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MAY 2016 Price £2.30 (€3.75)

The end of the paper chase How Barclay Communications’ revolutionary workflow management system WorkPal is keeping field workers on the move

Brexit special: What impact would leaving the EU have on our economy?

Roundtable: PwC asks how the National Living Wage will hit business

ISSN 1363-2507

9 771363 250005


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Contents 6 News

48 Business Breakfast

76 Motoring

Stories from around Northern Ireland brought to you here

James Street South et al proprietor Niall McKenna steps in front of the bar

Driving ambition with the thinking woman’s Clarkson, Pat Burns

14 Cover Story

54 Export

82 Appointments

Barclay Communications explain the upward journey for remote worker product WorkPal

Key to the Brexit debate is how our exports will be impacted by leaving Europe

Go on. You know you want to know who has moved where, to do what and when

22 Business Finance

64 Corporate Restructuring

90 Events

What impact will Brexit have on the monetary system? We find out

Plenty of deals in the first quarter of the year, with the Homebase sale the standout

If you were out and about this month then you might be photographed here. Really

34 Commercial Property

69 Roundtable

94 Travel

How would a Brexit impact the commercial property sector here?

PwC tackles the ups and downs of the new National Living Wage and Apprenticeship Levy

We’re all going to Copenhagen! Well, maybe not but reading this we should do



54 64




Brexit breakdown


elcome to the May edition of Ulster Business. This month we get to the core of one of the most important debates taking place in the UK at present, the European Union referendum.

That particular affliction has the potential to be a game changer as far as Brexit is concerned. The worry for the Stay campaign is that younger voters, who tend to be more pro Europe, won’t bother to vote and will leave an opportunity for the Leave campaign to catch up.

We find out what the consequences are of a so-called Brexit when it comes to Northern Ireland, the only region in the UK to have a land border with a European country. Each of our features, from banking and finance to export, touches on the issue.

Time will tell but in the meantime we all need to absorb as many of the facts around Brexit to make sure we make a sensible decision.

It may sometimes feel like information overload, but how we vote on June 23 is crucial to our economic future and we need to be armed with all the facts to choose the right path. Of course, before then we have Assembly elections to deal with, but with all prospective parties at Stormont seemingly pulling in the one direction where the economy is concerned, this appears to be a warm-up act for the main show next month.

Our ability to attract foreign direct investment is dependent as much on our tax rate as it is on being a part of Europe. Just after we’ve signed up the former we could easily lose the latter.

With luck the Stormont elections will manage to draw voters to the polls and won’t suffer from that scourge of democratic nations the world over, voter apathy.

David Elliott

Publisher Independent News & Media Ltd Ulster Business 5b Edgewater Business Park Belfast Harbour Estate, Belfast BT3 9JQ www.ulsterbusiness.com Tel: 028 9078 3200 Printer W&G Baird Greystone Press, Caulside Drive, Antrim BT41 2RS www.wgbaird.com

Independent News & Media Ltd © 2016. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form, or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise without the prior permission of Independent News & Media Ltd.

MAY 2016

Whether Northern Ireland’s fragile economy – still trailing behind other regions of the UK – is in a fit enough state to withstand any period of uncertainty following a Brexit is debatable, but it is definitely not flush with such riches that it can afford to effectively throw away the benefits which will come from the devolution of corporation tax setting powers.

Editor David Elliott

Art Editor Stuart Gray

Manager Sonia Armstrong

Production Manager Stuart Gray

Deputy Manager Sylvie Brando

Cover Photography Brian Thompson

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


The Big Numbers 26.3 The percentage of Northern Ireland’s population classified as economically inactive, those of working age who aren’t actively looking for work. That’s the lowest level recorded since records began in 1992, but is still the highest of all UK regions.

Learning Pool becomes Carlyle Group’s first NI investment

6.3 The percentage of unemployed people in Northern Ireland, up 0.3% on the same time last year and well above the 5.1% average across the UK. John Dolan, Managing Director, Cardinal Capital Group, Paul McElvaney, CEO, Learning Pool, and Jonathan Cosgrave, Managing Director, The Carlyle Group.

0.9 The percentage growth of the economy here in the fourth quarter of 2015 compared to the same period a year earlier, according to the Northern Ireland Composite Economic Index.

£400m How much Bombardier’s latest order from Delta could be worth. The airline ordered 75 of the CS100 jets and has options on another 50.

£2,200 The amount a Brexit could cost the average UK household by 2020, according to the Organisation of Economic Cooperation and Development. It said leaving the European Union would have a persistent and rising shock to the economy.



ne of the world’s biggest private equity funds has invested an undisclosed sum in north west IT company Learning Pool.

Learning Pool was founded by Paul McElvaney in 2006 and is an e-learning company which provides online learning solutions to companies throughout the UK.

Carlyle Cardinal Ireland, part of the US fund Carlyle Group, wouldn’t reveal the size of the investment but it’s believed to be a multi-million pound sum.

The company has a significant presence in the UK market where over 80% of local councils use Learning Pool for effective staff training.

It had been on the lookout for investments in Northern Ireland over the last few months and Learning Pool is the first company it has backed here.

Founded in 2006 by CEO Paul McElvaney it employs 80 people servicing clients in the UK, Ireland and internationally. Every day a community of 1.25m learners across 350 companies and government bodies uses Learning Pool’s products and services to meet compliance requirements and drive performance improvement.

Jonathan Cosgrave, Managing Director, The Carlyle Group said he’s confident of further growth for the firm: “Learning Pool is well positioned to continue growing its share of the estimated £675m UK e-learning market,” he said. “We’ve been impressed with Learning Pool’s innovative technologies, quality of service and the entrepreneurial leadership team, and we look forward to supporting further growth of the business. “We’re also delighted to complete our first investment in Northern Ireland and we continue to look at other potential investments in both Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland.”

Paul McElvaney, Learning Pool’s CEO said the company has doubled in the last three years. “In CCI we believe we have exactly the right partners to help us develop our business and help us realise that potential,” he said. “This investment will fast track our growth and allows us to build out our technology and content at a quicker pace for our customers benefit. I’m excited about the next phase of Learning Pool’s growth that will see us deliver more product innovation and significant expansion of our customer base and our team.”


New Belfast hotel to create 100 jobs


new Maldron hotel on Belfast’s Brunswick Street is to create 100 new jobs, according to the operators. Dublin-based Dalata Hotel Group, which owns the Maldron brand and claims to be the biggest hotel operator on the island of Ireland, said it has given the contract to build the 206-bed hostelry to local builder McAleer & Rushe. Designed by Belfast architect Consarc, the 14-storey building will built on the site of the former Belfast Metropolitan College after bagging planning permission back in November 2015. The company said demolition of the site has already begun and construction will start in June 2016 with a view to be completed in the first half of 2018. It will join the other Maldron Hotel at Belfast International Airport and Dalata’s other brand the Clayton Hotel on Bedford Street in the city. Dermot Crowley, Deputy CEO Business Development and Finance, said the success of both had prompted further investment in Northern Ireland. “RevPar (revenue) growth was strong in 2015 in our



The Maldron Hotel at Belfast International Airport. Owners Dalata are building a new Maldron Hotel on Belfast’s Brunswick Street.

existing Northern Ireland hotels and we have been keen to expand our portfolio in Belfast,” he said. “This new hotel continues the rapid expansion of the Maldron brand on the island of Ireland and we look forward to working with McAleer & Rushe on the development.”


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MAY 2016



Quotes of the month

Record Northern Ireland representation in EY Entrepreneur competition

“Being in the EU provides a strong platform for Northern Ireland to attract investment, and to export our goods and services, helping to create jobs and improve living standards. We judge the benefits of being in the EU at around £2,700 to £3,300 per family per year. A decision to leave the EU would create enormous uncertainty putting at risk the potential to attract more investment from a lower corporation tax rate.” Nigel Smyth, Regional Director of the CBI Northern Ireland.

“The investment market has seen a steady stream of activity during Q1, although market sentiment has been adversely affected by concerns surrounding the BREXIT vote on 23rd June. Assuming a pro-EU outcome we expect that market sentiment will recover quickly, we therefore anticipate.” David Wright, director at CBRE says the commercial property market is closing watching the Brexit debate.

“We can fully expect the lobbyists to work unstintingly for the status quo and against innovation – for the diesel industry and against electric cars, for banks and against financial sector innovators, for big pharma and against biotech innovation, for big appliance companies and against bagless vacuum cleaners – in summary, for big business and against entrepreneurs.” Hedge fund boss Paul Marshall comes out in favour of leaving the EU.

Pictured at the announcement of the finalists in the 2016 EY Entrepreneur Of The YearTM programme are (L-R) Sean Duffy, Programme Director Entrepreneur Of The YearTM programme, Ian Murphy, Director, Growth & Scaling Invest NI, Anne Heraty, CEO Cpl Resources and Chairperson of the EY Entrepreneur Of The YearTM judging panel, Kevin McLoughlin, Partner Lead Entrepreneur Of The YearTM programme.


record number of Northern Ireland business people have been named finalists on the EY Entrepreneur of the Year 2016 program. Seven of the 24 short-listed finalists hail from these shores and include Gareth Loye from M&M Contractors, Eamon Donnnelly from Uform, Brendan Mooney from Kainos, James Leckey from Lecky, Jim Wright from JMW Farms, Dr Suresh Tharma and Mr Ashok Songra from 3fivetwo Group and Leona and Sean McAllister from PlotBox. The 19th year of the programme focuses on the theme of building a business legacy, and includes mentoring initiatives, bespoke executive education and an international CEO Retreat to Boston. Finalists will also benefit from networking with an experienced community of peers, as they join the 416-strong EOY community of former finalists and winners. Finalists have been selected in three categories – emerging, industry and international. Speaking at the announcement, Rob Heron, Tax Partner, EOY programme


said: “This year’s shortlist is of a remarkable standard, and it is particularly encouraging to see a strong spread of finalists from Northern Ireland. The Northern Ireland finalists represent a diverse range of sectors, including digital technology, healthcare, distribution, utilities and farming.” From the huge number of nominations received from across the island of Ireland, the 24 finalists were selected by an independent judging panel of previous winners, chaired by Anne Heraty, CEO of Cpl Resources plc, and previous winner of the 2006 EY Entrepreneur Of The YearTM programme. Last year Tyrone secured a win in the programme as Jack Dobson of Dunbia scooped the prize in the Industry category. As part of the 10 month development programme, the finalists will join approximately 50 members of the EOY community for a week long CEO retreat to Boston in May. The retreat will include masterclasses with decision makers at the helm of Boston’s most successful start-ups and globally renowned brands and leading academics from Harvard and M.I.T.


Fly from Belfast to Alicante with Aer Lingus


orthern Ireland sun seekers can now fly with Aer Lingus direct to Alicante from George Best Belfast City Airport. Andrea Hunter, Business Development Manager at Aer Lingus NI and Captain Harry Brady were joined by cabin crew Richard McCarroll and June Courtenage to celebrate the inaugural flight to Alicante at the end of April. Aer Lingus currently operates a five times weekly service to Alicante and Palma on Monday, Wednesday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday and daily flights to Faro and Malaga. From mid May Aer Lingus will operate two further daily flights on Tuesday and Thursday to Malaga and Faro.

from the edge of town from the heart of the city

MAY 2016



Worrying lack of cyber crime awareness

Lisburn firm creates six jobs as expansion gathers pace

Joanna McArdle, Director, Barclays in Northern Ireland.


yber security is a threat which businesses in Northern Ireland aren’t taking seriously enough, according to a survey by the Institute of Directors (IoD) and Barclays. It revealed that while 84% of business leaders here believe the issue is important, 42% of organisations don’t provide any cyber awareness training for staff. Worryingly, official efforts to tackle cybercrime seem to be failing to get through to businesses, with nearly 42% of Northern Ireland’s IoD members who responded stating they’d never heard of Action Fraud Aware, the UK’s national reporting centre for fraud and internet crime. Joanna McArdle, Director, Barclays in Northern Ireland, said companies here need to take the threat more seriously. “Businesses must recognise the threat that cybercrime can pose to them, their reputation and subsequently their bottom line. Given the range and volume of financial interactions that are conducted online, the issue of cyber security has never been more important to Northern Ireland businesses. Companies need to consider cyber security as critical to their business operation, incorporate it into their business model and implement measures to mitigate any associated risk.”


Chris Leitch of Reach EPS with Pamela Gaston of Ulster Bank.


Lisburn company is taking on six new staff and plans to grow its business by a fifth this year as part of an ambitious expansion plan. Reach EPS, which provides screenprinting and embroidery for clothing in both the commercial and retail sectors, is investing a quarter of a million pounds in its business with the help of Ulster Bank to expand its premises. It’s adding 3,000 square feet to its Lissue Industrial Estate factory and will soon open a new 4,500 square foot retail outlet in the centre of Lisburn. Reach EPS Director Chris Leitch said a big part of the expansion is focused on the school uniform market. “Our traditional business is screenprinting and embroidery for a wide range of businesses, but we have also invested considerably, with the support of Ulster Bank, to develop a new school uniform operation which now has over 100 local schools signed up,” he said. “It is e-commerce centred, allowing parents to order their child’s uniform from

a bespoke online shop, with the school getting a percentage of the sale price.” It’s that shift in focus which has prompted the opening of the new retail unit. “As part of the development of the school uniform business, we have decided to open a retail outlet in Lisburn to enable parents to see the uniforms, and children to try them on,” he said. The new unit will also support the further expansion of our other services, including enabling us to be the first stockists of Italian sportswear brand Legea in the UK.” As well as Northern Ireland, Reach EPS also has an operation in the Republic which it opened last year and this latest growth spurt underlines the company’s ambition. “Reach EPS is a highly innovative company that has continually invested to meet changing customer needs and to develop new sources of revenue,” Girvan Gault, Director, Commercial Banking at Ulster Bank, said. “Ulster Bank has been very pleased to support the company with a series of investments over the years, and help enable this latest investment which will position the company strongly for future growth.”


32 jobs for Warrenpoint heating installer

Time to switch off? By Janet Kerrigan, Director, Willis Consulting and Employment Services


t’s likely you have employees on holiday at the minute, or who may be soon. As they prepare to set their auto-responders on their emails, have you given thought as to your obligations to them whilst they are on annual leave?

Pictured L-R: Andrew Lamont, Triangle Housing; Stephen Woodrow, Fold Housing Association; Connaire McGreevy, CTS Projects; Sean McGrath, Alpha Housing; and Scott Thompson, Habinteg Housing Association.


Warrenpoint company has created 32 new jobs after winning £14m worth of business. CTS Projects – a heating and renewable energy installer – snagged the deals with four housing associations and said it is now responsible for the maintenance of heating systems in 40% of Northern Ireland’s social housing market. The new hires, which have been added over the last 18 months, will help to service the additional business as well as making a strategic diversification into servicing boilers in the private sector. “Our growth strategy is to add value for our clients where others are not offering it. The huge investment we have made in IT to modernise the offering to our clients and potential clients has allowed us to grow and capture increased market share,” Connaire McGreevy, Managing Director of CTS Projects. “We have invested more than £80,000 to introduce an innovative software system that offers real-time updates on boiler repairs – CTS is the only heating installer to offer this service and our client response rates are second to none as a result.

The paid holiday entitlement provided by the Working Time Regulations for workers is intended to provide them with a period of rest from work, and to safeguard their health and wellbeing. That may not be unexpected news to you as an employer but have you considered whether your employees really do take time to switch off from work? If not, you could be in breach of your obligations under health and safety legislation or a breach of the Working Time Regulations.

Be proactive We recommend that employers are proactive in taking steps to encourage employees to switch off when on annual leave: • Consider introducing a policy to set out expectations of employees when they are on annual leave. You could include details with regards what circumstances may require contact, and how any annual leave time required to work will be reinstated; • Provide training for your manager/s on how to plan ahead for absence within their team/s. Well informed managers will be able to communicate expectations clearly to their teams and discourage a culture where employees feel obligated to always be available; • Consider initiatives such as the automatic forwarding of emails to a colleague when an employee is on annual leave. This may prove reassuring for employees who can be confident their work is being managed in their absence, and positive for customers who will experience no gap in service. We at Willis Consulting and Employment Services can work in partnership with you to help you identify the best approach for your business, develop your policy and deliver management training. We can also help you undertake risk assessments and work with you to devise strategies to minimise the risk of workplace stress.

“As you can imagine, this is particularly important within social housing given the proportion of homes we’re called out to in which the elderly and vulnerable live.” The new contracts have been signed with Alpha Housing, Fold Housing, Habinteg Housing and Triangle Housing. Connaire also runs Mourne Mountain Brewery in County Down.

MAY 2016

Call us today on 028 9032 9042 or email: info@willisconsulting.co.uk and a member of the Willis Consulting team will be happy to help



PwC seeks young fast-growth companies for 2016 Ignite technology race tomorrow – Friday 22nd April at the Northern Ireland Science Park. “We’ll be there between 10.30 and 14.30 and we’re inviting people to drop by the restaurant area where our Ignite team will be on hand to explain the programme and answer any questions. And we’ll have some Formula One racing simulators for anyone who wants to test their driving skills. “So, if you’ve got a driving ambition we want to talk to you.”

Noel Culbert, Des Speed and Elaine Smyth launch the PwC Ignite programme 2016. Apply at http://pwc.blogs.com/northern-ireland/ignite.html


gnite – PwC’s accelerator programme for young Northern Ireland technology companies, is looking for its second round of fast-growth companies to help them break into international markets in 2016. Launched in 2015, four local companies won places on the Ignite accelerator programme. This year, five of Northern Ireland’s most dynamic, young technology businesses will be invited to join Ignite – and spend a year accessing PwC expertise, advice and global networks. Speaking in advance of the 2016 PwC Ignite programme launch [tomorrow, Friday 22 April], Noel Culbert, PwC associate partner and technology specialist, said PwC was urging young technology companies to apply for the scheme. “And at a time when global economic output remains constrained, the knowledge economy’s high salaries and international levels of sales and GVA, make it a job-creating, wealth-stimulating


sector that disrupts the way we work and transforms the way we live. “Uber, the world’s largest taxi company – owns no vehicles. Facebook is the world’s most popular media owner – but creates no content. Alibaba, the world’s largest retailer – has no inventory. And Airbnb, the world’s largest accommodation provider – owns no hotel rooms. “Tom Goodwin, from the French media group Havas, made that startling assessment of the transforming power of the knowledge economy. “Around 10% of Northern Ireland’s economy is a knowledge economy. It is out-performing the rest of the economy in terms of profitable job creation, reward, new business start-ups and strong external sales. But it needs to get bigger and, if it does, it has the potential to be transformational. “And that’s where we come in. On the back of our successful first year, we’re launching this year’s Ignite programme

PwC says the Ignite programme has the support of industry, Invest Northern Ireland and already successful digital companies – many of who learned the hard way that behind every great idea is a need for market exposure, management expertise and financial acumen. For the five successful companies, PwC will provide each with a mentor for a 12 month period to create and implement an action plan to accelerate business growth. The year culminates with a trip to Silicon Valley to experience the US tech market and meet some of the top technology experts and advisors in California – all at no cost to the companies. Noel Culbert concluded: “We want companies with dynamic and energetic teams, willing to drive the business to the next level with the assistance of the PwC Ignite programme. Whether they are in FinTech or digital media, data analytics or advanced manufacturing solutions, we want to hear from them. “We are seeking companies who have been in business for at least two years and with a potential to deliver turnover of £1m inside the next two years. “Come and talk to us, the challenge starts today.”


The WorkPal revolution Barclay Communications’ workflow management system has been garnering fans from near and far. Ulster Business caught up with managing director Britt Megahey to get a progress update on one of the company’s most exciting products


ritt Megahey is a busy man. His company has been experiencing the sort of existential growth which tends to accompany a firm with a solid core business aligned with a busy research and development department. It’s the latter point which means managing director Britt may be busy, but he is also filled with the sort of enthusiasm which you’d normally find in a first-time entrepreneur rather than one who’s been in business for nearly 20 years. Primarily known as a provider of fixed and mobile solutions for business, Barclay Communications has kept its foot on the innovation gas since its formation in 1997. That has meant a pipeline of products which has kept it at the forefront of the digital communication world ever since then, and no more so than at present. That’s because WorkPal, its mobile workflow management system, has lived up to expectations and unearthed a wave of demand from companies far and wide. “We knew it would find a willing audience but didn’t anticipate just how strong the need would be,” Britt told UIster Business in the firm’s Donegal Pass headquarters.


“But then the savings, both financial and in terms of time, that it gives companies with operatives in the field are huge so I suppose we shouldn’t really be surprised.” To understand how those savings come about it’s worth getting a little background on the product. It allows mobile workers to access customised job sheets from a mobile app where they are guided through their task and report back instantaneously on progress. Once completed, there is enough information to allow speedy invoicing, even from the field. That end-to-end process management is key, and makes sure the accounts department is totally integrated with the people in the field and with everyone in between. To achieve that, the workflow process needs to be mobile – another feather in WorkPal’s cap – with users accessing it via a smart phone or tablet. Utilising such technology has a number of benefits for companies. For starters it means the whereabouts of field operatives can be tracked from starting to finishing work, meaning it’s easier for the boss to keep control, no

matter where they or their workers are. And of course then it does away with the need for endless reams of paper records. Rolled out in the second half of 2015, the WorkPal division of Barclay Communications has grown sharply in the last few months, helped by its recent launch on IOS/Apple devices and the availability of the Lone Worker feature now on live demo. “We have to run to keep up with demand,” Britt said. “We now have more consultants selling WorkPal than we have selling mobile. It has really taken off.” As well as answering a deep need by companies which have remote workers, WorkPal also has a few added advantages over the competition which keep it well ahead of the pack. “Our product is a lot more user friendly,” Britt said. “Uniquely, it can be integrated with company’s own internal systems making it much more effective. We now have a diverse range of clients from winter maintenance suppliers to mechanical and electrical engineering contractors. “There are a few other systems around but they are non-customisable off-the-shelf products”. >


MAY 2016



The reason for such flexibility can be found in the fact the product was developed wholly in house at Barclay Communications. And while it’s now up and running, the development hasn’t stopped, as Britt explains. “We are always looking at ways to develop the product more,” he said. In terms of geography, WorkPal hasn’t just been finding favour in Northern Ireland but also further afield.

Sales have been brisk across the border in the Republic and also in Great Britain. The latter is primarily through Barclays Communications’ office in Glasgow and will soon be through an expanding sales team further south with a new office planned for Birmingham. When it comes to the types of companies which are using WorkPal, those in any sector where remote workers are prevalent are finding it is cutting out costs and time by some margin.

Facilities management, winter maintenance, electricity, property, ventilation, plumbing and businesses involved in many other types of work have already signed up. Tellingly, a lot of the new business has come from word-of-mouth referrals, something Britt is proud of. “It really is a game changer for a lot of our customers,” he said. “In this day and age when costs only seem to be increasing, a product like this which can drastically reduce your cost base is a no brainer.”

TES NI gets the WorkPal treatment


esponsible for water treatment, wastewater treatment, power conservation and distribution throughout the UK, TES NI’s IT Manager, Mark Cleary explains said the company trust and rely on WorkPal’s mobile workflow management solution to help them manage their vital operations across the UK. Mark explains: “Before WorkPal, assigning work orders was a difficult task. It was hard to know who was where and best suited to carry out a work order. This was particularly difficult in emergency response jobs. With the WorkPal solutions, our work controllers can now easily see exactly where our mobile staff are and what they are doing. This visibility saves valuable time and gets our engineers to jobs quicker.


Noel McCracken, joint owner of TES NI (left) with Britt Megahey.

Invoicing also took up a lot of time previously. We could have anything up to 200 small jobs a week. Pricing these up is very time consuming. With WorkPal this all happens automatically now which is a great help as all the rates are built into the system.”

amendments that our business would need during on our initial scope. WorkPal were more than happy to incorporate these for us.”

The WorkPal Solution

Benefits of WorkPal

Barclay Communications supplied TES with WorkPal, the endto-end job management system. The WorkPal solution now enables TES to quickly send job details to an engineer’s mobile app, which they use on-site to complete documentation, take pictures, capture clients’ signatures and more. Once a job is completed, all the information is automatically synced back to the office, invoices can be generated, service histories are created and recurring maintenance is automatically scheduled. Mark explains: “Getting this system implemented in such a short space of time was a big ask. We needed a custom API built to tie in with our client’s system as well as a number of other tweaks to the system in order to fit our requirements. WorkPal were able to meet our deadline and incorporate the additional features we required. As we started using the system we came up with

”The biggest benefit we have noticed is being able to respond faster to emergency jobs. Being able to see where all the engineers are and what they are working on lets our work control team find the closest suitable engineer. Before WorkPal, this process took a considerable amount of time. Now, it’s a matter of seconds. This means we can offer our clients a much better service and are more competitive as a result. Everything is in real time, no information is lost, and everything is traceable with a tracking history. It’s simplifying our processes which is fantastic. The feature I like best is how WorkPal ties in with Google Maps. When an engineer receives a work order, the app shows an estimate of how long it will take to get to the site and with a few clicks, Google Maps works as a Sat Nav to get you to the site.”

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Time for a transport revolution? Ulster Business catches up with Translink Chief Executive Chris Conway to find out what his vision is for the company responsible for Northern Ireland’s public transport network


hris Conway is a man with a mission. He wants Northern Ireland to become a society which embraces public transport and treats it as an essential part of everyday life. For some, that’s already the case, but you only have to take a look at the congestion on our roads to realise too many of us are getting around in cars and not enough on trains and buses. But over the next few years that’s going to change, according to Chris, the relatively new boss of the company responsible for Northern Ireland’s transport system. “We’re aiming to get the balance right,” Translink’s Chief Executive told Ulster Business. “At the moment that balance is swayed toward private cars but we’re trying to promote much more use of public transport for the good of everybody. “More people on our buses and trains frees up the roads to allow those buses to get to their destination quicker, allows those who still need to use private vehicles to get to their destinations quicker, is better for the environment and helps to promote a more socially inclusive society.

Chris Conway

London where public transport is an integral part of most peoples’ daily life, he is also a realist.

The latter point is especially true in a region such as Northern Ireland with a rural population spread far and wide and also in the likes of Belfast where around 36% of households don’t have access to a car.

That’s why rather than try to persuade people here to give up their cars altogether, he’s focusing on integrated travel where a car is perhaps used for part of the journey before switching to a bus at a park and ride to get into a town or city and maybe even a bicycle once you’re there.

“All of that is of benefit to society and good for the economy. Research has shown that foreign direct investors look for regions which are mobile, which have good infrastructure and where people will be able to easily get to work.”

In the past that integration may have been slightly awkward, Chris said, but significant advances in technology, where real-time bus and train movements can be tracked and tickets are interchangeable, make it much smoother.

It’s clear from this first meeting with Chris at Translink’s Europa Buscentre that he is a public transport evangelist, but while the dream would be for Northern Ireland to become more like

And in the future, further integration of technology between bus, rail, bicycle hire etc will make the switch between each even easier with advancements in Smartlink cards.



The same can be said geographically as a consequence of greater collaboration with Transport for Ireland. Chris has already instigated regular Chief Executive meetings with his opposite number at Irish Rail to explore ways in which the two organisations can work together to make the Enterprise service between Belfast and Dublin, more convenient and cost effective. Chris said he sees big potential in the main cross-border rail service, the Enterprise. “We’re looking at a number of ways to improve the service to Dublin because it is one of the main areas where we could grow passenger numbers. It’s a huge opportunity for us.” One of the main challenges which Chris has quickly realised since taking up post relates to the bus services, particularly in rural areas. He points out that city-to-city or town-to-city routes run by the Goldline service are performing well. For instance, the 212 service from Belfast to Londonderry notched up around 800,000 passengers in the last year and others are equally as impressive. However, more rural services are more difficult to fill and, because of the way Translink’s funding model is built, need to be subsidised by the better performing routes. That model is very different from those in other parts of the UK where local governments subsidise any routes which are operating at below the cost of production, a move which helps keep private sector operators in business. Meanwhile, investment in infrastructure, again a part of the business which Translink is responsible for, is also on Chris’s agenda, with additional carriages for some train routes and replacement of buses just some of the points to address. While those funding issues need to be balanced, the overriding focus of Chris’s role and his vision for the future is to get more people here to use public transport and to that end Translink is doing its best to urge people to give it a go. It’s holding its first Bus and Train Week from 6th to 12th June to celebrate all the advantages of using the bus and train and will include discounted fares, special events, spot prizes and competitions. Chris hopes this, and other incentives, will help get more people on public transport. “We know most people aren’t going to give up their car but if we can get them to take public transport at least once or twice a week then it would have a huge impact on our roads, on the environment and on our passenger numbers.”

MAY 2016


15 %

Ul Disc st ou er nt Bu Co si de: ne ss


BIG DATA BELFAST www.bigdatabreakouts.com


Follow us @BDBreakouts SPEAKERS INCLUDE:



9.00 – 10.00

Registration: Tea & Coffee

10.00 – 10.10

Welcome: Conference Opening by Analytics Engines

10.10 – 10.40

Keynote: Andrew Grill - IBM

10.40 – 11.10

Presentation: Jim Anning - British Gas

11.10 – 11.30

Coffee & Exhibition

11.30 – 12.15

Technical Panel Session: Kostas Perifanos - Royal Mail, Pat O’Reilly - Allstate, Adam Grzywaczewski - Capgemini, Maciej Piwoni - Sage, MapR

IBM British Gas Royal Mail Channel 4 Almac Allstate Capgemini

12.15 – 12.45

Presentation: Deloitte


12:45 – 13.15

Presentation: Denis Canty - Tyco


13.15 – 13.25

Presentation: Invest NI

Chain Reaction Cycles

13.25 – 14.00

Lunch & Exhibition

14.00 – 14.15

Presentation: Analytics Engines


14.15 – 15.45

Breakout Sessions: Patient & Analytics or Customer & Analytics

15.45 – 16.15

Coffee & Exhibition

16.15 – 16.45

Presentation: Sean O’Connor - STATSports

16.45 – 17.15

Presentation: Tim Davison - Almac

17.15 – 17.25

Conference Close by Analytics Engines

Tyco STATSports Exploristics Brainwave Bank Analytics Engines

17.25 – onwards Drinks Reception EXHIBITION SPACE STILL AVAILABLE


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Business Flags, firebombs & Finance flashbacks & Banking


The Brexit breakdown The world of finance has already taken a cautious stance against the prospect of a Brexit. David Elliott finds out how interest rates, foreign exchange and the banking world has been approaching the referendum

Interest rates If you want to get a handle on what’s going to happen to interest rates then the best person to speak to is the man who heads up the UK’s central bank.

However, others think that the central bank won’t have enough leeway to raise rates in such an event and may actually be forced to lower rates to zero in an attempt to reignite growth.

Bank of England boss Mark Carney and the Monetary Policy Committee is in charge of setting rates so has a better handle on it that most commentators.

In a later statement, Mr Carney said the UK leaving the EU would create the “the biggest domestic risk to financial stability”, as the rhetoric from the Bank of England intensified around the issue, without saying outright whether he thinks we should stay or go.

He generally chooses his words extremely carefully and, like any good banker, has an ability to keep his cool.


When it comes to Brexit, however, he was meant to be keeping tight lipped on the subject so as not to sway the debate. But watching from the sidelines must have become too much for the Canadian to bear because he felt the need in January to warn that leaving the European Union would inevitably cause a hike in UK interest rates. That theory is based on the idea that any interruption to the growth of the UK economy in the aftermath of a Brexit would make international lenders less keen to lend to us thereby pushing up the cost of borrowing to government.


Back in July 2014 you could have got over $1.71 for each pound if you were heading on holiday to the US; today you’ll be lucky to get $1.45. A lot of that drop is more related to the resurgence of the US economy but there is also a large portion which can be attributed to growing concerns about the health of the UK economy in the aftermath of a Brexit. The sterling/euro exchange rate offers a more salient view of investors’ concerns with a euro worth around 80p at present compared to 70p at Christmas 2016. There’s an old trader’s saying “buy the rumour and sell the fact” (or sell the fact and buy >


MAY 2016



the rumour in this case) which would suggest that these fears are overdone but some of the brightest brains in the investment banking world beg to differ. Analysts at the irritatingly profitable Goldman Sachs said that further falls for sterling could be on the cards. “An abrupt and total interruption to incoming capital flows in response to a ‘Brexit’” could lead to a drop to $1.15 for the pound and to 95p for the euro in the immediate aftermath, it said in a note. Such a move might only be short term but would make our importing and spending power abroad erode drastically. On the upside, exporters would enjoy a boost, particularly those retailers close to the border which would hark back to 2008-2009 when floods of shoppers from the Republic headed north.

Banking While the learned opinion on the above points has largely been given by those in the banking community, it should come as no shock that some of the loudest opponents of a Brexit are banks themselves. Many are choosing to stay on the sidelines and say nothing for now, but those that are vocal are warning of an exodus of bankers from the UK if we were to leave the UK. That rhetoric has since been dampened by reports from the likes of the CBI which said the UK’s financial service sector can remain strong outside European Membership. A survey by the British Bankers Association found that around 60% of its members believe Brexit would have a negative impact on their organisation, with around a quarter saying the impact would be significant. Anthony Browne, BBA CEO, said the organisation isn’t taking a position on the referendum. “The single market is of crucial importance to the UK banking industry, which employs over half a million people, contributes over


Mark Carney

£31bn in tax a year, and is the country’s biggest export industry. However, as the majority of our members have not expressed a position on the matter of UK membership, the BBA will adopt a neutral position in the referendum debate.”

What do the people think? The majority of people in Northern Ireland want the UK to remain a part of the European Union, although over one quarter are still undecided, according to a report from Dankse Bank. Its latest poll of residents here revealed 56% want to remain in the EU, 18% want to leave and 26% are uncertain which way to vote in the coming election this summer. That is a slight shift toward the leave camp compared to a similar survey the lender carried out last year. Then, only 16% of people surveyed want to exit Europe and 58% wanted to stay. “The latest poll shows that there has been a very small shift when it comes to Northern Ireland’s preference for EU membership,” Danske Bank Chief Economist Angela McGowan said. “Support for staying in Europe is by far the majority view although the leave campaigners have made a little ground over the last year.”

Meanwhile, if you’re a relatively well-off man in full-time work then you’ll be most likely to want to keep the status quo.

“Its (Danske Bank’s) latest poll of residents here revealed 56% want to remain in the EU, 18% want to leave and 26% are uncertain which way to vote in the coming election this summer.” “Typically, we have found that middle class households, men and full-time workers remain most eager for remaining in the EU,” Ms McGowan said. “However, older people, those on low income households and people living in the north of Northern Ireland are more likely to support a Brexit.” The survey of 1,000 people about their views on a potential ‘Brexit’ was carried out by market research and evaluation consultancy Millward Brown in the month of March as part of the company’s regular Omnibus Survey.

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Northern Ireland’s Enterprise Bank

Bank of Ireland UK is a trading name of Bank of Ireland (UK) plc which is authorised by the Prudential Regulation Authority and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority and the Prudential Regulation Authority. Registered in England and Wales (No. 7022885), Bow Bells House, 1 Bread Street, London EC4M 9BE.



W&G Baird invests £4m in new printing technology


ne of the oldest printing companies on the island of Ireland has made a £4m investment to bring it up to speed with the latest technology and to reduce its costs of production.

The new cash injection was backed by Bank of Ireland UK, Invest NI and Whiterock Capital and will allow the business to capitalise on the potential for growth in export markets across the Republic of Ireland and mainland UK, it said.

W&G Baird, which prints this magazine, said the move will increase its output potential by 70% and reduce costs for paper, ink and energy by 60% year on year.

Patrick Moffett, Managing Director of W&G Baird, welcomed the investment: “Whilst we already operate the largest print room in Ireland, the installation of this new press and binder will enhance our already considerable capacity and maintain our position as an innovator in the industry.” Established in 1862, W&G Baird employs 95 staff at its main site in Antrim with sales offices in Dublin and Nottingham and represents the largest commercial print business in Ireland. It prints a wide range of digital and lithographic products, ranging from leaflets to coffee table books and folders to magazines in both the UK and Ireland. As Invest NI backed the expansion, Enterprise, Trade and Investment Minister Jonathan Bell, was on hand to open the new press. “W&G Baird has a long and distinguished history within the printing industry and this investment to upgrade the company’s equipment cements its commitment to future growth. I am pleased W&G Baird have benefited from a Growth Loan Fund loan of £500,000 as well as £99,500 of support from Invest Northern Ireland to support its development. “Innovation and continuous development is central to business success and this new machinery will not only position W&G Baird competitively in its target markets but also help to reduce its environmental impact.” Meanwhile, Gavin Kennedy, Director of Business Banking for Bank of Ireland in Northern Ireland which also backed the expansion, said the bank had a long-standing relationship with the company.

Patrick Moffett, Managing Director of W&G Baird is pictured with Enterprise, Trade and Investment Minister Jonathan Bell (and Paul McClurg, Bank of Ireland).


“It demonstrates our continuing commitment to helping companies with a proven track record, quality management team and a focus on growth. It’s a great example of a business delivering growth through innovation and we look forward to continuing to work with the company to deliver on this.”


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Tony Nicholl

The GMcG evolution GMcG Managing Partner Tony Nicholl explains how the accountancy firm has brought all its offices under the one brand name


he last time this reporter saw GMcG Managing Partner Tony Nicholl he was resplendent in his chain of office in the sumptuous surroundings of Belfast City Hall about to have dinner next to Tony Blair’s former spin doctor, Alastair Campbell. In his role as President of The Institute of Chartered Accountants in Ireland – hence the chain – the Institute’s annual dinner was held in Tony’s native city, where the man once described as the second most powerful in the UK was guest speaker. Today, the chain is gone and the surroundings are the pleasant but much more workmanlike city centre offices of GMcG Belfast, a new name for the firm’s long established Goldblatt McGuigan practice. The brand


evolution extends to GMcG’s regional offices of Robinson & Co in Portadown and Hanna Thompson in Lisburn, renamed as GMcG Portadown and GMcG Lisburn. Taking on the CAI presidency isn’t something Tony signed up to lightly given the time commitment it involved on top of his day job at the firm, but being given the chance to give something back to the profession was an opportunity he felt was a must. However, it was only because of the continued support of the GMcG team that he was able to take up the role, support he’s indebted to. “I can’t emphasis enough how supportive the partners and staff have been while I’ve been President. It’s a mark of their

dedication and effort that I was even able to contemplate the role in the first place and I can’t thank them enough.” So, free of the chain, what is on Tony’s to-do list? Quite a lot, by all accounts, with a strong focus on driving the next stage in the onward journey for the GMcG Group. That involves developing and growing all three of the firm’s practices under the GMcG name. A move that marks the final amalgamation of the three firms. Goldblatt McGuigan bought Robinson & Co in 2006 followed by Hanna Thompson in 2009, and while all aspects of the businesses were quickly integrated with


the parent company, both have operated under their original names until now.

markets, providing a network of trusted accounting partners in overseas jurisdictions.

This final phase in the GMcG rebrand is an important and positive development, defined by a marketplace where trading conditions and the needs of clients continue to evolve.

“We have contacts, both legal and accounting, through the association which enable us to source solutions for clients and provide them links should they seek to have somebody on the ground in a foreign country.“

“It was important that both offices retained their own identity in the initial stages of the mergers, but the time is now right to rebrand. A common approach to how we offer our services ensures GMcG’s full range of services and expertise are accessible to all clients and across all industry sectors,” Tony said. Resource is already shared across all three locations with personnel regularly sharing their expertise with the other offices. The offices are situated so as to give GMcG a good geographical spread across Northern Ireland, a reach which is furthered as a result of the firm’s membership of TIAG, a global alliance of independent accounting firms. TIAG helps immensely where our SME clients are seeking to expand into new

The international reach is a big plus point which attracts inward investment clients to GMcG, and enables the practice to service clients in multiple jurisdictions. “Although reputation is one of the reasons clients engage with us and remain with us, we also pride ourselves on having a partner base which is readily available to clients,” he said. “We have no hesitation in providing mobile and home phone numbers to clients, which although used infrequently, clients appreciate. In the modern world people expect you to be available 24/7, but we’ve been doing that for years.” As well as making sure clients are well looked after, Tony has a strong focus on encouraging new talent into the firm and

into the accountancy profession, whether through the traditional graduate route or by the expanding accounting technician route. This is a point of particular significance as all three GMcG offices continue to recruit and grow, including the notable appointments of two new Associate Partners in May, Stephen Houston at GMcG Lisburn and Gill Johnston at GMcG Portadown. Not only is Tony a big fan of the profession but he’s also a big fan of the firm, as his CV shows. Having completed his training with Ernst and Whinney (now E&Y) in Dublin, he returned to Belfast in 1984 to join GMcG. Thirty two years with the firm is quite a length of service which in itself speaks volumes. And, while others might be jaded after such a long time, Tony exudes the kind of enthusiasm for his role which you would normally find with new recruits, albeit the more measured manner you would expect of a forensic accountant. “I’ve always enjoyed working here and I’m really looking forward to an exciting future for GMcG.”

GMcG Partner Team – Back: Partners Michael Gibson, Susan Dunlop, Tony Nicholl, Gabriel Greene, Jackie Smith and Lyn Hagan. Front: Associate Partners Stephen Houston and Gill Johnston.

MAY 2016


Ulster University Business School students celebrate success


he Ulster University Department of Marketing, Entrepreneurship and Strategy has held its Class of 2015 Excellence Awards Ceremony. A total of 16 sponsored awards were presented. Department Head Dr Danielle McCartan Quinn said: “These awards recognise the top performers across the range of marketing, entrepreneurship and strategy related programmes. The Ulster

University Business School prides itself on delivering courses which enable students to not only reach their academic potential but also allow them to experience the subjects through practical application. The fact that so many of our leading private sector companies and professional bodies are engaged with both the awards and the learning experience at the Ulster University Business School is testament to the importance of the integrated approach.�

Philip Bain (right) from Shredbank presents the Best Entrepreneurial Marketing Practice award to Martin Murray (centre) with course director Dr Damian Gallagher.

Dr Danielle McCartan Quinn (centre), Department Head, with course directors (from left) Dr Sharon Ponsonby McCabe, Christine Wightman, Dr Damian Gallagher, Dr Darryl Cummins and Dr Mary Boyd.

Ruth Little receives the Moy Park Award for Excellence from Aisling McTeague (left) whilst Linda Surphlis is awarded the Hastings Hotels Award from Joanne Harvey.

Lauren Killen (centre) celebrates winning two awards with sponsors Elaine Scullion from Envision (left) and Claire Taggart from Wrightbus.

The Rutledge Joblink award went to Helena McGarvey (centre) presented by sponsor Gareth Owens, and course director Dr Sharon Ponsonby McCabe.

Kerrie Douglas (centre) wins the First Trust Bank Award presented by Mark McKeown and course director Christine Wightman.

Michael Jenkins (left) of Pure Running presents his sponsored Digitised Marketing Excellence Award to John Aherne watched by course director Dr Damian Gallagher.

Colin Maxwell (left) and Kelly Rock (right) from sponsors the Belfast Telegraph with award winners Ryan Bell, Jessica Ferguson and Christopher Currie.


Recruiting now for September 2016 Ulster University Business School invites you to our information events on Thursday 16th June for:

• BSc (Hons) Business Studies (part time only) at 1.00 pm

• MSc Marketing at 4.30 pm • MSc Business Development & Innovation at 5.30 pm Venue: The MAC, 10 Exchange Street West, Belfast BT1 2NJ.

To register and for more information go to: ulster.ac.uk/festivalofstudy

Or contact: Dr Darryl Cummins (MSc Business Development & Innovation) (e) d.cummins@ulster.ac.uk; (t) 028 9036 6093 Dr Adele Dunn (MSc Marketing) (e) aa.dunn@ulster.ac.uk; (t) 028 9036 8095 Dr Sharon Ponsonby-McCabe (BSc Hons Business Studies) (e) sjm.ponsonby@ulster.ac.uk; (t) 028 9036 8904


hen it comes to doing things a little differently Scottish Provident Building mixes business and art beautifully. Within the walls of this grand business centre there’s been a lot of creativity in its design which has made for a truly unique office building. The iconic Belfast building – which sits adjacent to Belfast City Hall – was designed by renowned architects Young and Mackenzie in 1901 and has since undergone extensive renovations over the last five years. It now offers luxury serviced offices to over 75 businesses and over 450 people. As part of the renovation scheme Design Director Colin Charles has included some interesting and creative collaborations to give the unique business centre an equally unique personality. “I’ve always believed that the key to an effective workplace is that it should be inspiring for everyone; staff, owners and visitors alike. So it has been fantastic to work on the interior design of Scottish Provident Building which has given us the opportunity to do something a bit different with certain spaces within the building.” During a recent refurb of one of the building’s meeting rooms, Colin contacted local artist Peter Strain to help with the décor. “We did this room five years ago and we had a blue wall with a huge wipe board in the shape of thought bubbles so people could literally put their thoughts onto the wall. We called it the ‘blue sky thinking room’ – we always like to inject a bit of fun into our designs. It was in need of a redo and so to continue the ‘cliché’ idea I wanted to create a wall poking fun at all the clichés you hear in meetings nowadays. Then I remembered seeing Peter’s work and realised it would be perfect to get the man himself in to put the ideas directly on to the wall.” Peter is a fantastically creative illustrator whose work – mixtures of beautiful typography and detailed portraiture – has featured in magazines like The New Yorker, The Guardian and Time Magazine. Of working on the Scottish Provident Building project, Peter said: “I normally work on a much smaller canvas size so it was really exciting to work on such a large scale. Doing a typographic mural was something  I’d been really interested in doing so it was a bit of a dream job to get the call from Colin and Donna. The brief was to make

Peter Strain and his ‘wall of clichés’.

The fabulous Scottish Provident building.

something out of the kind of clichéd jargon that can come up when brainstorming. I was fortunate to be given a lot of trust  and freedom to just run with that idea and I think we’ve ended up with something that’s both very striking and quite fun.” It’s not the first time bespoke creative artistry has featured in the refurbishment of the building. Whilst creating the 24 hour access space on Wellington street, Colin commissioned L.A.-based artist Carolina Fontoura Alzaga to produce two spectacular chandeliers made from discarded bicycle parts. “The space was neglected and people used to just throw their bikes in there but as the building filled we needed more access points. The chandeliers that Carolina created for us are stunning and I love the fact that there is a reference to what the space was previously used for. Now artwork graces the walls and specialist restorers have brought the building’s original mosaic tiling back to its former glory. It now looks more like a boutique hotel than offices,” said Colin. “We do all this as there are a lot of people in residence here and a lot of their visitors

come through the building. We like our clients to feel inspired and proud to show their guests around. We have also nearly finished our boardroom which is very dark and sumptuous, has bowler hats for pendant lighting and features artwork by local artist Terry Bradley. I feel there’s definitely a place for art in offices – it’s not just for the private sector, I’m not talking about millions in investments, but just offering something a little different, something that brings a smile to people’s faces during their working day.”

Amazing chandelier sculptures by Carolina Fontoura (inset).

You can see more of Peter’s work at his website www.peterstrain.co.uk and Carolina’s sculptures at www.facaro.com. For more information regarding offices at Scottish Provident Building visit www.scottishprovidentbuilding.co.uk

Commercial Flags, firebombs & & Property flashbacks Construction

Sponsored by


Brexit would strain ambitious property development plans 34

By John Simpson



he bubble in the property market has gone but is not forgotten. The debris now lies in the lost ambitions of what were over-valued properties carried at unrealistic values in balance sheets that had to be reconstructed or, on occasion, wiped out. Happily, the survival, or revival, of a new group of property developers is in evidence. Not every property developer managed to ‘take the hit, bind the wounds, and resurface’ if such a crude mixed metaphor is permitted. For all the properties either managed through administration or NAMA

MAY 2016

or placed on the open market, sellers with unusual stories to tell are now finding buyers whose credit rating allows new borrowing or who have skillfully managed to maintain healthy balance sheets through the crash. The business of property development is back, particularly in the Belfast region. One major note of caution: how big a blow to investor confidence would it be if Northern Ireland, within the UK, committed to leaving the EU. A vote for Brexit would be unhelpful to the property revival; more than is generally appreciated.

There are a number of other influences at work on the local property market. First, the economy has been recovering. The critical indicators of economic change are positive rather than negative. However, not as positive as might have been expected in comparison with the UK and Irish economies. Second, as with all business cycles, after a serious recession the dynamics of the market have been generating recovery. Third, and a new local influence on economic change, the reshaped local authorities are >



now in place and have an influential agenda in building the momentum of development. Each local authority has broadly-based town planning powers. Each local authority can be expected to prepare coherent proposals to outline a framework within which applications for planning approval can be assessed.

“The Brexit decision, to stay or leave, raises questions about development plans particularly in Northern Ireland. The land border on this island, without necessarily being formally policed, would change to be the line between the European Union and a stand a-part UK.” Belfast City Council has set out an agenda based on encouraging greater urban regeneration along with an effort to attract externally-owned property investors. The Council has been marketing Belfast as a major international property location. The Chief Executive for the city, Suzanne Wylie, has adapted to the new remit by speaking forcibly about the positive selling point characteristics of the city. The Brexit decision, to stay or leave, raises questions about development plans particularly in Northern Ireland. The land border on this island, without necessarily being formally policed, would change to be the line between the European Union and a stand a-part UK. Investors looking at Northern Ireland will not like the distinction. The referendum on EU membership was never going to be a passive event. It is a dramatic moment affecting many aspects of the quality of life. The emergent more buoyant property market in the Belfast region


is in evidence but is vulnerable to a downturn before the up-turn has taken hold. Nearly 3m square feet of planning applications for new office and commercial space in Belfast City have been declared. Property agents CBRE have compiled a list of 30 larger scale planning applications where 2 million sq.ft has already been approved and nearly another 1 m sq.ft awaits approval. If all of these developments come to fruition, there might be a net increase in employment in the city of over 2,000 people. Add to these plans the ambitions for tourism and conferences linked to the extended and refurbished Waterfront hall and plaza. Belfast City Council alone cannot determine what a Brexit vote would bring. Whatever the relationship with the EU, the Council must build a coherent planning process so that a thrusting property market is complemented by the many inter-related aspects of the physical and human infrastructure. Although there are some strong selling points, Belfast is not as well prepared for future development as might be expected. Two serious weaknesses affecting Belfast’s development are (a) the absence of an agreed and enlarged anticipation for housing development, private and social, and (b) the apparent complacency in making efforts to improve traffic management. Property regeneration, alone, would fail to exploit the much larger potential. For the Belfast region, there are strong selling points. The city is generally environmentally clean and attractive. There is adequate space with selected targeting for inner city regeneration. There is an attractive endowment of scale and scope for third level education and training. However, vocational training opportunities are below the levels of an ambitious upgrading of the labour force. Primary education efforts are well behind an achievable set of targets. The acute health services are nearly adequate even if primary care merits an up-lift. An analysis of the projects where planning permission has been granted

or is pending is, first, reassuring that the potential for the city region to make up for development lagged in the last 40 years is being recognised. Second, the 30 identified proposals offer the reassurance that local investors are getting ready to play the lead role in generating the changes although the downside on that is that the number of external investors seems low. High profile investors in the frame for new developments include Belfast Harbour Commissioners with the expanding ambition for the City Quays concept, Titanic Quarter with three large high quality office locations, McAleer and Rushe with five city centre suggestions and the well-established Killultagh Estates with three diverse central projects.

“The referendum on EU membership was never going to be a passive event. It is a dramatic moment affecting many aspects of the quality of life. The emergent more buoyant property market in the Belfast region is in evidence but is vulnerable to a down-turn before the up-turn has taken hold.” Add to these identified projects the range of hotel developments that are under way as well as the known ambitions of other local groups including Kilmona and the total is an impressive potentially dramatic change in the private sector investment in modern commercial, office and retail capacity. The worry is that a Brexit vote, for the UK, could cause a major downturn just when Northern Ireland needs a major uplift.


Tax piques interest but FDI needs more Gareth Howell, Director, Osborne King, fires the starting pistol to the devolution of corporation tax-setting powers and calls for action on everything from education to grade A office space

Gareth Howell


fter significant debate and much political posturing over devolving power to determine corporation tax to the Stormont Executive, we now have a date by which this will take effect. Whilst I feel this is something to be embraced, especially in our unique position of being within the UK regulatory jurisdiction and at the same time matching the Republic of Ireland’s corporate tax rate, it will take a fulsome approach across many areas of Government to maximise the inward investment opportunities perceived as the panacea to cure all ills. In recent times the media have been extremely vocal in reporting just how little tax some “big corporations” actually pay meaning that some household names never actually pay the current 20% rate; perhaps Northern Ireland can become a


near-shore destination which appeases the moral and financial aspirations of those on both sides of this argument. Whilst it has to be accepted that a reduction in the rate of corporation tax is a headline that may propel Northern Ireland onto the radar for some global businesses, the decision to invest may well stand or fall on some of the practical issues affecting companies.

in rental levels, as yet we are not seeing rents that make development economically viable.

When considering investment in a region research shows that occupiers place equal or higher priority on criteria such as; transport and infrastructure, labour costs, telecoms infrastructure, legal and regulatory environment and labour skills. Another key factor is social climate and stability. Although sporadic, nowadays we need to show that high-profile disruptions to everyday life are largely behind us. The importance of the success of early adopters of the region as “back-offices” or “service centres” is crucial to the on-going sales pitch for “Northern Ireland plc”.

Studies by both the public and private sector show that a reduction in corporation tax would likely lead to increased economic investment and job creation within the region. Importantly, sentiment suggests that this would not only come from new Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) but also from the growth of existing foreign investors and indigenous businesses. In these scenarios, which look towards the RoI model, we are taking cues from a region which fully embraces its role as a European member state; a variable which may not be so certain for Northern Ireland with the referendum looming. I cannot pretend to know the impact on Northern Ireland of the UK potentially leaving the European Union but I would hazard a guess that the immediate fallout of a “Brexit” is likely to be uncertainty and as we all know, investors do not like uncertainty.

To truly maximise the opportunity we will need to deliver on a number of fronts, not least of which will be education. As a region we will have to ensure that we capitalise on our education system which will go hand-inglove with a reduction in the so-called “brain drain” of graduates in search of employment. The universities will also have to be involved in continuing to meet global employers’ needs. To follow through on that “sales pitch” we will need to see development momentum build in the office sector, and although 2015/16 has seen significant improvement

It doesn’t strike me that the gap between passing rents and viable rents is the hurdle to investment when assessed on the global scale, yet it remains a fundamental hindrance to production of quality accommodation suitable for the target market.

True success will, no doubt, be heralded if growth can surpass the reduction in overall tax yields, but ultimately if Northern Ireland is to make the most of setting its own rate of corporation tax, we must see private sector growth on all fronts in order to create a robust and business environment that will finally overshadow the historic reliance on the public sector within our economy.

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Stamp duty alert! properties. There are different rules if the buyers are individuals or corporate buyers. For individual buyers, if an additional residential property is purchased for say £100,000, with the new legislation, what would have previously attracted no SDLT would now be liable for SDLT of £3,000. Similarly, where prior to the change the purchase of an additional residential property or buy-to-let for £250,000 attracted SDLT to the sum of £2,500, such a purchase would now command SDLT of £10,000.

Celia Worthington


hose involved in the residential letting business will be well aware of the recent changes to the Stamp Duty Land Tax (SDLT) regime for the purchase of additional residential homes. We are told these changes have been introduced to tackle increases in UK house prices that the government considers has arisen in part due to buy to let landlords and foreign investors. It is questionable whether these types of concerns apply to our local housing market and it therefore remains to be seen what effect this tax change has locally. Certainly there was a push to have very many transactions completed before the 31 March 2016, when the changes became effective, and it remains to be seen whether the SDLT changes, coupled with the incoming reductions in tax relief on the interest element on borrowings for buy to let properties, will deter those wishing to invest their cash in buy to let properties. The change in the regime manifests itself as 3% above (and in addition to) the current SDLT rates for purchase of residential


The higher rates do not apply to individual purchases of residential property if the buyer (or the buyer’s spouse or civil partner) does not own any other residential property (solely or jointly including a dwelling owned outside of Northern Ireland), is not a partner in a partnership that owns a dwelling not used for the partnership’s trade and is (and any child of the individual is) not beneficially entitled to a dwelling under an interest in possession or bare trust. In addition, the higher rate is not applicable if the additional property being acquired is a replacement for the buyer’s only or main residence. If a buyer purchases a property to live in without disposing of his or her previous house then the additional SDLT will be payable on the purchase but may be reclaimed if the previous residence is sold within a three-year period. The SDLT regime for acquisitions by companies of residential properties is treated differently. The 15% SDLT rate on acquisitions by companies of residential property where the consideration exceeds £500,000 still applies but there is no 3% supplemental charge on this 15% rate. However, in all other acquisitions of residential property by companies where the 15% rate does not apply, the purchase is subject to the 3% supplement, regardless of whether the company owns any other residential property

By Celia Worthington, Worthingtons Solicitors

(unless the price for the property is less than £40,000 or the property is subject to lease with an unexpired term of more than 21 years).

“Where before SDLT as a tax was fairly straightforward, this has now become a complex tax which should be considered carefully by all involved in the purchase of residential property.” In recent years it has become common, often at the insistence of a mortgage lender, for parents to buy a property jointly with one of their adult children so that their names appear on the mortgage. Similarly, adult children may assist their elderly parents in buying a dwelling. If the assisting individuals own their own house and don’t intend to live in the property being acquired this type of arrangement could be caught by the new SDLT rates. It may be preferable for the property to be put in the sole name of the child or parents accompanied by a guarantee to the lender or charge over the property as appropriate. Where before SDLT as a tax was fairly straightforward, this has now become a complex tax which should be considered carefully by all involved in the purchase of residential property. Celia Worthington, Senior Partner of Worthingtons Solicitors, Belfast office can be contacted on celia@worthingtonslaw.co.uk


The best retail space in NI yours for £140m signs which include the Damolly Retail Park, on the market for £33.5m, Citi’s offices in Belfast’s Titanic Quarter at £29m, Lisnagelvin Retail Park in Londonderry at £17.2m and Downe Retail Park in Downpatrick at £17m.

Declan Flynn, Managing Director of Lisney Northern Ireland.


nyone with a spare £140m could snap up some of the best office and retail space in Northern Ireland which is currently on the market. That’s according to commercial property agents Lisney which revealed a plethora of potential investments with for sale

And despite a busy first quarter of the year on the investment front, the agents said the upcoming European Referendum will means buyers are likely to keep their hands in their pockets in the next few months. “We predict the number of investment transactions will decline in the next few months before recovering again towards the end of the year,” Declan Flynn, Managing Director of Lisney Northern Ireland said in its latest report. “The reason for this is the uncertainty which abounds, ahead of the European Referendum, about the potential impacts of Brexit.

“We expect that most investors will take stock and await the outcome of the EU vote, as well as local elections, before making any further investment decisions.” The expected slowdown follows a busy first few months of 2016 when a number of high profile properties changed hands. They include the sale of the 15-acre Sirocco Site in Belfast by US fund Cerberus which also sold the Castlebawn development in Newtownards and the Royal Exchange Development in Belfast City Centre. In total around £120m worth of commercial property has changed hands since the start of the year. On the office market, demand remains strong due to the restricted supply of Grade A office space.

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MAY 2016



Land of opportunity Having just returned from MIPIM – one of the world’s largest international commercial property conferences – A&L Goodbody’s Commercial Property Partners say that opportunities in the Northern Ireland property market are proving to be an attractive proposition for investors and developers, locally and internationally


eld in Cannes each year, MIPIM attracts more than 28,000 investors and developers from over 80 countries. In addition to the usual attendees from the firm’s Dublin office, this year A&L Goodbody Northern Ireland also formed part of a delegation of 53 Belfast business leaders attending the conference. Mark Blair, Head of the firm’s Commercial Property team in Belfast comments: “I have been attending MIPIM for a number of years alongside my Dublin colleagues. We have always highlighted investment opportunities across the island, but there has been a strong story to tell about Northern Ireland in recent times, particularly in terms of shopping centre sales and loan portfolio sales, so it was encouraging to see a large delegation from Belfast this year. We were proud to be part of that strong delegation promoting Belfast.” Judith Allen sat on the Steering Committee of the Belfast delegation. “The Belfast delegation was made up of a range of private sector businesses and public sector organisations such as Belfast City Council and Invest Northern Ireland,” she explained. “In recent years, Belfast has become one of the most attractive cities in the UK for foreign direct investment and MIPIM was about showcasing why. The delegation was focused on highlighting the wealth of opportunities that Belfast has to offer – driven by our


world-class pool of talent and our reputation as a leading hub for technology, to the confirmed reduction in our corporation tax rate to 12.5% in April 2018. “All of this combined means that, in the coming years, Belfast’s attractiveness as a place to invest will only continue to grow. Feedback from both local and international developers was positive and it is clear that opportunities in the Northern Ireland property and wider business markets aren’t going unnoticed.” A&L Goodbody has seen an increase in activity across a variety of property sectors in Northern Ireland. Blair explains that a growing demand for high quality, market-leading expertise, underpinned by market improvement, has led to significant expansion within the team in the last 12 months. This has included the appointment of a third property partner, Tracey Schofield, who joined A&L Goodbody from another Belfast commercial law firm in March of this year. “Our strategic decision to add a third partner to the team was largely driven by the increasing number of local developers and investors we have been acting for in the past 12 months. We acted for the McGinnis Group in the buy-out and refinancing of many of its local assets for example, and are pleased to see the group being able

to expand its house building development pipeline again due to that deal,” he said. “Tracey complements our team’s traditional strengths in terms of institutional investment and finance work, as well as our growing investor client base, which includes Tristan Capital Partners and the Lotus Group, for whom we recently acted on The Outlet at Banbridge and Junction One. “In addition to strong GB and London contacts, Tracey has a wealth of experience in acting for both residential and commercial developers on some of the most significant and complex sites across Northern Ireland. Her appointment adds greatly to the breadth and depth of expertise in the team and we are delighted to have her on board.” Having trained at Olswang in London and joined the Pinsent Masons London office for a number of years before returning to Northern Ireland in 2004, Tracey Schofield has over 15 years’ experience in commercial property law. Specialising in development, investment, management and onward sale of assets, she has advised on a number of high profile transactions in the past number of years, including the title rectification and subsequent disposal of Northern Ireland’s largest hotel and golf resort. Schofield said that she has hit the ground running and is currently advising a client,

Pictured (l-r): Judith Allen, Mark Blair and Tracey Schofield.

for whom she has acted for a number of years, on the development of the King’s Hall Complex in South Belfast. The Benmore Group intend to develop a health and wellbeing park to include a Primary care centre, care for older people along with leisure and hotel facilities. “The ageing population in Northern Ireland is one of the highest in the UK and this project, by a reputable local developer, is a very positive step in recognising and tackling this issue,” she explains.

complexity. “The move to A&L Goodbody was, for me, a great opportunity to join a young, enthusiastic team of lawyers,” she said.

In addition to commercial expertise, she hopes to capitalise on her long history of acting for local residential developers in her new appointment. Commenting on the residential market in Northern Ireland, Schofield said: “As recognised local house builders begin to re-emerge, we are seeing a renewed confidence in more significant schemes – such as Fraser Homes’ recent announcement of up to 1,000 new homes at Rivenwood, Newtownards and Lagan Homes’ new schemes for 550 new homes in Bangor. It is also encouraging to see new players emerging such as Blue Horizon, who are building upwards of 125 upmarket houses at Fairfields in Lisburn.”

Allen commented: “A&L Goodbody has been involved in most of the major property transactions in Northern Ireland in the past few years – whether on the selling, buying or refinancing side – so in many ways we have an unrivalled local perspective and overview of both GB and international investment into Northern Ireland.

Schofield reflects that she has joined a busy team of property lawyers whose strength and reputation lies in their ability to deliver on deals in terms of value, volume and

MAY 2016

Consistently ranked at the top of its market by leading international publications, A&L Goodbody was recently named ‘Ireland Law Firm of the Year 2016’ [Chambers Europe Awards], as well as ‘European Law Firm of the Year 2015’ [The Lawyer] and ‘Northern Ireland Law Firm of the Year 2015’ [The Legal 500 UK].

“There are a few more loan sales to come in the shorter term, but we are definitely experiencing a renewed energy across the main sectors in our market. This was certainly the view presented by local developers who attended MIPIM, including around the residential market – as we ourselves have witnessed in our recent work on the 165-acre former KPL Contracts site earmarked for housing at Ballyclare. That size of deal definitely adds excitement again to the local market.”

Blair continued: “The leisure and hotel market has also seen a notable uplift in activity and we have been involved in some really interesting deals in this sector recently – including selling the Premier Inn at Titanic Quarter, acquiring the former Holiday Inn at Belfast City Centre and, most recently, acting for Dalata Hotel Group in its development agreement with McAleer & Rushe for a 14-storey hotel on Brunswick Street in Belfast. “There is still more potential in this sector and it will also be interesting to see how Tristan and Lotus seek to expand the leisure offerings at The Outlet and Junction One. “With so many of the large retail schemes already traded, much of the NI talk at MIPIM was around the office market, and it is the most positive I have heard it,” he said. “The highlight was the announcement of the £20 per square foot rental negotiated by Causeway Asset Management on behalf of the landlord, Kilmona Holdings, for Allstate’s Grade A offices at Lanyon Place. That could be a game-changer, and hopefully is a sign of things to come.”

To contact a member of the Commercial Property team at A&L Goodbody, call 028 9031 4466 or email mblair@algoodbody.com, tschofield@algoodbody.com or jallen@algoodbody.com



The Linen Loft

Face lift sees Linen Loft become stunning Grade A office


well-known and historically significant building in Adelaide Street in Belfast City Centre has been undergoing extensive renovations to become a stunning and much needed high-end Grade A office building.

Brothers Linen Manufacturers operated out of the building from erection until the late 1940s. Around 1950 the NI Health Services Board (later known as the Health and Social Service Board) occupied it and remained there until the 1990s.

The Linen Loft, a six-storey red brick warehouse, was formerly known as the Ireland Brothers’ Building. It was built around 1905 and is thought to have been designed by Henry Hobart. Ireland

Spanning 28,000 sq ft across six floors, the building was bought by Redbay Developments in November 2014. Redbay have contracted local construction company MMM Design & Build to renovate the inside


and modernise it to a Grade A ‘loft’-style office building, similar to those often seen in high-end office locations in London. Redbay Developments have been building houses for 35 years. They have extensive experience of high-end commercial projects in London where they were responsible for the development of UNICEF House on Great Sutton Street and Proctor House on Proctor Street & High Holborn to name a few.

In addition to extensive upscaling of the interior of the building, contractors MMM are building a walkout space on each level, to the rear of the building which will give each floor an outdoor terrace and reinforce that urban-chic style that is often only found in high end areas of London and New York. Commercial property firm CBRE, who acted in the sale of the building, are also acting alongside OKT for the developers in finding tenants. David Wright, director of office agency at CBRE, commented on the project and what it means for the office market in Belfast.

“It is no secret that Belfast does not currently meet the demand for Grade A office space, so a development such as this – with 28,000 sq ft available – is a lift for the office market here.” “The Linen Loft is a particularly exciting development in Belfast. Due for completion later this year, it offers a slightly different offering to either local companies interested in an expansion or a foreign direct investment keen to set up a Belfast office. We expect to see a high level of interest for this location, with many interested parties already coming forward. “It is no secret that Belfast does not currently meet the demand for Grade A office space, so a development such as this – with 28,000 sq ft available – is a lift for the office market here. We regularly get enquiries for top-end space, particularly from companies in the FinTech and creative sectors and to be able to showcase the Linen Loft has been a refreshing change.” The Linen Loft has been designed by McDowell+Bostock – a vibrant new Architects practice based in London and Belfast. Combining a commitment to

MAY 2016

The Linen Loft lobby

thoughtful, context-sensitive design with collaborative working, McDowell+Bostock has a track record of achieving client value through innovative design solutions. Gareth McDowell of McDowell+Bostock described how the project has been an excellent one to work on due to the quality of the building itself. “From the beginning there was great potential with this building. The large number of windows and the threemetre-high ceilings made it easier to

build an acutely attractive space. There is a particularly good quality of space which means a lot of light can enter the building. “Physically it is a perfect depth for light penetration on both sides and with limited structural supports, we are presented with a good open design layout. The extensions on each floor which provide a mini roof terrace, also add to the feeling that it’s an open and bright space.” So it would appear that a premium New York loft-style work space will soon be available in Belfast.


Biophilic Design In the workplace


s workplace designers it’s important for us to understand the innate connection between humans and nature to build and improve employee health, well-being and performance. The idea of incorporating nature into the built environment is no longer considered a luxury for big name companies but rather a sound economic investment for every office space. Incorporating some of these elements into the workspace will improve employee well-being, positively impacting energy levels and acting as a buffer against the negative impact of job stress. For example, in patient waiting rooms with murals depicting natural scenes such as mountains, sunsets, grassy areas and stone paths patients felt significantly calmer and less tense than those sitting in waiting rooms with plain white walls. It’s also been shown that productivity is improved through incorporating some of these elements. Feeling good often leads to being able to do more! There are clear links between a company’s output and whether or not biophilic design has been adopted in the workplace, and as much as a 15% rise in productivity has been observed by including natural elements after three months. Offices with low creativity potential are those with dim lighting, few natural elements, dim colours and complex design. In contrast, offices with high levels of creativity are simply designed, brightly lit, with warm, bright colours and natural elements. Those who work in a light, spacious environment with greenery are shown to have the highest levels of enthusiasm and creativity. Get in touch with Innov8 Office Interiors to find out how you can boost your workplace through Biophilic Design and start to reap the benefits of bringing the outside indoors.

. In the workplace

As workplace designers it’s important for us to understand the innate connection between humans and nature to build and improve employee health, well-being and performance. The idea of incorporating nature into the built environment is no longer considered a luxury for big name companies but rather a sound economic investment for every office space.

. Studies show

workers in office environments with natural elements, such as greenery and sunlight


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By David Elliott

The column that doesn’t have time for lunch...

Diner: Niall McKenna Company: chef and owner at James Street South

to say hello while were interviewing the thinking woman’s Michael Winner Joris Minne in Cast and Crew.

on a cappuchino/flat white provided by Geoff Kemps, the business development manager at the James Street South group of restaurants.

Eagle-eyed readers of this column – both of you – may remember we tried to start some sort of chain reaction theme for Business Breakfast, one where next month’s interviewee showed up at the end of this month’s interview as a kind of introduction.

Like a badly-funded Tour de France team, our chain broke on the first mountain stage and it’s only now that we manage to chow down with the culinary maestro that is Niall McKenna.

Geoff has been with Niall since day one – which Geoff said was 13 years ago – having worked together at the restaurant in Ten Square and he’s well placed to offer an insight into the interviewee who is currently stuck in traffic.

That was a couple of months ago and was dreamt up in a frankly lazy manner by this reporter when Niall McKenna popped over


Although we don’t, because in a tradition set in the early days of Business Breakfast, we opt to do away with breakfast and follow the Italian/Australian route and dine

“It’s been a whirlwind but brilliant fun,” Geoff managed to say before the whirlwind himself arrives, fresh from the hell’s


kitchen that is Belfast’s rush hour traffic.

others to dine behind closed doors.

What follows is a passionate rundown of the evolution of one of Northern Ireland’s most cutting edge and innovative restaurant groups, although Niall himself is quick to doff the culinary cap in the direction of Robbie Millar, Paul Rankin and Michael Deane as mould breakers for the region.

In addition, a cookery school was started, one which has not only proven extremely popular with customers but which has helped bring some of the chefs out from behind the kitchen doors.

The James Street South adventure started off all those years ago when Niall came back from London with a desire to cook good food which showed off the wealth of local ingredients Northern Ireland had to offer. “In London we couldn’t get hold of local ingredients easily at the time but I came back here and we had an embarrassment of riches,” he said, however acknowledging that Northern Ireland’s local suppliers were still raw when it came to aftersales service, “although that’s all changed now”. After assembling a trusted cast and crew (do you see what we did there?) of kitchen and front-of-house staff – of which Geoff was one – the James Street South restaurant opened to hungry diners and rave reviews. The white table cloth image which springs to mind when you think of the eatery gives a hint of the quality of the food to be found inside but in reality were a product of the thrift in the early days, rather than design. “I wanted nice polished wooden tables but we couldn’t afford them at first so we used chipboard tables and covered them with table cloths,” Niall said. While the tables might not have been top quality at the time, the food certainly was and with Niall’s wife Joanne driving the business after also coming back from London, it was full steam ahead for the dynamic duo’s business and wasn’t long before the chipboard tables were quite literally turned. Ironically, it was recession which prompted expansion, with the adjoining James Street South Bar and Grill opening in 2011 to offer brasserie-style fare to appeal to a more cost conscious diner, while an upstairs private dining room allowed business groups and

MAY 2016

Seemingly warming to the development of new restaurants after another successful opening, it was to Belfast’s Cathedral Quarter where Niall and Joanne’s attention turned next. Niall set his sights on Donegal Street premises which were then occupied by sandwich bar Printers and, in his refreshingly straightforward manner of doing business, walked straight in and asked if there was a deal to be done.

France to attend a course on charcuterie (just after impressing inward investors at the recent MIPIM conference in Canne), to grow his own vegetables in a walled garden and to make sure his talented young chefs are given a chance to shine with James Street South’s apprentice scheme. While Niall is the ideas man, it’s obvious Joanne provides the drive behind the business side of things. Together it’s a formidable combination and, while they’ve already helped transform the way we in Northern Ireland eat, there’s a lot more to come in the future.

There was and, with Printers now moved to an adjacent building, Niall and Joanne quickly filled the vacated premises with Hadskis, named after a former iron foundry owner who operated in the neighbouring Commercial Court. As the website states, it was “borne out of one man’s love for making pots and pans, and another man’s love for cooking great food” and offers yet another ambience, one where the culinary inquisitive can sit at a bar looking onto the kitchen to check on how their steak is being cooked on the grill. That cocktail certainly seemed to work and it wasn’t long before the pair opened Cast and Crew situated opposite the Titanic Belfast building and specialising in breakfasts and lunches. As if that weren’t enough, plans for a new restaurant on Donegal Quay are afoot to make sure the ever-expanding group doesn’t lose any momentum. Niall is already designing the new restaurant in his head but while the aesthetics are important, it’s clear the food will continue to be the real star. You only need to speak to him to hear the passion for good produce. It goes so far as to take the effort to travel to the south of



A new appetite to finding the right talent Jim Berrisford, Past Recruitment & Employment Confederation regional director for Northern Ireland and owner of Berrisford Associates, talks about the change in appetite for the traditional recruitment methods and styles for both clients and candidates


ver the last 20 years there have been a number of changes in the recruitment sector: new technology, Jim Berrisford advanced algorithm searches, that seem to be taking away some of the human contact and relationship building our sector was built on. Our profession can be seen as an industry and some of the methods firms use have become similar to a fastfood chain, devaluing the work that a skilled recruitment consultant can bring.

The in-house talent consultants have brought needed insight and value to firms by-passing some recruitment agencies and the associated costs. However, although the relationships with recruiters has yet to be developed fully and effectively.

an individual, and all this has tarnished and devalued the profession and a valuable service.

In Northern Ireland the recruitment sector is growing with over 120 recruitment firms and three large job boards all fighting in the same space.

Our role has and always should be as an independent consultant, helping fill a gap that is needed; not duplicating the work that can be done directly, finding the right talent for the firm and the right firm for that talent; seeking a move, providing independent, impartial advice and support.

In the main, they are doing the same thing which is not always delivering the desired results for the client seeking the right talent and the professional seeking the right move.

There are niche specialists dedicated and skilled individuals who can assist you. What is the right approach for you and your firm in a crowded marketplace?

The array of choice has caused confusion. The volume game puts professionals in a chart on a board as a number rather than

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Flags, firebombs & flashbacks

Export Focus



he EU is the biggest player in global markets and on June 23 voters in Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK will have their chance to vote to remain or to leave after 43 years.

But what has been generally agreed by economists and political commentators that should the Vote Leave campaign have its day, Northern Ireland as a region will be much more vulnerable to the initial dip in the economy.

Much has been speculated about the impact, economic and otherwise, of the final decision either for or against leaving.

While 45% of all UK exports are headed for the EU market, Northern Ireland has a higher reliance on the EU as 57%


of all our exports go to the EU – with the most of those going to our nearest neighbour, the Republic of Ireland. “A third of Northern Ireland exports go to the Republic, it’s our single biggest market,” says Dr Graham Brownlow, an economist from Queen’s University, Belfast Management School. “Only 2.5% of our exports go to BRIC


Export trade off or trade up? The European Union, mostly through the Republic, is Northern Ireland’s biggest export destination. How would that trade be impacted under a Brexit scenario? Joanne Sweeney finds out

countries (Brazil, Russia, India and China) and our economy is so dependent on family-owned SME’s which are less likely to find new export markets. “Northern Ireland is completely reliant on close-by developed economies. Our export markets are overwhelmingly our closest neighbours but that’s not unusual.” A likely immediate dip of at least 2.8% on

MAY 2016

growth (Growth Value Added) by 2030 was predicted by Oxford Economics in its ‘The Economic Implications of a UK exit from the EU for Northern Ireland’ briefing paper (February, 2016) compared to 1.8% for the UK as a whole.

– sharing a land border with the Republic of Ireland; and a manufacturing industry reliant at presently consider at risk sub sectors such as tobacco, food and beverage and transport equipment; and a higher dependence of FDI (Foreign Direct Investment) compared to England, Scotland and Wales.

While it considered many different post-market Brexit scenarios, it explained that Northern Dr Brownlow says that the debate is still Ireland was most vulnerable for three reasons much too confused and badly articulated. >



“The Brexit debate is something cannot simply be reducible to economics.

between the two each year, according to Intertrade Ireland – a trading position which has strengthened post-Good Friday Agreement while UK-Irish trade is estimated at €1bn a week by the British-Irish Chamber of Commerce.

“There have been a lot of bad arguments on both sides. But for the Northern Ireland economy the evidence seems to suggest that we would be more vulnerable than the rest of the UK.

For the business leader, if the economic experts cannot give sound strategic advice, how do they know how what way to vote?

“And a worrying feature of the debate is just how little the Northern Ireland dimension has featured in the discussion. “The burden of proof on those who favour Brexit is to demonstrate a clear counterfactual and that’s not just happening. “The Brexiters do their argument no good by refusing to acknowledge that Northern Ireland will take a severe dump initially. Likewise, those who are pro–Remain are not acknowledging that what the UK signed up for in 1975 is not what they have today.” He also argues that along with a likely short-term dip in the economy, he believes that Sterling will also depreciate and that the long-awaited lower corporate tax benefit will get lost in the transfer. “What some economists say, and I agree with, is no matter what corporate tax rate that Northern Ireland ends up with, its benefit will be offset to a greater or lesser degree by the uncertainty of Brexit. “The deprecation of sterling, which paradoxically may be favourable to exporters initially, will be come with higher import costs which may reduce profitability of the companies.” Leading economist Dr Graham Gudgin, Centre for Business Research, University of Cambridge, was one of three senior economists (Professor Neil Gibson, Director, Economic Policy Centre, University of Ulster, and Dr Leslie Budd, Reader, Open University Business School) who gave their expert evidence to the Northern Ireland Affairs Committee in February on the implications of Brexit on Northern Ireland. Even though Dr Gudgin, a former advisor to former First Minister Baron David


“The deprecation of sterling, which paradoxically may be favourable to exporters initially, will be come with higher import costs which may reduce profitability of the companies.”

Politicians are not much clearer. Only last month Secretary of State Theresa Villiers claimed there would be “no need to erect border controls” in Ireland if the UK leaves the European Union. Although her fellow Brexit campaigner Nigel Lawson had said earlier, “There would have to be border controls” following a ‘leave’ vote in the June referendum while Tory junior minister Dominic Raab said that a “form of checks” may be needed if Britain leaves the EU and Ireland remains a member. The fear of a border, hard or otherwise, and the overall uncertainty is something very tangible for businesses, north and south. Rug distributer Peter Vallely from Newry recently told the Financial Times of his fears should hard borders come into play under Brexit.

Trimble, and known pro-Brexiter, took the view that he did not think it would have much effect on Northern Ireland, he did add: “Everything depends on what the arrangements would be and, at present, we do not have a clue about that.”

“I find it hard to envisage the M1 with a border checkpoint.

Professor Neil Gibson, Director, Economic Policy Centre, University of Ulster, Dr Leslie Budd, Reader, Open University Business School, and Dr Graham Gudgin, Research Associate, Centre for Business Research, University of Cambridge, gave evidence. The north-south and east west export and import trade axes are equally important to the countries involved.

Dr Brownlow sums up: “The entire question of whether or not there would be a hard border between north and south of the island is down more to constitution lawyers and experts, as opposed to economists.

About €3bn of goods cross the border

“My fear is that Newry once again becomes a town close to a semi-closed border, a dead-end town,” said Mr Vallely.

“With Brexit you can see different scenarios where the Republic does not want hard borders but could be lent on by more powerful EU states to do that, in order to send a signal to Britain that any new negotiations are going to be hard ball.”


The cream of the Northern Ireland drinks world Ulster Business finds that Diageo is deeply embedded in the Northern Ireland economy and one of it’s biggest exporting success stories


iageo is the world’s leading premium drinks business. With a global vision and local marketing focus, Diageo brings to consumers an outstanding collection of beverage alcohol brands including Guinness, Harp, Baileys, Smirnoff, Johnnie Walker and Tanqueray and trades in some 180 countries around the world. In Ireland, Diageo is one of the largest food and drink exporters bringing iconic brands like Guinness, Baileys, Smithwick’s and Harp to more than 150 countries across the globe. Alongside these, Diageo – under license – brews leading international beers like Budweiser and Carlsberg for the island of Ireland market. Diageo is one of the most important contributors to the Irish rural economy, buying more barley than anyone else. Diageo is also the largest buyer of dairy products outside of the dairy co-ops. The vast majority of the company’s production in the Republic of Ireland is for the export market with over €800 / £631m of these brands exported every year. In statistical terms, around 70 per cent of Guinness and 90 per cent of Baileys that is produced in Ireland is exported. This picture is mirrored in Northern Ireland, where Diageo NI is one of the major exporters in the food and beverage sector and is committed to contributing to the future economic prosperity of the country. The company employs over three hundred



people across three sites in Northern Ireland including the global Baileys facility at Mallusk, a bottling and packaging plant in East Belfast and the company’s corporate headquarters in Capital House, Belfast city centre. Diageo’s two production and packaging sites in Northern Ireland are part of the company’s International Supply Centre (ISC) operations. The ISC operations comprise 5000 employees across 60 sites and 54 packaging lines - including Northern Ireland, Scotland, Italy and Mexico - filling 765m litres and producing well-known brands including Johnnie Walker, Smirnoff and Gordons.

Jorge Lopes, Country Director with Gary Simpson, Production Manager at Diageo’s bottling and packaging plant in East Belfast.

Baileys Mallusk is a major contributor to the local community and the Northern Ireland economy. Opened in 2003 with an investment of approximately £40m, Mallusk is home to the world’s fastest liquor filling bottling line, perhaps no surprise then that the site produces around 70 per cent of all Baileys sold worldwide (the remainder is produced at a site in Dublin) and over 95 per cent of all Baileys original core sizes (700 ml / 750 ml / 1 litre). During peak production, usually the months of October and November ahead of the Christmas sales peak, over 400,000 bottles per day are produced - the equivalent of 1.6 million litres of liquid produced each week. There are 51 direct employees making this happen supported by local contractors and temporary staff based on the seasonality of the product. With such a large export profile, the site relies on good access to Belfast Port and cost-efficient, reliable energy supplies. Given the scale of production, the Baileys Mallusk facility is also supported by a host of other businesses. This is clearly a mutually beneficial relationship for all involved with over 80% of ingredients and materials sourced from local suppliers, including Encirc glass for bottles (Fermanagh); Smurfit Kappa in Lurgan for cases and McBurneys transport (Ballymena). Cream is supplied by Glanbia, which sources milk from farms in Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland. Manus Rogan, Operations Manager at Baileys Mallusk, said; “Baileys was introduced in

MAY 2016

1974 as the first Irish cream liqueur on the market. Since then, it has become one of Diageo’s key brands globally and is exported to over 180 countries. In fact, over 97 per cent of Baileys produced on the site here in Mallusk is exported. It’s a fantastic feeling knowing that almost all of the cases, pallets and containers of Baileys leaving Mallusk are heading overseas to be enjoyed responsibly by consumers around the world.” The Marshalls Road bottling and packaging plant in East Belfast is also part of Diageo’s International Supply Centre operations. The site has been operating for over 30 years, formerly as Irish Bonding, and is a 24/7 operation with 136 full time employees. The facility operates a canning and bottling line, using both returnable and non-returnable bottles, and can package over 50 different formats across beer, cider and Ready to Drink (RTD) products. It is responsible for the bottling, canning and packaging of Guinness Draught, Guinness Extra Stout and Guinness Foreign Extra Stout, Harp, Smithwick’s, Budweiser, Carlsberg, Tuborg and other beers.

The facility produced record volumes in the last financial year (to the end of June 2015) of 12.5 million cases, equating to 1.2 million hectolitres of beer, or more than 300 million 33cl bottles of beer. This achievement required 2,700 tanker movements on and off site as the beer is brewed as St. James’s Gate in Dublin and transported by road to Belfast. Some 60 per cent of output from the site supplies the local markets in Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland, while 40 per cent is loaded onto boats to supply the rest of the UK, the US, Europe and Korea. Jorge Lopes, Country Director of Diageo Northern Ireland, added; “Diageo NI is a major exporter in the food and beverage sector here and a significant contributor to the local economy. 2016 is the Year of Food and Drink in Northern Ireland and the export legacy is a key element of this celebration. We create many wonderful products in this country and it is staggering to think that over two thirds of the global production of Baileys is produced by Diageo right here on our doorstep.”



Investing in connecting to our diaspora means jobs and opportunity Northern Irish Connections chief executive Andrew Cowan shares his views on the diaspora’s role in supporting economic and social prosperity at home and how our newly elected Stormont Assembly can fully utilise the support of our global connections


art of my role as the CEO of Northern Irish Connections is to spread the word about the economic benefits of connecting the millions of Northern Irish emigrants around the world and to help leverage those connections for the benefit of home.

Andrew Cowan, Chief Executive, Northern Irish Connections and Chef Wan, Malaysian Food Ambassador and celebrity chef.

There are 10m first and second generation Northern Irish spread around the world and since Northern Irish Connections was founded three years ago, our outreach has shown us that there are many who still have strong ties to home and an appetite to contribute to our success. There is a risk, however, that this appetite will go untapped unless we create the conditions for supporters to get involved and to turn that involvement into tangible projects and investments. NI Connections has received strong backing from representatives of some leading public and private sector organisations from Northern Ireland as well as from Executive Ministers, including the First Minister. The next step is to have their support become more formalised. For the newly formed Northern Ireland Executive setting its Programme for Government for the next five years, that means having a long


term plan to engage with our diaspora as a means of promoting investment in any future economic strategy. To move us on to the next phase, the broad, ambitious plans that have been discussed in the past three years now need to be allotted the resources that will enable them to become reality.

Why, you might ask, should we focus on engaging with those living abroad when there is plenty still to achieve at home. The simple answer is the diaspora means jobs. The diaspora means opportunity. The diaspora can help us raise the tide for the whole of Northern Ireland through the


economy, the arts, education and tourism. We have already proved that leveraging the links with our diaspora has real and tangible benefits – whether that’s bringing overseas students to Northern Ireland, or generating leads for events and conferences that attract tourism income, and leveraging the expertise of some world leading entrepreneurs to benefit start-ups here at home. In the business world, we are linked with people from Northern Ireland who have become leaders in their fields all around the world. Take Jim Clerkin, the CEO of Moet Hennessy US. Jim is originally from Rostrevor and started his career at Guinness. Now, in one of the highest profile roles in his industry he is helping Northern Irish firms make inroads into new markets, particularly the US. Another prominent member we’ve connected with recently is Belfast man Mike Brown, head of the massive operation that is Transport for London - the network of over land and underground trains, big red buses and black cabs that is London’s beating heart. Mike is proud to be from Belfast and cites his education at Queen’s University as a key factor in his career success. The long term aspiration of Northern Irish Connections is to boost economic development in the areas of education, innovation, investment and tourism in Northern Ireland and we have already seen success in all of these key pillars. Just last month, Northern Irish Connections

Andrew Cowan, Chief Executive, Northern Irish Connections distributes SOS boxes to travellers returning to Northern Ireland at George Best Belfast City Airport.

MAY 2016

but our four core markets are Australia, where 500,000 emigrants live, Great Britain (1.6m), Canada (2.5m) and the USA (6m). We are now connected with more than 10,000 people through our global network and that allows us to build relationships with them and keep them abreast of all the good news from home. And I believe we have really only scratched the surface. Andrew Cowan, Chief Executive, Northern Irish Connections with adventure athlete Mark Pollock and then Enterprise Minister Arlene Foster.

hosted the internationally renowned television chef from Malaysia Chef Wan, as he filmed two episodes of ‘Kembara Chef Wan’, his travel and cookery series here, placing local food producers and tourist destinations on a global platform. Chef Wan brought with him an exciting opportunity to showcase our unique local foods to Asian, Australian and US markets with a view to raising our profile in these regions and developing potential export relationships. Building on this relationship, plans are in place for Chef Wan to create export opportunities in eastern markets, explore openings for our local chefs to expand their global reach and celebrate our finest local foods by hosting expats and international guests at an exclusive dinner in Northern Ireland. Opportunities for new foreign direct investments, export markets, and business and sporting events are currently in development through our growing diaspora network. We are also encouraging international business leaders to move operations back home to Northern Ireland, open local offices here or utilise the local supply chain, driving our economy and creating jobs. As mentioned earlier, we have worked out that there were around 10m first and second generation emigrants from Northern Ireland, and about 20m in total when you add the third generation. NI Connections has already made connections with people living in over 50 countries

I hope that the new Northern Ireland Assembly, off the back of a fresh start in both the official agreement and post-election rejuvenation has an opportunity now to focus on the power of our diaspora. A diaspora strategy would formalise the networking and development opportunities that will support financial investment by those who are already emotionally invested in our success. We have already seen the appetite that exists within our diaspora. A long term strategy would ensure that we are fully exploring that appetite on a global scale. Kingsley Aikins, founder of the Diaspora Matters consultancy and a leading expert on diaspora initiatives often speaks on the benefits of harnessing our expats. He advocates putting into place a long term plan that would attract our diaspora to invest in Northern Ireland. Note the emphasis on attracting investment. Northern Ireland has an inspiring story to tell, one that is an attraction to those abroad who already have links to here. We do not wish to coerce support, but to welcome it, and market the very real benefits it creates. Northern Ireland is already renowned in terms of our historical contributions to the world and our recovery from conflict, but the long term ‘hearts and minds’ relationships are where we can continue to push the envelope and garner long lasting support.

To get involved with Northern Irish Connections and find out more about our work, visit our website at www. niconnections.com or email andrew. cowan@niconnections.com.



Market shows encouraging signs but challenges remain By John Moore, Regional Managing Director of Hays Northern Ireland

Recruiting activity remains encouragingly high at present and the current climate reflects the continuing demand for professional staff and the refreshing self-assurance of jobseekers. Over the past quarter, Hays in Northern Ireland has recorded increased job registration levels and employers hiring more quickly. There have been significant increases from employers in the IT, senior finance, and most importantly, construction sectors.

John Moore


ith St Patrick’s Day and Easter now behind us and the summer approaching, it’s time to look again at the forecast for the Northern Ireland recruitment market.


DO NI has announced the winners of the annual BDO Scholar Programme, designed to support future business leaders and help retain local talent in Northern Ireland. Following an intensive judging process by a panel made up of leading figures from BDO NI, CBI and the Institute of Directors, the winners were announced as Nicholas McMinn, Campbell College; Aislinn Fegan, Sacred Heart Grammar School; and Eoin Tennyson, St Patrick’s Academy. The scholarship programme, now in its second year, is aimed at Year 14 students from schools throughout Northern Ireland who are planning to study accountancy at Ulster University or Queen’s University, Belfast.


Encouragingly, demand for permanent and contract staff is strong across many parts of Northern Ireland – our business in mid-Ulster and the north-west is in some instances trending higher than the robust performance we typically see in greater Belfast. In some of our specialist sectors the number of new appointments is up by over 30% – that confirms both the demand for permanent staff and contract staff, and the confidence of jobseekers in a more buoyant market.

We are also seeing high numbers of candidates undergoing training programmes. This is to a large extent reflective of the public sector cutbacks as individuals work hard try to adapt as best they can to a rapidly-changing working landscape in Northern Ireland, and the emergence of a stronger private sector market. Looking ahead, there is an element of caution entering the market. McGrath Group and WJ Law are just some of the household names that have unfortunately ceased trading, and this is both devastating on an individual level and most concerning on a regional level. It’s a timely reminder that in spite of the improving opportunities in many sectors how challenging other sectors remain.

For further information about Hays in Northern Ireland log on to www.hays.co.uk/ni/

Flags, firebombs & flashbacks

Corporate Restructuring

The biggest deal of the year was the sale of Homebase by Home Retail Partners (above), while others in the mergers and acquisition league table include Salt DNA’s £1m fund raising, part of which was accounted for by investment from the CoFund NI which Clarendon Fund Managers and Glenmore Generation’s £23m fund raising. Pictured top right is Brian Cummings, Investment Director at Clarendon Fund Managers with Kevin Donaghy, CEO of SaltDNA. Pictured bottom right is Enterprise, Trade and Investment Minister Jonathan Bell and Agriculture Minster Michelle O’Neill welcoming the Glenmore Project led by Connective Energy Holdings Limited, an Anaerobic Digestion plant being constructed by Mallusk based company Williams Industrial Services.

Deal activity dips but Homebase sale sees value rocket We take a look at the latest mergers and acquisition deal activity in Northern Ireland to find out whether it’s been a busy start to the year for those in the deal world 64


company’s holding group Hampden Group is headquartered in Belfast, the deal was carried out and registered here. It was the main reason for a 90% jump in the total deal value for the first quarter of 2015 to £392.3m. Discounting the Homebase deal means the figures for M&A activity here in the first quarter of the year look less impressive at just £52.3m, a factor deal makers suggest could be down to the upcoming uncertainty around the European Referendum. It also brought some relatively new names into the value league table of legal and financial advisors.


he number of merger and acquisition deals carried out in Northern Ireland in the first three months of 2016 has dipped slightly, according to new research from Experian. The credit monitoring company said 36 deals were recorded between January and March, down from the 42 completed during the same period in 2015. Belfast laws firm Tughans were the most active legal advisor, notching up 13 transactions during the period and retaining the number one spot it claimed for 2015. Carson McDowell was just behind with a total of nine deals while Mills Selig and Arthur

MAY 2016

“There are nine Homebase stores in Northern Ireland with the majority based elsewhere in the UK but because the company’s holding group Hampden Group is headquartered in Belfast, the deal was carried out here.” Cox tied for third place with two deals each. The most active financial advisor was Investec with two deals while Bank of Amercia Merrill Lynch and Lazards took second place with one deal each. When it comes to the value of deals carried out, the figures for the first quarter of 2016 are skewed by one major sale. Home Retail Group sold do-it-yourself chain Homebase earlier this year to Australian conglomerate Wesfarmers for £340m. There are nine Homebase stores in Northern Ireland with the majority based elsewhere in the UK but because the

Both Herbert Smith Freehills and Linklaters took joint first place in the legal table have both advised on the Homebase deal. They were followed by Carson McDowell and A&L Goodbody which advised on £35m and £23m worth of deals respectively. Bank of America and Lazard topped the charts of financial advisors by value with £340m each attributed to Homebase. They were followed by Investec with £6m and Goodbody Corporate Finance with £2m. Meanwhile, the first few months of the year were busy for the commercial property market, according to agents Lisney. >



It said a number of high profile properties changed hands, including the sale of the 15-acre Sirocco Site in Belfast by US fund Cerberus which also sold the Castlebawn development in Newtownards and the Royal Exchange Development in Belfast City Centre. In total around £120m worth of commercial property has changed hands since the start of the year. On the office market, demand remains strong. “The restricted supply of Grade A office space got continually worse throughout 2015 and this has been compounded further in recent months. In the absence of new developments coming to the market, the gap between demand and supply will undoubtedly grow. “Our research tells us there are a number of active requirements which the current supply cannot fulfil, notably that of HMRC seeking 100,000 sq ft of Grade A space. This shortage will put further pressure on rents, which have been rising steadily since 2014. Meanwhile, demand for retail space also remains strong.

“Demand continues to be strong for prime city centre retail pitches and we are aware of a number of occupiers with either active requirements or deals currently at the legal stage. Looking ahead, we expect prime locations to carry on performing strongly with secondary pitches benefitting as a result – and regional towns continuing their slow revival.”

“Our research tells us there are a number of active requirements which the current supply cannot fulfil, notably that of HMRC seeking 100,000 sq ft of Grade A space.” In total, Lisney said there is around £140m worth of office and retail space on the market at present.

It listed a plethora of potential investments with for sale signs which include the Damolly Retail Park, on the market for £33.5m, Citi’s offices in Belfast’s Titanic Quarter at £29m, Lisnagelvin Retail Park in Londonderry at £17.2m and Downe Retail Park in Downpatrick at £17m. And despite a busy first quarter of the year on the investment front, the agents said the upcoming European Referendum means buyers are likely to keep their hands in their pockets in the next few months. “We predict the number of investment transactions will decline in the next few months before recovering again towards the end of the year,” Declan Flynn, Managing Director of Lisney Northern Ireland said in its latest report. “The reason for this is the uncertainty which abounds, ahead of the European Referendum, about the potential impacts of Brexit. “We expect that most investors will take stock and await the outcome of the EU vote, as well as local elections, before making any further investment decisions.”

Northern Ireland’s biggest deals in the first quarter of 2016









Hampden Group

Bunnings Holdings



Venture Capital

Glenmore Generation




Belfast Metropolitan College

BBGI Holding



Venture Capital




Venture Capital

Cirdan Imaging




Quantum KDB

First Derivatives



Venture Capital

Hamilton Internet Services





BMB Clothing



Venture Capital




Rights Issue

Capital Gearing



Seizing the opportunity BDO’s Brian Murphy discusses how the business community in Northern Ireland needs to prepare for a positive and transformative period ahead


iven that economies move in cycles, the downturn of the last few years was perhaps not surprising, but it was certainly unprecedented in many respects.

Engulfed in the worst recession in living memory (and quite possibly of all time) every business owner in Northern Ireland was forced to ask tough questions and address enormous challenges. The fact that we got  through this tumultuous time, and emerged in relatively recognisable shape, is more impressive than it might first appear. In Northern Ireland, we often don’t sing our own praises enough, but behind that modesty, there is a very real determination to survive, and to rebuild based on lessons learned. This was discernible throughout the downturn and is to our credit today. At BDO, we worked closely with many businesses during those difficult years, listening to their issues, offering objective advice, encouraging communication and helping them focus on their core activities. As we supported the restructuring of businesses, using both formal and consultancy processes, we’ve seen business owners achieve the operational efficiencies that have allowed them to survive. We are grateful for the opportunity of working with these businesses and we remain proud of the fact that by working together with them and their stakeholders, we have assisted in saving over 4,000 jobs in Northern Ireland alone. It’s fair to say that across the business community, there has been a new and positive evolution in our approach to the economy. In the past, while we may have paid lip service to the idea that partnership was the way forward, the business and political communities were not as aligned or focused as they could have been. Today, at government, funder and business levels, commitments to innovation, quality and service, indeed to being the best at what we are good at, are genuine and prominent. While tough decisions are still to be made, there is far greater recognition from all that  investments in people, training and education, as well as infrastructure and technology, must be central to our future success. Of course, there may still be legacy issues to be addressed and, at BDO, we will continue to assist companies achieve viable and profitable restructuring solutions. However, our economy is improving and it is now time for the business community to make the very most


Brian Murphy

of the emerging opportunities across the manufacturing, export, commercial and residential construction, retail and service sectors. While there are no grounds for complacency, there is every reason to be confident that the recovery in Northern Ireland is real, can continue and will in fact gain further momentum. The opportunities are there in front of us and it is now up to business and political leaders to have the confidence to seize them. To do so, the focus needs to remain on strategy and investment and every stakeholder in our economy should think seriously about how we can work together to get to the next level. As the clock counts down to the changes in the corporation tax regime, Northern Ireland must give substance to the message that we are open for business. If the lesson of the downturn was that a determined focus on both strategy and finance is key to survival, BDO’s message to the business community right now is that the same resolve and determination is needed for us to reach our potential as a new period of growth begins.

Brian Murphy is Head of Advisory Services at BDO Northern Ireland


The National Living Wage – balancing pay and performance The participants Noel Jones, Global Head of Human Resources at Wright Group Pauline Shepherd, CEO of the Independent Health & Care Providers Ann McGregor, Chief Executive of NI Chamber of Commerce Clare Guinness, Director of Corporate Services at Fane Valley Gillian McAuley, Human Resources Director at Devenish Nutrition

Scott Dougherty, Finance Director at Westland Horticulture

Colin Neill, Chief Executive at Hospitality Ulster

Martin O’Hanlon, Assurance Partner at PwC

Hugh Crossey, Chair at Bryson Group Craig Harrison, Tax Senior Manager at PwC Stephen Cave, Deals Partner at PwC Dr Esmond Birnie, NI Chief Economist at PwC

When the Chancellor George Osborne introduced the National Living Wage (NLW), his intention was to shift the burden of coping with low pay and, by implication poverty, from the taxpayer to business. Putting more money into workers’ pockets, he argued, would inject additional spending power in the economy, so delivering a direct benefit back to business. But legislating for a mandatory payrise without a proportionate increase in productivity was certain to have an impact in Northern Ireland. So, in an attempt to quantify the impact of the NLW and other reward issues like the Apprenticeship Levy and Auto-Enrolment on workers’ pay and business performance, PwC invited a panel of business leaders and industry representatives to discuss just how the NLW wage would impact the regional economy.

Pay governance reform – or the start of a perfect storm? “ …too many companies aren’t looking at the long-term implications of the NLW, Apprenticeship Levy and other payroll costs on their reward package, business model, supply chain and competitiveness. For the unprepared this will become a perfect storm of pay governance.” While the NLW is the headline-grabber, employers are facing a number of

MAY 2016

issues that will potentially combine to impact on payroll costs; but top of the list comes the NLW. Announced in the 2015 Summer Budget, the NLW came into force this April, setting a minimum hourly rate of £7.20 for workers aged 25 years and over, with further annual increases of 50 pence per hour, for the next four years. The terms of the NLW are clear, but analysis and implications for Northern Ireland are sparse.

What we do know is that the Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR) assessed the NLW at the UK-wide level and their most likely scenario was 60,000 fewer jobs by 2020, up to the worst case forecast of 120,000 fewer jobs by 2020. Applying the OBR formula pro rata to Northern Ireland implies that, by 2020, the region would have between 1,500 and 3,000 fewer jobs. But because wages here are lower than the UK average, up to 17% of employees in Northern Ireland could be >



directly impacted by the NLW compared to 12% in GB, so the impact on employment could be proportionately greater.

Dr Esmond Birnie, Colin Neill, Scott Dougherty

Then there’s the Apprenticeship Levy. From April next year there is a Payroll Levy of 0.5% for all businesses with a wage bill greater than £3m. Assuming average staff pay of £25k annually implies companies with at least 120 staff will be impacted - a significant number of Northern Ireland businesses. On top of that comes Auto-Enrolment, where the minimum employer contribution moves from 2% in 2018 up to 3% in 2019. Finally, changes to holiday pay - to include variable pay like, commission and regular overtime - will impact as will gender pay gap reporting coming in 2017/18.

The Challenges “When it comes to the domiciliary care sector, there would appear to be zero ability to influence price or productivity, so the ability of the industry to absorb the National Living Wage is nil.” Say goodbye to paid breaks, free food, Sunday pay, bonus and even the company Christmas dinner - just some of the ways in which employers across the UK have responded in an attempt to recoup the cost of the NLW. And while others respond by passing the increase on to their clients and customers, when it comes to the ability of employers to recoup the cost, there was Martin O’Hanlon

a general consensus amongst the panel that Northern Ireland’s health and care sector which is almost wholly reliant on government funding, is in real difficulty. On the residential care side there is limited scope for care providers to levy increased supplementary charges on families, whereas on the care side, there is no scope for any sort of supplementary charge whatsoever. When it comes to outsourcing domiciliary care work, Trusts specify the price per hour, the level of service they require and companies are invited to bid on quality and volume. Consequently there would appear

to be zero ability to influence price or productivity, so the ability of the industry to absorb the living wage is nil. PwC had estimated that, on average, up to 17% of Northern Ireland employees would come under the NLW legislation. However, when it comes to the social care sector that could be as high as one-in-three workers, with virtually no scope to pass cost increases along the supply chain. The panel acknowledged that this was a sector almost wholly dependent on the Executive’s ability – or willingness - to fund the NLW shortfall or to dramatically modernise tendering and commissioning to facilitate productivity gains. Whatever the option, it was beyond the ability of employers to solve. The hospitality sector, the panel felt, was also facing hard choices and ironically, some employer responses – such as cutting paid breaks, shift bonuses and charging for previously “free food”, were actually detrimental to the workers the NLW was intended to benefit. Hospitality is a sector which is acutely price sensitive, labour intensive and does not lend itself easily to automating. The recession previously has forced the industry to take significant cost out of the sector. According to the Resolution Foundation, employers in the hospitality industry



Exports and international competitiveness

Ann McGregor

“…while Northern Ireland’s unemployment levels have reduced to pre-recession levels, output remains around 8% below the prerecession level, with no sign of recovery.” Manufacturers and business representatives on the panel, warned that the cost of the NLW had to be matched with increased competitiveness, if export markets were to be retained, let alone expanded. There were concerns over UK suppliers already seeking to pass on their NLW costs, especially where the market was not conducive to even marginal increases, so manufacturers’ margins were getting slimmer as they were being forced to absorb increased costs.

will be amongst the hardest-hit sectors, with their wage bills increasing by 3%- 4% by 2020 with almost half of employees in the sector receiving a pay rise due to the rollout of the NLW. A major issue for hospitality is tips, perceived as a ‘bonus’ but not counted as part of the industry pay and reward structure, nor are they counted as part of employees’ “pay” for NLW purposes. One survey of the Northern Ireland hospitality sector suggested that, when average levels of tips were included, the wage of a server was in the order of £12 per hour. However, in an industry that is often seasonal and is generally competitive, the consensus was that the impact of the NLW on Northern Ireland will be pub and restaurant closures and the almost certainty of job-losses.

was to put groups of workers on a par with team leaders and supervisors. Several panel members were aware of businesses where, having increased the hourly rate of the least-skilled and lowestpaid, they have had to increase the reward of 100% of other employees by 50 pence per hour to maintain differentials. Where performance bonuses and incentives were linked to base pay, these too had to be automatically uplifted, further adding to payroll costs. Where there were large hourly-paid labour forces, the overnight annual increase in payroll was estimated to be between 2% and 7%. There were also reports of salaried staff and their representatives seeking hourly-paid differentials to be reflected in uplifts across salaried staff reward.

Maintaining differentials “The NLW has increased the hourly rate of the least-skilled and lowest-paid, but we have had to increase the pay of every other employee by 50 pence per hour to maintain differentials… the overnight impact in payroll cost can be up to 7% per year.” One theme the panel agreed upon was the issue of union and workforce pressures to maintain differentials. There were a number of examples across the region where the impact of the NLW

MAY 2016

A number of panel members suggested that the impact of the NLW and associated administration costs would ultimately persuade some organisations to consolidate base reward and motivational bonus/reward into a basic hourly rate or salary. This, some members believed, would simplify the administration of the successive years of NLW increases, but would also reduce the flexibility of companies to create and manage reward schemes.

This concern was exacerbated by the inability of the local economy to increase productivity, despite substantial increases in employment. It was pointed out that, while Northern Ireland’s employment levels had reduced to pre-recession levels, output remained around 8% below the pre-recession level, with no sign of recovery. There was a recognition that, cutting Corporation Tax would be an incentive to investment, but if labour costs were increasing annually at up to 7%, it could dramatically erode trading profits, negating the intended benefit of lower corporation tax. The panel say that there are other challenges to make the region internationally competitive for tourism and hospitality. There are some 245 tourism destinations with lower VAT rates – either the headline rate or a special “tourism” VAT rate, with Ireland’s rate at 9%, for example. Northern Ireland faces 20% VAT and substantially higher staff costs. The panel recognised that the cost of travel has fallen steeply, to the extent that travel and holiday destinations are increasingly chosen based upon the costs of accommodation and entertainment and that the NLW and VAT rate will impact on Northern Ireland’s ability to be competitive on price.

What’s the upside? “The UK is a better place to be an employer as compared to France and Germany where there is a heavy burden of compliance and >



restrictions on employment. The burden of administration in the UK is rising and that gap is closing. Productivity levels in the UK do not currently compare well to certain European territories and there is an opportunity for companies who invest in their people to bridge that gap.”

Pauline Shepherd, Hugh Crossey

Some pointed to higher European productivity as a sign that investing in training was directly related to increased output and greater GVA per capita. There was plenty of evidence that businesses on average in the UK, including Northern Ireland, have not been training enough, or certainly not training as much on the job as their counterparts in many other parts of Europe, or indeed many other parts of the world. Turning to the Apprenticeship Levy, there is a perception in government that the training market is subject to market failure, where businesses are sometimes reluctant to invest in training because of the fear that a competitor down the road will poach their skilled workforce. Similarly the Chancellor has pointed to statistical evidence that the quantity of training in the UK for so-called intermediate technical/vocational skills, particularly apprenticeships, has fallen short of Germany - the “shining example” of an apprenticeship-training based economy – and other European countries, Switzerland, Denmark and the Netherlands. Dr Esmond Birnie


One upside, the panel felt, was the pressure to invest in training as a productivity driver would become inevitable. This, as the Office of Budget Responsibility (OBR) and PwC had pointed out would drive up productivity and GVA per capita, thus creating more wealth to underpin more profitable and sustainable employment. The panel also saw the pressures on profit and liquidity as an opportunity. Looking back to 2007/2008, some organisations prospered because of the downturn. Thanks to the high level of fragmentation within some sectors the slowdown and recession drove a higher level of M&A activity because Stephen Cave

one of the ways of absorbing increasing costs is a greater economy of scale. Becoming a larger organisation helps absorb the cost challenge. It drives diversification and companies respond by getting into export markets. All of those things are actually positive things for the local economy. When it comes to NLW, the winner was supposed to be the people on low pay. However, much of the rationale driving George Osborne’s policy was to explode the perception that the taxpayer was subsidising low pay through tax credits, while improving Treasury’s fiscal situation so that


government is the winner. Effectively, the burden is being shifted from the taxpayer to business, but if business takes the NLW and Apprenticeship Levy as a wake-up call to invest in training, upskill the national workforce and that results in improved productivity, the panel took the view that potentially, everyone’s a winner.

Gillian McAuley, Clare Guinness, Craig Harrison, Noel Jones

The Apprenticeship Levy “There is no certainty as to how much of the Levy on Northern Ireland companies would actually come back to the region… around £100m or thereabouts would revert to the Executive, but it was also up to the Executive as to how that would be delivered in the region.” The NLW is not the only employee-related cost that’s hanging over the Northern Ireland business community. The Apprenticeship Levy, which came in as part of George Osborne’s July 2015 Budget is something of a carrot and stick. Hitting businesses with the Levy is the stick - while the carrot is a subsidy to promote and support more training. Underlying the Levy is a belief in government that businesses have not been investing enough in training and a perception that this is partly a factor of fear that, the more companies train and upskill workers, the more likely they are to be poached by competitors. It comes into force next year as a Levy of 0.5% for all businesses with a wage bill greater than £3m - assuming a £25k annual wage bill per employee and that implies companies with at least 120 staff will be included. A lot of the detail remains unclear, particularly as to how it will work in Northern Ireland, but it does look like it is going to have an element of crosssubsidy for smaller firms which could be beneficial to the Northern Ireland economy. The panel generally welcomed the incentive to invest in training - underpinning the notion that increased training and greater productivity went hand-in-hand and could therefore serve to offset the cost of NLW – but there was concern as to the cost of administration and possible restrictions on training provision and providers. There was also no certainty as to how much of

MAY 2016

the Levy on Northern Ireland companies would actually come back to the region. PwC’s discussions with officials suggested that up to £100m or thereabouts would revert to the Executive, as Northern Ireland’s share of the total UK Levy of c £3bn, but it was also up to the Executive as to how that would be delivered in the region. The panel expressed concern that the process would force the introduction of more apprenticeship schemes even though many production and manufacturing jobs don’t really lend themselves to such a model. That could have a serious impact by creating apprenticeships that are neither necessary nor appropriate and adding a further layer of administration cost. The panel also expressed concerns at the short-term impact on profitability. As with the NLW, the Apprenticeship Levy, was an upfront cost, while any resulting improvement in productivity would be medium-term with a consequent short-term impact on cash flow and profit. There was a concern that the combination of the NLW and Apprenticeship Levy could potentially turn profit into loss for some already-struggling companies. “…many companies are totally unaware of the Apprenticeship Levy and many others have not projected the impact of the MLW, Apprenticeship Levy, auto-enrolment and holiday pay on their cash flow and profitability over the years to 2020.”

On top of NLW and the Apprenticeship Levy the panel recognise two other pay issues - auto-enrolment and holiday pay – as potentially impacting on payroll costs but not being recognised by many companies as an issue. Auto-enrolment is not a new topic and has been around for several years now, but in the next few years employers will see a phased increase in the minimum amount of employer contribution - from 2% in 2018 up to 3% in 2019. In addition, holiday pay will have to include in the calculation historically-ignored areas of variable pay such as commission and regular overtime, things like that – yet another area which employers will have to provide for. Business bodies on the panel also warned that many of their members remained totally unaware of the impending Apprenticeship Levy and that many others admitted to not having projected the impact of the NLW, Apprenticeship Levy, and auto-enrolment and holiday pay on their cash flow and profitability over the years to 2020. As one panel member said: “ …too many companies aren’t looking at the long-term implications of the NLW, Apprenticeship Levy and other payroll costs on their total reward package, business model, supply chain and overall competitiveness. For the unprepared this will become a perfect storm of pay governance.” Around the panel, most heads were nodding in agreement.



The lowdown on productive time management Paul Grant, Business Coach at Creating Collaborative Organisations, explores how we need to focus on the important things to up our productivity

• Urgent and Important • Not Urgent but Important • Urgent and Not Important • Not Urgent and Not Important. The aim is to spend as much time as possible on tasks identified as being ‘Urgent and Important’ and ‘Not Urgent but Important’. When we do this we are more likely to achieve our goals.


Paul Grant


ime management is a skill many people struggle with. We’ve all asked the question: “How will I get the time to get it all handled?” And therein lies a paradox. We will never get it all handled – rather, we should focus on the really important things. That is, the tasks that will lead to the achievement of our goals.

GOALS We’re all aware of the concept of prioritising but there is a right way to do it. Dr Stephen Covey an internationally respected leadership authority, suggested that everyday tasks fall under four headings:


But there’s a range of things that get in the way of productivity. Things like unexpected manager and customer demands, problems with products or services, employee disagreements and misunderstandings, a crisis at home etc. No amount of planning, software or to-do lists can either predict or prevent these situations showing up.

So what’s the answer? Creative Collaborative Organisations (CCO) encourages clients to draw on the tools of the collaborative approach. These are tools that enable them to deal with the distraction and, most importantly, to get refocused again. These tools are contained in four of the Six Agreements of Collaboration – guidelines that make the workplace ‘work’. • Controlling Emotions gives you the techniques and capacity to stay calm in midst

of an interruption, distraction or crisis; then to refocus on what really needs your attention. • Speaking Straight enables you to effectively handle any unworkability that may have led to the distraction, e.g. the problem that led to the customer being dissatisfied with the product. • Accountability permits you to hold your team to account and helps ensure problems don’t recur. Accountability also applies at another level: others hold you to account for getting back to those tasks that really need your attention.

“The aim is to spend as much time as possible on tasks identified as being ‘Urgent and Important’ and ‘Not Urgent but Important’.” • And support that functions within a collaborative culture ensures that all parties request and receive the support they need when things don’t go according to plan. Using these tools will bring you back to working on the tasks designed to achieve your goals, and in less time.

Flags, firebombs & flashbacks

Executive Motoring

By Pat Burns

Sponsored by

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Fleet Financial – 20 years of success To mark this special year, the company will be celebrating its 20th anniversary throughout 2016 with a number of initiatives and events, rewarding and recognising the stellar efforts of its workforce, suppliers and clients, as well as supporting the life-changing work of Hope for Youth NI. The charity, which is also celebrating 20 years, creates opportunities for disadvantaged young people all across Northern Ireland, regardless of community and ethnic or religious background.

Fleet Financial is celebrating 20 successful years in business in 2016. Pictured at the company’s headquarters in Mallusk are (from L-R); Stephen Cullen, Fleet Manager; Brian Casey, Operations Director; Philip Miley, Sales and Marketing Director; Damian Hughes, Managing Director; Damian Campbell, Sales Manager and Patrick Dobbin, Financial Controller.


hanges in the automotive industry, whether locally or on a global scale, have been many and varied over the last 20 years. The global financial crisis, fluctuating oil prices, new brands, new models, the launch of hybrid and electric cars and a rise in the contract hire market for business and private use, have all shaped an industry that is always on the move. As Northern Ireland’s leading contract hire and vehicle management provider, Fleet Financial has motored through some of the most exciting times for the automotive market, always identifying new opportunities and innovative solutions for its customers – all of which have helped to establish and cement the company as the market leader.   This year, Fleet Financial is marking 20 years in business with a year-long calendar of events and initiatives that will recognise and reward the commitment and professionalism of their staff, suppliers and clients.


From its headquarters in Mallusk, Fleet Financial and its dedicated team manages the contract hire and vehicle arrangements for more than 1,100 clients – and more than 4,000 vehicles – right across the UK and Ireland. Originally founded in the conservatory of a home in Holywood and with a “fleet” of just two vehicles in 1996, Fleet Financial can now count some of Northern Ireland’s best-known companies as clients, including Gilbert Ash, McLaughlin and Harvey, Phoenix Gas, Sky, SHS Group and Dale Farm.   As a subsidiary of Charles Hurst Group, Northern Ireland’s largest car retailer which acquired the company in 2012, both companies now fall under the umbrella of one of the UK and Ireland’s largest and most dynamic automotive companies, Lookers plc.   Officially Northern Ireland’s Best Fleet Provider in 2014 and 2015, Fleet Financial is also the highest-ranking Northern Ireland fleet company in the UK’s official Top 50 list as compiled by industry bible Fleet News.

In April, Fleet Financial brought together more than 300 clients, staff and friends for a glittering gala ball at the Culloden Hotel which gave all those who have helped to contribute to its success the opportunity to celebrate and reflect on the last 20 remarkable years and what has been a promising start to 2016. The event raised more than £30,000 which will be used to nourish at least 10 targeted projects this year. Philip Miley, Sales & Marketing Director, Fleet Financial, said: “We would like to thank all our customers, our partners, staff and friends for the major successes, achievements and growth which Fleet Financial has made over the last 20 years. This milestone is a testament to our longstanding commitment to our valued clients and to the continued innovation that makes us an industry leader in the UK and Ireland. As we reflect on the last two decades, we’re thrilled to be marking our 20th anniversary in 2016 with a determined focus to share our success with an outstanding cause in Hope for Youth NI and I would like to take this opportunity to thank everyone for their hard work, dedication and for the support and generosity which they have shown.”

For more information on Fleet Financial, visit www.fleetfinancial.co.uk or phone Damian Campbell on 028 9084 9777 or by email at damiancampbell@fleetfinancial.co.uk

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Sun shines on new Ibiza


he ever popular Seat Ibiza has been revised with new styling, engines and onboard technology. Connectivity is a central factor in today’s world – and a focal point when it comes to developing Seat models. In the new Ibiza, the Spanish brand is using the second generation of its Easy Connect infotainment systems. The new MediaSystem and satellite navigation system can be enhanced with the MirrorLink function, which provides seamless smartphone integration into the car infotainment system. In line with this connectivity, Seat has announced a partnership agreement with Samsung to develop technological solutions to provide total connectivity across its model range. The exterior design of the Ibiza five-door, three-door SC (Sport Coupé) and the ST (Sport Tourer) are still absolutely up-tothe-minute and extremely well received by customers, so changes for the new model take in new headlights with LED daytime running lights, new 16- and 17-inch alloy wheel designs and two new paint colours, Moonstone Silver and Chilli Red. Drowsiness at the wheel is still the cause of many and severe accidents. The new


Tiredness Recognition System in the Ibiza recognises diminishing driver concentration on the basis of steering characteristics, and provides a timely warning. Another new safety system is Multi-Collision Brake. Following a serious impact, it automatically slows down the vehicle to dissipate the remaining kinetic energy. If the airbag is activated by the initial collision, the electronic stability programme applies the brakes and switches on the hazard lights. The new Ibiza range features a completely new generation of petrol and TDI engines. The entry-level petrol engine is a 1.0litre three-cylinder which produces 75 PS in naturally aspirated format and 95 PS or 110 PS as Eco TSI turbocharged engines. A further highlight is the four cylinder 1.4 Eco TSI with active cylinder management (ACT). Its improved output of 150 PS and torque of 250 Nm guarantee a high level of dynamic driving fun, while its cylinder deactivation under partial load leads to impressive combined fuel consumption of 58.9 mpg. The three and four-cylinder units, of course, fulfil all the latest EU6 emissions standards and boast excellent fuel consumption

and emissions figures. One example is the 1.0 Eco TSI Ecomotive with 95 PS which offers combined fuel economy of 68.9 mpg, which equates to a CO2 figure of 94 grams per kilometre. Among the new three-cylinder diesel engines, the 1.4 TDI with 75 PS achieves a fuel consumption of 83.1 mpg, which equates to an emissions figure of just 88 grams per kilometre. Each of the other TDI powertrains, with 90 PS or 105 PS, achieve 74.3 mpg or more. The TSI with 110 PS and the TDI with 90 PS are both available with the slickshifting dual-clutch gearbox (DSG). The start/stop system, which switches off the engine when the vehicle is at a standstill, is available across all new-generation Ibizas. The entry-level ‘S’ version features all major items of comfort and safety equipment. Sitting just above it is SE, with air conditioning and colour touch screen as standard. The sporty Ibiza FR makes a particular statement with its accentuated design at the front and rear and unique alloy wheels. More than ever before, the new Ibiza can also be perfectly adapted to personal style and individual preferences, with an extensive array of colours, options and accessories.

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A perfect ten


’m sure the music system in the new Audi R8 matches the superlative specification of the rest of the car, but I can’t see the point of listening to the radio when you have the most glorious sounding V10 engine roaring, barking and crackling behind your ears. The 5.2 litre, 610bhp V10 is normally aspirated, which means that unlike virtually every other sports car currently produced it does not have a turbocharger. Turbochargers, in general, are great. They use the exhaust gases on the way out of the engine to push more air into it, in the process almost doubling the horsepower produced. However the turbocharger does take away the raw engine note, something that the R8 has in abundance. Offering immense power and extremely good engine response – the further developed 5.2 FSI in the new R8 is a high-powered engine that was designed for high engine speeds. As soon as the engine is started, it revs at 2,500 rpm briefly before settling down to a low growl. Under acceleration, the naturallyaspirated ten-cylinder engine develops a very unique sound – a throaty hissing and roaring.

MAY 2016

Audi offers the 5.2 V10 in two versions. On the R8 V10, the power output is 540 PS at 8,250 rpm, and its maximum torque of 540 Nm is available at 6,500 rpm. For the R8 V10 plus, these values are 610 PS and 560 Nm at the same engine speeds. At both power levels, the 5.2 FSI can rev up to 8,700 rpm. This leads to impressive performance figures: The fastest production Audi ever catapults from 0to 62 mph in 3.2 seconds and from 0 to 124 mph in 9.9 seconds. It can continue accelerating to a maximum speed of 205 mph. Two flaps in the exhaust system let the driver choose between a comfort-oriented sound and a sonorous sound. All the sounds are completely authentic – including the babbling sound when the foot is taken off the accelerator pedal and a more roaring sound when shifting gears under full load. The new cylinder-on-demand (COD) technology makes a substantial contribution towards a considerable improvement in fuel consumption. Under low to intermediate load conditions – when one of the four upper gears is engaged – it shuts down the cylinders of the left or right bank by deactivating their injection and ignition processes.

Along with the COD system, the 5.2 FSI in the new Audi R8 has other efficiency technologies on-board as well. When the comfort mode of the Audi drive select dynamic driving system is active, and the vehicle speed is under 34 mph, the seven speed S tronic switches over to freewheeling operation when the driver releases the accelerator pedal. It disengages both clutches, and the car coasts. Just before stopping, the start-stop system shuts the engine off entirely. The drivetrain is a special highlight of the new R8 technical concept; it features a seven-speed S tronic that executes gear shifts within hundredths of a second and an intelligent quattro drive system that provides maximum stability and dynamism on any road surface. The brakes are phenomenal and even carbon ceramic brakes are available on the 610bhp Plus. The acceleration of the R8 is like something out of a science fiction film. It probably comes close to warp speed and there is nothing like it to concentrate the mind. Even if you don’t want to extract every last horsepower out of the V10, you’ll be happy to sit in the car park and just listen as you rev it... The V10 R8 starts at £119,500 and the V10 Plus at £134,500.


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Open for business...


ercedes-Benz is launching into the open-air season with the first cabriolet based on the C-Class, thereby rounding off its range of cabriolets with a classic fabric soft top. The new cabriolet’s design combines luxury with a youthful touch. Featuring plenty of high-quality details, its distinctive character is most apparent when the top is down. The cabriolet is optionally available with the Aircap automatic draught stop system and Airscarf neck-level heating – for exceptional comfort during open-top driving 365 days a year. Efficient, powerful engines delivering between 156 to 367 bhp and a suspension designed for dynamics ensure sportily agile handling. The new 9G-TRONIC automatic transmission is available for all engine variants. As the new entry-level model into the cabriolet world of Mercedes-Benz, the


C‑Class Cabriolet profile resembles that of the C‑Class Coupé with virtually identical basic dimensions: with a striking front end featuring a diamond radiator grille, LED High Performance headlamps, long bonnet and high beltline. With a capacity of 360 litres (285 litres with the roof open), the boot is capable of holding a large amount of luggage for a cabriolet, thus offering high everyday practicality. The fully automatic classic cabriolet fabric soft top comes in black in the basic variant or is optionally available with a multi-layer acoustic soft top in dark brown, dark blue, dark red or black. It significantly reduces the wind/driving noise. Based on the S-Class Cabriolet, the soft top also meets high quality standards in terms of durability and function. It can be opened and closed in less than 20 seconds up to a speed of 50 km/h. Powerful and efficient petrol and diesel

engines with ECO start/stop function and an extensive 4Matic range make for sporty performance and driving pleasure all year round. All are compliant with the Euro 6 emissions standard. Six petrol engines are available for the Cabriolet. The range of outputs extends from the 1.6-litre four-cylinder unit in the C 180 with 156 hp to the 3.0-litre six-cylinder engine in the Mercedes-AMG C 43 4MATIC Cabriolet (367 bhp). The C 200 is optionally available with 4MATIC all-wheel drive. The diesel models are powered by a fourcylinder engine delivering125 kW(170 hp) in the C 220 d or 150 kW(204 hp) in the C 250 d and are equipped with ecofriendly SCR technology (Selective Catalytic Reduction) for exhaust aftertreatment. 4MATIC is available for the C 220 d. The new 9G-TRONIC automatic transmission can be ordered for all engine variants.

Official government fuel consumption figures in mpg (litres per 100km) for the new E-Class Saloon range: urban 44.1(6.4)-65.7(4.3), extra urban 61.4(4.6)-78.5(3.6), combined 54.3(5.2)-72.4(3.9). CO2 emissions 144-102 g/km. Official EU-regulated test data are provided for comparison purposes and actual performance will depend on driving style, road conditions and other non-technical factors.

The new E-Class Saloon. Masterpiece of Intelligence. Available from £369* per month, with a new stunning design and a more connected drive than ever before, meet the perfect balance between elegance and technology. Contact us today to book your test drive. Model featured is a new Mercedes-Benz E 220 d SE Saloon at £36,580 on-the-road including optional metallic paint at £645 (on-the-road price includes VAT, delivery, 12 months’ Road Fund Licence, number plates, first registration fee and fuel). Specification imagery may show optional features. Content relating to finance is promoted by Mercedes-Benz Finance. Your Retailer may offer finance on behalf of other companies. *Business users only. Mercedes-Benz Contract Hire agreement. All payments exclude VAT at 20%. No ownership option. Based on a new E 220 d SE Saloon including optional metallic paint. Vehicle condition, excess mileage and other charges may apply. Rental includes Road Fund Licence for the contract duration. Guarantees may be required. Orders/credit approvals on selected new E-Class models only between 1 April and 30 June 2016, registered by 30 September 2016, excluding Mercedes-AMG 63 models. Subject to availability, offers cannot be used in conjunction with any other offer. Some combinations of features/options may not be available. Please contact your Mercedes-Benz Retailer for availability. Credit provided subject to status by Mercedes-Benz Finance, MK15 8BA. Mercedes-Benz UK Ltd is a company registered in England and Wales with company number 2448457 and has its registered address at Tongwell, Milton Keynes, MK15 8BA. Prices, fuel consumption and CO2 emissions correct at time of print.

Mercedes-Benz of Belfast 6 Boucher Crescent, Belfast, BT12 6HU 02890 689000 www.mercedes-benzofbelfast.co.uk Mercedes-Benz of Portadown Carn Court Road, Portadown, BT63 5YX 02838 337373 www.mercedes-benzofportadown.co.uk


Kirk Moffatt has been appointed as Director of Creative Services at ASG and Partners. With over 25 years’ experience, Kirk will be responsible for building new creative relationships. Valerie Ludlow has been appointed Director, Strategy at ASG & Partners. Valerie has worked in the research and advertising industries for 15 years. Angela McKay has been promoted to the position of General Manager at Selective Travel Management. A former team leader in the higher education division, her new role will involve her working closely with the directors.

Lesley Joss has joined Selective Travel Management as Account Manager. She will be responsible for overseeing the NI Civil Services’ extensive travel requirements. Adele Lemon has been appointed University Team Leader at Selective Travel Management. She will be responsible for the Higher Education Travel Division Team and the delivery of their travel portfolio. Robert Brechin has joined Northridge Finance as Head of Direct Channels Sales. Robert has vast experience within the banking industry, including corporate, commercial and asset finance.

Northridge Finance has appointed Ian Beattie as Business Development Manager. Ian has 27 years’ experience within the industry, of which 25 was with Clydesdale & Yorkshire Bank. Roger Acton has been appointed as Head of the Chartered Institute of Management Accountants in Ireland. He is a former Regional Director Europe and Americas for the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants. Carson McDowell has appointed Cathy Colton as a partner in its Real Estate Department. Ms Colton specialises in Liquor, Bookmaking and Pharmacy Licensing.



William Vance has been appointed Manager at Funeral Services Northern Ireland. He manages eight funeral homes and is responsible for leading, coaching and developing staff. Xcell Partners Ltd has appointed Pat Killen OBE as Chairperson. He is the former Chief Executive of the Tyrone Crystal group of companies and has in-depth experience of industry in all its complexities. Gerard Graham has been elected Chair of the Chartered Institute of Building’s Northern division. Gerard is an experienced construction professional who works for Martin & Hamilton.

Arthur Cox has appointed EmmaJane Flannery as Employment Law Partner at its Northern Ireland practice. Emma-Jane has 12 years’ experience of dealing with both contentious and non-contentious matters. Moy Park has announced the appointment of Raymond McGinley to the post of General Counsel. Raymond will be responsible for advising on legal matters across a range of subjects. Karen Barr has been appointed Head of Client Services at ASG & Partners. Karen has worked in the advertising industry for 20 years delivering national and international campaigns.

Rory Jeffers has been appointed as Creative Director at ASG & Partners. Rory has 17 years’ experience in branding and design. Emma Murray has been appointed as Director, Recruitment at ASG & Partners. With 18 years’ experience in recruitment advertising, Emma will oversee the company’s Recruitment division. Jack Heathwood has joined the property team at Wilsons Auctions. He comes from a comprehensive legal back-round having gained over five years’ experience with a practising civil barrister.

MAY 2016


PHOTOCALL 1 The iconic Northern Whig pub in Belfast’s Cathedral Quarter recently reopened after an extensive refurbishment project which cost in excess of £300,000. Pictured are Cool FM’s Rebecca McKinney (centre) with The Northern Whig’s General Manager, Gerard Keaney and members of the new Whig team.


2 Staff at Lisney are set to take part in the 2016 Deep River Rock Belfast City Marathon, the latest in a series of fundraising events in support of its charity partner, the Simon Community NI. Pictured are Declan Flynn (4th from left), Managing Director of Lisney, and the rest of the Lisney team.



3 The Glass Shutter Company is the first firm in Northern Ireland to be awarded Heritage Endorsed CSR cards. Director David McClimond, right, and employee Jonathan Black are pictured with their awards.

4 Allianz have partnered with Autism NI who have recently been selected as the insurance company’s charity of the year. Pictured celebrating the launch are John Graham Business Service Manager Allianz and Sarah – Jayne Cassells Corporate Fundraising Manager Autism NI.

5 Deloitte has won a Business in the Community and Government Equalities Office Transparency Award for demonstrating how serious it is about improving gender balance and closing the pay gap. Pictured is the firm’s managing partner Jackie Henry.




PHOTOCALL 6 Q Radio presenter Cate Conway, right, shows her support as she launches The Bra Walk, Action Cancer’s 10k walk in aid of the charity’s life-saving breast screening service, at Belfast City Hall on Friday 3 June, sponsored by SuperValu. Also pictured is Valerie Thompson from SuperValu.



8 Acheson & Glover have raised £10,000 in support of the company’s designated charity, Cancer Focus NI. Pictured are, from back left, Warren Moore, Philip Dilworth, Cathy Donnelly, Chris Morrow, Brian Mulgrew from AG and from front left Laura Hanna, Rosie Forsythe, Corporate Fundraising Manager at Cancer Focus NI, Nigel Tomlinson and Lynsey Simpson from AG.



10 MAY 2016

7 Northern Ireland company entertainmentideas.com has launched an online service to revolutionise event planning across Ireland. Pictured are Vinny Doherty, Keith Donaghy and Maria McCallion launching the new portal.

9 James Blair, Operations Director at Heavenly Tasty Organics, and Tesco Ireland’s Buying Manager Liliana Caruto help launch Heavenly Organic Baby & Toddler snacks in Tesco Ireland stores. The Tyrone company has bagged a deal worth €200,000 with the supermarket.

10 Henderson Group launch the Heart of our Community campaign in October 2015 with the full backing of Department of Health, Social Services and Public Safety (DHSSPS) and Dr Michael McBride, Northern Ireland’s Chief Medical Officer (pictured left with Bronagh Luke and Paddy Doody from Henderson Group).


PHOTOCALL 11 Morrow Communications is to invest £500,000 to expand its services and export potential over the next three years. The investment will create at least seven new jobs.From L to R, Morrow Communications Directors Claire Bonner, Kieran Donnelly and Moya Neeson, and Managing Director Peter Morrow.

12 Ulster Bank is providing £7m in support to a Triangle Housing Association development in Belfast. Pictured on site are Kenton Hilman, left, Ulster Bank and Alan Crilly, Triangle House Association.




13 A delegation of 115 of Northern Ireland’s Chartered Accountants were flying to Barcelona this month for a conference examining the business links between Spain and Northern Ireland. Pictured ahead of the Barcelona Conference are Dawn Johnston of Chartered Accountants Ulster Society and Shaun McAnee of Danske Bank.

14 Pictured at a reception to mark Armagh City, Banbridge and Craigavon Borough Council’s successful first year are: Lady Ballyedmond; Roger Wilson, CEO of Armagh City, Banbridge and Craigavon Borough Council; Dr Norman Apsley OBE, CEO of NI Science Park.

15 Dr Stephen McKeown (left) from Analytics Engines - organiser of Big Data Breakouts - and Danny McConnell of event sponsors Deloitte. Speakers from companies as diverse as Channel 4 TV and the worlds largest online bike superstore Chain Reaction will be coming to Titanic Belfast on June 2 to advise firms here about the opportunities in the multi-billion pound Big Data industry.




PHOTOCALL 16 Almost half of Autoline Insurance’s staff have ‘graduated’ from the company’s new ‘Autoline Academy’, an initiative to support staff professional development. Pictured with some of the 80 graduates are Andy Nicol, former British & Irish Lion who spoke at the ceremony and Autoline’s MD, Michael Blaney.


17 Brian Kidd, Partner at Frazer Kidd, with local British Supersport Championship contender Andy Reid announcing their partnership for 2016.



18 Onboard HMS Caroline to survey the progress of ongoing restoration works are (L-R) Spencer Williams, Contract Manager at Blu Marine, Cayetano Rodriguez, Belfast Met student and apprentice at Blu Marine, and Dr James Kerlin, Project Director of Belfast Met’s Manufacturing Skills for Industry Programme.

19 First Minister Arlene Foster and Plant Manager Jim Downey at Hyster Craigavon celebrate 35 years of production at the site.

19 20 20 SuperValu Ballymoney store owner Peter McCool welcomes SuperValu’s Ambassador Chef Noel McMeel to the store for the recent launch of SuperValu’s Meet the Makers. With over 60 local suppliers sampling their produce, customers and local people enjoyed the family fun day, which celebrated local producers.

MAY 2016


PHOTOCALL 21 The Destination CQ Taskgroup celebrates as Destination CQ becomes the first destination focussed Business Improvement District (BID) in Northern Ireland following a Yes vote by local organisations and businesses.


22 Downpatrick-based The Good Little Company has received a £10,000 donation from Karro Food Group to help support the companys charity work in Africa. The Good Little Company, owned by Finnebrogue Artisan, is a premium pork sausage brand which gives 50% of its profits to three main charity partners – Christian Aid, Mulanje Mission and the Samburu Trust.

23 Unicorn Mouldings is set to create 10 new jobs. The roles in manufacturing and customer service are a result of the companys recent acquisition of Belgian based Ecoloc flooring. Pictured is Roger Pannell, Managing Director of Unicorn Mouldings.

24 Belfast Solicitors’ Association are hosting this years Annual Gala Dinner at the Ulster Hall on Saturday 4 June 2016. Chair of BSA Olivia O’Kane, front left, is joined by sponsors Stuart John, Jimmy Scullion, Cheryl Stone, Brendan Dwyer and David Allister.

25 Paul Terrington, IoD NI Chairman, and Richard Ennis of sponsors First Trust Bank with category winners of the IoD NI First Trust Bank Director of the Year Awards. The winners, along with the winner of the IoD Young Enterprise Alumni Award, were announced at a lunch ceremony in Belfast’s Merchant Hotel.


23 24




Name: Scott Ritchie Position: Director, Connect Telecom, Vodafone Platinum Partner

A word from

The Wise How did you start out in business? My first ever job was working as a barman at the Beach Hotel in Portballintrae. My father gave me a pay cut in pocket money to teach me the value of money. It really helped me understand the value of working and sparked my entrepreneurial drive. It was the best thing he could have done for me. I started working with IT and telecoms more than 15 years ago. It wasn’t necessarily an intentional journey, but I am very grateful for it. I enjoy how the industry will never finish developing and evolving. At Connect Telecom, my role is to lead a talented team and explore strategic growth opportunities for the company. I articulate complex concepts and align them with my team and business model. It allows me to spend time working with people and I thrive on that. What did you find the most challenging during your years in business? No matter what industry you’re in or what role you’re in, staying on track and maintaining focus to achieve the overall objective is a challenge for everyone. This can particularly be the case in fast moving industries such as IT and telecoms. Everything around you is changing constantly and whilst it is vital to keep your finger on the pulse of the industry, it is equally crucial that you stay focused on what you’re supposed to be doing within the time it’s meant to be done. Another challenge within IT and telecoms is not only gaining, but retaining competitive advantage in an ever changing environment.

MAY 2016

The column with an ear for experience...

How would you describe your management style? I am very hands on at Connect Telecom and I wouldn’t have it any other way. I split my time equally between customer and internal requirements travelling at least once a week to our office in Scotland and meeting with Vodafone in London, whilst also meeting around three customers every week. I am a strategic leader and factor opportunities for growth acceleration into my diary throughout the month. At the moment, Connect Telecom is growing organically at around 40% and I work hard to ensure we are doing this in a controlled way. I have a competitive nature and instil within my team the importance of striving and fighting for customers to have the best experience possible every day. It’s our job to provide customers with telecoms solutions that enhance the day to day running of their business. Every business has different requirements and I always encourage my team to push the boundaries and explore the options. It’s this ability to deliver creative, flexible, tailored solutions that sees businesses of all sizes from right across Northern Ireland choosing Connect as their telecoms provider. Have you done it all on your own? The three people who have influenced my career the most are very personal to me. They were very much relied on for a gentle nudge in the right direction or keeping my feet on the ground when I needed it the most. My family and friends will also always be a constant source of inspiration and support. At Connect Telecom, I am very lucky to have the support of a fantastic team.



Canapés and cocktails The cream of the last month’s business events Accountant gongs Three management accountants from Northern Ireland achieved highest marks in the whole of Ireland for their case study papers and were recognised at the Chartered Institute of Management Accounting Ireland (CIMA) Annual Dinner recently. From left, Steven Scullion who works for Invest NI and is from Lurgan, came first in Ireland for his Strategic Case Study. Aine McKavanagh came first in Ireland and joint sixth in the world for her Management Case Study. She currently works for Grant Thornton Business Advisory Services and is from Crumlin. Caoimhe O’Reilly achieved top marks in her Operational Case Study and is from Co Londonderry where she works for Perfecseal. They are pictured here receiving their awards from CIMA Worldwide Vice President, David Stanford.

Deli Lites hit the heights There was a delight from the team at Deli Lites recently after they picked up an AA Grade awarded by the British Retail Consortium (BRC), one of the strictest standards for food safety. Each year Deli Lites has reached the highest possible level of accreditation and in 2016 the bar was raised with the introduction of a tougher audit process and a new top grade of AA. Pictured from left are: Brian Reid, MD of Warrenpointbased Deli Lites Ireland Limited pictured with Technical Manager Cathal McDonnell, holding the company’s AA Grade certificate in food safety recently awarded by the British Retail Consortium.

Feargal picks up award It was a good night for accountancy firm PKF-FPM at the Irish Accountancy Awards 2016, held in Dublin on 21 April 2016. Managing Director Feargal McCormack is pictured picking up the Employer of the Year Award, from Francis Kehoe, Finance Officer, Communication and Information Services, Óglaigh na hÉireann.



Business time at Culloden The cream of Northern Ireland’s business talent were rewarded at last month’s Belfast Telegraph Business Awards, in association with British Airways.

Aisling McStravick (Fold, Holywood), Mark Corrigan (Action Renewables), Stephen Woodrow (Fold) & Rachel Sankannawar (Action Renewables).

Businessperson of the year Brian McConville, MJM Group is presented with his award from Keith Chuter, British Airways Sales Manager Ireland & UK Regions. Also pictured are British Airways Ambassadors Jayne Deasy and Christine Wright.

Alan Kerr, Mark Sleator, Emma McQuilkin & Victoria McKee (Belfast Health and Social Care Trust).

Martin Agnew Managing Director, Henderson Group is presented with his award from Keith Chuter, British Airways Sales Manager Ireland & UK Regions and Richard McClean, Managing Director, Independent News & Media Ltd. Also pictured are British Airways Ambassadors Jayne Deasy and Christine Wright.

Michael Doran (Action Renewables), Maria O’Loan (Tughans) & Jamie Delargy (UTV).

Lights, camera, Action Renewables Local businesses and organisations who are paving the way for a ‘green’ future for Northern Ireland have received commendations from Action Renewables at the leading renewables industry awards, the annual Action Renewables Awards. Praised for their work in furthering the renewables industry locally and displaying outstanding renewables practice, winners from across Northern Ireland were announced at the best-attended awards luncheon yet for Action Renewables, with over 170 guests in attendance at Titanic Belfast. Now in their seventh year, the prestigious Action Renewables Awards were sponsored by Vayu Energy for the second year running, with additional sponsor support from Tughans Solicitors, a long-time partner of the event, and the Department of Environment, who joined this year’s awards in a show of support for the local renewables industry.

MAY 2016

Dr Graeme Purdy from AJ Power Limited is presented with the Award for Excellence in Exporting from Mike Roche, Senior Manager, Ground Operations, of category sponsors FedEx. Also pictured are British Airways Ambassadors Jayne Deasy and Christine Wright.

Judith Totten from Upstream Ltd is presented with the Best Small / Medium Business Award from Ciara Lagan of category sponsors Tughans. Also pictured are British Airways Ambassadors Jayne Deasy and Christine Wright.



The tech that matters

By Adam Maguire

Reviews HuAwei MAte S Somewhat of a dark horse in the smartphone business, China’s Huawei continues its assault on Samsung’s castle with its attractive Mate S. Building a smartphone - particularly an Android-run smartphone that stands out from the crowd is easier said than done nowadays. In attempting to do so, firms often end up tacking on a lot of odd little extras in the hope that one ends up being a key feature. To that end, Huawei’s Mate S boasts an advanced fingerprint sensor that can be used to control the phone in certain ways - while it’s ‘Knuckle 2.0’ feature allows users to undertake certain acts (like taking a screenshot) by knocking on the screen. Those little oddities aside, the Mate S is a well-built and attractive device though it is more than a little similar to HTC’s range. Its display and camera also sit at the higher end of the market - though again they fail to be the kind of feature that would make it a must-have over another. The Huawei Mate S is available for around £469 - or less on a contract

Apple MAcBook (2016) A refresh rather than a reinvention - the latest Apple MacBook offers users that bit more bang (and bling) for their buck. Apple has a strange relationship with its computers. Some product lines are left languishing without much of an update for an eternity. Others seem to be given a once over on a bi-annual basis. The MacBook certainly sits closer to the latter category than the former with this upgrade coming less than a year after the model was completely reimagined as an ultra-slim device with more than one cutting edge. Of course this variation merely builds on last year’s foundations rather than starting all over again - and that largely takes the shape of a beefier Intel Core M processor and an extra hour of battery life. The light and slim body remains - as does the single USB C port for all of the laptop’s connectivity - which means that this release probably won’t be enough of a leap to tempt last year’s buyers to upgrade already. Depending on their taste, the fact that it’s available in Rose Gold just might, though. The Apple MacBook can be bought from £1,049



Previews Dyson supersonic The humble hairdryer is unlikely to be on the top of most gadgetlovers’ must have lists - but Dyson could be about to change that. Best known for vacuum cleaners, Dyson has spent the last few years drifting into some very different product categories (though they all tend to involve pushing air around at high speeds). Coming after a hand-drier and a fan for your home, the company is now promising to reinvent the hairdryer with its Supersonic. Like most Dyson products, it has sleek and striking looks. It also has a long list of big promises; like precise speed and heat settings, a quieter

motor and even careful consideration to the distribution of weight. Equally like most Dyson products, the Supersonic comes with a premium price tag too - which is sure to blow most potential customers away. The Dyson Supersonic costs £299

erato apollo7 A number of companies are scrambling to hit the mainstream with some truly wireless headphones - Erato is the latest with its Apollo7. While many audiophiles may cringe, Bluetooth headphones have become increasingly popular in the past few months. In fact, many now expect Apple to ditch the traditional headphone jack on its next iPhone with users being left little choice but to go down the wireless route. However, the futuristic ideal of truly wireless headphones - where people listen (and talk) via some almost invisible pods in their ears - is still some way away. Erato’s Apollo7 will try to bring that a step closer, however, with two bullet-sized earpieces to replace all of that tethered fare. The trick for firms like these is how well they maintain a connection between your phone - and each other while their small size also raises questions about the kind of battery life that will be on offer. The Erato Apollo7 is due to be released in June

MAY 2016


London Calling! Choose from up to 80 flights a week


Copenhagen on the cheap: 9 tips for thrifty eats

By Meadhbh McGrath

Details: Jægersborggade 50, Nørrebro; groed.com

4. Best coffee in the city The coffee culture in Copenhagen is flourishing, and the brews from Coffee Collective’s micro-roastery and café are second to none. The collective is passionate about the sourcing of their beans, and its ‘direct trade’ model fosters strong links between farmers, roasters and baristas.

1. Best for gourmet street food Located in the harbour on Papirøen (Paper Island), Copenhagen Street Food is the city’s first and only street food market – and it aims to offer fresh, tasty meals from all corners of the world at affordable prices. The colourful halls are filled with charming food trucks selling everything from Thai green curries to pulled duck burgers (priced between 50-75DKK/€7-10). They also use the space to host flea markets, jazz concerts and film screenings throughout the year. In spring and summer months, you can enjoy your meal (and a spectacular view) in the deck chairs out on the pier. Copenhagen on a budget is possible after all. Details: Trangravsvej 14, Warehouse 7/8; copenhagenstreetfood.dk

2. Best for beer geeks Carlsberg is probably Denmark’s most famous thirst-quenching brew but the city is also home to one of Europe’s finest micro-breweries. Founded by a former secondary school maths and physics teacher, Mikkeller beers are now served at several of the world’s


top restaurants. The spacious Mikkeller & Friends bar is the perfect spot to chill out after a hectic day roaming the streets. As well as an impressive selection of 40 draft beers (from 35DKK/€4.70 for a pint) and many more niche bottled brews in the shop next door, the underground space is gorgeously designed, with pale turquoise interiors and blonde wood furnishings. Details: Stefansgade 35, mikkeller.dk

3. Best old-fashioned comfort food If you’re after a hearty, warming breakfast to fuel a busy day exploring the city, look no further than Grød, the world’s first porridge bar. You might be shaking your head at the idea of a menu devoted solely to porridge, but this is so much more than the quotidian gruel you’re used to preparing in a fugue-like state before work. The menu here changes weekly, and they offer both sweet and savoury dishes (from 40DKK/€5.50). You can choose from a range of different toppings like nuts, fresh and dried fruits, peanut butter and skyr (Icelandic-style yogurt).

Watch out for V60 (pour-over) and Aeropress coffee (from 30DKK/€4), as well as all the usual offerings in three locations across the city, each reflecting the collective’s cool, understated aesthetic. Details: Jægersborggade 10, Nørrebro; coffeecollective.dk

5. Best hip new Nordic cuisine Manfreds is a relaxed restaurant from Noma alum Christian Puglisi, and probably the most affordable way to sample Copenhagen’s new Nordic cuisine. Just across the street from the other kitchen he runs, the Michelin-starred Relæ, this is a smaller, more intimate space where shared tasting dishes based on seasonal produce are the focus (it even does takeaway). Order the set menu (275DKK/€37 per person), which works best for groups of two, and enjoy seven carefully crafted, vegetable-centric dishes with as much of the fantastic sourdough bread as you please. Details: Jægersborggade 40, manfreds.dk

6. Best authentic Danish pastry No trip to Denmark is complete without a taste of its namesake pastry – but don’t be caught asking for a ‘Danish’!

Fly from Belfast City Airport to London City and London Heathrow


Dating back to 1652, Sankt Peder’s Bakery is Copenhagen’s oldest – located in the Latin Quarter and is known for its special “onsdagssnegle” (“Wednesday snails” or cinnamon rolls).

City Airport supports ‘Giant’ leap for education

On Wednesday mornings, crowds flock to the bakery for the celebrated treat, which costs 15DKK/€2, and the delicious, buttery rolls are so popular that they are known to sell thousands of them on the day. Details: Sankt Peders Stræde 29, +45 33 11 11 29

7. Best indulgent brunch In the city’s trendy Meatpacking district, also known as Vesterbro, you’ll find many great places to grab a casual bite before a night out in one of the area’s bars. The sourdough pizzas at Mother, made using a woodfired oven, are often hailed the best in the city (from 80DKK/€11 for a pizza). It’s also a cool evening hang-out spot, and the décor is minimal, with white tiles, red lamps and spare wooden benches. The weekend brunch buffet is a very popular hangover cure for locals, where you can load up your plate with as much meat, eggs, fish, salads and pancakes as you can eat for 140DKK/€19. Details: Høkerboderne 9, mother.dk

8. Best modern twist on a classic Denmark is famous for its “smørrebrød” (open-faced sandwiches on dark, dense rye bread) and Aamanns Deli offers a contemporary take on the traditional dish. The elegant eatery offers just a handful of options each day, including a variety of cold meats, smoked fish and cheeses. You can pick two or three (they cost 65DKK/€9 each), and get them to go in a box if you’re in a hurry. The innovative flavour combinations include pearbraised pork jaw with quince puree and walnuts, or blue cheese with pickled prune and hazelnut. Details: Øster Farimagsgade 10, aamanns.dk

9. Best for stylish cocktails Tucked down an alley in a former pharmacy dating from the 18th century, this exquisitely designed bar offers a unique range of expertly mixed cocktails. We loved the blackcurrant Solbærrom (110DKK/€15) and the Pære på dåse (100DKK/€13.50) with celery bitters. On warm nights, you can enjoy your Nordic cocktails in the courtyard, or head into the main room where monochrome graphic tiles line the bar and a crackling fire and sheepskindraped booths create a cosy, inviting atmosphere. Details: Vesterbrogade 72B, lidkoeb.dk

MAY 2016

Shane Johnson, Belfast Giants, with Stephen Patton, Human Resources Manager, Belfast City Airport, and St Malachy’s PS pupils Nathan Farmer and Wiktoria Lewandowska.


undreds of Greater Belfast primary schoolchildren have benefited from an education programme focused on healthy eating and living an active lifestyle, thanks to an exciting new partnership between George Best Belfast City Airport and the Belfast Giants. Entitled ‘Giant Fliers’, the initiative involved Belfast Giants players visiting four primary schools across the city once a week for four weeks to deliver the programme to key stage two pupils. The primary schools involved were Seaview, St Malachy’s, Knocknagoney and St Kevin’s. A key part of the scheme provided the pupils with the opportunity to watch their new ‘teachers’ in action by attending a Belfast Giants home match at the SSE Arena. The programme is the latest to receive support from the airport’s Community Fund which, now in its seventh year, has provided over £250,000 of financial support to more than 100 local community projects. Stephen Patton, Human Resources Manager at Belfast City Airport, said: “The Giant Fliers programme has been a wonderful experience for pupils across Belfast, and a partnership that we are proud of. We hope the pupils gained valuable information from the scheme. We recognise that healthy eating and an active lifestyle are key factors for a child’s wellbeing and positive development. The Belfast Giants understand the importance of supporting the local community, as do we at the airport, which is why the airport’s Community Fund places significant emphasis on educational programmes and community initiatives.” Each month saw the programme visit an individual school, with the first week bringing the ‘Healthy Eating’ message to the young people and the next three weeks focusing on the ‘Active Lifestyle’ message. For more information or to find out how your group can apply for funding, please contact communityfund@belfastcityairport.com. The George Best Belfast City Airport can also be found on Facebook (George Best Belfast City Airport) and Twitter (@BelfastCity_Air).



Fans of engagement

The content should be interesting, informative and unique. • Fans engagement is about building a strong relationship rather than being viewed as a sales channel! • You have to make the engagement with the fans personal. • Athlete generated content is some of the most sought after content by fans. • Measuring fan engagement on your social media channels is vital. It is then key to take the data and adopt the content accordingly – on a week by week basis. • Get your brand right! Fans love to support their team but the administration must create the right brand to allow quality fans engagement to happen.

Geoff Wilson


ast month I had the pleasure of speaking at a sports conference in Kilkenny on the subject of fan engagement. The conference attracted a wide range of sports professionals from a diverse range of governing bodies, sports clubs and sports

By Geoff Wilson

tech companies. The key learnings from the day included: • Raw video footage that is not planned can often work well in terms of fans engagement resulting in shares, re tweets and comments. • Developing great content that the fans want is key for sports organisations/clubs.

Geoff runs his own Sports Consultancy, working with clients such as FIFA across the world. He is also on the board of Tourism Northern Ireland. You can follow Geoff on twitter @ geoffwnjwilson or connect on Linkedin at www.linkedin.com/in/geoffwnjwilson

Golf clubs have the chance to brand big


ank of Ireland is offering one lucky golf club from across the island of Ireland the chance to have its branding displayed on Shane Lowry’s golfing attire as he competes at the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open tournament. The 2016 edition of the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open will take place at the K Club from 19th to 22nd May, and will be hosted by Rory McIlroy’s charitable foundation for a second year. In excess of 100,000 people are expected to attend the Kildare venue over the course of the four day tournament, with TV coverage being shared between Sky and RTE television. The Sponsor for a Day competition aunches as Bank of Ireland announce a three-year


sponsorship deal with the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open hosted by The Rory Foundation. The three-year deal will see Bank of Ireland become one of the Official Sponsors of the tournament. “We are delighted to be strengthening our commitment to such a prestigious sport with the announcement of a three-year sponsorship of the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open,” Ian Sheppard, Regional Director of Business & Corporate Banking Northern Ireland, Bank of Ireland UK, said. “Northern Ireland has produced some of golf’s top sporting players so we are extremely proud to be associated with an event that has become one of the most popular tournaments on the European Tour.

“We’re especially pleased to launch our Sponsor for a Day golf competition and offer one lucky golf club the chance to have its branding displayed on Shane Lowry’s golfing attire. This is a great opportunity for local golf clubs to support the tournament, and entering the competition has been made easy with a short and simple online form.” The Sponsor for a Day competition will close on Friday 22 April 2016. To be in with the chance of becoming the named sponsor on Shane Lowry’s golfing attire, visit www.bankofireland. com/sponsorforaday. A shortlist will then go to a public vote via Shane Lowry’s Twitter account from 3rd to 6th May 2016, before the final winner is revealed.

Business Diary June 2016





2 June 18.30- 23.00

Responsible Business Awards Gala dinner. Organiser: Business in the Community

Waterfront Hall, Belfast

For further information or to book tel: 02890 460606 or contact Clare Mercer email: Clare.mercer@bitcni.org.uk

3 June 12:00-17:30

Young Directors’ Conference Organiser: IoD Northern Ireland, sponsored by Power NI

Riddel Hall, 185 Stranmillis Road, Belfast, BT9 5EE Cost: Members - £70+VAT Non-Members - £90+VAT

Further information or to book, please contact IoD Northern Ireland on tel: 028 9068 3224 or visit www.iodni.com

8 June 07.30 - 09.30

Breakfast Seminar - Jason Gonzalez on Mindfulness, well-being and improvement of sales performance. Organiser: Sales Institute of Ireland

BT Tower, Lanyon Place, Belfast. Cost: members free. Non-members £45

For further details contact the NI membership manager at melita@salesinstitute.ie

16 June 13.00 -18.30

Marketing, Entrepreneurship and Strategy Programme Information events Organiser: Ulster University Business School

The Mac, Belfast Cost: Free

To book contact: Dr Darryl Cummin email: d.cummins@ulster.ac.uk; or tel: 028 9036 6093 To register and for more information go to ulster.ac.uk/festivalofstudy.com

24 June 11.00

Osborne King Property Auction Organiser: Osborne King

Clayton Hotel, Ormeau Avenue, Belfast Cost: Free - closing date for entries 20 May

For further information contact Mark Carron: email: mark.carron@osborneking.com tel: 028 9027 0016 or visit: www.osborneking.com/auction

24 June 19.15 – 23.00

CIPR NI Media awards Organiser: CIPR

The Mac, Belfast Cost: £65 + vat

For more information and tickets go to: www.ciprmediaawards.com

If you would like to promote an event or conference please contact Sonia Armstrong (soniaarmstrong@greerpublications.com)


Uncovering the 9-5

Having qualified as a Chartered Accountant with Grant Thornton prior to my role in Diamond Systems, I know how important this is to the success of any business.

11.00am Over a cup of coffee mid-morning, I will usually catch up with our Managing Director, Steve Snoddon, who also happens to be my older brother! Working in the family business might not be for everyone, but we get along very well and his technical skills complement my skills set on the financial and administrative side of the business. We are both keen to grow the business and are excited by some of the developments happening within the company later this year, which will further position us as market leaders in the local fire and security industry.

12.30pm As Finance Director I am also responsible for HR including recruitment, and at the moment due to recent growth in the company, I am recruiting for multiple positions in engineering and sales. So I’ll have a look at any CVs we have received and arrange shortlists and interviews. With the summer approaching, I’m also starting to think about our Alarm Apprenticeship programme and arranging the intake for 2016.

Name: Angela Bennett Position: Finance Director, Diamond Systems

3.00pm 9.00am I get into the office around 9.00am, after dropping my two young children to school. Like many working mums, some days it feels as though I have done a day’s work before I even arrive at the office! I start the working day with a review of our integrated service management system to see what calls or system installations our alarm engineers have completed the previous day, and what is scheduled for today. It gives me a quick snapshot of who is doing what and the sort of issues we have been able to resolve for our customers. We have a four hour window to attend any emergency fault calls on our maintained fire and security

alarm systems so I’ll have a quick look at how we performed to our key KPI.

10.00am As Finance Director, my main responsibility within the company is managing the cashflow and profitability of the business, so I’ll have a look at our online banking and discuss any accounts issues with our Office Manager. Thankfully she has been with the company for over 15 years and is very experienced, which makes my life easier! I produce monthly management accounts so that the Directors are always up to date with the current financial position of the company.

If I’m not involved in ongoing tender submissions, I’ll spend some time most days putting together content for our website blog, social media platforms or new company promotional literature. As my degree was in English, I love writing an article on an interesting topic, such as how we are the first and only company in Northern Ireland to offer a guarantee of no false alarms, and the financial benefits this can deliver to companies across a broad range of sectors.

5.00pm At the end of a busy and varied working day it’s time to head home and spend some quality time with my family before we do it all again the next day!

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Profile for Ulster  Business

Ulster Business – May 2016  

Ulster Business

Ulster Business – May 2016  

Ulster Business