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JANUARY 2015 ÂŁ2.30 (â‚Ź3.75)

Leaders in Business Shining a light on the people driving the Northern Ireland economy in 2015 Sponsored by:

Business in the Community Annual Review

ISSN 1363-2507

9 771363 250005


Global connections We’ve invested in our new base at the Soloist building, 1 Lanyon Place, Belfast, so that Northern Ireland businesses have the legal support to help you meet your objectives both locally and worldwide. To see how our move could help you in turn move your business up in the world, visit us at

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Local Knowledge, Global Reach.

Contents 8 News

41 Leaders in Business

100 Motoring

The latest news impacting the Northern Irelans business world

We profile 10 of NI’s most progressive leaders to find out what makes them tick

Pat Burns takes us for a spin with all the latest motoring news and views

16 Awards

69 Ones to Watch

106 Appointments

The Aer Lingus Viscount Awards 2015, in association with Ulster Business, are open

The entrepreneurs and business leaders posied to make a difference in the year ahead

Who’s moved where to do what? The latest movers and shakers

20 Taking Stock

84 Fledgling Freelancer

112 Events

Find out who’s making money and who’s in the red this month

Julie Stewart knows exactly what you’ve been thinking since getting back to the office

Ulster Business gets dressed up to find out who’s been out and about

21 Outlook for 2015

88 Venture Capital

116 Technology

The best business brains give us their predictions for the next 12 months

Why is Northern Ireland behind when it comes to utilising these forms of finance?

Adam Maguire knows his gadgets and gives us a rundown of the best for 2015



16 69


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Your search for the best people begins and ends here. EDITOR’S COMMENT

New year, new leaders, new opportunities


elcome to the January edition of Ulster Business. This magazine sets out to celebrate some of the most inspiring business leaders in the land, those who are at the helm of the Northern Ireland economy at a very exciting time. Amongst the lineup we have the bosses of our most exciting indigenous companies, those leading the charge at the top of the raft of inward investors which have arrived on or shores in the last year as well as some from the often overlooked third sector. They’re an impressive bunch, each with a CV which would be the envy of the best in the land and all with an ability to make waves in their chosen sector and to inspire their staff. We also profile ten Ones to Watch, entrepreneurs who have a product, service or just an idea which is starting to gain traction and which has huge potential. For us it’s one of the best magazines of the year because we get to find out about the people and

As Ulster Business was putting the final touches to this magazine, news broke from the Secretary of State Theresa Villiers that the Northern Ireland office has put in place legislation to allow Stormont to take control of corporation tax. All being well, we should be able to reduce our headline rate to 12.5%, the same as the Republic, (or even lower) by 2017. That may seem a long way off but in reality it is all the incentive a host of global companies need to persuade that they need to start making plans to set up a base in Northern Ireland. Not only that but it will provide a much needed boost to the big businesses in Northern Ireland who for so long now have had to compete on an uneven playing field. It’s now up to the Executive to put plans in place to take hold of the power and implement it swiftly and efficiently. Let’s hope they’re up for the challenge.

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personalities who are the lifeblood of the economy, one which is obviously in good hands.

Free to download. Free to read. ulsterbusiness/app 7

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Briefs Aer Lingus said it carried 11.1 million passengers in 2014, up 3.2% compared to 10.7 million passengers in 2013. The overall load factor for the year 2014 also increased, up 0.6% points to 79%.

There was a slowdown in Northern Ireland’s construction sector recovery at the end of 2014 as infrastructure activity went into reverse, according to the latest RICS and Tughans Construction Market Survey. Northern Ireland was the only UK region where surveyors reported a decline in infrastructure workloads – the building of public facilities like schools, hospitals and roads – citing the impasse over the NI Executive’s Budget as one of the reasons.

Mark Ennis has been reappointed as Chairman of the Board of Invest NI by Enterprise, Trade and Investment Minister Arlene Foster. The reappointment, which is for a second term of three years, will commence on 1 January 2015. “In his role as Chair of Invest NI for the last three years Mr Ennis has overseen a period of unprecedented success for the organisation,” the minister said. “His business acumen, experience and leadership experience have been real assets for Invest NI.”

Lisburn-based engineering firm KME Steelworks has completed a twoyear £1.5m investment plan in new processing equipment. The investment has seen the workforce grow from 12 in 2012 to 33 in 2015. KME Steelworks Ltd director Jason Quinn says business conditions are improving in several sectors including construction, renewable energy and specialist automotive industries. “The investment is part of a long term plan to grow the business which is beginning to expand beyond the UK and Ireland markets.”


Villiers sets out legislation to devolve corporation tax Theresa Villiers making the announcement at Camlin Group.


egislation has been set out to allow corporation tax-setting powers to be devolved to Stormont by Secretary of State Theresa Villiers.

In addition, the higher corporation tax rate north of the border is thought to dissuade inward investment from overseas companies wanting to set up profit centres here.

Speaking to business leaders at an event in Lisburn at Camlin Group, she said it was hoped the bill would be passed before Parliament ahead of the general election in May and expected the powers to be passed over to Stormont by 2017.

But while the latest move by the Secretary of State has been lauded, there are still obstacles in the way to the devolvement of tax-setting powers, not least some opposition to the move from Labour which Ms Villiers alluded to in Lisburn.

The announcement marks a significant milestone in a long-running campaign by business leaders and politicians, one which is based on the large discount charged on company profits in the Republic compared to those in the UK.

Nevertheless, the Chancellor George Osborne said he backs the move.

The Dublin government levies a 12.5% tax on big company profits compared to the current 21% rate in the UK and it has been argued that companies based in Northern Ireland are at a significant disadvantage to their counterparts across the border.

“This will give the Northern Ireland Executive greater power to rebalance the economy towards a stronger private sector, boosting employment and growth,” he said. “We want to work with the NI Executive to ensure that Northern Ireland will attract investment and become more competitive, boosting the entire UK economy.”

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Sweet music for Oh Yeah as funding hits the right note


he Oh Yeah Music Centre in Belfast has been awarded funding for a youth mentoring project by Ulster Bank parent RBS.

The Volume Control project will help young people develop entrepreneurial knowledge and skills in events and music industry enterprise and will receive almost £29,000 from the funding programme which totals £95,000 for Northern Ireland organisations. Volume Control aims to reach 14 to 18 year olds from all backgrounds across Belfast and to help graduates from the project aged 18 to 30 to develop their business ideas and plans. Since 2009 it has reached over 4,000 young people. Next year the money will enable 12 participants to develop their business skills by organising events and setting up and running their own record label. Others bagging backing are the Work West Enterprise Agency’s Arise project in West Belfast, which has been awarded almost £46,000, and

Rebecca Steele, front, helps announce the funding from Ulster Bank’s parent company RBS at the Oh Yeah Music Centre with (left-right) Stuart Bailie, CEO of Oh Yeah, Colin Jess, Ulster Bank, Andrew Cave, RBS, and Charlotte Dryden, Creative Development Manager, Oh Yeah

the NXT-GEN-BIZ project, based at Fermanagh Enterprise, which will use just over £20,000 of funding to help 24 young people from the west of Northern Ireland take the next step in becoming entrepreneurs.

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A Month in Numbers £234.6m The total value of European Union payments made to farmers in Northern Ireland for the 2014 harvest. That’s down from £265m in 2013.

New grade A offices set for Belfast The former Ireland Brothers building on Adelaide Street, Belfast.

31,000 The number of farmers registered for EU payments in Northern Ireland. On an average basis, each farmer gets £7,935, but payments vary considerably depending on farm size etc.

£0.77730 Northern Ireland’s current corporation tax rate. At the time of going to print, a decision on whether to devolve business tax-setting powers to Stormont had yet to be made but is mooted as a topic of discussion in the Autumn Statement.

6 Belfast’s ranking in the a list of the best UK cities to live and work, according to PwC’s Good Growth for Cities index.

720,290 The total number of employee jobs in Northern Ireland, according to the latest Labour Force Survey from DETI. That’s up 0.2% on the year.

6.3% The unemployment rate in Northern Ireland, above the UK average of 6.0%.


prominent office building in Belfast has been sold for over its £1.25m asking price, according to selling agents CBRE. Redbay Developments have bought the property, formerly the Ireland Brothers building, and plan to refurbish it to create Grade A office accommodation. The north Down development company have completed a number of similar projects in the Clerkenwell region of London, converting buildings similar to the Adelaide Street property into loftstyle offices and for residential use. Work is expected to start on the 25,000 square feet site in the first quarter of 2015 and completion is scheduled for the fourth quarter of 2015. Osborne King acted on behalf of the purchaser while CBRE acted on behalf


Brian Murphy and Michael Jennings of BDO NI who were appointed as fixed charge receivers over the property. “The sale of this property and adjoining proposals to create Grade A office space is excellent news not only for Belfast city centre, but the wider Northern Ireland economy,” David Wright, Director at CBRE Belfast said. “A major shortage of Grade A office space in Northern Ireland has been widely reported for some time now and could impact negatively on the level of FDI coming into the local economy.” “We would expect there to be a very high level of interest in this new office space, which we predict will likely appeal to the Telecommunications, Media & Technology [TMT] sector in particular. The purchaser has an excellent reputation for delivering similar projects in London.”

Finding the best to make your business better.


KLM arrives at Belfast City Airport with daily Amsterdam service


LM has announced it is starting a daily direct service from Belfast City Airport to Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport from May.

economy. Apart from the obvious benefits resulting from the link to a major business location it opens up connectivity to destinations much further afield,” he said.

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.

“With the clear need for a small regional economy to generate increased exports the ability to market Northern Ireland as being globally connected via Amsterdam and London will be very compelling.”

It will also be a big boost for the economy here, according to Professor Neil Gibson of the Ulster University Economic Policy Centre said.

Belfast City Airport’s Commercial and Marketing Director, Katy Best, said the arrival of KLM is a major win for the airport and helps open up the rest of the world to travellers from Northern Ireland and attract tourists here.

“This is an extremely encouraging announcement for the Northern Ireland

“Schiphol is the linchpin of the KLM network, and as one of the busiest

airports in Europe serving over 300 destinations, it is an attractive superhub with quick and easy transfer facilities for passengers on popular routes such as Los Angeles, Hong Kong, Singapore, Mexico, Moscow, Johannesburg and Bangkok.

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CBI: steady as she goes for UK economy


rowth in the UK economy eased in December as demand faded and worries over the global economy took hold, according to business body the CBI.

Its Growth Indicator report showed the economy continued to grow, but at the slowest pace since July 2013. Of the 792 companies it surveyed across manufacturing, retail and services, the sharpest fall was in the business and professional services sector but that was partially offset by a solid performance in the retail sector and a steady performance by manufacturing. “The economy is plotting a solid course as we head into Christmas,” Rain Newton-Smith, CBI Director of Economics, said. “Whilst growth has slowed somewhat, this reflects a return to a steadier, more sustainable pace as the recent boost from pent-up demand fades.” “But the global backdrop remains a concern for firms. The weak Eurozone, slowing emerging markets and geopolitical tensions in the Middle East, Russia and Ukraine are headwinds to growth. “While lower oil and fuel prices will leave more money in the pockets of households and businesses, it is also making life difficult for major oil producers.”

Small Business Loan Fund hits halfway mark


fund set up to provide finance for small companies in Northern Ireland has lent half its target two years after setting up.

The £5m Northern Ireland Small Business Loan Fund has distributed £2.5m to businesses across Northern Ireland under the management of Ulster Community Investment plc (UCI), a subsidiary of the Ulster Community Investment Trust (UCIT) and Enterprise Northern Ireland. Funded by Invest NI, it provides access to finance for small businesses, sole traders and partnerships which are keen to develop their business but find it difficult to access funding through traditional sources. “Since setting up the fund in 2013 we have approved 120 loans totalling £2.5m,” Finance Director of UCIT, Barry Connolly said. “The Fund has helped support companies from a very wide range of sectors including IT, food processing, construction, leisure, tourism and many others. We are delighted to be able to support these small businesses in their growth ambitions and to help many others get off the ground.” Gordon Gough, Chief Executive of Enterprise NI, said the money is addressing a funding gap. “It is very encouraging that we have seen so many success stories recently from clients supported by the fund and we aim for this to continue over the coming years.”


Finance Director of UCIT, Barry Connolly; William McCulla, Director of Corporate Finance, Invest NI; Gordon Gough, Chief Executive of Enterprise NI and Nuala Campbell, Managing Director, Titanic Creative Management.

One business to benefit recently from the Fund is Titanic Creative Management. “The loan we secured has allowed us to open Northern Ireland’s first training and management agency for costumiers and hair and make-up artists,” Managing Director, Nuala Campbell, said “I have been a professional make-up artist in TV and film for many years and spotted a gap in the market to upskill local employees to meet the demand for skilled artists in the ever growing entertainment production industry in Northern Ireland.” The fund offers loans from £1,000 – £50,000 with the average loan currently standing at £21,400.

Your search for the best people begins and ends here.


Four jobs as sign company sets sights on exports


Londonderry manufacturing company is to create four new jobs as it grows its export business. Ascot Sign Systems’ expansion comes as part of a £215,000 investment in the business – supported by £40,744 of Invest NI assistance – which will be focused on exporting to the Republic and Great Britain as well as as far afield as Scandanavia. In total, the four new jobs at the Maydown-based company will command an annual salary of £90,000 and one of the posts will be managerial. “This is an important investment for us and is designed to position the business for faster growth especially in the Republic of Ireland and Great Britain, which are key markets for us,” Andrew White, senior partner in Ascot Signs said. “Business we’ve completed in Britain subsequently led to contracts further afield, including Scandinavia. “Strengthening our market presence in the Republic of Ireland and Great Britain will enable us to explore other opportunities that

may develop over the next few years for our ‘one-stop-shop’ strategy. We recognise that the growth we want to achieve can really only be realised by investing greater time and resources in Britain and the Republic.” Des Gartland, Invest NI’s North West Regional Manager, said: “Ascot’s success is based on its strategic focus on offering clients across a broad range of business sectors a total service in the bespoke design, in-house manufacture and installation of signs. It has developed expertise in particular in the design and manufacture of disability access signage.”

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Cottage Catering expands a trifle

Gary McClarty, Managing Director of Coleraine-based online insurance company, MCL Insurance Ltd.

Coleraine company creates 17 new jobs


sharp hike in sales has helped a Coleraine insurance company create 17 new jobs in the town.

MCL Insurance Services said growth of its female-targeted insurance division has underpinned the strong performance. Since launching in 2008 the brand has built 50,000 policy holders and handles over £17m of business, helped by brand ambassador and Olympic and World Boxing Champion, Katie Taylor. “The success of has created the need for new jobs to support our continued growth in both Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland. The new positions will help expand the team already in place at our Coleraine call centre as we look towards further growth in 2015. “The staff in Coleraine have been integral to the success of and I hope to continue creating more jobs for local people over the next 12 months as the brand goes from strength to strength.”


Cottage Catering MD Hertford Arnold with Asda’s Michael McCallion.


County Down food company is creating 10 new jobs after bagging a contract to supply supermarket giant Asda. Cottage Catering is also investing in an extension to its premises to help fill the new order to supply both value and premium trifles. The Dromore company has been supplying private label trifles to Asda since June, selling around 30,000 units a week to stores across the UK. Hertford Arnold, Managing Director of Cottage Catering, said companies further down the chain will also benefit. “The Asda trifle contract was fantastic news for our company, allowing us to expand our business and increase our capacity,” he said.

“And, as we are committed to local sourcing ourselves, there is a knock-on benefit for other Northern Ireland food companies. On a weekly basis we source eight tonnes of fresh cream, ten tonnes of custard and ten tonnes of jelly – which means a significant boost to our local suppliers such as Pritchett’s and Finlay’s Foods.” Head of Local Sourcing for NI and Scotland Michael McCallion applauded the quality of Cottage Catering’s trifle. “A really good fresh trifle is the centrepiece of any dessert course at Christmas time and it’s fantastic to have such a high quality product coming from Northern Ireland. We love seeing local companies graduating from supplying our 17 stores in Northern Ireland to dealing with the full Asda estate. It’s testament to the quality of our local food producers.”

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AVEVA swoops on Londonderry IT company 8over8 for £27m


he first major deal of the new year has seen a Londonderry software company taken over for £26.9m, according to a release to the London Stock Exchange (LSE). 8over8 develops and markets software to the oil and gas industry and, after piquing the interest of AVEVA last year, sealed the first takeover deal of 2015 in Northern Ireland with the Cambridge IT firm. 8over8 employs around 70 people at its Derry base and expects to grow further under its new parent which is listed on the LSE. Investment bank Panmure Gordon said the founders of 8over8 negotiated a good price for the company.

Richard Longdon, Chief Executive of AVEVA, said ProCon, 8over8’s flagship product which is used by some of the world’s biggest oil and gas, mining and construction companies, offers huge potential.

“Aveva’s latest acquisition looks like a sensible deal at an okay price... but with a little bit of pushing Aveva could have got this for less – after all, 8over8 is a young company operating in a difficult end market and hamstrung with a decidedly ‘1.0’ name,” analyst George O’Connor said.

“By acquiring 8over8, AVEVA is uniquely placed to ensure both technical and contractual integrity changes are captured during the project life cycle and provides further proof of AVEVA’s ongoing strategy to grow its business both organically and through acquisition.”

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Aer Lingus Viscount Awards lift off for the seventh year House of Commons venue to celebrate strong business ties between Northern Ireland and Great Britain.


er Lingus, in association with Ulster Business, announce the opening for submissions to the 2015 Viscount Awards at the House of Commons where the awards ceremony will be held on the 21st April 2015, to celebrate the return of the event for the seventh consecutive year. The 2015 Awards will recognise and promote excellence, best practice and innovation in the Northern Irish business community and will celebrate those companies which have also made significant progress in global export markets. Andrea Hunter, Business Development Manager at Aer Lingus NI, said: “Over 120 entries were received for the 2014 awards from an impressive array of small, medium and large companies representing a variety of industries and sectors. This year


we are welcoming entries from companies across the province again and we are eager to evaluate their quality submissions. “We essentially want to see entries from those firms no matter how large or small that have broken into new markets by applying better solutions that meet new requirements, unarticulated demands, or existing market needs. “We are encouraged by the strong foundations and entrepreneurial leadership that businesses here enjoy, with strong business people at the helm, who are genuinely innovating in the way they do business. Accordingly we consider the Viscount Awards as the perfect platform for these local companies to showcase their capability and expertise. “Despite the challenging economy, our business from George Best Belfast City airport

is strong, profitable and sustainable. Traffic from Belfast to Heathrow and Gatwick is increasing month on month and we have expanded our Gatwick route capacity by 20% this winter. What is clear to us is that Northern Ireland business owners certainly have the drive and ambition to expand and explore new territories for growth,” she said. “Aer Lingus as a company has always taken on competitive challenges and appreciates the opportunities of an export driven economy. It is important to encourage this approach in order to generate continued economic wealth in Northern Ireland and we will support this any way we can. “From March, business travellers flying from Dublin airport on our transatlantic services will benefit from the new businessclass offering, including the introduction of 200 new high-tech, luxury full lie-flat

Andrea Hunter, Business Development Manager for Aer Lingus in Northern Ireland, and Ulster Business editor David Elliott launch the 2015 Viscount Awards outside the Houses of Parliment in Westminster.

beds to the fleet of A330 aircraft, high speed Wi-Fi and the ability to pre-clear US customs in Dublin airport, meaning you arrive before you depart. “We have also introduced a new route to Washington beginning on 1st May 2015, expanded capacity on transatlantic routes to San Francisco with a daily flight, three flights a day to New York and four flights per week to Orlando,” Ms Hunter explained. Entries are now being sought across seven categories including; Most Innovative Company; Best Large Business; Best Medium Business; Best Small Business;


Entrepreneur of the Year; Exporter of the Year and the Aer Lingus Viscount Award for Overall Excellence. It was reiterated by the airline’s Northern Ireland representative that irrespective of the individual categories the key benchmark the judges will be looking for will be an innovative approach to the development of business opportunities in their sector. Every business that enters the competition will be appraised by a seven strong panel of judges comprising Andrea Hunter, Aer Lingus Business Development Manager in Northern Ireland; David Elliott, Editor

of Ulster Business; Jeremy Fitch, Executive Director, Business Solutions Group at Invest NI; Colin Walsh, Chairman of CBI in Northern Ireland; Richard Sherriff, Business Editor of the News Letter; Gary McDonald, Business Editor of the Irish News and Alan Taylor, Managing Partner at Arthur Cox. The Awards lunch will take place on Tuesday 21st April in the exquisite surroundings of the Members’ Dining Room at the House of Commons, Westminster. For more information or to enter please visit



Changes afoot for NI employers

By Gareth Walls, Head of Employment Law, A&L Goodbody NI


mployment law in Northern Ireland is constantly evolving and with this change comes a consequent responsibility on all employers to ensure that they review their processes and documentation regularly to ensure compliance with statute and regulation. Legislation in Northern Ireland has been diverging from practice in GB law for some time now and this is particularly relevant to any entity employing staff in Northern Ireland with a GB headquarters, since many HR advisors and support services online tend to use GB commentary and precedents which are simply no longer fit for purpose. Those issues are well known, but in addition there are a number of changes afoot in Northern Ireland for 2015 that will have a significant impact on employers.

Auto-enrolment Auto-enrolment is now beginning to graduate down to smaller sized employers with staging dates for employers less than 50 commencing from 1st June 2015. Consequently this will become a significant issue for employers in the Northern Ireland market – given that most employers here fall into this bracket. These employers need to factor auto-enrolment into budgets for 2015 now because it effectively means a one per cent uplift to the payroll cost. Since auto-enrolment will have an impact on terms and conditions of employment, contracts will need to be updated.

Holiday pay Occasionally a case will come along that has a seismic impact on how employers, of all sizes, do business. The recent Bear Scotland v


Fulton case, which deals directly and indirectly with holiday pay, is the classic example. The calculation of holiday pay must now be at the forefront of all employers’ minds as we close 2014, since this recent case impacts on how holiday pay is calculated and has triggered hundreds of cases in NI already. While most focus on current and future calculation, there is clearly a concern about historic liability. So much so, that the Government is already proposing legislation to create a two year backstop on retrospective claims for ‘unlawful deductions’. While detail is at present scant, it appears the intention is to reassure employees that any retrospective claim will be limited, while also bringing clarity to the matters left unclear in the judgement.

related payment schemes will have to sit up and take notice – whether or not they face liability will depend on how they calculate holiday pay and all companies should seek advice and reassurance immediately.

Re-emergence of the Trade Union I think we will also see the re-emergence of the trade union in 2015 – particularly in the public sector. Certainly there is a growing need for legal support in this area for employers on what they can do in response to ballots, picketing and threats of industrial action whilst maintaining good relations with their employees and ensuring that they are compliant with the law.

Corporate migration

“I think we will also see the re-emergence of the trade union in 2015. Certainly there is a growing need for legal support in this area for employers on what they can do in response to ballots, picketing and threats of industrial action.” In the interim there is no doubt this issue will affect Northern Ireland employers who employ individuals working outside the standard 9-5 Monday – Friday. Any employer who operates overtime or shift premiums or

Corporate migration also will come to the fore as NI plc continues to attract foreign direct investment. As we act and have acted for a large portfolio of national and multinational entities, as well as local SMEs and OMBs, we regularly advise those entities on how to migrate personnel between jurisdictions – a discipline which requires a thorough understanding of both employment and Visa issues. Corporate migration affects any entity that is part of a multinational organisation that wants to second employees in or out of Northern Ireland for training or other project based purposes. This could be in the case of a local firm sending employees to the US, for example, or where a US entity is setting up in Northern Ireland and wants to ‘parachute’ in US employees to ensure brand delivery is ‘maintained’. There is a general misunderstanding of the work visa for corporate organisations and this can impact greatly on an individual’s ability to work in


The A&L Goodbody NI Employment team (L-R): Lisa Bryson, Andrew Spratt, Jill Sinclair, Jenny Murphy, Gareth Walls and Shirley Blair.

another jurisdiction, so it is essential that employers seek legal advice on this matter, well in advance of the proposed ‘go live’ date. This specialism is already getting a lot of traction at A&L Goodbody and I would expect to see demand grow further in the coming months and years on the basis that a lower rate of corporation tax anticipates increased FDI into Northern Ireland – which in turn drives the need for the unencumbered transfer of key personnel to and from NI.

here. A very high proportion of employers in Northern Ireland currently operate on something other than a limited company and will need to incorporate if they wish to avail of a lower rate of corporation tax. This will entirely change their requirements in terms of their contracts of employment policies, procedures, pension arrangements, insurances etc., so they will need to ensure that all terms and conditions are revised and ready to profit from the change.

Corporation Tax

A&L Goodbody Employment Law team

Whilst there is still a lot of uncertainty around how corporation tax will impact Northern Ireland, there is no doubt that any change will have a significant impact on employers

We continue to grow, adding strength and depth to our offering so as to become the largest specialist employment law practice in Northern Ireland.


Each member of the team is a specialist lawyer in their own right and covers the full range of services – be that contentious work such as tribunal and court work, or noncontentious such as restructuring advices, recruitment advices and succession planning. We provide a bespoke and practical advisory and training platform in direct response to a client demand for this type of expertise. Our growth trend is likely to continue in 2015. We will continue to focus on staying one step ahead of the game at all times, spotting emerging trends that will impact Northern Ireland employers and providing them with the advice they need through an unrivalled level of pragmatic, commercial, expertise. This puts us in a very strong position going forward.


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Taking stock


he end of the year brought with it another month of ups and downs for our illustrious bunch of stock market traders. Geopolitical tension around the world, a freefalling oil price and continued government spending cuts brought the bears to fore and kept the bulls in their pen, but nevertheless most of the team managed to turn a profit.

maintain his lead once again, despite a loss for Guinness maker Diagio. Eagle-eyed whizz kid Dylan Armstrong also made a killing on his well-thought out investment in SSE, taking home nearly £1,900 on that one stock, as well as some pocket money with Reckitt Benckiser.

Topping the profiteers this month was Carol Fitzsimons with over £1,800 safely deposited in the bank.

For mentalist Meade the continued commitment to his original two stock picks – both of which are exposed to both oil and commodity prices – has meant a heavy loss once again. Maybe Vegas is a better bet?

Associated British Foods helped secure that scoop and it was the baker-to-Primark owner which also helped the man at the top of the trading tree Neil Gibson

Anglo American and Petrofac are the two offenders, both losing a total of £13,098 and taking the mentalist further into the red.

Still, overall the team is still over £11,000 up on the original £200,000 investment and can reflect on a job well done. A new year brings a fresh market and time will tell whether the trading team can maintain their run of profit.

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: £1,926 Account: £109,251

Profit/loss for this month: £1,802 Account: £109,956

Profit/loss for this month: -£13,098 Account: £78,274

Profit/loss for this month: £933 Account: £115,779

Last month: SSE, Reckitt Benckiser

Last month: Associated British Foods, Reckitt Benckiser

Last month: Anglo American, Petrofac

Last month: Diageo, Associated British Foods

This month: Admiral Group, Barclays


This month: Fresnillo, EasyJet

This month: Anglo American, Petrofac

This month: Shire, WPP

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Outlook for 2015

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Politically speaking...

By Arlene Foster, DETI Minister

expenditure. Total R&D investment in 2013 was up by 3% from £624m in 2012 to £645m in cash terms – the highest expenditure ever recorded. It was also encouraging to see an increase of 16% over the year in the total R&D expenditure for locally owned companies, as well as further growth by our small and medium-sized enterprises. This progress is hugely impressive and we need to build on the increasing number of success stories amongst Northern Ireland-based companies in order to showcase excellence in innovation, which is becoming increasingly important in terms of exports and new markets. That is why the NI Executive has agreed the Innovation Strategy for Northern Ireland for 2014 to 2025. This Strategy sets out the key long term actions needed for Northern Ireland to ultimately be recognised as one of the UK’s leading high growth, knowledge based regions which embraces creativity and innovation at all levels of society. Local businesses have been responsible for over half of the jobs promoted and nearly half of the investment commitments, showing the substantial contribution they are making to our economy.


ast year saw a marked upturn in economic conditions and independent forecasters predict that the local economy will grow further, by 2%, in 2015.

Our private sector has been leading this recovery, with a sustained increase in job numbers and economic output improving.

But our proposition is also continuing to be increasingly attractive to new investors who are choosing to locate their businesses here. The world’s largest law firm, Baker & McKenzie, has established a base in Belfast and other new investors have included EY, Alexander Mann Solutions, SSE Airtricity and US companies Proofpoint and WhiteHat Security.

The recovery is also being felt in our labour market, where there have been continuous falls in the number of unemployment benefit claimants, as well as improvements in both the employment and economic activity rates.

I am all too aware that many within the business community been frustrated by ‘red tape’, which is why my department has conducted a review of business red tape. I have been encouraged by the positive engagement with the wider business community.

Last year saw Invest Northern Ireland record its best ever set of in-year results. Results that included the highest number of jobs ever promoted in a six month period – already surpassing last year’s performance. And considering 2013/14 was a record year, it really underlines the significance of those results.

I will give serious consideration to the recommendations from this review and use them as a basis to drive a reform agenda which supports business, effects greater collaboration within the regulatory community and encourages growth of the local economy.

On top of that, during the first six months of 2014, Invest NI secured £40m of investment in R&D – 22% by SMEs. And figures released in the latter part of last year confirmed that we are breaking records in terms of Research and Development


While we are building on a solid foundation laid in 2014, there is no room for complacency and we must be prepared for the challenges that undoubtedly lie ahead. I will continue to do all that I can to further grow the private sector and promote our offering to potential investors, with a view to encouraging business growth and increasing job opportunities.

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2014 – the high watermark of recovery? By Alan Bridle, economist at Bank of Ireland UK in Belfast


orthern Ireland’s nascent recovery will be tested in 2015 with the regional economy entering the New Year against a rather inauspicious backdrop of heightened local political uncertainty and potential UK constitutional upheaval, a deepseated malaise in the euro-area and a narrative of public spending cuts and threats of public sector disruption that can only undermine confidence. Some big questions loom large this year including... how is the pain to be shared and have we the financial and strategic skills to manage the type of straitened fiscal settlement that we are simply not used to? Has the private sector the scale and dynamism to fire the engines of growth in the midst of a public sector recession? Will the public sector transfer some of the downside risks of austerity to the private sector by, for example, increased charges to business and households? Will the new councils be “super” or just larger? I would expect consumer spending to again be the key driver of growth. While the outlook for wages and earnings remains muted, disposable incomes are supported by the overall rise in employment given the “labour-intensive” nature of this recovery with c25,000 jobs created in the last two years and benefits from falling food and energy price inflation and expanded personal tax allowances. Severance pay-offs from rationalisation programmes may also provide a transient boost to spending. The improvements in the local labour market during 2014 will be difficult to repeat in the next 12 months as private sector job creation cools from current levels while Stormont’s


acceleration in the rate of new builds this year to meet pent-up demand. For the business sector, it will again be important not to misread the signals in 2015. The post-crisis “new normal” environment of generally lower growth, productivity and profitability is not one where firms can passively hope that a rising tide will lift all boats. Rather, the nature of the recession and subsequent recovery has left a number of sectors facing overcapacity and intense competition in crowded markets resulting in wafer-thin profit margins and little room for error, all at a time when digital technology is reshaping business and customer relationships. Clearly, some business models have been quicker to adapt than others. budget constraints will dictate a partial reversal in the public sector employment patterns of the last decade or so. The jobless rate may struggle to fall much below the 6% level with job creation needing to run hard to absorb labour force growth. For local firms with currency exposure, especially in key sectors like agri-food and higher value manufacturing, Sterling is anticipated to remain firm against the weak euro while trending a little lower against the dollar. Volatility levels may pick up in advance of the May general election and Sterling could be susceptible to increased “political risk” as polling day approaches if, as seems likely, no party has a clear majority. The recovery in the local residential market may be tempered in 2015 by broader macro concerns and the more conservative regulatory-driven mortgage environment although there is clear evidence that property will move when “priced to sell”. We should also see some

Overall, while there are many positive developments at a micro or firm level in Northern Ireland, regional GVA (Gross Value Added) is again very likely to lag UK GDP performance in 2015 with a moderation in output (forecast +1.5%) the baseline assumption, private growth offsetting contraction in the public sector. 2015 will be a year of economic priorities, choices and opportunities – the “burning platform” could be a catalyst for longdelayed public sector reform, the neighbouring UK and Irish economies should enjoy solid growth supporting external sales while the capital budget is rising with potential short-term benefits on the demand-side and more longer-term ones on the supply side, if we can quickly release spending to boost infrastructure and the construction industry. Access to finance has also improved with evidence of (untapped) supply of both debt and equity from bank and non-bank sources.


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2015: A year of possibilities

By Adrian Doran, Head of Corporate Banking, Barclays Northern Ireland


s we enter the New Year period, it is customary to reflect on the previous year, and start thinking about what the next 12 months might have in store.

In 2014, there were widespread signs of positivity in our local economy. A fairly broad-based recovery is now underway. House prices are improving and business and consumer confidence is on the rise again. Significantly, Invest NI had its best ever year for job creation, with a number of high profile new projects attracted to Northern Ireland. The UK economy is among the fastest growing economies in the G8, and the Irish government is suggesting growth was an impressive 4.5% in 2014. With both of our two biggest trading partners growing strongly, there is bound to be positive implications for Northern Ireland’s economy. In addition, a near 50% fall in crude oil prices over the past six months has reduced energy costs for businesses and households, and interest rates are forecast to remain relatively low for the next 12 months. Finally, the “Stormont House Agreement” reached by our main political parties just before Christmas has seen broad consensus on a number of contentious issues such as welfare reform. Crucially for many in the business community, the agreement now allows for the passing of legislation to devolve corporation tax in April 2017. It is quite an achievement, after a long campaign that many thought was doomed to end in failure, that Northern Ireland now stands on the verge of a reduced corporation tax rate. The implementation of such a major policy lever should help grow our private sector, create jobs, and ultimately rebalance our economy. Amidst this positivity there are however a number of potential risks. The recent Scottish independence debate is starting to shine a light on the £20bn subsidy that Northern Ireland receives on an annual basis from the Treasury (roughly £12,500 for every man, woman and child). In recent years our public sector has been somewhat protected from the scale of job cuts that have taken place elsewhere within the UK, and with our average public sector wages now 40% higher than the private sector equivalent, it’s clear something had to give.


The agreement reached by the parties will see a “comprehensive programme of public sector reform and restructuring” which will inevitably include significant public sector voluntary redundancies. Whilst the rest of the UK and Republic of Ireland are substantially through their period of public sector austerity, Northern Ireland is perhaps now about to enter its own phase, particularly in the context of the next Comprehensive Spending Review that will follow the general election. However, what is equally clear is that after having had perhaps the worst recession within the UK, and certainly the worst property boom and bust, any cuts to public spending will have to be phased carefully. The last thing we need is a severe dent to business and consumer confidence, which is only just beginning to get back to normal. In summary, as we look ahead to 2015, we have many reasons to be optimistic. We enter the New Year against a backdrop of a broadbased recovery and improving confidence, with the tremendous upside that a reduction in corporation tax could bring. However, many businesses in Northern Ireland strongly believe that there are real downside risks that blunt or inappropriate cuts in public spending could threaten the recovery in business and consumer confidence. The next 12 months are indeed a pivotal time in the rebalancing of our local economy – let’s hope 2015 is a year of continued progress.

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Dump the spreadsheets – meet My Financepartner By Peter Kelly


ack in the summer, Richard Branson blogged the result of a Bloomberg report, which found that 8 out of 10 companies fail within 18 months of opening for business. What’s more, said Branson, while there is no hard and fast rule that distinguishes the two-in-ten businesses that survive from those that fail; the number-one company killer is finance and specifically cash-flow problems. And he warns that because so many tech start-ups have rocketed to billion-dollar buyouts so quickly in recent years, some new entrepreneurs mistakenly think that starting a business is an explosive sprint. With 80% of new starts heading straight for crash and burn, it’s hardly a ringing endorsement for budding Bransons to throw up the day job and follow their dream. Nonetheless, Branson is right to warn that money is at the root of most failures and that’s borne out by the old accountancy adage that, turnover isn’t profit and profit isn’t cash. PwC’s experience of the SME accounting minefield is pretty close to Branson’s – the number-one company killer is finance – but that’s often avoidable and comes down to understanding the managers and their relationship with management accounts – or lack of them. So PwC set out to help save businesses that may come under threat and identified managers and directors who fall into four distinct categories – those who: • read the management accounts, but don’t understand them. • produce accounts for the bank, but don’t read them themselves. • give the accounts to the external accountant and assume they understand the business.

• don’t produce any management accounts other than year-end statutory accounts and don’t understand those either. Research tells us that people start a business because they want to be their own boss, they want money and security and they have an idea they believe is marketable. But once the business is up and running, early-stage businesses tend to rely on key people who play a variety of roles from non-executive director, part-time accountants and even angel investors. They, in turn, tend to rely on a variety of systems, from bespoke accounting systems and customer reports to anecdotal market data. Put these together and most growing SMEs make their strategic decisions based on the instinct of their key people, supported by management information that is often page after page of Excel spreadsheets and is generally delivered a month in arrears. Big companies have people and systems that provide real time data in a format that delivers insight and informed management decision-making. Smaller firms can’t afford that level of investment so they grow more slowly, miss market opportunities and fail more frequently – until now. The conundrum of turning humdrum management accounts into a vibrant, real-time insight tool was PwC’s challenge in improving the performance of clients in the SME sector. How could you give an SME all the benefits of a FTSE 250 company’s real-time management information system, but without the cost? That was the catalyst the led us to design and develop a new accounting service; one specifically designed to help SMEs with

revenues of less than half a million to those turning-over £50m-plus. One that would let them choose what works for them: an accounting system that shows their financial position minute by minute; management information to chart where they’re making money and how their costs stack up; and access to our accountants anytime, as often as they want; plus a dedicated finance partner to meet regularly with management and work through their plans. We called it My Financepartner and it’s intended to deliver three outcomes: Maximise profit – To know if your business is maximising profit, you have to have accurate data, in the right format. My Financepartner gives data you can be confident in and helps you spot what you can do to push margins, make sure you’re tax efficient, and that your costs are in line with expectations. If you’re looking for investment, a loan, or to get the most for your company at exit, demonstrating healthy, well managed margins are key considerations. Grow the business – Growing your business can be about having great timing; making the right moves at the right moment. Businesses that take advantage of opportunities in the market can’t hang around for information on their current position. The My Financepartner dashboard provides whatever you need, on demand. And if you want a second opinion, we’ll be there to work it through with you. Hassle free compliance – Compliance can be a painful distraction from running your business, so My Financepartner takes it off your plate. We’ll cut down admin, and you can rely on us to be bang up to date with the changing rules and keeping you within them.

Peter Kelly

My Financepartner was designed to let PwC bring all our big company experience to bear on the SME market; to let smaller firms have the same access to a real-time suite of management information as the UK’s biggest firms. The concept was developed and pioneered by PwC in Northern Ireland and in the few months since the service was launched it has become a talking point in SME circles across the UK, with demand coming from a raft of individual SMEs to franchise operators and business advisors.

Financepartner. Set up in September 2013, Accelerus is hugely influential in providing businesses in England with industry experts to help them grow and succeed. With its vast experience in business leadership and industrial experience, Accelerus works with a range of sectors from FTSE 100 clients to the NHS. They chose My Financepartner as an accounting package because it was tailored specifically to their needs, which lets the Accelerus team access the information in real time on their iPads as they need it.

Manchester-based business growth specialists, Accelerus, was one of the first companies to sign up to the cloud-based My

My Financepartner combines the role of accountant, financial controller and business advisor. It banishes spreadsheets in favour of

real-time graphical, dashboard-driven data and the affordable cost structure reflects the combination of great technology and hands-on advice. It is no exaggeration to say that, designed in Northern Ireland, it is transforming how SMEs across the UK interact with their customers, their supply-chains and their markets.

Peter Kelly has been advising SMEs across Northern Ireland for over 15 years. Contact Peter at or telephone 077 115 62532. For more information about My Financepartner, watch our interactive video at

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Globally speaking...

By Angela McGowan, Chief Economist, Danske Bank


he global economy has been on a softer path over the past quarters but at Danske Bank we look for gradual improvement during the first half of 2015.

All major global regions are expected to see improvement, although for differing reasons. We expect one of the main events next year will be the first rate hike in almost ten years. With growth now on a solid footing in the US, the Fed will most probably introduce a small hike in June and the Bank of England is expected to follow suit in Autumn. In the US, economic growth moderated in quarter 4 2014 but the underlying momentum in the world’s largest economy is, in our view, improving. The job market is strong, wealth increases have been significant and recently a sharp decline in oil prices is giving an extra boost to consumers. On top of this, the fiscal drag has eased markedly. The main head-wind currently is a stronger dollar – but this is not enough to stop the US economy in 2015. In the euro area, we see evidence that the Ukraine crisis has been the main culprit behind the 2014 slowdown. The uncertainty there has had a big impact on business confidence and investment levels, but the effects of the Ukraine shock is expected to gradually fade in 2015. At the same time, new tailwinds that will gradually kick in have arrived in the form of a weakening euro, the big decline in oil prices and significant easing of both monetary and fiscal policy. If the EU’s current plans are implemented, it would give a lift to GDP of approximately 0.3 to 0.4% over the coming years according to the EU Commission. Easing lending standards should also start to support credit availability in the year ahead. In Asia, the last major engine in the world economy, China is also expected to see some improvement in 2015. Growth has slowed over the past quarters but China’s central bank has shown a determination to lift growth by cutting rates and, with inflation clearly below the target, we believe it can ease enough to get growth back on the 7.5% growth path that the government is targeting. In Japan the economy is slowly recovering from the sharp slowdown following the VAT hike last April. Industrial production and retail sales have already recovered and we expect continued moderate improvement over the coming year. Closer to home the UK economy is expected to see more moderate growth in 2015 but GDP is still forecast to grow at a very healthy 2.8%. Low inflation in the coming months is expected to lend support to household spending power and the labour market is also set to improve, with unemployment levels forecast to average 5.5% in 2015. There are always risks and


uncertainties and for the UK the May election has the potential to inject some uncertainty into the equation. This could weigh on confidence and act as a drag on economic growth. For Northern Ireland, the improving global picture augers well for local trade and foreign investment levels. In addition, strong growth in neighbouring regions (the Republic of Ireland and rest of UK) should also support local trade. Last year Northern Ireland’s private sector picked up pace in terms of growth and consumer confidence also rebounded strongly. However, in the year ahead this region will require a strong and united political front when it comes to negotiating with HM Treasury around austerity measures and devolved taxation issues. Danske Bank forecasts that the local economy will grow by just over 2% in 2015 and the average unemployment level will drop to 5.6%.

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Making the economy work

By Stephen Kelly, Manufacturing Northern Ireland


he latest DETI stats show that manufacturing sales have topped £18bn in 2013/14 confirming that our manufacturing sector is a massive and critical part of our economy.

target on price, competitive at a European level, and a timeline to get us there. At about 65% of the final bill, there is an urgent need to address the excessive profits of generators. This is where the most impact can be had for all business and domestic customers. But, we can’t wait until a new market design is agreed. Problems exist now and unless they are dealt with, many businesses won’t be around to buy from any new market in 2018.

One family in five, in every constituency, relies on manufacturing for a wage. That’s eighty thousand jobs, three quarters of which are outside of Greater Belfast. They are well paid in areas people want to call home and in turn building strong communities and at the centre of local economies. We have great people, in great companies making great products enjoyed by customers at home and abroad. We’re really good at it. You would expect that the sector would be cherished, yet we enter 2015 with some uncertainty, and with long outstanding issues continuing to hurt prospects. Business needs a fair tax, cost and labour environment. A simple recipe, yet we continue to wrestle with it whilst other economies get on with it. A Manufacturing Strategy would focus minds across departments and arms-length bodies. We must take control of the corporation tax powers and indeed make it clear we are going to use them. The investment is worth it. With the public sector shrinking, where else are the jobs to come from? Reducing this tax provides the capital and confidence to invest as will long term certainty on industrial rates and the promised efficiencies from our new councils. We are to see savings from the Review of Public Administration aren’t we? Being at the end (or indeed the beginning) of the supply chain means we are already


at a significant cost disadvantage – so what we don’t need is some of the most expensive electricity in Europe. This is a huge strain on manufacturers and undermines export ambitions. Invest NI are rightly disappointed that they haven’t met their own target to grow manufacturing exports by 20% but they won’t succeed unless we have competitive electricity. Manufacturers do all they can to reduce consumption and invest in their own generation but ultimately the price provided by the market, regulators and policymakers is the most important factor. Whilst there are clear targets for security of supply and renewables, there is no target for price. This is the fundamental problem. Price is always compromised to meet goals on security and sustainability. There must be a

“Business needs a fair tax, cost and labour environment. A simple recipe, yet we continue to wrestle with it.” So, going into 2015, we would hope that our Executive would set some New Year resolutions which would see the manufacturing sector thrive. Begin work on a Manufacturing Strategy; set a target on energy prices; grasp and use corporation tax setting powers; commit to long term industrial de-rating and ensure the new councils deliver the promised efficiencies; invest heavily in skills; and create a legal environment which encourages permanent employment. Manufacturing represents 12.5% of our economy. The EU target is 20%. With the right environment, 2015 could see Northern Ireland make significant strides towards this and at the same time transform every constituency in Northern Ireland.


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All eyes on the economic prize

By Paul Terrington, Chairman, IoD Northern Ireland

Then we have the growth challenge. Recent growth has been largely fuelled by household consumption, but that is slowing as savings are steadily eroded. Consequently, in the absence of significant growth in investment, exports and/or public expenditure, a decline in the rate of growth during 2015 is inevitable. For the same reason, UK growth of around 3% in 2014 is being marked down to 2.5% for 2015 and Northern Ireland can expect growth in 2015 to fall to around 1.9%. 2015 will also be the year of the public sector squeeze, with the Executive’s draft budget based on real spending power around £1bn less than in 2010-11, when the Assembly last agreed a budget, so, unsurprisingly, the Finance Minister has warned of “considerable” job cuts in the public sector. Having said that, a lot of observers were convinced that any agreement around a draft budget was unlikely, so the Executive deserves considerable credit for delivering even the draft budget that’s currently out for consultation.


ll in all, 2014 wasn’t a bad year. The tentative recovery of 2013 continued with the local economy growing by around 2.2% in 2014. In the 12 months to November 2014, unemployment fell by 8,000 with November’s jobless claimant count falling below 5%. Annual job promotion numbers soared to almost the level experienced at the height of the boom years. Rounding the year off, the Executive finally agreed a draft Budget and the Chancellor’s Autumn Statement contained the long-awaited commitment to devolve corporation tax powers to the Northern Ireland Executive. So Northern Ireland moves into 2015 demonstrating recovery, delivering growth, with unemployment falling, the workforce growing, a skills strategy in place and the promise of a sharp cut in the taxable profits of new and existing investors. So far, so promising. The labour market numbers look good and overall employment is steadily increasing, however this improvement is not being matched by either growth in average wages or increasing productivity. The conundrum that is productivity is a major barrier to wages growth, prosperity and wealth-creation but, as it has remained unresolved for a more than a generation, even a medium-term solution looks unlikely.


And while the disproportionately small private sector cannot immediately compensate for a sudden and sharp decline in both public spending and public sector employment, 2015 should see continued modest but steady growth in manufacturing sales and exports, even if this is being delivered by a relatively small number of exporters. In addition, the corporation tax debate has been won – the devolution may be conditional on political progress and demonstrable fiscal responsibility, but the principle has been established, so it’s down to the politicians to deliver and to the business community to implement, so there’s a partnership of sorts in the making. Northern Ireland is a great place to do business; we boast skills, infrastructure, a small number of globally-competitive companies and some demonstrably world-class directors that lead them. Growth may lag other regions, but we are moving in the right direction; the Draft Budget gives the Executive some breathing space to deliver on the talks, plan a more comprehensive Budget and Programme for government for post 2016. So 2015 will not be an easy year, but the prize is substantial and the politicians and business community players seem determined to move forward. Let’s all resolve to make that move together for the good of NI plc and the people of Northern Ireland.

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A licence to thrill?

By Linus Murray, Partner, Commercial Dept, O’Reilly Stewart Solicitors

year. The city’s Linen Quarter has also been opened up Belfast’s night-life scene with the team behind El Divino and The Albany adding the up-market Shiro and China White to their portfolio. Outside Belfast, Wine & Company, one of Bangor’s most popular venues was sold. Ireland’s highest pub, The Ponderosa on the Glenshane Pass, reopened following a refurbishment whilst in Magherafelt, Dorman’s Bar and Nightclub underwent a major refurbishment, reopening to great success as Secrets Nightclub. Although many licensed properties have been in administration, it is encouraging to see that the market is not stagnating and that previously closed premises are being brought back to life and refurbished.


014 was yet another mixed year for the licensed sector in Northern Ireland. Whilst a number of notable hotel sales and a flourishing Belfast city centre generated much-needed positivity and good news for the industry, this was balanced by the closure of one of the region’s best known hotels, the Royal Hotel in Bangor and a continued struggle for the industry, particularly outside of Belfast. In what was a good piece of business, Chicago-based billionaire, Tony Saliba bought the luxury Lough Erne Resort in 2014 for $10m. The venue which hosted the G8 Summit in 2013 once had a market value of £30m. September witnessed the sale of the only hotel within Derry’s historic walls. Irish-based Dalata Hotel Group purchased the Tower Hotel for a reported £4.375m. The purchase reflected the increasing confidence in the North West’s tourist product following on from the success of the UK City of Culture 2013. Stalwart of Belfast’s gay scene The Kremlin was snapped up by its tenant, Anthology NI for a price close to £3m. This is one of the highest prices paid for a single pub venue in recent years and demonstrates a renewed appetite and willingness by investors to take a chance on larger pub lot sizes. Belfast’s thriving Cathedral Quarter welcomed the arrival of restaurant, Hadskis, and cocktail bar, Sixty-Six, in the course of the


In terms of licensing legislation, the Social Development Minister announced much needed changes to the licensing laws in July which will see the introduction of occasional additional late opening hours for certain licensed premises on up to 12 occasions annually as well as modest changes to Easter opening hours. While the changes were certainly welcomed by the sector, Northern Ireland operators continue to lag behind our UK and European neighbours. The passing of the Licensing of Pavement Cafés (Northern Ireland) Act 2014 now requires venues to have a licence to serve food or drink in a public area (such as pavement dining). This has previously been unregulated. This Act has been welcomed as a way of encouraging a controlled and vibrant café culture; however uncertainty remains over how the ‘super councils’ and other bodies will work out the mechanics of putting the law into practice. It is anticipated that 2015 will see a number of important deals in the licensed sector. It is expected that the remainder of Botanic Inns’ properties (presently in the hands of administrators) including the King’s Head and Botanic Inn will be sold in 2015. Pub chain Wetherspoons have also made public their intention to significantly increase their presence in the Northern Ireland market with the recent purchase of premises on Belfast’s University Road and a proposed site at Royal Avenue. In my view the two biggest challenges facing the licensed sector in 2015 are VAT (20% compared with 9% on food in the Republic) and rates. The new rating valuation for licensed premises and nondomestic property takes effect from 1 April 2015. Draft valuations have been published on-line causing concern within the sector and many will be subject to a three-stage appeal process.

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On your marks, get set, M&A!

By Richard Gillian, Partner, Advisory, Grant Thornton


eal activity in 2014 has been modest, but there is plenty of scope for optimism.

In the nine months ended 30 September, 43 transactions were completed in Northern Ireland, representing a 10% decrease compared with the same period in 2013. The overall value of deals also dropped from £444.6m YTD2013 to £321.6m in YTD2014 – a 28% decline. To put the local activity into context, the Republic of Ireland reported 259 transactions in YTD2014, which was strong growth on 2013. Meanwhile, Great Britain witnessed 3,705 transactions in YTD2014 which was a 3% decline on YTD2013 volume. Locally, M&A deals were most prevalent in the manufacturing sector which accounted for 25% of deals. It is also noteworthy that 12 transactions in the year to date were private equity backed, a welcome improvement on previous years. A number of factors are expected to drive an improvement in the corporate finance market over the next 12 months.

In addition, we have been appointed to deliver InterTradeIreland’s “Funding for Growth Programme” which is timely; the Programme acknowledges the increasing availability of funding in the market. Equally the Programme recognises that many businesses require support and assistance to navigate through the funding options and present credible funding proposals to such providers. The availability of funding to responsible businesses is key to growth; such funding is now available to successful businesses who perhaps have failed in recent years to attract sufficient working capital to support their expansion plans.

Prior to the change in state aid rules, Invest NI committed considerable funds to facilitate significant corporate development projects and in 2015 we are likely to witness the implementation of some of these plans, with increased transactional activity likely to result.

Complementary to the local banks, we anticipate that the trend of increased private equity interest in Northern Ireland will continue in 2015. Meanwhile, the WhiteRock Capital offering continues to be in demand.

The return of institutions to the market with an appetite to expand their loan books has increased competition and will drive refinancing activity. Grant Thornton recently assisted TBF Thompson with its refinancing project, with similar deals to follow.

In recent years, many shareholders have been unable or unwilling to exit their businesses as the appetite to fund the vendor’s price expectations wained. We are witnessing a latent demand of shareholders in SMEs now actively reviewing their succession and exit


plans, which will ultimately drive a level of transactions. The completed and pending property loan book sales are expected to significantly impact the Northern Ireland market as the new custodians seek to manage/realise the assets over the short-medium term. The value of the Northern Ireland related loans and assets is considerable. Cerberus acquired Nama loans relating to Northern Ireland debtors which were originally valued at £4.5bn. Meanwhile, the other significant bank deleveraging projects will inevitably lead to increased transactional activity throughout Ireland. On a smaller scale, corporate venturing is also becoming more prevalent with businesses collaborating on projects to leverage strengths and mitigate. And, finally, we shouldn’t discount the many cash-rich Northern Ireland-based corporates, silent during the recession, who are now seeking to invest in trading businesses. 2015 looks set to be a busy year.


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Food for commercial property thought

By Robert Watson, Director, Osborne King Commercial Property Consultants


upermarket shopping took off in the UK in the 1960s, revolutionising the way people shopped for groceries. Over the years the format evolved with the addition of fuel retailing and, more recently, a range of non-foodstuffs, principally clothes and electrical goods. Another revolution in the way we shop for food is underway and having a profound effect on both the existing supermarket model and demand for retailing space. For decades supermarket operators built increasingly larger stores at highly accessible, edgeof-town locations offering multiple, competitively priced product lines, free car parking and fuel sales. In recent years, the “big four”, Tesco, Sainsbury’s, Asda and Morrison’s have dominated the retail sector accounting for over 40% of total retail sales in the UK. Supermarkets here typically comprise 50,000 – 70,000 sq ft although Tesco in particular has been upsizing in recent years culminating in the opening of its Craigavon store which extends to approximately 113,000 sq ft. However, changing shopping patterns have all but ended demand for new supermarket space challenging the viability of the 100,000 sq ft plus superstore. Consumers are now thriftier and the big weekly shop has shrunk. Instead we are topping up during the week in a number of different outlets with discounters Iceland and Lidl significant beneficiaries. Certainly Lidl has upped its game in terms of quality and market perception attracting shoppers across the socio-economic spectrum and rendering the snobbish view of Lidl as solely for households on a budget ‘old hat’. In contrast to the “big three” represented locally, Lidl


has expanded its portfolio recently opening its 38th store in High Street, Belfast. Typically Lidl occupies units of 10,000 – 12,000 sq ft and is mainly the only food retailer in this size bracket, leaving the company in a strong negotiating position when bidding for properties or sites to accommodate its property model. Whilst Aldi has not committed to opening a store here it would not surprise me if it did so in the future.

“The rapid growth of on-line shopping for electrical and hightech goods is well established and is one of the reasons why the 100,000 sq ft plus superstore is past its sell-by date.” The rapid growth of on-line shopping for electrical and high-tech goods is well established and is one of the reasons why the 100,000 sq ft plus superstore is past its sell-by date. Increasingly, we are doing our big food shop on-line and having it delivered to the house or using “click & collect” schemes. However convenient this may be for the consumer, the fees we pay for home delivery don’t come close to covering the cost of this service; supermarket operators are effectively providing a subsidy in order to retain customers. As this trend inevitably increases, supermarket operators will need less retail space and seek

to cut costs by servicing home delivery from non-retail units where rent and rates are much cheaper. In parts of England, principally around London, Tesco has already opened a number of ‘dark’ stores. Although the term has a somewhat menacing edge, these are non-retail warehouses on industrial estates servicing Tesco’s local on-line business. The benefits are obvious; the property operating cost of a ‘dark’ store may be a third that of a retail store. Interestingly, just recently, Tesco announced the closure of 43 unprofitable stores across the UK and surprisingly some will be convenience stores. Although the locations have not been revealed, and there is no suggestion any are in Northern Ireland, it remains a possibility. Tesco are also shelving plans to open a further 49 new stores including planned new developments at Carryduff and Armagh. The “space race” has well and truly ended. There have been no similar proposals from Sainsbury’s and Asda but some rationalisation of their estate cannot be ruled out. The other major beneficiaries of top-up shopping are convenience stores, which are primarily located in town centres and neighbourhood schemes and also on filling station sites fronting major arterial roads to catch us on our morning and evening commutes. While they mainly target the basket or top-up shopper, the trend towards adding complementary in-store amenities such as post offices, hot food counters and butchery franchises is growing. The Henderson and Musgrave groups dominate the convenience market locally. Henderson, trading under the Vivo, Spar and Eurospar brands, services over 400 outlets whilst the Musgrave Group operates the

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Supervalu, Centra and Mace brands servicing over 250 outlets across the province. Costcutter and Nisa make up the other well-known brands. Competition in this sector for well-located, high-performing sites is fierce and as well as sustaining strong property values, it is not unusual to see six and seven-figure premiums being paid for goodwill, fixtures and fittings. While the big supermarket brands have also identified convenience shopping as a growth area, Tesco is the only one to have invested in this sector in Northern Ireland and now has 18 trading convenience outlets with more in the pipeline. Effectively the company is reintroducing the grocery shop back into urban centres and that can only be a good thing for the viability and vitality of these centres which have suffered badly throughout the recession. Sainsbury’s and Asda have not yet entered the local convenience store sector, but that cannot be ruled out given an increased focus on their convenience business. As consumers we are forcing food retailers to rethink their business models and property portfolios. There is no doubt that supermarkets will remain our primary destination for grocery and household staples, but they will have to work harder to retain our loyalty. Grocery shopping is becoming “multi-channel” and offering us myriad options to spend money in these mega businesses. We can also expect to see major supermarkets offering additional services including banking, optometry, leisure, recipe and lifestyle advice to attract us in-store. The discounters will continue to increase market share although a concerted effort on behalf of the big supermarket operators may limit their growth. Convenience shopping will remain a key option for consumers, and if improvements made in the quality of produce, value and range of services are maintained, this sector is likely to expand in Northern Ireland. Indeed, we may reach saturation point particularly if Sainsbury’s and Asda enter the convenience market, however, we are not there yet.


Robert Watson, director at Osborne King.


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Time to do away with time?

By Conor Devine MRICS, Principal at GDP Partnership

Couple this with the effect of the much reduced spending and the impending job losses in the public sector due to austerity measures, which is set to continue to 2020 according to the Finance Minister, I’d say it’s difficult to be anything else other than cautiously optimistic. The Chancellor, George Osborne in his December 2014 statement, said planned cuts would see public spending fall to its ‘lowest level in 80 years’. The Office for Budget Responsibility estimated around £23bn of cuts by the end of the next Parliament which would see public spending fall to 35.2% GDP in 2019-2020.


recently read a quote from Mitch Albom’s book, ‘The Timekeeper’, where he asks us ‘to try and imagine a life without timekeeping.’ We probably can’t. Most of us wear a watch on our arm and we all have certain times that we must adhere to, set by schedules and calendars. Mitch Albom also points out that ‘dogs do not check’ their watches and that it is man alone that chimes the hour. He states because of this, man suffers a ‘paralysing fear that no other creature endures – a fear of time running out!’ This got me thinking, is time running out for Northern Ireland and for our politicians who are elected to make decisions that will take us forward? The economy over the last six years has


struggled, waivered and on occasions been downright dismal but for the first time a glimmer of light appeared in 2014. According to a Northern Ireland Economic Outlook report the economy is ‘growing but growth is patchy, slow and vulnerable’. Other reports state that it could take ‘a decade for Northern Ireland property prices to recover’ due to the ongoing correction taking place.

It is at times like these that strong leadership and action is required, both in business and the political arena but I sense disengagement ‘on the hill’, there is a fear that time is running out! Running out perhaps because of George Osborne’s stipulation that devolving powers, including corporation tax, would depend on the outcome of talks and that they need to show they can ‘manage the financial implications’.

I agree with some of this. Companies are beginning to spend, invest and recruit but I however express extreme caution that Northern Ireland has a long way to go.

Running out as electioneering has begun due to the impending general election and no-one in the political world will want to make a decision, which will affect their re-election chances. Fear has set in.

I still see too many people cross our doors in GDP Partnership who are in debt, their homes are in negative equity or they are having their assets sold by the banks from underneath their feet and now have to deal with the American vulture funds who want their money and want it now.

Although I like the idea of not living by Father Time, we all have to in business. We alone chime the hour but let’s not be paralysed by it. I would ask that we make those difficult decisions for if we do not, the outlook is not good and time will all but stand still.

Finding the best to make your business better.


Don’t neglect the digital By Siobhán Lavery, Managing Director of ICAN Advertising


igital advertising in Northern Ireland is on the up, hooray! But wait a minute. Let’s not congratulate ourselves too much because it is still lagging significantly behind other European markets in terms of investment in online media. The ‘NI Digital Barometer’, carried out by Millward Brown Ulster and published by ICAN, found that whilst 9 out of 10 companies surveyed have websites and 7 out of 10 have a social media presence, less than a third of companies were leveraging any other forms of digital advertising. Despite the fact 80% of Northern Irish people are online, that digital is a vital part of their lives and permeates everything they do, only 10% of advertising spend is attributed to digital media. If we compare this to the UK, this is very poor indeed. Digital overtook TV as the biggest advertising medium in the UK in 2009 and now accounts for 44% of all advertising spend.

“Despite the vital role that digital plays, brands continue to downplay the very obvious fact that the tide has truly turned and are allocating minimal spends to digital activity.” The reality is, that whilst Northern Irish consumers have kept pace with changes in technology and jumped enthusiastically on the ‘wave of technology’ that arrived on our shores a number of years ago, businesses that were too slow to leave the perceived safety of the beach are now paddling frantically to catch-up. Despite the vital role that digital plays, brands continue to downplay the very obvious fact that the tide has truly turned and are allocating minimal spends to digital activity. It is this disconnect between how some businesses and brands plan their marketing campaigns and how consumers actually behave that is, in my view, the greatest challenge the industry faces. No longer can digital be treated as something to be ‘bolted on’ to traditional advertising – it must be put at the heart of the marketing strategy.


Don’t get me wrong, there are some excellent examples of joined-up thinking and fully integrated approaches happening in many areas. But what I’m simply trying to say is that these should be the norm, not something we’re still aspiring to. Let’s stop paying lip service to what is now so fundamental to the future of our sector and double our commitment to genuine integration and development of our talent to deal with the unavoidable, new, digital reality. Because there’s a lot riding on it – advertising’s reputation, employment and jobs, a return to growth and the long term sustainability of indigenous industry – both our own and our clients’. Digital will only continue to grow and play a bigger role in our lives, so it’s also vital that businesses make a genuine effort to grow with it to reach and engage consumers. In the digital era consumers are no longer passive and brand loyal – they are active participants with a wealth of choice at their fingertips. If their needs aren’t met, they will move on in seconds and not look back.


Local Knowledge, Global Reach.


Look forward to cranes on the horizon

By Declan Flynn, Lisney


hilst headway has been made over the last year in our seemingly endless efforts to achieve economic recovery, the economy is still in desperate need of a firmer ‘nudge’ in the right direction. I was not alone in thinking that this said nudge would present itself in the form of devolved corporation tax varying powers announced in the Chancellor’s Autumn Statement. However, it was not to be. Well, not least until “the Northern Ireland Executive can show that it is able to manage the financial implications”. Should this be the case before the end of the current Parliament session, or ever, remains to be seen. The failure to devolve these powers would be a great shame for Northern Ireland considering it could be the significant turning point required to rebalance and revive the local economy in 2015. That being said, 2014 did unveil a growing confidence within the commercial property market, and that will continue, if not pick up pace, over the next 12 months. With significant job creation and availability of new capital, the office market will certainly be one to watch. However, the shortage of premium, suitably sized floor plates, is still a concern and has already triggered a scramble for Grade A supply with rents on the rise. I am hopeful that within the next 12-18 months we will see the return of cranes to the Belfast skyline. Within the last year, we have seen the emergence of more and more UK funds in search of investment opportunities,


such as shopping centres. This is no doubt being driven by the increasing confidence within the occupational market which will continue in 2015. Whilst investment volumes are expected to steadily increase, the lack of supply does apply the brakes to growth within this sector. The significant amount of commercial real estate in Northern Ireland associated with recent loan sales, including Projects Eagle (NAMA), Achill (Ulster Bank) and the ongoing Aaran (Ulster Bank), will be key to unlocking this supply of product and the potential to fulfil a higher proportion of demand. The wave of capital being invested in shopping centres combined with the improving consumer confidence is good news for the retail market, particularly the high street where I expect we will see a reduction in vacancy levels across the board.

As a result, I would be optimistic that many landlords can look forward to some much needed rental growth. Despite apprehension around the forthcoming Rates Revaluation, this is long overdue. On a more general front, capital values are slowly but surely recovering, despite still being a long way off their 2007 peak. The question however remains – do we really want to go back there?! All in all, the market is moving in the right direction and will continue to do so with or without the devolution of corporation tax varying powers. This is a market that does not stand still and one thing we can be sure of is that the next 12 months will bear further change. I look forward to 2015, a year in which I believe, the economy will benefit from positive changes within the marketplace.

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Leadership more important than ever

By Gary Irvine, Principal Search Consultant, 4c Executive Search


s we enter what could potentially be a turbulent year for the local economy, strong leadership from Northern Ireland’s business community will be more important than ever. Public sector cuts will start to be felt in 2015, which will create new challenges for all sectors of our economy. But at 4c Executive Search we have begun the New Year with a tangible sense of optimism. Both established local firms and corporations who have recently invested in Northern Ireland are recruiting for high level positions – illustrating the confidence they have in their own businesses. And we believe the private sector business leaders we have here in Northern Ireland are of the high calibre needed to help our political leaders navigate the wider economic difficulties caused by shrinking budgets.

already employed in a senior post at the time and are considered to be what we call a ‘passive job seeker’ in the unadvertised job market – they are happy in their current role, but may be interested by being made aware of other opportunities.

That’s why we are proud to be sponsoring Ulster Business magazine’s 2015 Leaders in Business issue which profiles some of our best known and up-and-coming managers and entrepreneurs.

When we are recruiting for a role we don’t start with an existing list of candidates. Instead we treat each role individually and employ independent researchers to identify the best people for that position right across the UK and Ireland – which increasingly includes ex-pats for whom Northern Ireland is once again an attractive career destination.

It’s a commonly aired view that Northern Ireland lacks the depth of leadership talent that exists in other parts of the UK and Ireland. The theory is that our historic political situation and the resulting low number of global companies locating here meant fewer executives have honed their skills in an international corporate environment. While that is true, the level of talent which exists in Northern Ireland should not be underestimated. We have surprised some of our largest corporate clients by finding excellent locally based candidates for senior executive roles when they had assumed such individuals could only be found in Great Britain or further afield. We’ve done that through the process of executive search. It’s what differentiates us from the many recruitment companies out there. And as the economy gains momentum and the competition for talent heats up, it is an approach more companies are engaging with as they seek to fill business critical roles crucial to helping their companies grow. Executive search is an in-depth, methodical process, used to target and attract senior-level talent. Candidates are usually


Our own company is growing too. Such has been the demand for 4c’s professional search services in Northern Ireland that we’re adding further consultants to an experienced team that is fast becoming the market leader. The leaders profiled in the following pages hail from different sectors of the economy. Their businesses are thriving and their successes show we have some world class organisations and individuals here. With Invest NI bringing in new international companies in sectors such as IT, financial services and legal services and more of our indigenous firms operating in far flung export markets, the opportunities for our leaders to develop have never been greater. 4c congratulates those featured in the 2015 Leaders in Business list and we hope their stories will inspire further success in the many other great companies in Northern Ireland.



Elaine Birchall Chief Executive of SHS Group


he task of finding a new boss to head up one of the most progressive indigenous companies in Northern Ireland was no mean feat.

Such a wealth of experience leaves her well equipped to take over the top role at SHS and she some very definite plans for the future of the company in place.

by its founders, enabled by a relatively flat management structure that allows decisions to be made quickly and individual efforts to be visible and recognised.”

SHS Group had been transformed over the last few years into a diversified business distributing its own – such as Shloer and WKD etc - and other company’s brands to a customer base spread far and wide under Michael Howard.

“Future growth strategies will revolve 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,” Elaine told Ulster Business. “Our focus remains on growing a profitable, independent and deliberately diverse family business that owns, markets and distributes great FMCG brands for the benefit of future generations of employees, business partners and shareholders.”

Although only in the job since November, Elaine said she’s enjoying the challenge.

The experience Elaine has gleaned from her years in the business have helped hone such a definitive strategy.

Like all bosses, time is a precious commodity but Elaine makes sure she makes time to relax. “Leaving work at the front door is challenging and I try hard to be present and spend time with my family on weekends. I have nurtured great relationships in my years as an expat so invariably we are visiting or hosting offshore friends several times a year.”

The task of taking hold of the SHS baton following Mr Howard’s retirement falls to Elaine Birchall, a woman who’s CV screams FCMG (fast moving consumer goods) across a wide geography and working for some heavy hitting household names. The Dublin City University graduate joined Grand Metropolitan in the UK as a graduate trainee before moving to CocaCola where she completed her chartered management accountant qualification. From there she joined Colgate Palmolive in 1994 working in finance, IT, sales & marketing, supply chain and business transformation functions as far afield as New York, Brussels, Paris, and the South Pacific. It was then off to PZ Cussons in Manchester in 2007 where she quickly took up the role of UK Managing Director. Promotion to the Group Operating Board in 2011 saw Elaine manage Africa, before becoming Global Director of Business Transformation.


“Building and sustaining brands requires a business to be outward looking, agile and completely customer centric. You need to be ruthless in defining what business you are in, and relentless in being the best in class in your chosen sectors.” And to do that, Elaine’s keen to maintain an entrepreurial culture at the company. “SHS Group has a very special culture, a great legacy from the values instilled

“I am enjoying the diversity of the sectors that SHS Group operate in, and the variety of challenges that presents. I am already proud of the homogeneity of the values that underpin our business culture, it is a rich asset that has taken years to build. And, as ever in my career, I embrace the opportunity to lead a great business with a talented and committed group of employees and business partners.”

Such global experience can only benefit SHS Group. Although Elaine has big shoes to fill, there aren’t many with such a depth of experience to take over at the helm of such a dynamic company.





Trevor Annon Chairman, Mount Charles Group


revor Annon’s story is one straight out of the entrepreneurial handbook.

From a standing start he’s built Mount Charles Group to one of the biggest contract catering and business support companies in Northern Ireland. It’s a long way from the company’s formation back in 1988 when Trevor left the security of a salary in his role as regional director for one of the multi-national contract catering companies he refers to as the “big boys” to set up on his own. “I formed the company from a base of zero and quickly built up a number of contracts by focusing on local ownership and remaining dedicated to providing an excellent service,” he told Ulster Business. It obviously worked because over the next few years Mount Charles became more than capable of taking on those big boys at their own game. Contract catering had been the backbone of the firm in the early days but it was quickly apparent that a broader offering was needed as companies looked for a one-stop shop when it came to their support services.


The cleaning division was a natural add-on, quickly followed by the vending division, one which operates a fleet of 14 merchandising vans.

It became The Mount Charles Group and now operates distinct divisions including Business & Industry, Education & Healthcare, Retail, Vending and Cleaning.

Retail contracts have been a big focus for the company which counts customers such as Belfast Waterfront, Belfast International Airport, City of Derry Airport, Laganside Court, Mossley Mill Conference Centre and Theatre, University of Ulster and many others.

The company remained in family ownership but Trevor has taken up the position of chairman with Cathal Geoghegan taking over the managing director position and a very definite plan for the future laid out to make £50m of revenue by 2017 from around £30m.

“I formed the company from a base of zero and quickly built up a number of contracts by focusing on local ownership and remaining dedicated to providing an excellent service.” Such was the speed of growth that by 2011 the firm was employing 1,200 across Northern Ireland as well as a small base in Dublin and a restructure was in order.

And it’s hatched plans outside Northern Ireland. “The company intends to actively seek out more opportunities within NI, but we also intend placing greater focus on the Republic of Ireland, particularly in Dublin where there are huge opportunities,” Trevor said. “The market continues to change with clients seeking additional services and the most cost effective solutions possible.”


Such expansion is impressive but certainly doesn’t involve a solo journey for Trevor. “I have always believed in hard work and encouraging colleagues to work ‘with us’ – not ‘for us’. I have worked at the coalface so I know what is required in terms of effort. To succeed you must bring staff with you on the journey, treat them as equals and encourage them to develop their own skills.” And it’s clear the workforce is important to Trevor. “Many of our staff have been with the company for years and we genuinely believe we have a family atmosphere which makes everyone feel part of the business. We believe in employing highly-trained support managers to oversee the business. “On our contract division we employ more support staff than all of our competitors. This is a major cost but we treat it as an investment as it allows us to respond to staff issues promptly and discreetly.” That attitude has obviously paid off over the years and should stand Mount Charles Group in good stead in the ambitious years ahead.




Marie Marin Founder of Employers for Childcare


nder normal circumstances it takes a good 30 minutes of an interview before getting to the bottom of whether or not a business person really enjoys their job. In Marie Marin’s case, we don’t have to wait quite so long. “I can’t wait to get out of bed in the morning to get to work,” she told Ulster Business in the first 30 seconds of our interview. “There’s nothing better in the world to be paid to do something you love.” Having established she’s a fan of the 9-5, we need to find out how Marie ended up running Employers For Childcare, an organisation which describes itself as a campaigning charity which encourages employers to implement family-friendly policies in the workplace. A telling statement which reveals a lot about the spirit of the organisation can be found on the “About us” section of the website: “We use a capital ‘F’ in our name, ‘Employers For Childcare’ to emphasise the fact that this is a statement of action, ‘For’ meaning ‘in support of’.” Nothing wrong with a bit of pendency when it comes to punctuation, but how did the organisation come about? Happily for the purposes of this feature Marie


travelled a road less travelled by the careerminded chief executive in her early years.

and good friends because the people sitting in front of me couldn’t fill out a job application.”

Her first dabble in the world of work involved a brilliantly diverse range of jobs, from waitressing to working on tram cars across the US and Europe, a horizon-widening experience that lasted for 10 years.

Five years in that post and Marie said she “developed a social conscience” and, in addition to the day job, studied at Queen’s University to teach English as a foreign language (she already speaks Spanish and German fluently after her years of travel).

Having got married, Marie said she needed to settle down and came back to Belfast in search of a steady job. However, applying for a permanent position was something she wasn’t up to speed with so it was off to a job club in West Belfast.

She was then able to address a need she had already identified to teach English to the wives of Korean workers who had arrived in Northern Ireland.

Standing out from the crowd already, Marie was offered a job at the community employment agency.

“The men were learning English at work, the children were learning English in school but the wives were being left out. It was then I started to understand how women can be excluded in situations like this.”

“The best thing that ever happened to me was working with long-term unemployed adults,” she said. “I realised how lucky I was to have had a good education, a good family

A job in Craigavon for a gender equality organisation followed where Marie started developing a project to get women into work, a role where she found herself working


because it made business sense which they could prove by tracking productivity. “That was where Employers For Childcare was born.” From there Marie came back to Belfast, initially setting up the organisation as a community group with the help of grant funding. She has worked tirelessly with employers, parents, community groups, childcare providers and government departments on childcare and work-related issues. And in just four years the business has become completely self sufficent by developing its own revenue streams. The charity is now funded by two subsiduary trading companies, one which carries out financial administration and the other a childcare recruitment agency. All the profits from the companies go to fund the charity, quite something when you consider that amounts to £3m in the last six years. “We combine business acumen with a highly developed social conscience. That is why we describe our organisation as a business but everything we do is for a social good.” It’s a hugely admirable business ideology, something that takes a special kind of person to pull it off. with employers to persuade them to implement family-friendly policies. “That was a light bulb moment as I understood what they needed and wanted,” she said. “Through supportive organisations like Moy Park and Ulster Carpets I developed projects and built up credibility by successfully getting women into the business. But it’s hard because who’s going to look after their children?” It was then that the Clinton’s got involved.


While US President Bill Clinton was brokering peace in 1999, Hilary Clinton was organising a women’s democracy event called Vital Voices in which Marie was asked to participate and ended up talking to Mrs Clinton in a live link up.

And it’s telling of the person at the top that during our interview she fails to mention her OBE.

What she said must have made sense because she was invited out to the US on a study visit to look into unemployment policies there.

The regard with which Marie’s staff hold her is also telling when it is one of them who emails following our interview to add that important titbit, one they knew she wouldn’t have brought up herself.

“I went to Kansas City and it blew my mind,” she said. “Here were hard-nosed businesses implementing childcare on site

It only adds to the impression that here is a character devoted to turning business into a force for social good.



Jeff Wylie Chief Financial Officer, Kana




eing the Belfast-based numbers man for a California company, Jeff Wylie knows the trans-Atlantic commuting route more than most. He’s often to be found making the trip to Kana’s Sunnyvale head office, the company in which he’s chief financial officer. That the software company – which specialises in technology used in customer service and engagement management and is owned by the Verint Group – employed Jeff in one of its most important roles when it took over Lagan Technologies in 2010 reflects the regard in which he’s held, as does the fact he built a business case to expand the Belfast office by over 100 people in 2011.

It was through the takeover of Lagan Technologies that Jeff found himself working for Kana.

to persuade the rest of the management team to base its European office in Belfast, never mind put more investment into it.

He was also CFO at the Belfast company, helping drive growth and bring it to the attention of the Californian firm.

The answer, it appears, is a very simple ‘no’.

Prior to that he worked as CFO and chief operating officer for Meridio, an electronic document and record management company and before that as Group Finance Director with Amacis, IBI Corporate Finance and at venture capital company Enterprise Equity. A Cambridge University graduate, Jeff is a qualified chartered accountant who started his career with EY in London.

Jeff said the rest of Kana’s senior managers are hugely impressed by the capability and drive of the Northern Ireland office, a region of the world the company wouldn’t naturally have set up base were it not for the Lagan takeover. In addition to the talent, Lagan’s speciality in servicing local government has added an extra arm to Kana’s offering, expanding its customer base both across sectors and geographically.

Jeff’s role is certainly varied. As well as keeping a close eye on all legal, financial and tax responsibilities for the company across the world, he is involved in expanding Kana’s reach across Europe as well as delving into merger and acquisitions when the need arises.


He’s obviously deeply experienced and well qualified to keep Kana’s ambitious growth plans driving forward, plans which have the Belfast arm of the business at their heart. The inevitable question for anyone in Jeff’s position is whether it was difficult

And despite the regular overseas travelling, Jeff said he enjoys his job. “It’s a great company to be part of,” he told Ulster Business. “I work with some hugely talented people here in Belfast and across other parts of the business.”



Jason Marty Global Director of Operations at Baker & McKenzie


eing sent to Northern Ireland to set up an office for the world’s biggest law firm would sound daunting to most people, but Jason Marty said he has relished the challenge. Originally from St Louis, Missouri, he has lived in Chicago since 1996 before moving to Belfast in August this year to carry out Baker & McKenzie’s ambitious plans. Those plans involve the establishment of a Global Services Centre in Belfast to carry out work for its law offices around the globe and will involve taking on over 250 staff here. The law firm isn’t alone in announcing plans to hire a large chunk of staff over the last few months but given it didn’t have an office here before August, its task is probably slightly more difficult. Jason, who has been with Baker & McKenzie since 2001, moved to the city with his family in August and settled in while awaiting the official Invest Northern Ireland announcement on the jobs a week or so later, news which garnered a lot of attention.

taking two floors in the first stage of the building which is currently under construction. That’s no mean feat given Belfast doesn’t exactly have an embarrassment of riches when it comes to grade A office space at the moment.

So far he’s been impressed with the offering. The most obvious question to ask someone in Jason’s position is why would the world’s biggest law firm want to set up a base in Northern Ireland? “Our first driver is our clients,” Jason told Ulster Business. “We want to do things more efficiently and our Belfast office will help us do that.” It’s a model which has worked well for the legal practise in the past as it has successfully set up a similar operation in Manila in the Philippines which employs over 700. The financial assistance offered by Invest Northern Ireland was also obviously a help but more importantly was the availability of the right kind of talent.

He set up a temporary base in the Scottish Provident building in Belfast city centre and has been busy ticking off a very long checklist which comes as a given with such a big task.

Jason is tasked with finding 120 people in the first year of operation, taking that up to 250 within three years and has already been on a busy hiring spree with new recruits due to arrive shortly after our interview.

Already he’s secured the anchor tenancy on Belfast Harbour’s City Quays development,

He said he will likely stay in Northern Ireland for two, perhaps three years (“although


people tell me I won’t want to leave”) to carry out three main objectives: to hire and empower a senior local management team, to integrate the Belfast office with Baker & McKenzie’s sites around the world and to “set up a centre which reflects our culture”.

“It’s fair to say all the hiring managers around the world have been impressed with the CVs and the interpersonal skills of the candidates we’ve received.” That’s something which the two other global law firms which have established themselves here – Allen & Overy and Herbert Smith Freehills – have mentioned before, firms which have helped to dispel any worries indigenous law firms had around competition from the global giants. “We have benefited from the fact the others (law firms) have already set up here so the reception for us has been positive.” It seems all systems are go for Baker & McKenzie’s grand plans in Northern Ireland but is Jason enjoying it? “I’m having a great deal of fun,” he said. “I’m adjusting to different business norms but on a personal level it’s a fantastic opportunity which I’m relishing.”







Dr Brian Burns Vice President Operations at Seagate Technology


r Brian Burns heads up a business which is at the cutting edge when it comes to the manufacture of recording heads. “Cutting edge” is a phrase which is often misused, but for Seagate Technology, the global technology company, it probably undersells the giant strides its Springtown site has been making over the last few years in its very specialised field. Under Brian’s leadership it has grown from an offshoot of the Seagate empire to become an essential hub, leading the way in the development of new products from scratch right through to manufacture. Its staff of 1,350 manufacture a staggering 25% of the world’s recording heads at the plant using technology which make it the north west’s answer to NASA. Headlines earlier this year focused on the 35 new jobs which an additional investment in research and development will bring to the site and, while that’s a boon for the area, the bigger story lies behind the £34.7m it plans to invest in R&D. To put it into perspective, such a sum represents 40% of Northern Ireland’s R&D target for the year as a whole, but more importantly than that it highlights the commitment of Seagate as a company to Northern Ireland. Memories of 2008 and the closure of its Limavady plant with the loss of 1,000


jobs might make you raise an eyebrow to such a statement but the Springtown plant has managed to make itself much more globally competitive and invaluable as far as the R&D side goes since then. Much of that is down to Brian Burns’ leadership. He has notched up 21 years with the company and knows both the business and the technology inside out. He joined after completing his PhD at Queen’s University, starting out as a junior engineer before eventually becoming Director of Engineering at the company’s headquarters in Normandale, Minneapolis. A move back to run the Limavady plant followed during which time he had the difficult task of overseeing the closure of the plant and the opening of a new substrate manufacturing site in Asia. Brian was then based in Singapore for three years as Vice President while a new plant was opened in neighbouring Malaysia, along with the help of six specialists who had previously been located at the Limavady plant. Having got the site up and running he moved back to Northern Ireland to take over the running of the Springvale site. “We decided to increase the amount of development we did here,” Brian said in an interview with Ulster Business. “In the first 10 years it was difficult as we were

seen as the junior plant to Minneapolis but we then became a world class manufacturing site and that’s why we decided to put in more development here.” “We had to develop the team and take it on a steep learning curve but we’ve obviously been successful as we’ve secured the additional investment.” By making the Springvale business invaluable from both an economic and knowledge point of view, Brian’s help secured the future of Seagate in Northern Ireland and can throw up numerous reasons why it has no intention of moving. “Firstly, the knowledge base here is vast. There are people who’ve been with the company here for 20 years with an array of knowledge which can’t be found anywhere else in the world. Secondly, there’s the huge amount of capital equipment which amounts to well over $1bn.” “Thirdly, there’s the close relationship we have with Queen’s University where we’ve worked together to develop the ANSIN Centre, an international research hub, which has been working on recording head technology for us as well as helping produce PhD graduates with a deep understanding of the technology we’re working with.” “And of course we still manufacture at a very competitive price. When you tie all that together it really does put you in a strong position in the company.”



Robert Cooper Chief Executive of Harland and Wolff


obert Cooper is at the helm of one of the most iconic companies in Northern Ireland.

Harland and Wolff is a name which captures the spirit of our ship-building and engineering heritage and one which dominates the Belfast skyline with its bright yellow cranes Samson and Goliath. It built the Titanic, at the time the largest passenger ship ever made, but that was just one of a plethora of engineering firsts which the great yard could put its name to over its long history, including the Myrina, the first supertanker built in the UK and the largest ever vessel launched on a slipway. But probably one of the biggest achievements the yard has ever witnessed happened over the last few years when the company transformed itself from a pure ship builder to focus on the offshore oil and gas market and the renewables industry. And leading that increasingly successful directional change is Mr Cooper, who has been chief executive of Harland and Wolff since 2003. “Moving from being a company that was primarily a shipbuilder was an incredible challenge, but also a fantastic opportunity,” he said. “What never changed was a focus on our core capability and inherent quality; when we assessed the markets available to us, we


concentrated on those core characteristics and analysed each market for compatibility. “Each successful project allowed us to reinvest in the company. A considerable number of successful projects later and we are in a position to continue to invest significantly for the future, in terms of facilities and people.” Such a long-term outlook is one Mr Cooper needs to be in place to ensure longevity in such a volatile business. He joined Harland and Wolff in 1974 as a trainee accountant and after successfully completing his ICMA professional examinations, held a number of positions within the Finance Department. In 1990, following the privatisation of the Harland and Wolff group of companies, he was promoted to Financial Director of H&W Shipbuilding and Heavy Industries Ltd. He carried on in that role until 1993 when he was appointed Group Financial Director of H&W Group PLC before taking up the top job in 2003. Such long-term planning is obviously working because demand is strong enough

to merit an increase in headcount, as well as a focus on apprentices through a new Welding Academy Centre. “We are investing in strengthening our core numbers, enacting a strong recruitment drive that will take our permanent staff levels up by over 60 people. This strengthening is across the entirety of H&W, including Directors, Senior Managers, General Managers, Design Engineers, Operations Management and skilled supervision and tradesmen.” Growing staff numbers adds to the managerial pressure, so how does Mr Cooper make sure Harland and Wolff employees are motivated? “It is about creating the right environment for personnel, and as a consequence of that, company success. Challenging people with clear goals and rewarding


“Surround yourself with the right people, listen to them but don’t be afraid to make the decision. Common sense goes a long way.” Sound advice for people of all levels but what would Mr Cooper tell his 20-yearold self at the start of his career? “Have faith in your own abilities and don’t be afraid to make decisions or take calculated risks. Agonising over making a wrong choice can lead to paralysis.” them accordingly is one element, but ensuring the correct support is also available to facilitate that success, is key.” And it’s clear people are key to making a business such as his work, and in making the job of chief executive easier, according to Mr Cooper when Ulster Business asks for the secret to his success.


Such wise words have helped transform Harland and Wolff into a business which has changed immeasurably from the day in 1974 when Mr Cooper first joined. And there’s no doubt his leadership has ensured the company will still be going strong in another 40 years.



Marie McHugh Dean of the Ulster University Business School


arie McHugh has her hands full. She’s tasked with supplying Northern Ireland with the next generation of managers, leaders and business professionals, a role which is not for the faint hearted.

After graduating in Psychology from Queen’s University, there was an “aniticpation” she would go into the family’s drapery business in the town but instead she went back to Queen’s to study a Masters in Occupational Psychology.

It’s one in which she has to wear many hats: educator, sales person, manager, accountant – to name but a few – but one which she clearly relishes, when UIster Business meets Marie in her Jordanstown office.

After that she worked as a research assistant for the Northern Ireland Council for Educational Research before bagging a research officer post with the University of Ulster. “The rest is history,” Marie said.

“It is hugely enjoyable, hugely challenging and a role which has changed considerably,” she said. “I’m extremely fortunate to work with a superb management team of very enthusiastic and hugely dedicated people who provide top-class management and business education which is aligned with business need.”

Two years after arriving at the university she was offered a lectureship which she grabbed with both hands and while studying also carried out wealth of research and teaching, including a PhD and a sixmonth period working in Sweden with the country’s social security agency.

It could all have been very different for the Enniskillen-born Marie.

In 2001 Marie was made head of department before taking up the role of Dean in 2009.


The change she refers to since then in the Ulster University Business School – which celebrates its 40th anniversary next year – is typical of the wider economy. “When I reflect on it, Northern Ireland as a place has changed a lot in the last five years and the change I see in my role has changed with it. We have become much more outward facing as a business school and as an economy.” “For instance, it’s really important for us to have close links with the business community and that’s why we have about 400 students out on one-year placements with industry.” That is hugely valuable in giving students experience of business and can also be a boon for host companies. Marie points to the winner Catherine McKernan, a final year student in Marketing, Entrepreneurship and Strategy who helped


established here or thinking of establishing themselves here to make sure the university is producing the right kind of graduate. And over the years the school has built up a strong link with international universities, including the Dongbei University of Finance and Economics in Dalian in China from where around 30 students come to study at the Ulster University Business School each year.

transform the customer relations processes in EDGE Innovate, Dungannon with a resultant £773,000 boost to the company’s worldwide sales. Those close links extend to research, where businesses can make use of the university’s vast knowledge base to help develop or test products through schemes like the Knowledge Transfer Partnership. Marie’s also on hand to help Invest NI when it’s trying to woo overseas investment and works closely with those already


Closer to home, the Centre of SME Development is aimed at helping the plethora of smaller companies which make up the Northern Ireland economy to leverage the school’s knowledge base. These arms of work are at the heart of the University of Ulster Business School’s aims. “We see ourselves as a resource for business,” Marie said. “We work with business, for business and have a deepseated commitment in helping the Northern Ireland economy develop.” That’s quite a commitment and proves that the drapery world’s loss all those years ago in Enniskillen ended up for the good of businesses across Northern Ireland.



Brian Dolaghan Executive Director of Business and Sector Development at Invest NI


obody can have missed the plethora of investment announcements from Invest Northern Ireland over the last few months. For the 2013/2014 financial year it promoted 10,800 jobs and managed to match that figure in the first six months of this year. Many of the companies behind those jobs are new inward investors and it’s great to see new multi-national names arriving to the streets of Northern Ireland. But a large percentage are also from indigenous or overseas companies which already have bases here who have reinvested, sometimes for the second time, sometimes for the third time. Names like PwC, Citi and Allen & Overy have also been making probably the biggest headline investments but they aren’t new names, having already firmly established bases here to service their global businesses. They’ve proven to their boards that investment in Northern Ireland works and have successfully pitched for additional work and additional investment.


They don’t do it alone, however, but in tandem with Invest NI and a dedicated team who are well versed in the additional features and benefits the region has to offer and the partnerships which can make Northern Ireland a place to expand further. The man heading up that team is Brian Dolaghan, an Executive Director at the agency, with special responsibility for current overseas and indigenous investors. That covers up to 1,500 companies, businesses which Brian’s department needs to know inside out.

one which blazed a trail for a number of other companies who followed suit. Brian said Citi’s example proved what was possible to the likes of Herbert Smith Freehills and Allen & Overy, two legal giants which have firmly established themselves here, the latter recently expanding its operation further. “Whenever you have a name like Citi making it work here it holds a lot of credence to your offering to other companies,” he said. “It happens quite a lot. A company comes here to do one thing there is the talent here to allow it expand into another area.”

“We are partnership focused,” he said. “We try to work alongside a business to understand how it works, to find out what challenges it faces and to see if we can help meet those challenges.” “Once the company arrives here we wrap our arms around them and help them grow as best we can.” Take Citi, a global bank which initially set up an IT support services division here. It realised there is a wealth of legal talent in Northern Ireland and soon reinvested, setting up a legal services department,

In fact, 70% of all businesses which set up base in Northern Ireland reinvest, some more than once. “It’s the people and the skillset which invariably makes it work for companies, not to mention the support mechanisms which we are a part of.” Brian is well qualified to meet those challenges. Schooled at Inst and Queen’s University Belfast, he is a qualified chartered accountant who started his career at Price Waterhouse where he stayed for six years


before joining Invest NI’s predecessor IDB in the corporate finance division for four years. A spell in electricity company Viridian followed before Brian took up the role as finance director of Heyn Shipping for another six years before joining Invest NI 10 years ago. He was Director of Engineering and Business before becoming Financial Director of the agency, then Director of Financial Technology and Business Services and taking up his current role as Executive Director of Business and Sector Development at the start of 2014. And it’s clear that he enjoys his job. “I love the variety of the work,” he said. “We can be dealing with a food company one day and a technology company the next. It’s also a great place to work with some really good people, most who have been out in industry and are genuinely try to do their best. “I feel we make a difference and that’s the key for me when I get out of bed in the morning. When I came out of university there were a couple of larger accountancy practices in Northern Ireland but there weren’t half the opportunities there are now. “We are helping change the environment in which people live for the better and that’s a very rewarding thing.”




Jackie Henry Senior Partner, Deloitte Northern Ireland


magine going to your bosses and asking them for £30m of investment and the creation of 500 jobs in your office. Sounds a daunting prospect, but not one which fazed Jackie Henry, the senior partner at Deloitte, and colleagues, who helped persuade the Deloittte bigwigs in London to do just that. “They could have taken the investment elsewhere but didn’t, based on the strength of what the city has to offer,” she told Ulster Business. “It’s a great endorsement of Northern Ireland and all of us in Deloitte in Belfast are very proud of the development and its huge potential.” The latest tranche of 338 jobs, announced earlier this year, will work across technology, finance and consulting and follow the 177 roles announced in 2013. The additional roles will take Deloitte’s headcount in Northern Ireland up to 700 and the battle to win the investment was hard fought with other bases across the Deloitte empire. It marks a busy year for the Senior Partner at the company and is a long way from her first job working in her father’s grocery shop in Glengormley, one he still runs today.


It must have been good grounding in the world of business because it’s the only other job Jackie has had outside Deloitte. Indeed, she credits her father as a big influence in the world of work. “He taught me the basics of running a business but most importantly he taught me the importance of hard work and has always encouraged me to believe in myself and trust my own judgement.” That teaching obviously stood Jackie in good stead, particularly during the global recession which hit companies of all sizes and all sectors hard. “The last recession was very tough but the Deloitte Belfast partner group work well as a team and we have great teams around us. We are very happy to be emerging from it and are excited to be witnessing a period of significant job creation and growth for the practice.” “It’s a very exciting time for Deloitte in Belfast as we grow to a scale of 700, secure new premises and continue to stay focused on our clients and impact of the company in the local economy.”

A chartered accountant by trade, Jackie is well versed in the workings of the public sector, working alongside many different departments during her time at Deloitte. As Senior Partner she works hard but has good back up. “I am an on-call 24/7 sort of person and my team are quite used to my evening trail of emails,” she said. “But I have a hugely supportive husband and my children respect the fact that I work. Let’s be honest, I really couldn’t have this kind of career without their support and encouragement.” And in common with many business leaders who lead busy lives, downtime is spent enjoying the simple pleasures. “I am most happy when I am spending time with my husband and three children and best of all in (our) caravan in Donegal! One thing is for sure, given Deloitte’s impressive expansion plans, public sector spending cuts and her new role as Senior Partner, Jackie will no doubt relish the caravan even more in the months ahead.





Call to enter 2015 Responsible Business Awards in Northern Ireland


oing business in a consistently responsible way can take effort, commitment and hard work. Organisations are set to be rewarded for this drive in the coming months. If your business is a great employer, is going ‘green’ or is an integral part of the community in which it operates, now’s the time to enter the 2015 Responsible Business Awards in Northern Ireland. The awards are run by Business in the Community and sponsored for the sixth year by Electric Ireland. They are held in association with Ulster Business magazine and open to firms here of all sizes and from all sectors. There are eight categories up for grabs in 2015 (see opposite page). Chair of Business in the Community NI, Roy Adair, said: “These are exciting times for business. Despite a number of challenging years during recession and although we still have to face the worst of the public sector cuts, the power of business to be a force for good must never be underestimated. It is heartening to see businesses here holding fast to their determination, not just to do the good business but to go the extra mile and do the right thing by their people, the planet and in the places where they operate. “With over 260 businesses now in membership with Business in the Community, we invite others to join us to make an even bigger impact in 2015. “Our Awards celebrate companies who realise just how important their actions are to our society and I’d encourage all


Launching the 2015 Responsible Business Awards in Northern Ireland are: (Front row) Rose Kelly, Allstate NI; Niall Dineen, Electric Ireland; Kieran Harding, Business in the Community; Sonia Armstrong, Ulster Business and Deirdre Timoney, Citywide Employers’ Forum. (Back row) Ian Garner, WRAP; Lyndsey Mallon, Arthur Cox; Ciaran McCallion, Allen & Overy; Angeline Sloane, firmus Energy and Carla Tully, AES.

businesses to put themselves forward for recognition and to inspire other companies by sharing their stories.” Niall Dineen, Head of Commercial, of long-term Awards sponsor, Electric Ireland commented: “We are delighted to continue our relationship with Business in the Community in sponsoring these awards and working closely with its team to provide small business support throughout the year.

Northern Ireland that even small actions can reap huge rewards. “These awards are the perfect vehicle for businesses to learn from one another and find ways to strengthen the economy together. I wish every company entering much success and I look forward to meeting the winners at the Gala Dinner in June at Belfast Waterfront Hall.” Companies seeking recognition for their

For us, it’s extremely important to lead by example, being a responsible corporate citizen ourselves but also inspiring and encouraging businesses to keep on doing the right thing. We’ve seen through our work with Business in the Community in

responsible business at a national level may be interested in the UK Responsible Business Awards, also run by Business in the Community. To find out more visit Closing date is 13 February.

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HOW RESPONSIBLE IS YOUR COMPANY? – the 2015 Responsible Business Awards in Northern Ireland How has your business performed this year? Is corporate responsibility on your boardroom agenda and how are you investing in your PEOPLE, the PLANET and the PLACES where you operate? Inspiring case studies of previous winners are available online at Sponsored by

NI RESPONSIBLE COMPANY OF THE YEAR For the company that best demonstrates its commitment to responsible business practice, with positive impacts across its people, the planet and the places where it operates. *Please note that entry to this category is open only to those companies that have achieved CORE, the Standard for Responsible Business. To find out more, contact Business in the Community or visit our website. 2014 winner: Allstate Northern Ireland

RESOURCE EFFICENCY CHAMPION **NEW FOR 2015** For the organisation that best demonstrates significant improvements in resource efficiency through a specific activity/project leading to reduced environmental impact and greater sustainability.

BUSINESS & BIODIVERSITY For the organisation that best demonstrates significant commitment and contribution to protecting and enhancing biodiversity in Northern Ireland through an initiative or its activities. 2014 winner: Northern Ireland Water

EMPLOYER OF CHOICE For the organisation that best demonstrates excellence in motivating and developing employees in a healthy and inclusive workplace which offers opportunities for all. 2014 winner: SHS Group

EMPLOYABILITY CHAMPION For the organisation that best supports unemployed people by addressing employment across Northern Ireland through a wide range of initiatives. 2014 winner: Belfast City Council

COMMUNITY IMPACT CHAMPION **REVISED FOR 2015** For the organisation that best demonstrates a positive impact on communities through investing its time, resources and expertise in volunteering to tackle disadvantage. 2014 Community Impact Award winner: ASDA

EDUCATION PARTNER For the organisation that best demonstrates how its actions have helped raise the aspirations and achievements of young people (aged 4-19) through a solid business education partnership. 2014 winner: Queen’s University Students Union

MARKETPLACE LEADERSHIP **NEW FOR 2015** Recognising organisations that are developing innovative products or services that inspire responsible customer behaviour and encourage more sustainable lifestyles. For more information visit or call (028) 9046 0606 Applications to the Responsible Business Awards in Northern Ireland can be made online at Entries close on Friday 20 March 2015 with the gala awards ceremony taking place in Belfast Waterfront Hall on Thursday 4 June.




Craigavon has the edge in creativity

HR market set to grow steadily in 2015: Hays

T Mayor of Craigavon, Councillor Colin McCusker, and Niall Drew from Craigavon Borough Council.


raigavon Borough Council has played a leading role in helping to deliver a series of creative seminars aimed at helping businesses in the creative sector discover new markets through export. The seminars, which ran throughout 2014, were part of the ‘My Creative Edge’ online exporting platform – – which was designed and implemented through the NILGA award-winning EU project, ‘Creative Edge’. The platform showcases profiles of people working or seeking to work in the creative sector from the partner regions of Sweden, Finland and the Republic of Ireland as well as in the SEED region (South East Economic Development) of Northern Ireland. The creative profiles were showcased and marketed by the partner regions through digital marketing strategies with member profiles ranging from architects to digital media designers, artists to film makers and crafters to fashion designers. The eighth and final seminar in the series took place late in 2014 in the Seagoe Hotel and attracted high-profile speakers from leading Northern Ireland children’s TV production company Sixteen South as well as Jude Cassidy from Jude Cassidy Textiles. Attendees also had the opportunity to meet representatives from public bodies and organisations such as Invest NI, Craft NI, NI Screen and other council projects. Craigavon Borough Council is further engaging with the creative industries through the ‘Craigavon Means Business’ programme, a council-led initiative aimed at profiling the three key business sectors in Craigavon – agri-food, health and life sciences and the creative industries. The council is undertaking a series of projects focusing on engaging with businesses currently operating in the area to means business discuss growth potential within their sector.


showcasing the best of local business

If businesses are interested in finding out more information or would like to get involved they can contact Niall Drew on 028 3831 2485 or email:


he HR market in Northern Ireland is in a healthy state at present and, with further inward investment, this is set to grow steadily in 2015, according to John Moore, Managing Director at specialist recruitment company Hays.

Over the past 12 months a range of global organisations have chosen to locate in Northern Ireland. Many of these global organisations – operating in sectors spanning IT, creative industries, legal and finance – are attracted by our highly skilled workforce and lower cost base. Top-tier employers within the specialist legal and financial spheres are now near-shoring to Northern Ireland, and it seems the trend of external organisations basing shared service centres in the region looks set to continue in 2015. In terms of roles, demand remains high for skilled HR practitioners, from generalists to more specialised functions such as reward and mobility. In our view, 2015 will see a further increase in demand for commercially focused HR generalists – individuals who align HR services to business goals and measurable outputs. We have seen a strong interest in this ‘business partnering’ function throughout the past 12 months, and we are convinced that this is set to continue. Organisations are also seeing the benefits of investing in their learning and development function to help retain and upskill their existing workforce, especially in a market that is becoming more difficult to attract skilled employees. As with many sectors, HR is susceptible to the skills shortages and Hays is playing its part in working towards a solution by encouraging local talent to come home, using our reach, network and influence through a worldwide network of offices. With the benefits of the Northern Ireland workplace inspiring more large firms to base themselves here, the challenge over the next 12 months lies in our capacity to identify and attract the right staff to fill key roles.

For further information visit


EST. 1897. With over 100 years of experience in retailing and five award winning brands, we understand the key to success! Call us now to find out more on how to join leading retail experts, The Henderson Group. Contact us on: 02890 337866 or email

Your Passport to Losing Money By Richard Willis, Managing Director at Willis Insurance and Risk Management


n some circles, insurance is seen as that intangible, necessary evil. In others it is seen as a vital business tool on a par with an accountant or solicitor. To those who use it correctly, insurance is a tool to protect your bottom line. But from whatever school of thought you follow, what you would expect at the very least is that your insurer would pay out on a claim when called upon. Unfortunately, this is not always the case, especially if your business takes a policy from an unrated insurer. Last month’s investigation by the Insurance Times unravelled a myriad of mistakes that left customers from motorsport teams to restaurant owners fighting to recover what they could from the Financial Services Compensation Scheme (FSCS), with the collapse of UK-based Millburn Insurance Services. Insurers are either regulated direct by the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) to underwrite business in the UK or passported from other jurisdictions, which may not be subject to the same scrutiny. Many of these insurers do not have a financial rating. In the case of Milburn, a firm called Klapton Insurance Company was offering 100% reinsurance on parts of the Milburn book, as well as a stoploss agreement on the whole book. In short, Klapton were incorporated off East Africa and regulated in Ukraine and not by the FCA. They could however, still provide reinsurance in the UK. Unable to pay out on a number of claims, it is alleged that money was

funnelled via Cyprus and then kept by the Cypriot government during the bailout. Millburn’s policyholders are now scrambling to retrieve lost premiums. Generally, individuals and firms with annual turnover under £1m should receive 100% for compulsory insurance covers e.g. employers liability and third party motor with other claims at 90%. For other firms, only compulsory insurance would be covered with no indemnity for other claims e.g. professional indemnity, property, public liability etc. This is one of many examples over the past year of businesses obtaining insurance from Eastern European countries such as Ukraine

and Lithuania, on the basis that they are getting cheap cover. Other cases have arisen in Iceland, Gibraltar and Lichtenstein. Insurance is worthless if it cannot fulfil its main task. Whilst many of Milburn’s policy holders may receive a portion of the claim, it is unknown as to ‘when’ a pay-out will arrive, which can cause short-term financial difficulties. It is always best to use a reputable and trusted insurance broker who uses ‘rated’ insurers to ensure claims can be paid out – if concerned, simply ask your broker who their policies are through and whether the insurers they are proposing are FCA authorised or have an independent financial rating.



Trusted partners for leading local and global businesses.

Ones to Watch

Proud sponsors of the Ulster Business Leaders in Business issue, 2015.


Tim Rodgers, Creative Partner, rehabstudio In one sentence, what do you do? Concept, prototype and build digital marketing campaigns and products. Why is there a need for what you do and who are your customers? We help integrate creative technology into businesses so they can remain competitive. We work with brands from Google to Disney to Topman. What makes you better than what’s already out there? We have a unique creative process called Triage which allows us to concept, prototype and user-test ideas in short two week sprints, which ensures our ideas are as effective as they are fun and creative. What excites you most about what you do? Concepting and building effective campaigns and products with new tech / hacking hardware and software to make it do things it wasn’t supposed to do. We recently built an art installation with New York Artist Lia Chavez which read her brainwaves and turned them into light. What are the biggest challenges you’ve come up against so far? Creating a process and environment that consistently produces effective work. What would help you kick on to the next level? What we do enables us to work anywhere in the world – more clients in more locations would be fun. What do you ultimately want to achieve? A group of creative services business that use technology to make the world better. Who inspires you in business? My Dad inspired me to just get out there and do it.


Finding the best to make your business better.


Alan Baird, Calerrific In one sentence, what do you do? Calerrific Ltd produces nutritional products which taste great and deliver essential nourishment to support dietary needs and enhance health and well-being. Why is there a need for what you do and who are your customers? Our primary aim is to provide highly nutritious, well-balanced snacks for

people who are at risk of malnutrition. It is estimated that over one million older people in the UK are suffering from or are at risk of malnutrition. What makes you better than what’s already out there? Our cup of tea and a biscuit approach contrasts with the prevailing milkshake-type drinks and we believe most people, and particularly the elderly, are more accepting to this more natural social setting. What excites you most about what you do? Ever since I first realised the enormity of the malnutrition issue – which is thought to cost the NHS more than problems linked to obesity and yet gets far less publicity – I have been passionate about trying to bring help to people suffering unduly. I watched my own mother become frail as she refused to drink milkshakes that she didn’t find palatable and when she eventually succumbed it made me determined to find a better way to address the issue for others. What are the biggest challenges you’ve come up against so far? I don’t come from a nutritional background but I used my project management experience to pull together all the necessary expertise to develop CalBisc 100. It was challenging but rewarding. Nothing in my previous experience, however,


helped prepare me for trying to deal with the juggernaut that is the National Health Service. I’m not trying to knock the NHS, they saved my life as a child, but trying to deal with the organisation as a newcomer from the outside can prove very frustrating: Just finding out who you need to speak to can take an enormous amount of time and effort sometimes. What would help you kick on to the next level? If Rory McIlroy was photographed opening a CalBisc twinpack on the tenth tee at the Open it would sure help, otherwise we need to generate more publicity. What do you ultimately want to achieve? I’ve always liked the German Mittelstand model of doing business: highly-focused companies that concentrate on doing one thing very well, producing a limited number of products to a very high standard and growing their business through export. I envisage Calerrific becoming a leading player in the supplementary nutrition marketplace, based in Northern Ireland but exporting across the world. Who inspires you in business? I admire anyone who is passionate about what they do and manage to turn it into a business success – that’s never an easy balancing act. If I was to pick one person it might be Jamie Oliver who has developed into possibly Britain’s most successful celebrity chef but still tries to achieve radical societal improvements with things like his school meals project and his Fifteen London restaurant staffed by apprentices from difficult backgrounds brought in and trained by Jamie and his staff.


Local Knowledge, Global Reach.


Orlagh McVeigh, Harch Wood Couture In one sentence, what do you do? Harch Wood Couture designs and manufactures luxury wooden homewares for cooking, dining and accessorising the home.

Orlagh pictured with one of her chopping boards alongside Niall Casey from Invest NI.

Why is there a need for what you do and who are your customers? The homewares market is swamped with luxury pottery, china and metalware brands. There is no luxury branded woodware as an alternative to these, Harch Wood Couture is working on filling this gap in the market. Our customers our people who are passionate about food and cooking and home enthusiasts who have a keen eye for good design, which provides something a little out of the ordinary! We also work with food design companies designing one off pieces for food presentation for high end events, hotels and restaurants. What makes you better than what’s already out there? What is out there is mass produced, Chinese imported, cheap wood alternatives. They are extremely generic and fail to provide luxury and quality. Harch Wood pays close attention to design and we like things that are a little bit out of the ordinary. We are passionate about using quality hardwoods that display characteristics which make each piece a total one off. The buying experience is excellent with all the products presented in luxury packaging making them a dream to give and receive. What excites you most about what you do? We love anything to do with home design and are passionate about high quality workmanship and natural products. We


get so excited when an idea comes to life! A lot of our products come about because we make them for use at home and then see the potential in them as products to bring to market. We love things that look good and are totally practical too. What are the biggest challenges you’ve come up against so far? As a company with such a short history finance is always an issue but we prefer to believe we will always find a way round this rather than let it stand in our way. The key to a business like ours is gaining maximum exposure in the right places and gaining customer confidence, getting the marketing end of things right is a process of trial and error we have found. What would help you kick on to the next level? A massive marketing campaign would

make all the difference to us now, we are working with a PR company and are gaining national press and magazine coverage. We believe that social media has a big role to play, so someone with digital media marketing experience could make a massive difference to the growth of the business. We are trying to get a good skills mix into the business, it is impossible to do everything ourselves. What do you ultimately want to achieve? We want Harch to become a recognisable homewares brand associated with quality and uniqueness, we would like to have other products as well and we are currently working on pottery designs. We would like to have a solid online presence, increasingly consumers are shopping online and we want to maximise the potential of this sales channel.

Your search for the best people begins and ends here.


Maurice Kettyle, Kettyle Irish Foods

By Amanda Ferguson

“We were very bad marketers of products within Ireland and I could understand that working on international markets,” he said. “There was no reason why we shouldn’t have been one of the best brands in the world, with the grass and infrastructure, but for some reason even the likes of Scotland had a much better market position than Ireland had. “A lot of Irish beef was going to Scotland and being rebranded as Scottish and then going to the restaurants in London with a premium so the model we set up was to have the very best of Irish.


aurice Kettyle is managing director of Kettyle Irish Foods in Lisnaskea, Co. Fermanagh, which is part of the Linden Food Group. The multi species business – producing beef, lamb, pork, chicken for restaurants and retail – employs 50 people and has a turnover of around £12m. Its products have won a series of awards including the European Guild of Writers Award for its free range chicken, 26 gold stars in the Great Taste Awards over the last three years, a runner-up prize in this year’s UTV Business Awards in the SME section and a Best Steak of Year award from 2008-2010. After A-Levels at school Maurice (44) decided to work in the meat industry and farm at the same time. The “farmer’s boy” told Ulster Business


his career has been “all about meat, cattle, livestock”. “I was working on the family farm and buying cattle for factories and trading in meat before I moved into working for some of the bigger international meat companies,” he said.

“The model was very much one of transparency as we felt the farmer only knew as far as the factory, the factory knew as far as the wholesaler and the wholesaler maybe knew the chef so we had to go through a change were we educated the chef and the farmer at either side of the chain so that everybody knew what the end consumer needed.”

“I ran a meat factory and trading company in Sudan for a few years, international trading into Jordan, Syria, Egypt and so on.

When Kettyle Irish Foods opened it sold meat to a handful of restaurateurs including Belfast’s Paul Rankin and Michael Deane, Ross Lewis in Chapter One in Dublin, Rules in Covent Garden but now has hundreds of high end restaurants on its books.

“If I hadn’t moved back toward the farm I could still be there.”

And one of its main customers since 2006 has been the retailer Marks and Spencer.

Over a decade ago Maurice decided to build a world-class Irish brand of beef and help give Ireland a better market position in the industry.

Last year it sold about £3.5m of goods to M&S, equating to 33% of its business. “Around 60% of what we do is beef,” Maurice said.

Kettyle Irish Foods is now in its 11th year, with Linden becoming a major shareholder in 2008.

“What we are known for on the maturation side is dry aged. We were one of the first to do dry ageing protocol maturation on beef.


The Leaders in Executive Search.


John McDermott & Chris Killen, AVB Brand In one sentence, what do you do? We work with businesses and organisations to help them create, grow or reposition their brand. Why is there a need for what you do and who are your customers? More and more businesses are realising the importance of branding. It’s much more than just a logo and some pretty colours. Your brand is your reputation. It’s how people perceive you when you’re not there to tell your story. Businesses and organisations need help defining their brand and that’s where we come in. We work with clients of all sizes to help them develop their brand, make them stand out, engage with people and ultimately grow their business. What makes you better than what’s already out there? Ha! This is normally the first question we ask a new client, and it’s not always easy to answer. The fact that we focus solely on branding would be the main thing. There are lots of great design studios in Northern Ireland, but most are offering a wide range of creative services. Very few focus specifically on brand strategy and development. We can bring our specialist advice and creative thinking to every brand project we work on. What excites you most about what you do? The cheesy answer is that we love what we do, with the added bonus of getting paid to do it. We also get to work with lots of different people, getting to know them and their business. It’s great seeing clients fully


John McDermott, left, and Chris Killen.

involved in the brand process, valuing the importance of it and taking pride in the work we produce with them. What are the biggest challenges you’ve come up against so far? During any brand project, we’re putting companies under the microscope, sometimes challenging them on aspects of their business they might not want to talk about. We need to uncover the ugly truths as we call them, identify the key issues and challenges in order to solve them effectively. This can be a difficult process but it’s also a hugely important one. What would help you kick on to the next level? With a small team, there’s only so much work we can get through. In 2015 we plan to grow

the team, allowing us to take on more new projects and build on our portfolio of work. What do you ultimately want to achieve? We want to continue producing great work for great clients and build our reputation to become the leading creative brand consultancy on the island of Ireland. Who inspires you in business? It’s hard to pick out individuals, but there are definitely great studios and consultancies producing some very progressive work. Places like Moving Brands and Wolff Olins have a brilliant approach to brand, and always deliver outstanding work. Like them, we’re constantly evolving our processes, our approach and our thinking to find better ways of working.

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For further information on our range of Professional courses that will develop your business in 2015, check out our website or pick up a copy of our part-time prospectus.

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Sean and Leona McAllister, PlotBox In one sentence, what do you do? PlotBox is a cloud platform simplifying the control of cemeteries and crematoria using locationally driven data. Why is there a need for what you do and who are your customers? Our customers are those who operate cemeteries and crematoria. Cemetery information is fragmented, particularly when linking burial records to the true burial location on a map. This makes it difficult to accurately record, control and confidently share information. What makes you better than what’s already out there? The burial industry is lagging behind in technology and many existing systems are using out-dated technology resulting in inflexible and fragmented systems, but what

really sets us apart is our mapping expertise which we have integrated into PlotBox. What excites you most about what you do? We have a real opportunity to make a difference in this industry not only for the owners from an operational point of view but also for the public and for the bereaved. It’s exciting to have launched PlotBox and begin to see the real business benefits being achieved by our clients. What are the biggest challenges you’ve come up against so far? The answer would probably be the same for any start-up – cashflow! Its frustrating when finances limit how fast you want to achieve something but with that being said it does make you learn to run the business as efficiently as possible.

What would help you kick on to the next level? We are starting to see real traction in the UK and Ireland and we’ve just signed up our first customer in the U.S. which is very exciting. To really take us up a level we will be looking for outside investment so that we can scale fast. What do you ultimately want to achieve? We want PlotBox to be a revolutionary product for the burial and cremation industry globally. Who inspires you in business? There are many inspirational entrepreneurs out there but one that stands out is Richard Branson. Not just because of his amazing success but more because of his attitude and outlook on being an entrepreneur which very much focuses on enjoying the journey. Sean and Leona McAllister of PlotBox being awarded NISP’s INVENT 2014 award by Julie-Ann O’Hare from Bank of Ireland UK, centre.


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Colleen Harte, Lucy Annabella Organics

In one sentence, what do you do? I develop and create luxury organic bath and body products as well as aromatherapy candles for customers who are conscious of the importance of healthy, harmful chemicalfree cosmetics and lifestyle products. Why is there a need for what you do and who are your customers? 200 is the average number of harmful chemicals a woman will subject her skin to each morning in her normal beauty routine. We need to have an alternative organic option to reach for but we shouldn’t have to sacrifice our innate desire for luxury while on our quest for the better choice. Our customers are men and women who are health aware, but who also crave luxury.


What makes you better than what’s already out there? All our essential and vegetable oils are carefully sourced around the globe and brought back to Ireland where we craft them into beautiful organic cosmetics and fragrance products. Our sourcing and production methods have won us accreditation with the soil association and the aromatherapy trade council. We also skillfully use LabAroma – our in-house developed software program to ensure we develop pharmaceutically safe and therapeutically effective aromatherapy blends for our products.

wonderful but they work. Whether it may be for aging skin, stretch marks, insomnia or muscle ache its great to know we can create a solution using organic ingredients all topped off with luxurious packaging.

What excites you most about what you do? Creating beautiful blends which I know via the help of science that they not only smell

Who inspires you in business? My team are passionate, creative, hard working and incredibly resilient – they inspire me everyday.

What are the biggest challenges you’ve come up against so far? Building a brand in such a competitive industry is a challenge, but a fun challenge to face. I enjoy watching our industry trends evolve while we work at speed to mould and bend in order to keep up with the demands and developments of the luxury beauty world.


Finding the best to make your business better.


John MacMahon & Emmet Hogan, RE:SURE John MacMahon, right, and Emmet Hogan.

points and the customer experiences – especially for such a sensitive service. What excites you most about what you do? The opportunities that we have and what we actually do. We really believe in our products and service, and love the fact that it does good. We have seen customers’ lives literally transformed by the level of peace of mind which we give them – like a weight off their shoulders. When I say opportunities, it is that we believe 80% of CCTV systems are still passive. When we pose the question about what a customer’s current CCTV system is really doing for them, most people realise that the answer is ‘very little’.

In one sentence, what do you do? We prevent thefts – while traditional security systems alarm crime, RE:SURE actually stops it from happening in the first place. Why is there a need for what you do and who are your customers? It’s not just the tangible losses of a break-in which our service prevents. It’s also the lost time resulting from having no equipment or stock, reviewing CCTV footage and dealing with third parties. Never mind repairing the inevitable damage. All this means that the opportunity cost of theft can often be a multiple of the theft itself. The possibility of all of this is eliminated


from our customer’s lives. Up until recently, our customers have been 90% commercial, however we have been taking on more and more residential properties of late. It gives complete peace of mind. What makes you better than what’s already out there? Our people, the technology we use and the service we offer all our clients. We use state of the art servers that can easily convert a passive (record only) CCTV system into a monitored one, by converting the cameras into “smart” cameras that can detect people on site. Plus we are huge on service. It’s all about touch

What are the biggest challenges you’ve come up against so far? Getting the correct balance between achieving more sales and ensuring that operationally we are consistently giving the high level of service that our customers have grown to expect has been a real challenge. Overall though the bigger challenge has been about getting the message out there. So, simultaneously building a reputation for excellence whilst being great at explaining the service and all its numerous benefits has been tough. A lot of people think that what they have is enough, so it can be hard to even start a conversation sometimes. What do you ultimately want to achieve? We want to be synonymous with great security solutions that gives all of our customers a peace of mind that traditional security solutions do not manage. By leveraging improving technology and connectivity levels, we will offer a spectrum of services that will let our customers switch on, in the knowledge that we never switch off.

From billboards to buses, banners to beermats, digital screens and custom builds, we proudly deliver impactful, effective and affordable out of home advertising solutions.

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Local Knowledge, Global Reach.


Peter Hannan, Managing Director, Hannan Meats Michael Deane, respected food writers Xanthe Clay, Val Warner and Nigel Bardon and from celebrity actress Liz Hurley! Hannan’s beef was chosen by UK Trade and Investment for showcase dinners at the Foreign Office in London and for events in Ankara and Hong Kong. In addition to his success in foodservice, Hannan is now the main beef supplier to Fortnum and Mason, the ‘Queen’s Grocer’. It’s a fair bet that his beef has featured on royal dining tables. But retail is largely secondary to high-end restaurants, his primary market niche that he knows exceptionally well. Hannan’s only other significant retail activity is the hugely successful Meat Merchant shop in Moira.


eter Hannan has turned a successful catering butchery business focused on the Northern Ireland market, Hannan Meats in Moira, into an award winning enterprise with fast growing sales in Britain, the Republic of Ireland, France and Portugal. His sales have grown 67% in the past three years, averaging 22% a year. Imaginative marketing initiatives already underway will see his business expand substantially in these markets and others including Germany. Hannan has achieved success through a commitment to market focused beef and bacon products for the premium end of foodservices and a close working relationship with top chefs on developing new taste experiences. He’s also benefited, particularly in PR terms and reputation as an innovator, from a longstanding engagement with the UK Guild of Fine Food’s annual Great Taste Awards.


He’s the first to admit that success in awards for his beef and bacon has opened doors in Europe and further afield. He has amassed an amazing 127 gold stars in the awards over the past four years, substantially more than any food company in the British Isles and a Supreme Champion title in 2011/12. He’s also had more products listed in the Top 50 Foods than any other food business. Success in the awards has showcased his commitment to food that combines outstanding taste and innovation, a winning combination that has produced huge PR coverage in Britain and other parts of Europe. It’s also led to substantial business from celebrity chefs such as Mark Hix in London and a cluster of Michelin star restaurants in Paris. Christmas saw a remarkable flurry for social media exchanges endorsing his beef from top chefs Brett Sutton, Greg Nicholson and

His focus on innovation is best seen in his investment in two Himalayan Salt Chambers for ageing beef to achieve distinctively delicious flavours. He now operates the world’s biggest Himalayan salt-ageing business and has plans to develop this further in 2015 to meet the growing demand for his meats. The strategy for the business he set up in 1989 and currently employs 30 people recognises the key contribution from suppliers, the farmers who provide the raw material for him to transform into exceptional beef. They receive a premium price in return for quality beef. The supply chain includes shorthorn cattle raised on the organic estate at Glenarm. Dedication to original food and innovative dishes is certainly in his DNA. His success in Britain, especially among influential food writers and stylists, is also helping to establish Northern Ireland as a European centre of gastronomic excellence.

Your search for the best people begins and ends here.


Gawain Morrison, Sensum In one sentence, what do you do? I’m the Chief beard and CEO of Sensum, “The Emotions Company”, that uses mobile devices, wearable and cloud technologies to measure emotions and behaviours anywhere anytime.

behaviour. We have a number of things in the pipeline that will open up the understanding of emotions to anyone, and then it becomes a very interesting space; to live in a world where your digitally-emotional self is as much a part of you as the “you” that is reading this.

Is there a need for what you do and who are your customers? Emotions underpin every decision we make so understanding them is something all industries are trying to get a handle on, so we have clients in health, transport, retail, fashion, broadcast, market research, ad agencies, and big brands.

Who inspires you in business? My business partner Shane McCourt. There’s a bunch of brains that make Sensum tick, and his and mine have been part of getting it to here.

What makes you better than what’s already out there? In 2011 we produced the world’s first emotional response horror film, where the audience’ emotions drove the cinematic experience. This was premiered in America, and since then we’ve been at the forefront of research into emotions with wearable and mobile devices. This is why some of the largest brands in the world come to us for their research into emotions. What excites you most about what you do? We’re cutting new ground on a daily basis and working with companies that have a global presence; that just shows you we must be doing something right and we have the opportunity to invent and create unique events, products and methods of learning. What are the biggest challenges you’ve come up against so far? Creating something that a domestic market doesn’t understand the value of either from an investment point of view or a sales point of view. We’ve been fortunate that a few folks locally took a leap of faith and invested in us to get us off the ground, but from the sales side of things even though we’ve knocked a lot of doors locally it seems that innovation isn’t high on the list of priorities, even though understanding their customer and audience emotions is something that local industries could benefit from as well. What would help you kick on to the next level? That’s already started, to be honest. We’ve recently closed another round of investment, and have closed a couple of large deals with global companies, whilst raising our presence in London, New York and San Francisco. It’s all about increasing sales in those markets now. What do you ultimately want to achieve? We want to be the go-to company for understanding emotions and



The Leaders in Executive Search.


Opportunistic retailers should head to Northern Ireland


etailers from across the UK should be hotfooting it to Northern Ireland to take advantage of a wealth of opportunities, according to a new report from law firm TLT. Its Retail Growth Strategies Report 2015 found that Northern Ireland, Scotland and the south west of England are the UK regions with the most potential for retailers as a result of growing consumer confidence and spending. Conducted by Conlumino, it found retailers here expect sales to grow by around 4.7% in the coming year, well ahead of the overall UK economy which is expected to grow by just 2.4%. And despite stiff competition on the high street, nearly two thirds of the biggest names expect to grow enough to allow investment in their businesses. By the end of 2015 more than two-thirds of retailers will offer click and collect services, integrating the online and offline parts of their customer proposition. The vast majority still see physical stores as an important part of


the mix for profitability, although are increasingly unclear what that contribution will be as shopping patterns and technologies evolve. The survey also found that retailers were finding it easier to get loans from banks than in the recent past, and were likely to use them to fund their expansion plans. “The impressive growth rate anticipated by some retailers, and a determination to invest, shows that there is a continued confidence that the recovery is on track,” Kathryn Forde, Real Estate partner at TLT Belfast said. “Northern Ireland has a large proportion of online shoppers in the UK, so with the developments in retailer technology and potential for the use of technology, the number of prospective customers has grown dramatically. “With 22% of retailers surveyed describing NI as being ‘under-potential’, this, when coupled with a continued rise in consumer confidence, displays the opportunities for development by global retailers entering the market. Readily available retail units will be important in attracting these retailers, and with better access to funding highlighted in the report, we believe that an increasing number of UK retailers will avail of opportunities in the new year.”

If we can make it here, we can make it anywhere

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Time to apply yourself By Julie Stewart


he box sets and chocolates have been gorged upon, the drink drunk, the resolutions made and then what happens, you have to go back to work. Flip sake. But I can see you. You may have the screen minimised, but I can still see you. You’ve hoked out your CV again haven’t you? The dreaded Christmas VISA bill hasn’t even hit the mat yet and the first workplace depression of the year has set in. Take solace workers, you are not alone. In January there are CVs being minimised throughout the land, as the idea of a fresh new year with a fresh new job seems the only way out of the gloom. White envelopes filled with polite resignations begin plopping happily on boss’s desks and the job boards are the only thing blooming in winter. But while you dream of greener money and excitement elsewhere you still have to get that shiny new job in the first place. Sadly you are going to have to sell yourself, and unless you have the ego of an Apprentice candidate this is not a fun task. Freelancers have to do this all the time as we are constantly hunting for our next boss, sorry, I mean valued client, and writing ‘I could do what you are asking with my eyes closed’ isn’t going to cut it, sadly. We all have to be not only skilled, but excited and passionate. About everything. We all have to appear to want a fresh challenge, but that is a lie as it is often current challenges which have driven you to that handy, 25 page, confusing new job application form in the first place. Perhaps we’d all have a much better time if we wrote an honest CV. You could say you are cripplingly shy so pretty rubbish at


client meetings, but you can knock out a very technical document in record time. You could say you are filled with amazing ideas but you have unfortunate taste in ties. You hate meetings being called at half four on a Friday as you actually have a life outside work, but you are happy to come in early because it means you beat the traffic. Or even that you have absolutely no interest in sales but because the salary sounds amazing and your mortgage bills keep you awake at night you would knock your pan in at the targets. At least your application would stand out in the seas of ‘dear sirs, I am fantastically skilled and unbelievably passionate in the field of financial services’, yawn. Or you could simply say you are nice. I was once turned down for promotion for that exact reason. The joke was on them though, as the thoughts I directed towards HR following that meeting were far, far from nice.

A job swap for a while could re-ignite your passion, or at least give you some additional skills to jazz up your CV for your future escape plan. If you have an interest or skills that you feel could become a business but don’t have the money or nerve to leave the security of where you are yet, try it out as a side-line. There are loads of places online where you can sell yourself and test out the market such as People Per Hour or Fiver. Get your knitting needles out with friends and wine and set up a stall in a craft market. If you go down this route though, be careful you don’t end up spending all your takings at the homemade venison burger stall next door. If that all sounds as fun as actual work, doing a small, simple task can lighten the January gloom. Several websites suggest you tidy your desk, exciting stuff. If you do this at least you will have loads of room to work… on your CV. Julie Stewart is a social media

If you fear big changes you could always see what opportunities are available in-house.

consultant and copywriter and can be found at

Inspiring Individual Achievement Heading up a school of over 1,200 pupils and leading a team of teachers and staff through the daily challenges facing the education sector requires a combination of skill, experience, diplomacy and understanding – all in equal measure. Meet Robert Robinson, Headmaster at Campbell College in Belfast.

Awarded an MBE in 2012 for his services to education, Mr Robinson has nearly 30 years of experience and understands the complexities involved in a leadership role in education. “I started my teaching career in Glastry High School in 1986 and from the beginning my focus was to encourage pupils to be the very best they could be. This philosophy remains at the heart of my approach today. Young people need to be inspired, encouraged, challenged and supported on every step of their educational journey.” In 2011, following 10 years as Headmaster of Rainey Endowed School in Magherafelt, Mr Robinson was appointed Headmaster of Campbell College. Established in 1894, Campbell is situated in nearly 100 acres of woodland estate in the residential suburbs of east Belfast. Boasting extensive grounds and impressive facilities, the historic and iconic original school buildings sit comfortably alongside the modernity of the newly built, state-of-the-art kindergarten, junior and boarding facilities. With the GCSE and A Level results on the rise for the third consecutive year, Mr Robinson is pleased with progress to date. “It is an honour to be Headmaster of Campbell College. This is a school with a

history of academic excellence, an enviable heritage, a stunning campus and an impressive alumni. But it is much more than the sum of its parts. The passion and pride inside the school walls is palpable and the ethos of the teachers and staff is driven by a strong sense of community and support for the pupils. Once you become part of this school it becomes part of you and to be a Campbellian is to be part of something extraordinary. “

improving steadily year on year and we have six boys currently undergoing Oxbridge interviews, a strong indicator of our academic success. We welcome, challenge and inspire boys to be the best they can be and I continue to be inspired by what we can achieve together. Working in education is challenging and never more so than at the moment. The rewards outweigh the challenges and watching our boys fulfill their full potential makes this role a privilege to perform.” Campbell College will hold open days on Friday 23rd January at 7:00pm and Saturday 24th January at 10:00am and to find out more visit:

“My focus is to work in partnership with our staff, governors, pupils and parents to enable Campbell achieve its full potential. We provide a tailor-made approach to educating boys, with small class sizes allowing for individual attention and academic streaming encouraging achievement. Our results have been

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Harnessing the digital age Eoghan Phipps, Head of Irish Agency Relations, asks how changes in consumer behaviour in these digital times provide big opportunities for marketers in 2015.

Second, attention is split between multiple screens at once. The majority of people (63%) say they watch TV and use the internet in parallel. What’s interesting about that group is that the vast majority of that internet usage is unrelated to the programme that’s on TV (TNS/Google Connected Consumer Survey 2014). Having widespread access to the internet on multiple devices has allowed people to inform themselves about almost anything they want to buy at any time of the day. What comes with this access to information is a great repositioning of the customer. The customer is now, more than ever, at the centre, responding to a marketer’s message, advancing the conversation themselves and curating the flow of messages coming their way. Consumers have been empowered by the ability to comment, share, like, dislike, follow or ‘unfollow’ a brand and in that way truly participate in brand marketing. This changes everything. We have well and truly arrived beyond the era where marketers would push out a message and hope it lands well. We’ve arrived at the age of participation. What are the implications of this for marketers? What actions to take? Here are some thoughts...


s we head in to the new year, it’s a good time for business owners and marketers to revisit their marketing activities against changes in consumer behavior. This brief article aims to shed light on how consumer behavior has shifted and propose some focus areas to get ahead of the shift. First and foremost, marketers can’t rely on reaching their customers on one screen or even two any more. In fact, 29% of UK consumers use four or more devices to go online (Mintel, June 2014). Facing the challenge of staying relevant for the next generation it was already interesting to know that, in 2012, 9% of 3-4 year old children in the UK used a tablet at home. The pace of change is truly highlighted when we see that that percentage jumped to 28% in 2013.


1. Be where your customers are: Reconsider where the touch points you can have with your customers are today. Pick the ones where you can get the richest, most relevant interaction and perfect your presence there. 2. Listen and respond to your customers: Now more than ever customer happiness is in the public domain. Use every piece of data that you have at your disposal to listen to your customers, then make it your business to respond. This goes beyond responding to social media mentions or blog entries. Scrutinise your website traffic. If people are bouncing off your site, take that seriously. Fix it and entice them back. 3. Join the dots and tell a real story: In the past, marketing was limited by the fact that people’s consumption of media was sporadic. In this more connected world, brands have the ability to start a story on one medium, continue on another and finish on a third that the creative opportunities are endless.

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Flags, firebombs & flashbacks

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Finding the best to make your business better.


Time for alternative equity evangelism?


he local financial market place attracts a number of providers of capital for businesses. They advertise extensively to catch good customers. However, the financial market-place is more constrained than it first appears. The most prominent providers are the four main commercial banks: Bank of Ireland, Danske Bank, First Trust, and the Ulster Bank. There are other banks seeking business in Northern Ireland including Barclays Bank and the HSBC. In the last decade the banking world has gone through an exceptional crisis. The excessive extension of credit to customers, often tied to property loans, proved an expensive disaster. For many years, prior to 2006, loans to support property purchase or development had usually proved successful for developers who saw the real cost of borrowing fall as inflation pushed up property values. Also for the bankers, inflation provided a reassurance against risk with outstanding borrowers.


Of course, the last seven years proved what had been previously discussed only in the text-books. The property market crashed. Many performing loans lost that status. The property crisis was deep seated and led to the collapse of many development and construction companies. The banks, which had extended their lending too far, had to cope with the emergence of repayment default on an incredible scale. Some banks were more avaricious than others and slower to defend non-performing borrowers. The bail out of the banking sector across the UK and Ireland was painful for bank shareholders and customers. Only now,

By John Simpson

in 2014, does it seem that the worst is over. The main banks now seem able to generate improving profits. A brief review of the performance of the local banks back to the last years of the 20th century, and the first of this, would remind observers that the banks were exceptionally profitable and, together, were some of the private sector’s largest profit earners. Those banks that have been most bailed out in recent years may need to be reminded that their customers (sometimes as taxpayers) have stood by them. Now, when business recovery is a shared objective, the local banks should expect to be tested against questions of socially acceptable standards of operational behaviour. Top of the calls on the banks is that business plans should be facilitated as far as practical by co-operation in making finance available for expansion. The reality is that net bank lending appears to be falling. This is disappointing.

Local Knowledge, Global Reach.


Most of the local banks do not make public the strength of their balance sheets and the degree of their capital reserves. However, they do have to rebuild their capital reserves after the events of recent years. Danske in Northern Ireland has published the details of the extra capital drawn from its parent. Nevertheless, for some of the banks the ability to expand net lending may be constrained.

In Northern Ireland, finance for businesses has relied heavily on the short-term lending from banks. There is a perception that local businesses are able to manage their main capital funding from family funding and, coupled with examples of official grant aid, there is less interest in external sources of equity funding.

There are, however, two concerns about access to bank lending.

“We have moved a long way from where we were 18 months ago. The banks are much more open for business and openly supporting loans to SME.”

There is a concern that the standards of performance expected in considering outline business plans have become more demanding, possibly too demanding. There is also a concern that loan applications are seeking too much detail and that the bank interest charges, over base rate, are weighted too heavily against small businesses. As is so often the case, there is an apparent contradiction. Banks usually comment that they have funds available from acceptable customers. In contrast, some businesses report that applications for finance have been unreasonably declined. The missing element in the debate is the evidence on the standards being expected by the banks and the adequacy of the business planning by borrowers.


In support of this conservative market place philosophy, there are few examples of businesses raising external equity by an offer of equity through a public company flotation or a bid to be listed on the intermediate market. In recent years the exceptions have included Andor Technologies (since then taken over) and First Derivatives in Newry. An emerging feature of the capital market

has been the arrival of a number of small venture capital funds, some financially supported by Invest NI. Colin Walsh is Chief Executive, Crescent Capital and also, currently, Chairman of the NI CBI regional council. His assessment of the acceptance of venture capital is encouraging. ‘We have moved a long way from where we were 18 months ago. The banks are much more open for business and openly supporting loans to SME. The access to equity capital model which has been promoted by Invest NI, has become live, in that equity capital is now available from a variety of sources at different levels up from £50k up to £1.5m.’ On the reluctance of businesses to accept equity investments: ‘That strength of feeling is still there. It is predominantly in the older family owned companies. In emerging businesses and technology companies you don’t see that constraint.’ Is there a need to educate those family owned companies of the merits of taking a more flexible approach to equity capital? ‘That is an on-going exercise in evangelism that will be needed for some time.’ The thought of missionary work with local successful businesses is a new challenge!


Your search for the best people begins and ends here.


New York Comptroller drops by to check on investments

Oonagh McIntaggart (Office Manager), Patrick Doherty, Colin Walsh (Crescent Capital Managing Director), Thomas DiNapoli, Bob McGowan-Smyth (Investment Director), Deirdre Terrins (Investment Manager), Ed Finnegan (Chief Financial Officer)


he man in charge of the pensions of thousands of public sector workers in New York visited Belfast at the end of last year to check up on his Northern Ireland investments. Tom DiNapolo is the Comptroller of the State of New York and looks after a pension fund of over £110bn, nearly £12m of which he has invested in companies here. Crescent Capital is responsible for piquing the comptroller’s interest and it’s in the venture capital company that he has put the pension pot’s money. Crescent manages three funds totalling £66m and has investments in 27 Northern Ireland companies, including Analytics Engines, B9 Energy, Speechstorm, PathXL, Fusion and Belfast-based NiSoft. It was


Tom DiNapolo addresses the crowd at NiSoft.

to the latter software company which Mr DiNapolo visited in November.

private investor in the funds that we manage after government’s participation via Invest NI.

Colin Walsh, chief executive of Crescent Capital, said the comptroller’s backing is crucial to the venture capital fund’s investments and for the Northern Ireland economy.

“It is, in effect, a strong, supportive and patient shareholder in all of the companies under the Crescent umbrella.”

“Equity capital for investment has been in short supply in these parts for decades and (the comptroller’s) support has made a real difference to companies which are trading globally, but creating higher value added jobs locally, in all parts of Belfast and throughout Northern Ireland.,” he said. “None of this could have happened were it not for the commitment of farsighted and supportive investors. New York State’s Common Retirement Fund has been investing with Crescent for ten years now, and in fact has become Crescent’s largest

For the State of New York, its investments so far have proved profitable, according to Mr Walsh. “Less anyone thinks this is philanthropy, I can tell you that he (the comptroller) already has 80% of his money back from Crescent II from the sale of companies like Lagan, APT, Omiino and Maildistiller which were backed by Crescent and sold for substantial gains. Those companies continue to grow and flourish right here in Belfast and are contributing in a major way to the local economy; the ones represented here today are doing the same and will I am sure earn you a healthy return on your investment over the next few years.”

Growth Loan Fund builds on momentum By Paul Millar, Chief Investment Officer, WhiteRock Capital Partners

As we enter 2015 it is clear that the business community in Northern Ireland has embraced the concept of mezzanine finance and understands the role it can play in helping companies grow. The Growth Loan Fund was established to provide £50m of this unsecured, mezzanine loan funding to small and medium sized businesses in Northern Ireland over 10 years, with a five year investment period followed by a further five years for loan repayments. Since we started investing in September 2012 we have approved 90 loans with a combined value of £28m. The average loan size is between £300,000 and £350,000 but we’ve approved loans ranging from £50,000 up to £1.25m. Demand for funding has been strong and enquiries for loans have consistently increased in number. In fact, the most recent quarter has been our busiest yet, with 12 loans approved at a total value of £6m, made up of loans ranging from £150,000 to £1m. Three of the loans approved in the quarter were for £1m and in each case our finance sits alongside other funders, such as banks and private equity providers. To me, that illustrates the acceptance of our proposition. At the outset of the Growth Loan Fund a little over two years ago, some banks were wary about what our role in the market would be. Today we mostly work alongside banks and equity providers to deliver complementary funding to SMEs. They now understand we are providing top slice funding to companies that augments their existing banking facilities rather than replace them. The companies come to us for unsecured loans after they’ve maximised the debt they can obtain from banks against company assets.

The WhiteRock Capital Partners team.

We’re also seeing a maturity develop in the market in terms of the mix of SMEs using the fund for growth capital. Borrowers appear more confident about actively seeking finance to help take forward their plans and our funding is attractive to them because we provide unsecured loans without taking any equity. Loans have been provided to established SME businesses in Northern Ireland who are generally involved in engineering, manufacturing or tradable services with a focus on exports and growing into international markets. Our recent deals show the range of ambitious companies out there in Northern Ireland. We’ve supported Automated Intelligence, a software business with a groundbreaking approach to information and data management which is looking to build on its success in the UK by selling further afield. Clarehill Plastics, a manufacturer of domestic and commercial oil tanks, has used

financing from the fund to further boost its sales across Europe. And we’ve also approved a follow-on loan to Vita Liberata, a manufacturer and distributor of luxury tanning and skincare products, which is now selling across 22 countries worldwide including the UK, US and Australia. In recent years, difficulty in accessing finance has seriously hindered economic growth in Northern Ireland. Local companies have been held back from translating their great products into industry-leading exports. The Growth Loan Fund has provided much-needed assistance to this problem and created a stimulus for the local economy, allowing indigenous businesses to realise their growth aspirations. Given the strong demand, the conversation will soon turn towards the possibility of extending the fund or launching a new one to ensure the momentum continues.

The Leaders in Executive Search.


Leaders scoop IoD Director of the Year Awards


en local business leaders have been recognised and rewarded by their peers in this year’s IoD First Trust Bank Director of the Year Awards held in the Merchant Hotel, Belfast. The awards were handed to each of the category winners in recognition of their proactive approach towards business growth, corporate governance and responsible directorship. This year’s category winners are: • Young Enterprise NI Director of the Year sponsored by Concentrix – Stephen Henderson of Ruach Music. • Leadership in Corporate Responsibility sponsored by Ulster Business – Mike Mullan of Moy Park. • Non-Executive Director of the Year sponsored by First Trust Bank – Seán Hogan of Northern Ireland Water • International Director of the Year sponsored by William J Clinton Leadership Institute – Damian McGarry of Wrightbus International • Large Company Director of the Year sponsored by 4C Executive Search – John McCann of UTV Media plc. • Family Director of the Year sponsored by BDO Northern Ireland – Simon Hunter of Hunter Apparel Solutions. • Public Sector Director of the Year sponsored by Capita Managed IT Solutions – MarieThérèse McGivern of Belfast Metropolitan College. • Third Sector Director of the Year sponsored by First Trust Bank – Marie Marin of Employers for Childcare Charitable Group. • SME Director of the Year sponsored by Ulster University Business School – Jeremy Biggerstaff of Flint Studios. • Young Director of the Year sponsored by Jaguar – Alan McKeown of Dunbia.


Front l-r: Des Moore, Marin Marie, Marie-Thérèse McGivern and Paul Terrington. Back l-r: Simon Hunter, Mike Mullan, Alan McKeown, Damien McGarry, Stephen Henderson, John McCann, Jeremy Biggerstaff and Sean Hogan.

Speaking at the event, Chairman of the Institute of Directors Northern Ireland, Paul Terrington, said: “One of the main objectives of the IoD is to provide directors with opportunities that enable each to fulfil their potential and help them explore different avenues for organisational growth and stability. With Northern Ireland’s devolved corporation tax still on hold, it remains clear that business leaders need to adapt to the challenging financial climate to attract investment.

work, determination and forward thinking. Each of the winners of the Northern Ireland Director of the Year Awards will be selected to enter the UK Director of the Year finals in late 2015 and will be nominated for the IoD Lunn’s Award of Excellence, presented at the Annual Dinner in February.

“Today’s winners have each demonstrated a wealth of skills and professionalism that have impacted positively on their company’s performance and the local economy.

Principal sponsor of the awards was First Trust Bank. Congratulating the winners, Head of First Trust Bank Des Moore said: “The pool of professional talent here in Northern Ireland is without a doubt one of our greatest assets and should be leveraged if we want to attract foreign investment and strengthen the local economy.

“This year the standard of applicants was at an all-time high, making the competition very difficult. With this said, I would like to congratulate each of the finalists on their hard

“I highly commend each of the category winners on their incredible achievement and hope it will encourage others to unlock their business potential by following suit.”

The power behind the cheese Backing Wyke Farms’ plans for 100% energy self-sufficiency

Wyke Farms, Somerset Richard Clothier, MD, Wyke Farms Ltd Colin James, Relationship Director, Barclays As Britain’s largest independent farmhouse cheese maker, Wyke Farms wanted to become self-sufficient in energy production. Barclays supported them by providing £3.5m of finance to build a biogas plant to recycle waste and generate green electricity. As MD Richard Clothier says, “It’s people that make things happen. Barclays’ knowledge, enthusiasm and commitment are crucial to making our business sustainable and competitive.” To find out how we can help your business succeed, call Adrian Doran on 02890 882900* or visit

Barclays is a trading name of Barclays Bank PLC and its subsidiaries. Barclays Bank PLC is authorised by the Prudential Regulation Authority and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority and the Prudential Regulation Authority (Financial Services Register No. 122702). Registered in England. Registered number is 1026167 with registered office at 1 Churchill Place, London E14 5HP. *Lines are open Monday to Friday, 8am to 6pm. To maintain a quality service we may monitor or record phone calls.

Trusted partners for leading local and global businesses.


EOS Systems – we’re in IT for your future Peter cites The Deluxe Group in Portadown as a case in point. “Recently we worked with The Deluxe team to fully integrate all of their Macs and PCs, and we’re currently introducing the wider use of tablet technology to improve remote access across all of their operations. This is helping the Deluxe Group to improve its profitability through enhanced productivity and greater operational efficiencies.”

Directors of EOS Solutions (from left) Peter Brown, Patrick Fitzsimons, Paul Mayne and Brendan Barrett.


he printed page may still have its place in the business world, but as we steadily increase our reliance on digital information, businesses may be exposing themselves to unparalleled risks. “The facts speak for themselves”, said Peter Brown, Technical Director, EOS Systems. “60% of businesses which suffer a catastrophic data loss will be out of business within six months. Even data loss on a minor level can be very inconvenient, and as 6% of all PCs will lose their data in any given year, it’s a statistical certainty that most organisations will experience it. But what intrigues me is the number of owners who choose to ignore the issue, with an attitude of... it’ll never happen to me... Sadly, it does.” Peter and the team at EOS Systems should know. They have been providing high-spec support to small and medium business in


Northern Ireland since 2002. “We’re a virtual It department for companies that don’t have their own internal resource”, explains Peter. “We become your complete IT support, and provide support with backup, hardware, software and ancillaries. Our focus is primarily on the SME sector. After all, we’re a small business ourselves, so we have a very clear understanding of what other SMEs require.” EOS Systems started off with a distinct market advantage – one which they still hold, as Peter explains. “We’re probably the longest established Northern Ireland team which can provide IT support for both PC and MAC-based systems. It was an important feature when we started out, as many of our graphic design and advertising clients were adopting MACs at that time. Nowadays, businesses are increasingly combining elements of both systems, so our services are more in demand than ever.”

“We become your complete IT support, and provide support with backup, hardware, software and ancillaries. Our focus is primarly on the SME sector.” And at the end of the day, it should all be about profitability. “We’re about as removed from the traditional geeky image associated with IT as it’s possible to get,” said Peter. “We’re business professionals and we’re all about business improvements for our customers. That means we specify their most appropriate kit and solutions for their needs, certainly not always the most technologically advanced, or expensive. It’s our responsibility to contribute towards our clients’ profitability and we take this very seriously. After all, we’re in IT for our clients’ future.”

To find out how EOS Systems can help to protect your IT systems and enhance business performance, call Peter Brown today on 028 9045 9222 or email

February is

A Festival of Leadership The Management & Leadership Network (MLN) would like to invite and encourage you to participate in Management Month There will be many high-quality, free to attend Masterclasses and networking events across the province, including those in Belfast, Newry, Lisburn, Derry~Londonderry and Bangor. These events will allow local managers to gain exposure to cutting edge expertise, as well benefit from hearing business insights and wisdom from renowned business leaders. As always, there will also be valuable opportunities to network with fellow managers and leaders.

The launch event of Management Month will bring together some of Northern Ireland’s most sucessful business figures to reflect on their Leadership Fundamentals. Mark Ennis (pictured left) will chair the breakfast event, which will take place on Friday 30th January at Invest NI’s Headquarters. In addition to chairing the event, Mark will share his own leadership lessons and will challenge the panel to articulate what they consider to be the fundamentals of great leadership. As with the other masterclasses taking place throughout Management Month, this event is free to attend but advance registration is essential as places will be in high demand and allocated on a first-come-first-served basis.

Another highlight of the month will be a summit entitled Re-imagining Digital Strategy, which will take place on Thursday 5th February at W5. Paul McDonnell from McKinty and Wright Solicitors (pictured right) is one of five experts who will speak under the separate headings of Re-imagine, Purpose, Target, Converse and Protect. The other speakers include Professor Mark Durkin (Ulster University), Gwynneth Cockcroft (dcp strategic communication), James McWhinney (Being Online) and Andy Hill (Dokoo Digital). This half-day event will challenge conventional thinking on digital marketing and is therefore a must for those with responsibility for their organisation’s online activity.

The Lagan Valley Island Centre in Lisburn will play host to an intriguingly titled Management Month Masterclass on Thursday 19th February. Avoiding Fatal Mistakes: A Guide for Growing Businesses will explore how ineffective management in the areas of Contracts, Protection and Planning can have catastrophic consequences for organisations of all shapes and sizes. Conversely, effective management of these issues can give an organisation the competitive edge that it needs to succeed in today’s challenging business environment. Keith Liggett from Legacy Wealth (pictured left) will speak at this event alongside Paddy Harty (PKF FPM) and Gordon Greenfield (McKinty and Wright). These three events are just a selection of what will be included during Management Month so to view the full calendar, which will be continually updated, go to

Make the Most of it...

The Management & Leadership Conference

Friday 27th February, 8am – 1pm, Titanic Belfast Widely regarded as the best event of its kind in Northern Ireland, the Management & Leadership Conference will, once again, feature a diverse and impactful line-up of speakers. These will be unveiled at intervals in the run up to the event but to whet your appetite we are delighted to announce that Jas Hawker, former commanding officer and leader of the Red Arrows (pictured above), will deliver a talk entitled ‘In Pursuit of Excellence’. Now the Operations Director of Mission Excellence, an organisational performance consultancy, Jas will use his wealth of experience to draw clear parallels with the commercial world and offer tangible and practical insights into delivering high performance teams, debriefing and prioritising under pressure. We are also delighted to reveal that Justin Urquhart Stewart, one of Britain’s most recognisable and respected business commentators (pictured right), will host the event and in doing so will share his thoughts on leadership and the role leaders must play in creating economic prosperity. Thanks to the generous support of the MLN and Management Month partners, conference tickets are only £60 +VAT. Feedback from last year’s conference was outstanding and the quotes below reflect the overall delegate response.

“Great way for a business leader to spend a morning. Some of the messages were mind blowing.” Barry Mulhern, CMASS Ltd.

“Another fabulous M&L conference. Terrific guest speaker line-up delivering relevant topics.” Nicola Barber, Kilwaughter Chemical Co Ltd.

For more information and to book your place go to

Proud sponsors of the Ulster Business Leaders in Business issue, 2015.


Motor trade welcomes ramp up in new car registrations 90,928 while Scotland was up 8.3% at 221,570. Colin McNab, Operations Director for Northern Ireland’s largest car retailer, Charles Hurst, said: “While economic recovery has undoubtedly played a part in this growth, the sheer volume of incentives and discounts on sales and the wide variety of finance packages aimed at every budget have been a key catalyst in getting consumers into the showrooms.” Henry Ford would be proud to have two of his models feature in the top 10 most popular cars in Northern Ireland for 2014.


he motor trade was back with a bang in 2014 with the number of new car sales climbing by an impressive 9% over the year.

Colin McNab.

was good, up 9.04%, it was just pipped at the post by England where new car registrations climbed 9.53% to 2,099,401. Wales saw registrations jump 8.72% to

Latest figures from the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) show 57,202 new cars were registered in Northern Ireland last year, a reflection of increasing consumer confidence and a more bullish economy. The most popular new car spot was once again dominated by the Ford Fiesta, closely followed by the Volkswagen Golf and the Ford Fiesta. Cross-over 4x4s also made a decent showing in the top ten most popular cars with the Nissan Qashqai taking sixth place, the Renault Captur eighth and the Nissan Juke in ninth place. While Northern Ireland’s performance


“This is good, solid annual performance for Northern Ireland and while pre-recession new car sales of 69,000 registered in 2007 remains some way off, we still expect growth in this market to continue for some time yet. “As a nation we remain highly reliant on our cars and newer vehicles are simply cheaper to run, tax and maintain.”













































Flags, firebombs & flashbacks

Executive Motoring

By Pat Burns

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Think Contract Hire – back to basics In recent months I have had a lot of new enquires from new businesses asking ‘what is contract hire’? I deal with contract all day, every day and it is second nature to me. I am fascinated by the return to growth in Northern Ireland and the emergence of many new small businesses that are starting to prosper. It has got me thinking again, business contact hire really is for every business, not just our large local companies. So for those businesses who are new to contract hire, here’s a brief summary of the basics to help you:

Business Edition Giulietta

• You should consider contract hire for a business rather than buying a van or car as we all know the value of a car or van always goes down i.e. it is a depreciating asset if you buy it. • Business Contract Hire allows you get a car or van for your business without having to pay a large amount of money or deposit. The money you have should be used in other ways to grow your business. • If you are VAT registered you can re-claim 50% of the VAT on the hire cost, if you take a maintenance package you can re-claim 100% of the VAT. • The major USP is that if the car has a CO2 of 130g/km or below, you can offset 100% of the hire costs against your taxable profits! If the car has a CO2 of 131g/km or above, the percentage drops to 85%. For vans, it is once again 100%. • Contract Hire – 95% of our transactions are for brand new cars and vans. • Funders – due to our strong credit rating, we have access to a large suite of funders so we use local banks to secure the funding to facilitate the transaction. • You have no residual risk – at the end of the term the car comes back to Fleet Financial. • Your monthly rental is calculated based on the term (typically three years) and annual mileage that you need. If you find that you need to do more mileage during the term due to an upturn in business, we can restructure the agreement to the new higher mileage. • Company car tax – taking a vehicle with a low CO2 is advantageous from a company car tax perspective, we can advise on how much company car tax is due per car. • Fleet Financial’s full maintenance package includes hire, service, maintenance, tyres, road tax, breakdown assistance and accident management cover. All you need to do is fuel, insure and drive. Who can contract hire? If you are a sole trader, Limited company, Partnership, LLP or part of a major Group, you can avail of the benefits of business contract hire. If it’s time for new processes in your organisation such as contract hire. Think Fleet Financial. If you need further advice or a quote please feel free to contact Paul Griffiths at Fleet Financial on 028 9084 9777.

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lfa Romeo has launched a new derivative of the Giulietta aimed specifically at business drivers. The new Alfa Romeo Giulietta Business Edition is based on the well-equipped, mid-range Distinctive trim level but with a host of additional features which are fast becoming essential equipment for user-choosers. In addition to the 16-inch alloy wheels; dual-zone climate control; cruise control; rear parking sensors; DAB digital radio and Bluetooth connectivity (with music streaming and an SMS text-message reader with pre-programmed responses) which are already standard on the Alfa Romeo Giulietta Distinctive, the new Business Edition benefits from the 6.5-inch Uconnect™ infotainment system upgrade, with voice-programmable satellite navigation with 3D mapping, as well as the Visibility Pack (dusk and rain sensors; self-dimming rear-view interior mirror and power folding door mirrors), front seat electric lumbar support and front parking sensors to help preserve the metallic or special paint – also a no-cost option on the Business Edition – in pristine condition. Not only does the Business Edition offer more than £2,000 worth of additional equipment compared to the Distinctive model, its OTR price is actually lower when both are equipped with comparable engines. This ensures its P11D and BIK numbers are highly competitive, making it a compelling package for business users wishing to add a splash of Italian style to the company car park. The new Alfa Romeo Business is on sale now, priced from £18,990 OTR.



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More power for new Porsche Carrera combined with the Sport Chrono package offering dynamic engine mounts, and Porsche Active Suspension Management (PASM) damper system which lowers the car’s ride height by ten millimetres.


orsche has the launched the second generation of the 911 Carrera GTS. Each of the four new 911 Carrera GTS models – a Coupé and a Cabriolet, available with either rear-wheel or all-wheel drive – build on the established core values of the iconic rear-engined 911 by adding further technical features to generate even higher levels of dynamic performance and driving enjoyment. Under the rear engine lid lies an evocative flat-six power unit, tuned to develop 430 hp, an increase of 30 hp over the Carrera S. This is

Improved efficiency has also led to quicker acceleration and higher top speeds, and combined fuel consumption figures remain unchanged from the favourable level of the S models. For example, when combined with the Porsche Doppelkupplungsgetriebe (PDK) double-clutch gearbox, the 911 Carrera GTS can return 32.5 mpg and also sprint from zero to 62mph in 4.0 seconds (Cabriolet: 4.2 seconds). With the standard seven-speed manual transmission and rear-wheel drive, a top speed of 198mph is possible. The exteriors of the new 911 Carrera GTS – like other GTS models – differ significantly from the other Carrera models. All versions feature the 911 Carrera 4 body with wide-flared rear wheel arches and a wider track. Also standard are 20-inch diameter alloy wheels with centre-lock mechanism, painted in an exclusive matt black finish. Accentuating the nose styling are special trim elements and smoked bi-Xenon headlights with the addition of the Porsche Dynamic Lighting System (PDLS).

The new Impreza model is back!


ubaru has brought back the Impreza model to Ulster’s roads. The new model will be limited to one, non-turbo engine and one trim level with a choice of transmissions.

The new 1.6-litre Impreza RC will be priced from £17,495 (onthe-road) for five-speed manual models and from £18,995 for models fitted with Subaru’s Lineartronic transmission. The Impreza will be the only car in the C-segment to offer AllWheel Drive (AWD) as standard on every model, a combination of a more favourable exchange rate and persistent customer demand has led to the decision to make the Impreza available again in the UK market in small volumes, and will offer an interesting and price competitive alternative to much more established competition in the highly competitive C-segment. Since its introduction to the global market in 1992, the Impreza has become the most famous of Subaru model names, with the brand’s high-tech Symmetrical AWD system and four-cylinder horizontally-opposed Boxer engines core to the car’s road-going abilities and appeal. The new Impreza retains these attributes, featuring a new-generation


1.6-litre Boxer petrol engine, the latest version of Subaru’s hallmark All-Wheel Drive as standard equipment, and an impressive range of safety and fuel efficiency aids. Fitted with the 1.6-litre Boxer engine and manual transmission, the new Impreza will accelerate from 0-60mph in 12.3 seconds, and on to a top speed of 114mph. The Impreza returns fuel economy of 44.1mpg on the combined cycle and CO2 emissions of 147g/km, improving to 46.3mpg and 140g/km when fitted with Lineartronic.


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to book a test driveº call 08433 183 535

Lindsay Mazda Lisburn

20 Market Place, Lisburn, BT28 1AN Tel: 08433 183 535 The official fuel consumption figures in mpg (l/100km) for the Mazda range: Urban 25.4 (11.1) – 74.3 (3.8). Extra Urban 45.6 (6.2) – 88.3 (3.2). Combined 35.3 (8.0) – 83.1 (3.4). CO2 emissions (g/km) 188 – 89. The mpg figures quoted are sourced from official EU-regulated test results obtained through laboratory testing. These are provided for comparability purposes only and may not reflect your actual driving results. Retail sales only, subject to vehicle availability for vehicles registered between 01.01.15 and 31.03.15 at participating dealers. T&C apply. † 5.9% APR finance avaliable on all Mazda CX-5 models and *0% APR finance available on all all-new Mazda3 models over 24, 30, 36 or 42 months. You will not own the vehicle until all payments are made. Finance subject to status, 18s or over. Guarantee/indemnity may be required. Mazda Financial Services RH1 1SR. Model shown: All-new Mazda3 120ps Sport Nav, OTR from £20,195. Mazda6 Saloon 165ps Sport Nav, OTR from £24,595. Mazda CX-5 165ps 2WD Sport Nav, OTR from £24,895. All models shown feature optional Metallic/Pearlescent paint: Mazda CX-5 Pearlescent paint (£540), Mazda3 and Mazda6 Soul Red Metallic paint (£660). OTR price includes VAT, number plates, delivery, 12 months’ road fund licence, first registration fee, 3 year or 60,000 mile warranty and 3 years’ European Roadside Assistance. ºTest drives subject to applicant status and availability. Details correct at time of going to print. Not available in conjunction with any other offer unless specified. Lindsay Mazda are a credit broker not a lender, can introduce you to a limited number of carefully selected fi nance providers and may receive a commission from them for the introduction.



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Focus on Performance The increased power output of the Focus ST 2.0-litre TDCi – a 23 per cent gain over the 150PS 2.0-litre engine in the new Focus range – is achieved by electronic calibration, a revised air intake system and a new sports-tuned exhaust.


he new Focus ST range has gone on sale priced from £22,195 ahead of first deliveries from February 2015. Showcasing a new sports exterior design and enhanced and improved interior for Ford’s latest global performance car, two engines, three series and two bodystyles make up the hot new Focus ST range here. Both the 250PS EcoBoost petrol and 185PS TDCi diesel 2.0-litre engines are offered in the ST-1, ST-2 and ST-3 series. The latest Ford Focus ST line-up continues the acclaimed estate bodystyle for both roomy loadspace and sporty handling, alongside the five-door hatch alternative.

series is enhanced by a series of upgrades, including ‘Rock Metallic’ alloys with red brake calipers, illuminated scuff plates, privacy glass, SYNC 2 with 8-inch touchscreen and cruise control with speed limiter. Both petrol and diesel models offer AutoStart-Stop for the first time, improving the EcoBoost engine version’s fuel efficiency by six per cent and making it the most fuel-efficient petrol Focus ST ever. The sports suspension features all-new front springs and sportier new shock absorber tuning front and rear. In combination with the model-specific anti-roll bars and rear springs from the previous generation ST, these enhancements deliver an even sharper dynamic performance.

The Ford Focus ST’s powerful new 2.0-litre diesel develops 185PS/400Nm and emits only 110g CO2/km. The CO2 output of the 2.0-litre 250PS petrol engine is reduced by 10g to 159g.

The calibration of the Electronic Power Assisted Steering and electronic vehicle control systems also has been revised to meet the specific sporting requirements of the new Focus ST.

In addition to the full ST body styling kit, sport tuned suspension and 18-inch unique ST alloy wheel standard features on the new Ford Focus ST-1, ST-2 has LED daytime running lights as standard and the top ST-3

The new 185PS 2.0-litre diesel engine that debuts in the new Focus ST has been optimised to deliver ST performance and character alongside fuel efficiency and everyday practicality.


Peak power is developed at 3,500rpm and there is 400Nm of torque available from 2,000-2,750rpm, enabling the new Focus ST diesel to achieve a maximum speed of 135mph. The torque output enables impressive in-gear acceleration and strong performance at low rpm. Ford’s 2.0-litre EcoBoost engine uses turbocharging, Twin-independent Variable Cam Timing technology, and high-pressure direct-injection to deliver uncompromising performance. Peak power is available at 5,500rpm, 360Nm of torque is available from 2,0004,500rpm, and maximum speed is 154mph. Both engines use a six-speed manual transmission with a performance-oriented, short-throw shift. The gear ratios – exclusive to ST and matched individually to each engine – deliver rapid acceleration in lower gears and comfortable cruising at speed. The sports bodykit also includes body‑coloured side skirts and diffuser elements either side of the exhaust, and a rear roof spoiler optimised for aerodynamic performance. All new Focus ST models feature twin-hexagonal centre tailpipes. Adaptive Front Lighting, available for the first time on the Focus ST, adjusts the intensity and angle of the Bi-Xenon HID headlamp beams according to vehicle speed, steering angle and distance to objects to provide optimal illumination. Cross Traffic Alert also is a new addition for Focus ST, and warns drivers reversing from parking spaces if other vehicles are about to cross their path.



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Electric Soul


ith the arrival of the Soul EV, Kia becomes one of only a handful of a car makers offering a battery-electric car for sale here. There is just one highly equipped model, priced at £24,995 after the government’s £5,000 Plug-in Car Grant. The Soul EV is the result of almost 30 years of research and development by Kia into the feasibility of electric cars. Now, with battery technology having reached a mature stage and emissions-based taxation providing an incentive for consumers to ‘go electric’, the time is right for the Soul EV. All those years of research have endowed the Soul EV with a range of up to 132 miles on a single charge. Kia and SK Innovation, a division of Korea’s largest petro-chemicals company, have developed innovative lithiumion polymer batteries with a greater energy density – 200 Watt-hours per kilogram of weight – than those in any comparable model. A heating and cooling system keeps them at an optimum operating temperature, which helps to extend the Soul EV’s range.         Further contributions to the class-leading range include the nickel-rich material used for the cathodes (the terminals from which the electric current leaves the batteries); regenerative braking, which tops up the batteries when coasting or slowing down; a unique air conditioning system which can be set to heat or cool only one side of the car when the driver is travelling alone; additional aerodynamic features beneath the car compared with the combustionengined version; and super-low-rollingresistance tyres, which can reduce energy consumption by as much as ten per cent over regular low-rolling-resistance tyres.      The Soul EV’s batteries have an energy storage capacity of 27 kilowatt-hours – more


than its competitors. They are mounted beneath the car in a special casing which protects them from stone or gravel damage and spray thrown up by the wheels. The ducts to heat and cool them are located beneath the rear passenger seats. The remainder of the electric drive components are mounted beneath the bonnet, where the internal combustion engine would normally be located. Because an electric motor requires less cooling than a petrol or diesel engine, the front of the Soul EV has been blanked off where the radiator grille would normally be found. This brings aerodynamic benefits.   The charging ports are hidden behind a panel in this blanked-off section. Owners have the option of recharging the batteries from a standard domestic socket, via the Kia-branded wallbox supplied as standard with the Soul EV or at a public fast charger, or through a public rapid charger. Using a UK 230-volt domestic power supply, the Soul EV can be fully recharged in 10 to 13 hours. With the wallbox or at a public fast-charge point, the time is reduced to around five hours.

The Soul EV is supplied with a customised red adapter cable stored in a smart Kiabranded pouch for this form of charging. Alternatively, through a public rapid charger the batteries can be topped up to 80 per cent of capacity – the maximum permissible with this type of system – in 33 minutes. The Soul EV has a fun-to-drive character. Its electric motor develops 81.4 kilowatts – the equivalent of 109bhp in a combustionengined model – with 285 Nm of torque available immediately upon drive-away. This makes the Soul EV particularly brisk in the kind of stop-start urban driving where it is designed to operate. It is also extremely smooth and silent – so quiet that it is fitted with a Virtual Engine Sound system at low speeds in both forward and reverse gears to alert pedestrians and cyclists that it is in the vicinity. The Soul EV has a top speed of 90mph and can accelerate from 0-60mph in 10.8 seconds, so it is perfectly capable of keeping pace with the flow of urban traffic.



Davy Private Clients has appointed Andrew Fisher to its Business Advisory Board. Andrew is former Chief Executive of Coutts & Company. The Law Society of Northern Ireland has announced that Arleen Elliott will serve as its new President. Miss Elliott brings to the Presidency a wealth of knowledge and experience gained in private practice at the Elliott-Trainor Partnership. The Law Society of Northern Ireland has announced that Richard Palmer will serve as Senior Vice President. He is a Partner in Peden & Reid.

The Law Society of Northern Ireland has announced that John Guerin will serve as Junior Vice President. John is a partner in BLM after Campbell Fitzpatrick’s combination with BLM. Karl Wilkinson has been appointed Franchisee Consultant at McDonald’s Restaurants. Under his new role Karl will be responsible for managing a number of restaurants. Shauna McNeilly has been appointed as European Engagement Officer of Creative Europe Desk UK – Northern Ireland, based at the Arts Council of Northern Ireland

David Patterson has joined Leaf Consultancy as Client Services Director. With over 25 years’ experience within the ICT sector, David will be responsible for developing and maintaining clients Paul King has been appointed to the role of Sales Consultant at Leaf Consultancy, responsible for selling a wide portfolio of Leaf products and in the Republic of Ireland. Rachel Sinton has joined LK Communications as a Senior PR Account Executive. Rachel holds a BSc (Hons) degree in Communication with Public Relations.



Sonia Graham has joined Charles Hurst Group as Jaguar and Land Rover Fleet and Small Business Specialist. Sonia brings to her role 25-years extensive experience in the vehicle Industry. Andrew McCormick has been appointed to the position of sales director by Traction Finance. Andrew has extensive management experience in both manufacturing and motor industry. Siobhan Nugent has been appointed Public Sector Business Manager at Bank of Ireland UK. Siobhan is a member of the Institute of Chartered Accountants in Ireland (ICAI).

Lorraine McGoran has been appointed Marketing and Campaigns Manager at Visit Belfast. Lorraine joins Visit Belfast to take on the role of developing and implementing the organisations marketing and promotions campaign strategy across NI, ROI, GB and Europe.

JaimÊ Bennett has joined Visit Belfast’s conference and events team where she will be responsible for destination and event management.

P&O Ferries has appointed Laura Gilmour as Port Manager at The Port of Larne. Laura will lead a team of 75.

Roger Armson has been appointed as the General Manager of Larne Harbour Ltd. and will be responsible for the safe and efficient delivery of all port services. Willowbrook Fine Foods has promoted Peter Summerton to the role of Sales Director. Peter will be responsible for growing the freshly cooked meal accompaniments side of the business. Fiona Robinson has launched a new, interactive online estate agency service with business partner Lisa Wightman. Fiona has over 25 years experience in Estate Agency and Finance sector.



PHOTOCALL 1. Actor Dan Gordon recently presided over a special Dragon’s Den-style crowdfunding event at Belfast City Hall where four charities raised more than £17,000 in three hours for vital projects. He’s joined by Michael Maynard; Sandara Kelso-Robb and Andrew McCracken.

2. Stewart Hood, Chairman, Sheridan & Hood and Brian Hood, Managing Director, Sheridan & Hood and BS Holdings get ready to ship the first award-winning biomass systems to help fulfil a £600,000 order which BS Holdings has secured with leading UK car retailer Lookers plc.

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3. Belfast International Airport managing director Graham Keddie celebrating the inaugural easyJet Belfast to Reykjavik flight with Capt. Pat Moran and easyJet Commercial manager Ali Gayward.


4. Employment and Learning Minister Dr Stephen Farry is supporting the inaugural Northern Ireland Science Festival. From left to right are: Chris McCreery, Director of the Northern Ireland Science Festival; Lynsey McNerlin, from Northern Ireland Science Festival; and Minister for Employment and Learning Dr Stephen Farry.

5. Cancer Fund for Children’s Corporate Fundraiser, Sorcha Chipperfield and Restaurant Manager James Miskimmin, both from Belfast, celebrate as Havana Bank Square announces its participation in the Make A Change campaign.




PHOTOCALL 6. The Bank of Ireland Catherine Judge Memorial Award 2015 has launched its final call for entries. The award, is seeking applications from talented young musicians who would like to continue their music education at third level. Pictured at the launch is Terry McCrudden, Head of Branches East, Bank of Ireland UK with Abigail McDonagh, winner of the award in 2014.

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8. Marcon Fit-Out is celebrating the completion of Northern Ireland’s first frozen yogurt shop. Harry Wang and Katie Waddell, owners of new froyo sensation Spoon Street, with Ross Mullan from Marcon Fit-Out.



10 JANUARY 2015

7. Musgrave Retail Partners have teamed up with the Ulster Farmers’ Union (UFU) to educate thousands of children across Northern Ireland on local farming. Pictured launching the partnership are MRPNI Acting Managing Director Damian McCarney and UFU Deputy President Barclay Bell.

9. Deloitte recently took part in a festive charity shop challenge in aid of their charity partner Marie Curie Cancer Care. Pictured (l-r): Clayre Sloan, Shops Area Manager, Marie Curie Cancer Care, Michael Gogarty, Deloitte and Mark McClintock, Partner at Deloitte Belfast.

10. Belfast pedal bike tour company Wee Toast Tours has officially launched its unique tour. Pictured are Kieran Bain and Morgan Ellis enjoying a lunchtime ride on the Wee Toast Tours bike with owner Ron Kenna.


PHOTOCALL 11. Henderson Foodservice staff took part in a festive road trip to help push the company’s annual fundraising total for the Northern Ireland Children’s Hospice to over £20,000. Pictured are Managing Director Damien Barrett and Santas Michael Lappin, Peter Taylor and Andy McDonald.

12. Brian Ambrose, Chair of Mencap’s Big Step Forward Appeal and Chief Executive of George Best Belfast City Airport, helps lead the business community in taking a ‘Big Step Forward’ for Mencap alongside Vanessa Elder, Regional Fundraising Manager for Mencap in Northern Ireland.



13. Huhtamaki (Lurgan) Ltd has received a Platinum Award for energy conservation standards in this year’s Business in the Community’s Environmental Benchmarking Survey. Pictured are Programme Manager of Business in the Community, Patricia McCambridge and Managing Director of Huhtamaki Lurgan, Philip Woolsey.

14. Northern Ireland AgriBusinesses Unite with Rural Support’s Melissa Wylie and Simple Power’s Philip Rainey to giving hope to those in need this Christmas.

15. Grants Electrical Services NI Ltd (GES Group), which has operations in Ballymena and Mallusk, has announced that it is investing over £300,000 in growth including taking on ten new staff. Pictured (left) is Grainne McVeigh, Invest NI, with David Moore, GES Group.





PHOTOCALL 16. Former Secretary of State for Northern Ireland Owen Paterson is pictured with Grant Thornton Partners Louise Kelly (Audit), Richard Gillan (Advisory) and Peter Legge (Tax). He provided Grant Thornton clients with an insight into Northern Ireland’s bid for corporation tax-setting powers.


17. Titanic Belfast’s education programme has launched a new seminar, From White Star To Five Star, for students studying Travel and Toursim, Hospitality and Event Management. Students from Belfast Met College in Titanic Quarter were first to experience the new seminar in the visitor attraction.

18. Spar NI and FC Robinson have agreed a contract to supply Robinson branded ‘Assured Origin’ NI Pork. Pictured (l-r) is Deirdre McIvor Executive Director of the Pork & Bacon Forum, Steven Kennedy from The Henderson Group and Alvin Donaghy from FC Robinson.

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19. Pictured chipping in to support young Fish Friers of the future at South West College, Dungannon is Malachy Mallon, from the award-winning Dolphin Takeaway who held a Fish & Chip Frying Masterclass for students taking the Level 1 Diploma in Professional Cookery

19 JANUARY 2015


20. Steps 2 Success, the DEL’s new employment programme, has been launched across the northern region of Derry. Pictured L-R: Tina McKenzie, Managing Director of EOS NI, Employment and Learning Minister Stephen Farry and Katrina Hinfey, Contract Manager at EOS NI.



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

Daisy Lodge wins national gong

ASG scoops wealth of awards

Cancer Fund for Children’s Daisy Lodge project in Newcastle – which was built by local company Heron Bros – has won the national prize for Environmental Sustainability Best Practice at the 2014 Green Apple Awards. Accepting the Green Apple Award: Noel McMullan, Commercial Director, Heron Bros Ltd; Gillian Creevy, Chief Executive, Cancer Fund for Children; charity chairman Ronnie Foreman and architect Michael McDowell.

Belfast-based marketing and communications agency ASG are celebrating after a bumper win of awards. The accolades are the culmination of a good year for ASG which has seen the agency receive recognition and acknowledgement for its work in the fields of advertising, PR, design and digital. Pictured are (l-r) Russell Lever, PR Account Manager; Rory Jeffers, Deputy Creative Director; Valerie Ludlow, Client Marketing Director; Kieran McNicholl, Media Manager and Kirk Moffatt, Creative Director.

Chamber plants the seeds Northern Ireland Chamber of Commerce and Industry (NI Chamber) concluded its programme of events for 2014 at a ‘Growing Something Brilliant’ dinner held in Belfast Harbour Commissioners last month. The dinner was attended by 150 leading Chief Executives and senior executives from businesses across Northern Ireland, who have supported the NI Chamber campaign throughout 2014. Pictured at the event (L-R) are NI Chamber President Kevin Kingston; guest speaker Phil Smith, Chief Executive of Cisco UK & Ireland and David Manning, Director of Corporate Affairs at SSE Airtricity.


Penninsula prizes Donna Gray from Bangor is presented with the overall Heart of Peninsula Award by UTV’s Julian Simmons and Britain’s Got Talent star Jordan O’Keeffe. Also pictured is Managing Director for Peninsula Care Services Jonny Cook who created the event to reward and recognise the company’s most talented, dedicated and loyal staff. The ceremony coincides with the company’s sixth birthday celebrations, as well as the creation of 30 new jobs.


Leaders gather for IoD awards The cream of Northern Ireland’s leaders gathered last month for the IoD First Trust Bank Director of the Year Awards held today in the Merchant Hotel, Belfast.

Marie McGuiness and Kirsty McManus.

Alan McKeown, Ina McKeown, Joanne McCauley and Pamela McKeown.

Highly Commended Family Business Director of the Year Mandy Patrick.

Sylvie Brando, Mike Mullan and Paul Terrington.

Michelle Harbinson, Aisling Press and Edel McCooe.

Tony Rice, Gary Martin, Kim Johnston and Ed Brown.

Montupet makes it 50 Dunmurry manufacturing company Montupet (UK) Ltd celebrated 25 years of doing business in Northern Ireland at a gala dinner in Titanic Belfast recently. Employing over 600 people, Montupet manufactures  cylinder heads for the automotive industry. Speaking at the event, Montupet’s Northern Ireland managing director Jim Burke said: “We are delighted to have reached the 25 year milestone of doing business in Northern Ireland, and tonight we are celebrating the hard work and dedication of our team who have created the success that is our Dunmurry base. We are also recognising the achievements of a number of staff who have been with Montupet for 25 years, and who have contributed greatly to the growth of the business.” Pictured at the event is Managing Director Jim Burke and Therese McGuckin, who are also celebrating 25 years at Montupet (UK) Ltd.




Keeping your fans engaged


ans engagement is becoming essential to sponsors and event or venue organisers. For the sponsor it is a method to engage with the event customers and for the organiser, it is a way to protect ticket sales!

By Geoff Wilson

Geoff Wilson accepting his Chartered Institute of Marketing (Ireland) Award.

The last few years has seen an increase towards fans engagement programmes as an important element to achieving sponsors and event organisers objectives. In addition, the convenience of live television coverage is competing for fans’ attention and impacting their decision to attend (or not attend) an event.

So what is fans’ engagement? Well simply put, it focuses on enhancing the experience of fans at events or venues while seeking to build loyalty. If you are involved in events or venues, see below some thoughts regarding fans engagement: • Start with research – conduct focus groups with the fans for their input, ideas and buy in.

through the use of social media and unique content (behind the scenes content, live or highlight footage, fans generated content etc).

• Seek to engage the fans with entertainment inside and outside the venue using a combination of online (exchanging photos, videos, polls, competitions) and offline activity (such as live music, competitions etc). This entertainment could be supplied by a sponsor. In addition consider good quality food and beverages for different fans groups.

• Think about the fans’ experience. From booking their tickets to travelling to the venue or event. Is your ticketing process slick? Do you provide directions around your stadium or venue? (from parking to toilets, seat upgrade functionality when you arrive at the venue).

• Don’t forget about the fans who do not attend your event or venue. Those who stay at home! Seek to engage with them

• Provide training for your staff and brand ambassadors on customer service in order to provide an excellent ‘guest experience’

– the key is to have a welcoming and engaging staff; consistently! • What customer “touchpoints” could you improve or enhance? If you would like to know more on how to improve your fans’ experience at your event or venue, then simply drop me a line. 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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The talk of the tech world for 2015


n many ways, the technology of 2015 will be as you might expect – faster, lighter and slimmer than ever, but ultimately the same as what went before. The year is likely to prove make-or-break for some emerging products, however, as well as some that are trying to halt a decline.

The smart-watch


any big companies have now entered the smart-watch market and consumers are increasingly aware of the concept; but problems remain.

Despite a lot of attention, no one product has stood out as a must-have just yet. That’s because many of the designs are unattractive, or the technology they use is lacking. There’s also problems around functionality, as many devices do very little beyond track steps or act as a second screen for a phone. In the year ahead, firms already in the market will have a chance to tweak their offerings to smooth out the creases and respond to consumer demand. More importantly, perhaps, Apple will make its smart-watch debut – something that many would-be owners have been holding off a purchase for. While the market was still all to play for by the end of 2014, in 12 months there should be a clearer picture of which ‘smart-watch’ vision is drawing in the most customers... presuming that any of them are managing to do that at all.

Internet of things


t’s an oft-used term that has been around for some time but 2015 is the year internetenabled appliances should gain traction – or else disappear into the ether once and for all. The technology is firmly in place – as is the level of personal connectivity required – and there are even examples of internet-enabled household devices already on the market. In the year ahead, expect that portfolio to grow substantially with products ranging from the ingenious to the gimmicky. Also expect the data and privacy debate to be ignited as a result, as people increasingly mull the ethical question about the value of convenience and the role of technology in their lives.





nce the king of the computer world, Microsoft is now languishing behind rivals like Apple and Google. It’s still making lots of money, of course, but it’s rapid loss of customers will see that change if it doesn’t stop the rot quickly. 2015 will be a big opportunity for them to do that, too. With their new CEO at the helm, Microsoft will debut its next version of Windows. It will hope this will help revive flagging PC sales, while also putting it in a stronger position in the smartphone and tablet markets. Gaining ground in that field will be particularly important in the months ahead too. The firm is already a distant third and another year with no change will make it very hard for them to continue on the same path. What happens between now and December 2015 could, ultimately, dictate what kind of company Microsoft becomes – and what kind of future it may have in the tech world.



ust when you thought your expensive 1080p 3D, OLED Smart TV was at the cutting edge of picture technology, along comes a new standard. 4K offers the picture quality of four full HD screens in one, and is being pushed as the new feature in premium TVs. Of course the last standard to be pushed on consumers – 3D – never really gained mass appeal, so the year ahead will be critical for 4K to gain traction. A big part of that will be how much the screens cost – though prices will ultimately come down and there are always people willing to spend more in the meantime. The key, though, will be whether there’s an improvement in what’s available to watch at the 4K level – and whether customers see the improvement as substantial


enough to warrant a big outlay. If either of those sides of the coin underwhelm, they could almost give the sets away and

people wouldn’t be bothered. Get it right, though, and they might just hit a gold mine of HD TV owners looking to upgrade.


Travel NEWS

Traveller trends for 2015 What to expect from the world of travel in the next 12 months, according to online travel website Expedia.

Mobile moves beyond booking More people are accessing the internet through their mobile devices than through PC’s, and, PhoCusWright predicts that almost 30% of travel will be booked on mobile in 2015. 2015 will continue to illustrate the importance of mobile devices as a true personal assistant throughout the whole travel experience. Consumer dependence on mobile in travel is clear, as revealed by the Expedia Mobile Index. Globally travellers say they would be equally concerned by the loss of our mobiles, compared to the rest of our luggage combined. According to the report, almost 1 in 5 travellers globally have checked into a hotel on their mobile for business purposes, with around 15 per cent having done so for a leisure trip. This is a trend that we expect to become even more pronounced in 2015.

Connected experiences Expedia’s Mobile Index reinforced the fact that 2014 was a turning point for consumers owning multiple mobile devices. Compared to 2013, the percentage of people who own both a smartphone and a tablet in Europe more doubled in 2014 to 48%. Throughout their day-to-day lives, people are constantly dreaming about, planning and booking travel across a range of devices and there was increasing frustration at needing to begin research again when


logging into a new device. To make cross platform searching easier for consumers, Expedia launched Scratchpad which automatically logs searches and updates the relevant pricing, whatever device the customer previously searched on.

The shift from Pull to Push The internet is a constantly changing landscape and the way customers are currently engaging with the web is shifting from a “pull” mentality (where consumers usually pull the information) to a “push” mentality (where timely information is sent to customers through alerts and notifications). Push notifications represent approximately 5X times the pull volume (7.5B from Apple and an estimated 15B from Google) up from near zero 5-6 years ago. Expedia’s push notifications for 2014 have been designed to support travellers through their trips (letting them know when check in opens or from which gate their flight is leaving for instance), which has proved to be very popular with the travelling public so far.

More power to the customer – up in the air When it comes to online hotel reviews from other users, consumers are becoming more reliant than ever, with the information and feedback providing a vital, unbiased resource. According to the Expedia Future of

Travel report, 79% of potential holidaymakers consider them to be an important resource when travelling for leisure. Millennials place a particularly high value on hotel reviews and as a result were more likely to submit their own personal reviews, concerning their overall travel experience. Mobile will also facilitate immediate feedback throughout the trip. In Europe, customer feedback has a major impact on consumers and even Ryanair has taken a new and improved approach to customer experience, launching its ‘Always Getting Better’ programme.  

Personalised travel With online bookings opening up more avenues than ever before, for consumers looking to tailor their travel experience, the possibility of selecting fares based on personal priorities will become increasingly common. These personalised fares will present customers with greater control over what they pay for and what they don’t, whether that’s baggage inclusion, in-flight services, seat selection or flexibility. From a hotel perspective, Expedia is seeing a number of hotels concentrating on niche areas such as family hotels, couples only hotels, sports hotels, wellbeing hotels or high-tech hotels. From a travel search point of view, this trend will continue to evolve, offering travellers more personalised recommendations or the option to search based on specific themes.


Airport-funded project raises awareness for hearing loss in local schools

Working from the beach


he chances of really getting away from the office when you go on holiday are slim, according to new research commissioned by online travel site

Director of Corporate Responsibility of George Best Belfast City Airport, Michelle Hatfield, with Edenderry Nursery pupils Leon and Laurie.


ocal children are being taught valuable communication skills thanks to an Action on Hearing Loss project funded by the George Best Belfast City Airport Community Fund.

Through the Deaf Awareness for Young People project (D.A.Y), groups of trained volunteers are visiting schools and youth groups to raise awareness of hearing loss and promote various forms of visual communication through fun, interactive workshops. Jackie White, Action for Hearing Loss NI Director, said: “An estimated 300,000 people in Northern Ireland are deaf, have hearing loss or tinnitus. “It is therefore really important that children are aware of hearing loss and can practice non-verbal communication from a young age and that is precisely what the D.A.Y. project, supported by the Belfast City Airport Community Fund, aims to do. Our sessions are tailored for different age groups and teach useful British Sign Language (BSL) signs, finger spelling and the anatomy of the ear.” Michelle Hatfield, Director of Corporate Responsibility at Belfast City Airport, said: “At Belfast City Airport we are extremely passionate about supporting young people within our community, encouraging open communication and understanding the needs of others for a more socially inclusive and balanced society. The D.A.Y project brings to light the challenges which so many deaf people in Northern Ireland have to face when carrying out their daily their tasks. It has been a pleasure to be involved and play a role in equipping young people with the tools they need to communicate effectively, even in a nonverbal manner.” For more information please visit


It found 68% of people in the UK have been contacted by work when on holiday and those that were spent at least two hours concentrating on work during each one week break. Over 30m people expect to be interrupted, the vast majority (45%) by their boss, while the remainder will be bothered by other colleagues. The news is better for bosses, with only 5% expected to be interrupted while on holiday. When it comes to professions, retail, finance and marketing are the most likely to be contacted, closely followed by those working in IT, law and sales. Of those who were contacted, over a quarter (27%) stated that they have answered work calls because they feel obliged to, only slightly fewer (23%) because they feel responsible even when away, while over one in ten (14%) did it to prove they were committed and almost as many (8%) admit to simply being workaholics.

Top 10 reasons why UK workers were contacted by work when away on holiday 1. To ask where a document was saved / if I could send it through (22%) 2. To ask for some log in details (15%) 3. To ask about the status of a project (13%) 4. To ask if I could work on something (10%) 5. To share work updates with me (10%) 6. To ask if I would be able to attend a meeting when I’m back (8%) 7. To ask something about my handover (8%) 8. To ask if I could read over a document (7%) 9. To ask whether an invoice has been processed (7%) 10. To ask how to turn your computer on (7%)







Business Diary

February 2015


date 30 January 08:00 - 09:45

event Leadership Fundamentals Organiser: MLN

venue Invest NI, Bedford Street, Belfast FREE to attend as part of

CONTACT For further information or booking details visit:

Management Month 03 February 09:00 - 17:00

Efficient Use of Espacenet Workshop

Signal Centre, Bangor

Martin McAteer Tel: 028 9069 8825 or

Organiser: Invest NI

Cost: £50 +VAT

Gary Smylie Tel: 028 9069 8296

05 February 08:00 - 11:30

05 February 08:45 - 10:00

Re-imagining Digital Strategy – The Summit Organiser: MLN

W5, Belfast

Super Connect Seminar

Malone Lodge, Belfast

For further information contact:

Organiser: Belfast City Council

Cost: FREE

0800 587 4695 or email

FREE to attend as part of

For further information or booking details visit:

Management Month 05 February 19:00 - 23:00

IoD NI Annual Dinner

Europa Hotel, Belfast

Organiser: IoD NI

Members: £85.00 +VAT

To book, please contact 028 9068 3224 or visit

Non Members: £100 +VAT 11 February 07:30 - 10.00

Aligning Your Goals Organiser: MLN

Signal Centre, Bangor FREE to attend as part of

For further information or booking details visit:

Management Month 18 February 10:00 - 16.00

Sales Excellence

CIDO, Portadown

For further information visit:

Organiser: BITC NI

Cost: FREE

19 February 08:00 - 10.00

Avoiding Fatal Mistakes:

Lagan Valley Island, Lisburn

A Growing Guide for Businesses

FREE to attend as part of

For further information or booking details visit:

Organiser: MLN

Management Month

23 February 12:30 - 14.00

IoD NI New Member Lunch

Riddel Hall, Belfast

Organiser: IoD NI

FREE: Members & Non-Members

27 February 08:00 - 13.00

The Management & Leadership

Titanic Suite, Titanic Belfast


Cost: £60 +VAT

To book, please contact 028 9068 3224 or visit For further information or booking details visit:

Organiser: MLN

If you would like to promote an event or conference please contact Sonia FEBRUARY 2014 Armstrong ( 97


Uncovering the 9-5

I believe that our people are the key to making our business successful. Their efforts ensure that when I am away on business or on holiday, the business doesn’t grind to a halt. Sometimes I do worry that the teams are in control so much of the business, that they direct me as much as I direct them.

1.00pm Depending on workload, I will either stay in at lunchtime or escape the office. Afternoons are determined by team meetings. The global nature of our business necessitates individual pricing on specific jobs and tenders. Every day we plan the weekly shipment of anything ranging from generators, pharmacare products, building products to powdered milk, heavy engineering and sporting goods to and from destinations which could be in Paris, Milan, Madrid, New York, Durban and Sydney. NAME: Gary Stewart


POSITION: Managing Director, Quay Cargo Services

A double espresso fires me up for the rest of the day.


6.00am – 7.00am Up early. In truth the start of my working day or week can vary, however a wise discipline from youth ensures I never leave the house on an empty stomach. I try to be at my desk in Belfast around 08.00am to allow me to respond to e-mails and correspondence but also to miss the traffic. Alternatively, I will try to schedule morning meetings with our haulage contractors and customers throughout the week to avoid a wasted commute from my home in Kells. Whilst it is essential to stay close to our customers, it is equally important to stay close to our supply chain partners. We seek to fully understand the product/ service offered by our suppliers before we can sell it properly to our customers.

10.00am On arriving in the office and partaking of a settling coffee, I endeavour to catch up with

our business teams before seeing to my own workload. Quay Cargo Services provides transportation solutions to Northern Irish companies operating in export markets. We are proud to be the designated agent for the world’s fourth largest container shipping company, Hapag Lloyd. We are responsible for the sales and marketing of the company’s portfolio of services in Northern Ireland which allows us to offer local firms access to destinations across the world. The global nature of our operations necessitates catching up with Gilly and the European Operations Team, Andy and the Global Container Operations Team and Jacqui and the Commercial Team. I will also see Lynsey, who heads the Finance Team, to establish if there are any pressing issues or concerns. I do this routinely every day to ensure I stay on top of the business.

In late 2013, we established a joint venture with stevedoring company William Reid Ltd to provide modern container handling and storage facilities for customers at York Dock in the historic heart of Belfast Port. Captain Container is an exciting development for the market. In recent months I have spent considerable time speaking to customers, brokering deals and liaising with our partner.

4.30pm Recently I have spent a number of hours every couple of days progressing newly-created marketing materials in preparation for the firm’s 20th anniversary in 2015. For the next 20 years, I hope that Quay Cargo Services will continue to do what we excel at – representing and serving Northern Irish business interests in national, international and intercontinental marketplaces. In essence, we are local people, thinking globally!

5.30 – 6.00pm Down tools and home to see my family.

Continuous Commitment As a client of Caulfield Corporate you will form a relationship with our company and we will be a long term partner for your business. That is why we put a premium on getting to know you and your organisation. We put your needs first and we will always keep it that way.

Insurance & Risk Advisors

Caulfield Corporate 162 Lisburn Road Belfast BT9 6AL T: 028 9066 1999 F: 028 9066 3560

Ulster Business - January 2015  

Ulster Business

Ulster Business - January 2015  

Ulster Business