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JUNE 2018 Price £2.30 (¤2.60)

Taking over at the top Adrian Moynihan speaks about his new role as head of First Trust Bank IN FOCUS

Gilbert Ash’s boss on continued growth


Major NI projects ‘on hold’ until ministers appointed

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Contents 6 News The latest news and business exclusives from across Northern Ireland

35 Manufacturing & Engineering

77 Motoring

The changing face of NI industry

Our man Pat Burns takes two new top luxury 4x4s out for a spin

14 Cover Story

53 Management Education

86 Photocall

Ulster Business speaks to the new head of First Trust Bank, Adrian Moynihan

David Meade explores the firms turning to new methods to boost their businesses

It’s been another busy month across the world of Northern Ireland business

20 In Focus

59 Wealth Management

90 The Chairman

We chat to Ray Hutchinson about growing construction giant Gilbert Ash

We look at how Northern Ireland investors are trying to grow their investments

A gaggle of awards, top architects, farmers and gin all got a taste...

23 IT & Technology

68 Round-table

95 Technology

The burgeoning business of cloud-computing is one of NI’s booming sectors

What will Brexit mean for commercial property and the wider NI economy?

We ask whether the new Apple iPad is still the top tablet on the market



53 90




Strong female business leaders on road to success


nother month has gone by, and, while it feels like a broken record, we are no closer to getting Stormont up-and-running.

The intention wasn't to start on a downer, but unfortunately the deadlock, along with a lack of any clarity over Brexit, is the daily grind for every business journalist across Northern Ireland. Welcome to June’s edition of Ulster Business. It’s another magazine full of the great and good of Northern Ireland’s business landscape, from the soaring turnover of two of our biggest construction giants and listed technology firms, to a family-owned flooring company buoyed on by Bond. In this issue, there are also some strong examples of the top female business leaders that have come from this small part of the world. Sarah Friar is one of them, holding one of the top posts in Silicon Valley giant Square - headed by Twitter boss Jack Dorsey. I met the former Strabane Grammar School pupil, and Oxford graduate this time last year, when she popped back to Belfast to help unveil the new entrepreneurial hub at Ormeau Baths.

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

While the accent is largely gone, Sarah is still very much a champion for Northern Ireland. At the time, she told me that more must be done in schools, with government backing, to attract girls and young women into technology and sciencerelated careers. It’s also something my better half, a physics teacher, would endorse. And closer to home, the head of what is still Northern Ireland’s largest company, Moy Park, stepped down from her top job. Janet McCollum has headed the poultry giant for the last four years, and in that time it’s grown into a business with a turnover of more than £1.4bn, employing in excess of 6,000 workers in Northern Ireland alone. Aside from helping to grow and expand the business, Janet was given a lifetime achievement award at the Belfast Telegraph Business Awards. It’s something I think most people in the room thought was very much deserved. And with that, I’d like to wish Janet every success in her future and I hope you enjoy this month’s magazine. ■ John Mulgrew

Editor John Mulgrew

Production Manager Irene Fitzsimmons

Manager Sonia Armstrong

Graphic Design INM Design Studio

Deputy Manager Sylvie Brando

Cover photo Elaine Hill

Sales Executive Sarah-Ann Gamble

Contact: 028 90 264260 www.ulsterbusiness.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.

JUNE 2018


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A month in numbers 81 million The number of passenger journeys across Translink buses and trains last year, the highest in 20 years. It’s the second year in a row that fare paying passenger numbers are up, growing by more than three million.

Ciaran Devine

£546m Visit Belfast’s total economic target for the city over the next four years, until 2022. Visit Belfast said its planned activities to drive higher numbers of inbound business leisure tourists in the year ahead. That includes an 18% surge in numbers arriving on cruise ships to 235,000.

30 The number of new jobs being created by Centra, with the opening of its latest shop in Londonderry. The store, at Waterloo Place, is part of a £750,000 investment by the convenience retail brand.

Civil servants ‘won’t give sign-off for major infrastructure schemes’ By John Mulgrew


undreds of millions of pounds worth of major infrastructure schemes – including a £280m power station – are being placed on hold until the restoration of devolution or a return to direct rule, it can be revealed. It’s understood, following a High Court decision to overturn the green light for the Arc 21 incinerator – which was first approved without a minister in place – while civil servants across Stormont departments are continuing to process major schemes and planning applications, developers are being told that they cannot sign them off due to the longrunning deadlock. Those schemes include Belfast Power’s £280m gas-powered station in Belfast and a massive proposed gold mine by Dalradian, in Co Tyrone.

£130,000 The standardised average price for a home in Northern Ireland. The latest figures from the Northern Ireland Statistics and Research Agency show the average cost of a property varies from £112,648 in Derry City and Strabane to £153,181 in Lisburn and Castlereagh.


One of the co-founders of the power station, has previously said that if approved, it could power up to 50% of Northern Ireland's homes and businesses. The new power station will take around two-and-a-half years to construct. It’s thought the original timeframe for the station could see it up for a decision in July. But that date now looks like it will be pushed back considerably. There are concerns that the delay, and timing of the build, could now impact on future

electricity generation capacity in Northern Ireland. Other schemes being held up include roads projects, such as the A5 upgrade. Northern Ireland has been without a devolved government for 16 months. It’s understood some business leaders, while preferring a return to a devolved government, have asked Secretary of State Karen Bradley to appoint ministers in London in order to make key decisions here. Pressure has been mounting on Westminster to take control in Northern Ireland as Stormont's top civil servant said it was unclear what decisions departments here can make without ministers. Last month, the Department for Infrastructure (DfI) announced it was appealing a High Court decision that its permanent secretary Peter May had no power to give the goahead to the Arc 21 incinerator project in Mallusk. The High Court ruling threw doubt on the authority of senior civil servants to take decisions that would normally be the responsibility of ministers. During an Institute of Directors (IoD) event, Karen Bradley was grilled by business executives about her plans to fill the power vacuum at Stormont.

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Gilbert Ash ‘to start London hotel’ as firm’s turnover continues to soar EXCLUSIVE

onstruction giant Gilbert Ash is about to start work on another new major hotel project in London, Ulster Business can reveal.


“Our expectation in 2018, is that we will see that growth in turnover increase. I'm positive about the sector generally, and I think Gilbert Ash has been well placed in terms of the projects we have done, in particular.

Gilbert Ash has grown into a £165m turnover business, which boss Ray Hutchinson says he expects to grow further still this year. The company has also just finished the new AC Hotel by Marriott in Belfast.

“In terms of projects at the moment, there is one at the Royal College of Music in London, the Royal College of Pathologists and the Mountview Academy of Theatre Arts.

Speaking about the company’s continued growth, Mr Hutchinson said: “We have moved out of sustaining the organisation, to continued growth.”

“What we say is, we are involved in projects – landmark and high-profile, those which will make an impact.

It has grown its turnover from £148m in 2016, to around £165m in the last year, with that expected to grow further still.

JUNE 2018

“In London we have established a reputation. The business is now known. If we went back five or 10 years, we were maybe seen at a new player from Belfast.

Ray Hutchinson

“We are embedded now, and have an office there, and a fantastic track record. “Aside from those landmark high-profile schemes, we are a contractor of choice (for Premier Inn).” Full interview, pages 20-22



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Quotes of the month “Karen Bradley is right to make restoring power-sharing devolved government in Stormont her first priority. However, while the political impasse continues the list of policy obstructions and project delays grows and becomes more serious.” Northern Ireland Affairs Committee chairman Dr Andrew Murrison calling on the Secretary of State to restart talks on devolution.

01/02/2018 09:47

92% of NI bosses predict ‘modest’ business growth


ine out of 10 Northern Ireland bosses are predicting their companies will grow over the next three years, according to a new survey. But while 92% of those quizzed as part of the KPMG Global CEO Outlook had a positive view, they are expecting growth to be modest. That’s despite facing challenges from the threat of cyber attacks and Brexit. The survey, which questioned Northern Ireland chief executives and others around the world, identified a “pragmatic group of leaders who are determined to put strategies in motion to overcome these growing pains and to personally drive digital transformation and the transition of the workforce for the digital age”.

“Janet was instrumental in establishing Moy Park as an unquestioned leader in the food industry in the UK. She has accomplished a lot and we are grateful for her more than 25 years of dedicated service and commitment.” Bill Lovette, boss of Moy Park owner Pilgrim’s Pride speaking about Janet McCollum, who is leaving her role as chief executive.

John Hansen, partner in charge at KPMG in Northern Ireland, said: “Northern Ireland’s chief executives are driving their businesses forward at a time of great change. “Our survey shows they are having to be agile in order to meet the challenges posed in an ever-changing environment where new threats are emerging all the time. “With those challenges comes opportunity, and by exhibiting the fortitude, resilience and innovation with which they have become known for, Northern Ireland companies will be able to thrive in the runup to and after Brexit.”

“Whether governor Mark Carney intended it or not, his comments will be interpreted by many as saying that the average UK household is now £900 worse off because of the Brexit vote.” Dr Esmond Birnie of the Ulster University Economic Policy centre following comments from Bank of England governor Mark Carney.



The survey found 92% of chief executives in Northern Ireland were confident about their company’s growth prospects in the next three years. However, the report — which surveyed 1,300 bosses across many of the world’s largest and most successful businesses — showed that expectations for business growth in Northern Ireland are low.

John Hansen, partner in charge of KPMG in Northern Ireland, and Angela McGowan, director of CBI Northern Ireland

Most respondents in Northern Ireland predicted an uplift of under 2% over the next three years, with the remaining 16% expecting growth of 2% and 5%. In the Republic, those figures are 72% and 24% respectively, with 4% of chief executives expecting growth of 5% or more. Meanwhile, business groups, including the Freight Transport Association (FTA) have reiterated calls for an Irish border solution which protects frictionless trading arrangements post-Brexit. Speaking during a meeting with ministers, including Secretary of State for Exiting the EU David Davis MP, FTA’s Northern Ireland policy manager Seamus Leheny said: “Logistics operators are clear that the Irish border must remain frictionless after Brexit, to ensure that trading relationships are protected and business can continue to flourish. “This meeting gave us the chance to share the concerns of the freight and logistics sector with ministers, who were open to possible solutions which would protect the integrity of Ireland’s businesses, as well as its borders. “The Irish border situation is complicated, with physical and political constraints that need careful consideration before a workable solution can be found.”


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Small firms ‘can easily grow business online’ By John Mulgrew

you are trying to target 30 to 40 year olds, in the market for a product, Google is able to pull in what sort of person that is… targeting advertising and content.”


mall businesses can help grow and expand their reach online with the use of a range of tools from web giant Google, according to one of its top managers in Ireland. Ryan Owens is head of customer solutions at Google EMEA, and one of the key speakers at the Digital DNA event, which takes place at St George’s Market in Belfast on June 19 and 20. Ryan’s responsible for a team which produces ad products for the business, within Europe, the Middle East and Africa, and has been working with Google in Dublin since 2004. “(For example) we would launch new ad products to the market, working with customers across the EMEA region,” he told Ulster Business.

During his time at Digital DNA, Ryan says he’ll be discussing what companies of all shapes and sizes can do to “improve the business journey to their customers”. Ryan Owens

He said the business is working with a widerange of companies, including those who are “finding their feet online”. “Over the past few years, customers have gotten better in the market,” he said. “What the industry has done over the last few years, is measuring and tracking advertising in a more sophisticated way. Leverage machine learning, for example. If

“What I want to showcase is a few different areas. Firstly, getting the presence online is not as difficult as it used to be. “With Google, for example, there is a platform called Google My Business... it provides local business listing on maps, search and other platforms — making it easy, without having to build a website. Google is making it easy to get a presence online. “The second aspect is if you have a website. How do you monitor your audience?”

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hays.co.uk/ni 01/02/2018 09:47

Bond boosts NI flooring firm business By John Mulgrew


Northern Ireland flooring firm which helped furnish one of the main sets on James Bond blockbuster Spectre has expanded and created jobs with a new store in London, Ulster Business can reveal. Richard Snape, boss of the Wooden Floor Company, says the company saw an increased interest in Greater London, after its floors were featured in the Hollywood blockbuster. “Off the back of our success with supplying floors to the James bond movie Spectre we saw increased interest for our own brand products Boie de Vie and Balento in Greater London, having supplied quite a few highprofile jobs we decided with the help of Invest NI to look at getting a base in the capital,” he said. “It took quite some time but my business partner Ross Nicholl and I finally settled on Chelsea and Fulham and a great location was secured.”

Daniel Craig as James Bond in Spectre

The business has a number of locations, including the Boucher Road in Belfast, and a branch in Falkirk, Scotland. “We are the only wooden flooring company with stores in England, Scotland and Northern Ireland, and the aim would be for this familybased business to increase the market share in the wider UK market.

“The growth of the business has only been made possible by the hard work and dedication of the staff at our Northern Ireland base and of course the support of our families. “It’s here that the unique selling point for the business is born the staff here are critical in leading in colours, branding and design.”

Food and drink ‘key driver of economy’


he food and drink sector continues to be a key driver in Northern Ireland’s economy, it’s been claimed.

Ulster Bank’s head of Northern Ireland, Richard Donnan, was speaking as more than 100,000 descended on the Balmoral Show. The celebration of Northern Ireland's agri-food sector, which is supported by Ulster Bank, features machinery, livestock and food attractions and marks its 150th anniversary this year. “Ulster Bank is strongly committed to continuing to support investment and innovation throughout the food chain and our principal sponsorship of the Balmoral Show helps us communicate that and our active engagement with the sector as a whole,” Mr Donnan said. Meanwhile, the post-Brexit future of almost 10,000 EU workers in Northern Ireland's food and drinks processing sector must be protected to ensure jobs are not lost, an economist has claimed. John Simpson sounded the warning as figures from the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs showed that 40% of workers in the food sector here come from EU nations outside the UK and Ireland.


Ulster Bank's Cormac McKervey with Professor Grainne Allen from Marks and Spencer and Ulster Bank boss Richard Donnan

In 2017 there was an estimated 24,328 employees working in the food and drinks processing sector. Of these, an estimated 40%, or 9,767, were citizens of other EU countries (excluding the UK and Ireland), and 3.5%, or 850, were from non-EU countries.

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Majority of professional sector workers see pay rise By John Mulgrew

contracted hours. Additionally, over 55% of all those surveyed received a bonus last year.


ore than half of Northern Ireland workers across the professional services sector have received a pay rise in the last year, according to a new survey. The latest Salary Survey Report from Abacus Professional Recruitment shows that a larger proportion of firms saw salaries rise in 2017 than a year earlier. “This was highest in sectors including accountancy and technology with 61% and 58% receiving salary increases,” it said. Around 43% of professionals now have flexible working in Northern Ireland, with “analytics and technology sectors leading in this area with an average of almost 70% working flexibly”.

Justin Rush, director at Abacus Professional Recruitment, said: “Demand is peaking for professionals across a range of areas and the benefits they are receiving have risen in tandem.

Pictured are Abacus associate directors Stuart John, head of legal recruitment and Damian Farrell, head of financial services

“Financial services and insurance roles were least likely to include flexible working at 29%, with the legal sector averaging at 49%,” the survey said. “Flexible working includes working from home, receiving time in lieu for working overtime and flexible working around

“There is an increasingly rich diversity of professional job roles in Northern Ireland. These offer not only competitive salaries, but highly rewarding career paths with companies also investing significantly in skills development. “Benefits in Northern Ireland are moving towards cities like London or Dublin, emphasising how the local employment market is progressing at a fast pace, despite current political concerns, including Brexit and a lack of an Executive.”

How to avoid interview discrimination claims Avoiding discrimination claims during interview has nothing to do with intent in the eyes of a tribunal, says HR Team Director Breda Cullen. Many cases of discrimination during recruitment and selection interviews arise from unintentional and often unconscious statements or acts by employers. But that is no defence when it comes to employment law. Whether or not there was intent at a discriminatory interview, the employer will be liable in law for any discrimination claims brought to tribunal. The anti-discrimination laws that apply in Northern Ireland cover all aspects of employment, from recruitment right through to the end of the employee life cycle. It stands to reason then that the best starting point in avoiding discrimination claims is prior to the recruitment and selection process. Here are HR Team’s tips to avoiding discrimination claims in selection interviews.

JUNE 2018

HR Team Director Breda Cullen

• Outline a clear recruitment and selection policy which includes how interviews are to be considered. • Appoint one person to co-ordinate each set of interviews (writing letters of invitation, letters to decline applicants, and to give feedback). This ensures a consistent approach.

• Provide training for interview panel members to ensure they are fully informed about disability awareness and equal opportunity policies. • Prepare questions prior to the interview and allocate questions to each panel member prior to the interviews commencing. • Create a robust scoring system to be used for each specific job role being selected. • Ensure there is clear note-taking during interviews. • Provide feedback where appropriate. • Make reasonable adjustments where necessary but always in-line with best practice. If in doubt, it’s always prudent to seek professional advice on how to proceed with a recruitment and selection process which minimises risk to your organisation. For further information on this topic or assistance with any issues regarding employment law, performance management or human resources, please get in touch with HR Team today on 028 71 271 882 or hello@hrteamgroup.com




easyJet UK country manager Ali Gayward is joined by captain Peter Thompson, Belfast base captain Dave Kelly and base first officer Mike Blackwell with easyJet’s new A320neo aircraft at Belfast International Airport

easyJet NI passenger numbers to reach five million


asyJet will crack the five million passenger mark at its Belfast base this year as the carrier adds another aircraft, its UK boss has said. Speaking to Ulster Business, Ali Gayward, UK country manager for the airline, also says it’s due to make further announcements on new routes in the coming weeks. The airline is also adding a sixth aircraft into its Belfast International Airport base, which has now grown to become its largest operation in the UK, outside London. The low-cost carrier reported a £68m pre-tax loss in the six months to March 31, which compares with a £236m loss in the same period last year. Headline profit before tax, excluding costs associated with its new operations in Berlin Tegel, came in at £8m against a £212m loss last year. Speaking about the latest figures and growth of the Belfast base, she said: “It was a couple of things. The ongoing demand in travel, and we have also seen a challenging environment through the winter.


“We saw the sad failure of Air Berlin, and Monarch… so there has been a reduction in overall capacity, when demand is increasing.

operates in the UK, and travels within the EU 27. We have set up our other operation, easyJet Europe, in Vienna.

“Another thing is the increase in revenue from ancillary, such as checked baggage and purchases on board – offering customers more choice.

“We already had a Swiss AoC (operating licence). The missing part of the jigsaw is flying from the UK to the EU. That’s down to the government.”

“Belfast has been performing well for us. One example is that we are bringing a sixth aircraft in from June.

She says she’s confident measures will be put in place to allow that to happen by April 2019.

“Last year, full year, we carried 4.3 million passengers… we are expecting that to increase to 5.2 million. Much of that growth will be the new aircraft.” EasyJet is launching four new routes in June, including the Isle of Man and Venice, with summer-only links to Valencia and Naples. Across the airline, passenger numbers increased by three million, or 8.8%, to 36.8 million in the period, including 700,000 from Tegel. Asked about how Brexit could impact the business, she said: “More than 50% of easyJet

“We believe the governments of EU countries will have that in place to enable that to happen,” she said. “We are quite confident things will be the same, and we are planning to fly everywhere we fly today and more. Speaking about the growth of the Belfast base, she said: “We have the new aircraft, and we are in final stages of planning new routes, which we may be able to add next winter. “We will hopefully make some announcements in the coming weeks, and then look towards summer 2019.” ■


First Trust’s new Ulster Business speaks to Adrian Moynihan, the new head of First Trust Bank, about


drian Moynihan is coming into his new role as head of First Trust Bank with the aim of creating a modern, sustainable bank focused on customers and growth.

Over the last 18 years with AIB, Adrian has worked right across the business – from product management, business banking, personal banking, its branch network and wealth management.

The fresh-faced 39-year-old, who has almost two decades working for First Trust’s parent company AIB, has taken up the reins at a banking business which employs 550 staff in Northern Ireland, boasts some 285,000 active customers, and provides around £2bn in financing to personal, business and corporate customers.

In his most recent position, Adrian, who is a business graduate of Waterford Institute of Technology and University College Cork, was head of homes within the banking group – looking after mortgages and developer finance.


The Tipperary man has been in the role since April and brings a wealth of experience to the

job at a leading bank which has set its sights on challenging its main Northern Ireland banking rivals. And his message to both business and personal customers alike is that First Trust is “committed” to Northern Ireland, with ambitious plans to grow further. “Within AIB in the Republic of Ireland, we completed a major transformation programme to reflect our customers’ changing banking needs and we are seeing the benefits of that programme and how it has helped create a


First Trust Bank’s senior team Seamus McGuckin, head of business banking; Patrick Short, head of acquisitions; Ann McSorley head of corporate banking and Brian Gillan, head of business and corporate banking, are pictured with the new head of First Trust Bank, Adrian Moynihan

man at the helm growing business and personal banking while breaking new digital barriers positive, future focused bank,” he told Ulster Business. “The same investment process is almost complete here in First Trust Bank in Northern Ireland.”

recent partnership with the Post Office now enables our customers to conduct their everyday banking transactions in any of the 500 Post Offices across Northern Ireland and customer take up has surpassed our expectations.”

“We are currently modernising our branches, with a significant level of investment to create a better environment for our customers. and our people. We have also added five new business centres across Northern Ireland to create a more specialised business banking offering with a strong local presence. Our

Adrian is also keen to further develop First Trust’s already strong digital offering for its customers. This will include new enhancements to the mobile app, as well as allowing customers the ability to apply for loans on their mobile devices and more digital payment methods. “We know this investment

JUNE 2018

is already paying off, having recently been shortlisted for a major UK Customer Service Award for ‘Best Banking App’ as voted by our customers.” Following the company’s recent restructuring programme, Adrian says it’s key that existing customers and potential new customers understand First Trust is dedicated to the Northern Ireland market, where the Bank can trace its presence back over 200 years. “The big message is that we are committed to our customers, to our communities and to the >



broader Northern Ireland market. Our purpose as a business is to back our customers to achieve their dreams and ambitions, whether that’s to start, expand or buy a business, to buy a home or a new car. “By backing our customers, we will also be supporting the communities in which they live in as well as the local economy, and that’s when a bank ultimately benefits also.” “I see this next phase as being a growth story. We wouldn’t have invested in the transformation programme if we didn’t see the potential for growth in the future.” And Adrian says First Trust is “strong” and “single minded” in its corporate and business aspirations too. “We know from our own research that we are currently taking about 15% of new lending in the local market. Our desire to be a focused challenger bank with strong sectoral expertise in the business and corporate market is working and we are not stopping there,” he said.

Adrian pictured in Babel Belfast

“I have been really impressed with the professionalism, expertise and strong customer focus of the people working within First Trust. It’s that combination of a strong partnership approach, and also having the knowledge to understand and support our customers that’s key to our future success.”

“There’s also a real opportunity for us to increase our share of the personal market. To do that, we have to make sure we are very clear about the customer needs we are aiming to meet. We then must also have a compelling customer offering that engages our customers across all our channels.”

First Trust has been behind major business deals and works with a range of high-profile customers based throughout Northern Ireland. That includes hospitality business Beannchor Group – which, along with the grand Merchant Hotel in Belfast, owns the sister Bullitt hotel and rooftop bar, Babel – which appropriately explains the choice of venue for our interview and photos. The hospitality sector is one the Bank has particular strength in alongside proven expertise in manufacturing, agri-food, retail, healthcare and energy.

“Banking at its core is a service business, so a huge amount of success is down to the quality of your people, and the teams in place to support customers.

Asked about where he wants to lead the business, Adrian said it’s well-positioned for expansion both in personal and business markets.

“This is true in the business and corporate banking sector as well. Businesses directors want to deal with staff who know their business, know their sector, and know banking. We have restructured our senior team accordingly, under the direction of Brian Gillan as head of business and corporate banking. He is ably supported by three key senior appointments with Seamus McGuckin recently joining us as head of business banking, Ann McSorley moving to head of corporate banking and Patrick Short taking a newly created role of head of acquisitions. They in turn are supported by very experienced and dedicated teams with deep knowledge across a variety of sectors.”

“For me, in my role, it’s about how we as a business orientate ourselves more and more around our customers and their needs. By doing this better than anyone else, we will position ourselves where the growth opportunities are going to take place – capturing those opportunities and winning against the competition.”


A strong customer focus has perhaps never been more important given the uncertainty that already exists following Brexit and the current political climate. According to the latest AIB Brexit Sentiment Index for the first quarter of 2018 the majority of SMEs in Northern Ireland have yet to feel any impact

from the proposed withdrawal of the UK from the EU, but they have concerns. And while Adrian is a man looking ahead with optimism and growth plans, he believes overall predicted economic expansion across Northern Ireland this year could be greater, if there was a return to devolution and clarity over Brexit. “The sooner we all get clarity and certainty around the current political situation here and the Brexit outcomes, the better. Businesses and consumers like certainty, it supports investment, it enables decision making and it creates greater confidence, all essential components for growth and progress.” “Notwithstanding that, what we have seen is an economy which is pretty resilient and a performance that has been strong given the backdrop. And while Brexit and the current political impasse are big question marks, overall we are optimistic as to the fundamentals of the economy and the potential that exists in the future.” Looking ahead, Adrian is bringing a wealth of positivity to the new job, with a focus on fresh opportunities for First Trust Bank. “We have a loyal customer base and a great team who are positive, and equally ambitious. I’m coming into the role with a lot of energy and optimism. There are sectors and parts of the market that I know we can not only win in, but excel in. We look forward to supporting and enabling progress for our customers and our communities, building a better future” he said. A man with clear energy and focus, we wouldn’t doubt him. ■







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In association with

NI companies flying high at Aer Lingus TakeOff awards


orthern Ireland’s top businesses and entrepreneurs have walked away with top awards at the 2018 Aer Lingus TakeOff Foundation Business Awards in the palatial surroundings of the IoD headquarters on Pall Mall in London. The awards, in association with Ulster Business, were presented across nine categories to businesses that have excelled in areas such as fast growth, export, innovation, and marketing. “The Aer Lingus TakeOff Foundation Business Awards are now one of the most prestigious events on the business calendar and we are delighted to recognise and support those organisations that represent the best in their sectors,” said Andrea Hunter, business development manager of Aer Lingus in Northern Ireland. “This was a true celebration of business excellence and on behalf of Aer Lingus I would like to congratulate each of the winners for their remarkable accomplishments.” John Mulgrew, editor of media partner Ulster Business, said the quality of entries this year was extremely high. “The entries and our winners included worldbeating companies, those just finding their feet, and those which are already on a path to a hugely successful future, both in Northern Ireland, and in export markets across Europe, the US and beyond. “While we are a small place on the map, the sheer breadth of sectors we now shine in, from construction, to technology, hospitality, production, food and finance, means we make a much bigger impression on the global stage.” The ceremony also recognised Trevor Annon, founder and chairman of Mount Charles, with a Lifetime Achievement Award for his outstanding contribution to business life in Northern Ireland.


With Trevor’s guidance, Mount Charles has created true economic benefit not only for its employees and their families, but also for the wider NI economy. Mount Charles currently sources approximately 90% of their food from NI suppliers attributing to a contribution of £9m per annum to the NI economy, while labour costs currently generate £17m a year. In October 2016 Trevor opened a new headquarters in Belfast, having invested £1.6m in the building’s purchase and refurbishment, making a significant statement regarding the company’s commitment to future growth and development. Business Person of the Year Cathal Grant, managing director of CGDM Construction Ltd, was delighted to win this award, and was overwhelmed to be honoured amongst the best of NI businesses. Cathal said that CGDM has grown rapidly, “by securing high value contracts in the commercial, retail, banking, health, leisure and hospitality sectors throughout the UK and Ireland.” Cathal oversaw the diversification of his company from an architectural design business to a design and build business, combining architectural and construction services. “To facilitate business expansion and grow market share in Ireland and Great Britain, we have since established offices in Dublin in 2015 and most recently in London in 2017,” he said. The company employs 21 staff and 60 sub contractors and plans are underway to build larger offices in Newry to enable further expansion. Keith Graham, managing director of Selective Travel Management, winners of the Overall Excellence Award said: “We have seen massive

growth for the company this year and we are very proud that our efforts have been recognised with the Overall Excellence Award.” Located in Murray’s Exchange in Belfast City Centre, the company employs 114 travel professionals, providing expert support with fully bespoke technological solutions to a customer base spread across the UK And in the last four years has seen their turnover grow by 68% from £29.4m to £49.5m. Keith said that “first class, 24/7, customer service, latest technology and an exclusive and proactive ‘duty of care’ programme have combined to reinforce our business edge and continues to fuel our current success and future growth.” ■

Award winners: Best Business Start-Up Award: AG Electrical NI Ltd Best SME Award: STATSports Group Ltd Fast Growth Business Award: FinTrU Ltd Excellence in Marketing Award: Babocush Exporter of the Year Award: Brookvent Innovation of the Year Award: See.Sense Business Person of the Year: Cathal Grant, CGDM Construction Ltd Overall Excellence Award: Selective Travel Management Lifetime Achievement: Trevor Annon, Mount Charles


Andrea Hunter, Aer Lingus business development manager, presents the Best Business Start-Up Award to Adam Gilmore, founder and managing director of AG Electrical NI Ltd

The Best SME Award was presented to Maeve Nethercott and Jason Black from STATSports, with Aer Lingus cabin crew member Jo Freeman and Andrea Hunter

Andrea Hunter presents the Fast Growth Business Award to Darragh McCarthy, chief executive of FinTrU and marketing manager, Conor Donnelly. They are joined by Aer Lingus cabin crew member Jo Freeman

The Exporter of the Year Award was presented by Andrea Hunter to Dane Duffy, Brookvent’s sales and marketing director, along with Jo Freeman

Andrea Hunter presents the Innovation of the Year Award went to Irene McAleese, co-founder of See.Sense, joined by Jo Freeman and Wendy Austin

Andrea Hunter presents the Business Person of the Year Award to Cathal Grant, founder and managing director of CGDM Construction Ltd, and is joined by Jo Freeman and Wendy Austin

Andrea Hunter, Aer Lingus business development manager presents the Overall Excellence Award to managing director of Selective Travel Management, Keith Graham. They are joined by Aer Lingus cabin crew member Jo Freeman

Andrea Hunter, Aer Lingus business development manager presents the Lifetime Achievement Award to Trevor Annon, chairman of Mount Charles. They are joined by Aer Lingus cabin crew member Jo Freeman and compere Wendy Austin

JUNE 2018



Boss of Belfast Harbour, Joe O’Neill, with Gilbert Ash’s Ray Hutchinson

NI construction giant reaching new heights Gilbert Ash managing director Ray Hutchinson speaks to John Mulgrew about growing the company turnover towards the £200m mark and Stormont’s impasse hitting the sector


The firm has been behind a series of a high-profile building projects in the UK, notably the £22m Royal College of Music Scheme in London.

Gilbert Ash has grown into a £165m turnover business, which Ray told Ulster Business, he expects to grow further still this year.

It’s also understood that the company is expected to soon start work on a new

ay Hutchinson isn’t a man standing still, and neither is the construction giant which he heads up.


multi-million pound hotel project in London. And while, like many of those in the sector now securing much of its big business in Great Britain, the company will complete several high-profile projects in Belfast this year.


Already unveiled is the new AC Hotel by Marriott. It’s a £21.5m deal for Gilbert Ash, and is helping to meet the burgeoning demand for hotel rooms across the city.

“We recognised that, and changed our business model. The Northern Ireland construction industry is about 50/50, which is a lot higher than elsewhere in the UK.

The firm is also about to hand over the keys to its £23m student accommodation scheme, owned by Olympian Homes, and based at Great Patrick Street.

“What you then have is, that lack of Executive, you have a situation where companies look to the public sector and pipelines, and now struggle.

“From our perspective, it’s good to be back working on major projects in Northern Ireland,” he told Ulster Business.

“Businesses don’t like uncertainty, and the same goes for a lack of Executive. Business people in Northern Ireland, people in general, are better served with a local, devolved Assembly.

“The schemes presented good opportunity for high-profile projects, and getting our people back from working in mainland UK. “It’s great to get our people back (to Northern Ireland) and show Gilbert Ash have been back home again and showcasing it.” Speaking about the new AC Hotel, based at Belfast Harbour, Ray says: “It looks super. It’s not lost on us, that we have been involved in two big projects in Northern Ireland – one a student scheme and one a hotel.”

“The absence of ministers has led to an unwillingness for people to move things forward.” Ray Hutchinson

“What we say is, we are involved in projects – landmark and high-profile, those which will make an impact.

But despite success at home, the company is still focused on growing its business elsewhere in the UK.

“In London we have established a reputation. The business is now known. If we went back five or 10 years, we were maybe seen at a new player from Belfast.

And Gilbert Ash is growing still, according to its turnover figures.

“We are embedded now, and have an office there, and a fantastic track record.

“We have moved out of sustaining the organisation, to continued growth,” Ray says.

Aside from his role at the helm of Gilbert Ash, Ray is the current president of industry body the Construction Employers Federation.

It’s growing its turnover for £148m in 2016, to around £165m in the last year, with that expected to grow further still. “Our expectation in 2018, is that we will see that growth in turnover increase. “I'm positive about the sector generally, and I think Gilbert Ash has been well placed in terms of the projects we have done, in particular.” “In terms of projects at the moment, there is one at the Royal College of Music in London, the Royal College of Pathologists and the Mountview Academy of Theatre Arts.”

JUNE 2018

One of Gilbert Ash’s biggest long-term relationships has been with hotel chain Premier Inn. “Aside from those landmark high-profile schemes, we are a contractor of choice (for Premier Inn).” “In terms of Northern Ireland, I think while we have seen some growth among some surveys, but the sector is still suffering, due to a lack of an Executive. That is having an impact on the sector. “For the right or wrong reasons, the sector is very dependent on ton public sector spend.

Ray says firms have been finding it tough due to a reduction in the overall public spend. “We have recalibrated. There isn't the same spend, and we have adapted. It has switched our focus. “It took time, but what helped us was those landmark landscapes. We did the Lyric Theatre, Giant’s Causeway visitor centre and Waterfront Hall. “When you are exporting your services, when you have schemes of that ilk, you start to gain the traction that you would have in London.” Gilbert Ash employs around 175 staff directly, but supports hundreds through sub-contractor and the rest of the supply chain. “We expect turnover to continue into 2018 and 2019. I'm very positive over its outlook in the next 24 months,” Ray said. Speaking about the state of the economy in general, Ray says: “Everything cascades down through. There has to be confidence in other elements of the economy. “The very fact we are continuing to grow turnover, shows that we are confident in what we are doing.” >



The National Army Museum in London is one of Gilbert Ash’s high-profile projects

On Brexit, he said while there are clearly challenges, it’s not something Gilbert Ash sees as a blockage for its business. “It’s something that we are very aware of, but at the same time, we don't see it as presenting a significant threat, and it’s another challenge to overcome. We have to move forward,” he said. “The only effect has been the movement in the exchange rate. “There has been no slow down in opportunity. In early stages of the vote, we did see a couple of projects not happen because of Brexit. “But we have seen no reduction in tendering from Brexit. “We have to adapt and continue to look at our business.” Speaking about the business’s continued success, he said: “We have continued to


Businesses don’t like uncertainty, and the same goes for a lack of Executive. Business people in Northern Ireland, people in general, are better served with a local, devolved Assembly.

Ray Hutchinson

focus on what we are good at, and not been tempted to move away from the core areas which we are strong in. “We have a particular strength on arts and culture, hotels and commercial, and have to focus on that.

“What we have done is build a reputation as a company that is able to deliver. It is a continuing focus on improving.” That spreading out to a host of different areas in something attributed, in part to the downfall of Carillion, which collapsed last year. And what elements of the UK’s exit from the EU could have an impact on business? “Aside from any tariffs, we have worked around the world (in more than 40 countries). “We did that without tariffs or penalties and we would be keen to see, post Brexit, that (not changing). “Many construction materials are drawn in from Europe, and because of that the exchange rate, there is an impact on input costs.” ■

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Cloudy with a chance of GDPR Emma Deighan takes a look at the burgeoning cloud computing sector and why Northern Ireland is at the centre of it


surge in cloud computing integration in the world of Northern Ireland business has benefited the way many of the top companies now work. In this feature we look at the NI firms providing cloud services and why NI is fast becoming a hub for the sector. According to Invest NI, Northern Ireland has around 1,200 IT firms here. It’s a rapidly growing market and among these names are “big data/internet of things” and cyber security specialists. Cloud computing has revolutionised the way we work. It’s cut out the physical technical bulk of servers, increases accessibility to IT applications, offers cheaper backup and recovery solutions, allows for collaboration and remote access and lessens your corporate carbon footprint so its easy to see why demand and supply is accelerating at a rapid speed.

wages and access to financial support. Labour and property costs for a 200-person software development centre in Belfast are 36% less than Dublin, 44% less than London and 58% less than New York according to the Financial Times, fDi Benchmark 2017. And that same research states that Belfast is now the number one international investment location for US cyber-security development projects with investors such as Proofpoint, Rapid7, WhiteHat, Black Duck and Anomali endorsing the latter status. In the last few months, cloud and automation service provider Ammeon announced that it would establish a 60-person service delivery centre in Belfast. Alastair Hamilton, chief executive of Invest NI said the move reflects the resources here and would contribute some £3.5m to the economy. Ammeon services financial, telecoms, automotive and public sectors.

And here, in NI, we are at the heart of that development.

Fred Jones, the firm’s chief executive said: “Our new office in Northern Ireland is a pivotal point in our strategic growth.

Some of our cloud providers are native companies and some are international brands that are setting up shop in a region that has quickly become recognised as an attractive destination in which to invest, not just for its IT talent pool but cost competitiveness in terms of property and

“The availability of software engineering talent combined with a cost competitive environment and Invest NI support encouraged us to establish our service delivery centre in Northern Ireland.” Ammeon benefited from Government funding, an important resource that is

JUNE 2018

enticing many others to take note of NI’s credentials. It received £600,000 from Invest NI. Applied Systems Inc, a global provider of cloud-based software from Chicago, is expanding into Belfast with plans to recruit 50 staff by 2021. The company acquired Belfast-based Relay Software in 2016 and is set to establish a new R&D centre at its Gasworks offices to support its growth Its product, Applied Epic, is the fastest growing cloud-based broker management system for the insurance market. Jeremy Fitch managing director of Invest NI, which supported the move, said: “Cloud computing is a rapidly emerging industry with significant export potential and we have a growing cluster of software investors choosing to grow their business in Northern Ireland. “This investment by Applied Systems demonstrates the company’s confidence in our local skills base and further emphasises the region’s reputation for excellence in this sector.” Invest NI has offered Applied Systems more than £325,000 to support its employment and training activities. Applied Systems boss, Reid French added: “The availability of talented, young engineers >



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Robert O’Brien, MetaCompliance, and Jeremy Fitch, Invest NI

along with the supportive, established relationships with local universities and Invest NI made Northern Ireland a natural fit for us to grow our business.”

And in the North West MetaCompliance announced plans to recruit 69 new workers over the next three years to help develop its worldwide sales and market presence.

Further driving the growth in this sector is the introduction of the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) which came into force last month.

External advocacy from top IT brands isn’t the only indication that NI is well-tuned into a sector that is adding growth to the economy and bringing jobs to the market.

It develops software and creative content for the cyber security sector and is aiming to triple its turnover by capitalising on the demand for cloud based cyber security products.

An influx of news concerning expansion plans among those already born and bred here speaks volumes.

Jeremy Fitch said the expansion will inject £1.7m into the salary economy here.

The law applies to all companies selling to and storing personal information about citizens in Europe, including companies on other continents. It provides citizens of the EU and EEA with greater control over their personal data and assurances that their information is being securely protected across Europe.

One such firm is WANdisco Fusion. Invest NI has pumped £248,000 into supporting its research and development plan. The money will be used to enhance and progress the firm’s Live Data platform which enables its customers to “leverage” the cloud for their data computing needs while ensuring their data is always available, accurate and protected. Dr Vicky Kell, Invest NI’s director of innovation, research and development said: “As the world continues to become increasingly technology-driven, businesses are generating unprecedented levels of data. Our R&D support is helping WANdisco to develop the next generation of its WANdisco Fusion, allowing its customers to move large volumes of data.”


Reaching out to customers well beyond the region is also a hot topic in the homegrown cloud sector. Anaeko, a “hybrid cloud Integrator specialising in the development and test of hybrid cloud products and solutions” has celebrated a multi-million pound contract to develop and integrate cloud services for a major cloud provider in the US. Chairman of Anaeko, Denis Murphy, said: “When we made the jobs announcement late last year, our strategy was to focus on the fastest growing cloud technologies. “This strategy has enabled us to fight off stiff competition and secure this three year contract which is helping us to grow a truly world class team in the hybrid cloud integration space."

It will have a major impact on cloud service providers and how they manage personal data. Services will need to be amended, contracts, background processes and other areas will have to be assessed under new requirements or consequences could cost firms fines up to €20m (£18m) (or 4% of global turnover, whichever is higher). The regulations apply regardless of where the personal data is kept whether on paper or on servers in the cloud. However some experts do believe that using cloud services, could, in some instances, ease compliance. Being able to audit, query and resolve through virtual means is a powerful tool, and a cost-saving one at that. ■

Are you paying too much for your access control cards? Northern Ireland’s Largest ID card supplier Convergys is a world leader in customer experience outsourcing, employing over 120,000 people across the World. Our Agents look after billions of interactions on behalf of our clients customers each year, making the physical security of our sites and professionalism of our people high up on the agenda. We have been using NTD for a number of years as they supply a number of our European sites with access control cards, ID consumables, and ID card printers to produce ID for all of our 8000+ staff. We have confidence in their products and professionalism. NTD offer exceptional value for money making every effort to ensure that we stay within our budget. Nothing seems to be too much trouble and we are impressed with their speed of delivery and quality of service. Barry O’Riordan Convergys Regional Facilities Manager, Northern Europe

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Fit to burst or fit for purpose? By Terry Moore, Outsource managing director


hen was the last time you found yourself on the other end of the phone to your IT support service with yet another new or recurring issue? If it’s a lot more frequent than you’d like, with unwelcome and unplanned invoices to boot, then maybe it’s time you tried a new approach. The basic industry model for IT managed services is referred to as 'break/fix' — if it breaks, we fix it. This fundamentally remains a sound business model as the more IT ‘things’ that break the more work and therefore income for the IT company. Fair enough, you might think. However, at Outsource we have always built our business around the customer’s needs and in 2016 we decided our customers deserved more. They deserve better, they deserve IT that doesn't break. This resulted in the evolution of our innovative fully managed contract (FMC), which offers an unparalleled level of service based on three core customer pillars, recovery, security and performance. The premise is simple. Our FMC provides an agreed level of service for which a customer pays a flat fixed monthly fee. Outsource then manage their IT ensuring agreed service levels. Our FMC is based on us designing and implementing the most appropriate technological solution for our customer's business needs, both for today and tomorrow. To deliver this, we constantly invest in new and better technology, we pro-actively monitor, maintain and repair customer devices, 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year — remotely where possible — before and without the customer even knowing on many occasions. Two years on our FMC offering has continued to evolve and based on the speed of change within IT and the business world, we expect it will always develop and mould to new needs as we find and utilise cutting edge technology to support our customers.


Terry Moore

We remain so confident in our innovative FMC that we have taken a business decision that our FMC is not and will never be a contractual commitment; customers do not enter into any contractual obligations and can cancel their FMC at any time — without notice. The fact that every single Outsource customer transitioned onto our FMC remains on the programme, highlights the success in this innovative service approach and the reassurance it gives local businesses. In the ever-changing world of IT, with new and sophisticated threats being developed every day and business needs constantly evolving to meet the demands of new markets, no reputable IT company can ever provide a 100% guarantee to a customer that they will never have issues. However, FMC customers are guaranteed that whether

an IT issue is, "their fault, our fault or someone else's fault", they will never pay any additional costs to Outsource for us to fix the issue. As a paying customer you should expect the best technological solutions delivered by the best people but just as importantly, at Outsource we pride ourselves in also providing our customers with the ultimate business goal — peace of mind. Something to think about the next time you pick up the phone to IT support. ■ Outsource was established 18 years ago and employs staff across offices in Antrim, Belfast, Cookstown, Dublin and Edinburgh. Its customers include leading names from the hospitality, engineering, legal, professional services, manufacturing, energy, financial services and food sectors.

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Are your company mobiles GDPR compliant?


DPR law in the UK and across the EU started on May 25, 2018. As a business you have probably thought about everything from internal policies and paperwork to the effect on your customers and database, but what about your company mobiles? As the use of mobile devices and IoT increases in the workplace, it’s time to link your GDPR plans to your mobile device strategy. It’s a necessity for all companies; small, medium and large, who have a mobile workforce and are conscious about data leaks. Ask yourself these questions: 1. Do your employees use mobile devices to contact your customers? 2. Do your employees save customer data onto mobile devices? 3. Do your employees ever take their mobile devices out of the office? 4. Can you lock down a mobile device should it become lost or stolen? 5. Will you be responsible for a data breach if the device is lost or stolen? If you answered yes to one or more of the questions, then GDPR matters to you and your business. That’s where Barclay Communications can help. We work in collaboration with our IBM partner to provide businesses with a simple and cost effective software that is designed to protect information stored on mobile devices.

actively connecting to the network and using their devices to perform their various business functions and handle GDPRregulated data associated with the company and its customers, partners, and other employees. Without a successful security strategy in place, an organisation could suffer the financial, regulatory and reputational consequences that follow a serious datasecurity breach, with penalties resulting in fines of up to 4% of an organisation’s global annual turnover or €20M.

the management, security and compliance of your confidential data is under control. This makes MDM an important component of any GDPR compliance program, as it can help by enabling you to secure, manage and protect mobility with ease.

OUR SOLUTION Barclay Communications offer a Mobile Device Management (MDM) solution, with a free additional Mobile Threat Management (MTM) solution for a limited time only.


As an IBM Direct Partner, Barclay Communications has been providing the MaaS360 solution to our customers, working side by side to help businesses move towards GDPR compliance.

The purpose of MDM is to optimise the functionality and security of mobile devices within the workplace, while also protecting the corporate network and any corporate data that has been downloaded or synced to the mobile device

One of the key elements of GDPR is “Privacy by Design,” a framework based on proactively embedding privacy into the design and operation of IT systems, network equipment, and business practices. This includes mobile devices as employees are

MaaS360 Mobile Device Management is very important for helping organisations move towards GDPR compliance. The solutions it offers play a crucial part in combatting the challenges listed and helps to ensure that

This means that not only are the users’ devices encrypted and protected from data leaks, but the MTM solution delivers an antivirus element that is vital to ensuring that devices are safe and GDPR compliant. ■



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LOCATION TRACKING Monitor and track your mobile devices historical and real-time location.


Phoenix rises to new heights For a company with big ambition, it’s an impressive achievement for a product that was brand new to Northern Ireland only a short time ago. Reflecting on the company’s success, chief executive Michael McKinstry acknowledges the key drivers to growth.

Phoenix Natural Gas chief executive Michael McKinstry

Just over 20 years ago, Phoenix Natural Gas was established in Northern Ireland, at a time when the idea of natural gas as a main heating source here was little more than a pipedream. Today, natural gas has transformed how we heat our homes and become an integral part of our lifestyle. Having invested £500m in laying some 3,600km of pipework to date, Phoenix Natural Gas is the largest natural gas distribution and gas services business in Northern Ireland. The company has achieved a penetration rate of over 60%, connecting over 210,000 customers and making natural gas available to 330,000 properties in the licence area, accounting for 44% of the total population of Northern Ireland.

“The conversion of existing homes to natural gas has continued unabated over recent years and, following the economic downturn, we have seen resurgence in new build housing which, coupled with steady population growth has had a positive effect on connection rates.” “The efficiency benefits and the inherent cost and lifestyle benefits associated with natural gas compared to other fuels continue to be the main reason homeowners make the switch to natural gas and recommend it to friends and family. This organic growth and our recent network extension project to extend the natural gas pipeline to thirteen new towns in Co Down will see us continue to connect at a rate of 8,000 to 9,000 new customers each year.” The £60m private investment by the company will see 350km of network constructed over the next few years in 13 new towns in East Down, connecting an additional 28,000 properties to the natural gas network by 2022.

As the project is rolled out, Phoenix Natural Gas is engaging with communities and local representatives to ensure a smooth programme of works during the construction phase whilst integrating the well-known Phoenix Natural Gas brand into these areas. As Michael McKinstry says: “The role of CSR is entwined with the business strategy, and through this we seek to build a longterm, sustainable business that creates real economic, social and environmental value. With each new town that we enter, we seek to embed ourselves in the local community and ‘give back’ by supporting initiatives and helping to develop the community over and beyond the inherent benefits of natural gas.”

THE FUTURE “After 20 years in Northern Ireland, Phoenix has firmly established natural gas as the fuel of choice in Northern Ireland and we continue to see strong growth in connections year on year. With a number of new projects on-going, including the Co Down extension project and working with the Utility Regulator to examine the feasibility of extending the network to other new areas, Phoenix is continuing to rise to new heights as a leading energy utility,” Michael McKinstry says.


Why great brands attract top talent F

or a number of years now I have been saying that recruitment is not a HR activity, but an ongoing marketing and branding exercise that yields returns through appointing the best people. Businesses that adopt this approach not only gain better results when going to the market for talent, they also perform much better than their peers on staff retention. Why is this? Savvy business leaders know that their business has a brand value and as such it will be recognised in a certain context, if invested in. If your businesses success and growth depends on a service delivered by people, then you need to consider what your employer brand is saying to the potential employee audience. Daniel Pink in his fourth book ‘Drive’ talks about mastery, autonomy and purpose as key motivators for employees to join and stay. What are you doing in your business that illustrates you are meeting these motivators?

Justin Rush

PURPOSE MASTERY Do you invest heavily in learning and development initiatives? Will you allow your people to truly become highly skilled/ experts/leaders in their field? If not, the truly talented people will find somewhere that will.

AUTONOMY Do you and your leadership team trust your team enough to leave them alone to get the job done? Do you remove blockages (not create them) in order to support efficiency? Modern working arrangements for professionals means clear goals but the flexibility to deliver them.


Is the vision for your business far reaching, impactful and challenging? Would you join your organisation if you were looking for a new job? This is a tough question to answer truthfully. Your business needs, at the very least, to be linked to the community it operates within. If you can present evidence of two from three of these motivators, to the market consistently, you will attract better people while retaining more. Think of it like this, whatever type of professional person you are seeking to appoint (accountant, lawyer, manager,

developer) just remember, they can go wherever they want nowadays. What changes when they move is the leadership, the vision and the culture. The work they undertake fundamentally stays the same. Adopting this approach is not a quick or easy process. However, the great reward for this approach is the virtuous circle that it creates. Soon the best people will gravitate towards you, because your business walks the talk. â– Justin Rush is director at Belfast-based Abacus Group. He specialises in advising businesses on research, advice and strategy on talent. He can be contacted via justin@abacus.jobs

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Harland & Wolff shipyard workers finish for the day in 1966

Smokestacks to sophistication John Simpson examines Northern Ireland’s manufacturing heritage, its move away from traditional industry and what’s around the corner


orthern Ireland has a proud history as a major regional centre for manufacturing industry.

Despite the disadvantages of being an off-shore region, physically separated from


the bigger industrial base in Great Britain, the skyline of the Belfast conurbation was dominated by the profiles, first, of the gantries for shipbuilding and, second, the industrial buildings and chimneys of engineering giants fabricating (what then

was) modern machinery. This successful heritage could also be seen in diversified businesses in the other urban centres. In the 21st century the skyline has changed. Thankfully, the physical appearance of


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modern industry has changed for the better. Gone are the ‘grey smokestacks’, gone is the stress of noisy welding, riveting and a polluted atmosphere, and also, gone but not forgotten are the large industrial units employing thousands of people generating large numbers of employees returning to poorer urban living standards than are now the norm. The images of 19th century engineering have left an artistic challenge but an uncomfortable inheritance. Engineering and manufacturing in today’s industrial environment is, by contrast, clean (largely pollution free) and demands more people with skills and qualifications than even 70 years ago. The price of success – meaning being competitive in international markets – is being able to combine modern skills, developing production techniques ahead of other world leaders, and quoting delivery prices and timescales that give compelling contract (or tender) prices that clinch successful outcomes. The launch of the aircraft carrier HMS Eagle at Harland & Wolff in Belfast in 1946

The degree of success or failure is neatly illustrated by a telling statistical comparison, expressed in global terms. Compared with 50 years ago, the number of people employed in manufacturing industry in Northern Ireland has fallen by over 50%. That change sits alongside estimates that the real value of manufacturing output has more than doubled.

Norbrook, Almac, Randox and the Eakin products, all point to a new, still narrow but broadening, industrial base.

On that comparison both the pessimists and the optimists can draw conclusions. The compelling conclusion must be that, without that process of change, that improvement in productivity, there would have been a less satisfactory outcome.


The engineering skills that built big ships still exist, with Harland & Wolff still one of Northern Ireland’s most famous institutions. The refurbishment of cruise liners in the dock that built the famous Union-Castle liners shows that continuity is possible. The lighter engineering skills for aircraft have now moved into the skills of modern composite fibres. Some engineering skills have mutated into science and information technology. Other skills are less traditional: the evolution of

JUNE 2018

Heavy industrial processes relying on manual effort, linked to modest earnings, are giving way to higher-value-added opportunities. The change must be welcomed and reenforced.

Northern Ireland has offered a more stable environment for manufacturing investment in recent years. Significantly, following the Good Friday Agreement, the last 20 years have allowed a more settled business environment to function. The environment has not been as positive and encouraging as could be hoped but it was better than during the period of the active Troubles. There has been a modest but positive and continuing flow of external investment, much of it in the form of re-investment by existing externally owned businesses. There has been the anticipation of an improved business performance enhanced by the

prospective introduction of a separate and lower rate of corporation tax. The anticipated improvement in the business environment has now been made less certain. Until there is a final agreement on the shape and form of the Brexit treaty, it is rash to predict how business will be affected after March 2019. There is a long list of inherited policies, as linked to the evolving EU regulatory framework, for which there must be, in different degrees, uncertainty about continuity, change or distortion. This is not an easy combination of circumstances in which to assess possible business development propositions and, to add to the uncertainty, for official agencies such as Invest NI, to set out guidelines for a persuasive local development strategy. Stormont departments and Invest NI will be a source of influence and positive intervention to incentivise business investment. However well chosen, the supportive efforts of Government policy are likely to be only a marginal (but necessary) influence. The first priority >



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Randox founder Peter FitzGerald

must be further enhancing the in-built competitiveness of locally based businesses.

marginal incentives will be less effective than is needed.

The critical initial building block is that the main contributions to an enhanced industrial strategy must exist in the complete range of ‘inputs’ that emerge easily because there is an inherited infrastructure to meet the needs of new and growing businesses, there are readily available features such as efficient public services and public utilities, and critically that there are adequate numbers of people with personal skills and qualifications to allow the needs of new businesses to be met.

The preparatory assumptions are easily articulated. Even if fulfilled, there remain difficult questions.

A second priority is an enhanced investment strategy for Northern Ireland. It will draw on an improved social, economic and infrastructural environment. Refined and targeted improvements to the Programme for Government building on a refreshed delivery vision from Invest NI will attract keen critical evaluation but, if there are deficiencies in the wider infrastructure or in the educational delivery mechanisms,


There are significant ‘unknowns’. How will the trading conditions for Northern Ireland industries be changed by Brexit? Will the trading conditions with the continuing EU remain as now (or nearly so) or will there be a customs frontier around the UK? Decision making based on an assumption that there will be a seamless trading relationship for NI with the EU 27 would be a considered risk. Decisions based on a continuing stable exchange rate for the pound and euro, might be understandable but far from guaranteed. Decisions based on an expectation of continuing regulatory alignment may be somewhat optimistic. Then there are decisions which will reflect local or national features. If the UK leaves

the EU, do regions like NI take advantage of a new freedom to move away from EU constraints? Alternatively, is the UK likely to agree to retain the policy constraints inherited from the EU on the application of guidelines on the use of State aid to give a boost to a new industrial development strategy? To avoid international criticism, is the UK likely to commit to regulatory alignment, officially or unofficially, on observing rules inherited from the EU on maintaining effective competition policies? The emerging post-Brexit environment brings new uncertainties. To stand still, make no new policy moves, could be a major mistake. Perhaps a working assumption of a successful Brexit, an agreed (near) customs union, and a seamless Irish border should be the starting point. Disappointment on the assumptions will mean serious rethinking. Best to assume success rather than failure. ■


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Vickerstock director, Darren McVicker, fourth from left and recruitment manager Hugh Nugent, third from left join students from Queen’s Formula Racing

Vickerstock enters the race for engineering excellence


ome of Queen’s University’s top students are set to speed their way to success against more than 100 other global institutions as part of Formula Student 2018. Next month, students from Queen’s Formula Racing (QFR) will compete against 120 universities from across the globe. Formula Student, which kicks off at Silverstone – the home of UK motor-racing – in July is organised by the Institution of Mechanical Engineers (IMechE) and students must design, build, test and race a small-scale single-seat formula style racing car. This momentous event will see the next generation of world-class engineers pit their wits and technical ability. And, Vickerstock, a leading engineering recruitment agency based in Belfast are the official gold sponsor for Queen’s Formula Racing. Darren McVicker, director of Vickerstock, said: “Vickerstock exists to provide a link between engineering firms and available talent.


Connecting with and supporting students in higher education is part of our ongoing strategy to increase reach with both current and future engineers. “We are therefore delighted to be partnering with Queen’s Formula Racing team. It’s fantastic to see so many young engineers working together on such a fun and engaging project. “Our goal at Vickerstock is to promote engineering and engineers at all levels, and we feel it is especially important to provide support for young, local engineers who are just starting out on their careers. “We were very excited to see the excellent CAD drawings created by the students for this year’s design and watching the physical car come together has been brilliant. “I am looking forward to seeing them race at Silverstone and everyone at Vickerstock wishes the team well for the race week in July.” The 2018 team from Queen’s University Belfast includes over 40 students from the School

of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering. They are led by Gavin White, a fourth year Master’s student who has already spent a year’s placement at Aston Martin and brings a solid set of technical and project management skills to the team. Their task? To build a race car in 10 months which can compete in a wide range of static and dynamic events including, cost and manufacturing, engineering design, technical inspection, skidpad, acceleration, autocross, endurance and efficiency. The 2016 team achieved 77th place, but a year latter it landed a seventh place finish. Vickerstock will be keeping the engineering and manufacturing sector updated with reports on build progress, testing and race information. ■ For updates on the team’s progress, from car build to Silverstone, follow Vickerstock on Linkedin, Facebook and Twitter #VSQFR

INVESTING IN TALENT FORMULATING CONNECTIONS 028 9031 3720 | info@vickerstock.co.uk | www.vickerstock.co.uk Vickerstock Engineering Recruitment, 4c Heron Wharf, Belfast Harbour

Rose Mary Stalker, chair of Mid and East Antrim Borough Council’s Manufacturing Taskforce, and Anne Donaghy, chief executive of Mid and East Antrim Borough Council

Setting the wheels in motion for a revival in manufacturing T

he manufacturing sector has been one of the key pillars of the Northern Ireland economy’s success for generations. Products made on these shores – from linen to whiskey, mashed potato to buses – have been feeding demand from around the world and have helped put this region on the map. Nowhere within Northern Ireland has been more central to that success than the Mid & East Antrim borough and surrounding area, a district which has often been regarded as the engine room of the economy.


As such, it is often a good barometer of the sector’s health. News flow from the district over the last few months has revealed a manufacturing sector in flux, one which undoubtedly has solid foundations but which has been knocked by the loss of a couple of established pillars including French tyre manufacturer Michelin and Japanese cigarette manufacturer JTI. These, along with a number of other – albeit lesser – losses have dented the sector’s confidence. Not, however, for much longer.

Anne Donaghy, chief executive of Mid & East Antrim Borough Council, was quick to recognise that the sector needed help and didn’t waste time in putting the wheels in motion to turn its fortunes around. “Earlier this year we launched Amplify, the integrated economic strategy for the area and this highlighted the importance of the manufacturing sector which is at the heart of Mid & East Antrim so when it needs our help, we act. As a council, we can help provide the conditions for business to thrive and that is exactly what we are doing with the manufacturing sector.


“It is clear we have some world-class companies, some leading individuals and the potential to not just recoup the losses we’ve seen over the last few months, but to grow the sector to become even better than it had been.”

Delegates at the Manufacturing Taskforce workshop

The first step on that journey was to identify exactly what manufacturers in the district need to flourish, what obstacles do they need help navigating around and what opportunities do they need help taking? That’s where the Manufacturing Taskforce comes in. It is an initiative which is the central plank in the rejuvenation of manufacturing in the district and the central plank to Amplify. It is headed up by manufacturing industry expert Rose Mary Stalker who was appointed chair in January. Rose Mary has deep experience in organisations such as Ford, Boeing and Rolls Royce. One of her first actions was to initiate a process of gathering information and she conducted a needs analysis with over 60 companies in order to identify common issues for discussion. “We knew we needed to take bold steps to get this industry back on track and that’s what the taskforce aims to do by finding out from the people within the sector what they need to see to grow their businesses,” Anne Donaghy said. The next step was a workshop held in the Catalyst Inc. Innovation Centre at Ecos in April which gathered together over 100 business leaders and stakeholders for a brain storming session to exchange ideas and discuss potential solutions to common issues. More than 50 representatives from the borough’s manufacturing companies actively participated in the workshop including key personnel from large multinational corporations such as Caterpillar, Ryobi, Moy Park and Sensata as well as Northern Irelandowned businesses including Wrightbus, Kilwaughter and Yelo. Led by Rose Mary Stalker, it challenged company representatives to highlight the

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issues which need to be addressed within their sector around productivity, skills, research and development, the supply chain and innovation in small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). And importantly, they were asked to come up with recommendations as to how those issues should be addressed. Some of the main recommendations from the workshop were to: • Upskill both employees and leaders in the preparation for the fourth Industrial Revolution • Inspire more young people, and their parents, to pursue a career in the manufacturing sector • Implement a regional skills barometer to identify current and future skills needs. • Hold meet-the-buyer events to help SMEs to become suppliers to larger companies, create an integrated pool/collaborative partnership with suppliers. • Create a specific SME manufacturing Centre of Excellence in Mid & East Antrim with facilities accessible and affordable to SMEs including meeting space and product development labs. • Create an Advance Manufacturing Strategy for Northern Ireland. Rose Mary Stalker said the desire to rejuvenate the sector was evident by the level of participation and engagement at the workshop, both from manufacturers and support organisations. “Together we came up with a number of ideas which we will need to develop further into a Mid & East Antrim Manufacturing Taskforce Plan,” she said.

“This plan will aim to overcome the economic loss of both Michelin and JTIGallagher in recent years.” The company representatives who attended the workshop said it was an important step toward rejuvenating the sector. Michael O’Toole, leader of supply chain operations at Terumo BCT, said there had been good discussion around how local manufacturers can improve competitiveness through collaboration with the wider supply base and on how to fend off cost competition and improve the quality of service to customers. “There is a lot of talent here, we’re well supported with transport networks and are very encouraged that we have a lot of support from local government and the council to drive our industry going forward,” he said. “We’re extremely pleased that the taskforce has been put in place to support that.” The next phase for the manufacturing taskforce will see a number of action points created to reflect the recommendations. Then, the implementation stage will begin. “The hard work starts now but we’re determined to transform the manufacturing sector in Mid & East Antrim with the help of all our stakeholders,” Anne Donaghy said. “Manufacturing is central to Amplify, central to the borough’s future and we want to do all we can to support it.” ■



Are you in control of your costs? Catherine Martin, partner at CavanaghKelly, looks at the importance of accurate, timely management information in allowing businesses to understand performance in real time


hile every business strives to have a strong order book, a focus on sales alone can blur the lines between being busy and being profitable. Many businesses are facing difficulties in recruiting and retaining skilled labour. In order to retain their best staff, employers are offering unforeseen pay increases. With material costs also on the increase and the unknown financial impact of Brexit, there is a risk of working around the clock fulfilling orders… but at what cost? It is unlikely that all of the rising costs will always be captured – it is just not possible. However, what is possible is to prepare accurate, timely and relevant management information to identify these as early as possible. In business environments such as manufacturing, where the final overall cost is made up of multiple factors, cost control is vital so that margins are not eroded. The latest management information should be used to give up to date information on these costs: Materials: as well as basic materials used in the main production process, it is essential to include the costs of additional production stages such as paint shop, galvaniser etc. Wages: normally includes direct labour for processing materials through various stages of production. Each employee should be accounted for, based upon hours spent and hourly rate. The accurate recording of time spent on jobs can also be a challenge but an area worth investing in to enable accurate comparisons of budget versus actual costs. Sub-contractors: if elements of the final product are outsourced, these up to date costs should be accurately reflected.


Catherine Martin

Transport: delivery costs, whether shipping or road haulage, which are not borne by the customer directly must be factored in. Overheads: these include costs incurred for insurance, rent, rates, telephone, electricity, indirect office wages, for example. An overhead allocation rate should be calculated on a regular basis. Waste: consideration should be given to how wastage levels are recorded and monitored. Rework and warranty: quality and getting it right first time can have a significant impact upon costs and profitability. Ad-hoc production: understanding the difference between ‘one off’ jobs and established products is important, as hidden costs of producing ‘one off’ job may have a significant negative impact on margin.

Currency: this can be a volatile area, the forward buying of currency is something that businesses with significant exposure to currency fluctuations should consider. The way in which we do business is constantly evolving, whether it’s the use of robotics on the shop floor, material optimisation software, or an ERP system. Businesses need real time information to control costs, maximise profitability and make informed decisions on the next phase of development. ■ CavanaghKelly is well-positioned to review and implement solid financial management reporting systems to allow you to see how your business is performing in real time. Please call 028 8775 2990 for more information from Catherine Martin.

Thinking down the line Our experienced team doesn’t simply deliver insurance solutions for today. We always have one eye on tomorrow too.

Specialist insurance & risk advisors for your business sector.

Caulfield Corporate 162 Lisburn Road, Belfast, BT9 6AL

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We focus on continuously enhancing our products and services for our manufacturing & engineering clients in order to provide comprehensive cover enabling you to concentrate on your business. CAULFIELDCORPORATE.COM

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Creagh Concrete, Toomebridge, CDE customer for the past 20 years which incorporates many modular components engineered and manufactured by CDE

Home-grown global firm CDE on stellar trajectory W hen it comes to excellence in engineering and manufacturing, CDE has over 25 years of experience in the field of materials wet processing. The company has recently risen to the top as one of only 25 companies in Northern Ireland to make it on to The UK’s 1000 Companies to Inspire Britain report, compiled by The London Stock Exchange Group. Add to this the recent accolades of Deloitte Best Managed Company for the 10th consecutive year and the highly coveted Manufacturer of the Year £25m+ Award at the Insider’s Made in Northern Ireland Awards in May, and it is clear that CDE has continued on a growth trajectory that is second to none.



As a manufacturer, CDE takes each of its customer’s vision to turn it into reality. Every plant is tailor-made to their exact specifications for optimal efficiency and return on investment, which are determined through detailed consultation and product testing. Sean Kerr, engineering director at CDE said: “Our strength lies in the level of excellence of our teams, that keeps us ahead of the innovation curve, but also in the absolute care we put in everything we do. “From the first contact with a customer, we ensure that we provide a world-class service through all milestones of their plant’s journey. CDE’s project management expertise is extensive and the company takes charge

of all aspects of each project from initial discussions through to the installation phase and beyond.”

NEW YEAR, NEW IMAGE Celebrating 25 years in business, CDE has gone from strength to strength and sold, installed and commissioned over 1,000 turnkey systems globally, including the largest wet processing plant in the world in the Middle East. The company’s recent brand overhaul sees a new look for the company and a new strapline ‘A New World of Resource’, representing the futuristic and innovative outlook the company is taking in the industry, continually seeking to provide high tech, userfriendly and bespoke wet processing solutions to construction companies as well as mine and quarry operators.


The new CDE headquarters in Cookstown will be completed in the fourth quarter of 2018

The company has also brought to life the five sectors in which it operates with new branding and sectoral names including: CDE Primo (sand and aggregates), CDE Meta (mining), CDE Reco (construction, demolition and excavation waste recycling), CDE Solv (industrial sands) and CDEnviro (environmental). The dedication and commitment to developing these sectors on a global basis is further supported with the recruitment of over 150 people in the business in 2017.

STELLAR GROWTH Commenting on CDE’s extraordinary growth, Brendan McGurgan, managing director, said: “Our recent performance is testimony to the strength, determination, culture and resilience of our team, who has skillfully navigated a path through the recession since 2008.

development in the business saw a major development in 2017 with the launch of the company’s most sophisticated M-Series wet processing model to date, alongside five new patents, with eight more in the pipeline; CDE has consolidated its position as an international market leader in its field. Sean Kerr said: “CDE is also securing its long-term sustainability and competitiveness through improvements in efficiency. During 2017, we increased the volume of machines dispatched by 27% without the need to increase the footprint of the production space”.


To support its ambitious long-term growth projections CDE has recently invested in a 300,000 sq ft world-class fabrication “A commitment to our strategic goals facility in Monkstown, which will underpinned by a strong focus on Innovation has delivered value to our customers across five complement its current supply base and ensure that its fabrication resource meets industry sectors on a global basis and we are future requirements. delighted that the outlook remains positive as we concentrate our collective efforts towards With demand anticipated to double by the delivery of our 2020 Vision.” the end of 2020, this additional facility complements the existing Northern Ireland CDE’s experience includes classification and supply base and enhances employment in beneficiation of minerals and value addition the Monkstown area where a tradition of across these five sectors globally. The engineering has existed for many years. continuous focus on innovation and product

Sean Kerr, engineering director CDE

With new CDE headquarters being completed in the fourth quarter of 2018, this is going to be an exciting time for the company as it will produce high quality job opportunities across the company’s various divisions. At CDE, the future is bright and the company looks forward to turning new challenges into new opportunities and to continuing to improve and provide the best expertise and customer service in the field. ■ CDE will be attending the Antrim & Newtownabbey Borough Jobs Fair at the Valley Leisure Centre on June 6, 10am-2pm and 4pm-7pm. Come along to see what jobs are on offer, or contact our recruitment personnel on recruitment@cdeglobal.com

Deloitte Best Managed Companies

JUNE 2018



Retentions: can’t hold them back anymore? By Adrian Kerr, director of construction law, Mills Selig He introduced a Private Members’ Bill in Parliament in which he has proposed a mandatory retention deposit scheme. The idea is that all relevant retention monies would be deposited in a governmentcontrolled scheme and released once specific conditions have been achieved regardless of the insolvency of a party or reluctance of a party to release retentions. The second reading of the Bill takes place on June 15, 2018 and it will be interesting to see if this it can influence legislators to adopt the concept of a mandatory retention deposit scheme.

WHAT CAN WE DO IN THE MEANTIME? All contracts must set out very clearly: • the retention amount; • how it is to be held; and


n the film Frozen, Elsa sings ‘Let it go, let it go, can’t hold it back anymore’ because she can finally, without hindrance, take the gloves off and move on from the past. The UK Government is edging closer to deciding that the gloves are off in relation to the use of retentions in contracts, and the theme is very much that you ‘can’t hold it back anymore’.

WHAT IS A RETENTION? Retention clauses allow parties paying for products/services to retain a percentage of payments that fall due. This “retention” should then be released upon the occurrence of a certain event (for example, once an installed product has passed performance tests). Retentions give customers financial security and comfort that if products don’t


perform well during the period that follows installation/construction, there is an incentive on the parties responsible to come back and fix them (or a pot of money to fix the products using third parties). Sadly, retention clauses are often abused by those holding the money and this affects the cashflow of smaller companies. In addition, some customers become insolvent meaning that smaller companies only get back a small percentage (if anything) of retentions.

WHY IS THIS RELEVANT NOW? Many small companies suffer because of retentions that are gobbled up by the insolvency process. Peter Aldous MP is currently championing the possible regulation of retentions to try to ensure that smaller companies are better protected.

• when it gets deducted/released and how. Where retention monies are not paid, the options available might include the right to adjudicate and recover those monies within a period as short as one month. With the growing use of retentions, Mills Selig has the understanding and expertise necessary to provide specialist advice to ensure that contracts reflect what has been agreed between the parties and disputes are dealt with efficiently. ■ To speak to a market-leading specialist solicitor, visit www.millsselig.com

Enhancing our

digital connections Armagh City, Banbridge & Craigavon with its 208,000 citizens and more than 8,000 businesses, contributes around 10%, nearly ÂŁ4bn annually to the Northern Ireland economy. To continue to grow the local economy, fast broadband provision across the Borough is a priority and a council working group has been set up to track and avail of every opportunity to provide access to high quality affordable broadband for citizens. This council is working with partners across government to push for real

change bringing us closer to our goal of affordable broadband for all. One positive outcome from the working group has been an award of ÂŁ2.4m to install gigabit infrastructure in the Borough. Armagh City, Banbridge & Craigavon, together with Belfast are among thirteen UK cities awarded funding from the Department of

Culture, Media and Sport to install localfull-fibre networks. For Armagh City, Banbridge & Craigavon, this means that in terms of digital connectivity, we aim to deliver a world-class dark fibre infrastructure of gigabit capability, which will support our ambitions for citizens’ social inclusion and the needs of current and future business. To find out more please contact our Economic Development department on: 0300 0300 900 info@ armaghbanbridgecraigavon.gov.uk or visit armaghbanbridgecraigavon.gov.uk Find us on Facebook and Twitter


McAleer & Rushe profits rise to more than £13m


orthern Ireland construction giant McAleer & Rushe Contracts UK has seen sales soar by more than a third — rising to £334m.

The recently opened Maldron Hotel in Belfast

It saw sales of £334m for 2017 — up from £242.9m a year earlier. And the Co Tyrone-based company’s pre-tax profits were also up from £10m to £13.4m, while staff numbers grew from 271 to 300. McAleer & Rushe Contracts UK is the design and build company which carries out office construction projects in Great Britain. It’s part of the wider McAleer & Rushe business. In a strategic report, directors including co-founder Seamus McAleer said the results had been “in line with expectations”. “The company continued to build on the strong platform established in recent years and with the progression of several larger schemes to their latter stages through the year, further turnover growth was delivered.” It said it had 23 projects underway during 2017, including a major office building in Edinburgh in a £47m project, and a 24 storey student accommodation scheme in Liverpool, a £51m project. The group also announced a £40m contract to deliver a new 330-bedroom hotel in Birmingham for Dalata Hotel Group. In January McAleer & Rushe Contracts UK announced a £130m construction deal — its biggest yet — to build more than 500 new homes in London. Its strategic report added: “The company is close to securing a number of further large-scale contracts with both new and existing clients while operating at or close to current project levels. “This will result in comparable performance in 2018, with potential for turnover growth.” And it said it would again target “minimal staff turnover” during the year. But it said that in 2017, it had not taken up all opportunities offered “to ensure focus remains on the timely and cost-focused delivery of a manageable workload”. In January, the company announced it had been appointed by the UK property investor Quintain to build the 533 homes at Wembley Park as part of the South West Lands development. Around 20% of the development will be affordable homes, including shared ownership housing. Eamonn Laverty, chief executive of McAleer & Rushe, said at the time: “Marking our largest contract to date, we are delighted to be here today


celebrating the signing of the £130m deal for the second phase of South West Lands. “This is our third contract with Quintain since 2016 and the project cements our partnership with them as a trusted member of their Main Contractors framework.” McAleer & Rushe has already secured work on the first phase of South West Lands, in a deal worth £55m. The company has become one of Northern Ireland’s most successful contractors to carry out work in the UK and Ireland. Mr Laverty said the London deal cemented the company’s position “as one of the leading design and build contractors in the high end residential and private rented sector”. “We look forward to further involvement in the wider Wembley Park masterplan.” McAleer & Rushe also recently announced that it would be building a new four-star hotel in Glasgow in a £30m project. The firm signed up to an agreement for lease with long-term collaborator Dalata. McAleer & Rushe of Dungannon Road in Cookstown is also the developer behind the new Maldron Hotel — also owned by Dalata — on Brunswick Street in Belfast city centre. Other hotel projects include the Premier Inn, Wembley, Hampton by Hilton, Edinburgh Airport and Clayton Hotel, Charlemont, in Dublin. ■



Competition for tech talent increases By John Moore, managing director, Hays Northern Ireland

An intense focus on security, preparation for new regulation and digital transformation is boosting the day rates commanded by technology contractors in the UK, including Northern Ireland, as organisations compete for experienced contractors to deliver critical projects. The Hays Technology Contractor Day Rate Guide 2018 found the greatest increases in rates for technology contractors were in functional testing, cloud and infrastructure, ERP and cyber security, all areas where rates for contractors increased by over 2% on average. The average overall increase in contractor day rates between 2017 and 2018 was 1.7%. High profile cyber-attacks and security breaches have ensured qualified and experienced cyber security contractors remain highly sought after, particularly those with regulatory knowledge or project management experience. However, a scarcity of candidates looking for permanent roles means many organisations

have turned to contractors to fulfil these key projects, with subsequent day rate increases. Over half of technology employers surveyed by Hays are concerned contractors expect unrealistic rates this year. The implementation of the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) has created a surge in demand for contractors in chief data officer and head of data positions to oversee compliance. Chief data officers can command a typical average day rate of almost £700, up 4.9% on year. While rates are lower in Northern Ireland these CDO roles now typically command £450, a rise of 12.5% on last year. Also driven by GDPR, day rates for information security engineers increased by 10% to a typical rate of £275 in Northern Ireland, while senior test analyst rates also increased 10% to £275. Preparation for GDPR and other regulatory and compliance priorities across a number of industries is driving large-scale projects.

Our survey of employers of technology professionals found that 51% were planning to employ contractors this year to access specific skills for one-off projects. Skilled development contractors also remain sought-after as organisations invest in their digital offering in order to meet changing consumer expectations. In Northern Ireland, for example, Java developers saw a 33% rise to a day rate of £400. The day rates available to technology contractors have been steadily rising for a number of years, but it’s clear that employers of technology contractors are now facing pinch points in their ability to deliver critical projects, particularly where new legislation and security are concerned. ■ To find out more about Hays Northern Ireland log on to hays.co.uk/ni, follow us on Twitter @ HaysN_Ireland or call 028 3844 5800.

Moy Park replaces NI boss after US takeover By John Mulgrew

“As she hands the reins over to Chris, I want to wish Janet the very best in her next endeavour.”


oy Park his replaced its chief executive Janet McCollum with a new president just months after its takeover by a US company.

The company also announced the appointment of Flavio Malnarcic, former executive business director at Moy Park, as chief financial officer.

Chris Kirke will lead the Craigavon-based poultry giant, which employs around 6,300 people in Northern Ireland.

Moy Park works with more than 800 poultry farmers in the UK and processes six million fresh chickens each week.

Ms McCollum had headed the business since 2014. Bill Lovette, president and chief executive of owner Pilgrim’s Pride, said: “The Pilgrim’s team is excited to have Chris join us on our journey to realise our vision of becoming the best and most respected company in our industry. His proven track record of delivering results for customers and driving profitability in the UK and the US will uniquely position the Pilgrim’s European business platform for its next chapter of accelerated growth and innovation.


“Janet was instrumental in establishing Moy Park as an unquestioned leader in the food industry in the UK.

Although best known for poultry, Moy Park is a major European producer of beef and vegetarian products such as spring rolls and onion rings, as well as sweet dishes including doughnuts and apple pies — a full range from starters and main courses to desserts.

“She has accomplished a lot and we are grateful for her more than 25 years of dedicated service and commitment to Moy Park.

Last year Ms McCollum received the Lifetime Achievement Award at the Belfast Telegraph Business Awards in partnership with Ulster Bank. ■

Janet McCollum

Management education




The future of leader development? David Meade on why top firms are turning to EQ to balance and boost their business


ot just a key driver of engagement and loyalty, a manager’s ability to demonstrate and practice the principles of leading with what researchers have dubbed EQ (as opposed to IQ) have now been linked with turnover, profitability, and performance. So how do we understand where our organisational EQ is today, and how do we develop our leaders to capitalise on its human and financial rewards? No longer regarded as the fluffy stuff of the ‘smoothie-toting’ tech giants, evidence shows that today’s number one predictor of leadership success is emotional intelligence. Ineffective leadership is rife and the evidence is all around us, but building and nurturing emotional intelligence is a useful pill for many management ill, and given it’s clear impact on the bottom line should be at the top of every leaders development agenda. So, what is emotional intelligence? Put simply, it the ability to understand and manage one’s emotions and those around you. Those who have high levels of emotional intelligence understand their own feelings and emotions, and how they affect others. It is widely agreed that there are five key elements to emotional intelligence: selfawareness, self-regulation, motivation, empathy and social skills, and it is current management discourse that says that leaders who exhibit the lion’s share of those behaviours have the ability to drive performance and engagement.

JUNE 2018


salesperson or account manager, they were 127 times more productive. This increase in

Emotional intelligence has been criticised as lacking evidence to substantiate the claims of those who say that emotionally intelligent behaviours are effective and improve performance. As the evidence grows at pace, however, the criticism is abating. More and more research is being published that links emotional intelligence to increased performance, retention, and even profitability.

productivity was credited to technical skills, cognitive ability and crucially, emotional intelligence.

A Carnegie Institute of Technology’s study found that 85% of a company’s financial success was down to what they called skills in ‘human engineering’ or emotionally intelligent behaviours, especially in their leaders. Technical ability, which of course is important, surprisingly only accounted for 15% of the success. These findings have been replicated in a number of other recent studies. A highly principled and emotionally intelligent leader has been found to be a contributing factor to organisational success, and chief executives whose employees gave them high marks for character, had an average return on assets of 9.35% over a two-year period. Nearly five times as much as those they gave low character ratings too. Although most of the research to date has focused on executive level leadership, there have been studies that show the impact at all levels of an organisation. In one study of jobs of medium complexity, such as a sales clerk or mechanic, top performers were 12 times more productive than their co-workers. And for those top performers of more complex jobs, such as an insurance

And those who hold senior level leadership positions who have high levels of emotional intelligence make over 80% of a difference to an organisations bottom line. But it doesn’t stop there. A study with sales people in a number of industries found that companies who selected staff on the basis of emotional intelligence sold between $50,000 to $90,000 more than other sales people, or as Dan Goleman quantified it ‘every 1% improvement in the service climate, there’s a 2% increase in revenue.’

PERFORMANCE MATTERS One study tested EI alongside 33 other important workplace skills and found that it was the strongest predictor of performance. A further study found that 90% of the top performers were also high in EI. This doesn’t mean that you can’t be a top performer without EI, but this study suggests its less likely. Similarly impressive evidence shows those with high levels of EI can make $29,000 more per year than those with a low degree of EI, and senior leaders with high EI delivered $1.2m more profit for their organisation. Executive derailment has also been linked to deficiencies in EQ. That’s because the three big reasons for executive failure are: a difficulty to handle change, and inability to work well within a team and poor interpersonal skills. This same study found that EI was more important to executive success than either IQ or relevant experience. >



RETENTION MATTERS A leaders' emotional intelligence has been shown to be positively correlated to employee job satisfaction. In one study when employees were selected based on emotional intelligence, such as empathy, self-awareness and initiative, only 6% of those they hired left within two years. This was a 42% increase in retention from when they used the standard method of recruitment and selection. What was even more interesting is that those who were selected based on emotional intelligence were more likely to perform in the top third of the company and outperformed their targets by almost 20%.

BACK IN THE OFFICE As a leader, here are some ways that you can develop your emotional intelligence to drive performance and productivity. Self-awareness: Journal writing is a good way to improve your self-awareness. Research has demonstrated that when you put your feelings into words that it not only improves your self-awareness but can have a therapeutic effect on your brain. Self-regulation: Hold yourself accountable. Don’t blame others when things go wrong. Stop and think carefully about what happened and if it’s your fault, accept it and move on.


Motivation: A motivated leader is usually an optimistic one, even when the chips are down. Adopting a growth mindset and being hopeful will put you in good stead to achieve the high standards and goals that you set yourself. Empathy: Become the expert of looking at body language and learn to listen, and I mean really listen. Listening carefully to what people are saying and what understand what their body language is telling you will help you to understand how they really are feeling. Social skills: Learn how to praise others. The thing is with praise, its free, and people like those who praise them. So use it when it’s earned. ■

Spring into business U

lster University Business School (UUBS) opened its doors to business leaders and managers in April to share best practice across a range of topical themes and issues. The Spring Into Business Festival took place at both the Belfast and Magee campuses. Highlights of the festival included a focus on how to lead an entrepreneurial business in a volatile market and a panel discussion exploring how business leaders can create advantages for their organisations by ensuring that creativity endures in a turbulent business environment.

George Alexander, AIB Group UK; Emily Kirkpatrick, student, Royal Holloway University; Katie Martinez, Martinez Models; Erin Butler, Honeycomb Jobs

At Magee the festival also provided a platform for Young Enterprise NI. Mark Durkin, executive dean, Ulster University Business School said: “At its very core the Business School is all about meaningful engagement with the business sector across all of Northern Ireland - an engagement that involves not only research and teaching but active listening as well. “Working and learning together we are better able to co-create new opportunities and stimulate a more profitable, successful and sustainable business sector. Thousands

Professor Mark Durkin, UUBS; John Purdy, Ergo; Professor Sean Duffy, EY; Michael McQuillan, UUBS

Jonny Lancaster, Covato; Derek Wright, Street Life; Ciara Lagan, Tughans

Maureen Fox, UUBS; Jamie Watts, IMultiply; Chris Magee, ChrisCross Van and Man Removals

JUNE 2018

of businesses have experienced what we do first hand at the Business School and given the pace of change we are all facing there are many more leaders and managers who will benefit further from what we have to offer. “For this reason, we put together a festival programme of free events to raise awareness of the school, to explain our emphasis on entrepreneurial leadership and to celebrate business success. “The Spring into Business Festival is a great opportunity for new partnerships and a time to re-energise our thinking.” ■

Nancy Brown, UUBS; Lynne Rainey, PwC; Mark Durkin, UUBS; Claire Colvin, CDE Global; Fiona McLaughlin, Taunt Studios

Laura Gilliland , Robyn McMurray, Morrow Communications; Jane Campbell, Baker Tilly Mooney Moore

Visiting academics from Hebei Normal University and Shahjalal University of Science and Technology

Nick Read UUBS, Lydia McClelland UU; Anne Doherty, Happening Conferences and Events



The man ‘disrupting’ the traditional business model P rofessor Mark Durkin is the man helping to ‘disrupt’ the traditional business learning model in Northern Ireland.

He’s the executive dean of the Ulster University Business School, spread across four campuses. It’s the sixth largest of its kind in the UK, with 5,000 students and 150 staff. Mark, who is now more than 500 days into his post, is focusing on ‘disruptive education’ and mixing up how business is taught to students, whether under-graduate, postgraduate, or company bosses. “The university has a new strategic direction,” he said. “That is laden with ambition, and that translates to the Business School.” “It’s about changing the mindset, not just encouraging students, but staff, to be much more opportunity focused. “It’s about encouraging people to think and act differently... it is important that it has to be translated to the real world, oily rags, business.” He said the traditional model of just teaching business theory isn’t enough, with courses and education now catered around realworld application. “For me, we need to be disruptive... we are in a different learning model. “There is the content, and we have to change that. It has to be contemporary, “It has to be delivered in such a way for people to see a complex problem in the real world… creating more value.”


Professor Mark Durkin

He says it’s all about different types of learning experience.

going to disrupt your industry. They focus on how you create new value.”

“We are trying to get the challenge ourselves on this area around disruption,” he said.

“The entrepreneur leadership module, is not about traditional leadership, it’s not being predictable, but being agile, seeking opportunity and building on those (areas).”

The faculty has taken on board a range of successful entrepreneurs and advisers, in order to help expand and reach out to new areas of business learning. Mark says Ulster University is the only business school with “embedded relationships” with top US institutions such as Babson College and Harvard. “What this is all about is co-creating new value, with those partners,” he said. According to Mark, modules not only include traditional business learning, but how people and companies can become leaders in business, and “future-proof” an organisation. “It’s areas such as AI (artificial intelligence) and how machine learning is potentially

And students come from a range of backgrounds, from under-graduate to the post-graduate market, which includes professionals and those already wellestablished in industry. “The tapestry is broad and varied,” Mark says. He said the university works with staff at some of the largest professional services firms operating here, including PwC and Deloitte. Mark says the form of learning is bringing “much more seamless transition between thought and action”. And on the topic of Brexit, he says people “need to act” but at the same time “have to stop blaming everyone else”. ■

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he breadth and scale of Northern Ireland’s wealth investments has changed over the last decade, as Ulster Business found out from some of the top experts in the field. Jonathan Sloan, director, Barclays Wealth and Investment Management, says the market here has shifted “towards quality which has been driven not only by regulation but also by memories of the financial crisis in 2008”. “The world can seem very complex and clients need to have highly qualified and professional teams of advisers around them in order to help them navigate this. “Typically for our clients, we work alongside their solicitor and accountant, tax adviser and other advisers in order to ensure that a totally holistic view of their financial plans and aspirations is put into place and delivered efficiently. “Also, Northern Ireland has always been an entrepreneurial region and we are seeing a marked increase over the last 10 years in the number of high quality and very often internationally focused firms originating from here.” He said the market in Northern Ireland is “typified by wealth that has been created by multi-generational family businesses and entrepreneurs behind start-up businesses”. “We are one of the most successful regions in the UK for new business start-ups and more recently the corporate acquisition market in Northern Ireland is proving to be very healthy,” he said. “The main concern which clients have is that they do not lose the money which have worked hard to create. It is a big step to engage with a wealth manager and we appreciate that we are advisers and custodians of the assets. Stephen Felle, chief executive of Davy Private Clients UK says that the “market for wealth management services in Northern Ireland has changed dramatically in the past 10 years”. “Firms like Davy weren’t a feature in 2008, we are now the largest advisor in Northern


Changing face of NI investment market John Mulgrew speaks to some of Northern Ireland’s wealth management experts about the changing face of the investment market over the last decade Ireland. Many of the small and mid-size IFAs have exited the market, with the banks more focused on core ‘private banking lending and deposit solutions for larger customers. “Pre-2008 some of the domestic and foreign banks operating in Northern Ireland had offerings in the wealth space too, this is no longer a feature. “One of the main trends across the UK investment and wealth management sector in the past five years has been the scale of

regulatory change. MIFID II, an expansive piece of legislation covering all regulated investment firms in the UK which came into force in January 2018, is the most recent and sweeping example of enhanced rules designed to afford greater protection to retail investors.” Nigel Crawford is executive director of Quilter Cheviot in Belfast. “From the point of view of our business, the demographic has changed slightly,” he said.

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“If you go back 10 years, there would have been stocks and shares. There is discretionary management, where you give it (money) to someone, and they manage it. “The actual business we are in has changed significantly, and growth, dramatically. “Market share gone up nearly in a steady line in the last 10 years, and interest rates are so low. People used to retire, and put the money in the bank.”

JUNE 2018


But Nigel says that’s changed considerably, with the base rate of interest still sitting at just 0.5%. “But I think its a better place for the client, not from an income point of view, but regulation is there to protect the client.” And clients are not only investing money at home, but outside the UK. “Historically, people would have invested

18/05/2018 09:42

in the UK. Ten years ago it would have been banks and oil companies,” he said. “They are also having exposure to overseas markets, such as the US and Europe, as well as emerging markets. Portfolios are much more diversified. “Historically, you would have had what you would have called ‘old money’. “Now, there are more people who have money, who have created and grown their business.” >


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Jonathan Dobbin, who heads up Julius Baer in NI, said the market has diversified across Northern Ireland clients. It focuses on clients with a minimum of £1m of investment. “There is no doubting Northern Ireland is a great place to live and work. Despite the complexities of the political situation here this is a market that is strategically very important to Julius Baer. “We see Northern Ireland as a very strong base for wealth creation and an economy that has always had entrepreneurialism at its very core. “Wealth management in Northern Ireland has evolved significantly in recent years, we have seen the gradual repatriation of client wealth – what I mean by that is wealthy families who, in the past, traditionally defaulted to London for their wealth management needs because there had been a perception that the expertise or discreteness wasn’t available locally. “Clients now have that breadth of proposition, global perspective and investment expertise on their door step. “There is no doubt lessons have been learnt locally from the financial crisis in 2008; greed has moved to fear, capital preservation and protections are buzz words much more common now than investment leverage and aggressive growth. The crisis has highlighted the importance of a globally diversified portfolio of assets.”

Jonathan Sloan

Jonathan said clients also like “simplicity and transparency And there remains a wide breadth of investment types across Northern Ireland’s clients, according to Jonathan Cunningham, managing partner of Cunningham Coates in Belfast. The company has just celebrated 175 years in business. “We’ve been here since the beginning of Queen Victoria’s reign. It gives us a bit of pressure to live up to the roots of the firm, and I think that is important.

“In terms of the last five years, or decade, the main change I would see is we are looking at the totality of client’s assets. “That can include, pensions, trusts and other things, such as property, and other types of personal private business, rather than being ring-fenced by the stock market. It’s more of an holistic service.” He said clients vary, between those looking at investing their pensions, to stocks, shares, ISAs, right through to a business where a family is diversifying its assets. The value of investments varies from tens of thousands, to tens of millions, according to Jonathan. “We would have significant clients in Great Britain that have tenuous connections to Northern Ireland, but have been referred to us by a diaspora from Northern Ireland. We would manage money for families where they have had successful private businesses.” “The main area of growth is looking at peoples’ pensions, and changing the parameters of how we invest peoples’ pensions.

Stephen Felle


“Now, pensions can be used as vehicles to pass wealth down through the generations, and that is changing how people are looking at their pensions.” ■

MAKE A REAL DIFFERENCE TO YOUR FUTURE RIGHT NOW. They say the future makes its own plans. But you can have a major influence on your future possibilities, by taking action now. It begins with a conversation with one of our advisers. It leads to a Financial Life Plan and investment strategy that stays focused on your goals as they evolve. We’re ready when you are.

With Davy, it’s a relationship. Start yours today. Call 028 9031 0655 or visit davyprivateclients.co.uk Davy Private Clients Donegall House, 7 Donegall Square North, Belfast, BT1 5GB

The value of investments may fall as well as rise. You may get back less than you invested. Davy Private Clients is a division of J & E Davy. J & E Davy, trading as Davy, is regulated by the Central Bank of Ireland. Davy is a member of the Irish Stock Exchange and the London Stock Exchange. In the UK, Davy is authorised by the Central Bank of Ireland and authorised and subject to limited regulation by the Financial Conduct Authority. Details about the extent of our authorisation and regulation by the Financial Conduct Authority are available from us on request.

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Keeping calm in turbulent times B

arclays Wealth Management has been working closely with clients in Northern Ireland for over a decade, structuring, investing and banking their funds. At the team’s helm are Jonathan Sloan and Claire McCombe, wealth management experts based in Belfast who specialise in strategy, growth options and return on investment. With secure holding investments a growing priority for local clients, they share their guidance on managing temporary investment anxiety to meet long-term investment goals.

KEEP CALM AND CARRY ON Sudden market moves can mean testing times for all investors because they get a stark reminder of what investment risk really feels like. Short-term volatility should not detract the focus from long-term objectives – your investments. Jonathan Sloan says: “Your focus should be on ensuring that the inevitable bumps along your investment journey do not force you off course. When markets are falling and it seems like everybody is selling, staying invested can seem dangerous. Equally, when markets are rising and everybody seems to be buying, keeping a level head and ignoring the crowd can be difficult. “We always highlight the importance of a diversified portfolio in managing investment risk, but it also plays a big part in helping investors manage their reactions to markets. A diverse portfolio should shield you from the full brunt of sharp falls in a particular market, but will also mean that the moves in your portfolio are more muted than attention grabbing headlines may lead you to believe. Every day you have the option to buy, sell or stay invested. A well-diversified portfolio can make it easier to take the decision to stay invested rather than follow market moves.”


Claire McCombe and Jonathan Sloan of Barclays Wealth Management team

DON’T SCRATCH THE ITCH Anyone who’s had chicken pox will know the advice not to scratch the itchiness but this doesn’t remove the temptation. Investing behaviour is similar – understanding that your reactions to markets can be dangerous to your wealth doesn’t make it any easier to leave your portfolio alone. Claire McCombe says: “In investing we often see that action for action’s sake proves more harmful than the status quo. Research in behavioural finance finds that the more frequently we trade, the more we reduce our financial returns on average, not only because of the costs of trading, but also because we react very differently to gains and losses. If investors feel the urge to act, the small changes

which come from rebalancing a portfolio can be one way to take control of the situation.” ■ To get in touch contact Jonathan Sloan or Claire McCombe on 028 9088 2925 or visit barclays.co.uk/wealth

Long-term investing is good investing Time and time again, markets do recover from downturns. Corrections to a portfolio can be healthy and result in future growth, but this isn’t guaranteed. Holding a diverse portfolio makes good investing sense. Remember – it’s time invested in the market, and not the timing of the market, which dictates long-term returns. Investments can fall in value; you may get back less than you invest.

Could your retirement plans arrive ahead of schedule?

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They could, with a personalised wealth plan. Talk to us on 028 9088 2925, or search Barclays Wealth Management. Investments can fall or rise in value. You may get back less than you invest. Opportunities are made

Eligibility conditions apply. Barclays offers banking, wealth and investment products and services to its clients through Barclays Bank UK PLC, and its subsidiary companies. Barclays Bank UK PLC is authorised by the Prudential Regulation Authority and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority and the Prudential Regulation Authority (Financial Services Register No. 759676). Registered in England. Registered No. 9740322. Registered Office: 1 Churchill Place, London E14 5HP


Newry’s First Derivatives accelerates to £186m in sales By John Mulgrew


First Derivatives recently signed a deal to work with the Red Bull Racing team

ewry global listed tech firm First Derivatives is planning to continue more than two decades of double-digit growth as its sales soar to almost £190m. The company, which was set up by Brian Conlon, says it’s tapping further into a potential total global market for its software, worth up to £80bn. It grew its turnover to £186m in the year to February 28. That’s up 23% on the same period a year earlier. And while pre-tax profits saw a small dip, adjusted earnings rose by almost a fifth to £34.1m. The company produces software used in the financial service sector, but has also landed deals for work with Formula One team Red Bull and in other areas. Adrian Toner, chief operating officer, told the Belfast Telegraph: “We regard these results as very positive, and they are ahead of market expectations. “There was strong progress in turnover, which was up 23% overall… importantly for ourselves, the increase in software revenue was 27%.” “In the underlining performance, our operating profits were up 20%. Profit before tax was slightly down on the year before.” He said that was due to financing costs and additional costs associated with acquisitions. “There is a little but in it for everybody. Earnings per share are up 18%. The full year dividend is up 20%, so cleanly there is something in there for investment and everyone alike.”


He said the company’s strategy “appears to be on track”. “Our pedigree has been in the capital markets… built up over the last 20 years. “Over the last 18 months we have been enforcing on bringing that technology into different areas. “The market for the platform is enormous. It’s a totally infinite market we are looking to address.” During the last 12 months it’s also signed up clients in new sectors, including the Formula One Red Bull team and Airbus defence and space. The company is based in Newry but has offices around the world. FD said its Airbus deal was for “large scale processing of geospatial data”, and would bring opportunities in energy and engineering. It’s also launched a Belfast office at the refurbished Weaving Works building at Ormeau Avenue.

“We expanded into gaming, and we announced that we had a FTSE company that we are doing business with — where they can use multiple variables in real-time to maximise their revenue,” Mr Toner said. It’s understood that firm was Paddy Power. And it’s growing its relationship in world of Formula One, amid its partnership with Red Bull Racing. “The wider opportunity is for the mass produced auto sector,” Mr Toner said. “We acquired company in Madrid in the telecoms sector. As a heavy data user they are using Kx for network planning and network development strategy.” Speaking about the firm’s continued growth, which has been in the doubledigits for more than two decades, Mr Toner said:“We are very proud that we have had 21 consecutive years of double digit growth and we would hope that would remain in the years ahead.” ■


Round-table: What does Brexit mean for the NI economy? Ulster Business and Osborne King gathered together some top experts to examine what’s around the corner for post-Brexit Northern Ireland, what will happen to investment and the commercial property market here ATTENDEES Martin McDowell, (Managing director, Osborne King) Paul Henry, (Director, Osborne King) Michael McAllister, (Director, ASM) Ciaran McLaughlin (Corporate banking manager, Danske Bank) Brian Keegan, (Director of public policy and tax, Chartered Accountants Ireland) John Mulgrew, (Editor, Ulster Business) John Mulgrew: Let’s kick off with a general one. What are the key stumbling blocks for Northern Ireland business at this stage with the impending UK exit from the European Union? Brian Keegan: The really interesting point about your question is with less than one year away to Brexit we don’t know it’s less than a year away to Brexit. We don’t know whether Brexit is actually going to happen on March 29, we don’t know whether it’s actually going to happen at the end of December 2020, all bets are still off. The fact of the matter is there is no hard and fast contract that says the UK leaves on March 2019 or in December 2020, and that just adds a level of uncertainty. I see


Our round-table panel

that as the main stumbling block. If we actually knew what the effective departure date was going to be that would be a help. Paul Henry: The biggest challenge to my mind is that uncertainty. Businesses are quite capable to plan and to put in place the right actions to get there but if you’re not sure what you’re planning for then I think, particularly in Northern Ireland, you know, businesses have been reluctant to invest time into scenario planning because they’re not sure what scenario to plan. The whole spectrum is open to them and I think that’s probably one of the biggest challenges. Ciaran McLaughlin: Touching on some of the points that Paul has made, when you’re speaking

to senior management teams who have gone through a Brexit planning process, you get three key issues coming up. That includes people, regulation and maybe slanted towards banking - the foreign exchange impact that it’s had over the last 12 months and what’s going to happen going forward. Brian Keegan: But why hasn’t that happened prior to Brexit? I think we kind of need to filter back and see exactly what Brexit is changing, it’s not changing foreign exchange per se. Michael McAllister: I think that people have recognised the foreign exchange issue very early on and have planned for it, I mean businesses are not stupid and they’ve done


that. The reality is on the other points there is no point in navel-gazing... frankly we’re no closer, we’ve no more information. Regardless of everything else it’s when people aren’t planning, or can’t plan for what it’s going to look like. What they are doing is saying right I'm not holding my business back for three years simply because nobody can tell me what’s happening. Martin McDowell: There’s another concerning factor. Businesses that are planning for where they’re going and property businesses and investment businesses that are doing nothing because the uncertainty means they’d be better to do nothing until they know what’s happening. So actually on the investment side, and maybe even getting into the construction side why would you invest money to build a large facility in Belfast when you’re not 100% sure exactly how this is going to pan out at the moment. John Mulgrew: And what does Brexit mean for commercial property, in particular, across Ireland? Martin McDowell: The dream scenario is suddenly Northern Ireland in effect becomes a little mini staging post and an opportunity between the UK and Ireland to be the point at which everything transfers through because we maintain an open border, we maintain some form of customs union, we do all of those things. Paul Henry: And financial passporting would also be a real win/win for commercial property. Martin McDowell: That would be fantastic for us and that’s the dream scenario. However,

Ciaran McLaughlin

and to raise a political point, one of the things that would annoy me most, if you have a political party who’ve spent 50% of their arguments with Westminster over the last 35 years saying we are a special case, suddenly saying, ah, no, we don’t want to be a special case, we want to be treated like everything else in the UK, I'm going we are missing a golden opportunity to actually be the point at which if the UK is leaving and Ireland has some concerns as well, why does Northern Ireland not become the point through which, everything flows. This would be fantastic for Northern Ireland. It just appears to be unacceptable for too many people. John Mulgrew: Ciaran, from your perspective in the bank, what’s the feedback been from customers? Ciaran McLaughlin: I would deal with it on a day-to-day basis both local investors and international investors. I think it’s fair to say that a number of the large transactions that took place last year were international investors for some of the reasons Paul

mentioned in terms of it being in effect a discount, but to touch on Martin’s point then there is just an uncertainty. And notwithstanding all the very valid points you’ve raised you know sometimes people will just latch onto uncertainty and deploy capital elsewhere where there is not that question-mark hanging over it. You know the overall impression I get particularly from most international investors is they like the fundamentals of what we have, but why deploy capital now when you can wait for six, or 12 or 18 months and do it with clarity. John Mulgrew: And are there particular areas which are being impacted? Is it property investment, is it investing in companies? Paul Henry: Fundamentally commercial property investment. Indigenous SMEs and corporates that are continuing to invest that are going to be based here, they’ve got workforces here and have grown here. They will continue to invest locally and internationally to fulfil their growth aspirations, but it’s that foreign capital coming into investment property and developing it out and bringing the skills and expertise that they have, which we’re missing out on. Michael McAllister: And I think that Dublin has somehow captured that and is very attractive because if you travel to Dublin there are 60 or 70 cranes moving across the skyline of the city, today.

Martin McDowell

JUNE 2018

John Mulgrew: To flip it now on its head, what opportunities or benefits could Brexit bring? >



Martin McDowell: I think there are definite potential opportunities. Most businessmen wouldn’t actually continue in business in Northern Ireland if they weren’t optimists. In terms of how Brexit could work positively, if it was working effectively and this was in effect the bridge into the UK market in some respects, there’s a real opportunity for people to have facilities in the south and in the north and go between them, and that’s the bridge that keeps you connected into the postUK departure from Brexit. You actually stay connected to Europe in that way. Michael McAllister: Yes, there are people making more money than they were pre-Brexit but even those businesses, and some of them are ones that I would know very well, would almost forgive, I can’t believe I'm saying this, but they would almost give away some of that profit if they had more kind of the ability to see what the medium term position of their business was going to be because they can see that there’s the possibility of that shortterm gain, and perhaps medium-term gain. John Mulgrew: Paul, which areas in the commercial property sector could see an increase in demand? Paul Henry: I would see the opportunity for commercial property would be probably centred around the major capital Belfast and potentially Derry as well, where the population is. And again it would be to support I suppose Dublin and the Celtic Tiger that’s beginning to come back, and I think that’s the opportunity. Perhaps on a smaller scale there could be some sort of staging, with companies looking at warehousing, distribution, on both sides of the border.

Paul Henry

John Mulgrew: Companies in Northern Ireland looking south and vice versa? Paul Henry: Yes, and vice versa. Depending on the time delay I suppose coming through whatever type of border checks will inevitably have to be put in place. It’s just probably that stocking, and holding that stock will create property opportunities. Brian Keegan: Yes, I think that’s a factor but I think as well that we have to separate what Brexit actually affects and what Brexit doesn’t affect. Traditionally businesses both north and south of the border have membership of the European Union, access to the European single market, and that’s been an enormous advantage, but from the context of foreign investment, what happens to the likes of Northern Ireland post-Brexit? You’re still speaking English, which is a colossal advantage if you’re dealing with anything west beyond the Atlantic. You’ve still got common law system, again a colossal

advantage that distinguishes the UK and Northern Ireland from Europe and that is becoming an increasing issue. John Mulgrew: On the impasse at Stormont, are we lacking a voice in the Brexit negotiations? Brian Keegan: We received a briefing from the UK Cabinet office some weeks back on the involvement of the devolved Governments in the Brexit negotiation process and they kept speaking about the Welsh Government and the Scottish Government and I stuck my hand up at the back of the room and said what about the Northern Ireland Executive? And their point was, there is no Northern Ireland Executive, there is no political input into the Brexit process. And that worries me greatly. John Mulgrew: And is it difficult for businesses who have no minister to raise issues with? Ciaran McLaughlin: I was speaking to a managing director of a top 50 company recently who told me a very similar tale, that they had been speaking to an elected politician, not sitting, but they’ve taken comfort out of that meeting and the engagement. And what was going to come out of it now? I didn’t drill into it to the extent where I was able to get any detail on that, but they clearly had taken some comfort that dialogue between politicians and the business community is ongoing.

Brian Keegan


Paul Henry: I think there’s nothing like being in the room. If somebody is negotiating I


want to be at the table, I want to negotiate for myself. I think it’s very risky letting, and delegating, or assuming that somebody’s going to represent your position correctly. John Mulgrew: Retrospectively, do you think after Brexit, some will be saying, why did we let this, or that, element happen? Martin McDowell: That’s when the excuses start. I'm still loving the phrase that having no political input to the process is ‘suboptimal’. Suboptimal is such a nice way of phrasing the words like outrageous, disgraceful, how ridiculous. Are we saying that Northern Ireland bluntly doesn’t have a clear political involvement in all of this because remember Northern Ireland as a region wanted to stay in the EU. Our vote was to stay. The only people that are supposedly talking to central government about this for us are the one party who flat out said we need to leave. This is outrageous. I’ll be blunt, I voted to stay in the EU not because I like everything about it, and a number of the other things, but because I understood what we were in as opposed to voting for something that’s just completely outside. Michael McAllister: We were involved in various Brexit debates and we certainly struggled to find many in business (which supported Leave). Paul Henry: One of the allies we do have is actually the southern Government because it is so significant in the trade of the south that they want to make sure it’s right because it would damage the southern economy to a large extent if it doesn’t work. Brian Keegan: The key issue, for example, the customs union, the 26 other EU member states will have a lot to say to Ireland if a customs border, a credible customs border between the UK and Europe is not enforced if the UK leaves the customs union. John Mulgrew: How will the Northern Ireland market be viewed by, especially FDI, post-Brexit, in terms of an area to invest in? Ciaran McLaughlin: I think as we said earlier the fundamentals haven’t changed over the

JUNE 2018

Michael McAllister

last two or three years and decisions are being put on hold because of uncertainty, so if you get certainty of an outcome, whether it be positive or negative, it removes that excuse not to make a decision and you should start to see transactions return because the labour force is here and the universities are here. Paul Henry: And I think the growth opportunity for Northern Ireland is in that knowledge economy, in that global service centre side of supporting business. I think we’ve moved away from very heavy manufacturing, heavy production industry, to a softer service centred industry, Brian Keegan: The key is services. I keep coming back to what is actually changing with Brexit? The least affected area of the economy under EU law at the moment is the service industry. So that’s what you’ve got to monopolise on and look at the really positive things. John Mulgrew: Finally, what’s the best case scenario and worst case for Northern Ireland on the other side of Brexit? Paul Henry: I suppose the best case I would see would be a set of circumstances that allows Northern Ireland to effectively become the Hong Kong of Europe, where we have free trade, we become a major trading port and area. Worst case I think is just uncertainty leading to lack of investment and a lack of opportunities for our young people. Ciaran McLaughlin: I suppose the best case is, as Paul has mentioned, is Northern Ireland having obviously a gateway status. Worst case

is a hard Brexit where we end up with tariffs and an impact on business supply chains and labour availability which really stunts business growth. Martin McDowell: Worst case scenario is that the brain drain that happened in the 70s and 80s happens again if we don’t actually have a Brexit that actually keeps us very much in the ability to move forward and the various other things. Best case scenario is that we become a really strong trading hub that we can actually support some of the overflow from Dublin. Michael McAllister: Best case scenario first of all? With the new economy, the knowledge economy is a real big opportunity, and we were moving ahead on that opportunity and I think that best case scenario is that we can put the sort of investment into that. Worst case scenario is we see an awful lot of jobs moving, simply because they cannot staff the opportunities. Brian Keegan: At the risk of being overly pragmatic, Northern Ireland is never going to be a gateway to the EU. I think there are opportunities there for the promotion of the skill-sets here and I take your point about needing to develop those further. I think there’s huge opportunities for promoting, despite all the naysayers, the stable legal systems, the common law system, English speaking, more than 80% of all the data in the world is in English and that gives the UK and Northern Ireland a particular competitive advantage. The worst case scenario is a hard border between Northern Ireland and the Republic and everything that goes with that. ■



Entrepreneur of the month JOANNE LIDDLE, MANAGING DIRECTOR OF IPC MOULDINGS How are things? Business is going very well, we have just returned from a very successful Aircraft Interiors Expo in Hamburg which has presented some very exciting opportunities. I am proud to say that IPC Mouldings is growing, with an increase in new contracts and job opportunities, we are in a very good position. Planned growth over the next two years and further investment in new machinery and premises makes it an exciting time for the company. How did you get started in the industry? One of my first jobs was in an engineering company, growing up I was surrounded by engineers as all of my immediate family work in the industry, therefore you could say it was in my blood. I’ve been with IPC for 10 years and have seen the company grow and develop. Since 2012, I have directed a programme of change investing in accreditations, people, premises and equipment, which has resulted in a culture of continuous improvement within the organisation. It is fantastic to see the results of that transformation. Typically, who are your clients or customers? IPC specialises primarily in the aerospace industry, with our highest profile customer being the global leader in aircraft interiors, supplying them with a 99.5% performance record evidenced through SC21 Silver Award recognition, an aerospace driven supply chain excellence programme.


We have also recently won contracts with a global medical company, introducing new products to IPC’s portfolio, highlighting our ability to diversify from the aerospace sector. This is a significant moment for us as it identifies a new potential market for IPC. Do you enjoy what you do and what in particular? Yes, absolutely. The aerospace industry in Northern Ireland is one of the best in the world and it is very exciting to be a part of that. Getting on a plane and seeing our parts on the seats never fails to delight. On a personal level, I am proud of what we have achieved. Within IPC, success is all about team effort and strong relationships, both with our customers and employees. The fact that we have such an engaged workforce has been significant in driving the company to where it is today.

to welcome the next generation of engineers. If we can educate them, and their parents, on the very real career opportunities available in the industry, then we have potential for change.

What is the most difficult part of your job? With any small business, it can be challenging at times, with a need to react very quickly to demanding customer requirements, but with experience you learn to manage time and expectations.

Brexit of course is still an unknown and as an exporter I believe there is much work to be done.

What are the challenges facing your sector and the economy in general? There is a skills shortage, partly due to that fact that manufacturing is not considered an attractive career option for young people.

Our region delivers high level performance and a positive attitude to manufacturing which is evident in the many supply chain excellence partners throughout the province.

We have a long and proud manufacturing heritage in Northern Ireland and I want to see that sustained, providing opportunities

Everything is possible and we have an opportunity to build on this if we have the resources to do so. â–

Northern Ireland companies provide higher levels of service, particularly SMEs, the backbone of our manufacturing industry.

Pictured accepting the award is Noel Mullan (centre) with Kieran Harding, Business in the Community and Michelle Hatfield from category sponsor, George Best Belfast City Airport

Celebrations as Heron Bros. crowned NI Responsible Company of the Year Leading construction company, Heron Bros., was named NI Responsible Company of the Year at the Responsible Business Awards in Northern Ireland on Thursday May 24, at Belfast Waterfront Hall. More than 470 business people attended the glittering gala dinner to see Northern Ireland’s leading responsible companies recognised for their outstanding contributions to their people, the planet and the places where they operate. The calibre of entries was extremely high, and judges had a very difficult task. Heron Bros. was awarded the top spot on the night as it is a truly responsible business leader and advocate in Northern Ireland, and judges were impressed with the depth and breadth of its corporate responsibility (CR) activity with impressive impacts and traction across the organisation.

New chair of Business in the Community announced Business in the Community announced its new chair on the night, Moya Johnston MBE, vice president OEM, Survitec Group. Moya, who has taken up the mantel from Roy Adair CBE, chief executive, Belfast Harbour. Speaking to guests on the night, Moya said: “Northern Ireland is home to some of the most innovative and responsible businesses in the UK, and these awards are a fantastic platform to Moya Johnston MBE, gave her inaugural speech as the new chair of Business in the Community showcase what they are doing. “I would like to take this opportunity to congratulate each and every one of our winners, and those who were shortlisted, for leading the way in responsible business practice. The standard for entries was exceptional. We are proud to champion responsible business through our awards, and I hope that the achievements of the winning companies will inspire others to go above and beyond for their people, the planet, and the places in which they operate.” This year, the theme of the evening was diversity. Keynote speaker, Baroness Floella Benjamin, challenged the audience to think about diversity. Best known for her role in Playschool, Floella was born in Trinidad and came to England when she was 10 years old. Now a member of the House of Lords, Baroness Benjamin campaigns for children’s rights and runs a number of programmes to encourage diversity and inclusion. Baroness Floella Benjamin gave the keynote address Media partner

The winners NI Responsible Company of the Year Sponsored by George Best Belfast City Airport Heron Bros. Building Stronger Communities Sponsored by Department for Communities Homecare Independent Living Highly Commended: Apex Housing Association Digital Champion Award Sponsored by Fujitsu Lidl Northern Ireland Diversity and Inclusion Award Sponsored by Barclays Pinsent Masons Highly Commended: Sensata Technologies Education Award Sponsored by Allen & Overy Westrock-MPS Highly Commended: Quinn Industrial Holdings DAC Employability Champion Sponsored by Belfast Harbour BT Environmental Leadership Sponsored by Arthur Cox Farrans Construction Highly Commended: Henry Brothers Marketplace Leadership Devenish Nutrition One-to-Watch Sponsored by Survitec Devenish Nutrition Wellbeing at Work Sponsored by Larne Port Baker McKenzie

Homecare Independent Living, Building Stronger Communities

Pictured accepting the award is Caroline Rafferty with Kieran Harding, Business in the Community and Arthur Scott, Department for Communities

Homecare Independent Living picked up the Building Stronger Communities Award, sponsored by Department for Communities, for demonstrating a positive impact on communities through investing its time, resources and expertise to tackle disadvantage.

Lidl Northern Ireland, Digital Champion Award A brand-new category for 2018, the Digital Champion Award, sponsored by Fujitsu was awarded to Lidl Northern Ireland for its efforts in tackling social and environmental challenges through its digital “Better Tomorrow� strategy and embracing digital technologies encouraging employees, stakeholders and the public to participate in its responsible business agenda in reducing food waste and supporting local charities.

Pictured accepting the award are Angela Connan and Fergal McIntrye with Kieran Harding, Business in the Community (left) with Chris James from category sponsor, Fujitsu (right)

Pinsent Masons, Diversity and Inclusion Award

Pictured accepting the award is Andrea McIllroy-Rose with Kieran Harding, Business in the Community (left) and Paul Davies from category sponsor, Barclays

Category sponsors

Pinsent Masons scooped the Diversity and Inclusion Award, sponsored by Barclays, for demonstrating excellence in creating and developing a diverse and inclusive workplace which offers opportunities for all. Judges were extremely impressed with its structured and strategic approach to promoting diversity and inclusion, both internally and externally.

Westrock-MPS, Education Award Westrock-MPS, a global supplier of printed packaging, was awarded the Education Award, sponsored by Allen & Overy, for helping to raise the aspirations and achievements of young people through its education strategy and bespoke education initiatives. The judges were particularly impressed by Westrock-MPS’ strong, dynamic, eightyear business education partnership with Ballyclare Secondary School. Through the Business Class partnership, the school has recorded significant improvement in attendance and exam results.

Pictured accepting the award are Wendy Singleton and Alastair White with Kieran Harding, Business in the Community (left) with Ciaran McCallion from category sponsor, Allen & Overy (right)

BT, Employability Champion Award

Pictured accepting the award are Natalie Fleming, Garret Kavanagh and Barbara Roulston from BT with Kieran Harding, Business in the Community (right) and Ciara Smyth from category sponsor, Belfast Harbour (right)

BT won the Employability Award, sponsored by Belfast Harbour, for its efforts in addressing youth unemployment in Northern Ireland through its innovative Work Ready programme. Work Ready is a three-week course open to 16-24 year olds not currently in education, employment or training (NEET). It started in Northern Ireland in Derry; a location with a high level of youth unemployment. It was subsequently rolled out in Enniskillen and Belfast. To date, 36 NEET young people have completed the programme, and BT has committed to supporting 950 more across the UK in 2018.

Farrans Construction, Environmental Leadership Award

Pictured accepting the award is Kevin McGarvey and Victoria Johnston from Farrans Construction with Kieran Harding, Business in the Community (left) and Rosemary Lundy from category sponsor, Arthur Cox (right)

Farrans Construction was awarded the Environmental Leadership Award, sponsored by Arthur Cox, for its significant commitment and contribution to environmental sustainability. The judges were impressed by Farrans Construction’s strategy ‘Shaping our Future’ and were particularly impressed with its work on the Connswater Community Greenway; going above and beyond its contractual requirements to deliver a project with high environmental standards and impressive stakeholder engagement.

Double win for Devenish Nutrition Marketplace Leadership and One-to-Watch Award Farming and food company, Devenish Nutrition walked away with two awards on the night – Marketplace Leadership and One-to-Watch, sponsored by Survitec. The One-to-Watch award is for a newly joined Business in the Community member that has made strides in its CR strategy. Judges were impressed by its inspirational strategic vision, harnessing talent locally and its life-changing work in Uganda. The company also picked up the Marketplace Leadership Award for its commitment to developing innovative energy solutions that help to inspire responsible customer behaviour and encourage more sustainable lifestyles.

Devenish Nutrition picked up two awards on the night. Pictured at the Awards are (l-r) Paddy McLaughlin, Geoffrey Frawley, Adam Sweetman, Rhonda Glenn, Adam Bradshaw, Killian Maguire and Michael Maguire

Baker McKenzie, Wellbeing at Work Award

Pictured accepting the Award is Christina McCloskey and James Richards with Kieran Harding, Business in the Community (left) and Sally Bonnes from category sponsor, Larne Port

Global law firm, Baker McKenzie won the Wellbeing at Work Award, sponsored by Larne Port, for demonstrating excellence in inspiring and supporting its employees to prioritise their health and wellbeing, and embrace positive lifestyle choices. The judges were hugely impressed by its ‘Brave, Brilliant & Kind strategy’ which focuses on recruitment, retention and caring for staff. Baker McKenzie recognises that the legal environment can be pressured and demanding and so it aims to create a positive and supportive environment that helps everyone to build successful careers without sacrificing their wellbeing.

Leading companies keep responsibility at the CORE of their business Ten companies successfully achieved CORE – The Standard for Responsible Business – in the past year, meaning 27 organisations currently hold Northern Ireland’s corporate responsibility accreditation. In achieving CORE, participants have led the way in responsible business practice and are now accredited leaders in corporate responsibility. Ten companies achieved CORE in 2018: Pass: JH Turkington Silver: Danske Bank UK - Firstsource Solutions Translink Gold: Asda - Belfast Harbour - BT - Diageo George Best Belfast City Airport - Henry Bros To find out more about CORE, visit www.bitcni.org.uk Drinks sponsor

Pictured, 2018 CORE Achievers

Event partner

Drinks sponsor

Motoring Sponsored by

By Pat Burns

The Largest Family Owned Motor Retailer in N.Ireland www.donnellygroup.co.uk


Helping keep Northern Ireland businesses moving


pecialising in sourcing, funding and managing any make or model of vehicle, Donnelly Fleet provides tailored solutions to the requirements of each individual customer, should that be one or 100 vehicles. As part of the Donnelly Group, which, with over 71 years of experience, is the largest family-owned vehicle group in Northern Ireland, Donnelly Fleet provides the most cost-effective finance solutions to keep your business on the road. Previously known as Donnelly Finance and Leasing, Donnelly Fleet can source all makes and models of cars and vans with its service and support facilities available at all eight Donnelly Group locations across Northern Ireland. Already trusted by businesses of all sizes from the public and private sectors across Northern Ireland, Donnelly Fleet specialises in contract hire, personal contract hire, hire purchase, finance lease and outright purchase.

DEDICATED ACCOUNT MANAGER Tony Magee, general manager for Donnelly Fleet, said: “Recognising the importance of a dedicated single point of contact, we assign a dedicated Account Manager from the beginning of the customer’s enquiry through to the very end of the contract while managing all aspects in between. “Understanding every customer and business to be unique, with varying budgets and vehicle requirements, our account managers are specifically trained to provide tailored solutions to match the exact needs of the customer. “Our friendly and knowledgeable team can assist with diverse needs such as, finance, passenger cars, commercial vehicles, hybrid and agricultural options, meaning we are ideally positioned to provide customers


Pictured (L-R) are: Ian Finikin (sales executive, Donnelly Fleet) Ali Birch (sales executive, Donnelly Fleet) Tony Magee (general manager, Donnelly Fleet), Raymond Donnelly (director, Donnelly Group), Dave Sheeran (managing director, Donnelly Group) and Ivor McIntyre (sales executive, Donnelly Fleet)

with the information required to make an informed decision regarding their fleet.”

FLEXIBILITY Tony says: “Circumstances and requirements of businesses can change from time to time and as a result we work very closely with our customers to provide tailored motoring solutions that are flexible to the needs of their business and working environment.”

NORTHERN IRELAND-WIDE SUPPORT With showrooms in eight locations provincewide, you are never far from a Donnelly Fleet expert. “We appreciate that businesses are more mobile than ever before, and should a difficulty arise, you want to be as close to the solution as possible,” Tony said.

“Our locations stretch right across Northern Ireland and ensure that wherever your business is, help and assistance is nearby. In addition to this we can also provide 24/7 365 call out capabilities when required. “For the last 71 years the Donnelly Group’s ethos has focused on ‘keeping the customer central to everything we do’. “This ethos is well and truly embedded in the culture at Donnelly Fleet where our knowledgeable team are committed to matching local businesses to the right fleet at the right price.” ■ For more information or to view our full range of finance and leasing options visit www.donnellyfleet.co.uk or your nearest Donnelly Group location in Ballymena, Belfast, Dungannon M1 Complex, Dungannon Moy Road, Eglinton, Enniskillen, Newtownabbey or Omagh. Donnelly Fleet can be contacted on Facebook and LinkedIn.


Introducing Donnelly Fleet • Business Contract Hire • Personal Contract Hire • Hire Purchase • Lease Purchase • Finance or Flexible Leasing • Hybrid & Electric Vehicles


Assist in sourcing, funding and managing any make and model of vehicle tailored to your business needs. Whether you require one vehicle or an entire fleet, we are here to provide you with the most cost effective finance solution for your business.

• Eight Sales and Service Points • In-house Vehicle Conversions • Tyre Centres • Breakdown Assistance • 24/7 365 Call out Capability • Province Wide Access EGLINTON





Donnelly Fleet 45 Mallusk Road Newtownabbey Co Antrim BT36 4PS

Tel: 028 9084 6010 Email: sales@donnellyfleet.co.uk www.donnellyfleet.co.uk

All makes + models

The Largest Family Owned Motor Retailer in N.Ireland www.donnellygroup.co.uk


Plug in Range Rover leads the charge C onceived nearly 50 years ago for the country set to use on the estate and then drive to the townhouse, Range Rover has continuously evolved and now for the first time a plug-in hybrid version is available. The 2018 Range Rovers offer higher levels of luxury, refinement and space with new styling inside and out. The exterior design has evolved, while heightened comfort and new consumer technologies have been added to the cabin. Up to 17 connection points including domestic plug sockets, USB, HDMI and 12-volt are all available; 4G wi-fi hotspots for up to eight devices and convenient storage are all designed for the business traveller. The cabin is tailored for relaxation with luxurious seats offering 25 massage programmes thanks to hot stone massage technology within the seat backs. The elegance of the interior has been elevated by the seamless integration of the most advanced infotainment system yet created by


Jaguar Land Rover. Touch Pro Duo, codenamed ‘Blade’, combines two high-definition 10-inch touchscreens on the centre console working in perfect harmony. Information can be swiped from one screen to the other, making the layout highly intuitive and engaging to operate. A new addition to the 2018 range is the Sport plug-in hybrid electric vehicle (PHEV) which marks Jaguar Land Rover’s move from conventional internal combustion engines to autonomous, connected and electrified vehicles.

The PHEV provides sustainable performance by combining a 300hp 2.0-litre four-cylinder Ingenium petrol engine with an 85kW electric motor. The 404hp total available power output – available through the permanent four-wheel drive system – delivers 0-60mph in 6.4 seconds and a maximum speed of 137mph. With an impressive 640Nm of torque, the new powertrain combines to deliver dynamic performance with traditional Range Rover capability, comfort and refinement.

Thanks to its electrified powertrain, the Range Rover P400e emits only 64g/km on the NEDC combined cycle and provides an all-electric range of up to 31 miles without the Ingenium petrol engine running. For the first time, customers choosing Land Rover’s flagship SUV can experience zero-emission driving. The P400e provides whisper-quiet refinement with uncompromised off-road capability as well as enabling entry into areas with restrictions for air quality, including most congestion charging zones. When rapid charging the 13.1kWh highvoltage lithium-ion battery, a full charge can be achieved in as little as 2 hours 45 minutes at home using a dedicated 32 amp wall box. The battery can be fully charged in 7 hours 30 minutes using the 10 amp home charging cable supplied as standard. The Range Rover’s battery is covered by an eight-year, 100,000mile, 70% state of health warranty. Prices for the revised models start at £79,595 for the 3.0 TDV6 Vogue. ■

The Largest Family Owned Motor Retailer in N.Ireland www.donnellygroup.co.uk


Alfa’s new SUV powerhouse T

he 510bhp Alfa Romeo Stelvio Quadrifoglio sets a new benchmark in the premium midsize SUV segment with its combination of high performance, design and technology. The Stelvio Quadrifoglio is powered by a Ferrari built 2.9-litre V6 Bi-Turbo petrol engine, combined with the innovative Q4 all-wheel drive system, to offer a potent combination of unbeatable performance, traction, driving pleasure and safety in all situations. In normal conditions, the Q4 system transfers 100% of the torque to the rear axle to improve the handling and the give the car a more rear wheel drive feel. As the rear wheels approach their grip limit, the system transmits up to 50% of the torque to the front axle. The Stelvio Quadrifoglio is equipped with the Alfa Chassis Domain Control unit, which acts as the brain to coordinate all the car’s electronic systems, to deliver the best

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performance and the utmost driving pleasure at all times, by controlling the four wheel drive, suspension and traction control. The standard torque vectoring technology optimises the Stelvio Quadrifoglio’s drive distribution and accentuates its sporting character. The two electronically controlled clutches in the rear differential make it possible to control torque delivery to each wheel separately. This ensures the best transfer of power to the ground even when the car is pushed to its limits, without the need for intrusive inputs from the stability control system. The 2.9 V6 Bi-Turbo petrol engine in the Stelvio Quadrifoglio led the car to set a new lap record at the legendary Nurburgring. Delivering maximum power of 510hp at 6,500rpm and generating a maximum torque of 600Nm from 2,500 to 5,000rpm, the car is capable of sprinting from zero to 62mph in just 3.8 seconds and on to a top speed of

more than 176mph, helping it to achieve a lap time of just seven minutes 51.7 seconds. This power plant is teamed with a specifically calibrated eight-speed automatic transmission that allows gear shifts in just 150 milliseconds in race mode. Standard specification on the Stelvio Quadrifoglio includes 20-inch alloy wheels with specifically profiled wheel arches, restyled rear diffuser, sports exhaust with four outlets and bi-xenon headlamps. Inside, the Stelvio Quadrifoglio comes as standard with a leather dashboard and door tops, leather and Alcantara seats, leather steering wheel, carbon fibre trim and stainless steel pedals. The centre of the dashboard is dominated by the 8.8-inch Alfa Connect infotainment system, with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto to replicate the smartphone environment on the on-board display. The Stelvio Quadrifoglio is priced from £69,500 OTR. ■



Co Tyrone’s Sarah Friar: one of the most influential female tech execs in Silicon Valley In a candid interview with Adrian Weckler, Square chief financial officer Sarah Friar talks about the 'glass cliffs' that women face in tech companies 82



ho is Ireland's most influential female technology executive?

The answer often assumes that it's one of the many female country managers for the top multinational firms in Ireland. But few have the power and influence of Sarah Friar, the woman from Tyrone who is chief financial officer to one of the world's fastest-growing payments firms, Square. Having guided the company through a US IPO three years ago, Friar is now seeing Square expand rapidly to become one of the go-to services that small companies in the US use to accept payments using their phones as credit card terminals. Her role is not purely to be a numbercruncher. She is also on point when discussing strategy, development and new products at the company. Square, which was started by Twitter founder Jack Dorsey, has soared in the last year. Its shares are up 200% in that time and almost 100% in the last six months, leaving it just shy of a $20bn (£15bn) valuation. (For context, this means it is now worth about the same as Twitter, which Dorsey also runs as chief executive.) Other than competent management and a relevant, functional product set, this rise in worth is based partly on the same kind of underlying factors that are elevating newlyformed unicorns such as Dublin's Intercom, namely that the world is moving online to make and accept payments. And for plumbers or builders or other self-employed people, taking that payment using an app - and without any hassle from banks about bureaucratic merchant accounts - is a godsend. All of this has left Friar, an Oxford graduate who previously worked at McKinsey and Goldman Sachs, in a good place. Not only is she at the financial helm of one of the key players in the market, but her personal stake is doing nicely. She is also in an increasingly authoritative position within the booming global

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If you’re a female engineer, we try to make sure that Square is a place where you can be successful, we try to make sure we have the right atmosphere.

payments industry, coincidentally alongside Ireland's other top tech exports, Stripe founders Patrick and John Collison. But she is still one of the few female senior executives at a Fortune 500-ranked tech companies. That hasn't gone unnoticed by Friar. "I could pull out all the stats, such as the number of women who are chief executives in Fortune 500 companies, to show you that it's atrocious," she says. "Frankly, it hasn't really improved in the last few decades. Despite everything, we as women are still not clicking through into senior leadership. Progress is being made, but it's very slow." As a senior chief financial officer herself, Friar acknowledges that there is movement into the vicinity of the top tech jobs through more visible female chief financial officers and chief operating officers. But there's still a barrier around women not getting to the top chief executive roles. "If you look at chief financial officers and chief operating officers in tech companies, you have Belinda (Johnson) over at Airbnb, you obviously have Sheryl (Sandberg) at Facebook and Ruth (Porat) at Google. “You have these shining lights. But the unintentional biases that stop women getting to the chief executive role are harder to assess. And then a lot of women end up as chief executive in a 'glass cliff'

role, where you get in there but it's a turnaround job for a company in trouble. In that position, already your chances are lower than a company with momentum and growth. “That's really what happened to Marissa (Mayer, former chief of Yahoo). So we women need to crack through not just when things are tough but when they're growing too.” "It has to be the board that supports it and the company too. That's where I'm lucky at Square. I feel like I'm super supported and that Jack is super supportive to me. I'm in this great position at Square and feel like I'm having a big impact." In this respect, Friar says that Square has a culture that naturally results in much more progress by competent, qualified female executives at the company. This, she says, looks like a good template for how other companies can adapt. "There are a couple of things that we can do at a senior level," she says. "There's definitely something in showing that it can actually happen. For example, 50% of our executive team is female. "When women look up the ladder and want to aspire to those positions, we show them that it's doable." Other basic precepts have to be at work at the company too, she says. "A lot of people get fixated on recruitment, but you have to think of inclusion first and then recruitment," Friar says. "If you recruit people into a non-inclusive environment, you just push them back out again, it doesn't fix anything. We started with inclusion and then did a lot did of work. "So if you're a female engineer, we try to make sure that Square is a place where you can be successful, we try to make sure we have the right atmosphere. Then from a recruitment standpoint, we talk about it, we measure it and put a huge push on gender. We're pretty close to fifty-fifty on gender now." ■



Jonathan Guest has taken over as chief executive of Harland and Wolff Heavy Industries Limited. The former director of business development and improvement replaces Robert J Cooper, who is retiring the role. Michael Drumm has been appointed as partner at CavanaghKelly and will lead the corporate finance and advisory department. He joined CavanaghKelly as a trainee, rising through the ranks and gaining experience in various departments. Eimear Digney has been appointed as solicitor in litigation and dispute resolution at law firm A&L Goodbody.

Jonathan Simpson has been taken on as solicitor in employment and incentives with A&L Goodbody. He specialises in providing employment law advice and representation. A&L Goodbody has appointed Victoria Taylor as a solicitor in finance. She specialises in advising clients across various financial industry sectors on corporate transactions. Craig Brown has been appointed as media manager with Ardmore Advertising. He joins Ardmore from GroupM, a global media investment management company based in Johannesburg, South Africa.

Ardmore Advertising has appointed Ed Henderson as planning director. He will oversee the planning of integrated campaigns and digital projects for clients, and has more than 10 years’ experience. Aidan Harbinson has been appointed as senior digital project manager with Ardmore Advertising. He joins the company with over nine years’ experience in providing clients with digital strategies. Paul James joins Ardmore Advertising as an account director, with 13 years’ experience in advertising and marketing. He comes to the company from CDE Global.



David Wilson joins Johnsons Solicitors in Belfast as partner. He is dual-qualified in Northern Ireland and the Republic and has wide experience of acting in both jurisdictions. Sarah McFarland has joined Johnsons Solicitors a paralegal. She has more than eights years’ experience in commercial law, specialising in property, litigation and telecoms. Shane Garvey joins Johnsons Solicitors as a solicitor, specialising in defence insurance litigation. Shane has 10 years’ experience in personal injuries litigation, product liability, employers’ liability and motor claims.

Emma Kieran joins Clarendon Executive as a consultant, supporting clients in finding the best candidates for business-critical roles. She works with many of Northern Ireland’s top 100 companies. Kevin Hegarty has been appointed to the role of associate at O’Reilly Stewart Solicitors in Belfast. He will deal with healthcare and personal injury litigation for clients across Ireland. Nicholas Sloan has been appointed to the position of solicitor at O’Reilly Stewart Solicitors in Belfast. He will be responsible for advising clients in all areas of commercial property.

Lisa Trainor has been appointed as manager in charge of quality, environment, business continuity and information security systems fit-out specialist, Portview. She was formerly a site manager for Lagan Construction. Glenn Chambers has been appointed as health and safety manager for fit-out specialist, Portview. He brings 20 years’ of hands-on experience from across the construction, civil engineering and manufacturing sectors. Karen Johnston has been appointed sales and business executive at Louthbased skin healthcare company Ovelle Pharmaceuticals.

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PHOTOCALL 1. Gerry Kindlon, NI Chamber of Commerce and Industry with Steve Swientozielskyj, CIMA global deputy president, Aidan Dunne, Arvato; Sinead Dillon, CIMA area chair; Andrew Harding, chief executive, Management Accounting, Association of International Certified Professional Accountants; Sharon McCue, chair, Management Accounting, Association of International Certified Professional Accountants Europe and Susan Fitzsimmons, chief operating officer, AuditComply. They are pictured at CIMA’s event at Titanic Hotel looking at automation and robotics.



2. Best Parties Ever has announced that it is expanding its portfolio by launching in Belfast this Christmas. Pictured is Jon Noonan, group sales director of Eventist Group along with Sarah McIlmoyle and Emma Ruth Aiken of the Fire Angels.

3. Pictured launching the new Sport Into Business campaign at Ulster University is Ireland hockey player, Katie Mullan, Irish sprint star Jason Smyth and Phoenix Natural Gas chief executive, Michael McKinstry.

4. Michael Neill has been appointed as the new head of the Belfast office at law firm A&L Goodbody. He’s pictured with Julian Yarr, managing partner.

5. BDO and Queen’s University Belfast have launched a new major training programme. Pictured at the launch of the Accountancy Lab are Queen’s staff Dr Victoria Edgar, Professor Ciaran Connolly and Dr Martin Kelly (right) with BDO NI directors Pamela Gillies and Claire McFall.





PHOTOCALL 6. The Department for the Economy has launched a competition and is inviting applications to find Apprentice of the Year 2018. Picture is permanent secretary Noel Lavery along with Sarah Travers.






7. Belfast’s hospitality sector welcomes 5,000 delegates who attended the Royal College of Nursing Annual Congress at the Waterfront Hall. Pictured is Janice Gault, NI Hotels Federation along with Glyn Roberts of Retail NI, and Joel Neill, operations director, Hospitality Ulster.

8. Mark Bleakney, southern regional manager, Invest NI, Jim Finnegan, chief executive Fieldmotion and Neil McCabe, senior investment manager, Whiterock Capital Partners after Fieldmotion announced it will create 14 new jobs.

9. Alastair Hamilton, chief executive Invest NI with Daniel Mackey (left), chief technical officer of Teamwork.com and chief executive Peter Coppinger (right) after the firm announced it would create 85 new jobs.

10. Pictured at the launch of the Plus by GolfNow platform are Ryan Bell and Conor Murphy of GolfNow with Eamonn Logue, director of golf at Hilton Templepatrick Golf and Country Club.

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PHOTOCALL 11. The Bishop’s Gate Hotel in Londonderry has been awarded One Rosette Award from the AA. Pictured are chefs Lee Laverty, Paul Sharkey and Iain Archer.


12. Pictured are Maurice McGivern, director, Killowen Contracts, Leona Barr, centre manager, The Junction and Craig Stewart, the Lotus Group as work starts on a £30m revamp of the retail park.

12 13

13. Geoff Sharpe, head of corporate at Danske Bank, with Lewis McCallan, head of relationship management and Arthur Richmond, group finance director at SHS Group after it completed two acquisitions with help from the bank.

14. Niall Delargy of Glenballyeamon Eggs and Conor McNeill, business development manager at Ulster Bank after it unveiled a £300,000 upgrade of its facilities.

15. Pictured at the Fitzwilliam Hotel are Cian Landers, general manager, and Siobhan O’Sullivan, diirector of sales and marketing after being awarded a five star rating by the AA.




PHOTOCALL 16. Marianne Hood, chair of the Institute of Hospitality (NI) with Chris Rose, present the Front of House Manager of the Year award sponsored by Avvio to Lucy Waugh of Bullitt Hotel, alongside Pamela Ballantine.


17. Launching Danske Bank’s new Helping Hand offer for mortgage switchers are Helen McErlean, mortgage consultant, Danske Bank and Richard Caldwell, managing director of personal banking and small business.


18 18. Kieran McCorry, national technology officer for Microsoft Ireland with Elaine Smyth, head of programmes, Connect at Catalyst Inc following its partnership with the tech giant.

19. Guests attend the official launch of Shortcross Gin’s new £2.5m Visitor Experience Centre at Rademon Estate Distillery in Crossgar, Co Down.

19 20

20. Q Radio’s breakfast presenters, Stephen Clements and Cate Conway, are joined in the studio by Gemma-Louise Bond, senior sponsorship and events executive at Power NI and Orla Ross, agency sales director at Q Radio, to announce Power NI’s sponsorship of Q Breakfast.

JUNE 2018



Meanwhile, over in Crossgar, those with a penchant for hand-crafted spirits enjoyed both sun and Shortcross. The gin-maker at Rademon Estate, owned by husband and wife team David and Fiona-Boyd Armstrong, was helping unveil the £2.5m redevelopment of the distillery, which includes a new visitors’ centre.

During the event, bakery stalwart Brian Irwin from Irwin’s Bakery walked away with the Contribution to Agri-Food Industry in Northern Ireland award from Neal Kelly, Henderson Wholesale fresh foods director, alongside the BBC’s Jo Scott. The presentation was part of the inaugural Henderson wholesale Fresh Innovations Awards held during the show.

Following the grand tour, there was a mini-masterclass on gin, followed by cocktails and canapes. It was every bit as enjoyable as it sounds.

The Chairman While the sun showed its face for a change, our man spent a lot of his time inside in his penguin suit...


n the last few weeks the Chairman has enjoyed everything from the sun-drenched and smart-casual world of farming to the black-tie formality and grandness of the best of Northern Irish architecture. First off, there was no grander an affair than the majestic and palatial backdrop of the Institute of Directors’ headquarters at Pall Mall in London for the Aer Lingus TakeOff Awards with Ulster Business. Broadcasting and presenting professional Dr Wendy Austin helped ensure the ship steered the right way, along with Andrea Hunter from Aer Lingus, the Ulster Business team, including John Mulgrew, Sonia Armstrong, Sylvie Brando and Sarah-Ann Gamble, and the talented team at Gatekeeper PR, headed by Sinead Little.


Also turning her hand to the world of ‘grand designs’, the BBC’s Wendy Austin hosted some of the industry’s top architects at Queen’s University’s Whitla Hall. Following her superb stint at the Aer Lingus TakeOff Awards, she was joined by Ciaran Fox, director of the Royal Society of Ulster Architects, along with its current president Paul Crowe. And from Micah T Jones, the designer of a Co Down barn, which took the top gong for house of the year, to St Bronagh’s Primary School in Rostrevor – which saw d-on architects win the overall award on the night, hundreds were treated to some of the best design see across Northern Ireland in the last few years.

Now, getting stuck into the muck and hard work of agri-business isn’t something this chairman has often been involved with, but the sunny backdrop of the Balmoral Show was more that sufficient. Ulster Bank boss Richard Donnan, along with head of agriculture, Cormac McKervey, welcomed a select few top business chiefs, including Moy Park’s Janet McCollum, Hilton Food Group’s Robert Watson, and Owen Brennan boss of Devenish Nutrition.

Meanwhile, during another lavish hospitable affair, the great and the good from Northern Ireland’s food and drink sector were front and centre at Titanic Belfast. The Institute of Hospitality Awards for Professionalism saw some of the top purveyors of all that is gastronomic, with winners including Laura Wilson, who took the award for the Unsung Hero of the Year award. She was joined by Marianne Hood, chair of the Institute of Hospitality (NI), William Cotter and our Pamela Ballantine.

And just when you thought there couldn’t be any more development in Belfast, the latest Maldron hotel opened its doors in Belfast city centre. Among those turning up for grand official unveiling was the Ulster Business team, Mike Gatt, general manager, Lord Mayor of Belfast Nuala McAllister and John Hennessy, chairman of Dalata Hotel Group.

Meanwhile, Nuala McAllister also joined hotel magnate Howard Hastings and Gerry Lennon of Visit Belfast to unveil an ambitious target of hitting more than £500m in income to the city by 2022. ■


RSUA director Ciaran Fox at the organisation’s awards at the Whitla Hall in Belfast

Ulster Business editor John Mulgrew and Wendy Austin are joined by NI companies during a panel discussion at the Aer Lingus TakeOff Awards in London

Kellie Armstrong, Paul Crowe and John Reid at the RSUA awards in Belfast

Brian Irwin from Irwin’s Bakery with Neal Kelly, Henderson Wholesale fresh foods director, along with the BBC’s Jo Scott

At the Ulster Bank lunch in the show’s main marquee are keynote speaker, Professor Grainne Allen, head of product development at Marks and Spencer and a visiting professor at Ulster University’s Business School, with Richard Donnan, right, head of NI, Ulster Bank, and the bank’s head of agriculture, Cormac McKervey

Laura Wilson (second from right) wins the Unsung Hero of the Year award. She’s pictured with Marianne Hood of the Institute of Hospitality (NI) William Cotter and Pamela Ballantine

The Maldron’s Francine O’Hagan and Sarah-Ann Gamble of Ulster Business magazine

JUNE 2018

Mike Gatt general manager of the new Maldron hotel in Belfast Lord Mayor of Belfast Nuala McAllister and John Hennessy chairman of Dalata Hotel Group at the launch of the new hotel

Howard Hastings with Visit Belfast’s Gerry Lennon and Lord Mayor Nuala McAllister





By John Mulgrew

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



uzanne Wylie managed to squeeze in an early morning cappuccino ahead of what was already looking like another busy day for the boss of a public sector body boasting numbers equivalent to a large international manufacturer. On an already scorching morning, Belfast City Hall’s very own Bobbin cafe was host to a chat and coffee about the council chief’s plans, the current state of play, and what’s coming down the road.

For Suzanne, while much has changed in terms of the politics, her workplace hasn’t. She’s essentially a lifer at the council, starting off as an environmental health officer back in 1988. “I think it was quite a good grounding. You visited all parts of the city, all parts of life. Then I worked my way through different jobs in the organisation.” Next month Suzanne marks four years in the top role. “It’s been a real roller-coaster of a job,” she told Ulster Business. “It’s been a real privileged position to be in. You are effectively, on behalf of 60 councillors, running a city.”

It’s running a city, but given the scale and size of the council and Belfast’s resurgence and growth in tourism and infrastructure, it’s also very much a business. The council is far from shying away from its pro-business attitude, attending the lavish MIPIM commercial property event in Cannes over the last couple of years. Suzanne was among the council delegation, which was part-funded and included some of Northern Ireland’s biggest developers. “We want to make sure there is the right balance between the city centre places to live, the economy, jobs for local people, and the access to those opportunities,” she said. Now, I should say at this stage, unlike last month, we’re back to coffee and no breakfast. This is a mutual decision, in this case, to be fair. The fuel needed to get Ulster Business off the ground each morning is still firmly rooted in a couple of Nespresso pods (Kazaar, in case you were wondering) and a healthy helping throughout the day. Right, back to business. “As a city, we have been held back for too long,” Suzanne said. “In terms of regeneration, we still have large, brownfield sites – dereliction in our city centre, when we shouldn’t have that at all. If the private sector isn’t able to do that, then I believe the public sector should do more to incentivise that.”



Some of the major works under way include the council’s joint venture with Tyrone developer McAleer & Rushe, to turn the former Belfast Telegraph building into a large mixed-use scheme. Elsewhere, the former Sirocco site is earmarked for a £400m development, while the first phase of Royal Exchange in the city centre, has been approved. Next on the cards for Suzanne is trying to land a ‘city deal’, which could give potentially hundreds of millions of pounds from Westminster pumped into Belfast development. Could that mean another Titanic Belfast, or comparable tourist attraction? According to Suzanne, that’s part of the plan. “If we get this it will be in agreement with Westminster,” Suzanne said. “There would be a 10-year capital build programme. We would be planning to do more tourist facilities, including a big new visitor attraction in Belfast on a similar scale to Titanic Belfast.” Can it all be done without devolution? “That’s something that the Secretary of State is looking at… if there is a will, there is a way the Secretary of State could do something, but we would much rather have devolution.” And there are still “legacy” issues to contend with, as far as some of the challenges the council is faced with. “Every time we go in to summer season, council is involved in trying to get us to a better place in terms of legacy issues,” she says. “In terms of ensuring we have enough money, to make sure we make the place culturally vibrant, there is always a challenge around that.” On the area of a significant revamping of the planning system in Belfast, something

JUNE 2018

this editor is certainly familiar with, Suzanne says it’s becoming more joined-up with a long-term vision. “Getting the whole system working really effectively, there is still a bit of work to do there.” And after that concise and caffeine-fuelled chat, it’s the start of another day for Suzanne, and back in to the morning sun for this editor.

THE BILL The Bob bin America no £2.00 Cappucc ino £2.1 0 Total £4 .10

Until next month. ■



Spirit still alive in Scotland John Mulgrew takes in the grand surroundings of the world-famous Gleneagles with a few drams along the way during a Scottish expedition


rom the peated drams of Islay to the smooth Sherry-laden Speysides, Scottish whisky offers both the casual domestic traveller and international connoisseur of spirits a diverse array of tipples to try. And among the drinks giants taking a bigger stake in the market is Diageo, which owns and increasingly large chunk and is expanding the number of distilleries it owns over the last few years. One of them is Cardhu, located close to Archiestown. Showing us around the Speyside distillery, which aside from its own releases is a key component of Diageo’s flagship Johnnie


Walker Black Label, was Northern Ireland man Andrew Millsopp.

which make up, what is, one of the world’s best-selling whiskies.

A tour of the grand distillery offers up a range of intoxicating smells to hit the olfactory receptors, from the porridge-like mash – where the malted barley is fermented into a liquor ahead of distillation – to thick, heavy, sweet alcohol-tinged esters.

And there’s also Blue Label – a top-end Walker blend which is a smooth, balanced, oily and creamy whisky, often favoured by Hollywood as a bastion of luxury and excess.

There’s also the opportunity to sample a tasting of some of the main blended malts which go into a bottle of Johnnie Walker Black Label. From the touch of big-end peat, to the smooth Speyside malts, including Cardhu,

Aside from that, there was a chance to try a couple of malts straight from the cask, including a 24-year-old and a dram of more than 30 years, with a huge sherry character. Glenkinchie also offers visitors a similar in-depth look around the distillery, and the whisky-making process. It’s another, perhaps even more polished affair for the visiting


tourists, complete with its own tartan (and accompanying products in the gift shop).

50-year-old old Glen Grant at an eye-watering £1,000 a measure.

Diageo’s continued growth and expansion in the world of Scottish whisky was further bolstered a few weeks ago, when it announced plans for a £150m investment over three years to “transform its Scotch whisky visitor experiences”.

Our dining spot was the Birnam – a bistro serving up French brasserie fare in bright, classic and laid-back surroundings.

As for somewhere to lay our heads, Gleneagles was as grand and palatial a backdrop as you can, or would want. Arriving on a late spring evening, the lavish five-star estate, located close to Auchterarder and former host of the Ryder Cup in 2014, offers up guests eight spots to eat and drink, from the casual, to more formal affairs – such as the two Michelin-starred Andrew Fairlie.

A traditional steak tartare offered up all that is iron-rich, mineral raw beef, with contrasting sharpness and a touch of Tabasco heat, while a rabbit and sauce dijonnaise dish was wellcooked and unctuous. The sheer breadth and scale of the Diageo whisky operation is breath-taking. The bonded stores house more than three million casks of spirit, with the huge estate encompassing eight miles of road.

For those looking for the decadent dram, or most aptly, a 1920s-style cocktail, the American Bar is one option.

It’s also home to the vast cooperage operation, which sees skilled workers, and modern machinery, to rejuvenate around 250,000 each year for use across the company’s whisky portfolio.

It’s not one for those after a pint, or even a run-of-the-mill supermarket-friendly single malt, however. Cocktails run at between £17 and £25, with the curated whisky menu starting around the early teens, rising to a

Diageo also builds and maintains its huge copper estate at its Abercrombie site. This is where the vast stills which produce the spirit are created, and a look around gives an insight into the huge amount of physical

JUNE 2018

Andrew Millsopp of the Cardhu distillery

labour required to ensure the distilleries are running at full steam. During the trip, there was also a chance to peruse Diageo’s painstakingly maintained drinks archive. Not normally open to the public, it’s managed by Christine McCafferty. It is a vast selection of bottles from across the company’s range of spirits, with bottles dating back to the late 1800s. And aside from every incarnation of popular drams such as Black Label, there’s also a £100,000 bottle of a 1952 whisky blend, which was released to mark the Queen’s diamond jubilee. ■



Apple boss Tim Cook with the new Apple iPad

The Apple iPad: ahead of the game Adrian Weckler discovers that the new iPad blows most tablet rivals away and is also ideal as a fresh long-term update for older models


ablets are a funny breed of computer. On one hand, they are the natural inheritors for casual use – web browsing, email and media consumption – because of their likeness to smartphones.


On the other hand, standalone tablet sales have stagnated or fallen, because the devices are caught between our increasingly huge smartphones – which many people now wholly rely on for casual computing – and laptops that have incorporated some tablet features,

especially those with new touchscreens and detachable keyboards. But when a tablet gets it right, it’s irresistible. Personally, I’ve been an avid iPad Pro user ever since it came out. For what I do – writing, web


searching, photo editing, presentations and social media – it has the right mix of productivity and leisure uses without the hassle, updates and quirks of Windows (or MacOS). Using the new entry-level iPad for the last two weeks, it’s clear to me that some of the iPad Pro’s features are starting to trickle down into the basic model. The most obvious manifestation of this is the new model’s compatibility with the Apple Pencil, the tall, white stylus that works quite beautifully for note-taking. I confess that I’m not a natural stylus user and never was. This is a pity for me, as there are some genuinely innovative and special ways that this tool can be used with photo and artistic apps from the likes of Adobe. But some will find this new functionality to be an eye-opener, as the Pencil is a lot more sensitive and accurate than most third-party styluses you can buy for the iPad. It can also be used really nicely with Apple’s own productivity apps, Keynote, Pages and Numbers, as well as Notes. Physically, the 2018 iPad is exactly the same as the last generation model. Its 9.7-inch ‘Retina’ screen has the same dimensions and specifications as before. Overall, that’s not a bad thing, as the screen is very bright, renders colour beautifully and has a much better refresh rate than virtually any other tablet in its price range. Obviously, there are differences between this screen and that of the iPad Pro. For a start, the Pro is around 15% bigger (10.5 inches compared to 9.7 inches) partly because its bezels (borders) are thinner. One difference that few will notice is that the new iPad’s display isn’t laminated like the iPad Pro’s screen. This gives the display a microscopically more sunken look into the tablet. It will also mean slightly more chance of glare in bright conditions. Otherwise, there are only really three other differences of note between this iPad and the iPad Pro, which – remember – costs twice as much. There’s no smart connector at the side, meaning if you want to connect a keyboard, it has to be a third-party model such as one from Logitech.

JUNE 2018

The 32GB version costs £319 for wifi-only, or £449 for wifi and cellular.

Using the new entrylevel iPad for the last two weeks, it’s clear to me that some of the iPad Pro’s features are starting to trickle down into the basic model.

Another difference is that when you’re multitasking with different windows (which you’ve been able to do for some time on iPads and it was seriously enhanced with iOS 11), only your floating window will be usable on the iPad 6th generation model, whereas all can be used on the iPad Pro. Finally, the new iPad only has two speakers, which aren’t quite as good as the four stereo speakers on the iPad Pro. But they’re more than adequate to watch a movie and a far cry above some of the tinny speakers you get on budget tablets. But that’s about it. In the time I’ve had with the new iPad, I’ve barely skipped a beat on productivity or leisure use – the only thing I miss is the clip-on keyboard of the 10.5-inch iPad Pro. The muscle under the hood on the new iPad is easily enough to handle virtually every task I set it. For example, I do quite a lot of photo-editing, with the iPad taking over from my MacBook Pro about 18 months ago. The new iPad handles this work with ne’er a beat missed. Yes, putting both the iPad Pro and the new iPad side by side, the Pro model does scroll slightly faster and slightly more fluidly. But it’s only something I’d really notice when doing such a comparison – there is no sense of any lag on its own. The iPad 6th generation’s battery life is perfectly decent, lasting me between six and 10 hours, depending on what I was doing (photo and video-editing saps battery faster, I find).

Personally, I rank the £409 128GB version as the best option for those who can afford it. People tend to keep iPads for a lot longer than their phones. So if you’re going to hang onto it for three, four or five years, you may well need the extra storage space. This is especially so as services such as Netflix and Sky Go are starting to let us download movies and box sets, which can take up many gigabytes of storage at a time. And that’s not to mention using your iPad to store photos or home videos, either from iCloud or straight from your camera. To be clear, this isn’t a budget tablet. Despite a narrowing field, there are still quite a few 10inch, 8-inch and 7-inch tablets you can get for under £220. For example, Samsung’s 10.1-inch Galaxy Tab A can still be purchased for €210 (£185) in Irish shops. But you get what you pay for: that Samsung tablet has nothing like the power of the new iPad, nor does it have details such as a security fingerprint reader. Also, and not to be underestimated, Android tablets are now falling badly behind when it comes to apps. Sure, they support YouTube, Netflix and Gmail. But when the hit game Fortnite launched on mobile devices some weeks ago, it was iOS only. One might crib that bringing this 6th-generation iPad up to its productivity potential costs more than £319, given that the Apple Pencil costs £89 and a good keyboard case costs at least the same. However, the same is arguably true for any tablet. In short, this is easily the best tablet you can buy for under £500. The only ones that come close in this budget range are Huawei’s large MediaPads, but they’re hard to find and don’t have the kind of app support that the iPad has. ■ Pros: Good power update, unusually competitive price Cons: No smart keyboard connector Verdict: 5/5


MY DAY Uncovering the 9-5

Name: Francine O’Hagan Position: Sales and marketing manager, Maldron Hotel, Belfast city centre 6.30am I’m up and out of the house in 40 minutes to catch the 7am bus from Newry to Belfast. It’s quite a commute, but it gives me time to catch up on emails, check the hotel’s social media and plan out my day – or catch a few extra minutes of shut eye if it’s been a particularly busy week. 8:30am When I get into the office my first priority is checking our internal log to make sure everything ran smoothly overnight. Once I’m confident all of our guests are happy, the next thing I do is look ahead to see who is expected to arrive that day. If there’s any familiar faces or someone I’m keen to introduce myself to, I’ll ask reception to let me know when they arrive so I can pop down to say hello. 11am What I love about my job is that you can never get stuck in a rut – every day is different. Some days I’m at my desk pouring through market research, planning events and catching up on emails; other days it’s back-to-back meetings. Building relationships is an aspect of my job that I really enjoy, whether it’s clients, suppliers or guests, these people can quickly become more like friends. 12pm Since we’ve just opened the doors on our latest offering in Belfast city centre, I spend a lot of my time showing people around our hotel. We built this hotel from the ground up so people are really interested to see what we’ve done and it’s extremely rewarding for me to be able to show off the final product.

1pm Lunch depends on my diary, sometimes I’ll just have to grab whatever I can get on the go, but if I’m lucky I’m in the office and enjoying a lovely staff lunch from our very own Grain & Grill restaurant. 3pm At the minute, we’re gearing up for the official grand opening of the Maldron Hotel in Belfast city centre so I’m kept busy with all of the details that go into that. I’m a bit of a perfectionist so everything from the entertainment, the menu, the guest list – right down the perfect shade of Maldron yellow for the ribbon – has to be just right.

6:30pm I try to work Monday to Friday from 8.30am to 5pm, but that doesn’t always happen. The nature of the hospitality sector means evenings and weekends are just part of the job description. During the week, the last bus home leaves Belfast at 6.30pm though, so that’s a good incentive to get out of the office. 8pm When I get a bit of spare time in the evenings or at the weekend I try to get to the gym, or go for a walk if the weather’s nice – something to try and maintain a healthy work/life balance.

Maldron Hotel Belfast City

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237 guest Bedrooms 11 executive bedrooms 5 flexible meeting rooms Complimentary WiFi Open planned grain & grill bar & restaurant Discounted car parking rates available at Great Northern Car Park

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This four star city hotel is perfectly located within the Linen Quarter of Belfast city centre. The hotel is the ideal base for exploring Belfast, with the main shopping areas, tourist attractions and business districts just 5 minutes walk from the hotel.

Profile for Ulster  Business

Ulster Business - June 2018  

Ulster Business

Ulster Business - June 2018  

Ulster Business