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MARCH 2017 Price £2.30 (¤3.75)

Delivering excellence in tax Service quality and expertise which makes a difference: Lyn Canning Hagan explains how GMcG’s Tax team is getting it right

Retail The future for Belfast’s shopping streets Tourism Have we got what it takes to compete?


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Contents 6 News

34 Business Breakfast

75 Motoring

If it’s going on in the Northern Ireland business world, it’s here

Justin Rush from Abacus Professional Recruitment dines out with the editor

Pat Burns brakes late and gets in an alphabet soup with a BMW and two SUVs

14 Cover Story

37 Retail

82 Appointments

How GMcG’s tax team continues to evolve and define the parameters of service quality.

Professor John Simpson takes a look at the future potential for Belfast’s retail sector

Don’t fight it. You know you want to find out who has moved where and to do what.

20 Viscount Awards

50 Tourism

89 The Chairman

The countdown is on for entries to the most prestigious business awards of the year

John McGrillen from Tourism NI and Niall Gibbons from Tourism Ireland talk travel

He’s back! Your favourite bon viveur dusts down the tux and reloads the Cohiba holder

23 IT

60 Tax

92 Gadgets

We talk to Allstate’s John Healy to find out how the local tech world has transformed

How relevant is devolution of corporation tax to Stormont post Brexit?

Adrian Weckler knows a thing or two about the latest tech. Read his thoughts here

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EDITOR’S COMMENTS

Adaptability takes centre stage

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elcome to the March edition of Ulster Business, one which comes to you as the first signs of spring are ushered in and winter gets ready to make a sharp exit.

Normally, we’d be able to transition here to a loose analogy with the Northern Ireland economy but, as we write this, the windows of UB Towers are being rattled by Storm Doris. Aha, an in. It’s much like the political storm which is lashing against the progress of the good ship Northern Ireland, dampening progress in every aspect of life here, but in particularly in the business world. Helpfully for lazy analogy creators, Stormont can be seen through these windows and it looks typically ominous, not so much a Doris as a Doom monger. By the time you read this you may already know the outcome of the election and should have a clearer idea of the future for local politics, perhaps in time for the flowers to bloom in Stormont estate and doom mood to lift. The current uncertainty has dented business confidence and uncovered the usual array of doom mongers lamenting the death of the political institution and in turn of prosperity in the economy here.

Publisher Ulster Business c/o Independent News & Media Ltd Belfast Telegraph House 33 Clarendon Road, Clarendon Dock Belfast BT1 3BG Printer W&G Baird Greystone Press, Caulside Drive, Antrim BT41 2RS www.wgbaird.com

Independent News & Media Ltd © 2017. 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.

MARCH 2017

That’s been compounded by the impending impact of Brexit and the ravings of US President Trump and his protectionist leanings to create a near hysteria in some quarters. These latter two factors are much more far reaching in the longer term and, while they throw up plenty of challenges, they also present plenty of opportunities for businesses with a savvy head. Even the current chaos at Stormont - an unashamed shambles - will no doubt offer its own positives and hopefully reflect the society which most of us live in rather than one of polar opposites. A more diverse, tolerant world is good for business here and that in itself will allow us to deal with the challenges that lie ahead from Europe and the US. Doris will be a distant memory by the time you read this and we’ll have changed our coats to – hopefully – usher in the summer. If we can do the same to usher in the new business climate then we’re onto a winner. As Charles Darwin is quoted as saying: “It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent that survives. It is the one that is most adaptable to change.”■

David Elliott

Editor David Elliott

Cover photography Elaine Hill

Manager Sonia Armstrong

Production Stuart McKinley

Deputy Manager Sylvie Brando Sales Executive Sarah-Ann Gamble

Free to download. Free to read. ulsterbusiness/app 5


NEWS

A month in numbers £69 The cost of a one-way flight from Belfast International Airport to New York on the new Norwegian Air flight. It lands at Stewart International Airport, 70 miles north of Manhatten and will run three times a week.

5.3% The unemployment rate in Northern Ireland in the last quarter of 2016, according to the Department for the Economy. That’s down 0.5% on the same time last year. That’s above the UK average of 4.8% but well below the EU rate of 8.3% and the Republic rate of 7.2%.

3,599 The number of confirmed redundancies in Northern Ireland in the year to the end of January, up from 1,932 in the previous period.

25.9% The economic inactivity rate in Northern Ireland in the last quarter of 2016, up 0.1% on the third quarter but down 0.5% since the second quarter when the Brexit vote occoured.

£502.50 Average household expenditure in Northern Ireland, according to the Office for National Statistics. That places us sixth in the ranking of the 12 UK regions, below the average of £527. The expenditure ranges from £423.50 in the North East of England and £652 in London.

Claire Cole and Criona Collins from Lambert Smith Hampton

Belfast could make it as a top 10 UK retail destination, given the right support

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ith the right input from government and other stakeholders, Belfast could become a top 10 UK retail destination, according to a new report. Real estate agent Lambert Smith Hampton said the new Stormont Executive needs to come up with a retail strategy to ensure the huge progress which has been made in the city since the Good Friday Agreement in 1998 is maintained. In its report - Belfast: An Evolution of the Retail Landscape – it charted the major developments in the city centre over the past 20 years including the construction of Victoria Square, the arrival of new global brands and the improved tourism offer and new attractions such as Titanic Belfast. But Criona Collins, Director of Retail at Lambert Smith Hampton, said that momentum won’t continue without government support. “There is a real and pressing need for a strategy if we are to maintain this progress in Belfast and we at LSH are pleased that this is now considered a priority by Belfast City Council. “Without any further intervention at local

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and regional government level, the evolution of Belfast’s retail landscape will continue at a gradual pace, but we believe that it is possible to accelerate and enhance the city’s retail offer with a more coherent collaborative effort between commercial property experts, retailers, investors, developers, local businesses and policy makers.” The report noted that away from the two main shopping centres in Belfast, the ownership of high street property is fragmented which can obstruct new development. Lambert Smith Hampton said more must be done to strengthen vesting powers to ensure more coherent regeneration. Claire Cole, Research Analyst at Lambert Smith Hampton, who compiled the report said we need to aim to be in the top 10 UK retail destinations. “We’re not at the point where we’re competing with Glasgow, Manchester and Birmingham. Belfast is much smaller and does not yet have the same number and quality of shops, restaurants and leisure attractions, but if there’s a joined up focus on continually improving Belfast’s retail and leisure offer then we are confident that Belfast can make up ground on those larger centres.”


NEWS

Entrepreneurial Spark proves employment fire starter

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ver 230 jobs have been created and £5.3m secured in investment by businesses at the Ulster Banksupported Entrepreneurial Spark Hub. That’s according to the Entrepreneurial Spark Impact Report, which showcases the scale of the effect that the world’s largest free business accelerator has had for entrepreneurs across the UK, details the success of the programme which provides support for start-up and scaleup businesses. It has been operating in Belfast for just one year. Belfast, which is host to one of the 12 Entrepreneurial Spark locations across the UK, recorded almost £12m in turnover for businesses based at the Hub, and over 110 businesses receiving support through the programme which provides mentoring, office space and business networking programmes to enable local entrepreneurs.

fantastic result that shows the strength of Northern Ireland’s entrepreneurial talent pool and the role Entrepreneurial Spark is playing in helping it realise its potential. Every day I work with the exciting potential and people that we have to build and grow businesses of the future and impacts like these are really inspiring. “As a bank we’re aiming to be the number one for customer service, trust and advocacy

and to see the success of the Hub in its first year is a testament to how our partnership with Entrepreneurial Spark is making a practical difference and providing meaningful help for what matters.” As part of its commitment to adapting to meet the needs of local entrepreneurs, the Hub is rolling out a new model to allow it to offer more specialised, bespoke support for businesses at all stages of their life cycle.

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Business & the Environment Conference Titanic Belfast, 31 May 2017 investni.com/industrialsymbiosis

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Industrial Symbiosis

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Lynsey Cunningham, Entrepreneur Development Manager at Ulster Bank, welcome the findings, saying: “This is a

Karen McCallion, Entrepreneurial Spark, Lynsey Cunningham, Ulster Bank, entrepreneur Jonathon Clarke, and John Ferris, Entrepreneurial Spark

The longest-running facilitated industrial symbiosis service in the world is celebrating its 10th anniversary. The Industrial Symbiosis service, which is delivered by International Synergies Ltd, ensures materials are circulated within the economy, encouraging reuse and the avoidance of disposal to landfill. Over the 10 years of operation the service has achieved significant results for the businesses involved: • Delivered cost savings of £24.8m • Generated additional sales of £16m • Created and saved 96 jobs • Diverted 390,000 tonnes from landfill • Reduced greenhouse gas emissions by 335,000 tonnes The Industrial Symbiosis service is clearly having a very positive impact within the Northern Ireland economy and delegates will get the chance to hear from local businesses who have fully utilized the service and achieved invaluable results for their business.

Renowned international speakers will talk about successful application of the resource matching facility worldwide. The afternoon session of this one day conference is all about recognition and contribution to the furtherance of the principles of industrial symbiosis in Northern Ireland. The Industrial Symbiosis service continues to be successful thanks to the businesses involved and we want to acknowledge and reward those companies through a short awards ceremony. This is going to be one of the highlights of the day with presentations made to businesses in Northern Ireland who exemplify sustainability and value the Industrial Symbiosis service as one way to attain their sustainability goals. We will be posting more information on our webpage and social media channels over the coming weeks so be sure to connect with us for updates www.investni.com/industrialsymbiosis

For more information and to register your interest contact the Industrial Symbiosis service at info@international-synergiesni.com or call 028 38 333438.


NEWS

Lawrence Kenwright, Suzanne Wylie and Jackie Henry

Quotes of the month “It was vitally important for Northern Ireland to re-connect with the United States of America. Without a direct air link, the job of attracting new investment and expanding Northern Ireland tourism would be a lot harder..” Graham Keddie, managing director, Belfast International Airport, welcomes news of Norwegian Air’s new flight from Belfast to Stewart International Airport, 70 miles north of Manhatten.

George Best inspires first of a raft of new Belfast hotels By John Mulgrew

“If the border turns into something of further hindrance to our work, then we would have to consider more operations being done in Dundalk. It’s to protect those jobs in Craigavon that we need to find solutions for the EU, which is why we need this facility in Dundalk.” Almac executive director Colin Hayburn tells the NI Affairs Committee it’s hedging against Brexit.

“We are operating in one of the most lucrative markets in the world and this presents us with huge opportunities. The domestic UK market is only 76% self-sufficient and globally, populations and incomes are rising, so we need to find ways to maximise how we sell into those markets.” Danske Bank’s Head of Agribusiness Robert McCullough believes the farming industry has big potential, despite Brexit and global price volatility.

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Liverpool developer is planning five new hotels in Belfast over the next two years - including one inspired by Manchester United and Northern Ireland football legend George Best. Lawrence Kenwright said they have the potential to bring 500 jobs to the city. And he revealed that he had been eyeing up a famous landmark as a possible site for one of the five projects. "We've been after the Crumlin Road courthouse for some time. We see that as the last building and the last piece in the jigsaw for Belfast," he said. Mr Kenwright's company Signature Living is close to securing two buildings in Belfast, but a location for the George Best hotel hasn't been decided. He said it will follow the template of his Shankly Hotel in Liverpool, which is based on the Anfield club's legendary manager. He explained: "We are using the knowledge that we have gleaned from the Shankly Hotel. Every room has a story of an individual that knew him. It's about unearthing those stories... not so much the main life stories that everyone knows. This is about the stories you don't know about."

The hotel could boast up to 100 rooms, he added. The idea has the backing of Best's family. "They have signed a contract with us. They love it," Mr Kenwright said. "They have been to the Shankly Hotel." He currently owns a number of hotels in his home city. There are now around 20 new hotels at various stages of development across Belfast. Asked whether he believed there was enough demand here, Mr Kenwright responded: "In Liverpool, in 2008, we started off our business. Liverpool had 2,400 beds and now there are 9,000 beds. "I see Belfast in the same place. I think Belfast has the capability of being a bigger tourist destination than Liverpool. I don't think it is now - but it could be in the future." As regards his plans for the other four hotels, he said: "We have one iconic building which is truly amazing. And another hotel, which is going to be more of a Signature Living hotel. We are hoping in that five, for one to be the Crumlin Road courthouse." He added that he envisaged rooms in the hotels costing around £55 per person, per night.


NEWS

Virtual Reality not just in the corporate imagination

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dvancing technologies and their swift adoption are upending traditional business models. Businesses need to think strategically about how to prepare their organisations for the challenging new environment and to take advantage of the emerging opportunities,” so says Steven Pollard, Course Director of a pioneering programme called ‘Digital Ready Leaders’ developed by Ulster University Business School in partnership with Digital DNA. The newly- launched programme is targeted at business leaders who wish to understand how digital innovations impact on their organisations. Cloud, data, analytics, security, mobile, social media and financial technologies will all be examined within a strategic business context over three two days sessions at the Ulster University Belfast campus. Participants who complete all course elements successfully will achieve an Advanced Certificate in Management Practice. Pictured are Steven Pollard, Ulster University Business School, and Gareth Quinn, Managing Director, Digital DNA, getting digitally ready in Novosco’s Virtual Reality room.

Media partner:

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NEWS

Jobs market stands strong despite Brexit bluster

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he Northern Ireland jobs market appears in robust health despite the looming threat of Brexit.

That is the conclusion of the latest employment data released by the Department for the Economy which showed a decrease in the unemployment rate by 0.3% to 5.3% in the last quarter of 2016. It has helped quash worries that firms would curtail hiring or even lay off staff in the wake of the European Union Referendum last June. In fact, unemployment since the vote has fallen by 0.7% and even the economic inactivity rate - a measure of the number of people not actively looking for work, the bane of the Northern Ireland economy fell by 0.5%. Given the purdah period imposed on politicians in the run up to next month’s Stormont election, economy minister Simon Hamilton didn’t comment on the data but the release from his department said future data will give a clearer picture as to whether pre-EU referendum fears were warranted. “The post-referendum picture is still emerging and will continue to do so over the coming quarters and years,” it said. “It is also not possible to separate out the specific impact of the referendum in this quarter from pre-existing trends, however, the latest figures show there has been little change in unemployment rates since the EU referendum.” Comparing the jobs figures with other regions of the UK reveals there is still a lot of work to be done for the economy here.

The unemployment rate itself is above the UK average of 4.8% and the inactivity rate, although improved, remains the highest of all UK regions. Meanwhile, another data release from the Office for National Statistics also shows Northern Ireland households stand sixth in the ranking of the 12 UK regions when it comes to expenditure. Average weekly household expenditure stands at £502.50 a week compared to a UK average of £527. That ranges from £652 in London to £423.50 in the North East of England.

Plans for Belfast’s Royal Exchange up for public scrutiny

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plan to redevelop a 12-acre site in Belfast City Centre has been revitalised by a London developer. Castlebrooke Developments said it has begun a public consultation on its plans to develop and regenerate an area previously marketed as Royal Exchange which is bounded by Royal Avenue, Donegall Street, North Street, Garfield Street and High Street. It has submitted an outline planning application for the scheme to include retail, leisure, residential, community and office space, to “improve upon the existing detailed planning permission that has already been granted.” The move comes as Ulster University forges ahead with the development of its Belfast City

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Centre campus and Belfast City Council looks to developing a major tourist attraction in the Cathedral Quarter.

want to make sure the whole community has a chance to have their say on the way that investment is delivered.

The developers – who will be keen to secure a major retail name to the anchor the project – hope the new plans for the Royal Exchange project will tie the core city centre with the Cathedral Quarter and draw shoppers in its own right.

“We intend to implement the scheme in a way that protects the important heritage of the area by starting with the refurbishment of Garfield Street and the Northern Bank on Waring Street.”

The latest in a long line of proposals, the scheme is worth £400m of investment, according to the company, and could support 3,500 jobs. ”This is the start of a process to revitalise a site which has been badly in need of regeneration for some time,” a spokesperson from Castlebrooke Investment said. “Whilst we are ready to invest in the scheme we

The professional team behind the new plans includes architects and master-planners Chapman Taylor, built heritage specialists Consarc Design Group, planning consultants Savills and commercial real estate company Colliers International. Public consultation events will take place at The Mac Belfast on 14th February from 2pm8pm, 27th February from 2pm-8pm and 28th February from 9am-6pm.


NEWS

Announcing the £4.5m housing scheme at Willow Park in Dunmurry are Hagan Homes managing director Jamesy Hagan (left) and Eden Contractors managing director Arthur King. Photo: William Cherry/Presseye

Hagan Homes breaks ground on £4.5m Dunmurry development

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agan Homes has just started building 35 new homes as part of a £4.5m development in Dunmurry.

The two-acre site will take 18 months to complete and is expected to create 50 construction jobs during the build. The developer said the first phase of the scheme - which ranges from two-bed apartments to three-bed detached houses - will be completed this summer and will start from around £90,000. Eden Contractors Limited are the main contractor at Willow Park. Managing Director Jamesy Hagan said the firm has growing confidence in the market. He said: “We are delighted to announce our plans for the new Willow Park development in Dunmurry, Co. Antrim. It is a clear indication of Hagan Homes’ confidence in the local market and a further sign of rejuvenation in the construction sector.” The news follows the release of latest data from the Northern Ireland Statistics and Research Agency which showed house prices climbed by 5.7% in the year to the end of 2016. The average price of a house here is now £125,480, up 29% on the low hit in 2013. The last quarter of 2016 was the 16th consecutive quarter during which house prices rose here. However, prices still remain £100,000 or 44% below the peak hit in 2007, according to Richard Ramsey, Chief Economist at Ulster Bank. He said a shortage new supply on the market has helped support prices but warned the rising inflation is likely to dent the uptrend. “Looking ahead, the Northern Ireland housing market will be impacted by a squeeze on living standards,” he said. “The combination of accelerating inflation coupled with a benefits freeze until 2020 will impact on affordability. House price growth is expected to continue albeit at a slower pace in 2017.”

MARCH 2017

BELFAST BOOK REVIEW: LEGACY, BY JAMES KERR Avid bookworms David Meade and Laura Jackson, Partner at BDO Northern Ireland, line out with ‘Legacy’ and discover the business perks of thinking like the All Blacks.

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hen they’re not being turned over by Ireland, the New Zealand All Blacks are usually cementing their reputation as the most successful professional sports team in history. For Legacy, best-selling author James Kerr was given unprecedented access to their team environment, embedding himself in their set up for six weeks observing the approach that has given them a sustained competitive advantage and asking what they can teach us about leadership. His assessment is that being the best in the world is about more than just technique. That rugby, like business and life, is a game played primarily in the mind and attitude is a greater asset than skill. ‘Winning takes talent’, he contends, ‘to repeat it takes character.’ Kerr distils 15 powerful and practical lessons for leadership and business from the All Blacks over 15 themed chapters that include: Character, Adapt, Purpose, Authenticity, Sacrifice, Responsibility, Expectations and Whakapapa – a Māori concept and team mindset that contends leadership is a stewardship of the past and the future and must go beyond corporate boundaries. Legacy is an inspiring handbook for leaders in all fields and delivers firmly on its tag line: “What the All Blacks can teach us about the business of life.” In February, James Kerr attended an Institute of Directors’ event, Aspects of Leadership, sponsored by BDO Northern Ireland’s Belfast Book Review. To access an exclusive interview with the author and other video reviews visit www.bdoni.com.

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NEWS

Chinese investors have arrived in the Republic - and in some style

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ata from law firm Baker McKenzie showed they accounted for $3bn (£2.4bn) of investment there last year, up a massive 29,260% from just $10m (£8m) in 2015 and confirmation of a growing thirst from the cash-rich Chinese private sector for investments in this region. No separate data was available for Northern Ireland but the news chimes with the emergence of Chinese buyers for a number key assets here. County Antrim engineering company SDC Trailers was scooped up last summer by Shenzhen-based CIMC Vehicles, Portadownbased aerospace company Thompson Aero Seating was bought at the end of 2016 by Beijing company The Aviation Industry Corporation of China while China General Nuclear Power Group’s bought seven wind farms spread across Northern Ireland, also in December 2016. The latter deal was part of the purchase of 14 wind farms across the island of Ireland for a total of £400m (£321m), according to the data from Baker McKenzie, and while the energy sector in the Republic saw a significant amount of investment from Chinese buyers, it was the aerospace sector which topped the value league table. That was mostly down to HNA Group's purchase of Irish aircraft leasing business Avolon, for US$2.5bn (£2bn) a deal which

One of the most significant Chinese investment in the Republic was China General Nuclear Power Group’s purchase of 14 find farms across the island of Ireland. Pictured shaking on the deal are, from left, his Excellency Dr. Yue Xiaoyong, Ambassador of the People’s Republic of China to Ireland, Dr. LU, CEO of CGN Europe Energy, Barry Gavin, CEO of Gaelectric Holdings plc, and Mr. Eoghan Murphy TD, Minister for State at the Departments of Finance and Public Expenditure and Reform

saw Avolon become part of HNA's extensive interests in the aviation sector, spanning stakes in 20 airlines and nine airports in China. Meanwhile, other sectors in the Republic which have received Chinese investment in 2016 were ICT with $121m (£97m) financial and business services with $26m (21m), electronics with $10m (£8m), entertainment

Ireland $bn top deals Investor

Target

Value

HNA

Avolon

$2.5bn

China General Nuclear

Wind farm projects

$0.4bn

TravelSky Technology

OpenJaw

<$0.1bn

Alibaba

Showtime Analytics

<$0.1bn

Source: Rhodium Group.

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with $5m (£4m) and industrial machinery and equipment with $3m (£2.4m). Tim Gee, M&A partner from Baker McKenzie said investment from China will remain strong, despite easing from a strong base early last year. "Ireland's surge in investment from China is indicative of a trend throughout Europe, as Chinese investors look to the transport, energy, ICT and industrial machinery and equipment sectors,” he said. “While 2017 is likely to be another strong year globally, as previously announced deals reach financial close, the number of newly announced Chinese acquisitions in Europe and North America has dipped since an exceptional Q1 2016." ■


Add Barclay Communications to your basket

Britt Megahey

BARCLAY COMMUNICATIONS MAKES THE GOVERNMENT FRAMEWORK FOR THE DIGITAL MARKETPLACE

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arclay Communications, including its sister company, WorkPal, has been awarded a place on the Government Framework for the Digital Marketplace, allowing over 36,000 public sector buying organisations to avail of their products. Public sector organisations including authorities, district councils, devolved administrations, agencies and arm’s length bodies such as the NHS, universities and the police and fire service can use the Digital Marketplace to find and buy digital based products such as converged mobile and landline VOIP solutions, Microsoft 365 and MacAfee. Included in this is Barclay Communications own workflow management system WorkPal, a mobile and desktop app which streamlines workflow, with job management, time tracking, job reports and invoicing all from the palm of your hand. The Digital Marketplace creates greater opportunities for suppliers and buyers to

establish new trading partnerships, both within and across supply chains. With the availability, price and stock level all accessible in an open environment, the Digital Marketplace allows for a greater sense of transparency in the purchasing process. Furthermore, time constraints and different office hours for international trade are no longer issues as its possible to operate on a round the clock basis.

“It’s a huge achievement that Barclay Communications has been awarded supplier status on the Government Framework, helping to cut down procurement time with this faster and easier to use service. Buyers no longer need to carry out lengthy tender processes as the frameworks on the Digital Marketplace are fully compliant with procurement regulations.

Britt Megahey, Managing Director of Barclay Communications, said: “Local government and wider public sector organisations are at the front-line of public service delivery. It’s imperative for them to have access to the right technology and digital capability to ensure that there are great digital services available to citizens.

“Suppliers across the country have seen large increases in their turnover and workforce with new jobs being created locally as a direct result of the sales they have made through the Digital Marketplace. We are looking forward to a prosperous year ahead at Barclay Communications as we celebrate our 20th year in business, and are delighted to have been accepted on the Government Framework in this year.” ■

“The Digital Marketplace opens up an additional sales channel to market and sell our products, and enables us to offer competitive pricing compared to other sales channels.

For more information on how Barclay Communications can revolutionise your business, visit www.barclaycomms.com or call 028 9096 0366


COVER STORY

GMcG’s Tax management team

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Almost one year after chartered accountancy firm GMcG amalgamated its three offices under a single corporate identity, the firm’s Tax team continues to evolve and define the parameters of service quality. Ulster Business caught up with GMcG Head of Tax, Lyn Canning Hagan to hear more

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hen it comes to tax, you want the help of professionals who live and breathe the subject.

Perhaps someone who has enough years of

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experience to be considered a tax expert by the courts, who has not just accountancy expertise and commercial acumen but also indepth legal knowledge and a successful track record in dealing with that ultimate tax force

HMRC, all with the backing of a specialist team of tax experts. Step forward Lyn Canning Hagan, Tax Partner at GMcG.


COVER STORY

She heads up this dynamic accountancy firm’s Tax practice from its Belfast city centre office where this interview is taking place. It is here and at the firm’s Lisburn and Portadown offices, that Lyn’s Tax team has been busy solidifying and growing its place at the very heart of the Northern Ireland economy. Appointed as Partner in 2004, Lyn sits on the Chartered Accountants Ireland NI Tax Committee, is a Member of the UK VAT Practitioners Group and regularly acts as a Tax and VAT expert witness. In 2016, Lyn and Managing Partner Tony Nicholl also trained as Mediators for the delivery of Mediation Services, a growing area in commercial litigation and with HMRC disputes. “A high-quality tax compliance service is the bedrock of the GMcG Tax offering, which is important to businesses given the increasing complexity of tax legislation and the stringent tax penalty regime,” Lyn told Ulster Business. “Alongside this, evolving market needs have helped shape the growth of our specialist tax services. It’s a busy tax department and we have built a talented and experienced team, enhanced by recent appointments at senior management level. “We service a diverse range of clients across Northern Ireland giving us extensive experience that means our firm-wide Tax team is capable of delivering advice and solutions on a broad range of tax issues.” It is evident from speaking with Lyn there is a clear focus by GMcG on providing a comprehensive tax service which is grounded in taking time to understand their clients’ requirements. This genuine relationship approach has enabled GMcG to build deep and long lasting business relationships. Lyn noted, “We take a very hands-on approach with our clients. In addition to the partner-client cornerstone relationship, we give staff at all levels the scope to build their own relationships with each client.” Although one of the larger local accountancy practices in Northern Ireland, GMcG is still of a size to stay close to its clients. “As an independent firm, we drive ourselves” Lyn said. “We are also running our own

MARCH 2017

“As an independent firm, we drive ourselves. We are also running our own business, something which gives us a lot of affinity with our clients.”

accountancy firms. Its sister alliance, TAGLaw, comprises a similar alliance of law firms. The TAG Alliances are ranked in the top three International Alliances and Associations by Accountancy Age and membership gives GMcG and its clients access to trusted expertise across 70 countries. “We have all the benefits of being part of a global network without the constraints of being tied to a large corporate,” Lyn said.

business, something which gives us a lot of affinity with our clients.” “It also means we can allow a significant amount of time for staff training so all can develop individually, find their niches and develop their individual specialisms. Helping staff reach their full potential is something the firm is passionate about.” These specialisms come into their own across the wide spectrum on which Lyn and her team are asked to advise; there is no such thing as a typical or standard working week. The Tax team is regularly involved in significant and complex transactions requiring advice across the range of taxes, particularly direct taxes and one of Lyn’s own specialist areas, VAT. Lyn identifies GMcG’s tax advisors as integral to the overall service of clients and she anticipates continued demand for the tailored approach, given the growing needs of the NI SME sector and also the steady increase in local commercial property transactions as well as increased mergers and acquisitions activity. Lyn adds, “The challenges presented to the local SME sector are constantly changing. In the short to medium term, we see both challenges and opportunities for our firm and our clients operating in a fluid domestic and global landscape, with Brexit, opportunities in foreign markets and the potential wider economic repercussions of political change in the USA and across Europe contributing to an uncertain period ahead.” In this context, Lyn sees GMcG’s membership of The International Accounting Group (TIAG®) as a crucial expansion of the services the firm has to offer. TIAG® is a worldwide alliance of independent

“TIAG® gives us access to some of the most reputable accountancy and law firms in the world, something that is of significant benefit to our clients who are operating in overseas markets.” Membership of TIAG® also means GMcG receives referrals from existing and potential inward investors. Closer to home, the GMcG Tax team also carries out a significant amount of work with other local accountancy and law firms. “We provide tax advice for smaller accountancy firms where they and their clients might require specialist tax services or an expert second opinion. “Similarly we provide services for legal firms where there is a requirement for tax services on commercial transactions and private client matters.” GMcG’s Tax team works closely with the firm’s audit and business advisory, forensic accounting and investigation, and corporate finance teams. “We take an integrated approach to servicing clients, helping identify and develop opportunities that add real value and ultimately ensure they receive the bespoke level of service they expect.” There is clear recognition that service quality is key to the ongoing growth and success of the firm. “Further expansion is inevitable in the future,” Lyn said. That is not only good news for the firm but, more importantly, for the Northern Ireland economy. ■

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COVER STORY

Lyn Canning Hagan, GMcG Head of Tax

Factfile

GMcG Chartered Accountants is an eight partner firm with more than 90 employees across its three offices in Belfast, Lisburn and Portadown. The firm delivers expert advice and support in the areas of Audit & Business Advisory, Tax & VAT Solutions, Forensic Accounting & Investigation, Corporate Finance and International. All three offices have developed their profiles in their respective geographic areas to be recognised as part of a leading chartered accountancy practice, servicing a diverse range of businesses and private individuals, public and not-for-profit sector entities, as well as legal and other professional services practices.

www.gmcgca.com

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Mental Health is the leading reason for workplace absence in Northern Ireland, accounting for one out of every three days lost. Mental health reasons also accounted for 39.1% of long-term sickness leave.*

Stigma stops recovery. Employers, it is time to start that conversation about mental health and wellbeing in your workplace today. Change Your Mind is a NI regional campaign delivered by Inspire in partnership with the Public Health Agency

www.changeyourmindni.org *NISRA (2015) Sickness Absence in the Northern Ireland Civil Service 2014/2015. Department of Finance and Personnel: Belfast.


US POLITICS

Trump the disruptor

David McWilliams says US President Donald Trump aims to do to the Washington insiders what Uber did to taxi drivers

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nother month, another bit of American conventional wisdom is shredded by Donald Trump. This time it is the CIA. Mr Trump is the president of the USA and the CIA is employed to protect him, but he doesn't see it this way. He has turned his ire towards his own security forces and he intends to investigate them, not the other way around. So this is what he meant by "draining the swamp". Mr Trump is going after Washington. All the insiders who have for years populated the American capital, all the lobbyists who raised funds and bought influence, and all the civil servants who have for years filtered access to power and created policy, are now the president's targets. He is sidestepping the media, the think-tanks and the establishment. They don't like it, but this is what radical looks like. We have no idea where it will all end, but one thing is clear: Mr Trump will change America forever. He is the most disruptive politician in decades. He aims to do to the Washington establishment what Airbnb did to hotels and Uber did to taxi drivers. He aims to

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disrupt everything and cut out the middlemen. All the insiders, all the "know-alls", all the tens of thousands of people who feed off the political system, these people are in his sights. From now on, the relationship he intends to have with the American people (at least his American people) will not be mediated by the media. It will not be conditional on getting the "thumbs up or thumbs down" from the commentariat and it will not be determined by experts. It will be as one to one. By deploying Twitter, he has cut out the media. This is radical stuff and a total departure from decades, possibly centuries, of form. In the same way as Roman emperors sometimes bypassed the senate (an institution the emperor often mistrusted) to get to the people, Mr Trump is trying the same trick. Who knows, he might pull it off.

Whatever the end game, it is fascinating to watch. Speaking of watching, there is a reality TV air to the whole thing. The way he treats his cabinet is like an episode of the reality show 'Survivor', whose motto is "Outwit, outplay, outlast". Who will be voted off next week? Last month it was national security adviser Michael Flynn. Who's next? Again, this is a totally new departure because that's just not how politics was done in the past. In the past things were less uncouth. Now there are no niceties. If a senior member of the team isn't performing the way the president wants, that person is fired and another one hired.


US POLITICS

Interestingly, heartland America, which is Mr Trump's America, loves this chaotic meritocracy. It is what they voted for. When they roared in those huge campaign meetings, "Drain the swamp", they meant it and now it looks like he does too. All the while, the financial markets and the economy watchers are nervously excited. Wall Street believes all the deregulation noises coming out of the White House and no one denies that American infrastructure needs massive upgrading, so a fiscal stimulus is on the cards, which will drive the economy too. But how hard will it drive the economy? And will the Federal Reserve sit on the sidelines or will the Fed hike rates in order to rein in the government? And if the Fed tries to thwart Mr Trump by raising rates, will Mr Trump turn on the Fed like he is turning on the CIA?

interest rates will have to be increased and this would choke off Mr Trump's boom. Mr Trump's team believes that the economy can grow to 3pc or 4pc and therefore believe that the Fed shouldn't raise rates too soon. But if the Fed goes along with Mr Trump and is seen to be captured by his will and is seen to be soft on inflation, the US bond market will sell off, driving up long-term rates.

Mr Clinton backed down. Now will Mr Trump back down, or will he see this as yet more technocratic, unelected insiders - the central bankers - frustrating the people's president?

But here is the dilemma. What would this mean? This conflict between the Federal Reserve and the Treasury in the US is one of the oldest in the book. In 1981/82, Paul Volcker hiked interest rates in response to Ronald Reagan's tax-cutting start. Mr Volcker said he had to beat inflation and the ensuing recession blighted Reagan's first three years. Reagan backed down.

If he turns on the Fed, then we are in for a big showdown at the very heart of the American economic system.

In 1992-93, Bill Clinton was pitted against Fed chairman Alan Greenspan. Mr Clinton fought the election on the promise of tax cuts for the middle classes.

At its most simple, the Federal Reserve under Janet Yellen believes that America is at close to full employment today and that the economy can only grow at about 2.5pc without overheating. This means that at some time,

Mr Greenspan took Mr Clinton's economic guru, Robert Rubin, aside and told him firmly that if Mr Clinton cut taxes, he'd raise rates in retaliation. If, on the other hand, Mr Clinton reneged on his electoral promise, Mr

MARCH 2017

Greenspan would do nothing and long-term interest rates would fall, driving up stock and house prices and driving the Clinton boom via higher asset prices.

It would mean Mr Trump interfering in the appointment of future Fed governors and ultimately Ms Yellen's successor. If he is happy to go after the spooks in the CIA, I'm sure he will not be scared of a few economists in the Fed. After all, they represent to him the ultimate insiders - civil servants who are unelected. He may well make them his next target. If that happens, all hell will break loose on Wall Street because, after all, the near 30year boom in American asset prices has been driven on the understanding that the Fed always wins. What if that no longer holds true? Then all bets are off. â&#x2013;

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In association with

Awards boost business

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he Aer Lingus Viscount Awards, in association with Ulster Business, offer a huge boost to competing companies, helping to win both business and talent.

Business Development Manager for Aer Lingus Andrea Hunter and Ulster Business editor David Elliott

That’s according to two of last year’s winners who were speaking as the countdown to the 2017 entry deadline on March 24th beckons. Connaire McGreevy picked up the Business Person of the Year award while one of the companies he founded, CTS Projects, was a runner up in the Best SME category and the other, Mourne Mountains Brewery, was a runner up in Best Business Start-up. And he urged others to get their entries in. He said the competition boosts morale and helps benchmark the businesses. “We’re really proud of our success at the Viscount Awards; both the one we won and the two we were shortlisted for,” he said. “It’s a yardstick of how we’re performing in the wider business landscape and that’s important because it encourages us to remain focused on best practice throughout our business strategies.

“If you’re thinking about entering, just go for it! Don’t be shy about your success – it’s almost always hard fought so why not celebrate it. As a small business owner the day-to-day running of your firm can be so consuming that you don’t get the chance to ‘zoom out’ and see the bigger picture, and the application process for programmes like this provides an opportunity to critically appraise your business which can only be a good thing.”

“To be honoured amongst the best of NI businesses at such a prestigious ceremony is a great boost for the team. Although it was an individual award, none of that success would be possible without the excellent people I have in both CTS Projects and Mourne Mountains Brewery.”

Meanwhile, outsourcing firm Firstsource picked up the Employee Champion Award. Gabrielle Cairns, Communications Manager at Firstsource, said the Viscount Awards helped it highlight some of its initiatives.

Mr McGreevy said both companies have gone on to even greater success since last year’s competition.

“The Viscount Awards offered us the unique opportunity to showcase our approach to employee engagement. At Firstsource we develop initiatives that also focus on employee wellbeing, development and retention.”

“Since last year’s awards we’ve seen employee numbers more than double at CTS Projects thanks to significant contract wins and we’re in talks with a major retailer for the brewery, so thankfully it’s onwards and upwards on both fronts.”

sense of pride. In this extremely competitive market it has provided support in finding and retaining talent.” Ms Cairns had no hesitation in recommending to other companies to enter. “I’d say go for it. If you are a business that evolves with time and addresses the ever changing needs and circumstances of both the marketplace and your talent pool, then these awards are one for your diary.” ■ Entries to the Aer Lingus Viscount Awards are invited in nine categories: • Best Business Start Up • Best SME • Business Person of the Year • Employee Champion • Exporter of the Year • Fast Growth Business • Innovation of the Year • Lifetime Achievement • Overall Excellence The deadline for submissions is Friday 24th

And she said the win has helped recruitment and retention of staff. “To know and be recognised for doing the right thing for our colleagues provided a great

March at 5pm and the awards luncheon will take place on Wednesday 24th May at the loD, Pall Mall, London. For entry forms and further information visit the website www. viscountawards.ulsterbusiness.com


The Circus Experience – A new angle on team building

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o you want to help your staff to maximise their potential and at the same time enjoy a stress-busting activity? Perhaps you need to bond staff within a team, or across departments? The Circus Experience is just for you. It focuses on improving communication, building trust, overcoming obstacles, and enhancing team-working capabilities. In terms of staff health and wellbeing, The Circus Experience provides a shared experience of learning something new, helps people re-examine what they are capable of, builds resilience, and encourages staff to support and motivate each other. The Circus Experience manager will discuss your aims and motivations in order to tailor a circus experience that best meets your needs, from two hour to full-day circus team sessions, to 10week learning experiences. The highly-skilled professional team - which

currently numbers 25 - will teach your staff more effective ways of working together through collaboration, communication and creativity. The Circus Experience is a welcoming, inclusive and engaging environment and the teachers can work with a wide range of people - from gym addicts through to couch potatoes - ensuring everybody feels included, energised and connected. Your staff will get the chance to join in fun warm-up games and try out circus skills like juggling, tightwire, partner balance, hula hoop, and trapeze. The offering is the latest development from Belfast Circus, Ireland’s leading circus arts organisation and will be delivered as part of Premiere Circus, a social economy business for Belfast Circus. All profits will go towards their work with disadvantaged communities and young people. You can also book the unique Circus School building in the heart of Belfast’s Cathedral Quarter and continue with a visit to a top restaurant, bar or art venue.

The space comfortably hosts up to 32 participants at one time. The Circus Experience can also travel to other suitable venues. For instance, in October the team delivered a threehour experience for 120 people for Henderson Foodservice, as part of their annual business conference at Larchfield Estate. It is common sense that you want to retain your best employees, have a great place to work in and have happy and productive staff. Your investment goes straight back to your organisation as you will reap the benefits of teams who feel appreciated and valued, who have renewed positivity and, ultimately, are more engaged. It’s most definitely a conversation starter! Have a look online for more information on what a session can involve, client testimonials, and other useful articles - www.experiencecircus. com To enquire or book, call 028 90 236007 and ask to speak to the Circus Experience Manager, or email experience@premierecircus.com

Strengthen Your Team Reward Your Staff Boost Wellbeing Have Some Fun A new angle on Team Building We provide a focus on improving communication, building trust, overcoming obstacles and enhancing team working capabilities. You will reap the benefits of teams who feel appreciated and valued, who have renewed positivity, and ultimately are more engaged. Invest in your most important asset. “The 3 hour workshop was the perfect way to break the ice and get to know each other better. The teachers were incredibly professional and ensured everyone felt comfortable and engaged.” Bronagh Luke, Head of Corporate Marketing, Henderson Group

For more information:

Visit experiencecircus.com Contact the Circus Experience Manager on 028 9023 6007 Email experience@premierecircus.com


DISPUTE RESOLUTION

Constructing a response to the adjudication process Chris Ritchie, Dispute Resolution Partner at leading law firm Arthur Cox, outlines the nuances of the adjudication process in construction projects, and advises businesses of the preparations they should make to respond effectively.

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t has been a busy time for the local construction industry, with a range of recent studies on 2016 activity levels indicating a growing resurgence for the sector locally.

employer) can have as little as seven days to make its initial response. This often presents a major challenge to a business not used to engaging in construction contracts, particularly given the large number of personnel that often need to be involved, including senior management and consultants.

The outlook for 2017 is equally positive, with the Construction Industrial Training Board’s Industry Insights report forecasting that the Northern Ireland construction industry will experience growth in output of around 1.6% annually over the next four years. With these reports catching the attention of business desks in the local media, it’s an opportune time to remind the wider business community of the nuances involved in adjudication – a mandatory procedure for resolving disputes among parties involved in construction projects – which has been assuming ever-greater importance in Northern Ireland. Introduced into Northern Ireland by the Construction Contracts (Northern Ireland) Order 1997, adjudication aims to provide a platform for resolving a dispute without having to resort to a lengthy court case. The original intention of the Act was that the process would be relatively informal. However, it is now standard for there to be exhaustive submissions, comprehensive witness statements and detailed expert reports. Whilst this development of the adjudication process has been led by the example in England and Wales, there is no doubt that the position in Northern Ireland is now just as sophisticated, with the parties often having recourse to specialist barristers working out of London and elsewhere. This is made possible by the fact that almost all adjudications will be decided

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Chris Ritchie

upon the basis of documentation, not oral argument. The inherent nature of construction projects dictates that disputes are almost inevitable, the most common relating to disagreements about payments, variations, risk transfer and ambiguous contract wording. Adjudication is often appealing to construction companies because of the expedited timescale, with the default statutory procedure ensuring that an adjudicator makes a decision within 28 days of the referral being lodged. Clearly, this is helpful for avoiding cashflow problems caused by lack of payment. This, in fact, was the primary reason for introducing the adjudication model in the first place. What’s more, anecdotal evidence suggests that parties tend to accept the adjudicator’s decision and move on with the contract. The cards are often stacked in favour of the party bringing the referral (often the contractor), as it can take its time to prepare a case, while the responding party (often the

The seven-day period within which employers must respond to an adjudication referral makes it imperative for businesses engaging the services of a contractor to closely monitor the project at every stage, and be aware of any potential for dispute. There will nearly always be warning signs of a dispute brewing, and SMEs especially should make every effort to pre-empt a move towards adjudication and resolve the situation before it reaches that stage. There will be times, however, when an unforeseen adjudication referral arrives in the post. It is imperative to act quickly as the timescales are strict. The first step is to decide if legal support is required. If so, it is prudent to seek advice as soon as possible to maximise the limited time available to refine and present the relevant arguments and evidence. Although there is a positive picture for the construction sector painted by surveys in 2017 to date, many are still turning to adjudication as a means for getting a speedy resolution to project disputes, and employers must ensure they are fully equipped to respond effectively. ■ The Dispute Resolution team at Arthur Cox is well positioned to advise on the emerging trends in dispute resolution in Northern Ireland. Please call +44 28 9023 0007 for further information from Chris or your regular Arthur Cox contact.


IT & Technology

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TECHNOLOGY

A local tech stalwart on the past, present and future We talk to Allstate CEO John Healy to hear how the US insurer’s Belfast office is continuing to grow its technology business here with a new office at Maysfield

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llstate is part of the furniture in the Northern Ireland business world.

The US insurer is one of the most established overseas investors on these shores, having first arrived here around 19 years ago, not long after the Good Friday Agreement was signed. It has grown from a relatively small operation to one of the biggest employers in the region, with a headcount of around 2,200 spread across its offices in Belfast, Londonderry and Strabane. Those in the technology world might have a good idea of the full range of services it carries out on behalf of its parent company but to others it’s might not be completely obvious what goes on across its business. To find out more, step forward John Healy, the Managing Director of Allstate Northern Ireland. He’s been leading the firm in Northern Ireland for nearly a year having moved over from another major US investor, Citi, where he was also head of its Northern Ireland operations. There he grew the Citi business from a headcount of around 200 when he started in 2007 to around 2,000 when he left last year. That was achieved partly by growing the technology remit – the original reason for Citi setting up an office in Belfast in the first place - but also by realising there was enough talent in the Northern Ireland workforce to carry out functions for other parts of the company, such as legal services and so-called middle office functions for the investment banking division.

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“We’ve always had a reputation as being an employer of choice but I want to make sure the technology is being talked about as well.” “They (Citi and Allstate) are remarkably similar businesses: they’re both big US foreign direct investors with the same operating model, the same strengths and the same challenges, so from an operational perspective it has been pretty seamless.” At present, Allstate in Northern Ireland - as part of the largest-listed insurance company in the US - focuses on the technology needed to provide insurance to people who use the firm’s service. “We write the software, test the software and manage the infrastructure to allow Allstate to deliver its promise to people to pick up the pieces when things go wrong in their life,” John said. “We write the software which process the claims, which runs the finance and keeps the business moving.” That message is one John is keen to explain, not just to give the wider business world an idea of what the company does, but also to get the word out to others working in the technology arena here. “There were an amazing amount of people in the wider technology family in Northern Ireland who wouldn’t have been able to articulate clearly what Allstate does and that is one of the things I very much wanted to

change. We’ve always had a reputation as being an employer of choice but I want to make sure the technology is being talked about as well. “We have an agenda at the moment to get our technologists out and about at conferences and seminars to make sure people understand what we’re doing. As a result, we picked up a lot of technology awards in 2016 because we’re doing a much better job of articulating what we do.” And the way it goes about its business is also changing with the business here moving away from the traditional “waterfall” design process to a more collaborative agile productcentred way of delivering technology. That goes as far in some instances as assigning two developers to a project to design two pieces of code, a method which may seem like overkill but which in fact is proved to be highly productive in reaching the goal of what the client actually wants. Meanwhile, John is very aware that recruiting the best talent is key and wants to “make sure that when technologists are looking for their next challenge, they’re thinking of Allstate.” He said local schools, colleges and universities have helped ensure the pipeline of technology talent in Northern Ireland is strong, particularly at the entry level stage, but agreed there were still some challenges in terms of talent availability further up the experience curve, hence a focus on developing that internally at Allstate. Certainly the Northern Ireland arm seems to be a central plank to the global business already. >


Secure Productivity. No matter where you are. www.nitec.com TECHNOLOGY

Minister for the Economy Simon Hamilton with John Healy, Allstate Northern NI Managing Director, and Suren Gupta, Allstate executive vice president, laying the foundation stone at the new Belfast HQ of Allstate last year

MARCH 2017

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TECHNOLOGY “Before I even moved to Allstate I spent a bit of time with Suren Gupta (the Executive Vice President of Allstate’s Technology and Strategic Ventures). “He’s a very frequent attender here and really supportive of what we’re doing. Just listening to him and his vision for Allstate and for the transformation of technology is inspirational.” At the moment it’s the biggest technology firm in Northern Ireland and also a significant part of Allstate as one of only two tech centres outside the US, the other being in Bangalore. But it’s not just about the tech: there is a very obvious opportunity to expand Allstate’s growth here by taking on other functions. “We’re certainly ambitious about what else we can offer the corporation in Ireland,” John said. “We have already demonstrated that we’re able to deliver from a technology perspective and I have shown through what I‘ve done at Citi how we can add on business operations, legal services and so on.” New offices on the site of the old Maysfield Leisure Centre site in Belfast, which will house 1,300 staff, are testament to the firm’s plans for the future. The potential is obvious, and it bodes well for Northern Ireland that one of our most wellestablished investors has not only successfully established its business here, but has the will to grow further. Having multiplied headcount tenfold at Citi, a similar feat at Allstate would really make an impact. ■

John Healy

Profile: John Healy After completing an undergraduate degree in Engineering at Queens University, John Healy said he promised himself “I wouldn’t work a single day as an engineer” and quickly jumped on a Masters conversion course in computer science. It was then off to London to work for US investment bank JP Morgan where before moving back to work for Ulster Bank in its capital markets division in Dublin.

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After a spell in Australia John returned to Northern Ireland, commuting weekly to JP Morgan’s Glasgow technology centre before returning to Belfast to work for Liberty, then as chief investment officer for Grafton Group. But it wasn’t long before he was snapped up by Citi in 2007, first as a Business Unit Manager before graduating to the top role. He joined Allstate in January 2016


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NEWS

Kelly Flowers Wholesale gets a taste of Sage with Pinnacle

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ne of the biggest wholesalers of cut flower and pot plants on the island of Ireland has signed a new deal with Sage Platinum Reseller Pinnacle.

Lisburn company Kelly Flowers Wholesale has invested in a Sage 200 solution as a back-office technology infrastructure system which effectively manages the financial side of the business. “The obvious solution was Sage software as it links, without a lot of heavy bespoke work, with the Dutch industry-specific software we’ve chosen for our purchasing, sales and stock operations,” said Kelly Flowers Wholesale Managing Director Patrick Kelly. “We know we can rely on Sage and Pinnacle: Sage is a tried and trusted brand, while Pinnacle is a leading and award winning Sage business partner. Together, they’ve seen it all before and we have every confidence of being in safe hands.”

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He said he had been given personal recommendations for both Safe and Pinnacle.

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“Within a few months, we’ll have an integrated business management solution that will support our ambitions for expansion, including growing our operations in the Republic of Ireland.”

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Siobhan Marley Business Development Director of Pinnacle with Patrick Kelly Managing Director of Kelly Flowers

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Here's looking at you kid...Snapchat Spectacles are now on sale

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or those of you who have eagerly awaited the arrival of Snapchat 'Spectacles', they can now be bought online - but only in the US.

Spectacles, glasses that allow you to record videos right from your eye’s view, launched in September 2016. The hardware only records 10-second clips at a time. Users can extend the video time by pressing the record button again, but it just produces two continuous 10-second clips instead of a longer one. The accessory rose to fame when Snap launched Snapbot vending machines that travelled to various different places over the US, dispensing the glasses to the lucky finders. The company also set up a pop-up shop in New York that sold the tech glasses, which has since shut down with the online release. Spectacle fever reached perhaps its highest point last November when a pair reportedly went on sale on eBay for $5,000. Although Snapchat insists that the Spectacles have "not generated significant revenue", making the much coveted glasses available online prior to Snap's debut on the NYSE could be a strategic move.

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Snap had 158 million daily active users in the fourth quarter, up just 3 percent from the previous quarter, compared to 14 percent growth during the same period in 2015, according to Snapchat's IPO filing. New gadgets that offer more ways to interact with Snapchat could help attract new users and get existing users to spend more time on the app. The glasses are available Spectacles.com for $129.99 and come in three different colours – coral, black and teal. At the moment, they are only sold to Spectacle-users in the U.S.


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Mike Wiseman and Stephen Brown from NTD Ltd and Louise Wosley from Mash Direct.

NTD installs latest facial recognition at Mash Direct

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orth Time & Data Ltd, the specialist suppliers of stateof-the-art time management systems for workforce monitoring, has installed the latest in their line of biometric facial recognition terminals for one of Northern Ireland’s leading FMCG manufacturers. The firm was tasked by Mash Direct to implement a workforce management system to effectively monitor employee attendance and track working hours. The installation of four automated turnstiles operated by adjoining facial recognition terminals allows Mash Direct to monitor and control employee movement to and from production lines during working hours.

The system’s primary advantages lie in its core functions for tracking worked hours, while also identifying irregularities such as late arrivals, early departures, over-extended breaks and unauthorised overtime.” “Time is money. The challenge is to manage time to ensure profitability” he added. Louise Wolsey, at Mash Direct, said: “Transitioning from a standard time management system to the North Time & Data facial recognition system was a significant technological improvement for Mash Direct. Within seconds of an employee gazing at one of the facial recognition terminals they are logged as either active or inactive.” “From a HR perspective, the system is indispensable,” she explained.

The facial recognition terminals mandate employees to register their attendance using latest in ground-breaking and innovative 3D-imaging technology. While the system controls access to workstations, it also offers added security measures by restricting the entry of unauthorised personnel. Commenting on the measurable benefits of the system Stephen Brown, Managing Director, North Time & Data Ltd, said: “For an employer with a significant workforce, an efficient system to calculate employees’ working hours for payroll is the one of the key factors to ensure profitability. The installation of the North Time Pro system at Mash Direct’s Comber site saves money by saving time.

“Real-time data and seamless integration with our current payroll provider allows for accurate data analysis and projections. The system also allows us to export detailed reports and manage absentees and company assets.” “A prompt, responsive and hygienic, hands-free system – a necessity for any FMCG manufacturer – with countless administration and payroll advantages make the North Time & Data system a beneficial addition for employees of Mash Direct at all levels,” she concluded. North Time & Data previously installed over 30 of its state-of-the-art biometric facial recognition terminals for leading beef and lamb suppliers Foyle Food Group across six sites in 2016. ■ For more information on North Time & Data Ltd, visit www.ntdltd.com. Or call 028 92604000. You can also find out more via LinkedIn (www.linkedin. com/company/north-time-&-data) and Twitter @NorthTimeData


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Vodafone awards Connect Telecom with Total Communications status

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onnect Telecom has been announced as the only Northern Ireland company to be awarded Total Communications Partner status by mobile giant Vodafone. The elite Total Communications Partner status, introduced by Vodafone as part of its new UK Partner Programme, is now the highest Vodafone accreditation and is achieved by distribution partners that have demonstrated outstanding levels of customer excellence and the highest expertise in both Vodafone Fixed and Mobile solutions. With an office in Scotland, Connect Telecom is also the only Total Communications partner based in Scotland, with no other companies in the region achieving this coveted status. As a Total Communications Partner, Connect Telecom now has access to a wide range of Vodafone training opportunities and technological expertise to help bolster its reputation as one of the region’s leading communications firms. Scott Ritchie, Director at Belfast-based Connect Telecom which this year celebrates its tenth year at the helm of business telecoms in Northern Ireland, said: “Vodafone’s new Partner Programme has been designed to meet the changing communication requirements of business customers which no longer stop at fixed lines and mobiles, and therefore rewards partners which have demonstrated the ability to sell across multiple product and service segments. “For the last 10 years our experienced and award winning team has kept one step ahead of competitors and our unrivalled relationship with Vodafone, which is now closer and stronger than ever, will ensure our customers have access to the very latest solutions as they emerge.” The new Vodafone Partner programme marks an industry shift in the way Partners are

Matthew Brown and Scott Ritchie of Connect Telecom

accredited and supported. The programme places increased focus on the expertise of Partners to provide their customers with the best possible understanding, deployment and ongoing support of Vodafone’s business communications services and technologies. Nick Birtwistle, Head of Partners and Alliances at Vodafone UK, said: “We’re delighted to welcome Connect Telecom as a Total Communications Partner to the new Vodafone Partner Programme. Its team has shown great commitment and vision to leading a new era in communications and connectivity. “Digital infrastructure – from mobile to unified communications to the Internet of Things – is changing the way organisations work and new capabilities are needed to support customers in the decade ahead. “With a focus on deeper customer engagement and the development of new skills, our Partner Programme provides a new platform for our partners to enhance their value propositions around key technology growth areas.

“We look forward to working closely with Connect Telecom as we help customers benefit from new ways of working.” Connect Telecom has grown by more than 50 per cent, in terms of customers and connections, since being acquired by Scott Ritchie 14 months ago, and is now the largest unified communications provider in Northern Ireland. The company, which now has more than 5,000 customers throughout Northern Ireland, the Republic of Ireland, Scotland and the north of England, had to demonstrate its strength in customer support in its fixed, mobile, converged and cloud portfolio of technologies. Furthermore, its commitment to investing in its staff’s skills and training with a rigorous training programme of over 150 hours per employee, to gain the Vodafone Total Communications Partner status. ■ To find out more about Connect Telecom, please visit www.connect-tele.co.uk


# Imaginethat How the latest managed cyber security service

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can give your business peace of mind

Will Semple from PwC’s Managed Cyber Security Services explains how the firm can minimise your cyber exposure and maximise your security Our cyber security practice is without doubt one of the most highly skilled in the UK and boasts over 200 professionals with subject matter expertise from every sector and industry you can manage. Proof of that, if it were needed, can be found in our technology. We have developed our own proprietary cloud-based system, in conjunction with our Will Semple

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Imagine if you knew the full extent of the cyber risk your business faces.

Imagine if you knew any cyber security breach would be quickly identified, remediated and learned from. Imagine if the provider in charge of managing that risk is one that exudes trust and which you probably already work with as a business advisor. Believe it or not, your business doesn’t need to dream of such a service but can quickly enjoy the kind of peace of mind which would previously only be achievable if you abandoned computerisation and went back to paper and pen. That’s perhaps a step too far for even the most risk-averse companies, so instead we have developed PwC Managed Cyber Security Services. The proposition is simple: we help clients understand the risk their business faces from cyber-attack, identify their most critical assets, place a value on those assets in the event of loss and then manage the risk on their behalf. We put cyber risk at the centre of a chief executive’s view so it’s easy to understand and easy to assess. To do that takes a lot of technological knowledge but luckily we have that in spades.

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alliance partner Google, which gives us the ability to use high-order algorithms, machine learning and people who are expertly training in intelligence analysis to surface out what risk actually means. Our platform is able to break apart the noise of the latest form of cyber-attack into forensic elements, find out what its capability is, what its signature looks like, what kind of activity it gets up to on a dayto-day basis and ultimately uncover how it is targeting your organisation. They will find out the information the cyber threat is trying to get from your business, be it financial, intellectual property or your ability to operate. We use that high-quality intelligence data to bring visibility to the threats our clients are facing and provide that as a softwareas-a-solution while also helping the client understand how to best implement a strategy for cyber risk management. We then run it for them on a day-today basis, keeping them up to date with the threats and risks we uncover, the recommendations we make and the remediation activities we use to minimise disruption to the business. The team at PwC has also created a big data security analytics platform, again in conjunction with Google, which is five years ahead of the competition in terms of raw security analysis capability. We’re really breaking the mould by not just selling a security analyst platform

but applying a dedicated data access and validation module to allow the managed service staff and intrusion analysts to actively explore and investigate data in real time. That means we’re patrolling most of their critical assets right now, taking the intelligence we have already uncovered and applying it directly into an operational environment to find the unknown unknowns. This is the really magic part. Where existing security vendors rely on predefined signatures to identify threats, we are actively hunting them down in our clients’ environment. The fact we, as PwC, can provide such capabilities tends to surprise our clients. Nobody else has such a full service offering with their own proprietary technology which has been specifically designed to find out how to apply intelligence in an operational environment, nor with a crisis management strategy to deal with a successful attack. It may sound too good to be true but the offer is already well embedded at PwC. Let your imagination rest. will.semple@pwc.com ■


INTERVIEW

Business

Breakfast

By David Elliott

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

DINER: JUSTIN RUSH ABACUS PROFESSIONAL RECRUITMENT VENUE: DEANES, BELFAST

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elfast’s Bedford Street’s two main café’s, Harlem and Deanes, at 9am on a weekday morning are a melting pot of the Northern Ireland business world. Surreptitious (or not so) deals are being agreed in one corner, contracts thrashed out in another, people are being poached at the bar (for jobs, not gently simmering in water) and the just-fired are on their way out the door to a bar with stronger offerings. All us business journalists – and there are a few – enjoy the sport of entering these lions’ dens if only to see the cautious tones take on an even more hushed reference and the surrounding tables clear out quicker than Ulster Business towers when the coffee van’s Dukes of Hazzard horn sounds. Unabashed, your correspondent arranged to meet recruitment guru Justin Rush at Deanes cafe last month and came away feeling a little flat that the volume actually increased on the surrounding tables rather than subsided and noone moved. Must be losing my touch.

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No matter, we weren’t there solely to measure journalistic credibility but to hear more from the recruitment guru and founder of Abacus Professional Recruitment. This was prime territory for a man whose stock in trade is to know who’s hiring and who wants to be hired in the world of technology, professional and legal services in Northern Ireland, and Justin looked right at home. Of course, this being Business Breakfast, he also had to eat and talk at the same time, a feat which has felled lesser interviewees (and indeed the interviewer) but was handled with aplomb by the founder of Abacus, a firm which is entering its 14th year. But food first. Blessed, once again, with a breakfaster who was ready to breakfast, Ulster Business was close to high fiving Justin when he ordered the French toast and in the excitement threw caution to the hollandaise wind with an order of eggs benedict. In keeping with the moniker of “restaurant review which forgets to mention the food”


INTERVIEW

I forgot to ask Justin how the French toast tasted but can confirm it looked the part and believe he enjoyed it. The eggs benedict – which came with bacon and was excellent - was of not inconsiderable size and would have sunk a lesser breakfasteer, but not one who knows next month could very easily see a return to a “no thanks, I’ve already eaten“ scenario. It being early February, Justin had just finished Abacus’s annual healthy January when staff are provided with fruit to get them through the post-Christmas period, so at least he had an excuse for dining in earnest. And as mentioned, he juggled the food and frank discussion with ease, taking us back to his days as a accountancy and finance graduate at Ulster University. After travelling he worked in the accountancy in London for an Irish-owned engineering firm and, after enjoying the city for a few years, scratched an itch to return to Northern Ireland by getting in touch with a recruitment firm here. He impressed the recruiter so much that they quickly signed him up themselves and, after returning to Belfast, he spent the next six years learning the ins and outs of the world of recruitment. Then, armed with an entrepreneurial spirit and freshly married, he founded Abacus in 2003. The business quickly took off in “a business world which was in a very different place” and grew swiftly during the following years to become one of the biggest and best regarded recruitment firms in Northern Ireland.

MARCH 2017

Justin acknowledges that the downturn which followed was difficult but the business was in a good place to weather the storm and even to build foundations for further growth in the future. “When the hard times hit in 2008, when the banks started folding and things were tightening up, that’s when you learn your trade, and we came through it in even better shape. We worked hard to retain customers and to maintain strong relationships.

“You just know when someone is the right fit. On many occasions it’s worth brining them in if they have the right values and attitude; the rest can be learned.” “Working through a recession teaches you what’s important to people and what’s important to yourself. We wouldn’t have as strong a business today if we forgot those lessons.” It obviously stood the business in good stead and it has since cemented its reputation in the professional and technology recruitment world in Northern Ireland.

aspects of business planning and marketing for the business.” The secret of the firm’s success lies in its long-term relationships with clients and with potential recruits, as well as the strong values which run through the business. “We really do have good values,” Justin said. “Nobody in our business would ever take a short cut or go for the quick buck but will naturally do the right thing.” Although that culture is embedded in the firm, Justin said it is even more embedded in the people Abacus hires. A good example of how it selects the best talent for itself and its clients? “The people we recruit have always been honest, decent people so there isn’t much of an adjustment. It just shows how we can vet and recruit the right people. “You just know when someone is the right fit. On many occasions it’s worth bringing them in if they have the right values and attitude; the rest can be learned.” It’s certainly stood the business in good stead over the years and Justin said he looks forward for a future of further growth in partnership with the best companies in Northern Ireland.

Headcount now tops 20 with the business run by Justin and the other “very active” director Alan Braithwaite.

He certainly knows his subject, his sector and the business world here but, with a busy diary, it’s time to go, Justin back to cut and thrust of the recruitment world and Ulster Business back to work off a big breakfast.

“We’re there every day and very involved in all

Until next time. ■

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RECRUITMENT

Metrics which will improve your recruitment, guaranteed Justin Rush, Director at Abacus Professional Recruitment, explains how you can boost your chances of hiring the right person 1. Number of quality applicants per advertised vacancy. A quality applicant is one that meets all essential criteria. A number of less than five indicates you really need to extend your reach into the specific marketplace to promote your offering. This may mean an increase in the reward on offer, painting a clearer picture about why you are a top-class outfit or just making it easier to apply. If you are obtaining a number of more than 15 you can afford to enhance your criteria.

f recent surveys into the hiring intentions of the local marketplace are to be believed, 40-60% of organisations based in Northern Ireland are recruiting right now. If yours is one of those organisations why not apply these metrics and draw some inferences from their results.

2. Percentage of candidates that complete the recruitment process. Arriving at a suitable short-list of applicants is great, losing half on the way isn’t. In my experience you want to have a minimum of two candidates whom you would feel happy to offer the job to. This really means you need eight candidates for interview. In a competitive marketplace you need to be clear on the process, timescales for interviews/ assessment and when decisions will be made. If you are losing more than 25% of applicants before you complete your recruitment, you are definitely missing out on high potential candidates to competitors.

For ease of digest, I have made the assumption that this analysis is applied to an intermediate professional level recruitment managed by an in-house team.

3. Percentage of employee referrals per vacancy. If you don’t leverage the power of your employees when recruiting you are missing a

Justin Rush

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trick. For a typical SME a minimum of 15% of your applicants should be referrals. Personally, I have often found that recommended candidates are of a higher quality than most, they are more bought in and often will have an advocate in the organisation to advise them (which is a great thing). Next time you recruit, review the performance of referred candidates against others to see if my experience holds for you. 4. Percentage of offers of employment accepted without renegotiation. Most think that the hard work is completed when you decide upon the most suitable candidate, after all it is just a question of rolling out the offer… wrong. You have one chance to make an acceptable offer, trying to low-ball is a mistake and it’s very hard to come back from. My advice is to offer just slightly above the market. Business people that recruit well make the financial aspect of the offer of employment secondary to the opportunity available, therefore they insulate themselves from the inevitable counter-offer. Remember, metrics help identify trends. It’s your job to act upon the trends and to improve your performance when you go to market. ■ Justin Rush is a career recruiter and Director at Abacus Professional Recruitment. He can be contacted on justin@abacus.jobs


Retail

Sponsored by


#LIVETODAYNI

TODAY Iâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;M FEELING SAUCY

RETAIL

Planning for a better Belfast John Simpson runs a weather eye over the plan for Belfast city centreâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s future plans and finds that parking spaces are going to be at a premium

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he town planners setting the framework for the development of Belfast City in the years to 2035 have outlined a framework for an ambitious expansion agenda for businesses, added employment and the number of new homes. It might involve 46,000 additional jobs, 66,000 additional residents and 37,000 additional homes within the city boundary. The agenda must be ambitious since it helps to ensure that there would be the capacity to allow the changes and investment to take place. There is no guarantee his plans will be realised. That will be consequential on the anticipatory planning and the actions of private sector investors, property developers, and provisions made by service providers

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ranging from road services to the application of public sector levers in programmes of urban regeneration. Patterns of shopping activity and housing developments, along with measures to facilitate or dissuade investors and customers, are being predicted and constrained in the newly-restated planning framework. The Belfast framework is critical both because there are acknowledged to be serious questions to be answered about the ability to shape what happens in the city and also because developments in Belfast have a wider significance for other areas influenced by developments in the main urban centre of Northern Ireland. For Belfast, the process of setting the new planning framework arrangements in place is time consuming and risks being followed closely only by people who have

an understanding of the technical stages in devising and approving a Local Development Plan. However, if future development is to facilitate a radically improved functioning city then the ideas under-pinning the early stages need to be challenged and some of the assumptions challenged. The framework ideas on business development in retailing, offices and industry are conventional. For offices and industry, the planners somewhat surprisingly envisage the possibility that a smaller urban foot-print may emerge. For retailing, the planners have outlined (using a defined area of the city centre) a Primary Retail Core. That definition of the space in the Primary Retail Core is essentially recognition of the current activity in the centre. However, the concept and its definition are important for policy purposes. >


#LIVETODAYNI

TODAY Iâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;M DRESSING MY WAY RETAIL

MARCH 2017

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TODAY I’M A CUT ABOVE

#LIVETODAYNI

RETAIL

The preferred option of the planners is that there should be a policy of ‘favouring retail activity to the city centre’ and, using that concept, links to a ‘city centre first approach’ for future decisions. This would reinforce an emphasis on the city centre as the hub. The encouragement and constraints on retail development are a critical core feature of the statement of planning policy. They need to be understood in terms of its wider application to the much larger urban areas surrounding the retail core. It also needs to be seen in the context of other planning issues related to access and transport arrangements. The draft Preferred Options Paper is less persuasive in its assessment of the future development of retailing activity because there is no explicit discussion of how the problems of traffic management can be eased by using acceptable constraints, how the city might better manage the use of road space, how the city should modernise and adapt planning rules affecting provision of car parking and whether a ‘city centre first’ preferred option could be amended to allow retailing activity to evolve more in defined secondary centres. About 250,000 people work and study in the city. Many of those people travel daily and are subject to traffic management frustrations. The city arterial roads operate with poor

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average speeds as roads with potentially four-plus lanes are constrained by imperfect parking behaviour. Traffic movement and management about the city is unimpressive. For many people Belfast city is not currently an attractive location for leisure shopping. Probably about 200,000 people would try to visit city centre retail stores each week.

interest groups may wish to lobby the city council to add stronger recommendations if city centre retailing and commerce is to avoid the longer term disadvantages of retail relocations to out-of-town centres.

Belfast city is not the responsible authority for roads and traffic management. Responsibility lies with the Department for Infrastructure.

‘The provision of car parking needs to be carefully balanced to ensure that sufficient provision is made to meet needs whilst recognising that where there is good public transport provision, easy access to shops and services and desire to lead healthy lives, less provision may need to be made.’

That absence of devolved management leaves a vulnerable gap in terms of urban options. Belfast City Council is left to develop its options without better decision making structures. As a result, the Options Paper does not realistically tackle the problems.

That conclusion offers little reassurance that the serious problem of linking retailing and leisure activity to the increasing use of private cars, including a willingness to pay the costs of private provision of parking, will be adequately recognised.

The Options paper is complacent when it examines the related traffic management question of car parking.

The preferred options paper is inconclusive on what should be preferred!

‘[8.2.4] Car parking in suitable amounts and locations is vital for the city centre to function properly. … Belfast must compete as a shopping and leisure attraction with other towns and cities, and with out of town retail developments.’

Northern Ireland now has a heavy legislative and planning framework which guides or, more pejoratively, constrains the ways in which development plans will be assessed. Each of the new local authorities must now prepare a Local Development Plan outlining the ambitions and constraints for development in the next 20 years. Belfast is the first to reach the Options consultative stage. ■

This endorsement of the need for a clear car parking provision policy is not re-enforced by suggested remedies. The relevant commercial


Bus priority – the smart move for Belfast

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orthern Ireland is undergoing a transformation in public transport, providing integrated services that connect people, enhance the economy and improve the environment. This supports the drive to connect people and opportunities through our infrastructure as laid out in the Executive’s Programme for Government.

A key catalyst in this transformation is the development of Bus Priority – or perhaps better phrased ‘Bus Passenger Priority’. Bus Priority makes travelling by bus more efficient and more attractive to use by providing faster and more reliable bus journey times. Increased bus use makes more efficient use of road space, consequently easing congestion. Since its introduction, Belfast is more accessible with around 11,000 less vehicles during morning peaks yet more people actually travelling into the city

centre enjoying improved road safety and better environmental conditions for shoppers, workers, local residents and visitors. Research shows that cities with well-designed bus priority schemes gain a competitive edge to attract new business and support the retail and hospitality sectors. They keep people on the move for jobs and services, improving productivity and helping the local economy thrive. In fact, independent research carried out by PwC showed over 50% of shoppers using Metro spend over £35 per visit, making a significant contribution to the local economy. More people than ever are choosing Metro with growth of over 15% in journeys since 2008 - that’s half a million Metro bus journeys now made every week in Greater Belfast. In contrast, continued growth in private car sales is unsustainable; it will only exacerbate urban congestion, noise and pollution, making local streets more dangerous and choking our economy. Belfast in particular has been recently cited as suffering from high levels of air pollution. More people travelling more sustainably will help to address this and support a healthier city for all. It is clear that investment in Bus Priority is the smart move for Belfast. The new Belfast Rapid Transit (BRT) due to be operational in autumn 2018 will benefit from extensive bus priority measures along its routes. Featuring modern high-capacity ecofriendly hybrid buses that use high quality halts and interchanges, BRT will offer high frequency services connecting East, West Belfast and Titanic Quarter. Park & Ride schemes are

also crucial to addressing local transport need with customers benefiting from Bus Priority on their daily commute. Belfast centric Park & Ride schemes continue to grow in popularity with daily occupancy around 80% full. Their importance to the city’s sustainable development is undeniable – every 500 cars using P&R saves around 3km of traffic congestion. Bus Priority also supports active travel; cycle facilities are integrated into bus priority schemes in the city and using the bus encourages more walking to and from the bus stop. Translink is committed to demonstrating just why public transport should be Your First Choice for Travel in Northern Ireland. An attractive bus service will also play an important role in delivering Belfast City Council projections for 2035 to grow the population by 70k and generate 50k more jobs. Bus priority will help to unlock the full potential for a successful, thriving City. ■


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TODAY I’M IRRESISTIBLE

Musgrave puts health front and centre

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ealthy eating and convenience retail might not seem like close bedfellows but one local grocery company has been quietly changing the face of the market over the last few years. Musgrave, the name behind Centra and SuperValu across the island of Ireland, has been answering the growing demand from consumers for healthy food and drink with a growing range of products which have established themselves at the core of its offering. Much more than just a nod to health, the breadth of the offering is aimed at firmly establishing the brands at the forefront of a revolution in how we eat and look after our bodies. And it really is a revolution. Desi Derby is the Head of Marketing of Musgrave NI and knows more than most how high up health ranks in the priorities of the modern consumer. He points to recent research in Northern Ireland which classified 60 per cent of people here as overweight and 20 per cent as obese.

Musgrave NI Head of Marketing, Desi Derby

“That’s reassuring for us as it means we have got the mix right without trying to force healthy lines on people.” And there certainly is vast choice in the line-up of healthy brands the retailer has to offer. That follows a review of its products last year which identified over 500 products which were given the green light when it comes to health terms.

Of increasing importance to a provider of food and drink is the fact that half of those in the overweight category want to do something about it.

In addition, it also added another 200 more specialist niche lines - such as Healthy Hydration, Healthy Snacking, Health & Wellbeing and Chilled Convenience – which answer the demand for health trends which have emerged over the last few years.

Ever mindful of the fact that insight is key, Musgrave have taken this a step further and carried out their own research to find out how that desire impacts their convenience retail demands.

“It’s making sure we meet those demands but still stay true to our core healthy ranges of salads and vegetables while also taking salt and sugars out of convenience ready meal range to ensure a healthier offering right through the range.

It revealed that while that desire for healthy food and drink is very much apparent, consumers are most hungry for choice.

“Overall we’re seeing like-for-like sales in these products increasing, and envisage that increasing in the months and years ahead.”

“Customers are saying they want healthy brands but they don’t want to be told to eat them,” Desi told Ulster Business.

To support that movement, Musgrave has gone beyond what you would expect from a convenience retailer and has launched a new £1.5 million ‘Health & Well-being’ strategy, for both the SuperValu & Centra brands.

“They have been feeding back to us that what they really want is choice; the freedom to eat healthily when they want to and also to treat themselves occasionally.

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Designed to address serious health issues, and championed by a team of top Ambassadors, a

Live Well programme for Centra aims to educate and inspire consumers to make healthier choices and encourage communities across Northern Ireland to get active. Shane McGuigan – Barry McGuigan’s son will be sharing fitness plans on the Centra NI Facebook page; Jane McClenaghan will be designing a programme of healthy recipes; Bridgeen Rea will create a 10 week course to guide people through key tips on how to manage busy lives and associated stress and anxiety; and two time Olympian and Commonwealth Games competitor, Johnny Davis, will drive forward and expand the Run Together programme. Meanwhile, Noel McMeel, the famous chef from the Lough Erne Hotel, will add health to his remit as an ambassador for SuperValu. “He’s an important name to have on board because he proves that it’s possible to balance both taste and health,” Desi said. “We’re very proud to be working with him because he adds credibility and insight to the journey we’re on.” If all that weren’t enough, both SuperValu and Centra have raised over £2.5m with Action Cancer and have worked closely with schools to encourage healthy eating in children. All-in-all, Musgrave’s commitment to the health of the people who are central to its business – its customers – runs deep. ■


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Iâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;M FEELING SAUCY


A nation of online shopkeepers?

Stephen Smith

By Stephen Smith, Osborne King Commercial Property Consultants

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apoleon reputedly said we are a nation of shopkeepers. However, contrary to popular belief, the phrase did not originate with Napoleon and was first coined in “The Wealth of Nations’ by Adam Smith” in 1776. Much has changed within the retail landscape since the days of Napoleon and Adam Smith. We now live in a world of click and collect and same-day home delivery. The Internet and e-commerce have undoubtedly changed the retail industry and a recent survey by edelivery.com reported that 72 per cent of UK shoppers use click and collect. For established retail giants such as John Lewis, online purchases account for roughly 40 per cent of sales across the UK, so it is clear to see the impact e-commerce is having today on consumer spending. However, a consequence of this demand is that customers now have increasingly high

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expectations regarding shorter and shorter delivery times. One can expect to order an item online in London and have it delivered within one hour, a possibility which raises obvious questions regarding this type of delivery operation becoming unsustainable. The preferred method for retailers should logically therefore be click and collect which is expected to make up 35 per cent of total sales by 2018. So what about the customer shopping “experience”? Well, the physical store is still integral to the retail landscape and plays an important role in consumer behaviour. This is probably best illustrated by former onlineonly retailers such as Oak Furniture Land and Sofa.com now trading from physical stores throughout the UK. Also, let’s not forget that some customers simply enjoy the experience of shopping and its social element which is enhanced by retailers such as Apple with their modern fit-outs and high tech stores.

Amazon’s stores include digital price tags which let the company change the price of its products instantly. The theory is that if a competitor altered the price of a certain product then a retailer with a digital price tag could respond accordingly. This is just one example of what retailers are now doing to offer customers unique and engaging concepts that would not be possible without a bricks and mortar presence. Retailers constantly have to adapt and respond to ever-changing consumer sentiment. It’s what they have always done and always will do if they want to stay ahead of the game. It is clear that e-commerce makes up a large part of overall retail sales and this is a trend that is only going to continue, and while the “nation of shopkeepers” description may no longer ring true, having a physical presence in high footfall locations is always going to appeal to retailers - of that there is no doubt. ■


Property performers, not puppets. Professional property advice with no strings attached. Independent thinking for the smarter investor.

www.osborneking.com


ANALYSIS

Belfast: An Evolution of the Retail Landscape

Victoria Square, which has enhanced Belfast’s retail offering, as it looks now (above) and in 2004 (right) before it’s development

A new report from Lambert Smith Hampton takes a look at how far Belfast’s retail sector has come since 1998 and how far it could go with the right help from stakeholders. Claire Cole, Research Analyst at Lambert Smith Hampton, and the report’s author Head of Retail Criona Collins, assess the findings 46


ANALYSIS

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he signing of the Good Friday Agreement in 1998 was a truly significant moment for Northern Ireland. Today, post-conflict Belfast is a compact metropolitan city rich in culture, history and character. More than that, Belfast is an attractive place to live, work and invest. Belfast’s offering has made huge progress since the Agreement with political stability contributing to economic growth. Between 1998 and 2007 Belfast experienced one of its most economically prosperous periods in recent history. Like many other cities, Belfast was negatively impacted by the global financial crash in 2008. Despite this, the city weathered the storm, continuing to attract increasing numbers of tourists during this period and opening Victoria Square Shopping Centre in 2008 which provided Belfast with its first purpose built, truly mixed use development. More recently, the local economy has once again shown positive signs of growth and over the last number of years new brands have arrived including Patisserie Valerie, Five Guys, Zizzi, Greggs the Baker, Yo Sushi, Mango, Hugo Boss, Michael Kors, Boux Avenue, Kiehl’s, KIKO Milano, Stradivarius, Skechers and Søstrene Grene. However, Belfast ranks only 15th out of the top 20 UK shopping venues (as ranked by Javelin). Notwithstanding the significant achievements of the city since 1998 Belfast is still under performing in comparison to other UK cities, demonstrating that there is always room for improvement. THE RETAIL MARKET The retail market in Belfast benefited from economic growth and the normalisation of the city’s physical characteristics. This was reflected in prime pitch rents which grew steadily from £150 per sq ft in 1998 to a peak of £275 per sq ft in 2005. Rents fell with the global financial crash to a low of £112 per sq ft. Since 2013 recovery has been observed in prime rents and this year they are projected to reach £125 per sq ft. Aside from the opening of Victoria Square,

MARCH 2017

the most significant developments in the retail market have included a rationalisation in financial sector premises and a significant physical shift in the location of the city’s retail core. Other city centre areas that were traditionally retail, such as the Linen Quarter, have experienced an increase in hotels and high-quality independent restaurants and cafés. New brands have entered the market, the business rate revaluation led to significant decreases in total occupational cost base of prime pitches in Belfast, and the largest retail development since Victoria Square, the expansion at Primark’s Bank Buildings, got underway in late 2016. Beyond Belfast, macro changes in the retail market have occurred over the last two decades. These include the digital evolution, the growth of omni-channel shopping, integration of offline and online markets, shopping as a leisure pursuit, and the growth of food and beverage. Belfast has shown resilience to these challenges with city centre regeneration, retail development and the growth of new brands. TECHNOLOGY 1998 was not only significant because of the Good Friday Agreement, but it was also the year that Google launched. Since then online retailers, home and mobile internet connections and smartphone ownership has grown rapidly. Today customers expect retailers to provide multiple channels to satisfy prepurchase research, actual sale and customer service. In 2015 the ‘Super-connected Belfast’ project was completed which improved digital access in Belfast City Centre for both consumers and retailers with public wi-fi and next-generation fibre broadband. These developments help retailers to integrate the digital experience in store and allow customers to be online while physically present in the city.

since 2000 and the city is now one of Europe’s hottest short-break destinations. The retail market has benefited from the influx of visitors from both home and abroad. Designated cultural ‘quarters’ define the various city centre areas showcasing their distinctive characteristics and history. The city is known for its fine culinary establishments, as home to the world’s best tourist attraction 2016, Titanic Belfast, and the gateway to the Giants Causeway. BUSINESS, DEVELOPMENT AND INVESTMENT Stability in Northern Ireland was a catalyst for inward investment, attracting new businesses and development. Belfast has generated over £2 billion of investment in the last decade supported by InvestNI. Belfast is the number one destination globally for financial technology investment, and is Europe’s leading destination for new software development, with companies such as Allstate and Citi located in the city. The local film industry was stimulated with the development of Titanic Studios and further boosted when it was selected as the primary filming location for the international smash hit Game of Thrones. INFRASTRUCTURE The establishment of a devolved Executive enhanced investment in infrastructure. Belfast has two airports, expansive arterial road access, the island’s principal maritime gateway, high-speed internet access and advanced, secure digital hubs. This infrastructure enhances the city’s access to shoppers from the Republic of Ireland (RoI), short-break tourists, global markets and investment, and brings in new business and brands. In Belfast further improvements include extending docking facilities for larger berth cruise ships, regeneration of the public realm through the ‘Streets Ahead’ project and the > Belfast Rapid Transport System.

LEISURE, TOURISM AND CULTURE The Agreement kindled Belfast’s tourism potential, showcasing the rich cultural heritage and the city’s suitability as a venue for big events. Tourism in Belfast has quadrupled

Fact Belfast ranks only 15th out of the top 20 UK shopping venues *Javelin - Venuescore

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ANALYSIS

There has been a significant change in the streets off Cornmarket between 1998 (left, ©CAIN (cain.ulster.ac.uk)) and 2017 (right)

POLITICS AND ECONOMICS

Political stability has been crucial for economic growth and the political history is an important aspect of the region’s unique selling point for visitors. The impact of Brexit and the current political instability remains to be seen, but Belfast has a history of resilience in uncertain times weathering the storms of the recession and flag protests.

• • • • • •

Sterling depreciation impacts shopper behaviour in Belfast and Northern Ireland. Whilst a weakening pound may drive up inflation, retailers in Belfast generally find that some of this impact is offset in a change in consumers' behaviour and an increase in shoppers from RoI. FUTURE DRIVERS OF CHANGE Looking back enhances our understanding of how the retail market in Belfast has developed since the Agreement and reveals important trends. But, we need to plan and prepare for the future by assessing the future drivers of change. We expect that Belfast will continue to grow and flourish in the future, with the likely influences of future drivers of change largely positive. Uncertainties in relation to Brexit and a Trump-led USA remain, but are not unique to Belfast. Some of the future drivers of change include: • The review of Sunday trading hours.

48

• •

Proposed 800,000 sq ft mixed use development at Royal Exchange. Further development of food and beverage offer. Increases in city centre hotel offer. The proposed Yorkgate Interchange. The development of new Grade A office space. Completion of new Ulster University campus and increased student population. The proposed reduction in Corporation Tax to 12.5% from 2018. Retailers embracing technology to connect with customers. Sustainable rental growth.

THE OUTLOOK The Retail Market in Belfast will continue to be influenced by both local and macro drivers of change. Despite the climate of uncertainty in 2017, we are looking forward to further development of the retail offer in Belfast City Centre along with rental growth, sound investment opportunities and the arrival of new European and international brands. There will continue to be demand for retail space in Belfast City Centre. We expect Zone A rents to reach £125 per sq ft by the end of 2017 with gradual and sustainable growth in the medium term thereafter. There is a requirement to regenerate and redevelop the city centre buildings to meet the demands for new retailers’ requirements in relation to floorplates and technology

which they may otherwise find in out-oftown locations. The continuing availability of investment and development finance at competitive rates of borrowing is also imperative, enabling landlords to actively create the space that retailers require. Retailers will continue to seek innovative ways to satisfy the needs and aspirations of the increasingly sophisticated customer. Store location is now just the first element in an increasingly complex brand proposition which must include meticulous customer service, engaging store environment and, of course, cutting edge technology and online presence. Those retailers that fail in this regard, will ultimately be left in the wake of their competitors. With leisure now an established mainstay of retail destinations and taking an increasing proportion of consumers’ discretionary spend, we expect further activity in this sector in 2017.The combination of shopping and other leisure experiences will continue to fuse. Retailers will encourage customers into stores using entertainment and discounted events as incentives. As we look to the future much still needs to be done, but if social, economic and political factors continue to work in the sector’s favour then there is every reason to believe retail in Belfast can go from strength to strength. ■ The full report is available to download at www.lsh.ie


Travel, Tourism and Hospitality


TOURISM

Priming the tourist trap Latest tourism statistics show 2016 was a bumper year for the tourism industry in Northern Ireland. We chat to Tourism NI chief executive John McGrillen and Tourism Ireland boss Niall Gibbons to find out how the momentum can be maintained

T

he sun is shining on the tourism sector in Northern Ireland.

Perhaps not literally – although we’ve had a pretty good winter – but certainly figuratively when it comes to the number of tourists visiting these shores, the number of locals visiting tourist spots here and the amount of money they’re spending. The latest figures from the Northern Ireland Statistics and Research Agency (NISRA)

50

shows visitor spend jumped an impressive 10 per cent in the year to September 2016 to £821m compared to the previous period, a jump which has been welcomed by everyone involved in the tourism industry. Behind that is a jump in the number of visitors of one per cent to 4.6m, an increase in number which highlights the fact visitors are staying longer and spending more. Encouragingly for Northern Ireland and

for Tourism Ireland, the body charged with attracting overseas tourists to the island of Ireland, 74% of those visitors are external. Niall Gibbons heads up the organisation and puts the strong performance – the fifth successive record year - down to a number of factors. “Air access is improving to both the island and Northern Ireland with new flights to Milan and Berlin,” he told Ulster Business.


TOURISM

“We’ve also had a really good marketing campaign, particularly to attract screen tourism with the likes of Game of Thrones which we have a license agreement with and which is very popular with the US.” He pointed to the 10 Game of Thronesthemed doors which have been installed throughout Northern Ireland as a good trail for tourists to follow. “Then, of course, we have had a number of

MARCH 2017

events such as the Year of Food and Drink, one which has proved hugely successful both in drawing tourists and for local small and medium-sized businesses.” In addition, he said growth of golf tourism has also been a big boost to the sector and will be even more of a focus in the coming years. And he said Brexit was being closely monitored by Tourism Ireland, not least because the sharp fall in the value of sterling in the wake of the

Brexit vote has made a holiday to Northern Ireland better value for tourists using other currencies. Mr Gibbons said he plans to make hay while the sun shines. “Priority markets include GB, Mainland Europe, North America, and Australia and Developing Markets. We will continue to monitor the implications of Brexit on outbound travel from > GB.

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TOURISM

“We are committed to ensuring that Northern Ireland continues to increase its share of the global travel business.”

rates and greater profitability for hoteliers. But he said the new supply is important for the city to maintain competitive.

John McGrillen, is chief executive of Tourism NI, the body responsible for the development of tourism and the marketing of Northern Ireland as a tourist destination to domestic tourists, from within Northern Ireland and to visitors from the Republic of Ireland.

“The supply is key to the offering because we don’t want to price ourselves out of the market,” he said.

That means making sure we have a good tourist product to attract travellers to these shores. As such, he has welcomed the strengthening of the tourist infrastructure here with the construction of over 1,000 new hotel rooms over the coming months. “We’re in a position where supply is trying to catch up with demand,” he told Ulster Business. “The new supply will enhance competition and choice and help fulfil the tourism strategy in the future.” He said occupancy levels in areas such as Belfast has been sitting at over 80 per cent for much of last year which in turn drives up room

Mussenden Temple

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“Whilst it’s great to see such strong demand, we’ve got to compare favourably to other regions and need the new supply to do that.”

Ireland. Belfast, the north coast and Derry have done extremely well but we’ve further work to do in areas like the Mournes, Armagh, the Fermanagh Lakelands and many other regions. “We need to develop other areas to encourage people to stay longer, to create jobs across the province and to hit the target of £1bn in export earnings.

In fact, the enhancement of infrastructure for tourist attraction is part of the soon-to-bereleased Tourism Strategy which also calls for a doubling of “out-of-state” tourism earnings.

“Those export earnings are key because the local market is pretty much saturated in terms of how much more tourism business is going to come from people living here. The population is quite small, so if we’re going to grow we have to target the export market.

“The new strategy is about creating wealth and creating employment,” Mr McGrillen said.

“Our role is work closely with Tourism Ireland to make sure they have product to sell.”

“To do that we need to get people to spend more; to get them to spend more we need to get more people to come, we need to get them to stay a little longer when they’re here and we need to give them more things to spend their money on.”

“Our staff are spending time out in the field – in the UK, in France, Germany and China, for instance - with the tourism Ireland team so we’re fully aware what the customer is looking for. That means when we’re thinking about supporting product development we’ll know what it is we’re putting our time and effort into.

He said that means investing in the regions, as well as in the more obvious areas. “We need to develop more parts of Northern

“Our client is the tourism business world and our job is to support it.” ■

The Dark Hedges in County Antrim


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Impressed organisers praise Belfast Waterfront

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elfast, and indeed Northern Ireland, has really landed on the global business tourism scene.

Although able to punch above its weight in terms of attracting business tourists to these shores over the years, the region’s Achilles heel was always the lack of a conference venue of suitable size and quality. Oh how that all changed in 2016 with the opening of Belfast Waterfront, a venue of such prominence and utility that it has become the envy of cities around the world. Fully integrated with the existing facility, the new 7,000m2 conference venue can host up to 5,000 delegates, has two interconnecting halls measuring over 2,500m2, a 2,000 seat auditorium, a 360-seat studio, 20 meeting rooms and a dedicated riverside entrance. That’s a lot of numbers which add up to a venue which has allowed some of the biggest global conferences in the world to come to these shores. Mr Mark A Taylor, Consultant General and Hepatobiliary Surgeon, Belfast Health and Social Care Trust, can testify as to how transformational Belfast Waterfront has been. Over the last number of years he has been involved in the organisation of many local and national conferences for organisations such as Association of Upper Gastrointestinal Surgeons (AUGIS) and Association of Surgeons of Great Britain and Ireland (ASGBI) and believes the welcome received in Belfast is difficult to match. “I have no doubt that our most successful conferences have been in Belfast, a city which is friendly, vibrant, great value for money and extremely professional across the board in entertaining our delegates.” He points to ‘Belfast Surgical Week’ run by the Association of Surgeons of Great Britain and Ireland (ASGBI) in May 2016 which was the first National Conference to use the new 7,000 m2 facility at Belfast Waterfront. Over 1100 surgeons from all over the UK and Ireland descended on the venue to a heaty welcome.

“It would not have been possible for a medical conference of this size to host in Belfast without the new facility.”

“The conference was a huge success with the conference team believing that it was the best conference yet.

He said Belfast can now compete with other destinations in attracting major national and international medical conferences over 1,000 delegates.

“A large part of the conference is the breakout space for international networking where our local educational institutions are able to meet with British Council education teams from over 40 countries worldwide. It was great to have ample space for this networking with natural light.”

In fact, the newly-extended facility is capable of hosting exhibitions or conventions for over 2,000 people. As well as that, the space itself is very flexible and can be scaled upwards or downwards according to requirements. “I have no doubt that other Medical, Nursing and Allied Health Societies will enjoy the same success we have had. The venue is superb and has the support of Visit Belfast, Belfast City Council, local hoteliers and the people of Belfast. I have no doubt that Belfast is a ‘world-leading conference destination’ ably supported by a world-leading conference venue.” Jonathan Stewart, Deputy Director, British Council Northern Ireland brought the British Council’s annual education marketing conference to Belfast in December 2016, the first time the event had ever been held in Northern Ireland. “In bringing the conference to Belfast we were competing with other UK cities like Manchester, Cardiff, Edinburgh and Brighton,” he said.

Meanwhile, the National Children’s Bureau (NCB) hosted a global outcomes summit in the new Waterfront conference facility in October. Over 480 conference participants attended to hear speakers from USA, New Zealand, UK, Australia and beyond. Celine McStravick, Director of NCB Northern Ireland, praised the venue. “It’s never easy running a conference this size but the Waterfront facility did not let us down! The space was excellent and without exception all of the speakers and attendees commented on the ideal location, high standard of service and incredible addition this new facility was to the City of Belfast.” It is clear Belfast Waterfront completes Northern Ireland’s business tourism offering, bringing opportunity and prosperity not just to the venue, but to the wide city and the whole of Northern Ireland.


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Brand New Business Centre with office space for 2-30 persons


HOSPITALITY

New hotel is the jewel in Andras Hotels’ Crowne

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elfast's largest hotel group Andras Hotel has welcomed the first Crowne Plaza hotel in Northern Ireland to its portfolio following an upgrade and re-branding of the Ramada Plaza, Shaw’s Bridge. Crowne Plaza Hotels and Resorts is the upscale, full-service hotel brand from InterContinental Hotels Group, designed with the modern business traveller in mind. The re-brand has seen an investment of £600,000 to upgrade the hotel to the exacting Crowne Plaza brand standards with a further £3.4m to be rolled out over an 18-month period, which will see a complete refurbishment of all 120 bedrooms and the creation of 34 new bedrooms. The hotel now features Club Bedrooms and a Club Lounge featuring complimentary continental breakfast, snacks and drinks. The Crowne Plaza ‘Sleep Advantage’ programme has been installed, including new pocket-sprung mattresses and luxurious new bedding,

quiet zone bedrooms and aromatherapy kits in every room. The restaurant has a new look, complete with an all new breakfast and menu concept including Fast and Fresh menu items. Guests can get active with the new Energy Station for joggers or use the refurbished on-site pool and health club. Situated in a protected parkland setting, with complimentary parking on-site, the hotel is just minutes from the city centre; an asset for Belfast’s corporate and conference market. With modern event spaces, from sleek boardrooms to a Grand Ballroom accommodating up to 900 people, the hotel caters for conferences, gala dinners and celebrations of varying size and occasion, with a dedicated Meetings Director on hand to assist. Andras Hotels currently owns and operates five internationallybranded hotels (Holiday Inn Belfast City Centre, Holiday Inn Express Belfast Queen’s Quarter, two Ibis properties and Cordia Serviced Apartments) with over 700 bedrooms in the city.

BELFAST

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Tax & Accounting


TAX & ACCOUNTING

Will they, won’t they… Not long ago, devolving corporation tax-setting powers to Stormont was the top priority of the Northern Ireland business world. Now, attention has dimmed on what was once lauded as the saviour of the economy as Brexit takes top billing. With that in mind, Amy Leonard asks how relevant, and indeed likely, the move is.

I

own rate of corporation tax, the intention being to lower it from 20% where it currently stands to 12.5% which would bring it in line with the rate levied in the Republic of Ireland.

A key detail of this was that the Executive would be handed authority to establish its

The agreement, which was endorsed by Sinn Fein, the DUP and the UK and Irish governments, was struck after almost 10 weeks of negotiations, and stated that the devolvement of corporation tax-setting

n 2015, after a long and drawn-out struggle, Stormont won the power to set its own level of corporation tax. The plan to devolve these powers from Westminster was part of a 67-page deal titled “A Fresh Start: The Stormont Agreement and Implementation Plan”.

60

powers would come into effect from April 2018. The hope, of course, was the reduction would be a huge boost in the efforts to grow Northern Ireland’s economy and attract a large amount of foreign direct investment (FDI). Since the victory, however, Brexit became a


TAX & ACCOUNTING

reality and Theresa May pledged to reduce the overall UK corporation tax rate from 20% to 15%, a move which was partially backed by Phillip Hammond in his Autumn Statement last year that they would aim for a cut to 17%. This of course calls into question the benefits and validity of the cut in Northern Ireland’s corporation tax and raise the question of whether it will be delayed by the developments since it was established, or will it be dismissed entirely? Conor Lambe, an economist at Danske Bank, recognises that it will definitely not be as straightforward as initially thought in the agreement. “A lot has changed in the UK and in Northern Ireland since the intention to cut the local rate of corporation tax to 12.5% was announced, namely the UK’s vote to leave the European Union and the recent political upheaval in Northern Ireland.” “The UK Government has committed to cut corporation tax to 17% by 2020. This would erode some of the attractiveness of Northern Ireland’s 12.5% tax rate relative to the rest of the UK, but the gap between the two rates, and a corporation tax rate equivalent to that in the Republic of Ireland, would still give local policymakers a useful tool when attempting to attract investment to Northern Ireland.”

essential and will be a huge help in drawing FDI. “A lower rate of corporation tax for Northern Ireland is still very much on the agenda. It will be a strong sales asset for Northern Ireland which will help to attract fresh investment. It is absolutely vital that nothing knocks that objective off course.” “The current tightening up of international transfer pricing rules and the OECD international tax rules will mean that low tax countries will become even more attractive FDI locations.”

Ann McGregor, Chief Executive of Northern Ireland Chamber of Commerce and Industry, said that the reduction in corporation tax is

MARCH 2017

“With an election on the horizon, there is uncertainty around the formation of a new Executive. Recent events also raise questions about Northern Ireland’s public finances. Both of these have the potential to delay the introduction of the planned change to the local rate of corporation tax.”

Both agree that lower tax will still appeal to foreign investors, but how does the move sit in light of Theresa May’s comments on the UK rate? Lambe does not agree that it entirely negates the cuts in Northern Ireland. “The Prime Minister’s recent speech left open the possibility of further cuts to the UK’s corporation tax rate if it is unable to agree a satisfactory Brexit deal with the EU. However, there is no guarantee that this will ever materialise, so it shouldn’t be a crucial factor in implementing a planned tax change in Northern Ireland.”

Angela McGowan

It’s a point on which McGregor shared the same opinion, that the UK’s cuts are at this stage immaterial and that they do not confine Stormont’s options.

Angela McGowan, CBI Northern Ireland Director, agreed on the potential benefits the cuts would offer, and that it is local issues which pose a bigger threat than Brexit.

“The UK main rate may go down over time but there are no specifics on this yet and it would take some time to implement.

"The commitment by the Executive to reduce corporation tax to 12.5% from April 2018 has the potential to drive business investment and growth in the Northern Ireland economy and could generate thousands of additional jobs over the next 15 years. However, a reduction in corporation tax is dependent upon the Executive having a sustainable fiscal position and clearly that requirement cannot be met right now.

“Whilst the rate has already been established for Northern Ireland, the Corporation Tax Act allows the Assembly to set whatever rate its wishes so it doesn’t have to be 12.5%. It means that if the UK rate was to drop to 15%, the Assembly has powers to set a rate of 10% for Northern Ireland instead which is a possibility."

Ann McGregor

“I don’t think that Brexit alone will delay the process. Local political upheaval arguably poses a bigger challenge to reducing the corporation tax rate in Northern Ireland than Brexit does.

Lambe said that although Stormont and Westminster will have to pool resources and work together in order to negotiate an exit package with the EU, he in fact thinks that Brexit will lead local policymakers to push even harder for the new corporation tax rate to be implemented.

"In order to achieve this ambition, we must first build a well-functioning Executive which is committed to the Belfast Peace Agreement. Essentially peace and prosperity go hand-inhand. “Our political leaders must be prepared to collaborate and co-operate in order to deliver the right conditions for economic growth." >

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TAX & ACCOUNTING

He warns that there is a long way to go, and lots to resolve, before Northern Ireland even reaches the stage where that could be an issue. “That said, the more immediate challenge is that of proving Northern Ireland is in a fit state for the devolved tax powers to be “switched on”.

Dr Esmond Birnie

Dr Esmond Birnie, Senior Economist at the Ulster University Economic Policy Centre, points out that one very important effect of Brexit would be the loss of membership of the single market. “Access to the Single Market could be one locational advantage drawing FDI into Northern Ireland. Given that, any loss of that access could somewhat reduce any impact from Corporation Tax reduction.

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“A devolved government has to be in place and the Executive should have demonstrated the fiscal sustainability of their Budgets. “At the moment, with the post-Election outlook very uncertain, and no Budget yet outlined (even in draft form) for 2017-18, let alone subsequent years, the position does not look very favourable. “If the corporation tax powers are to be switched, whether on time or a bit late, we may be somewhat reliant on some more forbearance from HM Treasury.”

Conor Lambe

So whilst Brexit, and the possibility of a reduced overall UK corporation tax rate, do pose their own problems to the cuts here, it is perhaps the Executive itself that is the biggest stumbling block to seeing them realised. Lambe sums it up well: “The planned cut in Northern Ireland’s corporation tax rate in April next year is still a possibility, but there are significant challenges that will need to be overcome if it is to happen.” ■


The dividend tax increase EXCHANGE ACCOUNTANCY DISCUSSES HOW CLEVER TAX PLANNING CAN BEAT THE TAXMAN HONESTLY

The taxation of dividends was fundamentally changed on 6th April 2016. The new rules mean that generally most individuals receiving dividend income will now be liable to pay more income tax. If you receive dividend income it is now more important than ever to review your tax position before the 6th April 2017. What are the dividend changes? Until 6th April 2016, all UK dividends received a notional 10% tax credit which was subsequently deducted from their tax liability. Basic rate taxpayers ultimately had no tax due on dividend income. The changes to the dividend regime have replaced the 10% tax credit with a £5,000 tax free dividend allowance. Any dividend income exceeding £5,000 will be taxed at the following rates;

Income Levels (£)

Tax Rate (%)

0-32,000

7.5

32,000-150,000

32.5

150,000+

38.1

It would also be prudent to review your entire remuneration package and put plans in place for the future. Our experts can develop a bespoke plan for you and your business which will cover the following areas, to name a few; • Bonus + dividend payments Planning payments in a tax efficient manner which complies with legal requirements. • Pensions The optimal level of pension contributions you should be taking whilst ensuring you are not subject to tax charges. • Allowances Maximising annual allowances and tax rate bands. • Married couples Reviewing the allocation of assets and utilising relief’s where applicable.

As highlighted in the following table, if you receive dividend income this could have a huge impact on your tax liability. For example, a husband and wife receiving £25,000 of dividend income each will now pay additional tax of £2,559, reducing their household income by over £200 per month.

Dividend Income (£)

Pre April 2016 Dividend Tax (£)

Post April 2016 Dividend Tax (£)

Additional Tax (£)

25,000

0

1,279.50

1,279.50

50,000

4,776.88

6,919.50

2,142.63

125,000

27,523.88

35,877

8,353.13

**The above examples are based on the individual receiving a salary of £8,060. How can we help? If you are in receipt of dividend income you should contact us as soon as possible to discuss how the changes will impact your 2016/17 tax bill.

• Loss relief Identifying potential claims and utilising in the most tax efficient manner • Deductible payments/tax efficient investments Assessing whether any deductions are available and exploring suitable tax efficient investments. • Salary sacrifice & share schemes Exploring whether such arrangements would be an ideal tax saving for you and your business.

Contact us If you would like us to review your tax position please contact Jennifer Glover on 028(90) 407470, or send an email to jennifer@ exchangeaccoutants.com.


TAX

Taking account of a new post-Brexit economy PETER BURNSIDE, MANAGING PARTNER AT BDO NORTHERN IRELAND, TAKES A LOOK AT WHAT THE FUTURE HOLDS FOR BUSINESS IN THE WAKE OF THE UPHEAVAL OF THE LAST FEW MONTHS

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e are living in a time of unprecedented change. Brexit, political uncertainties, emerging markets, technology and regulation are changing the fundamentals of the way we live and do business. All these changes pose some interesting questions. How should businesses react in such uncertain times and how can policymakers create the right environment to help them to flourish? More directly, what should Britain and Northern Ireland’s post-Brexit economy look like? After all, while change brings with it great risk there is also great opportunities for those ready and prepared to capitalise on them. In compiling our recent ‘Where Next? A New Economy’ report, we at BDO Northern Ireland took soundings on what factors will likely drive the new economy and identified the priority polices needed to support successful and sustainable growth. We started with one universally agreeable premise: the new economy should not be over-reliant on any one sector or region but should makes the most of the UK’s talents, skills and entrepreneurial spirit and support our fleet of nimble-footed midsized businesses to ride out any economic shockwaves from the Brexit negotiations. Our report suggested 22 policies that can help the UK achieve these ambitions. Perhaps surprisingly, tax, in one form or another, was a major factor in more than a third of these. Working through tax When looking to help businesses or sectors to grow it is tempting for policymakers to reach for tax incentives or subsidies. The Brexit negotiations limit the Government’s ability to

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Peter Burnside

do this as anything that looks like breaking state aid rules will potentially jeopardise our negotiating position with the EU. Of course, once the UK has left the EU the Government will have greater freedom to enact growth-promoting policies. We therefore suggest a two-stage approach: 1. Simplify tax structure – while the negotiations with the EU are ongoing, the Government should focus on making a virtue out of a necessity and simplifying the UK tax structure by taking a ‘simplicity over subsidy’ approach. 2. Create a new tax environment that rewards innovation and encourages growth – after 2020 or once the Brexit negotiations are completed (whichever comes first) the Government can then look at a balanced suite of well-targeted incentives and subsidies that reward investment and innovation.

Thereafter, a number of targeted tax incentives that could be brought in once the Brexit negotiations are completed, near completion or if there are bumps in the road. Three of our key policy asks are outlined below. 1. A moratorium on UK corporate tax incentives to give businesses certainty. Faced with complicated Brexit negotiations, the UK Government will be wary of introducing any new tax breaks or incentives that could be accused of breaking state aid rules. However, the Chancellor can make a virtue out of a necessity and focus instead on simplifying our tax code while negotiations are ongoing. In the last 30 years, the UK tax code has increased more than tenfold. A commitment to simplicity would be a clear signal to the world that the UK is a destination where


TAX

businesses can flourish. We believe the Chancellor should announce a moratorium until 2020 or until Brexit negotiations are completed (whichever happens first) on any changes that do not simplify the tax system. This will allow the Treasury to focus on Brexit and business leaders to focus on strengthening and growing their businesses for the long term. 2. Tax incentives to boost our growing technology sector. The government is right to be ambitious for the UK’s digital economy. The future of advanced economies such as the UK’s lies in growing research intensive, innovative and high-value digital companies. New industries and new companies need new ways of thinking about the corporate tax incentives currently offered to help companies to grow. Recent years have seen the introduction or improvement of corporate tax incentives for the innovation, development and ownership of intellectual property such as R&D tax credits, the Patent Box and creative sector reliefs.

While these reliefs are commonly accessed by the technology sector, they have not been designed with the sector in mind and the official published guidance does not approach their availability from a perspective that technology businesses will commonly understand without incurring significant professional fees. We would propose that, given the importance of the technology sector to the economy, a specific innovation credit for technology businesses is introduced which would give an R&D type credit to a wider range of technological innovation than under current rules, together with targeted guidance to assist technology businesses to more easily access and take full advantage of the existing incentives. 3. Cut VAT within the tourism industry. Hospitality and leisure is the UK’s fourth biggest sector and is one of the largest employers in Northern Ireland. However, it does face challenges in the near future. Many of the people it employs are from the EU and the sector is facing increased costs

from both the national living wage and the Apprenticeship Levy. Although a cheaper pound will benefit the tourism industry, more should be done to help this crucial sector grow. Alongside the British Hospitality Association we believe the Government should look at cutting VAT to 5% for hotel accommodation and visitor attractions, in line with other EU countries. This would bring us into line with fellow EU members, increase competitiveness with Ireland and could be achieved almost immediately. In Northern Ireland, we have a certain sense of resilience and we must remember that without change there is no innovation, creativity, or incentive for improvement. It is imperative that the right tax changes are there to match our post-Brexit ambitions. ■

For more information and for a copy of our report please see our website www.bdoni.com or contact our team on 02890439009.


TAX

R&D tax relief – don’t lose out Johnny Hanna, Partner and Head of Tax at KPMG in Northern Ireland, explains how you could take advantage of a key tax benefit

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n the Autumn Statement 2016 the UK Government committed to target spending increases in areas which are critical for productivity. Research and development (R&D) was one of four such areas and is looked upon as a key driver of economic growth. The National Productivity Investment Fund (NPIF) will provide an additional £4.7bn by 2020-21 in R&D funding (an additional spend of £2bn per annum and an increase of around 20% of total government R&D spending). Consequently, many companies in Northern Ireland are likely to invest in R&D activities within the next four or five years. Importantly, the government has committed to reviewing the tax environment for R&D to look at ways to make the UK an even more competitive place to do R&D. Johnny Hanna

R&D TAX RELIEF Large companies and SME’s carrying out R&D can claim a valuable R&D tax relief to reduce the amount of corporate tax they pay. For SME’s this is provided by a ‘super deduction’ of 230%. For every £100 of qualifying costs, an SME could reduce its taxable profits by an additional £130 on top of the £100 spent. In other words, based on a 20% corporate tax rate, a taxpaying SME could save £26 of tax for every £100 spent on R&D.

For large companies, in 2016 The Research and Development Expenditure Credit (RDEC) scheme replaced the original large company scheme. This scheme provides a taxable credit equal to 11% on the amount of qualifying R&D expenditure. The RDEC offsets the R&D cost above the ‘profit before tax’ line at an 11% rate; that is, it will increase profits by 11% of the eligible costs. This credit is taxable and therefore, assuming a tax rate of 20%, the net cash benefit is 8.8%.

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“CASH BACK” INCENTIVES R&D tax relief is also available for companies not liable for corporation tax. HMRC’s ‘cash back’ incentives are aimed at companies who carry out R&D activities but who may also be loss making and/or have little commercial activities. An SME in a loss making position can surrender the loss resulting from the enhanced R&D spend for a cash sum from the government (currently worth up to 33.35% of the original qualifying expenditure). For a large business that is not tax paying, either due to it being loss making or it using up losses brought forward, a maximum cash credit of 8.8p per £1 spend is available. SIGNIFICANCE FOR NORTHERN IRELAND Northern Ireland has over 118,000 businesses in the SME sector*. This accounts for

approximately 75% of turnover and employment in the private sector; significantly more than for the UK as a whole where the turnover share is less than 50% and the employment share is approximately 60%. This valuable tax relief for SME’s undertaking R&D in Northern Ireland could be of relevance to the majority of our business sector. R&D doesn’t just happen in the laboratory – often it’s the work a company considers to be a day-to-day activity: developing a new product; making improvements to a production process; trying out a new material to reduce costs. The definition is wide, and with significant savings available, it’s worth exploring if your activities meet the criteria. Don’t miss out on the opportunity to reduce your tax bill or avail of the ‘cash back’ incentive. ■ *Source: Federation of Small Businesses For further information contact Johnny Hanna, Partner and Head of Tax, KPMG in Northern Ireland (T: 028 9024 3377; E: johnny.hanna@kpmg.ie)


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ALLIANZ ARTS & BUSINESS NI AWARDS

Allianz Arts & Business NI Awards dock in Belfast in Big Telly’s space on Portstewart Prom. The boxes were then displayed in each of the shops forming a heritage trail around the three towns, before touring to schools and residential/care homes.

Allianz staff celebrating at the Allianz Arts & Business NI Awards with Allianz CEO, Sean McGrath

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he Old Stena Terminal, which is part of the Belfast Harbour, played host to over 250 guests recently for the Allianz Arts & Business NI Awards 2017.

of soprano Sinéad O’Kelly accompanied by the Ulster Orchestra. Local DJ Kwa Daniels provided beats to entertain the audience enhancing the celebratory atmosphere.

Dr Wendy Austin MBE compered the awards ceremony, steering the proceedings with her distinctive flair and conducting the audience on a journey of artistic excellence. There were nine awards presented in total to winning arts - business partnerships with award pieces designed and created by local artist, Wendy Ward.

Presenting the Allianz Arts & Business NI Awards, Sean McGrath, CEO, Allianz, highlighted the importance of the arts sector to society in general and applauded the commitment of local businesses to the sector.

The awards showcased examples of innovative creative collaborations between the business community and the arts sector, delivering a diverse range of tangible business benefits. The winning partnerships represented a varied section of the business community and arts sectors. Guests were entertained by an incredible medley of local creative talent, enjoying commanding performances by the Ulster Orchestra, a compelling extract of ‘The Boat Factory’ written by Dan Gordon and performed at the ceremony by Dan Gordon and Michael Condron. There was a special musical recital of ‘Happy Birthday’ by Sestina to celebrate A&B NI’s 30th year and an uplifting solo courtesy

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“The Allianz Arts & Business NI Awards celebrate excellent examples of best practice in terms of arts and business collaboration. These inspiring projects are making a real difference to everyone involved as well as enriching society as a whole.” ALLIANZ ARTS & BUSINESS NI CORPORATE RESPONSIBILITY AWARD 30 BUSINESSES IN COLERAINE, PORTRUSH & PORTSTEWART & BIG TELLY THEATRE COMPANY Trade Secrets engaged 30 local businesses in Coleraine, Portrush & Portstewart in a project celebrating the history of the High Street. Each shop hosted a visitor’s book to collect memories and photographs from their customers. Artists used the memories and stories collected to create miniature boxes of the participating shops, which were exhibited

ALLIANZ ARTS & BUSINESS NI CULTURAL BRANDING AWARD DUNNES STORES & MILLENNIUM FORUM & THEATRE CONFERENCE CENTRE Dunnes have sponsored the Millennium Forum’s pantomime for four years. What started out as a partnership based on raising brand awareness has now flourished into so much more. Dunnes, with the forum created the ‘Sew Fabulous Costume Collective’, a project to offer young people with autism a chance to explore their creative side when it comes to fashion. They provided 30 hours of costume making classes, in a safe friendly environment. ALLIANZ ARTS & BUSINESS NI SUSTAINED PARTNERSHIP AWARD TRANSLINK & FESTIVAL OF FOOLS Since 2012, Translink and Festival of Fools have enjoyed an unbroken partnership. This partnership has been an evolution which has seen the sponsorship grow annually. In 2016, the Festival of Fools presented seven youth and community shows in Writers’ Square, sponsored by Translink. The shows were staged by Young AmBUSadors and Young EnterTRAINers and were presented over two days. The partners created an environment to encourage maximum dwell time at the festival. ALLIANZ ARTS & BUSINESS NI EMPLOYEE ENGAGEMENT AWARD HERBERT SMITH FREEHILLS & NATIONAL TRUST Herbert Smith Freehills (HSF) and the National Trust have had an ongoing relationship since 2011. This project launched a creative writing competition, asking the local community the best way of re-imagining Belmont Tower. A total of 150 primary school children and local adults were engaged whilst a team of local artists delivered the project.


ALLIANZ ARTS & BUSINESS NI AWARDS ALLIANZ ARTS & BUSINESS NI NEW SPONSOR AWARD MOVIE HOUSE CINEMAS & TITANIC CREATIVE MANAGEMENT The Capitol Creations project launched with a viral competition for local make-up artists to submit their best Hunger Games inspired make up looks. A total of 40 of these artists were chosen to take part in a specialist make up workshop, led by Hollywood Make Up Artist Brian Kinney, who actually worked on the Hunger Games. This project was created to actively engage Movie House’s target audience of 16–22 year olds, by animating the cinema foyer and connecting local young people with Hollywood, inspiring them to consider a career in the creative industries.

Sean McGrath, CEO, Allianz; Zoe Seaton, Linda McCracken, Big Telly Theatre Company, winner of Allianz Arts & Business NI Arts Award; Dr Joanne Stuart OBE, Chair and Mary Nagele, Chief Executive, Arts & Business NI

ALLIANZ ARTS & BUSINESS NI ARTS BOARD MEMBER OF THE YEAR AWARD DAVID GOULD & TINDERBOX THEATRE COMPANY In March 2015 Tinderbox received news of a severe cut to its annual public funding. David Gould, then Deputy Chair, stepped up and provided immediate support and direction. With David’s support, the company developed a new working model to fit the new financial circumstances, an ambitious artistic programme, a new strategic business plan, and also submitted two major annual funding applications, whilst delivering a full programme of productions.

ALLIANZ ARTS & BUSINESS NI ARTS AWARD BIG TELLY THEATRE COMPANY Formed in 1987, Big Telly is the longest established professional theatre company in Northern Ireland. Big Telly’s work is driven by a determination to offer audiences entertainment that surprises, stimulates and ignites the imagination. The company’s range and scale of work is unparalleled, with its reputation for innovation built upon distinctive theatre productions which tour nationally and internationally, its entrepreneurial projects with unique strategies for engagement and its pioneering work with young and older people.

Sean McGrath, CEO, Allianz; Lynda Shannon, Ursula Henderson, Translink, winner of Allianz Arts & Business NI Business of the Year Award; Dr Joanne Stuart OBE, Chair and Mary Nagele, Chief Executive, Arts & Business NI

MARCH 2017

ALLIANZ ARTS & BUSINESS NI BUSINESS OF THE YEAR AWARD TRANSLINK When it comes to collaborating with arts organisations, transport company Translink really goes places. It has a long-established and successful track record of working with a variety of arts organisations including Cinemagic International Film and Television Festival, arts festival Féile an Phobail and Culture Night Belfast. In addition Translink have an enduring partnership with Festival of Fools whilst this year it collaborated for the first time with Young at Art. ALLIANZ ARTS & BUSINESS NI COMMUNITY ART AWARD RODEN STREET COMMUNITY DEVELOPMENT GROUP Roden Street Community Development Group (RSCDG) represents the genuine heart of the community. Winning the Allianz Community Art Award of £2,000 will fund the ‘Grosvenor Art for Life Programme’ which will engage children and young people from a disadvantaged community background. This will involve workshops focused on art and history and will culminate in a permanent installation of art pieces produced by children from the local area in the Grosvenor Community Centre Community Garden. Special thanks to: Diageo, JTI, Harrison Photography, Nicholson & Bass, Whitenoise, Belfast Harbour, Ulster Orchestra, Batty’s Hire Services and Third Source. Arts & Business NI’s principal funder is the Arts Council of NI. Find Arts & Business NI at: T: 028 9073 5150; Facebook: Arts & Business NI; E:info@ artsandbusinessni.org.uk; Twitter: arts_ businessni; YouTube: ArtsandBusinessNI

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RECRUITMENT

Strong order books driving demand for interim professionals By John Moore, Regional Managing Director of Hays Northern Ireland

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usinesses are leaning ever-more on highly-skilled professionals for interim, fixed-term and temporary assignments, according to our halfyear review of job registrations and appointments.

For some time, demand has been rising within Northern Ireland for work on projects or one-off commissions. Our latest figures show temporary placements are up 36%, compared to an equally encouraging increase in permanent appointments of 24%. This rising demand for specialists on temporary assignments and project work partly reflects the encouraging levels of new investment around Belfast. This positivity ties in with the findings of the latest Hays UK Salary and Recruiting Trends 2017 where nine out of ten (94 per cent) organisations voiced their expectation that business activity will either remain the same or increase in the coming year. More reassuringly, uptake of interim workers is by no means confined to the construction sector. We are finding demand runs across the legal, finance, technology and back office support sectors. Our recommendation to our clients remains consistent: put the candidate in the driving seat throughout the process. It’s easy to forget that a new role, for interim staff as much as permanent jobseekers, is a stressful decision. Candidates are often only inspired to take on a new contract when they understand the scale of a project and the impact of the planned change on the future of the organisation, and it is important to keep contractors motivated and focused to the very end of the contract. No-one wants a situation where a contractor commences a new project weeks before the completion of a handover. While difficult to predict longer-term challenges for the economy, current sentiment is best evidenced in the number of skilled professionals who are happy to place their search for permanent employment on hold in favour of undertaking challenging and varied contracts. ■

To find out more about Hays Northern Ireland log on to hays.co.uk/ni or follow us on Twitter @HaysN_Ireland

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David Jameson Roofing Services is a second generation family business established for 31 years based in Portadown, Northern Ireland. Our main services are: • All types of roofing works • Asbestos removal & surveys We carry out all types of roofing works, including felt, PVC, rubber, liquid plastics, cladding slate, tiles etc. The company also provides roofing surveys for clients who would like a more detailed report on their existing roof membrane and structure. The report details the roof’s current conditions and highlights any issues and concludes with our recommendations. The final draft also comes with photographs, effectively bringing the roof to you! Through our asbestos division ARC (Asbestos Removal Contractors), we are a licensed asbestos removal contractor. The department also carries out asbestos surveys (management and refurbishment / demolition surveys). The firm earned recognition of professional management and workmanship by achieving the following awards and accreditations: • Gold Award in Roofing Safety 2016, 2015, 2014 and 2013 • Finalist in the Construction News 2016 Roofing Specialist of the Year • Finalist in the CEFNI Construction Excellence Awards for Training 2012, 2013, 2015 and 2016 • Finalist in the CEFNI Construction Excellence Awards 2016 for Environmental Sustainability • CIOB Chartered Building Company – Achieved 2016 • Safe T-Cert level B • BS 8555 Environmental Management level 6 • ISO 9001 Quality Management Systems • Investor in People Award. David Jameson Roofing Services has multi-trained staff which allows us to carry out complete package options for clients without the need to involve other contractors - removing existing roofs (asbestos sheeting), preparing existing (flat roofs) for new and replacing them with new waterproof membrane systems.

For more information please contact David Jameson Roofing Services on 02838 339366 or davidjr@djrs.co.uk


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VIEW FROM DUBLIN

No quick fixes in complex world of globalised trade Brendan Keenan offers a view from Dublin on the likely trade landscape for the island of Ireland in a post-Brexit era

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T is almost 30 years since French company Pernod Ricard bought whiskey-maker Irish Distillers and sales of Jameson are booming.

means. All that French expertise, global distribution, money and marketing skills - and it was still three decades before the longawaited rediscovery of Irish whiskey takes place.

Another overnight success. This is what trade in a sophisticated product

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It is a matter of being ready when the cycle of consumer taste turns, helped on its way

by some judicious, and expensive, marketing. Being free to enter the market is only the beginning. Current politics are breaking all known records for nonsense but the stuff on trade and "free trade" probably heads this depressing list. Those politics rely a lot on


VIEW FROM DUBLIN wheeling out the issue the politician wants to talk about, so as to avoid the others. I like to call it "making smoke" after the tactic (before the invention of radar) of warships hiding themselves behind columns of special thick smoke from their funnels. In the case of Brexit, trade is the UK government's chosen smoke. There are a few things more impenetrable than the apparently simple business of trade. Not least of the difficulties is that the arguments in favour of trade go against common sense. Better surely, to make things at home than buy them abroad? Not so, says the main line of economic thought - as in much economic theory, common sense is misleading. No wonder economists' failures in the prediction game led people to question even the theories built on past events. US President Donald Trump expounds the common-sense view of the person on the bar stool. His policies will be popular, unless and until the economists are proved right and US living standards fall because of higher prices caused by Trumponomics. The UK government position, on the other hand, flies in the face of both common sense and economic theory. It says, in effect, that there is something in membership of the European Union which holds back its trade with the rest of the world. The implication is that the EU's trading relations with the rest of the world are so restrictive that a country on its own could do much better. No remotely convincing arguments are advanced as to why, or how, this is so. All that could be said is that the UK's trade with the US and China combined is half its trade with the EU. It is not explained how this nonEU trade is to grow so rapidly that it will be able to offset any losses in sales to the EU and still increase Britain's total global exports. As the Jameson story shows, modern trade does not work like that. Another lesson comes from the UK experiment with a cheaper pound after the crash. Currency movements are more important to business than tariffs. They can be just as large, or larger, and may happen at any time, whereas tariff adjustments are rare.

MARCH 2017

“The public finances are in no condition to cushion another recession; still less to provide long-term support to the most affected sectors.” Yet the effect of sterling's falls after 2011 was seen in higher prices, with inflation reaching five per cent, rather than a reduction in Britain's trade deficit. Prices rise quickly and the deficit falls slowly, if at all. The Bank of England, which was caught by surprise with the speed of price rises, now expects exactly the same to happen if sterling continues to weaken. Inflation is already climbing and, with wages subdued, the fall in purchasing power could radically alter the Brexit debate. In the Republic, we like to point out that UK's exports to Ireland are about half the €45bn total to the US, and more than those to China, but few seem to notice. It is also a fifth of UK trade with the whole EU, even though the Irish market represents only 2%. It will be a long time, if ever, before UK firms make up for the disruption to their Irish sales and purchases by expanding in other markets or finding new suppliers. Alas, it must be admitted, it will be even longer, if ever, before Irish firms can recoup their losses. Once upon a time, when economic theories were first developed, price was the most important determinant of supply and demand. It may still be true of some products - steel comes to mind - but when a smartphone costs £50 to assemble and retails for £250, tariffs have little to do with it. At this point, one should say a word for Singapore. Insofar as Mrs May was able to give any explanation as to how this export miracle is to occur, she hinted that the UK might emulate places like Singapore with low taxes and light regulation, thereby energising local firms and attracting foreign ones. Quite apart from what UK voters would make of that, there is a lot more to Singapore than

ultra-free markets. It invests enormously in physical and human capital, stresses innovation, has a surplus three times as large as Germany's, relative to its economic size, and public finances which make the UK look like a drunken sailor. If only the Republic could say the same. We are not in good shape to face into this existential threat. There is virtually no public investment and nothing in the country's infrastructure would strike a global company as first class, while much would strike it as woeful. Costs are again rising faster than elsewhere, and look set to keep rising. The education system, which delivered great gains as it went from one of the worst in Europe to somewhat above average in the 1990s, has been treading water, or even sinking, since. It could not meet even the obvious requirements for software specialists and foreign language skills. The public finances are in no condition to cushion another recession; still less to provide long-term support to the most affected sectors. The temptation for government will be to settle for a lorry load of EU money as a response to Ireland's special difficulties, but that will solve nothing. There is no point making our own smoke about developing European markets or breaking into China. Farming representatives have pointed out how little success there has been selling beef there, or in the USA, despite the opening of these "exciting" new markets some years ago. Irish business has done well in the UK market but it may have to do even better to just to hold its position. While no doubt working hard behind the scenes, the Irish government seems to be adopting the traditional Irish stance that now is not the right time for overt action. It may fall to business - and unions - to set out in detail the special arrangements needed for the island of Ireland to avoid a crisis becoming a disaster. Even if we get them, we will still have to all the difficult things we said we would do, but didn't, three decades ago, when Ireland joined the European Monetary System - without the UK. ■

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SOCIAL MEDIA

Top 10 social media commandments for over-40s With a little know-how and a lot of ego-restraint, it's possible to raise your social media game and be talked about for all the right reasons, if you stick by the rules, writes Alexander Fitzgerald. 1. THOU SHALT NOT CONFUSE PRIVATE AND GROUP CHATS If you're going to be discussing anything of a confidential or sensitive nature, whatever you do, make sure that it is sent to the intended recipient and not to a wider audience. There's an enormous difference between private and group chats, so before you press 'send', make sure you know your audience. 2. THOU SHALT THINK TWICE BEFORE POSTING POTENTIALLY DIVISIVE VIEWS Whether it's broadcasting your support for Glen Hansard's efforts to raise awareness of the homeless problem, pontificating on Brexit or nailing your flag to any political mast, it's advisable to save yourself the bother of getting into a digital debate with those that fail to share your views. You'll never win, and things tend to turn ugly. 3. THOU SHALT NOT CONFUSE SOCIAL MEDIA WITH A SEARCH ENGINE Google is a wonderful thing: amongst its many virtues, it can inform you of, for instance, the local bus timetable, the supermarket's opening hours, tomorrow's weather and, believe it or not, whether it's a Bank Holiday next week. And that is why no one ever needs to infuriate their friends and followers with such queries. 4. THOU SHALT REFRAIN FROM BERATING YOUR PARTNER ONLINE Unless your name is Katie Price, who launched a memorably foul-mouthed Twitter tirade on her cheating husband back in 2014, social media is not an outlet to vent online spleen about the state of your relationship - nor is it advisable

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to leave passive-aggressive comments on your partner's posts. It’s best to keep private things, well, private. Don't air your dirty laundry in public: those social media skid marks hang around online forever! 5. THOU SHALT RESPECT YOUR CHILDREN'S PRIVACY Yes, little Fiona looks incredibly cute and you want the world to know, but fast forward a few years and her teenage self is unlikely to appreciate her inadvertent entrée into the record books. Nor will he be too amused when his classmates find them online. 6. THOU SHALT USE HASTAGS SPARINGLY... #tedious #annoying #inane #youdonthavetousethemon everypost #lesscanbemore #thatisall …BUT THOU SHALT PROCEED WITH CAUTION IF A HASHTAG IS UNAVOIDABLE If you simply must make use of that # symbol, for decency's sake, do so with care - something which Susan Boyle's PR team failed to grasp when promoting her album launch. Cue one of the most memorable hashtag fails ever: #susanalbumparty. 7. THOU SHALT EXERCISE QUALITY CONTROL WHEN REQUESTING FRIENDS That girl you once sat next to in primary school? The goalkeeper from the under-10s football team? As more than 30 years have passed since you last crossed paths, there's a high chance that they won't wish to be plagued with friend requests. Similarly, don't even think about trying to add

your children's friends (it's more common than you might think). 8. THOU SHALT PROOFREAD BEFORE POSTING "Fail to prepare, prepare to fail." Roy Keane's words of wisdom apply just as much to social media as they do to football. To avoid any embarrassing errors, compose your posts, updates or tweets in a Notes app or word processing document so that, unlike Donald 'unpresidented' (sic) Trump, you can doublecheck grammar and spelling before sharing. 9. THOU SHALT NOT HUMBLEBRAG There's a thin line between acceptable self-promotion and blatant bragging. It's absolutely fine, in X Factor-speak, to 'own' your achievements, certainly; but if your status is a constant flow of self-administered backslaps diluted with some lame self-depreciating comments, it shows all the class of a footballer's wife on a shopping spree. 10. THOU SHALT NOT TRY TO RUN BEFORE YOU CAN WALK Those new to the digital game may consider seeking assistance rather than risk making an online show of themselves. Possibly taking inspiration from the former UK Shadow Chancellor Ed Balls, who accidentally tweeted his own name while typing it into a search engine (an occasion still celebrated online each year on April 28, dubbed 'Ed Balls Day'), fellow Luddite Sean Spicer was the talk of the Twittersphere last month when he tweeted "n9y25ah7" during his first week as White House Press Secretary. ■


Motoring By Pat Burns

Sponsored by


MOTORING

Prius joins plug-in set and 78mpg after hard drive beats the diesels

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or 20 years the Toyota Prius has been synonymous with eco-friendly motoring.

That has been thanks to a clever hybrid system that combines a petrol engine with an electric motor to deliver standard-setting fuel consumption and emission figures.Now it adds another string to its bow, with the arrival in June of a plug-in version of the fourthgeneration Prius that went on sale last year. It’s the first Prius of this type to be offered here. A plug-in version of the previous generation wasn’t considered to have sufficient benefits over the regular series hybrid to make sense for Irish motorists. This second-generation plug-in hybrid offers a rather impressive official CO2 emissions figure of just 22g/km. And a claimed fuel consumption figure of 1litre per 100km.

The vehicle offers, Toyota claim, a driving range in excess of 50km on pure electric power. It’s also faster to charge - two hours with a fast charge connector, or 3 hours 10 minutes using a standard plug socket. There’s some clever technology involved.

That’s equivalent to a mind-boggling 283mpg - though you have to take that figure with a pinch of salt, as you do with nearly every plug-in. In comparison, the regular Prius (on 17ins rims - the plug-in car comes with 15ins only) returns official figures of 76g/km CO2 and 3.3l/100 km (85.6mpg) fuel consumption. It’s a bit more conventional looking than the more striking series hybrid Prius. The front boasts LED adaptive headlights and different grille and bumper, while the signature vertical tail lights of the regular car are replaced with a more conventional horizontal design. To save weight, it is also the first production car to boast a carbon fibre reinforced plastic (CFRP) tailgate. Using the same 1.8-litre petrol engine, power output - at 122PS - is unchanged, while a similarly-sized 43-litre tank means that longer journeys can be completed without a hint of range anxiety. Instead of the relatively compact 1.31kWh nickel-metal-hydride battery in the regular Prius, the plug-in has a lithium-ion version with a capacity of 8.8kWh.

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A Dual Motor Drive System allows the hybrid system generator to act as a second electric motor, while the Battery Warming System which minimises the impact of cold weather, and air-conditioning powered by a gas-injection heat pump, all improve the electric vehicle (EV) driving range. You can also have your Plug-In Prius with an optional solar panel roof. That is probably not designed with Irish weather in mind, but it is part of Toyota’s long-term dream to have an electric car that charges itself. In sunny climes they say you could get up to 1,000km of all-electric driving each year from it.

It’s natural environment is around town where the extended EV range made it a silent and easy-to-drive companion. But what of real-world fuel consumption over longer distances? At the European launch we drove more than 180km in a most deliberately non-eco friendly manner. And we did so across a selection of city and country roads, as well as covering a decent selection of motorways. Despite regularly flooring the throttle we nonetheless returned a respectable average consumption of 3.6l/100km (78.5mpg). Not too many diesels could match that sort of return. Here, Toyota have yet to completely finalise prices and specifications, but you can three grade levels and a starting price in the region of £31,000. That is around £2,500 more than the regular Prius in Luxury trim.

There are downsides compared to the series hybrid Prius, largely because of the need to

The new Prius plug-in is not a gamechanger - there are an increasing number of plug-in hybrids appearing that offer similar performance.

accommodate the bigger battery. There’s only room for two in the back, while boot capacity drops significantly from 501 litres to 360 litres.

But it is certainly a useful addition to the Prius family.

It’s also heavier by some 130kg, with much of that extra weight concentrated in the back of the car.

And for drivers with daily commutes under the 50km mark, it is one that might just make the initial purchase cost worthwhile. ■


MOTORING

Seventh generation 5 Series By Pat Burns

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ith almost 7.9m BMW 5 Series cars sold around the world so far, the seventh generation 5 Series continues the finest tradition of its forebears by offering a fine blend of driving dynamics, comfort and functionality. The new 5 Series Saloon uses the latest technology from within BMW to create a saloon that’s more refined than ever before, significantly lighter, safer, and more fuel efficient. The new generation family of TwinPower Turbo engines provide impressive performance gains, but also show major advances in reducing fuel consumption and emissions. An extensive suite of driver assistance technologies including BMW Lane Keeping Assistant and Lane Change Assistant mean that not only does the new 5 Series Saloon reduce the driver’s workload like never before, it also takes a notable step towards fully autonomous driving. Other technologies include Remote Control Parking – as seen first on the 7 Series – and the optional Parking Assistant and Parking Assistant Plus packages, which enable automated parking with the greatest of ease in both parallel parking spaces and perpendicular or angled spaces. Surround View and Remote 3D View offer peace of mind to anyone who frequently finds themselves manoeuvring in awkward traffic situations and the optional Display Key offers a host of other functions with Remote operation of the auxiliary ventilation being just one example.

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As standard on the BMW 5 Series, the latest generation of the Professional Navigation system boasts a fast start-up, even faster route calculation and more realistic 3D graphics in cities. BMW is now the first carmaker to offer Microsoft Office 365 users a secure server connection for exchanging and editing emails, calendar entries and contact details thanks to the car’s built-in Microsoft Exchange function. The 5 Series is available to order now, prices start from £36,025 OTR. Next month will see a plug-in hybrid variant of the new 5 Series. Featuring technology derived directly from the BMW i brand, the BMW 530e iPerformance Saloon offers a dynamic driving experience with exceptionally efficient performance as well as all-electric mobility with zero tailpipe emissions, as and when required. The intelligently controlled interaction between the combustion engine and the electric drive, which together generate a total system output of 252hp, gives the BMW 530e Saloon rapid acceleration while offering a substantial reduction in fuel consumption and emissions. The BMW 530e achieves combined fuel consumption of 141.2mpg, and a combined electricity consumption of 9.2kWh with CO2 emissions of just 46g/km. The BMW 530e iPerformance has a range of nearly 400 miles in realworld driving and is capable of covering distances of up to 29 miles using purely electric power at a maximum speed of 87mph. ■


MOTORING

New Crossland leads Vauxhall’s SUV expansion

By Pat Burns

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his is Vauxhall’s new Crossland X, the latest addition to their range of SUV models.

Crisp and compact on the outside, spacious and flexible on the inside, with two-tone paintwork and SUV-styling, the newcomer adds a second vital ingredient to Vauxhall’s burgeoning SUV offering, which is due to grow still further in 2017 with the launch of the larger Grandland X later in the year. While the Crossland X’s recently-launched sibling, the Mokka X, has all-wheel-drive capability, is 70mm higher and has larger wheels for buyers with a taste for adventure, the Crossland X has a firm family focus, with a roomy and versatile cabin providing high degrees of practicality and flexibility. And at just 4.21 metres in length the Crossland X is more compact than the Mokka X, and a full 16cm shorter than the Astra Hatch, offering owners greater convenience while driving and manoeuvring in towns and cities. Adding to Crossland X’s urban appeal is an elevated

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seating position and an overall height, which is raised ten centimetres above the Astra’s. The Crossland X also enters a different SUV class to the Mokka X, with rivals such as the Renault Captur and Peugeot 2008. The Mokka X’s competitors include the Nissan Juke and Skoda Yeti. Driver and passenger comfort has been an obvious priority for a car entering this class. The Crossland X has specially designed seats for the driver and front passenger, while rear passengers can adjust their seating position to increase leg room. This seating flexibility is equally valuable for luggage capacity, which is a class-leading 410 litres with the rear seats up. The flexibility of the rear seats allows the luggage capacity to be increased if additional leg room is not required. Additional innovations in the Crossland X make driving safer and more comfortable, and include a 180-degree panoramic rearview camera, advanced park assist, forward collision alert with pedestrian detection

and autonomous emergency braking, lane departure warning, speed sign recognition and side blind-spot alert, among others. The cutting-edge technology is not limited to driver assistance and safety features though, with drivers benefitting from exceptional connectivity that is becoming the norm in Vauxhall models. Vauxhall OnStar, as well as IntelliLink infotainment systems, compatible with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, keeps drivers connected in a convenient and responsible way through an up to eight-inch colour touchscreen. An extensive petrol/diesel engine portfolio with manual and automatic transmissions also features. Since 2012, the Mokka (which has recently been replaced by the new Mokka X) has found more than 120,000 buyers in the UK, its single biggest market in Europe, and this has been set against an SUV segment which have grown year-on-year. The Crossland X is set to bring still more growth when it goes on sale this summer. ■

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MOTORING

The new SUV – Suzuki Uniquely Versatile By Pat Burns

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uzuki has launched a new Ignis, a compact SUV designed to handle all the rigours of modern life.

In addition to its stylish exterior design, the Ignis features excellent visibility, an easy to drive size, spacious cabin and ample luggage space as well as offering Allgrip four wheel drive transmission. For the new Ignis, body rigidity has been enhanced by approximately 10% and with the use of a new structure and very high tensile steel the total vehicle weight has been reduced by around 15 per cent. The lightest Ignis model has a kerb weight of just 810kg. Standard equipment for all Ignis models in the range is comprehensive and the SZ3 model includes six airbags, air conditioning, DAB radio with Bluetooth, 15-inch wheels, body coloured door mirrors, front electric windows and five seat capacity. SZ-T adds satellite navigation, rear view

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camera, 16-inch alloy wheels, roof rails, wheel arch extensions and four seat capacity with individually sliding rear seats. SZ5 adds auto air conditioning, Dual Camera Brake Support, keyless entry and start, rear electric windows, LED Headlghts with DRL and front foglamps. The choice of engines include the 1.2 litre Dualjet used in the Swift and Baleno and is also available as a mild hybrid in the SZ5 manual model. The SHVS mild hybrid is a compact and lightweight unit that incorporates an Integrated Starter Generator (known as ISG) which acts as both a generator and starter motor, the ISG is belt driven and assists the engine during vehicle take off and acceleration and also generates electricity through regenerative braking. The system also uses a compact high performance lithium-ion battery placed under the front passenger seat to store energy and incorporates an idle stop function operated via the Integrated Start Generator. The SHVS system only uses its conventional engine

starter motor when first started from cold, under all other conditions it uses the ISG unit to allow smooth and quiet engine restarts. The ISG unit has a power output of 2.3kW and a torque figure of 50Nm. In the new Ignis the SHVS system helps Suzuki reach a top class CO2 emissions figure of 97g/ km plus achieve a fuel consumption figure of 65.7mpg on the EC combined cycle for the 2WD model. The new Ignis adopts Suzuki’s ALLGRIP ‘AUTO’ four-wheel drive system. First introduced in Swift, this is a well proven and simple fully automatic and permanent four-wheel drive layout which transfers additional torque to the rear wheels when required via a viscous coupling, further enhancing the already highly acclaimed cornering ability of the Ignis. It is also an ideal choice for customers living in rural areas who may need additional mobility across rougher terrain or for crossing slippery surfaces during winter months without owning a more conventional SUV sized vehicle. Prices for the Ignis range start at £9,995. ■


PROFILE

Name: Jim Hughes Position: Premier Wealth Management

A word from

The Wise How did you start out in business? After returning home from six months in New York, I was lucky enough to be offered a job in the Prudential as one of their agents. Over the next few years I worked for a number of large insurers but it was a time of huge change in our industry and many companies were closing the advisory arm of their business. After being made redundant a number of times due to the dreaded “restructures” I decided to set up in business myself and take charge of my career. Premier started in Jan 2005 and grew quickly then managed through the downturn then in January last year after being , approached by St. James’s Place Wealth Management, a FTSE 100 company with over £70bn of assets under management we became one of their senior Partner Practices in Northern Ireland. What did you find the most challenging during your years in business? I work in a business that can be impacted by the sometimes personal challenges people face in life and helping people face and overcome those challenges is something I get a real buzz from. I enjoy nothing better than seeing someone achieve their potential in my business and flourishing while making a good living and delivering for our clients. How would you describe your management style? I tend to focus on outcomes rather than micromanage everything on a day to day basis. We monitor the feedback we get from our clients and have a series of quality checks on the advice we give. I believe if I have the right people in place and they are delivering the outcomes I require, then I should

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The column with an ear for experience...

trust them to continue to do that and not constantly look over their shoulders. What would you change if you could go back and do it all again? I am not one for regrets and always try to learn from situations, both personal and business, so as to be better placed in the future. There are of course things I look back on and think “I could have dealt with that better” but I can’t change it so I’d rather use the lesson in a positive way. Have you done it all on your own? No, certainly not! I work with some excellent people and through our hard work we have developed a loyal client base who come back to us time and time again. I’m also lucky enough to have great friends and a fit and healthy family. How would you like your business career to be remembered? I’d like Premier to be seen as the place to go for financial advice delivered in a clear transparent way with integrity and to be remembered as being central to creating that culture in the organisation. This is something I’m now working with St. James’s Place on and putting in place the structures for succession whenever that time comes. Not for a while yet though, I’ve still things I want to do! What piece of advice would you give a 20 year old you? Whatever you do, do it to the very best of your ability, there really is no substitute for hard work and don’t spend time constantly looking for shortcuts. Success is having a full and happy life. ■

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APPOINTMENTS

Bronagh Bourke has been appointed Audit Director at Grant Thornton Northern Ireland. With 15 years’ audit experience, Bronagh will manage a broad spectrum of clients in corporate audit. Maeve Hunt has been appointed Associate Director at Grant Thornton Northern Ireland. With 10 years’ experience, Maeve will manage SMEs and large corporate bodies across numerous industry sectors. The Construction Industry Grouphas appointed Martin Hare as its new Chairman. Martin is a Chartered Architect and a Director in McAdam Design.

Nuala Darragh has joined A&L Goodbody as a solicitor in Litigation and Dispute Resolution. Nuala specialises in providing commercial litigation advice and has advised on a wide range of matters. Tanya Surgeon has been appointed solicitor in A&L Goodbody’s Restructuring & Insolvency department. She trained with A&L Goodbody and recently qualified to the Restructuring and Insolvency team. Paul Dornan has been appointed solicitor in Mergers, Acquisitions and Corporate at A&L Goodbody. Paul trained with A&L Goodbody and specialises in providing transactional and commercial advice.

Simon Cunningham has been appointed Client Executive at Lighthouse Communications. With over 10 years’ media experience, Simon was most recently business correspondent at the Irish News. Andy Ruding has joined Moy Park as Head of Customer Service. Track record: Andy held the position of Head of Planning at Moy Park prior to this role and previously was Head of Demand Planning at Nortel. Ian Bowers has joined Moy Park as Director of Procurement. Prior to joining Moy Park in 2013, Ian was VP for Strategic and Central Procurement for BT Plc and Procurement Director for Kraft Foods.

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APPOINTMENTS

Paul Longstaff has been appointed Planning and Logistics Director at Moy Park. Previously Head of Supply Chain Optimisation, Paul will now lead Moy Parkâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s full planning and logistics function. Graham Fergus has been promoted to Facilities Manager by Wilsons Auctions. Following the acquisition of new branches across the UK. Katherine Dawson has joined Wilsons Auctions as Marketing Executive. Katherine will use expertise in the promotion of all activity across the Telford, Queensferry, Dalry and Newcastle-Upon-Tyne branches.

David Rowlands has joined Wilsons Auctions as Stock Controller. He will manage the high volume of items entering the Belfast branch as well as transport related issues. Sacha Boyd has been appointed by Wilsons Auctions as Auction Support. Sacha will be customer focused, dealing with general enquiries, processing auction entries, cash handling and overseeing general administration duties. Mark Graham has been appointed as chief executive of Co-Ownership Housing Northern Ireland. Mark has a background in the housing sector at the Northern Ireland Housing Executive.

Roisin Moss has recently been appointed Legal Recruitment Consultant at Abacus Professional Recruitment. Roisin started her career at Abacus two years ago, training as a Legal Account Executive. Ewan Lockhart joins the Abacus Professional Recruitment Team as an IT Recruiter. With several years in the industry, Ewan has a proven track record of growing international businesses. Tricia Mitchell has been appointed Senior Travel Consultant for independent travel company, Terra Travel. Tricia is wellknown in the local travel industry having worked for ski specialist agency, Ski McNeill since she was 18.

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PHOTOCALL 1. Northern Ireland’s most forwardthinking and successful food and drink companies are being called on to step forward and enter the Northern Ireland Food and Drink Awards. Pictured launching the awards are Nigel Walsh, Director, Commercial Banking at Ulster Bank along with Michael Bell, Executive Director for the Northern Ireland Food and Drink Association (NIFDA).

2. Belfast is charged up with the installation of new solar powered ‘street charge’ units within the grounds of City Hall. Recharging their phones at the new street units in the grounds of Belfast City Hall are The Lord Mayor of Belfast Alderman Brian Kingston and Alan Lowry, managing director of ESF who supplied the units.

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3. Naomi Waite, Tourism NI Director of Marketing, launches Tourism NI’s Say Hello to More campaign targeting the domestic and Republic of Ireland markets alongside Janice Gault, Chief Executive of NI Hotels Federation.

4. Jackie Henry, senior partner of Deloitte in Belfast, received her MBE at a ceremony in Buckingham Palace last month. Mrs Henry was awarded the honour in the Queen’s birthday honours list for services to the Northern Ireland Economy.

5. Dr Richard Steevens, the founder of Synergy, one of the world’s largest medical outsourcing firms - which he recently sold for almost $2billion - is making a £2million investment in start-up arc-net which he says will revolutionise traceability in the global food chain. He’s pictured left, and Kieran Kelly, of arc-net, announcing the investment.

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6. Two women from Northern Ireland have graduated from Flybe’s most recent cabin crew training Initials programme and have been presented with their ‘Wings’ by the airline’s new Chief Executive Officer, Christine Ourmieres-Widener. Pictured are Kerry Craig (left) from Ballymoney and Laura Thompson (centre) from Portavogie with Ms OurmieresWidener.

7. Stephen McCully, Managing Director of Power NI and Philip Rainey, Chief Executive of Simple Power, are pictured in Ballyclare at one of several 250kW wind turbines projects completed in recent months.

8. Tughans partner Maria O’Loan (right) pictured with Gillian Thomson, Action Cancer. The staff of the Belfast law firm spent the last 12 months fundraising for Action Cancer and raised £7,000. Action Cancer, Northern Ireland’s leading local cancer charity was selected by the staff of Tughans as their chosen charity of the year for 2016.

9. MINI retailer Prentice has teamed up with Carolyn Stewart at U105 to launch the brand-new ‘Car-aoke’ campaign to celebrate the launch of the MINI Countryman. Pictured are Ryan Simpson (Prentice Portadown MINI Manager), Carolyn Stewart (U105) and Judi McClelland (Prentice Portadown CRM Manager).

10. Tourism NI Chairman Terence Brannigan has congratulated Enniskillen couple Elma and Derick Noble on 50 years in the tourism business. Lackaboy House B&B on Old Tempo Road opened in 1967 and has welcomed thousands of visitors through its doors including visitors from Canada, USA, and China.

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PHOTOCALL

11. Air-tastic, which is part of the Funky Monkeys brand, has secured a loan from the Growth Loan Fund to open its first indoor trampoline park in Bangor, creating 30 new jobs. Pictured are (centre) David McCurley, Senior Investment Manager at WhiteRock Capital Partners; Mark Simpson, Alison Simpson and Henry Moore, Directors at Air-tastic.

12. Pictured at the recent Cleaver Fulton Rankin event, ‘Growth in a Post Brexit World’ are Ronnie Foreman, Foreman Consultants, guest Sir Desmond Rea, Karen Blair, Managing Director, Cleaver Fulton Rankin and guest Garret Hayes, from global law firm Paul Hastings.

13. Tony Murray and Roisin McCarthy, Vice Presidents, Lockton Belfast, team up to announce the launch of Lockton’s newest innovative insurance product, Office Guardian. Developed in conjunction with M S Amlin, the bespoke office insurance package includes practical cover extensions to deal with the business risks solicitors, law firms, and professional services companies face.

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14. Ferry company Stena Line has posted a record year for freight traffic volumes on its Belfast Harbour routes to Cairnryan, Liverpool and Heysham in 2016. For the first time in its history, Stena Line has carried over 500, 000 freight units through Belfast Harbour. Pictured are, from left: Paul Grant, Joe O’Neill and Anna Breen.

15. A new nursery management app, which delivers real-time information to parents whilst their children are at nursery, has reached a golden milestone, signing up its 50th customer – Aisling Daycare - located on Belfast’s Hannahstown Hill. Pictured is Una Dougherty (left) and Bronagh McAllister, Owners of Aisling Daycare with Eugene McLaughlin, Founder of MyNurseryPal and children Holly Moore (3) and Joseph McQuade (2).

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PHOTOCALL

16. Country Managing Partner for EY Ireland Mike McKerr hands over the cheque for £16,750.11 to Director of Finance and Business Support for Simon Community Northern Ireland, Siobhan Laverty.”

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17. More than 100 Northern Ireland charities were given the chance to sharpen their digital skills thanks to a training session hosted by Halifax as part of Lloyds Banking Group and the Halifax Foundation for Northern Ireland. At the event were, from left: Brenda McMullan; Jim McCooe, Rebecca Rae and Rory Allen.

18. Lurgan-based added-value meat supplier, Eurostock Foods has been awarded the highest possible recognition for its food manufacturing practices by the British Retail Consortium’s (BRC) Global Standard for Food Safety (Issue 7). Pictured are Gary White, Group Managing Director and Arlene McEvoy, Technical Manager.

19. Pictured at the AIB Start-up Academy Summit in Life Church, Belfast, is Bill Wolsey, founder of the Beannchor Group, Diane Roberts, Managing Director of Xcell Partners, Des Moore Head of First Trust Bank who hosted the event and local broadcaster Mark Simpson, MC for the evening.

20. Armagh City, Banbridge and Craigavon Borough Council has unveiled details of its inaugural “Sharing Our Potential” regeneration conference which takes place at the Craigavon Civic and Conference Centre, on Wednesday, 22nd February. Launching the event are (from L-R) Olga Murtagh, Deputy Lord Mayor Councillor Paul Greenfield, Roger Wilson, Sarah Travers, Therese Rafferty.

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PHOTOCALL

21. Pictured at the launch of BelTech2017 at the Movement Innovation Lab at Queen’s University are Tom Gray, Group Chief Technology Officer at Kainos; Jayne Brady, Partner at Kernel Capital; Connla McCann, Director at Aisling Events and Seamus Cushley, ‎Director of EMEA Blockchain, FinTech & Digital at PwC.

22. Launching the 2017 Local Supplier Awards is Paddy Doody, Sales and Marketing Director, Henderson Group; Neal Kelly, Henderson Fresh Food Director and Lyndsey-Anne Coulter from Willowbrook Foods who were the overall winners at last year’s awards.

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23. Naomi Waite, Tourism NI welcomes Rajeev Kohli ,Creative Travel India and Julia Trejo Santa Cruz, Terramar Los Cabos, Mexico of the Society for International Travel Excellence to Northern Ireland with Tim Husbands MBE of Titanic Belfast.

23 24. Employers have been advised to ensure their staff are aware of forthcoming changes to financial support to pay for childcare. That’s the message from charity group Employers for Childcare at a conference for employers last month in attended by Linda Birney of The MAC and Marie Marin of the chilcare charity.

25. Fusion Heating has secured a contract to look after all home heating systems for NI’s largest housing association, Choice Housing. Bill Cherry, Managing Director of Fusion Heating, Michael McDonnell, Group Chief Executive of Choice Housing, & David Manning, Director of Home Energy at SSE Airtricity.

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26. Kerry Foods has secured a deal with Asda to supply its innovative range of fresh foodon-the-go products, Coleraine snack packs, to all of the retailer’s stores in Northern Ireland. David Neill, National Account Manager at Kerry Foods and Brian Conway, Asda Buying Manager Northern Ireland are pictured.

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27. Leading energy suppliers fuse: Bill Cherry, Director of Fusion Heating Ltd. joins Brian Connolly, General Manager of SSE Airtricity Energy Services and David Manning, Director of Home Energy at SSE Airtricity following the agreement which will see SSE Airtricity acquire 50 per cent of Fusion Heating Ltd.

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28. Lidl Northern Ireland is giving Ulster University students the opportunity to kick-start their management career at the supermarkets with a bursary package worth over £20,000. Pictured (l-r) are Ulster University and Lidl placement student, Zara Davis; student, Kevin McStavock; Ulster University’s Dr Karise Hutchinson; and Lidl’s Paul Gibson.

29. Hillsborough native Tim McKee (right) joins partners Ellis Williams and Callum Drummond to launch a unique charity initiative, Bula Batiki Coconut Oil in Belfast. The three have joined up to help develop a product made by residents of the remote Batiki island in Fiji and sold in the UK, with all profits directly benefitting the residents of Batiki.

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30. Stena Line will once more be the principal sponsor of this year’s Northern Ireland Logistics and Transport Annual Gala Dinner, hosted by the Chartered Institute of Logistics and Transport (CILT). Pictured ahead of the dinner are Anna Breen, Stena Line’s Freight Commercial Manager (Irish Sea North) and Nick McCullough, Chairman, CILT.

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EVENTS

If ever there were a dream team, this was it. The evening didn’t disappoint. TV’s own Sarah Travers handled the master of ceremony role with aplomb while the list of winners proved the judge’s palates know a thing or two.

The Chairman He’s back! By popular demand the eventing man of mystery makes a welcome return. Were you spotted last month?

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ood, you say? And drink? In an awards format? Why of course I would be delighted to attend!

So it was The Chairman found himself once again decked out in full black tie regalia scoffing some of the finest produce Northern Ireland can offer at The Belfast Telegraph Year of Food and Drink Awards. This job can indeed sometimes be a chore. No matter, The Chairman is made of sterner stuff and launched himself into the night of celebration with gusto and was ably matched in the mood department by fellow scribbler and judge Charles Campion. He was there with food critic Georgina Campbell, the delightful Professor Una McMahon-Beattie and the Tele’s own Joris Minne the Merciless/Minner’s Dinners/Just Minne time (delete as you see fit).

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By the end of the night we were sans bow tie, but pounding headaches were de rigueur the next morning. Top marks, top night.

Mid-morning events are normally something The Chairman avoids (being halfway between a good breakfast and a long lunch, the potential for proper refuelling is minimal) but the promise of hearing from the two bosses your correspondence admires most was not going to be missed. That captain of the good ship Belfast Suzanne Wylie and Deloitte Senior Partner Jackie Henry were in fine form at the Belfast Waterfront, setting the scene for the upcoming MIPIM trip in Cannes next month. Handily, the southern French city is where the Chairman tends to spend St Patrick’s month so I am looking forward to dropping in and lending a hand on the Forward Belfast stand in an effort to attract the world’s biggest investors to these shores. Also on the rostrum were Councillor Aileen Graham and Lawrence Kenwright, director of Signature Living, a Liverpool hotel company. He’s planning to develop a George Bestthemed hotel in Belfast and hinted at the potential for another four in the city, all of which results from last year’s MIPIM trip led by Suzanne and Jackie. The event attracted the cream of the city’s commercial property, investment and political crop including Andrew Coggins, David

Gavaghan, Katie Doran, Jonathan Ireland, Cain Craigs, Martin Craigs, Symon Ross, Jonathan Millar and a very good selection of pastries. While chatting to these erstwhile behemoths of the business world is at the forefront of The Chairman’s mind, a mid-morning snack saw myself and sidekick for the day Rachel McAdam make a beeline for the Danish (pastries, not the nation).

“Back yourself, believe in yourself and believe in your idea.” These are three mantras which The Chairman lives by on a daily basis, although I must admit to replacing ‘yourself’ and ‘idea’ for ‘claret’ and ‘stilton’ on occasion. And it seems the doyen of the recruitment world Anne Heraty shares this ideology as it was the exact advice she gave to the assembled gathering at the PKF-FPM Annual Leadership Talk, part of the 2017 MLM Management Month. At the event, which was held in association with the Ulster University Business School at the Belfast Campus last month, the Cpl Resources plc boss was in fine fettle during her one-hour conversation with Gerry Kelly, the stalwart interviewer, not the politician. It was great to hear from both of them and, as always, a treat to get the chance to chat to Newry’s and PKF-FPM’s very own Feargal McCormack and the Executive Dean of Ulster University Business School Mark Durkan. As if that weren’t enough, who should be there but the pr and events supremo Jane Wells from the JComms. What an event, what a moment! ■


EVENTS

Michelle Shirlow, Charles Campion , Georgina Campbell, Sarah Travers and Sharon Machala pictured at the NI Year of Food & Drink Awards at the Culloden Hotel. Photo by Kelvin Boyes / Press Eye.

Sarah Travers is pictured with Noel Lavery, Permenant Secretary of the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs presenting Derry City & Strabane District Council with the award for Best NI Food Event & Festival for the Legenderry Food Festival. Pictured from left: Sarah Travers, Noel Lavery, Permenant Secretary of the DAERA, Ald. Hilary McClintock, Mayor Derry City and Strabane District Council and Mary Blake, Tourism Manager Derry City and Strabane District Council.

Sarah Travers is pictured with Paddy Doody from SPAR NI, presenting representatives from the North West Regional College with the Growing for the Future award for the Foodovation Centre. Pictured left to right: Sarah Travers, Brian McDermott, Paddy Doody from SPAR NI, Leo Murphy and Dr Fergal Tuffy.

Sarah Travers is pictured with Aisling Graham from Moy Park presenting the Lough Neagh Partnership with the award for Best Marketing Achievement, for the Eel- Eat project. Pictured left to right: Aisling Graham from Moy Park, Cathy Chauhan, Emer Kearney and Sarah Travers.

James Toal and Ryan Tumelty from the Percy French are pictured with Bernard Durkin, T.D., Martin Fagan from Classic Drinks and Paddy McCarthy from the Golfers Guide to Ireland at an awards ceremony in Carton House Hotel were the Percy French was named the Best Golfers Restaurant in Ulster by leading publication the Golfers Guide to Ireland.

MARCH 2017

Sarah Travers is pictured with Suzanne Pollock from Sodexo, presenting Armagh City, Banbridge and Craigavon Borough Council with the Roots to Market award for their Food Heartland Initiative. Pictured left to right: Colin McCusker, Brian Irwin, Suzanne Pollock from Sodexo, Roger Wilson, Sarah Jane Macdonald and Sarah Travers.

Ulster University Business School students pursuing an MSc in Applied Finance put their academic learning to the test recently resulting in a virtual profit of almost ÂŁ500k in only seven weeks in a fantasy trading exercise. Philip Moore (second right) and James Drumm (second left) are presented with their CISI NI Investment Student of the Year Awards by Ulster University Business School lecturers Michael Pogue (right) and Paul Stewart.

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TECHNOLOGY

Tech for a gilded generation Adrian Weckler talks watches, laptops and smart assistants to get your gadget taste buds going

SAMSUNG GEAR S3 PRICE: £349.95 FROM ARGOS RATING: 4 STARS Smartwatches haven’t lit the world on fire. I like them, though, because they perform one crucial function: they save me taking my phone out of my pocket for notifications. Thus, they save me time, as much for preventing random foostering as the physical removal of the phone itself. I have two which I alternate between: Apple’s Watch Series 2 and an Android-powered Tag Heuer Connected. I like them both for different reasons.

more tactile than relying on a tiny touchscreen or buttons.

The Gear S3 isn’t perfect, though. There’s no native Facebook, Instagram or Snapchat apps.

The 1.3-inch round screen itself is also a highlight, being the brightest, clearest display I’ve yet encountered on a smartwatch.

That means an inferior notification service. (To be fair, there are clone apps that serve notifications for these apps.) If you’re into your mobile payments, you can’t use Android Pay on this watch, either. Instead, it only supports Samsung Pay, which isn’t yet launched in the Irish or UK markets.

In the weeks I tested it, I found the Gear S3 to have some big strengths and some significant weaknesses.

Its array of functions, too, is impressive. With GPS on board and water-resistance to 1.5 metres, this is a very competent health and fitness tracking watch. Sensors on the back let you measure steps, calories and pulse. It’s optimised to work Samsung’s own S Health app, which is free to download.

The strengths are mostly around the way that Samsung has made this watch perform. Physically, it’s very well thought through and extremely intuitive to use. Like its predecessor models, a rotating dial flips through the different functions on the watch. This is a great way of navigating functions and is far

The S3 is probably the best smartwatch you can get for voice calls. Both the speaker and microphone are ahead of what I have experienced on other watches. This is especially useful for incoming calls when you’re in the car. Other features include 4GB of storage memory and a fast-charging facility.

But Samsung has an interesting, well-made alternative device in the Gear S3.

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The S3 works perfectly on just about any Android phone, although it has limited functionality on iPhones. Finally, I’m not crazy about the watch’s look. To be sure, there isn’t any such thing as a really elegant smartwatch, but the S3 looks a little cheaper than Apple’s Watch or Tag Heuer’s Connected, which is ironic as the S3 is not at all cheap. It’s more expensive than some Apple Watch models. ■


TECHNOLOGY

And the rest of the latest tech… DELL LATITUDE 5285 Dell’s newly-announced Latitude 5285 is a near-identical clone of Microsoft’s Surface Pro 4. It has a 12-inch screen and an attachable keyboard (sold separately, just like the Surface Pro). It comes with Intel chips like the Surface Pro and ships with storage drives up to one terabyte. The only difference is the screen resolution, which is ‘full HD’ (1080p) instead of the higher mark on the Surface Pro 4. Expect this to sell from around £725. ■

LENOVO SMART ASSISTANT Google Home and Amazon Alexa have stolen a march on everyone with their voice-activated devices that connect to other household machines and the web. Now, Lenovo is getting in on the act with its Smart Assistant. This is something of a clone of Amazon’s Echo gadget, as it works with Amazon’s Alexa voice system, thereby replicating its functions. However, the Lenovo device has one big advantage — it’s a better music speaker with Harmon Kardon technology. Expect it to cost from £138 when it arrives here later this year. ■

MARCH 2017

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TRAVEL

Learning the lingo in Palma

Eleanor Goggin expands her ‘cerveza’ Spanish on a trip to the Mallorcan capital

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ne Spanish word in the middle of a sentence was my forte. May I have a vino tinto please? The gambas for me. That sort of thing. Enough for any Spanish waiter to want to give me a slap. I’d always wanted to learn the language but because of my innate laziness had never done anything about it, so when an opportunity came up to partake in intensive Spanish classes in Palma de Mallorca, I jumped at it. As I get older I get bored with a sun holiday and love to have some other activity to indulge my senses, so combining a city break and Spanish classes was the ideal.

Nakar Hotel. It’s a gem right in the middle of the shopping area. Tony Ramis got the opportunity in 2013 to take over the building that his grandfather had run as a small hotel in the 1960s. It had been converted to offices for some 30 years and Tony is now very proud that it has been brought back to its original use and has even kept its original name. The technology is amazing. All the lights are sensored so there’s no running around like a lunatic in the middle of the night looking for switches and crashing into walls. The loo light comes on when you are near it. The safety deposit box has a power point so you can lock your laptop safely away while you are charging it. They’ve thought of everything.

And what a city for a city break. It has everything. Culture, shopping, ambience, a beautiful promenade and it’s only a short bus ride to a beautiful beach. (the Number 3 for €1.50 to be precise).

The rooftop boasts a bar and pool with sun loungers and amazing views, and the terrace restaurant on the eighth floor is second to none.

We based ourselves at the newly-opened

But back to the Spanish classes. They take

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place in the mornings at International House, so you have the rest of the day to explore or sunbathe or go for a long lunch or whatever takes your fancy. Because I only had the two words I was put into ‘babies’. Eight of us altogether. All ages and from all corners of the globe. The Polish guy with a Mallorcan girlfriend, the German who hopes to set up a business on the island, the Finnish girl who is travelling around and the Australian couple who were globe-trotting. And then there was Rosi, our teacher. For about an hour on day one we were all nervous and afraid to speak but she made us interact and we had the best craic ever. She had us running around with fly swatters, slapping the items relating to the Spanish words she was calling out. When you got something right you got a rousing laudation from Rosi and because


FlyFly from Belfast CityCity Airport to to from Belfast Airport London CityCity andand London Heathrow London London Heathrow

TRAVEL

I don’t get much praise any more, I found myself endeavouring to be the goody two shoes of the class. We all had to ask each other questions and throw a soft ball to the person you wanted to answer. I did try to keep my eyes down and keep my hands by my side when I didn’t know the answer. But we had great fun and I really feel I could now have a brief conversation with a Spanish person. Whether they would understand one word, I don’t know.

Northern Ireland’s Best Kept Awards celebrate 60 years

The city itself is extremely classy. Classy shops, classy bars, classy restaurants. Just classy. The cathedral is an outstanding Gothic structure and towers over the harbour. Building commenced in the 14th century and took some 300 years to complete. The interior was modernised by Antoni Gaudi in the early 20th century. A canopy with lights and a multicoloured crucifix are suspended over the main altar. A stroll through the narrow streets, passing by the 800-year-old olive tree, the huge old wooden doors and courtyards and into the porticoed Placa Major, with its restaurants and street artists is a wonderful way to spend a few hours. Around every corner, there’s another wonderful building or another little street that you feel obliged to venture down. The museum of Modern and Contemporary Art is well worth a trip and ‘Es Baluard’, the restaurant on the terrace there, is fabulous The food in Palma is sublime and the choice vast. For a city break, with the option of a trip to the nearby beach or a visit to one of the many resorts a short drive away, Palma is the way to go. Too many people, including myself in the past, go to resorts and never really see the beautiful city on their doorstep. Throw in a week of learning Spanish and you’ve had it all. Yo quiero volver (I want to go back). See I’m fluent!! ■

MARCH 2017

Calling on towns and villages across Northern Ireland to enter the 2017 Best Kept Awards, which is celebrating its 60th anniversary are, Joe Mahon, Patron of the Northern Ireland Amenity Council; Michelle Hatfield, Director of Human Resources and Corporate Responsibility at awards sponsors Belfast City Airport and Doreen Muskett MBE, President of the NI Amenity Council.

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orthern Ireland’s Best Kept Awards is celebrating its 60th anniversary as it launches the search for entries under a new title sponsor, George Best Belfast City Airport.

The initiative, organised by the Northern Ireland Amenity Council, seeks to identify and celebrate Northern Ireland’s best looked-after towns, villages, schools, healthcare facilities and housing areas. The initiative was the brainchild of the late Professor Arthur Muskett OBE who set out to find Northern Ireland’s Best Kept Village. His daughter, Doreen Muskett MBE, is now President of the Northern Ireland Amenity Council. Speaking at the launch event held at Belfast’s Riddell Hall, Doreen Muskett MBE added: “The competition has made an enormous impact on the lives of the thousands of volunteers that have made it such a success - and on the communities in which they live.” Michelle Hatfield, Director of Human Resources and Corporate Responsibility at Belfast City Airport, said: “Belfast City Airport is delighted to partner with the Best Kept Awards. Our awardwinning Community Commitment Plan, focusing on Community, Education, Environment and People, makes us a natural partner for the Awards. We look forward to seeing the hundreds of entries from across the country for this year’s competition.” Environment Minister Michelle McIlveen said: “Today we recognise the great work undertaken by the Northern Ireland Amenity Council over the past six decades. They should be extremely proud of their achievements and the commitment and dedication shown by the legions of volunteers throughout the past 60 years.” Entries to the Best Kept Awards, sponsored by George Best Belfast City Airport, are now open. For more information on how to enter an awards category, please visit www.niacbestkept.com or call the Northern Ireland Amenity Council on 028 9040 3681. ■

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How will Brexit impact your summer holiday? Damian Murphy

Damian Murphy, Managing Director of travel company Terra Travel, assess how the fall in the value of the pound will influence your vacation choice

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year ago the word Brexit didn’t exist, but now hardly a day goes past when most of us don’t say or see it as part of our everyday lives. To begin with the implications were vague, slow-moving and to most people somewhat worrying. As time passed the implications are slowly starting to reveal themselves – but what effect will this period of European uncertainty have on holidaymakers? One big effect has been the impact on the currency market and now our pound is worth less when we visit European countries such as Spain, France and Italy. However this has had the reverse effect for non-EU countries leading to some of them benefitting greatly from a rise in visitors from these shores. Poland is a case in point, with both Krakow and Gdansk reporting a huge increase in visitors from Northern Ireland. The main reason for this is because we want more bang for our buck, and with a pint of beer or a glass of wine costing just over £1 and the average cost of a meal out is just £9 per person it’s budget dining at its best. Ryanair has been quick to jump on this bandwagon by increasing flights to these Polish destinations from Belfast; indeed a four-night break in either destination

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can be had from as little as £159 per person. Bulgaria too is also seeing resurgence in visits from Northern Irish travellers. In the winter it is already Northern Ireland’s number one ski destination, while in the summer months its fantastic beaches, water parks and cheap eateries have helped propel it up the popularity rating with our local holidaymakers. Although Croatia attracts fewer visitors from Northern Ireland than Poland and Bulgaria, it is another destination showing a huge increase in visitor numbers. It is more expensive to get to, but the cost of eating out is lower when you are there. So what has been the impact on the traditional holiday resorts/destinations and what are they doing to fight back? Our number one destination in Europe is still Spain, however the trend towards the “All Inclusive” holiday has increased as we pay for virtually everything up front. This has meant that local Spanish bars/ restaurants have had to fight even harder for our Euros - meaning more happy hours, cheap meals and free entertainment. Hospitality is not the only sector affected – there are other further reaching implications such as:

w Higher mobile phone charges: EU regulations have helped contain roaming charges recently. This may well change. w Higher health care charges: The E111 will no longer be valid and there will certainly be an increase in travel Insurance prices to cope with this. w The end of flight delay compensation: The EU has been tough on its implementation of this directive with airlines paying up to £400 per person when found to be at fault with longer delays. w Higher airfares: This is already starting. The Euro rate (higher fuel prices) is already pushing these up, but higher landing fees for non-EU airlines are likely to raise these further. w Visas: We already need one for Turkey, but will we be required to buy visas for entry to Spain etc? The jury is still out on this one. It is clear that in the coming years and months there will no doubt be some charges in our habits/preference of destination, but a holiday is likely to remain an important part of most of our lives and in all likelihood we will forego other things before we cancel the all-important break away. There are still bargains to be had for the savvy traveller – the secret is to shop around and not visit the obvious ‘tourist’ destinations. ■


WORK

Are you the type of employee Facebook wants?

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hether an intern or an executive, there is one tech giant that has often been regarded as one of the best to work for across the industry - and that is Facebook. The freedom to be creative, the inclusive culture, the incredible salary; these are the reports we've heard that have added to the appeal of achieving a position at the firm. Wanting to get the real inside track, however, we spoke with the region's HR chief Fiona Mullan. From busting myths to surprising perks, here's the low down on all the burning questions we've been wanting answers to. Are you the type of person that Facebook wants? "What we really look for are people that have a passion for what they do and know what they’re interested in and that’s also shared in the work that we do. "So if they bring that to life in their discussions with us, they bring that energy and their sense of how they do that work; that they’ve got lots of ideas and that they’re prepared to bring those ideas to life. [We also look for someone who is] willing to take some risks. "[Someone that's] really interested in the way we do things and our culture so that they can contribute to it." How do you set yourself apart from the crowd? "[The candidate] needs to have a drive and show their passion and that they’re enthusiastic, constructive but also critical in their thinking; that they have a rapport, that they bring that energy into discussions. Yes they can show that on application but we do a lot of screens before people come in on the phone and by VC. "We’re less concerned about culture fit and

Fiona Mullan

more about people who can help the culture evolve and contribute to it to make it great for everybody." Should you send in a video CV application? "If the video shows their personality and that they can quickly outline who they are and do that authentically...that can be hard on a video quite honestly, because you are doing it into something that is rather anonymous. Whereas if you meet somebody there is a rapport there and there tends to be a natural dynamic. "It can be a good thing to do but I wouldn’t necessarily say to do it to get a job at Facebook. By all means [send in video CVs] but don’t feel under any obligation to do it. Video is definitely a medium that is more popular and is being used for many different things aside from CVs." "It’s all down to being yourself and being authentic. And the people that do that do it really well." Do you have to have a college degree to work at Facebook?

"College degrees are not absolutely a prerequisite but it’s safe to say that these days most people have them. We do have a CEO that doesn’t have a college degree - and we do take a liberal approach. "Education is very broad these days so what we would be looking for is somebody who is learned and who can demonstrate their own learning ability and agility – and that their learning journey will continue in Facebook. “If they can demonstrate that they have that natural curiosity for new things, new ideas...I think that's what's important comes across, whether the candidate has a degree or not." The famous Facebook perks - are they real and what's the trade off? "Our approach to this is not –‘work long hours and get these things’ – we have a more holistic approach. “Work is not a place you go, it’s something that you can do how and when you want. “You’ve got to measure the outcomes, not the input, and I would be concerned about employees working long hours.” ■


MY DAY Uncovering the 9-5

Name: John Glass Position: Head of Project Delivery at Translink

6:30am The alarm goes off and, after ‘snoozing it’ a few times, I get up and have breakfast with my wife Sharon and daughters Rachel and Lydia. I then drive about five minutes to Cullybackey Station to catch my train. I enjoy the relaxing train journey to Belfast and use the time to catch up on a few emails and gather my thoughts for the day. I have about a 10 minute walk to my office which usually involves a chat with a few of my Translink colleagues who travel on the same train. 8:45am I arrive at the office and spend time with my PA Hannah going through my diary for the day and updating any meetings and appointments in the week ahead. 9.15am I always enjoy a quick walk around the project management team offices catching up briefly with everyone. 10.00am Much of my day involves attending meetings about the various major infrastructure projects I am responsible for. This could involve chairing the Project Board Meeting for the £200m Belfast Transport Hub, the £30m Derry-Londonderry Multi Modal Transport Hub or the £25m Central Workshop & Depot for the new Belfast Rapid Transit vehicles. Major infrastructure projects are challenging and require regular monitoring to ensure that they remain on programme and budget. 12.00 Meet with the Department for Communities to discuss options for

the development of a new train station for Portrush which is planned to be complete in time for the 2019 Golf Open. 1.00pm I either have a quick snack at my desk or meet for a sandwich and a catch up with a friend or work colleague in Belfast. 2.00pm I meet with my direct reports to review progress on the various projects and deal with any pressing issues. 3.30pm Meet with the civil engineering contractor, designers and project team to review progress on the £25m ballast rehabilitation project to extend the life of the railway track and increase existing line speeds. 5.15pm Leave the office and catch the train home. My journey is spent reading papers or reports and catching up on emails using Translink’s free Wifi. (Ok, I also search on the Internet for classic cars for sale or read a few car reviews!) 6.30pm Arrive home and I’m faithfully welcomed in the yard by our black labrador Molly. I enjoy dinner with Sharon, Rachel and Lydia and catch up on how everyone’s day went. My evening is spent helping my daughters with their homework with some lively banter. I also enjoy working on the restoration of my 30 year-old Peugeot 205 GTi 1.9 classic car project which is really behind programme and way over budget!


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Insurance Brokers & Risk Advisors www.abbeybondlovis.co.uk


Ulster Business - March 2017  

Ulster Business

Ulster Business - March 2017  

Ulster Business

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