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Contents 06 News

32 Interview

74 Business Breakfast

The latest news and exclusives from across the world of business

NI Water chairman Dr Len O’Hagan on what’s needed to secure the future of supply

Glyn Roberts sits down with John Mulgrew over a fry... and Brexit is on the menu

14 Cover Story

37 Corporate Law

77 Motoring

We sit down with Danske Bank chief Kevin Kingston and his two new deputies

We look at the big deals being done and what’s around the corner for M&A

Pat Burns hits the road in a new Alfa, crosses paths with a Jag and celebrates with a Mini

20 In Focus

51 Human Resources

86 Photocall

John Mulgrew speaks to MetaCompliance boss about growing into a £50m global firm

John Mulgrew looks at the diversity issues still needing addressed in the NI workplace

We take a look at the events, announcements and achievements happening across NI

25 Exports & International Business

63 Christmas Planner

96 Technology

Emma Deighan finds out what alternative Christmas parties and events are out there

It’s all about the camera as Adrian Weckler spends time with Apple’s latest iPhone

Where should we be selling to post-Brexit?

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A deal is ‘done’: but is it positive for NI?


he twists and turns taking place in the weeks since the last issue of Ulster Business could fill a book. A big book.

Whether it’s the highs and lows of the fortunes of some our best known Northern Ireland companies, or the political tug of war that has subsumed Press coverage, we’ve been overwhelmed by uncertainty and economic concerns. But have we reached a deal? It seems after three years of boom and bluster, that the UK and EU have reached an agreement to avoid a border in Ireland, alignment to the single market and avoiding customs checks here – it effectively means the Irish Sea border comes back into play, and is something which the DUP fiercely opposed. At the time of going to print,

they weren’t any happier with this potential arrangement either. Reading the language from the EU Commission and scanning through the 64-page withdrawal agreement, the focus on avoiding friction on the island is a clear boon, but concerns now emerge over the likely bureaucracy, additional costs and time issues that could emerge – the words ‘complex formula’ were being bandied about in regards to how the new customs arrangements will work, in particular between Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK. Northern Ireland’s Assembly will also get a vote every four years on the arrangement. This is, of course, the same Assembly which hasn’t sat for more than 1,000 days.

Publisher Ulster Business c/o Independent News & Media Ltd Belfast Telegraph House 33 Clarendon Road, Clarendon Dock, Belfast BT1 3BG

The deal will have reached Parliament by the time you are reading this, so this mire may have been muddied further still in the last few days. With that, welcome to the November edition of Ulster Business. It’s another packed edition with a raft of news, features, interviews, profiles and analysis. We also speak to Danske Bank’s Kevin Kingston and his deputies, Vicky Davies and Stephen Matchett, about creating a new top executive team. Hopefully, as the weeks pass we will get a clearer picture of what life will be like for business, outside the EU. Regardless, it’s fair to say there are challenges ahead. ■ John Mulgrew

Editor John Mulgrew Senior advertising manager Jackie Reid Sales executive Sarah-Ann Gamble Production manager Irene Fitzsimmons Graphic design Susan McClean, INM Design Studio

Printer W&G Baird Greystone Press, Caulside Drive, Antrim BT41 2RS www.wgbaird.com

Contact: 028 90 264262 Cover photo: Matt Mackey/PressEye www.ulsterbusiness.com


Ulster Business Magazine

Independent News & Media Ltd © 2019. 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.




month IN numbers A


The number of jobs being created by EY across Ireland. The firm is adding around 136 of those jobs to its growing office in Belfast.

Odyssey’s £17m plans unveiled


elfast’s Odyssey Pavilion is undergoing a £17m revamp which will include new developments aimed at boosting its credentials as a family leisure spot, it has emerged. Construction is due to begin at the end of October, and work is scheduled to last for 17 months with an anticipated completion date in late spring 2021. Cineworld, and the UK’s largest bowl operator, Hollywood Bowl, will be the centre’s first new tenants.


The number of jobs initially lost after Ballymena bus builder Wrightbus entered administration. The company has been in business in the Co Antrim town for 73 years.


The debt pile that food chain Pizza Express is attempting to tackle. The 470-store business made losses for the last two years.


The value of a huge swathe of the land in Newtownards which has planning permission for almost 500 new homes. It’s being marketed by commercial property firm Savills.

The build contract has been awarded to Ballymena firm Martin & Hamilton and it’s thought more than 80 construction jobs will be created during the project. To facilitate the redevelopment, The Odyssey

The cinema, bowling alley and W5 will remain open with new temporary access points being provided. The SSE Arena will be unaffected by the redevelopment works. The centre is owned by a vehicle called Matagorda 2, which is a consortium of private equity with Deutsche Bank as funding partner.

NI Water calls for crucial £2.5bn funding injection


ajor development schemes and housing projects are at risk of being mothballed unless a further £2.5bn is invested in Northern Ireland’s water system, it has be claimed.

NI Water says that underfunding in its 20152021 business plan “has already resulted in curbs to economic development with new housing and businesses being unable to get connected to our sewerage system in around 70 towns throughout the province”. “No drains means no cranes. It means that we can’t accept new connections for new developments – houses, offices, factories, hotels, hospitals or schools,” Dr Len O’Hagan, chairman of NI Water has said. “By 2027, more than 50% of NI’s waste water plants will be at capacity. Today, 99 of those facilities, 247, are full,” he says. What’s needed, according to NI Water, is a cash injection of £2.5bn, with Belfast alone needing around £1bn over the next eight to nine years to improve infrastructure.


will partially close in early January 2020 once the site set-up works are completed.

Katrina Godfrey, Permanent Secretary of Department for Infrastructure, Dr Len O’Hagan, chairman of NI Water and Sue Gray, Permanent Secretary, Department of Finance

According to Dr O’Hagan, that means allowing NI Water the ability to borrow, as with utilities elsewhere in the UK. “In terms of NI Water, it could borrow like every utility in the UK, which have no problem in borrowing money, because there is a good return on that investment.” The issue is also potentially around jeopardising major development schemes, worth £500m each for Belfast, because of the lack of capacity. “The proposed city deals cannot reach fruition without water security and the growth of Belfast city, the prime economic engine of NI, will struggle.” Read the full interview on pages 32-33


Tech firm aiming for £50m turnover and 300 staff By John Mulgrew


Londonderry tech firm could grow to 300 staff and boast a turnover of £50m, its boss has said.

MetaCompliance is about to go through its third phase of growth – with 70 new staff due to bring the headcount to just under 200. It’s already one of the leading companies in its field, supplying cloud software and services for cyber-security and compliance. Robert O’Brien is now well under way with what is his fifth technology start-up – and he has big aspirations for a business he’s been growing and developing in his home city of Derry since 2005.

Mr O’Brian says he wants MetaCompliance “to be one of the largest cyber-security firms in the world”. “We can grow to £50m… 300 people. That would put us as one of the largest in the UK, if not Europe.”


Robert O’Brien

MetaCompliance is firmly in growth mode. “The second phase is now over, and the third phase of growth take us towards just below the 200 employee mark,” he says. “It’s driven by demand for the product.” The company, based at the city’s Old City Factory counts big names such as the Home Office, tyre maker Bridgestone, Hewlett Packard and Western Digital among its clients. Read the full interview with Robert O’Brien on pages 20-21



Quotes OF THE month “While trading patterns and practices will adjust and the need for all 1.9 million certificates is unlikely to fully materialise, we have planned for the reasonable worst case scenario in a no deal scenario. We have scaled up as much as possible but still, demand may exceed capacity.” Chief veterinary officer, Dr Robert Huey speaking as the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs announced how it would plan in the event of a ‘no deal’ Brexit.

NI dairy sector ‘at serious risk’ with no deal Brexit


he future livelihoods of thousands of Northern Ireland farming families are on the line and the industry wiped out in the event of a ‘no deal’ on Brexit, it’s been claimed.

“What the Top 100 companies have achieved in the past 12 months in what can only be described as capricious circumstances is truly remarkable – but imagine what could have been achieved had we some semblance of ‘normality’.” Michael Neill, head of Belfast office at A&L Goodbody speaking at the Ulster Business Top 100 at Queen’s University.

“The Prime Minister has talked of being ready for ‘no deal’. Let us be clear, while our industry has worked hard to prepare for a no-deal Brexit, it is impossible to mitigate for the seismic changes that the disintegration of our supply chain that would happen.” Aodhán Connolly, director of the Northern Ireland Retail Trade Consortium speaking about a hard Brexit.

The Dairy Council NI (DCNI) has said there are not enough facilities in the UK to process the amount of milk produced here, with 35% of it currently being processed in the Republic of Ireland. The current trade tariffs for exporting both raw milk and the finished product would be in excess of £300m, which would directly impact on the price paid to farmers for their milk, according to the DCNI chief executive Dr Mike Johnston. He has said Northern Ireland’s dairy processing sector is “seriously exposed”. “Based on DCNI calculations in a ‘no deal’ Brexit, trade tariffs on both raw milk and finished products moved from Northern Ireland to the EU would total £320m, before you calculate the cost of the administrative burden customs will place on dairy processors. “This tariff represents 25% of the value of our entire industry. In a sector where the margin is, at best, 3% or 4%, trade tariffs of that magnitude would wipe out the industry. “The reality is stark for farmers. Our analysis suggests that the milk price paid to farmers


would fall by over 10p a litre from its current base should such tariffs be imposed.” DCNI represents milk processors in Northern Ireland including Dale Farm, Glanbia Cheese, Glanbia Ireland and Lakeland Dairies. These four companies account for over 90% of the 2.4 billion litres of milk collected from farms here each year. Dr Johnston also expressed a word of caution around the milk processing capacity available in Northern Ireland and said that the country simply does not have the appropriate facilities to process all of the milk that is produced here. “After maximising NI milk processing capacity, there is a processing shortfall of some 600 million litres that will not have a viable home if politicians cannot find a solution to the current Brexit impasse,” he warned. “That would be a devastating situation for the Northern Ireland dairy industry, farming families, rural communities and the Northern Ireland economy. “If we don’t get a Brexit deal and cannot transport raw milk south, without significant delays and/or certification requirements, then our industry is facing a crisis of epic proportions. All processing sites in Northern Ireland will be full while there is no spare capacity to process that volume of milk in Great Britain.”


Electric Ireland partners with Belfast Telegraph Property Awards

Dermot McArdle


lectric Ireland has again partnered with the Belfast Telegraph Property Awards to recognise the worthy recipients and nominees for their contribution to Northern Ireland’s property sector.

As part of the ESB Group which has been generating, trading and supplying electricity for 90 years, Electric Ireland has an unrivalled reputation in the energy sector across the island of Ireland. Dermot McArdle, head of business markets at Electric Ireland has been in the electricity industry long enough to see the market develop from one based on consumers to one now based around customers, one he sees as an important difference. “The industry generated and distributed the power and the ‘consumers’


used it. It was, for a long time, as simple as that,” he said. “Now though, customers expect much more from their energy supplier than the provision of electricity and at Electric Ireland we understand that.” That commitment to local businesses and SMEs is reflected in Electric Ireland’s new SME Premium Insights Tool which provides a detailed breakdown of businesses’ energy consumption so that owners can manage usage, reduce costs and their carbon footprint. Entries for the awards have now closed.



New Harland & Wolff owner ‘to grow workforce to 400’ The iconic Harland & Wolff shipyard has been dealt a massive lifeline, as energy infrastructure firm Infrastrata announced it is set to take the business out of administration. Margaret Canning speaks to Infrastrata boss John Wood about its plans


arland & Wolff’s new boss says it plans to increase its workforce from 79 to 400 in six years’ time.

Infrastrata reached agreement to pay £6m for the main assets of Harland & Wolff, which went into administration in July, after the bankruptcy of its then-owner Fred Olsen Energy. The 79 staff at the company, many of whom had been engaged in a nine-week sit-in calling for a Government rescue of the stricken shipyard, are now beginning to resume work. The energy infrastructure company already has a major interest in Northern Ireland as it’s seeking to build an energy facility in Larne, the Islandmagee Gas Storage Project. Staff will work on the fabrication requirements of the Islandmagee project, as well as on fabrication for similar projects in England and a major energy project in the Irish Sea. However, it would also hope to bid for work in areas including ship repair conversion, subsea structures, renewable projects, off-shore oil and gas projects and defence.


Harland & Wolff workers after news that the shipyard has been bought for £6m

Chief executive John Wood has said that buying Harland & Wolff would save it £45m of a proposed spend of £303m on the Islandmagee project. Work on fabrication for the Islandmagee project would be the “backbone” of the work, “but we’ll capitalise on opportunities when they arise”. Infrastrata has paid a deposit of £500,000 for Harland & Wolff, with the balance to be paid over two instalments. Mr Wood, who said he worked as an apprentice on the Canberra, a ship which had been built by Harland & Wolff, said it was already in talks with potential funders for the remainder of the deal and would not have announced the deal without being secure in obtaining the funding. He said negotiations had gone “down to the wire” with discussions taking place with the administrators BDO, Northern Ireland Secretary of State Julian Smith and outgoing Invest NI chief executive Alastair Hamilton. Infrastrata plc has bought the multi-purpose fabrication

facility, quaysides and docking facilities of Harland & Wolff. Mr Wood said there was no detail on how much had been paid for which asset but that £6m had been a number which had been settled upon. But he said there had been no Government money in the £500,000 deposit but that it was likely to apply for Invest NI funding in future. “As far as training goes, as far as apprenticeship schemes, workforce development, I think there may be some funds in the future available,” he said. “At the moment we’ve not pursued that but it’s something we will look at as we move forward.” And he said that the subject of the marine licence the company is seeking in Larne from the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA) had not been raised during negotiations. But he said that he was hopeful that a licence could be obtained by the end of this year.


Patek Philippe to showcase in Belfast


new collection from one of the world’s most prestigious watchmakers will go on show in Belfast later this month.

Patek Philippe’s 2019 collection will be available to view at the Lunn’s store at Queen’s Arcade in Belfast. The watches are part of the new collection released at this year’s Baselworld in Basel, Switzerland. The Swiss watchmaker produces some of the world’s most sought after and revered timepieces. Watches included this year include Patek’s 5172G-001 chronograph, in white gold. The manual-winding chronograph features a blue dial and luminous Arabic numerals. Other models include the 5235/50R-001 annual calendar automatic, which comes in rose gold.


The watches will be on show at the Lunn’s store from November 4 – 9, during the store’s normal opening hours. Suzanne Lunn, marketing director at Lunn’s,

said: “Lunn’s is delighted to host these very special watches which are on display for the first time in Northern Ireland. We invite people to experience the beauty and craftsmanship of these watches first hand at Queen’s Arcade.”



Wrightbus: administration of Ballymena stalwart After more than 70 years in business, a stalwart of Northern Ireland’s homegrown manufacturing stable,Wrightbus, fell into administration, with hopes a deal can be done to save it. John Mulgrew takes a look at the developments so far


or manufacturing in north Antrim, and in Ballymena in particular, the loss of one of the last large employers left in the area came with such a level of abruptness, it was hard to believe.

Routemaster buses, as well as securing major orders in Hong Kong and Singapore.

Unlike Michelin and JTI Gallaher – two international giants under pressure to save costs – the administration of Wrightbus at the end of September appeared, from the general public’s perception, to come out of nowhere.

Wrightbus warned 95 jobs were on the line last year – attributed in part to ongoing market uncertainty post-referendum.

Journalists and those in the industry had heard on grapevine that the company could be set to make significant redundancies.

The family-founded and run firm was in profit and riding on the crest of a wave after landing high-profile deals.

Like workers at Harland & Wolff and other major skilled manufacturing employers, these were often seen as jobs for life – a specialism in a field such as this, a tough one to translate without travelling outside of Northern Ireland.

The company itself has, in my time, operated with a fairly conservative reserve when it comes to tooting its own trumpet over its own success stories.

In the last six years Wrightbus also donated more than £15m to Green Pastures, a religious charity led by the firm’s majority shareholder Jeff Wright.

In the last few years it landed the hugely important contract for the new London

The Wright family has said the collapse of the business was due to a big fall in demand for


buses in the UK market. The firm’s founder Sir William Wright was one of the few NI business leaders to support the UK’s exit from the EU. Reading and listening to the stories of former workers at the firm, some who have spent their entire careers with the Ballymena bus builder, it’s hard not to empathise. The response to help those out of work find new employment has been swift, with a jobs fair and clinic being established with a host of employers eager to find new staff. At the time of writing, a buyer for the business postadministration still appeared well within grasp, and it appeared to be being finalised. The hope is that a potential buyer can see the value in the proposition, and the importance and skills of those who, up until recently, worked there, and can least mitigate the impact of the scale of such a significant loss. ■


Widening pool of international investors presents legal considerations Lynsey Mallon, Corporate and Commercial partner at leading law firm Arthur Cox, explains how the increasingly international profile of investors into Northern Ireland can pose legal pitfalls for sellers and buyers


ompanies based in Northern Ireland have long presented a strong proposition for international investors, but the profile of those buyers has changed markedly over recent years.

Data for the first half of 2019 revealed that the value of mergers and acquisitions in Northern Ireland was ÂŁ275m, but perhaps most telling was that many of the leading deals involved international investors from as far afield as Singapore and Italy. It continues a trend of increasing numbers of Northern Irish companies being acquired by international corporations from less traditional jurisdictions and is evidence of the fact that the balance of cash rich buyers has changed geographically. This is of course good news for our indigenous firms, but it can also be challenging for both sellers and buyers, not least in terms of securing experienced professional advisors that can successfully deliver value for their clients on the transactions. In terms of dealing with cross-border mergers and acquisitions, there are the usual pre-deal considerations such as the contract structure and the purchase method. However, it is essential that the legal team involved understands all of the financial, social,


and political factors on both sides of the deal. All of these issues can greatly impact the process and the successful post completion integration of the target into the buyer’s global business. Differences in the legal systems must be fully understood and explained so that the deal structure can be adapted accordingly. For example, there are variances between civil and common law systems which can result in issues with terminology and the translation of legal terms into English and vice versa. If not addressed at the outset of any process, the negotiations can become fraught and protracted. It is also important that the pre-deal antitrust analysis is carried out early in the process and that rules on foreign ownership are considered. For foreign buyers entering the Northern

local employment laws as the engagement of key staff could be critical to the success of the acquisition. Arthur Cox has a network of offices across the globe including Belfast, Dublin, London, New York, and Silicon Valley. We are regularly sought out to advise where there is an international aspect to any deal, either by the foreign buyer or by the local company seeking to sell or indeed acquire overseas. In recent years, this has included a vast number of deals involving parties across the US, Europe and Asia, as the geographical location of investors continues to expand. â– The Corporate and Commercial team at Arthur Cox is well positioned to advise on all aspects of mergers and acquisitions. Please call +44 28 9023 0007 for further information from Lynsey or your regular Arthur Cox contact.

Ireland market, it is essential they are aware of



Danske Bank: the top team shaping the future Danske Bank has made a big move in creating two deputy chief executive (CEO) roles to help boost business, engagement and further bolster a strong public face for the organisation. Ulster Business sat down for a chat with chief executive Kevin Kingston and his new deputy CEOs


he three of us make a very good team,” Danske Bank chief executive Kevin Kingston says, warmly, over an early morning coffee at Panama Cafe, close to its Belfast headquarters.

in Northern Ireland which boasts the senior roles. The pair have already helped shape the burgeoning performance of Danske Bank in their respective roles over the last few years, and will continue to do so alongside their new additional responsibilities.

The bank boss was speaking of the appointment of his colleagues, Vicky Davies and Stephen Matchett, to the role of joint deputy chief executives (CEOs).

“We are the biggest bank in Northern Ireland and we play a crucial role in fuelling the economy in Northern Ireland – at a time of increased economic and political uncertainty it seems like the right thing to do, to be investing in our management

It’s a bold move, and Danske is the only bank


structures,” Kevin tells Ulster Business. “We want to make sure that whatever the opportunities and challenges that NI and the bank may face in the next year or so, that we have the capacity to do what we need to do to continue to support our customers.” It’s been another busy year for Danske Bank. It posted an operating profit of £47.8m in the first six months of 2019, up 3% year-on-year. “Vicky and Stephen have been instrumental


PROFILE: Vicky Davies Vicky Davies has settled in to her deputy chief executive role quickly – representing Danske Bank at the single largest delegation of Northern Ireland businesses to take their message to the heart of Westminster this summer. “The new deputy chief executive roles are a sign of the commitment the bank has to Northern Ireland,” Vicky says. “It’s a reflection of that and an outwards statement of intent to our customers and competitors. It’s also an opportunity for Stephen and I to expand our remits and our contribution to the bank.” A Cambridge University graduate, Vicky joined Danske Bank from Ulster Bank in 2012 as Head of Business Development, before progressing to become managing director of strategy and corporate development. In 2016 she became the bank’s first ever female executive board member.

Kevin Kingston, Vicky Davies and Stephen Matchett speak to Ulster Business editor John Mulgrew at Panama Belfast

in the progress we have made over the last few years. Vicky in terms of her strategic insight and support to me in terms of our organisational development, and Stephen in terms of his commercial and financial insights,” Kevin says. “The three of us make a very good team. We play to each other’s strengths. A lot of the progress we have made in the last few years is down to, in no small part, these two people sitting beside me.”

“My current core role is to devise and guide the strategy of the bank, plotting the course of its development over not just the next year, but the next five years and beyond” she said. With the new role that will also include spending more time with customers, industry bodies, and putting a face to the name amongst key stakeholders, as well as a sharpened internal focus – for example getting closer to the risk management aspects of the bank. Vicky and her fellow deputy chief executive Stephen Matchett have already been

Vicky is managing director of strategy and corporate development within the bank, while Stephen has been Danske’s chief financial officer for the last five years.

as we have done for the last 200 years – it’s a role we must fulfil, especially in the event that the economy is more challenging in the months ahead.”

For Kevin, the two new deputy chief executive roles comes at a key time of increased uncertainty around Brexit, and the future economic landscape – so creating the frontfacing positions will help develop and grow engagement with customers and a large range of stakeholders.

Kevin says the bank is putting a renewed and sharp focus on helping and supporting customers in the event of a difficult economic environment, post-Brexit.

“We will continue to support Northern Ireland,


And aside from the business metrics, Danske Bank was also named as Northern Ireland’s Responsible Company of the Year by Business in the Community. That’s something which

undertaking important executive roles, but the new posts will bring their roles and responsibilities to the fore. For years Vicky has been heavily involved in the burgeoning digital end of the bank, being close to the introduction of a number of mobile platforms and channels. On this, she says, “In the digital space, this year we have seen more than four million digital logons from customers each month and a 19% increase in digital transactions year-on-year.” Then there’s the Catalyst Belfast Fintech Hub on the ground floor of Danske HQ – a modern incubator and hub which in the space of little over a year now boasts around 70 members. “We wanted to help these businesses and also benefit from having their entrepreneurial spirit to rub off on our own colleagues,” she says. Vicky personally mentors some of these companies, hands on. She also chairs numerous committees within the bank and has a strong interest in its equality, diversity and inclusion agenda – having formed Danske’s Gender Diversity Network in 2017. Vicky lives in Holywood with husband Bill and four young sons. On Brexit, she’s optimistic, given the strength of the bank’s position heading into the UK’s exit from the EU. “We hope there will be a good outcome. We are leading our competitors on a number of metrics, and that gives us a great springboard going forward.”

Kevin and his team place considerable pride and value in. “The thing I’m most proud of is the work we have done to be named Northern Ireland’s Responsible Company of the Year by Business in the Community,” Kevin says. “We want the bank to be a force for good in the community. We are serious about that and we have four strategic pillars around our customers, stakeholders, society and our colleagues.” For Kevin, it’s about getting behind initiatives and “creating a legacy”. ■



Kevin Kingston, Vicky Davies, Stephen Matchett

PROFILE: Stephen Matchett Danske Bank’s other new deputy chief executive, Stephen Matchett, has held his core role as chief financial officer (CFO) for the last five years, and is a familiar face to journalists when it comes to discussing the minutiae of its results each year.

in the Bank’s equality, diversity and inclusion agenda, and he is the senior management sponsor of ‘Enable’ – the Danske Disability Network.

Carrie and two young sons, is also a member of the CBI’s UK Financial Services Council.

“My core role as CFO is traditionally slightly in the background – the changes now bring a public aspect to that, both within the wider Danske Bank Group and Northern Ireland.”

The Financial Services Council is made up of senior representatives from a diverse range of financial services organisations and insurers, including Lloyds Banking Group, Barclays, JP Morgan, Bank of America, Santander, Aviva, MasterCard Europe and RSA Insurance Group.

It’s been a busy year for Stephen, and the rest of the bank, including being named Northern Ireland’s Responsible Company of the Year by Business in the Community.

Looking at Danske Bank’s most recent financials, Stephen says while it remains an uncertain economic climate, Danske Bank is continuing to grow, year-on-year.

A former Bank of Ireland executive, who began his career working for professional services giants PwC and Deloitte, at Danske Bank Stephen oversees a finance unit that also includes the treasury, economics, data intelligence and legal departments.

The Bank has also placed a renewed focus on its environmental impact and climate change. It’s already removed plastic cups, bottles and other packaging from its buildings, and is opting for more renewable and recyclable alternatives throughout its various operations.

And on Brexit, he says the Bank is preparing and planning by looking through two lenses – a focus on controlling costs, while also seeking out growth opportunities.

Like Vicky, Stephen is also involved in leading

Stephen, who lives in Belfast with his wife

“Danske Bank’s role in society is key, and we have an integral role in the economy here. The new leadership positions will see Vicky and I become more present and visible when it comes to customers, stakeholders and partners across the community” he says.


“We want to maintain where we are at through this period of uncertainty and prepare ourselves for when the clouds clear – that’s the ambition.”

The Disruptors: Fleet Financial in new podcast partnership with Best of Belfast

Damian Campbell, Fleet Financial and Matthew Thompson, Best of Belfast

There’s a lot of great business events going on in Northern Ireland these days. However, with so many invites making their way into our inboxes and calendars, it can be tricky deciding what to attend and whether we have the time, writes Damian Campbell, head of corporate sales, Fleet Financial


n the past, Fleet Financial hosted several mini-conferences as part of our Knowledge Network Series: quick, hour-long events for local business leaders to get together and hear from inspiring speakers. A coffee with student entrepreneur Matthew Thompson got us thinking about trying something different. Matt hosts Best Of Belfast: a podcast featuring unfiltered conversations with over 80 incredible people from Northern Ireland. He believes podcasting is a better way to learn as it makes use of the ‘dead time in our day.’ Time like driving to work, cutting the grass or walking the dog. In other words, time that doesn’t eat into the critical parts of your day.

As a team, we really liked the sound of that, so when it came round to organising our next Knowledge Network event, we decided to go digital. The result is ‘The Disruptors’ — a podcast and video series featuring six, hourlong conversations with some of the most


innovative industry-leaders our country has ever seen. Our line-up of digital speakers include:

renowned and award-winning Leckey. A business committed to providing 24-hour postural care to children.

Carmel McKinney OBE: Chair of the Northern Ireland Fire and Rescue Service and recent recipient of ‘Champion for Women’ Award in the Rising Star Awards 2019.

Colin Anderson OBE: One of the leaders in Northern Ireland advertising, entrepreneur and founder of ASG & Partners.

Philip Bain: Shredbank founder, public speaker, philanthropist and author. Peter Dixon: Chairman of Lionrai Investments and Phoenix Energy Holdings. In his previous role as chief executive of Phoenix Natural Gas, he’s regarded as one of the key people in bringing natural gas to Northern Ireland. Eleanor McEvoy: Chief executive of Next-Gen Power, Northern Ireland’s Entrepreneurship Ambassador and RTE Dragon’s Den star.

With a focus on leadership, these long-form interviews dive much deeper than 15-minute speeches can deliver. Plus thanks to ‘the power of podcasting’, you and your team can tune in from the comfort of your own cars, offices, or headphones without disrupting your usual work routine. ‘The Disruptors’ launches on Monday, November 4, with a new conversation being released every other week. Search ‘Best Of Belfast’ or visit bestofbelfast.org to subscribe and listen in

James Leckey: A creative engineer and the chief executive behind the internationally


TOP 100

Ulster Business editor John Mulgrew, Michael Neill, head of Belfast office at A&L Goodbody with Sarah Little, publishing director INM NI and Dr Len O’Hagan

Top 100: Voice of business ‘never stronger or more important’


he voice of Northern Ireland’s business community has never been stronger and more important as industry attempts to avoid a hard Brexit, a gathering of top business leaders has heard. The Ulster Business Top 100 Northern Ireland Companies 2019 dinner, with A&L Goodbody, brought together some of the top business chiefs making the list, to the grand backdrop of Queen’s University’s Great Hall. The event heard renewed calls for securing a deal on Brexit, along with the restoration of Stormont and a working Executive.

John Mulgrew, editor of Ulster Business, told those gathered: “On the precipice of Brexit, the voice of business has never been stronger or more important – further enforcing the need for a deal. Avoiding a hard exit. And also making sure we retain a strong trading relationship across the island. “But we should also take this opportunity to clearly note, that we are approaching 1,000 days since having a devolved government – up and running.

A&L Goodbody’s Michael Neill speaks to guests at the Top 100

And for the eighth year in a row, poultry processing giant Moy Park has come in at the number one spot, with turnover of £1.5bn.

“It affects you and your businesses, and it’s cited as the key reason putting off investment from overseas, and our own local companies, from making key investment decisions.”

Michael Neill, head of Belfast office at A&L Goodbody, said: “What the Top 100 companies have achieved in the past 12 months in what can only be described as capricious circumstances is truly remarkable – but imagine what could have been achieved had we some semblance of ‘normality’.

The Top 100 edition is an annual showcase of the leading and largest companies, located right across Northern Ireland. This year sales rose by almost 10%, approaching a combined figure of £25bn.

“My hope is that we find ourselves doing so in a Northern Ireland that is embarking on a new and positive era of opportunity, rather than picking up the shattered pieces of a ‘no deal’ Brexit for many years to come.” ■


John Mulgrew addressing guests at the Top 100

Moy Park’s Flavio Malnarcic and Andrew Nethercott

Guests gathered at Queen’s University’s Great Hall for the Top 100 dinner

David Rowan, Paul Stapleton, Ellvena Graham and Oliver McAllister

Billy Moore, Barbara Creed and Alastair Keith

Sarah-Ann Gamble, Ed Brown and John Mulgrew

Richard Gray, Glenda McStravick, Jill Harrower-Steele and Jonathan Ireland


Hugh Nicholl, Angela Brogan, Julie McCandless and Davy Paulson



Growing to a £50m tech giant with the mindset of a Navy Seal Serial tech entrepreneur Robert O’Brien is rapidly growing his cyber-security and compliance company MetaCompliance in his native Derry, with aims of a £50m turnover and 300 staff and expanding an already lengthy bluechip client list. He speaks to John Mulgrew about a growing dangerous political landscape, and thinking like a Navy Seal when it comes to doing business



obert O’Brien is now well under way with what is his fifth technology start-up – and he has big aspirations for a business he’s been growing and developing in his home city of Derry since 2005.

MetaCompliance is about to go through its third phase of growth – with 70 new staff due to bring the headcount to just under 200. It’s already one of the leading companies in its field, supplying cloud software and services for cyber-security and compliance. “Back in 2005, the word cyber-security hadn’t even been coined,” he told Ulster Business. “We were focused on compliance. I saw increased demand for businesses to take account of their actions. “That has been proven in the years subsequently, in the last five years, due to areas such as (the introduction of) GDPR and large financial sanctions. The reputational damage of a data breach is too serious to

be ignored and now it receives board level attention.” MetaCompliance, based at the city’s Old City Factory, counts big names such as the Home Office, tyre maker Bridgestone, Hewlett Packard and Western Digital among its clients, and Robert says he and his team’s ‘company handbook’ is a New York Times bestseller – Extreme Ownership: How US Navy SEALs Lead and Win – helps embody its ethos. “Our competitors are heavily funded American businesses,” he says. “We love going up against them and winning. “(Landing) big customers is down to three things. We as a team love innovation, ideas and making them come to light. “We also have deep domain expertise and we have been at this a long time. Our timing is really good, the market has a need where we have best software, content and the longestestablished experience.


Robert O’Brien with Invest NI’s John Hood

“Thirdly, we model ourselves on the fast growing technology companies in SF – using technology to help scale their environments. We adopt a mindset, to say, we are from Derry but we are not defined by Derry. We are actively competing against these global firms and from the outset it’s a challenge, and we are going to win.” While Belfast remains Northern Ireland’s tech capital, Robert isn’t shy about attracting people away from it, and actively targeting workers in the North West who commute to the larger city, each day.

phase of growth will take us towards just below the 200 employee mark,” he says. “It’s driven by demand for the product.” While there are software developers and those from other technical backgrounds, Robert says the majority of his staff come into the role with no expertise in cyber-security, and it has a range of extensive training schemes, internally. Robert’s background in tech entrepreneurship began in 1990 with AMT-Sybex, based at Dargan Crescent. That led to other businesses in Dublin and Swindon, before returning to Derry in the early 2000s.

“If they have the talent and work ethic they can do extremely well, and are paid well above the average for the North West,” he says. “We have to compete with Belfast companies trying to take our talent.” The firm currently has an active campaign in Belfast, aimed at targeting workers with long daily commutes to reconsider staying in Derry.

On to Brexit. Technology and software is an industry largely immune to the potential impacts of the UK’s exit from the EU. But generally speaking, Robert believes we are in a period of local and international political stasis, with no one truly able to lead.

MetaCompliance is firmly in growth mode. “The second phase is now over, and the third

“There are people that are trying to simplify things that are complex. I fear that people,


because they are lazy or tired or disinterested, will accept those soundbites,” he said. “What is happening here and in America is we are not seeing politicians of significant weight. You don’t see anyone that you would want to take things forward – there are a lot of vested interests. “Attacks on the Press and attacks on the judiciary – they are all very sinister developments. I just feel ordinary people will end up the worse off.” Back to positivity and Robert wants MetaCompliance “to be one of the largest cyber-security firms in the world”. “We can grow to £50m… 300 people. That would put us as one of the largest in the UK, if not Europe. “Things look very promising for us. We have the opportunity to become an example for other tech companies. That’s how you create an ecosystem of positivity. You lead by example.” ■



Emma Cooper, Mary-Kim Doherty and Dawson McConkey



Carson McDowell’s real estate team: a cornerstone of the market Carson McDowell’s real estate team gives Ulster Business its view on the sector and highlights some of the high profile projects which the firm has been working on


f you looked through a list of the most significant property transactions in Northern Ireland in the past year, there is a good chance that the team from Carson McDowell would be involved on one side or the other of the deal.

“While in the short term we don’t know what the impact of the outworking of the Brexit process will be, the fundamentals of the Northern Ireland market in the longer term continue to make it an appealing opportunity for investors and developers.

The Belfast-based practice, Northern Ireland’s largest independent law firm, has a longstanding heritage of high-profile work in the commercial property sector and is currently working across the full spectrum of the market, with the team once again ranked by Chambers as one of the Band 1 real estate practices operating here.

“Looking through the transactions we’ve worked on for our clients over the past 12 months, it’s clear there continues to be an appetite for Northern Ireland real estate deals both locally and internationally. We’re proud that Carson McDowell has the breadth of expertise and strength in depth within the team to undertake all aspects of commercial property legal work, right across these islands.”

In the past 12 months, the team has advised upon more than 750,000 square feet of office space transactions in NI, England and the Republic of Ireland; advised on student accommodation projects that will bring more than 2,500 student beds to Belfast; and advised on the acquisition and disposal of over £35m of residential and social housing. The team is led by partners Dawson McConkey, Emma Cooper and Mary-Kim Doherty and complemented by the continued presence of former partner Rosemary Carson, who remains as a full-time consultant after handing over the management reins to Dawson a year ago. The team also works closely with the firm’s planning practice, led by partners Gary McGhee and Grant McBurney, and its licencing specialists, led by partner Cathy Colton. Dawson says that while there are undoubtedly risks within the property sector from the wider economic context, the fundamentals of the market are strong.


OFFICE The office market has grown significantly in Belfast in recent years thanks to the arrival of big FDI investors bringing jobs to Northern Ireland, the growth of indigenous companies and long overdue investment in new stock in the city. Carson McDowell this year advised PwC on the relocation of its Belfast headquarters to the 201,000 sq ft Merchant Square development in the heart of the city, a transaction that became Belfast’s biggest ever office deal and which will see PwC take occupation in 2020. The team also acted for Threadneedle on the sale of its 111,488 sq ft grade A office James House at the Gasworks in south Belfast for £16m, the largest deal in NI in the first quarter of 2019. And it continues to advise the Belfast Harbour

Commissioners on the ongoing development of the City Quays office and residential scheme, not to mention the Belfast Harbour Film Studios and a new terminal built for Stena. Emma said: “The grade-A office market continues to provide an opportunity for growth, with a number of blue chip companies arriving or expanding in the city and operators such as Belfast Harbour, Oakland Holdings, McAleer & Rushe and Causeway Asset Management developing new office projects to service demand for quality space. “That demand definitely remains strong and, in fact, we have just acted for a tenant who has agreed to take the whole of a refurbished grade A office development in Belfast City centre, a deal that involves over 45,000 sq ft of floor space.” RETAIL It’s fair to say the retail sector has been a bit less buoyant, with the high street continuing to adjust to changing shopping habits and political uncertainty contributing to subdued consumer spending. But despite this, the firm says it has seen pockets of positive activity among those stories, noting that many of the good examples of retail growth have been outside Belfast. For example, the team has this year advised Threadneedle on the sale of Clandeboye Retail Park and Sports Direct on its ongoing acquisition programme, including the purchase of House of Fraser, a key retail destination in Belfast. The firm is also retained by >



Dawson McConkey, Mary-Kim Doherty and Emma Cooper

multiple retailers such as B&M Stores, Greggs and DV8 on their continued roll-out of stores. Dawson said: “We continue to have a number of very active retail clients and manage legal work for a number of shopping centres and retail parks across the UK and Ireland. There is nobody more experienced in the retail sector than Rosemary and it is fantastic that she continues to advise many of our clients in this sector.” ACCOMMODATION The next phase in Belfast’s development, if Belfast City Council has its way, is to attract more people to live in the city centre. The Belfast Agenda community plan has set an ambitious target of getting an additional 66,000 people living the city to help create a more vibrant urban hub. New student accommodation built around the new campus of Ulster University, also a Carson McDowell client, and Queen’s University Belfast is seen as the first phase of a process of getting a generation used to city living. The firm has advised McAleer


& Rushe in respect of the development of student accommodation on behalf of QUB at McClintock Street and College Avenue, as well as working on other schemes currently going through the planning and development processes.

positive about as it heads into 2020, with current projects and planning applications suggesting potential growth is possible in areas like the private rented sector, the office market, along with health and social care and logistics.

Mary-Kim said: “The recent wave of student accommodation is the first step in changing the use of the city centre, but there’s a long way to go if the City Council target is to be met. We are only now starting to see property investors in Belfast undertaking buy-to-rent schemes such as those prevalent in other cities. The arrival of these developments will be crucial to achieving the levels of city living the Council wants to see catch on in Belfast.”

Emma said: “It is encouraging that there is so much happening in Belfast and there are some major projects that are due to come on stream in both the public and private sectors. If even most of the Transport Hub, Tribeca, Belfast Waterside, City Quays and Building Blocks schemes progress as planned, there is plenty of scope for growth in the industry.

GROWTH Carson McDowell’s real estate team is already a cornerstone of Northern Ireland’s real estate sector and, with lawyers qualified in both England and the Republic of Ireland, its clients increasingly don’t only come from Northern Ireland or look to do business there. The firm is cognisant of the challenges that exist in the market, but believes there is much to be

“Furthermore, we expect to see transactions driven by innovative investment vehicles, REITs and challenger funds. With our team working in these markets across the UK and Ireland, we are incredibly well placed to assist NI businesses in the new markets emerging. “We are proud to have played a central role in so many flagship developments across Northern Ireland to date and we look forward to continuing to do so in the future.” ■

Exports & international business NOVEMBER MARCH 2019 2019


Where’s next for NI exports? The value of Northern Ireland’s exports is rising, but the number of firms selling outside these shores has fallen. With the UK’s exit from the EU, what and where should our firms be looking at to boost sales and grow. John Mulgrew takes a look at the landscape


hings are changing. In fact, they may have already changed by the time you’re reading this.

And while everything has and will have to be seen through the lens of Brexit in the coming years, what will this actually mean for the companies who count on sales outside of the UK and Ireland, and will new markets become more appealing? Exports of goods from Northern Ireland hit a record high of £9bn in the last financial year. And while that number rising is a boon for business, breaking the numbers down paints a mixed picture in terms of both how many firms are exporting, and where they are exporting to. “Exports/external sales are a crucial factor in growing our standard of living,” Andrew Webb, chief economist, Grant Thornton NI told Ulster Business.

positive but, as with most data, the insights come from looking below the surface. “Doing that shows that, at the end of 2018, there were 6,195 companies engaged in exporting from Northern Ireland, a figure that had increased steadily over the past three years. However, since the start of 2019, the number of exporting businesses has declined to 5,775.” The US market has increasingly become important for firms here, and any potential free trade deal, or similar, with the UK in the coming years could see that grow further. Northern Ireland goods exported to North America grew 16.7% last year, according to HMRC. But that rise comes as the number of local firms engaged in exporting goods to the EU during the second quarter (5,574) fell to the lowest level since early 2016.

“Northern Ireland policy makers face a seemingly constant challenge in trade – getting more businesses to sell into external markets and increasing the volume of sales form external markets by those already selling outside NI. At face value there is creditable progress to report on exports.

“This raises concerns over whether companies here are being replaced in the supply chains of customers as a result of Brexit, or whether firms are simply withdrawing themselves from international markets as a cautious reaction to expected trading difficulties,” Andrew says.

“In the year to the end of June 2019 HMRC reported that exports grew by 6.8% to £9.1bn. This increase in exports to £9.1bn is very

So, where are the products going aside from the largest export markets in North America and the EU? In the first six months of 2019, >






£530m worth of goods went to the Asia and Oceania nations. A further £43m was sold to Eastern Europe, non-EU nations, while £55m worth of exports went to Latin America and the Carribean. A larger chunk was exported to the Middle East and North Africa – making up a total of £189m in sales. Sub-Saharan Africa sales stood at £76m and those to Western Europe sales, outside the EU, were £87m. “If we as an economy are to develop a much greater international outlook, then breaking into global markets has to become a greater priority,” Gareth Hetherington, director of the Ulster University Economic Policy Centre says. “One of the post-Brexit promises was free trade deals with other parts of the world and

the obvious place to start is with the ‘English speaking’ world, in particular the US, Canada, Australia and New Zealand. There are strong cultural and economic links and we have similar legal systems. “Although relatively small in overall terms, total goods trade with Australia and New Zealand has been growing strongly. In the last two years, total goods traded increased by 59% with Australia and 18% with New Zealand. “Exports to all of these countries is dominated by machinery and transport equipment and chemicals. Interestingly New Zealand is ranked number one by the World Bank in terms of ease of doing business, compared to the US ranking of six, a UK ranking of seven and Australia is ranked 14.” Andrew Webb says since the vote to leave the European Union “there has been much attention given to trade flows between NI and the rest of the UK and between NI and the rest of the island”. “New analysis by the Department for the Economy lays this out in some detail. The majority of companies engaging in external markets are focussed on the closest markets of GB and Republic of Ireland. “There were slightly more firms

engaged in selling goods and services to the Republic of Ireland (7,661) compared to 7,049 selling to GB (note that, as well as methodology differences, the Department for the Economy counts goods and services and HMRC counts goods). “The number of companies selling into the Rest of the EU (1,938) and beyond (1,539) is a fraction of those selling into our nearest markets. Without getting into issues around post-Brexit terms of trade, what these statistics do show is the understandable focus of exporting firms on the markets closest to home. “Achieving a step change in trade will likely require a spreading of wings to North America and much further beyond.” And looking to other markets, Gareth Hetherington says “longer term aspirations could potentially include some form of agreement with the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), made up of a total of 11 pacific-rim countries in south east Asia and Central and South America”. “The dominant economy within the TPP is Japan, and total goods trade with Northern Ireland in 2018 was valued at just over £200m, an increase of 10% in two years. Again exports were dominated by machinery and transport equipment,” he says. “Selling into international markets is a challenge and takes significant time and investment which can be a deterrent for any company but particularly for SMEs. That said, a greater balance of global trading partners can help diversify our economy and give us greater resilience to downturns in individual markets. “In a small open economy like Northern Ireland, international trade is vital. We are simply too small to produce the wide range of goods and services, the population of a developed country expects. We therefore have to specialise in areas in which we have a competitive advantage, such as agri-food, and trade our surplus production for goods and service we do not produce, for example cars.” ■


Andrew Webb


Sixty new jobs as Co Tyrone firm lands Ryanair bus deal


round 60 new jobs are being created a Co Tyrone firm after it landed a deal to produce airport buses for budget airline giant Ryanair.

Dungannon’s Mallaghan Engineering announced a multi-million-pound contract to build a fleet of the buses. And it follows the launch of the ‘Mallaghan 50W – the largest capacity airport bus in the world, carrying up to 125 passengers.

“But with increasing passenger numbers in the global market and to meet customer demands, we’ve developed and begun manufacturing the ‘Mallaghan 50W’ airport bus which broadens our range and heralds a new dawn for the Mallaghan team.

“We’re proud to be the preferred airport ground support equipment supplier of many airports and airlines across the world and will continue our commitment to aviation innovation to meet the needs of a changing industry.”

“We are currently recruiting for a range of roles included skilled mechanics, coachbuilders, fitters, welders, joiners, spray painters and vehicle upholsters.

The firm’s ‘Mallaghan 50W will offer a range of features that can be tailored to the customer specifications, and is also the only airport bus in the world with rear wheel steering, hence reducing the turning circle.

Mallaghan Engineering has a workforce of 450 at its manufacturing sites in Dungannon and Georgia, Atlanta in the US, along with five other global offices.

“The airport bus is the result of a significant investment announced last year and was researched and designed by our talented team in Dungannon.

Ryanair has initially ordered a 32-strong fleet, which will be delivered in the next 12 months, with the keys to the first vehicle handed over recently at the Inter Airport Europe trade show in Munich.

“Since Mallaghan’s entered the GSE market in 1990, innovation for aviation has been at the core of our business.

“Traditionally our product portfolio has focused on passenger stairs and a range of high lift trucks for catering, cabin cleaning and more specialist ground support equipment including water trucks, toilet trucks and de-icers,” Ronan Mallaghan, managing director at Mallaghan Engineering, said.


“We expect to announce further investment in the weeks ahead, not only in research and development, but our facilities and our people, enabling us to expand our innovative product range and to significantly boost export sales. “The feedback received at the Inter Airport Europe Exhibition in Munich, following the launch of the bus, has been exceptional.

Ryanair is a longstanding customer of Mallaghan and has utilised its ground support equipment at bases across Europe for the last two decades. Adrian Dunne, Ryanair director of operations, said the airline is “delighted to be the launch customer for the new Mallaghan bus, who we have worked closely with in the design, specification and delivery of”. “As we expand the Ryanair Group operations, we expect this to be the first of many orders and look forward to working with Mallaghan – one of our key suppliers of ground equipment.” ■



Former chairman of IT giant Kainos, John Lillywhite, speaks to Emma Deighan about his entrance into the world of business and why retirement doesn’t mean he’s stopping



John Lillywhite: retirement doesn’t mean I’m stopping


ohn Lillywhite’s life reads like a classic rags to riches story. Brought up in London’s East End by his single mother, having lost his father at an early age, the former chairman of Kainos, and one of Northern Ireland’s longest serving figures in the tech industry, knows a thing or two about hard work. He credits his mother for doing her utmost to ensure he got opportunities that led him to a successful career in tech. “I watched my mother struggle to keep a roof over our heads for several years and learned from her that the most important thing going forward was a strong work ethic and caring for other people,” he says. “She worked on the telephone exchanges when my father died and then she got on to them for more work. “It meant she did shift work and left at 7am in the morning, when I got myself breakfast and ready for school, and when I got back, she would be home and then out again on the late shift. Everybody has to have some reason to go to work and I didn’t choose a 9-5, I worked ridiculously hard.” John studied accountancy at night school, then enrolled on an apprenticeship with ICL (now Fujitsu Services), paid for by his mother for the hefty price of £150 in 1959. While working with ICL, John became finance director, “the only apprentice to ever reach the board”. He first came to Northern Ireland in 1969. “Then it was okay, but come the mid70s, it got different,” he says.

“There were many times when I would stand outside the Europa Hotel in my pyjamas after a bombscare. I couldn’t understand why I was there creating jobs and people were trying to set my trousers on fire. “But I have always had a great respect for the people of Northern Ireland. I always did.


You have a great work ethic and a modesty. Whenever ICL came up with a plan, I found out without exception that all the NI people would do better than even they thought they would.

“When you sit back and think about that, it made the retirement dinner a bit emotional,” he says. But John isn’t done yet with his contribution to the tech scene, or the world of work. His pace might slow, but there is no question of him stopping.

It was a love for Northern Ireland that saw John invest here when he left ICL after 30 years service in 1997. Then he became chairman of seven start-up companies, including SpeechStorm, Lagan Technologies, APT and Meridio. He is best known here as chairman of Kainos, the only FTSE 250 company ever in NI.

“I’m not a person to paint rooms and play golf,” he says. “There is not the remotest possibility that I will stop. I work voluntary for a prison reform charity and a pension fund. There’s no hurry. I’ll probably be a chairman of an IT ethics committee and mentor at Kainos, things like that.”

The company provides digital transformation services and products to the public and private sector. In its latest results, Kainos reported a 56% rise in revenue to £151.3m for 2019, with pre-tax profits surging by 52% to £23.3m.

Keeping abreast with the latest goings on in the world of tech will always be part of John’s life, he says. With a focus on using tech for the greater good, he plans to contribute to the more ethical use of the fastevolving sector.

His involvement in the IT firm stems back to its set up in 1986 as a joint venture between Fujitsu and Queen’s University Belfast. He took up the chairman role in 1998, leading the company when it went public in July, 2015 and today, Kainos has over 1,500 people across 13 offices in Europe and North America. He attributes the success of the firm to its team, adding: “It’s harder to get into Kainos than it is Harvard.

John believes his eldest grandson will follow in his footsteps. His daughter, Sarah, while in the same field for now, most definitely won’t, he says.

“We give out good packages and treat our staff well and what you get is massive commitment from them to the company and that’s what it’s all about; treating people well.” The team at Kainos and John’s business peers attended an event celebrating his role in business here at a black tie retirement dinner in Belfast. John’s wife, Sylvia, and his daughter, Sarah, both attended. The event reflected on John’s contribution to the Northern Ireland economy over the years. Quantified, it amounts to an investment of £70m and the creation of around 4,000 jobs to date.

“A little while ago when I was thinking about packing up work, my wife thought about renting an allotment and that’s fascinating for me. I used to fly to America twice a week and now I can just go there when there’s no one around and think about life and what’s happened. “We’ve had incredible stuff form the allotment. I just chuck stuff into the ground and see what its does and I approach it like I do everything in my life, talk to other people to get tips.” Spending time with his family is high up the agenda, too, as well as “eating and drinking and going to the gym”. “My wife would say it would be nice to see me more, but right now the house is full of people playing bridge. Maybe that’s why she got me the allotment.” ■



No drains, no cranes? the future of NI Water It’s been described as a crisis which could ‘burst at the seams’ without £2.5bn of investment, and is stopping new major city developments and housing projects from getting off the ground. John Mulgrew speaks to NI Water’s chairman Dr Len O’Hagan about turning to external assistance and funding to ensure the security of supply


he issue of under-investment in Northern Ireland’s water system, jeopardising major future schemes and reaching a crisis point of full capacity at half of our waste water plants within the next few years appears to now be at something of a crescendo.

Earlier this year, Ulster Business reported on the almost billion pound investment needed in Belfast’s water system alone, putting huge redevelopments in the city at risk, while housing projects across Northern Ireland were effectively on hold in some areas due to a lack of capacity and thus being unable to be connected to the network. Now, NI Water has unveiled its 25 year draft strategy, looking as far ahead as 2046. The key message, even in the short term, is ‘no drains, no cranes’. The system is “getting ready to burst at the seams” due to underinvestment, according to NI Water chairman Dr Len O’Hagan. “No drains means no cranes. It means that we can’t accept new connections for new developments – houses, offices, factories, hotels, hospitals or schools,” he says. NI Water says that underfunding in its 20152021 business plan “has already resulted in curbs to economic development with new housing and businesses being unable to get connected to our sewerage system in around 70 towns throughout the province.”


“By 2027, more than 50% of NI’s waste water plants will be at capacity. Today, 99 of those facilities, 247, are full,” Len says. What’s needed, according to NI Water, is a cash injection of £2.5bn, with Belfast alone requiring around £1bn over the next eight to nine years to improve infrastructure. And part of the focus is now on how NI Water can go about securing the funding – moving away from a reliance on cash from Stormont, and instead having the ability to both bring in expertise from outside Northern Ireland, as well as introducing bank funding. “It is not realistic that money will be taken out of health, for example. We need a new model of governance in NI Water, not borrowing from the public purse,” Len says. “The quickest answer to the funding problem is for the Department for Infrastructure and the Department of Finance to get together and to develop options for an incoming administration, a new Executive, or failing that the Secretary of State. “The options are about how to develop good governance and sustainable financing solutions for water security in Northern Ireland. To do this, I believe this requires external expertise. That should be expedited without delay. “We should use the expertise available In England, Scotland and across Europe. I think the governance of NI Water being a GoCo (Government Owned Company) limits its ability


to be innovative and fleet of foot.” According to Len, that means allowing NI Water the ability to borrow, as with utilities elsewhere in the UK. “In terms of NI Water, it could borrow like every utility in the UK, which have no problem in borrowing money, because there is a good return on that investment. “If that can be facilitated by the Department of Finance and the Treasury, it would reduce the Government borrowings and free up NI Water to fund its own development. “We are competing against roads, rail and

all the other demands. That doesn’t happen anywhere else in the UK. It’s inefficient. That’s something which could be sorted very quickly. “The focus on the Brexit situation is understandable, but for Northern Ireland to be ready to operate with whatever happens requires water security. What is in there that’s more important than the security of water?” The issue is also potentially around jeopardising major development schemes, worth £500m each for Belfast, because of the lack of capacity.

“They need it. The great opportunity of city deals are not going to be realised to their fullest extent. We can’t do it. This goes from Newtownabbey to Newry. That opportunity is in danger. “If action is not taken, this experience will become the norm in many of our villages, towns and cities,” he said. “The proposed city deals cannot reach fruition without water security and the growth of Belfast city, the prime economic engine of NI, will struggle.” ■ Dr Len O’Hagan with Suzanne Wylie, chief executive of Belfast City Council and Ellvena Graham, Chamber of Commerce




Mental health issues still having long term impact on career opportunities By John Moore, managing director, Hays Recruitment


e have come a long way in society when it comes to talking about mental health, helped by high profile figures like Prince Harry backing campaigns to raise awareness and talking openly about their own struggles. Many forward-thinking workplaces have also taken a progressive approach to mental health and wellbeing, realising the longterm productivity and retention benefits of an inclusive and understanding approach to helping people cope with mental health problems.

However, a recent survey over 5,000 people which Hays carried out found that mental health issues had limited people’s career progression opportunities more than any other factor, including age, disability or ethnicity. Over a quarter (26%) of people with a history of mental health conditions told us this has affected their chance of being selected for a job and 60% of people who had ever had a mental health condition said they are uncomfortable providing information on their mental health status as part of a job application for fear it will be looked on unfavourably. Across the UK, a quarter of professionals (27% in Northern Ireland) said they currently have or had experienced a mental health condition and, notably, professionals at the beginning of their careers, such as graduates and junior employees, are more likely to be experiencing or have experienced a mental health condition. These trends are something we are trying to better understand as an employer ourselves, but what’s clear is that there is an obligation on all employers to respond proactively. It may be small steps initially, such as talking more openly about mental health and what resources are available, or ensuring managers have access to training in order to better spot signs of mental ill health.


John Moore

It is understandable that employers are cautious about promoting someone who has had mental health issues if they believe it will hamper their ability to do a job. But the numbers also indicate that, if they value that person’s abilities and what they bring to the organisation – and they are performing well – then many employers don’t see mental health issues as something that defines the rest of someone’s career. If the right structures and support mechanisms are in place, there is no reason it should. However, it may take longer for this approach to take hold in external recruitment processes. With an existing employee you have a frame of reference and colleagues who know their character. There isn’t the same degree of comfort with a person you haven’t met so, like it or not, some will see a declaration of a previous mental health issue as a risk they are unwilling to take. But our research shows that experience of

mental health conditions is becoming more prevalent and as such employers need to step up to deal with the concerns employees have around unequal access to career progression linked with mental health. Structured career progression plans for all professionals regardless of age, gender, ethnicity, disability, sexual orientation or mental health history will help employers to address this. All organisations should want to provide support to their team and, regardless of background, want them to achieve their full potential within the organisation. My advice would be to act on employees’ feedback, engage with them regularly on their wellbeing and look at how your peers are operating and what they are doing well. Mental health struggles are unfortunately real for a high number of people, but as our survey shows, there’s still a long way to go before this no longer carries a stigma in the workplace. ■

Corporate law MARCH 2019


Getting deals done in the face of unrelenting headwinds It’s been a tumultuous time for the Northern Ireland economy since Brexit. But that doesn’t mean deals weren’t being done. Ulster Business charts some of the big success stories and the law firms behind them, and assesses the future post-EU landscape


nything on the scale of the largest constitutional shift in a generation is going to have some impact on how companies assess the landscape – from raising equity, to seeking acquisitions and M&A opportunities. And it’s being felt across many sectors.

But just in the last week or so, one of Northern Ireland’s leading tech firms – the homegrown Novosco – was sold to German-based CANCOM Group, in a deal worth around £70m. That was a deal in which Mills Selig advised on. Chris Guy is a director with the Belfast firm. “There may be some uncertainty and



challenges on the horizon but we see many positives in the local M&A market. In particular, we are seeing world class NI businesses attracting attention from international purchaser,” he says. “Also, market conditions have been good for MBOs (management buyouts) which also allow sellers to exit and give management teams an opportunity to own a business.” And despite the prolonged and continued uncertainty, corporate law firms here are still seeing activity in the market. “We are pleased to have delivered numerous significant deals for our clients, including 3fivetwo healthcare on an investment from Foresight Group/57 Stars, the sale of Foodco to the Henderson Group, and Equitix on its acquisition of a majority stake in the Granville Ecopark waste to energy plant,” Alastair Keith, head of A&L Goodbody’s corporate and M&A practice in Belfast said. “The political and economic climate has impacted M&A activity over the last year, with some drop off in large scale transactions and

We are pleased to “ have delivered numerous significant deals for our clients, including 3fivetwo healthcare on an investment from Foresight Group/57 Stars


fewer overseas acquirers of Northern Ireland businesses. “Conversely, we have seen an uptick in reorganisations, mid-market transactions and Brexit related planning.” Belfast’s Tughans is a firm which has topped the Experian list of M&A activity in Northern Ireland for the last few years, in terms of the volume of deals it’s been involved with. In 2018, the total value of M&A over the first first nine months of the year reached £2.03bn, a 37.7% increase on the £1.48bn worth of deals carried out over the same period in 2017, and more than double that recorded during the first three quarter of 2016. For Mills Selig, it’s been a business period for the firm in terms of the major deals it’s been involved with. That includes advising Devenish Nutrition on the acquisition of Sidai Africa, and also the acquisition of Yem-Vit in Turkey. The firm also worked with DCC Energy on the sale of its Belfast oil terminal to Valero Energy and separately the disposal its Northern Ireland oil distribution business to Nicholls Fuel Oil Limited. Elsewhere, it advised Whiterock Capital Partners on the establishment of two new mezzanine debt funds: the £30m Growth Loan Fund II and the £30m Growth Finance Fund. Richard Gray, head of the corporate team at Carson McDowell, says Brexit uncertainty and global trade tensions “are affecting investment decisions in some sectors and diverting resource away from investments in organic growth and acquisition”. “Food/agri companies are particularly focused on dealing with potential Brexit fall out and managing >



Owen Brennan of Devenish Nutrition

the cash flow issues presented by customers, such as the big food retailers who want to stock pile goods ahead of October 31,” he said. But there has also been some strategic cross-border activity within that sector. That includes the meger of Lakeland Dairies and LacPatrick. “Though not directly Brexit driven, the high profile examples of distressed activity such as Wrightbus and Harland & Wolff and the proposed sale of Short Bros (Bombardier), have created a downbeat mood in the manufacturing sector. “But that is not the picture across all manufacturing sectors. For example we have seen positive activity in the aircraft supply chain with local consortium Causeway Aero – which includes our clients Denroy Plastic and Moyola Precision Engineering – raising equity funding and securing new work.


“Fundraising activity has also continued in global sectors less exposed to Brexit, notably technology, medtech and fintech sectors, as illustrated by the recent AIM listing of Diaceutics, high profile investments in sports technology company STATSports and numerous smaller fundraisings.

to US fund Capital Z and the subsequent purchase by Prestige of Autoline Insurance. In the IFA/wealth management sector, leading local provider Johnston Campbell was sold to Socium, a purchaser backed by private equity fund Penta, which followed recent acquisitions by the likes of Davy.”

“The renewable energy sector also continues to be active with assets continuing to change hands even as incentive schemes are being phased out – for example Gore Street Capital’s acquisition of a controlling interest in two 50MW energy storage projects in Northern Ireland during the summer. The drive to decarbonisation looks set to drive innovation and deal activity north and particularly south of the border.

Strong headwinds may be with us, and staying for some time if some of the economic predictions are to be believed. But firms say they are also seeing clients with strong balance sheets looking for acquisition opportunities or seeking to reinvest funds from previous sales in order to take advantage of opportunities which remain in the UK market.

“Other sectors have seen significant consolidation over the last 18 months, driven in part by market dynamics and increasing regulatory burdens. For example, in insurance broking we worked on the sale of Prestige

The hope is a reasonably favourable deal for the UK’s exit from the EU can assure there isn’t a significant hit to the fortunes of firms in Northern Ireland, and their growth and aspirations. We’ll know how the landscape will fare in the weeks and months to come. ■


Management buyouts: what do they involve? By Glenn Watterson, senior associate, Mills Selig


anagement buyouts (MBOs) have been a staple of Northern Ireland business life for many years and are favoured exit strategies for large corporations that wish to pursue the sale of divisions that are not part of their core business, or by private businesses where the owners wish to retire.

From a seller’s perspective, a MBO will typically be keen to ensure that the acquiring party cares for what is likely their life’s work in the same way in which they have. As a leading corporate and commercial law firm, Mills Selig play a key role in managing many of Northern Ireland’s MBO transactions which tend to include the purchase of assets and the operation of a business. In recent years MBOs have become even more common and we are seeing a growing pattern of businesses being sold to one or more of its senior employees by way of a MBO. Having been part of the business’ growth and development, exiting owners feel an added sense of comfort in selling to a management team instead of a much larger company which could easily swallow their business up. For the management team a MBO can be a lower risk route into entrepreneurship. They understand the business, acquisition finance is often easier to obtain, and in most cases


return on investment comes sooner than starting from scratch. However, MBOs are not without their risks even for a well-managed and successful business. Taking the best advice is key to a successful MBO and the team at Mills Selig has a wealth of experience in MBO transactions to provide the solutions required to guide both sellers and buyers through the success. Structuring an MBO MBOs are flexible in their structure and there are a variety of ways of proceeding. Having the correct structure will safeguard against operational risks faced by the buyer and payment risks feared by the seller. Contractual protections Careful due diligence is essential for any buyer as although the management team will have been heavily involved in some areas of the business there will inevitably be areas that the exiting owner will not have involved them in. The management team will want the seller to warrant certain matters in relation to the business and any funder will demand this is in place to protect its investment. Financing For the management team the buying entity can be funded from equity investment by the promoters or from private equity in the form of shares which are issued in the purchasing entity. There are many advantages of private equity but it is not suitable in all scenarios.

Therefore, debt finance is also commonly used taking the form of loans from banks or alternative lenders or loan notes granted in favour of individual or institutional investors. Loan notes can also be granted to the seller as a form of deferred consideration to help spread the burden of the payments. ‘Vendor financing’ can take other forms and legal advice should be taken by a seller who is allowing certain payments to be deferred or making loans to the buyer. Buyer’s shareholder arrangements Where there is a management team acquiring rather than an individual manager, a shareholders’ agreement is essential to address all those difficult ‘what if’ questions – what if someone becomes sick, dies, wants to exit themselves and what are the issues going forward that require a majority consent from the shareholders. The management team will need to spend time, together with their lawyer, making sure that this element is put in place correctly to avoid threatening situations for the business arising down the line. ■ If you would like advice on any aspect of a MBO, contact Mills Selig corporate legal team who will offer expert and business focused legal advice. www.millsselig.com



Reducing our rate of emissions is an uphill struggle John Simpson examines Northern Ireland’s performance when it comes to greenhouse gas emissions and finds that there’s a long way to go in addressing the issues here


reenhouse gas emissions in Northern Ireland are too high. In 2017, emissions here were equivalent to 20 million tonnes of carbon dioxide. That was 18% less than in 1990, the base year being used for comparisons.

 Agriculture  Transport  Energy supply  Residential  Business  Other sectors

Northern Ireland’s record on reducing emissions was slightly worse than Wales, which recorded a 25% reduction, and much less satisfactory than the reductions of 45% and 48% for England and Scotland.

Getting emissions down to a net zero level by 2050, or any earlier date, calls for a major rethink on how Northern Ireland might function successfully with a big emissions reduction. Undoubtedly, reduced emissions wsill call for a complex mixture of targeted regulations and/or taxing and pricing to deter unwelcome outcomes.

This difference with Great Britain is partly a consequence of the reduced level of coal mining and usage (which has undoubtedly helped) but Northern Ireland still accounts for 4% of the UK total which is above a simple population proportion. If Northern Ireland is to make a sensible contribution to the international effort to reduce the effect of gaseous emissions on the atmosphere and help to avoid climate disaster, then the momentum for change cannot wait while academic arguments act as a substitute for effective decisions. This converts into a question of what needs to be done to significantly reduce emissions in each of six sectors of the economy. In 2017, the 20 million tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions in Northern Ireland were estimated to be from:


27% 23% 17% 13% 12% 8%

The existing pattern of continuing emissions confirms, first, that the scope of policy changes must be much wider than the mistaken assumption that if the emissions of vehicles and power stations were curtailed, that would be enough. Perhaps surprisingly, to those unfamiliar with this topic, farming, residential housing and businesses must play a key part. Each of these sectors must be carefully scrutinised, and tailored emissions reduction mechanisms added to the regulatory or financing systems. Pleas for exceptions and special treatment will carry little weight if the climate change dimension is taken seriously. The agenda for Northern Ireland will be

influenced by the precedents set by Westminster, Edinburgh and Cardiff but, within the devolved arrangements for Stormont, clear thinking about the most effective local mechanisms is awaited. Stormont departments might be tempted to wait until Westminster has set a framework. That ‘follow me’ approach is too complacent and disguises the merits of preparing tailored local answers. As an initial step, local policy-makers should be more active in ensuring that the energy supply sector uses pricing and regulation to reduce emissions. Northern Ireland still uses, and needs, emissions-intensive energy supply sources. Coal usage has fallen, although capacity to burn coal remains. Three strands in local energy policies await clarity.


First, the energy capacity contracts awarded through the regulatory process take little or no account of the emissions consequences of contract awards. This emerges through the

new all-island single electricity market. Older, ‘dirtier’ generation survives. Second, in the laudable search for larger energy contributions from renewable (largely wind) sources, an adverse side effect is the cost of maximising renewable inputs alongside systems to take (too)

variable amounts from conventional power stations. Extra costs for imperfections in the system suggest that coping with variable levels of energy from renewables is now excessive. Alternatively, immediately available extra energy storage mechanisms should be added. Third, a better balance of the use of energy sources could be achieved if the operational interconnection of the electricity grid, north and south, were enhanced by a long overdue high voltage grid interconnector. Also, an operational review of the east-west interconnection, through Moyle, can be added. Reducing emissions from fossil fuels is an easy early target. It is an urgent operational target for the regulator, SONI and the Department for the Economy. Is a net zero target reachable? â–




Novosco founders John Lennon and Patrick McAliskey

Novosco sold for £70m N orthern Ireland IT services firm Novosco has been sold to a German-based global industry giant for £70m, it has emerged.

The Belfast-based cloud services firm, which was founded by Patrick McAliskey and John Lennon, is now part of the Munich-based CANCOM Group. The acquisition will see it expand further in the UK and Irish market. Novosco has grown its headcount significantly at its Catalyst base, including taking another large chunk of space to make way for the creation of 150 new jobs, which were announced last year. The growth follows a £107m contract with the Cambridge University Hospitals Trust. Novosco currently employs around 300 people, mostly based in Belfast, and counts a wide range of public, private and voluntary sector organisations amongst its customers, including several large UK NHS Trusts and housing associations. It also has offices in Dublin and Daresbury, close to Manchester.


Mr Lennon will take over as joint managing director of CANCOM UK, while Patrick McAliskey, currently managing director, will continue to be a shareholder of and advisor to CANCOM UK.

Patrick McAliskey and John Lennon, said that the deal is a perfect fit for both companies. “This is a hugely positive and exciting development for Novosco, our people, our customers and the communities in which we operate, bringing together two companies with very complementary expertise and very similar cultures, ambitions and outlooks. “CANCOM is a world-class business with a global reach that sees the addition of Novosco’s people, expertise and customer-base as a core part of its strategy for growth. “The combined specialisms, resources and skills of the two businesses creates a very strong platform from which to further enhance the service we provide to our existing clients and to challenge for new and exciting contracts.” The deal is thought to be worth around

£70m. CANCOM employs more than 3,500 people worldwide, with a market presence in Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Belgium, Slovakia, the UK and US.

Thomas Volk, chief executive of CANCOM SE, said: “Novosco’s product portfolio extends our capabilities tremendously and the customers we serve complement each other perfectly. Virtually all Novosco customers have no business connection to us yet. “In addition, the transaction gives us direct market access in Ireland for the first time, and around 300 specialist staff and a highly profitable business will join CANCOM. We are very excited about this acquisition.” Mr Lennon said: “We have the most expert people in the business and have a reputation across the UK and Ireland for industry-leading IT managed services. I am very proud of what we as a team have achieved together and as part of the CANCOM Group, I am incredibly excited about what we will achieve together into the future.” ■


Continued economic contraction and postponed investment ‘due to Brexit’ Two fresh surveys point to a weakening Northern Ireland economy with Brexit uncertainty leading to both retraction and a majority of small and mediumsized businesses putting off investment


seventh month of private sector contraction and an increasing number of businesses putting off investment due to Brexit paints an increasingly poor picture for the state of the Northern Ireland economy.

month, and at a pace that was the fastest since May 2012. But as well as affecting domestic demand, unease surrounding Brexit also impacted negatively on new export orders while new business from abroad declined to the greatest extent in just over eight years.

Brexit uncertainty contributed to the sharpest fall in economic output here for nearly seven years “The latest Ulster Bank NI during September. PMI shows that the pace of NI’s index on the PMI That’s according to decline in output, new orders, for September, where Ulster Bank’s purchasing employment, exports and 50 means no growth managers’ index (PMI) expectations all accelerated last survey. month relative to August,” Ulster Bank’s Richard Ramsey said. It found that output fell for the seventh consecutive month, with the latest “Notably, export orders at local firms fell to a reduction in Northern Ireland the strongest of 97-month low, which underscores that this is the 12 UK regions covered by the survey. New not just a Northern Ireland problem, and that orders decreased for the eighth successive global demand is weakening.



“Perhaps most notably, construction saw the fastest rates of decline in output, and new orders in the sector are now at an 82-month low. The manufacturing sector also reported its fastest pace of job losses in over 10 years. “Looking ahead, Northern Ireland is the only UK region where firms expect output to be lower 12 months from now. This reflects the lack of confidence in the private sector at present, resulting from a range of factors, not least Brexit uncertainty. However, a year is a very long time in economics, and much can change quickly.” Business confidence slumped to the lowest since data on sentiment was added to the survey in March 2017. Brexit was the main factor pulling down confidence, with Northern Ireland again the only area of the UK to predict a fall in output over the coming year.


Meanwhile, a separate survey shows that two-thirds of Northern Ireland small to medium-sized firms with investment plans have either cancelled or postponed them due to Brexit. The AIB Brexit Sentiment Index for the third quarter also said that 47% of Northern Ireland SMEs have been harmed by uncertainty surrounding Brexit.

Around 70% of SMEs were also concerned about the medium to long-term – though concerns were even more widespread in the Republic, where 86% of firms were worried about the effects on the wider economy.

And just under one third of SMEs here said they now expect a hard border, compared to 59% in the Republic.


“Sentiment is down across all sectors but worryingly it is at an all-time low in the manufacturing and tourism sectors – both very important The number of for the Northern Ireland months which NI economy.” has contracted


Just 6% of SMEs here had a plan for Brexit, along with 7% in the Republic. And half of all businesses here haven’t The number of NI started planning yet and firms putting off nearly half are not confident that investment due to they understand what no-deal might Brexit mean for their business.


Around 45% in the Republic also said they’d already experienced a negative impact from Brexit.

has reached an all-time low here in Northern Ireland at -41.

Brian Gillan, head of business and corporate banking at First Trust Bank, said: “With the continued political stalemate and uncertainty that abounds around Brexit, it is perhaps not surprising that the Brexit Sentiment Index

“While we understand the reluctance of businesses to plan, given the levels of uncertainty we believe there is still value in considering the potential impacts of Brexit on your business – especially in a no-deal scenario.” “Our advice to businesses is to continue to work with their advisors and trade and industry groups to make sure they are as best prepared for all eventualities.” ■



Metro passengers at Donegall Square West, City Hall

Making public transport ‘first choice for travel’ for all Public transport is key to Northern Ireland’s economic, social and environmental wellbeing, acknowledged in the draft Programme for Government, which seeks to encourage active travel and a sustainable environment, writes Chris Conway, chief executive of Translink


ransport is the second largest carbon emitting sector in Northern Ireland and if we are serious about climate change we will need to change our patterns of travel towards public transport.

and helping to remove around 2.8 million car journeys from our roads. This is the third consecutive year of significant growth, with Translink continuing to respond to evergrowing demand.

Translink is transforming public transport in Northern Ireland, and we have a clear vision to make public transport ‘first choice for travel’ for everyone.

With more people choosing public transport as ‘first choice for travel’, it’s clear that the resurgence in public transport is well underway – we’re keen to continue the transformation and build on this demand.

GROWING DEMAND Last year (2018/19), passenger journeys on Translink services increased by more than 3.5 million compared to the previous year, to more than 84.5 million, the highest in 20 years

In all, NI Railways passenger numbers grew during 208/19 to 15.8 million, the highest such figure in 50 years and a year-on-year increase of 5.6%, with Metro/Glider numbers increasing to 30 million, an increase of 7.2%.


Chris Conway


What Translink’s new proposed Belfast Transport Hub could look like

Ulsterbus recorded 38.7 million journeys, an increase of 1.5%.

approximately 50% less in Northern Ireland compared to other UK regions.

This growing shift towards public transport is welcomed but a lot more is needed if we are to address climate change, congestion and air pollution.

Investment in our bus and rail network is urgently required and we are currently prioritising limited funds in a number of areas. We have recently ordered 21 new carriages to increase capacity on our trains, providing around 1,400 additional seats per day. This will help to sustain growth levels and offer timetable enhancements. Ongoing bus fleet investment is a priority, and low emission technology is already being rolled out, notably via Glider. We have moved to enhance service provision for Ulsterbus passengers on the periphery of Belfast with the introduction of Urby vehicles, highspecification, low-emission double deck vehicles.

CLIMATE CHANGE & AIR POLLUTION The UK Government’s Committee on Climate Change advice is to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to zero by 2050. The UK Clean Air Strategy (2019) has also said that air pollution is the top environmental risk to human health the UK. As transport is the second largest source of carbon emissions in Northern Ireland, Translink intends to play its role in developing a strategy on low and zero emission vehicles alongside attracting even more people to choose public transport over the private car. We intend to invest in hybrid, electric and hydrogen technologies as part of our future fleet strategy that have the potential to reduce vehicle emissions to less than10% of the current fleet and in some instances, to zero emissions. All Metro vehicles in Belfast and DerryLondonderry will meet/exceed Euro 6 emission standards as a minimum by 2022. INVESTING FOR THE FUTURE It’s clear that there is a genuine demand from right across Northern Ireland for good, effective public transport and more needs to be done to continue progress. Public transport locally has been underfunded for decades, as recognised by the Northern Ireland Audit Office in 2015 and the Assembly Research Report of 2017; indeed, funding is


Capital investment is being prioritised, with progress ongoing on the Belfast Transport Hub project and the North-West Transport Hub in Derry-Londonderry. We’ve also recently completed construction of a new train station in Portrush and are investing in a new future ticketing programme which will simplify the ticketing experience for passengers right across the network. ECONOMIC ENABLER However, we remain considerably behind the rest of the UK in funding terms, and sustained levels of recurrent funding are essential if Translink is to effectively develop our networks and services. A renewed focus on public transport by Government will be essential to achieving a long-term modal shift in transport habits and achieving draft Programme for Government objectives.

Research from Grant Thornton recently showed that public transport is central to the daily lives of many individuals and families, central to economic activity and the social and environmental wellbeing of the region. This, coupled with the significant increase in passenger numbers during 2018/19, suggests that a genuine long-term modal shift in local transport behaviour is within reach, the realisation of making public transport everyone’s ‘first choice for travel’. Translink supports a long-term public transport strategy for Northern Ireland which addresses the social, economic and environmental needs of the region and is supported by a multi-year approach to public spending commitments. It is vital that Translink, with full support from political and economic decision makers, builds on our recent momentum by continuing to offer high quality, affordable public transport, reaching out to every community in Northern Ireland.



Bridging the gap between demand and supply


gainst a backdrop of environmental legislation and growing consumer demand for increased sustainability measures it has been found in the latest report from HSBC, ‘Made for The Future’, that 83% of companies want to be an ethical or environmentally sustainable company.

The new report engaged over 2,500 businesses in the UK and beyond, focusing on the future themes that are impacting businesses around the globe. With so many businesses considering their green credentials and operational efficiency, there has never been a better time to engage the help and support of industrial symbiosis programmes such as that offered by Invest Northern Ireland and delivered by International Synergies NI Ltd.

Dermott Hickson, practitioner, Liam McNally, practitioner, Elaine Kerr, director, Priscilla MacNabb, administrator and Patrick MacCormack, practitioner

now and summer 2021 with the main drivers for this being increased operational efficiency (30%), keeping up with competitors (28%) and changing regulations (27%).

The service, which is free of charge, provides opportunities for local businesses to look at their operations and supply chain with a view to increasing profitability and competitiveness by reducing the cost of resources, identifying new resource streams and considering innovative product development.

Elaine Kerr is director, International Synergies NI. “Since its inception in 2007, the Industrial Symbiosis service has achieved huge benefits for local business and the environment by helping to reduce the demand for costly, finite virgin material supplies and by helping to minimise wastage,” she said.

According to the same report 44% of UK-based businesses plan to increase their environment-related investments between

Industrial symbiosis, often referred to as ‘resource matching’ enables unwanted business resources from one organisation to become material inputs for another providing a ‘win-win’ solution for all. There is also a strong societal impact to the work that we do such as creating and safeguarding jobs and engaging social enterprises, all of which are helping businesses to engage with their CSR goals and their customers’ expectations as well”.

International Synergies NI International Synergies was established in 2005 and is widely acknowledged for its expertise in devising and managing industrial symbiosis programmes across five continents working with public and private sector clients, institutions and the research community. International Synergies NI was established in 2013 and is now led by Elaine Kerr, director, who has worked on this programme since it first began. International Synergies NI is the deliver partner for Invest NI’s Industrial Symbiosis Service.


Elaine and her team undertake feasibility visits

and are well placed to find resource solutions across industry sectors and with businesses of all sizes. Niall Casey, director of skills and competitiveness, Invest NI, said: “Since we introduced the Industrial Symbiosis Service participating businesses have saved over £25.7m, increased their sales by £16.4m and create over 100 jobs. “This work has reduced carbon emissions by 352,000 tonnes and has diverted almost 400,000 tonnes of waste from landfill. This is a huge achievement for our local economy and for our local environment and we are proud to be part of such a strong project. I would absolutely encourage more local businesses to get involved.” ■ For more information on the Industrial Symbiosis Programme, log on to www.investni. com/support-for-business/industrial-symbiosis or contact Elaine Kerr via email at: elaine.kerr@ international-synergies.com

Human resources MARCH 2019


Dealing with diversity head on With stark figures pointing towards continued prejudice among LGBT+ staff the workplace and Northern Ireland’s boardrooms lacking gender balance, John Mulgrew looks at the challenges facing firms here when it comes to tackling diversity



Paul Gillen (right) with some of the Pinsent Masons team at Belfast Pride


t’s 2019, and more than a third of lesbian, gay, bi and trans members of staff here have admitted hiding their sexuality in the workplace for fear of discrimination.

And it’s figures like that which make companies of all shapes and sizes take notice, helping to lead the way in ensuring that diversity is a key strand of a business’s ethos, and that LGBT+ employees feel every bit as part of the team as their colleagues. “People spend most of their adult lives at work, so it’s crucial they feel able to be their authentic self,” Fergal McFerran, Northern Ireland client account manager at Stonewall, told Ulster Business. “We know people perform best when they can be themselves, and so it’s hugely important for businesses who want to have high-performing staff to make inclusion a priority.” The figures from Stonewall show that more


than 40% of people have heard negative comments about lesbian, gay and bi people from a colleague in the workplace.

“It’s crucial that more employers take steps to ensure that their lesbian, gay, bi and trans staff feel supported to be themselves in the workplace.”

It’s something which has helped fuel the organisation’s Diversity Champions Programme. “Four organisations in Northern Ireland ranked in the Top 100 of this year’s index, including Pinsent Masons who took the top spot,” Fergal said.

Stonewall hosted a series of senior business leaders this summer at Allstate NI’s headquarters in Belfast, to mark International Day Against Homophobia, Biphobia and Transphobia.

“Employers play a huge part in driving progress towards equality. By working together, we can ensure that all LGBT people feel safe and accepted at work, home, and in their everyday life.

Those gathered heard from a range of voices, from both public and private sector, including the PSNI’s Patricia Foy, and Jill Minne, strategic HR director for the Northern Ireland Civil Service.

“There are lots of ways that organisations, big or small, can make changes to champion workplace inclusion. This could be setting up and developing LGBT staff networks, ensuring that all policies and processes are LGBTinclusive, or monitoring sexual orientation and gender identity to be able to understand the challenges facing LGBT people in your workplace.

She said that Northern Ireland’s public sector now has a major LGBT network, and that unless companies are actively becoming inclusive, then they are potentially excluding. Paul Gillen was another who attended the event. He’s partner at law firm Pinsent Masons in Belfast. >



“Diversity is core to our success. We want people to bring ‘their whole self to work’,” he told Ulster Business. “Treating each person with dignity and respect costs nothing and, quite simply, is the right thing to do. Ultimately a culture of diversity and inclusion creates a workforce at ease, leads to higher productivity, reduced absence, increased retention and innovation. “It is an important tool both for employers to strengthen their brand as well as for Northern Ireland plc to position as a modern outward-looking region when competing for international talent and investment”. It’s one of a host of law firms in Northern Ireland which have specific LGBT+ committees or groups, such as A&L Goodbody and Eversheds Sutherland, and are front and centre when supporting and promoting LGBT+ awareness and participation in the workplace. “In NI specifically, we engage across a number of diversity and inclusion initiatives,” Paul Gillen says. “That includes our Project Sky which aims to increase the number of female lawyers in senior positions, the Stonewall Diversity Champions (in partnership with The Rainbow Project), our FREE (faith, race, ethnicity, equality) initiative and the Mental Health Charter, to name but a few. Recently, we have engaged with Working With Pride to voice the importance for equal marriage through the #Businesses4LoveEquality campaign.” Simon Little is Danske Bank’s head of communications and vice chairman of its responsible business board. It’s a firm which has put a big focus on ensuring its at the front of the pack when it comes to diversity. “In the past year we have increased our strategic focus on equality, diversity and inclusion, and I would say it is now a key part of the bank’s overall responsible business agenda,” he said. “In the workplace it’s about employees being able to bring their true selves to work, about cultivating a culture that is inclusive and diverse. Within Danske Bank we run a Gender


Roseann Kelly

Diversity Network, a Rainbow Network and a Disability Network. “We have also been working closely with a number of external partners, have acquired the Diversity Charter Mark and were named the best company for Diversity and Inclusion at this year’s annual Business in the Community Awards. Promoting equality makes sound business sense, and our approach seeks to positively impact the workplace, customers and wider society.” Meanwhile, gender diversity – while coming a long way in the last decade – still has huge hurdles to clear, with just one-fifth of the board members in Northern Ireland’s Top 100 companies female, and less than a third of most senior jobs held by women. And while turnover among the Ulster Business Top 100 continues to rise, the number of women at the helm of our firms is falling – with just two females holding chief executive or managing director roles on the list. “These figures are simply not representative of the female expertise available within our market and quite frankly, businesses are losing

out. The biggest challenge we are facing is complacency,” Roseann Kelly, chief executive of Women in Business told Ulster Business. “To tackle this gender imbalance, the people in senior positions must show direction and lead by example and it is imperative that they action in haste. Businesses need to do much more to embrace and promote gender diversity within their workforce. We know that diverse workforces and leadership teams make for more successful and productive businesses. “By supporting and encouraging diversity in the workforce businesses will see a significant boost, as will the economy. Northern Ireland economy is missing out on a substantial percentage. I challenge businesses to grasp this opportunity to think forward and recognise their responsibility – act now to build a better future for everyone. The time to act on gender inequality is now and we are calling on all businesses to assess their gender equality procedures and sign up to Diversity Mark NI.” Diversity Mark helps and support firms enabling and supporting companies in achieving a Charter Mark to recognise commitment to diversity in the workplace. ■


Naoimh Leonard and Sophie Maxwell from Property Link receiving their Charter Mark award

NI’s leading organisations are going the ‘full nine grounds’ on diversity and inclusion


his year Investors in People Platinum winning Legal Island launched a breakthrough Charter Mark of its own. The Legal Island Diversity and Inclusion Charter Mark focuses on all nine grounds of discrimination currently prohibited in employment law. To qualify for the Charter Mark, employers must provide the expert assessment panel with evidence of:  An up-to-date diversity and inclusion statement/policy  The application of the statement/policy within the organisation  Recent all staff training on diversity and inclusion issues The three-step procedure was devised by

equality lawyers here mindful that these components are considered a minimum requirement by Industrial Tribunals when considering liability for equality and harassment complaints. Speaking at the launch of the Charter Mark, Legal Island chairman Barry Phillips, said: “This Charter Mark allows employers in Northern Ireland to publicly declare their commitment to diversity and inclusion across each and every one of the nine grounds. It also encourages employers to make sure that key elements of their equality work is robust and up-to-date.

Other organisations to receive the Charter Mark to date include:

“We’re delighted that both large and small employers have applied for this Charter Mark. It has been devised with every type of employer in mind across all sectors. One of the first organisations to be awarded the Charter Mark was PropertyLinkNI in Belfast. Speaking at the launch, managing director, Barry Corscaden, said “we went for this because it’s really important for our customers


to be aware of our commitment to diversity and inclusion. Although our workforce is small our foot fall is huge and we have people from all over the world using our services. We also have customers with special access needs as well as a full range of ages. This diversity is truly reflected in this Charter Mark.”

Legal Island is offering a discount to readers on the Diversity and Inclusion Charter Mark. Please visit www.legal-island.com/ulsterbusiness



Invest NI appoints new chief executive A

former global life sciences executive has been named as the new head of economic development agency Invest NI, it has been revealed.

Kevin Holland is an experienced global business leader with more than 25 years international experience. He’s taking over from Alastair Hamilton as chief executive, after 10 years in the role. Rose Mary Stalker, chair of Invest NI, said: “I am delighted that Invest NI has secured Kevin as its next chief executive. Kevin is an experienced global business leader with more than 25 years international expertise leading and advising business growth and investment in over 50 countries. “He was an outstanding candidate bringing a strong combination of international business experience and leadership skills. Kevin will ensure Invest NI continues to build on the strong progress which the organisation has made under Alastair’s leadership. “On behalf of the Board of Invest NI, both current and previous, I would like to acknowledge and thank Alastair for the dedication, commitment and focus which he has provided to Invest NI and his wider contribution to advancing the Northern Ireland economy over the past 10 years.” He will join Invest NI on October 21 “for a period of transition through November to ensure the highest level of continuity” before taking on the role as chief executive. Mr Holland was formerly minister-counsellor life sciences, health and social care at the British Embassy in Beijing “building deep expertise on the Chinese healthcare system and business environment”.


Previously at US-based life sciences firm Baxter for 15 years, he led the firm’s businesses in Russia, Turkey, Middle East and Africa, building a high growth, compliance-focused business employing more than 1,500 people with a broad portfolio of pharma, biotech and medical devices for chronic and severe diseases.

banks’ balance sheets in particular were badly hit by the property crash. And in the last two years, it’s aimed to continue to attract inward investors to Northern Ireland despite any potential impact of Brexit. ■

A chemistry graduate from Oxford University, Mr Holland Kevin held European R&D management roles at Unilever for 10 years and was responsible for “leading innovation, industrialisation and commercialisation”. He later graduated in business with an MBA from International Institute for Management Development in Switzerland. He’s taking over the role from outgoing chief executive Alastair Hamilton. Mr Hamilton was appointed 10 years ago to lead the agency, which is responsible for drawing foreign direct investment into Northern Ireland, and for helping homegrown companies expand. The 10 years he’s been in charge spanned the worst years of the economic crash, when Invest NI came up with strategies to help the NI economy withstand the impact of the downturn. The agency encouraged the creation of new jobs in a shorter than usual time through the Jobs Fund. He also developed new ‘access to finance’ measures to encourage banks and other types of lenders to fund business, after

Kevin Holland


HR Team launches new health and safety service


mployment law and human resources business HR Team has launched a new health and safety consultancy and training service for employers.

The expansion of HR Team’s service offering has been fuelled by a strong demand for health and safety services from the firm’s client base across the island of Ireland and in GB. Although workplace accidents are reducing, the rate of businesses falling foul of health and safety legislation in Ireland and the UK is increasing. HR Team’s Safe Team will ensure that clients minimise risk from the law by remaining compliant at all times. HR Team director Breda Cullen, said: “Our customers requested this service because they trust our dedication to excellence in compliance. And we have listened – delivering a dedicated team to provide fullservice health and safety consultancy and training. “Our dedication to excellence in compliance now extends into this very


Breda Cullen

important service area to further minimise risk for our clients from everevolving legislation. “Our new Safe Team is made up of health and safety specialists from a range of sectors. The wide-ranging skillsets of the team members means our clients’ can be assured of being assigned the right person with the right knowledge for their industry.” Safe Team from HR Team supports small to medium sized business in the management of health and safety across the island of Ireland and in Great Britain.



Lighthouse takes on public affairs director


Co Down PR firm has taken on a new director of public affairs as its continues to expand.

Lighthouse Communications, which has been in operation for a decade, has appointed Kingsley Donaldson as director of public affairs. Having formerly worked within the Ministry of Defence on national defence and security projects he has a background in peace building and conflict resolution, and is also a nonexecutive director at NI Water and a published political author. Kingsley Donaldson said: “I have known the managing director, Stephen Smith, for some time and have tremendous respect for the

Lighthouse director Alyson English, managing director Stephen Smith, and Mike Smith OBE, non-executive chairman and Kingsley Donaldson

business he and the rest of the Lighthouse team have built. “The next five years will present myriad challenges for companies operating in the business environment and I look forward to leading and further developing our public affairs offering within the Lighthouse client base, indigenous firms and those looking to establish a foothold in Northern Ireland, which remains an attractive investment location”.

Mike Smith OBE, non-executive chairman of Lighthouse Communications said: “Kingsley’s expertise and political contacts both in Belfast, Dublin and London will be invaluable to companies in the current and post Brexit environment. “Over the last decade, Lighthouse Communications has developed into a tier one corporate communications consultancy.”

British Heart Foundation in Christmas appeal


usinesses here are being asked to support British Heart Foundation Northern Ireland (BHF NI) shops by arranging a stock collection drive for their staff.

The charity is appealing to people to search through their wardrobes and scour their homes for any unwanted, good quality clothing, handbags, shoes, books, DVDs, CDs and bric-a-brac which will help BHF NI continue its life-saving work here. There are eight BHF NI charity shops here – in Belfast, Lisburn, Bangor, Newry, Portadown, Enniskillen, Ballymena and Omagh and donations are the lifeblood of each shop. Head of BHF NI, Fearghal McKinney, said money raised from the local shops goes towards the charity’s lifesaving work in Northern Ireland. “Our eight local shops are a vital way for us to fund our work,” he says. “Here in Northern Ireland we have funded almost £4m into research at Queen’s University into projects as diverse as repairing the heart after a heart attack and the impact of diabetes on the heart. “We also enable more than 65% of post primary schools here to


offer CPR training to pupils using our Call Push Rescue kits and have funded an inherited cardiac conditions nursing post in the Belfast Trust. None of this is possible without our shops. “Ask your staff to do a pre-Christmas clear out and help us raise money to continue our lifesaving work.” Each year the eight BHF NI shops are saving 241 tonnes of clothes and textiles, 137 tonnes of books and 60 tonnes of bric-a-brac from landfill locally. To find your local shop and arrange a free collection visit bhf.org.uk/ shop.

Christmas planner MARCH 2019


The Christmas events thinking outside the box The face of the Christmas work party is changing and the traditional turkey sit-down meal is becoming less popular. In this feature Emma Deighan looks to the hosts with the most who are who are putting the alternative into the work bash




erkbox, a company that helps firms incentivise their workforce and counts Purple Bricks and Holland and Barrett among its clients, polled office workers and found that while tradition is not so much high up the pecking order when it comes to Christmas celebrations, staff still want to socialise over the festive season. It said that 23% of workers would prefer to socialise with their immediate team rather than the whole firm while many would prefer activitybased events during the day where they receive the gift of time and a lack of interference with family life. And as more companies embrace flexible working models, and more employees commute to and from work, the excitement for that night out has dwindled. In fact, more research from company Red Letter Days shows that 26% of UK employees confirmed that their employer never throws a Christmas party because it’s a strain on much-valued personal time. Opting for lunch-time events allows employers to take time out of the working day to demonstrate their gratitude while allowing for some much-valued team building and morale boosting. And for those who still want to party into the small hours – there are many event


venues that will allow you to do so in a unique style. We take a look at some of those events on offer this year UP YOUR GAME To inject some friendly competitiveness into your festive shenanigans Belfast’s newest team builder is Black Axe Throwing at Cityside Retail & Leisure Park at York Road. A typical session in axe throwing includes ‘a walk through the basics’ as well as some advanced techniques that will allow participants to throw two axes at once. Competitions and rapid-fire rounds are also part of the experience. “We are not going to lie, axe throwing is pretty addictive, but that’s okay, we’ve got plenty of axes,” Gareth Fairlie, founder of Black Axe Throwing, said. IT’S A JUNGLE OUT THERE Jungle NI allows you to take your staff away from the heat of the city to Magherafelt where outdoor pursuits are the theme. From I’m a Celebrity Get Me Out of Here-type experiences to the Team Building Crystal Challenge, Jungle NI has it covered.

It is designed to offer “ your employees along with their families and friends an exciting and fun filled enjoyable relaxing day

And for those who place a lot of emphasis on work-life balance, the corporate family fun days are just the ticket. “It is designed to offer your employees along with their families and friends an exciting and fun filled enjoyable relaxing day, a perfect way to reward your employees and thank them for their continued contribution and dedication at work,” the company says.

If the trek to Magherafelt seems to much for your team then Jungle NI can bring some of its activities to you. Think archery to bungee trampolining, mini quad bikes and ‘Bucking Bronco Bulls’. SURVIVAL OF THE FITTEST For years We Are Vertigo has been diversifying the active offering here for both children and adults and its latest gig at T13 in the Titanic Quarter challenges wannabe warriors. Among its party offering this season for is The Ultimate Titanic Quarter Package at £44.95 pp. This will cover all three facilities at the site; indoor skydiving, the ninja master course and the inflatable action park. Individual activities can also be wrapped up for a lower price and if you want to bung in some sustenance its new Spud Murphy’s will do just the thing. HAND CRAFTED The Crafty Hen is no stranger to bring the art of DIY to some of the best-known corporate setups around including Google, Barclaycard and Three. “What we offer is quite broad, we can run sessions for 1000s of people in multiple locations simultaneously (ie, for call centres, high street store experiences or large corporations) while at the other end of the spectrum, we can run group workshops/team building type events for small groups of 10-20 people,” Rachel at Crafty Hen says. “Our crafty festive experiences are a great way to get into the spirit of the season, treat the team and even promote wellness at work.” Activities can take place in a venue of your choice; from the pub to an events room. THE BRAINSTORMING SESSION If your company thrives on breaking codes and problem solving then Belfast’s new Game Of Thrones themed Escape Rooms are your cup of mulled wine this Christmas. >



Dubbed the ultimate team building experience, problem solving, communication, logical and creative thinking, attention to detail and performance under pressure are what is needed to succeed. Three rooms; all offering the same puzzles, challenges and level of difficulty allows up to three teams to compete against each other for the best time. ROLLING ON A RIVER If the traditional dinner is still a winner in your boardroom, worth considering is the AC Hotel’s Novelli restaurant at Donegall Quay in Belfast which is making the most of its waterside setting this year by offering a ‘dine and cruise’ option. Running from November 29 to December 20 the dine and cruise can accommodate party numbers between 20 and 40. PAMPER PERFECTION One for the employers who really want to spoil their team is Galgorm Resort and


Spa’s Festive Sparkle package. A group treatment suite allows a minimum of six guests (midweek) to indulge in a choice of one festive mini treatment per person followed by ‘festive light bites’ and use of the Thermal Spa Village. A homecare voucher will also be gifted. Prices start from £69 per person. Festive Sparkle isn’t the only unique corporate offering at the Galgorm this year. Christmas shopping events coupled with a mini spa treatment and light bites are running on November 29 and December 6 for those who want to shop and drop. FOOD FOR THOUGHT Combining the art of cooking with the art of partying is one of NI’s most-renowned restaurants, James Street South, which has a host of festive packages on offer for those with good taste. Running on November 30, December 7, 14 and 21 and costing £125 a head, the Cookery School at James Street guides participants on how to make the ultimate Christmas dinner. A four-hour affair, you’ll get to reap the benefits of your

perfectly cooked meal with a glass of wine. LET THE MUSIC PLAY ON When you’re catering to a workforce that covers all the generations then La Mon Hotel and Country Club might just be the exact crowd pleaser you need. Its genre hopping themed nights between November and December coupled with three-course meals cost from £35 a head, and provide the traditional festive vibe. Think ‘dancefloor classics’ and ‘dancing down the decades’. THE CLASSY AFFAIR If you really want to pull out all the stops the five-star Fitzwilliam Hotel on Great Victoria Street should be your go-to this festive season. Homing in on ‘the alternative’ Christmas celebration the event hosts here have created two very different nights to remember. The Cocktail Masterclass, which runs over lunch or in the evening, “teaches the secrets of mixology”. From £30 per person guests gets sparkling wine and canapes on arrival and two cocktails. ■


£60m hotel and office for city


£60m hotel, office and retail scheme close the home of Primark in Belfast city centre has taken a major step forward.

The plans for Norwich Union House, which occupies part of Castle Street and Fountain Street, are being brought forward by ES NUH Ltd, a development company associated with Co Tyrone construction giant McAleer and Rushe. It would see a Norwich Union House knocked down, and an ambitious 243,000 sq ft scheme built which would include office space, retail, restaurants, cafes, bars and a 174-bedroom hotel.

What the new hotel and office plans could look like

and an eight-storey hotel, likely to be a three-star. Developers have previously said the proposed development would create up to 400 jobs during construction, as well as 1,500 permanent jobs, and generate around £1m in business rates when complete. According to a design statement from Todd Architects, the development will include a seven-storey office building with retail at the ground level


Ahead of a public consultation event earlier this year, Stephen Surphlis of ES NUH Ltd said: “We are very excited that this project will bring significant investment to this part of the city centre. We are looking forward to unlocking the potential of an area of the city that has suffered commercially as a result of the fire at Primark.”




Conor Lambe

Firms must prepare for ‘no deal’ as economic forecast revised down


orthern Ireland firms must prepare for a ‘no deal’ Brexit – a bank chief economist has warned – as it downgraded its forecast for the economy to 0.9%.

Forecasts report, Danske Bank said that the Northern Ireland economy likely expanded in the second quarter of the year, but the rate of growth over the first half of the year remained modest.

Danske Bank’s Conor Lambe said there were still a number of possibilities for what might happen over the new few days, with the UK due to leave the EU on October 31.

“We have revised our forecast for economic growth in Northern Ireland downwards for both 2019 and 2020,” he said. “This largely reflects the modest data for the first half of the year, increased Brexit-related uncertainty and the weaker global economic environment.

Possibilities included a ‘no deal’ exit, a withdrawal agreement being reached, an extension of Article 50 period or a general election. But predictions were “incredibly difficult”. “Businesses should behave prudently and use this time to ensure they are as prepared as they can be for a worst-case scenario, ‘no deal’ Brexit, in case it occurs at the end of this month,” he said. The 0.9% is down from the bank’s previous forecasts, delivered in June, that growth would hit 1% in 2019 and 1.3% in 2020. In its latest Northern Ireland Quarterly Sectoral


“Assuming that a no-deal Brexit is avoided, we expect the Northern Ireland economy to grow by 0.9% in 2019 and 1.0% in 2020, below the 1.2% we expect UK GDP to grow by in both years. “A combination of strong wage growth and more stable inflation is likely to lead to solid growth in consumer spending, but the lack of clarity around the UK’s future relationship with the EU is expected to continue holding back business investment.” It says the information and communication, and professional, scientific & technical services

sectors are expected to be the fastest growing parts of the economy over the next two years. Meanwhile, output in the construction sector is forecast to rise by 1.0% in 2019 and 0.9% in 2020, while expected output growth in the wholesale and retail trade sector has been revised down to 0.9% in 2019 and 0.9% in 2020. Public administration and defence is continuing to have the weakest outlook of all the sectors of the Northern Ireland economy, with output expected to contract by 0.7% in 2019, and by a further 0.2% in 2020. “Over the coming weeks, a number of potential Brexit options are possible, including a no-deal exit, a withdrawal agreement being reached, an extension of the Article 50 period or a general election,” Mr Lambe said. “Predicting what will happen next in the Brexit process is incredibly difficult, but businesses should behave prudently and use this time to ensure they are as prepared as they can be for a worst-case scenario, ‘no deal’ Brexit, in case it occurs at the end of October.” ■


New jobs on horizon amid White’s Tavern takeover


round 30 jobs are being created following the takeover of one of Belfast’s oldest taverns.

The Clover Group has announced it has added White’s Tavern to its portfolio. Dating back to the 1600s the bar is in the heart of Belfast city centre at Winecellar Entry. The takeover follows Clover’s opening of Margot’s in Donegall Square East in April with the Fountain Bar also reopening its doors, following a £1m refurbishment. Clover is planning to refurbish White’s in a way that maintains the integrity of the original tavern complete with an original bar


Pictured in White’s Tavern are the Clover Group’s Andrew Maxwell, Paul Langsford, Jim Conlon and Mark Beirne

counter from the 17th century.

the new bar restaurant on the first floor.

O’Donnell O’Neill Design has been tasked with refurbishing the interior and exterior facade. Former head chef at Deane’s, Simon Toye, will take charge in the kitchen in the Oyster Room,

The plans for the venue will also include the revitalisation of the outdoor area including Winecellar Entry with performances planned with local and international musicians.



Roe & Co: a return to Dublin distillation for a drinks giant The distillery floor at Roe & Co

John Mulgrew pays a visit to one of Dublin’s newest whiskey distilleries, Roe & Co, which sits not far from the world famous St James’s Gate brewery in the city, takes a dram and a tour, as well as Guinness’s new Open Gate bar


his isn’t the first time I’ve spent time in a whiskey distillery. But despite its compact size, when compared to the larger output producers on the island and in Scotland, the money that’s gone in to the new Roe & Co site shines through.

Turning the former Guinness power station in to a copper and teal distillery – and almost something of a museum – represented a €25m (£22.5m) investment.

raw spirit, as well component parts of the nose and flavours. And those with a penchant for mixology can also take a stab at creating their own cocktail in a lavish room – akin to a somewhere between a posh training kitchen and high end bar.

Roe & Co’s distillery close to St James’s Gate brewery

During a visit on the tail end of a muggy and rainy afternoon, the sun began to break through the clouds as we entered the distillery – red brick clad, a smattering of trees and the soon to be recognisable light teal Roe & Co name above the door. The teal invoking the natural tarnishing of copper.

takes us through the facility. A walkway, complete with partially transparent floor, allows us a clear view of the three grand a gleaming copper kettles, where the distillation happens, after the initially brewing process happens – barley, water and yeast turned into a porridge called wort – close by.

The distillery pays homage to George Roe, a famous name from the 19th century heyday of Irish whiskey. The new distillery is on a neighbouring site, just across the road from Guinness in the brewery’s old power plant, and at the epicentre of the Irish whiskey revival in the Liberties district of Dublin 8.

The stills produce 14,000 litres of malt whiskey in every run, with an annual maximum capacity of around 500,000 litres. Once mature, the malt whiskey will be supplemented by outsourced grain whiskey to create Roe & Co’s blend; currently both liquids are bought in for blending.

Making our way through the expansive gift shop, our enthusiastic young guide Karl Deery

There’s a tasting room, where visitors are given a chance to nose both the finished whiskey,


Following the tour, there’s a grand ground floor bar which has a bound ‘drinks manual’ of electric-generated inspired tipples, each featuring their signature whiskey. I opt for an ‘oil handler’. It’s an umami-rich affair, and not for the fair of heart or for those who shy away from the savoury end of the cocktail periodic table. The short drink backs Roe & Co with rich Pedro Ximénez sherry and a cacophony of umami – balsamic, Worcester sauce and soy sauce to name a few. In addition, just a short distance away, there’s the Open Gate Brewery. It offers a brewing giant such as Diageo the opportunity to produce small batches of beer to test the market, and explore areas not normally associated with Guinness. That includes a light saison – a Belgian-style farmhouse ale – and a hefty imperial stout. ■


Hotel price surge during Open in Portrush


he Open golf tournament saw a surge of almost a third in hotel revenues in Northern Ireland but the overall UK market could slow over the next 12 months, a new report has said.

According to PwC’s Hotel Forecast 2020, Open Championship-related demand and screen tourism driven by Game of Thrones combined with a “focused drive by Visit Belfast to double out-of-state tourists to the city contributed to the 10% jump in rooms sold during the 12 months between June 2018 and June 2019, an increase five times that of the national average”. But it says that an increase in visitors “was not sufficient to balance the increase in new rooms across the city (up 494 to 5,287), with overall room availability increasing by 20% and total occupancy levels falling by 8.5%”. “With continuing Brexit-related uncertainty, potential further volatility in economic growth and declining business confidence, the hotel sector is facing strong headwinds,” Martin Cowie, PwC NI partner, said.


“Having already seen record growth in new hotel rooms over the last two years, around 640 more rooms are set to open in Belfast over the rest of the year, with an additional 165 planned for 2020. An increased spike is likely to create an even more competitive environment in the city. “The challenge is to turn disruption into opportunity. Digital transformation continues to be an important focus, and it will be critical for companies to manage rapidly evolving guest expectations and the increased digitisation of hotel services, while retaining loyal visitors.” And Sam Ward, hotels leader at PwC, said the latest forecast “reflects trends we’re seeing such as weaker business and leisure confidence and continued high new supply additions”. “Add this to the rising costs of operating hotels, which continue to increase above UK inflation, and the fact that hotel operators find it difficult to pass these increases on to guests through a higher room rate because of the competitive nature of the market.

“The devaluation of the pound has pushed up the cost of importing foods and drinks for hotels, plus the low UK unemployment rates, reduction in EU nationals’ recruitment due to Brexit concerns, and above-inflation increases in the minimum wage have all contributed to increased costs associated with acquiring, training and retaining staff. “The net result is that the potential drop through profitability from any increases in top line revenue is likely to be reduced in 2019. In the regions, gross operating profit has continued the negative growth trend seen in 2018 while London has been less impacted in (the first half of) 2019 because of higher revenue growth. “We anticipate investor appetite to remain cautious, until there is further clarity on the outcome of Brexit. However, there is still an expectation for continued inward investment from Europe and the Far East in 2019 looking for good opportunities and strong returns, especially given relative low value of the pound, however there is a limited supply of potential investment opportunities.” ■

Social housing ‘worth £1bn to NI economy’



he social housing sector in Northern Ireland contributes more than £1bn to the economy, a new report has claimed. The Northern Ireland Federation of Housing Associations (NIFHA) ‘Benefits to Society NI’ report, highlights the breadth of work carried out by the social housing sector and the positive impact it has across the community. The document also sets out some of the key recommendations from the sector, which would improve housing across Northern Ireland.

Name: Brian Lavery Business: CBRE Position: Managing director, Northern Ireland

Jon Lord OBE, Dr John McPeake and Professor Peter Roberts

The Benefits to Society NI initiative is supported by more than 20 organisations across the housing sector. “With one in six of all the homes in Northern Ireland being social or affordable, and more than 1,700 new homes built each year by housing associations, Benefits to Society NI sets out the wider impact the

John McPeake, chairman of the NIFHA, said: As well as providing more than 130,000 homes, we provide care and support services, employ more than 6,000 people, and build more than 1,700 homes every year, which supports the construction sector and adds more than £1bn to the local economy.”

The Smart Commuter

What service do you use? I use the 238 Goldline service from Newry to Belfast which calls through Hillsborough where I live. The bus stop is only 100 metres from my front door and the bus station at Great Victoria Street is only a brisk 10 minute walk from my office.

leaving the car at home in that circumstance is sensible.

What type of ticket? I purchase a Smartlink card and load with 30 journeys at a time. It works out at approximately £2.90 a journey which is good value.

What’s your go-to breakfast ‘on the move’? I usually skip breakfast but have a milky coffee either on the bus or get one at the bus station on arrival.

Why do you choose public transport? The bus lane on the M1 helps with travel time and the coaches are comfortable and have good wi-fi. I regularly attend a lot of work functions and also often socialise in Belfast so

Do you have any words of wisdom for anyone considering switching from car to public transport? I don’t use the service as much as I should and I am spoiled by having a car park directly


social housing sector has,” it says.

How do you spend your time on board the service? I either read a newspaper or check emails and organise my diary on the iPhone.

below my office. More recently I also often take my daughter and her friends to school in Belfast. I don’t feel quite as guilty if there are four people in the car, as we sit in traffic, but it is completely guilt-free on the bus. It’s really a case of good habit and bad habit. The bus is a very good habit to get into. www.translink.co.uk



Breakfast Business


By John Mulgrew


’m glad to report there’s no mucking around on this breezy and slightly damp autumn morning, from my guest or from myself. Two frys and two large black coffees. There were no concerns that this could turn in to another caffeine only affair.

Glyn Roberts and I opt for Down Tools for morning fuel. It takes the place of a former stalwart of the Belfast high street, formerly McMaster’s Tools – a business which had called the location its home for 122 years.

keeping everyone happy – or almost no one it seems – fell flat. Northern Ireland remaining in the single market, but outside the EU Customs Union, thus the concerns around checks, delays and frictionless trade remain. “The Prime Minister’s initial proposals didn’t go far enough and created all sorts of problems – two borders instead of one. Issues around checks, the increased possibility of tariffs – putting the whole regulatory agreement up for renewal every four years, in an Assembly that hasn’t met for three years.”

The morning’s fried breakfast was a hearty one, but not verging into daft territory in terms of volume. Good quality black pudding – Inch House in this case, a fresh pigs blood variety – along with white, with the mainstays of sausage, bacon, egg, and bread-based components, tomato and mushroom.

As I write this, little agreement on the freshest ‘plans’ from Number 10 soon led to the UK and EU agreeing a deal, which was then to face Parliament. Seemingly not as good for Northern Ireland business as Theresa May’s withdrawal agreement, but a step in the right direction for many – ensuring no border, alignment with the single market, while leaving the EU customs union.

I’ve never understood the last two’s place on an otherwise protein, starch, fat-based and sodium-rich dish as the Ulster Fry. They sit, uneaten, while the rest last little time on the porcelain. It’s a well-balanced and high-quality version of the classic.

“We had a perfectly good withdrawal deal. It wasn’t perfect but certainly moved us on. And we have no government, no ministers to deal with that.”

On to business, and Glyn’s headed up Retail NI for the last 12 years, and in the last few months has banded together with colleagues from Manufacturing NI and Hospitality Ulster to develop Trade NI – a business body bringing together the sectors, and giving them more clout on the industry stage, having just hosted the largest business delegation at Westminster. We’re speaking about Glyn’s industry, which represents small retailers across Northern Ireland, and the economy as a whole as Boris Johnson’s seemingly last ditch attempt at


Glyn says the business community stepped in to fill the gap left with a lack of strong political leadership and a working Assembly. “They put out new ideas, they tried to deal with a situation that was way beyond their pay grade,” he says. “The last three years have been a colossal waste of time and money. When I think of the endless millions that we have had with Brexit, whether it’s Westminster, Belfast, Dublin or Brussels. The world is changing. We have moved to a position where Brexit is the huge elephant in the room, so the focus on skills and

training, regeneration, business rates and how we grow our economy, has been pushed to one side and that’s the greatest tragedy.” Trade NI is also set to grow its reach, following a successful delegation in London – amid plans to head to Dublin, and possibly, extend its reach across the Atlantic. “It’s important that we continue to move forward. We are at the early planning stages of an event in Dublin, and potentially in Washington DC as well. I think it’s important, in the absence of government, that Trade NI shows that leaderhsip. Go out there and say, ‘yes, we are going through a difficult patch, but we are still open for business’. “It’s selling that vision for Northern Ireland. We will be coming up with ideas on how we can develop the north-south economy. But also, a broader issue about making this region more attractive to FDI (foreign direct investment).” ■

The bill: Down Tools fry x 2 Americano x 3 Riverrock still water Total:

£17 £7.50 £1.50 £26.00






How is business? We are doing very well, thankfully. We’ve doubled in size in the last two years. This probably goes back to some five years ago when we strategically looked at the business and the way forward. We moved premises nearly three years ago and that allowed us to be under the one roof and to streamline our processes. We’ve also invested heavily in machinery, the infrastructure and people. Our goal was to engage in new markets and build the business. That’s all coming together now, and we are progressing in any number of sectors from film and transport to agritech and aerospace. Of note, we’ve recently recruited a sales engineer, Michael Barton, who will be focusing on key sectors and we are also currently recruiting a number of new engineers to grow the team. How did you get started in the industry? I actually started by making fibre glass fairings and mud guards for motorcycles in the loft above my parent’s garage. During that time, I realised no one else was thermoforming or vacuum forming. That took over from glassreinforced plastic (GRP) and I started to build a business around it. There are many benefits from using vacuum forming rather than GRP. With GRP you can only make one or two parts a day whereas with vacuum forming you can make 200 or 300 and it is much easier to control quality which is pretty significant. Typically, who are your clients or customers? Nearly all of our customers are other manufacturing companies. Although these companies may be great at making their own products, very few have much knowledge of the many plastic processes that are available


Entrepreneur OF THE month that include the vacuum forming process. We make parts for aircraft interiors, coaches and buses, agricultural equipment, medical devices to parts for film sets; I can safely say that we have an atypical customer base. Do you enjoy what you do, and what in particular? I love what I do. My background is engineering and design, so I’m happiest when I’m designing and making a new product and seeing it from those very first designs through to production – it can be very satisfying indeed. I also love the variety of who we work with and what we manufacture, from alien coffins for the film industry to training aids for the medical sector with some local bus and coach converters’ interiors and aerospace parts in the mix.

What is the most difficult part of your job? Probably anything to do with the business that doesn’t involve design or engineering. Working on the business and working in the business are two very different things but having the right people makes it somewhat easier. What are the challenges facing your sector, and the economy in general? Single use plastic has received some bad press of late and as a result the business of plastics has also been tainted with it. We don’t make disposable packaging; what we make are heavy duty parts which lasts for years and years. It’s for machinery and aircraft which have excellent lifespans.

Motoring By Pat Burns

Sponsored by


Romeo, Romeo… I

f you don’t trust yourself to get behind the wheel of 510bhp rear wheel drive Alfa Romeo Giulia Quadrifoglio then the Italian manufacturer now offers a slightly more reserved petrol and diesel models that offer the same high levels of style and appeal.

The Giulia range has been refreshed to include the latest range of Euro 6D engines, increased standard specification and the introduction of the Giulia Veloce Ti to the line-up, while coming with five years warranty, three years servicing and five years roadside assistance. Diesel models now benefit from the addition of AdBlue, which provides a reduction in NOx emissions. Two diesel models are available, both with 2.2 litre engines producing 450Nm of torque and 57.7mpg with a choice of power outputs of 160 and 190bhp. The 0-62mph times are 8.2 and 7.1 seconds respectively. The two petrol models are powered by a turbocharged 2.0litre unit with a choice of 200bhp/330Nm or 280bhp/400Nm outputs.


A Veloce Ti model has also joined the Giulia line-up offering the look and feel of the Quadrifoglio with Veloce performance, priced from £45,500 OTR. Building on the Veloce, the Ti adds Quadrifoglio leather and Alcantara heated sports seats with eight-way adjustment, Carbon interior trim with leather dashboard, ambient lighting, black headlining, illuminated Carbon door sills and climate pack to enhance the sporting ambiance of the interior. Externally it adds 19-inch dark five-hole Quadrifoglio alloy wheels (previously only available on the Quadrifoglio), carbon V-grille and mirror caps, lighting pack and red brake calipers as a nod to the range topper. All versions of the Giulia now come with the 8.8-inch Alfa Connect with navigation and Apple CarPlay and Android Auto as standard, ensuring that drivers are always connected. In addition, the Giulia Speciale also adds an exclusive 18-inch dual five-spoke diamond cut alloy wheel, rear privacy glass, aluminium

kick-plates and black brake calipers to its standard equipment list, while Veloce models see new 18-inch five-hole dark finish alloy wheels, rear privacy glass and Convenience pack with keyless entry, external door handle lights and driver’s side dashboard storage as standard. The range-topping Giulia Quadrifoglio also adds rear privacy glass, anodized black brake calipers and 40/20/40 split fold rear seats, with third rear central seatbelt, to its long standard equipment list. All Giulia models now offer additional peace of mind as they receive a further two year warranty and roadside assistance, valid for five years from the date of first registration or until the vehicle has travelled 75,000 miles. In addition the cars also come with three year scheduled servicing, covering the cost of parts, lubricants and labour required as part of the servicing schedule. The revised Giulia range is now available priced from £32,490 OTR. ■


Grace and Pace J

aguar has made a series of improvements to its awardwinning F-Pace performance SUV. The best-selling Jaguar delivers interior enhancements, the latest safety technology and additional consumer convenience features.

collision, alerting the driver and applying the brakes if the driver fails to respond.

The F-Pace has been critically acclaimed across the world and this performance SUV has more than 70 international awards to its name. Many of the improvements are to the safety software.

The new optional safety packs make the buying process simpler than ever. The Park Pack includes park assist, Jaguar’s 360-degree parking aid and rear traffic monitor while the Drive Pack provides adaptive cruise control with ‘stop and go’, blind spot assist and highspeed emergency braking.

Joining the selection of driver assistance systems, adaptive cruise control with steering assist operates between 0-180km/h and uses the existing adaptive cruise control functionality with lane centring to steer the vehicle within its lane as it maintains a set distance from the vehicle in front. Other features include adaptive cruise control with ‘stop and go’ that allows the driver to follow a vehicle to a smooth stop and resume from stationary when the driver prompts the system by tapping the accelerator pedal. The radar-based high-speed emergency braking enables enhanced forward collision detection. The system works between 10160km/h and is able to detect an imminent


Now fitted as standard, all customers will benefit from a rear camera, front and rear parking aids, driver condition monitor, emergency braking and lane keep assist.

The Driver Assist Pack combines the park and drive packs and includes 360-degree surround camera and adaptive cruise control with steering assist. Inside the F-Pace, Jaguar’s Touch Pro infotainment with a 10-inch touchscreen is fitted as standard, while new optional slimline sports seats featuring 14-way adjustment, adjustable bolsters and slimmer seatbacks are available. The attention to detail continues with the frameless rear view mirror, illuminated metal

treadplates with Jaguar script, bright metal pedals, premium carpet mats, suedecloth headlining, chrome seat switches on the 10way adjustable seats and carbon fibre door finishes. Some petrol models also benefit from a larger 82-litre fuel tank (up from 63-litres). All petrol engines are now equipped with particulate filters to make them even cleaner. An SVR F-Pace has also joined the line-up. The SVR features a 550PS, 680Nm 5.0-litre V8 supercharged petrol engine and is capable of 0-60mph in 4.1 seconds and a top speed of 176mph. Engineered by Special Vehicle Operations (SVO), the SVR features bespoke suspension, aerodynamic enhancements and new lightweight 21 and 22-inch alloy wheels to accommodate the uprated brakes. A variable valve active exhaust system ensures the supercharged V8 engine delivers a soundtrack to match its performance. Inside, the F-Pace SVR gets slimline sports seats featuring the SVR logo while the sport shift selector underlines the SUV’s sports car character. ■



Mini country club


elebrating its 60th birthday this year, Mini has introduced the most powerful road production models ever; the Mini John Cooper Works Clubman and Countryman. The 306hp four-cylinder turbo engine in the new JCW Clubman (fuel consumption combined: 39.8 mpg; CO2 emissions combined: 161g/km) and the JCW Countryman (fuel consumption combined: 40.9 mpg; CO2 emissions combined: 156g/ km) both provide outstanding performance, combined as standard with a new eight-speed Steptronic sports transmission and an ALL4 all-wheel drive system. The latest generation of the four-cylinder engine developed for the John Cooper Works models with TwinPower Turbo technology exceeds that of the previous engine by 75hp at maximum output. Maximum torque has also increased by 100Nm to 450Nm, and acceleration performance has improved.


The JCW Clubman boasts acceleration of 0 to 62mph in 4.9 seconds, with the new Countryman achieving the same in 5.1 seconds – 1.4 and 1.5 seconds faster than in the respective previous models. For the first time in a Mini, the maximum speed of the new top sports performer is now electronically limited to 155mph. The sound of the newly developed sport exhaust system is dramatic, however when driving at a relaxed pace the sound is more reserved. The twin exhaust system leads into a new, particularly large-volume rear silencer. To optimise emissions, the sports exhaust system is fitted with a petrol particulate filter and emission control in both of the new models and is in line with the Euro 6d-TEMP standard. The new automatic transmission also features an integrated differential lock and is connected with the DSC (Dynamic Stability Control), which aids both the traction on loose terrain or in poor weather conditions,

as well as the driving dynamics when taking bends. In normal driving conditions with the DSC activated, it transmits the drive to the front wheels to help fuel consumption. But if the DSC controller detects a danger of slip on the front wheels, within a fraction of a second, the clutch will transfer the drive torque to the rear wheels as well. The standard equipment of both high performance models includes LED headlights, Mini ‘ driving modes’, navigation pack offering a 6.5 inch display with touchscreen function, a redesigned graphical display and real time traffic information (RRTI). Comfort Plus pack is provided as standard including front and rear park distance control with park assist, a rear view camera, seat heating and folder mirrors. The new JCW Clubman and JCW Countryman are priced from £34,250 and £35,550 respectively. ■



Fiesta, Tucson and Golf top sellers T

he Ford Fiesta, Hyundai Tucson and Volkswagen Golf have topped the list of best selling cars in Northern Ireland, according to the latest figures.

A total of 218 Fiestas were sold in September, with 187 Tucsons and 184 Golfs. However, new car sales across the UK as a whole, and in Northern Ireland, were down last month, according to the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT). According to Andrew Webb, chief economist at Grant Thornton NI, “consumers are watching as Brexit grows ever more uncertain”. “New registrations for September are down by more than 4% compared to a year ago,” he said. “This uncertainty has an inevitable flow through to confidence and sees people holding back on significant expenditure.” Scotland saw the biggest fall in September, with new vehicle sales dropping by more than 11% compared to the same period a year earlier. Sales in Wales fell modestly by 0.52% while England saw a drop of 2.92%, “September’s modest growth belies the ongoing downward trend we’ve seen over the past 30 months,” Mike Hawes, SMMT chief executive, said.


“We expected to see a more significant increase in September, similar to those seen in France, Germany, Italy and Spain, given the negative effect WLTP had on all European markets last year. “Instead, consumer confidence is being undermined by political and economic uncertainty. We need to restore stability to the market which means avoiding a ‘no deal’ Brexit and, moreover, agreeing a future relationship with the EU that avoids tariffs and barriers that could increase prices and reduce buyer choice.” Across the UK as a whole, September’s volumes were driven by the fleet sector, which grew 8.6%, according to the SMMT. “Meanwhile, private demand remained stable, up 0.1%, while business registrations declined 44.8%. Diesel registrations fell 20.3%, as petrols experienced a moderate increase of 4.5%. “There was good news for battery electric cars (BEVs), which saw the biggest percentage growth of all fuel types, up 236.4% (5,414 units) as new models boosted registrations. Plug-in hybrids (PHEVs) also saw

growth for the first time in six months – albeit on the back of a 22.3% decline in the same month last year. “Year-to-date PHEV registrations are now 5.2% below the same period two years ago. By comparison, popular hybrid electric and battery electric cars are up 32.4% and 125.1% on the same period.” ■

Name: Steven Goldblatt Position: Chief executive, Leaf How did you start out in business? Leaf started as a hobby. In the early 2000s the computer was a relatively new thing. It’s hard to even think back to the time when internet wasn’t instant, and most businesses didn’t rely on it for day to day work. I’d always had an interest in building things from scratch as well as computers and the internet. From my garage in Ballyholme I built two servers and by pure chance started helping a few friends with their business computers. These friends asked could I help their friends and as referrals grew, I started to realise I could potentially have the starting of a business. Referrals work in Northern Ireland and this is still how Leaf gain a lot of new clients. It reached the stage where I needed more space. I decided to move out of the house and get a small office. Leaf grew from there. What have you found the most challenging during your years of business, so far? I think a lot of business owners would agree that the most challenging thing in business is managing your cash flow and making sure you’re always on top of your creditors. The more you grow the more difficult it becomes to manage. Not losing focus on how profitable your business is can be a big challenge. It’s too easy to win big deals and see the big number but you need to be conscious of what that equals financially to your business. How would you describe your management style? I’d describe my management style as a mix of pacesetting and transformational. Why? I set the pace on vision and company strategy ensuring buy-in from key internal players, this


A word from The Wise The column with an ear for experience...

allows me to transform how the company operates and drive collaborative success. What would you change if you could go back and do it all again? This is a difficult question. All business owners will make mistakes as they build their companies – without those mistakes what do you learn? If I was to go back in time and change anything maybe our company growth would not have been as prolific. Have you done it all on your own? How would you like your business to be remembered? Only with the support of talented employees,

loyal clients and close partnerships within the technology industry. I’ve built a network of contacts and relationships with industry vendors that partner with Leaf to deliver clients the best business technology. I’d want Leaf to be thought of as a company people want to do business with. What piece of advice would you give to a 20 year old you? Don’t be afraid to take the risk. If you see an opportunity and you think it’s unique take a risk and go for it. Start up your own business and try and make it a success. But – set yourself a deadline. If it hasn’t made money in three years’ time cut your losses and move on.



Seamus McFlynn has been appointed as a partner at McGuinness Fleck Estate Agents. He is responsible for advising clients in relation to residential sales and purchases and the administration of estates. Kevin Holland has been named as the new chief executive of Invest NI. He is an experienced global business leader with more than 25 years of international experience and will take over the role from Alastair Hamilton. Phil Alexander has been appointed as Cancer Fund for Children’s new chief executive. He will lead the charity that supports children and young people diagnosed with cancer or living with a parent with cancer.

Orla Morris is now business development manager at Around Noon. She has more than eight years of experience in business development in Northern Ireland with a range of companies. Around Noon has appointed Guy Truman as commercial director. He has 25 years’ experience in the ‘food-to-go’ market, joins the company’s board of directors and will drive the UK business. Dr Alan Lamont has been appointed as vice-president of business development and licensing at Almac Discovery, part of the Almac Group. Dr Lamont will assume overall responsibility for all commercial activities within Almac Discovery.

David Boyd has been appointed operations manager at the Fairhill Shopping Centre. He has more than 30 years’ experience in delivering bespoke facilities to commercial and retail clients. Collette Keenan has been appointed head of business development at Around Noon. She has a particular focus on business and customer strategy and will play a key role in developing relationships with clients. Martina Crawford is now chief executive at Lisburn Enterprise Organisation. Ms Crawford, who has been involved in delivering, mentoring and training businesses for almost 20 years, takes over from Aisling Owens.



Private healthcare group 3fivetwo has appointed Tom Riall as chairman of the board of directors. He is currently chief executive of Integrated Dental Holdings and previously was chief executive of Priory Group. Mark Crimmins is now the new head of Ulster Bank in Northern Ireland. Mr Crimmins will assume Richard Donnan’s responsibilities in Northern Ireland for all business, commercial and corporate banking as well as engaging with external stakeholders. Musgrave Group has appointed Noel Keeley, current managing director of Musgrave Wholesale Partners, as chief executive designate of Musgrave. He is due to take up this position on January 1 next year.

Karson Tong joins ARCEN as a senior architect. He has extensive experience and a proven track record of designing and delivering high profile schemes such as the Titanic Hotel. Amyee Taylor is now a solicitor within corporate and M&A at A&L Goodbody, advising clients on all aspects of corporate transactions and commercial law. She has significant experience of advising on both domestic and cross border mergers and acquisitions. Millar McCall Wylie has appointed Michael Wilson as real estate associate. He joins the commercial property team from an international law firm, advising in areas such as acquisitions and disposals, landlord and tenant law and property finance.

A&L Goodbody has appointed John Tougher as an associate in property, specialising in commercial property. A graduate of Queen’s University, he trained and qualified at another leading corporate law firm in Belfast where he was promoted to associate in 2015. Jonathan Pooley is a solicitor within litigation at A&L Goodbody, advising public and private sector clients on all aspects of intellectual property, media and data law. He qualified and worked as a solicitor at a top ranked boutique intellectual property law firm in England. Stephen Abram is now an associate in litigation at A&L Goodbody. He will advise public and private sector clients on all aspects of public and regulatory law. Before joining he completed a LLM in commercial law, graduating with a distinction.





1. Focusing on wellbeing from the ‘Inside Out’ was the theme for a recent networking event hosted by business advisory firm Grant Thornton NI. Pictured are Tara Grimes, Anne Phillipson, Amanda Jones, Katherin Farries, Louise Kelly and Grainne McCoy. 2. Liam Duffy, owner of Classic Mineral Water and John Hood, Invest NI. The Lurgan firm is investing more than £3.7m in its soft drink manufacturing company, to drive business growth, creating 39 jobs. 3. FinTrU founder Darragh McCarthy with Roli Shaw. Mr Shaw has been appointed as general counsel, head of FinTrU legal. He has more than 17 years’ experience in legal and financial services, having worked within private legal practice and financial institutions during that time.


4. Mount Charles has won a £9m catering and hospitality services contract with Griffith College, Dublin. Pictured are Trevor Annon, founder of Mount Charles with Ronan Fenelon, director of Griffith College Dublin and Barry Byrne, managing director, Mount Charles. 5. Abbeyfield and Wesley Housing Association will be providing its residents across Northern Ireland the opportunity to create their own individual ‘Playlist for Life’ over the coming months. Pictured is Gordon McMullan along with Sally Campton, Abbeyfield and Wesley Housing Association and Josephine Jones.






PHOTOCALL 6. A group of NIE trainee engineers have received an Engineering Horizons Bursary from the Institute of Engineering and Technology (IET), a global network of professional engineers. Pictured are Jack Hoy, Molly Guy, Ryan Morgan and Neil Freeburn. 7. HSENI has launched a new interactive guide to managing work-related stress, displayed in the form of a management standards wheel. Pictured is Claire Kelly, HSENI, and Janet Calvert, Public Health Agency (PHA).


8. The Londonderry Chamber of Commerce hosted a business rates workshop in partnership with the Department of Finance on its rates review consultation. Sue Gray, Permanent Secretary for the Department of Finance is pictured with Brian McGrath, president of the Londonderry Chamber of Commerce, and Carol Kelly, Londonderry Chamber.


9. Pictured launching the Northern Ireland Apprenticeship Awards 2020 are Sarah Travers, Permanent Secretary for the Department for the Economy Noel Lavery, Apprentice of the Year 2018 Tammy Whelan and Tommy Bowe. 10. Shelbourne Motors has opened its new ÂŁ5m multi-franchise complex in Newry, creating 60 new jobs. Pictured opening the new complex is Caroline Willis, financial director, Paul Ward, sales director and Richard Ward, sales director.







11. Team NI has won Tourism NI’s Writer Cup event at Lough Erne Resort in Fermanagh. Pictured are Team NI’s Gareth McCullough, Terry McCartney, board member of Tourism NI, Richard Mulligan, Tourism NI’s Orla Farren, Billy Foley, Kate Ferguson of Tourism NI, Maurice Jay, Adam McKendry, Richard Sullivan and Neil McKnight. 12. John Hood, Invest NI with Robert O’Brien, chief Executive, MetaCompliance as the firm announced it is to invest more than £4.5m to create 70 jobs, paying an average of £27,000, as it capitalises on demand in international markets. 13. Jamie Mendez, operations manager, Little Wing and Luke Wolsey, managing director, Little Wing announce an investment of £450,000 in a new restaurant in Whiteabbey, Co Antrim, creating 25 new jobs. 14. Tourism NI has held an Afternoon ‘Tee’ event to thank the army of volunteers and delivery partners whose work contributed to putting on The Open. Pictured at the event are Johnnie Cole-Hamilton, The R&A, Tourism NI chief executive John McGrillen, Denise Hayward, of Volunteer Now and Richard Baker, Causeway Coast and Glens Council.



15. Owner of Larchfield Estate, Sarah Mackie is pictured with the chairman of Lisburn & Castlereagh City Council’s Development Committee, Allan Ewart MBE. The Co Down estate has invested £150,000 in a new event space.





PHOTOCALL 16. More than 200 female entrepreneurs, investors and funders have taken part in Belfast’s first Female Investment Day, organised by Ulster Bank. John Ferris, Ulster Bank is pictied with Suzanne Wylie, Belfast City Council, Claudine Owens, Clarendon Fund Managers and Shane O’Hanlon, InterTrade Ireland. 17. Cloughbane Farm managing director, Lorna Robinson pictured with the Cloughbane Little Farm range of meals announcing a new listing with online grocery retailer Ocado.


18. Gareth McAnlis, Fresh Foods Development Manager at Henderson Wholesale is pictured with David Crawford, co-founder of Just Live a Little, one of the 13 local food producers to be added to Henderson’s local supplier roster as part of a long-term business strategy.


19. Ulster University and PwC have launched a three-year partnership which will focus on employability, skills and the Future of Work. Pictured are Professor Paul Bartholomew, deputy vice chancellor at Ulster University, Philip Black, PwC placement student and Lynne Rainey, PwC. 20. The Mount Charles Big School Cook Off Competition, in association with SuperValu, has been launched. Pictured is Noel McMeel, Lough Erne Resort, with Caitriona Lennox, Mount Charles, Brendan Gallen, SuperValu and chef Niall McKenna, are joined by Eva Bagnall and Sophia Little.







21. KPMG in Northern Ireland has appointed four new partners to its Belfast office amid further growth. Pictured with partner in charge John Hansen (centre) the new partners are Neil O’Hare, Ashleen Feeney, Dominic Mudge and Paddy Doherty. 22. Around 19,000 households in South and East Belfast, Craigavon and West Fermanagh have received invitations to take part in the Census rehearsal. Pictured are Dr David Marshall, Northern Ireland Statistics and Research Agency (NISRA) and Abigail Morrow. 23. Pictured is Dermot McArdle, head of business markets for Electric Ireland showcasing Electric Ireland’s new SME Premium Insights tool allowing businesses to analyse their energy consumption and compare it to similar businesses to reduce their carbon footprint and save money.


24. FinTrU has launched another North West Assured Skills Academy which will see a further 20 graduate training places being created. Pictured are Jenny Thompson, Greg McCann, Damian Faulkner, CJ Martin and Megan Quigley. 25. Tim Brundle, director of research and impact at Ulster University, Naomi Browne, student enterprise co-ordinator and Chris Shannon, student enterprise and entrepreneurship manager at Ulster University launch the UU Start programme.






PHOTOCALL 26. Kieran Hegarty and Tony Devlin with new recruits Elisha Gallagher, Damian Liddy and John Tyre. US materials giant Terex has opened its new £12m facility in Londonderry with the creation of 100 jobs. 27. Enterprise Causeway has launched Kilsandel House which includes more than 12,000 sq ft of class A professional office space in Coleraine. Pictured is Jayne Taggart, chief executive of Enterprise Causeway with Dr Karise Hutchison, chairwoman of the Enterprise Causeway Board.


28. Little Wing’s twins, Fionntan and Ruaidhri Owens-Fennell twin up with Olivia and Karlie Spencer to launch this year’s Hospitality Exchange 2019 programme. The two-day conference celebrates two decades of progress in the industry.


29. Mark Gailey, general manager, Crowne Plaza with Gareth Murphy, director, We Are Vertigo, Rajesh Rana, director of Andras Hotels and Paul McErlean, MCE as the hotel unveiled its newly extended event space which can now hold 650 people. 30. Annabel Wilson and Freddie McCusker call on people across NI to support the SuperValu and Centra Scrumdiddlyumptious tea party which took place in stores in October, with all funds raised donated to Action Cancer.






The Chairman From top businesses to a hospitality-focused affair, the Chairman threw in some culture and high end cuisine over the last couple of weeks


t would be an understatement to say that the backdrop of the Great Hall at Queen’s University’s iconic Lanyon Building is a grand and lavish affair.

And it played host once again to the Ulster Business Top 100 dinner with A&L Goodbody – rounding out the bumper summer publication for the year. It was a chance to speak to some of the big firms making the list, and to hear from Michael Neill, head of Belfast office at A&L Goodbody, and Ulster Business editor John Mulgrew. Brexit and 1,000 days without a working devolved government were high on the agenda. Entertainment came from top soprano Susan Shepherd, backed on the grand piano by the multi-talented PR man Jonathan Ireland, co-founder of Lanyon Group. Also turning out and making sure things ran smoothly was Michelle Donnelly and Glenda McStravick of A&L Goodbody.


It was then time for the Top 100 Hospitality Businesses. It was all aboard HMS Caroline for the launch of the showcase for Northern Ireland’s top pubs, restaurants and hotels. Aside from the plethora of alcoholic drinks on offer, and the passing bites of food to ensure no one ended up overboard, Joel Neill of Hospitality Ulster played MC for the evening. We was joined on stage by PR man and Belfast Telegraph food critic Joris Minne, who chairs the panel of judges for the Top 100. The others deciding which businesses make it in includes Irish News reporter Allison Morris, John Mulgrew, Sunday Life Pub Spy columnist, Edwin McFee and chef Paula McIntyre.

experience that matches both their target market and customer demographic. The 2020 Top 100 Hospitality Businesses Awards will be announced at a gala event in the Crowne Plaza, Belfast in February.

A return to Queen’s University, this time the nearby Whitla Hall, for one of the world’s leading architects, Daniel Liebskind, to take to the stage for a major lecture, hosted by the Royal Society of Ulster Architects (RSUA). Its director Ciaran Fox was joined by hundreds of those from the industry, including past president Paul Crowe, the RSUA’s Emmet McDonough-Brown and Belfast City Council chief executive Suzanne Wylie.

Comedian Paddy Raff provided the evening’s entertainment, while others turning out included Colin Neill and Mark Stewart of Hospitality Ulster, Maura Bradshaw and Nina Doyle representing United Wines Ltd along with Chris Brown and Arlene O’Connor of PR firm Brown O’Connor.

Finally, it was a special evening for gourmands over on Oxford Street in the heart of Belfast city centre. Marking six years in business, the Michelin-starred OX once again brought over one of the world’s most revered chefs, Alain Passard.

The awards recognise the businesses, who through their premises, staff and product offer, embody the very essence of the unique hospitality industry, committed to going the extra mile to deliver an authentic customer

Late on a Sunday evening, it was a chance to enjoy dishes such as raw scallops and pickled mussels, lobster, and signature dishes from Alain Passard’s L’Arpege in Paris, including his ‘hot and cold egg’ – a warm egg york topped with a sherry (in this case Irish whiskey) cream and served inside the shell, and the Chimera. The latter, a rack of lamb wrapped in pigeon. It’s a dish I’m sure we won’t forget. ■

The three Michelin-starred French chef (yes, three) turned out a multi-course tasting menu alongside co-owner and head chef Stevie Toman in the kitchen, with the front-ofhouse team, led by co-owner Alain Kerloc’h ensuring everything ran smoothly.


Michael Neill speaking at the Ulster Business Top 100 dinner

Michelle Donnelly and Glenda McStravick pictured at the Ulster Business Top 100 dinner

Guests at the Ulster Business Top 100 dinner

Those gathered for the launch of the Top 100 Hospitality Businesses

Joel Neill, MC for the Top 100 launch event with Joris Minne, chairman of the judging panel

Colin Neill and Mark Stewart of Hospitality Ulster with the European Rugby Champions Cup

Maura Bradshaw and Nina Doyle representing United Wines Ltd


Alain Passard (centre) in the kitchen at OX with Stevie Toman

Comedian Paddy Raff who provided the evening’s entertainment at the Top 100 Hospitality

Paul Crowe and guests at Daniel Libeskind’s lecture



Dancing to a different beat in Ibiza Brendan O’Connor discovers a more laid-back Ibiza suitable for all the family while paying a visit to the Old Town with a mojito along the way


here was always a tacit acceptance between me and the people who know me that going to Ibiza was probably not a great idea. So when I eventually got to go there, it was with a wife and two kids to keep me out of trouble. But still, it was exciting. It is a mythical place to my generation. And whatever about how the idea of the place might be demeaned now by commercialism, it still holds a magical draw. I should be clear, I wasn’t exactly going to stay in Jade Jagger’s villa to spend my nights in Pasha or whatever the in-place is among the


young clubbers these days. But I was happy to be doing Ibiza in a civilised way, from a safe distance if you will, by going to Sensatori Ibiza, an all-in resort within striking distance of Ibiza town, and with its own flavour of the island.

And, also, nobody was being too cool for school. So you felt comfortable, with your buffet dinner in your belly, and knowing that you would wander up home to your room after the sun went down.

So Sensatori obviously has certain commonalities across all the properties, which is comforting and familiar, but they do tailor the place to wherever you are. So for example, of an evening, at Sensatori Ibiza, you could sit out at the lovely terrace bar watching the famous Ibiza sunset, while a DJ played Ibiza chill-out style music. Except you could bring your kids too, and the mojitos were included in your package.

The beach that the property swooped down to felt like Ibiza too. Various hard-nosed hippie chicks, some of whom look as if they’ve been there for a few summers too many, change constantly into different sarongs and skimpy beach dresses and then march up and down parading their wares as if the beach is their catwalk. And by their wares, I mean the gear they are selling, and when I say they are selling gear, I mean selling sarongs and beach dresses.


It adds to the pleasantly boho buzz of the beach, where music drifts from various quarters, locals or adopted locals mix with tourists, and everybody feels quite laid-back, perhaps due to the legendary vibrations and mystical energy of the White Island. One of the things that was nice about Sensatori Ibiza was that you didn’t feel institutionalised, as you can do in some kidfriendly resorts. With the beach and all the various outdoor spaces, it felt like you were out in nature rather than being in some kind of artificial environment. There was yoga in a kind of bamboo pavilion — designed by Jade Jagger, no less — and there was generally a nice air of laid-back boho. To find the posh laid-back boho of the other Ibiza (the Ibiza of the aforementioned Jade Jagger and co), we headed inland to the village of Santa Gertrudis. Around lunchtime one day, we hired a baby Fiat convertible, for about 50 quid, so we got an afternoon out of it and then the next morning as well. It was great crack piling in and bouncing around the place in it with music blaring and the roof


down. Santa Gertrudis, in the middle of the island, is a charming little place full of chichi Scandi shops and cool little bars, galleries and restaurants.

of groups of old farmers, clearly in for the market, socialising over small beers with their morning coffee. It could have been a small town in Ireland on a fair day 40 years ago.

We skimmed around the coast a bit too and there are loads of lovely beaches and charming little towns and villages, and you can buy ersatz hippie clothes and upmarket tat everywhere.

We taxied into Ibiza Old Town another night, because I wasn’t coming all the way to Ibiza without seeing it. Down by the port is an intermittently charming mixture of boutiques and dodgy-looking disco bars, but once you head through the Portal de Ses Taules and start walking up to the fortified citadel of Dalt Vila, it’s a different scene entirely. You walk through narrow streets and laneways where the old buildings built into the walls have been repurposed as cool little restaurants and bars and shops.

The interior of the island is surprisingly lush and green, and there are beaches at regular intervals along the way, with clear water, sand or pebbles and sometimes with carnival rides for the kids. The following morning, we drove the Fiat into nearby Sant Josep, a charming whitewashed little town, but a proper working town too. And sometimes it’s these little authentic experiences that stay with you. There was an agricultural show and market on in the town, with John Deeres and various livestock on display and people selling local olive oil, nuts and honey. We had deliciously deep and strong cortado coffees in an old cafe full of textures and old tiles and wood, full

Our few little sorties into the interior and around the coast satisfied my desire to rough it and see the real Ibiza. But the nice thing about the complex was that it did feel enough like the real Ibiza, but with a kids club and all home comforts and mod cons laid on. In fact, it was the perfect way to do Ibiza with kids. Pasha will have to wait for the next time. ■



Return of the Max The latest big iPhone is putting its focus on its camera (or, cameras). Adrian Weckler takes on the latest from the Apple stable


fter a week using the new iPhone 11 Pro Max, I would upgrade to it for two reasons: the cameras and the battery life. I should disclose that when it comes to cameras, I’m slightly biased. Regular readers know that for me, the camera system on a phone is about half the reason I choose it. So while the new iPhone 11 Pro Max looks and feels almost exactly the same as the outgoing iPhone Xs Max, that one additional feature is enough to turn my head. And turned it is. The main improvement here is the addition of a third, extra ultra-wide (13mm) angle lens, something I’ve been waiting on for a long time. A handful of other top flagship phones added this focal length in 2019 and I love using it.

Other than the extra flexibility this ultra-wide feature gives you for landscape, sky, architectural and interior still photos, the real fun starts when you use it for video. It is then that you’re reminded of just how good the stabilised video on the iPhone system is. For those who are unfamiliar with this, it may even seem like the biggest ‘wow’ factor of the iPhone 11 system. I walked and then ran with the iPhone recording 4K video, and the smoothness of the video coverage was fairly astounding.


Companies that make stabilising ‘gimbals’ for smartphones and cameras may have just lost a big chunk of their business. Because the A13 processor under the hood is so powerful, I think that this phone can effectively be used as a video camera for all but high-level, professional-use cases. The clarity and sharpness from this extra 12-megapixel ultra-wide lens is good, but not quite as good as from the other two (‘1x’ wide 26mm and ‘2x’ telephoto 52mm) 12-megapixel lenses. If you zoom in on images, you’ll see a little bit of softness compared with the other lenses. But this is normal: no phone has razor-sharp ultra-wide shots because of the physics of how an ultra-wide lens works.

I’m also gratified that the phone adds a new ‘night mode’ that transforms very dark situations by holding the camera up for a few seconds. The only quibble I would have is that it’s an automatic feature that can’t be manually activated as on other phone systems; you’re at the mercy of whether the iPhone thinks it’s warranted or not. It’s worth mentioning that the 12-megapixel selfie camera is boosted, being slightly wider in terms of its focal length now too, which is helpful. It’s also more powerful, with enhanced portrait modes and the ability to shoot better video (including a new slow-motion mode at 120 frames per second, which Apple has dubbed a ‘slofie’). That’s not the only talking point around the cameras. Since the phone was launched,


another question has been asked of them: do they make the back of the iPhone 11 Pro Max look ugly? Are those internet memes comparing the new camera layout with a cooker hob justified? I have a slightly biased view on this in that I’m a camera enthusiast and regard lenses as both interesting and elegant. So yes, I love the look of this camera array when it’s in my hand. I’d even welcome more. As to why they need to be bunched up in a corner of the phone, it’s possible that if they were arranged alternatively in a vertical or horizontal line, some part of your hand might block whatever lens was at the end.

business people relying on it as a workload tool. If anything, Apple is underplaying it. The 11 Pro Max’s 6.5-inch LED screen is also improved, not so much in terms of speed (which was never really a problem with iPhones) but in brightness and contrast.

And the glass is marginally tougher now, meaning it’s a little less likely to spider-crack if it falls out of your pocket or off a table. Are there downsides? Other than the high price, there’s no 5G on board here, although there isn’t much happening yet with 5G from Irish operators anyway.

Its 800 nits maximum brightness can rise to an eye-watering 1,200 nits for brief spurts. Suffice to say that you won’t have problems seeing the display on a sunny day.

In a nutshell, buy this for the incredible cameras and battery upgrade. Don’t buy it if you’re not that fussed about top-end cameras or battery life. ■

Otherwise, the aesthetics and dimensions of the iPhone are almost identical to the iPhone Xs Max. I love the matt finish on the rear of the phone, even if this is largely academic to the majority of us who will put cases on it. The iPhone 11 Pro Max is very slightly thicker and heavier than the preceding iPhone Xs Max, but not that I have really noticed. One very positive side-effect to this is that the battery inside is larger, leading to the second main attraction of the iPhone 11 Pro Max: the extended battery life. While this doesn’t quite match the longevity of the likes of a Huawei P30 Pro (which has an insane battery life), it’s now much closer. Apple claims that battery life on this model is up to five hours longer than last year’s Xs Max and it feels like it. I know that battery life has always been a pain point for iPhone users compared with some flagship rival models. So this is actually a very big deal, especially for power-users or



Uncovering the 9-5 NAME: Nial Borthistle POSITION: Business development manager, Glandore

7am The alarm goes off at 6.30am, but these days I’m normally up earlier as my little lad is more eager to start the day than I am. My wife and I leave the house before 8am and we drop our son off at creche and make our way into the city centre. I check my emails on my iPhone, but don’t tend to respond unless urgent. I’m usually in the office around 8.30am and start the day with a coffee and catch up with my colleagues to find out what lies ahead in their day which is important. 9am As soon as I’ve reviewed emails, I aim to have a catch up with Nicola, our community and events Executive who I work alongside. It’s important to continually update each other on the various events that are on that day or the week ahead. We organise a variety of member events including business advisory, wellness, learning and development and bespoke seminars and of course our alumni events. It’s always something different and I won’t deny there is a lot of work involved in delivering well. We recently hosted a Wellness event and have been busy planning for our next Glandore Alumni event. We’re organising a ‘Hear from Her’ event with a panel of female entrepreneurs talking through success and challenges. 10am Due to the nature of my role, by this stage of the morning, I’ve planned at least one meeting with our clients or will be ensuring the Glandore brand is kept front of mind in the wider business community at an external meeting or event. Not all my meetings are purely business development, so I’m often meeting with people or organisations that support companies such as Invest NI, Belfast City Council, the universities (I’m an Ulster University alumni), colleges or those involved in the start up community. Building and nurturing these relationships is important to our success. As all Glandore members are growing companies, we are keen to support


them any way we can by introductions or encouraging collaboration. 12pm It’s always an early lunch for me usually at my desk unless I’m out with a client or prospect for a bite to eat. Glandore’s office is situated right on Arthur Street, so we are very lucky to have so many nice eateries within walking distance. A lot of those restaurants and bistros are Glandore partners who we work with for the benefit of our members, so we have a good relationship with many local businesses. 2pm My afternoons tend to take a similar shape to my mornings, made up of attending meetings and events. Glandore are members of quite a few business organisations which are great for branding and building connections for Glandore’s benefit and our members. 4pm I usually take some

time at the end of the day following up with people who I have met during the day and planning the next day before I leave the office. I like to be able to walk into the next day knowing exactly what lies ahead. 6.30pm After a busy day, I look forward to heading home and catching up with the family and then it’s ‘daddy’ duties until dinner. I try not get involved in work unless there is something pressing, but instead spend time relaxing over dinner, some television and getting our lives in order for the next day. 10.30pm Bedtime is normally between 10-11pm and usually it’s a catch up on social media and chatting to friends and family in Australia who are starting their day.

Profile for Ulster  Business

Ulster Business - November 2019  

Ulster Business

Ulster Business - November 2019  

Ulster Business