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Contents 06 News

34 Top 100

77 Motoring

The latest news and exclusives from throughout the business world

Some of the cream of the NI business crop turned out for the launch of the Top 100

Pat Burns has a summer Fiesta, tangles with a crossover and Walks the Line with Hyundai

14 Cover Story

39 Conferences & Event Management

86 Photocall

David Whelan of Clarity Telecom on a business with engineering at its core

18 In Focus Justin Milligan on growing his phone repair chain and tackling the escape room

23 IT & Technology John Simpson speaks to the man heading up a £165m broadband roll-out across NI

Emma Deighan on an ever-burgeoning industry

57 Energy, Waste & Environment The race towards a carbon neutral economy

67 Employment Law & Conflict Resolution What Brexit could mean for EU workers

We take a round-up of what’s been going on across Northern Ireland business

92 The Chairman From a VIP seat at The Open to the Ulster Business Top 100, it’s been a busy summer

94 Lifestyle John Mulgrew spends a few days with one of Tudor’s Baselworld 2019 releases

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Last chance to get message through?


’ll have to refrain myself from flowing into somewhat crude language as we go, head first, towards October 31 with a political system which doesn’t appear to be any closer to rectifying the hard Brexit scenario businesses across Northern Ireland have been raising red flags about for the last three years.

A leaked paper, outlining a worst case scenario in the event no deal is reached was dismissed by some as being ‘out of date’, despite it emerging that it was published just three weeks prior to it hitting the front page of The Sunday Times. The Prime Minister has already shrugged off the so-called ‘backstop’ as “antidemocratic”, but has yet to furnish us with

any suitable, tangible solution to avoid major changes to the flow of goods and services across the border each day.

We also hear from David Whelan of Clarity Telecom – a serial entrepreneur with big ideas for his firm and its growth plans.

Northern Ireland business will have a chance to get close to those with influence during a major delegation visiting Westminster and Downing Street later this month. It’s expected to draw dozens of MPs, peers and others together and act as something of a sounding board – regardless of how close to the precipice we sit – for those most at risk.

I’d also like this opportunity to pay tribute to First Derivatives founder Brian Conlon, who sadly passed away this summer at the age of 53.

On that note, welcome to September’s edition of Ulster Business. There’s a lot in it, from news and interviews, to profiles, analysis, lifestyle, tech and what’s been happening in the Northern Ireland social calendar over the summer.

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

He was one of the leaders in Northern Ireland’s burgeoning technology sector, something of a visionary who grew his Newry firm into a company with reach right across the globe. And from a journalist’s perspective, he was helpful, friendly and forthcoming. My thoughts are with his friends and family. ■ 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

Cover photo Elaine Hill Contact: 028 90 264260 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 percentage of people in Northern Ireland in favour of a Brexit ‘backstop’. The LucidTalk poll showed 39.5% of people here are against it.


The number of jobs at risk at iconic Belfast shipyard Harland & Wolff. It entered administration after being unable to find a suitable buyer.


The ambitious target Tourism NI is trying to get Northern Ireland’s food and drink sector to, each year. It’s launched a new programme to help it get there.


The percentage house prices have risen across Northern Ireland over the last year. The average cost of a home now sits at £136,767.


Boris Johnson speaks to reporters during a visit to Northern Ireland

Hard Brexit ‘deliberate act of economic and community vandalism’ By John Mulgrew


n increasingly likely hard Brexit has been blasted as a “deliberate act of economic and community vandalism” days before Northern Ireland’s largest business delegation heads to Westminster and Downing Street. A damning leaked report into a ‘worst case’ Brexit scenario warns of border delays, food and medicine shortages and immigration checks.

Stephen Kelly, chief executive of Manufacturing NI – one of three industry leaders who will host top businesses and politicians in Westminster on September 11 – says that “the evidence from Government and firms is clear”.

He’s part of Trade NI, a coalition which also includes Glyn Roberts of Retail NI and Colin Neill of Hospitality NI. It has secured a reception at Downing Street for its members. It will see more than 20 embassies, 100 MPs and peers as well as around 100 Northern Ireland businesses descend on London to highlight that “despite our political difficulties, Northern Ireland is open for business”. Since the leak of the ‘Operation Yellowhammer’ report, Prime Minister Boris Johnson is facing fresh calls to make sure there is no return to a hard border on the island of Ireland in the event of a ‘no deal’ Brexit. In a letter to the EU Council President Donald Tusk, Mr Johnson outlined his opposition to the proposed Northern Ireland backstop, which he described as “anti-democratic”.

“It is a deliberate act of economic and community vandalism as all-island and export markets are closed off, we are unable to fully service domestic or GB markets, communities unsettled and criminality resulting in the death of legitimate firms and the loss of 40,000 jobs which depend on them,” he said.

In response, Mr Tusk said: “The backstop is an insurance to avoid a hard border on the island of Ireland unless and until an alternative is found. Those against the backstop and not proposing realistic alternatives in fact support re-establishing a border. Even if they do not admit it.”

“Unprepared and unprotected – an economy holed below the waterline with nothing more than a sieve to bail us out.”

Meanwhile, a no-deal Brexit could cost the farming industry £850m a year in lost profits, according to a BBC study.


£29m college campus given go ahead


new £29m college campus has been given the green light in Co Antrim, it can be revealed.

The redevelopment of Northern Regional College’s Farm Lodge campus in Ballymena will see the consolidation of the Farm Lodge, Trostan and Lamont buildings. Planning approval was granted for the scheme by Mid and East Antrim Borough Council. Works will include the demolition of the existing college building and a new campus to include development of new building, car parking, internal vehicular drop off point, service yard, landscaping, fencing and associated site works.


It’s thought work will commence in 2021, in line with the funding allocation as planned.

campuses absorbed into the new education hub.

Earlier this year Northern Regional College’s Coleraine Campus was also awarded the go ahead. The plan will see the current college building demolished and development on the existing site, with the NRC’s Ballymoney

The college’s Coleraine plans also require work to be carried out to the listed St Patrick’s Parish Centre, including roof alterations, an extension and internal refurbishment works.



Quotes OF THE month

Council to engage on rates review debate

Sue Gray


elfast City Council is set to engage council members on a review of business rates here, it has emerged.

“Shrinking order books, Brexit uncertainty and the ramping up of tensions between China and the US provide a formidable environment for local firms. Business conditions could well get worse before they start getting better.” Ulster Bank chief economist Richard Ramsey speaking following the publication of the latest purchasing managers’ index.

“What we have also been saying for three year is that we need a deal and now more than ever that is true. We need continued access to both the GB and EU markets not just to thrive but to survive Brexit. If the Prime Minister believes there is a way to overcome these challenges then he must share how.” Aodhan Connolly of the Northern Ireland Retail Consortium speaking following the leak of a Government document highlighting a ‘worst case scenario’ Brexit.

“Anything dad approached in life, he never expected to be defeated and genuinely we never expected this, we always thought he would get better.” The daughter of the late businessman John Mulholland speaking about her father following his death at the age of 55.

Earlier this year the Department of Finance announced it would undertake a fresh review of the non-domestic rating system in Northern Ireland. A formal consultation is due to take place in early autumn with a view to providing a policy option to an incoming minister. Now, as part of the review process in advance of any proposed changes, Belfast City Council’s director of rating policy will “meet with members to hold informal discussions and to listen to views on the current rating system and options for improvement”. That meeting is expected to take place later this month. Launching the review earlier this year, Sue Gray, Permanent Secretary at the Department of Finance said: “In recent years significant changes have taken place in our high streets and town centres.

“We must create a rating system which generates the funding our public services need while supporting businesses in all sector and enabling economic growth right across Northern Ireland.” Business groups have been calling for a full review into the rates system – something which had been further delayed since the collapse of the Executive in 2017.

Ulster Bank unveils new £20 note


lster Bank has unveiled a new £20 polymer note which will enter circulation early next year.

Building on the design theme of ‘Living in Nature’ the £20 vertical note focuses on Northern Ireland as a ‘dwelling place’. The designs were showcased at an event in the bank’s Culmore Road branch in Derry, alongside Jamie-Lee O’Donnell, one of the stars of the hit comedy ‘Derry Girls’ The note features street entertainers and their appreciative audience, reflecting local music and culture, as well as tiles, brickwork and patterns inspired by NI’s ubiquitous red-brick tenement buildings. Terry Robb, head of personal banking in Northern Ireland, said: “We’ve received really positive feedback on our unique designs. Bank


“It is critical from a business perspective, as well as a government funding perspective, that our rating system is capable of responding to this wider process of change. That’s why I am announcing a full and comprehensive review of business rates.

Terry Robb, Ulster Bank’s head of personal banking, Jamie Lee O’Donnell and Chris McGuinness, local director

notes continue to be an important part of the way that people interact with us, and we’re proud to introduce these bold new designs which celebrate our cities and commitment to enjoying ourselves.” In addition to revealing the new designs, the bank says customers must exchange their paper £5 and £10 notes before they are withdrawn completely from circulation.


NI firms ‘turn to new recruitment markets’ amid Brexit


orthern Ireland manufacturers are actively on the ground recruiting staff from countries such as Romania in a bid to stem the flow of workers, it can be revealed.

Large manufacturers, many of which traditionally have relied on strong workforces from Eastern European nations, are turning to other EU countries to hire staff, as some workers – who have been working in Northern Ireland for several years – are returning home to their native countries as uncertainty over their future remains as the UK potentially heads towards a ‘no deal’ exit. The problem for firms here, especially those within agri-food and manufacturing, is they are finding many of their workers leaving Northern Ireland and going elsewhere, or returning home, according to Patricia Rooney, partner in the employment department at Belfast law firm Tughans. “We have agri-food clients and they have had huge problems in recruiting,” she said.


Conor McCrory, business immigration associate at Belfast law firm Cleaver Fulton Rankin, says looking further forward, the main concern for business here is the long term changes to immigration, potentially making it very difficult, or impossible, for EU or non-EU workers on low wages, to secure employment here. Read the full feature on page 67-70



Danske Bank appoints deputy chiefs


anske Bank has strengthened its senior team with the appointment of two deputy chief executives.

Vicky Davies, managing director of strategy and corporate development at the bank, and Stephen Matchett, chief financial officer, will take on the roles alongside their current positions. The bank’s chief executive, Kevin Kingston, said as “fellow executive board directors Stephen and Vicky have been instrumental to the bank’s success in recent years”. “I am delighted to make these appointments, which come at a time when we, as the biggest

Vicky Davies, Kevin Kingston and Stephen Matchett

bank in Northern Ireland, are operating in an increasingly complex and challenging economic and regulatory environment. “Through strengthening our management structures in this way, I believe we will be better positioned to address the opportunities and challenges that lie ahead.”

And Gerald Gregory, the bank’s chairman, said: “It is testament to the excellent job that Kevin Kingston and his team continue to do, that the Board has agreed to the creation of these two deputy chief executive roles. The bank is well positioned moving forward and will continue to play an integral role in supporting the Northern Ireland economy.”

Entries open for IT Awards


he Belfast Telegraph has launched the inaugural IT Awards, supported by law firm Carson McDowell.

Firms and IT leaders are encouraged to apply across 13 categories. Entries must be received by the deadline of September 26, with the awards ceremony taking place on November 8.


Dr Karen Rafferty, Queen’s University with Peter Guzhar from sponsor Carson McDowell and Margaret Canning, business editor, Belfast Telegraph

Entry requirements - Entry overview (must be a maximum of 100 words) which can be used for PR purposes. - A maximum of 750 words on how you/ your organisation/the project or service meet the criteria of the category entered.

- A summary statement of up to 150 words on why you should win.

To enter visit www.belfasttelegraph.co.uk/ itawards/enter

NEWS Gareth Chambers and Howard Farquhar of Around Noon with Grainne McVeigh, Invest NI

Newry sandwich firm creates 94 jobs


ewry-based sandwich and snack food specialist Around Noon has announced a £7m expansion, creating 94 jobs.

The company said the investment is part of a major drive to develop its sales across the UK and the Republic of Ireland. Founded by Sheila Chambers in her kitchen 30 years ago, Around Noon now produces and distributes a range of ‘food-to-go’ and bakery products under the Scribbles, Sweet Things and So Natural brands. It also provides a design and packaging service for clients which want to sell under their own brand name.


The firm currently employs 328 people at facilities in Newry, Dublin and Slough. Sheila’s son Gareth now heads the company as chief executive. “Our goal is to become the UK and Ireland’s

leading manufacturer of premium ‘food on the move’,” he said. Invest NI has offered £592,000 towards creating 54 of the jobs, which will include a number of posts at director and manager level.


Iconic Belfast shipyard enters administration after 160 years It once employed more than 30,000 in east Belfast, but struggling to keep its head above choppy financial waters, the Harland & Wolff shipyard has closed its gates and is now in the hands of administrators - but some light remains


giant of Northern Ireland and global heavy industry – once employing more than 30,000 workers – Harland & Wolff has shut its gates after entering administration. The struggling shipyard is now in the hands of administrators BDO, with more than 120 jobs now facing a very uncertain future. While once a global giant in shipbuilding, the company has primarily worked on ship and rig repair as well as off-shore wind turbines.

While the political outcry to save the iconic Belfast company, amid calls from unions for the shipyard to be nationalised or receive government assistance, there had been subsequent calls from a former boss of Harland & Wolff backing State intervention. Sir John Parker – who was chief executive and chairman of Harland & Wolff from 1983 to 1993 – said he was “deeply saddened” by the administration. “It’s a disappointment given all the years we fought to keep it alive and thriving — for all the people who over the years have made a success of it and kept it alive, when so many yards around Europe have


died,” he said. “I feel for all the people who have relied on it for their living.” BDO partners Brian Murphy and Michael Jennings took control of the business at the beginning of August. At the time of writing, they said they were extending the unpaid temporary layoff of workers, while it had received a number of non-binding offers for the business, or parts of it. “There has been a healthy level of interest with regard to purchasing the business, assets and safeguarding the existing jobs since the commencement of the administration process,” the administrators said. “This has resulted in a number of non-binding offers for the business, assets and employees on a going concern basis. There are also other interested parties who are in constructive discussions with the administrators which may result in further offers. The administrators along with the unions and employees have extended the unpaid temporary lay-off position beyond the August 16, 2019 to September,

30, 2019 to allow additional time to seek to complete a sale of the business. The administrators and the limited retained team of workers at Harland & Wolff will continue to work with all interested parties and bidders as they undertake further financial and legal due diligence work in the coming weeks as every effort is made to secure a going concern sale.” Harland & Wolff Shipyard was founded in 1853 by an ironmonger, Robert Hickson. It was sold to his manager, Edward Harland, in 1855. He was financed by GC Schwabe of Liverpool, whose nephew Gustav Wolff joined the firm as Harland’s assistant. The first ship launched was the Venetian, followed by transoceanic liners for the White Star Line like the Britannic, Olympic and Oceanic. It’s known for its cranes, Samson and Goliath, and as the shipyard which built the Titanic. The launch of the Canberra marked the last cruise liner to be built in Belfast. It was nationalised in 1975, and in January 2003 the last vessel fully built in Belfast, the Anvil, was launched. ■


World class telecoms from the ground up Clarity Telecom helps businesses of all shapes and sizes develop their communications needs from the ground up, and is now rolling out its fast-growing cloud software across the UK and Ireland. Founder and managing director David Whelan speaks to Ulster Business about a business which boasts the right tools for the job



engineering. It’s all about how well it works and adapts to your business. “By focusing on that we are looking at the way things are being built, and we can then get insights on how we can change and improve things.” Led by engineering, the Clarity team is driving change within the telecoms industry ensuring client infrastructure is fit for purpose and for the future. That starts with assessing a business’s needs, making sure the network is suitable, reviewing the workforce needs and bandwidth requirements. From there, Clarity Telecom can develop a bespoke solution – from cabling, to switching, cloud services, routing and phone systems. Clarity Telecom now has a team of 50 staff – a third of whom work directly within the engineering side of the business. But that number could grow further still, as the company expands its business across Northern Ireland, and develops its byphone technology.


avid Whelan’s vision and mantra for what is now one of the leading telecoms businesses is clear – telecommunications services are only as good as the foundations on which they are built, with engineering front and centre.

He’s the entrepreneur behind Clarity Telecom – a successful Belfast-based full-service telecommunications solutions company with almost 20 years under its belt, helping develop top-end connectivity – including lines, calls, mobile, broadband and cloud software – for businesses across Ireland and the UK. And for David, telecoms is all about engineering at the core of finding the best comprehensive solution to its customers, having the right tools for the job, and having world class people.


For Clarity Telecom, it’s about developing a bespoke system for companies, focusing on engineering from day one. Since its inception in 2000, Clarity Telecom has grown to have a greater engineering capability than any other independent telecommunications company in Northern Ireland, and is now rolling out its leading byphone VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol) system throughout the UK and Ireland. David also says through Clarity Telecom and its burgeoning byphone technology, the company could double revenues in the next three years as well as growing its workforce. “The phone network stops at a plug in the wall and from that point on, you have to provide the infrastructure and management,” David says. “What we do is focus on the

The company developed its subsidiary, Voxbit, in 2014 – specifically to design engineering solutions. And through that has come one of its most successful products, byphone. A simple to use VoIP platform, byphone is a drag and drop system that allows users to configure their own phone set up suited to the exact needs of the organisation and enables a range of analysis tools that can help business owners drive up efficiencies. “In 2006 as VoIP started coming along, I realised that was a significant opportunity,” David says. “Where the communications industry is going is into the cloud. It’s going from traditional storage within buildings, into something in the cloud. The traditional telephone systems are evolving. “We started making a series of innovations surrounding cloud technology. We realised you can make it simpler – we were asking ourselves, can you make it work without a manual, for example. >



“If you can, in the same way as Apple’s iPhone made things easier for users, people will start using the services. It’s about making everyone’s life easier. “The end user wants to be able to use the system easily, from managing their telephone number, to having access to voicemail. It’s about the ‘power of simple’. “We now have around 100 resellers for the byphone system in the UK, and we are looking at trebling or quadrupling those sales,” he said. One of Clarity Telecom’s customers is Mid & East Antrim Borough Council. The firm was tasked with bringing together the complex communication needs of the new ‘super council’ following the amalgamation in 2015. “With bringing three councils together, one of the main problems was having a single phone number that people could call. If you have numerous sites, spread across three council areas, that would involve a lot of rip and replace,” David says. “But we gave them one telephone number and then managed the routing to all those bits of equipment across the council areas.”


Hotel giant Andras House – which operates seven hotels and 1,100 rooms in Belfast including the Crowne Plaza at Shaw’s Bridge and the new Hampton Hilton – is also another major customer. “Businesses trust us to be able to provide the engineering solutions in order for them to run their companies,” David says. So, why should a business consider Clarity Telecom for its crucial and comprehensive connectivity needs? David says Clarity is all about improving how companies interact with their customers – making it easier, and thus, improving revenue and sales. “As you manage your telephone connections you become better at dealing with your customers – you become more efficient at dealing with them, and they will have a better experience. It’s about improving customer contact. “As a business you are able to do a lot more, such as listening to call recordings, access to statistics and using data which will help manage that contact, as well as saving on costs and making your business more efficient. “What solution depends on your business. That is where we come along. We never put

a system in without doing a full engineering visit.” Some of the connectivity includes the ability to connect landline with mobile phones, call forwarding and being able to access voicemails as digital recordings, by phone or computer. “When companies deal with us, they can come along and say ‘this is what we are trying to do’, and we are able to work the engineering and infrastructure, before then providing the services,” David says. “It’s also about fighting against the view that it’s all about price. Yes, you have to be competitive, but you need the right infrastructure. For example, if a shop loses connectivity for two days, then they lose two days of sales, simply because they don’t have the back-up for the credit card payment system. “It’s about getting businesses to think about the infrastructure and all of the issues. It’s not just about how cheap you can make a call. It’s about how customers can engage with your business – and we are at the heart of making that happen.” ■ For further information, contact Clarity Telecom on 0800 912 1000 or visit www.claritytele.com


From fixing phones to the burgeoning escape rooms market From fixing old broken Commodore 64s to growing a mobile phone repair business, iPhix, and developing his corporate business offering, entrepreneur Justin Milligan is now expanding his escape rooms business Timescape with plans for global franchising on the horizon. He speaks to John Mulgrew


tarting out tinkering with now decades old early computers in his Carryduff childhood home, Justin Milligan has now expanded his iPhix phone repair business to four locations across Northern Ireland. But he’s also one of just a handful of businesspeople here to see the burgeoning demand and growing market for escape rooms – a timed, often themed, puzzle, in which a team answers clues, following a story, to escape.

Justin operates four iPhix stores and has two top-end escape rooms in Castle Street. But his company Timescape is undergoing a major investment in four new sites at Royal Avenue, taking on the help of Mark Maher for model making – a senior designer who worked on Peter Jackson’s The Hobbit films.


iPhix began in 2014, but his interest in repairs started at a young age – breaking down and fixing old computers, bought by his father at auction. “That led to an interest in computers. Back then it was the Commodore 64s and Nimbus computers, and I started repairing units that my father would pick up from auctions. After that, smartphones hit the market,” he says And as friends and family began asking for his help in sorting out their devices, he decided to take the plunge and begin repairs. “I started looking at these things and bought a job lot of broken phones, around 50, and managed to get 30 or 40 up and running. The knowledge of computers is applicable – they are small laptops, aside from the GSM.” After he was charged £85 for a 30 minute

phone repair, he said “the light bulb went off”. A former sales manager for a global multinational business, iPhix began with an ad on Gumtree. But demand grew quickly, with his phone ringing off the hook (or, hands-free). “Following a meeting I was in for work, I had 20 missed calls and voicemails – it started to snowball from there. Clearly there was a demand for this.” And after leaving a comfortable, well-paid and secure job to pursue his own new venture, Justin didn’t – at first – tell his other half that he had packed it in, putting his suit on each morning before going to visit his mother. The business grew, and with that, so did the number of cars parked outside his house – to the point that he realised his next step was setting up shop. >





“I had 15 years in sales, and I’m very pernickety about quality. That’s very important. I tell the guys, I don’t care how long it takes you – but it has to be 100%. I noticed a niche for high quality repairs, high quality parts and trained technicians.” He’s grown that business to four locations, from the original store at Bow Street in Lisburn to include Castle Street in Belfast, Lurgan and the latest at the Cregagh Road in east Belfast. The firm employs 12 staff, taking on four new workers this year. And he says even in the wake of the Primark fire – which saw Castle Street effectively cut off from much of the city centre – the iPhix store remained busy. As for growth, iPhix is expanding its corporate business offering – targeting companies, and making the process as easy and hassle free as possible. “This is a new service and is something we are pushing,” he said. “Repair is so much cheaper than replacing a device. What we are trying to highlight among businesses is


that we can make this as easy as one call, and then forget about it. We will be there, we will take it and get it repaired and have it back, and an invoice will follow up.” It’s working with corporate companies such as engine parts manufacturing giant, Montupet. “Businesses can go online, log a ticket, and then you will get updates throughout,” he says. Turning to his latest venture, escape rooms, the interest came from a hobby turned business. “My brothers and I love them – we travel a lot and are big into the escape rooms (David and Shane in particular). The first thing we do when we travel to a new city is book a steak dinner and book an escape room.” That then led to Justin converting the upstairs floor of his Castle Street business – which had been 13 small rooms – in to two new escape rooms, one centred around the Titanic and another around Jack the Ripper. The former has drawn tourists from across the world – in one case, a group from Amsterdam who travelled to Belfast just to try it out.

Since then, he says the “perfect spot” came up on Royal Avenue in Belfast city centre, where the company is now developing a series of top-end escape rooms. Fit out is under way, and up to four games are likely to be launched at the location. “It’s so much more advanced than what we have done before. Our prop designer is Mark Maher, who was head prop designer on The Hobbit movies. “While he’s normally big budget Hollywood films, he bought in to myself and the escape rooms. He’s designing our props now, and a local guy is doing our set design. We are trying to raise the bar on a global level.” And next on the agenda is trying expand the escape rooms business as a franchise – taking on the US and the rest of Europe. “It’s a very franchisable model, with a strong brand and strong games. “That’s global, as long as you can cross the language barrier. We will probably go to Europe and then go to America. It’s a hard nut to crack.” ■


Maintaining GDPR compliance in the post-Brexit era Lynsey Mallon, corporate and commercial partner at law firm Arthur Cox, examines how Brexit may affect future data transfers as organisations aim to remain GDPR compliant


he introduction of the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) in 2018 greatly increased scrutiny on how companies use, control, and transfer data. GDPR applies not only to companies within the European Union but also those with EU customers and therefore this will have implications for many UK-based businesses long beyond Brexit.

As a result, many organisations have sought guidance on how they may remain compliant with the GDPR beyond October 31 thereby allowing the free flow of data between the UK and EU to be maintained. One possible solution that has been widely used to date by many businesses, is the use of ‘standard contractual clauses’. These model clauses, which are one of the measures approved by the European Commission, are a set of contractual terms and conditions to be signed up to by the sender and the receiver of the personal data. These ‘standard clauses’ were designed to enable the transfer of information from within the EU to third parties beyond its borders and they appeared to be the ideal mechanism for UK organisations to ensure their future, postEU, GDPR compliance in this regard. However, a major doubt has been cast on the validity of such clauses, pending the outcome of a judgment by the European Court of Justice (ECJ).


It relates to a high profile case brought by the office of the Data Protection Commissioner in the Republic of Ireland following complaints by an Austrian campaigner that the transfer of his data by social media giant Facebook (which had relied on a standard contractual clause) to the US had breached his rights under GDPR. The ECJ is due to make a judgment in early 2020 on whether standard contractual clauses are valid. Given that the UK will likely have exited the EU on October 31, should the ECJ deem the clauses invalid, there could potentially be serious implications for UK businesses, which would then be forced to seek other means of safeguarding international data transfers. As Brexit looms ever closer, it is prudent for those businesses dealing with international data transfers – particularly with EU countries

– to review all existing procedures for their handling, use and transfer of information, both internally and with third parties. Seeking professional guidance to aid the process will help ensure businesses are compliant with current requirements and identify how they should prepare in the event there is a change in rules following the ECJ judgment. With extensive working knowledge of the GDPR and information law in all relevant jurisdictions, Arthur Cox is well placed to provide pragmatic and workable advice in this regard. ■ The Corporate and Commercial team at Arthur Cox is well positioned to advise on all aspects of information law and GDPR compliance. Please call +44 28 9023 0007 for further information from Lynsey or your regular Arthur Cox contact.

IT & technology Sponsored by


The £165m plan to connect Northern Ireland A new scheme aims to roll out fast broadband and connect Northern Ireland’s rural regions in a bid to boost business connectivity and develop a modern digital economy. John Simpson finds out the man in charge of the scheme has a big job on his hands


igel Robbins, the broadband project director in the Department for the Economy, is carrying an awesome set of responsibilities. With a budget of £165m he must deliver a critical contract which means that Northern Ireland can catch up with the demands of a modern digital economy. The ambition is to give Northern Ireland a digital, or broadband, network stretching comprehensively from Muff to Carlingford. The maps have been drawn, the existing fibre network plotted, and the gaps still to be served


have been identified. At present only 67% of businesses in the rural areas in Northern Ireland can access full fibre service at the new basic broadband standard. Project Stratum is ready to be implemented. Tenders to deliver the fibre broadband network will be invited and a final decision is scheduled for spring, 2020. A modern broadband standard of 30MBs is the target. The areas where this is not available have been specifically identified. In support of this planned extensive contract, Northern

Ireland is drawing on the expertise available in GB through a link with the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS). Project Stratum is a consequence of the Confidence and Supply Agreement between the DUP and the UK Government. Without the extra funds made available to the Northern Ireland administration, this project would still be on the wish-list for the public sector capital programme. The additional funding, originally of £150m, was announced when the Confidence and Supply Agreement


was announced. The expectation was that it would be a two year project undertaken in 2018-20. After negotiations with the Treasury and the DCMS, Project Stratum has now been programmed for delivery over a four year period starting in 2019. What at first looks like a delay can be usefully explained as an advantage. First, detailing the specifications and doing preliminary market research pointed to the need for more time to complete the market assessments. Second, the


scale of the investment and the linked delivery programme made the two year timetable unrealistic. Whichever bidder wins the contract must manage a delivery programme which, in Northern Ireland terms, is organisationally demanding. The size of the investment in the delivery and distribution of fibre cabling is formidable and assembling enough skilled advanced technologists to complete the work may pose problems. Project Stratum is seeking to award one large contract with a remit covering all of Northern Ireland with particular emphasis on providing

an advanced full fibre network in areas where there is currently inadequate provision. The contract will set the technical requirements and these will be linked to operational and financial agreements. The winner of the contract will be the commercial operator of a major part of the full fibre broadband facilities across Northern Ireland. Such are the commercial prospects for the operator, or licencee, that the terms for the award of this multi-year contract will be closely examined both to avoid excessive >



John Simpson

profits based on charging regimes that are not competitively comparable with charges for competitor services elsewhere, and also in the search for services that match the best developments elsewhere in the UK or across Europe. This multi full fibre network has the potential to be a critical game changer in the attraction of digitally based enterprises, from farms to advanced information technology workshops. In a big leap, Northern Ireland can overtake advances already being made by competitors based elsewhere. Meanwhile, speaking about the announcement at the time, Permanent Secretary Noel Lavery said: “The additional £150m broadband funding allows us to build on the broadband connectivity achievements to date, given that some 108,000 premises have benefitted from recent interventions. I do recognise, however, that there


remain many rural areas across Northern Ireland where broadband access remains unsatisfactory and that this is continuing to have an impact on citizens and businesses within our rural communities. The roll-out of Project Stratum, including additional assistance of £15m from the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs, will help ensure that more people than ever in rural areas have access to good quality broadband.” “All the premises eligible for inclusion in Project Stratum will be published soon, however the precise number and location of those that will benefit from the project will not be known until the procurement process is complete and a contract has been awarded. My department will seek to maximise any industry contribution, over and above the £165m public investment, to ensure that as many premises as possible benefit from the project.

“As Project Stratum aims to address the harder-to-reach, and therefore most costly, premises, it is unlikely that we will be able to provide a solution for the full intervention area with the available funding, which is one of the reasons why industry contribution will be vital. The Department continues to engage with DCMS and local authorities to ensure that Northern Ireland benefits from national programmes, aimed at addressing the most remote rural premises, in line with UK Government policy emerging from the Future Telecoms Infrastructure Review.” DCMS Digital Minister Margot James also said the “Government is investing in our digital infrastructure to make sure that we have a UK that is fit for the future. We want all parts of the UK to be able to access superfast broadband and this investment of £150m will be a huge boost to individuals and businesses in Northern Ireland”. ■


Tech expert setting up shop in Belfast


tech whiz whose travels around the world gave him the inspiration for his firm is now set to pitch up in Belfast. Dan Bladen is opening a technology and business development hub for his company Chargifi, a provider of cloud-connected wireless charging technology. The 30-year-old was inspired to start the business after spending six months globetrotting back in 2012. He said he realised he visited venues that had power sockets so he could “recharge and reconnect with friends and family back home”. “If we had gone travelling in 2006, we would have a connection problem, wi-fi wasn’t as ubiquitous as it is today.”Now, the problem is power – simply staying charged.” Meanwhile, a US tech firm with headquarters in Texas has opened new offices in Belfast city centre. Bazaarvoice, which provides customer feedback software to retailers, has taken up 10,000 sq ft of grade A office space at McAuley House in Fountain Street. Commercial property firm CBRE acted on behalf of the firm to acquire the space and monitor its fit-out. The project took place during a challenging period in the area, where restrictions were put in place due to the fire at Bank Buildings in August last year.


Dan Bladen with Alastair Hamilton

David Wright, office agency director at CBRE, said: “Bazaarvoice wanted to acquire space that supported how the company operates globally by maximising the connectivity between its people.

in industries including financial services, energy, retail and healthcare. It has developed a platform which it says can help reduce infrastructure requirements and speed up the time it takes to get to market.

“This meant providing high-end, flexible office accommodation that incorporates many different breakout zones, as well as areas for both formal and spontaneous meetings.”Innovative companies, like Bazaarvoice, demand more efficient and collaborative working spaces to attract and retain stellar talent, which is exactly what this property offers.”

The company said the new Belfast staff will provide technology expertise to Push Technology’s global customer base. The new roles are in software engineering, sales and marketing.

Elsewhere, a technology company specialising in data management is opening up a support centre in Belfast with the creation of eight new jobs. Push Technology provides real-time data streaming technology to major companies

Chief executive Sean Bowen said: “The everexpanding need for secure, highly-scalable, event-driven data to be distributed in realtime is driving our success worldwide. “To support our growth and facilitate services delivery, we have chosen to locate our hub centre in Northern Ireland. Belfast stands out for the strength of its technology services workforce and strong supply of talent.” ■



Digitally transforming businesses with connectivity and the cloud


e’re living in an age where connectivity is crawling up the list of priorities for many businesses. For Nitec Solutions it has always been a priority in their approach to taking their customers on a journey of security and productivity.

With a reputation as one of the top IT providers to SMEs, Nitec has always focused on leading rather than following the crowd, as demonstrated by being the first business in Northern Ireland to get broadband when it was first rolled out in the early 2000s. Nitec’s managing director and founder, Nigel Mulholland, says: “One of the trends we’ve noticed recently is that many small businesses are now opting to spend more on dedicated internet connections for their reliability and high performance instead of normal broadband options, simply for peace of mind. Nitec directors Gavin Woods, Nigel Mulholland and Michael Hutchinson

“Faster internet has a massive potential for business growth in Northern Ireland as it is helping customers to become more productive. One way, for example, is by offering the opportunity to move to cloud-based systems. The cloud has unquestionably transformed how businesses work by providing shared workspaces for better collaboration anywhere at any time, and the low costs and high level of security that come with this are just a few of the perks. The result is that it frees up valuable resources to be used elsewhere, ultimately allowing people to do their jobs better and faster. “The cloud has been a game-changer for many businesses,” Nigel says. “With both employer and employee reaping the benefits. By enabling flexible working, staff are now better able to manage their productivity inside and outside of the office, meaning that they can achieve more. “The same applies to telephony. Many of Nitec’s customers have started to shift their phone systems to the cloud rather than


continuing to invest in on-premise traditional PBX solutions. Whilst it’s not uncommon to do so on normal broadband internet, it’s most certainly not as reliable as dedicated internet circuits. It therefore makes more sense to save the time and money required to install and maintain an on-premises telephony infrastructure by investing in leased lines. “The possibilities that come from having modern powerful devices connected to a resilient dedicated data circuit are endless and bring real benefits to SMEs, from cost-saving and competitive advantage, to improving security and increasing productivity companywide. It has had a dramatic impact on our own ability to work productively and has changed our vision for how we can best deliver the level of service our customers have come to expect from us.” Nitec’s aim has always been to bring cutting edge solutions to the SME sector in a costeffective way, and their partnerships with global IT players has not only enabled Nitec to

transform how businesses work, they have also enhanced the company’s ability to stay ahead of the curve and deliver intelligent, future-proof technologies that are unmatched by local competitors. One such partnership is with telecommunications giant, BT. Having previously been recognised as BT’s Partner of the Year for Ireland, Nitec is currently BT’s second biggest seller of internet connectivity in the UK. Head of BT Partners, Julia Watts, says: “We’re proud of our partnership with Nitec which continues to go from strength to strength. Cloud technology represents a great opportunity for UK businesses and so we are also happy to announce our recent decision to allow existing ISDN customers, who have been with us for six months or more, to move to the cloud without early termination charges. There really is no reason not to make the transition and Nitec can help make it happen.” ■


The new smartphone giants 30


Adrian Weckler gets hands on the with the latest top end phones from Samsung, which have raised the stakes, as well as scale and size


amsung has unveiled two new flagship phones, the Note 10 and Note 10+. It is the first time that Samsung has split its Note range into two models, with the company set to market the higher-end 10+ handset as a ‘computer’.

Most attention will settle on the larger 10+, which reclaims the work-friendly phone throne for Samsung, due to its bigger screen and new engine power. The Note 10+ has a 6.8-inch screen, the biggest on the market here. It is an almost bezel-less screen, which means its overall size is not much bigger than some rival phones with smaller screens. The smaller Note 10 has a 6.3-inch screen with a slightly lower resolution (401ppi, 2280 x1080) compared with the bigger model’s display (498ppi, 3040 x1440). The higherend model also pushes the power available beneath the hood, deploying 12GB of Ram, compared with 8GB for the Note 10. Both have Samsung’s new 7nm Exynos chip.

Both have a single centred camera instead of the dual camera featured on Samsung’s current flagship S10 and S10+ phones.

commercial release from its original April date. The Galaxy Fold will cost more than €2,000 (£1,830) when launched later this year.

Samsung has also updated its ‘S Pen’ stylus to use air controls. Among other things, this allows for remote control of a phone’s camera from several metres away. Samsung says that both models are 5G-compatible.

The machine, which comes with extra storage memory and three rear cameras, is designed for people who need to use a mobile screen for more than just messaging and social media.

There will also be an interest in the Note 10 models ditching the 3.5mm headphone port. Samsung was the last major smartphone brand to keep the headphone port on a flagship phone.

Meanwhile, pricing for the two Samsung Note 10 phones puts them squarely below that of the iPhone XS, and almost certainly below that of the upcoming iPhone 11 models. Apple is due to launch its updated handsets in the coming weeks, with most expecting three new devices.

The biggest change “ may be an additional ultra-wide-angle camera on the back of the flagship model, following the trend among high-end handsets for triple-lens devices

The biggest change may be an additional ultra-wide-angle camera on the back of the flagship model, following the trend among high-end handsets for triple-lens devices. The smartphone market is under sustained competitive pressure, with flat or negative growth compared with the situation five years ago.

And there is a big gap in battery power, with 4,300mAh made available to the Note 10+, compared with 3,500mAh for the Note 10. There is a 512GB storage variant available (price unavailable at time of press) for the Note 10+, whereas the Note 10 comes in one variation of 256GB.

Instead, the new handsets will come with the familiar 3.5mm-to-USB-C dongle. The Note range of smartphones has overcome the difficulties that Samsung faced in 2016 when its Note 7 device had to be recalled after a series of overheating episodes.

The ‘upgrade cycle’ between handsets is stretching to two years and beyond in some markets, as consumers spread payments for pricier phones out over longer periods. The handset market is also grappling with potential upheaval due to trade tensions between the US and China.

There is just a slight difference in the cameras between the two models. Both feature a triple-lens set-up of ultra-wide, wide and telephoto. But the Note 10+ has a fourth depth-sensor camera to allow for portrait photography that delivers a ‘bokeh’, or depthof-field, effect.

The Note 10 is also expected to be the last Samsung flagship device unveiled before it tries to relaunch its folding smartphone, the Samsung Fold. The 7.3-inch smartphone, which divides into two 4.6-inch displays, suffered technical problems with its hinge and glass, forcing Samsung to suspend its

According to the latest research from Strategy Analytics, global smartphone shipments fell 3% annually to reach 341 million units in the second quarter of 2019. Samsung maintained first position, with 22% of the global smartphone market. Huawei was next, while Apple held 11% in third place. ■




The move towards private equity PwC’s Barry-John Kelly takes a look at the developing local market and those turning to private equity to expand and grow their business


here are two emerging trends in the local mergers and acquisitions market which could significantly alter the landscape for businesses: the increase of private equity deals and the volume of retirement sales. However, while the growth in private equity provides an opportunity – that doesn’t mean it’s right for everybody – getting the right advice is crucial. For the last five years, I’ve provided strategic mentoring to entrepreneurs across Northern Ireland as they navigate the challenges that face every growing business.

The relationship I develop with clients is much more about seeing the financial benefits from a deal. That alone can’t deliver a successful outcome in any deal – and particularly in this market which remains dominated by family-run businesses. Emotions play a significant role, and if I feel a deal isn’t right for the parties involved, I will tell it straight. At the end of the day, it’s about doing the right thing. The local market now has a wider range of funding than ever before. Private equity funds are scouring Northern Ireland for opportunities, encouraged by an increased appetite from business owners to engage. Historically the idea of selling at all, let alone to private equity, was viewed with great


scepticism. For those businesses that have come through the last recession, many will have adapted their business model to make it more resilient. However, others will not want to risk the prospect of losing what they have rebuilt over the last 10 years by hanging around for the next recession. There is a whole new cadre of private equity investors who are hungry to back Northern Ireland businesses. Global quantitative easing on a scale never seen before and historical low interest rates have resulted in large swathes of capital searching for returns. Due to the competition in the sector, investors are now having to work harder to source opportunities. They are spending more time here, developing key relationships, looking for the right type of deals. We’ve delivered several successful deals including the sale of O&S Doors to Sun Capital Partners, and the investment in BA Kitchen Components by H2 Equity Partners, with several more in pipeline. The success is encouraging others to see the potential that outside investment can bring, how it can help them to achieve a number of different outcomes. Some of the typical misconceptions have been dispelled. Investment doesn’t mean the end: you don’t have to sell out-right. Bringing on private equity doesn’t mean being forced to put the business on the market in four years’ time.

There is so much competition that investors are differentiating themselves far more now than ever before. Some are very hands on while others are hands off; some are minority versus majority; some will be seeking to sell in three to five years while others can offer patient capital that’s prepared to make a longer term investment. The minority option is proving popular. It allows owners to take some cash off the table but still secure additional investment for future growth. This is giving family business owners two bites of the cherry and ‘freeing’ them up to fully realise their potential. This isn’t to say that private equity is suitable for everyone, but it’s increasingly a more palatable option where previously it wouldn’t have been considered. Secondly, we are also acting for a lot of family business owners who are contemplating retirement. There is a degree of pent-up


Barry-John Kelly

demand by family business owners seeking to retire from their business. As a consequence of our agricultural heritage, our traditional approach to succession has been to pass the family farm or business to the first born son or to divide it amongst siblings. It was not that long ago that even a farmer’s daughter would have faced the societal challenge of becoming an heir to the farm. To sell the farm would often have been perceived as a sign of weakness or submission but family business owners are now taking back control of the succession agenda. What is interesting this time round is that it involves people often with cash on the balance sheet. People have worked hard to rebuild their balance sheets and those who’ve generated value within their business, but not necessarily paid themselves any dividends over the years, are keen not to miss the boat. We are working with a number of family-owned businesses seeking clearance from HMRC


to claim entrepreneurs’ relief, with some family business owners taking the view that entrepreneurs’ relief may not be around forever. There are some owners who feel the time is right to exit and being able to protect entrepreneurs’ relief is key, which is why we work closely with our tax colleagues to achieve structured solutions. We have also had businesses approach us to explore the various employee ownership models like those used by John Lewis and more recently by Richer Sounds. When planned the right way, these models can be a very tax-efficient way for owners to realise value.

disciplined in their approach to acquisitions and are likely to wait it out until there is some certainty. Likewise, foreign investors will remain tentative until they have some sense of how Brexit will pan out. However, UK-based private equity companies, whose day job is to make investments, will continue to deploy capital – though addressing Brexit risks will form a standard part of their due diligence. The crucial thing for business owners is to have an early conversation with your adviser. Preparation and structure are key for any successful business, whatever path is taken. ■ For more information on the ‘We are your PwC’ campaign, please visit pwc.co.uk/private-business-private-clients

Unfortunately we can’t sign-off without mentioning the B-word. The continued uncertainty surrounding Brexit is definitely affecting people’s investment decisions. Family-owned businesses will continue to be


TOP 100

Ulster Business Top 100 launch


he cream of Northern Ireland’s business community have gathered to mark the official launch of the Ulster Business Top 100 Northern Ireland Companies 2019, with A&L Goodbody.

The Top 100 summer edition of the magazine is barometer for the Northern Ireland economy, and showcases the success stories of our largest companies and those emerging, as well as offering insight, analysis, exclusive news, interviews and profiles of firms from across the business spectrum. The event, which was held at the Ivory restaurant at Victoria Square in Belfast, heard from Mark Thompson of sponsor A&L Goodbody, and Ulster Business editor John Mulgrew.

Jackie Reid, Belfast Telegraph with Sarah Little, publishing director, INM NI, Mark Thompson, A&L Goodbody with John Mulgrew and Sarah-Ann Gamble, Ulster Business

This year’s list showed sales among the biggest companies in Northern Ireland rising by 9.4%, while pre-tax profits fell to just over £900m. Poultry processing giant Moy Park comes in at the number one spot, with turnover of £1.5bn. And while stalwarts of industry remain in growth mode – the raft of firms within life sciences, technology and other emerging industries are taking the place of some more traditional sectors, or rising up the list with burgeoning turnover. Addressing those gathered at the evening bash, speaking about business concerns around Brexit, John Mulgrew said: “Business speaks with a clear voice – a ‘no deal’ Brexit must be avoided at all costs. It is not an option.”

Fran McKee, Harleigh Lagdon and Siobhan Marley, Pinnacle


Jackie Reid, Belfast Telegraph, Mukesh Sharma, Hannon Travel and Caroline Whiteside, Ulster Carpets

Glyn Roberts, Retail NI, Brendan Mulgrew, MW Advocate and David Fry, Construction Employers Federation

TOP 100

Symon Ross, MCE, Ciaran Fox, Royal Society of Ulster Architects, John Mulgrew, Ulster Business and Aodhan Connolly, NIRC

Stephen Carlisle and Maurice Boyd, ABL Group

Michelle Donnelly, A&L Goodbody with Nial Borthistle and Henry Daly, Glandore

Kathryn Stevenson and Rebecca Kincade, MCE and Simon Cunningham, Lighthouse Communications

Grainne McGarvey, Pulse PR and Rebecca Kincade, MCE


John Mulgrew, Ulster Business and Stuart John, Abacus

Nikki Larkin, LK Communications and Jane Wells, JComms



Brian Conlon: 1966-2019


he founder of one of Northern Ireland’s leading technology companies had been described as a man of “immense magnitude”, following his death at the age of 53.

Brian Conlon was the man behind Newry’s First Derivatives – a firm which produces software used in the financial service sector, but has also landed deals for work with a Formula One team and a wide variety of other sectors. The company announced in May that Mr Conlon had been diagnosed with cancer. Mr Conlon passed away at Daisy Hill Hospital in Newry.

Staff were among the crowds lining Hill Street, which had been partly closed off as the funeral cortege made its way to the cathedral, passing one of the company’s two Newry offices. Father Desmond Loughran praised Mr Conlon as a man of “immense magnitude”, creating a plc with 2,400 employees. However, Father Loughran said he remained an “ordinary guy”. A former Abbey Grammar student, the 53-year-old was married to Julie and had two young children. Outside of his position as one of the leaders in Northern Ireland’s burgeoning technology sector, Mr Conlon was also a successful gaelic footballer, playing for Down.

He formed the firm in 1996, based in Newry. Now, it’s a global player in the financial software sector with offices in Belfast, Dublin and offices worldwide.

Following Mr Conlon’s death, non-executive chairman Seamus Keating has been appointed executive chairman with immediate effect.

Mourners at the funeral of businessman Mr Conlon heard that his achievements managed to fill the whole world. Hundreds of people gathered at St Patrick and St Colman’s Cathedral in Newry for Requiem Mass for Mr Conlon.

Mr Keating said: “Brian built a world-class business in First Derivatives. His drive, ambition and determination inspired all who had the privilege to work with him. This news is a profound shock to all of us. We offer Brian’s family our sincerest condolences and ask for


privacy on their behalf at this sad and most difficult of times.” DUP leader Arlene Foster, a former Enterprise Minister, described Mr Conlon as a “trailblazer” in the fin-tech sector. And SDLP Newry and Armagh MLA Justin McNulty, who previously worked for Mr Conlon, said: “Brian was a revelation in business. On a global stage he has built a company to be proud of. On an Ireland basis he is a leading light. Brian spotted global opportunity where no one else did. “But on top of that he combined pride in his home town of Newry with his knowledge that the people of the North have the education and drive to excel. “Building a billion dollar company with clients from Sydney to New York, Hong Kong to Stockholm, from a starting point in his mother’s house is an incredible achievement.” ■


Elizabeth Toner, global talent acquisition manager at First Derivatives, is working to bring top talent into the software giant’s growing workforce


irst Derivatives is a technology and consulting company at the forefront of rapid global expansion. Still headquartered in Newry, the global software business now boasts over 2,400 employees, based in 15 offices across four continents, and has an increasingly diverse workforce. “Despite our headquarters being located in Newry, FD has a huge global presence,” Elizabeth Toner, global talent acquisition manager at First Derivatives, says. “I oversee our global graduate recruitment model, hiring elite students from leading universities across EMEA, North America and APAC.

“Every junior hire spends their first month in Newry undertaking an intense finance and technical training bootcamp. Their time at HQ is so important, allowing the opportunity to meet key senior staff and most importantly to get a taste of the culture within FD. We also ensure we have a fun social calendar in place, enabling our international hires to bond with their intake group, hopefully leaving a lasting memory of their time at our headquarters in Ireland. “After the initial training period, we carefully select our graduates to work for an impressive array of clients globally. Within four weeks of joining some of our juniors are placed on cutting edge Kx projects with clients such as NASA FDL, Aston Martin Racing or working on trading platforms for ‘tier one’ banks on Wall Street.”

Elizabeth Toner

Developing top talent and increasing diversity have a considerable interest in the finance and technology sphere,” Elizabeth says. The company’s Kx technology, which is a leader in high performance analytics, has also opened new opportunities for graduates to work with clients across several industries, including manufacturing, telecommunications and even space. “We have broadened our reach to graduates from a range of different backgrounds. Given our increase in roles in the regulatory, big data and support space also, we are keen to hear from legal, business and marketing graduates to fill a range of business development, consulting and nearshore opportunities.” First Derivatives is also putting a lot of focus and effort in attracting more women into the IT and software sector.

The company is helping lead and develop its staff through its First Derivatives Women’s Network. “The FD Women’s Network has been a fantastic success,” Elizabeth says. “It’s a forum for connecting, communicating and exploring diversity within IT for females. “This sector is notoriously male heavy, but we are proud to have an FD Women’s network present in many of our major city hubs. The idea is that we bring together women at all levels within the company, enabling the opportunity to connect on many topics including striking that healthy work/life balance.” And Elizabeth says growing the diversity of its workforce, and trying to attract more women into the sector, was one of the legacies of the company’s founder, the late Brian Conlon.

Since joining First Derivatives back in 2011, Elizabeth says the company has grown from strength to strength and is now Ireland’s leading graduate recruiter hiring in excess of 400 each year.

“It’s alarming for technology firms just how few females are choosing STEM related degrees, so it’s our responsibility to help – FD is actively targeting schools to inform students of the range of exciting roles in IT available today.”

“It was something he was passionate about and one of his key goals,” Elizabeth says. “He was very keen to play a part in the rebalance of the male/female ratio within the fintech sector.

Its staff comes from a variety of backgrounds, with many coming from STEM roles. “We are always interested in talking to quality graduates that are confident with problem solving and

“There is still the stigma of females working in IT. This is our chance to step up and showcase what a career in technology can look like for females today”

“I’m delighted that increasing diversity is a priority at First Derivatives and I’m excited to see what the future holds for the company and for the tech sector as a whole.” ■




Addressing the under representation of women in IT Gemma Roberts, specialist recruitment consultant at Hays, explores what changes can be made to encourage more women to begin to consider a career in IT


round the world businesses are adapting for the future and developing their digital capabilities. With this has come an ever growing demand for tech talent and, despite the skills shortage being well documented in the last five years, employers continue to cry out for people with IT skills.

At Hays we provide recruitment expertise in 20 specialist areas in 33 countries and one of the most acute skills shortages we have seen over the past five years has been in the area of IT development. And it’s not just in development – there is a shortage of infrastructure specialists, testers, data scientists, project managers and business analysts. In fact there is huge demand for just about every IT skill-set you can think of. Yet we have untapped potential all around us. Women. In the UK only 17% of computer science degree students are female. To provide a greater insight into the complex reasons why


many women do not pursue careers in IT, Hays conducted a survey among females currently working in the IT sector. When asked what would encourage women to start a career in IT, the respondents stated the most important changes would be improved IT education at primary and secondary school level and a better understanding of career opportunities. To take a step forward in this area Hays recently sponsored a digital summer camp event at Belfast Met, called Belfast IT Girls, which has been running for the last five years. Aimed at girls who are aged 15 – 18, it is a free to attend event and takes place at the Titanic Quarter campus for one week. The topics this year included developing games using MakeCode Arcade, cyber and creating digital content, all growth areas for the tech sector in Northern Ireland. Industry mentors visit twice a day to talk to the girls about their journey into the sector. Through initiatives like Belfast IT Girls we

want to encourage more young women to choose a career in tech and address the under representation of females in the industry. It was fantastic to see 52 girls registered to attend, particularly during their school holiday. Reaching girls at this age allows them to make an informed choice about working in tech by gaining inside knowledge from industry mentors. We have had previous participants in Belfast IT Girls who were considering doing law or medicine prior to attending. After the event they decided to pursue a career in tech. This year one of our mentors is a past ‘IT Girl’ who is now doing a tech degree apprenticeship. Addressing the skills shortage will take a multi layered approach. The opportunities for rewarding careers are there in the IT sector in Northern Ireland and through collaborating with industry and introducing girls to exciting new technologies at an earlier point we hope to play an integral part in addressing this issue with a long term and sustainable solution. ■

Conferences & event management Sponsored by



he recent 2019 Conference and Incentive Travel (C&IT) Summit and Agency Forum, the flagship annual gathering for event professionals, which was held in Belfast – the second time in its 10 year history that it had been held outside London – was an endorsement if ever there was one that NI has established a position on the global conference map as being a serious host. That event was attended by leading figures representing organisations with a combined annual spend of £2.85bn. It showcased NI to influential conference holders in a move that is set to boost business tourism yet again here and it won’t be the last of marketing in the area. The typically mid-week business tourist is a valuable visitor to NI.

Gerry Lennon, chief executive of Visit Belfast, said and those attending conferences and events here “grow and sustain” the tourism industry. “Additionally, research from Visit Britain shows that 35% of conference delegates say they are ‘very likely’ to return to the area for a holiday or a short break…” he said. Its investment in venues like the ICC Belfast and Titanic Exhibition Centre and continued growth in hotels here (more than 1,000 rooms were added in 2018) that is accommodating the rise in conferences and business events. Janice Gault, chief executive of the Northern Ireland Hotels Federation said those additional rooms that make NI’s hotel stock relatively young, is a bonus for our pulling power. “Over 50% of our hotel stock is under 15 years old with a well licensed graded framework in place,” she said.

The event management challenge 40


“Certainly, from a hotel stance, this is a sector in which we have a vested interest. The industry has invested heavily, particularly in Belfast with the needs of this sector in mind. “Business guests tend to spend more and often stay on, becoming a ‘bleisure’ visitor. While a delegate at a meeting or conference may not choose the destination, they can become a great ambassador and advocate following a visit.”

50 places in the ICCA world ranking for 2018 making it the 115th best in the world for international association conferences and meetings. To put this into perspective, Belfast is now ahead of established international destinations such as the Hague, Abu Dhabi and Dusseldorf. Mr Lennon says these stats and awards show that “work on the ground” is being delivered. But is there more to be done?

And there’s more to come. “Just last year, Visit Belfast, with the support of principal funders Belfast City Council and Tourism Northern Ireland, worked with its partners to successfully win 112 conference bids, which will bring over 38,000 delegates and generate 116,000 hotel bed nights and an economic return of around £52m for the city in future years,” Gerry told Ulster Business.

Janice believes so. “Operators in this area are very discerning. The competition can be fearsome between destinations. The winning of business can be very lucrative with benefits for multiple service industries,” she said.

He added that Belfast’s credentials as a host are on the rise, globally. In fact it has climbed

Aoife Fee, business solution manager at Tourism NI, says has put in a lot of work in

“Additional and bespoke marketing is required to ensure we become a real option on the MICE circuit.”

partnership with Tourism Ireland, Visit Belfast and Visit Derry to make significant inroads. She says it has produced a growth in expenditure of over 21% last year. Among some of the biggest conferences here to date have been the Royal College of Nursing, which was attended by 500 delegates, the World Health Organisation World Health Cities Conference with 800 delegates, while an upcoming event will spread the business tourism cake to Derry where the International Association for Suicide Prevention (IASP) will take place from 17 – 21 September, attended by 800 delegates. Providers like the ICC at the Waterfront have enabled tourism authorities to compete with the common denominators on the global business event list. Catherine Toolan, chief executive at the ICC, Belfast, said: “Today ICC Belfast generates >

Business tourism in Northern Ireland is growing at a significant rate, a speed that has equated to an economic impact of £231m for Belfast alone over the past five years. In this feature Emma Deighan talks sustainability and challenges in an NI sector that is fast-becoming a global star SEPTEMBER 2019



Melita Williams, founder and owner of Bespoke Events (second left) with colleagues Lauren Beggs (left), Emily Brown and Maeve Maguire

an economic impact for Belfast of £20m a year, which is brilliant – however together with our partners, including Belfast City Council, Visit Belfast and Tourism NI – we plan to enhance this return by continuing to elevate Belfast’s global profile for business tourism.” She said feedback from the recent IC&T event held there was “incredibly positive”. “The event provided an invaluable opportunity for our sales team who showcased our venue to influential industry buyers, all of whom have the purchasing power of at least £500,000.” Catherine is keen to see the work being done for 2023 to ensure a strong future for the sector. “The facts are that the business cycle of these events means they often take years to come to fruition, so we need to be targeting 2023 and beyond now,” she says. “To do this we need cathedral thinking that recognises the opportunity and puts an infrastructure in place that will deliver not just today, but tomorrow and beyond. The potential economic, societal and cultural


benefits are huge – but we must harness that potential.” Among the infrastructural improvements needed to allow NI to reach its full potential is the expansion of air routes coming in and out of the city, believes Melita Williams, managing director of Bespoke Northern Ireland and Bespoke Wales, a firm that specialises in business travel and tourism. She said: “Improved air access is a key driver to increase international conferences. This is the main challenge that we face here in NI, as we compete with other cities that are so much better serviced than we are.” Richard Willis, director of Willis Events and Marketing says interaction between local event hosts, including firms like his, and visiting delegates, would be useful. He said: “As for the sector in general, and in terms of the big international conferences and conventions coming to town, it would be great to see more local firms getting

the opportunity to engage with these organisations from the word go. Quite often organisations are bringing their own teams with them, and it can be frustrating to see. Companies such as Willis Events have local knowledge and expertise, particularly when it comes to the venues and other local suppliers.” Aoife Fee at Tourism NI says that one of our most imminent challenges will be Brexit. “The uncertainty surrounding the EU exit is proving a challenge. This factor can negatively influence international conference and event organisers.” But ever the optimist, Gerry Lennon believes NI’s resilience will win, regardless of what style of departure we make from Europe. “The uncertainly that surrounds Brexit is still the most obvious threat, however, Belfast is a resilient city, and with strong working relationships between the city’s tourism stakeholders, I firmly believe we will overcome any challenges set before us.” ■


Pictured at the Trafalgar awards night at Belfast City Hall are Brett Tollman, TTC, Lord Mayor John Finucane, John McGrillen, Tourism NI and Gavin Tollman, Trafalgar

Delegates descend on Belfast


ore than 300 top delegates from across the world have descended on Belfast for the first time as part a global staff conference.

International sales teams arrived in Northern Ireland at the end of August for the Travel Corporation (TTC) event. The organisation is hosting its Global Sales Staff Conference for the first time here. The organisation deals with a portfolio of 42 multi-award-winning brands, and organises holiday experiences for 1.9 million travellers every year, in more than 70 countries. “Being able to showcase our renowned tourism attractions and hospitality to TTC delegates from across the globe will allow them to sell Northern Ireland confidently as a tourism destination to the millions of customers they serve,” John McGrillen, chief executive, Tourism NI said. “This is an unrivalled opportunity and Tourism NI is proud to be part of a programme that


will open up Northern Ireland to a new, global audience.”

different experience for locals and visitors alike.

Meanwhile, Taste and Tour has won the title of ‘Northern Ireland’s Best Small Visitor Attraction’ following a competition launched by George Best Belfast City Airport in partnership with Tourism NI.

“We are absolutely delighted to be named Northern Ireland’s Best Small Visitor Attraction, particularly when all of the finalists were of such a high calibre,” Caroline Wilson of Taste and Tour said:

The Belfast based company, which hosts food and drink tours and experiences, will now receive £30,000 of free marketing support and brand visibility at Belfast City Airport.

“We have a huge passion for local food and drink and Taste and Tour is all about sharing that with others – whether that’s with people from Northern Ireland or visitors coming into the city.”

Earlier this year all 11 councils put forward a shortlist of attractions and experiences who then took part in a public vote on the airport’s Facebook page with the winning attraction from each council progressing to the final. Katy Best, commercial director at Belfast City Airport, said: “Huge congratulations must go to Taste and Tour and all of the finalists for getting to this stage of the competition. Our judging panel was extremely impressed with each of the attractions, all of which offer a

And Phil Ervine of Taste and Tour said: “The marketing support from Belfast City Airport will help us reach even more people, supporting our continued growth and development and we are so excited for this partnership. “We have thoroughly enjoyed the process of this competition and have been made aware of the many other excellent attractions within Northern Ireland that we can’t wait to visit.” ■


A growing Eikon in the events sector The Eikon Exhibition Centre is Northern Ireland’s largest events campus and plays host to a range of major events each year. Financial and commercial director Theresa Morrissey outlines what sets it apart from the crowd


t’s already played host to some of Northern Ireland’s biggest events – but the Eikon Exhibition Centre is continuing to grow its reach further still.

The Eikon Exhibition Centre is Northern Ireland’s largest events campus, with two top-end exhibition halls, boasting more than 10,000 sq m of indoor events space, on an impressive 65 acres outdoor events park – located around 15 minutes from Belfast. Owned by the Royal Ulster Agricultural Society, the organisation behind the former King’s Hall events venue in Belfast. The highly experienced team from the King’s Hall relocated to the Eikon Exhibition Centre in 2015 along with all the events managed by the Society, including the Balmoral Show. Theresa Morrissey, commercial director for the Eikon Exhibition Centre, oversees the business


development of the venue, and works with clients, new and old, to successfully develop their ideas and events. “Eikon is a very flexible venue. We have two bespoke linkable halls, covering more than 10,000 sq m of exhibition space,” she says. “We are attracting a wide range of clients, including B2B and B2C events, retail and sporting.

The Eikon Exhibition Centre

of 120,000 visitors over four days, the largest show of its kind here. “The main selling points for Eikon is that it is a bespoke venue. “Having moved from the King’s Hall to the new site, we brought years of experience with us – we knew what worked, and what didn’t. We incorporated this knowledge into the design of the venue, to ensure that the venue meets the requirements of our perspective organisers.”

“In recent months, we held very successful events including Down Rally, Japanese Car Culture and NI Motorcycle Festival. We are seeking to bring forward some large international events, and we are looking forward to the European Indoor Archery Championships next year.”

“Our site also has free car parking for more than 4,000 vehicles. It’s essentially 15 minutes from Belfast city centre, and less than 90 minutes from Dublin. There is a catchment of four million people within a 90 minute drive of Eikon.”

Of course, the venue and its huge site is best known for hosting the annual Balmoral Show – an event which this year, saw in the range

The Eikon has a workforce of 20 and works alongside a range of service providers for its events, including catering, security and first aid.


It has hosted a range of other events, since first opening its doors in 2015. That includes UCAS, Dubshed, The Waste Expo, Belfast Championship Dog Show, and the upcoming Meat 2 Trade exhibition, which is the newest event at the venue. Constantly determined to remain at the forefront of the industry, the Eikon continues to develop. The launch of a second exhibition space, the Dr E F Logan Hall, in April 2018 further enhances the offering of the venue.

the two indoor exhibition spaces to become one large space. This vastly increases the offering to event organisers as it allows ease of access between the two indoor spaces; the Eikon Hall and Logan Hall. Organisers can now avail of a full 10,600 sq m of indoor events space, fully covered with no need to leave the Eikon building when passing between the two halls.

The additional exhibition space is purpose-built, with 5,600 sq m of single span and dividable sections which can accommodate any kind of exhibition, conference, trade show, gala dinner or launch event.

Responsible for the sales and business development of the venue is Shona Ayre. Shona works with event organisers during the initial planning stages, to create tailored proposals reflective of each event organisers requirements.

The venue has also recently introduced a new retractable link as the latest addition to the venue’s offering for event organisers. It enables

Shona says that many of the long-running events which moved with them to the Eikon Exhibiton Centre, from the King’s Hall, have


seen their visitor numbers rising. “Because it is such a large site, it allows event organisers the option to expand their shows, and allows us to attract different types of events. “We are attracting a wide range of events, including from a number of clients from elsewhere in the UK, who are now replicating events in Northern Ireland.” ■ For more information on the Eikon Exhibition Centre, please contact the team on 028 90665 225 or events@eikon.uk.com


Karl McCrum, Neill’s Flour, Jenny Bristow, Neill’s Flour ambassador and Keavy O’Mahony-Truesdale, Neill’s Flour


Eight NI producers get top Great Taste gongs


total of eight Northern Irish food producers have been listed among the top winners of the 2019 Great Taste Awards.

Some 179 food or drink products made here were plucked by judges from a record-breaking long list of 12,772 entries, sourced from 100 countries. But just eight Northern Ireland products attracted the coveted three-star rating from the Guild of Fine Food. They include Millbay Oysters from Rooney Fish; Neill’s soda bread flour; Whitewater Brewery’s Kreme De La Kremlin stout; The Little Bakehouse in Dromore, Co Down’s courgette, lime and pistachio cake, and Hannan Meats’ sugar pit bone in bacon loin. However, one Northern Ireland former chef features three times in the top rating. Lisburn native Paul Clarke has secured three stars for the apple and elderflower vinegar, made by his Cookstown-based company, En Place Foods. A product produced by a second venture, set up with well-known Moira butcher Peter Hannan, is also on the three star list. Established in 2011, Craigavon-based Craic


Foods secured the rating for its black garlic miso. The producer was also involved in the development of Portush-based Irish Black Butter Company’s spread made with Armagh Bramley apples. Paul and his partner Fiona Clarke’s third business interest, a product development consultancy, worked with the butter firm’s founder Alastair Bell to develop the sweet and savoury spread. All eight products are now in the running for overall Northern Ireland winner and the Great Taste 2019 Supreme Champion, which will be announced at an awards dinner in the InterContinental Park Lane Hotel, London, on September 1. A former head chef at Castle Leslie in Co Monaghan, where he cooked for Paul McCartney and Heather Mills’ high-profile 2002 wedding, Paul Clarke said the new accolades represented a significant boost to his food manufacturing businesses. “People will say its the food Oscars, it’s one of the only awards we pay attention to. If you’re a

Rachel Stoddart from Davison’s Puds, based in Portadown, is pictured with Henderson’s Eamon Taggart

speciality food business, which we are, it’s the one that counts,” he said. “We don’t work with multiples, we tend to work with chefs. It’s about quality over quantity. My background is as a chef, and its who I want to work with.” Leaving his career as a chef behind in 2002, Mr Clarke moved into food manufacturing and eventuallyset up En Place Foods in the Food Business Incubation Centre’s CAFRE’s Loughrey campus. He’s now looking forward to heading to London next month to network with new customers. “It helps with sales and exposure, especially with Craic Foods, as we’re a start-up,” he said. “Great Taste brings the right type of exposure and hopefully the phone will start ringing.” Henderson Group is also celebrating its biggest success yet in the awards. Five of the group’s fresh, locally created own brand desserts appear on this year’s list, with two gaining twostar status, and three gaining one-star. ■

Meetings and events beside the lake



earching for a venue for your next meeting or event? Meet by the lakes at the multi-award winning four star Killyhevlin Lakeside Hotel & Lodges, an inspiring location on the banks of Lough Erne in the heart of The Fermanagh Lakelands makes it a perfect venue choice. As one of Northern Ireland’s leading meeting and event venues, Killyhevlin Lakeside Hotel & Lodges is proud to be a family owned hotel for over 40 years, renowned for professional and friendly service complemented by a collection of beautifully appointed meeting and event spaces. Conveniently located just 1km from Enniskillen

The Killyhevlin Lakeside Hotel & Lodges

town centre with direct links to the main Belfast and Dublin Road, it is the ideal location for meetings or events. Organisers can choose from a collection of inspiring meeting and event spaces, many of them boasting panoramic views over scenic Lough Erne. Choose from residential and day delegate packages with the option of private dining from specially created menus and drinks list.

Family business event coming to Belfast

Residential delegates can enjoy complimentary use of the hotel’s exclusive health club, complete with swimming pool, jacuzzi, sauna, steam room and outdoor hot tub overlooking Lough Erne and indulge in a pampering session at Kalm Spa with a choice of Elemis, Image Skincare and beauty treatments.

For more information please contact Killyhevlin Lakeside Hotel Events team on 028 6632 3481, email events@killyhevlin.com or visit www.killyhevlin.com

Chris Suitor with his daughters Lois and Ava


new conference aimed at showcasing the best of Northern Ireland’s family-owned businesses will come to Belfast later this year.

The NI Family Business Forum will bring its first ever annual conference and showcase to W5 in Belfast, on Friday, November 8. The brainchild of accountants and business advisors, Harbinson Mulholland, the forum is run in partnership with Ulster University and offers a unique space for Northern Ireland’s sizeable family business sector. The theme of the annual conference is ‘The Future for Family Business’ and will focus on future proofing family businesses, engaging the next generation and how technology will impact the sector. Chris Suitor from Suitor Brothers Tailoring, a family business with a 50-year heritage in its second generation which he runs with his brother William, is one of those supporting the event. “I love my job and get great satisfaction from providing a fully bespoke custom tailoring service as well as ready-to-wear men’s


fashion, at the highest standard and quality as well as an affordable price. There is no doubt that running a family business can be hard work, but it can also be very rewarding. “My daughters are still very young, but both have already developed an interest in our family business and say they would like to be involved in running it someday, something which I completely encourage and support.” For more information or to reserve tickets for the event, please visit harbinson-mulholland.com or contact Treena Clarke on tclarke@ harbinson-mulholland.com



Co Down business boss wins top awards Shaun Copas has grown his firm Copas Technologies into a burgeoning company with plans for up to £8m of further investment, and has now been rewarded for his business acumen

Shaun Copas


Co Down businessman has grown his leading engineering business into a multi-million pound company which has just won him a top award. Shaun Copas, managing director of Copas Technologies Ltd, which is based in Kilkeel, was named Best Businessman of the Year at the Greater Newry Area Business Awards 2019.

And he also won Best Manufacturing and Engineering Company, sponsored by Collins Aerospace, and was highly commended in Best Innovative Company and Best Business Growth categories. Copas delivers three, four and five axis engineering excellence in the precision milling of hard and soft metal components for the aerospace sector. Shaun was chosen as businessman of the year due to his dynamic drive, focus and strategic vision – he’s also an innovative thinker who thrives on multiple challenges. After starting out as a sole trader he now employs 50 people from all over south Down, from Ardglass to Newry. And he’s celebrating 13 years in business, overseeing a significant increase in sales in the last 12 months, a £2.5m investment over the past two years, into new technology including the recent introduction of fully automated hard metal milling.


He has ambitious plans to invest £8m, to expand and build a top end milling centre of excellence. “I am greatly honoured and humbled to have been awarded ‘best businessman’ for 2019. I would like to thank my great team at Copas for all their hard work and dedication; especially Paul Burke my operations director and Adele Ireland, my finance and HR manager,” he said. “This is testament to all the hard work, skills and dedication of our entire team. Our ethos is innovation, evolution and excellence in

everything we do and this has now been recognised.” Shaun paid tribute to the efforts of the Copas team, which has helped build the company into the multi-million pound business it is today. “I am thrilled to have won this award on behalf of our entire Copas team and a big thank you to Newry Chamber of Commerce and Trade for hosting the awards; Newry, Mourne and Down District Council, Shelbourne Motors, Younique Aesthetics, First Derivatives and Southern Regional College as sponsors.” ■


An event to remember at Crumlin Road Gaol


rumlin Road Gaol can offer an experience like nowhere else in Northern Ireland and for a limited time it’s also offering up a free drinks reception to wow guests when you book an evening event.

The grade A listed building was built in the 19th century and today its impressive design is complemented by advanced audio-visual technology coupled with outstanding hospitality facilities. The five star visitor attraction prides itself on providing unique and bespoke events, and


being as flexible as possible, ensuring that the event is tailored to the clients needs to provide the highest quality experience and memorable event for all guests. Crumlin Road Gaol head chef, Damian Blaney, has developed versatile menus consisting of the finest local produce that can be tailored to suit the clients requirements. The Crumlin Road Gaol is also committed to using locally sourced products and offer a wide range of healthy food choices.

“With all room bookings clients have complementary access to our customised AV equipment, free wi-fi and free, secure on-site car parking for guests,” it says. “You will also be assigned a designated events manager to aid the smooth running of your event beforehand and on the day of your event.”

Get in touch today for a free no obligation quotation 028 9074 1500 | info@crumlinroadgaol. com


Brexit biting amid second month of retraction


he private sector here has suffered a second consecutive significant retraction with slowing orders and output as Northern Ireland heads for a potential ‘no deal’, a new survey has shown. The blame was placed on Brexit as the main cause of a fall in new business, while

companies as a whole suffered a “marked deterioration” in business conditions during the second quarter.

levels; albeit the pace of job losses in the latest survey was relatively modest. Indeed, a number of respondents’ efforts to hire were thwarted by a lack of suitable staff. Clearly the lack of supply of workers remains a key issue in the labour market rather than simply waning demand.

According to the Ulster Bank purchasing managers’ index (PMI) for July, sharp falls in output and new orders were recorded again at companies in Northern Ireland at the start of the third Business activity quarter of the year amid in NI during July, ongoing worries around the final Brexit outcome. where 50 means


“It won’t surprise anyone to hear that 2019 has been a year of decline for the retail sector. However, there are actually now some signs that the rapid decline in sales is stabilising. no growth Meanwhile, employment also Given the further depreciation in continued to decrease, while sterling, cross-border shopping is likely sentiment remained weak. The reduction in to play a more prominent role in the period output in Northern Ireland was the sharpest of ahead.” the 12 UK regions covered by the survey. Meanwhile, the manufacturing sector saw “Northern Ireland’s private sector a sharp reversal of fortunes – following a reported a marked deterioration rise not long ago, now believed to be down in business conditions in the to stockpiling – with the sector posting the second quarter,” Richard sharpest rates of decline in Ramsey, chief economist jobs, orders and output Northern Ireland, Ulster of the four sectors. Bank, said. Elsewhere, “July’s PMI survey services firms, suggests more of New export orders during outside of the same at the retail, recorded July, which eased start of the third a deterioration slightly from June quarter as output, in business orders, exports and conditions in July. employment continued to Significantly, services fall last month. The rate of decline orders have been falling across all of these indicators did ease at an accelerating rate in each of the last five in July relative to June. months.


“However, the pace of contraction in output, orders and exports remained significant with output and orders falling at a faster rate than in any other UK region. Richard Ramsey


“Firms notched up their seventh successive monthly fall in staffing

“Indeed, July saw orders contract at the fastest rate in over six-and-a-half years. It is a similar story for the construction industry with orders lurching lower again for the eleventh month running,” Richard Ramsey said. And he warned that amid global economic volatility “business conditions could well get worse before they start getting better”. ■

The Primark firm in August 2018. Pic Kevin Scott


Bank Buildings: one year on More than a year after a fire engulfed and destroyed the home of Primark in Belfast, in one of the most historic listed retail buildings in the city, John Mulgrew looks at the progress being made to return the Bank Buildings to its former glory


year ago I watched on as a stalwart structure at the heart of Belfast retail went up in flames, as hundreds gathered just a short distance away – powerless to what, eventually, seemed like its inevitable total destruction. When the first images of the Bank Buildings fire emerged on social media, a small plume of smoke on its roof seemed like something worth 280 characters for many, but nothing to worry newspaper editors in regards to the next day’s plans. But within a couple of hours it turned from a listed building bellowing smoke, to one engulfed in fire. What followed wasn’t just the impact to Primark and its workers. The cordon, subsequently reduced and now mostly removed, had a drastic and almost immediate impact on city centre footfall. That led to some areas in the city centre seeing a slump of up to 60%.


Since then, the new extension has opened, while the efforts to safely remove the facade of the building continue, in order to preserve the listed building. Details have now been submitted for the conversation-led redevelopment and restoration of Bank Buildings. That includes the reinstatement of previously removed upper floor structures from Bank Street, Royal Avenue and Castle Street facades, along with the reinstatement of 1970s wall on Bank Street, for the erection of a retail store connecting to existing Primark store on Castle Street. As part of the restoration, stonework from the fourth and fifth levels of the building were recorded and “systematically dismantled and, where appropriate, protected and retained for either profiling or re-use,” according to a document from conservation architect Hall Black Douglas. Planning documents say that threats to the building’s significance as a heritage asset

have been greatly reduced by the initial stabilisation works, which are currently due for completion in November 2019. “However, much work remains, particularly to the retained facades, to ensure that the Bank Buildings is fully restored to reflect the former wealth of Belfast as a mercantile city and provide a tangible link to the city’s success and prominence during the early 20th century.” The fresh and full plans have now been submitted to Belfast City Council for approval. Documents also show that just the clock face remains. It says the clock face is the only “component to have been salvaged from the fire” and “it is in a very poor condition”. It suggests either the most cost effective approach to the clock “would be to renew all components with reproductions of the originals”, or the other option would be to “conserve as much of the original clock face as possible”. ■



Bombardier aircraft division posts £186m profit Bombardier’s commercial aircraft division has reported a pre-tax profit of $226m (£186m) in the second quarter of 2019, reversing a $668m (£550m) loss posted in the same period last year, as it continued its move away from the sector. Announcing a 9% rise in consolidated revenues to $4.3bn (£3.9bn), the Canadian group’s chief executive Alain Bellemare said the strategy of offloading its loss-making

commercial aviation interests was paying off. Bombardier sold 50.1% of its C-series programme, now the A220, to Airbus 13 months ago. And in recent months, it has moved to off-load its Q400 and CRJ aircraft programmes, ultimately taking it closer to a complete exit from commercial aviation. The complete wings and fuselage components for the A220 are made within Bombardier’s Northern Ireland operation.

In May, the group announced its plan to sell its aerostructures and engineering services operation in Belfast and Morocco, as part of the move to focus the company on trains and business jets.

Tesco NI jobs ‘at risk’ Jobs at Tesco’s 50 Northern Ireland stores, which employ around 10,000 staff, are at risk as it plans to “simplify and reduce” processes across its UK shops. The move will see the cutting of 4,300 staff UK-wide, with a majority of workers being let go from Metro stores.

NI groups call for ‘redoubling’ of efforts to restore Assembly Almost two dozen Northern Ireland business groups say they have deep concerns over the lack of local political representation and are calling for a “redoubling” of efforts to restore the Assembly. A statement, signed by 21 business organisations and trade bodies, says that “two and a half years on from the collapse of the Executive, and now approaching the likely conclusion of the Brexit process, the Northern Ireland business community is deeply concerned at the continued absence of a functioning administration and is calling on political representatives to redouble


their efforts to reach agreement to get the Assembly and Executive working again”. “There has seldom been a time when strong and effective leadership has been more necessary, both to deliver on the domestic agenda and also to speak up for Northern Ireland in the Brexit process. “We need a fully functioning administration to agree and deliver a Programme for Government that will build infrastructure, reform our health service and education system, ensure we have a strong economy, and create opportunities for our young people.”

Other positions will be cut at some Express and larger stores, Tesco said. A spokesman added that “all Metro stores will be affected” including Northern Ireland’s only Metro store on Royal Avenue in Belfast. Bosses want to overhaul the Metro stores, which are bigger than Express stores but smaller than larger supermarkets, saying that shoppers tend to use them for top-up shops, rather than filling bigger baskets. The company said: “The Metro format was originally designed for larger, weekly shops, but today nearly 70% of customers use them as convenience stores, buying food for that day.” Among the changes expected is the introduction of a new flexible working model that will ensure stores are adequately staffed during busy and quiet periods.


Tourism NI unveils new food and drink scheme Tourism NI has unveiled a series of major new events to help promote food and drink across Northern Ireland. The special events, which will be held throughout September, October and November, are part of the organisation’s ‘Taste the Island’ programme.

Gold mine ‘will not use cyanide’ A proposed gold mine in Co Tyrone will now not use cyanide in its Northern Ireland operations, it has said. Mining firm Dalradian has submitted new environmental information about its controversial goldmine plans for Co Tyrone, saying it will not use cyanide in the process. The Canadian company said it was giving the information including “environmental enhancements” following feedback given during the planning process for the gold and silver mine at Curraghinalt near Greencastle. It said it would aim to minimise the impact on the environment by using “the latest modern sorting technology”. One of the most controversial aspects of the proposals was the potential to use cyanide in extraction, but in its statement the company said it will no longer be using cyanide in its Northern Ireland operation. Instead, it said it would carry out simplified processing in Northern Ireland, leading to a partially refined product which would be further treated overseas.


It’s a three-year initiative developed in partnership between Tourism NI, Fáilte Ireland and Tourism Ireland that aims to significantly enhance Northern Ireland’s food and drink reputation. The programme is aiming to build on the successful Year of Food and Drink campaign in 2016 which saw an increase in demand for local produce in international markets, and resulted in Northern Ireland being named an award-winning food destination. According to the latest research, of visitor expenditure of £968m, approximately one

Tourism NI chief executive, John McGrillen, chef Paula McIntyre, Tourism Ireland’s Louise Finnegan and Fáilte Ireland’s Tracey Coughlan

third, £350m, is spent on food and drink. “Food and drink accounts for 30% of the total visitor spend here,” Tourism NI chief executive, John McGrillen, said. “Internationally, our reputation for great food and drink is growing as demonstrated by the global Best Food Destination award in 2018. “Research tells us that our visitors position food and drink as one of the top five factors when choosing a destination and they value local produce highly.”

£2m backing for coal waste pellets firm A venture capital fund has announced a £2m investment in a company which converts coal waste into pellets for industry. Silform, which has an operation in Co Tyrone, has received the funding from Bank of Ireland’s Kernel Capital with private investors.

Allen Martin, Kernel Capital, Ken Flockhart and Mervyn McCall, Silform with Paul McClurg, Bank of Ireland UK

burn for longer than wood biomass pellets.

The business, which is led by Ken Flockhart, converts coal waste deposits into pellets which it says have economic value.

Allen Martin, partner at Kernel Capital, said it was pleased to continue its support of Silform.

The funding will be used to get its plant in Ballygawley up and running. The business has 10 staff. It’s now working on developing a coal pellet which can be used as in the steel industry, as well as a biocoal which can

“Following on from our initial investment, the company has successfully developed and patented innovative technology that has the potential to deliver significant environmental and economic returns,” he said.




Sainsbury’s, Costa, Applegreen, Musgrave group and most recently Tesco Ireland have chosen to partner with us. Deli Lites frozen products are being supplied to the Middle East and across Europe. My dream is to be back in New York and to walk down the street and see our products being sold there, that would be really inspiring. Yes, it all started right there but this time around we will be the ones bringing quality Irish innovation to the people of New York. How is business? We are moving into new markets, cultivating more new clients, the business keeps growing. We’re very pleased to say that things are busy. As it stands, we are producing around 20 million hand-made sandwiches, wraps, and salads a year, this includes an exciting range of vegan, low calorie, and bespoke options – we’re catering to what people want and need. How did you get started in the industry? I initially planned to go into a career in media, then I spent a summer in New York with my sisters and everything changed for me. We were in awe of what we found, the delis were bursting at the seams with colours, textures and flavours. There were products I had never seen or tasted before. We left New York inspired, inspired by the innovation we found and inspired by the hope of bringing that same innovation and quality home to Ireland. My sisters opened up the first sandwich bar in 1994. Around the same time, I met my now-husband Brian, who shared the same aspirations. He also had a passion for great customer service having taken a year out to work on a cruise ship. We spotted a gap in the market for good quality pre-packed sandwiches and in 1999, Brian and I set up our wholesale business by working nights and using the cafe’s kitchen. We delivered to local businesses, schools and hospitals each morning. Typically, who are your clients or customers? We are proud that recognised businesses such as Boots Ireland,


Do you enjoy what you do, and what in particular? I genuinely love my job and particularly enjoy the travel opportunities it provides. I’m lucky to be given the chance to explore new global flavours, products, and ideas that I can bring back to Deli Lites innovation team. I love watching how our team translate these ideas into creations of products our customers love. Food is a real passion of mine, and I love learning about how to offer healthy alternatives or allergen-free options, while still providing a product that lives up to our high standards. What is the most difficult part of your job? I always want to get stuck into the customer day-to-day style sales and I want to be implementing a hundred new ideas at the same time. But at the end of the day there’s only one of me and I can’t do everything at once, as much as I’d love to. I love seeing the business grow, and how our people grow with it and this is very exciting, it makes it difficult to slow down. What are the challenges facing your sector, and the economy in general? The standards and expectations are forever changing within our industry, with legislations and regulations changing just as often. On one hand we need to be profitable in order to sustain and grow the business. We are constantly improving our offerings, and although it’s important to stay on top of the changes, we like to be ahead of them. ■

Energy, waste & environment Sponsored by


The drive to net zero Plans to reduce the UK’s CO2 output with a ‘net zero’ target proposed for 2050 could see significant changes made to our energy use. From an influx of electric cars to an overhaul of the agri-food industry, Ulster Business takes a look at how we could get there


he UK Government recently agreed to a new net zero target for CO2 emissions by 2050. It is the sixth carbon budget to be set since 1990 and regulations to enable that target to be met will be laid before Parliament in 2021. Northern Ireland is the only devolved administration in the UK not to have set out legislation here in accordance with the new target while Scotland has pledged to reach net zero by 2040 and Wales will work in line with England’s deadline. Meanwhile, the Irish Government published an action plan this year to reach its targets. Some of its strategies include making 100% of new cars


bought in 2030 electric and “embed energy efficiency, replacement of fossil fuels, careful management of materials and waste, and carbon abatement across all enterprises and public service bodies”. It has also established a fund to incentivise innovation and efforts in the area of decarbonisation. And it is also committed to implementing a carbon tax rate of at least €80 per tonne by 2030, accompanied by a trajectory of increases over successive annual budgets. While two years have passed since Stormont collapsed, this means NI has to put some groundwork into what it may need to do to play its role in the new environmental plans. This will involve the introduction of greener policies and


proposals that will change the way we work, live and play. When that happens some of those proposals will be inspired by a recent report from the UK Climate Change Committee (CCC), commissioned by the Permanent Secretary for the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA), which suggests how to reach net zero. The CCC said among NI’s specific challenges for decarbonisation is a heavily livestock-based farming sector. Here nearly 30% of all greenhouse gas emissions are from agriculture compared to 10% in the rest of the UK and unlike the other devolved administrations, Northern Ireland’s devolved responsibility for energy policy as a member of the all-island Integrated Single Electricity Market (I-SEM) is another of our challenges. Claire McAllister is chair of the Energy Institute in Northern Ireland. “Legislation to implement net-zero by 2050 is the Government’s response to our climate emergency. It is not optional and to do otherwise would be unsustainable,” she says. “As such, we collectively as a society must adopt a whole systems approach that combined will deliver on these very challenging targets. Fundamentally it must also be a long term approach towards energy and the environment with energy and carbon policies that contains challenging targets as well as the reporting mechanisms to track progress. “It will take a combination of measures to help us make this transition towards a low carbon economy and there are many challenges along that path. The decarbonisation of heating in NI will be a particular challenge as we are still reliant on carbon intensive sources like oil and coal. Gas heating has slowly increased over time as the gas


distribution system has grown, however our rural population distribution most likely mean that we need to look towards alternative low carbon heating alternatives such as biomass or heat pumps and moving more towards replacing or retrofitting our housing stock with more effective and efficient materials. “A mix of low carbon or carbon neutral technologies for heating rather than a reliance on one singular technology and could complement electrification of transport which in itself will place increased demand on our electrical grid. But these technologies all need to be considered together with consideration being given to the impact on the grid, long term financials, incentive schemes were appropriate, future proofing, etc. Ultimately there is no single magic solution.” Green Party MLA Steven Agnew told Ulster Business that changes will focus on “the big three; energy, transport and agriculture”. He said the farming sector is one area which could require changes. “We’re moving the opposite way in terms of agriculture. It’s all about a smaller number of larger farms and I would describe it as we’ve almost reversed the trend in that we used to send our plastic waste to China and now we are the agricultural dumping ground for the world.” Steven was referencing the dramatic growth in pig farming as a result of NI’s Going for Growth Strategy which has dramatically boosted meat, specifically pork, exports to China and intensified agriculture. UK exports of pork alone to China have increased by 50% over the past six months and much of that is coming from NI. “In renewable electricity we are ahead of any other




region. It is estimated that 42% of our energy will be from renewable sources by 2020 but that has plateaued and we’ve not done anything to go further. We’ve never updated that target so it is really important to set a new one for 2030 because 2050 is too far away. “Every building essentially needs to be its own power station,” Steven said. “We need much more self generation and that takes pressure off. There have been some businesses, larger ones, who have invested in more efficient factories but more support is needed for those businesses who might not have that capital.” Among the opportunities to reach net zero targets in NI is our more compact geographical size, which the CCC says “presents an opportunity for more rapid uptake of electric vehicles because range anxiety may be less of a concern for consumers”. And Steven is positive about moving forward in terms of transport. He talks of hydrogen and electric vehicles and likens future consumer


choice between the two as picking a DVD or Blu-ray. Wrightbus is at the heart of some of the more advanced technology in creating zero emissions in the transport sector with the manufacturing of hydrogen-run buses. But with a boost in electrical vehicles comes a demand for more energy and more renewable energy at that and Mr Agnew said planning is becoming an issue for new windfarms. Michael McCallion, climate change adaptation policy officer at DAERA, said: “Reducing Greenhouse Gas emissions in Northern Ireland will require a collective effort by everyone both within all government departments, councils, businesses and individually.” He said energy consumption policies and initiatives for the business community would be a job for the DfE to consider. Steven Agnew said: “I know the DfE is

preparing a new strategy but it will need an Executive to endorse that strategy and drive it forward but that’s the challenge.” The CCC isn’t hopeful that NI’s mission to meet a reduction of CO2 by 35% for the fifth carbon budget (2030) with its existing policies in place can be done and it suggests significant work is needed to get it anywhere near net zero for 2050. But for the Green Party it’s a case of when, not if. “It’s absolutely achievable. The Stern report in 2006 said the earlier we act the more economical it will be. It’s not if, it’s when and the sooner the better. There are jobs to be created in what I call the just transition to a low carbon economy and there is opportunity in that we need the people to fit solar panels, places to assemble the wind turbines for example. “The renewable energy industry globally is huge and Northern Ireland can get a share of that. We need to act quickly.” ■

Permanent secretaries should spell out main issues John Simpson looks at the role permanent secretaries are playing in Northern Ireland without a working Executive in place at Stormont

John Simpson


n the absence of an Executive, the day-to-day functioning of most public services which should fall within the competence of local ministers, rests heavily on the discretion of the top civil servants, usually holding appointments as permanent secretaries or exceptionally in other senior appointments (such as the Comptroller and Auditor General).

When ministers were in place here, the formal remit of permanent secretaries was to act under the supervision of the minister and assemble professional advice when policy decisions were needed. Last year, in the absence of ministers, the Secretary of State put in place arrangements to clarify and slightly widen the delegated authority of permanent secretaries with a reservation that significant new policy measures should be reserved for possible action by the Secretary of State. For over a year, permanent secretaries have facilitated continuing decision-making where they have tried to ensure that their actions were essentially non-controversial. To the credit of these senior officials, there have been few contested decisions. However, there must also be a concern that other desirable decisions that might have proved controversial have been quietly parked, awaiting the return of acceptable political processes.

to be maintained at acceptable levels: departmental budgets are apparently not large enough. That is an inadequate passive response. The lack of serious criticism gives the impression that, even with tight funding, services are being maintained. No problem: without ministers the system just keeps going. In recent months, most permanent secretaries have retained a low public profile. In terms of public awareness, the highest profiles are held by David Sterling, head of the Civil Service, and Richard Pengelly, heading up the Department of Health and Social Services. Three senior women are also playing big roles: Sue Gray heads the Department of Finance, Tracey Meharg leads the Department for Communities and Katrina Godfrey is in charge of the Department for Infrastructure.

The permanent secretaries, normally, would have a low public profile although, in the local NI community, they are well known to senior personnel in business, education, health and community services.

Also in this distinguished group, Derek Baker is in charge of the Department of Education, Peter May leads the Department of Justice, Denis McMahon heads the Department for the Environment, Agriculture and Rural Affairs whilst Noel Lavery holds the top post in the Department for the Economy.

In today’s political environment there is insufficient funding to allow public services

Given the changed role of the permanent secretaries, each of them might play a more


public role in explanation, defence and motivation of the services in their remit. Is it a fair criticism to say that they have underplayed their changed roles too modestly? If so, this is an unhelpful attitude which should be avoided. If the permanent secretaries are a continuing source of leadership on public services then, thrust into a higher profile, they should be expected to help to generate a better informed debate about what should happen next in their remit. They have a useful opportunity to prepare the ground for policy developments, sometimes showing ideas that generate improved services, greater efficiency and better ways of managing limited budgets. Sadly, with limited exceptions, this role of advancing public understanding and debate has been avoided. The civil service has a wellinformed professional leadership role. Without being party politically partisan, they have a responsibility to inform the wider community. If the senior civil servants, with their expertise, only talk to other civil servants, the whole community is the poorer. From permanent secretaries, can we ask for less secrecy, reticence and confidentiality and more frank commentary outlining well-shaped ideas? â–



NI and the move towards decarbonisation SONI managing director Jo Aston discusses Northern Ireland’s place as a leading light in the growing global shift towards decarbonisation


ackling climate change is now firmly at the top of the international political agenda. In recent months, the UK and Irish Governments have led from the front by each declaring a climate emergency. The UK Government has also committed to an ambitious plan to achieve ‘net-zero’ greenhouse gas emissions by 2050, while in Northern Ireland, the Department for the Economy is working towards a new long-term energy strategy.

In the coming years, SONI (System Operator for Northern Ireland) will play a vital role in the decarbonisation of the electricity system; and this is something recently appointed managing director Jo Aston is clearly focused on. “SONI has a significant role to play in leading the transformation of the energy system if Northern Ireland is to achieve full decarbonisation,” she says.“Within the Single Electricity Market (SEM) which operates across the island, policies on renewables for Northern Ireland and Ireland are aligned. This includes targets of 40% of total electricity consumption to be generated from renewable sources by 2020. “In Northern Ireland in 2018, 36% of electricity demand was met by renewable sources, while in Ireland the figure was 32%. These are the highest ever levels of electricity from renewable generation on the all-island power system and provide a clear indication that both jurisdictions are on track to meet their 2020 targets.”


Jo Aston

When it comes to bringing renewable energy onto the electricity system and managing their intermittency, SONI is world-leading. SONI’s innovation programme has been fundamental to the success of Northern Ireland’s electricity from renewable energy targets to date. The decarbonisation of the power system will demand even greater levels of innovation, but

Jo Aston is certain that the SONI team is well placed to deliver. “We have the expertise, the data, the knowledge of the market and the creativity needed to navigate the challenges of this transition and to help us grasp the opportunities that come with it. By working with government, the Utility Regulator and


Kate Finnegan, Shane Brennan and Jo Aston of the SONI team outside the company’s mobile consultation unit, which is used in community engagement events across NI

other stakeholders such as NIE Networks, together we can develop Northern Ireland into a leading example of a highly successful decarbonised economy.

2027’. This outlines how SONI will improve and develop the transmission grid over the next 10 years. Jo Aston sets out the importance of optimising the grid.

“However, transformation of the energy sector is not simply about decarbonisation but also democratisation, decentralisation and diversification of technologies in the power industry; and digitalisation, known as ‘The 5Ds’.

“Delivering the second North South Interconnector is fundamental if we are to achieve greater decarbonisation,” she says. “Across the island, we are losing £20m in savings each year because we do not have the interconnector. In addition, we are not maximising the potential contributions from wind energy onto the system because of the significant constraints on the grid, which the North South Interconnector will alleviate.”

“These are developments that will create the ability to exchange information and potentially trade energy from home solar or storage or, indeed, provide demand response at an individual user level. This ‘democratisation’ will allow consumers to take their energy future into their own hands. “That’s why SONI’s new corporate strategy, which will be launched in the autumn, is so inspiring. It is geared to overcome the hurdles presented by these 5Ds and to ensure we deliver competitively costed, sustainably generated and secure power for Northern Ireland consumers today and in the future.”

On the expertise available within the SONI team, Jo Aston is keen to emphasise the outstanding achievements to date. “If you’d said to me 10 years ago that the NI grid could one day manage 65% electricity from wind, I doubt I’d have agreed with you, due to the complexity of the engineering challenge; but we’ve done it. What we are doing here is world leading and today, through our commitment and expertise we are pushing that figure upwards.”

SONI recently published its ‘Transmission Development Plan Northern Ireland 2018-

Looking ahead, she wants SONI to build on this success. “Our new corporate strategy aims


to increase our real time operational capability for renewable generation to 75% by 2020 and over 90% by 2030 - something that has never been achieved on any power system in the world. The strategy recognises the need to evolve the market to ensure that renewable generation and other technologies such as storage can be efficiently and economically integrated.” In order to meet the future needs of society, SONI has established its Tomorrow’s Energy Scenarios (TES) project. “TES allows us to consider a range of possible ways that electricity supply and consumption may change over the next 20 years and beyond. This includes assumptions and analysis of the impact of uptake of both electric vehicles and electrification of heat. By using our research and expertise we hope to create a pathway towards decarbonisation for our partners and for the consumer. We all have a responsibility to act now for future generations. SONI will play its part in delivering a decarbonised economy for Northern Ireland.” ■



A billion pound investment with eyes on hydrogen gas Kailash Chada, chief financial officer at Phoenix Natural Gas, speaks to Emma Deighan about the revival of his home town of Portrush, and what’s next for fossil fuels 64


t was a nostalgic affair for Kailash Chada, chief financial officer at Phoenix Natural Gas, when he took his three sons (ages nine, 13 and 14) to the recent 148th Open in Portrush. More than 40 years earlier, the home of that grand golf tournament was the backdrop to Kailash’s and his three siblings’ childhood. It was also the home of his mother and late father’s retail business — a shop that sold

souvenirs, records and other memorabilia to tourists visiting the seaside resort. Kailash lived in Magherafelt before moving to Portrush with his three sisters and parents when he was around three years old. He reflects fondly on the coastal town. “It was a fantastic place to grow up,” he says. And he’s glad to see investment in the area that he believes is helping bring back its former reputation.


using natural gas energy since it set up here over 20 years ago. Its expansion across NI has been ambitious, with one of its most recent investments bringing the benefits of gas into the more rural Down areas. That £60m development will allow it to extend its natural gas network to a further 13 towns in the county including Anahilt, Ballygowan, Ballynahinch, Castlewellan, Crossgar, Downpatrick, Dromore, Drumaness, Dundrum, Hillsborough, Newcastle, Saintfield and Spa. It’s part of a wider investment of £1bn since the company came here, Kailash says, which keeps the chief financial officer at the firm here on his toes. “The interesting thing is, when I moved into gas I didn’t realise what a big industry it is. “There are more than 3,000 people employed in natural gas in Northern Ireland, which is something given that 30 years ago there was no gas industry here.

Kailash Chada

A lot of investment went in to bringing The Open to Northern Ireland. Whatever it is, it’s paid off, Kailash believes. Kailash left Northern Ireland in 1989 for Edinburgh where he studied engineering. A post-graduate placement at PwC followed to kick-start his career. He spent four years at PwC before taking a year out to travel, then moving in to banking. In June 2017, following the restructure of Ulster Bank, Kailash decided to transfer his skills to the energy sector where he took up his current post with Phoenix Natural Gas. The energy firm has been the leader in converting NI households and businesses to


“We’ve spent over £1bn over those years and our recent investment into east Down will connect another 22,000 people to gas over the next five years. It is an exciting project in terms of engineering and it’s a really challenging project,” Kailash says. Hillier terrain, the crossing of major rivers and water pipelines, as well as traversing the M1 and A1 and the “rocky Mournes”, all pose challenges for the firm. The next step is promoting the benefits of gas to those living in the latter areas where it is soon to be available, and its greener credentials during a period of environmental awareness. Gas is currently the lowest carbon dioxideemitting fuel source that we use here, making natural gas the greener choice and giving Kailash and his team a big role in helping the Government reach its 2030 emissions targets, as well as setting the ball rolling for its 2050 net zero greenhouse gas emissions target. “We’ve still got a lot of scope to move people

to gas. It’s a net positive when we move people to gas and that’s something we are continuing to focus on,” he says. Already, the existing uptake of gas energy here has saved one million tonnes of CO2 every year, says Kailash, and there is more being done to help boost that reading. “That is medium-term — moving people to natural gas — but we are looking at ways of greening natural gas, reducing it further by injecting biomethane and in the longer term we are looking at the pipeline we have. “That would be a great resource for options like hydrogen gas. That’s the biggest innovation in zero emissions.” A number of trials ongoing throughout the UK are testing the use of hydrogen as a viable fuel source, and Kailash believes the network in place here for natural gas provides just the right infrastructure for moving hydrogen into homes in the future. “There would be a very limited requirement for investment in the existing network and it wouldn’t cause disruption. “There are large schemes in Great Britain which are looking at trialling hydrogen and converting those into large-scale projects. “It’s a journey but it has to be done in a way that it’s affordable and achievable as well as secure,” he says. Hydrogen energy has been dubbed as the main driver for de-carbonising the global economy, and millions of pounds in funding trial schemes in England will see around 750 homes heated using a blend of hydrogen and natural gas later this year. The aim, following the trial, is to roll out the scheme which some sources say would have the same benefits as taking 22.5 million cars off the roads in the UK. By 2022, 550,000 Northern Ireland properties will be able to connect to gas with 330,000 already connected, Kailash says. ■


Employment law & conflict resolution

MARCH 2019




Should we stay or should we go, now? Some EU workers are leaving Northern Ireland as their future here sits uncertain amid a possible hard Brexit, while major manufacturers are now actively recruiting in countries such as Romania to fill workforce gaps. John Mulgrew speaks to the experts about what can be done and the challenges ahead


year ago the prospect of a ‘no deal’ Brexit merely looked like a pessimistic premonition which was never actually going to happen.

Now, with weeks left until the October 31 deadline, employers across Northern Ireland are doing everything they can to ensure staff from outside the UK and Ireland are able to remain working here. But with controversial plans to potentially implement a £30,000 minimum salary for non-UK worker entry, companies struggling to inform colleagues about the EU Settlement Scheme and the attraction to work here fading, it’s never been a more difficult time for businesses and their workforces. Conor McCrory, business immigration associate at Belfast law firm Cleaver Fulton Rankin, says looking further forward, the main concern for business here is the long term changes to immigration, potentially making it very difficult, or impossible, for EU or non-EU workers on low wages, to secure employment here. “The current legal framework does not offer much by way of statutory protection,” he told Ulster Business. “EU citizens who arrive in Northern Ireland before Brexit exit day, appear to have their rights to stay and to access basic services protected – there is in fact very little protection for them contained in primary legislation.” The main area protecting current EU workers


here is the settlement scheme. Employers are being encouraged to make their staff aware that if they have been based here for a certain period of time, they are entitled to stay. The problem lies with the number of EU workers who have already left our shores, and the much tougher entry requirements on migration, post-Brexit. A controversial £30,000 salary has been outlined in a white paper, which would be the threshold for Tier 2 workers, currently under review by the migration Advisory Committee. But many believe that level remains unfair for areas outside of London, with significantly lower salaries in Northern Ireland and other regions. “The thinking behind with the white paper, is these formal applications will apply to everyone. It could be put into practice in 2021, or fast-tracked in terms of a ‘no deal’ Brexit,” Conor said. That would mean workers from nations such as India and China would have the same immigration entry status as those from EU members. Conor said while the Government wishes to reduce migration figures, making it more difficult to enter the UK, there hasn’t been the consideration for the impact that could have on Northern Ireland’s agri-food sector, in particular.

The problem for firms here, especially those within agri-food and manufacturing, is that they are finding many of their workers leaving Northern Ireland and going elsewhere, or returning home, according to Patricia Rooney, partner in the employment department at Belfast law firm Tughans. “We have agri-food clients and they have had huge problems in recruiting,” she said. “Workers who have been here for a long time are going home – their own economies have improved. People who have been here for three or four years, who are not waiting (the outcome of Brexit) and are going back. “Those who have married in Northern Ireland, for example, are staying, but companies are finding that they are not getting EU workers from the same countries, such as Poland and Lithuania.” She said one large manufacturer is now actively on the ground recruiting in countries such as Romania and Bulgaria to ensure they have sufficient workers here. “They are also having to look at their own workforce to see if they have speakers, interpreters, who can speak with the nationals coming from the new EU countries.” Patricia says companies are starting to work with existing staff through the EU Settled Status Scheme, which means workers are able to stay until at least December 2020, in the >



event of a ‘no deal’. However, following that, it’s still not clear what will happen. “One client has been assisting staff with signposting the help and assistance that is available for under the scheme,” she says. “Not everyone can give immigration advice, so firms have to be very careful in giving advice. “Sometimes it’s external, sometimes it can be HR who are trained and can be better from someone in house. “(Some firms) are hugging them (staff) closely, and making it as easy as possible to apply for the status. Some have bought phones and sat with them, going through the process.” There’s also the concern among firms about what impact a ‘no deal’ could have on cross-border businesses and the size of their workforces. If delays or restrictions apply to goods and services crossing the border, some companies could have to reduce staff numbers. Patricia says while some companies may opt for contractors to avoid taking on full-time employees, the security of a guaranteed


contract and income has been part of the attraction for EU workers coming in to Northern Ireland. Gareth Walls is a partner and head of the A&L Goodbody employment and incentives team. He says there is a flow of EU workers moving from Northern Ireland, into the Republic, the rest of the UK and Europe “because there is a great lack of knowledge over the EU Settlement Scheme”. “We have been going out and are delivering training to management, about the scheme, and how it works,” he said. “Another thing with employers in Northern Ireland, and Brexit brings it in to focus, is the skills shortage. There is a simple manpower shortage. The likelihood is, as it’s already hard to recruit, that will be amplified.” He said there is “no doubt” that EU workers are leaving Northern Ireland, amid the ongoing uncertainty over their long-term future here. Gareth says employers have posts available but are complaining about the drift in workers

away from Northern Ireland. “What we have seen is that with so much uncertainty, and the concern around it – companies are decelerating and recruiting less. They are future-proofing already, in regards to Brexit. “They are still in a ‘wait and see’ situation. They might not see a drop of workers postBrexit, but they have no fat to cut or excess. A lot of employers, coming through an aggressive recession, are more considered before increasing and expanding.” But Gareth still believes that Brexit “is not the single biggest in issue in Northern Ireland”. “I think the lack of local government is,” he said. “(Brexit) is a convenient wrapper for other issues. It has the capacity to become a selffulfilling prophecy.” “There is a real resilience in the Northern Ireland business community in relation to business trade anyway, largely borne out of the Troubles. “The lack of a strong government is the biggest issue for the vast majority of companies in every sector.” ■


Quarter of firms say holiday pay ruling ‘could cost £100,000’


lmost a quarter of Northern Ireland firms say the cost to their business in miscalculated holiday pay could be in excess of £100,000, according to a new survey.

The poll, conducted in July in conjunction by workplace compliance specialist Legal Island with Belfast law firm O’Reilly Stewart Solicitors, asked 135 businesses from across the public and private sectors for feedback on a range of issues relating to holiday pay in light of the high profile Police Service of Northern Ireland v Agnew case, which sees the PSNI facing an estimated £40m bill after losing a legal battle into holiday pay due to its officers. Around 53% of those surveyed by Legal Island acknowledged the need to take action to recalculate holiday pay in the wake of the case, with one in four saying they had already


received notice from employees or their representatives that they intend to make a claim for back pay.

liability they face, the repercussions for their businesses but also the potential knock-on impact on our already fragile economy.

Some 80% of respondents said they have employees who regularly work extra hours, over and above those contracted.

“I’m slightly surprised that only 25% have to date raised the issue of compensation with their employer. In my view this figure is only going to rise.

Speaking about the findings, director and head of employment at O’Reilly Stewart Solicitors, Seamus McGranaghan, said: “The Court of Appeal’s landmark ruling that holiday pay must reflect overtime and allowances has shone a spotlight into the operations of all employers when it comes to calculating such pay. “There are a few interesting statistics at play. Firstly, I think we can safely say that 22% of businesses expecting to have to pay compensation of over £100,000 is significant – employers are waking up to the potential

“The Court of Appeal’s decision confirms the rights and legal entitlement of workers and employees to bring claims against their employers going back to 1998.” And Scott Alexander, head of training and development at Legal Island, said; “Over the last number of years holiday pay has been one of the key topics of interest in employment law and continues to be a very complicated and controversial subject, as case law develops. There is no sign of that abating soon.” ■



Mario Sierra, Mourne Textiles and David Acheson, Ulster Carpets

Textiles businesses join forces


wo of Northern Ireland’s biggest names in home textiles have joined forces to create a new venture.

Ulster Carpets, based in Portadown, and Mourne Textiles have formed the joint venture called Mourne Weavers. The new company will produce luxury woven furnishing fabrics, curtain fabrics, cushions and blankets for the commercial interior design sector. It will create a number of jobs and will allow both firms to grow their export trade. However, Ulster Carpets said it could not comment on how many jobs could come from the venture. The collaboration will not impact on their main businesses, which will trade as normal. Mario Sierra, creative director at Mourne Textiles, said: “We are delighted to have secured this substantial investment from Ulster Carpets that will allow us to retain the core


strengths of Mourne Textiles while growing into new sectors with Mourne Weavers.” Ulster Carpets said it is aiming to build on the company’s success in the artisan sector, following its 2016 acquisition of London-based Roger Oates Design, which designs and handproduces stripe runners and rugs. David Acheson, head of strategic operations at Ulster Carpets, said: “The creation of Mourne Weavers and the product range that it will offer perfectly complements Roger Oates Design. We have no doubt that we will be able to combine this expertise with our knowledge of the global market to firmly establish Mourne Weavers within the commercial sector.” Nick Coburn, group managing director of Ulster Carpets, said: “Despite the many challenges within the global market, we continue to show confidence in the marketplace and we are excited about the new opportunities that this new joint venture will bring.

“It also underpins our ongoing growth and diversification strategy to invest in the development of similar businesses and allows us to widen our portfolio into this exciting niche sector in Ireland.” Both firms have a long history in the textile sector. Ulster Carpets was set up in 1938 by George Walter Wilson to service the residential and commercial sectors. Today it has offices in America, Dubai, Paris and London. Over 75% of its products are sourced from outside of the UK and include high profile customers such as the Intercontinental in Paris and Hotel South Beach in Miami. Mourne Textiles set up shop in Co Down in 1940. It was created by Norwegian design pioneer Gerd Hay-Edie using traditional weaving techniques on custommade handlooms. Mario Sierra is the third generation of the family to run the business. ■


Jonathan Dobbin and David Durlacher

Investment, market volatility and preparing for ‘no deal’ Julius Baer International chief executive David Durlacher and head of the new Belfast office, Jonathan Dobbin, speak to John Mulgrew about preparing for a ‘no deal’ Brexit and the ‘short term noise’ caused by the current political upheaval



“The view of Julius Baer has always been to get wealth management to the best possible offering that it can have, around the world. “Julius Baer has been present in the UK for 50 years, most of that time in London. We have seen a gradual shifting of the creation of wealth outside of that south east of England, over the last two decades. “Now, more two thirds of that wealth is held outside of the south east. It became a natural step for us to expand regionally. The new premises we have in Belfast is a sign of the local advice, delivered by some of the best people in the industry, to private clients – clients who live in Northern Ireland.” As for the clients which the company deals with here, he says “the principles are the same”. “The focus is on ultra high-net-worth private clients. They face the same challenges, whether they are based in Northern Ireland, or in England. “People want to make sure that the wealth they have built up, is protected. But also, that they are able to access opportunity that reaches around the world.


avid Durlacher sees the impact of Brexit on investors in Northern Ireland, and elsewhere, as something of a short term inconvenience, rather than something that will have a long-term hit on revenue and returns. He’s the chief executive of Swiss wealth management giant Julius Baer International – employing around 6,700 staff globally – which has just opened a new high-end office in the heart of Belfast city centre, headed by Jonathan Dobbin.

Here, it’s increasingly responsible for dealing with some of Northern Ireland’s largest familyowned businesses and personal wealth. “The observation about the banking sector is one I would have about most companies – you are defined by the client service,” David Durlacher told Ulster Business.


“Our message is to encourage diversification and encourage proper planning of wealth, and to understand the world of investment opportunities that exist.” Jonathan Dobbin says: “Typically, it’s business owners, it’s entrepreneurs. There has been a huge amount of wealth creation here over the last number of years. “In fact, I think up until the end of June this year there was more M&A activity in Northern Ireland than there has been in the last decade. That’s a staggering number when you compare it to some of the slower growing areas elsewhere in the UK.” As for Brexit, something which has largely united the Northern Ireland business community amid increasing fears of the huge negative impact a hard Brexit could have on the economy here, potentially overnight, David says that “these are difficult times for business owners”. “There is a lot of volatility in markets and news

flow has been relentless and that volatility can easily become confusing for investors. “Our aim is to try and convert what is going on around the world, so people can make sense of that and position themselves accordingly. “There has been a dynamism in the local economy… sure, there will be short-term political change and noise, that has never stopped and has always been the case. But companies have understand that, have accepted it. It’s nothing new. “What we are seeing is people who wanted to pull back from that noise, and to understand where the opportunity lies. The cultural of entrepreneurism means it is shifting away from the traditional industries like ship-building, towards fintech. “People are taking advantage of that landscape. Wealth will continue to be created whatever these next months hold politically.” He says clients are now thinking globally, rather than just at home or across the UK as a whole. Jonathan says, as a firm, it has very little exposure to the UK market, at present. For its clients, the minimum investment level is £1m, however most are investing well in excessive of that. And while part of the company’s job is charting a course through those choppy waters, Jonathan Dobbin says it is preparing for a ‘no deal’ Brexit, at this stage. “From the private client perspective, they hate uncertainty and part of our job is navigating uncertainty. We as a firm will base our decisions on facts, because you are taking a bet one way or another if you are trying to predict a very uncertain environment. That is where we are with Brexit. “Who knows where we will be at the end of October. Personally, we would hope that sense would prevail, but we are preparing for a ‘no deal’ Brexit at this stage. People generally are beginning to think that way, as well… corporately there is no doubt certain businesses are holding back until there is more clarity.” ■


Online retailers must act on payment authentication


etailers are being encouraged to prepare as major European-wide changes to digital payments online come into force this month.

On September 14, one-click shopping as we know it – which more than 10% of the population use daily – will become a thing of the past for transactions over €30 (£27). New rules and regulations imposed by the EU and banks mean that all online businesses, must, by law, introduce added authentication methods before processing payments online for those ‘completing a payment in the EU’. But many businesses have concerns over potential lost sales due to the new obstacles for online purchasers, according digital marketing expert Denis Finnegan. “The challenge is for the retailers to make the process as painless as possible for the online consumer,” Mr Finnegan, a director at Northern Ireland-based digital agency, Grofuse, said. “The danger for e-commerce is a marked increase in abandoned carts and dropped sales, and smaller businesses and retailers may be seen

Name: Hannah McHugh Business: Grant Thornton Position: Marketing manager

What service do you use? Translink Urby from Cairnshill Park & Ride. What ticket? Smartlink card. Why do you choose public transport? The overall cost of using public transport is much more affordable than driving, with the added bonus of spending less time in traffic and struggling to find a parking space. Also, the bus stops in the city centre are only a few minutes walking distance to Grant Thornton, which is headquartered directly opposite the City Hall. How do you spend your time on board the service? I spend it on my phone. The free wi-fi is great for checking work emails on my way into the office and it helps me prep for the day ahead,


Denis Finnegan

as more vulnerable. If they haven’t already done so, retailers now need to fully assess the balancing of these new security requirements and customer experience. “Many solutions exist but it’s important that each retailer explores the options to ensure they employ the best fit for their offering and their specific user experience.”

The Smart Commuter however my journey home normally includes scrolling through Instagram and news websites to unwind. What’s your go-to breakfast ‘on the move’? Usually a coffee and a cereal bar – in no way the nutritional option. Do you have any words of wisdom for anyone considering switching from car to public transport? The frequent service and short travel time from south Belfast is ideal for a stress free commute along the main routes into the city. With the added benefit of being much more environmentally friendly, using public transport helps you play your part in reducing your carbon footprint. www.translink.co.uk

Motoring By Pat Burns

Sponsored by




New engine for Europe’s best selling crossover


he Qashqai is Europe’s best-selling crossover and it’s now available with a new 1.3-litre petrol engine.

The highly efficient new engine – which is available in 140PS and 160PS outputs – delivers reduced fuel consumption and lower CO2 emissions. It draws on the strength and resources of the Renault-NissanMitsubishi Alliance and has been developed in collaboration with Daimler. This new powerplant is making its Nissan debut in the Qashqai. It is available linked to a six-speed manual transmission and an all-new seven-speed dual clutch transmission (DCT), both of which are front-wheel drive. It’s the first time a DCT has appeared in a volume Nissan model, and provides customers with a sporty and more direct dynamic experience, improved standing-start performance and smooth power delivery. There are three versions of the new 1.3-litre engine – a 140PS six-speed manual, a 160PS


six-speed manual and a 160PS seven-speed DCT. Torque figures are 240 Nm for the low output, 260 Nm for the high output manual and 270 Nm for the DCT. This enhanced petrol powertrain line-up sets a new standard for drivability in the Qashqai. Customers will notice improved response and acceleration through more power and torque, smoother and more linear power delivery, and a quieter driving experience. Service intervals are also extended. In the Qashqai, the three new 1.3-litre powertrains directly replace three older ones – the 1.2-litre 115 PS manual and CVT, and the 1.6-litre 163 PS manual. All the new powertrains are compliant with the latest Euro 6d-Temp emissions standard. All three powertrains are extremely competitive versus those available from other manufacturers, and in many cases the level of CO2 emissions is significantly better. As well as offering reduced fuel consumption and lower CO2 emissions, the new engine provides a

smoother response at low RPM, more vigorous acceleration and quicker/safer overtaking manoeuvres. Cost of ownership for consumers is reduced thanks to lower maintenance costs over the lifetime of the engine. For example, service intervals have been extended from 12,000 km to 18,000 miles. In the Qashqai on 17-inch wheels, the CO2 emissions are 121 g/km (NEDC-BT) and a fuel consumption figure of 53.3mpg. The all-new DCT is a new system which delivers a refined driving experience. It features electrical on-demand cooling and electromechanic gear actuation to improve efficiency. It provides clear benefits to customers – both private and fleet – compared to the outgoing CVT transmission on the Qashqai. The driver experiences an immediate gear shift with no power interruptions, while the absence of a torque converter creates a more direct driving feeling – so it’s more fun to drive. Prices for the Qashqai range start at £19,995. ■


The Fiesta gets Active C

omprising three variants – Active 1, Active B&O Play and Active X – this new Ford Fiesta model offers buyers a lifestyle crossover with increased ride height, rugged exterior and advanced technologies.

All three Fiesta Active models enjoy distinctive looks and upgraded equipment levels, including a rugged bodystyling kit with Active badging and styling cues, rough-road suspension with increased ride height, roof rails, front fog lights and 17-inch five-spoke alloy wheels. There are three selectable drive modes: Eco, Normal and Slippery, while rough-terrain capabilities are helped by the adoption of Ford’s electronic stability programme (ESP) with hill start assist. On-road safety is boosted thanks to lane-keeping technology, rear seat belt minder, rear centre headrest, auto headlamps, Ford’s Quickclear heated windscreen for faster getaways on frosty


mornings and the tyre pressure monitoring system (TPMS), while passenger comfort aids include electric front and rear windows, rear privacy glass, driver seat height and lumbar adjustment and air-conditioning. Ford’s Sync 3 communications and entertainment system enables drivers to control audio and connected smartphones using voice commands, or via the tablet-inspired colour touchscreen, and is compatible with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. Even more equipment is fitted as standard to the Active X, including partial leather upholstery with heated front seats, powerfoldable door mirrors with puddle lights, Ford Sync 3 Navigation system with DAB radio and 8in touchscreen, the KeyFree system with keyless entry and start, and a rear-view camera with rear parking sensors. The Fiesta Active range also features dramatic and dynamic colour schemes, and the option

of a two-part panoramic sliding roof on the Active 1 and Active X models. Ford’s multiaward-winning 1.0-litre EcoBoost petrol engine is offered with four different power outputs: 85PS, 100PS, 125PS and 140PS, allied to a new six-speed manual gearbox delivering from 105g/km CO2 emissions. All three new Fiesta Active models are additionally available with Ford’s 85PS 1.5-litre TDCi engine with CO2 from 96g/km and 120PS version. Auto-Start-Stop technology is fitted to all engines to improve economy, with Active Grille Shutter for both petrol and diesel engines. A new eco button for manual transmissions adjusts engine and throttle settings to help drivers save even more fuel when desired. The new Fiesta Active 1 is £17,790, with B&O Play for £19,190 and Active X at £20,290. There are also chunky Active versions of the Ka and Focus now available as well. ■


Hyundai walks the Line


he N Line range is Hyundai’s nomenclature for it’s high spec models and started originally with the high performance i30 N Line model. The N Line range has now been extended to the Tuscon range.

The Tucson N Line features exterior designs inspired by Hyundai’s N range of highperformance models, with bespoke front and rear bumpers, dark mesh-pattern grille with a dark chrome surround. The 19 inch alloy wheels, door mirror housings and rear spoiler are all finished in glossy black, to further emphasize the car’s sporting attitude. Black-bezel headlamps, unique LED daytime running lights and darkened window frames in combination with body-coloured door handles also create a more dynamic look for the Tucson N Line. Interior changes include N-branded leather-suede sport seats with red stitching which is also carried over to the N branded leather steering wheel. Alloy pedals and the leather-wrapped, redaccented N gear shift lever are also part of the


Tucson N Line’s sporting enhancements. As well as external and interior styling changes, Tucson N Line T-GDi models feature dynamic modifications over regular Tucson models, with changes to the motor driven power steering software giving a more direct feel at the wheel helped by the stiffer suspension set up.

The technology designed for electrification comprises a 48-volt lithium-ion battery, a mild hybrid starter generator (MHSG), a LDC converter (low voltage DC/DC) and an inverter. Under acceleration, the MHSG supports the engine with up to 12 kW of power, reducing fuel consumption and emissions, with the system switching automatically between mechanical use of the engine and energy recuperation.

Prices start from £25,995 for the Tucson N Line 1.6 T-GDi 177ps 2WD manual, which in addition to the N Line specific equipment, also offers heated and height adjustable front seats, with an electrically adjustable drivers lumbar support, keyless entry with start/ stop button, automatic dimming rear view mirror, front and rear parking sensors, electric parking brake and privacy glass also feature as standard specification.

The MHSG assists the combustion engine by discharging the battery to reduce engine load with light acceleration, or to provide additional torque to the engine under strong acceleration. During in-gear deceleration and braking, energy is recuperated to recharge the battery.

The Tucson N Line also sees the introduction of the all-new 1.6 CRDi 48 Volt Hybrid, which will be available from the SE Nav trim level and replaces the conventional 1.6 diesel powertrain option.

All Tucson N Line models come with Hyundai’s industry leading five year unlimited mileage warranty, roadside assistance package, five year annual health check, and 12 year anti corrosion warranty. ■



NI car sales buck UK trend N

ew car sales in Northern Ireland are on the rise – bucking the UK trend which has seen the number of vehicles powering out of showrooms fall.

Around 3,758 cars were sold in July – up 1.2% on the same period a year earlier. However, new car sales fell by more than 4% across the UK as a whole. The largest drop was felt in England, with a fall of around 4.5% during the month of July. Looking at the figures throughout the year, overall, Northern Ireland car sales are down marginally by 0.32%, while UK figures show a 3.49% drop, according to the figures from the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT). The Nissan Qashqai topped the list as the best seller here, with 160 vehicles sold during July. That was followed by the Ford Kuga and Fiesta, with 115 and 114 cars sold, respectively. Mike Hawes, SMMT chief executive, said: “Despite yet another month of decline in the new car market, it’s encouraging to see substantial growth in zero emission vehicles. Thanks to manufacturers’ investment in


these new technologies over many years, these cars are coming to market in greater numbers than ever before. If the UK is to meet its environmental ambitions, however, government must create the right conditions to drive uptake, including long-term incentives and investment in infrastructure. “The fastest way to address air quality concerns is through fleet renewal so buyers need to be given the confidence to invest in the new, cleaner vehicles that best suit their driving needs, regardless of how they are powered.” And Ulster Bank chief economist, Richard Ramsey, said: “Northern Ireland’s sales figures may compare favourably against England, Scotland and Wales for 2019, but it should be remembered that local dealers posted steeper falls in the last recession and a much weaker recovery. England, Scotland and Wales all posted record sales volumes in 2016/17. “Conversely, Northern Ireland has failed to see a return to the new car sales volumes recorded in 2006 and 2007. Currently, new car sales here (over the last 12 months) are running at just over three-quarters of 2007 levels.”

The SMMT said “the UK new car market declined again in July, with 157,198 vehicles leaving showrooms”. “Registrations fell by 4.1%, the fifth consecutive month of decline, as political and economic uncertainty and confusion over future government policy on different fuel types continued to knock consumer and business confidence. “Declines were seen across all sectors, with private demand falling 2.0%, while deliveries for fleet and business customers were down 4.7% and 22.5% respectively. Luxury saloons and specialist sports cars experienced a rise in registrations in the month with volumes driven by increased demand for dual purpose vehicles.”■


Breakfast Business


By John Mulgrew


t’s another unseasonally (seasonally, actually) bright and sunny morning in the heart of Belfast centre for this sojourn in one of the city’s popular breakfast spots.

We’re back at The National this morning, which has undergone a fairly significant refurbishment since the last time we were here. Joining me on this occasion is Shane Donnelly – the man heading up Ortus Secured Finance, in Northern Ireland, which in the space of just a few months now has a lending book sitting at around £35m. Ortus has been on the go since 2013, starting off in London. It then began lending into Northern Ireland a year later, and earlier this year opened its Belfast office. It aims to bridge the gaps in commercial finance, specialising in asset-backed bridging loans for a wide range of businesses. “We began lending into Northern Ireland in 2014. Then, it was five to 10 transactions a year, peaking at around £10m,” Shane says. “There was a level of traffic in the business where we couldn’t go much further without having someone local expertise on the ground.” Shane joined the firm at the tail end of last year, making the move from Bank of Ireland before starting significant lending in February this year. He says the last six or seven months has seen a large increase in activity. As we traverse the world of bridging loans and asset-backed finance, breakfast arrives. Porridge for my guest and a solid Eggs Benedict for me. A suitably runny egg and properly made hollandaise, with caffeine on the side.


“We have a lot of very professional contacts in Belfast, and we relied heavily on introducers,” Shane says. “We have worked to maintain that contact, and bring in new ones which are personal to me, on the back of local marketing and word of mouth. “We are on target to hit £50m and beyond this year,” he says. “We don’t have one particular sector as we cover a wide range. It’s asset-backed, short term. It could be an owner-occupier buying their factory, or buying a buy-to-let portfolio. A lot of what we do is refinance work. “In a lot of instances we are taking borrowers who may have a few things to work out with their existing lender. We are taking portfolios and giving them some time to rehabilitate themselves before moving back to mainstream lending.”

on existing lenders in the Northern Ireland marketplace. We fit in with what is going on a round us.” And he’s keen to stress, it’s all about picking up the phone for a chat to see what the company can do for a potential customer.

The bill Eggs Benedict Porridge Americano x 2 Flat white Total

£7.50 £6.00 £5.40 £2.80 £21.70

That lending tends to be between 12 and 24 months, Shane says. “Generally, we do rely



Simone Martin is now meeting and events manager at Roe Park Resort in Limavady. She is the point of contact and responsible for guidance from event initial enquiry to the event date. Willis Insurance & Risk Management has appointed Paddy Murray as head of HR for the employment services division within the group. Mr Murray is an experienced HR director with over 20 years in senior roles. Olivia Stewart has been appointed to the role of communications manager at Northern Ireland Chamber of Commerce and Industry. She joins from Morrow Communications, having previously worked with some of the UK and Ireland’s leading businesses and public bodies.

Lynsey Foster has taken up a position as international trade executive with Northern Ireland Chamber of Commerce and Industry. She will support the growth of NI Chamber’s new international division by providing members with expert support on global trade. Nigel Binks is UK vehicle sales manager with Wilsons Auctions. In his new role, he will help the departments across the group maximise their existing business, attracting new buyers and vendors as well as developing operations. Aidan Larkin has been appointed asset recovery director at Wilsons Auctions. He manages nationwide government and law enforcement contracts and in recent years has focused on business development and innovation in emerging markets worldwide.

Nicola Abernethy has been appointed as communications assistant with Northern Ireland Chamber of Commerce and Industry. The role will see her support the execution of NI Chamber’s marketing strategy, including the promotion of member services and events. Michael Edwards has been appointed director of finance and operations at Todd Architects. He has gained extensive experience over the past 20 years within the construction industry, having held positions with Lagan Construction, H&J Martin and Mascott Construction. Kim Lucas has been appointed as the first IT director at Ulster Carpets. With over 23 years’ IT experience in the manufacturing and construction sector, she will be responsible for spearheading the company’s global technology strategy.



Jim Mulholland is now a director at Todd Architects after purchasing equity from existing directors Peter Minnis and Paul Crowe, both of whom are staying on in the business in an executive capacity to provide strategic direction and remain as major shareholders. Claire Steele has been appointed meetings and events co-ordinator at Roe Park Resort in Limavady. She will be responsible for co-ordinating weddings, meetings and events across the resort. Craig Walker has been appointed contracts director at Wilsons Auctions. He is responsible for the operational delivery of all government and large sector clients and internal compliance in addition to managing all online sales for the business.

Charles Hurst Group has appointed Alan Thompson as head of business at its signature ÂŁ8m Jaguar and Land Rover base. He has 14 years of service with Charles Hurst. Paul Clarkin has been appointed finance director at Wilsons Auctions. He came into the business as financial controller and has developed the finance function to work alongside and service the expanding business. Morrow Communications has appointed Liam Moran as a junior designer. He is responsible for the design of a wide range of materials across print, digital and social media.

Ben Robinson is now video editor and camera operator at Morrow Communications. He will be directly involved in the filming process while also editing a range of assets for clients including customer case studies, social media and e-learning videos. Darragh Coleman is now a director at Todd Architects after purchasing equity from existing directors Peter Minnis and Paul Crowe. Mr Coleman joined Todd Architects in 2001, becoming an associate in 2012. Andrew Murray is now a director at Todd Architects after purchasing equity from existing directors Peter Minnis and Paul Crowe. Mr Murray began his career with Todd Architects in 2001.





1. Ards Business Hub has announced a new three year plan that aims to support 1,000 businesses and individuals to help grow the economy. Pictured is chief executive Nichola Lockhart and chairman David Blevings. 2. Creative Composites is creating 132 jobs as part of an £11m expansion of its Lisburn base. Pictured announcing the new roles are Jonathan Holmes, Creative Composites, with Alastair Hamilton, Invest NI. 3. Future Home Developments has announced a new £2.5m housing development that will help support urban regeneration in Belfast city centre. Pictured are Gary Sinnerton and Tom Smyth of Dream Apartments.


4. Gareth Chambers and Howard Farquhar of Around Noon with Grainne McVeigh, Invest NI as the Newry firm announced it would create 94 new jobs as part of a £7m expansion of the business. 5. Balloo Inns has opened the doors to its new restaurant, Overwood, in Killinchy, Co Down, which be headed by Danni Barry in the kitchen. She is pictured alongside owner Ronan Sweeney.






PHOTOCALL 6. Football club Lisnaskea Rovers Girl has been announced as one of 38 winning sports clubs across Northern Ireland to each receive £4,000 worth of equipment as part of Lidl’s ‘Sport for Good’ initiative. They are pictured with Bethany Firth. 7. The final bolts to the roof of the new £35m leisure centre in Craigavon have been moved into place. Pictured together to mark the milestone is Warren Wright of Farrans Construction and Lord Mayor of Armagh City, Banbridge and Mealla Campbell. 8. Bespoke Business Events is marking its 10th year in business with a new name and rebrand. Pictured is the Bespoke Business Events team, Lauren Beggs, Emily Brown, Maeve Maguire with managing director Melita Williams.



9. Michael Weston of the Slieve Donard Resort and Spa is joined by executive head chef, Hazel Magill, to unveil the results of a £1.1m investment from Hastings Hotels. 10. The Fermanagh Lakelands Festival of Golf has been launched. Pictured are Barry McCauley, Lough Erne Resort, Heather Hetherington, Castle Hume GC, Jacqueline Brown, Lough Erne Resort, Tanya Cathcart, Fermanagh Lakeland Tourism, and Hazel Hogg, Enniskillen GC.







11. Ross Graham, Charles Hurst Toyota management, Donna Henry, motability dealer development manager and Debbie McCallen, Charles Hurst Toyota motability specialist pictured after winning a regional award for their work with the Motability Car Scheme. 12. Invest NI is sponsoring the annual Consular Corps/Association of Northern Ireland dinner at Crown Plaza Hotel. Pictured is Consul General of the Grenadines and St Vincent Dr Christopher Stange, Co-operation Ireland’s Peter Sheridan and Invest NI’s Alan Wilson. 13. Belfast-based software company, WorkPal, has won a place on the UK Government’s digital marketplace, G-Cloud, giving it access to online procurement opportunities. Pictured is Ian Megahey.


14. Northern Ireland telecoms and technology company b4b group has acquired a rival telecoms company Fenix Solutions Ltd for an undisclosed sum. Pictured are Gareth Thompson, Fenix with b4b’s Dominic Kearns and Thomas O’Hagan. 15. Pictured celebrating their continued partnership is Heather White, business development manager, IoD along with Keith Graham, managing director of Selective Travel Management, and business development manager Stephen Staerke.






PHOTOCALL 16. Kernel Capital has led a £1.6m investment in Automated Intelligence, in syndication with private investors, which includes £750,000 investment from The Bank of Ireland Kernel Capital Growth Fund (NI). Pictured are Benjamin McGuinness, Simon Cole, Fergus McIlduff, William McCulla and Niall Devlin. 17. CBRE Northern Ireland managing director Brian Lavery (right) is pictured with the newly-appointed Audrey McStraw, who joins the firm’s valuation department with over 25 years’ experience.


18. Eamon O’Neill, Margaret Dolan and Ian Wasson who lead the Belfast team at Cowen, after the US-owned firm announced that it has moved its Belfast office to the newly renovated Bedford House.


19. Belfast-based medical technology company, axial3D, has raised £2.4m of investment following a successful ‘series A’ funding round. Daniel Crawford of axial3D is pictured with John Murray of Techstart Ventures. 20. Marcon has begun the fit-out of one of Dublin’s most anticipated projects in recent years. UCD Newman House will be transformed into the Museum of Literature Ireland. Pictured are Martin McErlean of Marcon and Mirko Cerami.







21. Stephen McMullan, deputy general manager Jury’s Inn, Belfast is pictured with John McGrillen, chief executive of Tourism NI with Adrian Patton, senior manager, ASM and director Michael Williamson at the launch of its annual hotel industry survey. 22. Ulster Rugby players Sean Reidy, Luke Marshall and Andrew Warwick try out the new aqua rugby pitch at Let’s Go Hydro, Ireland’s largest water sport, activity and accommodation resort, located outside Belfast. 23. The Grand Central hotel in Belfast has played host to 100 meeting and incentive travel organisers from across the UK for the three-day C&IT Corporate & Agency Summit. Pictured with Caitriona Lavery, of Hastings Hotels is Calum Di Lieto, editor of C&IT.


24. Lisburn-based Andrew Ingredients has hosted a live broadcast of BBC Radio 2’s Ken Bruce We Stop for PopMaster Tour. Pictured is Claire Andrew, marketing manager, Ken Bruce and chairman Tim Andrew. 25. Mark McElroy, Marcon Fit-Out and Ross Oliver of Galgorm Resort and Spa at the announcement of Marcon’s sponsorship of the ISPS HANDA World Invitational.






PHOTOCALL 26. Ana Wilkinson, Friends of the Cancer with Leo Donaghy Cancer Fund For Children, Laura McClean and Pauline Elliott, Creightons Blacks Road after the cancer charities received £8,000 thanks to a fundraising drive by the team at Creightons. 27. Entrepreneur, Natasha Rollinson (right) has launched her own handcrafted jewellery business thanks to the Go For It Programme, in association with Belfast City Council. She is pictured with Dave Murphy of North Belfast Business Centre.


28. The Lost City Adventure Golf in Belfast has expanded thanks to a £100,000 investment at Cityside Retail and Leisure Park. Pictured is Lost City Adventure Golf owner Lane Scott alongside general manager Nikki Drennan.


29. Five of Henderson Group’s fresh desserts have received Great Taste Awards with two gaining 2-star status, and three gaining 1-star. Pictured is Rachel Stoddart from Davidson’s is with Henderson’s Eamon Taggart. 30. Launching the new M&S store in Carrickfergus is Mayor of Mid and East Antrim Borough Council, Maureen Morrow, store manager Grace Lough and head of region for M&S, Simon Layton. Helping to cut the ribbon is Oscar Millar and Eva Morrison.






The Chairman There were no shouts of ‘fore’ out on the course this summer, just sun, rain, some of the world’s best golf and a touch of hospitality along the way


’ve been trying my hand at this old golf game, in recent months. It’s a tough slog. I’m not going to be giving the three wood prowess of Henrik Stenson a run for his money, any time soon. But what better way to get a look at how it’s supposed to be done – up close. It would be difficult to start writing this column without turning much attention to the largest sporting event ever held in Northern Ireland. The Open returned to Northern Ireland for the first time in 68 years – choosing the grand links backdrop of Portrush as its home for four days of the biggest and best golfing event in the world, which saw more than 230,000 spectators descend on the popular Co Antrim coastal town. I’m all for getting out there and pacing the course, rain


or shine, but there’s nothing quite like also having the confines of a top-end hospitality tent to dry, recuperate and imbibe a few libations. Among those turning out for this sporting behemoth was Hospitality Ulster’s esteemed editor, Alyson Magee, model, racing driver and television personality, Jodie Kidd, and the man with the scores, Strictly Come Dancing judge, Len Goodman. There was, of course, the Tourism NI team, including Kate Ferguson, Fiona Cunningham and Susie Brown, joined by Cool FM’s Pete Snodden, Simon Daly, Fred Daly and Greg McEwan of event organisers the R&A. Tourism NI chief executive John McGrillen was also accompanied by chairman Terence Brannigan, along with Gillian and John Bamber, Royal Portrush, while Invest NI’s Alastair Hamilton was joined by the BBC’s Holly Hamilton.

It was then the turn of the cream of the business world crop for the Ulster Business Top 100 launch, with law firm A&L Goodbody. The summer edition of the magazine is barometer for the Northern Ireland economy, and showcases the success stories of our largest companies and those emerging, as well as offering insight, analysis,

exclusive news, interviews and profiles of firms from across the business spectrum. And the launch drew some of those from across the world of business, once again, to the Ivory at Victoria Square in the heart of Belfast city centre. Among those turning out included top economist and Ulster Business contributor, John Simpson, pictured alongside the Belfast Telegraph’s Jackie Reid. And turning out from the Lanyon Group team was Matthew Jeffrey, Gavin Williamson, joined by resident event expert Karen McGarvey, while the Belfast Telegraph’s Connor Diamond, Martin Elliman were joined by Mr Hospitality, Mark Glover. In the world of spuds and other ready-togo vegetable products, Mash Direct’s Tracy Hamilton and Clare Forester also turned out, as did Women in Business chief executive, Roseann Kelly.

Meanwhile, there was a dram or two over at the latest collaboration from Bushmills whiskey. The Black Bush Carved event brought the spirit alongside creative woodworker, Eamonn O’Sullivan to host two whiskey and woodcarving workshops in Belfast’s The Cow Bay – part of The Points Bar in the city. Across the two evenings, guests experienced a whiskey tasting led by the Bushmills Brand Ambassador, before hearing his story on how he honed his passion and craft to build a career in woodwork, while attendees then had the chance to try their hand at woodcarving their own whiskey accessory to take home. And among those paying a visit included Stuart and Ally Henry, Richard and Kate Morrison, Lauren McMullan, Eamonn O’Sullivan and the BBC’s Vinny Hurrell. ■


Tourism NI chairman Terence Brannigan, Tourism NI chief executive John McGrillen, Gillian and John Bamber, Royal Portrush Golf Club

John Simpson and Jackie Reid at the Top 100 launch

Fiona Cunningham, Tourism NI ROI market manager, Greg McEwan, R&A marketing manager

Matthew Jeffrey, Gavin Williamson and Karen McGarvey at the Top 100

Holly Hamilton and Alastair Hamilton


Tracy Hamilton, Clare Forester and Roseann Kelly Simon Daly, Susie Brown, and Fred Daly at The Open

Tourism NI’s Kate Ferguson and Cool FM’s Pete Snodden

Stuart and Ally Henry and Richard and Kate Morrison

Lauren McMullan, Eamonn O’Sullivan and Vinny Hurrell


Connor Diamond, Martin Elliman and Mark Glover



A touch of gold for Swiss stalwart John Mulgrew gets hands on with one of the newest offerings from Rolex sister brand Tudor, with a touch of gold and help from another watch giant along the way




quick take at the Tudor Black Bay Chronograph S&G could lead you to believe you’re looking at something familiar from the wellestablished Rolex family, or, it could throw your eyes entirely in a different direction towards other well-recognised racing watches of the past.

For context, the Tudor brand dates back as far as 1926, when it was transferred to Rolex founder Hans Wilsdorf, and is still lovingly referred to as the Swiss watch stalwart’s sister brand. Since Tudor’s recent revival and revamp as both a brand and watchmaker, the Black Bay series has fuelled its renaissance – with the flagship 41mm Heritage paying homage to the Submariners of old, pre-crown guard, albeit in a larger, chunkier case. However, it’s branched out its existing range to a steel and gold series, which includes the new version of the chronograph model. On the wrist, it wears larger than its 41mm case size would lead you to believe – the same case size as the flagship Black Bay, but screw down pushers, the bezel and slightly thicker case give it more heft. It’s all a mixture of polishing on the sides, and brushed on top, similar to the rest of the Black Bay line.

bund strap), which has a chunky feel, boasting Tudor’s deployment clasp – something which even more expensive watch makers seem to forgo, with similarly sized IWC’s opting for a traditional band. The 22mm lugs mean the strap is more or less as chunky as you’re going to get in 2019, Bell & Ross or the like aside – thinning by a couple of millimetres towards the buckle. The screw down pushers are firm but not overly tight, allowing reasonably quick access to the chrono functions, time and date setting, and manual wind. A strong click is required to start and stop the movement, and feels reasonably smooth, considering some can often be overly stiff. As with previous Tudors, and its bigger sister Rolex, the lume is strong – the dot markers lighting the face at eight points, with a triangle at 12. The signature snowflake hands also make a reappearance, but the chrono seconds

hand is thinner than that of the standard Black Bay, finishing in a sharp red arrow. The face is split into two dials – a 60 second read on the left, and a 45 minute count on the right, with the date sitting at the bottom of the black dial. Comparing this to what’s out there, it sometimes feels like a chunkier Daytona on the wrist, while others it’s reminiscent of larger chronographs from other Swiss brands. It’s not a subtle watch, given the pop of gold, while the gold bezel and pushers have a duller brushed finish, thus making it not as shouty as something with a heavily polished case. The chrono offers a lot, and sits well below anything from Rolex in terms of its price point, going up against Omega, Breitling and racing watches such as the Tag Heuer Autavia, in terms of functionality and some elements of the styling. ■


The dark face and bezel, contrasted starkly with the thin ring of gold and brushed steel lugs, seem to also contribute to the larger size. And that bezel is solid 18k gold, as are the pushers, while the crown is gold capped. The fixed bezel boasts a matt black anodised aluminium disc with tachymetric scale and yellow gold markings. And while Tudor’s big selling point now is that the movements are made in-house, this chronograph is an exception to the rule, and through partnership with Breitling, features a modified movement from one of the leaders in aviation watches. The automatic MT5813 has a free-sprung adjustable mass balance and silicon balance spring. The power reserve is said to be around 70 hours. This version comes with a soft brown leather strap with off white stitching (along with a




TECH REVIEW: a top-end mirrorless camera and long-lasting laptop Adrian Weckler takes on the latest full-frame camera from Panasonic and a long-lasting two-in-one laptop from Dell



Panasonic Lumix S1


anasonic’s full-frame Lumix S1 is a pro-friendly, accomplished new mirrorless camera which looks to have an exciting future with lenses from Leica and Sigma. And yet it may be a heck of a hard sell. I’ve had it for testing for three weeks. It’s clear to me that this is the full-frame mirrorless camera that Canon and Nikon should have made. Its ergonomics are perfect for a professional shooter – the best of any serious mirrorless camera I’ve ever tried. Its 24-megapixel sensor performs brilliantly in low light. Its engine is super-fast. Its video prowess, borrowing from its superb GH series, is top of the range.

Its battery life is relatively good. It’s as weatherproof as they come. It has almost every conceivable feature you would want in a professional (or hobbyist) full-frame mirrorless camera, and the lens roadmap from itself and partners Sigma and Leica is very promising (the Leica lenses for Panasonic’s smaller Micro Four Thirds cameras are astoundingly good). The 24-105mm f4 Panasonic lens I got with my test kit was sharp and on par with the 24-105mm ‘L’ lenses I’m used to using from Canon. In short, the S1 was a pleasure to shoot with, and I can easily imagine using it as a professional go-to camera for everything from press work to portraits, to landscapes, sport and wildlife. And yet I’ll be surprised if they sell many of these cameras. Panasonic finds itself starting in a distant fourth position in the fullframe mirrorless camera market. In an industry that’s contracting by around 30pc a year, that’s a tough place to be. It has just three lenses (24-105mm f4, 70-200mm f4 and 50mm f1.4) at launch and won’t fill out to the minimum of 15 different focal lengths it really needs for at least another two to three years. By contrast, Sony now has over 50 native professional lenses, matching Canon and Nikon’s old DSLR lens range, right up to a 600mm f4. And Sony, with its five-year lead on everyone else, is still catching up on the traditional duopoly of Canon and Nikon. Against this, how will Panasonic really make it? Very slowly, I would imagine. The five-axis in-body stabilisation (Ibis) means that I was able to shoot handheld as slow as one fifteenth of a second shutter speed, a real help in low light. This is a rare thing that is way ahead of Canon (no Ibis) and Nikon (which has three-axis Ibis, but there have been technical problems with it). Only Sony’s just-announced A7R4 really compares. Its electronic viewfinder is the best on the market. Its button arrays and menus are relatively intuitive, far better than Sony’s. The touchscreen display flips out in a hybrid sort of way, not enough to really be a blogging camera, but enough to let you shoot vertically up high or down low. It has both SD and XQD card slots, making it very attractive to videographers (due to the latter’s faster speed). And the S1’s image quality really is very, very good.


Dell Latitude 7400


ell’s new Latitude 7400 two-in-one touchscreen laptop is one of the better hybrid work laptops you can buy right now.

I’ve had it for a few weeks and it has two highlights: its battery life and its 14-inch ‘wide’ touchscreen. I never got less than 10 full hours’ use, no matter what I used it for. It usually lasted almost two full days of use. The slightly shorter but wider (it’s about the same height as a 12-inch model, while being almost as wide as a 15-inch laptop) display brings two size advantages and one operational benefit. The first is portability. Because its overall form factor makes it narrower than most other laptops, it fits more easily into some kinds of bags. This is useful in a few scenarios, from on-the-hoof demonstrations with work colleagues to aforementioned video consumption in tight spots, such as the food tray on a Ryanair flight. As for this screen’s quality, the model I tested had a bright, full HD 1920x1080 display. The keyboard feels good too. It has two USB-A ports, two Thunderbolt USB-C ports (both of which can either power the unit or power something else from the unit), an HDMI port and a MicroSD slot. Oh, and there’s also a headphone port. (Thank you, Dell.) Under the hood is enough muscle to power anything a typical business user will need over the next three to four years. The engine on the base model I was testing consisted of an eighth generation Intel Core i5 chip and 8GB of RAM, easily enough for the web, video, photo-editing and writing activities I threw at it. The storage on this particular model was 256GB, which is adequate for the kind of purpose you’ll use a laptop like this for. If I needed something more pointedly focused on video or photoediting, I would definitely need more storage space. Another nice feature is the fingerprint reader on the power button. Why can’t all laptops come with this security technology? For this kind of money, you’ll definitely get lighter models, even largely including the same specifications.


Uncovering the 9-5 NAME: Mukesh Sharma

POSITION: Director, Hannon Travel

6am I always wake up early and lie waiting for the alarm to let it know I’ve wakened. Having worked in the travel industry all my life I couldn’t image waking up and not checking for travel alerts, it used to be radio news, now it’s my iPhone and alert apps, Twitter, Sky News and BBC being the main sources If I see a major global incident that has the potential to have caused travel disruption to our clients, I’ll ring our overnight team to find out what is happening and ensure we’ve managed to alert all those affected. If it’s quiet, I check my emails and move on. 7am The television will be on in the background, switching between Naga Munchetty on BBC and Piers Morgan. Then, if it’s my turn, I’ll take Holly, our temperamental Schnauzer who isn’t overly fond of walking, for a walk. I’ll often go alone and in summer can look across Belfast Lough and see what cruise ships are in town. Breakfast is often quick with others in the house either gone or getting ready. 8.30am I make my way to the office which thankfully isn’t too far. I converted our garage to my very own office when I retired from the travel industry a few years back. Wanting to give something back to the community, I joined the boards/committees of The National Lottery Heritage Fund for NI, Prince’s Trust NI, NI FICT Commission, Moving on Music and Barnardos. I’ve always been on the board of ArtsEkta as a co-founder of the Belfast Mela with Nisha Tandon. A few years back I was honoured with the title and duty of deputy lieutenant of Belfast. All of these roles carry responsibilities and duties. After a short retirement from the travel industry I re-joined in 2018 as director of Hannon Travel. 9.30am I’m on the road a lot so I could be heading to the airport, into our Belfast office or driving to our Navan office or meet key clients, suppliers or other stakeholders. I’ve usually got the radio on while driving, although it’s an ideal opportunity to catch up on calls to various colleagues. 11am Tea. 1pm Being a pain when it comes to eating, (diabetic and vegetarian) lunch is either an M&S sandwich/wrap or if eating out it’ll be somewhere that has not descended to offering every vegetarian a risotto. In Belfast, my restaurant choices include Home, Ginger or CoCo.


3pm Research, development and customer service is the cornerstone of our company so daily catch ups are crucial with the team. We have a staff of almost 30 experienced travel experts, many of whom now work remotely as that’s the nature of the industry these days. Technology plays a huge role in what we do so there’s always training and regular staff get-togethers to keep our communications on track whether in person or via conference calls. Some days will also include a meeting with one of the board or committee positions I hold. 6pm I like to be home for dinner if possible when I can, and watch the teatime news. 7pm As it’s a weekday there’s a 99% chance I’m heading out at a function, entertaining clients or at an industry or Belfast lieutenancy event. I am quite fussy about adhering to dress code so that’s normally in place 24 hours ahead. The travel industry is renowned for its entertaining and hospitality so it’s not uncommon to be attending a number of travel trade events plus I usually have an overnight bag to pack as I generally have an early business flight to GB every week. 10pm or later Depending on what time, back home is catching up with family and the regular Facetime with elder daughter Aanika (19) who is studying at university in England. I love music especially Indian music and I’ll either listen to my favourite old traditional music or play a little on my harmonium, if I’m in the mood. I will always catch up on the news, and time permitting watch sitcoms/comedy.

Profile for Ulster  Business

Ulster Business - September 2019  

Ulster Business

Ulster Business - September 2019  

Ulster Business