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MARCH 2018 Price £2.30 (¤2.60)

Gearing up for growth How 4c Executive has all the elements in place to fulfil its ambitious expansion RETAIL

How Brexit is providing a boost to our retailers

CORPORATION TAX Is the devolution of CT still on the agenda?

Contents 6 News The latest news and exclusives from the Northern Ireland business world, and beyond

53 Travel, Tourism and Hospitality

90 The Chairman

What do we do to keep tourism booming?

The man himself has been everywhere from the pub to the top executive table...

14 Cover Story

67 Tax and Accounting

94 Travel

We speak to recruitment firm 4c Executive about growing the thriving business

John Simpson looks at what impact slashing corporation tax will have in NI post-Brexit

Settle in for a trip to East Africa and the magical islands of Zanibar

23 IT and Technology

75 Motoring

96 Technology

Meet the woman who is holding some of world’s top tech talents to account

Flat-to-the-mat-Pat’s back to keep you up-todate with the latest wheels on the road

Our resident expert Adrian Weckler brings you the latest from the tech world

39 Retail

84 Photocall

98 My Day

Could a boost in cross-border trade be one of the few perks of the UK’s exit from the EU?

From KPMG to Musgrave, we bring you the best of last month’s shots and news

Your chance to find out how Jonathan Adair from NI Travel News spends his day



53 84



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Wednesday 14 March 2018 8.30am - 4.15pm Titanic, Belfast Key Speakers:

Prof David Fishwick Chief Medical Advisor to HSE GB and HSENI

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To register for this event visit the NISG website at www.nisg.org.uk/workplace-health-conference-2018 or email info@nisg.org.uk for further information

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From the crunch to the cake: it’s definitely been a blast


10 years, but lets just say that there was always plenty to write about, whether at Ulster Business Towers or at The Belfast Telegraph business desk.

The unemployment rate had fallen to one of the lowest of all UK regions - having previously been the highest in the UK before the Good Friday Agreement - and ex-pats like me were flooding back in droves.

It has, to say the least, been a blast. As I move on to a new role in the communications world, I’d like to take this opportunity to say thank you both to the Greer family and to INM who, between them, have employed me for most of the time since arriving back in Northern Ireland, and also to the Fitzpatricks for a brief spell at the mighty Farm Week.

ay back in January 2008, when this scribbler arrived back from more than a decade “across the water”, Northern Ireland was unrecognisable from the one I left behind.

IT and technology companies were beginning to replace heavy manufacturing as the backbone of local industry and the names of global inward investors were regularly appearing on the side of new office developments. Most tellingly of the seismic shift in local economy matters, house prices had climbed from an average of £60,000 in 1998 to just shy of £230,000 by 2008.

It was the Northern Ireland business community which made this job so fascinating and I'll be forever thankful for the energy and spirit I was able to languish in while listening to entrepreneurs of all stages in the business lifecycle tell their stories. As for my colleagues, they have made the job a pleasure and have continually astounded me with their generosity of spirit and, as my wasteline will bear testament, cake.

Time to ride the wave of success? That was the idea in the original script, but we all know that the credit crunch had already taken hold in early 2008 and was slowing crippling the local economy by the time I took up the role of Ulster Business editor in July of that year. You don’t need me to tell you what happened over the next Publisher Ulster Business c/o Independent News & Media Ltd Belfast Telegraph House 33 Clarendon Road, Clarendon Dock Belfast BT1 3BG Printer W&G Baird Greystone Press, Caulside Drive, Antrim BT41 2RS www.wgbaird.com

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

MARCH 2018

In new editor John Mulgrew the magazine has a real asset who will take Ulster Business to the next level across every format. Good luck to John, and sincere thanks to all of you for your support over the years. ■ David Elliott Editor David Elliott

Production Manager Irene Fitzsimmons

Manager Sonia Armstrong

Graphic Design INM Design Studio

Deputy Manager Sylvie Brando

Cover photo Press Eye Photography

Sales Executive Sarah-Ann Gamble

Contact: 028 90 264260 www.ulsterbusiness.com

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

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A month in numbers £59m The pre-tax profits posted by Ulster Bank in 2017. The bank also saw its overall income increasing to £184m, with operating costs at £131m. It also saw overall corporate lending rising by 15% in the last year.

100 A list of the best pubs, restaurants and hotels across Northern Ireland. Hospitality Ulster’s Top 100 was unveiled at Titanic Belfast and highlights a list of the best businesses in the sector, right across Northern Ireland.

Ryanair chief marketing office Kenny Jacobs, Olive Hill, executive director of strategy at Invest NI and Johnny Hanna, partner and head of tax, KPMG in Northern Ireland

NI firms must have ‘plan for Brexit’ By John Mulgrew

N 3.9% The unemployment rate in Northern Ireland for the last three months of 2017. The latest official figures from the Northern Ireland Statistics & Research Agency show the rate is at its lowest level in a decade. But economic inactivity is on the rise.

orthern Ireland businesses are now at a “tipping point” when it comes to having a strong plan in place to deal with the UK's exit from the EU, it's been claimed. A number of top business experts, including Ryanair's chief marketing officer Kenny Jacobs, were speaking during an Ulster Business, with KPMG, Brexit Business Breakfast at The MAC in Belfast. Johnny Hanna, partner and head of tax, KPMG in Northern Ireland, said: “I think everyone recognises that solving the border problem, and actually converting that 'too good to be true language' into the actual agreement itself, will require a lot of work.”

125 The number of jobs due to be cut at Sensata Technologies at one of its Co Antrim sites. The firm, which makes a range of tyre pressure monitoring systems, will cut the roles in Carrickfergus. It has begun consulting with staff saying “proposed alternatives to compulsory redundancy will be considered”. It has more than 1,300 staff in Northern Ireland.


He said while there had been some positive statements made by Westminster and the EU, over areas such as worker rights and common travel area, that uncertainty remains. “There are some question marks around those EU nationals who arrive in the transition period, assuming there is one, and also some question marks around the common travel area.

“We are getting close to a tipping point for many businesses in terms of having plans in place and press the button on those plans. “March was when people typically (need a Brexit plan)... 12 months away from the final date. We are getting close to that.” For Ryanair, Mr Jacobs said, with nothing in place to replace the 'open skies' agreement, which allows air travel between EU countries, that flights could stop in April next year. “It's as simple as this. 'Open skies' is the agreement that allows European member states to fly among each other,” he said. “The UK Government has said, we are coming away from Europe, leaving the European Court of Justice, but it governs 'open skies'. “So, as it stands today, on April 1, 2019, Britain will leave the European Court of Justice (ECJ), and open skies will no longer operate. And Olive Hill, who is executive director of strategy at Invest NI, said that the “skills are not there” among even large Northern Ireland companies, to deal with some of the huge changes to trade expected in a post-Brexit world.

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Hannon Coach awaits routes ruling By John Mulgrew

Glasgow's Buchanan Street Station.


bus company will hear next month whether it's been given the green light for up to nine new express routes across Northern Ireland. Hannon Coach had been turned down by the Department for Infrastructure for a fresh licence to run a direct express connection between Belfast and Londonderry. As a result, it's understood the firm was pursuing a judicial review. But it's now believed the initial decision has been quashed, and the Department is re-examining the link, along with the others. Hannon Coach, headed by Aodh Hannon, is applying for licences to run routes to locations including Newcastle, Armagh,

The coach fares are priced at £29 each way. "There is a strong relationship between the two cities and many reasons for people to make a trip in either direction," Mr Hannon said.

Aodh Hannon

Cookstown, Dungannon, Enniskillen, Omagh and Coleraine. It says the planned £10m investment could bring up to 70 jobs. The firm has also launched a direct coach service between Belfast and Glasgow. The new service is backed by an investment of £1.75m in coaches, staff and an online booking facility. Setting off from Donegall Square West, the bus will travel across the Irish Sea, and stop at

"However, a lot of people are put off travelling, particularly for overnight trips or short city-breaks, because of the hassle and hidden costs. "The most common complaint with the airlines is that advertised fares are often not available and the extras quickly add up. "A single medium-sized bag for instance costs around £20 each way. Often the restriction on liquids in hand luggage forces people into a choice of paying the extra or picking up expensive toiletries at the airport.”

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Quotes of the month “I think everyone recognises that solving the border problem, and actually converting that ‘too good to be true language’ into the actual agreement itself, will require a lot of work.” Johnny Hanna, partner and head of tax, KPMG in Northern Ireland, was speaking about the challenges ahead for business across the island.

Hundreds of jobs at risk at Lagan Construction “The aerospace industry is striving to reach new heights of production as we respond to rising demand around the world. Manufacturers in the UK and elsewhere are stepping up to meet the challenge of providing customers with cleaner and more fuel efficient planes to serve growing markets.” ADS chief executive, Paul Everitt, was speaking as the group released the latest delivery figures for UK-made aircraft, which included Bombardier C Series planes.

By John Mulgrew undreds of jobs are at risk at one of Northern Ireland's biggest civil engineering firms after it placed four of its companies into administration.

Lagan Construction Group chairman, Michael Lagan, said: “It is with great sadness and reluctance that we have had to take this course of action. We have had long standing relationships with many of sub-contractors and suppliers.

Lagan Construction Group, which is the main contractor alongside Somague on the £250m Ulster University campus in Belfast, said the decision came following a “number of factors”.

“We hope that the process of administration will be smooth and that disruption to both projects and jobs will be minimal”.


That included delays in the “commencement of new projects” and “contractual disputes on some existing major projects”. It was revealed earlier this year that Ulster University had begun legal proceedings against the firm - prompting further major setbacks for the already delayed scheme.

“Our growth here has been flat and we would like it to be more significant but that won’t happen until APD is looked at.” Kenny Jacobs, chief marketing officer with Ryanair, said that without the lifting of a £13 tax on most flights out of the UK, the low-cost carrier would not grow its business here considerably


The firms the company is putting into administration include major parts of the business, such as Lagan Construction Group Holdings Limited, Lagan Construction Group Limited, Lagan Building Contractors Limited and Lagan Water Limited. Lagan Construction Group says up to 200 staff could be affected by the announcement. It employs around 800 workers.

The business has 30 separate companies. A spokesman for the Construction Employers Federation, said: “Given the huge contribution that Lagan Construction Group have made to Northern Ireland’s economy and society since their establishment, the announcement is extremely regrettable. They have been a pillar of our construction industry for decades and it is our express hope that a solution can be found. “As the federation has long said, the industry has faced a challenging period in respect of its sustainability. From issues related to low margins on works, to insufficient pipelines of activity, to the current political and budgetary challenges within Northern Ireland, there are significant tests which go much beyond the news.”


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Galgorm unveils £20m hotel expansion By John Mulgrew


top end luxury Co Antrim spa is creating 150 new jobs after been given the green light to build a major new £20m extension, it can be revealed.

Galgorm Resort & Spa, located outside Ballymena, is set to get a new 64-bedroom wing, roof-top pool, spa and new 'spa' garden. The resort, which is owned by Tullymore House, was given the go ahead for its latest ambitious plans by Mid and East Antrim Borough Council's planning committee. It will grow the spa and hotel's room numbers to 186. Galgorm Resort & Spa now employs more than 450 staff. As the design architects, Cheah Rothe will lead the expansion, with a targeted completion date of 2021. Mid and East Antrim Borough Council chief executive, Anne Donaghy, said: "Planning decisions in Mid and East Antrim take less time than anywhere else in Northern Ireland, with a swift turnaround on applications crucial to fostering and enhancing a pro-business environment in our borough.

And the mayor of Mid and East Antrim, Paul Reid, said: “Galgorm Resort & Spa is one of our internationally renowned businesses based in the Borough, and is respected around the world for the outstanding quality of its service and facilities.” Commenting on behalf of Galgorm, managing director Paul Smyth said: “Our continued investment at The Resort reflects our commitment to the development of Northern Ireland’s tourism industry and we believe this expansion will go some way to support the growth in tourism figures”. Meanwhile, the Galgorm resort has also been named Global Spa of the Year 2017.

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Stormont jam dents sentiment but developers remain upbeat

Richland Group’s One Bankmore Square development and what the new £100m King’s Hall healthcare hub will look like when complete

By John Mulgrew


more than year-long political stalemate is having a “devastating impact” on Northern Ireland investment but developers behind massive multi-million pound schemes here say they are getting on with business. Some of Northern Ireland's biggest names in commercial property will make the trip to the annual MIPIM event in Cannes, France, this month, in a bid to attract new investors. Gary McCausland, chief executive of Richland Group is one of those making the trip. The Belfast developer is aiming to turn the former Movie House cinema on the Dublin Road, into a £65m office scheme called One Bankmore. “MIPIM is an amazing place to network, and it's a mass melting pot of movers and shakers,” he told Ulster Business. “One Bankmore Square is on my agenda and is something I am pushing. It's not easy getting an investor to come to Northern Ireland... Brexit, and issues with our politics. We are there to fly the flag and let people know Northern Ireland is open for business.”


Mr McCausland is also driving his business Richland Energy, but he said One Bankmore is fully funded, with the hunt now on for a key anchor tenant. “We are working hard. We have a couple of tenders out there for big players. It's work in progress – it's not made easy by the current situation. But consistently people choose Belfast and Northern Ireland to expand in.” But he said the ongoing more than year-long political stalemate is having a “devastating impact” on investment, with potentially billions lost as a result of the deadlock on devolution and the restoration of an Executive and Assembly. David Burrows, who heads up Benmore Group, says he has secured a hotel operator for the firm's ambitious £100m healthcare development at the King's Hall in Belfast. Design documents show the conference facility, showgrounds and stables at the Balmoral site will all be demolished to make way for the project by Benmore Octopus, which will have the capacity to employ 500 staff and treat 25,000 patients. “Although we are involved in other developments in the city, in terns of student

accommodation and PRS (build-to-rent), MIPIM is about widening out the knowledge base of the healthcare sector,” he told Ulster Business. “We want people to be aware of the opportunity that is here. For us, it's not so much a hard sell, but exposing people and companies to the opportunities. Everyone we have spoken to easily grasps the opportunity. “For us, it's more about finding businesses that want to invest in the city, and move their operations there. “We have funding in place to do that, but it's about expanding the knowledge base. “We have the terms agreed with the hotel operator, and working up the designs for that.” And he said while Belfast is “great city” which continues to sell itself, it is “always mired with the issue of political instability”. “We can reassure and show people that business continues over here, and there are opportunities.” He said the ongoing political crisis does have an impact in day-to-day dealings with companies based outside Northern Ireland. “You are asking people to invest large sums while it is an unstable place,” he said.

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Business continues strong leadership despite impasse By John Mulgrew

“Otherwise these highly mobile young people will increasingly look beyond Northern Ireland to fulfil their full potential.


T is “embarrassing” that Northern Ireland still has no working government or that there is a clear return to devolution in sight, a top business leader has said. Ian Sheppard, chairman of the Institute of Directors (IoD) in Northern Ireland, said a raft of major announced job losses, sharply underline the need for a speedy return to fully devolved government He warned that Northern Ireland risks alienating a generation of young people, disillusioned by the ongoing political impasse. Mr Sheppard was speaking to around 450 business leaders during its annual dinner at Titanic Belfast.

Ian Sheppard, chairman of the Institute of Directors (IoD) in Northern Ireland

The event, sponsored by Bank of Ireland and leading law firm Arthur Cox, also heard from the Belfast-born IoD director general Stephen Martin and the former chief operating officer of Skyscanner Mark Logan. “I genuinely believe that the current political impasse risks alienating a generation of young people who want to be part of a bright future for Northern Ireland.

“Given our focus on good governance, it is hard not to be pessimistic that 12 months on and with no marked progress towards resumption of the Executive, there is the very real danger that we are sleepwalking our way into alternative governance structures, which, at a critical time for Northern Ireland risks seriously diminishing our ability to realise our future ambitions. “The fact that critical decisions regarding all of our futures are being postponed cannot be allowed to continue, and so I am using this occasion to reflect the deep felt views of our members and am making a direct appeal to our political leaders to redouble their efforts to restore the decision making institutions.”

Why probationary periods are a smart move It’s surprising how many employers get caught out by failing to write probationary periods into employment contracts. It’s not uncommon to discover some months after initial employment that a new recruit is not a right fit for a company. Whether the employee doesn’t meet basic standards or fails to perform to expectations, that’s the moment when employers realise one of two things: just how prudent it was to include a probationary period in the contract of employment or just how careless they were for omitting one. A probationary period is a safety net that employers can avail of easily, but they must put it in black and white. If it’s not in the contract of employment, then an employer has no right – it’s as simple as that. The contract must then be signed to seal the deal. At HR Team we recommend a probationary period of six months which is an adequate amount of time to gauge

MARCH 2018

the suitability of an employee for a role. Should an employer write in the contract of employment that the period can be extended then they can also avail of that right. Probationary period – top tips: • Ensure a probationary period is written into the contract of employment • A period of six months, with a right to extend is recommended • Invite the employee to a probationary review meeting in advance of the period’s end (They cannot be used to end employment or extend the period after the expiry date). • Make a decision and inform the employee prior to expiry. HR Team’s March seminars are ‘Effective Workplace Investigations’ in Catalyst Inc,

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Ulster Bank profits rise to £59m in 'more normalised' environment By John Mulgrew

at branches, but how we reach communities as well.


lster Bank has posted pre-tax profits of £59m as its boss here says it's moving towards a more “normalised environment”. Richard Donnan, who heads up the bank in Northern Ireland, said its profits are now buoyed considerably less by so-called writebacks, falling from £27m in 2016 to £6m in the last year. Overall, income increased to £184m, with operating costs sitting at £131m, but while Mr Donnan said there will be no additional announcements on branch closures in 2018, the network is still “under review”. It will shut 11 branches by this summer. “Last year we had impairment releases of £27m, this year it's only £6m. (We are) moving towards a more normalised environment,” he said. “The underlining trading performance has taken a big step forward. The positive

Richard Donnan

momentum has been carried forward into this year. We are also improving our cost management... we have seen a reduction this year. “At the large end, there has been a 15% increase in new corporate lending. You are seeing that book growing. “In small business, it's up 29%, whether it's agri or non-agri business, and an uplift in mortgage lending.” “We have made some significant changes in the last year, 18 months. When you come to May 2018, we will have 44 branches. We look

“We have no plans to do any further changes in 2018, but like any business we have to keep it under review. We have made significant changes and have no plans in 2018 (for additional closures). We now have the bank on wheels, and it's serving 17 communities, and we have four community branches.” Speaking about the general business performance, he said: “Lending drawdowns by small businesses were up 29% in the year, we started 40,000 new personal banking relationships and we have retained the largest share of the personal and business current account market in Northern Ireland. “Customers continue to change the way they bank with us. Our focus on cost is an important part of our ability to reinvest in the development of our people and digital services that make it simpler and easier for customer to bank with us. Our digitally active customer base grew by 21% year on year.” ■

Randox reveals record £50m investment in R&D By Margaret Canning

preventable, we need to ask ourselves what can be done to improve healthcare outcomes.


orthern Ireland medical diagnostics firm Randox Laboratories is to invest £50m on developing technologies to diagnose conditions like cancer and infectious diseases. The company, which employs around 1,200 people, said it’s setting up ‘centres of excellence’ in three of its premises, where scientists will work with academics from Queen’s University and Ulster University. Randox Laboratories’ parent Randox Holdings is based in Crumlin and also has research and development and manufacturing operations in Massereene in Antrim, as well as Donegal and Bangalore. The firm also operates Randox Health clinics in Crumlin, Holywood and in London. In its most recent results, Randox Holdings reported pre-tax profits of £12.3m on sales of £100m. The company says that its medical


“There is an undeniable case for radical change in the way healthcare is delivered, and sophisticated diagnostics will be at the fore of this revolution.”

Dr Peter FitzGerald, managing director Randox Laboratories, Sir John Bell, chairman of the UK Government’s Life Sciences Industrial Strategy Board and Alastair Hamilton, chief executive of Invest NI

tests can reduce the burden on healthcare services. Its first ‘centre of excellence’ has now opened in Antrim. Founder and chief executive Dr Peter FitzGerald said “sophisticated diagnostics” would be key to the future of healthcare. He said: “When almost a quarter of the deaths of people under 75 in the UK are considered

Economic development agency Invest NI said it’s providing £23m in support towards the investment. And of that £23m, £5m will go towards Ulster University and Queen’s University projects. Invest NI chief executive Alastair Hamilton said: “Randox has a long history of investing heavily in innovation and R&D, which has enabled it to create a globally competitive export driven business, capable of developing world leading research. “This major investment will enable Randox to perform cutting-edge R&D which has the potential to revolutionise the global healthcare industry. This is excellent news for NI’s life and health sciences sector.” ■

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The future of executive search Ulster Business talks to 4c Executive founder and Chief Executive Gary Irvine and Managing Director Gordon Carson about how the firm has established itself over the last few years and hears about their ambitions for the future


t’s hard to believe that 4c Executive is only in its fifth year. So ingrained is the firm in the Northern Ireland business world that it feels like it has been around for much longer, but then again the people within the executive search company have a rich pedigree of experience, unparalleled in the industry. Founded by recruitment stalwart Gary Irvine in 2013, it has completed over 250 assignments, including many of Northern Ireland’s most senior roles to have emerged in the private, public and third sectors during that time. From the new Chief Executive Officer of Belfast Harbour to the Northern Ireland Director of business body the Confederation of British Industry, it has placed a raft of Northern Ireland’s leaders.

who are based in London and Belfast and work alongside use in 4c, then use their experience and the latest research tools to find the right candidates for the role.” More often than not, those potential candidates aren’t actively looking for a job but if their experience matches the requirements then 4c will approach them. “That means we are able to present the client with talent which they need, saving both them and the candidates time and money.” It’s a strategy that has borne fruit, both for the Northern Ireland economy and for 4c itself.

Proof of how that success measures up is the fact 4c has recorded an impressive 98% success rate on retained assignments, a statistic which compares to an recruitment industry average of 52%.

On day one there was just Gary and Emma Kieran, who is not a Search Consultant, but since then headcount has climbed to 11 at its James Street South base in Belfast, and includes Claire Reid as Head of Delivery and a recruitment market veteran in the form of Non-Executive Director Ian Rainey.

That’s quite a feat and one which Gary puts down to the firm’s unique approach to each assignment, one which is as far away from traditional recruitment as it is possible to be.

It has also established three new divisions – 4c Boardroom, 4c Interim and 4c Third Sector – in reaction to growing demand for such specialist services.

“We carry out active executive search,” he told Ulster Business. “After getting a thorough understanding of the client’s needs, our highly-experienced researchers,

That pace of growth is set to increase with the latest strategic hire, one well placed to take the firm to the next level as Gary moves to the Chief Executive role.


Interestingly, newly appointed Managing Director Gordon Carson doesn’t come from a recruitment industry background – “we have a wealth of recruitment experience already,” Gary said – but does come with a strong strategic outlook and an outstanding practical knowledge of the key commercial factors driving business growth and success. He has held a number of senior roles in the services sector across the UK, following a decade within the manufacturing sector across Europe and the US and has been in position since November 2017. “This is a really exciting time to join 4c,” he said. “The team is exceptional - with over 120 years of combined experience – and I’m looking forward to continuing that success in the years ahead by cementing our reputation as the executive search firm of choice, not just in Northern Ireland but also further afield.” That means cementing 4c’s reputation as the go to headhunting firm on these shores and extending its reach into the Republic and also GB, regions where the model will find a willing audience. “We already carry out work for local companies with bases outside Northern >

MARCH 2018



Ireland so will be able to replicate that with others. The fact we have five researchers in London also means we are already working in a broad geographical pool.” Confidence that expansion in Northern Ireland and beyond is assured comes from faith in the methodology, Gordon said. “We know the process works. Our rivals rely more heavily on advertising and searching databases to reach out to active job seekers, those who are probably unhappy in their roles and may be in a hurry to get out, alongside those who are passively seeking employment. “Where 4c’s approach is unique is that we focus on the remaining 50% of candidates who aren’t looking for a job. It’s telling that 86% of assignments we fill come from that inactive market. “That’s testament to the methodology and gives us great confidence, especially in new markets. We know we have a model which ultimately delivers and works.” That approach is also one which is more a partnership than client/supplier relationship,


At our core we’re about finding great people for great jobs but we also have the consultative piece where we go into the organisation before they recruit senior talent and then in the months after they’re recruited.

Gary Irvine

Gary said, with the firm acting as a longterm adviser in many cases.

“4c doesn’t just come into the organisation when there’s a live role and an absolute need. There are often clients out there who are considering growth or may have a problem within the organisation or with succession planning in the future.

“We spend a great deal of our time well in advance of roles coming to fruition advising clients and helping them iron out issues in their senior leadership team. “At our core we’re about finding great people for great jobs but we also have the consultative piece where we go into the organisation before they recruit senior talent and then in the months after they’ve recruited.” It doesn’t sound like the actions of a typical search company because 4c is anything but typical, hence its ability to rapidly embed itself in the Northern Ireland business, public and third sector world in such a short space of time. That meteoric rise shows no sign of slowing anytime soon. “To anyone who wants to understand what we do I would say get in touch and we’ll come and see you.” Such an attitude means the next five years, like the first five, will be just as exciting. ■

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CBI Northern Ireland – for companies that want Access, Influence and Intelligence – it’s time to meet the team! The CBI is a not-for-profit organisation which represents 190,000 UK businesses across a range of government policy areas. With a team of around 60 policy researchers, the CBI’s resources and expertise mean that it is the only organisation in the UK equipped to deal with a wide array of policy issues. The CBI office in Northern Ireland is one of 13 regional offices across the UK. Although best known for representing larger companies (with over 60 percent of the region’s Top 100 companies enjoying membership), the organisation is now increasingly attracting SMEs who recognise the value of getting involved.

CBI Northern Ireland Leadership CBI NI DIRECTOR – ANGELA McGOWAN

Angela is known locally as an economist and commentator with a background which spans the public and private sectors. Despite today’s challenges, she remains upbeat about the prospects for business: “2018 is a year of opportunity, but also a year of decision; the world economy is growing, and business will benefit – but only if we deliver a Brexit that supports jobs.”


Trevor is Group Chief Executive of Fane Valley Co-operative and a graduate of Queen’s University Belfast: “I am delighted to be supporting the CBI to create the right conditions for economic growth. As a local manufacturer, I know that it’s vital that business and government work together to deliver an economic environment that delivers jobs and prosperity for all our citizens.”

CBI NI COUNCIL: OUR MANDATE COMES FROM OUR MEMBERS As well as gathering evidence from surveys and interviews, the CBI NI office gets its policy mandate from a high-calibre Council which is made up of 40 CEOs and senior Directors from across Northern Ireland.

CBI MEMBERSHIP BENEFITS INCLUDE: 1) ACCESS TO INTELLIGENCE – Members receive regular updates such as economic briefings and expert analysis on government policy. 2) ABILITY TO INFLUENCE – When the impact of proposed legislation is not fully understood by those who devise it, the CBI steps in with the evidence base. The CBI’s has an extensive network of contacts in Whitehall, Westminster, the EU and in devolved administrations. 3) NETWORKING – The CBI NI team host up to 60 events a year ranging from our large annual dinner which attracts over 600 senior business leaders to small private roundtable discussions. In addition, we have developed strong collaborative links with European business groups including Ireland’s largest business representative group Ibec.


Email: angela.mcgowan@cbi.org.uk Telephone: 028 9010 1100

CBI NORTHERN IRELAND POLICY FORUMS In addition to the Regional Council, we draw on insights from an extensive network of specialists and thought leaders to drive our policy priorities. Senior managers from across the CBI network are invited to join a range of policy forums on strategic policy areas. Policy forums typically meet twice a year and are made up of around 20 to 30 members, each chaired by local policy experts. The main CBI forums are as follows...

PEOPLE AND SKILLS FORUM, CHAIRED BY SAM DAVIDSON Sam is Group Human Resources Director for the Henderson Group, based in Newtownabbey. Henderson Group currently employs more than 3,400 staff, making it one of Northern Ireland’s leading private employers. “The skills and ingenuity of our people are at the heart of prosperity. Getting access to talented people is a major issue for all sectors in Northern Ireland right now so I am truly delighted to be working with the CBI on this policy area.”

ECONOMIC STRATEGY FORUM, CHAIRED BY JACKIE HENRY Based in Belfast, Jackie is Senior Partner at Deloitte in Northern Ireland. She has over 20 years’ experience in consulting in both the public and private sectors and has supported the NI public sector in a number of key reform projects. “The CBI’s Economic Forum brings together an array of senior business representatives from a wide-range of sectors. This forum devises the CBI’s response to various economic policy areas such as the regional industrial strategy and the Programme for Government and is an important vehicle for CBI members to gain insight, as well as influence, the wider economic landscape.”

INNOVATION FORUM, CHAIRED BY NICK WHEELAN Nick has been Group Chief Executive of Dale Farm, the UK’s largest dairy cooperative, since August 2016. He is also a CBI Council member and sits on the board of Northern Ireland’s Food and Drink Association. “Innovation plays a role in determining firm-level differences because firms that develop new products, processes and technologies become more productive, challenge existing business models, and grow quickly. I am delighted to collaborate with the CBI NI to help create the conditions that enable businesses to come up with new ideas, invest in research and development (R&D) and adopt new technologies.”

INFRASTRUCTURE FORUM, CHAIRED BY ADRIAN DORAN Adrian is Head of Corporate Banking for Barclays Bank in Northern Ireland and is also a member of the CBI Council. “From my work on the CBI’s infrastructure committee, one thing is very clear – businesses want to see improved infrastructure delivery at the heart of the government’s agenda. The quality of our infrastructure has a clear impact on our ability to attract investment and make firms more competitive. Collaboration between business and government is essential if we want to realise our ambitious goals for regional infrastructure.”

ENERGY FORUM, CHAIRED BY DECLAN BILLINGTON Declan is the Chief Executive of John Thompson & Sons Ltd, Northern Ireland’s largest animal feed processor. He has been a long-term supporter of the CBI, holding various positions including Chair. “Coming from industry I am absolutely committed to getting energy prices down and having a secure supply of energy for the business community. The CBI’s energy policy forum is critically important as it brings together large energy users, generators, distributors and investors to find consensus on the way forward for shaping future energy policy.”

CBI’S UNDER-35s, FORUM CHAIRED BY MARIE DOYLE In 2017 the CBI in Northern Ireland established an Under-35’s Council, bringing together promising individuals identified by their own companies as tomorrow’s business leaders. Marie is a Senior Manager at Deloitte in Belfast. An Economist by background, she works across Public Sector Transformation and Delivery Programmes. “I am delighted to be appointed chair of the Under-35s forum for 2018/19. With 35 members, each involved in growing businesses, creating employment and bounding up the corporate ladder, it’s great to have a forum that really reflects our views and can influence CBI policy.”


Charlotte Turk, Ciaran O’Shiel, Head of A&L Goodbody in Northern Ireland Mark Thompson and Jonathan Hacking

A&L Goodbody: embracing the future IP, Media and Technology drive growth for A&L Goodbody


hat Intellectual Property, Media and Technology are areas of law which have been growing steadily over the last few years won’t be a surprise to many in the business world, nowhere more so than Northern Ireland. From contentious – disputes between two parties – to non-contentious – which tends to relate to transactions between parties, such as acquisitions or consultancy advice – the requirement for specialised services in these areas has become ever more apparent. In reaction, the legal world in Northern Ireland has responded, no more so than Belfast-based A&L Goodbody which has built one of the most skilled IP, media and technology practices on these shores.


Such is the team’s reputation that as well as a host of Top 100 Northern Ireland companies as its clients, instructions regularly emerge from overseas clients, not just those seeking local representation on cases they are contending with a Northern Ireland link, but also for them to work on cases in GB and beyond. “The Northern Ireland economy has matured and employers want a solicitor who is a specialist in their sector,” Mark Thompson, Head of A&L Goodbody in Northern Ireland and lead on noncontentious IP, Media and Tech matters. “The team has grown with that need and is at the top of its field by some length.”

Ciaran O’Shiel, an associate in the Litigation and Dispute Resolution team, explained some of the firm’s work in these areas on the contentious front. “We are seeing more and more intellectual property related disputes in relation to trade mark infringement and brand enforcement work. We’d regularly work in conjunction with London law firms who need an NI solution for their international clients seeking to protect their brands - particularly in relation to instances involving counterfeit goods.” As for A&L Goodbody’s work in the media sector, this has grown substantially in recent times, with the team earning a reputation as experts in the field and gaining some major instructions from domestic and internationally


“When we’re doing one type of work we quite often find that we’re asked to act in another field,” he said. “Take cyber security, for instance; we may be called in to defend against potential litigation from a breach and then, on the non-contentious side we’ll be asked to look at an organisation’s infrastructure and systems to make sure it is properly protected in the future rather than firefighting.” The EU General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) is also an area where the firm has been busy, according to associate Jonathan Hacking. Internet intermediary related litigation is a large part of the team’s work in the technology space, which is an area that is developing rapidly. “A few years ago it would be a rare occasion for an intermediary case to come before the Northern Ireland Courts but now some of the biggest technology companies in the world are appearing in the court list almost on a weekly basis. This is trend that is set to continue given the increasing amount of content being uploaded and posted online.” Ciaran said.

based clients. This can range from anything from pre-publication advice to representing clients in High Court litigation. “Recently, we won a privacy and data protection case for a major news organisation which went right through to the Court of Appeal. This was a really interesting case where the Court held that an individual who put himself in the public eye was not entitled to an expectation of privacy in relation to a relative’s criminal convictions.” The firm has recently recruited Charlotte Turk from another media law team and brings experience of acting for local and national newspapers to further develop the firm’s offering in this space.

MARCH 2018

A large part of the work has involved dealing with emergency injunctions, with this team alone having worked on three major ones in the last year, according to partner Brendan Fox, head of the contentious IP, media and technology team. Ciaran, in particular, has developed a hugely positive reputation in the media and privacy field, and works with the wider teams both in Belfast and in Dublin. “Ciaran is getting a reputation as the specialist and that is reflected in the work which we are winning in these practice areas,” Brendan said. The non-contentious side, headed up by Mark Thompson, works in tandem with Brendan and team.

“We’re doing a lot to educate clients so they can prepare for the regulations,” he said, adding that the firm recently held a workshop to do just that. “Our view is that if you prepare properly you can deal with it. There is a lot of scaremongering in the market currently which is unhelpful. GDPR is very important, but there is still sufficient time to ensure you are properly prepared.” That involves making sure the infrastructure is in place to show your organisation is compliant with the new rules, something which all organisations will need to prove. “On the one side, we’re doing a lot of GDPR audit work to make sure there are no issues and then on the other after May we expect to be doing some defence work on the contentious side,” Mark said. “While corporations are alive to the requirements, individuals are also becoming much more aware of their rights.” It’s because of such an all-encompassing and quality service that A&L Goodbody’s IP, Media and Technology team have become leaders in their field. And it’s because of their ability to be flexible with the changing requirements of industry and regulation that growth is set to continue in the future. ■



Swiss bank Julius Baer on the path to growth in NI


wiss private bank Julius Baer is targeting the expanding Belfast market as it grows its presence right across the UK as a whole. The business gives wealth management advice and planning to individuals with a wealth of at least £1m. Julius Baer's arrival here had been in the planning for some time. It's had a presence in the Republic since 2000 and in the UK for over 50 years. The firm began its operations in Northern Ireland in November, led by three former Barclays Wealth directors, Jonathan Dobbin, Glenn Branney and James McDowell. Managing director David Durlacher, said: "The hardest thing for any business including ours is not premises but people. A business is built not on its brand or balance sheet but the people it has, and that's what I'm spending much more time trying to get in place. “We have three of the best people in wealth management in Northern Ireland and we'll continue to recruit around them to build up business in Northern Ireland. "We have spent a long time determining when the best time was for us to come in and make this investment. And we are committed in the long term to seeing that investment succeed. "As for the economic position, there are always political questions that are raised, and now is no different, but we see the Northern Ireland economy as a very strong base for wealth creation. We have seen that over many decades in shipbuilding or manufacturing.


David Durlacher (left) and Jonathan Dobbin of Julius Baer wealth management

"That wealth creation has evolved. We've seen fintech, biotech, pharmaceutical and what's been coined as a knowledge economy — perhaps more so than any other UK region.

Speaking about the company's plans here, he said: "In Northern Ireland, 72 out of the top 100 firms are family-owned or they are locally owned and that is a very strong correlation to us.

"With others retrenching and restructuring, we think now is the time to make that investment and have that long-term view beyond what are the political questions."

“Whatever Brexit may throw out we still see a very strong opportunity for wealth creation and for industries in NI to succeed.

He said the firm was "bullish" about US opportunities as President Donald Trump pursues a protectionist agenda.

A business is built not on its brand or balance sheet but the people it has, and that’s what I’m spending much more time trying to get in place.

David Durlacher

"The US has for a long time before Trump's election been an attractive market and does not lose that now and, if anything, we view the US as one of the strongest investment options. "The reforms he (Trump) has brought about in the past year have been shown to be beneficial to companies... and we therefore do hold out the US equity market as showing continued price appreciation potential so we are bullish on that opportunity." ■

IT & Technology

Sponsored by


Kara Swisher

The woman holding Silicon Valley's tech titans to account Recode co-founder Kara Swisher is a media trailblazer, combining old-fashioned journalism with profitable new business models. She spoke to Adrian Weckler.


n an age of media industry uncertainty, Kara Swisher walks tall. The former 'Washington Post' and 'Wall Street Journal' journalist struck out on her own with fellow WSJ tech scribe Walt Mossberg, creating one of the technology industry's most critical new organs, Recode. Regularly breaking stories about what's happening in Silicon Valley, the company has also crafted a highly-lucrative events and online podcasting business. As such, Swisher has become one of the most influential and successful media executives covering global technology. Swisher is outspoken on some issues and has relentlessly pursued tech companies she feels are behaving badly.


She recently sat down with tech editor Adrian Weckler to talk through a number of issues, from misogyny in the tech business to getting the late Steve Jobs and Bill Gates together and making money out of the media in a climate where so many others are struggling.

dollars don't make them different from you and I.

1: On tech leaders not acknowledging that their products and services sometimes cause harm.

But they don't think they change, they perceive themselves as the same simple people who were in the garage. So one of the things that I try to get through to them is how people are scared of them, that they're dangerous, that they're not thoughtful about the impact of their platforms.

One of the things that's irritating about most of the leaders in Silicon Valley is that they're almost religious in how they look at their jobs. They believe they're benign and they imagine that they don't cause harm. They imagine that they're changing the world for good and that their billions of

They live in these bubbles of privilege, people constantly licking them up and down. People tell them they're smart all the time and so they change.

These companies are hitting things, they're breaking things and they pretend that they're not breaking them. But they


know they are. There's a famous thing at Facebook, they have these posters on the wall saying "Move fast and break things." It's a very famous thing that Mark [Zuckerberg] says. They literally have these giant posters on the walls of these companies. They think they're adorable. I was up there recently and I turned to one of the executives and said you have to stop f**king breaking things, you've broken enough. And now we have Trump, I'm sorry to say, and they had a big impact in that. They may not have had the key impact but they definitely had an impact and they have to take responsibility for control of it. I think growing maturity will be part of it as leaders start to have kids and they start to think about the impact. 2: On misogyny in the tech industry I think a lot about this. It's a deeply misogynistic and sexist culture. Uber is the perfect example of that. They had a culture that was just built on misogyny. Their cultural values were around destruction. The only way it's going to happen is that there are more women in charge, more people of colour in charge, different ages in charge. It's almost like seizing power seems to be the only way to change things. In journalism and tech, several of the major sites are run by women. So there's a reason why this is getting coverage and it's important news. If you have a more diverse group of people in charge, you ultimately link together decision-making. This has been proven again and again. A diverse culture is a better culture. They require that you make a business case but it's also because it's the

MARCH 2018

right thing to do. So, just being in charge, that seems to be the only way. We need bigger, more diverse boards, more women in positions of real power, more people in colour in positions of power and we need age differences too.

3: On EU Commissioner Margrethe Vestager, who has fined companies such as Apple and Google billions of euro. She has been out front and a pioneer - and she has had an effect. When you talk to US politicians they try to say that she's protectionist or that Europeans are against innovation. But I think she recognised years ago the dangers of these large platforms and the possibilities of abuse. So I'm a big fan of hers because she does that even though she's attacked by a lot of people for holding back innovation or being too regulated. 4: On taking sides when other US media insist their journalists may not express personal views on social media. I think that's bulls**t. I know why the 'New York Times' is doing that and I have huge admiration for Dean Baquet [executive

editor, New York Times]. The work they did, along with the 'New Yorker', around the Harvey Weinstein stuff is amazing. But if you're covering Trump and you can't say negative things? I mean I get that you're the White House beat reporter. But when you get lied to every single day, there's a point where you have to say these people are liars and that's a factual statement not a bias. I'm tired of being lied to by people every day so I don't know how the White House beat staff handle it. And they get decried from both sides, it's fascinating. They're trying to be right in the middle but is there a middle here when someone lies to you? Do you really have to play by the old rules when they don't even have rules? Similarly, I have a point of view on the responsibility of tech companies. I'm going to keep saying it and we'll keep reporting on it. If they don't like it, they can lump it. 5: On creating new, commerciallysustainable media models in an era when social platforms hoover up most of the new ad money. Podcasts have turned out to be very lucrative. It's not display advertising. It's spoken advertising, radio advertising. It starts at Squarespace but the other day I did Citicorp or something. It's like cable. Cable started with Viagra ads and now they have better ads. They still have the Viagra ads at night but you progress as a media bridge. Podcasting is very lucrative because it's very low-cost. There are a lot of them but if you do the right one and you hit the right audience, it's certainly very lucrative. >



There's almost no cost to it and you can replicate it. So we can take all our events and put them in podcasts and then sell advertising against it. So you're making the money on the events and then you're making money on the advertising. I think a lot about how to cut up our stuff. 6: On how to get Steve Jobs and Bill Gates on the same stage at your conference event - the only time they ever publicly appeared together. They wouldn't have done it themselves. But they're smart people who like a challenge. And, of course, they were aware of their place in history together. Also, nobody had asked them before. It was like a prom date, you know? Nobody asked them. We also had a place where they knew they would get a fair go. We're known for being tough but we're not mean. Smart people like smart questions, they just do. They don't want to be kissed up to. I mean some of them do but we don't care about those people. Our reporting is our strength. Because if you notice, we break a lot of stories too and then they talk to us because they know we don't need them. I don't care if they talk to me or not. I'll find out one way or the other. Like a lot of our Yahoo coverage, she [Marissa Mayer] zeroed us out of everything. I don't care. Good. I'll


Our reporting is our strength. Because if you notice, we break a lot of stories too and then they talk to us because they know we don’t need them. I don’t care if they talk to me or not. I’ll find out one way or the other.

find out anyway, I don't need you. You don't want to be in bed with these people, you just don't. 7: On how Mark Zuckerberg is coping with running Facebook You want mature leaders who evolve and I think Mark Zuckerberg is evolving - I think he's a thoughtful person. He's trying to get it right but I think he does it real slow. It's not to say that Facebook was directly at fault but their platforms were used and abused by the Russian government. Facebook didn't do enough, or they didn't anticipate it.

I don't think they said 'Let's help Trump win the election' or 'Let's let Russia to use our platform'. But I think that they didn't have full control of their platforms and therefore someone else took advantage of it. They also didn't anticipate that someone would kill on Facebook or that there would be suicide. And when you start to get this amount of power, you have great responsibility. 8: On maintaining friendships with senior tech leaders It's not my job to be their friend. At heart, a lot of them are good people. For years we've been hard on Silicon Valley about diversity and women's issues and now it's obvious why we were. We were right. It's the same thing about a lot of the companies. I was really hard on Yahoo, but it turns out [Marissa Mayer] was a bad CEO. We stake out narratives and we stick to them on things like sexual harassment. It's the same when looking at the uses and abuses of power. I covered Microsoft and am very aware of what happens with unchecked corporate power. You'll have decent arguments with them but so far, we haven't had a problem with access or talking to them. What we don't want to do is to promote access journalism, that we trade our access for being softer on them. So far, so good. ■

Cyber Security: The importance of being secure, vigilant and resilient In the last few years’ major cyber-attacks have increased significantly, including the ransomware attack WannaCry that crippled the NHS and the Equifax data breach which affected over 143 million people in the United States. As demand for Cyber Security professionals grows, Northern Ireland’s biggest technology and information security employer, Allstate, explores why now is an excellent time to consider a career in Cyber Security. Allstate is the largest publicly held personal lines insurer in America, protecting approximately 16 million households from life’s uncertainties through auto, home, life and other insurance. We’re a service company, we don’t build cars or ships; people buy Allstate products to protect against life’s uncertainties. The company’s Modus operandi is ‘You’re in Good Hands with Allstate’. Implicit within this is a commitment to protect the security of the information that customers share with Allstate.

It is widely accepted that we are in what is being called the 4th industrial revolution - the digital revolution. A phenomenon that is truly changing the world forever. The digital revolution is marked by technology breakthroughs in multiple areas: robotics, artificial intelligence, nanotechnology, quantum computing, biotechnology, The Internet of Things, 3D printing and autonomous vehicles. There has been an explosion in the number, diversity, intelligence and connectivity of technology, which has created exponential growth and distribution of information and data – your information. The revolution is exciting, it is energetic and it holds a world of potential. We must embrace this digital revolution and harness it for the positive opportunities it offers us in health, politics, education and the economy. It has the potential to radically change our world for the positive.

Like any transformation, it is imperative to implement a successful risk management strategy that delivers focused, cost effective security of your digital assets. This area of growth within technology is presenting an exciting opportunity for job creation and groundbreaking work. Allstate’s global Information Security organisation is undergoing large-scale transformation, offering exciting Cyber Security career opportunities in Northern Ireland. This is across a variety growing areas including Leadership, Security Innovation Strategy & Analytics, Security Engineering, Security Operations and Security Governance & Risk Compliance. The number of cyber incidents and their associated costs to organisations continues to rise. The Cyber Security industry is on course to generate salaries of £60 million per annum in Northern Ireland. Northern Ireland is already seen as a global innovation hub for Cyber Security, join the team to win the cyber risk battle.


Are you feeling lucky? “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times. It was the age of foolishness, it was the age of wisdom”

some of the simplest ways to protect your systems from attack, as it makes stealing credentials to misuse more difficult. Another simple procedure is to ensure all company equipment with sensitive data is fully encrypted. Burglars like houses with open doors just as much as hackers like companies with no controls.


oday your business faces the greatest threat of cyber attack it ever has, and yet also today you face the least threat of cyber attack you will ever face. Based on our ever-increasing reliance on IT in both our business and personal lives, we are all in the IT business now and, just like death and taxes, cyber attacks are now another certainty we will all have to face going forward. Irrespective of your size or sector, you will be attacked, as highlighted during the delays at the opening ceremony at the Winter Olympic Games; a direct result of a cyber attack on their IT systems. Please take a moment and think about the implications for your company of a successful cyber- attack. The result being your staff not being able to send/receive emails, the loss of confidential customer data, the inability to issue invoices, inability to take bookings, reputational damage, internal / external monetary loss, inability to pay suppliers or staff. It just makes commercial sense for you to take action to mitigate these risks as early as possible, not only from a financial perspective, (stopping an attack is always a cheaper option than dealing with the fall out after the event), but also from operational and reputational perspectives. Outsource Solutions has spent the last 18 years providing advice, support, technological solutions and experience to ensure our customer’s IT infrastructures are fit for purpose, not only for today, but for tomorrow. We can design, develop, install and pro-actively manage your IT with the objective of future proofing your systems and mitigating against threats such as cyber attacks.


Terry Moore, Outsource MD

What is the Greatest Threat behind the likelihood of your business facing a Cyber Attack? Is it YOU the decision maker? You will always have the choice to do nothing, cross your fingers and hope your company is the exception to the rule and will never become the victim of an attack. Alternatively, you can decide to take some actions to ensure the risks of a successful attack are mitigated. We say “mitigate” the risk, as whatever some may say, no one can guarantee 100% protection against a successful cyber attack. What we can guarantee is that if YOU decide to do nothing, sooner rather than later, you will be attacked and your business will suffer. Is it your STAFF? It is estimated more than 50% of cyber attacks are considered internal, whether via witting or unwitting staff actions. To mitigate you need to ensure your staff are trained in understanding their IT security obligations, to spot possible sinister external attempts to access your systems and it is constantly reinforced to them the significance and negative implications of not fully adhering to satisfactory internal security processes and procedures. Is it your PROCESSES AND PROCEDURES? Basic rules around the enforcement of strong standards for user id’s and passwords and keeping them safe and secure are

Is it your IT SYSTEM DESIGN AND MAINTENANCE? First and foremost, don’t ignore the simple stuff. Ensure the appropriate software patches are applied immediately to minimize the vulnerability window of opportunity to exploit before the patch is applied. When designing your IT systems, design for future risks, known and unknown and use the best technology and the best professional advice. As importantly ensure your systems are monitored, patched, updated 24/7/365 by a highly regarded IT managed services company. Seek professional advice So, whatever you may feel are the greatest threats to your IT security, Outsource advice is make the effort to consider the impacts and “do something” to address. Outsource’s highly regarded Fully Managed Contract (FMC) is one way to secure and future proof your business. Just like taking out car insurance mitigates you against the costs and inconvenience of an accident, our 24/7/365 managed FMC fixed price rolling contract mitigates your IT infrastructure against existing and future attacks. However, our FMC does much more and is based on three fundamental pillars: recovery, security and performance. If you are accepted onto FMC you are guaranteed, we will recover you, we will mitigate your security risks and will maximise your system performance. Don’t take risks with your IT, Outsource Solutions IT. ■ For more information contact: Outsource Solutions (NI) Ltd Tel: 028 9448 5112 Email: info@osgroup.co.uk Web: www.osgroup.co.uk




T s e T a e Gr The

T a e r h T “Cyber Security – is anyone else worried about this?”

CYBER SECURITY EVENT Sessions with: PSNI / Security Experts / Tech Enthusiasts / Industry Experts

 Location: Seamus Heaney Centre, Bellaghy BT45 8HT  Date: Tuesday 24th April 2018  Time: Morning 9am – 12:30pm – Breakfast on arrival  Call: +44 (0)28 9448 5112 Register online: osgroup.co.uk/cybersecurityevent

“Better Business through Better Technology.”

Mash Direct & WorkPal to keep up to date with planned maintenance meaning fewer breakdowns and more savings”.

Head of WorkPal Ian Megahey with Lance Hamilton from Mash Direct



ward-winning Co Down food producer, Mash Direct has implemented WorkPal to manage maintenance of their growing facility in Comber. Mash Direct employ over 180 people at its farm, where they produce and supply vegetable and potato products to supermarkets (including Asda and Morrisons) and independent retailers across the UK and Ireland and exports to the USA and the Middle East. Mash Direct was founded by Martin and Tracy Hamilton as a family business, in 2004 diversifying from their potato and vegetable farm to producing products more convenient to consumers. Their products include prepared potato, croquettes, potato cakes and vegetable burgers. With a growing number of maintainable assets currently over 250, Mash Direct were facing a number of challenges when managing both planned and reactive maintenance and looked into a number of maintenance management systems before choosing WorkPal.


What were Mash Direct’s internal maintenance management Issues? “As a rapidly growing business, we wanted to ensure that our growth wouldn’t outstrip our maintenance plans. With WorkPal we can remotely issue both planned and reactive maintenance jobs to our engineer’s devices who pick it up instantly and can attend to the job much more quickly,” explained Lance Hamilton from Mash Direct. The structure of the maintenance activities has improved and WorkPal reports show the KPIs. This information can then be used for further improvement. Mash Direct are now able to run custom KPI reports which can provide key insights into asset condition. “Thanks to WorkPal we can analyse maintenance data and make decisions to either continue maintenance or replace the asset altogether. Assets that are continually breaking down are expensive and we can make informed decisions based on our WorkPal reports.” “One of the main issues we faced was planned maintenance was not always up to date which led to a higher frequency of breakdowns. This costs the company in the form of downtime. WorkPal has allowed us

Benefits of WorkPal for Mash Direct? The execution of preventative maintenance helps to avoids asset failures. However the execution of too much preventative maintenance can cause inefficiency. By using WorkPal reporting and by keeping up with the KPIs, WorkPal clients can find the right balance between preventative and corrective maintenance for their organisation and can optimise profits. “We find WorkPal beneficial from scheduling preventative maintenance tasks to tracking historial data from each individual machine and everything in between. Moving away from a clunky paper based system has saved us substantial administrative hours”. How did WorkPal Enhance Maintenance Capabilities? “Each of our engineers carries a rugged device which has the WorkPal app. Jobs are pushed instantly to these devices which then creates a daily schedule with both planned and reactive maintenance jobs. One of important benefit of WorkPal is its ease of use- our engineers can navigate easily and are led through set processes to ensure health and safety compliance.” “On WorkPal we can schedule planned maintenance and set the frequency of the tasks. So if a weekly task is completed it automatically creates a repeat task for the following week. This saves admin time for our maintenance team.” Would You Recommend WorkPal? “I would recommend WorkPal to any asset intensive organisations to improve the efficiency of servicing and maintenance operations. The ease of use in particular is a benefit.” ■ For more information on how WorkPal can transform your business and put an end to your paper work, contact one of the WorkPal team on 028 9027 1777, info@yourworkpal.com or visit yourworkpal.com

Available for:

  iOS


Streamline your workflow process, from initial job assignment to client invoicing, with WorkPal, the end-to-end job management system. Features include:









WorkPal is a Mobile Workflow Management solution that streamlines your business operations, saving you time and money.

Find out more at: www.yourworkpal.com or call 028 9096 0366


Digital transformation – the four ingredients for success Over the last few years, digital transformation has been redefining the way organisations operate, giving rise to everything from new practices and processes to entirely new business models and revenue streams. Against this backdrop, Sinead Dillon, Principal Consultant at leading ICT solutions provider Fujitsu, explains how organisations can manage and capitalise on the transition into the digital era


ur latest independent study examining the state of digital transformation reports that while nine in ten business leaders (90%) say their organisation now has a clearly defined digital strategy, three quarters (74%) say that projects are often undertaken that aren’t linked to the overarching business strategy, and two in three (66%) say the cost of failure has put them off future digital transformation. In order to digitally transform and see returns from the process,


it is no longer enough just to have the best applications and devices; without talented and capable people to use them, they are meaningless. By accompanying customers on their digital journeys and through our research for the Digital Transformation PACT report, we have learned that it is only by bringing equilibrium to four vital ingredients – People, Actions, Collaboration and Technology (PACT) – that organisations can hope to thrive in this digital era.

Fostering the right processes, attitudes and behaviours is integral to successful digital transformation. Our report finds however that there is a disconnect between business leaders’ perception of digital transformation and the reality. Implementing an evaluation strategy can help organisations ensure they have a clear process in place for assessing projects. Our research finds that when evaluation procedures are in place, they also help to limit potential losses when projects go awry and quickly refocus programmes.



Without the right skills, businesses will struggle to implement digital seamlessly and reap the rewards effectively. A great many organisations are only too aware of that need with 90% of those surveyed saying they are taking measures to increase access to digital skills both within and outside their business. Upskilling and knowledge sharing are also avenues that businesses can explore to boost the talent pipeline while 87% also highlight the need to focus on a digitally friendly culture open to nurturing innovation.

A new age of co-creation is dawning, one in which the full potential of digital transformation is being fuelled by the open sharing of knowledge and expertise. While 63% of business leaders say that are undertaking or planning co-creation project, three-quarters admit a lack of success in the short term could impact a partnership arrangement. Through our own experience with customer and partners locally, this is an issue that can be easily overcome by agreeing a long-term vision and strategy together.


FOCUS ON TECHNOLOGY New and emerging technologies are beginning to give organisations incredible power to help achieve their goals. Indeed, 84% of the business leaders surveyed said they would change their business model to adapt to new technology. Investment in technology however isn’t a standalone project – it requires planning – including a look at future technologies, managing risks and challenges such as security and of course staff training. Sinead DIllon

Digital transformation will always be about balance and as many companies are now finding, turning a strategy into digital success is about working together to adapt, share and build innovation into the heart of a business. Part of supporting this process is shining a spotlight on the businesses that are working to ensure everyone can benefit from digital transformation and amplifying best practice. As such, we are delighted to support Business in the Community NI as it recognises a ‘Digital Champion’ at its annual Responsible Business Awards for the first time. While technology is bringing unprecedented change, digital innovation offers a new way to tackle both old and emerging social and environmental challenges. This inaugural award, which we proudly sponsor, will be presented to the local organisation that best creates innovative digital solutions to tackle these challenges. We look forward to celebrating and rewarding Northern Ireland’s first ‘Digital Champion’ at the upcoming Responsible Business Awards in Northern Ireland on 24th May 2018. ■ For more information on the Responsible Business Awards visit www.bitcni.org.uk/ awards

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Keystone Law Northern Ireland celebrates first anniversary with further expansion


he dynamic and ever-expanding Keystone Law Northern Ireland’s use of bespoke and rapidly-developing technology sets it apart from the competition. And as the firm completes a landmark first year, the future looks bright for the legal disrupter. Founding partner John McMahon explained that Keystone began life back in 2002 in London and was set up by current managing director of the London operation James Knight “who had a vision for law firms to operate in an entirely different way than they had done historically”.

Danny McKay

“Instead of taking on huge offices with three, four hundred employees, he wanted to a novel approach to law where people could have the chance to work from wherever best suited clients. To make that work, to make it attractive to the client he knew that investment in technology would really make the difference.” John continued: “Our Adelaide Street office is a half-way house so to speak. We have staff specialising in all areas of law and are always on the lookout for new lawyers who want to do things differently. Our model gives staff a flexible way to work or the attraction is there for those maybe wanting to return home from England,” At the time of its Belfast inception Keystone started with John and his fellow founding partner Danny McKay as well as a secretary.


John and Jim Houston will also in March be representing the firm along with other Keystone colleagues at MIPIM in Cannes.

John McMahon

Keystone celebrated further success towards the end of last year when its London office became the third UK firm in history to float on the London Stock Exchange which saw a rise of over 20% from £1.60 to £1.96 in its first hours of trading. Currently shares are priced at £2.47.

“But we’ve been growing ever since,” explained John. “We appointed senior commercial property solicitor Jim Houston, formerly of Cleaver Fulton Rankin and Clifford Chance lawyer and Translink’s General Counsel, JP Irvine. We have since welcomed employment lawyer Heather Hacking from Simons Muirhead & Burton, exTransport for London General Counsel Jessica Morris and we also have the added expertise of two trainees Jonny Mullan and Lauren McGarry.” John spoke of how he and JP will be representing Keystone Law at the upcoming Belfast Media Group/Irish Echo New York-New Belfast conference in June. “The two day event will be a chance to meet potential clients, source inward investment from the States and ultimately discuss what Keystone has to offer and our ability to attract the best people from the best firms.”

Jim Houston

JP Irvine

Meanwhile Keystone NI was invited to partner with The Start Up World Cup, playing a facilitative role in January’s competition. The firm was also invited to judge on Shark Tank, an Ulster University Dragon’s Den style competition celebrating innovation and entrepreneurship, taking place in March. Keystone also recently became a member of ADS, the premier trade association for the aerospace industry. Keystone was invited to join ADS by its key aerospace clients Genesis Aerotech Limited and Causeway Aero. And the fee-earning work continues to roll in with the firm recently creating the corporate vehicles and legal relationships to launch Halo Belfast in Northern Ireland, a £70m cyber and economic development in collaboration with client Marie Macklin MBE together with a £40m forward funded 620 bed student accommodation deal in Belfast City Centre for Northside Regeneration Limited. ■

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Celebrating the contribution of women at First Derivatives First Derivatives (FD) is a global technology provider with 20 years of experience working with some of the world’s largest finance, technology and energy institutions and operates from 14 offices across Europe, North America and Asia Pacific, including the headquarters in Newry. The company’s Kx technology is a leader in high-performance streaming analytics and operational intelligence across multiple industries. Female employees at FD have always made a huge contribution to the success of the company across sales, engineering, operations and through senior management. Meet four of the women who have played important roles in the company’s success to date.

Victoria Shanks, Executive Director

still enjoy what I do and that the element of fun is still there. I’m also really proud that I joined FD when the company only had five employees, and now we’ve grown to over 2000. FD offers a lot of amazing opportunities and recognises talent in young people, which I love.

Q: What does your role at FD involve and what does a typical day look like? A: My role at FD takes on various forms, including business development, sitting on the executive management team and working as the Global Head of Kx Services. A typical day varies so much because I do a lot of travelling to places like London, Munich and NYC, but when I’m not traveling I usually work from home to develop proposals and fulfill client requests. Q: Did you always want a career in technology and would you recommend it to others? A: I actually fell into this role by accident. After graduating Uni, I saw an advertisement in the ‘Belfast Telegraph’ looking for people with an interest in finance, a background in maths and a desire to travel – it matched. I would definitely recommend a role in technology, especially at FD, because there are so many different roles. Some roles in technology involve sitting at a desk coding, and some roles involve developing client relationships and business development, which is what I enjoy doing. I meet so many different people around the world; there are a lot of opportunities. Q: What are you most proud of in your achievements? A: Personally, I am proud of the fact that I


Q: Could you tell me a little bit about having a global role and raising a family? A: I have a lot of flexibility with my job, and I’m able to work from home when I’m not travelling. Managing my own diary has been key and having two sets of grandparents nearby to help with the kids definitely helps! Being in Northern Ireland makes is easier as well because everything is very accessible as compared to some big cities.

Catherine Harrison, SVP of HR and Training Q: What does your role as SVP of HR and Training entail? A: With a growing population of employees across the globe, this is a busy and demanding role but I have a great team around me. My role has two aspects – firstly, the support and encouragement of individual employees and secondly, supporting the various business units we have across the globe to resource their teams, solve HR issues and ensure we deliver to our client base. Since I joined the company in 2009, our growth and

Naomh Rooney, MIS Manager & POC Manager Q: What does your role at FD involve? A: My MIS (Management of Information Systems) role involves writing software and creating database solutions for a variety of departments within the company. I work closely with the CEO Brian Conlon in designing this software and I manage a team of developers. The POC (Proof of Concept) management role has pushed me out of my comfort zone through learning new skills managing projects and dealing with clients, sales reps, and engineers. Q: Could you tell me a little about your journey in the STEM field? A: My first experience of technology was back in the early 80’s when my dad brought home

Colette McMullan, Head of Legal

Q: What does a typical day look like in your role at First Derivatives? A: As head of the in-house legal department,

success has been phenomenal so there are not too many typical days. Q: What type of culture exists in FD? A: Our culture has evolved as we have grown and expanded outside the island of Ireland. However, we still promote the importance of connecting and caring about each of our employees. We are interested in them as people – their success is the foundation of FD’s success. It does fascinate me though that people are the same the world over. We recruit in Toronto, Sydney, New York and Newry and are essentially looking for super bright people

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which took me to FD and eventually into a software engineering role. Q: What excites you as you look to the future? A: FD has branched into a broad variety of industries so I am excited for the company and myself. There are so many opportunities to learn new programming languages, undertake different roles and projects, get promotions and even relocate if desired. The company has become so diverse in its offering. a BBC micro-computer, a programming book and a floppy disk. I had fun writing basic gaming programmes, but this was my only exposure to computing until I was in school at 6th year. At that time, I was more interested in mathematics and science, which led me into engineering and then mathematics at University. I followed my passion for maths

Q: What advice would you give your 20-year-old self? A: Be confident. Don’t worry about what people think of you and don’t be afraid to try something new. Get out of your comfort zone; you might discover a new path you may not have considered before – and even if you don’t, it’s still liberating.

there really isn’t a typical day, but I always check emails first thing when I wake up because of the global nature of the business. Colleagues in the Asia-Pacific region are still online in the early morning here, so I do some work at home and respond to emails while getting ready for the day. When I get into the office, I have a catch up with the NI team, and have another catch up in the afternoon when the US business comes online. The days are filled with team meetings and calls with clients.

Q: What are you most proud of in your achievements? A: Since joining FD five years ago, the department has grown from two people to a team of nine and continues to grow. We’re dealing with a much more complex business and new technology. I’m proud that the team we’ve built in-house is at the forefront from a legal perspective. We have a strong team and we are always working together to come up with innovative solutions. The skillset of the team has evolved as the business has evolved.

Q: How would you describe working at FD? A: It’s very dynamic and fast-moving. It really suits people who are ambitious and willing to take responsibility. The culture is really refreshing – it’s not very hierarchical and if you have the drive, you can progress quickly at quite a young age here. It feels quite entrepreneurial.

who are personally ambitious and care about themselves and the work that they do – it makes for a very powerful and successful team when you have all that energy and enthusiasm to channel. Q: What excites you about the future? A: It is great to be part of a team which creates so much employment, particularly for those at the beginning of their careers. I have observed the exit of so much talent from Northern Ireland because there simply aren’t enough quality graduate jobs. In 2017 alone, FD hired over 400 graduates and that number will continue to grow as the company expands. It’s

Q: What excites you as you look into the future? A: My gut feeling about the tech industry in general is that it’s at the cusp of a big change and the landscape will be very different in a few years time. We’re working on projects that are leading edge, and that’s really exciting for the future.

exciting to see the impact we’re making. Q: What are you most proud of in your career? A: First Derivatives has won a number of awards such as Glass Door’s “Best Place to Work” and being named one of The Times Top 100 Graduate Employers. Such recognition is always welcome and we always enjoy celebrating our team’s success. However, I am most proud of the relationships and friendships formed over the last decade at FD. It has been great to see employees grow and develop their professional skills and also see them achieve personal milestones.



Navigating the storm this region, you are asking yourself what is the best course of action. Unfortunately, there is no ‘one size fits all’ approach, however I do have some perspectives I can offer.

SECURE YOUR BEST PEOPLE If they are good at what they do, other businesses will try to prise them away from you. Start by benchmarking reward it will take the immediate pain away but make sure you have development plans for all key people, money is only a sticking plaster.

CREATE A POSITIVE CULTURE Recent research shows that in a work setting people rank remuneration, socialisation and personal fulfilment differently at various stages of their lives. Have you looked at the make up of your team and identified what activities you can drive that support a positive working culture? Justin Rush


t present, leadership teams in all businesses are focused upon growth in some shape.

Growth will often be underpinned by the appointment of new staff at various levels. In conversations I have had recently with senior executives of local businesses the issue of how difficult it is to appoint for specific positions has become a major concern.

qualifying in 2017 has just met the prerecession level.

YOUR BUDGET IS NOT SUFFICIENT For the most, salary levels for junior to management level positions has been mainly flat for the last five years. Expectations for wage growth in real terms are now very much present, so don’t be surprised if you need to add 10% to your salary pay point.

BREXIT EFFECTS This is why it is difficult to recruit right now:

THE SHRINKING TALENT POOL Under investment in skills and training during the recessionary period has lagged behind the levels needed to produce the professionals local businesses currently need. The number of accountancy, legal, human resources and associate professionals


Whatever the ultimate position for Northern Ireland becomes, EU nationals are simply not viewing Northern Ireland as positively as they did in the past. More EU nationals are leaving than arriving. A vital supply line to the local labour market is receding. So if you are like me, a local business person who is committed to living and working in

MAKE RECRUITMENT A PRIORITY FOR ALL YOUR TEAM NOT JUST HR There are many good reasons to have everyone in your business involved in promoting your vacancies; referrals cost less, are generally of a higher quality and tend to be more ‘bought in’ to the process due to a personal connection.

BUILD FOR THE FUTURE If economic forecasts for growth are to be believed, it is going to become more expensive, more time consuming and more challenging to attract top talent in the years ahead. Smart businesses are designing training programmes and growing their own. ■ Justin Rush is Director at Belfast based Abacus Group. He specialises in advising businesses on research, advice and strategy on talent. He can be contacted via justin@abacus.jobs



The only Brexit bonus? By Emma Deighan


ince the Brexit referendum, cross border shopping has been on the rise, reaching 2009/10 levels when towns like Newry, Enniskillien and Derry reaped the rewards of a devaluing pound. Could this mean that inter-Ireland retail consumption is the only winner from our departure from the EU? Looking at exchange rate predictions in 2018, analysts’ forecasts suggest a fluctuation between GPB/EUR 1.04 to 1.25. At the time of print, this rate was sitting at 1.134, meaning shoppers from the south were getting 88 pence for their euro - a figure that has not been seen since the great cross border shop almost ten years ago. And, it might last. Not good news for sterling spenders but a welcome for retailers set up on


the border. And according to Goldman Sachs “the EUR/GBP will head back above 0.90 this year, on a combination of messy politics and an underperforming economy.” Aodhan Connolly of the Northern Ireland Retail Consortium (NIRC) said the “buoyant” cross border trade is being felt beyond the Newrys and Enniskillens. He said: “Up until quarter four of 2016/17 cross border retail trade had really been a zero sum game over the previous decade with both sides of the border profiting and losing in equal measure. However the trade from southern consumers has been very buoyant for more than a year now and these astute shoppers continue to make the best of the currency fluctuations and the great value Northern Ireland Retailers offer.

“Cross-border trade continues to be significant not only in the border counties but even as far as Belfast and beyond. Retailers continue to make hay while the sun shines in many ways, including marketing to this demographic as well as more and more accepting euros. This again shows the importance of having a frictionless border as a priority in the Brexit negotiations. We need not only frictionless movement of goods but of people.” Neil Gibson, chief economist with EY in Ireland said recently that shoppers from the Republic spent £368m here last year which “will contribute to closing the retail performance gap slightly between the two economies” so keeping that movement of people frictionless when the big exit is finalised is top priority for retailers and businesses set up on the winners’ line.


At a recent conference, the first of its kind in Newry attended by over 400 members of the business community here and across the border, one of the focuses was ensuring the movement of people was top of the agenda at the next phase of Brexit negotiations. Minister for Foreign Affairs & Trade and keynote speaker, Simon Coveney during his keynote address, provided reassurance on the European Council agreement in December and commented on the priorities in the next phase of negotiations emphasising that any type of border NorthSouth or East-West would have disastrous effects economically, politically and socially. Pleas were made from businesses for good sense to prevail to protect the future of Ireland and Britain.

MARCH 2018

President of Newry Chamber of Commerce, Paul Convery said: “The scale of this event is a clear indication of the importance of Brexit dialogue and engagement on all levels. It was an unrivalled platform for our members to see and fully understand the support that the Chambers and our cross-border partners are providing.”

Colin Mathewson, senior director, CBRE, the letting agents for the new units, said: “The Quays is perfectly placed to benefit from the arrival of these fantastic new tenants, as the retail sector in Northern Ireland continues to perform well with the continued benefit of the sterling/euro exchange rate and crossborder trade.

Despite the uncertainty that goes hand in hand with Brexit, retailers aren’t taking any chances and are upping their game to keep custom flowing. Investment is rife.

“Newry’s position as the premier retail destination in Northern Ireland outside of Belfast is currently unrivalled, and more highprofile retail brands are set to arrive at the shopping centre throughout 2018.”

The Quays in Newry has injected £20m into another phase of its development which has attracted UK names including M&S and PureGym as well as other international retailers that joined the centre recently.

And at the neighbouring Buttercrane, management and retailers are reaping the rewards from a Brexit bonus Christmas. Centre manager, Peter Murray said the lure of a 43% discount for southern shoppers saw >



euro customers reach over 50% of total shoppers during the festive season. “Shoppers gain an average saving of 17% on goods bought across the border and there are over 30% savings to be had on electrical products and phones. Recent research shows as much as 40% can be saved on beer and chocolate gifts so our flagship stores M&S, Dunnes, Primark alongside Easons and our fashion, phone and toy retailers are preparing themselves for a euro surge as consumers vote with their feet, making their money go further,” he said. And it too is investing in its portfolio of stores. Just recently it welcomed Burger King with its brand new format and a Superdrug store. The businesses both occupy over 650 metres of space at the outlet and have provided over 35 new jobs. “The creation of new employment in the city is very welcome, and I congratulate both Burger King and Superdrug and wish them every success in Buttercrane Shopping Centre,” continued Peter. Other retailers in the centre remain upbeat about the custom the current exchange rate is bringing but the question is, how long will it really last? John Gildea owner of The Bureau based in Buttercrane said: “Positive euro data and upbeat talk from the continent seems to be positioning the rise of the euro, the question is, how far can it go? "The European Central banker Benoit Coeure said the recovery in the Eurozone is the strongest he’s seen in 20 years.

EY chief economist in Ireland, Neil Gibson

“In summary, we say get ready to use your euros to maximum effect as Brexit bodes big deals for border shoppers.” But Mr Connolly from the NIRC has words of caution: “This is a good news story but it comes with a huge warning. While we have seen some uplift in cross border footfall in the short term, it has to be made clear that our industry cannot survive or grow simply on currency fluctuations.” ■

Aodhan Connolly



Fewer vacant shops on Northern Ireland's streets By Claire McNeilly


he number of vacant shops in Northern Ireland has fallen despite a reduction in footfall for an eighth consecutive month, new figures show. Industry experts said the research from Springboard offers some hope to beleaguered local traders following yet another disappointing set of statistics. The data - spanning four weeks from December 31, 2017, to January 27, 2018 reveals that footfall in shops was down 2% last month, the worst result for January since 2015. Year-on-year, the 2% reduction in Northern Ireland compared to a 1.6% fall in the UK as a whole - and was less deep than the threemonth and 12-month average of 2.6%. Drilling down into the figures it emerged that footfall dropped on the high street and

MARCH 2018

at retail parks by 1.2%, and by 4.4% in shopping centres in January. Meanwhile, the province's shop vacancy rate was 14.3%, down from 15.2% in October 2017 - but still the highest rate of anywhere in the UK. Diane Wehrle, marketing and insights director at Springboard, said that while the number of people visiting shops and shopping areas had gone up recently, it was still far too low. "A drop in Northern Ireland's footfall of 2.0% is an improvement on December's decline of 3.1% but the worst result for January since 2015, so it is clear that the challenges facing bricks and mortar retailing are continuing to build," she said. "The 2.4% decline in Northern Ireland's high street footfall is more than 3% adrift from the increase of 2.4% in January 2017 whilst its shopping centre footfall continues to languish at -4.4%. In contrast activity

in retail parks continues to grow, rising by 1.9% across the UK in January; despite furniture and household appliance sales in January being the worst of all 13 categories. Retail parks clearly now fulfil a wider role for shoppers; yes, they are convenient and functional shopping locations, but are buoyed by the continuing growth in online spending." Ms Wehrle said the number of empty premises across the province remains a worry when the proliferation of pop-up shops ahead of the festive season is taken into account. "At 14.3% the vacancy rate in Northern Ireland remains the highest of any area across the UK and significantly higher than the UK average of 8.9%," she said. "The rate strengthened over the quarter from 15.2% in October, but caution is needed in reading too much into this as it reflects short term occupier demand in the lead-up to Christmas." â–



Where to next? By Gareth Howell, Director, Osborne King


ot a title that propositions one of the largest high street retailers, as Next was one of the stronger performers of 2017, but a question for anyone with an interest in the retail sector. Post-Christmas trading reports saw concerns raised by a slew of retailers including, Debenhams, House of Fraser, New Look and most notably the Company Voluntary Arrangement (CVA) proposed by Toys R Us in December. Even the casual dining sector, which has seen much activity in the last 10 years, has not remained immune to the current climate with Byron Burger and Jamie’s Italian both proposing significant restructuring. Not that these are intended to scaremonger but more to highlight the evolving nature of the market. As if to prove the diversity in the market a number of positive reports came out of 2017 as retailers with well-positioned brands such as Joules, Ted Baker and Fat Face fared extremely well. Success was not limited to the upper end of the high street with Primark also reporting positive sales. This trend pervaded into the much reported-on food sector with


Aldi and Lidl continuing to experience year-onyear sales growth. There are undoubtedly concerns over consumer confidence and savviness in spending that is having an impact upon some retailers more than others, however the spectre of online activity is now a reality that cannot be ignored. This Christmas saw a massive increase in sales for devices supporting “online assistants” that enable and support a unique online shopping experience. Although this has driven an increase in demand in the logistics sector, the traditional high street must continue to respond and evolve perhaps through in-store digital innovation which supports the online platform. This is probably the one area which could see the most radical innovation by retailers. We have already seen Topshop launching interactive billboards showing most popular items in store and Uniqlo’s Magic Mirror which allows customers to change the colour of garments without having to physically change the item. This area is likely to expand as augmented/virtual reality also develops. Whilst we already have streamlined payment experiences with contactless payment this is

likely to increase in scope. Amazon are trialling their person-less and cashless stores with the Amazon Go format which claims to dispense with lines and checkouts. 2017 ended with some of the largest corporate transactions in the property sector with both INTU and Westfield being acquired as part of multi-billion pound deals. Many commentators suggest that these were defensive moves focused on quality assets which should remain strong in the face of continued challenges for the sector. And so where to next for retailing in 2018? Well, I anticipate a continued diversity of both focus and fate in the market. I expect a focus to remain on strategic locations and I anticipate more retailers to report further margin squeezes as the year progresses. Outside the prime areas, a value-orientated focus will likely continue to dominate. Although inflationary pressure seems to be showing signs of easing, the key watchwords will be “operational efficiency” as retailers seek to get themselves in the best shape. Whatever happens, it is certain that we will all need to think long and hard about the solutions. ■

Property advice, with a little more bite. Independent thinking for the smarter investor.


Ulster Business Breakfast hears of Brexit challenges ahead


he latest Ulster Business Brexit Breakfast, in association with KPMG, heard of the fresh challenges and hurdles ahead for Northern Ireland business and beyond.

Johnny Hanna, partner and head of tax at KPMG, said one of the biggest challenges facing companies here is the issue of EU workers, once the UK has exited, as well as offering up advice for those attending the event at The MAC in Belfast. He was joined by Ryanair chief marketing officer, Kenny Jacobs, who said if there is no replacement to the 'open skies' agreement, planes could be grounded in April next year. And Olive Hill, executive director of strategy at Invest NI, said that the “skills are not there” among even large Northern Ireland companies, to deal with some of the huge changes to trade expected in a post-Brexit world.

Sonia Armstrong, Jennifer Pleavin and Gareth McKeown

Kevin Kelly, Chris Taggart and Seamus McGuckin

Louise Hubbard, Linda Sidebottom and Roger Campbell


Invest NI executive director of strategy at Invest NI, Ryanair’s chief marketing officer Kenny Jacobs, KPMG partner and head of tax Johnny Hanna, and incoming Ulster Business editor John Mulgrew pictured at the Brexit Breakfast

Paul Martin, Sylvie Brando, Ciara Brennan and Jamie Watts

Noel Brady and outgoing editor David Elliott

Alan Bridle and Sean McGrattan

John Simpson, Len O’Hagan and Michael Johnston

Attendees at the Brexit Breakfast listen to speaker Johnny Hanna

Johnny Hanna of KPMG addresses the audience

Ryanair’s Kenny Jacobs speaking at the event

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John Mulgrew, Johnny Hanna and Richard McClean

Johnny Hanna of KPMG addresses the crowd at The MAC

Olive Hill of Invest NI speaks at the Ulster Business Brexit Breakfast

Incoming Ulster Business Editor John Mulgrew



Philanthropy in today’s society Sir Ronald Weatherup, former Lord Justice at the Court of Appeal, explains why he has taken up the role of the President of the Belfast Charitable Society and how Belfast’s oldest charity is as current today as it was 265 years ago.


he reason I have taken up the role with the Belfast Charitable Society is the drive and enthusiasm of all involved in the organisation, their work of course and the fact that their core aims or objectives have remained at the heart of all they do for over 265 years. I also wanted to contribute to the wider society. I’d only visited Clifton House, home of the Belfast Charitable Society a few times. It is situated on North Queen Street and is the oldest public working building in Belfast. It has a wealth of history surrounding it and is used for various events across both private and public sectors; you just have to book it. It really is quite a splendid building. One of their key aims is to preserve and promote both the built heritage and history of the Society. As a result, the Society runs tours, talks and hosts contemporary exhibitions, which includes the telling of the founding members, their work in building a poor house and in building the city of Belfast mid 18th century.


Another key aim is to develop a creative and sustainable and robust organisation focused on tackling disadvantage and poverty. The Society is currently building strategic partnerships by working and collaborating with 15 other key partners in North Belfast with a clear purpose of regenerating the area. One other key aim is to lead and influence how philanthropy is developed and delivered. There are so many reasons why philanthropy is needed in today’s society and why it should be encouraged by everyone, from building respect and a good reputation in the community to making your community a better place to live. The Society in partnership with Building Change Trust and Ulster Community Investment Fund established a £1m Building Better Futures Loan Fund. Recently they marked the milestone of lending £500,000 and assisting almost 30 organisations. The loan provides small loans to community, voluntary and social enterprise organisations to encourage financial independence and sustainability and is evidently making an

impact on those organisations, which have already engaged. The Society, through other funds, has financially supported a number of projects from the provision of education resources for children with long term life limiting illness and those excluded from mainstream school to industry related training for unemployed people from disadvantage areas leading to job recreation in security and caring for older people. It has given on a wide scale across a number of different programmes and charities too numerous to mention here and making a remarkable difference across the city and beyond. I’m hoping that I can successfully contribute in my honorary capacity by championing the causes we work for and promoting the work of the Society. Philanthropy is key in today’s society given the austerity measures imposed upon the many organisations and sectors that need assistance. ■

Mid and East Antrim is open for business Sign up for one of our FREE bespoke, business support programmes available to businesses at any stage of their development. Go for it - Getting your business started Kickstart - Setting goals for business success Business Escalator - Growing your business Get the support you need to make your business a success. Register at: E amplify@midandeastantrim.gov.uk T 028 2563 3195 Go for it and Business Escalator are part funded by Invest Northern Ireland and the European Regional Development Fund under the Investment for Growth & Jobs Northern Ireland (2014-2020) Programme.



Laying the infrastructure for future growth Last year KPMG Director Ashleen Feeney took on a role as Business Development Director in addition to her day-to-day focus on infrastructure. She tells Ulster Business how the firm is focusing on an ambitious future, both for it and for the Northern Ireland economy.


shleen Feeney is the embodiment of KPMG. She is vibrant, full of energy and relevant, three attributes which she also assigns to the firm where she is a Director with a level of enthusiasm which is infectious. “There’s so much going on in the firm that we need to shout about,” she told Ulster Business. “We’re working right across the public and private sectors on some truly game-changing projects. “We’re passionate about SMEs (small and medium-sized enterprises), about attracting and retaining the best talent out there and about ensuring we have a diverse and inclusive workforce.” Ashleen is particularly well versed in those attributes having spent nearly a year playing a central role with the Partners in delivering the firm’s business development strategy in addition to her everyday focus on the world of infrastructure. They are roles which she has grown into having joined KPMG after studying Economics and Accountancy at Queen’s University. Always ambitious, she quickly gained work experience at various accountancy practices


and building up more experience, as a student during the holidays, on the Shell Technology Enterprise Programme.

the potential to supercharge economic growth across the region yet ensure such growth is inclusive.

“I knew that work experience was the secret weapon because I left Queen’s with job offers from each one of what was then the big six accountancy firms,” she said.

“It’s an innovative funding mechanism which will allow us to secure additional funding, outside of the normal block grant, in an effort to drive GVA (gross value added) well above the status quo,” she said.

Faced with such choice, she chose the company which she still works for today. “I chose KPMG simply because I really connected with the people and also because there was the chance to work both in Belfast and Dublin.” Ashleen proceeded to work in the Advisory side of the firm, writing business plans and working throughout Northern Ireland, before moving into the world of using private capital to deliver public infrastructure. As advisors to government, she was part of the team which worked on most of the PFI (public funding initiative) projects delivered in Northern Ireland up until 2011, including the M1 Westlink, Belfast Metropolitan College in Titanic Quarter, Invest NI’s HQ in Belfast and St Mary’s and St Cecilia’s Colleges in Derry. Still heavily involved in the sector, Ashleen is taking a leading role in advising on the ambitious Belfast Region City Deal which has

It will certainly help, especially given the stalled political leadership at Stormont. “We need a vision out to 2050 for infrastructure delivery,” Ashleen said. “It is essential to have political consensus and stability to really drive it forward and give all stakeholders the certainty they need to plan.” In addition, KPMG is an enthusiastic partner of the ‘2018 Year of Infrastructure in Northern Ireland’, an initiative which is helping the wider population understand how infrastructure underpins all aspects life, drives the economy by creating jobs and productivity and attracts foreign direct investment. The business development role has emerged given her strong network throughout the Northern Ireland business community and public-sector world and through organisations like the Institute of Directors where she has been on the Northern Ireland Committee for the last six years.


It’s a role she has relished and one which she will be taking to the investment world as part of the Belfast delegation to Cannes at MIPIM in March. KPMG is targeting companies and organisations of all sizes right across Northern Ireland. “We’re really lucky to already work with such a diverse range of companies – from agri-food and renewable energy to healthcare, tech and construction. Our client list includes high growth start-ups to some of Northern Ireland’s fastest-growing and most prominent companies.” She is also a strong advocate of inclusion and diversity in the workplace, something KPMG has been leading for some time.

Ashleen Feeney

MARCH 2018

“We have been working on a number of initiatives – from role model lunches where senior female Partners talk to emerging female talent about their story to a recurring ‘Executive Speaker Series’

where senior business women from other industries come in and share their story with all staff. People buy people and we’re very lucky in that our people are our unique selling point.” “We want to develop talent right across the firm. We need to change the system for the greater good of all – both men and women – so, for instance, we have embraced intelligent working arrangements for parents where it’s needed. “It just makes sense.” Bringing the best out of the young talent in the firm is also a passion for Ashleen. “Talent is so important in Northern Ireland. If we’re not getting the best out of the right talent then we won’t fully realise our growth potential.” And growing is very much on the KPMG agenda. “We’re committed to the Northern Ireland market and see a big opportunity out there for us to grow our business. We have a very ambitious strategic plan and want to tell more people about the great things we’re doing within KPMG and the great things we can do for their businesses.” ■


Seeking talent in a buoyant market By John Moore, Managing Director, Hays Northern Ireland


Give confidence that the job is secure. Give an indication of your growth plans, your pipeline, your clients, etc. Some financially attractive offers are not being accepted because there is apprehension around the long-term viability of the company offering the job.

he level of job creation in professional services across 2017 has been well documented. Perhaps less well reported is the pace of permanent hiring, which has accelerated for many in-demand roles, particularly in high value industries including digital technology, engineering, legal and finance.

Pay well, but don’t overpay. There is no point in just hiking salaries in this market to get people. You need to understand the market rate to both keep and attract people and understand clearly what is attractive about the rest of your package.

For many medium-sized companies, the time to hire has reduced from six weeks to just 10 days. That means a lengthy recruitment process isn’t quite fit for purpose and employers may need to move more quickly to secure good people. This is partly due to the excellent work of Invest NI in attracting new employers to Northern Ireland but also due to the limited labour pool that exists for certain skilled professionals. In response to the frustration of excellent candidates quickly accepting alternative offers and from the insight provided by

Hays, some responsive business owners and MDs are making conditional offers promptly after interviews on the proviso that a person accepts the job within 48 hours. For others, who are yet to respond adequately, we have the following recommendations: Have a clear value proposition. Know what makes your opportunity better than other roles in the marketplace and the roles candidates you’re trying to attract are currently in.

Make prompt informed decisions. Speed is essential. You should prioritise recruitment after the first interview – providing feedback in the first three days. How you behave in the recruitment process can have immediate and long-term implications for your employer brand. ■

To find out more about Hays Northern Ireland log on to hays.co.uk/ni, follow us on Twitter @HaysN_Ireland or call 028 3844 5800.

Gaming firm deal a fresh win for Newry giant First Derivatives


irst Derivatives has struck a deal with an FTSE 100 gaming company for the use of its Kx technology.

"We are very excited to work in partnership with this leading gaming company to help them to develop realtime insights across their activities," Mr Conlon said.

Breaking into the retail analytics sector is a win for the Newry-based firm as it continues to diversify its data analytics services beyond an original focus on financial services. The retail analytics market, which include gaming, retail, airline and ecommerce, is expected to exceed $13bn by 2024, according to industry analysts Global Markets Insights. The deal between the two companies was sealed following a successful proof of concept in which Kx provided data that showed a significant return on investment in comparison to traditional solutions.


First Derivatives chief executive Brian Conlon

"This win further demonstrates the flexibility of our horizontal technology which is being used across many industries in a variety of areas such as real-time analytics, Industrial IoT, cybersecurity and artificial intelligence (AI)."

First Derivatives chief executive Brian Conlon said that the contract win is a powerful endorsement of the group's technology.

First Derivatives has offices in Dublin, at its headquarters in Northern Ireland and internationally.

As one of the world's leading sports betting and gaming operators, the FTSE 100 firm processes billions of transactions per day and has over four million customers globally.

The business is now the biggest single hirer of Irish graduates, including an intake of some 500 new recruits this year alone. ■

Travel, Tourism & Hospitality

The big tourism drive You could say tourism in Northern Ireland is a relatively new sector, but without doubt it’s one of the fastest-growing drivers of the economy. Emma Deighan looks at the stats and assesses what the travel pros are doing to sustain growth.


ecent figures from statistics body NISRA have shown that visitors to Northern Ireland from the Republic increased by 25% in the first nine months of 2017 and associated spend increased by 45% to £60m. Meanwhile, international and UK visitors are also on the up. Overseas tourism delivers about £586m per year for the Northern Ireland economy, helping to sustain over 61,000 jobs in local communities. In total, spend here through tourism last year increased by 16% in the first nine months of last year. That equates to £747m - £2.7m per day. Tourism NI attributes various factors to cross border growth; increased marketing in the Republic, favourable exchange rates and high profile events. And its chief, John McGrillen, said visitors from Great Britain, Europe and North America are also on the up thanks to NI’s improving reputation as a travel spot. He says his team are working with vital tourism businesses here to “develop strategies that will contribute to long term growth from all our key markets”. “Our research shows that perceptions of Northern Ireland as a holiday destination have improved demonstrably in the Republic but, given that Northern Ireland still has a lower share of the overall holiday market,


continued marketing investment will be vital if we are to maintain and build on recent performance,” he said. So what’s involved in this great NI tourism masterplan? It’s a mixture of marketing activity here and abroad, from showcasing all we have to offer in terms of leisure and business attractions to informing and mentoring the businesses that are fundamental to the success of the sector. Tourism Ireland - the body that promotes tourism north and south - has been marketing Ireland as a single destination overseas and has an aim of building on this year’s stellar performance in NI specifically. Niall Gibbons CEO of Tourism Ireland said: “Tourism Ireland will create ‘stand out’ for Northern Ireland around the world, highlighting attractions and experiences like Titanic Belfast, the Causeway Coastal Route and our National Trust properties. We will continue to leverage our connection with Game of Thrones and we will also promote Northern Ireland as a top golf destination, in particular the fact that the 148th Open is set to take place at Royal Portrush in 2019. We are committed to ensuring that Northern Ireland continues to increase its share of the global travel business.” Closer to home a new initiative, the ‘Say Hello to More’ campaign, seeks to further encourage cross border travel this season. It is a bit of a collab between the NI Hotels Federation and Tourism NI to launch a co-operative marketing fund designed to help local tourism


businesses advertise in the Republic of Ireland. It makes sense given the huge growth in the local hotel division. More rooms means more competition. As of this month there were 138 registered hotels in Northern Ireland and hotel expansion will see up to ten new hotels scheduled to open this year alone according to STR. Expansion is also rife among established hoteliers and it’s expected that room numbers here will reach 10,000 by 2019 which is a jump of 40%. Say Hello to More will allow promotion of these new rooms via an itinerary-based campaign. Local hotels, guesthouses, guest accommodation and visitor attractions from across Northern Ireland were invited to be a part of the campaign using the co-operative marketing funds to boost the impact of advertising efforts. These efforts also focus on different geographical areas here and will feature on television, radio, outdoor advertising, digital and social media and cinema advertising.

The Game of Thrones door at Ballygally Castle

Naomi Waite, Tourism NI director of marketing said; “This is the third tranche of marketing activity in the Republic of Ireland market in recent years as we compete for a share in the lucrative short break market. Previous Say Hello to More campaigns helped deliver 221,000 overnight trips by Republic of Ireland residents to Northern Ireland, contributing £40m to the economy. “We have created this campaign around the findings of the Republic of Ireland recovery taskforce report in a bid to make the Republic of Ireland market worth £140m to the local economy by 2025. Say Hello to More will focus on educating consumers on what Northern Ireland has to offer for a short break. It will profile hotels, guesthouses, guest accommodation and visitor attractions across Northern Ireland accompanied by easy to follow itineraries and a dedicated web page with offers to suit all tastes and budgets.” The campaign will also run locally.

The Belfast Waterfront

Beyond the hotel sector a variety of industry workshops and mentor sessions support those catering to tourists. “We work collectively to reach our target of becoming a £1bn export industry by 2025,” a Tourism NI spokeswoman told Ulster Business. “Our workshop themes include how to engage with key markets including Germany, North America and developing markets, the impact and importance of clustering etc.” Then there’s an annual ‘Meet the Buyer’ event which provides an opportunity for local tourism providers to showcase their offering to over 100 international operators who can drive visitors to NI. Over the course of that one event there will be 4,000 appointments. This year’s Meet the Buyer will take place at the Waterfront Hall on April 19 incorporating a workshop and networking dinner. It caters for a range of service providers including hoteliers, visitor attractions, special interest and activity firms and transport providers. >

MARCH 2018

Commercial Court in Belfast’s Cathedral Quarter



Vistors to Cultra Manor

Echinville Distillery near Kircubbin, County Down

And as well as drawing in the leisure traveller, a focus has also been put on corporate tourism here with the number of international conferences coming to NI accelerating in line with the efforts put in by conference providers.

And George Best Belfast City Airport has also taken note of the growth.

Waterfront’s grand expansion and Titanic’s conference facilities have allowed Belfast to draw in larger format business events from around the world while individual tourism authorities are capitalising on the growth by using unique landmarks as business settings.

The project will be finished by October 2018.

Take Derry’s Guildhall for example. This award-winning venue mixes legacy with modern facilities to cater to a growing business client and as such is offering space for conference holders to seminar and lecture hosts to those holding meetings, press launches, fairs and banquets all within the city walls.

It’s investing £15m in a major upgrade of its departure lounge, commercial offering and security.

Brian Ambrose, chief executive at the airport, said: “As a major employer in the city, we will continue working in partnership with the Council and other stakeholders to help further develop a vibrant local economy by improving global connections through our strong network of blue-chip airline partners. “Situated just five minutes from the city centre, we provide an important gateway for opportunity, not only for business passengers and tourists departing Belfast, but also to inbound holidaymakers from overseas and potential foreign investors.”

Eimear Callaghan Tourism NI business solutions manager said; “Business tourism brings mid-week, year-round trade and plays a key role in increasing visitor numbers and revenue; it is an area within the tourism and hospitality landscape of Northern Ireland that continues to go from strength to strength.

Niall Gibbons, CEO of Tourism Ireland, added: “Tourism Ireland is committed to working with all of our airports and airline partners to maximise opportunities for new and existing flights, helping to deliver further growth in overseas visitor numbers.”

“There is still potential for growth within the sector. The enhanced facilities at the Belfast Waterfront continue to be an attractive option for event organisers and has enabled Belfast to host 34 international conferences, bringing 50,000 delegates to the city with another 40 conferences already in the pipeline.”

It's a lot of investment coming from a country that is merely the size of one of America's smallest states but in the words of Mark Twain 'it's not the size of the dog in the fight, but the size of the fight in the dog' and NI is putting up a big challenge to get more of the global tourism market. ■

One of the rooms at the new Titanic Hotel Belfast

The hotel sits beside Titanic Belfast


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Titanic Belfast opens new events space Hickson’s Point


ickson’s Point, a new shipyardthemed hospitality space at Titanic Belfast, has opened its doors.

Inspired by one of the first ship builders in the city, Hickson’s Point will offer an authentic 1900s public house setting, combining traditional music, entertainment, heritage décor and locally-produced food for visitors to the world-leading tourist attraction. It will also cater for a range of private and corporate events for up to 80 people. Last year, Titanic Belfast was crowned the World’s Leading Tourist Attraction, experienced its busiest day to date, as well as significant growth from key markets. Judith Owens, Titanic Belfast’s Chief Executive, believes 2018 will be a strong year and in preparation has transformed the annex space, adjacent to Titanic Belfast, into its newest hospitality space. “With increasing visitor numbers coupled with the global awareness of Northern

Hickson’s Point is the latest development to Titanic Belfast’s premier event suites, alongside its two other venues, SS Nomadic, the last remaining White Star Line vessel and 6,000 metre square Titanic Exhibition Centre.

Titanic Belfast's head of business and leisure sales Laura Cowan and chief executive Judith Owens launch plans for Hickson’s Point

Ireland’s incredible hospitality offering, we have invested in Hickson’s Point, an authentic setting which will enhance both our visitor experience and event offering,” Judith said. “Not only will its shipyard fare build on one of the most popular themes in our galleries for visitors, but it will appeal to corporates, incentive travellers and tour operators for an array of events from breakfasts, drinks receptions to themed dining.”

Titanic Belfast’s events have gone to strength-to-strength over the past six years. It has hosted over 2,000 business and leisure events including G8 Summit Reception, BBC Sports Personality of the Year, Giro d’Italia Big Start and conferences across an array of sectors including Routes Europe 2017, European Federation of Animal Science to the World Conference of Credit Unions. It has also served guests including Her Majesty The Queen, Titanic director James Cameron and Presidential Candidate and former US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. It has more exciting events in the pipeline, including the recently announced BBC’s Biggest Weekend in May. For more information, visit www.titanicbelfast.com. ■

Hotel chiefs warn of staffing problems in Northern Ireland n industry body has warned that the recent surge of hotels in Northern Ireland could create problems in finding staff.


Federation, said: “The STR figures for 2017 show a good overall performance which builds on the recovery experienced in the second half of 2016.

The Hotel Federation latest figures show unprecedented growth for the hotel sector but the lack of skilled personnel coupled with a poor image of the roles within the industry are resulting in less applicants.

“The influx of new hotels may result in some rate deflation but it is important to maintain a balance between striving for occupancy and maintaining an average daily rate.

In the past year, hotel occupancy rates in Northern Ireland have hit 77.7%, with the hospitality sector looking ahead to a promising 2018. In 2017, Belfast had the best performance with occupancy breaking the 80% mark and room rates growing to an average of £79.83. This marked increase can bring both challenges and opportunities for the region. The figures from hotel information company STR showed that occupancy for Northern Ireland in 2017 increased by 2.9% compared to the previous year.


Janice Gault

Sarah Duignan, Director of Client Relationships at STR, said: “Hotels in Northern Ireland performed quite well in 2017. “The market still has room for growth, and there will likely be a period of adjustment ahead as existing hotels adapt to the added competition of new properties coming online. “Taking comparable destinations that have experienced similar growth patterns into consideration, Northern Ireland should be able to absorb new hotel supply relatively quickly, with minimal impact on perfromance.” Commenting on the figures, Janice Gault, Chief Executive of the Northern Ireland Hotels

“The data indicates room sales in 2.3m bedrooms sold throughout the year contributed £175m to the local economy with a VAT contribution of £35m. “Despite considerable growth in the Northern Ireland market, room rates remain comparatively low when you look at the ROI market. In 2017, Dublin had an average room rate of €136.80 and regional Ireland came in at €125.95.” She added: “There are a number of challenges for the industry but staffing remains the primary cause for concern. We know that employers are experiencing issues with recruitment and retention of staff.” ■

Image for illustrative purposes only ©Tourism NI

S p i r i t o f t h e S h i p ya r d at t i ta n i c b e l fa S t

Looking for a unique venue for your next event, seminar or product Launch? Hickson’s Point offers an authentic 1900s public house setting, serving up the spirit of the shipyard through traditional hospitality and entertainment. Speak to the team about Titanic Belfast’s newest event space and let us create the perfect package for you.

for more information contact 028 9076 6386 or email enquiries@titanicbelfast.com

t i ta n i c V e n u e s B e l fa s t. c o m


Diageo playing key role in Northern Ireland’s tourism boon Jorge Lopes, Diageo Country Director, speaks about the drinks giant’s Tourism NI tie-up and its commitment to helping boost visitor numbers


iageo is an integral part of the community in Northern Ireland, both as a major exporter and employer. The company’s world famous brands - including Guinness, Harp, Smithwick’s and Baileys - are enjoyed by visitors and locals alike and, for many people, play a key part in the overall tourism experience. Jorge Lopes, Diageo Country Director, said: “As a company, we are committed to supporting the hospitality and tourism industry in Northern Ireland and we do this by investing in our brands, our customers and through strategic partnerships.” One such strategic partnership is Diageo’s sponsorship of the Northern Ireland Tourism Awards which take place on Thursday 24th May at the Europa Hotel, the venue of the first Awards in 1978. “We are extremely proud to once again sponsor the Northern Ireland Tourism Awards, especially given that 2018 marks the 40th year of the awards. The industry in 2018 is almost unrecognisable from 1978 when the Awards began and this is an opportunity to acknowledge and celebrate the many businesses, organisations and initiatives that have made Northern Ireland the ‘must see’ destination that it is today.” Another such successful strategic partnership is with Visit Belfast with Diageo committing continued financial support to their work in marketing Belfast as a world class destination to both domestic and overseas visitors. “Food and drink are increasingly important to tourism here and we are focused on working with Visit Belfast to enhance the


Jorge Lopes, Country Director Diageo NI and John McGrillen, Tourism NI Chief Executive launch the 40th Northern Ireland Tourism Awards

overall experience for visitors, whether it’s offering food and drink pairings in local bars or ‘Taste of Belfast’ pub guides in the Welcome Centre.” “Sponsorship of events provide a real value for customers. Our big ticket brand sponsorships work extremely well and the uplift they provide to the hospitality sector is significant. Two timely ones to mention include Guinness as official beer of the NatWest 6 Nations and, of course, the Guinness PRO14.” “We also activate our brands at a local level and this is equally important. For instance, Harp’s ‘Pure Here’ campaign which celebrates the people and places that make

life in Northern Ireland so special has been a huge hit, as have the limited edition ‘Pure Here’ cans.” “Other successes include our portfolio of luxury spirits which was the star attraction of the Tesco Taste Festival last September with visitors getting the chance to sample a number of our brands including Tanqueray No. TEN gin, Ketel One vodka and Bulleit bourbon. Finally, I have to mention that this is our 20th year sponsoring the International Guinness Blues on the Bay festival in Warrenpoint which attracts globally acclaimed musicians and tourists from around the world to our shores and into our hotels, bars and restaurants.” ■

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NI Water: Vital Infrastructure for Tourism and Hospitality Great visitor attractions, accommodation, food, pubs, clubs, sports events, festivals, beaches, fishing, surfing‌, Northern Ireland has a great reputation as a tourist destination. And every day NI Water supplies around 570 million litres of clean fresh water and safely manages around 340 million litres of wastewater helping our Tourism and Hospitality industry to continue to go from strength to strength.

Waste water services 680k

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From Keady to the skies David Elliott talks to the new Flybe Chief Commercial Officer Roy Kinnear, who hails from County Armagh, on his plans for the airline in the future


oy Kinnear has aviation fluid running through his veins. The new Chief Commercial Officer (CCO) at Flybe comes to the post armed with a CV littered with senior positions at global airlines and a passport equally littered with stamps. But despite such global experience, he looks at home in the surrounds of Belfast City Airport because, in a way, he’s come home, at least for the duration of this interview. Born in Keady, County Armagh, Mr Kinnear studied at Ulster University before starting what would be a long and fruitful career in aviation as a reservation agent for what was then British Midland in Derby. Progressing through the company to become general manager of reservations, he went on to work in Bahrain for Gulf Air, Abu Dhabi for Ethihad and most recently to Air Seychelles where he was chief executive. Now he has moved back to take on the CCO role at Flybe at the slightly fresher location of Exeter and just over a month into the job he is raring to go. “I spent the first couple of weeks observing the business so I can really understand it and see where the opportunities are. What I’ve found is a company with extreme loyalty from its staff who are very proud of the organisation.” But he is under no illusion that there is plenty of work to be done if the airline is to swing back into profit. “Flybe is a nice friendly company and has tried to please many people but, going forward, we need to keep an eye on bottom line profitability and we need to deliver that next year.


Roy Kinnear, Chief Commercial Officer of Flybe

“In the commercial area, we are going to see a more decisive series of initiatives which play to our strengths; we’re going to see some deadwood chopped away in terms of underperforming parts of the business. We, as the commercial team, also need to do some work to understand where the areas of strength and opportunity lie and to spend time and effort on them so we can see the light at the end of the tunnel.” He conceded that may include reassigning routes from those that aren’t performing to those that could handle more capacity but wouldn’t be drawn on specifics. “You may well see some areas of the network growing and expanding. Until we go through the numbers I can’t sit here and say what those are but I can tell you we will see a more clearly focused Flybe network going forward.”

That includes looking at the detail of flight turnaround. “Customers want their flights on time so we won’t build a schedule which is doomed to fail, rather give ourselves enough time to turnaround. We’ll be asking if there are recognised hotspots where you’re doomed not to be on time and then build a network and a frequancy of flights which satisfies the demands of customers and delivers on it with a personalised service.” And Mr Kinnear is determined to promote the airline’s “embedded” place in Belfast, where it flies to 15 destinations, and in UK aviation. “How many people know FlyBe carried just over 50% of domestic air travel in UK last year? People don’t realise how big an operation the airline is and there is a way of embedding us in the local communities which we serve.” ■




How to prepare for doing business in the United States William Curry, Corporate and Commercial Partner at leading law firm Arthur Cox, explains how doing business in the US is a rewarding proposition, provided investors are adequately prepared for the associated challenges


ince taking office at the beginning of 2017, United States President Donald Trump has commanded a considerable amount of column inches across the globe - not least for his promotion of an apparently more protectionist American market. The United States, nonetheless, remains a key trading partner for local companies as one of their most significant export markets outside the European Union. There are, however, numerous potential pitfalls that await. In order to successfully navigate these, Northern Ireland-based firms wishing to sell to the United States must first familiarise themselves with a number of key differences that exist between the two jurisdictions in how business is done. Primarily, any product or service being sold in the US must meet all American legal requirements. There is, for example, legislation relating to particular types of products, what they can and cannot contain and what must be included on their labelling. Failure to comply with these rules can, in some instances, subject the manufacturer, seller and possibly others to fines and penalties - and could also lead to product liability lawsuits for anyone harmed by the offending item. Many other lawsuits can arise in the US because of poorly drafted contracts or “de facto” contracts, particularly where non-US parties are involved. Contracts should, therefore, be comprehensive and presented in the American


William Curry

style, along with general terms of sale that are properly drafted and tailored to the US market. Where comprehensive contracts are not prepared, plaintiffs often seek to “pierce the corporate veil” by disregarding the corporate form of a US subsidiary to hold its non-US parent company directly liable. It may be prudent, therefore, for exporters to consider employing a nationwide strategy, operated via an independent distributor. Other common errors made by companies include not carrying out sufficient due diligence on prospective US business partners or keeping the American operation at arm’slength. It is imperative that the company is involved at every stage of setting up the US subsidiary, working alongside an American legal team and other experts.

Seeking American-based counsel, which should also be part of the exporter’s negotiating team, provides companies with an insight into the areas into which they wish to sell, while keeping them informed of all pertinent legal requirements to operate in the United States, and away from the courts. The rewards could be great for those companies prepared to commit the resources required to gain a foothold in the American market, while also broadening their export base against the backdrop of uncertainty surrounding the UK’s future trade relationship with the EU. ■ The Corporate and Commercial team at Arthur Cox, which has offices across the world, including in New York and Silicon Valley, is well positioned to advise on all legal matters related to doing business in the United States. Please call +44 28 9023 0007 to speak to William or your regular Arthur Cox contact for more information.

Tax & Accounting




Avoid going it alone after Brexit Economist John Simpson assesses the future for Northern Ireland’s planned cut to corporation tax in the face of Brexit…


here are many possible pathways out of Brexit. As this stage there is much to play for and there are options to be explored, some superficially attractive and also seriously flawed. When the UK is no longer a member of the EU, one of the appealing arguments for many Brexiteers is that the UK will be ‘in control of its own rules and legislation.’ Escape from EU-wide directives and obligations sounds like a freedom to choose the most convenient answers when judged from a UK perspective, unless that freedom is illusory. The option of choice is not necessarily a choice where every business or entrepreneur would have the same preferences. Naturally, after Brexit, opinions and policy preferences will still vary whether it comes in the form of bidding for import protection for local industry or a search for minimal trade restrictions so that exporters can plead the merits of encouraging international trade which will support home industry.

As these thoughts are written, some of the commentary from the negotiations points to the UK seeking a departure agreement that ranges from (1) staying as close as possible to the present single market and customs union to (2) leaving the present ‘acquis’ to reformulate a restated UK position building better arrangements with major non-EU countries such as the USA, China, Japan and South Africa. The EU negotiation strategy is clearer than that from the UK. However, even for the EU there are options which will translate either into (a) a generous continuing close trade and services relationship or (b) a more minimalist trade and services agreement that restricts the benefits that stem to the UK from the EU single market. Into the dilemma of policy options must be added an acknowledgement of the influence (and needs) of the policymakers for the Republic of Ireland. The Irish Government has as much at stake in the Brexit

outcome as Northern Ireland and, of the 27 remaining EU countries, has the largest direct interest in the final agreements. There is the possibility that the final stages of Brexit will evolve with a political will to minimise distortion and disruption and maximise mutual benefits (or minimise unwelcome mutual disadvantage). The other option, if tempers fray or nonnegotiable ‘red lines’ are drawn, is a UK outcome of a more stand-alone nature. As later paragraphs will suggest, the former is preferable in political and economic terms: the latter will attract superficial support and will reject the notions of untenable ‘red lines’ and seek to find optimism in creating a new trading and business environment. >

As the UK-EU negotiations move towards conclusions there will be critical choices to be made.

MARCH 2018



The former option is not to be seen as a last plea by the ‘remainers’. In logic, it should attract some (maybe a majority) of the ‘leavers.’ In an over-simplification, the choice might be described as seeking answers that either see the UK diverge significantly from EU alignment or, alternatively, in consideration of the benefits of economic co-operation seek to harmonise UK policy with that of the EU. It may be seen as a choice either to diverge or maintain the existing degree of convergence. The forces of divergence bring together the emotions of national independence and a confidence that the UK on its own is well placed to compete in competitive world markets. A preference for divergence in an effort to create a successful economy has been attracting support. Freed from the restraint of EU harmonisation policies there is expected to be: • freedom to set trading standards • an ability to compete through better company taxation policies • acceptance of more flexible exchange rates in world markets The headline question for many people is the prospect of the UK introducing corporation tax rates that undercut the existing rates in the main EU countries. This prospect may be illusory because a divergent series of actions on other regulatory alignment issues will be a major deterrent to external investors coming


policies on competition rules would be expected.

Into this debate about the degree of divergence or convergence must be placed the unfinished business of setting the rate of corporation tax in Northern Ireland.

into the UK and will have a particular impact on inward investment into Northern Ireland. One of the emerging apprehensions is that a divergence process, on taxation, standards, and customs duties will shift the balance of advantage for FDI to the Republic of Ireland and away from Northern Ireland. If the UK adopts policies aligned to continuing convergence of taxes, standards and customs duties, this may help to avoid a loss of investment. However, there must be an acknowledgement that continuing convergence will mean a disciplined attitude to regulatory alignment. Something parallel to observing the EU State Aid rules is likely and some awareness of the need for sympathetic

The implications of maintaining regulatory alignment, interpreted in an extensive agenda, will be unwelcome to unilateral Brexiteers. The UK Government will need to give a persuasive lead. If the UK Government is reluctant to take this step, then there will be the alternative prospect of Northern Ireland using devolved discretion to help protect the business development agenda of the devolved administration. Into this debate about the degree of divergence or convergence must be placed the unfinished business of setting the rate of corporation tax in Northern Ireland. If the official policies are to sustain a strong regulatory alignment, then the case for a defined local corporation tax policy remains important. However, if Northern Ireland is taken down the route of policy divergences, then the whole debate about business development policy merits a fresh start. There are a range of taxation variations that might be at a less serious cost to the Northern Ireland budget. On that note, there is still a serious agenda to be considered before the Brexit decisions are finalised. The political tensions of what is a critical difference of expectations will be a continuing issue for, at least, the rest of 2018. ■

BDO Partners Sean Lavery and Maybeth Shaw

Putting people at the heart of tax planning ANALYSIS


here is a school of thought which says the success of any business can be boiled down to three fundamental elements: process, product and people. Of these three ‘Ps’, it is not uncommon for attention to focus unduly on the process and product phases. After all, these are the elements which should deliver efficiency, customer demand and ultimately profits, but business is rarely that simple. For all the science of spreadsheets and meticulous market data, the art of putting the right people in the right place can make or break the best laid plans. The world of tax is no different and with the complexity of both current and looming tax issues, BDO Northern Ireland has been carefully


and steadily expanding and developing our tax team. We’ve invested time and resources to understand the emerging issues clients will face and, critically, where we need to grow in order to provide strong advice across a range of areas that require specialist expertise in both corporate tax and private client tax including, structuring of acquisitions and disposals, R&D tax credits, VAT, custom duties capital gains tax planning, estate planning and employee incentivisation. Led by two highly experienced partners, our high calibre tax team now includes five directors and six senior managers – all of whom deliver insights and innovation to clients that can help maintain compliance, drive value and prepare for whatever 2018 and beyond brings.

In recent weeks our tax team has been bolstered with the appointment of two experienced directors, Claire McGuigan and Geraldine Browne, alongside the existing senior team. The growth of the senior team and our rapidly expanding young tax team reflects the steadily increasing demand for specific expertise, reliable insight and tailored advice.

ACCESSIBLE SUPPORT Making it easier to access our professionals and diverse expertise has also been a priority. In recent months we’ve channelled our insight into an online and free-to-use Brexit Planning Guide that is available to both clients and nonclients. This tool examines prospective indirect and direct tax and legal scenarios and outlines the potential impacts or opportunities they may offer.


As an accredited Brexit advisor in the Intertrade Ireland “Start to Plan” scheme, businesses can also secure financial support, up to £2,000/€2,000 (inclusive of VAT), towards professional advice from the BDO Taskforce on a range of issues including movement of labour, goods, services, VAT customs duties, direct tax changes and currency management.

FAMILY BUSINESS PLANNING Effective management of tax affairs is an increasingly challenging but essential part of business planning at any time. Yet for familyowned businesses, management of people can be a delicate issue and there are unique considerations especially where succession planning is concerned.

MARCH 2018

At BDO Northern Ireland, we have extensive experience working with Family Businesses of all sizes and last year invested considerable time and resources to capture their concerns, experiences and the issues most important to them – including crossborder trade after 2019. The results of the Future of Family Business in NI survey were launched towards the end of 2017 and led to the creation of the Family Business Network. This series of free monthly events – which starts in February – brings together decision makers from a wide range of firms, business advisors and guests speakers to identify common issues, provide practical advice and enable in-depth discussions on relevant topics, including Brexit, governance, boardroom

conflict and succession planning.

EFFECTIVE TAX ADVICE BDO Northern Ireland has carefully and deliberately built a strong team that is equipped to deal with the tax planning challenges that businesses face both now and in the future. We are experts in tax efficient cross-border structures and international tax planning meaning we can develop tailored solutions to help businesses save time and money, and reduce risk exposure in the months and years ahead. ■ For more information contact the BDO Northern Ireland Tax team on 028 9043 9009 or to kick start planning for issues that will affect the tax your business pays visit http://www.bdoni.com



Getting ready to make tax digital By Mark Coleman, Director of Tax, Harbinson Mulholland


aking Tax Digital (MTD) is coming in 2019. Harbinson Mulholland is getting ready with our tax team immersing themselves in the technical aspects of the changes to come. Making Tax Digital – “Sure, it’s ages away.” If you are eagerly awaiting the finale of Game of Thrones then 2019 will seem a lifetime away. If, however, you run a business with a turnover above the VAT threshold (£85,000), preparation for the changes MTD will bring in April 2019 should start soon. However, no need to panic, because our experts are looking in detail at what businesses need to do. MTD will commence initially for VAT in respect of return periods commencing on or after 1 April 2019 if turnover, excluding exempt and outside the scope supplies, is above £85,000. Under MTD VAT records must be kept digitally and VAT returns submitted to HMRC using functionally compatible software. MTD is to be extended to income tax but not before April 2020. Exploring all avenues to get ready As mentioned Harbinson Mullholland has for some time been keeping updated on the progress of HMRC’s plans to introduce a digital tax system. With many of our clients falling within the remit of the first implementation we have been getting ready in ways that you would expect: • The tax team is on top of the technical changes to come. • More staff are being certified in a range of cloud accounting packages to solidify existing expertise. • Customer content is being developed. We have also been getting ready in a more unexpected way. We accepted an invitation by the Graduate School at Queen’s University to challenge bright young graduates to take a look at MTD. This was part of the Graduate


School’s ‘Leadership Challenge’ and it gave us a unique opportunity to look creatively at the changes MTD will bring. It also offered us the chance to invest in and positively contribute to the development of our future generation of business leaders.

respond to the needs of our clients was also welcomed. The overall verdict was that an accountancy practice like HM along with our clients has much to gain from MTD. The experience has also reinvigorated our drive to be ready for April 2019.

It seemed apt to listen to views from the ‘digital generation’ in relation to what is set be a generational, digital change to our tax system.

How to get your business ready for MTD We have a useful factsheet you can read to get all the key information about MTD – download it at harbinson-mulholland.com

What say the digital generation? The graduates offered some great research insights into how digital tax roll-outs have fared in other countries such as Denmark, Australia and the US. Suggestions on how best to structure and skill up our own team to ensure we have the expertise and agility to

The core issue is that you need to have suitable software that enables you to submit information to HMRC electronically. Many of you will already have some form of software accounting package, but for others you may find the prospect of migrating to a new software system daunting! If this is you, don’t worry, we at HM are happy to talk you through the options. As expert advisors, we know the market and will be able to help you choose the right product to meet your needs. ■ To find out about cloud accounting contact: Darren McDowell: dmcdowell@harbinsonmulholland.com. For more on Making Tax Digital contact: Mark Coleman: mcoleman@harbinson-mulholland. com. To speak with Mark or Darren call 028 9044 5100.


By Pat Burns

Sponsored by

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


Koleos revs for Renault R

enault has really upped their game in past few years. The latest Clio, Megane, Kadjar and Captur models are all superb cars and the new Koleos continues the French manufacturers’ move upmarket.

The new range includes six versions with a high-end line-up based on two trim levels that will be familiar to Renault owners – Dynamique S Nav and Signature Nav. Both trim levels provide a comprehensive standard specification.

The 2018 Koleos offers the rugged capability of an SUV with the elegant refinement of a large executive saloon. Assured handling, excellent interior comfort and quality as well as a host of advanced technology and convenience items ensure an exceptional experience for driver and passengers alike. The Koleos is priced from £27,500.

Renault’s advanced driver assistance systems, such as Advanced Emergency Braking System (AEBS), Blind Spot Warning, Lane Departure Warning, Over-speed Prevention with Traffic Sign Recognition and Hill Start Assist have been applied across the lineup. A rear parking camera with front and rear parking sensors is also included on all versions as well as an electrochrome rear mirror.

The Koleos provides a comfortable, spacious and clear cabin thanks to its opening panoramic sunroof and impressive rear passenger leg room which is amongst the best-in-class. Available with Renault’s All Mode 4x4-i four-wheel drive technology, and ground clearance of 210mm, the Koleos complements its exceptional refinement with all-terrain ability.


Standard safety features include ABS with Electronic Brake-force Distribution, ESC (Electronic Stability Control) with traction and understeer control, cruise control, speed limiter, Hill Start Assist, six airbags, seat belts with load limiters and pretensioners at the front, side impact protection bars and ISOFIX child-seat mounting points on the two outer rear seats.

The Koleos is manufactured at the Busan plant in South Korea alongside RenaultSamsung Motors models. There is a choice of two diesel engines – the dCi 130, a 1.6-litre/130hp engine with six-speed manual transmission available in two-wheel drive. This engine provides fuel economy of up to 57.6mpg and CO2 emissions of 128g/km. The dCi 175, a 2-litre/175hp engine, is available with either a six-speed manual or seven-speed Auto X-Tronic transmission, in four-wheel drive. It is the most powerful diesel engine in the Renault range with 380Nm of torque at 2,000 rpm. The manual transmission provides fuel economy of up to 50.4 mpg. The manual’s CO2 emissions are 148g/km and the Auto X-Tronic has CO2 emissions of 156g/km. All versions provide the peace of mind of Renault’s 4+ warranty and assistance package. The car is protected by Renault for four years or 100,000 miles (first two years have no mileage limit). ■









Donnelly Bros Moy Road, Dungannon Tel 028 8744 8589

Donnelly Bros Mallusk Rd, Newtownabbey Tel 028 9590 0214

Donnelly & Taggart Campsie Industrial Estate, Eglinton, Co. L/Derry Tel 028 7122 5999


Book a test drive

Business Contract Hire. All Rentals and excess mileage rates are exclusive of VAT. VAT is payable at 20%. All rentals exclusive of maintenance. Subject to mileage of 10,000 miles per annum – 36 month contract. Subject to vehicle availability, credit approval, manufacturer price changes and purchases through the Shogun Vehicle Leasing supplier network. New Mitsubishi L200 Barbarian 4WD Offer: The payment terms are 1 payment of £1,794.54 (ex VAT) in advance followed by 35 monthly payments of £272.01 (ex VAT) commencing in month 2. New Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV 4h Auto Offer: The payment terms are 1 payment of £2,070.00 (ex VAT) in advance followed by 35 monthly payments of £345.00 (ex VAT) commencing in month 2. Shogun Vehicle Leasing is a trading style of Lex Autolease Limited. Registered in England and Wales No 1090741, 25 Gresham St, London, EC2V 7HN Lex Autolease Limited is authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority for credit related regulated and insurance mediation activities.

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


The ultimate all-rounder?


he RS4 combines just about everything you could desire in a motor car. Bristling performance, superlative handling, all wheel drive grip as well as space for five adults and their baggage. The Audi scores a 10 on every count, so when the German manufacturer announced a fourth generation RS4, Ulster Business had to find out where the improvements were to be found. Priced at £61,625, the latest bearer of the RS badge combines tremendous everyday usability with exceptional performance from its 2.9 TFSI engine delivering 450PS and 600Nm of torque. Most of the improvements are in the cosmetic department. Massive air inlets with typical RS honeycomb structure and the wide grille define the front end. Compared to the Audi A4 Avant, the wheel arches are 30 millimetres wider and are given added emphasis by the quattro blisters.

– is available across a broad engine speed range from 1,900 to 5,000 rpm. It is key to how the Audi RS 4 is able to sprint from 0 to 62mph in 4.1 seconds. The top speed is 155mph. With the optional RS dynamic package, the top speed increases to 174mph. In the combined cycle test the RS 4 Avant is able to return up to 32.1mpg (199 grams of CO2 per kilometre). The power of the 2.9 TFSI biturbo is supplied to the permanent all-wheel drive via an eight-speed tiptronic gearbox. The rear differential has also been uprated. The standard-fit RS sport suspension sets the Audi RS 4 Avant another seven millimetres lower than the standard A4 with sport suspension. RS sport suspension plus with Dynamic Ride Control (DRC) is available as an option, as are ceramic brakes and RS-specific dynamic steering.

At the rear end, the RS-specific diffuser, the oval tailpipes of the RS exhaust system and the RS roof edge spoiler make for a distinctive look. The new RS 4 Avant rides on 19-inch forged aluminium wheels as standard; 20-inch wheels are available as an option.

The black interior underscores the character of the RS 4 Avant. The RS sport seats, the flat-bottomed RS leather multifunction sport steering wheel, the shift gate and the illuminated door sill trims are all adorned with the RS emblem. In the Audi virtual cockpit, displays indicate the g-forces, tyre pressures and torque.

The V6 biturbo develops 450PS in the new Audi RS 4 Avant. Its peak torque of 600 Nm – 170 Nm more than the previous model

If you want a car that can do everything you might ever wish for, the RS4 is it. ■


The new Arteon. Beauty in every sense. (And with £284 a month for Business Users, driving one makes even more sense.)

Contract Hire* 3-year, 8,000 miles per annum example for Arteon R-Line 2.0 TDI 190PS DSG. 36 monthly payments of (plus VAT) £284.00 Initial rental (plus VAT)


Excess mileage charge (plus VAT)

9.0p per mile

Advanced dynamic cornering light, 6-way “ergoComfort” seats, Lane Assist, Area View, Car-Net, Multi-function steering wheel and Active Info display.

Agnew Volkswagen 1 Boucher Road, Belfast, BT12 6HR. Telephone: (028) 9012 3603. 2 Mallusk Way, Newtownabbey, BT36 4AA. Telephone: (028) 9012 3269. www.isaacagnew.volkswagen.co.uk

Isaac Agnew Limited is a broker and not a lender and can introduce you to a limited number of lenders, who may pay us for introducing you to them. *No ownership option Business users only. All Prices Exclude VAT. VAT payable at the prevailing rate. 18s+. Subject to availability and status. T&Cs apply. Offer available when ordered by 31st March, 2018 and delivered by 30th June, 2018. Indemnities may be required. Offers are not available in conjunction with scrappage upgrade scheme or any other offer and may be varied or withdrawn at any time. Accurate at time of publication. Freepost Volkswagen Financial Services. Fuel consumption and CO2 emissions figures are obtained under standardised EU test conditions (or, in cases of vehicles with WLTP type approval, are the NEDC figures provided pursuant to Government guidance until further notice). These figures facilitate direct comparison between different models from different manufacturers, but may not represent the actual fuel consumption achieved in ‘real world’ driving conditions. Choice of wheels and other options may affect fuel consumption and emissions data. More information is available at http://www.volkswagen.co.uk/ owners/wltp Official fuel consumption figures for the new Arteon range in mpg (litres/100km): urban 25.4 (11.1) – 54.3 (5.2); extra urban 44.1 (6.4) – 74.3 (3.8); combined 35.3 (8.0) – 65.7 (4.3). Combined CO2 emissions 112 – 164g/km.

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


Seven seater SUV S

even seaters have been thin on the ground since the demise of the MPV and the rise of the SUV, but Peugeot combines the best of both worlds in the stylish new 5008. This all-new 5008 breaks new ground as a large seven-seater SUV in the C segment. As a new contender in this growing market, it boasts many strengths. The 5008 includes the latest digital version of the Peugeot i-Cockpit and a plethora of high-tech features to improve comfort and safety. Behind the elegant design lies a superbly practical vehicle. A range of powerful, efficient engines and designs including sporty GT Line and GT versions – are available. Inside, the driver is teated to the newest version of the innovative, almost futuristic – Peugeot i-Cockpit. With its compact steering wheel, a large 8” touchscreen dashboard and a spectacular 12.3” highresolution digital head-up display, the new


i-Cockpit impresses drivers with its superior graphics. The new model is 11cm longer than the previous 5008 and its extra length makes it roomier for passengers. The interior offers great versatility with three matching, separate, folding seats in the second row, adjustable in length and inclination and two removable seats in the third row. The 5008 can also have foldable front passenger seat and a hands-free motorised tailgate. Whether the choice is petrol or diesel, all versions stand out above their competitors with engines of the same power class. CO2 emissions are as low as 117g/km for petrol and only 108g/km for diesel. This new Peugeot is an invitation to travel in luxury, not least because it has excellent sound insulation and a number of features for the comfort of all on board: bodyhugging front seats feature an optional

multipoint massage system, Premium Hi-Fi system and a large panoramic opening glass roof. Cutting-edge Advanced Driver Assistance Systems make driving even safer with an arsenal of safety features: Advanced Grip Control - including new exclusive Hill Assist Descent Control (HADC), Automatic Emergency Braking System (AEBS), Distance Alert, Active Lane Keeping Assistance (LKA), Driver attention warning, Smart Beam Assistance, Speed sign recognition and speed suggestion, Adaptive cruise control with stop feature (automatic gearbox), Active blind spot monitoring, Park Assist and Visio Park (360° vision). The 5008 comes with a choice of petrol and diesel engines, but the star of the show is the new 1.2 litre three cylinder turbocharged PureTech engine. Don’t be put off by its relatively small capacity, this petrol powerhouse is more than capable in the 5008 and sounds the part too. ■



How are things? 2018 has started with a bang and January was a record month for us. It feels like we are constantly talking about increasing the growth of our site or kicking off new projects, but I suppose that’s the nature of a digital business like MyCarNeedsA.com – it’s always evolving. How did you get started in the industry? I have spent my whole career (22 years) in the automotive sector, starting as a trainee sales executive with Charles Hurst and then Director/Dealer Principal with David Prentice BMW. I moved to the North West on England in 2009 to run a BMW Dealership in Warrington and won BMW Dealer of the Year and BMW Aftersales Retention Dealer of the Year in 2014. That was partly in recognition for the work we did in getting customers who had older vehicles back into our dealership by demonstrating that we provided a premium service at affordable prices. car owners with a way of sourcing someone to service or repair their car which was much easier and a lot more convenient than ringing around and asking for prices, waiting for call backs or worrying if that company would provide quality service. I discovered a survey carried out by McKinsey across a number of markets which showed that 78% of car owners would use a

MARCH 2018

comparison service if they knew one existed and could trust the quality. That made my mind up and also provided us with the three core principles that MyCarNeedsA.com incorporates into everything we do: 1. Make it easy for customers 2. Make it convenient 3. Make it quality As a result, all the service providers and mechanics on our site have to go through a moderation process before they can quote for customers and are constantly moderated for levels of service. Typically, who are your clients? We have two sets of customers, throughout the UK. Car owners and our network of service providers. This network includes independent garages, fast-fit chains and independent groups, franchised dealers and manufacturers. For car owners, we aim to provide a free to use service which removes the stress, hassle and inconvenience of running a car. They tell us what they need, we get quotes from approved and trusted service providers and then the customer chooses the best quote for them. Perhaps surprisingly to some, the best quote isn’t necessarily the cheapest, as 42% of our customers don’t accept the cheapest price. Locations, customer reviews and level of service all have a major influence on choice. Do you enjoy what you do? Absolutely. You could not do this if you didn’t

as it has its own unique sort of pressures. In my previous role, I was responsible for a £42m turnover business and 186 staff but, if I am totally honest, I have learned more over the last three and half years and put myself under more pressure than I had previously experienced. What is the most difficult part of your job? There are two areas that are the most challenging. First of all, helping to establish and build the brand and awareness of what we do. The market research shows that there is huge demand for our service. There will be almost 115 million service and repair jobs carried out in the UK in 2018 and we believe we can make the process of getting these jobs done a lot easier for car owners, similar to what sites like Go Compare and Booking. com have done in their sectors. Secondly, overcoming the misconception that the automotive aftersales market has poor customer service. Recently, it was voted the least trusted sector by customers. This is a misconception and quite unfair as I see the efforts made by the vast majority of businesses in trying to provide improved customer offering and levels of service. Unfortunately, there will always be a rogue element in every industry which gives the rest a bad name. Given the industry’s reputation, it only takes a few cases out of many millions to perpetuate this myth. ■



Elise Quigley has joined the Commercial Litigation Team at Carson McDowell. She has previous experience in defamation, privacy and data protection cases. Jim Gillan has been appointed as a Director at Park Electrical Services. Jim has over 20 years’ experience with the company and is a leading expert in industrial automation within Northern Ireland. Lynette McCrudden has been appointed to the position of Associate Director in the property management accounts team at Lambert Smith Hampton. In this role, Lynette will oversee the purchase ledger and cash teams.

Mercury Security Management have welcomed their new Sales Manager, Sharon Kirkpatrick. Prior to joining Mercury Security Management, Sharon served as the Area Sales Manager for a provider of lone worker safety services. Aimee McGregor has begun her career at HLM as an Office Administrator to support the growing HLM team. She is currently studying her OCR Level 2 and 3 Diploma in Business Administration. Rob Cupit has been appointed as a Director at Park Electrical Services. Rob will be focusing on improving group efficiencies and synergies, alongside his sales role in Park’s Wrexham branch.

The Royal Ulster Agricultural Society has announced the appointment of their new Chief Executive Designate, Alan Crowe. Alan was previously the Chief Executive for Northern Ireland Co-Ownership Housing, and its subsidiary Own-Co. Bibby Financial Services Ireland has appointed Sean Dolan as Business Development Manager. Sean has been working in Business Development in Northern Ireland for over 20 years. Hannah McKeague has joined Carson McDowell’s Banking and Finance Team. She gained experience working for a Capital Markets consultancy company in London, Canada and Dublin.



Joanne Kee has been appointed associate director within the property management accounts team at Lambert Smith Hampton. She will manage the credit control team. Aidan Larkin has been promoted to Group Asset Recovery Manager in Wilsons Auctions. Aidan heads up the Asset Recovery Department and manages nationwide law enforcement contracts for the Home Office. Colin Weir has been appointed as a Director at Park Electrical Services. Colin started his career as a qualified electrician before moving into sales and business development.

Rosanne Brennan has joined the Corporate/Commercial team at Carson McDowell as an Associate Solicitor. She previously worked as a Senior Associate at Eversheds LLP and is an experienced commercial contracts solicitor. Mark Woods has joined Wilsons Auctions as an Asset Recovery Executive. Mark manages the asset realisation process with a particular focus on developing the company’s Cryptocurrency offering. Business Development Manager for Co-Ownership. Niall has worked for Co-Ownership since 2013, starting as an Acquisitions Officer before progressing to an Operations Lead.

Stephen Staerke has been appointed to the new role of Business Development Manager for Selective Travel Management. Stephen’s role will involve engaging with current and prospective new customers. Aidan Murphy has been appointed Group Finance Director at Park Electrical Services. Aidan is a Fellow of Chartered Accountants Ireland (CAI) and brings a wealth of experience. Craig Walker has been promoted to Group Operations Manager in Wilsons Auctions. Reporting directly to the Group Operations Director, Craig heads up the Contracts and Logistics department.

MARCH 2018


Celebrating life, every day, everywhere


PHOTOCALL 1. Musgrave and its brands, Centra and SuperValu, have raised a staggering £2.6m for Action Cancer since 2002. Omagh store manager, John Wallace (centre) is pictured with, from left, Joyce Coulter, Nigel Hegan, Action Cancer’s Amy Reynolds and David Whitton celebrating £4,274 raised during Fundraising Week.


2. In its first year, the Barefoot initiative, led by BT, has reached over 40% of Northern Ireland Primary Schools, such as St Mary’s Aghlisnafin in Castlewellan, pupils from which are pictured here with Principal Paddy Hardy and Acting Managing Director of NI Networks at BT, Garret Kavanagh.

3. ISL Waste Management is the headline sponsor for the Live Here Love Here Community Awards organised by charity Keep Northern Ireland Beautiful to celebrate the volunteers making NI a cleaner, greener place. Pictured are Dr Ian Humphries, the charity’s Chief Executive and Barry Donaghy, Director of ISL Waste Management.

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4. Smarter Surfaces NI is transforming working environments in Northern Ireland with unique reusable whiteboard, chalk or flat magnetic surfaces. Darren Toner, from Smarter Surfaces, is pictured with Majella Barkley, Innovation Director at Innovation Factory, which has helped Smarter Surfaces grow.

5. UTV has donated redundant office equipment to Habitat for Humanity. JulieAnne Coote, UTV Facilities Manager, helps Niall McConkey, ReStore Branch Manager, with just one of the many items going to ReStore shops.




Celebrating life, every day, everywhere


PHOTOCALL 6. Jet2.com is celebrating 15 years since its first day of flying. At Belfast International Airport alone, Jet2.com has carried over 2.75 million flyers. Customers and staff were joined by Peter Andre at the company’s first ever base, Leeds Bradford, for a morning of




7.KPMG’s ‘Achieving Cyber Resilience’ breakfast in the firm’s Belfast headquarters hosted speakers including KPMG’s cyber security experts who explained how companies should prepare for, and deal with cyber-attacks. From left, Tony Hughes, Associate Director, Risk Consulting, KPMG; John Hansen, Partner in charge, KPMG Belfast and Bernard O’Hara, Director, Risk Consulting.

8. Texan company Simply NUC Inc is setting up a new operations centre in Bangor following backing from Invest NI to support its US and EMEA growth plans. Steve Harper, Invest NI Executive Director for International Business is joined by Jonny Smith, Chief


Executive, Simply NUC Limited.

9. A £6.3m investment will transform Armagh’s historic city centre in part of a major regeneration scheme which was launched at a special event at The Palace, Armagh. Pictured are Tony McCusker, Heritage Lottery Fund; Lord Mayor Gareth Wilson, and Freda Donnolly, Armagh City, Banbridge and


Craigavon Borough Council.

10 MARCH 2018

10. Northern Regional College students Conor Clarke, Tom Robinson, Alan Neill, Ryan Nicholl and Helen McCallum have won the inaugural Northern Ireland Business Challenge for Schools competition. They are pictured with Ron Whitten, Chief Financial Officer at event sponsors Henderson Group; Professor Ciaran Connolly, Queen’s Management School; and Laura Jackson, Partner at BDO Northern Ireland.


Celebrating life, every day, everywhere


PHOTOCALL 11. BID Manager, Alison Moore is pictured with the President of the Ballymena Chamber, Ronan McCann, ahead of the upcoming ‘BID for Business’ Breakfast which focuses on the new GDPR changes and offers support to



12. Imelda McMullan (fourth from left) chair of the judging panel for Pitching for Pounds congratulates (l to r) James Dunbar, Maxine Chambers (Portadown Cares); David Trainor (Angel Eyes NI) and David Taylor (Portadown Cares). Both organisations will receive £15,000 from the Halifax Foundation for NI to help disabled and disadvantaged people.



13. James Donnelly, Partner at Tughans (centre), welcomes newly-qualified solicitors (from left) Jack Balmer, Grainne Lee, Christine Quigley and Maria Walsh, along with trainee solicitors Sarah Matthews, David McClelland and Caoimhe Lowe to the Belfast law firm.

14 14. easyJet’s ‘Fearless Flyer’ course has touched down in Belfast. The airline is helping people across the UK to overcome their phobias of flying in time for the summer holidays with the help of motivational speaker Lawrence Leyton.

15. George Best Belfast City Airport has announced a £15m infrastructure investment. Pictured at a breakfast briefing to announce the investment is Brian Ambrose, Chief Executive of Belfast City Airport, Deputy Lord Mayor of Belfast, Sonia Copeland, and Suzanne Wylie, Chief Executive of Belfast City Council.



Celebrating life, every day, everywhere


PHOTOCALL 16. Abacus Professional Recruitment has been crowned the Northern Ireland winner of The Prince’s Trust’s prestigious Million Makers scheme. Pictured from left are: Aisleen Tierney, Christine Norrie, Ewan Lockhart, Corry Tipping, Cheryl Stone and Roisin Moss.




17. Following a five-week boot camp coordinated by Belfast Met, Hannah Jones and Niamh Small have joined Allen & Overy’s IT team on a two-year scheme that accelerates people towards employment in the firm’s Belfast office. They are pictured with Service Desk Manager, Andrew Glenn (left) and Second Team Lead David Rainey.

18. Antony Fraser, of Befast-based 360 Production celebrates the development of their newest app which is to be used as part of a new documentary on BBC Four, called Contagion, with Vicky Kell of Invest NI, which provided support.


19. Roseann Kelly, Chief Executive of Women in Business and Seamus McCorry Head of Sales and PreSales N. Ireland, Virgin Media Business have launched a new partnership to encourage, empower and enlighten women.

20 MARCH 2018

20. Northern Ireland organisations will raise cash for Cancer Focus NI by taking over their charity shops for an Apprentice-style challenge. Pictured are Andy Nisbet, Business in the Community, Lisa Nap, Allen & Ovary, Aaron Gordon, JP Corry, Rosie Forsythe, corporate fundraising manager, Cancer Focus Northern Ireland, David White, Arthur Cox Law, Niall Carton, Baker McKenzie, and Claire Rowe, The Progressive.


Celebrating life, every day, everywhere PHOTOCALL 21. Five pupils from five different schools have joined fellow boarders from across the globe to launch their new film ‘Our Brilliant Journey’ which will promote Northern Irish Boarding Schools all over the world with the support of Invest NI.


22. Business Development Manager, IoD NI, Lisa Maltman (centre), at the launch of the upcoming event with leading international rugby referee Nigel Owens, with Nigel Harra, Senior Partner, BDO Northern Ireland and Laura Jackson, Partner, BDO Northern Ireland.

23. Jean-Christophe Novelli – the Frenchborn, Belfast-bound celebrity chef – has named local man Jim Mulholland as ‘le grand chef’ of his first restaurant on the island of Ireland. Pictured at the launch from L-R Jean-Christophe Novelli, Lisa Steele, AC Hotel Belfast General Manager and Jim Mulholland, grand chef.

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24. Roisin Mulgrew, Chair of Newry, Mourne and Down Council joined M&S employees to celebrate the opening of their latest store at the Quays Shopping Centre, in the heart of Newry City.


25. Four Star Pizza has announced a new sponsorship deal with professional darts player Daryl ‘Superchin’ Gurney who is currently ranked number five in the world.




Celebrating life, every day, everywhere


PHOTOCALL 26. McColgan’s Quality Foods is the first manufacturing company in Strabane newly connected to natural gas as part of the ‘SGN Natural Gas Network’. Pictured are Managing Director, Grainne Hampton; Jamie Cunningham, Key Account Manager at SGN Natural Gas; and Chris Devine, Engineering


Manager at McColgan’s.


27. CPS Property has opened a new branch in Portadown town centre creating five new jobs. Pictured outside the new Portadown branch are Matthew Gilpin, Branch Manager of CPS Portadown; Adrian Mallon; Art O’Hagan, Managing Director of CPS Property and Ryan Molloy.

28. In just over six months the ‘Building Better Futures Fund’ has committed over £500,000 to almost 30 groups across Northern Ireland. Among the groups supported by the fund are the Strand Arts Centre in Belfast and Destined Enterprises in Derry.

29 29. Jeremy Biggerstaff, MD at Flint Studios, is pictured with Gareth Mills, Director at Berlin Clothing. The family fashion business, with exclusive boutiques in Carryduff and Newtownards, has reported over 300% increase in online sales since the launch of a new and upgraded Magento website created by Flint Studios

28 30

30. Howard Hastings, Chairman of Visit Belfast, Mary Jo McCanny, Director of Visitor Servicing at Visit Belfast, Councillor Mairead O’Donnell, Mr FU Baifeng from the Consulate of the People’s Republic of China, Ms Wang Zifei and Dr Tony Lenehan, both from the Centre for Competitiveness celebrate Visit Belfast receiving ‘China Ready’ status.




a sun-drenched playground of the rich and famous? Also spotted at the event were pre-eminent economists John Simpson, and Bank of Ireland’s Alan Bridle, along with Nikki Larkin of LK Communications and Diageo’s Claire Hutchinson.

The Chairman You know he hasn’t been sitting at home watching television. Did our man in the tux spot you out on the town? Find out...


t’s been another busy month in the ever-burgeoning social and business calendar in Northern Ireland.

Others included the teams at law firms Tughans, Carson McDowell and Worthingtons Solicitors, as well as the MCE Public Relations team – featuring former special adviser Richard Bullick, Ben Mallon and Matthew Morrison – along with Chris Love, Nicola Bothwell and Invest NI’s head of PR, Jennifer Pleavin.

It was also all aboard the SS Nomadic, bound for Titanic Belfast, with Mark Stewart, chairman of Hospitality Ulster and Top 100 winners Laura Keegan from Keegan’s Bar Armagh, and Lou Mathers from Newforge House, Magheralin. They were among the top hospitality businesses awarded at the event, with guests including Belfast boxing sensation Carl Frampton, Beeb stalwart Barra Best, Cool FM’s Pete Snodden and, of course, Pammy Balantine.

As ever, The Chairman took up every opportunity to enjoy as many of the black tie formalities and the casual dress-down gatherings available. Of course, the hot topic of the UK’s exit from the EU made the Ulster Business Brexit Breakfast with KPMG’s Johnny Hanna, was one of the highlights. And Ryanair’s Kenny Jacobs – not someone, much like his boss Michael O’Leary, to shy away from saying what he thinks – made his points clear on the impact Brexit could have on the airline industry, and even ground flights. Where would that leave the Chairman when he wants to take a last-minute week away to


Returning to the same spot just 24 hours later, it was time for corporate muscle flexing at the prestigious Institute of Directors (IoD) dinner. Aside from Northern Ireland director Kirsty McManus, and director general Stephen Martin, former Skyscanner chief operating officer Mark Logan also paid a visit, as did Mark Beattie of Belfast City Airport and the PR team at Lighthouse Communications. Along with the networking and table talk, there was also important business at stake. The IoD’s NI chairman Ian Sheppard had a message for Northern Ireland’s politicians, over

the ongoing more than year-long impasse. The message? Northern Ireland risks alienating a generation of young people, disillusioned by the ongoing political impasse and several recent announcements of major job losses.

Meanwhile, CIPR hosted a student conference at Ulster University, featuring some PR heavy hitters such as chairman Chris Pollock, Seona McGrath of Smarts Communicate, Nicola McCullough from Antrim and Newtownabbey Borough Council, Jane Williams, Jcomms, Vicki Caddy of ASG & Partners and Lisa Rice of Navigator Blue. Although light beer certainly isn’t the Chairman’s forte, the launch of Molson Coors new beer Pravha in Northern Ireland certainty drew a crowd. That included NI director Ryan McFarland, Stephen Clements from Q Radio along with Michael Rafferty of PR firm Duffy Rafferty. As far as gongs for the month, Geri Wright of Phoenix Gas and Jonathan McAlpin, Eastside Awards committee chair were on hand to congratulate Jamie Mendez on Little Wing Pizzeria winning the Eastside Awards Business Contribution to the Community. Meanwhile, Kircubbin-based ice cream maker Glastry Farm landed its first deal outside the UK and Ireland to supply its range to the United Arab Emirates. Invest NI’s chief executive Alastair Hamilton and Chloe Burgess from Glastry Farm were on hand to unveil the news. While she may have expected to leave with a signed, sealed and delivered fresh political agreement, Prime Minister Theresa May left down-trodden and empty handed – popping back to London to deal with that thorny EUrelated issue – while her Secretary of State Karen Bradley had to answer a few awkward questions at the dome in Victoria Square shopping centre in Belfast. ■


At the KPMG Bourbon and Blue’s event in the firm’s offices in the Soloist building in Belfast are (L_R) Hannah Keery, Emma Jayne Armstrong, Claire Browne, Michaela Sloan and Claire Stewart

Bill Murray receives Eastside Award for Outstanding Contribution to East Belfast from Michelle Hatfield of Principal Sponsor George Best Belfast City Airport and awards host Tara Mills

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Eastside Awards host, BBC television presenter, Tara Mills and Michelle Hatfield of Principal Sponsor George Best Belfast City Airport congratulate the winners of the second annual Eastside Awards at Hastings Stormont Hotel

Julie Hastings of Hastings Hotels (centre) pictured with Jacqueline Bew and Ryan Davenport from Brett Martin at DigiTalk: The Forum 2018

MARCH 2018

Pictured (L-R) Sarah Sneddon from Tourism NI with Leander Harding from the Department for the Economy at DigiTalk: The Forum 2018

At the KPMG Bourbon and Blue’s event in the firm’s offices in the Soloist building in Belfast are (L_R) Emma Jayne Armstrong, Jamie Watts, Claire Browne and Philip Maxwell

Pictured (L-R) Lindsey Barton, Ben Fraser, Holly Poots, Ciara Maguire and Grainne Baker at the KPMG Bourbon and Blue’s event in the firm’s offices in the Soloist building in Belfast

Pictured (L-R) Stephen Turkington, Phil Clarke, Harriet Porter and Claire Stewart at the KPMG Bourbon and Blue’s event in the firm’s offices in the Soloist building in Belfast

Pictured (L-R) Amy McDowell from Atlas Communications and Gillian Robb of Gillian Robb photography at Digi-Talk: The Forum 2018

Julie Hastings from Hastings Hotels with Seana Rooney of Andras Hotel Group and Kathryn Pyper of KP Digital Marketing at Digi-Talk: The Forum 2018


Quilter Cheviot’s Belfast office celebrates 10 years in the city


uilter Cheviot, part of Old Mutual Wealth, celebrated the 10th anniversary of its Belfast office earlier this month. The investment management firm welcomed over a 100 guests to a private reception at the Merchant Hotel in the city centre. Guests enjoyed a talk from EY Chief Economist; Neil Gibson on Northern Ireland’s evolving economic landscape. Quilter Cheviot’s Belfast office opened on February 1, 2008, and today remains one of a small number of discretionary fund managers present in Northern Ireland. The head of office, Nigel Crawford, said: “I am delighted to have been at the helm of the Belfast office over the past decade. “There has been immense growth across a number of sectors in Northern Ireland over the last few years, particularly in technology, tourism, and the financial services industry, which is wonderful

Martin Baines, CEO of Quilter Cheviot

Nigel Crawford, Lynne Hill, Stephen Hill and Beth McKevitt

to see. As one of the longer standing investment management firms in Belfast we are well placed to witness this first hand, and continue to help our clients with their investment needs. “Although we are embedded in the local marketplace, we can also provide our clients with exposure to the global markets thanks to our strong research team that work to ensure our investment managers have the most up-to-date market data needed in order to create the best strategies,” he added. Today the office works with around 750 individual clients. Quilter Cheviot provides discretionary managed investment portfolios for private clients, professional intermediaries, charities, trusts and pension funds. With 10 offices across the UK, offshore presences in Dublin and Jersey, and a representative office in Dubai, Quilter

Cheviot is one of the largest discretionary managers in the UK with over £23bn in funds under management (as at 30 September 2017). Investors should remember that the value of investments, and the income from them, can go down as well as up. Investors may not recover what they invest. Past performance is no guarantee of future results. Any mention of a specific security should not be interpreted as a solicitation to buy or sell a specific security.

Elle Moore, Elaine Moore, Desmond Gray and Barbara Gray

Jonathan McKeown, Fiona McKeown, Veronica McKeown and Gerry McKeown

Nigel Crawford, Head of Quilter Cheviot’s Belfast office

Neil Gibson, Chief Economist at EY

Cyril Johnston

Siofra Healy and Nora Smith




By John Mulgrew


Ireland, he set up his company in 2006. Back then, he says the focus was on greener and more energy efficient boilers for both private and social housing.


Since then, it’s expanded to work with the Housing Executive and social housing contracts, before securing sub-contracting work with the now collapsed Carillion in 2010, and then landing direct contracts as a result.


elfast’s National cafe and bar is fast-becoming a hub for the great and the good of the business world, it seems. On a surprisingly fresh city morning, following days of rain and bitter cold, the grand and sun-kissed, high-ceilings of the High Street location provided a more that suitable backdrop for a late breakfast with a Co Down businessman with his fingers in many pies. Connaire McGreevy’s CTS Projects – based in Warrenpoint – works in maintenance and heating contracts across Northern Ireland, and now employs 150 workers. Connaire isn’t a man with too much time on his hands, these days. Aside from running an already-successful maintenance business, the 35-year-old decided to expand his entrepreneurial credentials and tackle the burgeoning world of micro-brewing. In 2015, he launched Mourne Mountains Brewery. Connaire says while it’s still growing, sales are up around a third in the last year. Over a croissant and punchy Americano, Connaire says he started out in his earlier days “with different rules” then, joining his father on the building site as a boy. Following a degree in geography in 2004, and a stint helping develop the first GPS map of

MARCH 2018

“That’s where we began the relationship with the Housing Executive,” he said. Speaking about the liquidation of outsourcing giant Carillion, he said: “I feel sorry for the staff who have through a terrible few months.” Carillion employs approximately 500 staff here, with around 230 working for the Housing Executive. Since its collapse, it’s moved contracts to French firm Engine. Across the board, its troubles reached a peak amid a £900m debt pile, a £590m pension deficit reported by the firm, and hundreds of millions of pounds in unfinished public contracts. Connaire is also a former SDLP councillor, and says losing his seat in 2014 following boundary changes was a “blessing in disguise”. Not long after that, Mourne Mountains Brewery was born. “It’s still small... that sector, there are breweries popping up left, right and centre.

Connaire McGreevy

Not content with owning a brewery, he’s trying to improve the craft beer selection in the border regions with his pub Ye Old Ship Inn, based in Warrenpoint, and bring both the brewery and bar closer together. And after all that chat about beer, it’s time to leave the National while we’re still just on the coffee and pastries. ■


The Nat ional Omelett e£ Croissan 6.50 t and co ffee £2.80 Pastry a nd coffe e £3.20 Coconu t ball £2 .00 Total: £ 14.50

“I’m still excited about it.”



Zanzibar: Spice of life on Africa's paradise islands Africa's paradise islands are perfect for honeymooners, but be sure to explore beyond the resorts and pay a visit to the forests and mangroves...


e were standing in a mangrove forest, but in this world of wood and water, the tide had gone out, exposing a complete layer of gnarled roots; an intricate network, spread out like spiders' legs, intertwined and overlapping, reaching over and under each other for water, every root glistening and dark brown with mud. It was then that I noticed it. Right in the middle of the tangle of roots, a tiny splash of bright red, the claw of a crab sticking out of the mud - a swampy underworld where it looked unlikely a living creature could survive.


We were a small group on a walking tour through the mangroves of Jozani Forest in Zanzibar, the island archipelago off the coast of Tanzania in Africa. The forest was quiet, except for the odd call from a yellow-rumped tinkerbird and the faint sound of a lonely cicada. It was my first time in Africa, and the unexpected flash of red in the mangroves was one of many surprises I found on an island so rich with layers of nature and culture, I'm not even sure I made sense of it all. Bright colour, though, was definitely a theme. Jozani Forest is home to Red Colobus monkeys, an endangered species with distinctive red, black and white colouring and

a shock of white spiky hair. Walking through the forest to see the monkeys was fun, but the underworld of the mangroves was fascinating. Salmin, our guide, told us about the fish, crabs and shrimps in the water, which is a mix of freshwater and salt water, but thankfully has no crocodiles. The mangroves have many uses - providing building materials for bridges, houses and boats, firewood, food (there are up to 15 species of crab) and even medicine, and they also help to prevent coastal erosion. Zanzibar sits in the Indian Ocean, and its pristine white beaches, lined with palm trees


Getting there From Dublin, fly to Zanzibar with Ethiopian Airlines (ethiopianairlines. com) via Addis Ababa, Emirates (emirates.com) via Dubai, Turkish Airlines (turkishairlines.com) via Istanbul, Qatar Airways (qatarairways.com) via Doha or Kenya Airways (kenya-airways.com) via London Heathrow and Nairobi.

Where to stay Yvonne was a guest of The Zanzibar Collection (thezanzibarcollection. com), which has a two-bed villa at the five-star Baraza Resort & Spa from €642 (£566) per night. At The Palms, villas start from €675 (£595) per night — both prices are all-inclusive based on two adults sharing.

and secluded ocean-side resorts, make it the ideal spot for honeymooners, many who come here to relax after a mainland safari. There are 46 islands in the archipelago and the main island is Unguja. Our resort, Baraza, was on the east side of the island, a collection of white villas set along paths lined with colourful red, purple and pink bougainvillea and opening out onto Bwejuu Paje beach. One of Zanzibar's most striking features is the colour of the water, a brilliant turquoise blue, so myself and my travel companions booked a snorkelling trip to explore beneath the surface. A short drive brought us to a place that looked close to my idea of paradise. A simple white stone path led out from the white sand, across the rock pools and coral reef. At the end of the path, a traditional wooden Zanzibar dhow was anchored, surrounded by blue-green water and patches of coral reef. After a short boat trip, we anchored in Mswakini Lagoon and set off snorkelling, led to the edge of the coral by Hassan our guide, accompanied by a shoal of stripy zebra fish

MARCH 2018

swimming alongside. We spotted bright orange clownfish and black and yellow angel fish with their long top and bottom fins. With more than 400 species of fish recorded here, diving is also popular. Back at the resort, we had a private lunch on the beach, a romantic set-up under a wooden pergola with flower-lined posts and a roof of palm leaves. As we admired the sea view and a line of surf breaking on the distant reef, we tucked into fresh seafood and chilled wine and watched couples pass by on foot or by kayak, before the warm water of the incoming tide came lapping around our feet and we moved, giggling, up the sand for dessert and coffee. There's plenty to do in Zanzibar. A visit to Stone Town with its mix of European, Persian, Arabian and Indian history, will take you down a maze of alleys and to the buzzing Darajani Market, or history buffs can visit the old Slave Market. One evening we sipped cocktails on the terrace of The Africa House Hotel (africahousehotel.com), admiring the dhows sailing past at sunset.

Zanzibar was once the world's leading producer of spices, and another highlight was our visit to a spice farm to smell and taste spices like cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, lemongrass and vanilla - seeing them grow and learning different uses from food flavour and colour to medicine. We also toured the village of Bwejuu. One of the best things to do, though, is just relax and enjoy the setting. Baraza Resort & Spa is connected to its two neighbours, The Palms and Breezes Beach Club & Spa (all part of The Zanzibar Collection; see right) where you can dine, swim or just kick back and relax. For couples, private experiences include private dining in a beachfront restaurant or the Sultan's Bath at the spa, a double massage followed by a bath in a mosaic-tiled pool. Even yoga classes can be private. Before leaving, my last experience of Zanzibar was walking on the beach. The tide was coming in and I watched a little crab burying itself in a rock pool, a last flash of orange to round off all the bright colours of the island, from colourful clothing, flowers, plants and wildlife to the mesmerising bluegreen of the sea. ■



Hear, hear Our tech expert Adrian Weckler tries out the impressive new Echo Plus and gets down with a pair of the latest stylish headphones from Even EVEN EARPRINT H2 (£229 FROM AMAZON.CO.UK)

Headphones are like speakers: there appears to be an unending supply of them. But Even thinks that it has a distinction of note in a unique feature it calls a 'earprint'. When you first use the headphones, it asks you to listen to a serious of sounds and respond with a button. It then calculates what the optimal characteristics of a song's balance (bass, treble and so on) are for your exact audio capability. You can then switch this earprint on and off to compare the difference. In my case, I definitely preferred the noise characteristics with the earprint switched on. It was clearer, with better-suited bass accompaniment. Best of all, I was able to keep the volume lower while hearing my music perfectly well. When switching the earprint off, the audio was still good, but comparatively not as smooth. That's not the only nice thing about the H2 cans. Aesthetically, they have a very nice 'wooden' finish on the side of the headphones, with generous, soft, leather ear cups. Aside from comfort, the latter feature is especially handy given that these headphones, unusually, don't have active noise-cancelling technology built in. But because the cups' leather is so soft, it seals your ear fairly effectively, thus cutting out a lot of ambient din. In addition to the earprint button, there are two volume-control buttons and a play/ pause button on the right hand side. The left has a micro-USB charging port, with battery life good for up to a week if you use the headphones moderately. The headphones has one audio tick that I need to mention. It involves the H2's inability to


accommodate frictionless noise when walking. Specifically, the headphones rattled audibly in time to the rhythm of my gait when I wore them outside. At first I was a little confused as to why. On closer testing, I discovered it was a design issue - the earpiece taps off the metal headband when you walk because of the motion between the two parts. The H2 isn't alone in suffering from this: about one in five sets of headphones I test have a similar problem. For someone who is largely stationary (on a bus or train or at a desk) when using headphones, this won't be any issue.

But for someone like me, who frequently walks to work and relies on headphones for company, it is a potentially prohibitive irritant. Is it worth buying these headphones? Aesthetically, they're gorgeous and the audio quality is really quite good. They're reasonably priced too, although you can still get Sony's excellent MDR-1000X headphones, with larger cups and noise-cancelling build in, for £229 in shops such as PC World. The only catch is for exercisers - this is not the right pair for walkers. For anyone else, it's a decent bet. ■


doesn't sit comfortably with the Echo. Alexa isn't very smart, nor does she display any obvious signs of learning from your linguistic style. She is a bot and you generally have to learn how to talk on her terms rather than the other way around. Sentences have to be a little stiff or she'll just say that she doesn't understand.


It was nice while it lasted. For some 80 years, Northern Ireland’s homes have relied on manual execution of switches, knobs, dials and other electrical triggers. But voice control is now here. And its chief conduit is arguably Amazon's Echo, which has officially been launched onto the Irish market. For the uninitiated, the Echo uses Amazon Alexa, the shopping giant's clever voiceactivated system. It's designed to be the ultimate home assistant so that in future you'll shop using it. (A little like the Kindle was introduced so you could buy ebooks from Amazon.) But Amazon has ramped up the hardware a little with its new Echo Plus device, which integrates a smart home hub. So you can now control things like smart lightbulbs (and, particularly, the Philips Hue, which comes bundled with it), or anything that connects through the Zigbee system, through it. One thing the Echo is very good at is picking up your voice. So far, I have found that it

MARCH 2018

will hear me quite consistently regardless of where in the room I am, or even outside the room if I speak loudly. It's also decent at picking my voice out through quite a lot of ambient noise, such as a kettle, a washing machine or another person talking. On entertainment, it has a few significant advantages. Because it's linked with RTE radio and the independent stations, you can simply say "Alexa, play Radio One" (or whatever station you want) and it will do it fairly instantly. For those who might chop and change a bit between different shows in the morning or the evening, using your voice to do it from the others side of the room represents the same efficiency leap as going from manually changing a TV station to a remote control. For things like podcasts, it's arguably even more transformative. Just say "Alexa, play The Big Tech Show", or whatever the podcast you listen to is. It will reach right in and play it. It's a similar story with audiobooks for anyone with an Audible account. There are small frustrations. Despite the marketing, the term 'artificial intelligence'

There are also some things that don't work. Shopping is one. Unlike the US and UK, you can't order things from Amazon through your Echo. This won't bother a lot of people, but it comes in the context of Ireland missing out on many of the real advantages of a 'Prime' subscription, such as free delivery or discounts on lots of products. (Indeed, there's a lot of disadvantages to being an Amazon customer stuck in Ireland, from geo-restricted deliveries to advertised movies and TV shows not being available for streaming once you try to click them on Prime Video.) And, for a certain type of person, there's still an existential leap in using a smart speaker with your voice. Tragically, there may even linger a fear of rejection. What if Alexa doesn't recognise what I'm asking for? Does that mean I don't speak clearly enough? In this way, the first-time user experiences many of the ticks one might expect for other unfamiliar services. Like clearing one's throat before speaking, or drifting into a telephone voice, as if an interaction with Alexa is a public representation of oneself. If you're an iPhone owner and already using Siri, is it worth holding out for an Apple Homepod? Apple's own new smart speaker, which may be launched in Ireland later this year, doesn't have the range of features that the Echo has, even taking into consideration the restrictions for Amazon's Irish customers. The Homepod's audio prowess is generally rated as better than the Echo, but it's also far more expensive. Besides, if audio quality is what you're after, you might be better off buying a Sonos 1 speaker and using Alexa on that. ■


MY DAY Uncovering the 9-5

1pm The travel industry is one of the great social industries to be involved in, so there are always plenty of lunch invites and evening function so 9–5 is never the norm. I am fortunate enough to sample our newest tourism products in Northern Ireland and the growth in quality gives me great cause for both pride and confidence going forward. Technology and the web have influenced the Travel Industry more than most and meeting that challenge grows every day. With the launch of our brand new web site at the end of last year a large part of my day is reviewing our daily output of news and working with our team to help grow our platforms and audience. Our digital product is now at the forefront of travel media in Northern Ireland.

Name: Jonathan Adair Position: Commercial Director, Northern Ireland Travel News

3pm We have made some dramatic changes at NI Travel News over the last 12 months and are proud to be continuing this into 2018, we don’t like to “sit still” in an ever changing market. An afternoon could easily fly in discussing plans and opportunities that are out there – like, for example, The Holiday NInja holiday listings platform which we are very excited to be working on and fully launching later this year.

8.30am With all aspects of the travel industry over the last number of years, things are constantly changing and each day brings new and exciting developments, so (like the cliché says!) every day really is different.

When running any organisation you need to be aware if not directly involved in all aspects of the business. In the morning I try to meet with all departments to get a feel for the current position and any help I can give in achieving our objects for that period.

On a normal day I try to be in the office well before 9.00am which begins with the review of emails and the current news releases. As the travel media in Northern Ireland, we deal with all travel and tourism organisations worldwide so there is no shortage of news.

11am Each quarter brings a different focus as we organise the two biggest travel trade events in Northern Ireland - The Big Travel Trade Event in June (NI’s largest B2B Travel Exhibition) and the Northern Ireland Travel and Tourism Awards (now in the 27th year) in October.

5pm We have our own travel events company, so many evenings are spent looking after travel organisations and putting suppliers face-to-face with Northern Ireland agents, to update and educate on the wide and varied destinations and developments on offer. The world has become more accessible with the ever expanding travel network now available and long haul destinations more affordable for the public. If there are no events to attend, I like to get home to the family - I am a true believer in a good “work/life” balance to achieve all your goals.

I have client meetings most mornings and constant emails and sales calls throughout the day. I find flexibility in the day important as travel industry developments and customer needs are constantly changing. World events have a great bearing on trends and focus … and my meeting schedules.

Free Time An avid golfer and past captain of Carnalea GC I enjoy the freedom of the course, and again the travel industry has given me the chance to sample some of the best. Family and friends are important to me and socialising is top of the list.

When we started NI Travel News in January 1990 we were limited to the monthly newspaper as our platform for getting the news out to our readers, today we still have the printed newspaper, but our website is updated throughout the day and our social media is a constant source of updates for the travelling public.



Profile for Ulster  Business

Ulster Business - March 2018  

Ulster Business

Ulster Business - March 2018  

Ulster Business