated. The FTSE100, along with other leading stock market indices, sits at alltime highs. In Northern Ireland we are seeing sustained property price growth, record tourist visits and buoyant export numbers. Spending a few minutes scanning the many construction cranes scattered over the Belfast skyline, further highlights the ambitious plans to bring more visitors, students and workers to Northern Ireland. However, as we head into 2018, I believe the business community needs to remain alert to some of the challenges that face businesses at home and abroad, and a note of caution does need to be sounded. The post financial-crisis trend of low interest rates and quantitative easing is starting to reverse. Both the Bank of England and US Federal Reserve raised interest rates in 2017 with further rises expected; inflation concerns in Germany and other leading Eurozone economies means rate increases may too
become a trend in the near future. Closer to home, Northern Ireland faces uncertainty as its trading and border status post-Brexit is a point of multiple debates. Effective leadership will be critical for Northern Ireland if it is to continue to thrive in 2018 and in subsequent years. The ‘Leaders in Business’ profiled in the following pages exemplify the decisiveness that is required at every level and across every sector – private, public and political – to navigate us through the complex period that lies ahead and to ensure Northern Ireland continues to compete on an international stage. For over 90 years Davy has worked with companies and business people across
Ireland and the United Kingdom. 2017 was another watershed year for Davy in Northern Ireland, with the acquisition of Danske Bank’s discretionary wealth management business. This follows the previous acquisitions of PFC in 2016 and Graham Corry Cheevers in 2015. Alongside other corporate transactions, Davy acted as co-lead manager to the flotation of AIB Group plc on the London and Irish stock exchanges in June, the largest IPO in Europe last year. Over 7,000 clients in Northern Ireland entrust us to manage and advise on almost £2 billion of their wealth and Davy Private Clients takes this responsibility very seriously. We look forward to working with these clients, and many more business leaders, in 2018. ■
LEADERS IN BUSINESS
Kirsty McManus National Director, the Institute of Directors By Emma Deighan
ith a local business map that’s burdened with severe weather warnings, it would appear that Kirsty McManus has her hands full but there’s no better person for the National Director job at the Institute of Directors (IoD). She’s relatively new to the role at the 850-member strong organisation, having taken up the post last summer, and she’s taking on, head first, the complex aftershocks of the Brexit vote, a country
that has operated without a government for almost a year and a host of other business issues that have been, arguably, overshadowed given the bigger picture here. With a background that spans senior positions at the Chamber of Commerce NI, Ulster University, CBI and Vistage, Kirsty knows how to confront a challenge while motivating and coaching her peers. “It’s interesting and challenging,” she said, when asked how those first few months have been.
“With no Executive and Brexit, we’re trying to fill a vacuum where our political leaders would’ve stepped in. For us, with the UKbased IOD, it’s making sure that they are aware of the issues we have in terms of Brexit. We are very unique.” Among her biggest Brexit concerns, she says, is the potential upset to the current common travel agreement between here and the Republic where European workers are concerned, the ‘cow to bottle’ supply chain that crosses the border, sometimes, up to six times before reaching shelves and our shared electricity market.
LEADERS IN BUSINESS
“We also need to represent the whole of Northern Ireland and being from Derry I’m passionate about that. We need ambassadors from all sectors and geographical areas,” she explained. Diversity is another focal point. “It’s about showing leadership in all aspects - from women to ethnic minority and disability - it’s all those areas of underrepresentation and encouraging our leaders to look at the 26 per cent of the population who are currently economically unactive. “We need to get more creative if we are to engage that group especially in a post-Brexit situation where we may not have access to some of the existing workforce.” Upskilling through The Apprenticeship Levy, that is currently inaccessible to Northern Ireland businesses, despite those who pay into it here, is another subject the IoD will address this year. It’s a pot worth some £60m.
“One thing I don’t think people talk about enough is that we share an electricity market with the Republic of Ireland. We depend on the Republic. They have an over supply and we have an under supply. That’s going to the DfI for plans. I don’t think Joe Bloggs knows how intricate that is,” she said. Combine the latter with the lack of devolved government here and it’s a wonder Kirsty has time to address the everyday job spec that comes with being National Director at the IoD. Among that to-do list is strengthening the institute’s membership, as well as nurturing our senior directors, executives and leaders. “We have such a vibrant IT sector and that is a huge opportunity for us. We want to grow membership there.
“Northern Ireland lags behind in productivity and that money would allow us to upskill and increase productivity. You will see us banging on about that because it’s really important and from a competitive perspective it’s undermining Northern Ireland,” said Kirsty, who, on a more positive note, will spearhead the launch of the IoD’s new Academy this year (2018). It will offer a range of programmes and qualifications to directors including the Chartered Director programme. “Being a member of the IoD is about making an investment in you and your professional development. For many people who become directors there are no courses out there to help them and on many occasions it’s about learning on the job but ultimately you have director responsibility and accountability and we want to teach that. We also want directors and leaders to network with their peer group and those who are facing the same issues,” she said. “What we will now be able to offer is a professional development academy which
will look at management including the role of the non-executive director and corporate governance and we differentiate ourselves from other programmes because the courses are delivered by directors who have experience and are leaders in their field.” And as a leader herself, Kirsty believes it’s only fair that she practices what she preaches. “I will go through our programme in June in Lough Erne. I think it’s important that we all continue our professional journey. Just because you have an MBA, it doesn’t mean you should stop learning.” Kirsty’s MBA is one of the highlights of her career alongside the large scale events and conferences she organised at Vistage, and locally, in the CBI, a successful lobbying campaign involving the energy sector in which she was instrumental. For a woman in her 30s, Kirsty’s career has reached some heights. Her journey is being followed closely and the immense support she receives from the business community, she puts down to her willingness to ‘help someone out’. But when asked to define her own leadership style, a strategy that has gotten her to where she is now, she stumbles when vocalising it, in a modest response that could well be responsible for garnering that following. “That’s a difficult one,” she began. “I suppose I’m not afraid to get my hands dirty. I wouldn’t ask my staff to do something I wouldn’t do and I’m not afraid of hard work. “I also realise I’m not perfect. We all have strengths and weaknesses and it’s my job to tap into people’s strengths and see potential successors. I have had people do that with me and that’s why I’m where I am. I’ve had people encourage me and coach me.” And as a business leader, her own words of encouragement regarding the current climate are to be noted: “We’ve been here before but we have to keep positive. Business organisations believe a local executive is the right thing for us, let’s get back to business and start delivering. We have to get on with it.” ■
LEADERS IN BUSINESS
Paul McKenna Founder of mac-group
aul McKenna said he has grown the company he founded in 2002 through hard work, sheer determination and never accepting the status quo.
The approach worked and the company has grown exponentially over the years, even managing to brush aside the worst recession the industry witnessed in the wake of the credit crunch in 2007 by following the work.
Talk to anyone who knows the Newry man and they’ll back up that assessement of the process of turning this Newry fit out company into a pan-European business capable of meeting the exacting standards of some of the biggest known brands.
“I am very proud of the fact that we never cut salaries or laid anyone off,” Paul said. “Instead we cut our margins, diversified our offering and travelled to locations where our clients had live projects, such as London, Prague, Hamburg and Munich. Our staff bought into being flexible and were duly rewarded. Today, we employ 90% of the staff we did in 2007-10.”
In London it is currently on site completing a high-end multi million pound fit out for Pharro Management in Knightsbridge, a leading UK hedge fund, and another for an asset management firm on Dartmouth Street.
Such a result needs good leadership, so what does that entail?
In Dublin it is busy on the third large refurbishment for Oracle in EastPoint Business park as well as the fit out for leading flexible working space company WeWork at the newly refurbished 1GQ building in Dublin 2, amongst a host of other projects.
“Confidence and the ability to create a vision, one that you believe in 100%,” he said.
Meanwhile, closer to home in Belfast it is at the core of a £11m redevelopment of River House on High Street.
“You will need buckets of courage too. There is no certainty in business, you will have to take calculated risks to achieve your goals. “Integrity and humility are required in abundance, along with strategic planning and risk evaluation.”
Paul said he has picked up such a large amount of work by paying close attention to customers’ needs, and by being slightly different from the norm. “We have built a fantastic business by listening to what type of service our clients needed, not by giving them the standard industry service or following industry norms,” he said. “When we started 15 years ago we set out to be different, to be disrupters, to challenge the industry practices and deliver what we promised.”
“Then you need to articulate the vision, passionately own it and relentlessly drive it forward.
One other special ingredient is needed to grow. “To scale a business you need to be a good delegator, you need to hire people that have the skills you don’t have, know your weaknesses, accept them and hire the best people you can. Invest, train, mentor, foster staff and make them feel valued and it will be repaid.
“Also have fun doing it. It’s not all about the bottom line.” For the future, Paul said mac-group will have to reinvent and redesign its services and the way it approaches its work by embracing new technology such as artificial intelligence. “We are seeing our decision making clients getting younger, using 21st century platforms instead of spreadsheets or historical analysis. We will have to make a mental shift from doing work to designing work. “But until then, we will continue to foster the mac brand.” Such a forward thinking approach is typical of the man behind mac-group and if the past few years are anything to go by, the future will look equally as bright. ■
LEADERS IN BUSINESS
LEADERS IN BUSINESS
Patricia Rogers Head of Support Services Centre, Allen and Overy
llen and Overy (A&O) could’ve very well ended up in Cairo instead of Belfast back in 2011 when it opened its offices in Donegall Quay, informed Patricia Rogers, its Head of Support Services here. That would’ve suited the well-travelled leader, given her previous senior roles were based in New York, Singapore as well as Frankfurt and London, but she’s glad to be back, even though her views of Belfast 25 years ago just prior to leaving were not that glowing. “The change here is phenomenal. My experience of Belfast before I left was the end of the M1 to the Royal,” she said. “When I first met my husband and we went in and around Belfast, it was horrible. I remember having to open your handbag to get into shops. Today it’s a breath of fresh air.” Admittedly she was ‘keeping an eye’ on the city. “I never thought there would be an organisation like Allen and Overy here for career growth and that’s why I moved about. But it is now available in Northern Ireland, not just with A&O but with the likes of Deloitte and PWC, and we have built that here. “Where one is bold enough to go, others follow and that allows people to move around, and, sometimes, come back to where they started.”
By Emma Deighan
“I love to have a very strong team and a very diverse team with different skills and experiences.” That makes sense given the most important aspect of her role is people. “They are the absolute heart of what we do. My role is about putting the right people in the right jobs, develop them and help them to achieve potential. We want to create future leaders for the firm and indeed the wider economy.” In the past year A&O helped establish a Legal Innovation Centre at Ulster University where Patricia earned her degree in banking and finance in the late 80s. It has also partnered with local schools, set up apprenticeships for school leavers as well as coached young adults from foster backgrounds. “But it’s also about acknowledging that people lead busy lives and trying to integrate that with their working environment so that they like to come to work, knowing that they’ll be supported in other aspects of their life,” added Patricia. As you’d expect, Allen and Overy is leading the way in terms of a balanced and healthy work culture. Its six floor office space epitomises the cool office environment that is still very new to Northern Ireland. Think Google-esque accents. “People are here to work and do a good job and we expect a lot of them,” continued Patricia.
Those career explorers who navigate companies around world to return to their roots, Patricia calls ‘boomerangs’ and she’s leading a team of 500 to ensure that’s the kind of employee A&O encourages.
“But we also want to ensure that it’s a rounded offering. We think our employees are important and we don’t invest in them just to tick a box. It’s important for them to know the firm cares.”
“We are developing people for lifelong employment,” said the former accountant who is told her leadership style is ‘someone who gets things done but someone who listens’.
A&O are among the leaders here in supporting people with mental health issues, said Patricia. It also runs regular ‘be well weeks’ when experts coach staff who span four generations.
Playing the generation game is a rarity for any company, but that’s the nature of the A&O. It’s sector hopping services; from IT to law and creative, mean everyone from Baby Boomers to the new Gen Zs are part of the workforce and Patricia is keen to ensure that workforce is continually inspired and motivated. “The challenges are different. For example, someone from the Baby Boomer generation could be parents but also carers so we offer flexibility. Then we have the Millennials who don’t want to do the same job for too long so we developed a career framework,” she explained. A&O has also invested in a structured programme of diversity and inclusion activities spanning gender, LGBT and families and carers. It’s been six years since it brought its forwardthinking workplace style to the city, six ‘incredibly successful years’ that have resulted in organic growth. That initial workforce of 150 support and legal services staff has more than tripled. Now the plans are to bring more advanced, knowledge-based roles into Belfast informed Patricia ‘to not only to contribute well into the global network but to provide our staff with good career opportunities.’ “We don’t have a huge masterplan,” she admitted but her own personal goal is to continue developing. “I’m happy I’m back but it would be wrong to close any doors. As long as I feel I’m growing I’m staying.” She said. Though any potential move from the city in the future might not be the mother-of-one’s call. “I have less to say about it than my family. My daughter first went to school in Singapore and then we lived in London. She loves it here because of family but I think if she didn’t have that she would go back to London in a heartbeat!” ■
LEADERS IN BUSINESS
LEADERS IN BUSINESS
GLL Regional Director
here’s a very strong case to made that the social enterprise sector produces the best leaders.
difficult objectives to juggle and need a steady, innovative hand on the tiller to achieve growth.
They have to ensure they run a profitable, sustainable business while at the same time addressing the need to enhance either society or the environment, and in many cases both.
Step forward Gareth Kirk, the Regional Director of GLL’s Better Gym’s brand in Belfast, a man whose passion for the social enterprise sector is plain to see.
For those of us used to operating in the private or public sector, those appear very
As proof, he cites a recent chance meeting with a user of the enterprise’s facilities
who, after a heart scare, had joined the organisation’s cardiac programme – a fitness and lifestyle regime. After regaining his health, he told Gareth that there was a good chance he wouldn’t be around today were it not for the help of Better Gyms. “That one minute where he said thank you for saving my life gives more motivation on a day-to-day basis than making money,” he told Ulster Business. “Whether we’re helping
LEADERS IN BUSINESS
Better is a name which appeared in Northern Ireland in 2015 when it took over the operation of the gyms and leisure centres previously under Belfast City Council’s remit. It is part of GLL, an organisation formed in Greenwich in London in the early 90s in one of the first examples of a local council handing over the running of its leisure centres to a social enterprise. It has grown rapidly and now manages more than 250 leisure centres and libraries in partnership with more than 30 councils, public agencies and sporting organisations. The tie up with Belfast City Council was one of the first of its kind in Northern Ireland and called for strong leadership to manage the transfer, establish the brand, grow and better the facilities. Gareth, who hails from north west England originally but is now settled here in Northern Ireland, was that leader and was armed with the right experience. He started his career working for a non-profit organisation in Hull which was building a new aquarium and where he got the taste for the social enterprise sector, but he had always wanted to work in sport so then joined GLL’s graduate training scheme. Over 15 years later and he has worked his way up through an organisation he knows inside out and so when the opportunity came to lead the new Belfast arm he jumped at it. That meant facing up to the challenges of taking over council-run gyms, which in many cases were encumbered with legacy issues and a slight resistance to change, but Gareth faced those problems head on and has helped transform the facilities under his charge in a short space of time. a child learn to swim, helping an older person get some social interaction or whatever, it gives us much more reward than money could.” Does that mean profits take second place? “Absolutely not. If anything, it makes us more commercial because we know that every penny counts and we’re ploughing our profits back into the organisation.”
In many instances, that has meant relying on local expertise. “We want our leisure centres to be run well and we know that happens when they’re run locally by local people, so that’s what we work really hard to ensure. We could have gone in and competed with the budget gyms but we wanted to go it alone and stand out from the crowd as a product people are excited about.”
That has meant taking a strategic look at the offering and plans to highlight the unique selling points of each facility. “Belfast used to separate itself but we’re now trying to connect the city by pointing people toward the gym which suits their needs best rather than the one in their nearest geography. If you want to specialise in a sport then you’ll be directed to the one which suits best, whether it’s Andersonstown’s children-focused pool with a wave machine, Robinson Centre’s aquatic centre or Twinbrook’s outdoor pitches.” Many of those centres are being revamped – such as the £20m transformation of the Robinson Centre – as part of a major investment programme by Belfast City Council, including the introduction of the 15th facility under Better Gym’s control. Better Gym Belfast in Church Lane is based in the heart of the city and features plenty of tech in the form of facial recognition entry access, a 110 station Technogym fitness suite linked to MyWellness - cloud based technology, the first ever installation in Northern Ireland of interactive workout programme, PRAMA, and a 40-unit safe cycle store. It’s designed to meet the demand of city workers and others and is just one of the projects Gareth has been kept busy with over the last few months. As well as being Regional Director of Northern Ireland, he is also chair of the UK-wide company, a role which means he is able to bring learnings from other parts of the organisation to Belfast and vice versa. It is also a measure of his standing as a leader that he can chair a Londonheadquartered organisation while based in Belfast. It is, he said, a mark of the co-operative model around which GLL is run. “Employees own the organisation, our success is built around the growth of the organisation, around facilities and around training people well. Our mission is to get more people, more active, more of the time and that’s what we keep in mind every day.” ■
LEADERS IN BUSINESS
Technology Outreach Manager, Kainos
orthern Ireland has one of the most vibrant IT sectors in the UK but ensuring the future skill set of that burgeoning industry is a full time job, as Kainos’ Technology Outreach Manager Gemma Crothers knows too well. Each year digital services giant Kainos donates over £120,000 and 1,000 man hours to safeguarding the IT sector’s future. It’s a challenge to entice students to consider a sector that is still relatively new and steps away from the traditional career paths which are often seen as the money-makers but Gemma Crothers ,whose full time job it is to work alongside young people and educators, is doing all in her power to change that. She has first-hand experience of the views taken by those with little contact with the sector having been educated at a grammar school where teaching, law and medicine were the go-to careers. In fact even her own studies could’ve led her down the performance arts path. “At school we were still getting that advice that if you were unsure of what you wanted to do you should pick subjects. I loved reading and I was very dramatic at times so I studied English and Drama at Queen’s University,” she said. “I did enjoy the course but when I was 19 I knew I wanted a nine-to-five office-based job and it was through part time IT support work that the IT world was opened up to me.” That job, which was for Allstate, sealed the deal for Gemma who went on to work in Dublin for Microsoft as a contractor. She then joined Kainos in 2008. Gemma may have ‘accidentally’ fallen into the sector but Kainos is not taking that chance with young students today, which is why its
corporate responsibility outreach programme is such a vital part of the business. “You can go into schools and they have this tumbleweed idea that if you’re going to work in IT you literally get a PC and type stuff,” continued Gemma. “And we want to change that perception. “There are so many different areas to IT. And it’s lucrative and that’s the message we’re trying to put across. We are trying to change the way the schools are managed and bring computer science in at a nationwide level and we are lobbying the government for that. “One of the big areas for us is trying to train teachers on all levels so they have the confidence in the classroom to weave the skills in and give the students the exposure they need so they can chose to follow through,” she continued. Tapping into areas where IT literacy is less exposed, Gemma works alongside the Prince’s Trust. Her team introduces children to the idea of technology, informs of the opportunities and engages in conversation with parents to change the current mindset. “Those children have exposure to technology but not the right kind, that’s more iPhones and iPads for gaming but they might not know to work a laptop,” explained Gemma. “We sent a volunteer into an area and asked the kids to click on internet explorer and they didn’t have a clue and that’s the challenge out there. “It’s difficult as they’re only picking up snippets at these events so it’s important for me to keep in touch with those schools and let them know of opportunities. It’s also important that they can see people doing these jobs in real life and know how to get there.”
By Emma Deighan
Another challenge for Gemma is tackling the gender gap in the IT sector. She says women occupy around 24 per cent of roles, a figure that’s remained relatively unchanged over the past 20 years. “I have three priorities, like a tagline that I work with; ‘empowering teachers, inspiring students and influencing policy makers’,” she continued. “Again, I think it’s stereotyping that puts women off. I also believe women put barriers in front of themselves because we lack the confidence.” And during a time when gender discrimination is a talking point in the media, Gemma believes those women succeeding in IT should use this time to speak positively. “People who have complaints have the loudest voices but I think it would help to have those with positive experiences talk about it. “I’ve loved working in IT. I’ve never experienced discrimination and that’s a message I would like to push. If you were a 19 year old female at university hearing about sexism, would you want to come and work in IT? It’s slightly imbalanced but we are working on it and it’s not something we will solve overnight.” Regardless of that slow process of change, Gemma is still at the forefront of creating solutions for an industry with future concerns. She’s fronted the Tech Outreach programme for three years through partnerships with organisations such as the Prince’s Trust, Code Club and CCEA. And her efforts aren’t going unnoticed. Recently she won the Woman of the Year award at the national Women in IT Excellence Awards in London.
LEADERS IN BUSINESS
“I was so shocked,” she said. “There were 10 other people in the category. I was so sure I wasn’t going to win and I was gobsmacked. I sat there the whole night thinking they’ll read out another name because there was a mixup.” But there was no mistake made. Gemma’s figures speak for themselves. Every year she works with 1,000 young people through different programmes as well as welcoming 500 people annually to Kainos’ Bel Tech Edu conference. The programme’s Code Camp, a two-week course for pupils aged between 14-18, has grown from an original register of 50 to 200 this year. And new for her in 2018 is an Northern Ireland-specific Women in Business event. “My role has grown at a fantastic pace to the point that I’m working more on an advisory capacity,” said Gemma who is lobbying the Government to fund similar programmes. “We’re also trying to get finance but with no parliament that’s not been possible.” Looking at her own future, Gemma says she is trying to train her staff well enough so ‘if I fell off a cliff next week there are an amount of people with bit of knowledge who could step in and take over’. Joking aside, so passionate is she about safeguarding the future workforce of the tech industry Gemma says she would like to see her job become the norm. “Kainos are front leaders, we give back and I would love to see this become more of a recognised role. It would be great to have a network of other people like me. “I have achieved a lot with the support of other people in the industry but I think we could make a much bigger splash than what I can do as a standalone person.” ■
LEADERS IN BUSINESS
LEADERS IN BUSINESS
Conor McVeigh McDonald’s UK Supply Chain Director Talk us through your career to date? After graduating from Manchester Metropolitan University, I embarked on a varied career within the retail sector including 16 years at Sainsbury’s where I held a variety of senior trading and operational roles within the company. I joined McDonald’s in 2013 as UK and Ireland Supply Chain Director, it’s an incredibly exciting position with never a dull moment. What does your current job involve? I head up the McDonald’s UK and Ireland Supply Chain team – which involves working with a wide ranging team of experts encompassing sustainability, agriculture, nutrition and quality assurance, logistics, purchasing and distribution. As part of this, we work with over 17,500 British and Irish farmers and over 130 suppliers to source ingredients, manage logistics and ensure quality standards to satisfy our 3.5 million customers who walk through the doors each day. In Northern Ireland our major suppliers include Kerry Foods in Coleraine who supply our cheese and Huhtamaki FS Delta in West Belfast who supply our packaging as well as Foyle Meats, Linden and WD Meats. I frequently visit these companies to ensure our supply chain partnerships remain a success. How do you lead your team? It’s a privilege to lead such a strong Supply Chain team who help ensure our suppliers go above and beyond for McDonald’s. A sign of how strong our team is rated can be seen by last year’s Advantage Survey, where the supply chains of all the major UK retailers are ranked by our suppliers. Our team ranked first in every single area from business
relationships right through to our focus on quality – this is something I’m extremely proud of. While the accolades are brilliant, what I am most proud of is our relationship with our suppliers. At McDonald’s our approach is genuinely different. We don’t flip flop between suppliers – we’ve worked with the same beef supplier for over 40 years, the same bacon supplier for nearly 20 years, and the same potato supplier for over 35 years. We take a long-term partnership approach even in our commercial discussions. We grow through investment in efficiency rather than cost-cutting, and we work hard to ensure benefits aren’t delivered just for the few but for all. Our team remains in a constant state of restlessness focused on what’s important here and now and adapting to a shifting horizon particularly with the difficult external challenges we currently face. You grew up in Northern Ireland, how often do you get back? I was brought up in a farming community just outside of Downpatrick where I attended St Patrick’s High School. I now live in London but often return to Northern Ireland during the holiday season where I meet up with family and friends. I am also over lots for work, particularly during the summer where for the last two years we have exhibited our Follow our Foodsteps campaign at the Balmoral Show using the latest in virtual reality technology to showcase our £650m commitment to food and farming in Northern Ireland and beyond. We’ve had a great response from stakeholders, exhibitors and most importantly
show attendees and are delighted to attend once more in 2018. How is the farming sector evolving? The pace of change in the farming sector is immense with a range of new innovations such as satellite mapping, the use of sensors to deliver precise farming techniques and the development of remote real-time technology to plot weather conditions and crop height. We are making huge innovations within our own restaurants, working with and challenging our suppliers on how we can innovate to make our deliveries and our products easier to receive, handle and ultimately serve to customers. We are currently working on 25 initiatives - some big, some small, but all will make life that little bit easier in McDonald’s restaurants in Northern Ireland and beyond. Why do these issues matter to McDonald’s UK? We speak to customers on a daily basis and it is clear that they want great tasting food made with quality ingredients, which is why we work with 17,500 farmers across Britain and Ireland to satisfy this demand. To continue to serve the food our customers love, we need to ensure the industry behind us is still able to thrive in the future. This means helping the industry to attract and develop the next generation of farming talents, through initiatives such as our Progressive Young Farmer Programme, and harnessing the potential of new technology to take customers and stakeholders behind the scenes of our restaurants. Over 1.5 million people have been given the opportunity to walk through our supply chain thanks to the Follow our Foodsteps campaign and we hope this positive activity will help lead to a vibrant farming and agriculture sector for the future. ■
LEADERS IN BUSINESS
David Gavaghan Aurora Prime Real Estate
has just finished two years as Northern Ireland Chair – will know he is no shrinking violet, nor is he the archetypal Northern Ireland business person.
Anyone involved with business lobby group the CBI over the last few years – of which he
Instead he is a ball of considered enthusiasm, encyclopaedic knowledge and business acumen, wrapped up in a love of Northern Ireland which has evolved during his time here rather than, as for many of us, as product of birth.
meeting with David Gavaghan is anything but dull. It is generally filled with some high level insights into the big stories impacting the Northern Ireland economy, some suggestions as to how any economic issues can be overcome and a quote from an ancient Greek philosopher which inevitably this reporter fails to reference.
Born in Kenya, educated in Dublin at both Blackrock and Trinity and employed in his early career in the fund industry and government in London, he has brought a unique perspective and a dogged determination to the Northern Ireland economy which only someone who wasn’t encumbered by an upbringing here can bring. Take a look at Aurora Prime Real Estate for proof.
LEADERS IN BUSINESS
the most of it,” he told Ulster Business. “That’s what the fund is designed to do; to help increase the supply of Grade A office space to meet the needs of the growing economy.
plc responsible for the specialist fund management business which focused on residential healthcare, student accommodation, science parks and niche secondary property in the UK.
“A century ago Belfast was a hive of industry, creativity and wealth formation and it will be again, very soon.”
But it was the role of Chief Executive of the Strategic Investment Board which drew David to Northern Ireland in 2004, after a successful career in London as a director of Hambros Bank and as head of the Department of Trade & Industry’s Industrial Development unit.
David has certainly gone out of his way to make sure the other ingredients are in place to help the economy on its way to that goal in his role as Chair of the CBI. He has been forthright in his communication with political representatives about the need for them to stand up for the companies operating on these shores and hasn’t allowed the business community to shirk their responsibility to work in alignment with government. And he has consistently banged the drum for a content, prosperous and stable society as a vital and significant ingredient in that recipe for economic success. Such words aren’t hollow, as David’s work as Chair of the Board of Sport Changes Life shows. It’s a charity which works in disadvantaged communities to help young people find a path to a brighter future with the help of its international student-athletes and it has been growing on both sides of the Atlantic over the last few years. The new fund is looking to raise £50m to invest in Grade A office space in Belfast in a strategic move which, despite the current uncertainties caused by Brexit and the stalemate at Stormont, will answer growing pent up demand from both indigenous companies and inward investors in the years ahead. “Northern Ireland has huge potential in the years ahead; we just have to put the mechanisms in place to make sure we make
It will no doubt benefit greatly from David’s wealth of experience. Prior to setting up Aurora he was Chief Executive of Titanic Quarter during the development of the Titanic exhibition so knows more than most about the challenges involved with such a product. Prior to that he was the Executive Director of Quintain Estates and Development
In this latter post he was responsible for assessing inward investment across the UK, experience which will stand him in good stead in Aurora. His experience rearing his eight children should also offer a wealth of essential skills, while his wife Helen can also lend her experience. It is in her restaurant the Bo Tree Kitchen in Belfast’s University Quarter, a reincarnation of the Bo Tree previously located on University Road, where our interview takes place and its quickly apparent that she also has a finely tuned entrepreneurial spirit. It’s also very much apparent that the delicious flavours which this reporter remembers from the Bo Tree are very much alive and well with a stunning Yum Neua – a spicy beef salad – worth travelling a long, long way for (it’s a bring your own establishment but our interviewee has secreted a couple of Singha beers for us). The restaurant looks set to thrive, as does the Aurora Fund, and with it’s with the spicy tingle of chilli that we head our separate ways, David to focus on the “new dawn emerging in Belfast” and Ulster Business to spread the word about both the restaurant and the fund. It has been a lunch to remember and one which we’ll hopefully repeat but it definitely, definitely been anything but dull. ■
LEADERS IN BUSINESS
CEO of Square
arah Friar grew up in Co Tyrone during the Troubles and has now established herself as a key player with Twitter founder Jack Dorsey's credit card venture Square. We catch up with a true leader in business How did you get from growing up in Sion Mills to working for one of the biggest fintech companies in the world in Silicon Valley? I grew up in Sion Mills and was lucky enough to have two wonderfully supportive parents and a keen interest in science, maths, and technology which was supported by my school and my peers. My girlfriends and I at school loved science and math - I would take my mum’s hoover apart and try and put it back together for fun. There was always one piece left that I wasn’t sure what to do with! From there I won a scholarship from Arthur Andersen to take a year out before university - the best thing I ever did! I both garnered a love of business and got to travel for 4 months touring Thailand, Malaysia, Hong Kong and Australia - quite an eye-opener. At Oxford University I studied engineering. That led me on a diverse career path from an internship on a goldmine in Ghana, to working with McKinsey in South Africa. That was a huge time of learning - I was working out of Johannesburg right after apartheid ended; an incredible time in the life of a nation. I didn’t realize it at the time, but our office was a startup. McKinsey South Africa had just opened in 1995 and we had all the growing pains of a young company. And our clients were experiencing massive disruption and change, akin to what Silicon Valley is driving today. From there I went to business school at Stanford in the USA, into investment banking, and then into technology companies like Salesforce and now Square, which I joined five years ago as their first CFO and helped
take the company public on the New York Stock Exchange. That was both a highlight and a challenge, our IPO in 2015 was professionally, personally, emotionally, and physically the most daunting experience I’ve lived through. We chose a particularly challenging time to go public, but looking back now I feel nothing but pride and awe for the team that I was able to work alongside. So it has been a rollercoaster of a ride and I’ve had some really exciting opportunities in my career and feel incredibly privileged to work for a company as forward-looking and exciting as Square, especially now we are live in the UK - coming back and seeing businesses like Cafe O, and FlaxFox in St. George’s Market in Belfast taking card payments for the first time using Square is a great feeling. What challenges did you face along the way and what advice would you give others keen to follow in your footsteps? When I’m talking to young people who are thinking about their own careers, I always say that the most important first step is to do something you love. If you job is also your passion everything gets easier. That doesn’t mean there is one job out there for you, rather think about the characteristics of what gives you energy and sparks creativity. For example, I love to travel, I love interacting with people, and I really enjoy analyzing problems, the more mathematical the better. There’s no single job that checks those boxes, rather there are types of careers, and types of companies that will enable me to mold a job into a passion. Once you find something you’re passionate about, it’s very important to be in control of your career. I also recommend looking for ways to create “spikes” - better to have one or two things you’re A+ at, rather than 10 things you’re a B at. It’s also really important to be front footed in pursuing mentors and
look for people that aren’t just like you. Be persistent - they’re probably very busy, so you need to be creative in looking for ways to fit into their schedule. And then after you meet with them, it’s also important to follow up. And not just say thank you, but close the loop. Thank them for what they said, tell them what you then did differently, and tell them what the outcome was. You want to them to know that the time they spend with you is meaningful. Also ask how you can help them - you will be surprised! And it’s a great way to make them want to spend more time with you. One of my favorite quotes is “be interested and be interesting”. There’s so much to discover out there - the job I do today didn’t exist when I left school so it is also important to keep an open mind about what the future might hold. I’d also look back and tell myself to be unafraid to jump when things feel stale or you’re not thriving. I spent too long waiting for a start-up. What makes Square different and how does it stay ahead of the competition in a fast moving market? At its core, Square makes it really easy for small businesses to accept credit and debit card payments. We believe that for too long small businesses have been excluded from the economy and unable to compete on a level playing field with their larger counterparts, and hence we have built technology solutions to help them start, run and grow their business. We were so excited to launch in the UK earlier this year. There’s a thriving entrepreneurial scene with 5.5 million SMEs, and half of them don’t accept cards. We were able to launch Square in the UK with what was by far our biggest product launch in a new country to date. Bexit it or not, small businesses will remain a key driver of the UK economy. And when Square sellers grow, we grow.
We are a mission-driven business - our mission “Economic Empowerment” is actually stamped on the wall. We’re fortunate to have an executive team that places a high priority on culture, and a lot of this starts with our CEO Jack Dorsey and his ability to prioritise and instill a strong sense of purpose. Internally, we strive for transparency, unpinning a belief that great ideas can come from anywhere. Innovation is not
just an engineering value, it should be felt in everything we do. We also hold ourselves deeply accountable; we measure employee satisfaction and sense of belonging each quarter, and share those results with the entire company. We hold a bi-weekly Town Square where no topic is off limits. It’s not all sunshine and rainbows - some of those conversations are raw but it’s up to everyone to be (brutally) honest, stay accountable and care if we want to build a company and a movement we are proud of.
What makes a good leader and how would you describe your leadership style? My roots have absolutely made me who I am today. I grew up in Sion Mills (a tiny village) during the height of The Troubles, surrounded by bombings and shootings. However, I was incredibly lucky to have a family that showed me the importance of giving to others above all else. My mother was the district nurse and then the school nurse, and my dad was the personnel manager at the local mill: their lives >
LEADERS IN BUSINESS
Sarah Friar took part in a Ladies Who Launch event in Belfast recently with other female entrepreneurs from these shores. They are from left Nuala Murphy, CEO & Founder of Moment Health LTD, Rosaleen Blair, CEO & Founder of Alexander Mann Solutions, Orla Smyth, Owner of Kaffe O, Khara Pringle, Owner of Khara Pringle Photography, Danielle Morgan, Owner of Flax Fox Designs, Katie Doran, Partner at Lanyon Communications, Sinead Murphy, Co Founder of Shnuggle, Sarah Friar, CFO of Square, Sara Hamil, Director, KPMG
revolved, and still revolve, around helping others. This instilled in me to this day, the importance of putting people first. If you truly put others first, it just keeps coming back to you in spades. I apply this at Square where my job as a leader is to build a strong team that will carry our organisation forward. What other leaders do you admire and why? Ruth Simmons, one of Square’s board members, is just amazing. She was recently at Square to talk with our company, and she shared some experiences and challenges from her childhood. What makes Ruth stand out to me is her optimism, love of life, and commitment to learning. She is completely uplifting and inspiring to be around. Mary Meeker is another incredible woman on Square’s Board of Directors. When I was a junior analyst, Mary was on the cover of all of these business magazines as the person driving the internet revolution - and she still is today. The fact that I now get to count Mary as a friend is such a gift. And she’s a very
good mentor because she tells it like it is - no sugar coating. Northern Ireland is slowing establishing its tech credentials. How is it viewed from a global technical perspective, if at all? I think the UK and Ireland are viewed extremely positively on a global scale in the world of technology. The UK, and London in particular, has a thriving fintech scene, and Dublin is the EMEA HQ of many Silicon Valley companies. Belfast, is coming into the limelight as a hub for many core computing disciplines. I just visited the now state-ofthe-art facilities for Computer Science at Queens and was kindly hosted by Professor Mark Price. There’s truly a sense of growth, innovation, and new ways to think there which gets me even more excited for Belfast’s future. We (Square) just carried out a study which showed Belfast to be the UK city with best growth potential for small businesses. Small businesses in Belfast on average, expect their
business to grow by 41% over the next 12 months, outperforming the wider economy, which is currently growing at 2%. Small businesses in Belfast were by far the most ambitious, 71% said they are “confident” or “very confident” about the business environment, including their ability to hire, expand and invest. One example of this is something I’ve been involved with - a project called the Ormeau Baths here in Belfast. Myself and a team of other Northern Irish business people have worked to transform a former Victorian bathhouse into a new coworking space and tech community space. We work to support start-ups contributing greatly to the infrastructure that allows small businesses across the city to feel they have access to the right tools to grow and expand. There is something of a renaissance happening within Belfast around businesses starting, growing and scaling - the opportunity for growth is enormous. We created and opened Ormeau Baths to act as the lightning rod for tech and digital business growth. ■
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Legal stalwarts draw plaudits from far and wide Ulster Business caught up with Tughans’ Managing Partner Patrick Brown to hear how the Belfast law firm has been attracting some of the biggest corporate names in the world, as well as those close to home
atrick Brown is a busy man. The Belfast law firm Tughans, where he is Managing Partner, has been at the forefront of substantial legal work for a broad range of clients over the last year, both in Northern Ireland and further afield, and he is keen to get back to the helm. But, gracious as ever, he makes time for Ulster Business to bring us up to speed on the year which has passed since our last update on the steady growth of this stalwart legal name. It has clearly been quite a year - although nothing out of the ordinary for Tughans
- which has seen the corporate firm work with clients of all sizes and from all sectors across a number of legal jurisdictions, from innovative start-ups, to local family businesses, to the biggest company in the world.
It’s not just American companies investing in the province, Tughans’ corporate and banking teams recently completed a multi-million pound deal for the China Nuclear Power Group - the first major Chinese firm to acquire assets in Northern Ireland.
It’s worth delving into that latter point early on because the firm has not only been instrumental in the successful outcome of the judicial review of Apple Inc.’s planning application for its €850m data centre in Athenry, but it is deeply involved in the ongoing construction project. The same team has also been working for the GAA on the proposed development of the new stadium at Casement Park.
Such work says a lot about the esteem the firm is held in in the corporate world, but it is only the tip of a very big iceberg with a long list of high profile work too long to cover completely within the confines of these pages. As a flavour, Tughans was involved in one of the largest sponsorship deals by a Northern Ireland company between Randox and the Jockey Club for the Grand National, has acted
in all the major student accommodation development projects around Belfast City Centre in recent years, in the floatation of Belfast company Fusion Antibodies on the London Stock Exchange and in the sale of PathXL to US multinational giant Philips. The Firm also acted for Invest NI in the highprofile trade dispute between Bombardier and the US Department of Commerce. That’s quite a list, one which is not an outlier but a continuation of a trend which has been growing over the years, as shown by the fact it has hogged the top spot in the Experian Deal and Advisor League Table for the last three years for corporate deals over £500,000 and property deals over £15m. It will come as no surprise that last year Tughans completed 31% of all commercial deals in Northern Ireland, 38% more than the next placed advisor, representing 62% of total deal values. This year it has been in the number one slot in the Experian Deal and Advisor League Table for the last three quarters and going into the last quarter it is sitting with one third more deals than the next placed advisor. These deals include acting as local counsel to Bank of America in relation to a number of transactions worth around £400m and for the UK’s biggest supermarket Tesco on a number of projects throughout Northern Ireland. Such a performance isn’t achieved by chance. “We have high-quality people doing highquality work for high-quality clients,” Patrick
The law is continually evolving so we need to make sure that we are continually ahead of the curve when it comes to the delivery of legal services. Patrick Brown
said. “It is a formula which is self-propagating and has been at the core of the Tughans’ strategy for years.” At the heart of the business are the people. “Our partners are recognised as leading individuals in all the areas of law in which we practice. Every one of them has either trained with the firm or trained in a major city firm in London or Dublin so we have some of the best-qualified people in the country.” That training doesn’t stop at the front door. Tughans’ focus is on continuous personal and professional development - making sure the team is always developing and improving. It has partnered with Queens University to develop a bespoke leadership training course to ensure that across the firm people are challenged to think differently, and have the skills and knowledge necessary to grow an innovative practice.
And because the firm is continually growing, it is actively recruiting across all areas of the practice, while at the same time investing in its IT infrastructure. “The law is continually evolving so we need to make sure that we are continually ahead of the curve when it comes to the delivery of legal services,” Patrick said. “The requirements of our clients are always changing; therefore, we have to be agile and informed to make sure we can consistently deliver for them.” That includes helping clients face up to the commercial realities of Brexit by ensuring they are fully prepared for any eventuality from the ongoing negotiations. “There is a need for clear guidance through these uncertain times. Our aim is to ensure our clients are in the best position possible to take advantage of opportunities and mitigate against any risks. Our job is to make sure our clients are in the best position to prosper.” One piece of legal work which Patrick is extremely proud of is the setting up of the new Air Ambulance Northern Ireland charity on a pro bono basis. It is the type of work which keeps Patrick and the 120 plus team at Tughans busy, but it’s easy to tell he relishes both it and the firm’s long list of corporate business. On that note, he’s back to the office, striving, as always, to keep Tughans’ clients in the manner with which they’ve become accustomed. ■
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Celebrating 10 years in business for Close Brothers Commercial Finance
en years ago, Close Brothers Commercial Finance opened the doors to its Belfast office on the cusp of the global banking crisis and the ensuing recession. During that time, mainstream banks reined in their appetite for offering finance and the business sector suffered as a result. While sourcing funding from traditional lenders became increasingly difficult for Irish SMEs, Close Brothers Commercial Finance were there to offer assistance, and they supported their clients through the uncertain economic period. The Close Brothers parent company is a London FTSE 250 listed banking group. The organisation have a reputation for a responsible and prudent approach to lending, so the group continued to trade profitably throughout the financial downturn without requiring government support. The firm’s priority has consistently remained ensuring SMEs have the working capital they need to prosper, even in a trying and unpredictable economic climate. “Some might have thought that our timing could have been better when we opened our office in Belfast in 2007, on the brink of the deepest recession in living memory. In reality, it was the perfect time for us to bring our franchise to the market in Ireland,” says Ciaran McAreavey, the managing director of Close Brothers Commercial Finance. “We had a great opportunity to forge new customer relationships and to support SMEs on the island of Ireland through the crisis by making sure they had the funding they needed to continue running their businesses successfully.”
Some might have thought that our timing could have been better when we opened our office in Belfast in 2007, on the brink of the deepest recession in living memory. In reality, it was the perfect time for us to bring our franchise to the market in Ireland.
This year, the company are celebrating 10 years trading in Ireland, and are continuing to increase a presence. Close Brothers Commercial Finance have recently opened new offices in Cork and Belfast as part of its continued expansion. Following the success of moving to their new Dublin workplace in 2016 and Galway office in 2013, they are able to offer local support from expert staff, with extensive knowledge across a broad range of industries. SMEs are coming out of the recession, and business is finally beginning to grow sustainably again. However, the mainstream banks have not yet returned to normal. It remains difficult for SMEs to access funds
from traditional lenders as there has been a reduction in the numbers of banks operating across the island, particularly in RoI. However, Close Brothers Commercial Finance continue to lend to SMEs and are achieving significant growth in their customer base. Asset finance is a popular product, and this side of the business has more than doubled over the last three years. Asset finance allows SMEs to purchase or refinance capital equipment such as commercial vehicles, print machinery or construction and plant, by spreading the cost over an agreed period of time. This type of funding is an ideal fit for SMEs who are looking to invest in business growth, and provides them with a simple and flexible option to do so. Types of asset finance offered include hire purchase, refinancing, finance or operating lease, and sale and HP back. Invoice finance is another option, which provides fast access to cash tied up in outstanding customer invoices. This type of funding is more flexible than an overdraft or a loan, and can grow as the business does. The market-leading invoice finance system offered by Close Brothers works alongside the SME’s financial accounting software, is self-reconciling and can release up to 90% of the value of invoices as soon as they have been raised. This allows real-time access to working capital, which saves businesses time and money that were previously spent on manual reconciliation and reporting. The Close Brothers Business Barometer, a quarterly survey of over 900 SMEs across the UK and Ireland, reports that of those using invoice finance across the island of Ireland, 50% state they use it because it grows in line with company turnover, meanwhile the
Left to right: Paul Stephens, Linda Mallon, Ciaran McAreavey, Ian McMurray and Adrian Madden
other half say it was recommended as the best option by their financial advisor. Asset-based lending (ABL) is a product that can offer higher levels of funding for larger companies with a funding requirement from £1m to £25m+. ABL combines an invoice finance facility with additional funding provided against assets such as stock, property or plant and machinery. For businesses with a strong track record of cash generation, a cashflow loan can also be included within the package. This type of finance is commonly used for facilitating strategic plans such as a complete refinancing, an acquisition or a merger, but it can also provide additional working capital as required to finance growth.
Close Brothers Commercial Finance are the only ABL provider of scale based on the island of Ireland and are seeing very significant traction in this area as SMEs seek alternatives to mainstream bank funding to finance strategic events. Alternative finance is growing in popularity, with many financial advisors now recommending it to their clients. More than one in five companies from across Ireland, surveyed by the Business Barometer, are planning to seek capital for business investment this year. Products such as asset finance, invoice finance and ABL offer versatile ways to fund this investment, while providing a sustainable resource to increase working capital in the current economic climate.
“We continue to increase our franchise and customer base in Ireland and are happy that the market here is seen as a key growth area for Close Brothers Group over the medium term,” says Ciaran, “We are happy to support SMEs who are realising that reinvesting in their business will drive growth and can pay off, especially when using flexible, alternative finance options.” Close Brothers continues to be a leading provider of asset, invoice finance and ABL across Ireland. The company provides fast decisions, flexible funding and simple access to increased working capital for SMEs. Their team of specialists have extensive experience working with a variety of sectors, offering local decision making and bespoke packages for businesses. ■
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Looking ahead: Firms are positive for 2018 as recruitment remains high on the agenda By John Moore, Regional Managing Director at Hays Northern Ireland
ooking back on 2017, phrases such as ‘political instability’ and ‘Brexit uncertainty’ seemed to come up time and again.
However, salary isn’t everything. Many professionals in Northern Ireland are proving to be pragmatic when weighing up new opportunities.
And yet many employers are going into 2018 with a positive outlook. Towards the end 2017, Hays published its UK Salary & Recruiting Trends 2018 guide. The guide covers a multitude of professions, sectors and regions, reflecting the views of 17,500 employers and employees across the UK (including 672 respondents from Northern Ireland). The report collates information both from our own specialist recruiters as well as insights gathered from a survey of both employers and employees from a range of sectors and industries. Over 9,200 salaries are contained within the report - including comprehensive salary breakdowns for roles running across the local economy. Positively, the survey found that 7-in-10 Northern Irish businesses surveyed (69%) expected their business activity to increase in 2018. And up to 76% of employers are planning to recruit over the next 12 months, which is ahead of the UK average (71%). The survey found that skills shortages remain an issue for the majority of employers with two-thirds (66%) reporting a shortage of suitable applicants will be their biggest recruitment challenge this year. Skills shortages are also impacting on productivity and employee morale, so workforce planning needs to be high on the agenda and included as part of the core business objectives.
In our view, employers should reconsider their approach to temporary workers. Traditionally temporary, contract and interim workers have been used to supplement projects where specific skill sets are required. Overall, we have this most particularly within the finance sector this year where there has been high demand for accounts assistants, finance officers and interim accountants. But temporary workers can be used to help ensure growth plans can be sustained and targets met, while improving the job satisfaction of permanent employees. Looking to salaries, Northern Ireland saw an average increase of 2.8% with digital technology roles receiving the highest rise at 4.5%. This was followed by engineering and manufacturing professionals who enjoyed an average increase of 3.9%. IT professionals saw an average increase of 3.2%, with construction and property professionals seeing an increase of 2.7%.
Skills shortages are also impacting on productivity and employee morale, so workforce planning needs to be high on the agenda and included as part of the core business objectives.
Our ‘What Workers Want’ survey, which was published in the summer, found that salary influences just 45% of an employee’s decision whether to move to a new post. That remains the case going into 2018, and issues such as environment, progression, training and benefits still outweigh salary alone for the majority of employees. Employees want to be able to get an insight into what it is truly like to work at the organisation, so they can assess whether they might be a strong fit with its culture. We recommend employers focus on strengthening their employer brand by clearly communicating their culture and values as an organisation. ■ For further information and to download the UK Salary & Recruiting Trends 2018 guide, visit https://www.hays.co.uk/salary-guide or call 028 9044 6900.
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Ones to Watch The entrepreneurs on the up in the Northern Ireland economy
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ONES TO WATCH
Fiona Bennington Hug
ug is a wearable heat pack which helps relieve common conditions like back pain, menstrual pain or conditions like endometriosis. It was designed by Fiona whose experience in plastics and packaging development for other local manufacturers proved invaluable. In one sentence, what do you do? I’m interested in the power of design to help lots of people all at once, so I created a wearable heat pack called Hug for pill-free pain relief! Why is there a need for what you do and who are your customers? I created Hug because I suffer from Period pain which really interrupts my ability to concentrate in work and get things done at home. I don’t particularly like taking painkillers when I can avoid it so I was a fan of using a hot water bottle for relief. The issue with that is it’s not exactly hands free or discreet is it? Around 70% of women share this problem with me, never mind the millions who suffer from lower back pain.
What makes your product better than what’s already out there? Hug is discreet, wearable, and it can be used over and over again. There are some basic products out there which tackle this issue but as a user of those I was unhappy that they were generally not much better than a hot water bottle or they were one-time use items, going straight into landfill and costing a lot of money. I wanted to create a solution which could be used flexibly to treat shoulder pain and headaches too so we selected materials which could be used cold as well as hot. Hug can be warmed in the microwave or cooled in your fridge or freezer to suit your needs and your temperature preference. What excites you most about what you do? From time to time I receive emails from people who have used Hug to let me know just how much it has helped them cope with their own pain, and these people are suffering from much more serious problems than I ever did. I do feel like I am making a difference every day and that provides me with energy and motivation to cope with the challenges that come along. What are the biggest challenges you’ve come up against so far? For me the easy bit is actually creating a product and getting it manufactured, I’m an engineer, a designer, it’s my day job! The challenge has been all the things that come after that, having a web presence, developing sales, getting into retailers and shipping goods to customers. It has been a steep learning curve and I still have some way to go. What would help you kick on to the next level? At this stage securing a good deal with a distributor or retailer to stock
Hug would make a huge difference, I get enquiries every day from people online about where they can buy it instore and my market research is indicating that people would prefer to purchase in a big name supermarket or pharmacy so I am very aware we need to work towards that. What do you ultimately want to achieve? I want to have a team, stock products in stores all over the world and expand our product range. I have so many ideas for new products we can create along the lines of Hug to help people with other conditions. Who inspires you in business? I have worked for a number of local companies who design for the benefit of others and I have found all of them inspiring in some way or other, it is the kind words of people close to me which I value more than some big business mogul I can probably never meet or know. The local heroes in NI are providing employment and growing our economy, they should be supported and applauded! ■
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Ruth Kimbley Little Big Fish
seafood restaurant within yards of the sea is always going promise greatness, and Little Big Fish doesn’t disappoint. Ruth Kimbley is the driving the force behind the newest culinary offering on Donaghadee sea front. In one sentence, what do you do? I own Little Big Fish, a restaurant in Donaghadee serving fresh local seafood, beautifully paired wines and signature cocktails. Why is there a need for what you do and who are your customers? Food provenance is a priority in Northern Ireland and the ‘foodie’ movement is on the rise. We have beautiful fresh local fish right on our door step. I wanted to bring that taste of home to the coast of Donaghadee. There’s nothing quite as authentic as eating a local seafood dish with a sea view! Our customer base can differ from afternoon to evening, but by in large they represent the typical ‘foodie’. Willing to experiment, excited by something new, excited by local produce and will more than likely replicate the dish in their own homes. What makes you better than what’s already out there? Very simply, our seafood is fresh from the sea and local, and with each dish, there is a story! Our seafood supplier is 13 miles away from the restaurant in the fishing village in Portavogie. There’s a respect for the people in the industry, particularly the fishermen who day after day, go out to sea, and quite often risking their lives to gain their catch. There’s a great story in seafood, fishing and fishing villages and a quaint history, we’ll begin to paint this picture in Little Big Fish as it develops. But our customers love to hear the story, they find a comfort in knowing who the skipper was, what the boat was called, when the catch was landed and what harbour it was landed to. What excites you most about what you do? It’s incredibly social! I get to chat with the locals and people who have travelled from further afield about food, about wine, about most things! My background in Communications helps me promote my business effectively so I get to use a lot of existing skills whilst harnessing quite a lot of new ones! What are the biggest challenges you’ve come up against so far? Uncertainty. As a start-up business, forecasting and projections will only ever ensure the risk is a very measured one, but there will always be an element of uncertainly which can be quite unsettling and can prevent us from looking at long-term strategies and giving instead a very short-term focus. The challenge is balancing the reactive shortterm focus with the informed long-term strategy so you never loose sight of the long-term goal.
What would help you kick on to the next level? For now, our focus is on maintaining excellent standards in food and in customer service. Taking your company to new heights isn’t just about acquiring new customers, particularly in the restaurant industry, its about seeing the regular faces too and encouraging repeat business. Happy customers also help market the restaurant and so far, word of mouth has been a very effective marketing tool for us. I also have a strong team around me in Head Chef, Andy Archer and General Manager Jonathan Cobain, so as long as we stay driven and focused, I feel we will naturally move to the next level. What do you ultimately want to achieve? I love the restaurant, I love the brand, I take comfort and pride in knowing we deliver excellence in food and service. I would love to see a Little Big Fish settled by the harbour in the key coastal areas around the country. Little Big Fish will always be beside the sea. Who inspires you in business? Quite honestly, my partner, he’s in business and he’s incredibly honest with me. If I’m having a rough day, I don’t expect him to sugar coat anything, it is what it is, I grow an extra few layers of skin and deal with it. He’s exceptionally motivated, driven and resilient and I find that inspiring. ■
Behind the scenes with the HR experts Personnel & Training Services is an HR Consultancy that is celebrating their 25th anniversary. This month we caught up with Neil McLeese, one of the Directors in PTS to find out a little bit more about them 1.Tell us a bit about you and your role with PTS? I joined Personnel & Training Services (PTS) as a Consultant in 2012 having been HR Manager for JP Corry / Saint Gobain for a number of years. In 2014 a colleague (Helen Hardy) and I acquired the business through a management buy-out. Helen and I are both passionate about delivering high quality HR support to small and medium sized businesses across Northern Ireland. We work extremely well together and are both able to play to our strengths. Helen looks after the operational side of the business while I am focused on developing our business and the services we offer. 2. PTS has experienced rapid growth over the past few years - what do you put your success down to? Without a doubt our team has been the driving force behind our growth. We are very fortunate to have a great team that are very focused on ensuring our clients get the best service possible. Our consultants are always at the end of the phone and we set ourselves apart by being approachable and friendly. Understandably, many people only contact an HR consultant when something has gone wrong, we work hard to make the process as easy as possible and ensure our contact with the client is as enjoyable as possible. The business has been going for 25 years and a lot of our growth has been due to referrals made by our clients, which we are very grateful for.
relations work we are involved in on a daily basis we can often be seen as the ‘bad guy’ by employees so you need to be able to take things with a pinch of salt and not take it personally. 5. What is the most rewarding thing about being a HR Consultant? Being able to resolve difficult issues for clients. I also really love the recruitment side of our business and being able to support our clients while they grow their businesses.
Some weeks you can be in the office most of the time dealing with telephone and email queries, preparing documentation for meetings and assisting colleagues. Other weeks you might be travelling from one client appointment to another and not make it into the office at all. 4. What are the most important qualities in an HR consultant? Empathy and patience! You also have to be thick skinned. Given the type of employee
6. What advice would you give to a company that is struggling to manage an employee's performance? Don’t ignore it! Problems won’t go away no matter how much you wish they will. Follow the correct procedures and deal with the issue. Talk to an HR consultant to get an understanding of your options and possible consequences. Finally, is there anything notable that you see happening in HR for 2018 that employers should be aware of? The General Data Protection Regulations (GDPR) are going to be enforced from 25 May 2018 which will have a huge effect on how many employers process employee data. I think the fallout from the recent Uber case is going to have continuing implications going forward into next year with regard to self-employed/worker/employee status and will force some businesses to reconsider their strategies.
3. Is there a such a thing as a typical day in PTS? Because we work with hundreds of clients across all sectors in Northern Ireland our days are extremely varied which is one of the things I love most about the job.
Also, the current political situation both regionally and nationally with NI Assembly and Brexit could have big implications for employers but, unfortunately, it is not clear
Quite often you can plan your day only to have to change everything once you get to the office because an urgent issue has arisen in a client’s business.
To find out more about Personnel and Training Services you can check out their website www.pts-ni.com or find them on Facebook and LinkedIn.
what those will be as yet. ■
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ONES TO WATCH
Dave Linton Madlug
adlug was founded in 2015 by Dave Linton, a man whose only experience in the luggage industry was bags of enthusiasm. This 40-something youth worker was heartbroken to learn that most children in care transport their worldly belongings in a bin bag. In that moment, Dave set out to do something about it. With just £480, he started Madlug and came up with our ‘one-for-one’ approach: with every bag you purchase, one will be given to a child in care. The reality is there are over 90,000 children in care in the UK and Ireland. One child enters the UK care system every 20 minutes. What’s more, over half are victims of neglect or abuse. Because children in care aren’t given a voice, the public don’t know about the problems they face every day. Which is why it’s so important that their story is heard. In one sentence, what do you do? We are a Northern Ireland bag brand that is helping children in care carry their lives with dignity and not in black plastic bin bags. Why is there a need for what you do and who are your customers? There are over 90,000 children in care in UK at the moment with one child entering the UK care system every 20 minutes. Many of these children are moved with their belongings in black plastic bin bags. The issue of black bin bags being used for transporting the belongings of children in care is a global issue. Most people use bags daily and want quality bags. We are building the brand to be aimed primarily at millennials. This generation is generally more concerned about making their purchases count. They are also more likely to shop for backpacks and gym bags. Alongside millennials, we are also focusing on the corporate customer. What makes you better than what’s already out there? We are more than a bag company, we are a movement, a movement of incredible people (our customer) buying incredible bags (our products) so that incredible children in care can carry their lives with dignity and not in bin bags. Our bags make a difference. What excites you most about what you do? I love it when I get to deliver new bags to children in care knowing that they have been funded by our incredible customers. What are the biggest challenges you’ve come up against so far? I find this hard to really answer as often what starts as a challenge is often celebrated for being the key to the necessary innovation. As a start-up, finance is always a challenge but again it encourages a more creative and smarter approach.
What would help you kick on to the next level? Now that we have the brand, product and a loyal organic customer base, we now need to seriously invest in digital advertising to grow our market. To do this we require finance and people who really know how it works. What do you ultimately want to achieve? We want to: • provide bags to EVERY child in care, entering care and leaving care in UK • be the number one brand that enables customers to show they care • be a global brand that promotes that EVERY child in care is incredible • be an employer of experienced young people. Who inspires you in business? Richard Branson. Last month I had the privilege to have had brunch with him in London and he certainly inspired me. Check out our blog to see what I learnt. ■
Cathal Grant with Professor Mark Durkin UUJ at the UTV Business Awards
CGDM Construction enjoys continued success Newry Company CGDM Construction has won a prestigious award at the UTV Business Eye Awards 2017. The event was held on 7th December at Belfast Waterfront and honoured high achievers in the Northern Ireland business community.
Cathal Grant, Director of CGDM Construction received the special honour of Young Business Personality of the Year. Cathal’s business achievements were also recognised at the Newry Business Awards where he was awarded the Young Entrepreneur Award in September 2017. Cathal graduated from the University of Ulster Jordanstown with a First-Class Honours degree in Architectural Technology & Management. Following his graduation, Cathal took up a position with a large Dublin based architectural firm but after five successful years he was made redundant as a direct result of the downturn in the economy. Determined to turn a negative situation into a positive one, Cathal set up CGDM Construction in 2009 despite facing huge challenges from the recession – particularly in the construction industry. CGDM achieved significant growth in the early stages and was incorporated in March 2011. The company has diversified its services, specialising in high quality commercial fit-out projects and construction. CGDM Construction have completed work in office, retail, banking, health and leisure sectors across Ireland and mainland UK, with projects costing multi-million pound/euro for global plc companies. Lead by a professional and dedicated team, the company now employs 25 people across offices in Newry, Dublin and London. Cathal said: “2017 has been a great year for the company with our client base continually growing. It has been a great honour to receive awards, which is testament to our dedication and hard work. We are a thriving young company with exciting expansion plans for 2018.”
Award Award Winning Winning Company Company Award Winning Company Specialising in Construction Award Company Award Winning Winning Companyand Specialising in Construction and Specialising in Construction and Commercial Fit Out Projects Specialising in Construction and Specialising in Fit Construction and Commercial Out Projects Commercial Fit Out Projects Commercial Commercial Fit Fit Out Out Projects Projects
Call 028 302 50844 Call 028 302 50844 Call 028 302 50844 Call Call 028 028 302 302 50844 50844 Newry Newry Newry N Ne ew w rr y y
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ONES TO WATCH
Gary Robinson Uleska
leska is a cyber security company with a unique solution that makes it easy for companies to secure their software from hackers and meet cyber-regulatory requirements. It was founded by Gary Robinson, a European Board member of the security organization OWASP, and previously a Senior Security Architect at CitiGroup, following 18 years in the software and cyber security industries. The company’s product will revolutionize the industry by automating software security. Working in minutes, it can test and fix software at the time of development, reducing risk, increasing development speed, and reducing security spend. Uleska has won a number of awards including, most recently winning the business software category at the Northern Ireland Invent awards. In one sentence, what do you do? Uleska has created the world’s first product to automatically secure the development of computer software, empowering software teams to be security complaint whilst reducing development time and costs. Why is there a need for what you do and who are your customers? Cyber security breaches are all over the news, and one of the biggest targets for hackers is the software written for websites and desktops. Typically it takes six months for new software to be security tested, and a further six months for security fixes to be applied, with much of this being done manually. This is exactly the type of issue that Equifax were breached through. Uleska’s product does this automatically, typically in the same day. What makes you better than what’s already out there? Much of the security industry is focused on manual tasks that only check software for
security issues. Uleska’s product is unique in that it proactively creates security modules and documentation specifically for new software, as well as security testing the new code within hours. What excites you most about what you do? We have the chance to make a real difference in the IT industry. At one level this is about reducing the time and costs for both enterprise and smaller businesses, however it’s also about making it easy to protect everyone online. What are the biggest challenges you’ve come up against so far? We’re breaking new ground with this technology so there’s always a challenge to communicate it effectively to the market. We’ve spent time refining our messaging and making sure the product is relevant to software businesses of all shapes and sizes. What would help you kick on to the next level? We are working with, and looking for, trial
customers to share with us their pains and needs when it comes to software security. There’s an understandable reluctance for any company to expose their cyber security problems. However when we engage with a software company, we can ensure our product and services fit their needs and help them quickly and cost-effectively remove those cyber security blockers. What do you ultimately want to achieve? We want lead the market in proactive software security products that allow companies of any size to easily develop secure software. When the hackers can’t break in, then they can’t steal people’s identities or money - that is the world we want to live in! Who inspires you in business? The Australian software company Atlassian, who make products including Jira and BitBucket, are our role model for Uleska. Ten years ago they built great, usable software that solved a real problem for software companies, and then scaled it so that companies of any size could benefit from its functionality. They now turn over US$ ½bn per year. ■
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ONES TO WATCH
anacea Drinks was founded by wife and mum Kelly Neill who was uninspired by the range of healthy drink alternatives available and set about creating her own.
The water kefir-based drinks have live cultures which add good bacteria back into the body that stress, medication and frantic lifestyles can sometimes deplete. Here is her story… In one sentence, what do you do? We make healthy, water kefir drinks that are high in beneficial bacteria, low in sugar and taste amazing. Why is there a need for what you do and who are your customers? Customers are demanding more natural foods, free from artificial sweeteners, low in sugar, high in taste and functional. We want as much goodness as possible from the stuff we put into our bodies. Panacea was created because we are all more aware of our health, but are so time poor. Our drinks not only help people feel better, they are super tasty so appeal to everyone – even Irish rugby player, Jamie Heaslip is a fan! What makes you better than what’s already out there? Most soft drinks and a lot of health drinks are very high in sugar, albeit some from natural fruit sugars. We all know how bad too much sugar can be. Healthy drinks and supplements can often have an ‘acquired’ taste, so we wanted to make sure our drinks appeal to all people, including children. The probiotics in our drinks are 100% natural and we don’t pasteurize or preserve our drinks in any way – they are so full of the good stuff! What excites you most about what you do? That we’re bringing something totally new to the market. Most people have never heard of water kefir so being able to explain to them what it is and how it will help them is brilliant. We get most of our customers through independent retailers and our website www.panaceadrinks.com from across the UK and Ireland. Even more amazing is the feedback we get from customers who feel the physical benefits too. What are the biggest challenges you’ve come up against so far? Although being new to the market can be a benefit, it can also be a curse as we spend a lot of time and money on education and brand awareness. What would help you kick on to the next level? More time and more money! As with any business, cash is king and cash flow just kills us sometimes. My business has been built solely on
revenue and some of my own investment, so finding a partner who can support my vision financially and in business would be fantastic. What do you ultimately want to achieve? To build a successful and profitable business that we can sell to a larger food producer in the next five to seven years. I’d then love to become a mentor and investor too, oh and maybe give a TED Talk or two! Who inspires you in business? I’ve been really inspired by every single person I’ve met who has started a business. Even more so if it failed and they tried again! It takes a lot of courage and strength to keep going but thankfully the support from the business community in Northern Ireland is unreal. I’m originally from Newcastle upon Tyne, so it’s great that I’ve been welcomed into the local business community. I’m also very inspired by perfume entrepreneur, Jo Malone. I had the privilege of meeting her a few months ago and her success story is incredible. ■
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Julie Watson BTL Marketing
TL Marketing describes itself as a boutique creative agency that is a bit left field, ‘quirky’ to coin a phrase. Its work stretches from refurbishing the Coca-Cola Visitor’s Experience, managing events and conferences, promotions, visibility installations, mystery shopping, and merchandise sourcing. Clients include Coca-Cola, Schweppes, Jameson, ABSOLUT, Hennessy, Tennents NI, Coors, Finlay Foods and Red Bull. Why is there a need for what you do and who are your customers? As most my clients come from the drinks industry, subtle and clever marketing is needed to make campaigns stand out in this competitive sector. I enjoy developing projects that engage consumers because they find it interesting and want to talk about it. A recent project that made me proud is the installation of the yellow Schweppes umbrellas for Willie Jack in Commercial Court – I’ve loved seeing this spread virally over social media. What makes me better? I don’t really like claiming to be ‘better’ than any other agency. I am simply different, so I guess it’s like comparing apples with pears! We all have our strengths, so it’s a case of matching the agency that answers a brief most effectively. I have a lot of admiration for all creative agencies – there is room for all of us in the market.
changing at such a rapid rate. I’m lucky in that enjoy this side of things so find keeping up to date with developments more of a hobby than chore.
What excites you most about what you do? I get excited if I answer the brief and see a happy client! Self-employment is much tougher than I could ever have imagined. The learning curve is steep, but the satisfaction from having a successful business with regular customers is second to none.
What would help you kick on to the next level? A better understanding and appreciation of the importance of creativity. I believe that it’s completely under utilised throughout all aspects of business, not just within marketing. If you have a creative person in your business, nourish them. They will be invaluable to your business and can provide a train of thought or solution that would never have crossed your mind.
What are the biggest challenges you’ve come up against so far? Keeping your finger on the pulse. Technology is
What do you ultimately want to achieve? My biggest business driver is my family. I have two boys, Daniel (13) and Charlie (9). I want
to leave a successful business for them – it’s as simple as that. Who inspires you in business? I’m more inspired by creative people than simply people with millions in the banks! Be it bar staff with hidden talents, street artists, poets, chefs or the mumpreneur who takes a risk by starting a business through the sheer love of it. I can spend hours reading about ground breaking inventions or creative people that have made the world better or more interesting. I guess I have my family genes to blame for my interest in creativity (my cousin is local artist Colin Davidson and sister, Denise Watson works for UTV), most of my family have a role to play within the arts scene in some shape or form and I’m delighted to play my part. ■
Nigel Best, IFA Coach Education Manager and Stephen Brown, Managing Director of NTD with the Magicard Prima 4 Retransfer ID card Printer and Easybadge Software
North Time and Data (NTD) scores contract win with Irish FA
TD has been awarded a contract by the Irish Football Association (Irish FA) for an ID system to authenticate the qualifications of some of the world’s best coaches. The Lisburn company will supply the Magicard Prima 4 retransfer printer and Easybadge software which will enable the Irish FA to keep track of its coaching certification card programme which is attended by coaches from around the world including former Manchester United and England forward Teddy Sheringham and Harry Kewell who played for both the Australian National Team and Liverpool FC. According to the Irish FA’s Coach Education Manager, Nigel Best “the Irish FA and UEFA require a validation process to identify qualified coaches, and through our partnership with NTD, the Irish FA has a mechanism to efficiently and effectively deal with the validation process.”
“We have been working with NTD for many successful years now, so we knew they would be able to help us with our upgrade,” he said. “They are very efficient and understanding of our needs, we have never had to wait around for any tasks to be completed and we know they have got a lot of experience and knowledge in this area. “We had previously been using the Magicard Prima 1, which we found to be perfect for us. There were never any issues. We understood how to use it and it gave us perfect quality cards. “When NTD suggested upgrading to the Prima 4 we were confident it would be just as reliable and provide us with the quality of print we were requiring. We trust the Magicard brand and are already reaping the rewards of our upgrade.” Nikki Brown from NTD said the firm has a good understanding of the IFA’s needs. “As NTD have been supplying the IFA with ID equipment and consumables for the coaching
badges for quite some time, we were well aware of the detail required,” she said. “After much research, we found the Magicard Prima 4 retransfer printer and Easybadge software to be the best technology for the task because if the excellent clarity and quality of print. “Magicard and NTD are proud to support the IFA to deliver the efficiency and high standard required.” Now, thanks to the Irish FA’s partnership with Academy Soccer Coach, there is the ability to provide football coaches across the world with the tools, ideas and knowledge to inspire and develop their players. NTD supply the full range of Magicard printers from the value range for a small business to The Magicard Prima 4 for organisations with a high-volume demand. Contact NTD on 028 9260 4000 or email@example.com to arrange a demonstration.
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Bernadette McCullagh Dúinn Designs
úinn Designs offers a new range of contemporary patterned textiles that uses myths and legends and iconic symbols as inspiration. The range of silk scarves and homewear highlight modern Celtic heritage, patterns include Skellig Island, Giants Causeway, the Brown Bull of Cooley and the Titanic. Dúinn Designs was set up two years ago by Bernadette McCullagh, who originally sold her products through her website, www. duinndesigns.com. As well as online, the products are now also stocked in 25 designled retailers across Ireland and in the onboard Boutique magazine on all Aer Lingus flights. One sentence, what do you do? I create a range of contemporary Irish heritage patterns on silk scarves and homewear and follow each pattern from the first design concept, through to the production stage and finally seeing them being stocked in a retailer or sold direct to the customer. Why is there a need for what you do and who are our customers? Modern Ireland is not about the “Paddy Whackery” designed products imported from China that are too readily available. We are a country full of history, heritage, music and song and this needs to be taken through into our product designs so we can be proud of who we are and present ourselves in the right way. Dúinn Designs customers are people who have a strong affilation to Ireland both at home and abroad and who understand and value Irish heritage. What makes you better than what’s already out there? There is no brand out there that has created a range of Irish heritage patterns, so I am plodding my own path and hoping a few more will be inspired and join me to raise
awareness of our wonderful heritage through design. What excites you most about what you do? When I get “the idea” in my head of how a pattern should look and working through the many drawings and colours until the final design and sample stage. The hours, days and sometimes weeks can be exciting. I also get a buzz when someone really understands what I am doing and loves the designs. What are the biggest challenges you’ve come up against so far? My single biggest challenge has been the manufacturing of my range on the island of Ireland. What would help you kick on to the next level? Visibility and volume sales is key for Dúinn Designs and I believe the US market is where
I need to direct my focus to the established Irish Diaspora and the Americans interested in Irish Heritage. This means the development of trade links to the states and a very targeted e-commerce platform that points and sells into specific target markets. What do you want to ultimately want to achieve? A profitable Irish heritage brand that is internationally recognised and understood for the significance of the patterns. Who Inspires you in business? Irish designer, Orla Kiely is a big inspiration and I’ve followed her work for many years. I love how she has expanded her design business that works across so many product ranges and now has her own stores worldwide. Like her, I wanted to create my own “Irish” themed pattern that had a story behind it, and so Dúinn meaning “for us” was born. ■
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ONES TO WATCH
Ciaran Larkin Inventor
iaran Larkin, the man behind maderealdesign.com, has been designing and building things from an early age. It’s a talent which turned from a hobby to a career when he started making props, costumes and personalised gifts after leaving university, one which rocketed after a pitch at The Inventor’s Workshop in 2015 where he ended up being snapped up by US toy giant Hasbro. That one pitch essentially changed his life and since then, Ciaran has been splitting his time between his home in Belfast and the US working on top secret projects for the legendary company. What do you do? I’m an inventor/product designer/maker of things How did you manage to get involved with such a global company as Hasbro? I’ve been designing and building things for most of my life but things kicked off
with Hasbro when I attended the Inventor’s Workshop event in England in September 2015. I pitched to Rich Mazel who had flown over from Hasbro’s US headquarters, and those 10 minutes changed my life! How much freedom do you have when it comes to the inventions you come up with? As things are currently, I have complete freedom over the inventions I come up with. I am used to working in a more traditional style – making models by hand with no digital or computer-based design work, and I feel that gives me the most freedom. Sitting at a computer is always part of the process of product design these days, but there’s a creative freedom for me that I can only get from practical work. Where do you get your inspiration? I take most of my inspiration from movies. I’ve always been a fan especially of superhero/scifi style films, and I strive to build products that can recreate the digital CGI magic moments that are deemed “impossible” in real life.
As a fan I am literally designing the kinds of products that I wish were available to buy. What advice would you give to other inventors who want to follow your path? My advice is to find your passion, do everything you can do to pursue it, then you should find that you are forging your own path. I had no-one before me who had done what I wanted to do, so a lot of the time I was stumbling along that path blindly, with only my inner belief in what I was doing to guide me along the way. I feel like I am living proof that if you work hard enough and believe in yourself you will get to where you want to be. What does the future hold for you? This past two years have been a complete rollercoaster but I’m not ready to stop the ride yet! A lot of my design work in the industry so far has been related to a very particular and top secret new product, and at this moment we are hoping to see that finally be unveiled to the public next year. Hopefully it will be the first of many things to come! ■
THE NEW KID ON THE BLOCK: Meet the Law Firm Shaking Up the Belfast Legal Market
March 2017 saw Keystone Law make its first foray into the Northern Irish market, following on from a commercial merger with established Belfast-based practice McMahon McKay. Less than a year later, Keystone Law (NI) Limited is hiring top performers and working on some of the jurisdiction’s biggest projects, including an £80 million refinancing deal of property giant, Kilmona Group banking facilities. So what is it about this new age trailblazer that’s causing such a stir? THE KEYSTONE STORY The deal that brought Keystone Law, the UK’s first dispersed firm, together with the budding McMahon McKay marked the climax of a two-year quest to find Keystone’s perfect partner in Northern Ireland. Founder James Knight believed that the jurisdiction was “ready for something new” and the timing couldn’t have been more perfect. “The dynamic performance and impressive growth displayed by McMahon McKay caught our attention and discussions proceeded reassuringly quickly.” Knight added. During a period of unprecedented change for Northern Ireland, the UK as a whole and their unique relationship with the Republic of Ireland, John McMahon and Danny McKay saw a commercial merger with Keystone as the ideal way to provide a comprehensive range of integrated client benefits, that could better suit the constantly evolving needs of their clients across the country. Situated just a stone’s throw from the landmark Belfast City Hall, in the Linen Quarter, Keystone NI’s presence in the province pivots around its suite of offices. The team based in the Belfast office has grown rapidly since the firm’s launch and adopts a versatile approach that always results in a customised client offering, designed to lend itself to the needs of each individual or business. Offering a wealth of specialist experience, the firm’s senior practitioners are free to work in an agile manner whether that be remotely, on site or as part of a plug-in service where required within the client’s own environment. This allows for increased interaction, on a one-to-one basis, and the opportunity for clients to see, directly, the tangible value their legal adviser is providing.
STRATEGY Supported by a carefully curated team of more than 250 lawyers across the whole firm, Keystone NI is able to draw on impressive international links and comprehensive experience, in dealing with every area of law impacting on businesses and private individuals. Combined with the knowledge of leading Northern Ireland law practitioners, this enables the firm to provide a seamless and refreshing service to domestic and international clients alike.
This strategic approach bolsters collaboration and the symbiotic connection between London and Belfast, in turn cultivating business growth and modern legal service delivery in both locations.
FUTURE GAZING Defined by ambition and an innovative DNA, Keystone Law has big plans for the future. Becoming the 3rd UK firm to join the AIM market back in November, John McMahon believes that the London firm’s flotation will not only increase brand recognition and lend further credibility to the business offering for clients and lawyers, it will provide a strong platform through which to facilitate growth – not just for the wider group but, crucially, for Keystone Law Northern Ireland. “We look forward to seeing what opportunities the successful flotation will provide as our practice here in Northern Ireland continues to grow. Initiatives in the pipeline for us include expansion, cross-border reach, and the introduction of new sectors in the near future.” As we enter 2018, the firm’s leadership is brimming with excitement about the rapidly expanding client base and instructions that are being won. On the tech side, Keystone NI is doing work for entrepreneurial companies such as Genesis Aerotech and AuditComply and others local to Northern Ireland who are active in R&D, online platforms, end-user licensing, and data security innovations. On the corporate side, John and JP have been integral to three major acquisitions with other Keystone corporate lawyers in deals in the concrete, roads, and office-services sectors worth £75 million+. Property continues to perform exceptionally well with a number of re-finance transactions and acquisitions for clients including Keltbray Group, Kilmona Group, Andras House, and the Benmore Group. The team’s work and growing reputation as legal innovators has led to solid plans to take part in a number of trade missions outside of Northern Ireland in the coming year, including involvement in New York New Belfast in June 2018. Keystone NI will use these opportunities to showcase their talents and the benefits of Northern Ireland as a place to do deals and transact business
DIRECT ACCESS TO SENIOR LAWYERS
Managing Director (NI)
Commercial Director (NI)
Senior Solicitor (NI)
John is a solicitor and is qualified to practise in three jurisdictions: England and Wales, Northern Ireland, and the Republic of Ireland. He is also admitted as a Barrister and an Attorney in Bermuda. With particular expertise in corporate, commercial and intellectual property matters, his career has included a number of years spent in both private practice and in-house. John also has a particular interest in advising clients in the property, energy, retail, hospitality, sport, and general contracting industries.
Danny is an experienced Northern Ireland-qualified solicitor who specialises in advising clients on a range of residential conveyancing, commercial conveyancing and pharmaceutical licensing legal issues. With more than 25 years’ experience he is well placed to advise both corporate and private clients.
Director Corporate & Commercial (NI) JP leads the growth of interconnected corporate, commercial, transactional, and regulatory legal service lines. JP is a highly regarded corporate and commercial lawyer with a wealth of knowledge gained in London and Brussels with the global law firm Clifford Chance followed by two pioneering corporate counsel roles in the UK.
Jim advises on all aspects of commercial property. He acts for landlords and tenants in the negotiation of leases for retail, office, industrial and hotel accommodation, as well as advising on the management of such properties. Jim has advised both GB and US funds on the proposed acquisition of Northern Ireland loan portfolios. He is also well versed in leading due diligence exercises, having been involved in the financing of various major Northern Ireland property assets by GB and NI banks.
‘‘CAPABLE, COMMERCIAL AND RESPONSIVE” Legal 500 2017
t 028 9002 2520 | e firstname.lastname@example.org Rochester Building 1st Floor, 28 Adelaide Street, Belfast, BT2 8JD
At Siemens, l/r: John McPhillips and Kieran Meehan from Almeric Ltd, Rob McConachie Managing Director at Park Electrical Services and Gary O’Callaghan CEO Siemens Ltd
Park Electrical Services goes from strength to strength Established in 1973 in Belfast, Northern Ireland, Park Electrical Services is a leading supplier of specialist electrical power, control and automation products.
A We currently have an Apprentice working with us, Alex Wright. Alex started with us in July 2017 and is currently studying Higher Level Mechatronics at South Eastern Regional College, meanwhile completing a three-year Apprenticeship at Park Electrical Services. During the three-year Apprenticeship Alex will have experience in all the major departments within Park Electrical, becoming fully skilled in our Automation Department. Alex’s long-term career goal is to work within the Automation Industry. His time here at Park Electrical will prepare him for that by developing his skills and knowledge within that area.
commitment to both quality electrical supplies and industryleading customer service has enabled Park Electrical Services to remain the UK's fastest growing Power, Control and Automation technical distributor. A total of 109 staff support our customers from a network of established branches in Belfast, Dublin, Glasgow and Wrexham. In addition, we have just recently expanded opening a new branch in Aberdeen. The opening of the Aberdeen branch was born out of a gap in the market for a technical distributor who carried stock, a factor which meant there wasn’t a lengthy waiting times for key products. The support of market-leading manufacturers and the recruitment of true “Park people” to serve our customers is a proven recipe for success.
Value added reseller with Siemens One of the advantages of dealing with the Park Electrical Services group is the seamless integration of quality solutions across the complete spectrum of automation, drives, power, switchgear, control gear, instrumentation and analytical equipment. As a Value Added Reseller for Siemens, Park Electrical Services receive training, support and certification in key technologies. This in turn allows us to combine leading-edge technology from the world’s largest engineering company with our legendary devotion to helping our customers. Siemens work closely with a select global network of partners – proven technology leaders and industry experts – to ensure that all of your automation, drive technology and power distribution requirements are met, everywhere and at any time. Specialised products We specialise in industrial control, automation and switchgear products and systems. Any products found within a
A commitment to both quality electrical equipment and industry leading customer service has enabled Park Electrical Services to expand across the UK and Ireland to service the needs of a much broader audience. Park Electrical takes over Almeric Ltd In March 2017 Park Electrical Services completed the acquisition of a well-known company within the Automation industry in Ireland, Almeric Ltd. About Almeric Ltd Almeric Ltd is the Siemens distribution partner for the Republic of Ireland and gives Park Electrical Services the full support of Siemens on the island of Ireland for their full range of industrial control and automation products.
Eric Anderson is the Branch manager of Aberdeen along with Store Supervisor James Lowe
modern control system can be found at your local Park Electrical Services branch. All of our staff are fully trained to support the full range of products we sell. Today, Park Electrical Services is recognised as a major supplier of specialist electrical equipment, with all leading brands in stock available for purchase at our Trade Counters on site. Call our Sales Team, or purchase our products on our website at www.parkelect.co.uk.
We are proud to have been the first technical distributor in the UK and Ireland to be awarded BS5750 in 1987 and have retained a third party-verified Quality Management accreditation ever since, now operating to ISO9001:2015. This is in addition to our ISO18001 and ISO14001 accreditation for Environmental Management and Health & Safety.
I was appointed to a senior role within Park Electrical Services in January 2014. Up until this point I had worked for the Company either in a sales or engineering role with a two-year break to work for one of our suppliers. Straight from school I did an electrical engineering degree in Manchester in 2003 before joining the company as a Sales Engineer. My father, Jim McConachie, started Park Electrical Services in 1973 to supply specialist industrial electrical equipment to the Northern Irish panel builders. We now have a branch network of 12 branches covering the UK and Ireland. We focus on being able to help our customers. For us, this means carrying the rights stock and having staff that can support it. Each of our branches has the autonomy to carry the stock that the branch manager feels is necessary to ensure that we can deliver quickly to our customers, especially if they are on a break-down. We continually invest in our staff to ensure that they have the skills and technical training to
Almeric was established in 2003 as the authorised distribution partner for Siemens Automation systems in Ireland and specialises in the areas of Programmable Logic Controllers (PLCâ€™s), Scada systems, Operator Control Panels, Touch Panels, Industrial Networking Components and Wireless Networking Components.
We recently re-employed Justin Trainor as an Applications Engineer, his role being to ensure that our customers can get the maximum benefit from the technology that we sell. The fast pace of technology change, coupled with the unprecedented economic environment that we operate in puts ever increasing pressure on our customers to ensure that they remain competitive in the local, national and international markets within which they operate. We make sure that we can support them through being an active part of their supply chain and by being a technology partner.
support the products and systems that we sell. We have fourth year apprentice, Alex Wright, completing a Mechatronics course with South Eastern Regional College and two of his colleagues, James Crawford and Gavin Hamilton, doing the same topic at night school.
We completed the acquisition of Almeric Ltd in March this year. This strategic acquisition means that Park Electrical Services can now support the full Siemens industrial automation and control portfolio for Ireland, North and South. We have a fully trained, dedicated team of 27 sales and engineering staff in Ireland working every day to ensure that we help our customers.
Guiding the next generation
dvances in technology have opened doors to career choices we could never have imagined twenty years ago. Schools have had to keep pace with this change within their careers, education, information, advice and guidance provision (CEIAG) and Campbell College has worked hard to ensure their pupils are well prepared and fully informed to make the best career choices. A combination of information, industry events, work experience and connecting pupils with Alumni in different industry sectors all help guide A-Level students through a very competitive and pressured time. Two pupils who have benef ited fited from the advice they have been given are Year 14 students; John Harrison (Head Prefect) and Jack McAllister. John Harrison is studying Chemistry, Mathematics and History at A Level. He has applied to read Chemistry at either Durham University, University of St Andrews, or Queen’s University Belfast. “I have always liked Chemistry, but it was at a careers talk that I really started to think about Chemistry as an area that could open up interesting career options. An Old Campbellian came to talk to us about medicine and he focused on the growing importance of Chemistry - particularly in the research and development of new drugs. This really appealed to me and I started to investigate the various career paths that involved Chemistry. I was really surprised to see the diversity of applications Chemistry could lead into so many different roles. It was hearing f irst 7 hand from a former pupil that really got me taking Chemistry seriously. “
John Harrison and Jack McAllister
Jack McAllister is studying Business Studies, Sports Science and Technology and wants to pursue Business Management at University. “I originally thought that a career linking with sport would be my preference, however, it was following work experience at the Bank of Ireland that I started thinking more broadly about a career in business. I realised after this experience that it was important not to narrow my options too soon - especially as I was not sure what I wanted to do. I now feel really comfortable that a degree in Business Management will help me move to the next stage and keep my options open. I would like one day to run my own business, but I recognise that I have so much to learn and the more experience I can get the better. It was the combination of teachers, parents and actual experience in a business that helped me to make the decision.” Head of Careers for Campbell College, Mrs Sarah Coetzee, comments, “The most important thing to remember is that every pupil is different and it is important to listen to what they want as well as looking at how they perform in subjects.
Pic by Robbie Cooper, Year 10
There are so many diverse and interesting career options out there and it is vital that we open up students’ minds to the possibilities, encouraging them to reach high whilst also being realistic and managing expectations. Pointing students in the right direction takes a combination of approaches and must involve a collaborative approach with pupils and parents.” Campbell College Open Days take place on Friday 19th January and Saturday 20th January 2018. For more information, visit. www.campbellcollege.co.uk
Venture Capital & Private Equity
Time to turn to private equity? Alternative forms of capital are gaining traction in Northern Ireland. We find out how to decide if private equity is an option for your business and, if so, how to go about finding an investor with the help of the British Private Equity and Venture Capital Association SOME OF THE BENEFITS OF PRIVATE EQUITY Private equity-backed companies have been shown to grow faster than other types of companies. This is made possible by the provision of a combination of capital and experienced personal input from private equity executives, which sets it apart from other forms of finance. Private equity can help you achieve your ambitions for your company and provide a stable base for strategic decision making. The private equity firms will seek to increase a company’s value to its owners, without taking day-to-day management control. Although you may have a smaller “slice of cake”, within a few years your “slice” should be worth considerably more than the whole “cake” was to you before. Private equity firms often work in conjunction with other providers of finance and may be able to help you to put a total funding package together for your business.
WOULD MY COMPANY BE ATTRACTIVE TO A PRIVATE EQUITY INVESTOR? Many small companies are “life-style” businesses whose main purpose is to provide a good standard of living and job satisfaction for their owners.
These businesses are not generally suitable for private equity investment, as they are unlikely to provide the potential financial returns to make them of interest to an external investor. “Entrepreneurial” businesses can be distinguished from others by their aspirations and potential for growth, rather than by their current size. Such businesses are aiming to grow rapidly to a significant size. As a rule of thumb, unless a business can offer the prospect of significant turnover growth within five years, it is unlikely to be of interest to a private equity firm. Private equity investors are only interested in companies with high growth prospects, which are managed by experienced and ambitious teams who are capable of turning their business plan into reality. However, provided there is real growth potential the private equity industry is interested in all stages, from start-up to buyout.
QUESTIONS TO POSE TO YOURSELF BEFORE LOOKING FOR PRIVATE EQUITY • Does your company have high growth prospects and are you and your team ambitious to grow your company rapidly?
• Does your company have a product or service with a competitive edge or unique selling point? • Do you and/or your management team have relevant industry sector experience? Do you have a clear team leader and a team with complementary areas of expertise, such as management, marketing, finance, etc? • Are you willing to sell some of your company’s shares to a private equity investor? • If your answers are “yes”, private equity is worth considering.
SOURCES OF PRIVATE EQUITY There is a wide range of types and styles of private equity available in the UK. The primary sources are private equity firms who may provide finance at all investment stages and business angels who focus on the start-up and early stages. In targeting prospective sources of finance and business partners, as in any field, it works best if you know something about how they operate, their structure, and their preferences.
WHERE DO PRIVATE EQUITY FIRMS OBTAIN THE MONEY TO INVEST IN MY BUSINESS? Just as you and your management team are competing for finance, so are private equity firms, as they raise their funds from a number of different sources. To obtain their funds, private
equity firms have to demonstrate a good track record and the prospect of producing returns greater than can be achieved through fixed interest or quoted equity investments. Most UK private equity firms raise their funds for investment from external sources, mainly institutional investors, such as pension funds and insurance companies, and are known as independents. Private equity firms that obtain their funds mainly from their parent organisation are known as captives. Increasingly, former captives now raise funds from external sources as well and are known as semi-captives. These different terms for private equity firms now overlap considerably and so are increasingly rarely used.
HOW MAY THE SOURCE OF A PRIVATE EQUITY FIRM’S MONEY AFFECT ME? Private equity firms’ investment preferences may be affected by the source of their funds. Many funds raised from external sources are structured as limited partnerships and usually have a fixed life of 10 years. Within this period the funds invest the money committed to them and by the end of the 10 years they will have had to return the investors’ original money, plus any additional returns made. This generally requires the investments to be sold, or to be in the form of quoted shares, before the end of the fund. Some funds are structured as quoted private equity investment trusts, listed on the London Stock Exchange and other major European stock markets and, as they have no fixed lifespan, they may be able to offer companies a longer investment horizon. Venture Capital Trusts are quoted vehicles that aim to encourage investment in smaller unlisted (unquoted and AIM quoted) UK companies by offering private investors tax incentives in return for a five-year investment commitment. If funds are obtained from a VCT, there may be some restrictions regarding the company’s future development within the first few years.
SELECTING A PRIVATE EQUITY FIRM Firstly, decide whether or not to hire an adviser. Targeting The most effective way of raising private equity is to select just a few private equity firms to
target with your business proposition. The key considerations should be to assess: 1. The stage of your company’s development or the type of private equity investment required. 2. The industry sector in which your business operates. 3. The amount of finance your company needs. 4. The geographical location of your business operations. You should select only those private equity firms whose investment preferences match these attributes.
Other early stage To initiate commercial manufacturing and sales in companies that have completed the product development stage, but may not yet be generating profits. This is a stage that has been attracting an increasing amount of private equity over the past few years. Expansion To grow and expand an established company. For example, to finance increased production capacity, product development, marketing and to provide additional working capital. Also known as “development” or “growth” capital.
STAGE/TYPE OF INVESTMENT The terms that most private equity firms use to define the stage of a company’s development are determined by the purpose for which the financing is required. Seed To allow a business concept to be developed, perhaps involving the production of a business plan, prototypes and additional research, prior to bringing a product to market and commencing large-scale manufacturing. Only a few seed financings are undertaken each year by private equity firms. Many seed financings are too small and require too much hands-on support from the private equity firm to make them economically viable as investments. There are, however, some specialist private equity firms which are worth approaching, subject to the company meeting their other investment preferences. Business angel capital should also be considered, as with a business angel on a company’s board, it may be more attractive to private equity firms when later stage funds are required. Start-up To develop the company’s products and fund their initial marketing. Companies may be in the process of being set up or may have been trading for a short time, but not have sold their product commercially. Although many start-ups are typically smaller companies, there is an increasing number of multimillion pound start-ups. Several BVCA members will consider high quality and generally larger start-up propositions as well as investing in the later stages. However, there are those who specialise in the startup stage, subject to the company seeking investment meeting the firm’s other investment preferences.
Management buy-out (MBO) To enable the current operating management and investors to acquire or to purchase a significant shareholding in the product line or business they manage. MBOs range from the acquisition of relatively small formerly family owned businesses to well over £100m buy-outs. The amounts concerned tend to be larger than other types of financing, as they involve the acquisition of an entire business. Management buy-in (MBI) To enable a manager or group of managers from outside a company to buy into it. Buy-in management buy-out (BIMBO) To enable a company’s management to acquire the business they manage with the assistance of some incoming management. Institutional buy-out (IBO) To enable a private equity firm to acquire a company, following which the incumbent and/or incoming management will be given or acquire a stake in the business. This is a relatively new term and is an increasingly used method of buy-out. It is a method often preferred by vendors, as it reduces the number of parties with whom they have to negotiate. Secondary purchase When a private equity firm acquires existing shares in a company from another private equity firm or from another shareholder or shareholders. Replacement equity To allow existing non-private equity investors to buy back or redeem part, or all, of another investor’s shareholding. ■
NIâ€™s leading Venture Investor
Fusion Antibodies plc
Belfast Power Limited
IPO and Investment by
Crescent Capital III LP
Crescent Capital III LP
Crescent Capital III LP
Crescent Capital III LP
Crescent Capital III LP
2016 & 2017
B9 Energy Control Limited
Analytics Engines Limited
Crescent Capital III LP
Crescent Capital III LP
Crescent Capital III LP
Crescent Capital III LP
Crescent Capital III LP
2015, 2016 & 2017
2014 & 2016
for over two decades Recent Exits:
Andor Technology plc
acquired for ÂŁ176m by
Royal Philips N.V.
SHV Energy N.V.
Oxford Instruments plc
Kana Software, Inc.
Development Capital for Northern Ireland Established 1995 7 Upper Crescent Belfast BT7 1NT Tel: 028 9023 3633 www.crescentcapital.co.uk Authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority This announcement appears as a matter of record only
Titanic ambition Judith Owens, Titanic Belfast’s Chief Executive Officer, explains how it is evolving and sets out her ambitions for the future
udith Owens took over the reins as Titanic Belfast’s Chief Executive in December, having been Director of Operations and Deputy Chief Executive since before it opened in 2012. She has been fundamental to the success of the award-winning tourist attraction looking after all front-of-house operations. “Reflecting upon 2017, we can look back proudly at what has been our most successful year to date as a business. Not only have we experienced our busiest year to date, welcomed our four millionth visitor, but we were the World’s Leading Tourist Attraction. “We worked very hard on all fronts, operationally and with public tourism marketing agencies to collaboratively capitalise on the award win and further raise the profile of tourism in Northern Ireland. I believe the award shone a spotlight not only on our authentic connection to Titanic but the whole industry’s offering. “This financial year to date, we have welcomed over 85% of our visitors from outside Northern Ireland. I believe that 2018, with the recent Lonely Planet accolade and the Rising Star Award from National Geographic, will bring greater opportunities
and possibilities which will be reflected in the growth and profile of international visitors. “Belfast and Northern Ireland’s offering is constantly growing and diversifying from Titanic to Game of Thrones, new unique hotels such as the Titanic Hotel Belfast and many more on the horizon. These developments continue to provide key hooks to attract visitors and in turn will support business tourism.” Judith is one of the UK’s most experienced and established operational venue management professionals with experience spanning nearly three decades. She has led the operation of all signature events at Titanic Belfast, including BBC Sports Personality of the Year Red Carpet event, MTV Sounds and BBC Proms in the Park. Speaking about what is next for Titanic Belfast and the other two venues it operates (SS Nomadic and the Titanic Exhibition Centre), she said:“We have and will continue to reap the benefits of new and existing venues. New events have been drawn to the city, for example the award-winning Routes Europe Conference. “There is plenty more in the pipeline and we will continue to work with industry partners
to deliver these high profile events. On top of that, across our three venues, we have some exciting developments planned and will continue to push the boundaries in service and innovation.” In 2018, there are many more developments on the horizon. With huge investment in Belfast’s hotel infrastructure, increased air access, the increasing popularity of Belfast as a destination, married with the success of recent large scale events, which show Northern Ireland’s ‘can-do’ attitude, Judith believes Belfast’s presence on the national and international stage will only increase. With all of the above, there is also development for Titanic Belfast ahead, Judith commented: “At Titanic Belfast, we do not rest on our laurels. With increasing visitor numbers and global awareness of Northern Ireland’s incredible hospitality offering, we are developing an exciting new event space and enhancing our food and drink proposition. “There is no doubt 2018 will be a year of opportunities and possibilities, not without its challenges, including Brexit, but I’m sure Northern Ireland will rise to meet them.” ■ For more information, visit www.titanicbelfast.com.
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T i Ta N i c V e N u e s B e L Fa s T. c o m
By David Elliott
The column that doesn’t have time for lunch... BREAKFASTEER: DAVE MCCLURE, DIRECTOR AT OSBORNE KING BREAKFASTING VENUE: ROSS’S CAFÉ
But today we find ourselves in a venue which ticks both the box marked “not a huge schlep from the office” and the great red box surrounded by flashing lights marked “hasn’t been covered before in this column”. Bingo.
his column has searched far and wide for suitable breakfasting venues over the years but generally settled for those within easy reach of Ulster Business towers.
Having passed by Ross’s Auctioneer and Valuers on countless occasions before, it was a hugely pleasant surprise to step down in Ross’s Café in the basement corner of the red brick building which the stalwart business occupies.
Regular readers will know that has resulted in a lot of repeat business for some of the proprietors of a small group of venues which are open a stupid-o’clock in the morning and not enough broadening of the horizons for either you, dear reader, or this reporter’s expense claims.
Run independently of the auctioneer house by John Dougherty, it is a hidden gem on the breakfasting and lunching scene in Belfast, not just because of its cosy basement setting but also because the coffee and food are excellent.
Your scribe breakfasted on poached eggs and bacon and, I think, Dave McClure had the same but I was too distracted by the chalkboard lunch menu – adorned with items such as spicy potato cake with black pudding, chorizo and egg, spinach and feta pie with chilli jam and panang curry – to be able to corroborate that completely. The breakfast was top class and has since prompted a number of return visits for both breakfast and lunch where the service and food didn’t once falter. In a way it’s a shame to be telling you this as it might be harder to find a table in the future if you all start going, but then again it is always going to do well given it’s armed with those two key ingredients. Today’s interviewee is a regular and it was on his suggestion we met here, despite Ulster Business initially thinking we were going to view some furniture in the upstairs auction house. The café is close to the Osborne King headquarters where Dave McClure is a director within the firm’s Advisory department. There he’s in charge of providing landlord and tenant advice for shopping centre and retail assets both here in Northern Ireland and further afield in the rest of the UK. He works closely with local banks and has recently been providing valuation and advisory support to US private equity funds. He is also the primary property adviser to some of Northern Ireland’s most successful local businesses, including the Herbert Group
“The auctions are something we’re incredibly proud of,” Dave said. “We’re still ranked in the top eight auctioneers in the UK and have a 92%/93% success rate. “It was something we debated long and hard before starting but it has become part of the business and the property coming forward has slowly shifted from distressed bank sales to private individuals looking for a speedier sale.” The future would appear to be exciting for Osborne King. “Our market share is very positive,” he said. “We have other projects ongoing at the moment of sufficient quantum to make a real difference to our business next year. “We have a steady platform, good people, a good backbone and we’re a strong, local brand.”
of Companies which operates Europe’s largest KFC franchise. That is quite a remit and one in which he has built up expertise in during his years at the firm, years which he says have flown by since joining as a relatively raw recruit in 1998 fresh from Edinburgh Napier University. Starting with a spell on the agency side of the business, he then moved into professional services under the guidance of that doyen of the commercial property market, cane toads and now managing director of the agency, Martin McDowell. A specialism in retail followed and the rest, as they say, is history. “I was lucky enough to have a really good mentor and also took part in the Osborne King graduate training programme which was a great help,” Dave said, adding that it is still a “I’m a great believer in bringing people along and we continue to do that.” One of the things Dave is particularly proud of is the fact Osborne King didn’t reduce its headcount during the downturn, preferring instead to upskill the workforce in preparation for the upswing.
“It is easy to cut people when times get tough but we’ve taken the view that we’re in this for the long haul,” he said. “That really helped us when the market came back because we had a breadth of experience in the team that is unmatched and retained a key client list because of it. “Part of the challenge is to bring the young guys with us as the market progresses and we’ve committed to doing it.” He’s also proud of the firm’s position as the biggest independent commercial estate agency in Northern Ireland, one which has wooed investors. “Local private individuals are the key players at the moment. The locals have realised that although there’s uncertainty out there, business continues to turn and a lot of the big players in the market are back, and we’re dealing with most of them. “I’m comforted by the fact we have a serious slice of whatever is going on.” Osborne King are also at the forefront of the auction world having just completed another highly successful event in November and planning for another in March.
With that it’s time to head back to the coal face, metaphorically for the commercial property guru but literally for your scribbler. As for Ross’s Café, get along there as soon as possible; just leave a seat free for me. ■
Ross’s Ca fe 4 x coffe e - £2.50 2 x brea kfast £5.95 Total - £ 21.90
Responsible Business Awards in Northern Ireland 2018 AWARDS
Launching the 2018 Responsible Business Awards in Northern Ireland are (front row from left): Ciaran McConnell, JP Corry; Kieran Harding, Business in the Community; Sonia Armstrong, Ulster Business; (back row from left) Rosemary Lundy, Arthur Cox; Chris James, Fujitsu; Michelle Hatfield, George Best Belfast City Airport; Ciaran McCallion; Allen & Overy; Jenni Barkley, Belfast Harbour; Adrian Doran, Barclays; Judith Marrs, Survitec
It’s time to celebrate Northern Ireland’s responsible businesses
he 2018 Responsible Business Awards in Northern Ireland are now open for entries. The annual awards, run by Business in the Community, seek to recognise and reward firms in Northern Ireland that are making a difference in their local communities by taking practical action to address key social and environmental issues. Held in association with Ulster Business, they are open to organisations – large and small – from any sector from across Northern Ireland. This year, there are 10 categories up for grabs (see opposite page for details). Chair of Business in the Community NI, Roy Adair CBE, said: “The Responsible Business Awards recognise those organisations that are truly having an impact on their people, the planet and the places where they operate. The responsible business movement has gone from strength-to-strength in Northern Ireland in recent years, and we want to recognise the contributions of companies that put social and environmental concerns at the heart of their corporate strategy.
Pictured launching the 2018 Responsible Business Awards in Northern Ireland is Michelle Hatfield, George Best Belfast City Airport (front) with Kieran Harding, Business in the Community and Sonia Armstrong, Ulster Business
“The Awards are free to enter and there is a category to suit every organisation. It doesn’t matter how big or small your business is, if your organisation is committed to being a force for good, we want to hear from you!” ■
Award applications can be made online at www.bitcni.org.uk/ awards. The closing date for entries is Friday 23 February 2018. Award applications can be made online at www.bitcni.org.uk/ The winners will be revealed at a glittering gala event at Belfast awards. The closing date for entries is Friday 23 February 2018. Waterfront Hall on Thursday 24 May 2018. The winners will be revealed at a glittering gala event at Belfast
HOW RESPONSIBLE IS YOUR ORGANISATION? Is your business an environmental leader, exemplar employer or education champion? If so, itâ€™s time to prepare your entries for the 2018 Responsible Business Awards in Northern Ireland.
NI RESPONSIBLE COMPANY OF THE YEAR, SPONSORED BY GEORGE BEST BELFAST CITY AIRPORT
For the company that best demonstrates positive impacts across its people, the planet and the places where it operates and advocates the benefits to encourage others to follow. *Please note, entry to this category is only open to companies that have achieved CORE: The Standard for Responsible Business. 2017 winner: George Best Belfast City Airport
BUILDING STRONGER COMMUNITIES AWARD For the organisation that best demonstrates a positive impact on communities through investing its time, resources and expertise to tackle disadvantage.
SPONSOR TO BE ANNOUNCED IN 2018
DIGITAL CHAMPION AWARD, SPONSORED BY FUJITSU For the organisation that best uses innovative, digital solutions to tackle environmental and social challenges.
DIVERSITY AND INCLUSION AWARD, SPONSORED BY BARCLAYS For the organisation that best demonstrates excellence in creating and developing a diverse and inclusive workplace which offers opportunities for all.
EDUCATION AWARD, SPONSORED BY ALLEN & OVERY For the organisation that best demonstrates how its actions have helped raise the aspirations and achievements of young people (aged 4-19) through a solid business education partnership.
EMPLOYABILITY CHAMPION AWARD, SPONSORED BY BELFAST HARBOUR For the organisation that best supports unemployed people by addressing employment across Northern Ireland through a wide range of initiative.
ENVIRONMENTAL LEADERSHIP AWARD, SPONSORED BY ARTHUR COX For the organisation that best demonstrates significant commitment and contribution to environmental sustainability in Northern Ireland through an initiative or its activities.
MARKETPLACE LEADERSHIP AWARD Recognising organisations that are developing innovative products or services that inspire responsible customer behaviour and encourage more sustainable lifestyles.
SPONSOR TO BE ANNOUNCED IN 2018
ONE-TO-WATCH AWARD, SPONSORED BY SURVITEC For a recently joined* Business in the Community member that has made significant progress in the development and implementation of its CR strategy. *This category is open to members who joined from January 2016 onwards only.
WELLBEING AT WORK AWARD For the organisation that demonstrates excellence in inspiring and supporting its employees to prioritise their health and wellbeing and embrace positive lifestyle choices.
SPONSOR TO BE ANNOUNCED IN 2018
To find find out out more, more, visit visit www.bitcni.org.uk/awards www.bitcni.org.uk/awards or or call call (028) (028) 9046 9046 0606. 0606. To Applications to the Responsible Business Awards in Northern Ireland can be made online at www.bitcni.org.uk/awards. Entries close on Friday 23 February 2018.
Belfast to host Startup World Cup Startup World Cup is coming to Belfast on 16th January 2018, brought to the city by The Belfast Shapers, a collective of creative and innovative thinkers and change-makers from Northern Ireland who are committed to designing solutions to prepare our community for the future. The event will see 10-15 businesses pitching to a judging panel of local experts, with one emerging technology startup securing a place in the grand final, which will take place on 11th May 2018 in San Francisco. “We are incredibly excited to bring this investment event to Northern Ireland,” Orla McGreevy, Belfast Shaper and Senior Business Development Executive at 4c Executive, said. “The scope is tremendous for our local entrepreneurs in that Fenox won’t rule any business out based on turnover, years trading or staff levels, what they’re really looking for is scalability and a disruptive business that can truly benefit from the $1m investment, plus an introduction to a first class network across America.” The Belfast Shapers shared with Ulster Business how thrilled they were to have the support of Ulster University, seeing a clear synergy with Startup World cup and the University being pioneers in educating
our upcoming talent across Northern Ireland whilst at the same time producing internationally acknowledged research. Orla also said Belfast City Council’s backing has been essential. “We’re over the moon to get support from Belfast City Council, the fact that a Silicon Valley Venture Capital firm is coming to our city and that they are enthusiastic about hearing from our local businesses really ties in with the Council’s ambitions for a Global Belfast for the future and their exciting Belfast Agenda”
Cathriona Hallahan, Managing Director, Microsoft Ireland
Tim Brundle, Director of Research & Impact, Ulster University
Helen Lennon Founder and CEO Secure Broadcast
Tristan Watson, CEO of Ignite
Cathriona Hallahan is Managing Director for Microsoft in Ireland, responsible for driving Microsoft’s commercial and consumer business on the island of Ireland. In addition to managing the continued growth and expansion of the business, Cathriona also represents the Company in Ireland on all strategic policy, corporate affairs and communications issues including overseeing a number of community, education and innovation programmes.
Tim directs Ulster’s research strategy, governance and administration, and guides its commercial output through knowledge transfer and intellectual property commercialisation. He also holds the position of Executive Director of Innovation Ulster Ltd, Ulster’s venturing and investment company. Tim has worked throughout his career in research-led organisations, with a focus on developing their customer-orientation, economic impact, business outcomes and shareholder value.
Helen Lennon is the founder and Chief Executive of Secure Broadcast, a pioneering Video Technology Company based in Belfast and London. Helen has been using and developing Video with Fortune Five Hundred companies for the last 15 years. Many have recognized her entrepreneurial skills; she is in constant demand internationally as a consultant and speaker.
Tristan Watson is CEO of Ignite Accelerator, a business that supports early stage tech companies across the UK. Ignite has accelerated more than 100 startups since 2011 and has a strong and proven track record selecting and supporting promising companies. The majority of the staff involved have founded businesses, raised investment, been knocked down, and got back up again. They have walked a mile in plenty of shoes.
Motoring By Pat Burns
Budget 2017 - what it means for your company vehicles Budget day was on Wednesday, November 22, 2017. Highlighted below are the Chancellor’s key Budget measures that will impact the company car and van sector, according to Paul Griffiths from Ogilvie Fleet COMPANY CAR BENEFIT-IN-KIND TAX • A rise in the existing company car tax diesel supplement from 3% to 4%, with effect from 6/4/2018. • Carbon dioxide (CO2) figures compatible with the current New European Driving Cycle (NEDC) test procedure will be used by HM Revenue and Customs for the purposes of collecting company car tax until April 2020. The government will however also take forward legislation in a future Finance Bill that will change the system for measuring carbon dioxide emissions to the Worldwide Harmonised Light Vehicle Test Procedure (WLTP) from April 2020. • From April 2018, there will be no benefitin-kind charge on electricity that employers provide to those employees that drive and charge full electric vehicles. Due to the decision to introduce WLTP-based emission data from April 2020, the government did not announce company car benefit-in-kind tax rates for years beyond 2020/21, which were previously announced ie NEDC figures will continue to be used until April 2020. Industry experts have suggested that CO2 figures on a car-by-car basis could increase by about 20% with introduction of the WLTP emissions data (new WLTP test procedure was introduced from 1/9/17).
DIESEL SUPPLEMENT INCREASE Figures show that approximately 800,000 employees who drive a diesel company car will pay more benefit-in-kind tax as a result of the 3% to 4% supplement increase from 6/4/2018. The government says the measure will pay for a near Clean Air Fund as part of the National Air Quality Plan published in July 2017. The rise
from 3% to 4% applies to all diesel cars that are not certified to the Real Driving Emissions 2 (RDE2) standard (applies to diesel cars but not hybrid diesels) registered on or after 1/1/1998.
charge and the van and car fuel benefit charges by the September 2017 Retail Price Index. The change will have effect on and after April 6, 2018.
However, the government says that 350,000 company car drivers per year replace their company cars, so within a few years, most affected drivers would have had the opportunity to choose new cars not subject to the supplement.
The new figures have yet to be announced but sums for 2017/18 are: • Car fuel benefit charge: £22,600 • Van benefit-in-kind charge: £3,230 • Van fuel benefit charge: £610
FUEL DUTY The government calculates that drivers of a BMW 3 Series (CO2 emissions 111-130g/km) will see tax bills rise in 2018/19 by £60 (basic rate taxpayer) and £120 (higher rate taxpayer), and a Ford Focus (CO2 emissions 91-100g/km) by £43/£86. The measure removes the diesel supplement altogether for diesel cars that are certified to the RDE2 standard.
VEHICLE EXCISE DUTY As part of the government’s focus on improving air quality - and in addition to the rise in the diesel company car tax supplement - a Vehicle Excise Duty (VED) supplement will apply to new diesel cars first registered from April 1, 2018, so that their First Year Rate will be calculated as if they were in the VED band above. It will not apply to next-generation clean diesels - those which are certified as meeting emissions limits in real driving conditions, known as Real Driving Emissions Step 2 (RDE2) standards.
VAN BENEFIT CHARGE AND VAN AND CAR FUEL BENEFIT CHARGE 2018/19 The government will increase the van benefit
The scheduled rise in fuel duty from April 2018 has been cancelled. It is the eighth consecutive year that there has been no increase.
ULTRA-LOW EMISSION VEHICLES To support the transition to zero emission vehicles, the government will: • Regulate to support the wider roll-out of charging infrastructure • Invest £200 million, to be matched by private investment into a new £400 million Charging Investment Infrastructure Fund • Commit to electrify 25% of cars in central government department fleets by 2022 • Provide £100 million to guarantee continuation of the Plug-In Car Grant to 2020 to help with the cost of purchasing a new battery electric vehicle • £40 million in charging research and development.
CONNECTED AND AUTONOMOUS VEHICLES (CAVS) The government wants to see fully self-driving cars, without a human operator, on UK roads by 2021. ■ Paul Griffiths, Head of Sales – NI, Ogilvie Fleet Ltd (e) firstname.lastname@example.org
Form an orderly Q I
reland’s first official Infiniti dealership opened in Belfast over the summer in a stylish, corporate showroom and workshop on Boucher Crescent.
At the start of the year, Infiniti had operated out of a pop-up dealership but the new Mervyn Stewart Infiniti showroom is reporting a healthy interest and is now under the management of Tom Magowan. Sales of Infiniti across the UK are up by 24 per cent so far this year. Infiniti is aimed at premium buyers, and the team in Belfast are reporting brisk sales particularly on the Q30 model as PCP deals start at £199 per month. Ulster Business tested the four wheel drive crossover version of this model, the QX30. This model is built at the Nissan plant in Sunderland as Infiniti is Nissan’s upmarket brand in the same way as Lexus is owned by Toyota. It is aimed at a new generation of premium buyers who appreciate quality design inside and out, the all-new QX30 premium active crossover boasts a purposeful appearance and makes a bold visual statement. The QX30 offers an elevated ride height, confidence-inspiring handling, and a versatile attitude, underpinned by an intelligent allwheel drive system. As a result, the vehicle is able to take on urban, suburban and winding rural roads in all driving conditions. It also has a particularly quiet interior with some of the lowest noise, vibration and harshness (NVH) levels in the premium compact segment.
By Pat Burns
Sound proofing is further aided by Active Noise Cancellation, which emits sound waves from the door speakers to negate any instances of booming noise emanating from the diesel powertrain. While the slightly firmer suspension of the QX30 compared to the Q30 helps to counteract the effects of a higher centre of gravity, the modifications to the chassis enable QX30 to remain comfortable at all speeds and over a variety of road surfaces. Another standard feature is the seven-speed dual-clutch transmission system. The dual-clutch intelligently pre-selects gears so the next shift is always ready to go, while manual mode lets the driver control gear changes when desired. Delivering seamless acceleration at any speed and in any gear, the application of torque is almost uninterrupted during gear changes, reducing lurching while in motion and between shifts. The QX30 is among the safest cars in its class owing to a range of active safety and hazard avoidance technologies that enhance the driving experience and provide maximum safety to all occupants. An Around View Monitor with moving object detection and automatic parking assistance makes the QX30 the easy car to park. An example of the attention to detail is the special metal plating method which allows the radar waves of the Intelligent Cruise Control to pass through the Infiniti badge without disrupting the QX30’s appearance with unseemly radar units. Prices for the QX30 range start at £29,490. ■
UP TO 5 YEARS Available with
Visit your local Vauxhall Northern Ireland Retailer or search Vauxhall Northern Ireland Official Government Test Environmental Data. Fuel consumption figures mpg (litres/100km) and CO2 emissions (g/km). Vauxhall Grandland X Sport Nav 1.2 (130PS): Urban: 47.1 (6.0), Extra-urban: 62.8 (4.5), Combined: 43.5 (6.5). CO2 emissions: 149g/km.# Model shown Grandland X Sport Nav 1.2 (130PS). Offer subject to availability, on selected models at participating Retailers only. Conditional Sale. Finance subject to status. Ts&Cs apply. Applicants must be 18+. Finance by Vauxhall Finance, CF15 7YT. 24-60 month term. Offer applies to private individuals, Vauxhall Partners and small businesses 1-24 vehicles (purchase only excluding B2B supported vehicles). All other customers are excluded. Offer available on orders or registrations between 19 December 2017 and 02 April 2018. #Fuel consumption information is official government environmental data, tested in accordance with the relevant EU directive. Official EU regulated test data is provided for comparison purposes and actual performance will depend on driving style, road conditions and other non-technical factors. Vauxhall Motors Limited reserves the right to change, amend or withdraw this offer at any point in time. Correct at time of going to press.
Mazda gets set for centenary By Pat Burns
apanese car maker Mazda celebrates its centenary in 2020 and in preparation has announced new styling, new engines and a shared hybrid production facility with Toyota. Still privately owned, Mazda has seen sales steadily increase around the world over the past few years and plan to expand on this success on the run in to its centenary. It already has a number of stand out successes – the rotary engine is 50 years old this year, it is the only Japanese manufacturer to have ever won at Le Mans and the MX-5 has continued in production for 27 years. The company ethos is to build cars that people want to drive. Looking ahead, it will launch an electric vehicle (EV) in 2019 followed by a hybrid in 2021. 2019 will also see the new SkyActiv-X
engines and new Koda design feature on the Mazda range. The new SkyActiv-X engines will feature high compression engines that will offer petrol performance with diesel consumption. The SkyActiv-X is a ground-breaking new engine exclusive to Mazda in which the benefits of a spark-ignition petrol engine— expansiveness at high rpms and cleaner exhaust emissions—have been combined with those of a compression-ignition diesel engine—superior initial response and fuel economy—to produce a crossover engine that delivers the best of both worlds. Mazda’s breakthrough has been achieved by deciding that even if a spark plug isn’t needed for compression ignition there can still be times such as cold starting that a spark plug is required so it is going to include spark plugs in the engine. This concept is the basis of Spark-Controlled Compression Ignition (SPCCI), Mazda’s unique combustion method.
Using SPCCI means that the range where compression ignition can take place (in terms of engine load and rpm) now covers the whole combustion range. That is to say, the potential application of compression ignition has now dramatically expanded, allowing this technology to be used in almost all driving conditions. In other words, because a spark plug is now being used at all times, the engine can switch seamlessly between combustion using compression ignition and combustion using spark ignition. In the meantime, Ulster Business has been driving one of it’s favourite hatchbacks, the Mazda3. In a world of crossovers and SUVs, it’s good to get back in this hatchback with a super smooth 2 litre engine, slick six speed gearbox and suspension that is ideally suited to Northern Ireland’s bumpy roads. It offers all the space you need, seating for five and a very high standard specification. Prices for the range start at £17,795. ■
BUYING BUYING SELLING SELLING&& VALUATIONS VALUATIONS MADE MADESIMPLE SIMPLE
Tel: +44 Tel:(0)28 +44 7946 (0)28 9564 7946 9564 1-6 Loves 1-6 Hill, Loves Castledawson Hill, Castledawson Road, Road, Magherafelt, Magherafelt, Co. L/Derry, Co. L/Derry, Northern Northern IrelandIreland BT45 8DP BT45 8DP
Victoria Hogg has been appointed Commerical Director at Enlighten IC. She spent over 10 years at DELL as Sales Director and is responsible for developing client relationships. Ruth Maguire has been appointed PR & Content Manager at Enlighten IC and is responsible for generating PR and specialist content for clients. Previously Ruth worked for three years as Marketing Manager for a start-up company. David McMenemy joins Enlighten IC as Digital Designer, providing full-service web development and graphic design for the business’s broad range of clients.
George McQuitty has been appointed Business Services Assistant at Northern Ireland Chamber of Commerce and Industry. In his role George will work as part of NI Chamber’s Business Services team. Hannah McGrath has been appointed as a solicitor at O’Reilly Stewart Solicitors in Belfast. Hannah joined the firm in 2013 as a paralegal and completed her professional studies in September. Kevin Reavey takes up the position of Graduate Surveyor at Osborne King’s Agency Department which involves a wide variety of commercial property activities.
Raymond Duddy has joined Davidson McDonnell from Tughans. Raymond possesses an extensive knowledge on a wide range of corporate matters and, alongside Vicky Dummigan, will grow the firm’s corporate and commercial practice. Giles Williams has joined Davidson McDonnell from Aaron & Partners in Chester. Giles brings considerable expertise to the already highly regarded Commercial Property team. Michael Colton has joined CloudMigrator36 as Partner Manager. His experience to date includes working on behalf of some of the largest technology clients worldwide..
Adam Brown has joined CloudMigrator36 as Pre-Sales Technical Manager. He has held several technical positions across a range of Government and local companies. Emily Houston has joined The Alpha Group as Sales Support Administrator Her role includes handling sales enquiries, order processing and supporting the sales team. Siobhan Bailie has been appointed graphic designer at The Alpha Group. Siobhan and her team are responsible for all marketing related graphic design production for the Alpha Group.
Claira McMinn has been appointed to the design team at 1080, a division of the Alpha Group as interior designer. Her duties include space planning, full interior design specification, preparing fit-out drawings and sample/mood boards. Jenna Watt has been appointed Solicitor at Johnsons Solicitors. Having joined Johnsons in 2013 as a paralegal, she commenced a training contract before qualifying as solicitor in 2016. Bradley Duncan has been appointed Solicitor at Johnsons Solicitors. Having joined Johnsons as a trainee in 2015, Bradley qualified as a solicitor in 2017.
Emma McKee has been appointed Trainee Solicitor at Johnsons Solicitors. Having worked in Johnsons since 2015 as a Paralegal, Emma graduated from Queenâ€™s University Belfast in September 2015. Darragh Carney has been appointed Trainee Solicitor at Johnsons Solicitors Darragh is a former Head Boy of St Josephâ€™s College Coalisland and a graduate of the University of Ulster. Kathryn Stevenson has been appointed as a Client Executive at MCE Public Relations. She joins MCE having previously worked for another PR agency and in the European Parliament for a local MEP.
PHOTOCALL 1. Bobby Singh (centre), owner of the new Coleraine Four Star Pizza store, is joined by team members Rui Pedro Ribeiro (left) and Jad Dorrian (right) to celebrate the opening of the store. It is part of an over £90,000 investment and created 18 new jobs in the area.
2. Michael Jackson (centre) Managing Director of Energy Trading Ireland (ETI) is pictured with members of the ETI team following the announcement of expansion plans which will see the firm open a Trading and Control Centre and create at least five new jobs.
2 3. Pictured at the launch of the 2017/2018 Go For It Programme are council chiefs from left Brendan Hegarty; Dr Theresa Donaldson; Liam Hannaway; Mary Gormley, Invest NI and Maeve Hamilton, Department for the Economy NI, representing the European Regional Development Fund, both key funders of the Programme; Roger Wilson, Stephen Reid, Anne Donaghy, Cathy Keenan and Jacqui Dixon.
3 4. Lava Monitoring, part of The Lava Group, has completed the first phase of installation of its innovative Sentry Lifebuoy monitoring system in Belfast Harbour, with 30 lifebuoys set to use the software during the next five years. Pictured, from left, are Gareth Morrison, CEO of The Lava Group, Kevin Allen, Harbour Master, Belfast Harbour and Paul Davidson, operations manager at The Lava Group.
5. BDO France has joined a list of organisations to be recognised by Queen’s University Belfast for excellence in the provision of work placement and employability opportunities. In the last three years, six Queen’s accountancy students have capitalised on the French connection completing stints the firm’s Paris, Lyon and Versailles offices. Pictured are Brian Murphy, BDO Northern Ireland; Miora Rakotomalala, BDO France and trainee Jessica Tsang.
PHOTOCALL 6. Yelo has opened its new facility at Trooperslane Industrial Estate, Carrickfergus. Pictured (L–R) are Peter McRoberts, business acquisition manager at Danske Bank, Invest NI Chief Executive Alastair Hamilton, Yelo Managing Director Richard Furey and Maureen Morrow, Mid and East Antrim Borough Council.
7. Maxol announced the renewal of its sponsorship with Ulster Mini Rugby for the next two seasons. Pictured at Kingspan Stadium in Belfast announcing the renewal is Brian Donaldson, CEO, Maxol and Ulster Rugby Players Tommy Bowe, Paul Marshall and Darren Cave. Also pictured is Seth Martin (8) with Charlie (7) and Chloe (9) Jennett.
8. Deloitte has unveiled plans to invest in, incubate and partner with start-ups in Northern Ireland by launching Deloitte Ventures in Belfast. Pictured (L-R) at the launch of Deloitte Ventures at the Ormeau Baths in Belfast are Ian Browne from IGNITE, Ben Bland from Sensum, Steve Orr of Catalyst Inc and Roisin Finnegan from Deloitte.
9. Amy Martin, Key Account Manager, Velocity Worldwide, Marc Mulholland, Executive Director, Basketball Hall of Fame Belfast Classic and Paul Johnston, General Manager, STATSports Technologies team up to announce partnerships with Velocity Worldwide and STATSports ahead of the Basketball Hall of Fame Belfast Classic.
10 JANUARY 2018
10. Neill’s Flour teamed up with Patton’s Bakery, chef Jenny Bristow and students from the Belfast Metropolitan College to attempt to break the Guinness World Record for the world’s largest scone. Warren Patton proprietor of Patton’s Bakery, Jenny Bristow celebrity chef, and Karl McCrum Sales and Marketing Manager of Neill’s Flour.
PHOTOCALL 11. Lynsey Cunningham, Entrepreneurial Development Manager at Ulster Bank with Brendan Smyth, left, Chief Development Office at arc-net, and Liam Brogan, right, CoFounder and Director of Ireland Craft Beers with the new Downstream beer.
12. Liam Hannaway, chief executive of Newry, Mourne and Down District Council; Marie Ward, Director of Enterprise Trade and Tourism; Councillor Roísín Mulgrew, chair of Newry, Mourne and Down District Council announce plans for a new £20m Civic Centre for Newry City.
13. Ulster University has been awarded funding of almost €400,000 to develop new mixing process technologies for milk powder hydration which aims to significantly enhance the economic competitiveness of the Irish dairy industry. Pictured (L-R) are Dr Barry O’Hagan, Lead Researcher at Ulster University, PHD student Lucy Gallagher and Dr Valeria Cenini.
13 14. Mark Dowds, co-founder of Ormeau Baths, welcomes The Young Foundation’s Roger Warnock as the entrepreneurial hub’s social innovation partner.
15. Pictured at the launch of CloudCompute, a new cloud computing platform, hosted locally by Atlas Communications are (l-r) Mark Mulvany, Dell EMC, Richard Simpson, Atlas Communications and Sam Trotter, Dell EMC (pic by Brian Morrison).
PHOTOCALL 16. The new Stellar Bench, designed and manufactured by Environmental Street Furniture, was awarded the Product of the Show Award at Innovate 2017 in Birmingham. Pictured (from left to right) Mike Mynard Business Development Manager of ESF, Dr Ruth McKernan CBE, Head of Innovate UK, Gareth Russell, Sales/Solar Specialist of ESF and Lorraine Acheson, NI Manager of Innovate UK.
17. Joint business owners Gareth and Lorna Murphy of We Are Vertigo are pictured having announced the Belfast-based adventure centre is expanding into the Titanic Quarter with the launch of Ireland’s first and only indoor skydive, representing a £1.5 million investment.
18. Mark Stewart-Maunder, Business Development Director, Henderson Foodservice Ltd, toasting the success of Barista Bar coffee in Northern Ireland. Barista Bar is on track to have 330 sites by Christmas, making it the region’s foremost retail coffee brand.
19. Pictured at the launch of Stephen Clements’ new book ‘Back in the Day’ at Q Radio’s headquarters are Stephen Clements and mentalist David Meade.
20 JANUARY 2018
20. A pilot employment scheme created by the Arts Council of Northern Ireland and managed by Creative & Cultural Skills has supported 89 new entry level jobs in the creative industries. Kathryn McShane and Jane Semple are two of the young people who benefitted from the programme with paid internships with Stendhal Festival. They are pictured with festival organisers Ross Parkhill and John Cartwright and Sara Graham, Nations Director from Creative & Cultural Skills.
PHOTOCALL 21. Students Ben Halligam and Jamie Martin from Fort Hill College in Lisburn are amongst those celebrating after receiving news they have qualified as finalists of the 2018 BT Young Scientist and Technology Exhibition.
22. Professor Eileen-Harkin Jones of Ulster University joins Tom Walls of Laser Prototypes Europe and Norman Apsley, Chief Executive of Catalyst Inc, as Laser Prototypes commits to vital additive manufacturing research with the ‘North West Centre for Advanced Manufacturing’ research programme.
23. From are Janice Smyton, Director, Lakeland Tyre Service Centre Ltd, with Nigel Birney, Head of Trade Credit Brokers. Lakeland Tyre Service Centre Ltd, is one of the first company’s in Northern Ireland to take up a newly-launched SME-specific credit insurance policy designed to provide businesses with financial protection against the impact of a bad debt.
24. Click Energy has launched a new charity partnership that will see Diabetes UK (NI) appointed as its charity of the year for 2018. Pictured launching the partnership is National Director of Diabetes UK (NI), Jillian Patchett with Managing Director of Click Energy, Damian Wilson.
25. Charlene Hegarty of Zero Myth, is pictured left with Counciller Nairead O’Donnell, has been given the opportunity to attend South by Southwest (SXSW), the world’s leading conference for music, film and interactive technology in Austin Texas from 9-18 March 2018 after winning an elevator pitch at Belfast City Council’s Global Enterpreneurship Week.
Leaders gather to hear Lion roar
rofessional services firm KPMG recently held the official launch event of their new offices at The Soloist Building in Belfast city centre. This significant investment is a sign of KPMG’s intent to grow further in Northern Ireland in the coming years. At the event, around 300 guests including clients and alumni were welcomed by John Hansen, Partner in Charge at KPMG in Northern
Ireland and Shaun Murphy, Managing Partner at KPMG Ireland. Speaking at the event was former Ireland and British & Irish Lions captain Paul O’Connell, who gave an interesting insight into his illustrious rugby career, and earlier in the day hosted a private session with KPMG staff based around leadership and the importance of delivering high performance.
Shaun Murphy (KPMG); Ashleen Feeney (KPMG); Paul O’Connell; John Hansen (KPMG)
Aine Brolly (CPL), Paul O’Connell and James McKay (CPL)
John Hansen (KPMG)
Barrie O’Connell (KPMG) and Paul O’Connell
Lauren Carvill (KPMG) and Emma Delaney (KPMG)
Ashleen Feeney (KPMG), Pat Duffy (O’Hare & McGovern), Paul O’Connell and John Hansen (KPMG)
Shaun Murphy (KPMG); Neillus McDonnell (W&R Barnett); Sara Hamill (KPMG)
Neil Hanna (Ulster Rugby) and Barrie O’Connell (KPMG)
Stuart Irwin (KPMG), Paul O’Connell and Colin Johnston (Clear Group)
The Chairman Blessed with a new tuxedo, your intrepid man of the night has been out and about at the best festive gigs. Did he spot you?
he Chairman always has a busy festive season, and this one was no different.
Between black tie dinners and long lunches, cocktail parties and Christmas drinks, there is more bubbly consumed during the preChristmas party season than in the rest in the year combined. One of the events which is the highlight of the season is the Crimestopper’s Annual Quiz, a night of guaranteed fun wrapped up in a highly competitive competition which is never fails to win high praise from the captains of industry and justice which attend. It was a triumph once again with question master Tony Rice living up to the hype with some challenging-yet achievable questions posed by master of ceremonies Paul Reilly who cajoled the rowdy bunch with aplomb.
Taking over the mantle of Chair of Crimestoppers Northern Ireland from legal eagle Peter Stafford was mediation man Gordon Gough, whose services were luckily not required despite the Deloitte team not managing to walk away with top honours this year, much to Peter Allen’s chagrin. It was a great night and, as always, fantastic to see hotelier and Crimestopper’s patron Howard Hastings, glasses wearer of the year Noel Brady, king of Momentum Tom Verner and a host of other top names. The organisational magic was provided by Crimestoppers Northern Ireland stalwart Val Smith and the indomitable Angela Magee, and of course the firebrand regional manager for Crimestoppers Susan Brew who has built the organisation into an exemplar for others to follow. A fantastic night was had by all. Roll on 2018.
The third annual Glitter Ball lived up to its name once again this year, with all the glitz and glamour we’ve come to expect from this headline social event. But it wasn’t just a case of style over substance – this year the fundraising ball raised a staggering £53,000, with every penny going to a youth-focused programme with Action Mental Health. Staged at the Culloden Hotel, Cultra on December 2, the organising committee of five campaigning women from Holywood pulled out all the stops to treat almost 500 guests to an evening of fine dining and an auction abundant with amazing prizes.
Guests delved deep into their pockets, raising the vital funds for AMH’s MensSana programme which delivers a range of resilience building programmes specifically for children from as young as eight through to late teens. It was great to see old friends Alison Reid and Sharon Bann who were on fine form, and a delight to catch up with Nuala Ellison and Liam McDermott. Meanwhile, those coffee gurus Peter Fitzsimmons, Joan Hill and Keith Anderson certainly know how to party and were keeping the party flowing.
Belfast Waterfront has stormed ahead of its national competitors to bring home the coveted award for the Best Event Space 2017 at the Event Awards in London as the venue continues to place Northern Ireland on the map as one of Europe’s most exciting destinations for conferences and events. The ceremony, which took place at the Eventim Apollo in Hammersmith, saw judges awarding top marks to projects which are regarded as truly awe-inspiring. This year, 30 industry professionals scrutinised more than 300 entries to find the very best brand experience campaigns and venues. Belfast Waterfront was competing for the Best Event Space 2017 award against seven shortlisted venues including Excel, Olympia, The O2, The Crystal, Silverstone Wing, The Troxy and Tobacco Dock. Well done to Catherine Toolan, Asheligh Davidson and all the team at Belfast Waterfront. ■
Howard Hastings greets guests at the Crimestoppers Quiz
Sinead Simpson, Susan Brew and Jonathan Ireland
Bobby Singleton, Liz Young and Gordon Gough at the Crimestoppers Quiz
Noel Brady at the Crimestoppers Quiz
Joker time at the Crimestoppers Quiz
Keith Anderson, Joan Hill, Peter Fitzsimmons at the Glitter Ball
Nuala Ellison, Alison Reid, Sharon Bann, Liam McDermott at the Glitter Ball
Pictured (L-R) at the presentation of the Best Event Space 2017 at the Event Awards in London is Alan MacDonald, Media Powerhouse, award sponsor, Catherine Toolan, managing director of Belfast Waterfront and Ulster Hall (BWUH), Ashleigh Davidson, corporate sales executive, Belfast Waterfront and Ellie Taylor, event host
Management Month: February 2018 A Festival of Free Business Masterclasses The Management & Leadership Network (MLN), is encouraging local businesses to make the most of the Management Month Festival, which will run throughout February 2018. The initiative will include 10+ free-to-attend masterclasses and offers business leaders and entrepreneurs the opportunity to hear and learn from internationally-renowned thought-leaders, successful business owners and high achievers from a range of disciplines. The award-winning festival is spearheaded by MLN and made possible through the support of the MLN Champions. Pictured with Kevin Kelly from MLN are Nick Read (Ulster University Business School), Teresa Campbell (PKF-FPM) and Aine Brolly (CPL). The MM Festival will kick off on Thursday 1st February with a Belfast Business Breakfast entitled ‘Change and its Ripple Effects’. That will be followed on Friday 2nd with a sporting-themed evening masterclass at the Executive Lounge in the SSE Arena immediately before the Belfast Giants game. One of the highlights of the festival will be an event entitled ‘Leadership & Digital Transformation’ on Thursday 8th February. Taking place at the Island Conference Centre in Lisburn, the breakfast symposium will feature talks from Stephen O’Leary on ‘Harnessing the Power of Digital’ and Oonagh O’Hagan (pictured left). Oonagh is Owner and MD of The Meaghers Group and will explain how embracing ‘digital’ allowed her to grow her pharmacy business from one location to eight. The company now employs over 100 people and has won a host of recent awards. The Annual Leadership Lecture will also take place on the 8th February and will this year be delivered by one of Ireland’s best-known business leaders – Padraig McManus. At Mossley Mill on 22nd February Gerry Hussey (pictured left) will outline how individuals and teams can unleash the very best version of themselves. Hussey has helped to build some of the world’s most successful sports and business teams. In his role as Performance Consultant, Gerry has coached elite athletes for Olympic Games, World Cups and Golf Majors. All of the Management Month masterclasses are free to attend, with only the SuMMit (overleaf) attracting a nominal charge. The calendar of events will be updated throughout January and can be viewed at www.mln.org.uk. Almost all of last year’s MM events were oversubscribed so Ulster Business readers should act quickly to secure a place at the events which appeal to them.
Visit www.mln.org.uk for the most up to date Management Month calendar
World-Class Line up for the SuMMit Have you Secured Your Place? When did you last take time to think about the bigger picture for you and your business? Hundreds of Business, Public & Third Sector leaders are now using the acclaimed Management & Leadership SuMMit to do exactly that. The new-look SuMMit is the pinnacle of MLN’s Management Month Festival and Ulster Business readers are being encouraged to act quickly to secure their place at this acclaimed event. The SuMMit will take place on Friday 2nd March at Titanic Belfast from 8.15am – 1.15pm and confirmed speakers include:
René Carayol MBE – World-Leading Executive and Leadership Coach René has worked closely with history-defining leaders such as Mikael Gorbachev, Nelson Mandela, Sir Richard Branson, Bill Clinton and Kofi Annan. He is also a best-selling business author and in his latest book, SPIKE, he asserts that none of these world-renowned leaders are flawless or ‘allrounders’. However, they all tend to know their 2-3 Spikes, and have taken the time and focus to fine tune them to near Olympic standard. Crucially, René himself has actually been Chairman, CEO and MD of blue chip businesses. He has served on the boards of some of the biggest international organisations; including Marks and Spencer, IPC Media & Pepsi and he therefore speaks with the authority and confidence of the expert practitioner who has seen and experienced it all before. René’s messages take the form of practical, real life experiences delivered with electrifying effect. Mark Gallagher – F1 Leader and Business Author Having worked at the forefront of the Formula One motor racing industry for 30 years, holding executive roles at Jordan Grand Prix, Red Bull Racing and Cosworth, Mark has worked with many of the sports leading Drivers, Owners and CEOs. In the process, he has developed a unique insight into the way they operate. Mark’s latest book, ‘The Business of Winning - Strategic Success from the Formula One track to the Boardroom’, has received acclaim from the world of business, the world of motor sport and from media critics such as The New York Times. Mark will explore how the great F1 leaders have had the ability to empower staff, giving team members the opportunity to thrive, develop, innovate and ultimately develop leadership skills of their own; a key factor in determining those teams who unlock their talents and reach the heights of success. Cathriona Hallahan – Managing Director, Microsoft Ireland Cathriona joined Microsoft as an Accounts Clerk in 1986 – she is now Managing Director for Microsoft in Ireland, responsible for driving commercial and consumer business on the island of Ireland. She has managed large teams with regional and global responsibilities across a range of functions, as well as directing Supply Chain Management, Logistics, Customer Care and IT & Financial support for Europe, Middle East and Africa. Cathriona will offer lessons from her own leadership journey as well as her view on how technology will continue to change our world and the role of leadership within it. Individual tickets are priced at £85+vat (RRP £245+vat - heavily subsidised thanks to the MLN Champions below). A table of 8 costs £595+vat (one place free) and a limited number of exhibition tables are available at £595+vat. For more information and to book your place visit www.mln.org.uk or call 028 9076 1030.
Seriously impressive: Google Pixelbook can travel light and do heavy lifting for business PRICE: ÂŁ999 By Adrian Weckler ive years ago, Google was a software and online ad company. Now, it makes hardware such as phones and laptops. It has deliberately gone for the high end in both categories.
The latest incarnation of this is the Pixelbook, a 12-inch machine that has a touchscreen, a 360-degree hinge, the latest power
specifications under the hood and Google's web-focused Chrome OS operating system. This latter element is the big feature that either attracts or repels potential buyers. While most people overwhelmingly use their laptops for online operation, many still like to have the promise of a deep offline reservoir of functionality - facilitated by a highly evolved operating system - that they can default to.
Personally, I have always wanted to take to Chromebooks. I believe in the ascension of cloud over individual devices and have habituated lots of my work practices to it, from Google Docs and photo-editing to music, movies and other things. Twice before I've bought a Chromebook, hoping they could substitute for traditional Windows or Apple laptops. Twice before, I've faded away from them because of critical
limitations in workflows. Will the Pixelbook lure me back? Anyone who has tried a Chromebook will know that one of its key traits is to act as a speedy gateway to fully functional apps and programmes that live online. The Pixelbook is a testimony to this. It's lighting fast to start up and get into Chrome - there's no 20 to 30 seconds of fidgeting as you wait for things to warm up. Another advantage is design and form factor. The 12-inch Pixelbook is very slim and very light, at just 1kg. Considering the heavyweight tech under the hood, that's great. But its biggest design feature is its 360-degree hinge, which allows you to stand the device up as a video screen (in 'tent mode') or use it as a slight heavy tablet. I like this in laptops because these devices are increasingly also being used in our downtime as Netflix, YouTube or Sky Go screens. The display on the Pixelbook is absolutely excellent - really bright (up to 400 nits) and sporting a high-end 235 pixels-per-inch resolution. To differentiate the rear casing from every other silver-coloured laptop, the Pixelbook has a white glass rectangular panel on the upper side of the casing. From afar, this looks like plastic, so don't be surprised if your first impression of the look of the machine is that it's a little cheap. Once you're used to using it, however, it's quite an attractive feature and sets it apart from the gazillions of silver laptops out there. The Pixelbook's keyboard is sleek and really nice to use. A small quibble is the backlit keyboard: the keys are lit unevenly. For example, on one of the 'shift' buttons, the 's' and the 'h' are lit brighter than the 'ift'. On the 'enter' button, the 'r' is much brighter than the 'e' beside it.
Thunderbolt ports on the device with a 3.5mm headphone jack. This goes back to a core point: with this machine, software and additional storage (over the 128GB to 512GB options available) is primarily accessed online. In the Pixelbook's favour, there is almost no application that you can't now get or download online. The first thing I did on this machine was to sign up to Adobe's Lightroom software (for a subscription of a fiver a month) and get to work editing photos on the machine without any noticeable lag. Google has widened the potential for app usage here, making the Pixelbook compatible with downloads from its Play Store. Obviously, very few are optimised for it. Still, this has great potential. Google says that developers are adding more beta versions of Chrome OS apps to optimise for screens such as the Pixelbook's. That said, some programs on the Pixelbook aren't really apps, but are better described as shortcuts to webpages. Coming from a pro tablet (such as the iPad Pro) or a hybrid (such as the Surface Pro), this can feel a bit cheap by comparison. Ironically, using some of Google's own apps with the touchscreen Pixelbook is not as fluid as devices such as the iPad Pro. For example, I'm a big user of Google Docs. But when you try to highlight a word or sentence using your finger, it immediately pulls up a menu, disallowing you from deciding how much more of the sentence or paragraph you want to edit. Adding insult to injury, there's no such problem using touchscreen edits on rival systems such as Microsoft Word. However, the idea that the Pixelbook is some sort of a lightweight machine that can't handle heavy software processes is increasingly a shaky one.
There are also a few other small things to get used to. For example, camped in the place of a caps lock button is a search button. So to turn on caps lock you have to jointly press the 'alt' and search button.
Despite its slimness and lightweight frame, the hardware is beefy enough with 8GB of Ram (16GB is available) and an Intel i5 processor (an i7 version is optional). This is easily enough horsepower to handle almost any mainstream application, or several of them at once.
Don't expect many physical connectivity options here. There are just two USB-C /
For those into voice control, one of the laptop's big features is its integration with the Google
Assistant. Saying "OK Google" immediately opens up the Assistant, which can help with general web queries, location information, weather, sport results and other minor queries. The more you use Google's ecosystem (such as Google Calendar or Gmail) the more helpful it is. However, it has some limitations. Sitting in an Insomnia cafe in Drumcondra, Dublin, I asked it for the nearest cafe. It gave me the name of one a mile away, despite at least three others being closer (including the one I was sitting in). But this is a small quibble. Integrated into one's workflow, this could be a very useful feature. The Pixelbook has one other trick when used with the Pixelbook Pen stylus. Using this gadget, you can circle text or images and get information instantly. This also works for some locations or public figures. Calendar entries also work using this method, too, by circling a date and a time. It's one of the best implementations of a screen stylus I've ever seen, with one drawback: the pen itself isn't rechargeable (it takes batteries) and it can't attach to the Pixelbook. Battery life is fine, although it's a stretch to say it's 10 hours, as Google guides. Expect six hours without too many exceptions.
SO WHAT'S THE VERDICT? This is one seriously impressive laptop. It's easily the best Chromebook I've ever used. It's light and portable and serves me way better in downtime (for things like Netflix) than most laptops do. However, it should be said that this type of machine won't suit everyone. If you use a few custom pieces of software, particularly those you need for your work, the Chromebook format is still inherently more limited than Windows or Mac machines. But I can honestly say that there's almost nothing I use a laptop for that wasn't satisfied by the Pixelbook. I use laptops mostly for work (writing, word processing, presentations, photo-editing and web research). I suspect that's not so different from the majority of laptop use cases out there. â–
A word from
Name: Louise Kelly Position: Audit Partner, Grant Thornton NI
The column with an ear for experience...
How did you start out in business? I joined Grant Thornton’s Dublin practice in October 2000 as an audit trainee straight from university. I studied at Manchester Metropolitan University, where I successfully completed a Bachelor degree (BA) in Accounting and Finance. During my summers as a student, I worked in a local accounting practice in my home town of Omagh, which was an experience that proved invaluable when I started my training contract at Grant Thornton. What did you find the most challenging during your years in business? The biggest challenge in recent years has probably been adapting my work life to changes in my home life, having become a new mother to two lovely sons in the last two years. As well as the demands and challenges of work, I now also have a family that needs me just as much. As any working mother will know, it’s a constant balancing act – but, of course, I wouldn’t have it any other way! How would you describe your management style? At Grant Thornton, we have a strong entrepreneurial ethos that nurtures individuality and encourages our people to do things a little bit differently. Flexibility is crucial to success and my management style has developed over the years in order to meet the ever-changing demands of business. However, my approach has always been focused on three important cornerstones support, trust and encouragement. I enjoy working together with my team - we are very supportive of each other and have a strong trust relationship which helps me get the best out of them.
revenues rising significantly also. Looking forward, there is huge potential for a global firm with a Belfast office to focus solely on the local market, and that’s exactly what we are doing. We’re leveraging the international resources at our disposal for the benefit of local clients. We are experiencing significant growth across all existing service lines, and in November will take up residence in our new office at the Donegall Square West building, Danske Bank’s city centre headquarters. It’s a hugely exciting time for the firm.
What would you change if you could go back and do it all again? Not much, as I have been extremely fortunate to experience all the opportunities of a rapidly-growing firm. Grant Thornton NI has doubled in size in the last three years, with
Have you done it all on your own? Absolutely not! As I progressed through the ranks at Grant Thornton, I worked for amazing Partners who mentored and coached me every step of the way. As a Partner team we still very much learn from each other and
provide support for each area of the business. Our people are our firm’s key ‘product’, and it is the skills and expertise of the teams working in partnership with each other that will continue to drive business growth. How would you like your business career to be remembered? As someone who cared passionately about her clients and her colleagues, and was very good at her job. That said, there a lot of things I’d still like to do in business before thinking too much about how I’d like my career to be remembered! What piece of advice would you give a 20-year-old you? Work hard, be nice and always do the right thing… the rest will fall into place. ■
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MY DAY Uncovering the 9-5
system, over 100 new halts, operational and engineering arrangements. Whilst it presents many challenges to overcome, the diversity of the programme, and the range of people and different disciplines that I get to engage with, are what make it really interesting. 11.30am Meet with the project team for the new £200m Belfast Transport Hub to plan the resources required to implement the project and ensure it is equipped to operate the new station facilities, bus services and rail services when completed in 2022. 12.30pm A light lunch and a chance to catch-up on the day’s news and sports stories. 1.15pm I meet with colleagues from the Translink Estates and Projects teams to review progress on the delivery of the very successful Park & Ride programme and to prioritise future sites in order to meet the ever growing demand. 2.30pm A meeting of the BRT Network and Operations workstream which plans and reviews progress on the key operational aspects of the programme including, recruitment of staff, safety, training, roll-out of the new halts, passenger information and ticketing systems.
Name: Robin Totten Position: Belfast Rapid Transit Programme Manager and Head of Business Change at Translink
6.34am Planning my journey on public transport and valuing every minute in bed can lead to odd alarm times! I have a quick breakfast and make sure the rest of the house is stirring before I leave to catch the bus. Gliding effortlessly into Belfast from Ards via the great new bus lanes gives me the chance to catch up on emails and plan for the day ahead. 8.05am I arrive at the office, spend some time updating and getting updated by the
programme team, reviewing project plans and then prepare for the first meeting of the day. 9.30am Most of my time is currently spent attending meetings to plan and deliver the £90 million Belfast Rapid Transit (BRT) Programme, to ensure that the new Glider services are ready to operate in September 2018. The BRT programme comprises a broad array of workstreams and sub projects covering a new £20m fleet of vehicles, £25m vehicle service centre, a new off-vehicle ticketing
4.30pm A quick sift through the emails I didn’t get to during the day and a review of some papers and reports. 5.05pm Get the bus home, taking the opportunity to look at personal emails, social media and the latest news. 6.00pm Arrive home and catch-up on the day’s events at school for my wife Sharon and daughters Clara and Ellie. After dinner I go for a short run and then relax by watching a football match on the television (provided it’s not the rather frustrating team I support!).
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*Eligibility is limited to business customers new to Bank of Ireland UK, trading for over 24 months, with a turnover of under £2m and a borrowing requirement of under £250,000. During this 3 year deal, if you lodge over £10,000 in notes per quarter, 50% of the standard fee for notes lodged is charged on the excess amount over £10,000 per quarter. All other standard charges apply including Electronic Banking, Foreign Exchange and Service Charges. Refer to our Schedule of Charges for Business Customers brochure for detail. Bank of Ireland UK is a trading name of Bank of Ireland (UK) plc. Registered in England and Wales (No. 7022885), Bow Bells House, 1 Bread Street, London EC4M 9BE. JMB14170607A
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