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FEBRUARY 2015 Price £2.30 (€3.75)

Brand evolution How SHS Group is keeping ahead of a challenging FMCG market place

Executive Search: How to find and keep the best candidates

Energy: The great oil price shock. Where to next?

ISSN 1363-2507

9 771363 250005


Contents 6 News

38 Executive Search

68 John Simpson

The latest stories from the Northern Ireland business world

How to make sure your company hires the best

The economist takes a look at the commercial property market

14 Cover Story

50 Fledgling Freelancer

78 Motoring

We get the lowdown on SHS Group’s plans for the year ahead

Julie Stewart knows what it’s like to work for yourself

Pat Burns with the latest from the motoring world

18 Viscount Awards

52 Risk Management

90 Events

Find out how you can enter the most prestigious business competition

We take a look at the latest developments in the industry

All the latest from the best gatherings throughout last month

22 Energy & Environment

66 Mergers & Acquisitions

94 Business Traveller

The oil price has tumbled but where is it going next

A rundown of the biggest deals of the last few months.

Colin Blackburn shares with us his travelling secrets



38 18



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Opportunity knocks


elcome to the February edition of Ulster Business. This month we are shaking off the winter blues with a warming selection of stories, analysis and insight to keep you sharp in every aspect of business. Our cover story takes a look at one of the most dynamic businesses operating on these shore, SHS, a company which has continually evolved to make sure it’s ahead of changing customer and consumer trends. We jump head first into the world of energy to take a look at the huge slide in the price of one of the biggest costs for many businesses in Northern Ireland, asking whether the current dip is just that or are we in for a prolonged period of low oil prices. We brush up our CVs to hear from the world of executive search, asking how companies should approach one of the most important decisions a business can make. Risk management and security also comes under the

At a time when the Northern Ireland economy is approaching a turning point, we’re relishing the next few months and years when, for the first time, our small region has the chance to utterly transform the prospects for our businesses, for us and for our children. The wheels are in motion to devolve corporation taxsetting powers to Stormont and we’ve got to keep the momentum driving forward to make sure the process doesn’t stall. For too long Northern Ireland’s economic progress has been hamstrung by a turgid political system and we now need to ensure the same doesn’t happen with this ground-breaking opportunity. For now enjoy the magazine while we look forward the next few exciting months of change.

Publisher Greer Publications 5b Edgewater Business Park Belfast Harbour Estate, Belfast BT3 9JQ Tel: 028 9078 3200

Editor David Elliott

Art Editor Stuart Gray

Manager Sonia Armstrong

Production Manager Stuart Gray

Printer W&G Baird Greystone Press, Caulside Drive, Antrim BT41 2RS

Deputy Manager Sylvie Brando

Cover Photography Brian Thompson

Greer Publications © 2015. 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 Greer Publications.


spotlight, as does the mergers and acquisition market in a packed magazine which bursting with new, and some old, ideas.

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Briefs Tesco is to close three stores in Northern Ireland as part of a UKwide cost cutting exercise. The Church Street store in Ballymena will close on March 15 followed by the Connswater Metro and Cregagh Road superstore, both in east Belfast, on April 4. The move puts 167 jobs at risk, although the supermarket giant said it would try to deploy the staff at its other stores in Northern Ireland.

Osborne King and Ardmore Commercial merge

The building occupied by an Etap hotel on Belfast’s Dublin Road has been sold for £6.6m. It’s been bought by UK fund CBRE Global Investors, according to the firm’s commercial property arm in Belfast. Etap will remain the tenant of the hotel on a 17-year lease.

The Byford Dolphin in Harland and Wolff’s dry dock pictured in 2004 when it was last in the yard. Harland and Wolff is taking on 60 new permanent staff after winning a contract to refit a mobile oil and gas drilling platform. It will be employing skilled manual workers, those in operations management as well as design engineers, general managers, senior managers and directors to work on the Byford Dolphin Mobile Offshore Drilling Unit.

A Benburb firm is creating 67 new jobs to help it service business across the UK. The expansion by McCann Cabling Solutions (MCS) will see it carry out work for the KN Group which has won business to roll out fibre broadband in England, Scotland and Wales. MCS will also open new offices in Aberdeenshire and said it will be taking on the new employees as fibre cabling engineers. Its main business is providing a range of services to telecoms and utility companies, specifically around internal and external cable installations and associated ground works.


From left to right: Paul Henry, Frank Cassidy and Martin McDowell.


wo NI commercial property companies have announced a merger. Osborne King and Ardmore Commercial, both Belfast based, will join forces under the Osborne King banner and be based at its Donegall Square offices. In a release, the new company said the merger – which comes into immediate effect – represents the consolidation of two of the longest-established, independent, indigenous businesses in Northern Ireland and which will continue to provide property solutions to a diverse client base across the UK and Ireland. It said Ardmore, a “specialist advisory practice”, will bring a complementary skill set to Osborne King, described as the largest independent property consultancy in Northern Ireland. Martin McDowell, Managing Director of Osborne King, said the merger would provide greater efficiencies and, in a nod to the growing number of commercial estate agencies owned by global companies operating in competition in Northern

Ireland, said the new firm would “offer clients truly independent advice that was not driven by globally-vested interests”. “To use a simple analogy, you can buy a burger from any multi-national chain, but usually the best burgers are home-cooked!,” he said. “In a world of ever-increasing corporate banality, we have found that our clients actually appreciate a flexible approach and depth of local expertise that independence such as ours guarantees. “The merger with Ardmore gives us additional resources to deliver a premium level service to our clients. Frank Cassidy, Managing Director of Ardmore Commercial said the tie up was a good fit. “In Osborne King I found a likeminded ethos of providing clients with quality advice as opposed to quick and easy solutions. Their experience and history fit very comfortably with our own client profile and I am very much looking forward to further developing our business together”

Northern Ireland Economic Reform Group celebrate publication of the Corporation Tax (NI) Bill

Pictured are back row (l-r): Michael Smyth, Michael Hall, Eamonn Donaghy, Graham Gudgin and Irwin Armstrong. Front row (l-r): Victor Hewitt, Lady Quigley, Owen Paterson and Neil Gibson.


he Northern Ireland Economic Reform Group (NIERG) has met to celebrate the publication of the Corporation Tax (Northern Ireland) Bill which will grant the Northern Ireland Assembly the power to set the corporation tax rate for companies based in and operating out of Northern Ireland. The NIERG is made up of several of Northern Ireland’s leading economists and tax accountants who came together in 2009 to prepare the detailed economic and tax report that was the genesis for the devolution of corporation tax to the Assembly. The publication of the Bill which is currently proceeding through Parliament came after many years of campaigning by the Northern Ireland business community and politicians. The NIERG Report published in February 2010, played an instrumental role in the campaign. The new Northern Ireland rate has not been set but is likely to be similar to the 12.5% rate that currently applies in the Republic of Ireland and is likely to come into force on 1 April 2017. “The members of the NIERG played a vital role in igniting the campaign for lower corporation tax and gave the then Secretary of State Owen Paterson the ammunition to seek a reduced rate of corporation tax for Northern Ireland from the UK Government,” Eamonn Donaghy, Head of Tax for KPMG Northern Ireland and a member of the NIERG said. “A low rate of corporation tax will encourage existing NI companies to invest more and also position Northern Ireland as an attractive location for multi-national corporations to invest into. All of which should lead to the creation of tens of thousands of well paid jobs”.


Make A Difference – Become A Further Education College Governor The Department for Employment and Learning is seeking applicants to become governors of further education colleges and presently has the following vacancies: BELFAST METROPOLITAN COLLEGE Position: Governor (6 Vacancies) NORTHERN REGIONAL COLLEGE Position: Governor (5 Vacancies) NORTH WEST REGIONAL COLLEGE Position: Governor (3 Vacancies) SOUTH EASTERN REGIONAL COLLEGE Position: Governor (2 Vacancies) SOUTHERN REGIONAL COLLEGE Position: Governor (6 Vacancies) SOUTH WEST COLLEGE Position: Governor (3 Vacancies) People with a wide range of skills, experience and backgrounds across the local community who currently are, or have been, engaged or employed in the world of business, industry or any other occupation are encouraged to apply. The governing body of a further education college is responsible for securing the efficient and effective management of the college, including its financial performance and the quality of its teaching, learning and assessment. Membership of a governing body is a challenging and exciting role. By playing your part in the leadership of colleges, you will be supporting the development of a dynamic and vibrant further education sector. Further education is at the heart of lifelong learning, its aim being to strengthen economic development, enhance social cohesion and advance an individual’s skills and learning. It is recognised as central to delivering Northern Ireland’s vision of a buoyant economy. Individuals may apply for membership of more than one governing body but may only serve on the governing body of one further education college at any given time. Time Commitment: Being a member of a governing body does involve a time commitment. You will be expected to attend 7 to 9 full (evening) governing body meetings per year. You may also have significant involvement in sub committees. Additional meetings will be called as required. Remuneration: At present, college governors are not remunerated. However, a proposal to remunerate these posts is under active consideration. Travelling and subsistence allowances are payable. Closing Date: 12 noon on Monday 2 March 2015. Late applications will not be accepted. Completed application forms may be posted or emailed. Application forms and an information pack can be obtained from: Marty Fullerton, FE Corporate Governance & Accountability, Room 203, Adelaide House, 39-49 Adelaide Street, Belfast, BT2 8FD. Tel: 028 9025 7461 / E-mail: Application forms and information packs can be made available in other formats. Candidates who require assistance will be facilitated upon request. Women, people with a disability, ethnic minority communities and young people are currently under-represented on governing bodies. DEL particularly welcomes applications from members of these groups. Interviews will take place in early/mid April 2015 and appointments will be made by the start of June 2015 with a date of appointment of 1st August 2015. Candidates who are not appointed but who are deemed suitable for appointment may be added to a reserve list used to fill any unforeseen vacancies which arise on the governing body to which they applied. This reserve list will last for one year from the date of appointment of the successful candidate. EQUALITY OF OPPORTUNITY DEL is committed to the principles of public appointments based on merit. Independent assessment, openness and transparency are integral parts of the process. The Department is committed to providing equality of opportunity for all individuals. Applications are welcome regardless of gender, age, marital status, disability, religion, ethnic origin, political opinion, sexual orientation or whether or not you have dependants.



A Month in Numbers 0.5 The percentage at which the Bank of England held UK interest rates in February.


Randox creates 540 jobs at new Antrim R&D facility Deputy First Minister Martin McGuiness, Randox Managing Director Dr Peter Fitzgerald and First Minister Peter Robinson.

The number of months the Bank of England has kept interest rates at 0.5%.

6,356 The number of new cars registered in January 2015 in Northern Ireland, down 4.5% on the same time last year.

139,679 The number of new cars registered in January 2015 in England, up 8.1% on the same time last year.

£79.7m Pretax profits for Danske Bank Northern Ireland in 2014, up from £11.4m in 2013.

5.8 The percentage of people in Northern Ireland classified as unemployed in the three months to November, down 0.3% on the previous quarter.

50,200 The number of people in Northern Ireland claiming unemployment benefit in December, down 900 on the previous month.



edical company Randox is to create 540 new jobs as part of a £161m investment over the next four years in Antrim.

Managing Director of Randox Dr Peter FitzGerald said the development will help the company’s future growth plans.

The firm, which specialises in diagnostics, is putting the money into a new research and development facility which it plans to develop at the old Massereene army base on the outskirts of Antrim town. The company bought the site in 2013.

“Randox’s share of the global market is steadily rising, with around 5% of the world’s population diagnosed using Randox products,” he said. “To continue our expansion we must invest in our manufacturing, engineering and research and development facilities.

The new jobs will be involved in production, administration, research, sales and marketing and will pay £30,000 on average and will boost the firm’s Northern Ireland employment number to 1,300.

“Our new facility, which will be called the Randox Science Park, will be a futuristic manufacturing plant, with increased capacity and efficiencies, as well as housing pioneering R&D labs.

“Today’s announcement will underpin the company’s aim of increasing revenues by 60% to almost £150m by 2018 through more efficient manufacturing and by speeding up the development of new products,” First Minister Peter Robinson said.

“We are also seeking to recruit high calibre staff across a range of disciplines to help us develop, produce and sell Randox’s revolutionary diagnostic solutions, ensuring that individuals worldwide, have access to timely and correct diagnosis.”


London software company creates nine jobs


London software company is creating nine new jobs in Belfast as it sets up a new base in the city. Arkk Solutions, which provides software to help the compliance departments of financial services firms, is replacing an existing operation in India and will be focused on servicing customers in the UK and Republic. The “near shoring” move is being helped by £45,000 of Invest NI support through the Jobs Fund and the office will work alongside the company’s 20 staff in London. “This investment supports our focus on growing our outsourced accounts tagging operation,” Richard Metcalfe, CEO of Arkk Solutions, said. “The move to Belfast enables us to operate within the same time zone as the rest of our business and through that support our ever growing-blue chip client base.” He said greater regulation in the financial services market is offering opportunities for the company. “Our company strategy is to be the market leader in statutory and regulatory reporting and we’re continuing to develop our products and services as new regulations are introduced.”

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Pictured (L) Richard Metcalfe, CEO of Arkk Solutions with Bill Montgomery, Invest NI’s Director of International Investment.

And he said the company was impressed by Northern Ireland’s offering. “The support from Invest NI was essential to our decision to move the operation from India to Northern Ireland. We’re looking forward to developing our Belfast team and to date have been impressed with the availability of local skills. We are convinced this talent pool will assist in boosting our business.”

21/01/2015 12:39



Briefs KLM has announced it is starting a daily direct service from Belfast City Airport to Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport from May. The new route is the airline’s first from the airport and is expected to improve connections through the Dutch hub for travellers given KLM’s SkyTeam alliance with airlines such as sister company Air France as well as Alitalia, China Southern Airlines and Aeroflot. It will also be a big boost for the economy here, according to Professor Neil Gibson of the Ulster University Economic Policy Centre.

A Killinchy company is creating 55 new jobs following a £2.3m investment. The move by Willowbrook Fine Foods will see it focus on the development of premium ready meals for export and has been helped by £192,500 through Invest NI’s Jobs Fund. Mr John McCann, Founder and Director of Willowbrook Fine Foods, said: “The new company will focus on a very dynamic sector of food particularly in Great Britain and the Republic of Ireland. This is the creation of innovative and premium ready meals and accompaniments.

CBI Northern Ireland has announced that David Gavaghan, Chief Executive, Titanic Quarter Ltd, has become the Vice-chair of the business organisation. He will succeed Colin Walsh as Chair of the organisation on 1 January 2016 for a two-year term.

Northern Ireland’s private sector endured a difficult start to 2015 as output, new orders and employment all fell, according to the latest PMI report from Ulster Bank. The reduction in business activity was the strongest since the end of 2012. Cost inflation moderated as a result of falling fuel prices, while companies continued to lower their output charges in a bid to maintain competitiveness.

Grade A office rents to rise further in 2015 – CBRE

Enda Luddy, Managing Director CBRE Ireland; Marie Hunt, Executive Director, Head of Research, CBRE Ireland and Brian Lavery, Managing Director CBRE Northern Ireland.


he rental value of grade A office space in Belfast is creeping higher and will reach £16 a square foot in the coming year, according to agents CBRE. Its outlook for 2015 said growing demand from inward and current investors coupled with a lack of new office completions will drive rental values up from the current level of around £15 sq ft. Despite the expected increase, it remains to be seen whether the hike is enough to tempt developers to build more grade A space; they are thought to need closer to £18 sq ft in rental before taking on a new office build. But there is no time to waste, according to CBRE, particularly if corporation tax-setting powers are finally devolved to Stormont. “The need to commence new schemes is evident but without development finance, this cannot materialise,” the report said. “With new office schemes taking


up to two years to complete, there is no room for procrastination with development needed urgently to meet current and future requirements.” Even with the expected rise, Belfast prime office rent still compares well to Dublin at £33 sq ft, according to CBRE’s Head of Research Marie Hunt. Speaking at a presentation of its Northern Ireland Commercial Real Estate Outlook 2015, she said the cut in corporation tax could be a “game changer” for the Northern Ireland economy. Managing Director Brian Lavery said the last year had been a busy one for the commercial property market. “2014 was a remarkable year for the real estate market in Northern Ireland with the volume of transactions in the investment sector exceeding expectations – in fact there were almost £500m of investment sales completed in Northern Ireland during 2014 – up threefold on the previous year.

Five new jobs power Limavady



s technology becomes increasingly important for successful business operations, the value of a strong Cyber Liability Insurance policy will only continue to grow. The continued rise in the amount of information stored and transferred electronically has resulted in a remarkable increase in the potential exposures facing businesses. Regulations, such as the Data Protection Act must also be considered, because a loss of sensitive personal information may subject you to fines and sanctions from the Information Commissioner. Pictured (left) is Ryan Kelly, Avex Cable Jointing, with Des Gartland, Invest NI. Photography by Parkway Photography.


Limavady engineering company is creating five new jobs as part of an expansion of its business in Britain.

The move by Avex Cable Jointing is part of a ÂŁ376,000 investment which will help it service growing demand from outside Northern Ireland. It provides a range of services to the power industry including low voltage cable jointing, high voltage cable jointing, cable testing and fault location. It also provides renewable services including cable jointing and testing on solar farms and onshore and offshore windfarms. The new jobs command an average salary for ÂŁ37,600. Avexwas founded in 2010 by Ryan Kelly and Thomas Woodend following careers with an electricity distribution company. “This important expansion will enable us to enhance our relationships with major contractors by providing additional resources that will mean we will be able to expand the highly skilled services we offer them,â€? Ryan said. “Our strategic focus is on becoming the preferred specialist in power cable jointing services for leading infrastructure contractors who are key clients for the leading distribution network operators in the UK and Ireland and further afield. Invest NI has offered financial assistance of ÂŁ47,500. “Our assistance has been shaped to enable this specialist business to deploy additional resources on the existing work it has won from industry leading contractors and to develop opportunities it has also identified in the power sector in Britain,â€? Des Gartland, Invest NI’s North West Regional Office Manager said.


In an age where a stolen laptop or hacked account can instantly compromise the personal data of thousands of customers, or an illadvised post on a social media site can be read by hundreds in a matter of minutes, protecting yourself from cyber liabilities is just as important as some of the more traditional exposures businesses account for in their general commercial liability policies. WHY CYBER LIABILITY INSURANCE? A traditional commercial insurance policy is extremely unlikely to protect against most cyber exposures. Standard commercial policies are written to insure against injury or physical loss and will do little, if anything, to shield you from electronic damages and the associated costs they may incur. Exposures are vast, ranging from the content you put on your website to stored customer data. Possible exposures covered by a typical cyber policy may include: • Data breaches • Business/Network Interruption • Intellectual property rights • Damages to a third-party system • System Failure • Cyber Extortion • Denial of Service Attack The level of cover your business needs is based on your individual operations and can vary depending on your range of exposure. It is extremely important to work with a broker that can identify your areas of risk so a policy can be tailored to fit your unique situation.



OUR PEOPLE YOUR RESOURCES NI-9407_Ulster_Business_AD-29-8-14.indd 1

We work with hundreds of HR professionals placing the right person in the right job. We know what makes a good candidate. Power your day at 21/08/2014 16:47


Time for local entrepreneurs to shine


he starter gun has been sounded for entrepreneurs from across Northern Ireland to get their entries in to one of the world’s highest profile competitions.

The 2015 EY Entrepreneur Of The Year programme kicked off in Belfast in early February, calling on high performing entrepreneurs from every sector and at every stage of development to put their name into contention. This year’s 24 finalists will join a group of 120 entrepreneurs, all previous finalists and winners of EY Entrepreneur Of The Year, for a week-long CEO Retreat to Germany. The intensive week will include an executive education series as well as workshops with the CEOs at the helm of Germany’s most successful start-ups and globally renowned indigenous companies. Rob Heron, EY Tax Partner, urged entrepreneurs to put themselves forward as potential nominees. “To sustain the growth of the allisland economy, it is crucial for Northern Ireland’s entrepreneurs to foster global ambitions,” he said. “The 2015 programme has been designed to provide our 24 finalists with the tools and knowledge to enhance their growth strategies; while introducing them to an experienced community of peers to support them on this journey.” Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Investment Arlene Foster, who spoke at the event, said entrepreneurship is vital to Northern Ireland’s economy future. “Entrepreneurs have an important role to play in growing our economy here in Northern Ireland. New businesses are a source

Pictured at the EY Entrepreneur Of The Year 2015 launch are (from left): Kevin McLoughlin, EY Entrepreneur Of The Year Partner Lead; Eleanor McEvoy, CEO, Budget Energy & former EY Entrepreneur Of The Year finalist and Rob Heron, EY Tax Partner.

of innovation and new ideas, wealth creation and employment and it is important that we continue to encourage people to start new, innovative, globally focused businesses.” The awards programme is divided into three categories – Emerging, Industry and International – with eight finalists chosen per category. The 24 finalists will be selected by the independent panel of judges made up of former EOY winners. Individuals who wish to put themselves forward or nominate an entrepreneur with their consent, can fill out the online nomination form at or call the EY Entrepreneur Of The Year™ team for further information on 01 221 2250. The deadline for nominations is Friday 20 March 2015.

Belfast Met shortlisted for UK award


elfast Met has been shortlisted for a Times Educational Supplement Award for its work alongside business adviser Deloitte.

Deloitte wanted to meet international client demand and feed projected growth in Data Analytics. Over the course of just a few short weeks, the college and Deloitte worked together in developing what was to become the first in a series of highly successful DATA academies. Deloitte Senior Partner Jackie Henry said the college worked in partnership with it’s longer-term vision. “The work completed with Belfast Met has helped Deloitte ‘get it right’ and we are excited that it is providing a blueprint for others,” she said. “This has to be a good thing for us, for Belfast Met and for the NI Economy.” The winners will be revealed at a glittering ceremony at the Grosvenor House Hotel, Park Lane, London, on Friday 27 February 2015.

Dr Jonathan Heggarty (Belfast Met), Niall Lavery (Deloitte), DATA graduate Amy Smyth and Employment and Learning Minister, Dr Stephen Farry.


Belfast Met’s innovative approach to employer engagement has already won numerous accolades, including the Belfast Telegraph Outstanding Service to Business Award. And now the College is set take its success to an even bigger stage by being shortlisted for a prestigious 2015 Times Educational Supplement (TES FE) Award.

Boost your broadband and your business Belfast Lord Mayor calls on SMEs to get super connected.

SMEs in Belfast are looking forward to the new year with support from the council to boost their broadband and business. Social enterprises and small businesses are benefiting from the council’s innovative Super Connected Belfast Voucher Scheme and the Super Connected Cities Business Growth Initiative. Belfast City Council was awarded £13.7m for the Super Connected Belfast scheme from the UK’s Department of Culture, Media and Sport’s Urban Broadband Fund. It has also contributed £3m from its Investment Programme to make Belfast a world-class digital city. A strand of the Super Connected Belfast scheme, the Connection Vouchers Scheme (BCVS) enables businesses, charities and social enterprises to access a special funding package of up to £3,000 towards costs for high-speed and high-grade broadband connectivity. The Super Connected Cities Business Growth Initiative provides businesses which have availed of a connection voucher with mentoring support to maximise the benefits from a high-speed, high-grade broadband connection. The business growth initiative is funded by the council along with Invest Northern Ireland and the European Regional Development Fund under the Sustainable Competitiveness Programme for Northern Ireland. A number of information seminars on Super Connected Belfast are currently taking place in the city. Lord Mayor of Belfast Nichola Mallon attended a recent event in Duncairn Centre, north Belfast, and has called on SMEs to register for others to find out more about boosting their broadband and their business.

Lord Mayor of Belfast Nichola Mallon and The Blackstaff Group’s Noel Maguire at the launch of Belfast City Council’s Super Connected Belfast scheme which is aimed at helping charity’s and businesses on applying to the Belfast Connection Vouchers Scheme.

in the city provide our SMEs with the infrastructure to develop their products and ensure they receive assistance in achieving global success,” Councillor Mallon said. “We have awarded over £1m in grant funding to businesses through our Super Connected Belfast scheme with almost 500 businesses benefiting already. Companies have boosted their broadband connection speeds and taken advantage of the benefits of doing business online such as the opportunities for growth, greater efficiency and better reliability.” One local business which has benefited from a connection voucher is Coastways Storage and Removals in Duncrue Street.

Clodagh Devlin from Malone Lodge Hotel & Apartments, added: “The BCVS provided much needed assistance to facilitate the connection of a high speed broadband service to our premises. The application process was very straight forward and efficient with no cumbersome paperwork which is always a bonus. I would recommend any business applying for the scheme – having high speed broadband has really improved our business.” Businesses can find out more about the BCVS

Dominic Murray from Coastways said: “Our business had a very slow broadband

This Programme is part funded

“Belfast is on the cusp of a digital revolution transforming how we do business. It is vital then that council and other stakeholders

connection which kept crashing out of applications like banking. We were able to put in a high speed radiowave broadband service which increased our speed by 800% – this has increased our productivity!”

by Belfast City Council, Invest Northern Ireland and the European Regional Development Fund under The Sustainable Competitiveness Programme For Northern Ireland

visit or email




Forging ahead SHS Group chief executive Elaine Birchall gives an insight into the company’s performance and shares its plans for the year ahead.


o say SHS Group works in a continually evolving market is an understatement.

Its business of marketing its own and other company’s brands to some of the biggest names in retail has faced a sea change in consumer behaviour over the last few years, one which has an eye on value like never before. But shifting goal posts are nothing new for SHS Group, a company which is finely honed in the art of reacting to changing demands from its end customers as they in turn react to a fickle consumer. “There’s no doubt the last 24 months has seen just about the most dynamic period of change within the retail environment for a generation,” chief executive Elaine Birchall told Ulster Business. “We have seen a fundamental shift in consumer behaviour which has resulted in increasingly cost-conscious and promiscuous shoppers abandoning the idea of the big weekly shop at a favoured supermarket, now preferring to shop around for different items at different outlets and indeed to shop little and often.” Although not long at the helm of SHS Group, the shift isn’t something which Elaine is dealing with for the first time, having


previously worked for global giants PZ Cussons, Colgate Palmolive and Coca-Cola. And SHS Group has made sure its answering the changing demand. “Within SHS, our businesses have not been immune to a world in which we have seen average prices stagnate/erode as the themes of value and price cuts become one of the key battle-grounds for the established supermarket operators,” she said. “We have responded by refining our consumer offer across price, promotion and pack size, and the sheer breadth of the SHS Group’s operations means that we have been able to play the price piano across our branded and private label portfolio. “We continue to emphasise the vital role that our category experts play in maximising category value and we seek to drive innovation and fresh-thinking into our trade partners as they attempt to re-establish the customer loyalty they once commanded.” SHS Group is also a big advocate of innovation, focusing on product and brand development, consumer and shopper insights and its own talent. And as both a brand owner and brand manager, it has a unique perspective >



when it comes to recognising and adapting to changing trends.

company remains committed to a Belfast headquarters, Elaine said.

“If the right opportunity comes along, we are ready for it!”

Also, because it has a relatively flat management structure, it can make decisions and respond to the market place quickly.

“The SHS business was born in Northern Ireland and over 30 years we have built a significant body of knowledge across all aspects of how we go to market. Our vision for the Belfast office is very clear: as well as our corporate headquarters we are a centre of excellence for the Finance, IT, Logistics, Customer Services and other support functions.

Meanwhile, the central tenet of the business remain etched in stone.

Such focus has helped it post a strong performance over the last 12 months. “Despite a number of challenges in the year, both our owned and managed brands performed strongly up to the end of 2014,” Elaine said. “We established a new international business team who are dedicated to taking our brands and product concepts to markets such as Canada, Australia and southern Europe. “Our Sauces and Condiments Division – which develops and markets private label herbs, spices and sauces – delivered a great Christmas pipeline to our UK retail partners.” There’s no doubt SHS Group is cutting the mustard across all its markets with notable growth continuing to come from outside Northern Ireland. Despite the home market counting for a decreasing slice of overall sales, the


“Our functional experts are highly integrated into our diverse UK operations and the teams work extremely well together across all sites.” So where next for a business which is already performing admirably? Is there still an appetite for acquisitions? “The future growth strategy revolves around maximising value in the branded categories we play in, remaining best in class as an outsourced solution for third party brands, and seeking new acquisitions that fit our business model. Over the last decade, the SHS Group has proven its ability to acquire and assimilate new businesses very efficiently and has struck a healthy balance between owned and managed brands.

“We will remain a profitable, independent and deliberately diverse family business that owns, markets and distributes great FMCG (fast moving consumer goods) brands for the benefit of future generations of employees, business partners and shareholders.”


SHS Group’s

own brand products include: • WKD • Merrydown • Shloer • Bottlegreen • Crucial Sauces

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Terms, conditions and eligibility criteria apply, contact us for further details. +Call charges may vary. We may record and monitor calls. First Trust Bank is a trade mark of AIB Group (UK) p.l.c. (a wholly owned subsidiary of Allied Irish Banks, p.l.c.), incorporated in Northern Ireland. Registered Office 92 Ann Street, Belfast BT1 3HH. Registered Number NI018800. Authorised by the Prudential Regulation Authority and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority and the Prudential Regulation Authority.


Viscount Awards: Rewarding export experts


he Northern Ireland economy’s future depends on export. Our domestic market is not sufficiently large to allow us to meet our own ambitious growth targets and only by selling our goods and services outside the region will businesses be able to grow exponentially. That’s why the Aer Lingus Viscount Awards, in association with Ulster Business, are focused on rewarding the most innovative, progressive and exciting companies in Northern Ireland, particularly exporters. Given their performance over the last year, that’s not an easy task with a plethora of companies in the running for the top prizes. They’ve been part of the army of businesses which have helped push manufacturing exports from Northern Ireland – including to Great Britain – increase to £14.3m by a staggering £733m in the 2013/2014 year compared to the previous period, according to latest government statistics (anecdotally, service sector exports have increased in tandem but a lack of up-todate data makes that hard to tie down). The agency charged with boosting Northern Ireland’s exporting prowess even more is under no illusion as to its importance. “If we want to rebalance the economy we need to look at markets outside Northern Ireland,” Jeremy Fitch, Managing Director of Clients Group and Business International at Invest Northern Ireland. “External sales are vital to grow the economy.” But Mr Fitch, who is one of the judges in the Viscount Awards, said “exports in isolation aren’t enough. We need to make sure our exports are value added,” he said, pointing out that external sales


Andrea Hunter, Business Development Manager for Aer Lingus, and David Elliott, Ulster Business editor, at the Members’ Dining Room at the Houses of Parliament in Westminster.

made up mostly of imported raw material won’t maximise benefit for the economy. Rather, he said a focus on exporting goods and services which are developed, manufactured, grown or otherwise sourced from Northern Ireland is key. He said the Viscount Awards are an ideal way to highlight the positive work which companies in Northern Ireland are doing when it comes to export. Colin Walsh, chair of the CBI and chief executive of venture capital company Crescent Capital agreed that export is key. “We’re doing very well in a number of sectors but one of the areas where we underperform is the volume of exports,” Colin told Ulster Business.

reaching all four corners of the globe, and we need to shine a light on those innovators to encourage others to join the exporting elite. The Viscount Awards are the ideal opportunity to do just that.” Judged by a panel of esteemed business figures, the awards have grown to become one of the premier events on the professional calendar, with entries coming in from the most dynamic and innovative companies in the country. Viscount Award winners come from a variety of sectors, but they have one thing in common; they are all truly excellent at what they do.

More details on each category can be found at

“But there are distinguished exceptions, Northern Ireland companies which are

and all entries must be received no later than Thursday 12th March at 5pm.

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obtained from laboratory testing intended for comparisons between vehicles and may not reflect real driving results. *Business users only. Subject to status. Examples exclude VAT and are based on vehicles with metallic paint except where stated. V40 example based on non-maintained contract hire. Requires initial payment of 6 monthly rentals, followed by 35 monthly rentals, with a mileage of 10,000 miles per annum. Excess mileage charges apply. Vehicle must be returned in good condition to avoid further charges. Subject to availability at participating dealers for vehicles registered 01/01/15 to 31/03/15 or while stocks last. Not available with other promotions. Provided by Lex Autolease Ltd, trading as Volvo Car Leasing. Image shown may not be representative of the model available with the offer. VAT may be payable at a rate of 20%.


Taking stock T

he first month of the new year has proved a blessing for most of our trading team, with a big dollop of profits shared amongst the top three runners. Despite the turmoil in Greece and the tumbling oil price, economist Professor Neil Gibson still managed to notch up over £9,000 in profits on the back of a sterling performance for both pharmaceutical giant Shire and advertising company WPP. But the economist’s lead doesn’t seem as unassailable as it once did as a result of the Carol Fitzsimons’ £15,000 pot of profit.

Fresneillo was her big winner, notching up £10,000 worth of profit while EasyJet also put in a good showing with £4,500 of winnings. Dylan’s insurance and banking picks also proved to be hot with £6,000 made on Admiral and £1,300 on Barclays as the young hotshot trader proves he knows a thing or two about the markets. Mentalist Meade, however, continues to prove illusive since the first month of trading and has again paid for sticking with Anglo American and Petrofac. Tumbling energy prices meant he dropped

£500 overall and we can only wonder if he’s considering bring his Las Vegas magic to this table.

The rules Each trader starts with fantasy money – £100,000 of it to be exact – to invest as they see fit in two FTSE 100 companies, £50,000 each. After a month we count up what will hopefully be winnings and the traders either stick with what they’ve got or exchange them for new shares. At the end of the year we count up who’s made the most and force them to buy the team and the editor dinner. Simple.

The traders Dylan Armstrong (5) student




Profit/loss this month: £7,448 Account: £116,699

Profit/loss for this month: £14,723 Account: £124,679

Profit/loss for this month: -£535 Account: £77,738

Profit/loss for this month: £9,365 Account: £125,44

Last month: Admiral Group, Barclays

Last month: Fresnillo, easyJet

Last month: Anglo American, Petrofac

Last month: Shire, WPP

This month: Tesco, London Stock Exchange

This month: Fresnillo, easyJet

This month: Anglo American, Petrofac

This month: Shire, WPP


Energy, Flags, firebombs & Waste flashbacks& Environment


A well of opportunity David Elliott looks at the benefits Northern Ireland’s businesses have been able to glean from the huge drop in oil prices and, more importantly, tries to pick up a few tips on where the market is going next...


ust when things were beginning to look a little shaky again, the global economy has been given a shot in the arm from the most unlikely of sources. The huge drop in the price of energy – led by a 60% slump in the price of crude oil – has caught everybody by surprise, as much by the depth of its devaluation as by the fact there doesn’t appear to be a reversal of the black gold’s fortunes anytime soon. For Northern Ireland businesses the drop has come at an auspicious time, one when the early burst of economic recovery was beginning to lose some of its energy in the face of a growing government headwind.


The last half of 2014 was characterised by growing concern over the impact of delayed government spending cuts on the overall economy, one which has been dampening confidence and, in some cases, delaying spending by firms. Meanwhile, the European economy, the home of a good chunk of Northern Ireland’s exports and not long ago held aloft as a model of recovery, seems to have stumbled once again, as reflected by the steady devaluation of the euro over the last few months (a problem for exporters in itself). But while attention was elsewhere, help has been slowly emerging from an unlikely source.

It only a few years ago that some of the world’s biggest investment banks were predicting an environment where the price of a barrel of crude oil would be averaging around £200 a barrel. Granted, they were making predictions not long after West Texas Intermediate – the benchmark grade of crude used in the US – had touched $147 and were working under the assumption that the world’s peak oil supply had been reached. As it turned out, the soaring price of energy encouraged explorers to become more creative in the way they extracted oil and brought the more complex and outlandish methods – tar sands, fracking etc – into economic contention.


The resulting boost to the world’s supply of oil has had the inevitable effect of driving down prices, a slide which is said to be exaggerated by a dip in demand from the world’s second biggest economy China. The price of crude oil has fallen a staggering 60% and a barrel of North Sea Brent currently stands around $50, a level thought unthinkable only a few short months ago. For economies the world over, the slide has provided a much-needed fillip and in some cases been of more benefit than an interest rate cut could ever have been. The big question is where do energy prices go now? Do they stay around the four-year >




lows they’re hovering at now or head lower still? Or is the new year dip just that and merely a short-lived of the lows? To get the inside track, it’s best to look at the outlook for the raw material, crude oil but its path appears difficult to predict, according to the International Energy Agency (IEA), the body representing 29 of the world’s biggest oil importing countries. “How low the market’s floor will be is anybody’s guess,” the IEA said in its January report, highlighting the erratic nature of the commodity. “But the selloff is having an impact. A price recovery – barring any major disruption – may not be imminent, but signs are mounting that the tide will turn.” However, that doesn’t necessarily mean a return to crude prices above $100/bbl, the norm of the last few years. The IEA said the oil market is undergoing “a historic shift” as OPEC – the cartel of the biggest producing nations which control around 40% of production – leaves prices to the mercy of market


forces, a big change from its previous white-knuckled grip on the supply side. And the shale oil revolution has also changed the goal posts, thanks to its short lead time and low upfront capital costs which will allow producers to ramp up production quickly if prices rally again. “The next few years could nevertheless prove a period of reckoning for a market and an industry that, through the course of their 150-year history, have had to periodically reinvent themselves.”

“The selloff is having an impact. A price recovery – barring any major disruption – may not be imminent, but signs are mounting that the tide will turn.” To get a more accurate idea of what the future for the oil market will look like it’s

also helpful to check in with the similarly titled Energy Information Administration (EIA), the US’s statistical arm for all things energy. It reckons Brent crude will average $58 in 2015 and $75 in 2016, a forecast which suggests we’ll have at least a year of bargain basement oil before things start to pick up. The picture for distillates – the likes of petrol, diesel and heating oil – follows a similar trend, although the longer lead time means not all of the price slide has been passed on to consumers just yet. But a sharp fall in price of one the biggest costs to consumers, to business and to the economy will offer succour to a hard pressed Northern Ireland economy. It’s prompted a drop in the inflation rate, a factor which, if it gets much worse, could dent the economy’s progress, but for now is offering a boost to companies all over Northern Ireland. Let’s hope they’re able to make the most of the unexpected gift.


Shining a light on what you need to know Steven Cockcroft, a solicitor at Johns Elliot in Belfast, looks at the legal implications of partnering with a solar panel company.


n recent years publicity surrounding opportunities for property owners to generate surplus energy for sale back to utility companies has led to an increase in the installation of solar panels on private properties under licence or lease. A typical solar panel scheme involves the property owner entering into a lease giving an energy company the right to install its own solar panels on the roof of the owner’s property. The panels remain the property of the energy company whilst the energy produced, and the benefit of any sales of surplus energy to utility companies, are shared with the property owner. These schemes raise a number of issues, not only for the property owner but also for third parties which have an interest in the property.

Planning & Statutory Approvals The Department of the Environment (NI) published a useful information leaflet “Renewal energy Development within the Curtilage of a Dwellinghouse – permitted development rights”. Briefly stated, planning restrictions have been relaxed in relation to solar panels fitted to pitched and flat roofs and to walls, subject only to certain restrictions where the property lies within a conservation area or similar. Building control approval for installations will be required, however, it is likely that regulations may develop to meet changing circumstances.


to obtain a robust indemnity for any damage caused to the property.

Sale Unless the energy company agrees to remove its equipment, the solar panel lease will remain in place, and that any sale will be effectively subject to the solar panel lease. There are obviously practical concerns, specifically whether or not the existence of solar panels in a particular case increases or adversely prejudices the value of the property. Steven Cockcroft

Third Party Consents It is likely that all lenders will have included a provision in their standard mortgage stating that the lender’s formal written consent is required to the creation of any third party rights. A typical solar panel lease will provide that the energy company will maintain a policy of insurance in relation to the installation and maintenance of the relevant equipment.

Business Tenancies It is clear that many energy companies regard the arrangement as being a business lease falling within the terms of the Business Tenancies (NI) Order 1996. This Order gives a business tenant – in this case the energy company – the right to renew its lease when it comes to an end. This right applies to renewal both at the end of the contractual term of the lease and where the property owner (or lender) exercises a break clause to end the lease prematurely.

Conclusion The property owner should ensure that his interest – and the interest of his bank or building society – is noted on the relevant policy. It is essential that the insurance policy covers any damage caused to the property itself and injury to any third party or third party property. With regard to repair, the energy company will require rights of access, and the property owner should seek

Before entering into a solar panel lease, property owners should consult their solicitor and if the property is mortgaged, the consent of the bank or building society will be required. And it should be remembered that the presence of a solar panel on the property will affect its value and that there are significant repairing and insurance issues to be considered. In addition, don’t forget that it is likely to be difficult to bring the lease to an end.

Beth Swindlehurst, Galgorm Sales & Marketing Manager, Galgorm Resort & Spa

‘We’ve significantly reduced our fuel costs with natural gas.’ Thousands of businesses across Northern Ireland are choosing to switch to firmus energy natural gas. Beth Swindlehurst, Sales & Marketing Manager at Galgorm Resort is delighted with the benefits: ‘We wanted to replace our expensive oil heating system and significantly reduce our fuel costs. We converted to firmus energy natural gas as it provides the most cost-effective and efficient heating system. ‘The Resort is also enjoying fewer maintenance issues as problems with the boiler system have been greatly reduced now that it is running cleaner and more efficiently.’

That’s good business To find out more, call us for a chat on

0800 032 4567


Ballymena resort fuelled by firmus energy


nergy is an important consideration for many businesses, but for a top luxury hotel resort and wedding venue with 74 guestrooms, three restaurants and an award-winning spa, choosing the right fuel is vital – it not only affects the bottom line but also the quality of the cooking, the comfort of guests and the environment. This is why the Galgorm Resort, just outside Ballymena, was delighted when firmus energy brought natural gas to the area and is still reaping the rewards after making the switch almost five years ago. Beth Swindlehurst, Sales and Marketing Manager for Galgorm explained: “When the hotel first opened in 1993, the energy options were very limited and we had to use gas oil to fuel the resort. Once natural gas became available to homes and businesses in the Ballymena area we were very interested in what it had to offer, particularly the opportunity to significantly reduce our fuel bills, increase our green credentials and improve our energy efficiency. “A Resource Efficiency Audit made it clear that converting to natural gas would provide the most cost-effective and efficient heating system without the need for a storage area, allowing us to maximise the available space. We were also keen to reduce emissions and lower our carbon footprint so moving to natural gas was an obvious solution to help achieve these goals.

Waste not want not


hose involved in the waste management and disposal industries will be well aware of the complex legislative and regulatory framework for such industries in Northern Ireland. There are at least eight European directives, 19 pieces of domestic waste legislation and 14 strategies, plans and programmes governing waste management. However, despite the array of legislation governing the industry, the illegal dumping of waste has been taking place in Northern Ireland on a vast scale. The most notable has been the 2013 case involving the illegal dumping of some 500,000 tonnes of waste in the Mobuoy area, Campsie outside Derry. At the time the reports stated the scale of the illegal dumping was more than the weight of six Titanics and enough to fill several hundred Olympic-sized swimming pools. The cost of clean-up funded by the


Darren Young, Senior Key Account Manager for firmus energy pictured with Beth Swindlehurst, Galgorm Sales & Marketing Manager.

“We have found that firmus energy natural gas has helped us to significantly reduce our energy costs and the fixed price contracts make for easier budgeting. We are also enjoying fewer maintenance issues as problems with the boiler system has been greatly reduced now that it is running cleaner and more efficiently. We are now in the midst of a multi-million expansion and look forward to enhancing the experience for our guests even further, with the help of natural gas.” For more information on firmus energy for business, contact the customer care team on 0800 032 4567 or visit

By Celia Worthington, Worthingtons Solicitors

public purse has been reported as running into hundreds of millions of pounds. Part of the problem appears to be the ineffectiveness of the legislation, some of which is self-regulating and which is not sophisticated enough to deal with the criminal operator. The existing systems in place for tracking the flow of waste have also been open to abuse. The Mobuoy case brought the industry firmly into the spotlight and galvanised the commissioning of an independent review, The Mills Report, which was published in December 2013. The report concluded that criminality was widespread in the waste industry in Northern Ireland and that the regulatory regime for waste was complicated and not working as intended. The report recommended change to the regulatory services with a need to become more integrated and adaptive.

The Environment Minister reacted to the report and promised to tackle the serious problems identified by the report. In addition, a strong emphasis was placed on creating strong partnerships between the new local councils and the DOE to ensure proper management of waste in Northern Ireland. There was clear emphasis in the plan on not only reducing waste crime but reducing the amount of waste created in the first place. It remains to be seen if the reported changes can be implemented quickly, but illegal dumpers beware; whilst it has taken the PSNI 18 months to investigate the Mobuoy case the PPS has now initiated court proceedings against two companies and a number of directors and the matter is listed for early 2015. Celia Worthington, Senior Partner of the commercial department of Worthingtons Solicitors, Belfast office can be contacted on

A ReNEW approach to waste By Martin Doherty, Policy Manager, ReNEW


espite a long and painful recession in Northern Ireland, there are real signs confidence is picking up throughout all aspects of the local economy, particularly within the manufacturing sector. Manufacturing has always had a role to play within Northern Ireland. As the nature of industry changes we have been able to move with the times in part due to the fact that the vast majority of manufacturing is made up of nimble-footed SMEs and entrepreneurs. This responsiveness will be a valuable asset if we are to embrace circular economy thinking. The circular economy has many aspects to consider from differing financial models, such as the leasing of products, the way we produce and use energy and how we access the materials we need to produce the high quality goods that Northern Ireland sells. The materials aspect of this is one that until now has played a minor role though, within a finite planet, the emergence of economies outside of the west and growing volatility in commodities it is one that perhaps we need to spend a little more time exploring. Particularly, when reports state that the potential size of this market in the UK alone is in excess of £23bn* Unknown to most, the ReNEW project, or ‘Resource innovation Network for European Waste’, has been exploring the engineering and policy implications for the circular economy in Northern Ireland and Europe for the past two years. ReNEW is led by researchers from the QUESTOR Centre at Queen’s University Belfast, with the assistance of other notable research agencies across North West Europe. ReNEW is a €5 million project funded by the INTERREG IVB North West Europe. It has a simple yet profound purpose – to inspire and increase collaboration between research establishments, governments and businesses to create value from alternative resources and waste. ReNEW is attempting to transform the waste sector of North West Europe by improving and encouraging innovation in the recovery of valuable resources not currently captured at end-of-life. To date the project has gained success within government circles with Environment Minister Mark H Durkan stating that ReNEW, “provides an insight into the ‘art of the possible’” and, “will help in formulating future Northern Ireland strategy as we look at ways to become more sustainable in the use of our resources.” There remains though a vital area for improvement and this is between the researchers, innovators and the financial sector.

Martin Doherty

The velvet mousetrap of academic grants can inhibit the commercialisation of research. If we are to exploit the true potential of the materials market in Northern Ireland we need much more dialogue with financiers to help push research into the market place and create the wealth that will fuel jobs growth and provide material security to local businesses. ReNEW will be engaging with the finance sector over the coming months to determine how to improve communication and the additional infrastructure required to ensure that the Circular Economy takes root. For more information on the work of ReNEW contact Martin Doherty, ReNEW Policy Manager at; tel: 028 9073 5885 or visit



Creative collaborations drive business performance


ver 250 guests recently attended the Allianz Arts & Business NI Awards 2015 at Theatre at the Mill, Newtownabbey and were entertained by a fantastic selection of home grown cultural talent. The awards showcase examples of innovative creative collaborations between the business community and the arts sector, delivering a diverse range of tangible business benefits. The winning partnerships represented a varied section of the business community and arts sectors. The audience enjoyed electric performances by Hard Rain Soloist Ensemble, Belfast Philharmonic Children’s Choir (affectionately known as “The Phil kids”), Bruiser Theatre Company and a breath-taking performance by First Soloist with The Royal Ballet Melissa Hamilton, born in Dromore, Co Down.

hard-hitting drama reached an audience of over 2,000 teenagers.

Presenting the Allianz Arts & Business NI Awards, Brendan Murphy, CEO, Allianz, congratulated the partnerships and all the winners saying: “The innovative partnerships between arts and business celebrated here tonight showcase the cultural, community and business dividends that are delivered with every engagement. Congratulations to all this year’s winners and to all those partner projects who showcase precisely just how successful arts and business ventures can be.”

Cultural Branding Award Translink & Cahoots NI Wanting to deliver a safety campaign to schools located along the regional rail network, Translink engaged with Cahoots NI, who brought magic to the proceedings by designing iPredict – a unique mixture of performance and technology. The impact of the message will remain with the audience of 4,000 children aged between 11-15 years old for a long time.

Corporate Responsibility Award Burke Shipping Group & c21 Theatre Company Ltd The issue of underage binge drinking is not one that seems at first to be ripe for a fruitful or easy alliance between business and the arts. This partnership teamed up to deliver ‘Choices’, an inspiring educational drama that makes the issues real to local communities of 14-to-16 years olds. The

Sustained Partnership Award JTI & Ulster Orchestra This partnership began in 2008 and has helped to deliver many new artistic programmes and has opened doors to wider community involvement in music across Northern Ireland. The Move to the Music scheme enables elderly people living in rural parts of the province to attend Ulster Orchestra concerts via a free door-


Winner of Allianz Arts & Business NI Business of the Year Award was AES Northern Ireland. From left: Brendan Murphy, CEO, Allianz; Dr Joanne Stuart, OBE, Chair, Arts & Business NI; Davy Elliott, Carla Tully, AES Northern Ireland and Mary Trainor-Nagele, Chief Executive, Arts & Business NI

to-door transport and ticket scheme. A new project introduced in 2013 allows disadvantaged adults access to music workshops. Community integration is promoted via ticket allocation in Belfast for the Christmas Concerts series, all important initiatives impact on many within the local communities. Employee Engagement Award AES Northern Ireland and Arthur Cox & Cinemagic and Stephen Beggs AES Northern Ireland joined forces with leading law firm Arthur Cox to break the mould of training videos. Teaming up with Cinemagic and Stephen Beggs, they created a video that would illustrate both health and safety issues in a large company as well as providing an insight into court proceedings for young lawyers. The concept of a staged mock trial featuring a fictitious commercial company accused under the Corporate Manslaughter Act dramatically brought home the ethics of the issue concerned.


Business of the Year Award AES Northern Ireland The impact of their engagement with the arts organisations over the last year has been significant in terms of employee development, community engagement, networking opportunities and brand awareness. AES has recognised the benefits that can be realised through these exciting projects and how they are aligned to their business objectives.

Karen Reynolds, JTI; Mary Trainor-Nagele, Chief Executive, Arts & Business NI; Dr Joanne Stuart, OBE, Chair, Arts & Business NI; Nelson McCausland, Chair, Northern Ireland Assembly’s, Culture, Arts & Leisure Committee; Brendan Murphy, CEO, Allianz; Dr Wendy Austin, MBE, Broadcaster and Presenter and Cynthia Smith, Acting Permanent Secretary, Department of Culture, Arts & Leisure.

New Sponsor Award HSS Hire Service Group & Cathedral Quarter Trust (Culture Night Belfast) Equipment Hire Company HSS offered the organisers of Belfast’s Culture Night a variety of in-kind services and materials such as cranes, barriers, generators and lighting, saving Culture Night on its core costs. For HSS, the company naturally achieved massive exposure in event promotion and literature. Arts Board Member of the Year Award Chris Bailey, Prime Cut Productions As Chair of Belfast theatre company Prime Cut Productions, Chris Bailey has overseen

increased staffing and a doubling of turnover. His gentle encouragement and incisive advice has endeared him to every level of the company, while his overarching vision of ‘excellence throughout’ ultimately manifests itself in the high quality theatre offered by Prime Cut both at home and abroad. Community Art Prize The Welcome Organisation The Belfast Street Gems project harnesses the power of the arts to engage homeless people to acquire new skills and business acumen. Developing skills including jewellery making, painting and wood craft, participants can obtain confidence, qualifications and skills that help move them towards independent living and employment.

Arts Award CultureTECH Scooping the sought-after Arts Award which is accompanied by a cash prize of £3,000, CultureTECH has grown to become one of the biggest events of its kind in Northern Ireland, bringing together arts, culture and technology with almost 43,500 attending its festival last year. Recognising the success of all the partnerships, Mary Trainor-Nagele, Chief Executive, Arts & Business Northern Ireland commented: “These awards show that when the arts are strong, business wants to be aligned with that excellence. As more and more businesses subscribe to the power of the arts, the cultural sector undoubtedly has a very credible offering for business at this time. Businesses understand that a vibrant, cultural sector is right for their employees, their customers and ultimately their businesses.” Special thanks to: Tennent’s NI, JTI, Harrison Photography, Nicholson & Bass, Whitenoise, Image Zoo Media and Elm House Creative. Arts & Business NI’s principal funder is the Arts Council of NI. Find Arts & Business at: T: 028 9073 5150; Facebook: Arts & Business NI E: Twitter: @arts_businessni YouTube: ArtsandBusinessNI

Winner of Allianz Arts & Business NI Arts Award was CultureTECH. From left: Brendan Murphy, CEO, Allianz; Dr Joanne Stuart, OBE, Chair, Arts & Business NI; Mark Nagurski, CultureTECH and Mary Trainor-Nagele, Chief Executive, Arts & Business NI.




Andras House headquarters.

Andras House expansion continues


ndras House will see its hotel group considerably expand in 2015 with two new hotels in the pipeline, a £1.5m refurbishment of the 270-bedroom Days Hotel and an upgrade to the Wyndham Garden brand to compete in the 3 and 4-star market. The local hotelier has lodged a planning application for a new 179-bedroom budget hotel in Hope Street, Belfast, which will trade under an international brand that is new to the Northern Ireland market, while planning permission has also just been granted to Andras House for a £10m hotel and retail development in Londonderry. The 139-bedroom hotel will be developed on the former Tillie and Henderson shirt factory site at Abercorn Road, Tillie’s Brae and Foyle Road. Without the fanfare that accompanies some major business announcements, Rajesh Rana, a director of Andras House, modestly revealed his plans for the forthcoming £20m worth of developments to Ulster Business. A qualified architect himself, he has been involved in significant development already


with some retail units and car parking. We recognise the importance and history of this site to the city of Derry/Londonderry and it is a priority to our company to bring this site forward for development now that planning has been received.”

Rajesh Rana

throughout the construction of the Ramada Plaza, the Holiday Inn Express, and Ibis hotels, the French economy hotel chain on Castle Street and University Street, brought to Northern Ireland by Andras House. The Tillie and Henderson site has received planning approval after a protracted planning process. Rajesh told us: “Our plan is for a 139-bed mid-market hotel and apartments,

Environment minister Mark H Durkan welcomed the news for Derry commenting: “With the announcement by Lonely Planet that Northern Ireland is in the top 10 European travel destinations, this very significant hotel in the heart of the city will enhance choice for tourists and business travelers, as well as local people. It occupies a pivotal location on one of the prime entrance points to the historic core from Craigavon Bridge and will, when completed, regenerate a site that had been derelict for a number of years.’’ UK Capital of Culture events hugely boosted tourism in Londonderry, according to government figures. Overnight trips to the Derry and Strabane district council area were said to have increased by 50% on the previous year, putting £47m into its economy.


Opening the Lagan View Suite was a highlight of 2014.

The Wyndham Gordon hotel will be geared towards corporate and leisure customers.

The Ramada at Shaws Bridge in Belfast.

Rana added: “In Belfast, the Wyndham Garden, formerly Days Hotel, will now be geared towards corporate and leisure customers and is currently being refurbished with new restaurant, bar, and a new gym, and will feature 16 new executive rooms in future, all with free Wi-Fi. With 24-hour food available it will offer a 4-star standard which will enable us to cater for the conference delegate market which is expected to continue to grow in Belfast in the future.” Aside from the new projects envisaged for the future, one of the highlights of 2014 was the opening of a new Lagan View Suite at the Ramada Plaza at Shaws Bridge, a private dedicated venue for weddings and functions which operates on two floors and includes a private garden area. “Wedding


bookings for Lagan View have already exceeded our expectations for 2015,” he said.

but spends a considerable amount of time on his charitable work both here and in India.

Growing the 350 staff of the Andras enterprise further doesn’t faze Rajesh, and his ambitions for the company to extend throughout the province continue. Rajesh’s father, Lord Diljit Rana, chairman and chief executive of the company, came to Northern Ireland in 1966 and is credited with kickstarting the ‘Golden Mile’ in Great Victoria Street when he opened his first restaurants.

Andras House owns the biggest hotel group in Belfast, and as recent figures show that one in every four overnight trips to Northern Ireland involve staying in Belfast, they are certainly in a good position to benefit from future growth.

He was told he was mad, at the time, as it was in the dark days of ‘the troubles’ in the 1970s. But his confidence paid off and he has continued to develop his properties and hotels portfolio ever since. Lord Rana still keeps a watchful eye on the business,

For 2015, Rajesh said: “We are looking forward to the politicians coming to an agreement, and in view of our capital expenditure projects, introducing the lower corporation tax rates. Big events, like the Police & Fire Games, are extremely beneficial for the hospitality industry, and we’d like to see more of them. We also look forward to the Waterfront Hall extension in 2016 and the conference business it is expected to bring to the city.”



Time for a raise? Asking for a hike in your pay packet can be a daunting process but is vital to maintain your enthusiasm in the job. Jobs site Monster walks us through the process.



nce you’ve established your personal market value, how do you actually make sure you get it? It can be easier holding out for more money when you’re in the process of being offered a job than trying to get a raise when you actually have one, but the negotiating process is essentially the same.

Negotiating a salary for a new job If you’re being offered a new job, don’t rush things. If specific salary numbers are discussed directly at an interview, ask for time to consider any offer made to you. If your interviewers ask what you think the role is worth, be ready to turn the question round and ask what range they had in mind. If you expect your new employer to beat your existing salary package, be sure to include all your various benefits in your calculation and then add on a bit extra for bargaining space.


knowledge on a competitor. You could also suggest a guaranteed increase in salary after a certain time period once you have proven your worth. This makes the employer aware you will put in extra effort to achieve goals during that time to get the reward. Consequence of non-agreement – What happens if neither side is happy? If you’re negotiating for a new job there may be another candidate who is just as good that they could offer the job to instead at a lower rate. Or you may be the only suitable interviewee and they are desperate for you to join the company. If you’re asking for a pay rise, if they don’t give you what you want would you leave, meaning they have to go through the cost and effort involved with finding a replacement? Whoever stands to gain the most from completing the deal will generally lose out in the negotiation. Unlike more straightforward transactions, such as buying a car where all the cards are on the table, many of the factors to salary negotiation are hidden or implied. This makes it very difficult to judge who is on top in the negotiation so you may need to be more flexible than you would usually be.

If you’re not absolutely crazy about the job anyway, you could consider turning it down to see whether they come back with an improved offer that might tip the balance. Be aware that this can be a risky strategy if you’re desperate for work.

wants – you want their job and salary, they want your skills and experience. The eventual winner of the negotiation will be to one who holds more positions of power so make sure they know just how much impact you can have on their business.

Negotiating a pay rise in your current job If you are already in a job and trying to secure a pay rise, you need to go in well prepared. Your boss is certain to question why you think you’re worth the extra money, so be ready to argue your case clearly and persuasively using specific examples to prove your worth. Make sure you have a good idea of what other people with your experience and responsibilities are earning, presenting evidence of your research if appropriate. Whatever your situation, here are some of the key things to consider:

Bargaining tools – Is there anything extra either side can add or remove from an offer that is of value to the other side? Would you be prepared to forgo a company car allowance if they were able to get a salary closer to what you desire? These tools may not have a specific monetary worth, such as having the option to work from home, but can be of great value to the negotiation process. Added extras to enhance your overall package that could be extracted from the employer include extra holiday, an increased pension contribution, health care, flexi-time working or even your own office.

Positions of power – Who’s holding the cards? Each side has something the other

Think about things you could offer such as essential business contacts or insider


If you approach the negotiation in the right way, your employer or potential employer will be impressed, regardless of whether you eventually win or lose, and see it as another skill which you can bring to their business.

Closing the deal Make sure you have a record of the agreement down on paper which is signed by both parties. There’s no point winning a negotiation if you allow the other side to go back on their responsibilities at a later date. Particularly when negotiating a salary for a new job, be sure not to overlook anything that needs to be factored in. Will you need to relocate? Will the company make a contribution to your costs? If the job is really your dream role, you might find you’re willing to be more flexible. But if they ask you to accept a lower salary than you currently enjoy, always check to see how regularly you can expect a pay review.



Sport and business united By Geoff Wilson


port for Business is a venture that has become increasingly visible within the major business supporters of sport on the island of Ireland over the past two years.

Rob Hartnett, Sport for Business

It offers a unique perspective on how sport and business can work together to better effect and publishes a very topical and insightful daily news digest which goes out to 3,000 key influencers from the head of the GAA to the bosses at Kingspan Stadium and from PwC to the corridors of power in a number of government departments. I caught up with Rob Hartnett, the man behind this network of leaders, in Dublin fresh from having hosted the Business of Sports Science Conference which drew Paul McGinley over to Dublin to talk about the role that technology plays within the game of golf.

victory at Leopardstown we are an island for whom sport means so much.”

stronger by bringing business in to help shape them for growth and a wider reach.”

“We are involved in a wide variety of projects drawing together smart people from business and sport to see what benefit they can bring to each other,” said Hartnett.

“What we have been able to do is translate the passion that exists in sport into projects that business can get behind to reach customers, deliver in corporate responsibility and make a difference.”

“That’s what we do every day of the year, with more than 80 big businesses across Ireland and over 30 national governing bodies of sport.”

There is no ‘typical’ day in what he and his team are doing.

“The Women in Sport campaigns are especially important.”

In the early weeks of 2015 he had been launching a new initiative aimed at tackling out of control drinking, hosting the Ryder Cup winning Captain in front of 120 business leaders at the Royal Dublin Society, speaking to a conference of racecourse managers and putting the finishing touches to a campaign aimed at encouraging the discovery of role models at the upper end of Women’s sport.

“Since we hosted our first seminar on the subject in 2012 Continental Tires, Liberty Insurance and Aon have come into the sponsorship space that remains so clean and uncluttered for women’s sport.”

“Sport is this great universal language which everybody gets excited about.”

“There is still a big gap between how boys and girls are encouraged to stick with sport but it’s shrinking and the challenge is to maintain momentum so that young women can get the same benefit from an active sporting lifestyle as young men.”

“Whether that is cheering Rory Best at the Aviva Stadium or Hurricane Fly to

“Initiatives that Ulster Rugby, the IFA and Ulster GAA are promoting can be made

“We work with education institutions including the University of Ulster and we are only at the start of something that can really make a difference to Irish sport, Irish business and Irish society.” Hartnett is passionate about his subject and Sport for Business is a network that it is worth talking to if you want to speak the language of sport.

Contact Sport for Business at Geoff runs his own sports consultancy, working with clients such as FIFA across the world. He is also on the board of SportNI. You can follow Geoff


on twitter @geoffwnjwilson or Linkedin at

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Hiring the best Good talent is hard to find and even harder to interview. Jamie Stinson speaks to the recruiters to find out how to sort the wheat from the chaff when it comes to searching for the best candidate.


hoosing the right candidate is difficult task. Have they the right skills? Do they have the correct experience? Will they be a good fit with the rest of the staff? are all questions businesses have to ask themselves during the recruitment process. What are key factors businesses must ensure they undertake to make sure they attract the right candidates to apply and identify the most suitable candidate. The first thing a firm must do when embarking upon the recruitment process is write down a detailed job description, clearly stating what skills it is looking for in the role. Sarah Fowler, manager at recruitment firm Brightwater, said: “It is essential that the business writes a comprehensive job description which will give the best potential candidates an overview of what their role would involve. “As well as an overview of the role itself, it’s important to include a set of essential and desirable criteria that the successful applicant should meet. Often, employers skimp on


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the detail of the day to day role focusing on what they want from the successful applicant. In candidate-short markets particularly, this is not ideal as employers need to compete to attract the very best talent out there.” It is important for companies to ensure applicants can understand what the role being offered entails. Barry Smyth, Managing Director of Northern Ireland recruitment specialist MCS Group, said: “We would always advise organisations not to oversell what cannot be delivered – and to always make sure that the skills, experience and competencies required are broadly and fairly reflected in the salary expectations of those candidates you want to hire. “The legalities around recruitment are also highly complex – organisations who get this wrong can be damaged financially and reputationally.” Once applications start to come in there are many ways to judge a prospective employee is a right fit. While experience and training will always be important there are other ways to spot the best candidate. >

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Ms Fowler believes how a candidate communicates their skills, including in their CV, plays a a major part in choosing the right person for the job. “Employers judge communication skills from the very first interaction they have with applicants, including CV or application forms, and will further explore this at any interview. You may have the best technical experience or theoretical knowledge in the world, but if you can’t communicate effectively you simply won’t be the first choice for the job,” she said. However, Mr Smyth argues that commitment and ambition are ideal qualities employers should look for when hiring. “Competence and experience will always be highly valued. However, the ability to show commitment and ambition can also win over a potential employer,” he explained. “How a candidate presents themselves, demonstrates their interest, professionalism and flexibility in a warm and friendly way is vital. Showing that they understand the core values and culture of the company and can align themselves well will also be appreciated.” Over recent years the recruitment process has changed with the advent of social media. With people posting so much of their life online, rightly or wrongly, potential employers can access a whole other view of a candidate’s life. Social media does possess many advantages for businesses. Through business Linkedin, Twitter, Google Plus and

Facebook channels, job applications can potentially reach a much wider audience, and, in addition to that, it is free. Ms Fowler said, while websites like Linkedin are extremely useful for sourcing talent, the “importance of social media shouldn’t be overstated”, with CVs still the most important aspect to judging an applicant. “The CV is crucial to assessing an applicant’s communication skills, their attention to detail and can be tailored depending on the role or company applied for whereas as a LinkedIn profile will be quite standard. Applying with a CV also implies an increased level of interest in a role where a recruiter or hiring manager

How can a business make themselves attractive to the best candidates? • Offer competitive salaries and benefits • Maintain a good reputation • Clear job description


contacting an individual on LinkedIn may be an exploratory exercise,” Ms Fowler added. Social media can give more context to an application, Ms Fowler explained. “At the same time, social media is very useful in the recruitment process when viewed alongside a CV. For example, if an applicant has a number of recommendations on their LinkedIn profile or have their projects, achievements, publications etc showcased this can give more context to their CV. Mr Smyth explained, social media is becoming increasingly important in recruitment in how it is able to reach a wider audience. “It’s becoming increasingly important and for some roles, LinkedIn works particularly well and, depending on the position on offer, can sometimes be used in the initial screening process. Reaching to as wide an audience as possible is important in this industry and social media, and particularly Twitter, has a significant role to play.” However, Ms Fowler warned told when posting something online remember, it’s there for all to see. “When you publish something online via social media, especially to a public profile, it’s there forever. So, with that in mind, be careful what you put out there, especially if it’s about work.”

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We need you! Writing a good job description is key to attracting the right candidates. Michael Page Recruitment take us through the finer detail.


o really understand the scope of a job, it helps to have it defined in writing. During the recruitment process, you have a better chance of attracting top talent if there is a well documented account of the role. Wouldn’t you be more inclined to interview with an organisation that had taken the time to define who they wanted to hire? While particularly useful in recruiting new staff, a job description has an ongoing purpose throughout the employment lifecycle so it pays to spend some time getting it right from the outset.

The three main purposes of a job description are: • Candidate attraction – To describe the role and required track record with the aim of attracting a response from an internal or external applicant for the job. • Role definition – For the individual performing the role to have a reference point for their responsibilities and required level of performance, especially at appraisal time or when a promotion is being considered. • Management reference – Particularly for a new manager, to understand the scope and level of responsibility expected of the role.

What it’s all about A comprehensive job description comprises the following areas: • Title of the job • Where the role sits within the team, department and wider business • Who the role reports to, and other key interactions


• Key areas of responsibility and the deliverables expected • Short, medium and long-term objectives • Scope for progression and promotion • Required education and training • Soft skills and personality traits necessary to excel • Location and travel requirements • Remuneration range and benefits available • Convey the organisation’s culture and identity

Five mistakes to avoid when creating an effective job description Using internal terminology: Your CRM database may be known companywide as ‘Knowledge-bank’, but requiring Knowledge-bank implementation proficiency on a job description will mean little to external candidates. Stick to well-recognised requirements to appeal to the widest possible audience. Not involving all stakeholders: The most accurate specifications are produced with the involvement of several different business areas. When defining

or refining what a role entails, do so with the input of HR, line management and employees in a similar function. Being unrealistic: A job description should be an accurate representation of the track record required to perform the role, not an impossible wish list of every skill that may come in useful. Using discriminatory language: Although frequently inadvertent, the use of certain words and phrases in a job description can be construed as discriminatory and limit the diverse applicant group that organisations strive for. Check out the legal requirement on the Business Link website. Not regularly reviewing: Organisations are constantly evolving, so for job descriptions to reflect changing requirements they should reviewed, ideally annually, and amended as appropriate. Taking the time to craft an accurate job description can be invaluable to the ongoing attraction, hiring and retention of employees.


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Why the battle for talent needs a trusted partner By Donna Parker, Regional Manager at Diamond Recruitment Group


n an increasingly candidate-driven market, the war for talent rages on. More and more companies are looking to recruitment consultancies to help them attract the best candidates and help build their employer brand. This ensures they are seen as the first choice for job seekers and their vacancies will attract high calibre candidates, suitably skilled and qualified to undertake the role. In addition, many organisations are looking for their agency to become a trusted advisor. A company who shares their vision, but has unique skills and knowledge to bring to the table, which can consistently deliver and really get under the skin of the particular organisation they are working with. That helps ensure a perfect match is made each and every time, whilst keeping the client updated on labour market statistics and compliant with UK legislation. These relationships are founded in trust and the benefits are abundant to all parties involved. There is a wealth of choice when choosing a recruitment supplier, so how do you ensure you work with someone who will one day become a trusted advisor to your business? First and foremost, always choose to work with a member of the Recruitment and Employment Confederation (REC). This is the most recognised professional membership body for recruiters in the UK and all members are audited to ensure adherence to compliance of the REC’s code of conduct and UK legislation. In addition, many consultants in member agencies will have undertaken professional examinations to become members of the Institute of Recruitment Professionals so will have specialist industry knowledge of recruiting techniques and have been trained in UK legislation including Agency Workers Regulations, Fair Employment legislation, Equality, Diversity, and general employment law to name but a few. Always meet with the agency before engaging with them. The best consultants will spend most of the meeting listening to you and finding out what your key staffing issues, what your recruitment needs and wants are rather than telling you about themselves. This will enable them to create a solution strategy that will clearly show how they will solve the problem quickly and thoroughly. The key differentiator here is the level of creativity they display, their understanding of your issues and the speed in which they react.


Donna Parker

Look for a recruitment company with a strong business acumen, someone who will take the trouble to understand the environment you work in and your business. This will ensure they have a better grasp of your overall business needs and bring a rich portfolio of knowledge to the recruitment process and an understanding of business dynamics and market trends. Finally, the best recruiters will seize the initiative and offer advice rather than just blindly following what you have told them to. They will put your best interests first, sometimes at the expense of immediate business to their organisation but ensuring that you will be keen to work with them in the longer term.

If you’re looking for a recruitment company that will advise and guide you in attracting the best talent for your business and help you position your brand as an employer of choice... then you’ve come to the right place.

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So, tell me about yourself? It’s all very well having the right skills and experience for a job but if you don’t perform well in an interview then you might as well forget it.

“You need to articulate how you did things, how you delivered achievement and how you tackled an issue, that’s more important than the issue itself.” He advises looking to the stars, or the STAR to be precise. It equates to: Situation, Task, Action and Result, four key components of the ideal answer to a typical interview question.


f you’re reading a business magazine the chances are you’ve already got a good idea about the basics of interviews from an interviewee point of view. Show up on time, smartly dressed and don’t trip up on the way to the interview seat. But once you’re sat in front of the interview panel, the heat is suddenly turned up and the spotlight shone on you. This is your chance, perhaps your only chance, to persuade the people on the other side of the desk that you, and only you, are the ideal person to boost their sales margins, publicise their brands, invent their products or build their walls. No pressure then. “Blah, blah, blah, blah” is the default reaction by a lot of interviewees who tend to ramble on too much about themselves in a haphazard way.


“If you structure your answer you’ll find the interviewer’s notes are better and their decision are easier when they come to review the day. You need to be very clear on what you’re going to do for them when you join their business. Whether interviewer realise it or not that’s what they’re looking for. ” Neal Lucas from Neal Lucas Recruitment in Hillsborough said good candidates can explain how their experience answers the need of the advertised role.

“You need to articulate how you did things, how you delivered achievement and how you tackled an issue, that’s more important than the issue itself.” “It’s really important that people are able to articulate the how and not the what,” he told Ulster Business. “What’s important is how you can apply your experience in a practical sense to the job you’re applying for.

And the length of your answer is also important. “People either talk too much or too little in an interview,” Neal said. “If you wrap the answer up in a bow and present it to them it allows the interviewer to dig down if they need to.” “The problem is most interviewers aren’t good at interviewing so they’re happy just to listen to you ramble on. If you don’t get the right answer across then they’ll not try to draw it out.” And for interviewers, it wouldn’t be a bad idea to put a bit more effort into the recruitment process. “Companies spend weeks doing a capital expenduture on an £80,000 machine but will make a decision on a new employee in hours. That’s a big weakness.”

Board membership builds leadership skills By Richard O’Rawe, Chairman, Belfast Met Board of Governors


eing on a board can help build your leadership skills, regardless of where you are in your professional development. I have recently been re-appointed as Chairman of Belfast Metropolitan College and am keen to stress that the reality of life as a non-executive director couldn’t be more different from what the stereotype would suggest. It is, in fact, challenging, hugely satisfying, at times difficult but never, ever dull. It can also be a smart move in terms of developing your career. Belfast Metropolitan College is the largest and longest-established further and higher education college in Northern Ireland. It sits at the critical junction of education on the one hand and employment on the other. During my tenure as chair I have seen the college and the wider sector regain its momentum and reclaim its relevance as a critical player in the local economy. The Department for Employment and Learning is currently running a recruitment campaign for 25 governors in colleges across Northern Ireland, including six for Belfast Met.

It is vitally important that we get the right people on board and that means attracting individuals with the leadership qualities necessary to help steer the college as it builds on its successes of recent years. Of course, the wider backdrop means that this will also involve navigating the troubled terrain of funding cuts and organisational change. Governors do that by working alongside the principal and CEO – which in the case of Belfast Met is the consistently impressive Marie-Thérèse McGivern – in ensuring the efficient and effective management of the college. This includes its financial performance and the quality of its teaching, learning and assessment. In effect, we have a responsibility for seeing to it that the core function of the college is the best it can be. In guiding Belfast Met’s strategic direction, the governing body provides and exercises both a support and a challenge function in respect of the principal and executive team. Individual governors should bring independence, objectivity, impartiality and expertise to both the decision-making and challenge process within the college. Of course, this is a big responsibility and calls for high levels of commitment, including a

willingness to commit your time. In return, individuals can expect to develop skills, credibility and leadership qualities which can benefit them throughout their career. The closing date for applications is 12 noon on Monday, 2 March. All applications are treated strictly on merit and the final decision on appointments will rest with the Minister for Employment and Learning.

Application forms and an information pack can be obtained from: FE Corporate Governance and Accountability, Room 203, Adelaide House, 39-49 Adelaide Street, Belfast BT2 8FD Tel: 028 9025 7461 email:

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How do I hire the right person?

By Gary Irvine, Chairman of Diamond Recruitment / Principal, 4c Executive Search

Whatever approach you use, getting it right begins with the job description and person specification. What are you actually looking for in the person, what is the correct job title, what is the purpose of the position, what are the duties and responsibilities that come with it and what personal traits are most important? Ultimately you have to decide what the essential and desirable criteria are – education, skills, experience, competencies – and stick to them. All too often the recruitment exercise fails due to poor planning and management. Attracting the right candidate is the first part of the equation and if you fail to follow up quickly you can often lose them. There is no shame in showing you are keen, this only serves to impress. Respond quickly to applications and arrange to meet with the right people sooner rather than later. Gary Irvine


hen I am often asked how you go about finding and hiring the right person for an important role, it’s normally because the person asking the question has had an experience in the past where they have failed to appoint the right person, or that the person they appointed just didn’t work out for whatever reason. There are many common reasons why so many firms hire the wrong person – some of these include; a poorly presented job advertisement, use of a less than professional recruitment firm or simply adopting a capture all approach that doesn’t impress the right calibre of candidate.

When assessing CVs many employers just take into account job titles and places of work and pay less attention to what the person actually did or achieved there. You are looking for information that clearly matches what you are looking for on paper first, then further assessment will determine if the cultural fit is right or not. In addition, do ensure candidates know what type of interview to expect. A non-structured approach is often the norm for a first interview because it lets you get an idea of someone’s personality. If you are still convinced that the candidate is right, then follow it up with a second, more structured interview that is competency based and simply marked by a panel – perhaps five-to-10 questions of no more than two or three minutes each.

Employers often rush into making an appointment – they want the role filled fast and they want to spend as little as possible on the process. They then realise too late that the person they’ve hired is not capable of doing the job or doesn’t fit in with the culture of their organisation.

Try to ask questions which are relevant to the role you are trying to fill, ones that will determine if the candidate is capable of fulfilling the scope of the role by demonstrating their understanding. Ask for plenty of examples that are relevant to the role, testing their knowledge, expertise, delivery and accomplishments.

The methodology chosen to recruit key people will determine success. Traditional advertisements and recruitment agencies work for some roles. For business critical roles, the use of an executive search firm such as 4c to confidentially headhunt candidates and act as a conduit between them and the prospective employer is a more targeted and a very efficient way to ensure you hire the best person for the job.

Provided they meet the essential and desirable criteria, and have passed two well-structured interviews and provided good references for their character, experience and ability, then you should be in a position to be confident that you have done everything within your power to appoint the right person, but more importantly, an asset and ambassador!


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Perfection for Peninsula


onny Cook, Managing Director and founder of Peninsula Care Services, is certainly going from strength to strength and is now one of Northern Ireland’s leading domiciliary care, nursing recruitment agencies and training academies. In October 2014, Peninsula recruited 50 new staff and has already witnessed a heavy recruitment drive in January with their #31 Campaign, where 31 new people were recruited; one new person a day. Peninsula, which was set up just six years ago, now has over 160 staff and are still recruiting for more Community Care Workers, Health Care Assistants and Registered nurses. Jonny Cook is both thrilled and delighted that the company is moving forward in line with a very strategic business plan. He says; “With Peninsula, it really is about the ‘people’ and it’s the staff who are driving this business forward and going the extra mile. I am very proud of the team, their achievements and their commitment to the success of the company.”

Jonny continues: “For all these roles, applicants are assessed and screened from their application form, their past experience and they also need a full, clean driving licence. At the interview stage we also ensure that the person demonstrates warmth, genuineness and compassion as the jobs and Peninsula’s mantra rely on these qualities. After the successful candidate is recruited they will attend intense training at our dedicated Training Academy, which includes improving communication skills and topics of mandatory training such as infection control to ensure they will be compliant in maintaining standards of good practice. As most of our clients are elderly we prefer to employ staff who are passionate about caring for the older person.” Jonny added: “Although our Health Care Assistants and Registered nurses need to have at least six months experience and preferably a NVQ/QCF training in Health and Social Care before they are recruited, there are various job options within Peninsula

Jonny Cook

which do not need prior experience and many are choosing Peninsula as a completely different and new career option as we provide training and ensure that we work with the employee’s schedule, allowing them to work flexible hours. Their happiness is paramount to me as I believe a happy worker makes the company more successful.” For further information on job vacancies contact: or tel: 028 9182 8921

Diamond Systems bags environmental award


iamond Systems has been recognised by the Construction Employers Federation for the implementation of its environmental management system.

The fire and security alarm company has been awarded NVIR-O-CERT, only the second specialist company of its kind to receive the certification. It follows the recent completion of the BITES program (Business Improvement Through Environmental Solutions) in December 2014. The program, which was run by Belfast City Council, was designed to help businesses reduce waste and energy while boosting profits and helping the environment. “The BITES programme focused our attention on the environmental aspects associated with our business activities and how to control them more effectively, hence helping to reduce energy, water, waste and fuel costs,” Diamond Systems Office Manager, Julieann Picking said. “We made a lot of changes internally as a result, and in recognition we were awarded the Most improved Company within the BITES programme.”

Julieann Picking, Office Manager Diamond Systems is pictured with Pat McCudden, Deputy Lord Mayor Newtownabbey Borough Council.


Angela Bennett, Financial Director of Diamond Systems said: “Diamond Systems have always strived to be at the forefront of their industry in terms of sustainability and third party accreditations. Both the BITES programme and the NVIR-O-CERT scheme, provided formal recognition of all our efforts to reduce our carbon footprint and deliver responsible working practices.”

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Tax doesn’t have to be taxing but it usually is… By Julie Stewart


oday’s column comes to you live from the salubrious surroundings of a desk covered in receipts. For us lowly freelancers it is the time of year for much wailing and gnashing of teeth for it is self-assessment time! Yes, we freelancers have a right time of it, shimmying about in our leisure wear and meeting friends for coffee on Tuesday mornings. Perhaps you are on the other side of the employment fence, one of those people who gets a little monetary gift in their bank account from their benevolent bosses every month. Perhaps it is accompanied by a slip of paper with kisses on it, and it tells you what was taken out of it before it made a dent in your overdraft. If that is the case you are a lucky, lucky duck. It is my first year doing this joyous task, and in fairness I’m more like Alan Partridge in a caravan with chits on a spike screaming ‘I don’t avoid tax, I evade it!’ than a professionally organised babe from the Big Four. Luckily I have help from a professional, and while this does take the pressure off, it isn’t all good news. Would you believe it, apparently there are goodies gorgeous George Osborne doesn’t think are allowable tax deductible expenses, the meanie! So while my sum-loving assistant works his way through my financial debris of direct debits and circumstantial cappuccinos, I have a few ideas of items that should be recognised by HMRC as a legitimate freelance expense. First on the list is wine. While a nip into the off licence for a couple of bottles to share with friends for a ‘Wet Wednesday’ may not seem like a real business expense, I beg to differ. Some businesses offer


private healthcare as a perk, and that is what weeknight wine is – healthcare. Unwinding from the pressures of worrying where your next client is coming from by discussing current affairs like talent shows and soap operas through the medium of wine is good for the freelancer’s mental health, plus you’ve already paid tax when you bought that fruity little red anyway.

vital. Both can be obtained from shows like House Of Cards and, ahem, Ru Paul’s Drag Race. This is especially true if you don’t have the facilities (or team) to pay an excitable consultant to come round and teach you how to get more business and how to work better as a team by carrying an egg across the office using nothing but drinking straws and marshmallows.

Next we have shoes. Everybody needs shoes and I’m not talking fancy Manolos here. Why can I not claim for a sturdy pair of shiny patent brogues. I have to leave the house sometimes, and like a small man in a big company car nothing says success and professionalism on meeting a prospective client like a pair of oh-so-pretty shoes.

And what about the mileage used when travelling about to purchase the aforementioned wine, shoes, and ‘networking’ lunches in quaint country pubs. If the items are an allowable expense, so surely should be the mileage, right?

Personal development and training seems a reasonable expense to me, which is why I’d also like to put through a receipt for Netflix. As a writer, increasing my vocabulary and general use of words and language is a must and as a freelancer having the confidence to go out and sell myself is

Depending on the nature of your business there could be a vast array of things you could claim too. Answers on a postcard and keep the receipt for it, you might be able to get your money back! Julie Stewart is a social media consultant and copy writer and can be found at a

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28/02/2011 10:35


Keeping your network safe How well protected is your business’s IT system? Jamie Stinson asks how well your business is prepared for a complete failure of its IT infrastructure.


ast year the threat of cyber attacks on business dominated the news schedules, with Apple, Sony, and Microsoft, all falling victims to security lapses. While the major global companies grabbed the headlines, smaller businesses were not unaffected. Between October 2013 and September 2014 there were 757 cyber crime offences committed in Northern Ireland, of which 200 were cases of fraud, according to PSNI. Cyber security expert David Crozier from Queen’s University said the number of cyber attacks on businesses is under-reported due to the damage to reputation it causes: “Through my work on the NI Organised Crime Task Force Cyber Crime Sub Group I’m aware that there is significant under-reporting on cyber-attacks on Northern Ireland businesses. “The PSNI has evolved the way they go about investigating cyber-attacks and are mindful of the commercial impact and reputational damage such attacks can cause and will work to mitigate them.” An attack on a IT security system has far-reaching consequences for a business, which could have irrevocable effects. Jeremiah Grossman, Interim CEO of the California-based Whitehat Security, which has set up an office in Belfast, said: “The consequences for a cyber attack can range from effectively zero to, in some cases,


Daniel Crozier from Queen’s University.

the loss of millions – or tens of million and upward – due to lawsuits, downtime, negative PR, and incident response costs.” Mr Crozier warned of the detriment a cyber attack could cause, particularly if the business is based online or holds sensitive information. “The worst case scenario is that a cyber attack could bring about the speedy demise of even the most profitable business. For example, a business that depends on e-commerce for a significant proportion of its trading could have access to their online presence held to ransom for days by a Distributed Denial of Service (DDOS) attack. This could cause significant cash flow problems at the very least.” >


Insurance Brokers & Risk Advisors

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It could lead to reputational damage, and, if sensitive business information is compromised, a fine of up to £500,000 by the Information Commissioners Office (ICO), Mr Crozier pointed out. It is essential businesses plan for any potential breaches of online security, no matter how unlikely the idea of that may be. “First and foremost all business need to recognise that their networks are constantly being probed for security vulnerabilities that provide attackers a way in to networks. Those that don’t believe their systems are constantly under attack are naïve to say the least, negligent or not fully in control of their own systems at worst,” Mr Crozier explained. “Businesses need to protect themselves from cyber attack by ensuring that existing systems and hardware are running the latest versions of software and have a plan in place to install security patches when software manufacturers release them. They should audit all existing systems to get a handle on the scale of risk and value of the data they are protecting.

Factbox: How to protect your business • Ensure all systems and hardware are running the latest software. • Hack yourself to check for any weaknesses. • If attacked, carry out post-mortem of what went wrong.


“Secondly the systems in place need to detect attacks, only then can they carry out containment, eradication and remediation activities to mitigate the cost of any breach. Finally when attacks take place they need to carry out a postmortem to ensure systems and policies are in place to prevent future attacks.” Mr Grossman said, it is imperative that businesses pre-empt an attack by hacking itself first to where the security may need to be improved. “It’s vital to know what the bad guys know, or will eventually, about a business’s security posture – before a breakin occurs. Armed with this information, a business is able to balance their layers of defence with their tolerance for risk in the most cost effective way possible.” A business hacking itself will also ensure that any potential breaches are easily identified, and tackled earlier, stopping further damage. “It is vital that businesses have the proper IT visibility to know what changes are taking place, what the most likely risk points are, and how the bad guys

are probing/attacking their systems. So even if the bad guys win, they can be identified and kicked off the network quickly before the break-in costs go way up,” Mr Grossman. This year could see more smaller businesses hit by attacks, as larger firms invest more in improving their security. Mr Grossman said, potentially as the larger businesses become more secure fraudsters may turn towards smaller companies. “If the bigger companies get substantively more secure, then one can reason that the bad guys will shift to easier targets – small businesses. One thing we know for sure, cyber-criminals won’t stop, and basically every business is a potential target. Some will be targets of opportunity, others will be targets of choice.” Mr Crozier added, hackers will always attack where there’s money to be gained. “As more and more business is transacted online so the criminals will follow the money. Smaller businesses are always at risk as they have limited resources to put to use in mitigating attacks. Conversely they may not always offer rich pickings to criminals.”

The importance of secure identity Today’s society shares information at incredible speeds. A technologically advanced world requires a fortified defense that starts at the front door, secure identification. These credentials combat daily threats to your organisation by protecting identities, proprietary information and equipment from getting into the wrong hands. Implementing a streamlined issuance process guards even the most sensitive data, ultimately boosting productivity and profits. VISUAL IDENTITY Don’t be fooled by their impressive appearance; even the most basic visual ID cards are built for performance. • High-quality logo and graphics • Vibrant images and photos • Crisp signature for added security

SECURE TRANSACTION One quick read of a secure ID can update time and attendance systems, access student or member accounts and conduct financial transactions through the use of industry-leading card technologies. • Magnetic stripe encoding • 1D / 2D bar codes for quick scanning • Contact and contactless smart cards personalised with system-readable data

controlled access ID cards put access control in the right hands whether you need to protect physical locations or digital assets. Secure offices, labs or networks and databases. • Proximity card-reading RFID transponder • Biometrics • Contact smart cards • Encoded magnetic stripes

STRONG SECURITY & DURABILITY Protection against tampering and forgery is as essential as the card itself. For higher security applications, organisations rely on sophisticated technology and capabilities exclusive to Datacard Group. • Datacard® edge-to-edge security laminates • Overt, covert and forensic security features, such as holographic images, guilloche patterns, microprinting and more. • Customer-specific smart chip encoding • Tamper-evident tactile impression feature • Wide range of laminates that extend card life and lower the overall cost of ID card issuance.

FASTER, SIMPLER ISSUANCE AT YOUR FINGERTIPS NTD’s sales and service team will help to cut the hassle out of your issuance programmes with reliable printers, high-quality supplies and easy-to-use software. Versatile, cost-effective and secure identity solutions cover a range of applications and markets, from ID badges to more sophisticated cards. Personalised ID cards and badges grant cardholders access to protected areas or networks while reducing the risk of fraud with durable, highly secure topcoats, laminates and tactile impressions.

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Insurance Brokers & Risk Advisors

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Brokers for the future We speak to Abbey Bond Lovis’s newest team member to get his thoughts on the Northern Ireland insurance industry.


he business of insurance has changed dramatically over the last few years and that’s presented a challenge for some insurance brokers. But for local company Abbey Bond Lovis the growing need for an agile and proactive broker has meant business has grown sharply. As a result, it’s expanded rapidly and in doing so has taken on new talent, the latest Associate Director Ian McClure. The appointment has been strategically planned, according to Managing Director Maurice Boyd. “To continue our growth, particularly in the corporate sector, we needed to employ a senior development executive to assist us in this process. In Ian we’ve found the perfect person to do that and we’re excited about the next stage in the business’s development.” Ian’s certainly got plenty of credentials, having spent 21 years in the industry in corporate broking, including client servicing and business development. His career to date has been with global broking houses focused on the retail, leisure, entertainment and construction sectors and he’s noticeably excited about moving into independent broking. “I was attracted to the company for a number of reasons,” he told Ulster Business. “Abbey Bond Lovis has grown from a start up to a major player in the independent broking market in only a few years and are a young and dynamic company with a driven senior management team.”


Maurice Boyd (standing) with Ian McClure.

“I want to be part of the independent broking business as it can source the very best insurance programme for customers from a variety of markets. Abbey Bond Lovis can also provide a range of comprehensive services, including full claims handling and personal insurances.” That latter ability to provide a comprehensive service offering is a big plus for Maurice, and for customers. “Decisions are made locally by the directors without the need for further referral so we can respond quickly to our client`s needs. “We’re able to source the right option for the client without the politics of a corporation getting in the way.” And the company’s size and locality are also a help.

Northern Ireland businesses are typically medium-sized enterprises with owner managers who often need to make decisions quickly and they like their partners to do likewise when required. They look at us and see something they can recognise and identify with.” Ian clearly relishes the new offering which being a part of Abbey Bond Lovis has offered and it’s clear he’s looking forward to the future. “Insurance broking is very competitive but I truly believe we’re ideally placed and have the right blend of quality, experienced staff and a team of dynamic directors who can grow the business over the next 10 years.”

Insurance Brokers & Risk Advisors

We stand on our own 200 feet

When it comes to providing independent advice on corporate insurance and risk management, we take pride in our ability to stand on our own two feet, (well, 200 to be precise). With 100 experts on the ground, we are the largest locally owned and operated corporate insurance expert in Northern Ireland. So you can trust us to bring you precisely the right advice and service for your business. Year after year.

For further information contact Maurice Boyd, Managing Director Direct Dial 028 9332 5031 Tel 028 9335 0015

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Cybersecurity – it’s not just about Sony Pictures – it’s about you PwC’s Craig McKeown and Cara McCrory reveal why it pays to be vigilant when it comes to cyber crime.


eading financial institutions in London and New York are planning a massive cyber-attack on their respective computer systems later this year, it’s been revealed. However, this seeming Square Mile versus Wall Street grudge match is no bout of fiscal rivalry, it’s one outcome of a deal between President Barack Obama and U.K. Prime Minister David Cameron to challenge global cyberterrorism and curb hacking and increasingly prevalent cybercrime. Getting the world’s greatest financial institutions engaged in joint war games organised and run by the U.S. and U.K. governments show just how seriously Washington and Westminster are taking the threat. And with January’s World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland putting the threat of corporate cyberattacks centre stage, the message is that no-one is immune from the threat. But Northern Ireland public and private sector organisations needn’t nod in the direction of recent victims like Sony Pictures, eBay and JP Morgan and assume it couldn’t happen here – it can and it does and what’s more, it’s becoming more frequent and the costs are spiralling upwards. PwC’s Belfast-based risk assurance and forensic technology teams are all too often called in after a cyber-catastrophe befalls an ‘it couldn’t happen to us’ corporate victim who has contemplated pillaged bank accounts or intellectual property theft. So, across Northern Ireland there is no shortage of local tales of woe.

• staff at a SME not far from Belfast logged into their online banking system to find over £110k had been transferred to China. • a small local catering business and a care home both fell victims to “Ransomware” – software that encrypted the contents of their computers and server and demanded a ransom to get them back. • a manufacturing firm found another company in a different country has produced a nearly identical product after one of it’s employees moved there – having stolen the designs and their intellectual property. • a Northern Ireland firm’s overseas client was contacted by an imposter pretending to be from the Northern Ireland firm, persuading them to change the bank account details on file and make a payment of over £200k. This has damaged the Northern Ireland firm’s financial and business reputation and the only redress is through the courts – assuming they can identify the perpetrator. Coinciding with the World Economic Forum at Davos, the organisers issued a report warning that failing to improve cybersecurity would potentially cost the global economy a whopping $3 trillion. That warning was underpinned by PwC’s 18th Annual CEO Survey – the keynote report that sets the tone of the World Economic Forum – where CEO’s fears over cyber threats demonstrated the most dramatic year-on-year increase of any concern. And while attempts to introduce cybersecurity legislation in the US have been unsuccessful in recent years, the US Congress is currently

considering legislation that could hold executive and management teams potentially legally liable for failing to establish “reasonable” capabilities in terms of creating and implementing cybersecurity policies. Looking behind the headlines at how many cybersecurity breaches occur, hints at why US legislators are finger pointing at business. That’s because much of the data theft and financial misappropriation is preventable because it’s often an in-house problem. The Information Security Breaches Survey 2014, commissioned by the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) and undertaken by PwC, says that 31% of the worst security breaches identified were caused by human error, with a further 20% due to deliberate misuse of systems by staff. So, while a cyberattack on Sony Pictures may make headlines across the world, it’s generally a combination of poor culture, lacklustre processes, careless staff and dishonest employees that combine to cause most of the trouble. Access to a wide range of technology is essential for almost every business to operate in a world dependent on the web but organisations must consider the risks and be confident in their capability to manage them if they are to escape the inevitability of fraud or cyberattack. And that comes back, not to managing technology, but to managing people and processes. Companies need to get the culture right and provide training for staff on basic awareness when using company computers and mobile devices such as smartphones, iPads and USB keys. Everyone from the top down needs to understand that their

assets – from intellectual property to cash in the bank – all have value and that’s why people want to buy or steal them. The experience of PwC’s 100-strong UK forensic technology team, many of whom are based in PwC’s Belfast office, is that cyber criminals have three objectives; to steal secrets, steal money or inflict reputational damage. The bitter experience of many of their clients is that these criminals – whether based thousands of miles away or sitting inside the organisation itself – mostly achieve at least one of the three objectives. The PwC experience of just how this happens is summarised in the Information Security Breaches Survey 2014. It also confirms that small companies are almost as vulnerable as their big global organisations. Large organisations, according to the report, were successfully attacked on average 16 times over the previous year, with small organisations attacked on average six times, with the main breaches being: 1. Virus or malicious software infection – 73% of large and 45% of small organisations. 2. Attack by unauthorised outsider(s) – 55% large and 33% small organisations. 3. Denial of service attacks – 38% large and 16% small organisations. 4. Network penetration by outsider(s) – 24% large and 12% small organisations. 5. Intellectual property/confidential data theft – 16% large and 4% small organisations. So, what can the typical Northern Ireland business do to avoid, or at least reduce the risk, of becoming a victim? First, understand what you want to protect and then define the risk associated with protecting it. Who can initiate new customer accounts; are existing customers’ financial and trading details freely available; who can authorise online and banking transactions, who controls passwords, networks and IT access; where do designs, drawings and vital intellectual property reside and who can access them? Equally important is deciding who is responsible. It’s not solely an IT issue – it’s a boardroom issue and if cybersecurity is not on the board’s agenda, then executives

PwC’s Craig McKeown and Cara McCrory.

are ignoring that more than half of all IT security breaches are caused by staff. Every business, regardless of size should access and read the Government’s cyber security guidance which offers directors some practical steps to protect their business and it can be accessed at: government/publicrelations/cyber-riskmanagement-a-board-level-responsibility. And for businesses that really want to get to grips with cyber security, the Information Security Breaches Survey 2015 is now open.

This looks at the nature and impact of information security breaches and trends year on year and can be accessed via the PwC website at: cyber_security_updates/ Finally, statistically around half of online business in Northern Ireland could become victims in the next 12 months – try to minimise your risk. Craig McKeown and Cara McCrory are both directors with PwC in Belfast.

ARDS SHOPPING CENTRE COMPLETES A MAJOR SECURITY UPGRADE WITH STANLEY SECURITY As with any busy retail environment, security is a key priority for Ards Shopping Centre to ensure a safe and enjoyable shopping experience for visitors as well as providing security for retailers and tenants. Ards Shopping Centre decided to upgrade their existing CCTV system with new high definition cameras and recording equipment. STANLEY Security was chosen to design and install an IP-based CCTV system with over 40 internal and external cameras, completing an overhaul of the security system for the shopping centre. Opting to go with STANLEY Assure™, Ards Shopping Centre has a comprehensive package including maintenance and warranty cover for equipment as part of the agreement.

“STANLEY Security has completed an excellent installation of our CCTV system. We have a brand new security camera system using reliable equipment that will enhance the overall security of Ards Shopping Centre” Ards Shopping Centre Manager

STANLEY ASSURE™ FROM STANLEY SECURITY A UNIQUE SOLUTION FOR BUYING SECURITY When it comes to purchasing security equipment, cash payment may not be the best solution. Depending on your requirements and budget, STANLEY Security can provide flexible solutions to help you secure your property and assets and protect your bottom line. STANLEY Assure™ from STANLEY Security is a unique solution that is available in Northern Ireland. The concept is simple, in return for an agreed, manageable and regular payment covering all aspects of your security requirements, STANLEY Security provides you with the very latest security technologies combined with a service and monitoring package that is specifically tailored to meet your individual business needs – not just for now, but also in the future. All our agreements are arranged in-house and are available for security products from CCTV and access control to time and attendance solutions and can cover installation, service and monitoring.

Why choose STANLEY Assure™: • • • • • • •

Benefit from having the best security technology and services without the need to own equipment outright No need for a large, upfront capital outlay Easy budgeting with clear visibility of monthly payments Flexibility to adjust the terms of the agreement as your own business circumstances change Wide range of flexible service options to include maintenance and monitoring if required Ease of dealing with one provider for equipment, services and finance Peace of mind – equipment is covered by warranty for the term of the agreement

STANLEY Security is a trusted local provider of fully integrated security and time and attendance solutions tailored to the specific needs of our customers in the retail, banking, commercial, healthcare and justice sectors. If you’ve found your ideal security solution, but would like to spread the cost, we can help. Talk to us today to find out how STANLEY Security can secure your organisation.

For more information on STANLEY Assure™, or any of our security and time and attendance solutions, please contact us today on 028 9079 9988 or by email BELFAST – DUBLIN – CORK



INVENT 2015 was launched by NISP CONNECT Programme Manager, Peter Edgar, and Ian Sheppard, Head of Business & Corporate Banking at Bank of Ireland UK.


Getting back to the future


orthern Ireland’s best science and technology innovators are in with a chance of winning a share of £33,000 and a trip to San Diego and San Francisco to connect with some of the world’s top innovators in science & technology. INVENT 2015, run by NISP CONNECT at the Northern Ireland Science Park and sponsored by Bank of Ireland UK, is seeking applications for innovations across six categories from investors across the country. They’re being challenged to take a leaf out of the film Back to the Future’s book and come up with the next futuristic tech product. “It’s very fitting that it was this very year, 2015, when the 1989 classic ‘Back to the Future Part II’ predicted what our futuristic tech might be – things like fingerprint technology, hands-free video games, time travel, flying cars and hover boards,” NISP CONNECT Programme Manager Peter Edgar said. “The challenge laid down to our ‘wantrepreneurs’, researchers, garden shed inventors or school kids across the province is to create and invent products that can change the world around us for the better.”


Over 90 applications were received last year, from a university professor whose animation skills were used in the movie Avatar, to a 16-year-old schoolboy who’d created a mobile app for his friends with dyslexia. “Then you have our other INVENT 2014 category winners whose innovations will mean introducing tech to the death industry, cleaner cities, smarter cycling, safer pesticides and more effective vaccinations: it’s that variety of incredible inventions that we are seeking in 2015.”

“The challenge laid down to our ‘wantrepreneurs’, is to create and invent products that can change the world around us.” Ian Sheppard, Head of Business & Corporate Banking at Bank of Ireland UK, said the competition is hugely important: “At Bank of Ireland UK we care and passionately believe that Northern Ireland needs more

entrepreneurs and business start ups. We understand the value of innovation and its importance right across the business spectrum in driving economic growth. The bank continues to support some of Northern Irelands’ most innovative companies from start up through to global success.” The competition, previously the 25K Awards, is, this year, celebrating its 15th anniversary. It comes as Northern Ireland was named as the second fastest growing knowledge economy in the UK. Categories include Creative Media and Consumer Internet, Agri-Food, Life and Health, Engineering, Electronics and Enterprise Software. The winner of INVENT 2014 was announced as cemetery technology company ‘Plotbox’ in October. The husband and wife team from Portglenone, Sean and Leona McAllister, has already secured a number of key leads in America where the death industry is estimated at $20bn annually. As part of the prize, Plotbox took part in the Northern Ireland Tech Mission in December which led to them gaining a place on the world renowned 500 Startups – a Silicon Valley based accelerator.

Flags, firebombs & flashbacks

Mergers & Acquisitions


Foyleside Shopping Centre accounted for one of the biggest deals of the year.

M&A: more deals but values slides


n uptake in the last quarter of the year helped ratchet up the number of deals recorded in Northern Ireland in 2014 by more than 10%, according to latest data from Experian. Its report, Deal Review for 2014, showed a total of 98 deals were signed during the year, up from 88 in 2013. Despite the improvement, the total value of all the deals carried out fell by 17% to £765m “but still representing a reasonable return for the province, where deal flow tends to cluster around the small to mid-market.” The breakdown of the year’s M&A once again saw manufacturing companies making up the bulk of the activity. It accounted for 28% of all transactions, although that figure was down 20%


The Abbeycentre was one of three shopping centres acquired by NewRiver Retail Ltd for a combined cost of £140m.


compared to 2013, a trend which has been mirrored across the UK. Other sectors made up for the slide in the acitivity in manufacturing with information and communication deals up 26% on the year and professional, scientific and technical deals up an impressive 83%. The report also pointed to a sharp increase in the involvement of private equity in companies here. There were 24 private equity-backed deals announced in 2014, a jump of around a third on last year and a much higher percentage than the 14% witnessed elsewhere in the UK. The Experian report said the renewable energy sector in Northern Ireland has been a particular target for private equity investors, pointing to Platina Partner’s £99m buy-out of Mantlin Ltd, operator of the Slieve Rushen wind farm in October. When it comes to advisors, law firm A&L Goodbody topped the legal table with a total of 31 deals under its belt, closely followed by Tughans with 23 and Carson McDowell with 10.







A&L Goodbody








Carson McDowell




Mills Selig



Millar McCall Wylie




William Fry









Macaulay Wray



Pinsent Masons


The total value of deals worked on by A&L Goodbody reached £371m, the most of all legal advisers, while second place Carson McDowell worked on deals valued at £275m.

Financial advisers were also active with KPMG recorded the most number of deals at five, EY four and BDO three. At £140m, Liberium Capital worked on the biggest value of deals.






Aug 2014


Foyleside Ltd, Coleraine

Luxembourg Holdings


Aug 2014


Three Shopping Centres

NewRiver Retail Ltd


Oct 2014


Mantlin Ltd, Belfast

Platina Partners LLP, 123Venture


Mar 2014


Sprucefield Centre

Intu Properties Plc


Sept 2014


Robert Roberts (NI)

Valeo Foods UK Ltd


Sept 2014


Ansell Sales & Distribution

ENDO Lighting Corp, Japan


Oct 2014


Kx Systems Inc

US First Derivatives Plc, Newry


Feb 2014


Antrim Resources

First Oil Expro Ltd


Apr 2014


Telestack Ltd

Astec Industries Inc, US


Oct 2014


Barr Quarries Ltd

Breedon Aggregates Ltd





Property market climbing back to normal By John Simpson


or many years before 2006-7, investors in property in Northern Ireland had a near assurance that investing in property was safe! Whilst there were no guarantees, the ebb and flow of the property market was more often up than down. The early learners built their property portfolios using modest resources backed by major loans from (with hindsight) willing bankers. In Northern Ireland a small, but growing, group of enterprising property developers acquired assets, borrowed heavily and year by year justifiably reflected improved asset valuations on their balance sheets. By the middle of the last decade, on paper, Northern Ireland had an expanding number of property millionaires. The property base was expanded and enhanced in the years when Northern Ireland was emerging from the worst of the troubles, the economy was recovering and the construction industry hit new peaks of output in terms of housing, retail outlets and increasing office accommodation. That property bubble burst dramatically. From 2009-10 onwards, house building fell to only a fraction of the peak levels, new retail developments gave way to growing concern about the scale of spare retail space and empty shops, and demand for office accommodation grew more slowly. Now, in 2015, the ebb tide against development activity is turning. Incoming


trends point to a small increase in house building, a small reduction in the number of empty retail outlets and, more speculatively, some concern about the need for extra high grade office developments. During the last three years, approximately, a disrupting feature of the adjusting property market has been the extended impact of the re-alignment of the balance sheets of the banks and their decisions about the disposal of some parts of their loan books as they try to restore the strength of their balance sheets. This has added an element of distressed market conditions sometimes linked to borrowers who were otherwise managing their repayments in terms of the original expectations.

“Trends point to a small increase in house building, a small reduction in the number of empty retail outlets and some concern about the need for extra high grade office developments.” The property market in Northern Ireland might be described as having dramatically departed from normal trading conditions. For 2015 and further ahead, the question is

whether a reversion to something like normal can now be anticipated. In turn, that question must draw on an assessment or judgement on the extent to which negative equity across the property markets remains a source of market distortion and in parallel the ability of the lending institutions to rebuild lending portfolios at levels which sustain the general business needs of their clients. Any review of the property market in 2014 must acknowledge that, on a cumulative basis over recent years, it has been dominated by a combination of the impact of a sharp domestic recession, hesitancy by property owners about, sometimes unacknowledged, unrealised losses, and bank responses to lending commitments which sometimes allowed the accounts of clients to record a ‘note of concern’ on the uncertainty of their viability. The prominent feature of 2013-14, spilling over into 2015, has been the unsung and


The new grade A office development at City Quays.

often discreet steps by banks and their clients to ‘tidy up’ the unhealthy balance sheets in different ways, ranging from reassignment of borrowing to new lenders, partial realisation of marketable assets (taking a hit in terms of initial valuations), or in the ultimate change through administration or liquidation. Reflecting on the recent squeeze on lending, there have been fewer business fatalities than might have been expected but, where there have been casualties, some have been unlikely victims. Also, where bank clients have found their borrowing arrangements novated to new lenders, this has had the potential to destabilise established financial working arrangements. The recovery process for the property market is underway. During 2014 the £500m scale of transactions in the investment sector is described by


Brian Lavery of CBRE as having exceeded expectations, at three times the value of 2013. This took place alongside loan sales of nearly £1.7bn. The loan sales were partly a consequence of the NAMA portfolio being sold to Cerberus.

The CBRE forecasts are particularly interesting in relation to retail space. The increasing proportion of retailing undertaken online sometimes with a click and collect dimension is expected to significantly shift the location of retailing activity and space.

Some of these were ‘once only’ transactions. Now in 2015 business trends will not be subject to the same level of distortion.

The implications of this trend are not yet clear. However, what is still evolving is the speed of the change in retailing habits and the locational consequences.

CBRE have forecast a healthier market place in 2015. Property rents, retail and office, are poised to improve. The expectation is that, in particular, good quality office space will be in short supply. That assessment might be partly challenged if the Northern Ireland Executive successfully and speedily reduces the number of public servants (as has been planned) and, in turn, this releases some surplus Government tenancies.

One final note of encouragement for the tourist industry: CBRE have predicted a buoyant year for the hotel and leisure sector. The evidence shows the strength of performance of hotels, particularly in the Belfast region. New hotel investors have been offered an encouraging prospectus. Most of the property millionaires have survived to reposition their investment plans. Shaken, possibly, but still there.



Closing the deal – the insurance solution to M&A By Andrew Stevenson, Managing Partner, Caulfield Corporate

which stems from a breach of warranties and claims under the tax covenant in a sale and purchase agreement (SPA). These policies can be purchased by either the buyer or the seller dependent upon where the liability rests in the underlying transaction. In the main, they are used to help facilitate deals, remove obstacles to transactions being completed or unlock funds otherwise reserved against potential liabilities.

Andrew Stevenson


t Caulfield Corporate we are continually discussing new and emerging areas of insurances which will be of benefit to our clients. One of these relatively new products has been developed in the merger & acquisition (M&A) insurance market which has matured in the last few years. The use of insurance is becoming increasingly strategic in this area. It is now factored into the structure of M&A deals from the outset, often improving the underlying terms achievable. M&A insurance is able to respond to a number of unique exposures and potential liabilities which arise during merger & acquisition transactions. Situations where M&A insurance can be of benefit: • All deals with institutional sellers (private equity/venture capital/financial institutions)


• Bank-led disposals and group wind-ups • Sales of non-core assets or businesses • Financially distressed sellers or liquidator sales • Large real estate transactions • Private company sales – cash-outs and retirement of business owners • Competitive auctions or regulator controlled auctions. We feel this insurance solution is underutilised and we want to highlight the benefits of M&A insurance products which are written to protect against liabilities that fall into two main classifications; unknown risks and known risks.

(i) Protection against unknown risk exposures Our Warranty & Indemnity (W&I) insurance offering is the most widely used solution in this arena and is designed to cater for unexpected loss suffered post completion

Buyer’s warranty and indemnity (W&I) insurance can replace a seller’s financial obligation to back statements made in the sale agreement. Most commonly a buyer-side policy is arranged (paid for by the seller) to act as the buyer’s sole financial recourse in the event of a warranty claim. The seller can achieve an elevated price by giving warranties, without the long-tail exposure to claims or the inefficient tie-up of capital in escrow.

(ii) Protection against known risk exposures Where a specific matter has been identified and scoped during a buyer’s diligence process, insurance can be used to take that long term potential liability off the table. Most commonly these policies cater for tax or litigation matters, ring-fencing and/or transferring certain tax or potential litigation liabilities. As your insurance advisor, Caulfield Corporate, will continue to highlight the availability of innovative insurance products to best meet clients’ needs and exposures to risk. We would encourage anyone involved in the M&A process to speak to us about what we would consider to be a prudent solution in any merger and acquisition process.


2015 shapes up to be an interesting year... Andrew Dolliver, Restructuring Director and Jonathan Forde, Corporate Finance Director at EY Northern Ireland, look at what’s in store for the Restructuring and Mergers and Acquisitions market for 2015.

Andrew Dolliver


he banking sector in Ireland experienced some progress in 2014, particularly with efforts to deleverage their balance sheets and prepare for an upturn in the business cycle. The key focus for 2015 will be to grow new lending while resolving the remaining legacy issues. This can only be seen as a positive for the Northern Irish economy as a whole. The deleveraging process of Northern Irish banks has predominantly been driven by the disposal of loan book portfolios and distressed asset portfolio sales. The most prominent deal of the main banks was Ulster Bank’s ‘Project Aran’ with a loan sale which include a reported £1.2bn of debt secured on Northern Irish assets. This followed the sale of NAMA’s £4.4bn of Northern Irish based debts earlier in 2014. Further debt and asset sales are expected from several of the Northern Irish banks in 2015. While these loan sales have had a favourable impact on banks’ balance sheets it has not rectified the underlying debt issues for borrowers themselves. The need to restructure underlying debts remains an issue for many borrowers, none more so than the SME sector and private property investor.

Alternative Credit Provider 2015, we expect to see borrowers continuing to secure debt right sizing and informal settlement arrangements; however this may now be with an Alternative Credit Provider (ACP’s) who has acquired the debt as opposed to the traditional banker.



We are already seeing increased levels of activity in this space. Successful resizing and refinances are those that strike a balance, in that they provide a workable and sustainable level of debt for the borrower, in addition to a satisfactory level of return for the secured debt holder. Such proposals must illustrate that the borrower is providing best value to the current debt holder. In structuring proposals for consideration, the perception that the hurdle rate for these resizing and refinance deals is marginally in excess of the debt acquisition price is nothing more than an urban myth. Borrowers should bear in mind that debt acquirers have equal rights under the mortgage as the original debt provider. In considering alternative options ACP’s explore various options available to them in obtaining value for their investors. Such options include: • consensual restructuring; • disposal of assets; • opting to appoint Receivers to dispose of assets, or • holding assets for a period and improving the value. Therefore 2015, we anticipate, where debts cannot be right sized or agreements cannot be reached those who have acquired secured debts will have the option to pursue insolvency processes consensually or otherwise. The good news for companies that have shown real business resilience throughout the recession, but perhaps remain over burdened with debts (typically a hangover of legacy property debt), there is fresh capital waiting in the wings to invest. As these companies enact restructurings and resizing of debt to sustainable levels it opens up further M&A activity in 2015 and not just property.

Expect increasing deal flow in 2015 2014 saw increasing confidence in the M&A market in Northern Ireland. We would expect to see deal flow increase further in 2015, with drivers including: Availability of capital 2014 saw increased activity in private equity funds and we expect this trend to continue


Jonathan Forde

in 2015. Capital rich private equity funds hungry for opportunities, coupled with interest rates remaining at historic lows should drive increased activity in 2015. Acquisitive corporates Capital rich corporates have a more confident outlook and are expected to continue to pursue overdue strategic acquisitions. This is expected to include interest in Northern Irish businesses from overseas corporates, continuing the strong appetite for high quality Northern Irish businesses that occurred during 2014. Increasing assets ‘for sale’ The volume of assets being sold by funds (previously sold by the banks) should increase in 2015. Whilst many of these assets will be property related, an increasing number will be trading businesses. Alignment of valuations The continuing alignment of assessment of value between buyers and sellers will increase the likelihood of deals being done in 2015. Certain Sectors likely to lead the way in deal activity, but resurgent owner

managed businesses expected to contribute Sectors such as technology, the food and agriculture sectors, pharmaceuticals/life sciences and the energy/renewables are likely to be key drivers of deal flow. We also believe the current market environment offers opportunities for owner managed businesses to sell or seek external investment as capital and confidence returns to the market. We see the key drivers of this activity to be tuck-in acquisitions, enhancement of new products to enter new revenue growth areas, expanding technology platforms and expansion of customer base.

A note of caution Though levels of deal activity and necessary restructuring of legacy debts are expected to increase, 2015 is unlikely to be without turbulence. Public sector spending cuts, UK elections, continuing uncertainty around the European economy and currency union, escalating geopolitical tensions and volatile commodity prices are just some of the factors that could which present turbulence to Northern Irish businesses. But Northern Ireland is well position to take advantage of the opportunities that present, particularly as we move to a lower corporate tax rate.


Spa delight The Hilton Hotel, Templepatrick, situated a mere 20 minute drive from Belfast, recently revealed new facilities at their Livingwell Health Club offering residents and visitors the chance to escape the stress of work. Sonia Armstrong and Sylvie Brando checked it out… Sonia On a recent visit to try out their new facilities, myself and my colleague were shown around the newly refurbished and refreshed facilities at the club – the new 988 sqm gym with state-of-the-art PRECOR fitness equipment, indoor heated 18m pool with sauna and steam room. What grabbed our attention, however, was the spa treatment rooms offering a luxurious experience ‘to leave you looking as good as you feel’ – well, that was the promise. We decided to put it to the test. There were two different types of treatments recommended to us: one for pure blissful relaxation and the other focusing on more relief to the skin and body. My treatment – the latter – did just that. The package included the Comfort Touch Back massage which focused on relieving muscle tension and stress whilst resting mind, body and soul.


My therapist attentively incorporated all requests from the consultation from working on the areas needing particular attention to the right pressure applied whilst maintaining a balance of peaceful silence (a no talking policy!) in perfect spa surroundings. The after effects were amazing – de-knotted, relaxed and strangely supple! The massage was followed by a Repair and Protect facial which was an antioxidant vitamin enriched facial with the aim to revive dull tired complexions whilst using an anti-oxidant action lycopene to repair and protect the skin. Despite my apprehension of having a treatment carried out on what was already sensitive skin, I was pleasantly surprised with the immediate results – glowing, cleansed and moisturised skin. I would

imagine this is down to the newly introduced Italian luxury skin range ‘Comfort Zone’ which I would highly recommend.

Sylvie My treatment was the Tranquility Face & Body Ritual. Preceding all body rituals the Livingwell Spa offers a ‘Hilton Welcome’ which is a foot cleansing treatment to help ease you into a state of calmness in preparation for the actual journey to tranquility to begin. The treatment was 100% effective – especially after arriving totally frazzled after a morning of copy chasing and the usual greater Belfast traffic congestion. Feeling more at peace I also opted for the ‘no talking policy’, so I could really indulge in the qualities of this exceptional ritual. The scent of the Tranquillity product range is amazing – a blend of vanilla, orange and rose, quite unique in comparison to many spa skin products which mostly seem to have the same underlying ‘mineral’ notes. Again, with my treatment the balance of applying enough pressure to feel the effectiveness of the massage yet being gentle enough to offer complete relaxation was perfect. The combination of products and the therapist’s expertise left my skin exceptionally silky whilst stimulating a deep sense of well-being. The facial brought my dull tired and stressed skin back to life again and the head massage included in this ritual cleared the tension headache that I had been enduring for the best part of two weeks. Of course, any spa treatment will alleviate tension and make you feel more relaxed and rejuvenated, but this ritual made me feel like I had been scooped up from the big bad world, cocooned and transformed and gently released back to reality. Take the journey! It’s amazing.

Day Spa Package Comfort & Harmony – £49. Your spa day includes access to The Health Club and Spa and a light lunch for one, as well as one of the following 45 minute treatments, Comfort Touch Back Massage, Repair & Protect Facial, Spa Day Pedicure or Spa Day Manicure. The hotel also offers corporate meetings/ unique team building packages which incorporate spa treatments. For further information contact






With Mike Irvine, founder of Cordovan Capital

The column which doesn’t have time for lunch


arrying out an interview over breakfast takes a little dexterity on the part of the interviewee.

Improper demarcation of interview against eating time by the interviewer can lead to a difficult period of multitasking as the subject attempts to wax lyrical about his or her business while also taking on board enough sustenance to see them through to lunch. The risk of being left with egg on the face is high. It’s not a problem for Mike Irvine, a man who can handle his Fermanagh sausage bap while being bombarded with questions by the editor who, incidentally, is making sure he has time to wolf down a fine eggs benedict and flat white in between scribblings. Mike founded Cordovan Capital three years ago following a career which included corporate finance at KPMG before heading up the Northern Ireland arm of wealth and asset manager Davy.

they’ve managed to complete 10 deals in that time and raised £15m, a big achievement given the bulk has been for businesses at the pre-revenue stage.

pay to match or undercut the 12.5% rate in the Republic should see overseas buyers emerge as they look to get a foothold here, according to Mike.

Notches on the deal post include raising £1.1m for, a Portadownbased website which lets garages bid for your car’s servicing and repair work, as well as raising finance for Aquis Exchange, a new European equities trading exchange.

And as he was ruminating on the last of his sausage bap, Mike predicted strong growth in rental value for that most elusive of beasts in Northern Ireland, grade A office space, something which will be music to the ears of the other movers and shakers who frequent this eatery on a daily basis. With that it’s time to wrap up as the deal maker moves seamlessly to his second meeting of the day and the editor wipes yolk from his chin.

While fund raising has been a big part of the business so far, Mike said he expects M&A in Northern Ireland to become much more prevalent for the business in the coming months. “There’s a huge amount of pent up demand which has built up over the last few years. The downturn meant a lot of deals were sidelined but now that both confidence and finance have come back, there’s a lot of work to be done.

Mike explains Cordovan’s business as focused on equity fund raising, debt advisory and “conventional” M&A (mergers and acquisitions).

“Coupled with that the early stage market is likely to be much more vibrant with organisations like Halo, Kernel Capital, Crescent Capital, Clarendon, techstartNI etc bringing more equity to the Northern Ireland market than there has ever been before.”

That might not sound like a unique offering but the list of deals under the company’s belt since its inception pay testament to the effectiveness of Mike and fellow director Brian Loughran’s approach.

The other factor which bodes well for the M&A market, and for the wider economy in Northern Ireland, is the impending devolution of corporation tax-setting powers to Stormont.

In the equity fundraising space alone

A drop in the level of tax businesses here


Breakfast hit the spot and it’s clear Cordovan Capital is also in the right spot to take advantage of a Northern Ireland economy on the up.

Deanes Deli Vin Café, Howard Street, Belfast 2 Flat White 5.00 1 Americano 2.10 1 Eggs Benedict 6.50 1 Sausage Sandwich 4.50 Subtotal 18.10 10% tip 1.81 Total £19.91

David Elliott

Flags, firebombs & flashbacks

Executive Motoring

By Pat Burns

Sponsored by



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Safety First for Discovery Sport


ubbed the world’s most versatile and capable premium compact SUV, the Discovery Sport, the replacement for the Freelander, is the first of the new Discovery family. It features 5+2 seating in a footprint no larger than existing 5-seat premium SUVs. The Discovery Sport has been awarded the maximum five star safety rating from Euro NCAP. It has a number of cutting-edge safety features, such as an all-new pedestrian airbag which is a first in the small-SUV segment. This feature deploys from the upper-rear surface of the bonnet within 60 milliseconds upon detection of a pedestrian impact to reduce the risk of serious pedestrian injury. Another first for Land Rover is the Autonomous Emergency Braking system, which uses a digital stereo camera mounted next to the rear view mirror to detect objects that could pose a collision threat, delivering visual and audible warnings and automatically applying the brakes if a collision is imminent. The Discovery Sport also features a full suite of active and passive safety systems, including Dynamic Stability Control, Electronic Traction Control, Roll Stability Control, Anti-lock Braking Systems, Reverse Traffic Detection, Emergency Brake Lights, Lane Departure Warning and Seatbelt Reminders. The efficient and refined SD4 turbodiesel engine will be available featuring stop-start technology, high-pressure direct injection and smart regenerative charging for outstanding performance and economy. The SD4 2.2-litre turbodiesel produces 190PS and produces 420Nm of torque, drivers can count on exceptional fuel efficiency of up to 46mpg (combined) (four wheel drive manual) as well as good overtaking ability. Later in 2015, the highly efficient eD4 turbodiesel engine debuts in a two wheel drive format, with CO2 emissions of just 119g/km and prices starting from under £30,000. Discovery Sport also has a comprehensive occupant safety package including driver and passenger airbags, driver knee airbag, and side curtain and thorax airbags.




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Get a grip with 2008


he lengthy snowy and frosty spell at the end of January was an ideal test for the Peugeot 2008, now with Grip Control. This urban crossover now offers the driver the capability to select the amount of grip required whether the vehicle is being driven on snow, sand or off road. This system, patented by the PSA Group, optimises traction in conditions of poor grip. It combines with the 165mm ground clearance an advanced traction control system and ‘Mud&Snow’ tyres, fitted on wheel rims of distinctive style combining a diamond cut and a matt finish. Versatile and flexible, Grip Control adapts to the terrain encountered by acting on the front wheels with the driver always in control. Indeed, they can decide at any time to select from Standard mode using the dial located on the centre console, for: Snow, Off-Road, Sand or ESP Off conditions.

can move off in these particular conditions by transferring as much torque as possible to the gripping wheel. Acting as a limited slip differential, it is particularly suited to tracks and is active up to 50mph. The Sand mode maintains skidding on the two driving wheels simultaneously to allow the vehicle to move on unstable ground and limit the risk of getting stuck in the sand. The mode operates up to 75mph then switches to Standard mode. The range of engines available in 2008 include Stop&Start on the petrol engines, Diesel e-HDi engines and new generation 3-cylinder petrol engines. Prices for the 2008 range start at £13,195.

It acts regardless of the type of terrain encountered on the front wheels. In total, five modes are available: The Standard mode is intended for normal road conditions and a low level of skidding. The Snow mode instantly adapts the skidding of each of the driving wheels to the conditions of grip encountered. As soon as the vehicle speed reaches 30mph, the system switches to Standard mode. The All-Terrain mode allows you to drive with complete peace of mind on slippery ground (mud, wet grass...). It ensures that the vehicle

Whole lot more Polo 110 PS and a 1.4-litre TSI engine with cylinder deactivation (ACT), with power increased by 10 PS to 150 PS. Diesel options are two new three-cylinder 1.4-litre TDI engines, with 75 and 90 PS. As well as ESC electronic stability control, all new Polos are equipped with Hill Hold and – a first in this class – an Automatic Post-Collision Braking System which brakes the vehicle after a collision to reduce kinetic energy significantly, thereby minimising the chance or consequences of a second impact.


he Volkswagen Polo has been around for 40 years and the latest version offers new engines and almost as much space and comfort as the Golf.

The Polo now features a range of new EU6-compliant engines offering fuel efficiency improvements of up to 26 per cent over the old units. Petrol options are two three-cylinder 1.0-litre MPI units with 60 or 75 PS; two 1.2-litre four-cylinder TSI engines with 90 or


The Polo range starts with the S. The S includes features such as a height-adjustable driver’s seat, cup holders, and stylish ‘gloss black’ interior highlights. The S A/C model adds manual air conditioning. The top of the range Polo at the moment is the powerful yet parsimonious BlueGT model, which comes with a 1.4-litre TSI 150 PS engine with ACT cylinder deactivation. The BlueGT rides on 17-inch ‘Montani’ alloy wheels and 15mm lower sport suspension. Inside there are sports seats trimmed in ‘BlueSpeed’ cloth with Alcantara bolsters and a black roof lining. An XDS electronic differential lock for improved traction and handling is standard, as is cruise control and a Driver Alert System. A Polo GTI will arrive in the spring and prices start from £11,250.



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New Corsa sets the small car standard The new Corsa is available in nine trim levels, down from ten previously: The range has also been vastly simplified with half as many models as before. Improved residual values that are predicted to rise by in excess of £1,000 over three years/60,000 miles make the new Corsa a more appealing package.


he new Vauxhall Corsa has set the standard for small cars. With a new turbocharged petrol engine, eyecatching styling, roomy interior and excellent fuel economy, the new Corsa is the car to beat in its class. Prices start from just £8,995 on-the-road, as list prices have been cut by £3,000 compared to the outgoing model, despite a huge leap in quality and equipment levels across a more simplified range. Still one the UK’s top-selling and bestloved cars, the current model continues to garner affection from its owners thanks to its combination of compact exterior dimensions and clever use of cabin space – major considerations when the new car was conceived. Almost every element of the Corsa’s cabin is completely new, including a completely re-designed instrument panel and dashboard, and greatly improved levels of functionality, highlighted by Vauxhall’s


sophisticated IntelliLink system – its first use in a high-volume application. As a result, the new, fourth-generation Corsa is near-identical in length to the current model and retains its enviable spacious interior. But almost every other element of its design and engineering has changed, significantly improving the car’s driveability, efficiency, connectivity and overall ownership experience. All of the car’s body panels are new, and provide greater definition between the ‘sporty’ look of the three-door and the ‘premium’ five-door models. The 2015 Corsa, available now in both 3 and 5 door versions, offers excellent valuefor-money against the current model. The new 1.0-litre Ecotec (115PS) engine is available from just £10,995 in Sting R trim. This brand new three-cylinder Vauxhall powertrain features good performance, achieving 0-62mph in 10.4 seconds, and superior low-end torque, with 170Nm generated at 1,800rpm.

One of the highlights of the Corsa’s engine line-up is the 1.0-litre, 3-cylinder Ecotec Direct Injection Turbo petrol. Meeting the latest stringent Euro 6 emissions regulations, the Ecotec will be available with either 90PS or 115PS outputs, each of which achieves 170Nm of torque from just 1,800rpm. This is particularly evident during acceleration from 50mph to 75pm, an important speed range for overtaking, when this compact powerhouse belies its size by delivering strong power from low rpm. The Corsa with 115PS makes this transition in just 10.4 seconds. This new Direct Injection Turbo is fitted with Start/Stop technology as standard also boasts excellent economy: the 90PS three-door version consumes just 54.7mpg on the combined cycle. There are also Euro 6 compliant 1.2 and 1.4-litre naturally-aspirated units with 70PS and 90PS. In addition, completely revised, more refined and now also Euro 6 compliant 1.3 CDTi engines with 75PS and 95PS expand the Corsa offer on the diesel side. Newgeneration turbo chargers ensure smooth driving and acceleration at low engine speeds with minimal noise generation. Both versions come with fuel-saving Start/ Stop technology fitted as standard. The most frugal Corsa diesel version – with 95PS, 5-speed manual transmission and braking energy recuperation system – can reduce the three-door model‘s CO2 emissions down to 85g/km and fuel consumption down to 87.8mpg in the combined cycle.




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Nothing prickly about this Cactus capsules protect against minor bumps and scrapes. Airbump panels require no specific maintenance and reduce the stress and expense associated with car park dings and dents – cutting service and repair costs over the lifetime of the car. The simplified dashboard creates more space for the front passenger and there are wide front seats that capture the style of a sofa. On ETG (Efficient Tronic Gearbox) versions, the gear selector is replaced by the neat ‘Easy Push’ system with ‘Drive, Neutral and Reverse’ push-button control, which makes room for a bench-style front seat layout.


he new Citroën C4 Cactus is a bold response to the changing needs of today’s car owners, offering a real alternative to the traditional compact hatchback, with a fresh and distinctive approach. Visually striking, the Cactus stands out in the competitive C segment with its concept car looks, crossover styling cues and a broad range of customisation options. The C4 Cactus is available with three high specification trim levels – Touch, Feel and Flair – with prices starting from £12,990 for the petrol PureTech 75 manual Touch, rising to £18,190 for the ETG6 equipped e-HDi 92 Flair. The C4 Cactus sits at a market sector crossroads, offering an alternative to a conventional C segment hatchback; more space than a B segment crossover; and a downsizing opportunity from larger C segment crossovers. Typical C segment hatchback buyers look for attractive styling, reliability, functionality and value-for-money. A variety of needs must be satisfied, rather


than one dominating factor. In contrast, B and C segment crossover customers place greater emphasis on distinctive styling, a sense of fun, personality and innovation. The interior is de-cluttered and minimalist, with clean lines and design nods to the theme of travel. The door handles are inspired by leather luggage straps and the lid of the Top-Box dashboard storage compartment has its own luggage-inspired design. The uniquely shaped large panoramic sunroof features a state-of-the-art coating, equivalent to category-4 sunglasses, to filter UV light and reflect heat. Eliminating the need for an additional sunblind, the design maintains headroom, fills the cabin with diffused light and saves weight (6kg) compared to an equivalent car with a powered sunshade. Unique to the Cactus and an instantly recognisable feature of the model, Citroën’s new Airbump technology neatly sums up the fundamental purpose of design, providing an innovative solution to everyday problems, in a stylish and practical way. Fitted to the front and rear doors, the tough air-filled TPU (thermoplastic polyurethane)

The C4 Cactus shares the same platform as the DS 3 and makes extensive use of the latest weight-saving materials, manufacturing processes and efficient design codes. The bonnet is aluminium, there are pop-out rear windows and a single-piece folding rear bench. Weighing from just 965kg, the model is 200kg lighter than an equivalent Citroën C4. As a result, Citroën has been able to adopt smaller engines to improve efficiency, without compromising driveability. Combined with ultra-low rolling resistance tyres, the latest-generation PureTech petrol and BlueHDi diesel engines offer a responsive drive whilst delivering impressive combined fuel economy figures of up to 91.1mpg and CO2 emissions from just 82g/km. The New Citroën C4 Cactus is offered with six efficient powertrains, four petrol – PureTech 75, PureTech 82, PureTech 82 S&S & PureTech 110 S&S – and two HDi diesels – e-HDi 92 & BlueHDi 100. All diesel models are sub-100g/km of CO2 and are eligible for free VED. There is even a VED-exempt petrol version – the PureTech 82 S&S ETG – which emits just 98g/km.

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bistro classics with locally inspired cooking, creates a very memorable dining experience. As a business destination, Malmaison Belfast also offers two stylish meeting rooms with wow-factor as standard. Your meeting or private event should be pure theatre with absolutely no dramas. Our team are dedicated to providing amazing hospitality and putting the show back into your business. For more information or to make an enquiry, please call Julie Lynch on 028 9022 0204 or email:

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Damien McCrory has been appointed National Accounts Manager for Foodservice with Portadown-based dried fruit and nut company Kestrel Foods. Kestrel Foods has appointed David Jones as Graduate Technical Assistant through the UK-wide Knowledge Transfer Partnership (KTP) scheme. Aodhan O’Donnell has been appointed to the Northern Ireland Food Advisory Committee. He is acting Chief Executive of the Consumer Council in Northern Ireland.

Phelim O’Neill has been appointed to the Northern Ireland Food Advisory Committee. He is the Chief Executive of the NI Meat Exporters Association (NIMEA), the trade association which represents the major meat processing companies here. Colin Mathewson has been appointed Senior Director of Retail at CBRE. He will be responsible for development and leasing of major shopping centres and retail parks across Northern Ireland. Robert Ditty has joined CBRE as Senior Director of Agency/Capital Markets. He specialises in strategic property investment advice.

Andrew Coggins has joined CBRE as Director of Capital Markets. He specialises in property acquisitions, disposals, funding and investment strategies for a varied client base. Joel Callaghan has joined CBRE as Consultant on Capital Advisory Services. Joel will focus on the provision of debt and structured finance to clients throughout Northern Ireland. Symon Ross has been appointed Head of Corporate PR at MCE Public Relations. Prior to joining MCE he worked for BBC NI, Ulster Business magazine, The Belfast Telegraph and Dow Jones Newswires.



Dr Stewart McWilliams has joined Almac Diagnostics as VP Quality and Regulatory Affairs. Stewart has full responsibility for regulatory compliance of diagnostic tests. Laura Montgomery has joined Almac as Senior Market Insight Director. Laura is responsible for developing, delivering and communicating market research. Martin Wiles has joined Almac Discovery as Vice President of Business Development and Licensing. Based in Almac’s Discovery business unit, Martin is responsible for all commercial activities.

Helen McKeever has joined Almac Discovery as Project Management Director. Helen is responsible for the project leadership of small molecule and peptide projects. Willowbrook Foods has appointed Beansprouts Sales Manager Ewan Zhu. Ewan will be responsible for promoting Willowbrook Foods stir-fry range as well as developing new customers. Vodafone UK have appointed Clare Hillis as Head of Business for Northern Ireland. Clare will have responsibility for supporting Vodafone’s existing business customers as well as growing new business.

Andrew McCormick has been appointed Sales Director by Traction Finance. He has extensive management experience in both Manufacturing and Motor Industry. Karl Wilkinson has been appointed Franchisee Consultant at McDonald’s Restaurants. He will be responsible for managing a number of restaurants. Shauna McNeilly has been appointed as European Engagement Officer of Creative Europe Desk UK – NI, based at the Arts Council of NI. A Theatre Studies graduate of the University of Ulster, she has 14 years’ experience of working in arts and events.



PHOTOCALL 1. BDO Northern Ireland has awarded exclusive access to their student mentoring programme to the top three first and second-year financial accounting students at Queen’s University Belfast. Pictured are Conor Black, Matthew Blair and Emma Marie Kieran, Hayley Booth, Sophie Louise Mahon and Michael Murphy.

2. A new free app which could help save the lives of those with brain injuries has been launched at Stormont by Health Minister Jim Wells (right), Angela Thompson, Executive Director of Reconnect, and Gareth Tolerton, Chief Technical Officer of TotalMobile.




3. Chris Caldwell, President of Concentrix Corporation, is pictured at Belfast’s Ulster Museum with Ann McGregor, Chief Executive of NI Chamber and Andy Mills, Regional Director for Business Banking NI at Ulster Bank.

4. Encouraging Tesco customers to ‘Enjoy A Northern Irish Breakfast’ are (from left) Stefan Szymura from Irwin’s Bakery in Portadown, Tesco’s Joe O’Hagan, Jill Crawford of Portaferrybased granola maker Just Live A Little and Harold Richmond from Dungannon company Skea Eggs.

5. Two young solicitors from leading Belfast law firm Cleaver Fulton Rankin have been elected to top positions in the Northern Ireland Young Solicitors’ Association. Timothy Rankin is pictured left with Julie-Ann McCaffrey elected as Vice-Chair.






6. Peter Corry celebrates with Cancer Fund for Children after raising £1,787.05 at one of his performances of The Music Box. Pictured with Peter (centre) is (from left) Cancer Fund for Children fundraiser, Matt Allen with Justin Hayes and Kevin Hammett from Henderson Wholesale.

7. World Champion boxer and Belfast-born local hero Carl Frampton was welcomed to the Charles Hurst Jeep showroom on Belfast’s Boucher Road recently to begin his tenure as official brand ambassador for the marque. He’s pictured left with John Brankin, Franchise Director of the Jeep dealership at Charles Hurst.


8. Kerr’s Tyres has signed a threeyear deal with Hannon Transport to supply, fit and maintain all tyres for the company’s fleet. Pictured (left to right): Norman Kerr, Managing Director, Kerr’s Tyres and Aodh Hannon, Managing Director, Hannon Transport.




9. A scheme created to unlock Portadown and Lurgan’s retail potential has been extended after a successful year. Pictured is Dwaine Smyth from The Elk & Clipper barbershop in Portadown with Cllr Mark Baxter from Craigavon Borough Council, which is supporting the business.

10. Ciara Toner, from H&J Martin Integrated Services, has won the Association for Project Management NI Award for Ulster University’s Best MSc Dissertation in Construction Business & Project Management. Pictured with Ciara are, from left, President of the Association for Project Management Tom Taylor and APM NI Branch Chairman, Gerry Coghlan.


PHOTOCALL 11. Rainbow Communications has become a certified partner of TomTom Telematics. Pictured at the announcement are Stuart Carson, Director of Sales and Marketing for Rainbow Communications and Philip Bailie, Regional Manager Ireland of TomTom Telematics.

12. A new workshop and mentoring programme has been launched by Minister Arlene Foster MLA to help businesses across the north east region to grow and promote their businesses online. At the launch are, from left: Councillor Martin Wilson; Minister Arlene Foster; James Hanna; Moira Loughran.


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13. Michael McDonnell, CEO at Helm Housing Association and Bill Cherry, Managing Director, Fusion Heating, marking the award of a major gas boiler maintenance contract for the Housing Association, with new apprentice Damian Murphy.


14. Jarlath Magee of HMT Shipping with Girvan Gault and Danny McGivern of Ulster Bank at HMT’s Warrenpoint. The £2million investment will increase the firm’s workforce to 120.

15. Measuring up to the challenge of designing an airline seat to suit ‘Pilot Barbie’ at B/E Aerospace’s recent ‘Inspire to Work’ event are Connor Phillips (back) presented the top prize to the team made up of (from left) Jordan Salt from Lurgan College, Piera Cafolla from Sacred Heart Grammar School in Newry and Mark McElhinney from St Pius X College in Magherafelt.





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16. Chief Officers 3rd Sector (CO3) has announced the nominations of its Leadership Awards 2015.Pictured as the nominations are revealed are Sarah Quinlan, CEO, Children’s Heartbeat Trust (left) and Liam Turner, 17, campaigner.

17. John Farrand, MD of the Guild of Fine Food (second from left), the organiser of the Great Taste Awards visited Craigavon last month. Pictured with Mr Farrand are (from left) Nicola Wilson, Head of Economic Development, Craigavon Borough Council, Colin Ferguson of Avondale Foods, and Michelle Shirlow of Food NI. The event was co-ordinated by Craigavon Borough Council in conjunction with Food NI.

18. Local businessman Colin Walsh is pictured with his Distinguished Graduate Award from Ulster University. Sponsored by First Trust Bank, the award recognises Colin’s outstanding contribution to business and the local economy.

19. Irish dancers Shannon Bradley and Casey McLeod join Director Gavin Doherty to officially launched The Doherty Petri School of Irish Dance and Eire Designs new state of the art premises in Boucher Way, Belfast.

19 FEBRUARY 2015


20. Measuring up - Lorraine Milne, Westfield Health; Deborah McConnell, Business in the Community and Dr Eddie Rooney, Public Health Agency enrol 30 businesses to help their employees to lose weight through a ‘£ for lb 12 week weight loss challenge’.



Canapés and cocktails The cream of the last month’s business events.

BDO Business Briefing BDO Managing Partner Peter Burnside (right) and Senior Partner Nigel Harra welcome Finance Minister Simon Hamilton to a business briefing meeting in Belfast. The Minister met with a number of key business leaders, entrepreneurs, and senior BDO staff and discussed issues impacting the economy including corporation tax, VAT rates and prospect for economic growth.

UUBS 40th Anniversary 2015 marks the 40th anniversary of the first business graduates from Ulster University’s Business School. Pictured, from left, with Dean Marie McHugh, are some of the School’s distinguished alumni; Simon Hunter (Hunter Apparel Solutions), Jeremy Fitch (Invest NI), Colin Walsh (CBI), Gerry Mallon (Danske Bank), Jamie Delargy (UTV) and Julie Hastings (Hastings Hotels).

INI Propel Programme Awards Pale Blue Dot Pale Blue Dot, a creative agency based in Belfast, has scooped gold at a glittering ceremony in Las Vegas which celebrates the best in political campaign techniques from around the world. Pictured are Andrea Mills, Account Director, Jaime Steele, Managing Director and Andi McCarroll, Creative Director with the award.


Northern Ireland start up Inflyte, a digital platform that allows record labels, pluggers, PR companies and publishers to send music directly to industry ‘taste makers’, has been named Company of the Year at Invest Northern Ireland’s Propel Programme awards. Inflyte, founded by Belfast entrepreneur Paul Hamill and business partner Paul McConnon, was one of 25 local start-ups accepted onto the 2013/14 Propel programme, which is aimed at developing export focused business ideas with high growth potential.


UK Letting Agency of the Year Awards Bangor-based Estate Agency Pinkertons has picked up the Silver Award for Northern Ireland Estate Agency of the Year 2014 at the UK Estate Agency of the Year Awards in association with the Sunday Times and The Times. The award accompanies the two awards scooped in June 2014 at the UK Letting Agency of The Year Awards again in association with the Sunday Times and The Times. Victoria Pinkerton, centre, receives the award from, UKs leading female entrepreneur and founder of Ultimo, Michelle Mone OBE and Gary Towns from Zoopla Property Group at the Lancaster Hotel London in December.

Enterprise Nation Awards A Northern Ireland startup entrepreneur has been named as one the UK’s top 50 business advisers. Stephen Houston was picked from hundreds of mentors from around the UK for his work with early stage companies at the Northern Ireland Science Park. The awards are run by the small business network Enterprise Nation, which asked fledgling companies to nominate an adviser who has helped them to build and grow a sustainable business. Stephen was named as the Halo ‘Business Angel of the Year’ in 2013 and is Executive Chairman and CEO at QuizFortune.

NI Food & Drink Awards The Northern Ireland Food & Drink Association (NIFDA) is calling on the great and good in food to enter the 13th NI Food and Drink Awards, sponsored by Ulster Bank. The awards, held biannually, are one of the highlights of Northern Ireland’s food and drink calendar, attracting entries across ten categories including Best New Product, Training Excellence and Best Local Food and Drink Event. Pictured (L-R) Kenton Hilman, Head of Corporate & Institutional Banking NI at Ulster Bank and Michael Bell, Executive Director of NIFDA.

Centre for Competitive Awards Gary Maxwell, general manager at Moy Park Craigavon, collects the EFQM Ireland Excellence Award from award sponsors Ian Jordan, left, of Ulster Bank and Stephen Dalton, right, of Capita at the Centre for Competitiveness-organised event today at the Clandeboye Lodge Hotel, Bangor today. Dozens of organisations from across the island of Ireland gathered for the culmination of CforC’s prestigious award’s process. Three organisations, two of them from Northern Ireland, collected the top accolade – the other two were Triangle Housing Association and the Crowne Plaza Northwood in Dublin.




The Tech Lowdown By Adam Maguire

Ultimate Ears MegaBoom


o common are Bluetooth speakers now, you could probably pick one up in your local supermarket with your spare change – but the Ultimate Ears MegaBoom makes a good case for paying that bit extra.

The Ultimate Ears MegaBoom doesn’t exactly look like an impressive piece of audio technology – if anything it looks more like a kid’s colourful pencil case. Wirelessly hook up your smartphone or tablet – an easily achieved feat – and your opinion will quickly start to change. Despite its small scale and playful design, the MegaBoom packs in some seriously room-filling sound, giving it the potential to replace any living room’s mid-level stereo system. If you want, you can also link it to a second speaker – including the company’s smaller Boom device – to make it a multi-directional experience. Battery life is good too – roughly 20 hours of play time – and it’s waterproof certification makes it shower and rainy-day barbeque-friendly. The UE MegaBoom retails for £250.

Withings Activité Pop


any have tried to crack the burgeoning smartwatch market but no obvious leader has yet emerged – so could Withings’ fusion of old and new turn out to be the right formula?

Some are round, some are square and others are rectangular; but all smartwatches have one thing in common – their bright, digital screen. It has been the assumption of most smartwatch makers that people want a tiny computer on their wrist – with as much information as possible delivered through an interactive display. Withings seems to think differently, though. The Activité Pop features an old-fashioned, analogue watch-face rather than a bright LCD display – with the ‘smart’ bit resting under the hood. A batch of sensors inside monitor activity levels, sleep patterns and even how much you swim – with all of this data going to a smartphone app for analysis. As it isn’t trying to power a small-but-bright LCD, the battery life is better than most smartwatches too – offering you months rather than hours of play time. The Withings Activité Pop costs £120 in the UK.



Windows 10


o put it as generously, Microsoft’s last operating system – Windows 8 – underachieved. Now the company is preparing a successor, which it hopes will mark the comeback of the Seattle giant.

The Start menu is back –now sitting between the Windows XP and Windows 8 design. It will also support ‘Universal’ apps – supposedly allowing developers to make one app for PC, tablet and phone.

Those who have used Windows 8 will know why it failed. Designed to work as well on tablets as it did on PCs it fell between both stools, with an interface that was not always user friendly.

This is a big play for Microsoft – it’s battling to stay relevant in the tablet age where Google and Apple reign. It is also important for its new CEO Satya Nadella, as he tries to put his stamp on the company.

There were also issues with apps, not to mention the controversial ditching of the ‘Start’ button. Microsoft took such a pasting over the software it skipped a whole number with its response. Enter Windows 10.

We’ll know in a few months if that leads to better software for the end user. Windows 10 is likely to be released in mid-to-late 2015.

Amazon Echo


ver wished you could shout out random instructions to a computer that never stops listening? Look no further than the Amazon Echo.

Those in possession of a relatively new smartphone will probably be aware of the digital assistant – like Apple’s Siri or Google’s Now – which are designed to interpret voice commands and offer relevant information.

Say ‘Alexa’ and ask a question, or give it an instruction, and it will attempt to respond accordingly. Some suggestions from Amazon include questions about the weather, requests to add an item to a shopping list or an order to play a piece of music.

The idea behind Amazon Echo is to bring that technology into the home.

The idea is attractive – if a little unnerving – though early reviews suggest the device is not always as responsive as you might like. Maybe that will be resolved before it hits the shelves with a full launch.

Echo is a wireless, web-connected black cylinder that can sit inconspicuously in your house, waiting for instruction.

Amazon’s Echo is currently available through an ‘invitation only’ programme.




Colin Blackburn, Managing Director, Intern Europe. meet people I know from home at the different trade shows we visit across Europe – it happens a lot in our global village. What do you enjoy most about working internationally? Understanding the cultural diversity – I love that. The different food on offer across the world is also enjoyable!

How often do you travel and why? Weekly. I travel across Europe to meet clients and commute between our two offices in Bath and Belfast. Other than your phone, what are the three things you couldn’t do without when travelling for work? Toothbrush, passport and debit card. Have you found a good way to work while you are on the move? For me, it’s to always use a business lounge and try to sleep on plane journeys. What would be your top tips for anyone embarking on a job that involves a lot of travel? Get agreement from your nearest and dearest! When you travel a lot in business, you tend not to be around the family home as much as you or your partner would like, so it’s important to establish an understanding of that from the off. What’s your favourite App for passing the time? FreeCell, which is a simple card game. It’s one of those apps that you can play while coming off the plane – in fact, if you do it well, it’s a three minute game which is enough time to get you through arrivals and down to the car park at Belfast International Airport! Have you ever unexpectedly run into someone you know from home in a far flung destination? I have – in Australia of all places. I was there on business and was told by a friend that an old acquaintance was in town at the same time. I didn’t know they lived Down Under and within a day we’d bumped into each other which was great. I also unexpectedly


What’s your favourite city/country in the world and where has disappointed you? My favourite city is Sao Paulo in Brazil – it’s an amazing place. When it comes to disappointing places, I’d have to say New Orleans. I should mention that when I went to New Orleans, the city was still recovering from the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, but I was staying in a hotel on the sixth floor and the bathroom was infested with cockroaches. It wasn’t my best business trip but it wouldn’t stop me going back one day.

What do you look for in a good hotel? Two things – good Wi-Fi and a decent shower. I can deal with lack of pillows and other things as long as the Wi-Fi is strong and I can have a hot shower. What’s the best airline you’ve flown with and the best hotel you’ve stayed in? The best airline would have to be British Airways, because of its quality, consistency and professionalism. I’ve flown with lots of airlines and some of them are excellent – Etihad is also a great airline but I’ve never been disappointed with BA so I’ll go with them. The favourite hotel in all my years of business travel would have to be Hotel Arts in Barcelona. Its five star quality had a real impact on me. Have you worked out a way to avoid jetlag? Keep working – get back on to your local time as soon as possible and keep going. Do you speak any languages and if so, have they been of use on business trips? I don’t unfortunately. I’ve been incredibly lucky as I’ve gone around the world and got away with my lack of language skill. It really is becoming even more important though and it was the pursuit of understanding language and culture, because they do make a massive difference in the success you can achieve internationally, that got me involved with our internship businesses.


Belfast City Airport goes Gold for the environment

Have kids, will travel


s it possible to holiday with the kids in the school holidays and not break the bank? Online flight booker SkyScanner offers up a few tips to make sure you avoid the peak prices.

Sustainability Director of ARENA Network, Edward Wright, pictured with Belfast City Airport’s Environmental Manager, Laura Duggan.


eorge Best Belfast City Airport has received praise from Business in the Community (BITC) for improving its position in the 2014 ARENA Network Environmental Benchmarking survey to ‘Gold’ level with a score of more than 80%. Recognised as the principle measurement of environmental engagement in Northern Ireland, the survey aims to ensure environmental issues are firmly on the agenda of local businesses and measuring the extent to which these organisations are managing and improving on environmental issues. Environmental Manager at Belfast City Airport Laura Duggan said: “Minimising our impact on and protecting the environment is a key focus here at the airport and whilst the survey is voluntary we have been involved the last number of years to ensure continuous awareness and to foster environmental improvements. We have worked hard engaging with our business partners and suppliers to raise environmental issues and drive environmental performance improvement across the airport site. “This year we rolled out a general environmental awareness training programme for all our employees and have a number of environmental improvement projects underway, including the replacement of the lighting in the terminal to low energy alternatives.” Michelle Hatfield, Director of Corporate Responsibility at the airport, said: “George Best Belfast City Airport recognises the environmental impact airport operations can have and so are fully committed to addressing these impacts through our environmental policy, procedures and initiatives. “Through our programme of sustainable development, we are committed to achieving a balance between the social and economic benefits of the airport’s growth and its environmental impacts. All of us at the airport are delighted to achieve the Gold status and motivated to further improve this in 2015.”


1. Travel in the last weeks of the school summer holidays rather than the first weeks According to our survey, almost half of all the families who take a trip during the school summer holidays do so in the first two weeks of the summer break, but this is in fact the most expensive time to travel. Families who opt to fly to Portugal in the last week of the summer for instance will on average save almost 20% on flights, which is around £175 for a family of four while those heading to USA can save over £1,000 for a family, as flight prices drop by around 30%. 2. Know when to book – on average eight weeks in advance Almost two thirds of families book their trips more than three months in advance of travel, however recent analysis of Skyscanner booking data shows that actually the best time to book flights is in fact eight weeks in advance of travel. This does depend on the destination though so visit our best time to book tool at for further information (or tweet #besttimetobook). 3. Monitor prices Some destinations, such as Italy, don’t follow the same pattern of price hikes at the beginning of the summer with average prices only dropping around £15pp at the end of the summer. For these destinations, the best way of getting a good fare is to keep track of the prices by setting up a price alert with Skyscanner so that you are notified when prices rise or fall on a specific route and can book when you see a good price. 4. Pick peak travel destinations wisely Not surprisingly our survey found that a massive 86% of families feel annoyed that prices rise so much in the summer compared to off peak periods, however our analysis shows that some destinations are more guilty of doing this than others. For instance while flight prices to Spain and Italy rise by around 35-40% (June compared to last week of July), families heading to Turkey in the peak summer are likely to feel far more ripped off as average flight prices rise by a whopping 70% – representing almost £600 more a family of four has to fork out for peak summer flights.



In the hot seat Aimee Beimers, founder of Keen Nut Butter.



Simply put, I’m the luckiest person in the world. I get to do what I love every day – I’ve always been such a supporter of artisan food that it’s incredible to have the opportunity to be a part of the industry in Northern Ireland, especially at a time when we’re getting such recognition from the rest of the world.

People who complain about little things that can be easily solved or who look for the negative in situations. Life is too short for such things.

WHAT TALENT WOULD YOU LIKE TO HAVE? To forever be cool to my children – something I’m failing at already.

WHAT DOES A TYPICAL DAY INVOLVE? Wake up at 4.45am to get caught up on any emails or business from the day before. If I don’t get up at this time, I feel like I’m running to catch up. I’ve got two small children so once they’re up, it’s all about the morning chaos and then, once they’re in school, I’m either off to meetings or cycling over to the factory. Once there, it’s anything from lending a hand with the smooshing of nuts to working with our sales and marketing team to take care of our retailers. Depending on the day, I may leave the factory in the early afternoon to get the children or I may be off running errands or in meetings with Invest NI who have been hugely supportive of Keen. Evenings are spent cooking with the children and then catching up on any final business of the day – reviewing the end-of-shift reports from the factory and ordering any supplies needed.

WHAT HAS BEEN THE HIGHLIGHT OF YOUR CAREER TO DATE? Several highlights off the top of my head... having Ulster Rugby players drive by shouting ‘We love Keen!’ as we dropped off more supplies for them, having a distributor say that we were the ‘most requested brand of the year’, and moving into our new factory last month – a monumental group effort by the entire Keen Team made it happen.



Aimee Beimers

WHAT DO YOU ENJOY MOST ABOUT YOUR JOB? I love seeing people relate to what we’re trying to do – make simple, healthy food that tastes amazing. This could be through a market, where someone is tasting our products for the first time, or it could be having a Keen fan come up from Dublin to visit the factory.

WHAT IS YOUR MOST DIFFICULT TASK? One of the hardest tasks is ensuring that the entire supply chain is running smoothly, and dealing with suppliers running out of raw materials. As a start-up, we can’t always buy in as much bulk as we’d like so we have to rely on fast turnaround – when this doesn’t happen it can have serious knock-on effects for production.

WHAT IS THE BEST ADVICE YOU HAVE EVER RECEIVED? The entire contents of the book The Places You’ll Go by Dr. Seuss is the best advice anyone can ever receive about life.

To develop Keen into a known brand for producing healthier versions of familiar foods and to use the influence of Keen as we grow to inspire people to refocus their diets on simple whole foods. To help with this, we’ve begun work on a Keen cookbook that will hopefully be launched for Christmas 2015. In the next five years, I’d like to be in a position to encourage other food start-ups to go beyond their kitchens – either through the creation of incubation units or developing a support network so that knowledge can be shared amongst small producers.

WHOM DO YOU MOST ADMIRE? My daughter, Charlie (8). She is entirely her own quirky person and isn’t influenced by what others think, yet is also kind, funny and very clever. We could all be a bit more like Charlie.

WHERE IS YOUR FAVOURITE PLACE? The Australian Kimberley region. My husband and I circumnavigated Australia on a tandem recumbent tricyle about 11 years ago and had the opportunity to feel what it’s like to be entirely alone in such an awe-inspiring place.



Business Diary

March 2015





02 March 17:00 - 19:00

NI Assembly & Business Trust/Young Directors’ Forum Organiser: IoD

Long Gallery, Parliament Buildings, Stormont Cost: FREE to Members

To book, please contact 028 9068 3224 or visit

03 March 1/2 day

Quality Submissions: Substance & Style Organiser: CEF

CEF, 143 Malone Road, Belfast Cost: £175 +VAT Members Cost: £233 +VAT Non-Members

Contact Kathryn Webb on 028 9087 7143 or email:

03 March 08:00 - 10:00

Digital Economy Seminar & Breakfast Organiser: CBI

Radisson Blu, Belfast Cost: Free registration

For further information contact Anthea Savage on

03 March 09:30 - 13:30 (inc lunch)

Healthy Working Lives Conference 2015 Organiser: Business in the Community

Mossley Hill, Newtownabbey Cost: FREE

For further information or to book visit

04 March 07:15 - 08:45

CBMC Business Breakfast Organiser: CBMC

Hilton Hotel, Lanyon Place, Belfast Cost: FREE to attend

For further information or to book contact

06 March 08:45 - 09:30

The Woman’s Leadership Conference Organiser: IoD

Titanic Belfast, Titanic Quarter Cost: £90 +VAT

For further information contact 028 9068 3224 or visit

20 March 07:30 - 09:30

Networking Breakfast (incl. presentation by Colin Anderson, CEO ASG Ireland) Organiser: Sales Institute of Ireland Breakfast Event

Hilton Hotel, Belfast Cost: FREE for Members £50 for Non-Members

Contact or visit

26 March 08:30 - 12:30

Delivering Faster Growth Workshop Organiser: Invest NI

Corrs Corner, Newtownabbey Cost: FREE

For further information contact Michele Newell on

26 March 18:45 - 22:35

CBI 50th Anniversary Gala Dinner Organiser: CBI

Ramada Plaza, Belfast Cost: From £100 per ticket

For further information contact

27 March

Association Awards Luncheon Organiser: Action Renewables

Belfast Harbour Commissioner’s Office. Cost: See

For further information contact or visit

If you would like to promote an event or conference please contact Sonia Armstrong (


Uncovering the 9-5

and customer care being the pivotal point in everything we discuss. 1.00pm I meet our suppliers before lunch to discuss planning for major events coming up in 2015; these include CATEX and the Irish Hotel Federation Conference. At these events, we’ll talk about the great work being done by our 160 Irish partner suppliers, focusing heavily on their fantastic food provenance. These events give us a platform to showcase our business across Ireland and it’s vital that we communicate the benefits of working with Brakes for caterers. 2.00pm

NAME: Gareth Clements POSITION: Sales Director for Brakes Foodservice Ireland

As Sales Director for Brakes Foodservice in Ireland, I split my week between office based strategic/planning tasks and customer-facing appointments with prospective or existing customers. I keep a diary to ensure each week runs smoothly, but sometimes this just isn’t possible as both opportunities and issues can present themselves at the strangest of times! 8.00am Whether in the Lisburn or Dublin office, I arrive at my desk at 8.00am and begin working through my emails. I lead a team of 25 Area Sales Managers across the island so we have a sizeable level of email traffic to keep the team updated. At 10am, I receive a suite of daily reports that I review in depth, and then I discuss tasks that need to be completed with relevant departments across the business.

In the afternoon, I get to put on my chef whites and work with the sales, purchasing and food development teams on New Product Development in our Dublin Test Kitchen. Before joining Brakes, I was a head chef for almost 15 years and it’s great to be able to bring the knowledge of food learned from professional kitchens to my role at Brakes. We are continually working in this area to ensure our customers get great products linked to current food trends. I spend at least one day a month with my team discussing customer requirements and experimenting in the kitchen with new dishes. Food innovation and customer service are at the centre of everything we do as a company so these sessions are important to ensure we keep delivering on our company ethos of ‘helping businesses who serve food to thrive’. 6.00pm I get home (when possible!) around 6pm; I have a wife and three kids, two of whom are still at home - Zak (15) and Ellie (10). I’m a big believer in having family meals together so I try to practice what I preach and be there when I can! The kids are at an age where they have various clubs and training sessions to attend. I help with dropping off and picking up as my wife has a full time career as a sign language interpreter and, to be honest, I’m not much help with the pre school runs because of my early starts.

11.00am I’m always involved in various meetings around commercials, service levels, sales & marketing. These meetings are an integral part of a multi-million pound, multi-depot operation; with sales


I spend 30 minutes or so each evening on my own to reflect on the day gone & start thinking through the day ahead. I think self assessment is very important if you are to be true to your employer and indeed yourself.

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Profile for Ulster  Business

Ulster Business - February 2015  

Ulster Business

Ulster Business - February 2015  

Ulster Business