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MAY 2017 Price £2.30 (¤3.75)

Cleaver Fulton Rankin: Ever Agile, Ever Changing Managing Director Jonathan Forrester reflects on Cleaver Fulton Rankin’s growth and plans for the future at the Belfast commercial law firm

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Contents 6 News

37 Construction

75 Motoring

All the news, views and stats you need to know about from the last month

The return of an industry which bore the brunt of the downturn, analysed

The sommelier of the motoring world Pat Burns pours a taster of this month’s offerings

14 Cover Story

53 Corporate Restructuring

85 Appointments

Cleaver Fulton Rankin on its agile approach and plans for the future in Northern Ireland

How to best approach a restructuring with minimal disruption and maximum results

The who, what, why and when of the local job market keeps you in the loop

18 Meade

63 Export

90 Events

“Some people are on the pitch, they think it’s all over...it is now” Meade shoots, he scores

If, how and where you should be exporting, with help from Invest NI

The Chairman shows he’s not for turning with another month of black tie extravaganza

23 Finance & Banking

74 Business Breakfast

94 Travel

A glance at the growing range of finance options open to your business

It’s out for the first meal of the day with Britt Megahey from Barclay Communications

Mojitos at the ready because we’re all off to explore sunny Cuba







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Focus on the business picture


elcome to the May edition of Ulster Business.

Yet again we have a jam-packed edition dropping on your desk just as another political crisis is unfolding in front of our eyes. At the time of writing the current Stormont logjam/ stalemate/faceoff/stare down isn’t so much unfolding as stuck in a holding pattern in the air above Northern Ireland. We, the business community in Northern Ireland, are metaphorically waiting in arrivals for our elected representatives to be cleared for landing. They’re fine, probably sitting up front in business class enjoying some airline hospitality and catching up on episodes of the West Wing, but we’re stuck at the airport wasting time while our car parking ticket notches up a hefty fee. But we’re busy and don’t have time to waste. We shouldn’t be hamstrung and instead should leave the airport and get on with our day until they call to let us know they’ve landed. We’ve said it before on these pages but there’s little we can do amid the current showdown other than getting on with running our businesses as well as we can, effecting change

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

Independent News & Media Ltd © 2017. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form, or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise without the prior permission of Independent News & Media Ltd.

MAY 2017

on the things we have control of and preparing for all eventualities on those – such a Brexit – we don’t. The flying metaphor was chosen because Belfast has just played host to the European aviation industry for three days at the Routes Europe conference. It would be easy to use this as an example of the private sector getting on with business while the public sector bickers but, in actual fact, this is an event which has stakeholders ranging from the Department for the Economy, Invest NI and Tourism NI alongside the airports and major venues. Really it’s an example of how effective government can be in helping to boost the economy, when it’s working. It can give be the initiator, the facilitator and the financier of events such as this and help form a powerful reason why the world should do business with Northern Ireland. But it needs to work. That’s why we, as a magazine, fully back calls by the business world and others for our politicians to resolve their differences and return to a devolved government, regardless of the general election and other distractions. Time is precious and there’s work to be done. ■ David Elliott

Editor David Elliott

Cover photography Elaine Hill

Manager Sonia Armstrong

Production Stuart McKinley

Deputy Manager Sylvie Brando

Contact 028 90 264000

Sales Executive Sarah-Ann Gamble

Online www.ulsterbusiness.com

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


A month in numbers 5.2% The unemployment rate in Northern Ireland, according to the Labour Force Survey from the Department for the Economy, a fall of 1.1% year-on-year.

4.7% The unemployment rate across the UK as a whole.

6.6% The unemployment rate in the Republic.

A group consisting of business bodies, representatives from the community and voluntary sector and other members of civic society take an open letter to Stormont calling for a return to devolved government

Focus, business world tells politicians 8.1% The unemployment rate in the European Union.

4.5% The unemployment rate in the USA.



he Northern Ireland business community has joined together to urge politicians here to focus on resolving the current stalemate at Stormont, despite the emergence of a general election.

The unprecedented move, which revealed the urgency needed for political stability and the frustration at the current stalemate from all corners of society, laid the responsibility firmly at politicians’ front door.

They said the Prime Minister’s decision to go to the polls on June 8th shouldn’t get in the way of talks aimed at forming a new Executive and reiterated their call for the reestablishment of a devolved administration.

“Today the voice of business and civic society join together with one message,” the letter said. “Together our organisations represent hundreds of thousands of people across all religions, backgrounds and sectors.

A spokesperson from CBI Northern Ireland said it is “vital the general election does not slow efforts to form a strong, well-functioning, devolved government in Northern Ireland.”

“We unequivocally state that the best way forward for everyone in Northern Ireland is through a local power-sharing government which is built upon a desire to maintain our peace process, demonstrate respect to all communities and deliver compromise where needed.”

The unemployment rate in Spain.

23.5% The unemployment rate in Greece.

26.5% The unemployment rate in South Africa.

2.4% The unemployment rate in Iceland.

1.1% The unemployment rate in Thailand.


It called for direction from politicians, adding: “Political stability and economic prosperity go hand-in-hand, so businesses want clarity from the government on how the General Election will impact the prospects for a swift resolution to the current political and budgetary situation at Stormont.” The comments come after a group consisting of business bodies, representatives from the community and voluntary sector and other members of civic society such as universities and membership organisations joined together to take an open letter to Stormont urging a return to devolved government.

The letter pulled no punches it’s backing for devolution. “Business and civic society are today directly asking local politicians to find a way forward for creating a power-sharing government that works for all the people of Northern Ireland. Our future can only be a shared one. “We remind local politicians that they have a duty to their electorate to pursue the best way forward for everyone residing in this region.”


Danske Bank becomes landlord as Grant Thornton moves in


Meet for More



Richard Gillan (Grant Thornton) and Kevin Kingston (Danske Bank)

usiness advisory firm Grant Thornton is to move into the third floor of Danske Bank’s building in Belfast’s Donegall Square West. The move is part of a drive by the bank to cut costs by moving some of its operations out of the city centre to its Dunmurray base Killeaton House. It will be the first time the bank has hosted a tenant at its headquarters when Grant Thornton takes up residency in November. "In the current prolonged low interest rate environment, banks across the UK are continuing to look at ways to reduce their cost bases,” Kevin Kingston, CEO of Danske Bank said. “We have taken an innovative approach to this challenge, with a rationale of seeking to implement change that does not negatively impact our customers.” Richard Gillan, Managing Partner of Grant Thornton in Northern Ireland, said the need for additional office space was the result of “remarkable growth across all business streams” with revenue doubling in the last two years. “Our move to this iconic building on Donegall Square reflects that confidence, and will provide a fitting and professional environment that will help facilitate our continued expansion.”




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MAY 2017



Quotes of the month “The successful delivery of the proposed North South Interconnector by 2021 will improve market efficiency, drive down costs for consumers, and guarantee Northern Ireland’s future security of supply.” Angela McGowan, CBI NI Regional Director, on a report launched by both the CBI and Dublin business body IBEC setting out the economic importance and urgency behind the proposed 400kV overhead North South electricity Interconnector. “We need it (devolved governmentt) back up and running as soon as possible, not only for our industry and others, but for the Northern Ireland consumer who already has half of the discretionary spend of our GB neighbours.” Aodhán Connolly, Director of the Northern Ireland Retail Consortium reports a 3.7% fall in footfall in March. “In order for Northern Ireland companies to flourish in a post-EU world, they must utilise every vehicle they can to strengthen their competiveness and underpin their journey to sustained growth.” Ian Wolfendale, Business Development Manager for Jumpstart in Northern Ireland, wants to see what political parties will be doing to support R&D. “Belfast is becoming a location of choice for many international companies and, as exemplified by Arup, the positive experience they enjoy often leads to expansion and further investment.” Belfast office leader & buildings practice leader Paul Johnston from Arup, the company which designed the Sydney Opera House, sings Belfast’s praises as it plans to increase its headcount by 30 over the next three years.


Pictured are Andrew Gowdy, Senior Portfolio Manager at WhiteRock Capital Partners and Dr Pamela McHenry of Belfast Skin Clinic

Dermatological centre creates 10 jobs


new centre of excellence for all skin and skin-related conditions, has opened in Belfast with backing from a loan from the Growth Loan Fund. Belfast Skin Clinic has created three new jobs with another seven posts to be created before the end of the year. Finance for the £50m Growth Loan Fund – which provides loans to established Northern Ireland SMEs seeking to access growth finance – has been provided by Invest Northern Ireland and private investor, Northern Ireland Local Government Officers’ Superannuation Committee (NILGOSC).

Dr McHenry said: “We approached the NIGLF for assistance funding the fit out, equipment costs and working capital requirements for the business. The team at WhiteRock Capital Partners were fantastic to deal with and very professional. “The facility will allow Belfast Skin Clinic to grow and deliver world class care in Dermatology and Associated Specialties across Ireland.”

Development of the Belfast Skin Clinic has been led by Dr Pamela McHenry, one of Ireland’s most experienced dermatologists.

The loan has successfully helped the Belfast Skin Clinic accelerate its growth plans by assisting with the investment in Northern Ireland’s first full body mole scanner. The scanner will be able to identify changes in the appearance of moles and help detect skin cancer (melanoma) in the early stages, leading to a significantly better outcome for patients.

The new state of the art clinic offers a comprehensive range of diagnostic and treatment services, bringing together consultants in Dermatology, Plastic Surgery, Allergies, Immunology, Rheumatology, Paediatrics and Cosmetic Dermatology. The purpose built facility has ten consulting/ treatment rooms and an operating theatre designed to the latest regulations and infection control standards.

Andrew Gowdy, Senior Portfolio Manager at WhiteRock Capital Partners, commented: “Dr McHenry brings a wealth of expertise and knowledge of the medical sector to her new clinic. A property which has been left empty for several years has been transformed with jobs being created in the local area. We were delighted to be part of a funding package that enabled the project to grow from an idea to getting patients through the front door.”


ISL Waste pick up health and safety award


he team at ISL Waste, the Belfast waste management company, have been awarded the title of WISHNI Ambassador for its health and safety practices. The award was presented by the Waste Industry Safety and Health Forum for Northern Ireland at a recent event in Dunsilly Hotel, Antrim. It recognises ISL’s health and safety management activity at its base in Mallusk and remote stations across Northern Ireland. They are pictured with Director Barry Donaghy, third from left. “We are delighted to be awarded the title of WISHNI Ambassador 2017,” he said. “Health and safety is critical to what we do because of the nature of the work we do. We are committed to protecting the health and safety of everyone involved – our employees, clients and anyone else affected by our works.”

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Wellbeing at Work sponsored by Larne Port Bank of Ireland UK Belfast City Council Belfast Health and Social Care Trust BT Coca-Cola HBC Lagan Construction Group Queen’s University Belfast

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Agri-food sector enjoys upswing despite inflationary pressures


orthern Ireland’s agri-food sector will be able to take full advantage of any opportunities provided by Brexit.

That’s according to Ulster Bank Northern Ireland head Richard Donnan who said the provenance of local produce, the quality of the supply chain, and the growing demand for food are key fundamental assets to build on. He was speaking at the bank’s annual briefing on the sector in Ten Square Hotel, Belfast, where he pointed to the benefits of being adjacent to a large market. “GB is a large and affluent market on our doorstep, and post-Brexit, Northern Ireland producers and processors are likely to have access to it that other countries may not. There are certainly many potential challenges in relation to how Brexit might unfold, and how agricultural policy is shaped locally and in Westminster going forward will also be crucial. “But local agri-food companies are best advised to focus on the things they can control so that they are positioned well to capitalise on whatever opportunities emerge. That means continuing to generate great produce and products, adding value where possible, investing in R&D and innovation, and mitigating uncertainty.” Meanwhile, the cost of one of Northern Ireland’s most iconic dishes – the Ulster Fry - has increased by nearly 3% in the last year, according to the bank. It’s Ulster Fry Index – which tracks the cost of the constituent ingredients of the typical heaty breakfast - has climbed in line with the rate of inflation, led mostly by a sharp jump in the price of pork sausages of 7.1% and tomatoes of 6.8%.

Pictured left - right at the annual Ulster Bank and Guild of Agri Journalists economic outlook breakfast event is Richard Ramsey, Chief Economist, Ulster Bank; Cormac McKervey, Ulster Bank's Senior Agriculture Manager; Rhonda Geary, RUAS and Richard Donnan, Head of Northern Ireland, Ulster Bank

Margarine jumped 29.2% while butter climbed by just 1.4% with eggs the only part of the dish which fell over the last year (by 1.4%). This year’s increase in the Ulster Bank Ulster Fry Index follows a fall of 9% in 2016 and by 3% in 2015 and, like the Economist magazine’s Big Mac index which tracks the price of the eponymous burger in different regions of the world, gives an important insight into the actual inflationary pressures on consumers in Northern Ireland, according to Ulster Bank economist Richard Ramsey. “Food makes up a significant proportion of household spending. Food and drink is also a key sector of the Northern Ireland economy,” he said. “So, understanding how the price of food stuffs are changing gives us some insight into both the current state of consumer finances, and also some of the challenges facing the agri-food industry. “There are a wide range of alternative indices around the world – from the Big Mac Index to the Cappuccino Index – which are intended to put economics into layman’s terms, and to shed new light on important economic issues. Ours is the Ulster Fry Index, and it hopefully gives the man or woman on the street a clearer idea of why their household finances currently are the way they are. Although up this year, the Ulster Fry Index is 25% higher than it was 10 years ago and 47% higher than in April 1998. Mr Ramsey said the future holds only one path for the Ulster Fry Index: up.“Consumers are going to feel an increasing squeeze as the price of food rises in the months ahead. And of course cafes and restaurants also have to factor in rising energy and labour costs, for instance, in the prices they charge. The National Living Wage and the rising cost of gas and electricity will be key factors in their cost-base, and the prices they charge.”



Pictured at Deloitte’s BrightStart welcome event are Brad Shepherd, 2016 BrightStart student, Professor Gillian Armstrong from Ulster University, Jackie Henry, Deloitte senior partner in Belfast, and Hannah Gates, 2017 BrightStart student

Record apprentice intake at Deloitte


usiness advisory firm Deloitte is to take on a record number of apprentices this year, the company has announced.

A total of 66 young people aged between 17 and 18 years old have been offered places at the firm, a jump from 42 last year. They’ll join Deloitte’s BrightStart programme where they’ll gain an honours degree through Ulster University, professional qualifications and a job while at the same time gaining practical experience. This year’s BrightStarts and their parents were welcomed by Deloitte’s senior partner in Belfast, Jackie Henry, at a celebration event at W5 in Belfast. “We have seen a record number of applications for this third cohort of the BrightStart programme, so we felt it was appropriate to stage this event to congratulate this group of creative and talented young people who have been offered a place on the scheme,” Jackie said. “Deloitte has ambitious growth plans in Belfast and we have realised that there is a rich vein of talent amongst school leavers which we are now successfully tapping into. “We have been encouraged by the quality of talent that we have brought into the business through the programme so far and have every confidence in our latest intake as we extend it for a third consecutive year.”

MAY 2017

BELFAST BOOK REVIEW: TALK LIKE TED BY CARMINE GALLO Resident reviewers David Meade and Laura Jackson, Partner at BDO Northern Ireland, ask if Talk Like TED by Carmine Gallo can crack the secrets of public speaking.


n recent years TED Talk has become a by-word for wellcrafted presentations with an exciting vision. These bitesize, adrenaline-soaked shots of insight are a thrilling antithesis to the sleep inducing corporate slideshows we’ve all had to endure at some point. But what if these pithy powerful presentations could be the norm in business? That’s the question which inspired communications coach and bestselling author Carmine Gallo, to dissect the talks to distil nine secrets of all successful TED presentations. A go-to guide for presentation excellence, his findings show how we can all raise our game and become much more persuasive. That’s the good news. The downside is that a lot of time and effort is still needed to really master each technique whether you’re pitching to one person or speaking to thousands. In ‘Practice relentlessly’, a key chapter, some TED Participant admitted practicing their speech up to 200 times before giving it. It’s unlikely business folk will have the time to match that record, but there are real takeaway learnings here. If Gallo’s only outcome is to resign wordy slideshows to history, I suspect he’ll be pleased, but there are greater rewards here for communicators ready for a real challenge. Talk Like Ted by Carmine Gallo is reviewed as part of the Belfast Book Review, a free bi-monthly club where professionals can discuss the latest in business thinking. To join the club or find out more visit www.bdoni.com or email Judith.Stewart@bdo.co.uk



Scrapping air tax would boost economy, says Flybe boss

Flybe’s new chief executive Christine Ourmieres-Widener celebrates International Women’s Day at Belfast City Airport with an all female team including board member Liz McMeikin and NI general manager Andrea Hayes

By John Mulgrew


lybe's new boss has said ditching air passenger duty (APD) would help grow Northern Ireland's economy. Christine Ourmieres-Widener was speaking during a visit to Belfast City Airport. The former CityJet boss was appointed as the new chief executive of the UK regional carrier in January. "It is a fantastic company, and I'm convinced it's a massive opportunity to improve where we are today and improve our customer focus," she said. "We are a bit in a reflection point where we are. "It's a big base with eight aircraft, and we want to be successful in Belfast. We have a plan with the airport to see how we can start to grow on the routes which are quite successful." Flybe, which employs almost 200 people in Belfast, said its routes were performing well, but there remained room for improvement.


The company is the biggest operator at Belfast City Airport, with around 15 UK routes.

the initiative of the Scottish Government, and I think it's a very good initiative.

Business passengers remain a big part of Flybe's air traffic, particularly in Northern Ireland, where they make up 65% of the company's total number.

"The examples we see in Europe are positive for the economy and creation of employment. By having an affordable travel opportunity and price to travel, you increase the number of people (visiting).

On Brexit, Ms Ourmieres-Widener said the airline was watching to ensure that any restrictions did not hit air travel. "We are following the discussions and are ready to talk to the Government to explain to them what could be a difficulty if changes are made," she said. Asked whether scrapping APD, a £13 tax on most flights leaving the UK, would help boost demand in Northern Ireland, Ms OurmieresWidener said: "Yes, of course. It's difficult (to guess) what would be the customer behaviour. It's a very price-sensitive market. We can see the impact that has happened in countries like the Netherlands. "We are supporting not only the decrease, but the abolition of APD. We have been following

"It's just a very logical output for an economy, and an economy which definitely has been an engine of economic development." Ms Ourmieres-Widener was visiting Belfast as part of International Women's Day. Flybe is also already a big customer of Bombardier, with the bulk of its fleet using the 78-seat Q400 turbo-prop, which is part-made in Belfast, but the new CSeries passenger jet is likely to be too large for the carrier. However, Ms Ourmieres-Widener said there remained a possibility of ordering those aircraft down the line. "Depending on the network vision, why not?" she said. But today, the network is the first step, and that's what we are doing." ■

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The Cleaver Fulton Rankin way Managing Director Jonathan Forrester tells Ulster Business why you’ll be hearing a lot more about the commercial law firm in the future


eeting Jonathan Forrester for the first time, it’s easy to see the energy his clients refer to in the Chambers legal directory. The Managing Director of Cleaver Fulton Rankin carries with him an enthusiasm which is infectious and - combined with his other stated ability to quickly “get involved and make it happen” - it’s not long before we’re getting down to brass tacks. Jonathan has only recently taken over as Managing Director at the Belfast firm from Karen Blair – the role is rotated among the directors - and, although reticent to talk about his own experience, Ulster Business mined deep for background.

residents of Rossorry Quay in Enniskillen where damages in excess of £6m were recovered; the advice he gave to an international telecommunications company in relation to a multi million pound contractual dispute or acting in a dispute between joint venture partners in connection with a landmark commercial property, which settled for a sum in excess of £100m.

the first and most advanced of its kind in Northern Ireland – as well as other specialisms in energy, healthcare, agri-business and telecommunications.

Such experience has set him up well for the top role in the firm, as he takes the reins in the midst of a period of sustained growth, as Cleaver Fulton Rankin celebrates its 125th year.

It also engenders enormous loyalty, as evidenced by the fact that eight of the 19 current directors started out as trainees at the firm. “The firm offers not just a job but a career”, according to Jonathan.

Part of the firm’s success and longevity can be attributed to the entrepreneurial culture it fosters, Jonathan said.

And although the firm has been around since the 19th century, the directors are a young team with an average age of just 42 years old.

These industry-leading initiatives keep the firm at the top of its game and on an upward trajectory of growth, as it evolves to meet client demand.

Having joined the firm in 1999 after graduating from Queen’s University with both a law degree and a MSc in Information Management, he was admitted as a solicitor to the Court of Judicature in 2001, became a partner in 2008 and a director in 2011.

“We give people the encouragement and opportunity to grow,” he said. “Our team is told to develop niche areas and grow our client base, something which benefits the firm, our clients and them as individuals.

He has built up specialisms in commercial litigation, real estate litigation, disputes about wills and trusts, professional negligence, debt recovery and contentious construction, areas in which he has dealt with some of the most complex and high profile cases.

“We have over 60 legal professionals working here and they’re doing an awful lot of interesting stuff. We’re determined to let our people grow the practice because unless we give them that freedom, the practice cannot continue to evolve.”

“We’re constantly taking on and developing new people,” Jonathan said. “Since 2010 we’ve grown our team numbers by 29% but have been able to maintain and develop our Bedford Street base.

Take, for instance, the multi-million pound class action he handled on behalf of 66

A good example of that entrepreneurial culture in action is the Cyber Risk Unit,

“We’ve revamped the office and the clientfacing environment to reflect our approach >

MAY 2017

It helps that the firm focuses heavily on creating an environment where staff are happy. It has recently been shortlisted in five award categories for just that, including Managing People and Best Place to Work.



as a forward-looking business. It’s indicative of our business in that we don’t rest on our laurels but are consistently improving the value proposition for our clients”. And that is the crux of the business: providing legal excellence and applying commercial sense. “Some people say it’s old fashioned but we are after all, lawyers and we will provide you with a safe pair of hands to guide you through difficult scenarios whilst, on the other hand, also identifying exciting, strategic opportunities.” The work the firm carries out with a proposed gold mining project in County Tyrone and with an air energy storage scheme in County Antrim offer a glimpse of its wide range of expertise, which stretches across the full range of commercial legal advice. “We’re keen to highlight not only the traditional law firm services we provide but also tell people about exciting projects like these, which we’re developing not just for the benefit of our clients, but also for the benefit of Northern Ireland.” This includes the banking team’s recent work on major transactions such as the financing of LacPatrick Dairies, and of Wirsol Energy’s development of 25MW solar farms in Northern Ireland. The refinancing of Titanic Quarter was one of the biggest refinancing projects this year, which was littered with tight deadlines.


“We met those deadlines and delivered for our client,” Jonathan said. “Titanic Quarter’s success and continuing growth is something we’re very proud of because we have helped to get them to this point.”

led. Clients have access to the director who is responsible for their case and they interact with that director throughout the journey of that case. That’s not always the case at other firms.

Clients include “a very healthy list” of foreign direct investors who are looking to invest in Northern Ireland “because they see the talent, they see the energy, they see there is an opportunity and value which doesn’t present itself in other parts of the world.”

“We also offer a service level which is secondto-none and get feedback from our clients that we are creative and imaginative about their legal problems and can guide them through whatever type of transaction, or issue they face.

Similarly, Cleaver Fulton Rankin also works closely with some of the best exporters in Northern Ireland, a section of the business community which is essential to the long-term growth of the region.

“Because of our talented people, we can ensure we focus on and advance the business needs and objectives of the client.” Such an approach means a bright future awaits the firm.

“Our clients are very aware they need to provide services to a global audience and we’re following them on that journey. For us, it is not a problem because we can do the job as well as anyone else in the world.”

“You’re going to be hearing a lot more from us because I see the firm growing in a pretty dramatic fashion,” Jonathan said. “People have used the term ‘sleeping giant’ to describe us in the past but I’m pretty confident they won’t be saying that for much longer.

Certainly, the Cleaver Fulton Rankin name has found its way to all corners of the globe and only a couple of days after this interview, Jonathan is heading to Atlanta and Nashville to develop the firm’s export business further. But why should clients choose to work with the firm? “The key thing we offer is that when we say your case will be director led, it will be director

“We’re not showy, we’re not the boastful type, but we do recognise what we have achieved and are confident about what we’re going to do in the marketplace.” Backed by Jonathan’s enviable energy, it’s clear Cleaver Fulton Rankin are going to do big things. ■



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Fuel consumption and CO2 figures for the Volvo Range in mpg (I/100 km): Urban 68.9 (4.1) – 19.1 (14.8), Extra Urban 85.6 (3.3) – 37.7 (7.5), Combined 155.2 (1.8) – 27.7 (10.2). CO2 emissions 237 – 48g/km. MPG figures are obtained from laboratory testing intended for comparisons between vehicles and may not reflect real driving results. *Important Information. Business users only. Offers available on Business Contract Hire agreement 6+35.

Subject to status. Costs exclusive of VAT unless indicated otherwise. Further charges may be made subject to the condition or mileage of the vehicle. 10,000 miles per annum. Metallic Paint inclusive. Subject to availability at participating dealers for vehicles registered 01/04/17 to 30/06/17. Not available with other promotions. Excess mileage charges may apply. Provided by Lex Autolease Ltd trading as Volvo Car Leasing, SK3 0RB.


Back of the net

David Meade may not be a Premier League footballer but he does know how to score goals. Here he gives us his tips on how to meet yours…



NEVER FALL SHORT OF GOALS AGAIN It doesn't take a rocket scientist to appreciate that goals influence employee performance and behaviour every day. The problem is that individuals (and even some organizations) don’t understand how to increase their likelihood of successfully achieving the goals they set. Under the right circumstances, and if goals are created using the formula outlined in this month’s Ulster Business article, effective target setting can be the key influential factor for creating a culture of high performance. If goal setting is so valuable, why is it that so many goals are never attained? It just boils down to a couple of things of common pitfalls. WRITE IT DOWN If you take ownership of something, an item, an idea or a goal, by writing it down or sharing it with a colleague, you will be more committed to it. This is because of something psychologists call the endowment effect. That means that goals that are written down are more likely to be achieved. A clever experiment was conducted by Cornell University that proved the endowment effect using coffee mugs and chocolate. Researchers gave participants in the experiment coffee mugs, and offered to trade them chocolate for their mug. Almost none of the participants wanted to trade. Next, researchers reversed the trial. They gave different participants chocolate and asked them to trade for the coffee mugs. Again, very few wanted to trade. This experiment showed the endowment effect in action. The participants wanted to keep what they already had. The object itself wasn’t important at all. This is the same as the goals we set. When we write them down, we take ownership of them, and then we work to keep them. GOLDILOCKS We have all heard of the fairytale Goldilocks and the three bears. For those of you who don’t remember, Goldilocks is the greedy little brat who stole porridge from the three bears. Whenever you think of goal setting, think of Goldilocks - she holds the key to helping you achieve those elusive goals. Goals that are not

too easy, or hard are called Goldilocks’ goals. These types of goals keep up us motivated, and lead to a far greater and determined effort on the part of the person who set the goal.

sticking a post-it note on your desk or shared notice board, or creating reminders on your smart phone? HAVING THE RIGHT MINDSET

In a nutshell, if the goal is too hard or too easy, motivation wanes. In one study, 90% of people who used this 'just right' technique to create their objectives managed to successfully achieve them. So, whether it's a sales target or a goal to attend the office gym, make sure you take time to consider the fullness of the challenge in achieving them. STOP BEING VAGUE Wishy washy goals that are vague and broad, decrease our focus. It’s clarity you need if you want to increase your chances of success. When you have clarity and specificity around your goal, your chances of achieving it will increase exponentially. But, what if you have big fat audacious goals? What then? That’s easy, split the goal up. Make each component manageable and achievable. If you break down your big goal into smaller chunks, you will need to make sure that each of these chunks should also have their own deadline. You will make incremental gains and this will supercharge your motivation too.

QUESTIONS TO ASK YOURSELF When setting goals for yourself, you need to ask yourself some questions to ensure that you are on the right track. Ask yourself questions like: How challenging is the goal for me or my organsiation? Am I excited about reaching the goal? Is the goal too easy or too hard? How can I break the goal into smaller parts so that I don’t get overwhelmed? These questions will ensure that you are taking into consideration all that you need so that you achieve it. BACK AT THE OFFICE Let’s recap. To increase your odds of achieving goals you should:

If the goal is too hard or too easy motivation wanes.


In a previous article, I shared with you some of the amazing things that people with a growth mindset can achieve. People with a growth mindset embrace challenges as an opportunity to learn, persist in the face of setbacks, see effort as the path of mastery, learn from criticism, and find lessons and inspiration in the success of others. These attributes are needed in your path to goal success. Having a growth mindset makes people more resilient, and able to bounce back when they hit a hurdle or obstacle, and this is something you need if things go pear shaped.

Let’s face it, you're only human, and humans procrastinate, lose motivation, and fall into old habits. To help keep you on the straight and narrow, enlist an accountability buddy. They will keep you on the right track, and hopefully provide you with feedback, along the way to further help you achieve your goal. There is a myriad of other ways to make yourself accountable, what about using social media,

1. Create Goldilocks goals: The goal shouldn’t be too easy, nor too hard 2. Set specific goals 3. Write the goals down 4. Find ways to make yourself accountable 5. Use growth mindset principles to supercharge goals If you do these things you will not only increase the likelihood of achieving the goal’s you set, you will have greater productivity, a greater measurement of what you do, and be motivated to set attainable goals in the future. What’s not to like about that? ■


In association with


High-flying NI companies are London bound

The judging panel for the Aer Lingus Viscount Awards in association with Ulster Business, Alan Taylor (Arthur Cox), Gary McDonald (Irish News), Roseann Kelly (Women in Business), Jeremy Fitch (Invest NI), Andrea Hunter (Aer Lingus), Colin Walsh (Crescent Capital), Margaret Canning (Belfast Telegraph), Richard Sherriff (News Letter) and David Elliott (Ulster Business)


he judges have met, the votes have been counted and verified and the 2017 Viscount Awards shortlist has been announced.

After much deliberation, winners in the nine categories have been selected and will be announced at the prestigious ceremony in London next month.

An outstanding list of companies from across Northern Ireland has been successful in joining the 2017 Viscount Awards short list.

This year’s finalists are as follows: Best SME Award McElmeel Mobility Services The Deluxe Group TS Foods

Held in association with Ulster Business, the Viscount Awards aim to celebrate exceptional businesses and individuals that promote best practice and who have generated significant business success over the last year in areas including innovation, export, employee focus and overall growth.


Fast Growth Business Award AES Global Mount Charles Selective Travel Management WIS Group

Exporter of the Year Award AES Global EDGE Innovate Gilbert-Ash MJM Group Innovation of the Year Award Allstate Babocush Out There Services Business Person of the Year Award Gareth Loye, M&M Contractors John Toner, WIS Group Keith Graham, Selective Travel Management

Best Business Start-Up Award Digital TwentyFour Equi-Nutritive Employee Champion Award Allstate CDEnviro Andrea Hunter, Business Development Manager at Aer Lingus said: “Every year the calibre of entrants seems more exceptional than the one before. It wasn’t easy to reach our final shortlist, but I can say that each one of them really deserves their place on that list. “The companies and individuals we’re rewarding have shown tenacity, genuine commitment to innovation, whether that is with new product development or a new way of promoting their services and they are all punching well above their weight in Northern Ireland and notably in global markets. “On behalf of the judges, we congratulate all of the entrants and the finalists this year for their sharing their exceptional business successes with us and we look forward to flying our extremely talented shortlist of finalists from Belfast City to our awards ceremony in London,” she said. Nine awards will be presented at the Viscount Awards ceremony, which takes place on the 24th May at the IoD Headquarters on Pall Mall. The Award for Overall Excellence and the Lifetime Achievement awards will be announced at the ceremony. The judging panel for the Aer Lingus Viscount Awards in association with Ulster Business comprises David Elliott (Ulster Business), Andrea Hunter (Aer Lingus), Margaret Canning (Belfast Telegraph) Gary McDonald (Irish News), Richard Sherriff (News Letter), Jeremy Fitch (Invest NI), Wendy Austin (BBC), Colin Walsh (Crescent Capital), Alan Taylor (Arthur Cox) and Roseann Kelly (Women in Business).

The winners will feature in the June edition of Ulster Business. For more information on the Aer Lingus Viscount Awards visit www.viscountawards. ulsterbusiness.com

Pictured at the launch of the first Aer Lingus TakeOff Foundation event held in conjunction with the Fingal Chamber of Commerce is Guy Thompson, President of Fingal Chamber of Commerce, Declan Kearney, Communications Director Aer Lingus and Newstalk Presenter Chris Donoghue.

The TakeOff Foundation The Aer Lingus Viscount Awards is among a number of initiatives the Irish airline has planned to support the success of businesses across the island of Ireland as part of its newly launched TakeOff Foundation. The Aer Lingus TakeOff Foundation encompasses the broad spectrum of charity and corporate social responsibility initiatives that Aer Lingus engages in and includes continued work with chosen charity partners, UNICEF Ireland and Special Olympics Ireland, fundraising activities undertaken by Aer Lingus staff and volunteers, SME support initiatives, support of Culture and the Arts, and a new Charity of the Year Programme. Aer Lingus will develop a range of SMEfocused initiatives which draw on key resources and staff expertise to help support the success of SMEs, including partnering with local chambers of commerce to arrange educational

business breakfasts and workshops for SMEs on areas of Aer Lingus expertise. The Irish Film Maker TakeOff Competition is a national competition to showcase the work of talented Irish film makers at an international level, offering amateur filmmakers the opportunity to have their short films aired during international flights, propelling their careers to new heights. The Aer Lingus Charity of the Year programme will enable Aer Lingus to partner with an Irish charity that Aer Lingus staff will get behind and customers will engage with and whose work benefits people and communities across the island of Ireland.


Keeping ahead of the information law curve Lynsey Mallon, Corporate and Commercial Partner at leading law firm Arthur Cox, highlights the need for businesses to prepare for the forthcoming changes to data protection laws


he ownership, use and protection of data has assumed increasing importance in recent years, due largely to rapid advances in technology and increased public sector transparency.

and Freedom of Information requests are not likely to change imminently as a result of Brexit. However, they will need to keep a watching brief on how the UK secondary legislation changes evolve, whilst keeping their own obligations under the legislation in mind.

High-profile cases such as the parliamentary expenses scandal have made the public generally more aware of their rights and what information they are entitled to access. There have also been many examples of cases where the current legislation regarding information law has been used by members of the public or the media to obtain information to instigate enquiries or proceedings, and ultimately secure convictions. With these developments, amongst many others, the area of law surrounding privacy, data protection and freedom of information has become an increasingly challenging one. Arthur Cox’s Information Law team is one of the foremost of its kind in the local market. Working closely with our colleagues in Employment and Litigation, we have a proven track record in providing strategic counsel to clients across a wide range of sectors. The nuances regarding information law, and what the impact on businesses might be of upcoming changes in legislation, is currently generating significant debate in Northern Ireland and throughout the UK. Businesses must fully prepare for two important future dates that will impact ownership, use and protection of data. The first is 25th May 2018, which is when new Data Protection Act laws will come into force. Entitled the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), it was confirmed in February of this year that it would be implemented in the UK, but at Arthur Cox we have been advising clients for some time


For example, unless agreed otherwise, immediately post-Brexit the UK will cease to belong to the EU ‘safe data’ zone, which means it could be more difficult for EU and European Economic Area businesses to send personal data to the UK and vice-versa.

Lynsey Mallon

about the forthcoming changes to ensure they stay ahead of the curve. Many of the GDPR concepts and principles are in line with the current Data Protection Act, but firms still have preparatory work to do. For example, as well as making sure all key decision makers are fully aware that the law is changing and appreciate the impact it will have, businesses should carry out an information audit to document what personal data they hold, where it came from and with whom they share it. The second key date – that of when the UK leaves the European Union – is not certain yet, but is scheduled to take place by the end of March 2019. Leaving the EU will enable the UK to revisit and clarify certain elements of our current information law rules. For most businesses and organisations, the rules and procedures for dealing with data

This could mean that, unless a national-level solution is found, UK businesses might have to enter into EU model contract clauses with their trading partners, or that export partners would need consent from their national data protection authority before sending communications containing certain data to UK businesses. Clearly, UK businesses need to recognise and deal with these issues in advance so as not to appear a less attractive commercial partner than a competitor based in an EU member state. This applies to not only consumer data, but also to employee, health, human resources, bank account and retail finance data as well. At Arthur Cox, our Information Law team works closely with clients to ensure we fully understand their information law requirements and provide the advice they need to meet this increasingly challenging area of law. ■ The Information Law team at Arthur Cox is well positioned to advise on the emerging information law trends in Northern Ireland and throughout the UK. Please call +44 28 9023 0007 for further information from Lynsey or your regular Arthur Cox contact.

Business finance & banking


Money for nothing? So you want to borrow money? Well, read on because we’ve come up with a handy guide to take you through the ever-increasing forms of business lending which are now on offer… Debt By far the most traditional form of funding, debt financing comes in a number of different forms and tends to be used for longer-term investment as well as to fund working capital. It can be categorised into the three broad categories of loans and overdrafts; finance backed by assets and fixed-income debt structures but at its core it is an arrangement between a borrow and a lender. Capital is borrowed from the lender on the agreement that it will be paid back either in full on an agreed date on instalments during a longer period, along with any interest accrued. Overdrafts are often what a business uses to help finance working capital and to meet short-term requirements. Loans, leasing or hire purchase agreements are in most cases better suited to larger longer-term purchases, such as investment in plant and machinery, computers or transport. The British Business, owned by the Westminster government, pointed out that debt funds have also emerged since the financial crisis to co-lend alongside banks Peer-to-peer lending: sees Internet lenders matched up with borrowers and is a direct alternative to a bank loan but allows customers and friends to back the business.


Lenders can bid for an interest rate at which they would lend at loans ranging from a few thousand to several million pounds. Asset finance: businesses which want to buy expensive equipment tend to use asset finance to fund it such as leases and hire purchase. The leasing company buys and owns the equipment which businesses then rent back for a predetermined period. For the user there tends to be more security as the equipment can’t be recalled provided payments are made. Interest rates tend to be fixed and at the end of the agreement there is normally a nominal fee to acquire the title of the equipment. Asset-based finance: more commonly known as invoice finance and asset-based lending, this form of lending tends to be used to support cash flow and release funds by generating income against unpaid invoices, so can only be used by businesses which provide goods and services on credit. Within that, factoring involves the provision of finance through the purchase of invoices by the financier which represent the debts owed to the business, according to the Business Bank. The factor will advance the majority of the value of the invoices on notification with the balance of the value made available once invoices are paid by the debtors. This process can help with credit control. Meanwhile,

invoice financing sees the business maintain control over the administration of the sales ledger while supply chain finance allows smaller companies to take advantage of the strong credit rating of their larger customers. Merchant cash advances: unsecured cash advances based on future debit and credit card sales repaid as a percentage of a business’s card transactions. Bonds and mini bonds: a way for investors to borrow money from investors in return for regular interest payments. They have a predetermined maturity date when the bond is redeemed until which the borrower is tied in. Although previously only available to


large companies, crowdfunding sites are now offering various types of bonds.

meet the specific demands of overseas sellers which may need immediate payment.

Growth finance: Growth capital loans and mezzanine finance (growth finance) are flexible debt financing tailored to the specific risks in the business, with a repayment plan to match the forecast cash generation of the business. While they are a for of debt, both share many of the characteristics of equity. However, they rank below senior debt. Both are aimed at high-growth businesses.

Trade finance: Funding which assists businesses in purchasing goods, whether from international or domestic sellers, is known as termed trade finance. It is often transactional, with finance only being provided for specific shipments of goods and for specific periods of time. Here the asset being funded against is the goods themselves rather than the invoices.

Export finance: Export finance helps mitigate risks such as default or delayed payment when companies are exporting while it can also help companies which import to

Equity finance Early stage businesses often need long-term backing to allow their businesses to grow to their potential. Equity finance involves

MAY 2017

raising capital through the sale of shares in a business which can either be raised from existing shareholders or from new investors. Equity investors don’t have the right to interest or to have their equity repaid by a certain date but will have ownership in the business. While that can irk some business owners, the benefits they can bring in terms of skills, experience and contact can soon be outweighed. They want the business to grow and will help drive its success. Business angels: Individuals who make equity investments in businesses, generally, but not exclusively, at an early stage of development. Some invest on their own or others as part of a group of angels but >



nearly all bring more than just finance with contacts, experience and skills just some of the additional benefits. Venture capital: Venture capitalists (VCs) look to invest in businesses with high returns, but with that comes higher risk. As a result, they put money into a number of different companies so the ones which fail are made up for the by the ones which become a success. And because VCs look for a track record of success before committing, they tend to invest in companies further along the development stage with a couple of years of accountants to show. When it comes to involvement, VCs tend to be more hands off in a day-to-day sense and instead provide more of a strategical role.

Jordan Belfort – Leonardo DiCapario’s character in The Wolf of Wall Street – used shoe company Steve Madden’s IPO to illegally make millions of dollars in the 90s. IPOs can be the best way for larger companies to raise capital and their profile, although only a handful of Northern Ireland firms are currently listed.”

Private equity: More of a longer-term investor and provider of grow capital, private equity can take a more hands-on role in its investments in an effort to drive growth. They’ll tend to bring strategic, financial and operational expertise over a period of up to seven years by providing non-financial support.

or early stage companies, crowdfunding uses an online platform to allow hundreds and even thousands of investors to take a stake in your business. Similar to pitching for angel of VC money, companies need to prove their business is ready for investment, although the due diligence here is much less stringent than in other forms of investment.

Equity crowdfunding: An increasingly popular means for raising funds for start-up

Initial public offering (IPO): Despite the best efforts of the stock exchanges, there

are only a small number of listed Northern Ireland companies such as Kainos or First Derivatives. while a complex process which essentially involves selling shares to larger investors, an IPO can be a good way for more mature companies to raise cash for growth, to finance acquisitions, rebalance its balance sheet or for other means. It also helps to increase the profile of the business with everyone from investors to suppliers to customers to peers. ■

How to bag private equity funding By Patrick Graham, BGF


GF was set up in 2011 to focus exclusively on providing longterm minority investments in exchange for a minority stake, generally between £5m and £10m. BGF’s top ten tips on securing funding for growth 1. Ask plenty of questions. Funding options come in all shapes and sizes. To find the right fit, be open about what you want for your business and ask your potential investor if that’s something they can support. 2. Be realistic and upfront about revenue forecasts, market dynamics or improvements that could be made to your business. A good investor will be a supportive partner, not someone you need to sugar coat the facts for.


3. Make sure the chemistry’s right. If you choose the equity route, investment partners may get involved in the running of the company to a greater or lesser extent, depending on the equity stake. But whatever the terms of the investment, trust, chemistry and a shared enthusiasm for the success of the business makes the partnership more enjoyable. 4. Be open to ideas. What else can an equity partner or bank offer you besides money? New contacts, business experience, specific expertise? 5. Make sure your investor is aligned to your goals. Be clear and open about your ambitions, business and personal objectives. BGF is a long-term, minority investor so an understanding and alignment with the goals of the businesses we invest in is critical. 6. Don’t hide past failures. There is so much more to be learnt from what has gone

wrong rather than what has gone right. 7. Monitor third party costs. During the investment process, agree who will pay for what and when. 8. Show that you’re up for the challenge. An investor will provide support, money and encouragement so that you can take the calculated risks that others won’t. 9. Speak to other business owners. Ask them about their experience of the investment process, how they’ve used their additional capital, and what they looked for in an equity partner. 10. Maintain momentum. Once you’ve decided on the right funding route for your business, do all you need to keep the processes moving. The best time to make a change is when confidence is high, support is forthcoming and market opportunities are in sight. ■

Asset based lending Utilising assets to realise corporate aspirations

Asset based lending

Asset based lending is a new and innovative way to raise higher levels of funding, enabling businesses to release capital against assets such as invoices, stock, property and plant and machinery. It is ideal for refinancing, facilitating strategic events such as a management buy-out, merger or acquisition, or simply to release additional working capital. Asset based lending is a new and innovative way to raise higher levels of funding, enabling businesses to release capital against assets such as invoices, stock, property and plant and machinery. It is ideal for refinancing, facilitating strategic9099 events 6935 such as a management buy-out, Call us on +44 (0)28 merger or acquisition, or simply to release additional working capital.

Utilising assets to realise corporate aspirations

or visit closecommercialfinance.com

Call us on +44 (0)28 9099 6935 or visit closecommercialfinance.com Close Brothers Limited (being a UK registered private limited company and its Irish registered branch of the same name having registration number 907899), trading as (and having as registered business names) Close Brothers Asset Finance, Close Brothers Commercial Finance, Close Brothers Premium Finance Ireland, Close Brothers Motor Finance and Braemar Finance, is authorised by the Prudential Regulation Authority in the United Kingdom and is regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority and the Prudential Regulation Authority in the United Kingdom and is regulated by the Central Bank of Ireland for conduct of business rules. UK registered address: 10 Crown Place, London, EC2A 4FT, registered at Companies House, Number 00195626. Directors: M. Morgan (UK), P. Prebensen (UK), A. Sainsbury (UK), P. S. S. Macpherson (UK), S. Bishop (UK), F. Pennal (UK), M. Hook (UK) and J. Howell (UK). Close Brothers Invoice Finance and Close Brothers Commercial Finance are registered business names of Close Invoice Finance Limited, a UK registered private limited company (and its Irish registered branch of the same name having registration number 908024). UK registered address: 10 Crown Place, London, EC2A 4FT, registered at Companies House, Number 00935949. Directors: J. Brown (UK), C. McAreavey (UK), A. Sainsbury (UK), I. Steward (UK), D. Thomson, (UK).

Close Brothers Limited (being a UK registered private limited company and its Irish registered branch of the same name having registration number 907899), trading as (and having as registered business names) Close Brothers Asset Finance, Close Brothers Commercial Finance, Close Brothers Premium Finance Ireland, Close Brothers Motor Finance and Braemar Finance, is authorised by the Prudential Regulation Authority in the United Kingdom and is regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority and the Prudential Regulation Authority in the United Kingdom and is regulated by the Central Bank of Ireland for conduct of business rules. UK registered address: 103-17.indd Crown Place, London, EC2A 4FT, registered at Companies House, Number 00195626. Directors: M. Morgan (UK), P. Prebensen (UK), A. Sainsbury (UK), P. S. S. Macpherson (UK), S. Bishop 29/03/2017 15:1 BCF Top 100 Companies Magazine 272x340 1 (UK), F. Pennal (UK), M. Hook (UK) and J. Howell (UK). Close Brothers Invoice Finance and Close Brothers Commercial Finance are registered business names of Close Invoice Finance Limited, a UK registered private limited company (and its Irish registered branch of the same name having registration number 908024). UK registered address: 10 Crown Place, London, EC2A 4FT, registered at Companies House, Number 00935949. Directors: J. Brown (UK), C. McAreavey (UK), A. Sainsbury (UK), I. Steward (UK), D. Thomson, (UK).

BCF Top 100 Companies Magazine 272x340 3-17.indd 1

29/03/2017 15:

Mark Carney: Brexit outcome could damage efforts to strengthen financial system


he UK’s Brexit negotiations threaten to unpick efforts to strengthen the global financial system following the banking crisis , according to the Governor of the Bank of England. Mark Carney said the outcome of the UK’s divorce from the European Union was one of a number of factors that could damage trust, disrupt capital flows, and restrict trade leading to “fewer jobs, lower growth and higher domestic risks”. In a speech at the Institute of International Finance’s Washington Policy Summit in America, Mr Carney said: “There are, however, other nascent risks that, if left unchecked, could threaten the progress made, and ultimately undermine the G20’s objective for strong, sustainable and balanced growth. “These risks include the impact of reform

However, he said the regulation put in place to ensure financial stability must be “dynamic” and able to adjust to the challenges that emerge without threatening resilience. He said: “Implementation must not only be effective; it must also be dynamic. That is, authorities must learn by doing and make adjustments, as necessary, to optimise our efforts, without compromising on the level of resilience the reforms are intended to achieve.”

Mark Carney

fatigue on implementation momentum, the outcome of Brexit negotiations, the need to complete Basel III, and the importance of finishing the job of ending too big to fail.” The comments came as Mr Carney reaffirmed his view that the world’s financial system was at a “fork in the road”, and that Britain must take the “high road” that builds on the foundations of a new responsible global financial system.

Mr Carney said the Financial Stability Board an international body chaired by the Governor that monitors the state of the global financial system - was creating a framework to assess the regulation put in place since the financial crisis. He said the FSB was also considering rolling out UK processes that flag the financial sector’s “bad apples” to companies looking for staff. ■

“Only dead fish swim with the stream …”


udith Totten, founder and Managing Director of Upstream, explains how her firm got its name…

Richard Templar’s book ‘The Rules of Life’, recently came onto my radar. Reading Rule 10…well…see for yourself : “Only dead fish swim with the stream. Life is difficult. If it was all easy we wouldn’t grow or change, or have a chance to rise above. If life were a series of lovely days, we’d soon get bored. If there was no rain, then there wouldn’t be any joy when it finally stopped and we could go the beach. If it was easy we couldn’t get stronger. So, be thankful it is a struggle some of the time, and recognise that only dead fish swim with the stream. For the rest of us there will be times when it is an uphill, upstream struggle. See each setback as a chance to improve. It makes you stronger. That’s what life is, a series of struggles and lulls. And whatever situation you’re in now, it’s going to change. So - are you a dead fish or healthy salmon?” When we renamed our business ‘Upstream’, it was a risk. However, our brand epitomises what we do. We swim Upstream, against the mainstream. We think differently. We challenge convention. We find solutions to make life easier for our clients. Why? Because we are an SME too!


Judith Totten

In Q1 2017 we have already increased our turnover by £53M and supported the aggressive growth trajectory of our clients. We have consistently delivered results in under 10 days. Against a backdrop of relentless uncertainty in the local economy - we are upbeat. So - are you a dead fish or a healthy salmon? Do you want to play it safe and “swim with the (main) stream” or swim Upstream with us? Come on - make 2017 the year you come to the beach with us… ■

You’re Welcome… …It’s what we do Agri-food Sector


Wholesale Distribution


In 2016 over £50m of our money supported Agri-foods and Wholesale Distributors. But that’s not all… Upstream provided over £130m of new money in total into businesses like yours. Just like you, we continue to grow. We are ready to commit our money to fund your growth so if you are looking for funding to take your business to the next level we would love to talk to you.

Invoice Finance Trade Finance Credit Management Services Asset Finance Advisory T 028 9099 9450



Austin Coll, Senior Manager, Business Banking at Danske Bank, and John Knapton, Director of Springboard, launch the Danske Business Lab at Ulster University’s sports centre

Danske Business Lab picks up the pace M

ost entrepreneurs understand that having their businesses scrutinised and challenged by their peers is a helpful, if not always easy, part of validating their proposition. For the Northern Ireland companies taking part in Danske Business Lab, the “tough love” dished out by its expert panellists is an essential element of the programme’s appeal. A unique partnership between Danske Bank and Catalyst Inc’s hugely successful


Springboard programme, the Danske Business Lab sees entrepreneurs put through a rigorous 16-week process during which every aspect of the business is analysed, including finance, value proposition, sales, marketing, corporate governance, growth and go-to-market risk.

If it sounds tough, that’s because it is. But while the in depth analysis of each business is robust, the feedback and criticism founders receive is positive and constructive, designed to make the company stronger than it was before.

Panel sessions, using vastly experienced Northern Ireland business leaders both challenge and support participants to build robust business strategy before determining if the company will graduate as ‘really’ investor ready.

Newry-based FieldMotion, the first company to graduate from Danske Business Lab, says the effort has been well worth it. Founded in 2012 by CEO Jim Finnegan and Managing director Jerome Finnegan, the company has developed a system whereby office users


can manage employees in the field. It has evolved into a mobile workforce management platform that has seen the firm win customers across the UK and Ireland, the US and Australia. Jerome says: “The expert advice we received caused us to starting looking at the business completely differently than we would have six months ago. We’re starting to look at every little piece of the business separately as they do in each panel session. If we hadn’t have been part of Danske Business Lab, the business wouldn’t have been in as strong a position as it is now.” A key part of the programme is getting access to Springboard’s network of entrepreneurs in residence (EiRs) – experts with years of experience under their belts to share with fast growing young companies and act in a mentoring a capacity throughout. Domain experts also take a thorough look at each business, including their financial structures, revenue models, cash requirements, management structure and sales strategies needed to hit targets. “The EIRs and experts we worked with gave us advice on how to do our marketing, how to approach our sales. It was advice we feel makes sense and is really pushing us in the right direction. When we do what we have been advised to do, we see results - that is really what we’ve got out of it,” says FieldMotion’s Jerome Finnegan. “The process is very testing. You get a real grilling during the pitches and panels, but you also get advice on how to do things better. The feedback has been incredibly valuable in getting us to a point where we feel completely “investor ready.” Danske Bank is already working with several other local disruptive businesses with high growth potential who are at the early stages of the process. But the bank wants more customers to use the opportunity to get their companies fit to compete with the best in the world. Austin Coll, Senior Manager, Business Banking at Danske Bank explains: “We know Northern Ireland has a wealth of talented individuals with scalable companies that have

MAY 2017

Launching FieldMotion’s new FM8 software are Jim Finnegan, CEO at FieldMotion (centre); Pauline Torley, Business Banking Manager at Danske Bank and Austin Coll, Senior Manager, Business Banking at Danske Bank

the potential to grow into market leaders. Through Danske Business Lab, we want to help them harness their true capabilities and provide them with some of the tools needed to drive towards their business goals. “FieldMotion has been a bank customer for a number of years and we knew they had very big growth ambitions, so it was great to watch them go through a pretty rigorous investigation and challenge process around their go to market strategy. I’ve watched them go on this journey over a number of weeks and the difference in their final presentation in terms of style, content and ambition, was a marked change from where they were,” he added. “Springboard has built an excellent reputation as Northern Ireland’s most credible accelerator programme and as Danske Bank prioritises support for SMEs, extending the offer through Danske Business Lab made perfect sense.” John Knapton, Director of Springboard feels that the Danske Business Lab was a natural fit for Springboard’s peer coaching programme. “Danske Bank is well known for providing support to local businesses and by aligning itself even more closely with Springboard the bank is helping ensure that more of our high potential indigenous companies get access to the right resources and expert mentors they need to push them on to the next level,” he said.

“Danske Business Lab, with Springboard is assisting Danske Bank customers to de-risk their go-to-market strategy, to increase the robustness of their commercialisation strategy and to grow their businesses much faster at much less risk.” Knapton notes that, having gone through an arduous 16 week process and faced tough questions from domain experts who have “been there and done it” the first graduates of Danske Business Lab are now better prepared to go to market and will receive ongoing support. “We will be sitting down and evaluating what their ongoing needs are, whether that’s support around funding or support around processes or support around making moves into export markets such as the US. Both Springboard and Danske Bank will be on hand beyond the 16 week process.” Jerome Finnegan says any fast growing business or high-potential start-up should consider applying for Danske Business Lab to benefit from the access to mentors and the chance to have their business analysed in a confidential environment. “By coming through Danske Business Lab we are now considered by the bank and by Catalyst Inc to be primed for funding and I’m not sure we’d have been in this position if we hadn’t gone through the process,” he says. “It’s an intensive programme, but it is definitely worth it.” ■


Making Tax Digital WHAT DOES IT MEAN FOR YOU? During 2015 HMRC announced their plans to completely overhaul the UK tax system which they named “Making Tax Digital” (MTD). The plans are the most significant change to the UK tax system in a generation. With the first stage of MTD due to commence in April 2018, taxpayers need to prepare for what lies ahead. How will MTD work? The precise details have not yet been released but some of the proposals are; • Quarterly reporting of income and expenditure and possibly a quarterly payment of tax. • Annual reconciling submission to replace the current Self-Assessment tax return. • Each business and individual to have their own Digital Tax Account. What is the MTD Timetable? Businesses, self-employed people and landlords will be required to start using the new digital service as follows; • April 2018 if your turnover exceeds the VAT threshold (currently £85,000)

• April 2019 if your turnover is below the VAT threshold • April 2020 if your business pays Corporation Tax Taxpayers with turnover under £10,000 are seemingly exempt from these requirements. Those in employment who have secondary income of more than £10,000 per year through self-employment or property will also be required to use the digital service. In recent consultations HMRC have mentioned they were considering exempting more of the smallest unincorporated businesses from the requirement to keep digital records. Again, the exact details are yet to be provided. What if I ignore MTD? Despite the lack of detail from HMRC, MTD is very much on the horizon and should not be ignored. We would expect noncompliance with MTD to result in fines for late submissions and payments. What to do now? We are all now waiting for the release of the July 2017 Budget where we expect to receive much more detail on how MTD will work and

until more details are made available, exact plans cannot be put into place. However, MTD does mean that HMRC will require up-to-date accounting and tax information all year round. In the meantime, all those impacted should consider moving from desktop accounting software or annual record keeping to an online or ‘cloud’ accounting platform as soon as possible. Cloud Accounting will transform your record keeping and not only help you become MTD compliant before the deadline but also turn the chore of bookkeeping into a management tool to assist in making crucial business decisions. As one of Northern Ireland’s leading Cloud Accounting specialists we can advise on how the transition to the Cloud will benefit you and your business. Contact us Should you have any queries regarding MTD or Cloud accounting please contact us at info@exchangeaccountants.com or on 028 9040 7470

Conor Walls Director of Business Development Exchange Accountancy Services


Playground by the sea? By David Elliott


angor has the potential to be Belfast’s Brighton.

That’s the view of Wayne Hemingway MBE, the creator of iconic brand Red or Dead, and now the man behind urban design company HemingwayDesign. He was in the County Down town to team up with the Karl Group, who are working in a joint venture with Farrans to submit a tender for the redevelopment and re-imagining of Queen’s Parade and the Marine Gardens. “Bangor can be to Belfast what Brighton is to London,” he said. “It’s 20 mins away and should be the seaside playground for the people of Belfast.” HemingwayDesign has been heavily involved in seaside town regeneration throughout the UK, including major projects in Margate, Bournemouth and Lowestoft. Wayne Hemmingway has been appointed Urban Design Champion for the City of Perth’s 2021 UK City of Culture bid following his role in Derry’s successful 2016 bid, and has now also turned his sights on Bangor. Karl Construction approached Mr Hemmingway after hearing him speak at an event on regeneration in Craigavon and invited him to visit Bangor. “When we came over for the first time we were blown away,” he said. “It was a sunny day and when we walked around the town we saw a completely unspoilt town. “We looked at historical pictures where there was a beach and people diving into pools and realised what could happen. It helped that the initial outline planning for the development was nothing short of brilliant thinking.” “We walked around to Pickie Park and picked up the sense that it’s a traditional seaside town then walked around the corner and


Kieran Gilmore, director, Open House Festival, Alison Gordon, festival manager, Open House Festival & Wayne Hemingway, HemingwayDesign

realised the views were fantastic. With that, it didn’t take much convincing. “It soon became clear this is the best potential coastal regeneration project we’ve seen in a long time and we realised we really did want to get involved. We’ve worked with a team with architects to enhance what has already been done so that it’s in the right scale for Bangor. That includes keeping business in mind. “In the regeneration area we’ve put lanes similar to those you’d find in Brighton - where independent retailers and restaurants can grow. We’ve given it an independent spirit.” And he said the potential regeneration of the old courthouse in Bangor has been a big help. “This bookends it. We couldn’t believe our luck when we realised the people who run the Open House Festival are hopefully regenerating the courthouse. It’s a perfect fit.” Open House Festival has submitted an application to theHeritage Lottery Fund for £3.1m to restore and develop the former court house. The Bangor-based music and arts charity

plans to restore the existing building to its former glory, providing permanent office space for the festival team and other local creative companies, with an ambitious new extension to the rear, housing a multi-purpose performance space. “The best way to create successful seaside regeneration is to create spaces for interesting things to happen,” Mr Hemmingway said. “If you create spaces where people can bring their events or festivals the money will follow. “If they come to a place they fall in love with it, invest in it, set up shop in it and regenerate it.” Kieran Gilmore, Open House Festival Director, said it is exciting to have someone of the calibre of Wayne Hemingway turn his attentions to Bangor. “We are very keen to hear his ideas for the town, and to see how the Court House could dovetail with that vision,” he said. “With the Court House and the Queen’s Parade development both potentially happening in the near future, we have a once in a lifetime opportunity to turn Bangor’s fortunes around. We would love to work with someone as visionary as Wayne Hemingway to ensure that we seize the opportunities in front of us.” ■

#GetOnBoardNI: Bus + Train Week, 5 – 11 June 2017 Help your employees reduce stress, save money and be more productive Last summer more than 100 local organisations got on board Northern Ireland’s first-ever Bus + Train Week; a unique celebration of everything that’s great about public transport and resulted in an additional 140,000 passenger journeys Ahead of Bus + Train Week 2017, 5th – 11th June, Translink is calling on more organisations across Northern Ireland to encourage their employees to leave the car at home and give the bus and train a go for the work commute. This Northern Ireland-wide campaign promotes the many advantages of using public transport and highlights the vital role it plays in the economic success of our region and improving overall quality of life. To support this initiative Translink offers a range of heavily discounted fares and partner offers. Translink is encouraging more people to ‘Join the Smart Movers’ by taking advantage of all the lifestyle benefits public transport offers; relaxing on board comfortable & modern services; reducing stress by avoiding traffic congestion; enjoying more ‘me-time’ and free WiFi on coaches and trains; saving time and money.

responsibility for their own wellbeing. Everyday physical activity is essential both to maintain a healthy weight and reduce stress. Encouraging public transport use as a form of active travel (most journeys require a walk or cycle to the bus stop or train station) is an easy step forward for organisations to take.

In a recent Translink customer survey, more than 85% of respondents said taking the bus or train regularly makes them more productive at work and in their personal life.

Good public transport is vital for a healthy economy too. The International Association of Public Transport - UITP reports that every £1 invested in public transport generates £4 in the local economy. It improves access, supporting local retailers and playing a key role in building vibrant, sustainable and successful towns and cities.

By fostering a culture of health, organisations empower their employees to take

An efficient public transport system also delivers energy efficient and low carbon

mobility. UITP reports that on average public transport consumes three to four times less energy per passenger than cars for every mile travelled.

GET INVOLVED Translink has launched a #GetOnBoardNI Corporate Challenge, supported by CBI, IOD and BITC, as an easy way for organisations to get involved in Bus + Train Week 2017. Participants will receive an information pack containing tools to roll out the Corporate Challenge and make their Bus + Train Week celebration a success! Those who demonstrate their efforts to promote and use public transport will be officially recognised by Translink via publicity and awards for the Most Creative Organisation, Best Small Organisation, Best Large Organisation and Council Champion. If your organisation would like to take part or find out more contact Translink on tel. 028 9089 9455, email smartmovers@translink. co.uk or visit www.translink.co.uk/ busandtrainweek/


A strategy for interim appointments Justin Rush from Abacus Professional Recruitment advises paying more attention when hiring for an interim position


nsuring your team does not lose capacity due to a project, secondment, illness or maternity cover, is something that gives many businesspeople sleepless nights. Knowing where to obtain and how to secure the appropriate levels of support for a fixed or flexible term can be very difficult. Helping clients appoint the correct professionals in these circumstances is often the most challenging work my team undertakes. In order to help you sleep a little easier, try applying some of these tactics when recruiting. Justin Rush

1. Think about what you are really offering the ideal candidate I am not referring to the pay point here, Accountants, Lawyers, HR, Tech professionals all know their worth. If you can’t compete on price then you are fighting a losing battle. Today’s market is providing choice and you need to think in broader terms regarding your offering. Are you providing the opportunity to manage a team? Launch a new product? Take a lead role in a project? Think how will joining your team for a fixed period of time be of benefit to the individual. Now you have something to promote. 2. Draft a specification DO NOT use a historical document, draft something from scratch that is accurate and reflects what the person in the role will do. There are always nuances, using old job descriptions is a rookie move.


3. Add 25% to the first number you thought of Interim appointments mainly fail because the appointed person does not get enough lead in or hand back time. If you need cover for 24 weeks then add 4 to the front and 2 to the back, your project requirement is now 30 weeks. Yes, it will cost more financially but you will make it up in efficiency gains. 4. Price in a completion bonus You may think that the costs are now starting to stack up, well I did not say it would be cheap. If you do not reach agreement with your appointed interim on a completion bonus you are making a big mistake. The completion bonus should be clearly defined upon the delivery of key milestones for a project, or to set timescales if covering a specific role. This is not a 100% guarantee

but it is likely to give you exactly what you want. 5. Agree the terms of engagement It does not need to be the Magna Carta, it can be an email but it needs to be clear and acknowledged by both parties. State the headline items; duration of contract, pay amount and interval, how work is recorded, reference the specification of duties, basis for bonus award, etc. The demand for interim professionals in Northern Ireland is increasing and this means you must work hard to attract the best people to your offering. ■ Justin Rush is a career recruiter and Director at Abacus Professional Recruitment. He can be contacted on justin@abacus.jobs

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Building bounces back John Simpson looks at the steady recovery of the construction sector while maintaining a cautionary eye on a list of events which could prove challenging


he optimists are nearly smiling. The workload for the building industry in Northern Ireland has improved and contractors are under more pressure to finish contracts on time. The Belfast skyline, after several years with little change, now offers a veritable maze of high and low level cranes keeping many builders busy. The building scene is reassuring. The long sequence of falling workloads, reducing order books and possible cut throat pricing is no longer accurate. Even if this uplift is only short-term, builders, professional services and employees are grateful. Fewer construction employees are commuting on a regular basis out of Northern Ireland to sites across Great Britain. As ever, any uplift in the market, while welcome, may also be the predictor of the next downturn if the uplift is a one-off boost. The particular nature of the major increase in activity, particularly in the Belfast region, offers no certainty of long-term stability. The recent uplift in activity may be deceptive. Some preparatory thinking and planning about the future demands on the building sector and the generation of a sustainable forward programme is merited.


The key components of construction and civil engineering order books stem from retailing investments, commercial offices and industrial contracts, house building and renovation, public sector contracts, ranging from schools, hospitals and roads to new water supply networks and extended electricity grids. That list needs to be extended to include new leisure facilities such as hotels and sports grounds and new residential accommodation to cater for student housing. The one-off factors giving the building industry a boost, particularly in the Belfast region are the product of a major expansion in investment in new hotels alongside several large developments to attract third level education students. The arrival of nearly 20 hotel projects is a reassurance that tourism providers are more confident that the normality of the peace process is accepted. A recovery in investment in hotels has been slow to build up but, with a better sense that tourism and visitor numbers are on an upward trend, it was a question of when the investment would take place not whether it could be expected. The experts in assessing demand for hotel facilities in the Belfast region appreciated that, because of the three or four decades

Property performers, not puppets. CONSTRUCTION

of tourism deterred, over 2,000 extra hotel bedrooms might be needed. Whilst the providers for the tourist industry will hope that Northern Ireland will continue to attract a growing international demand for facilities, from 2015 to 2020 is likely to be a one-off period of unusually strong growth. A similar one-off factor is a feature of the development expenditure to provide student accommodation. In this sector there is even a concern in Belfast that the provision of student accommodation may be outpacing demand. Since the third level education budgets are restrained and student enrolments are not increasing, student landlords will need to compete for tenants. With these caveats about the nature of the recent increase in building workload, attention must turn to the broader question about the other sources of activity. As these thoughts are being penned Northern Ireland is facing the uncertainty of disruption in the public sector whilst the Stormont institutions are not functioning normally. If these thoughts are being read after a satisfactory political agreement has been reached, then the pessimism of the following paragraphs may be too strong. However, as the calendar moves through April to May, the cumulative impact of uncertainty is growing. There is a sequence >

MAY 2017


Hound for hound, the best property team CONSTRUCTION of dates and events that has the potential to be disturbing. These include (1) the absence of a regional public sector budget, (2) the lack of clarity on how the impact of the apprenticeship levy is to be administered, (3) the accumulating impact of delay and uncertainty in delivery of the public sector capital programme, (4) the readjustment of the planning procedures which have now transferred regeneration responsibilities to the 11 local authorities and (5) the less quantifiable impact for investors, local and foreign, of decisions facing into the Brexit negotiations.

There is a double hit for the construction industry, paying the lever as well as contributions to the Construction Industry Training Board without any certainty of local benefits. John Armstrong

This combination of challenges is formidable. Even with a resolution of the political institutional crisis, working towards a sustainable development programme will be demanding and time consuming. Even as this comment is reaching the printing press, the construction sector is unhappy (to say the least) with the absence of local decisions on the administration of the new apprenticeship levy being deducted from payrolls from 1st April but with no statement about local application. John Armstrong, Chief Executive of the Construction Employers Federation, is stressed on behalf of his members. ‘There is a double hit for the construction industry, paying the levy as well as contributions to the Construction Industry Training Board without any certainty of local benefit.’ The transfer of development control to the local authorities has generally been welcomed. However, the CEF complains that ‘the development control system is proving to be tortuously slow’. The expectation that official consultees would facilitate improved speed in reaching decisions has not been delivered.In mid-2017, the construction industry in Northern Ireland is enjoying some gains from economic recovery. Unhappily, the institutional arrangements and disruption in the political delivery arrangements are now posing a serious threat to a sustainable continuing improvement. Monitoring the implications of a Brexit deal, on its own, would be a challenge. Locally, man-made disagreements have added elements that would have been better avoided. ■


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If I could turn back time... Martin McDowell and Cher – you heard it here first – jump into the Osborne King time machine to nip the biggest issues holding back the Northern Ireland commercial property market in the bud. Martin is the managing director of Osborne King and a bus lane pundit; Cher is the queen of power ballads

Martin McDowell


he above phrase is not just the title of a classic 80s ballad (Cher, for those that are interested), but also my fervent wish to resolve so many of the issues that affect the recovery of our economy and property in particular. Turning back time would allow sensible people the opportunity to change decisions and re-think failed strategies. It would enable the woefully downtrodden business owners of the province to change the way politicians treat the wealth creators of this region. We could finally get the government we need rather than the collection of ineffective individuals who appear to have run our public finances into a seemingly bottomless black hole and then paid for them to go up in smoke! Sadly, no such genuine opportunity for time travel exists, but if there were, what would I change to make our regional property economy function more effectively? Once I had sorted the numbskulls who designed Belfast’s bus lanes, I’d focus on our planning service and populate it with properly motivated and professional staff,


free from political interference, genuinely interested in regional development and task them with making actual planning decisions rather than implementing another inquiry/ judicial review every time a major scheme is proposed. Regional planning infrastructure should be concise, effective and workable rather than the convoluted confusion that, in my experience, exists today. Vacant rating policy is, in my view, a genuinely unfair tax. Rates were always intended to be a tax on the consumption of public services by property occupiers. They cover a range of services, the majority of which require actual occupation to create a cost. The public servant who thought up the wheeze of charging people a tax simply for owning a vacant property deserves a visit from our time machine to persuade him to think again! Public sector tenants need to learn how to treat occupational property and not turn every office they occupy into a sad reflection of its original state. Coupled with the former Land and Property Service policy of inflicting the Modern Government Lease on the landlords of this region, public sector occupiers now

seem to believe that they should further undermine investment values by refusing to renew leases for longer than a five- year term. This is to allow them the flexibility to commission huge public expenditure on new public sector “hub” buildings and walk away from existing stock. Am I the only one who sees the insanity of this plan? More public sector money spent on brand new public sector buildings and little thought as to how their plan will be paid for or its effect on those landlords and developers who continued to build in Belfast throughout the past turbulent years. I would like my time machine to drop me off in the meeting that decided upon this new strategy. Obviously, a time machine would allow us the benefit of hindsight and give us the opportunity to avoid costly mistakes . Many years ago I was told that “those who do not remember the mistakes of the past are doomed to repeat them”. As I watch our politicians go through an all-too-familiar process, all I can see is a repeat of errors past and I haven’t even mentioned Brexit yet. Bet you like my time machine idea now! ■

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



Digital Economy Bill sends message to landowners By David Wilson, Worthingtons Solicitors


he skyline of Belfast city centre is peppered with telecoms installations.

The telecoms operators who occupy the land and buildings largely have security of tenure having the benefit of not only business tenancies legislation but also their own industry specific legislation as provided by the Electronic Communications Code and Code Powers. The code, which is contained in Schedule 2 to the Telecommunications Act 1984 as amended by the Communications Act 2003, contains a number of powers. The overriding principle behind what became known as "Code Powers" was the right of the public to have access to an electronic communications network/electronic communications services.


Most commentators believe that the new legislation will potentially affect rental levels


In 2013, the Law Commission completed a detailed consultation and set out recommendations to government for a revised code. Following consultation, the


government published its proposals for a revised code in May 2016. The bill contains a new draft electronics communications code to replace the existing code. The aim of the Digital Economy Bill is to make the UK a world leader in digital provision. How will the new code affect landlords? Some of the key points to be aware of under the new code are as follows. 1. Apparatus limits Currently, a Landlord can restrict the apparatus limits on a particular site. In future, there will be no scope for contractual restrictions on the type and quantity of equipment or access routes. 2. Assignation of Code Rights, upgrading and site sharing Under the new code, any clause which seeks to limit or prevent assignment whether by way of site sharing or upgrading will be unenforceable. More importantly, an operator will have a statutory right to share the apparatus with another network operator and as such, site share licence fees will be swept away. 3. Effect on rental income Most commentators believe that the new legislation will potentially affect rental levels which appear to be reducing in any event and certainly over the last 10 years as operators have increasingly sought

David Wilson

to reduce costs resulting from technology improvements. 4. New Method of valuing compensation payable to landlords Under the new code, where an agreement is imposed on a particular landowner, the landowner will still be entitled to compensation but research has indicated that it will only be akin to the level of rent payable for a wayleave for electricity cables or gas pipelines. Finally, it will not be possible to contract out of the new code at all and operators cannot be charged penalties for exercising their code rights. â– David Wilson is commercial partner at Worthingtons Solicitors specialising in property and telecoms matters.


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Design for life RPP Architects on celebrating 40 years in practice in Belfast


hen it comes to taking time out to reflect on a landmark birthday, most companies revel in the opportunity to celebrate. In the local construction industry, however, despite the fact things are finally looking up, there is still some hesitancy about ‘blowing your own trumpet’.

Housing Executive. As its workload and reputation grew, the partnership moved to Clarence Gallery on Belfast’s Linenhall Street and became a limited company in 1984. The distinctive, glass-fronted former linen warehouse, situated just behind the BBC, was not only home to the firm for 30 years, but also won it its first RIBA Award in 1989.

skills, specialist interests and personal approach to the business, has undoubtedly been an asset to the firm and its clients. RPP Architects has continued to grow its portfolio of work across diverse industry sectors: from commercial to education, retail, healthcare, transport, leisure and tourism, as well as designing beautiful, one-off bespoke homes.

Surfacing on the other side of what has undoubtedly been the deepest and lengthiest recession in living memory, RPP Architects has tentatively decided to take stock and reflect on its 40 years in business in Belfast before looking forward to the exciting new projects which lie ahead in 2017.

A rebrand and change of name to RPP Architects followed in 2006 when the current directors, Harry McConnell, Peter McGirr, Alan Shields and Simon Robinson took the helm. The firm moved that year to its current offices, a striking four-storey red-brick building, situated on the doorstep of Belfast’s historic Gasworks district, on Donegall Pass. RPP Architects today employs 38 people and has offices in Belfast and in Derry.

Commercial fit-outs, particularly hotels, retail and office accommodation, have also proved to be an important area of business for the practice, with many projects coming from the UK and from US-backed firms locating in Northern Ireland. In recent years, the practice’s business has spread far beyond the Northern Ireland market to projects in Saudi Arabia, the UK and the Republic of Ireland.

The evolution of an architectural practice Robinson Patterson Partnership was established in 1977 by George Robinson and Barry Patterson. The firm initially made its name in retail, undertaking extensive work across Ireland for Dunnes Stores, and also in its work for the Northern Ireland


A dynamic approach looking beyond the local market The leadership of four distinctly individual directors, each with their own experience,

Understanding the industry and embracing change When asked his view on this milestone birthday, RPP Architects Director, Alan Shields, said: We try our best to keep abreast, if not ahead, of developments in

ARCHITECTURE our city and community, transforming the space they occupy. “There are ‘landmark’ buildings, such as the McClay Library at Queen’s University, the Bank of Ireland Headquarters on Donegall Square and the Europa Hotel, which are easily recognisable and certainly form part of the Belfast cityscape. Then there are projects such as the 2015 RIBA National Awardwinning Old See House, a community Mental Health Resource Centre in North Belfast, that continues to break new ground in mental healthcare. “As a practice, RPP Architects is also immensely proud to have provided in the region of £100m of social housing and community regeneration schemes across Northern Ireland over the last four decades.”

RPP Architects Directors Alan Shields, Harry McConnell, Simon Robinson and Peter McGirr at the new AC Hotel by Marriott Belfast at City Quays 3

our industry. I am proud to say that we are now one of the first firms in Northern Ireland to offer a dedicated in-house Principal Designer who is capable of overseeing all areas of health and safety. This is a massive advantage for our clients in large-scale construction projects. “RPP is also in the process of embracing the challenge of what is possibly the biggest change to come to the construction industry in years, namely BIM (Building Information Modelling). We see this new and exciting way of working as a real positive and we are confident that our current investment in hardware and training will bring great benefit to our clients across all sectors.” Projects to be proud of On the topic of significant past projects, Director, Peter McGirr said: “Looking back, it is hard to choose one project that defines RPP Architects’ work over four decades. Projects that stand out for me though are ones that have made a positive impact on

Attention to the finer detail When asked what he believes has contributed to the longevity of RPP Architects, Director, Simon Robinson, said: “RPP Architects has always been passionate about the finer details and we always try to go that extra step for our clients. This is especially true for the private homes we design and we take a thoughtful approach to each and every private home, extension, refurbishment or interior that we design. “Unlike other architects, the firm offers a dedicated Interior Design team who can help our clients with all the choices they make throughout the design process: from selecting a site, to landscaping, choosing paint colours, lighting layouts, fabric choices and designing furniture, staircases and bookshelves. Our clients tell us that they really appreciate this level of support throughout the design and build process.” Exciting times ahead for Belfast and RPP Architects Director, Harry McConnell, said: “2017 is shaping up to be a very interesting year for RPP Architects. We will be continuing our work at City Quays, providing hotel and high-grade office accommodation. This will include the opening, in early 2018, of a brand new waterside Marriott hotel housing top chef, Jean-Christophe Novelli’s first restaurant in Ireland. “Another significant project that will be

RPP Architects staff celebrating the firm’s 40 years in practice

delivered later in 2017 is Belfast Harbour Studios. The 120,000 sq ft film studio is situated on a former 340-acre reclaimed site, known as Giants Park, and will certainly enhance Belfast’s credentials as a film and television production destination.” Film studios, hotels and hospitals for 2017 Work began in December 2016, at Belfast City Hospital, on the new 80-bed mental health inpatient unit. This facility will see the transformation of services for acutely mentally ill adults in Belfast and the surrounding area and is a true first-of-itskind facility for the UK. RPP Architects continues to dominate as a leading force for design in the hotel sector this year. Projects include: the Grand Central, a brand new hotel for the Hastings Group at Windsor House in Belfast; a luxury four-star boutiqe hotel, as part of the redevelopment of the waterside in Derry; and the £5m expansion at Co. Antrim’s Tullyglass House Hotel, in Ballymena. Bright things on the horizon RPP Architects has much to reflect on and be proud of from its last 40 years in business in Northern Ireland. Whilst the journey in business is never smooth, this firm, like the city of Belfast itself, can be confident and proud, and look forward to bright things on the horizon. ■


Going, going… Rachel Brown from Wilsons Auctions explains how the popularity of property auctions continues to grow It’s rare to talk to someone who has a genuine passion for their role and the company they work for. The few that do – such as Rachel Brown, the Property Department Manager for Wilsons Auctions – can’t hide how much they enjoy their job and exude an energy which is infectious. She looks after all aspects of property auctions between the company’s Belfast and Dalry – in Scotland – sites in what she describes as a “particularly hectic but hugely enjoyable” role. That’s because she could be selling property from anywhere in the world; perhaps a house in rural Northern Ireland one minute and then a luxury apartment in Spain the next. It’s no wonder she has won the moniker of “The Phileas Fogg of Property” and the “International Woman of Property” from her colleagues. But while the to-do list might be long, it’s the variety in her job that Rachel enjoys. “We tend to focus on a broad spectrum of property sales,” she said. “We don’t just have private clients but have long-standing relationships with asset managers, estate agents and the government. That means we handle everything from residential to commercial property, development land and even churches.” The latter comes up in conversation because Wilsons Auctions are currently selling a monastery situated 10 miles from Glasgow in its own two acres of land. “We could have property through auction at anything from £1,000 to £1m from a diverse database of vendors. That was the specific reason the vendors of the monastery came to us, as we could offer a varied range of buyers.” It also helps that the auctions are held every three weeks, the most regular of any auction house across the UK and Ireland. “That gives our clients access to more property,” Rachel said. So, how does the process of buying and selling at auction actually work? “It’s exceptionally simple. If you’re selling then all we need to do is go out and appraise the property, agree a guide price with you, engage a solicitor to produce a legal pack to allow us to transact

Lorren Mullen, Rachel Brown, Dave Pennick, Cheryl McAulay and Charlotte Ritchie of WIlsons Auctions

the sale and have sight of some photographic ID. The vendor can then relax and let us do the hard work.

“That is why selling property at auction has become much more popular over the last few years and will continue to do so in the future.”

“If you’re a buyer then we’ll happily take you through the process from start to finish; from initial enquiries, registering to bid and even helping to bid at the auction.”

Rachel has also big plans to continue growing the property business in the future. “I’m really proud to work under the Wilsons Auctions brand and see the business expanding across the rest of the UK.”

And there are a number of ways to bid, from being there in person to commission bidding – where the auctioneer has your highest bid – to online bidding where you can log on and bid from the comfort of your own home. If you are successful in your bid then you leave a deposit – of at least £3,000 - and then pay the rest normally before 28 days. For Rachel, the buzz of the auction room is hard to beat. “It’s really exciting on auction night and I’d really say to people to come and see the facilities so they can get a feel for the place. We have the luxury of having our own bespoke auction rooms, which competitors may not.” A look at recent auction results, would also quickly snuff out any thoughts that only distressed property is sold at auction. “That is a myth that we can easily dispel. If you look at the results we’ve had we have exceeded valuations under a competitive bidding environment and created value for sellers.

Ideally she’d like to see a property department in Newcastle upon Tyne, Maidstone and Dublin, a move which would give the business complete coverage across the UK and Ireland. Having experienced Rachel’s passion and energy, there’s little doubt that expansion will happen, and fast.

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From bricks to Brexit Dr Patrice Cairns, Policy Manager, RICS (Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors) in Northern Ireland, takes a look at the construction sector and assesses the challenges, and opportunities which lie ahead


his time 10 years ago, Northern Ireland was approaching its house price peak and construction activity was buoyant. Clearly the decade since has presented many challenges for the sector, but today much of the data relating to the local construction industry paints an increasingly positive picture. The RICS and Tughans Construction Market Survey for Q4 2016 indicates that confidence in the 12-month outlook is at a nine-quarter high. Indeed, Northern Ireland was one of the only areas of the UK to see a pick-up in the pace of output growth in the final quarter of 2016, according to the survey, and the significant majority of respondents expect workloads to rise during the course of this year. Housebuilding remains a key source of workload growth for Northern Ireland construction surveyors, with private housebuilding activity rising particularly strongly. Private Commercial activity was also rising firmly, according to the survey. Deloitte’s Belfast Crane Count Survey 2017 echoed some of the findings, pointing out that the rapidly increasing number of cranes dotting the city’s skyline reflected investment in the city coming forward despite economic uncertainty. And the Ulster Bank Northern Ireland PMI for February reported that construction activity returned to growth, and that new orders were coming in at a faster rate. Clearly, it is not all positive news though. Things like skills shortages, low margins, and the uncertainty of the public-sector pipeline of work are to fore of the minds of many in the sector. The RICS and Tughans Construction Market Survey highlighted that


Dr Patrice Cairns

infrastructure workload growth remained weak, and significantly below the UK average at the end of last year. And we think it is unlikely that new, novel or contentious capital projects will commence in the absence of ministerial decisions. That fact that our construction industry is so dependent on work in GB is also a challenge of sorts. Then there is the B word.

Ireland already has a significant number of construction workers operating in GB, and the potential loss of the 176,500 EU nationals currently working in the UK’s construction sector could put further pressure on our skills base. This could impact on our ability to deliver essential infrastructure projects and to build the necessary supply of new homes that our society and economy needs.

In some respects, it looks like the construction sector has shrugged off the effects of the UK’s decision to leave the EU to date. However, it remains to be seen what challenges lie ahead. Post Brexit, the lack of EU funding, such as EIB and ERDF funding, will likely be one such challenge.

It is up to the UK Government to secure the trade agreement, but industry must also work to secure the domestic skills pipeline. As the industry’s professional body, RICS is working to develop that skills base, building vital initiatives, such as degree apprenticeships, in our sector to drive the talent pipeline forward. A recent RICS survey revealed worrying figures showing that almost a quarter of construction professionals fail to recognise the benefits of apprenticeships in solving the skills crisis. It is vital that industry gets behind such schemes.

We are encouraged by noises from the European Commission’s chief negotiation, Michel Barnier, about not weakening peace and dialogue in Northern Ireland. We also note the UK Prime Minister’s comments about wanting a frictionless border. However, free movement of labour is one area of concern. For instance, Northern

What is clear is that a healthy construction sector with the necessary skills is essential as it has a crucial role to play in a vibrant economy and society. ■

Corporate restructuring


The right restructuring approach Amy Leonard finds out why it might be worthwhile considering a restructure and how it should be best approached from the experts who know


tter the words ‘corporate restructuring’ and more often than not it draws up daunting images of drastic upheaval and change, of a shakeup that is rarely seen in a positive light. Of course reorganizing the fundamental structure of any company is no mean feat. It will inevitably be a taxing and time consuming process, but that is not to say it must be an overwhelmingly negative one. Making the procedure work requires a specific outlook, both professional and personal; a point that is stressed as imperative by experts from the restructuring world. Brian Murphy, Partner and Head of Advisory at BDO Northern Ireland, said that a pessimistic view isn’t necessary. “The prospect of having to enter into some form of corporate restructuring is frequently seen as a daunting and negative exercise. Over the last 10 years it has often been associated with formal insolvency processes and job losses. However, the restructuring process need not be that way.” He said there can be varying reasons for the restructure, from problems in the past to problems in the present. “Restructuring can be used to either address


lingering legacy issues or to introduce efficiencies and to improve the performance of the business going forward. In the first instance, the restructuring process can in fact bring a relief to business owners and allow them to focus on their business. Secondly, many business owners have realised that the structure of their business, whether organisational, operational or financial, may not be right for their current operations.” It is important to remember, said Brian, that the final outcome will be beneficial to the business in the future. “They can undertake a review of their business and identify a more appropriate structure with which to move forward. These scenarios can provide businesses with a fresh start, free from either legacy issues or historic inefficiencies. As a result, business owners’ time can be freed up to make the most of the opportunities available to them.” Seeing the restructure as an opportunity, rather than a failure of any kind, is something that James Neill, Managing Director at HNH Group advocates too. “I would urge directors faced with a turnaround situation to approach it head on with honesty and integrity. It is recognised that many of the factors necessitating a corporate restructure are often outside the control of company directors e.g. a

significant bad debt or an issue facing the sector as a whole. If directors are transparent and realistic in their communications with key stakeholders (such as employees, suppliers and creditors), this often garners their goodwill and support throughout the process.” On the more practical side of things, James advises that knowing exactly what it is you want to achieve from the very beginning of the restructure will assist immensely in making progress smooth.


“Key to any successful turnaround is that the company stakeholders are given a clearly defined end goal and strategic view of the business post-restructure, as well as identifying the required change factor to enable the restructure to prove successful in the long-term. Only with a well-defined end goal will the client maximise the benefit from any restructure, and avoid any pitfalls that may return the business to the status quo.” Whilst employing professional advisors is an essential part of the process, James places

MAY 2017

great importance on the fit between advisor and client. A good relationship with mutual trust and respect between the two parties is crucial, he said. “Without these cornerstones of the professional relationship, neither party has the ability to act as a challenge function to each other’s decision making resulting in the process becoming flawed from the very start.” A balance of all of these is required for the

restructure to be successful, said James, but he stated again the significance of approach. “Some of the most successful restructures I have been involved in have succeeded, not because of the process chosen to effect the restructuring or the adviser involved, but because of the attitude of the directors in facing the challenge head on.” Clarity of vision and realistic assessment of your current situation are factors that Catherine Doran, senior manager with Deloitte and leader of the firm’s Restructuring >



and Insolvency team, said are essential from the beginning. “For those considering restructuring my advice would be to take advice early, be clear in your goals as to what you think is achievable and take time to understand the goals of your funders. Do not undersell yourself – if there is a core trading business that generates cash, this is a valuable commodity to any funder and all stakeholders will want to protect it.” Claire warns that it can be a delicate situation to handle, so sometimes a little distance between the involved parties can help too. “One important recommendation I have is do not make it personal, which is often a hard ask. By taking a step back you will agree a plan that is better for the business. If you cannot take the emotion out of the restructuring, bring in advisors who can provide distance between the parties and an objective viewpoint.” She placed emphasis on communication and ensuring the common goal between all involved is agreed upon and is the focal point of all discussion. “I would say those considering restructuring should take advice, communicate regularly and be objective, or get someone else to provide this objectivity.” Stephen Cave from PwC’s Northern Ireland business recovery service said early recognition of issues can help immensely.

Brian Murphy

“Restructuring has three vital components: time, goodwill and cash. The earlier the management recognises the signs of distress, the more time they have to act - but act they must. In PwC, our experience of restructuring is that, while time isn’t everything, it’s nearly everything.” He stresses that early recognition can provide much-needed breathing space for the business. “Companies can generally live with some erosion in the sales arena, but when the cash runs out, so too does the ability to do much to turn things around. Unfortunately,

too many companies find themselves in that situation, then restructuring can be difficult, painful and occasionally impossible.” “However, a company where the management recognises potential problems before they become immediate crises has a lot of wriggle-room. This realisation that there is potential trouble ahead can be the foundation for decisive and timely action that maintains the stability of a business, refocuses its corporate strategy and ultimately creates value for stakeholders.” Where there is underlying viable core business, getting the right advice at the right time can lead to successful restructuring, said Stephen, and a willingness to embrace the restructure along with the support of all key stakeholders is highly beneficial. “This provides the opportunity for viable parts of their businesses to survive and leave them fit for recovery and growth as and when economic conditions improve.” He summed up his advice succinctly, reflecting the points made by other experts.

James Neill


“Despite their individual complexities, when you break it down, a number of key common themes sit at the heart of almost all successful restructures; seek advice early while you have the greatest number of options and are in control, plan well, and get the major stakeholders on board at an early stage.” ■

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Clarendon Executive expands team with coaching arm


emand for coaching by senior business people has prompted executive search firm Clarendon Executive to expand its team. Mark Latuske has joined the Clarendon team as Head of Executive Coaching and Organisational Development. And Anne Daley joins as Consultant and will work as a key part of the team on the identification of leadership competences whether through the executive recruitment or leadership development processes. “To augment our position as Northern Ireland’s leading executive recruiter, our own intelligence coupled with strong client demand has led us to develop the firm’s offering around ‘post-hire’ executive development and senior team progression,” said Ciaran Sheehan, Managing Partner at Clarendon Executive. “There is an increasing recognition among businesses that effective executive recruitment is not just about filling a vacancy but also about ensuring that key hires quickly transition into their new roles, while maximizing their impact on longer-term issues such as strategic development, managing change and optimizing organisational performance. “As part of that, we see executive coaching and talent management becoming a vital asset to business operations regardless of size or sector.” Mark’s career in business change and transformation has taken in both big four consultancy and senior in-house roles across


The Clarendon Executive team: from left standing, Claire McKee, Sophie Gill, Anne Daley, Mark Latuske. Seated are Ciaran Sheehan and Joanne McAuley

the UK and the Republic of Ireland. Anne has worked with clients from a wide range of business and cultural backgrounds across the world. “Both Mark and Anne have operated at the very top of major international organisations and are significant senior hires for us,” says Ciaran. “Their leadership experience and industry knowledge will make them an invaluable asset. “Our business is all about ‘Knowing People, Finding Leaders’. The new areas of business Mark and Anne will lead are a perfect compliment across the full range of services Clarendon has to offer and will further

strengthen our position as Northern Ireland’s leading board advisory business when it comes to the identification and development of talent.” The new talent management service will fall under the ‘Clarendon Performance’ brand and build on the firm’s existing core offering of executive search and the provision of interim management. Clarendon’s expertise spans the private, public and third sectors. The firm focuses on identifying talent at Board, NED, C-suite and senior executive level across the management disciplines (General Management, Commercial, Marketing, Digital) and operational effectiveness leadership roles (Operations, Finance, Risk, Compliance, Technology, HR). ■


Gary Irvine and Ian Rainey

Searching in the 4c direction Following its recent acquisition of MSL Search & Selection, Belfast-based 4c Executive tells Ulster Business how it has carved a niche position in the Northern Ireland market in recent years…


his acquisition was very much the next most logical step in 4c’s ambitious growth strategy,” says Gary Irvine. “It puts 4c in an exceptionally strong place – firmly cementing our position as the leading, and now the largest, provider of true executive search services in Northern Ireland.” Irvine was the founder and former Managing Director of the £40million turnover Diamond Recruitment Group – Northern Ireland’s largest locally owned recruitment group, which he sold to a UK Plc in 2015. He established 4c Executive in


October 2013 in response to what he says was a very obvious gap in the market in Northern Ireland. “There was no other provider then – or indeed now, with the exception of 4c – in the Northern Ireland market who was offering executive search in the truest sense of the word: that is, finding the best person for a senior-level business-critical role by taking a search-led approach, rather than simply delving into a network of local contacts or a ‘little black book’. So in that sense, we are unique here. “Search means exactly what it says. To begin

with, a company needs to know what, or who, it is searching for and that requires detailed consultation and engagement with the client – not just the receipt of a job description or person specification. We consult first, followed by live research before searching and approaching the market – it’s a methodical and scientific model that brings the very best results and mitigates against getting it wrong.” Staying true to executive search in this way has stood 4c in good stead over the past three and a half years, according to Irvine. “4c has enjoyed steady but significant


growth from the offset and to date, has been appointed to find the best available talent for over 150 senior-level, businesscritical roles in Northern Ireland and GB. “But we aren’t complacent. We’re always reviewing our progress, striving for opportunities to grow or improve the business in any way we can – and that’s ultimately what led us to our recent acquisition of MSL.” He explains that, despite having invested significantly in expanding the business in recent months through the launch of three new divisions [4c Boardroom, 4c Third Sector and 4c Interim], he saw the acquisition of the MSL business as opportune to 4c’s continued growth. “MSL is a very solid business, having provided executive recruitment services to an extensive portfolio of private, public and third sector organisations in Northern Ireland for over 20 years,” he says. “Furthermore, Ian Rainey is someone for whom I have always had an immense amount of respect and admiration during my 30 years in this industry. Very much ‘the forefather of executive recruitment in Northern Ireland’, Ian was working in this field long before anyone else and brings with him a huge amount of knowledge and experience, not only from MSL but from a wealth of senior roles across various business sectors – locally and internationally.“ Ian Rainey has recorded an impressive career in a wide range of senior legal and banking roles – including Vice President of the now Wells Fargo Bank in the UK and Asia. He is also a former Managing Director of Belfast International Airport and Chairman of Belfast City Airport. Whilst he will remain involved in the 4c business in a Non-Executive Director

MAY 2017

capacity, Rainey says that this acquisition will enable him to pursue other opportunities and gradually move towards retirement in the knowledge that the MSL business is in “safe hands”. “After nearly a quarter of a century in any given profession, one might be excused for thinking that there is nothing new to learn – but 4c has already proved me wrong,” he says.

We are always reviewing our progress, striving for opportunities to grow or improve the business in any way we can and that’s ultimately led us to our recent acquisition of MSL. Gary Irvine

“It really is a slick operation. Gary has built a very solid, successful business and I have been extremely impressed with everything I have seen so far. The sheer quality and attention to detail that underpins every aspect of a 4c client assignment – from assignment briefs and shortlists to the interview process – is astounding.

“But I think what makes 4c’s offering truly unique in Northern Ireland is its use of external researchers in London and throughout GB. Integral to the 4c approach, this means that around 9 in 10 roles filled by 4c are done so exclusively by search.” Rainey agrees with 4c’s view that, in today’s business environment, there is little room for the ‘little black book’ approach that once

drove executive recruitment and is still at the core of some providers in Northern Ireland. “The world is changing rapidly and that means that keeping up with emerging talent via a database simply isn’t possible – or credible, for that matter. “Whilst 4c’s team of consultants are exceptionally well-connected, to pretend that the best possible person to fill a business-critical role is contained within an elaborate database would be doing their client a massive disservice. In the search for a role of this nature, it’s actually who you don’t know that is important. “Don’t forget, after all, that it is often the inactive job seeker who best fits a role. This person will likely be very successful and happy in their current role, but may be attracted by a new opportunity if approached. They won’t be searching the market for new opportunities, so that’s why it’s crucial that a credible provider searches them out and brings the opportunity directly to them.” So what’s next for the newly expanded 4c? “We have already set about the process of meeting with MSL’s loyal and longestablished client base and have been deeply encouraged by their response – with many of them having already committed to working with 4c,” says Irvine. “Amid all of this ongoing expansion, we always have and always will remain true to our vision – to be the leading provider of true executive search services in Northern Ireland. I am confident that demand for our services will continue to grow in the same vain that it has done in recent years, and with this will come continued investment in the business. I am very excited about 4c’s future.” ■ For more information about 4c Executive, visit www.4cexecutive.com or call 028 9043 4343


Big brand or small enterprise which is the best fit for you? By John Moore, Regional Managing Director of Hays Northern Ireland


ou may have dreamed of working for a big, well-known ‘top 100’ company that regularly graces the business pages.

number of global clients. You could also find yourself in a more specialist role honing your skills as an expert in your field.

But think hard before you leap. Working for a big brand has it attractions, but equally, working with a small-sized business brings its own set of rewards.

Within the smaller enterprise, it’s likely there will be a culture of agile decision-making, providing you with scope to drive forward your own projects with less interference and red tape.

You may find that larger companies offer better job security, with the training resources and global mobility prospects to match.

And while bigger companies may pay better, it’s worth investigating the sharing schemes that smaller companies can offer.

But in a smaller company, you may be exposed to wider aspects of the business and be working with senior figures from an earlier stage. For this reason, you may find potential for career advancement arises more quickly.

So if you’re lucky enough to receive a job offer, think about how you would measure success in that role. Find out what resources will be invested in your project area, whether you get to innovate and how much responsibility you will be given.

One great facet of working at a larger company is that you could be liaising with a

Think to the future as well - potential

John Moore

employers may light up at the sight of the big brand name on your CV; similarly, there is great value to be had in developing a more varied skillset in a smaller setting. So identify what skills you need over the long term to meet your career goals. Your next career move is something you need to think long and hard about. Among the first questions you should ask: is this company the right fit for me? ■ To find out more about Hays Northern Ireland log on to hays.co.uk/ni or follow us on Twitter @HaysN_Ireland

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Export focus


Full steam ahead for export agenda The future for export from Northern Ireland has taken on a new dimension in the midst of Brexit. David Elliott caught up with Steve Harper from Invest NI to hear what the agency is doing to grow exports


nvest NI’s Executive Director of International Business is a busy man.

It’s understandable, really, because he’s charged with growing Northern Ireland’s exporting base and bringing inward investment to these shores. No pressure then. When Ulster Business meets Steve Harper he has just returned from a trip to Singapore where he and chief executive Alastair Hamilton were settling in a new Invest NI Regional Manager for the regional and leading a trade mission of Northern Ireland companies keen to do business there. Having returned to the country but before our meeting in Invest NI headquarters on Belfast’s Bedford Street he has spent the morning introducing a potential inward investor to one of our biggest and most established, although he won’t give up the identity of the visitor despite Ulster Business’s clumsy attempts to get him to talk.


identifying potential investors” and will be based in the British Embassies of the various regions. Steve Harper

No matter, we’re here to talk about the importance of export, something Steve thinks is key to the future of the Northern Ireland economy, hence the three new regional managers spread across the globe in Qatar, Chile and Singapore. They are charged with “building a strong network of stakeholders and influencers to benefit trade development, as well as

More are to follow (again, no singing like a canary on the other locations from our man in Bedford Street, unfortunately) in an attempt to grow Northern Ireland exports further, not just through existing exporters but by encouraging first-time exporters to take the plunge. The agency’s efforts, and perhaps the devaluation of sterling, seem to have helped in the year December 2016 when the value of goods exported from Northern Ireland


Export checklist Planning and strategy Do you have a well-defined export strategy and a thorough plan? How will you start exporting, and how will you develop your export business? Do you have the resources you need to carry out your plan, eg finances, personnel, production? How will you build your export skills? How much do you expect to invest, and what return do you expect? Are you committed to exporting? Have all the key people in your business agreed?

Marketing Do you know what markets you will target? How much research have you done into your target market? Do you understand the business culture and legal environment? What is the market for your product? Who are you competing against and what do they offer? Will your product need to be modified to meet local regulations or customer requirements? How will you position your product? What price will you charge? What currency will you price and sell your products in? How will you market and promote your product? What distribution channels will you use? climbed 12% on 2015. Although reticent to comment on the impact Brexit will have on that figure in the years to come, Steve is eager to point out the potential markets that await our goods and services and how he can help us get them there. “The European Union (EU) is critical to Northern Ireland because just over half our exports go there but it’s very difficult to tell what sort of landscape the market will take after Brexit,” he told Ulster Business. “That’s because we don’t know what shape or format the relationship will take after the two-year negotiation.”

But the lack of a clear path shouldn’t deter exporters in the meantime. “A lot of exporters that I have spoken to are using the fact our currency has devalued as an opportunity to build market presence in those regions. It is a great time to get your brand known, to get your products in and build up demand so that you aren’t going to be starting from a standing start when we leave.” While maintaining sales to the EU is obviously a big part of the agency’s focus, it is also keen to expand the Northern Ireland brand further afield. >

Export procedures What contracts will you aim to negotiate? What are your preferred Incoterms and will these suit your customers? What payment method and terms will you offer? Do you have the skills to handle any specialist methods such as letters of credit? Will you require a foreign currency bank account or accounting software that can handle foreign currency transactions? How will you transport your products? Will you use a freight forwarder? Have you identified all the costs, such as transport, insurance, duties and taxes? ■


“While the EU takes up a big portion of our export, we’re very keen to assist companies to go to other markets as there are plenty of regions of the world who are keen to buy our goods. We’ve increased the support available through our trade accelerator to help get companies into those markets.” Steve said educating potential exporters about how to go about sending the goods and services overseas is one part of his role but, as important, is driving home the need for patience and persistence. “You can’t just go into a new market and get a deal straight away; you have keep going back to build up your reputation and trust.” If anyone should know, it’s Steve. Prior to joining Invest NI last year he spent five years with one of Northern Ireland’s most successful companies Wrightbus as Business Development Director and has previously worked for other well-known exporting companies as well as a stint with Mitsuibishi in Tokyo.


As such, he knows only too well the challenges and nuances involved in breaking in to new markets and advises first timers to bend the ear of others who have trod the export path. “I’ve been on many export trade missions in the past as a client of Invest NI and learnt an awful lot,” he said. “A big part of that was in the evening over dinner when we got to talk to other exporters about the approaches

which have worked for them, the pitfalls to look out for and plenty of other advise they picked up along the way.” But before you run into any pitfalls, it’s worth checking whether your business is ready for the export plunge. NIBusinessInfo.co.uk – Invest NI’s online advice service - offers up a few pointers to help you decide. ■

Invest NI’s Trade Accelerator Plan What does it include? • Enhanced support for Export Market visits; • Travel and accommodation support for SMEs in Great Britain • Accommodation support for Republic of Ireland market • Enhanced support for companies attending exhibitions through the SOLEX scheme; • A new Great Britain Market Introduction programme initially for the construction sector, with a Republic of Ireland Food Retail development programme under development; • Targeting of Great Britain based buying groups such as the NHS, utilities, agri-foods and the hospitality sector; • Additional Meet the Buyer events and Market Study visits in sectors and markets where businesses have identified opportunities; • An increase from 20 days to 30 days in the amount of in-market Trade Advisory support; and • New guides and case studies on www.nibusinessinfo.co.uk and www.investni.com

Allianz – a walk on the client side I n today’s frenetic marketplace, regardless of which industry you operate in, effective customer management is the one absolute that can create commercial success. Tom Nallen, Associate Director Commercial Sales Allianz Ireland, recently spoke to Ulster Business about his views on customer management across the company’s commercial and corporate relationships. He explains: “The Allianz Group is a global financial services provider with more than 86 million customers in 70 countries worldwide offering a range of services and insurance products across the spectrum for both retail and corporate customers. At a local level we are based in Belfast transacting business throughout Northern Ireland via our network of strategic broker partners. “The insurance marketplace, like many others, is constantly evolving and adapting within an ever tightening legislative and compliance environment. The recent implementation of transparency in insurance renewals, changes in the Discount Rate and next month’s increase in Insurance Premium Tax bear witness to yet more transformation across the insurance landscape. “Customer’s expectations are changing too. At one end of our customer spectrum we assist large organisations, both multinational & indigenous in nature whose financial advisers require technical advice & claims support; right through to SME clients who are seeking more responsive straight through engagement.

Tom Nallen

having a spotlight shone on them and it is the supplier who “breaks the customer ceiling” and who solves key tasks along the customer journey who is most likely to succeed.” Tom continues: “In Allianz we believe we have a genuine understanding of the local economy with all its nuances and are uniquely positioned to take the pulse of the market place.

“Allianz’s customer profiles mirror the Northern Ireland economy. Understanding these needs in this ever changing environment is greatly helped by having a local presence in the business community.

“We recognise that an unmistakeable air of optimism is returning to Northern Ireland. There has been a notable escalation in building activity witnessed by the highly visible construction landscape, signposting that buoyancy and resurgence are on the rise. Equally the hospitality industry is also bearing testimony to the new spirit of optimism as Belfast continues to re-invent itself with a proliferation of new coffee bars, cafes, restaurants and hotels.

“It is in exactly such an environment that customer servicing and value generation are

“With a firm footprint in both these niche sectors Allianz are continuing with their


legacy of providing support on the customer experience journey, mapping how we engage with our customers and positively influencing all the relevant touch points. This ecosystem demands understanding, connectivity, flexibility, security and service delivery. “We all understand that the key to our collective future is rooted in customer collaboration and technological innovation which is fundamentally changing the way we do business. At a minimum we are gaining enhanced knowledge about our customers from digital content which supports deeper relationships with our customers. “Allianz are very much a part of this narrative – with an agenda focused on digital capability, technical excellence, growth ambition and client centric experiences, we believe we are positioning ourselves at the forefront of an industry where customer demands and expectations are non negotiable and meeting them is a prerequisite for success.” ■

One hour rail link sought between Belfast and Dublin


he Republic’s Foreign Affairs Minister Charlie Flanagan will seek money for a 'rapid rail link' between Dublin and Belfast as part of the Brexit negotiations.

suffer peripherality and the need to get goods to market. "The maintenance of the open Border is essential to all of this. That's where the Good Friday Agreement and the honouring of the agreement in terms of movement of people and trading of services is important."

He said the Dublin Government would need support in "revisiting" its priorities for infrastructure investment. "I'd like to be able to see rail users travel from Dublin to Belfast in an hour. That will take capital expenditure and these are issues upon which I feel consideration should be given in the context of the negotiations," he said.

However, the minister warned the delay in establishing a power-sharing administration in Northern Ireland was hampering the Republic’s negotiation position in Europe.

Currently a direct train from Belfast Central to Connolly Station takes around two hours and 10 minutes.

"I see a need to diversify. That will mean our airports and ports will be hugely important to us in that endeavour. I'm thinking in particular our access points to the continent and the French ports," he said.

"There is an urgency and I'm calling on the DUP and Sinn Féin to engage in the necessary level of compromise that will allow them to surmount these challenges," said. Mr Flanagan.

Mr Flanagan said keeping strong connections between the Northern Ireland and the Republic would be a key outcome, as would Ireland's ability to increase trade with EU countries outside of Britain.

Asked who would pay for infrastructure improvements to help Ireland fend off the worst impacts of Brexit, Mr Flanagan replied: "That's a matter down the road, but Europe has always looked favourably to states that do

He wants to call a meeting of the North-South Ministerial Council to discuss strategy ahead of the formal beginning of Brexit talks in Europe, but this is not possible without a new Stormont Executive taking office. ■

Full steam ahead for All-Route Shipping All-Route Shipping has been serving clients in Northern Ireland for 42 years. Initially a family-owned business, it was bought over by the Woodside Group six years ago and now compliments their other divisions, Woodside Motorfreight, Woodside Haulage, Woodside Distribution and Haulage Services. All-Route already had an office base in Ballynure since the takeover but moved the complete operation to the site at the beginning of 2017.It now includes operations, storage, warehousing and distribution where a full range of transport and haulage services are offered. “All-Route itself has gone through changes this year and is now fully integrated in the Ballynure facility,” Director Michael Woods said. “With this the focus is now on further growth of our core products and services. “Further growth of our Import & Export deep sea division is underway with significant partnership developments to enhance our product offerings in this segment of business. We are also reviewing our business options in the Republic of Ireland and we hope to make the All-Route brand more widely recognised in this market to compliment the Woodside Group companies who already operate extensively in this area.” In addition, the company has recently become AEO Accredited, a process that took many months to complete in conjunction with H.M. Customs & Excise.

a strict compliance policy and is a widely recognised ‘kitemark’ throughout Europe,” Michael said. “ We also offer a bonded warehouse facilities which allows our clients to keep goods in storage and defer any customs taxes until the product is moved or sold. “This is widely recognised as being a significant factor in handling business both pre & post Brexit negotiations whatever the final decisions may be! We offer a ‘one stop’ on all aspects of Importing & Exporting and the staff have over 100-years’ experience in dealing with client needs in relation to a wide spectrum of transport modes.” It also handles deep sea shipments to and from all countries across the globe including a wide European network. “Being able to discuss and handle different options with clients gives both the client and us a better understanding of their needs and to come up with the best solutions to assist. The prevailing uncertainties over Brexit means that clients need to understand the potential impact this could have on their business and to seek expert advice and ensure close co-operation with a reputable freight forwarder.”

“This compliments our current customs activities and adheres to

MAY 2017


The evolving security mandate Dan Braden-Astbury, Managing Director of Stanley Security, talks to Ulster Business on the company’s plans for the future as it celebrates 25 years in business


echnology is impacting every facet of the business world, not least the security sector.

is particularly valuable to the marketing department.” “Stanley Security is also able to combine data from tills with video analytics to help in loss prevention, staff training and fraud prevention. “

Advances in the capability of cameras and security equipment have hugely enhanced the process of protecting the premises and assets of companies up and down the land.

“While previously we may have worked with the security manager in our clients’ firms, we’re now starting to work with core IT people and commercial departments. The engagement has shifted, we are working together as an added-value partner and that means there is more support available at senior levels within client businesses.”

But according to Dan Braden-Astbury, the Managing Director of Stanley Security, technology also means his business can analyse data captured on systems to provide additional valuable services to marketing and operations departments, amongst others. In an interview with Ulster Business at the company’s Montgomery Road headquarters in Belfast, he explained how Stanley Security’s remit has expanded. The business started out as an electronic security specialist providing solutions for the financial sector, working with major banks in Ireland and Northern Ireland. Stanley Security’s offer has evolved alongside the changing needs of clients and the company continues to provide high tech security solutions across many sectors. “We’re starting to harness the power of big data and the Internet of Things (IoT)


Dan Braden-Astbury, Managing Director of Stanley Security

which we see as huge growth areas,” he said. “The pace of technological growth has been significant, which means the level of complexity we can achieve is increasing at the same time clients’ expectations are growing.” “Security systems are supporting other areas of our clients’ business. For instance, for a while now we’ve been putting cameras in shops which let retailers monitor footfall in terms of demographics .” “We then use heat mapping to identify popular parts of the store, something which

The additional technology has meant a change in the skill requirements for the company. “It’s been quite a shift in terms of the technical ability our staff now have. Our engineers have had to upskill in recent years with the result they are moving from being security systems engineers to IT and network engineers. We’re always training and improving our technical skills and are proud to have the largest base of highly trained engineers in Ireland.”

Stanley Security's services have expanded to include footfall monitoring for retail outlets to help identify the most popular areas of a shop

While this transformation has been taking place, Stanley Security has maintained a workforce of over 100 employees, some of whom have been with the company since it’s inception.

in regions as far afield as the Netherlands, Germany, the US, Barbados and Senegal and is looking to expand its overseas presence further. Its approach, Dan said, is all based on quality.

Employees are excited about the future of the company not just for these new lines of business but also for the core security offering which Stanley Security, which is owned by toolmaker Stanley Black & Decker, is known.

“We won’t compromise on the quality of our work, and that approach has stood us in really good stead. That’s why we’ve invested heavily in our people and now have the most highly skilled security team to be found anywhere.”

It is celebrating its 25th anniversary supplying security solutions in Northern Ireland, initially under the Bell Security name, then Niscayah before rebranding under the Stanley Security name four years ago.

With such a skilled resource, Stanley Security is able to design systems in conjunction with construction companies, for instance.

Growth at the company has been impressive, particularly in the last year when significant double-digit growth was recorded. Along with the expanded offering, Dan said much of that expansion has come from breaking into new markets across Europe and beyond as well as growing the business in the Republic and Northern Ireland. It has supported projects currently running

MAY 2017

terms of geography, and will do so with Dan’s ambitious plans for the future. “Over the last 25 years we’ve grown steadily, particularly in the last year, and will continue to do so in the coming months and years. We want to thank our customers and staff who have helped to get us to this important milestone and look forward to welcoming new ones in the future.” ■

“We’re able to carry out 3D modelling when the plans of a building are being drawn up to make sure camera angles are correct and things like pillars aren’t blocking the camera’s field of vision. That sort of planning reduces costs of security and makes it more predictable. “That’s been a real shift but we’ve been able to do it because we’ve invested in the skillset of our team.” It’s clear Stanley Security’s business has evolved, both in terms of capability and in



SME of the month COMPANY NAME: CLAIRE HUGHES, SOIREE SOCIETY NI ABOUT: BESPOKE MATCH-MAKING COMPANY LOCATION: THE BUSINESS COVERS ALL OF NORTHERN IRELAND BUT OPERATES FROM ITS REGISTERED OFFICE IN CASTLECAULFIELD CO. TYRONE What makes your business stand out? Unlike the numerous online dating sites, Soirée Society Matchmaking service is refreshingly different – it is a private and confidential offline dating service. It is also the only agency located in NI to be accredited by the ABIA (Association of British Introduction Agencies) and the UK Matchmaker Academy and we are members of the DIPN (Dating Industry Professional Network) which provides assurances to our clients that we are an established reputable company adhering to strict codes of practice. How did you come up with the idea for the company? As a retired bank manager, setting up my own matchmaking agency was never a consideration and it happened quite by chance. My thirty five year old single friend had come out of a relationship and explained how difficult it was to meet someone new. She said there was nowhere to go, and whilst she had a good enough social life, she had no one single to go out with as the majority of her friends were in relationships. She disliked and distrusted online dating sites and as she had a professional job it was also not appropriate to publically display her photo and profile online. Then everywhere I went I kept hearing similar stories from other unattached people. Many people who were re-entering the dating scene following marriage break-ups or bereavement were finding that the traditional way of meeting people at a dance hall were long gone and now replaced by online dating which for many is way outside their comfort zone. Understanding their problem I set out to create a solution and Soirée Society NI was born. It was originally an events company but as a result of client feedback and requests for something much more bespoke and discreet, it is now a matchmaking agency connecting people looking for a long term relationship be that for romance, marriage, friendship or companionship. The matchmaking service was launched in April 2015 and we have arranged hundreds of dates and now have many couples in long term relationships. I eagerly await having to buy my first hat!


How will your business look in five years time? The business continues to grow steadily particularly after winning the Best Upcoming Matchmaking Agency Award at the UK Dating Awards in London in November 2016. There is still a bit of a stigma around dating agencies in Northern Ireland and therefore it is pleasing to be recognised outside the dating industry by being nominated finalists in the Rising Stars 2017 Business awards which take place in Belfast in April 2017. Ultimately I would envisage taking on more staff to facilitate the growth of the business beyond Northern Ireland. What is the next big mind-blowing product or idea for your company? Media interest in our company following our success in the UK Dating awards has been immense. We have been featured in regional newspapers, radio and television including NvTv and UTV life and were the matchmaking agency behind Stellify Media’s BBCNI dating programme ‘Beauty Queen & Single. We have just been contacted by ITV to see can we help with the ‘This Time Next Year’ programme hosted by Davina McCall. I always did like Patti Stanger and Millionaire Matchmaker and was really surprised when she tweeted me recently wishing the company every success, so watch this space! ■

Belfast and Portadown Audi shine through in UK Audi awards UK in outright sales terms, but also the most challenging year in living memory for our Audi Centre teams balancing day-to-day business obligations with the need to exceed the expectations of customers.

Staff at Belfast and Portadown Audi Centre, operated by leading vehicle retailer, the Agnew Group, is celebrating after winning two top accolades in a UK-wide contest which recognises and rewards sales and service excellence among Audi Centres across the country. Exceptional customer focus and service delivery has earned Portadown Audi a coveted Q Power Award, one of the ‘Vorsprung durch Technik’ brand’s top accolades. Portadown Audi won the top award for the best centre in their market area including Northern Ireland, Scotland and the North East of England. In unprecedented success Portadown and Belfast Audi as a team won best market area for the Northern Ireland region competing against every area of the UK, this is a remarkable achievement for a Northern Irish company to come out on top in such a competitive environment. Members of Audi UK’s management team announced the news in person to the Audi

Portadown and Belfast teams during a recent visit, and took time to thank and congratulate all of the staff.

Richard Eakin, Agnew’s Managing Director for Audi Belfast and Portadown said: “These awards take into consideration key performance measurements across new and used car sales, service and parts performance, customer satisfaction measurements, staff training and retention. Staff at the Audi Centre in Belfast and Portadown are dedicated to giving the best service to all our local customers, and we’ve always prided ourselves on the positive direct feedback time and time again from satisfied customers. However, to receive these awards from Audi and especially for Northern Ireland to clearly stand out from the whole of the UK as a centre for excellence is the icing on the cake and makes us all very proud of our hard work.”

“For an Audi Centre to merit a Q Power award under normal circumstances requires an extraordinarily high standard of service delivered with unwavering consistency, but for a team to perform to this standard in 2016 demands even greater commitment and dedication. All of our winners should feel exceptionally proud of their performance and their major contribution to the brand’s ongoing success.” Audi Portadown and Belfast, employs 180 sales and support staff, and carry the full range of new and used Audis to suit business and personal needs for all budgets. Belfast Audi, 80 Sydenham Rd, Belfast, BT3 9DP, Tel: 028 9038 0000 Portadown Audi, 7 Carn Court Rd, Portadown, BT63 5YX, Tel: 028 3833 3633

Stefan Wyatt, Acting Head of Customer Quality & Network Development said: “2016 was the most successful year to date for Audi Richard Armstrong, Colin Reid (Audi UK), Richard Eakin, Alan Helps (Audi UK), Stewart Beattie and Gary Fulton

Glenn Upton, Colin Reid (Audi UK), Stewart Beattie, Richard Eakin, Robert Sinton, Philip Smith, Campbell Stewart and Alan Helps (Audi UK)




The column that doesn’t have time for lunch... By David Elliott



itting down to interview Britt Megahey, Ulster Business can’t help feeling a little embarrassed by its slightly battle-scarred smart phone which is recording our conversation That’s because his business has been built around the evolution of the device which has become an essential item for many of us. Nearly 10 years ago, when Ulster Business first interviewed Britt, a rather cumbersome Dictaphone was the recording weapon of choice and talk from the Barclay Communication side of the table that the new breed of smartphones would do away with the need for a separate recording device was met with disbelief by this reporter. Given the trusty Phillips has been gathering dust for nearly the same time, it’s clear Britt knows his stuff and if this year’s predictions are correct then Ulster Business will be will be soon able to tap into the technical advancements made in the world of transcribing. Music to the ears of scribblers up and down the land. However, we’re not here to find out how technology is going to make life easier for breakfasting journalists but to hear how the boss of Barclay Communications got to where he is. We meet in Robinson Cleaver’s downstairs café – the upstairs restaurant sadly being closed when we arrive – and settle for a scone and coffee for breakfast. Britt explains how he started out in the beef trade at the age of 17, working for three years for Abbey Meats before branching out on his own. For the next 10 years he sourced cattle for slaughter and supplied butchers and supermarkets with beef across Northern Ireland. With margins in the meat business tightening,


he was on the lookout for other ventures and stumbled upon the world of mobile communications by accident. “Someone had stolen my mobile from the jeep and, after searching for a replacement and looking into the business, we quickly had our own first shop planned,” he told Ulster Business, adding that a lot of hard work followed. “We did everything ourselves: we made the counters, painted the walls and laid the carpet.” That first shop quickly led to a legion of others with more than 12 on the books before long, all supplying direct to consumers whereas the business is focused on business customers now. The change evolved from growing demand from customers. “We had a shop in Bradbury Place, in Belfast, and had a lot of businesses calling in for mobile phones so we started to do more and more and it wasn’t long before it became the biggest part of the business,” Britt said. “It’s a different sale as the level of service is much higher but we’re good at it. That means offering sound advice. “We found that if you do the job right you get lots of referrals and people keep coming back. It’s about advising the customer on the right equipment and the right tariffs. For instance, we had a customer only recently who we

managed to save £1,000 because we changed them over to a contract which was more suitable to their needs. That kind of proactive approach is hard to find.” Adding to the Barclay Communications offering in recent years is WorkPal, its own mobile workflow management software for field workers which is finding a willing market both near and far. “We’re flying with WorkPal and within 12-to18 months I can see it overtaking our revenues for mobile,” Britt said. “We’re selling it across Northern Ireland, the Republic, England, Scotland and have been approached by three companies in Dubai.” “It’s a differentiator, gives us something new to talk to customers about and is going to save them money. Combined with the software we’ve developed to analyse customers’ bills, we have a compelling offering.” Meanwhile, Britt is also kept busy outside the office with a stable of top class show jumping horses to look after and a family deeply involved in the sport. There’s no time to dawdle over our coffee and we’re quickly off, Britt back to the cut and thrust of international mobile communications and equine sport and Ulster Business to upgrade a rather sorry smartphone. ■

Motoring By Pat Burns

Sponsored by


Ogilvie Fleet make it seven years in a row for customer satisfaction


he world of cars and leasing is a fasting moving world but sometimes the client can feel the account handling is a little sparse, not at Ogilvie Fleet. The largest, independently-owned leasing company in the UK is delighted to have achieved a unique Customer Satisfaction Index milestone. For the seventh year running the departments from Northern Ireland, Scotland and England have been awarded a major award for service to customers. Fleet decision-makers have voted Ogilvie the ‘UK’s top vehicle leasing and fleet management company for service to customers’ in the 2017 Experteye awards. Topping the category, which recognises service to fleet operators with more than 250 vehicles, makes it the seventh year in succession the contract hire and fleet management specialist has won an Experteye award. The latest triumph further builds on Ogilvie Fleet’s quintet of customer service awards and a customer innovation award won in the previous six years. Fleet operators are surveyed independently by Experteye, which asks an extensive range of questions on a monthly basis. The annual CSI award goes to the company that has achieved


the highest combined results across the entire year.

N.Ireland who value a package first rather than a price.

Experteye’s chairman Rick Yarrow said: “To win the category for customer service once again is extremely impressive. But for this to become Ogilvie’s seventh successive Experteye award, across multiple categories, is quite breathtaking”.

A delighted Paul Griffiths leads the local team and comments : “We enjoy what we do, that’s fundamental in our approach to clients and they appreciate that we are offering a unique proposition in terms of overall fleet management. The unknown always happens with vehicles, it could be a puncture, an accident, vandalism, a driver off long term sick, changes in legislation like the Finance Bill 2017, etc, we are proactive and know how to handle these issues in a professional manner with our fleet size now being over 15,000 live contracts” ■

“What makes our awards so sought after by contract hire and fleet management specialists is, rather than being awarded by a judging panel, they are based on independent feedback we receive from customers”. As the largest self funder in the province the Belfast branch is continuing to offer a unique and modern experience to many businesses in

Ogilvie Fleet Ltd, Quay Gate House, 15 Scrabo Street, Belfast BT5 4BD. T: 9045 0800


Small car, big personality By Pat Burns


itroen’s C3 is its best selling model and the latest version was launched at the start of the year. Prices start from £10,995 OTR for the Touch trim level, from £13,045 OTR for Feel versions and from £14,795 for Flair models. The new C3 is everything you would expect from the Citroën brand. It is colourful, stylish, brimming with new technologies, comfortable and boasts a bold, fun-loving personality. Highly customisable and with a distinctive design, the new C3 offers a level of personality that is unique to the supermini sector. With three roof colours to choose from, and a total of nine body colours, the C3 provides a total of 36 exterior colour combinations. The bold new design at the front gives a strong impression of robustness and the black window pillars create the appearance of a floating roof to help accentuate the dynamic stance of the car. The


deliberately high bonnet line and purposeful wheel arch extensions give the C3 a definite crossover character. Offering personality, style and protection, the C3’s signature Airbump panels guard against everyday dents and scrapes. The Airbump panels themselves, which are optional, can be specified with a white or red motif, depending on customer preference. The spacious interior of the C3 offers a choice of three finishes, including two optional upgrades – ‘Urban’ Red and ‘Hype’ Colorado. The sense of well-being starts with the comfortable seats and extends to the panoramic glass sunroof that fills the car with natural light. The C3 has one of the most spacious cabins in the supermini sector and provides 22mm more rear legroom than the previous model, and a 300-litre boot. There are plenty of generous storage compartments too. The door pockets are even finished with a light colour, making it easier to find items like

keys or a mobile phone in poor light. The ConnectedCAM Citroën technology makes its first appearance in the C3. Featuring a wide-angle HD camera (positioned just behind the rear-view mirror), GPS technology and a 128GB memory, it has two main functions. ConnectedCAM can be used to safely take photos or videos that can be instantly shared via social media using a free app. It also operates as a conventional dashcam in the event of an on-road incident. The C3 also features a seven-inch colour touchscreen as well as MirrorLink and Apple CarPlay, a reversing camera and hill-start assist. Technologies for safety include a lane departure warning system, blind-spot monitoring and a driver attention alert. The C3 comes with a choice of efficient PureTech petrol and BlueHDi Diesel engines. There is a choice of three PureTech threecylinder petrol engines: PureTech 68, 82 and 110 (Stop & Start), and two Diesel powertrains: BlueHDi 75 (Stop & Start) and 100 (Stop & Start). ■


X marks the spot

By Pat Burns


he Mokka X builds on the popularity of the successful Mokka model, introducing a fresh interior and updated exterior design, as well as a new powertrain and featuring Vauxhall OnStar and Apple CarPlay. Incorporating cues from Vauxhall’s new design philosophy, the Mokka X is the first model to introduce the “X” segment identifier for future Vauxhall SUV and crossover vehicles. In the expanding compact SUV segment, Mokka has proven to be a hugely popular option, surpassing 120,000 sales in the UK since its launch. Appealing to retail and fleet buyers in equal volumes, the Mokka topped its class for fleet sales. This year it has strengthened its position as number one in its segment, outselling its rivals for both fleet and retail registrations. The Mokka X’s bold new look is thanks to work carried out by a design team led by Briton Mark Adams. The elegantly sculpted front fascia gives the Mokka X a wider, more

MAY 2017

solid and muscular stance, while powerful and athletic lines at the rear and sides of the vehicle retain its sporty edge. On the inside, the Mokka X has a completely new dashboard inspired by the new Astra. The revised instrument panel looks simpler, sharper and more precise in its execution. The centre stack has been redeveloped completely around the seven- and eight-inch touchscreens of the new generation infotainment systems. Now with fewer buttons, it has many functions that are accessible via the touchscreen. The new Mokka X introduces a new powertrain to the segment, adding the 1.4-litre Direct Injection Turbo (152PS) petrol unit to the range, in addition to the much-lauded 1.6-litre ‘Whisper Diesel’ engine introduced last year. The 1.4-litre Turbo is available with manual or six-speed automatic transmission, as well as adaptive all-wheel drive and start/stop. The petrol engine can achieve up to 47.1mpg combined and CO2 emissions of 140g/km. With an electromagnetic multi-plate clutch, the all-wheel drive technology is clever and efficient. The front-wheel drive only or

all-wheel drive settings adapt automatically based on the road conditions, benefitting fuel consumption without affecting the driving experience. In addition to the AWD system, Vauxhall engineers have made more innovative technology available to a broad group of customers by introducing LED Adaptive Forward Lighting (AFL) headlamps. The new Mokka X will be available with the personal connectivity and service assistant, OnStar, from launch. OnStar offers customers a broad range of safety and comfort services, including access to a trained advisor 24/7, 365 days a year. In the event of the airbags deploying, OnStar automatically connects the vehicle to an advisor to establish if the emergency services are required. If there is no response, emergency responders are immediately sent to the exact location of the vehicle. OnStar also turns the Mokka X into a 4G LTE mobile Wi-Fi hotspot, allowing up to seven devices, from smartphones to tablets, to be connected simultaneously. ■



Mid-term revisions for Mark 7 Golf

By Pat Burns


he Golf has now surpassed the Beetle as Volkswagen’s most successful model ever and the latest version of the Golf, the Mark 7, has just been upgraded. A Mark 7.5, if you like. The main focus of the 2017 model year is – alongside new engines, keener design and new assistance systems – a completely new generation of infotainment systems. As a world first in the compact class, the top-of-the-range “Discover Pro” system can be operated by gesture control. The update to the Golf, also reflects a new standard for assistance systems in the compact class: technologies such as City Emergency Braking with new Pedestrian Monitoring function, the new Traffic Jam Assist (partially automated driving at speeds of up to 60 km/h) and Emergency Assist, which is also new in this segment, significantly improve safety. There are also newTSI engines and a new 7-speed DSG. The new Golf initially sees the debut of the new turbocharged petrol engine, the “1.5 TSI Evo” – a 150 PS four-cylinder turbo with Active Cylinder Management (ACT). This will be followed by a BlueMotion version producing 130 PS. Volkswagen has also boosted the performance of


the Golf GTI, the new version of which will produce 230 PS and 245 PS (GTI Performance) and a new 7-speed DSG (dual clutch auto gearbox) will gradually replace the 6-speed DSG. The more refined design of the Golf includes new bumpers at the front and rear, new halogen headlights with LED daytime running lights, new full LED headlights instead of xenon headlights, new front wings, new full LED tail lights – which come as standard for every version of the Golf – as well as new wheels and colours, and the interior of the 2017 model year Golf is finished off with refined new decorative trims and fabrics. The range of equipment versions of the Golf remains unchanged. The revisions to the Golf mark a step forward for the company. In the UK it should have all the models with the problematic emission software sorted out by the autumn by which stage the company will have launched a number of new models. The new Arteon will be larger than the Passat CC but offer style and space with a hatchback rear opening, while a longer Tiguan, the AllSpace will offer seven seats. A GTI version of the Up will offer the same power output as the original Golf GTI. The T-Rok and T-Cross Breeze, due here next year, will compete in the SUV market. ■


Name: Brian Clerkin Position: Director, ASM Chartered Accountants

A word from

The Wise How did you start out in business? I started in ASM in 1997 – 20 years ago this year – as a trainee chartered accountant. I came in as a recruit straight from university and at the time the company had just 12 employees. I moved my way through the ranks, with a promotion to manager, followed by director, eventually to Managing Director of our Belfast office.

What would you change if you could go back and do it all again? I would work abroad for a year or two. I have seen the benefits of it with other people who have done it and always wished I did it when I was younger. I think that it not only develops your skill set, but it develops you personally and opens you up to more creative ideas and a broader way of thinking.

What did you find the most challenging during your years in business? The years around 2008 and 2009 when the recession was at its worst. This is when the new reality set in and everybody was readjusting their expectations. We had a lot of staff coming through and qualifying and there were far less opportunities for them, than there had been previously. Clients were also suffering – there was a retraction in opportunities for both the business and staff. Growth just wasn’t on the agenda for quite some time. However, we worked through it, putting in the hours and finding placement opportunities for the staff to give them more opportunities outside of the firm. It required a huge amount of effort, but thankfully we weathered the storm and came out of it stronger than we went in. I believe it made me a better accountant and a better manager – as the old saying goes – smooth seas do not make skilful sailors.

Have you done it all on your own? Absolutely not. I am very lucky to be part of a brilliant team of directors and staff, some of who have been with us close to 20 years. We now have six offices - Belfast, Dungannon, Magherafelt, Newry, Dublin and Dundalk and are one of the only accountancy firms in Ireland with offices in both jurisdictions. We have a 150 strong team specialising in a range of accountancy disciplines including, corporate finance, Insolvency services, forensic accounting, audit & accounting, consultancy services, internal audit, tax, hotel, tourism and leisure. Since I joined, the company has grown exponentially – and every single person plays a very important role.

How would you describe your management style? Engaged. I like to understand what is going on within the business and I like to ensure that we have good systems in place to ensure the quality of our output. I like to understand any issues we have on assignments so we can deal with them to the absolute best of the team’s ability. I also like to let people get on with their job and not get on their way - as long as I know that we are maintaining the right quality levels and our clients are happy, then I don’t tend to micromanage.

MAY 2017

The column with an ear for experience...

How would you like your business career to be remembered? Hopefully it’s not nearly over yet! But if it were, I would like to be remembered as someone who helped grow the firm from a small independent company with a dozen employees, to one of the largest practices in Northern Ireland. I would also like to be known for someone who not only helped our clients to grow, but also helped the individual members of our team to grow. What piece of advice would you give a 20-year old you? Hop on a plane and go and see and do business in another part of the world. And don’t worry so much about things, they will all work out in the end. ■



Ben Magowan has been appointed as a Business Development Manager at WorkPal. Ben brings with him a wealth of experience in M&E and facilities management. Ian Megahey has been appointed as Head of WorkPal Sales, Ian has worked with Barclay Communications, WorkPal’s sister company, for over five years. Leon Moore has been appointed as a Business Development Manager at WorkPal. Leon joins the team with over 15 years’ experience in sales, mainly focusing on software.

Margaret Allen has been promoted to Director of Procurement and Capital Projects at Mount Charles. She joined the company over 20 years ago as a chef before progressing to Regional Operations Manager. Caitriona Lennox has been promoted to Business Development and Retention Manager across the Catering, Vending, Beverage & Events divisions at Mount Charles. Clare Keenan has been appointed Operations Manager for the Cleaning, Security and Support Services division at Mount Charles. She is responsible for a team of regional managers.

Nuala McNally has been appointed Business Development Manager for the Cleaning, Security and Support Services division at Mount Charles. Tim Cairns has been appointed to the Board of cross-border business support body InterTradeIreland. Tim is also Wales and Northern Ireland Director for the Community Transport Association UK. Emma-Jane McGrath has joined the Commercial Department of Lockton Belfast as Account Manager. She will manage client renewals, ensuring that the terms are in line with their demands and needs.



Claire Millar has been appointed Contact Manger in the New Business Team at Lockton Belfast. In her new roles Claire will drive new business through prospective client outreach. Anna Connor has joined MCE Public Relations as Head of Events. Anna has 15 years of experience in the development, co-ordination, delivery and evaluation of a range of multi-scaled events programmes. Michelle Wilson has joined the Corporate Department at Lockton as Account Manager. Michelle will manage a portfolio of corporate client accounts.

Jeff McCartney has been appointed Sales Operations Director at Charles Hurst Group. He will manage the company’s entire sales operation and oversee the franchise managers. Andrew Gilmore has been appointed Aftersales Director at Charles Hurst Group. He will oversee the company’s full aftersales operation, encompassing parts, services, tyres and Carsmetic NI. Graham Fergus has been promoted to Facilities Manager by Wilsons Auctions. Following the acquisition of new branches across the UK, Graham has been tasked to make sure the workplace meets the needs of all employees and customers.

Following the expansion of the Marketing team, Katherine Dawson has been appointed Marketing Executive to offer her expertise in the promotion of all activity across the Telford, Queensferry, Dalry and Newcastle-Upon-Tyne branches. David Rowlands has been appointed by Wilsons Auctions as Stock Controller to manage the high volume of items entering the Belfast branch as well as transport related issues. Sacha Boyd has been appointed by Wilsons Auctions as Auction Support to facilitate the growing number of auctions and customers to the Belfast branch.

MAY 2017


Celebrating life, every day, everywhere PHOTOCALL 1. Arup, the global engineering and technical professional services firm for the built environment, has signalled its intent to further grow and expand its Belfast workforce. Chris Henry, Ulster Rugby & IRFU, Suzanne Wylie, chief executive, Belfast City Council, Paul Johnston, office leader & buildings practice leader, Arup Belfast and Chris Caves, infrastructure leader, Arup Belfast.

2. North Sea Link Interconnector and the GRAHAM Construction team are pictured meeting for the Blyth Site Preparation Works start-up. This is the first stage of the UK works for the North Sea Link Interconnector, which will prepare the site for the Blyth convertor station.

3. Belfast Waterfront is celebrating global recognition as officially the world’s best Kentico website. Pictured are Adrian Bradley (Managing Director, i3 Digital) and Susie McCullough (Marketing & Sales Director, Belfast Waterfront and Ulster Hall).




4. Pictured after the Chartered Accountants Ulster Society is new Chartered Accountants Ulster Society Chair Pamela McCreedy (seated), with outgoing Chair Dawn Johnston.

5. Hughes Insurance has kicked off a twoyear deal to sponsor the Irish FA Football Camps. Pictured at the launch, from left, are Irish FA Sponsorship Activation Manager Gareth Williamson, NI Football Team Players Steve Davis and Aaron Hughes with Hughes Insurance Head of Marketing, Strategy and Pricing, Don Brennan with his children Joe (5) , Olivia (11) and Matthew Brennan (7).





Celebrating life, every day, everywhere


PHOTOCALL 6. Lord Mayor of Belfast Alderman Brian Kingston is pictured with (L-R) Graham Keddie, Managing Director of Belfast International Airport, Brian Ambrose, Chief Executive of George Best Belfast City Airport, Steven Small, Brand Director of Routes Europe, John McGrillen, Chief Executive of Tourism NI, Andrew Williams of UBM and Peter Harbinson of Invest NI. Hundreds of delegates took part in the Routes Europe Forum last month in Belfast Waterfront.



8 7. Chris Nelmes, centre manager at The OUTLET, celebrates the 10th anniversary of the centre. The OUTLET first opened its doors in April 2007, following 10 years of planning and an investment of over £70 million.


8. Cancer support charity Charis is celebrating its seventh anniversary by unveiling a significant expansion programme at the centre which will double in size by 2017. From left: Tom Diamond, Trustee, Charis Cancer Care; Imelda McGucken, Centre Director, Charis Cancer Care and Ryan Dougan, Principal, Vision Design Architecture.

9. Pictured at the announcement of a £1.1 million refurbishment contract in Portrush are: (L-R) Ian Snowden, Director at the Department for Communities; Declan McKendry, Managing Director at Dixons Contractors; Michael McDonnell Group Chief Executive at Choice and Hazel Bell, Chair at Choice.

10 MAY 2017

10. Stephen and Christopher McCausland, founders of Value Cabs, marking 20 years of business in Belfast.


Celebrating life, every day, everywhere PHOTOCALL 11. Law firm A&L Goodbody has announced Age NI, the charity for older people in Northern Ireland, as its new charity partner. Pictured, from left, are: Nadine Campbell, head of income generation, Age NI, Robert Atkinson, Age NI, Aine Hughes, solicitor, A&L Goodbody & Sinead Smith, corporate responsibility manager, A&L Goodbody.

12.Construction is underway at a major £17m development that will see a former Belfast city car park transformed into a seven-storey luxury apartment building. Marking the beginning of construction at the site are David Menary from the Colliers New Homes team (left); and Richard Bullough, Business Development Director at Barnett Developments at the Portland 88 site.




13. Over 300 guests attended the opening day of BelTech 2017 held at Titanic Belfast, to hear how Belfast is in pole position to become a centre of excellence for AI technologies. Pictured are Aislinn McBride, Kainos; Ryan McCollum, PWC; Lord Mayor of Belfast, Brian Kingston; Tom Gray, Chief Technology Officer at Kainos; Dr Irene Lopez de Vajello, Director of R&D at Digital Catapult and Seamus McAteer, Serial Entrepreneur.

14. Onecom has announced that its Northern Ireland business has hit £1m of revenues in its first three months of trading. Pictured is head of sales for Northern Ireland Paul Lawther (second from left) with business development managers (l-r) Mark Fraser, Darren Brown and Stuart Lunn.

15. From left: Neil McMullan, Production Manager, Lenalea Electronics, Sheila Donaghy, Ulster Bank, David Foster, Project Manager, Lenalea Electronics. Lenalea Electronics is increasing its workforce from 25 to over 30 as a result of expansion in its business, backed by Ulster Bank.





Celebrating life, every day, everywhere


PHOTOCALL 16. From left: Terry McCrum Meridian Utilities, Seamus Gillan BSG Civil Engineering, Sara Venning CEO NI Water, Terry McCrum Meridian Utilities, Paddy Harney Lagan Construction Group and John Murphy Farrans Construction marking the award of this major £100 million contract. The four contractors will be improving the watermains infrastructure throughout Northern Ireland over the next four years, improving the reliability and security of the water supply as well as improving water quality.




17. Julie Comsa from Respond, is joined by Georgina McKeown of Pelican Healthcare, Alison Davis from Oakmed and Aideen Lilley of B Braun at a unique lifestyle event to inform people living with a stoma of the services available to them. Respond, is a supplier of stoma and continence prescription services.

18. The Coastal Tourism Hub, tourism enterprise project led by Carrickfergus Enterprise, has created 25 jobs at businesses along the east Antrim coast. Kelli Bagchus, manager, Carrickfergus Enterprise at Kilcoan Gardens with its founder Cherry Townsend.



19. Over 160 yogurt loving rugby supporters got the chance to meet Ireland rugby Captain and Ulster star Rory Best at an exclusive Glenisk ‘Best for Breakfast’ event last month. Pictured at the Glenisk ‘Best for Breakfast’ event is young Ireland fan Noah Seriket; Emma Walls, Marketing Director at Glenisk, and Ireland rugby Captain and Ulster star Rory Best.

20. LPGA tour professional and Irish Olympic golfer Stephanie Meadow was pictured launching the Ballygowan Gold campaign supporting Marie Curie with Cindy Anderson, Lead Nurse; Marie Curie Hospice, Belfast. From now until August Ballygowan labels on the biggest selling lines will be turning from blue to gold and a donation for every bottle sold will help raise funds to support increased cancer and other terminal illness awareness.

MAY 2017


Celebrating life, every day, everywhere PHOTOCALL 21. M.B. McGrady & Co have raised £2000 for Cancer Fund For Children. Pictured are Caroline McVeigh, Anne Heaney and Priscilla Sunderland from M.B. McGrady & Co Chartered Accountants with Matthew Allen, Corporate Fundraiser for Cancer Fund for Children.

22. From left Dr Ken McDonald, Head of Regions for the Information Commissioner’s Office; Roger Action, Head of CIMA Ireland; Sharon McCue, Director of Finance NI Ambulance Service & Paul Wickens, Chief Executive, NICS Enterprise Shared Services. They were attending a breakfast briefing hosted by the Chartered Institute of Management Accountants Ireland.



23 23. From left is Derry musician Ryan Vail alongside Kieran Jennings, Boojum, to launch the unique festival partnership between Sunflowerfest and burrito bar Boojum for 2017.

24. PR and content agency Smarts Communicate has announced the launch of a new research and development division called Smarts Labs. Pictured at the launch (L-R) are Smarts Lab team members Kathy Maginn, Peter Purcell, and Jodi Doherty.

25. Barclays has been revealed as a major partner in the Belfast Ormeau Baths redevelopment, which will be known as Barclays Eagle Lab at Ormeau Baths. Adrian Doran, Barclays’ Head of Corporate Banking in Northern Ireland, is pictured right, with Mark Dowds, one of the founders of Ormeau Baths.





Celebrating life, every day, everywhere


PHOTOCALL 26. The first quarter of 2017 has been a record start for UCIT, Northern Ireland’s largest social finance lender, with £2m in new facilities and drawdowns. Pictured are Duncan Graham, East Belfast Enterprise Chair, Harry McDaid, UCIT CEO and Jonathan McAlpin, East Belfast Enterprise CEO.






27. The creator of Vita Liberata Alyson Hogg has been appointed as the first female Patron and Enterprise Fellow to the Prince’s Trust in Northern Ireland. Prince’s Trust NI Enterprise Programme graduate Jenna Hunter is pictured with Alyson Hogg and Rose Mary Stalker, Chair of Prince’s Trust NI.

28. Cunningham Covers from Maghera, Co. Derry, has been awarded the Queen’s Award for Enterprise in International Trade. Pictured left is David Cunningham, managing director of Cunningham Covers, and company chairman Gordon Cunningham.

29. The hunt is on to find Northern Ireland’s Best Young Leader, with the winner announced at the annual Young Leaders Conference, sponsored by Herbert Smith Freehills, on Friday 19 May. YLNI Chair Chris Fleming is pictured with Elaine McCrea from Herbert Smith.

30. Pictured on the eve of the Arthur J. Gallagher Challenge Cup 2016 Final are Shane Matthews, Managing Director for Arthur J. Gallagher in Northern Ireland; CSNI captain Andrew Cowden; CIYMS captain Nigel Jones; and the President of the Northern Cricket Union, Peter McMorran. Arthur J. Gallagher has extended its sponsorship of the cricket competition for two years.

MAY 2017



The Chairman No event too small, no awards too far; The Chairman is out and about once again. Were you spotted last month?


he Economist magazine has yet to invite The Chairman to the launch of its Big Mac index but, if it did, I would like to think there would at least be a taster-sized version of the McDonald’s burger to chew on. The launch of Ulster Bank’s Ulster Fry Index – an indicator of economic health, although the jury is out on whether does much for The Chairman’s midriff – certainly makes sure you know what the index relates to by serving up a fry of colossal proportions to the assembled gaggle of agricultural and business journalists, bankers and producers. Pole vaulting economist Richard Ramsey (surely a shoo-in for Celebrity Economists on Ice this year?) said in his typically rumbustious presentation at Ten Square Hotel that the constituent parts of the iconic breakfast had jumped 2.8% in the last year after two years of decline.


Such volatility is exactly the path The Chairman’s wasteline has followed in inches, shrinking slightly while out of the limelight but growing sharply again now this column is back up to full speed.

Mariann Fulep, Michaela Hruskova, Edyta Krzyanska and Ernesta Simanskaite put in the hard work on a daily basis and it was a pleasure to be able to congratulate them on a job well done.

Anyway, it was great to catch up with that giant of the banking world Richard Donnan once again and to hear from a real farmers’ banker Cormac McKervey, a man who certainly knows one end of a bullock from the other.

If you’re staying at the Holiday Inn or Tara Lodge in Belfast then it’s them you have to thank for your sumptuous stay.

Communications gurus Dan McGinn and Niall Caldwell from Ulster Bank were on top form, as was Iain Hoy from the CBI who was being grilled by his new Chairman – Trevor Lockhart from Fane Valley - as to the best source for turkey feed. Keeping the ship running smoothly for the morning was crack team JComms including Kathryn Kirk, Claire McKee and Chris Harrison (the Chairman is hoping that in due course these public relations specialists will book Jay Z so an invitation will arrive entitled “JComms introducing Jay Z”). It was also great to catch up with Rhonda Geary from the RUAS who is counting down to another busy Balmoral Show, duck man Gary McDonald and Farm Week’s Robert Irwin. A great way to start the day, one where lunch was most definitely not needed.

One of the most fun-filled evenings of the corporate calendar is most definitely not filled with the usual business advisors but with the cream of talent who keep our local hostelries running. The Northern Ireland Hotels Federation 2017 Housekeeping Team Of The Year awards was this year being hosted by old friend Jo Scott who once again managed proceedings with aplomb under the watchful eye of the federation’s boss Janice Gault. Vice President Gavin Carrol offered up some kind words of congratulations but it was the award winners themselves (pictured) who deserve the real credit.

The chance to head to London for some fine dining is not one The Chairman turns down in a hurry. So it was I found myself at the Carousel restaurant in Mayfair last month at the behest of Tourism Ireland and Conde Nast Traveller magazine at a special pop-up dinner event entitled “A Feast from Northern Ireland.” It certainly was. There to cook up a storm was chef to the stars Stephen Toman from the awardwinning OX Belfast who had upped ladles to show those metropolitan people how to lay down a sausage roll. Of course David Boyce from Tourism Ireland had something to do with this epic idea, one which allowed Stevie to lay it on a plate for the gathered crowd. He served three courses of delicious flavours, including a starter of celeriac, scallop and Northern Ireland sea urchin with truffle; followed by Chateaubriand beef, asparagus, smoked potato and black garlic; and a dessert of Bushmills jelly, lavender, oats and baked apple sorbet. Guests also got to sample a Jawbox Gin cocktail and Co Couture chocolates and received a copy of Belfast on a Plate, a guide to Belfast’s restaurant scene by David Pauley. It was quite a feast. Also great to see Julie Wakely from Tourism Ireland, and of course, Nancy Birtwhistle, winner of The Great British Bake Off in 2014 who wouldn’t leave without The Chairman’s dropped scone recipe. ■


Scott’s Bakery picked up an award at NIFDA’s recent event celebrating the best of Northern Ireland’s food & drink. Pictured, from left, are Michael McCallion, Asda’s Head of Local Sourcing for NI, Brian Conway, Asda NI’s Local Sourcing Team, Elaine Hollywood, Scott’s Bakery and George Rankin, Asda Senior Director Northern Ireland

On St Patrick’s Day OX Belfast popped up in London at the very hip Carousel restaurant in Mayfair as part of Condé Nast Traveller’s ‘Chefs World Series’. Pictured are Stephen Toman, head chef and joint owner of OX Belfast (centre), with David Boyce (left) and Julie Wakely, both Tourism Ireland, at the St Patrick’s pop-up dinner event in Carousel restaurant in London, which was themed “A Feast from Northern Ireland”. Belfast Met Student Catherine Devine collects her PQ Magazine ‘Accountancy Apprentice of the Year 2017’ Award from Christine Brown, Head of the Belfast Business School and Nigel Harra, partner at BDO Northern Ireland

Students from Southern Regional College (SRC) have won a record haul of awards at Northern Ireland’s premier construction skills competition. Pictured with event host Sarah Travers, former BBC journalist-turned-businesswoman with Nathan Dodds from Castleblaney, Co. Monaghan, who topped the leader board after demonstrating his skills in plumbing. Nathan studies at SRC’s Armagh campus

MAY 2017

Jo Scott is pictured with the winners of the Northern Ireland Hotels Federation 2017 Housekeeping Team Of The Year competition. Pictured are, from left, winners of the 90 rooms and over category Holiday Inn Express, Belfast - Mariann Fulep (front) and Michaela Hruskova (back) and (right) winners of the 90 rooms and under category Tara Lodge, Belfast - Edyta Krzyanska (front) and Ernesta Simanskaite (back). Belfast Chamber of Trade & Commerce has awarded local investment and development company, Lacuna Developments with a President’s Recognition Award. Pictured are Anthony Best, Managing Director of Laguna Developments is pictured with Gordon McElroy, President, Belfast Chamber of Trade & Commerce

The £85m Gladstone Biomass Terminal, designed and constructed by GRAHAM Construction, has won the Large Project of the year award at the annual Institute of Civil Engineering (ICE) North West regional awards. The Graham Construction team are pictured picking up their award



Sleep tight? Regular sleep loss has been linked to high blood pressure, heart disease, obesity and stroke, not to mention a reduction productivity at work. So how can we improve our sleep and just how much of it do we need? Joanna Kiernan asked sleep expert Breege Leddy 1 If you don't snooze you lose Sleep plays a vital role in overall wellbeing, helping to protect both our mental and physical health. A good night's sleep improves brain function making concentration, decision making and learning far easier. The flip side, however, is a darker affair. A lack of sleep can play havoc with your life, making even the most manageable of tasks more difficult. "The most common daytime impairments would be fatigue, poor concentration, poor short-term memory, you could become irritable or moody, you might have low motivation and be more prone to errors, you could have problems driving and suffer with headaches," explains sleep therapist Breege Leddy. 2 Not all sleep is the same While sleeping, we drift between REM (Rapid Eye Movement) and non-REM sleep. On a typical night, it is normal to go through several 90-minute cycles of REM to non-REM sleep and back. The body uses the deep stages of non-REM sleep to repair, renew, strengthen the immune system and consolidate memory. As we get older, we get less deep sleep. 3 Sleep disorders come in many forms There are over 80 known sleep disorders,


the most common of which are insomnia (a difficulty falling or staying asleep) and obstructive sleep apnoea (interrupted breathing during sleep.) "We can all relate to what it feels like to suffer from sleep disorders in a way because we have all had one or two sleepless nights. Unfortunately, those with sleep disorders are feeling like this on a regular basis," says Leddy. "Sleep disorders bring night-time problems, but they also have daytime consequences. For example, those with obstructive sleep apnoea can be very sleepy during the day because their sleep is fragmented; they are being brought from a very deep stage of sleep, right back to a very light stage of sleep and that means the quality of the sleep they are getting is not very good." 4 Keeping to a specific bedtime is not important Surprisingly, having a regular bedtime will do little to ensure a restful sleep. "The time you go to bed is not the most important, your get up time is the most important," advises Leddy. "Having a regular getting up time, seven days a week, is really important because that time will anchor your whole body clock or what is known as the circadian rhythm."

5 Having a lie-in will disrupt your sleep When the weekend rolls around, many of us like to take the opportunity to reward ourselves with a few extra hours snoozing. However, having that lie-on may actually be doing more harm than good. "Most of us are pretty good Monday to Friday, getting up at a regular time because we have to go to work, but then we have a lie-on at the weekend and that knocks out the whole body clock," Leddy explains. "So a lot of people now suffer from what is called 'social jet lag'." According to a study carried out by researchers at the University of Pittsburgh, those who suffer from social jet lag, caused by changing their sleep patterns at the weekend, are at an increased the risk of developing diabetes and heart disease. 6 Ensuring quality sleep is a day-long affair "From the minute we get up in the morning, what we do has a knock-on effect on how we sleep that night," Leddy explains. 7 Technology interferes with sleep It is recommended that we log off all smart devices a minimum of two hours before bed to allow the mind to unwind.


"We need to prepare the body for sleep, so at least two hours prior to sleep, all smart devices should be shut down," Leddy says. "Before bedtime, we need to prepare the body, but also to prepare the mind, so there should be no smart devices or TVs in the bedroom, and ideally, if you have a problem with sleep, you shouldn't read in bed either." 8 Eating before bed is a bad idea Eating a large meal or even bedtime snack directly before may make you feel drowsy, but it will generally not result in a restful sleep. "It is important to keep regular meal times during the day and not eat too late at night. Ideally, meals should be finished by about 7pm," Leddy says. 9 Women need more sleep than men According to a recent study carried out by the Sleep Research Centre in the UK's Loughborough University, the female brain works harder than a male brain throughout the day, resulting in the need for approximately 20 minutes of extra sleep per night in order to recover and repair. 10 Power naps should be short and snappy "Try to avoid long naps during the day," Leddy advises. "The 20-minute nap is thought to be the most refreshing nap and earlier on during the day is best because if you nap later on in

MAY 2017

the evening, that is going to eat into the sleep debt that we build up during our wakeful hours. "If you have a longer nap, you are more likely to go into a deep sleep and if you wake up from that, you will tend to feel quite groggy." 11 Your bedroom is key to restful slumber Your bedroom should be a sleep sanctuary. "The bedroom environment has a lot to do with how good or how poor we sleep," Leddy explains. "The bedroom should be as dark as possible, as this will boost the production of melatonin, which is the hormone we produce and is a natural sleep promoter. Also make sure that the room is nice and quiet and cool. Cooler is always better." 12 Think quality, not quantity Not everyone needs eight hours' sleep - some need more and some need less. "There are recommendations out there on how much sleep we need to get, so newborn babies need anything from 11 to 19 hours, then, as you get older, the need for sleep decreases," explains Leddy. "So for a young, healthy adult, anywhere between six and 10 hours is appropriate, but the seven to nine hours is what is recommended, and of course, in the middle of that is the famous eight hours, which we are all obsessed with, but very few of us are actually getting." "On average, we are only getting about six-

and-a-half to seven hours per night, but it all depends on the quality of sleep that you get," Leddy adds. "You could be getting your eight hours, but if it's not proper quality, good, consolidated sleep, then you are not going to see the benefits or function the way you should." 13 Exercise needs to be timed correctly to promote sleep Regular exercise can be hugely beneficial in terms of getting a good night's sleep, but Leddy advises against working out too late in the evening. "Exercising too late at night can make sleeping difficult. We need to prepare the body for sleep and go into a relaxation mode before bedtime to prepare." 14 Caffeine can affect sleep many hours later It is widely accepted that it is best to avoid caffeine before bed, but few realise that caffeine can actually stay in our bodies for up to 12 hours. 15 You should only sleep when you are tired Lying in bed, wide awake, attempting to count sheep only serves to increase sleeprelated anxiety says Leddy. "Once you get into that winding-down mode, only go to bed when you are actually sleepy. â–



Trinidad: 24 hours in Cuba's colonial gem Havana isn't the only city to see in Cuba, says Yvonne Gordon, who maps out a perfect day in Trinidad 10am: Take to the streets Wander long, cobbled streets of pastelcoloured houses with red roofs to really soak up Trinidad's colonial atmosphere there's nearly always a backdrop of music and lively birds tweeting. Palm trees, 1950s cars and baroque church towers add to the atmosphere. A visit to the Museo Histórico Municipal gives you a glimpse inside the Cantero Palace, with splendid views from the tower. How: Simón Bolívar 123; weekdays 9am5pm (museum) 2pm: Watch artists at work It's not uncommon to see an artist at work through an open door or window in Trinidad. Drop into Lazaro Niebla's studio and gallery to see his intricate carvings of old people's faces on rescued pieces of wood. At Galería de Arte, artist Yami Martínez designs colourful papier mâché coffee pots which represent the poses of women. Drop into Los Conspiradores Restaurant directly upstairs for lunch. How: Lazaro Niebla, Calle Real 11, and Galería de Arte/Los Conspiradores, Calle Cristo 38 (beside Plaza Mayor) 5pm: Dine in style at La Redacción Tuck into pumpkin soup, slow-roasted pork belly or pan-fried lobster at one of Trinidad's most beautiful dining spaces, set in a restored 1800s colonial house with a typical inner courtyard and original features and furnishings. Food is Cuban with a European twist, there's a great cocktail menu (mojitos are $3) and a nice touch is that co-owner Edel Kavanagh is Irish. How: Calle Gutiérrez (Maceo) 463, laredaccioncuba.com



Why the dreaded middle seat on a plane could soon be the most popular

By Soo Kim The only thing worse than enduring economy class on a long-haul flight is finding yourself consigned to the middle seat for the entire journey. 8pm: Dance the night away You'll find yourself drawn to Cuba's music and beats, with live bands and salsa dancing at Casa de la Música - it seems like everyone in the entire town, both locals and visitors, congregates at the steps beside the cathedral in Plaza Mayor nightly to listen to a live salsa band. How: Nightly from 9pm at Plaza Mayor, entrance $1. See cubatravel.tur.cu/en for

more information on Trinidad; cubatravel. ie has doubles at the five-star Iberostar Grand Hotel from €255 per night including breakfast. Do it Air France (airfrance.ie) flies Dublin to Havana via Paris. Bus transfers to Trinidad from US$25 with Viazul (viazul.com) or taxis €240. ■

But one US company has proposed a new design that could make the middle seat a more desirable option than both window and aisle. The “Stagger Seat”, by Denverbased airline interiors firm Molon Labe Designs, sees the middle seat positioned a few inches behind and below its neighbours. It is also three inches wider than the window and aisle seats, offering a little more breathing room for fliers. While previous cabin designs have proposed wider middle seats, Malon Labe’s staggered layout doesn’t “steal width” from the adjacent seats, Hank Scott, the company’s CEO, told Apex, ahead of the design's unveiling at the Aircraft Interiors Expo in Hamburg this week. The seat’s extra girth also allows for a larger in-flight entertainment system (around 18 inches wide), comparable to those offered on business class flights. So, next time you get a middle seat, check if its a Molon Labe... ■

MAY 2017



Ask Adam Tech expert Adrian Weckler explains how to move PC without losing your mind, or your data Q: I’ve recently bought a new Lenovo Ideapad laptop to replace a six-year-old Lenovo that is still up and running but a little slow in its age. However, the prospect of transferring apps like Photoshop, plus all my photos, documents and music seems a little daunting. Is there an easy way to transfer all my stuff over to my new machine? A: There are a number of ways to do this. Moving photos and documents is relatively straightforward to do, especially if you’re comfortable using a cloud service like OneDrive or Dropbox. While the basic versions of these (as little as 5GB) probably won’t be enough for all the photos and files you have, you can temporarily upgrade to premium options for the purpose of transferring the files. Simply upload your photos, videos and files from your old laptop, log in on your new laptop and download them to the new machine. The same principle obviously applies if you have an external hard drive - just plug it into your old laptop, drag and drop as much as you can into it, and then plug it into the new laptop to get the files. However, the problem most people have is twofold. First, they have thousands of files, often spread out (or hidden) randomly with hundreds of folders and other digital nooks and crannies on their machine. So manually dragging and dropping things could take ages and some files might be overlooked in the process. Secondly, dragging and dropping programs or applications (like Photoshop) often doesn’t work. For obvious anti-piracy reasons, many applications are designed not


to be simply duplicated and installed on new PCs. Sometimes, they need to be manually de-authorised and re-authorised, or product codes (which may be hard to find) need to be resubmitted. This is where some specialist programs come in. There are apps you can download that do much of the heavy lifting for you, resulting in all your old files (and many of your programs or applications) being copied from one PC to another with the same user profile and locations without you having to manually oversee everything. The obvious one is Laplink’s PCMover (laplink.com/pcmover). The basic version (£19.95) will move all your old files to your new computer. A more advanced version (£27.95) will do the same and also move

most or all of your applications. The top consumer package (£41.95) will complete those tasks and also make almost everything on your new laptop look and feel like your old laptop (within the confines of any change in operating systems, such as moving from Windows 7 to Windows 10). PCMover does all of this via a cloud link, so you’ll need a reasonably good broadband connection. However, in the case of Adobe Photoshop, you may still face additional hurdles of reentering a product code or even manually installing the program again because of its heavily-guarded nature. RECOMMENDATION: PCMover Home (£27.95 from Laplink.com) ■


Adrian’s test drive

Booster seat firm signs £3m Spanish deal

KODAK PIXPRO 360 (£199 FROM ARGOS) Grainne Kelly with the smartphone thermometer

I recently had the chance to try one of these, a video camera that records footage in all directions at once. Or, rather, it does on top - to get complete 360° (including the sky, your feet and everything around you), you need to buy two of them and stitch the footage together. The quality of the video (4K) is decent and you can pull eight-megapixel still images from it. You can then upload to YouTube or Facebook or watch playback using a budget VR headset. ■


Londonderry firm which already sells into US giant Walmart has landed a £3m deal to distribute a smartphone thermometer. Bubblebum has teamed up with Spanish firm Oblumi, which has developed the 'tapp'. It connects to mobile phones, and converts it into a digital infrared thermometer. Bubblebum founder Grainne Kelly has landed a distribution deal with Oblumi to exclusively distribute the device in Ireland and the UK over a period of five years. The company already sells its child booster seats into more than 1,000 stores in the UK and US. Ms Kelly, who is from Derry, says the firm has also secured a new deal to sell her car booster seats into 1,700 Target stores in the US. "I have created and founded Bubblebum, and we have been exporting around the world for the last seven years," she said. She said she was contacted by Oblumi, which was keen to break into the UK and Ireland market with its smartphone thermometer.

HUMANCHARGER (£149.89 FROM AMAZON.CO.UK) If you suffer from seasonal affective disorder, this gadget from Finnish company Valkee claims to help by beaming light into your inner ear canals (via earbuds). Apparently, this triggers photosensitive receptors on the surface of the brain which can detect such light. Serotonin and dopamine are then supposedly released to improve mood and energy levels. ■

MAY 2017

"We thought, people are doing this, but don't know how to get it to market," Ms Kelly said. "The product is a smartphone thermometer and it also logs all the data. "So, if the baby is at home with granny, and she is checking the temperature, the mother and father can also check.” ■


MY DAY Uncovering the 9-5

Name: Arnaldo Morelli Position: Managing Director, Morelli’s Ice Cream

6.00am During the summer months I’m in the factory by 6.00am and if the sun is shining, it can be much earlier. For me, the ice cream business is like no other, a couple of days of nice weather, especially when the kids are off school, and it goes absolutely crazy. 8.00am Dad’s passion was ice cream but he was a stickler for customer service, for him it was important not to let customers down. Our customers are called for their orders the day before delivery but because in Northern Ireland you can get four seasons in one day, inevitably there will be last minute orders. I process these then we pick the orders and get them loaded into the vans ready for delivery. 9.00am The last truck pulls out of the factory, a little calmness descends and it’s time for an espresso.

11.00am Our operations manager will pop his head around my door, we’ll taste some ice cream fresh out of the freezer (just for quality purposes, of course) and discuss how the morning has been. Eddie celebrated his 70th Birthday last year, he has a MBE for services to the dairy industry and no matter how crazy things are, his feathers never seem to get ruffled. 12.00pm Lunch is usually a sandwich at my desk while I go through emails. My office is situated between the sales office and the accounts office which means I’m in the middle of everything that’s going on. Sometimes this can be a distraction but I wouldn’t have it any other way. 2.00pm In the summer months the phone never cools! I’ll check the EDI for orders from Tesco and then I’ll go through some reports with our accounts technician. The business is split into 12 departments so each member of the management team has their own duties and responsibilities, I’m learning to delegate, slowly but surely.

9.30am Before I go to the office, I meet with our production supervisors to ensure things are on track for the day ahead. Our production team start at 6.30am so by 9.30am, the first 900 litre batch of ice cream has been made and put in the blast freezer.

4.00pm After the invoices are printed and paper work is prepared, we’ll sit down and plan the next day’s delivery routes and schedules. We take what’s required for the orders off the stock spread sheet and add what has been produced during the day. This will indicate our production plan.

10.00am I’ll arrive at the office and the rest of the team will be in. I work alongside my brother and two sisters and each day we have some time together to discuss any issues that need to be addressed. Family businesses can be challenging but despite the Italian genes, we all get on remarkably well!

5.00pm If everything runs smoothly and there are no late orders to process, we are usually out of the office on time. However, if it’s particularly busy, it can be later than this. I live in Portrush so if it’s Friday, I might venture down to the Harbour Bar after dinner and toast the week with a gin and tonic.


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Profile for Ulster  Business

Ulster Business - May 2017  

Ulster Business

Ulster Business - May 2017  

Ulster Business