Page 1


NOVEMBER 2013 Price £2.30 (23.75)


At the heart of

local business NOVEMBER 2013

BDO’s senior partners believes the business advisory firm can play an important role in the economic recovery.

ISSN 1363-2507

9 771363 250005



What’s inside... 14 Volume 25 No.11


features 14 - Cover Story – BDO NI 18 - NI Investment Conference 24 - Export Market Analysis 34 - Matrix column 46 - David Meade 52 - Report from Silicon Valley



30 42

26 - John Simpson on RPA 28 - Interview – InterTradeIreland 30 - Interview – Simon Hamilton

HEalthcare 40 - Gerry Robinson on the NHS 42 - Interview – James Leckey 44 - HeartSine

CONFERENCING & EVENTS 60 - Dr Elling Hamso 62 - Below the line promotions


SPORTS & BUSINESS 64 - Giro D’Italia 67 - Interview – Gerry Carlile 68 - Belfast Giants




6 - News 62 - NI Connections 76 - Motoring 82 - Appointments 84 - Photocall 90 - Sport & Health 92 - Gadget Guide 94 - Business Traveller 97 - Business Diary 98 - People In Business



When image is eveything


f a recent survey is to be believed, consumer confidence in Northern Ireland was at its highest level in four years in the third quarter of this year. If this is indeed the case, it probably reflects the fact that conditions are improving slightly in the labour market, in the housing market and in the wider economic context in the UK and internationally. Whisper it quietly, but it looks as though we have managed to get through 2013 without any major disruptions to economic progress – no commodity spikes, no new European debt crisis – so consumers and businesses are starting to feel a little more of a spring in their step. There’s always the chance of a big economic shock around the corner, but as confidence grows, it should begin to flow through into demand for the goods and services offered by local businesses and help more firms of all sizes to return to profit. With some kind of stability returning, the focus is also shifting away from economic crisis

management towards what can be done to shape the economic future. That means issues such as reforming the public sector are back in focus and in this issue we talk to Finance Minister Simon Hamilton about where that process will begin for his newly created Public Sector Reform Division. Elsewhere, our cover interviewees BDO NI explain why they expect the return of business confidence to herald a wave of companies switching away from the banks who treated them harshly during the recession. And we also report on the recent Northern Ireland Investment Conference which showcased all that is good about the new Northern Ireland and its economy to prospective foreign direct investors. However, as we approach the end of the year and get used to a bit of normality, it is to be hoped that the anniversary on December 3 of the vote to limit the days that the Union Flag flies from Belfast City Hall doesn’t jolt us back into more turbulent times.

Last year’s protests forced many businesses to close their doors and lose trade in the city centre and drew criticism from business leaders, while the damage to Northern Ireland’s reputation on the world stage was far worse. It would be a real shame to see the positive PR generated by the Investment Conference undone by pictures of riots circulating once again around global media outlets from New York to New Delhi. Our politicians will need to be on their game to navigate what will undoubtedly be a tricky period. If they can do that, hopefully the recovery in consumer and business confidence will start to gain momentum.

Editor: Symon Ross Manager: Sonia Armstrong Deputy Manager: Sylvie Brando Art Editor: Stuart Gray Production Manager: Stuart Gray Cover Photography: PressEye Publisher: James & Gladys Greer

Ulster Business is published by GREER PUBLICATIONS, 5b Edgewater Business Park, Belfast Harbour Estate, Belfast BT3 9JQ Tel: 028 9078 3200 Fax: 028 9078 3210 Email Addresses: / Website: Subscriptions: £27.50 UK per annum £37.50 outside UK Designed & Published by: Greer Publications Design Tel: 028 9078 3200

Greer Publications © 2013. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form, or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise without the prior permission of Greer Publications.

Printed by: W&G Baird, Antrim Tel: 028 9446 3911

For your nearest stockist or subscription queries, telephone Reception on 028 9078 3200

Wondering what this strange pattern is? For those not in the know it is a Quick Response (QR) code which allows those with a Smartphone to link the experience between online and offline reading. You can easily download a free QR Reader from your chosen App store on to your Smartphone. The code to the right takes you directly to the Ulster Business website.



NAMA urges developers to bring it some better investment proposals NAMA in numbers • NAMA bought loans with a value of £63bn for £27bn in 2009. • By the end of the year it will have repaid €6.25bn, roughly a quarter. It expects to have repaid half by the end of 2016 and all of it by 2020. • Of the assets it holds, 66% are investment grade, while 70% of its debts in GB are in London and the South East.

NI Chamber of Commerce Chief Executive Ann McGregor with NAMA Chairman Frank Daly.


he chairman of the Republic’s so-called ‘bad bank’ says it will fund projects in Northern Ireland that can deliver strong commercial returns, but not enough developers are bringing forward proposals. The National Asset Management Agency (NAMA) was established in December 2009 to address the serious problems which arose in Ireland’s banking sector as the result of excessive property lending. The agency acquired loans with a nominal value of €74bn from ailing banks (around €4bn relating to Northern Ireland) and was tasked with obtaining the best achievable financial return for the Irish taxpayer on this portfolio over an expected lifetime of up to ten years. Speaking at a lunch organised by the Northern Ireland Chamber of Commerce, NAMA chairman Frank Daly, said it had money to invest but projects suggested by local debtors hadn’t been of sufficient quality or volume. “We are currently reviewing opportunities for investment. I would have to say, however, that the response to date, in terms of Northern Ireland-based projects proposed by debtors, has been somewhat disappointing,” he said. “This obviously reflects the current depressed market for property in Northern Ireland and the fact that, in most sectors, values remain below replacement costs. This will change as the economy here recovers and we are confident that we will be presented with opportunities for further significant investment in Northern Ireland.”


Mr Daly told the audience NAMA “certainly expect to invest in new Grade A office accommodation in Belfast, as we do in Dublin” and also in refurbishing some existing but tired commercial properties. In Northern Ireland, it has already invested €167m (£141m) in a number of projects, including €18m (£15m) to finance the completion of two offices at Lanyon Place in Belfast, and €10.5m (£9m) to fund the 95-unit Millmount housing development in Dundonald. “Across all these sectors then we encourage our debtors in Northern Ireland to share their investment proposals with us – if they have projects that can deliver a strong commercial return then we are interested in funding them.” The NAMA chairman also reiterated that the agency was willing to make vendor finance available to purchasers of its assets, including those in Northern Ireland, noting it had done one such deal here this year and expected to do more. When NAMA was first formed there were concerns of a possible “firesale” of assets that would further depress the market. But in a recent speech First Minister Peter Robinson was critical of NAMA for moving too slowly. Mr Daly said in his speech that “flooding the market, either in the Republic or Northern Ireland, makes no sense at a time when demand is still relatively weak and credit availability is limited”. He later told journalists that as the market improves it will be selling, but “you can’t force the market to buy”.

• Its exposure to the GB market is about £10bn. Some 80% of NAMA’s £8bn of completed asset sales have been in GB, mainly in London. • NAMA made a €228m profit in 2012 and €55m for the first half of 2013. • NAMA holds €4bn (£3.4bn) of loans from 180 debtors in NI, about 5% of its total portfolio. • Since its establishment, NAMA debtors have sold €125m (£106m) of property in Northern Ireland. • The agency holds loans on only 900 residential properties in Northern Ireland. • 130 properties are for sale through NAMA’s receivers in NI at present. • NAMA has had to enforce on about a third of its portfolio after not being able to work with debtors. “The recent criticism is mainly that maybe we should be doing a bit more. I’m not sure if that means doing a bit more in terms of selling assets, maybe doing a bit more in terms of investment. To us, it is all helping the NI market,” he said. “We said we won’t firesale but that doesn’t mean we’re not selling. When the value is there and the demand is there that we’ll get a reasonable price, we will sell. We have people coming to us all the time and if we can match an asset to a buyer we will sell it.”


50 not out: Belfast International Airport Managing Director John Doran celebrates the 50th anniversary of the airport being opened in 1963 by the Queen Mother. The celebrations coincided with the completion of Texas-based airport investment company ADC & HAS Airports’ acquisition of the airport, and Mr Doran said there were “exciting plans afoot” to build a more extensive route network and attract new carriers. Mr Doran said the company was in advanced negotiations to bring new routes to the airport, including potential flights to Germany Scandinavia, Italy and Canada. “As Belfast International Airport enters into the final stages of its 50th Anniversary year celebrations, we are delighted to warmly welcome the strength and experience of ADC & HAS airports worldwide on-board,” said Mr Doran. “Their arrival will assist the airport to fully realise our development potential as we embark upon the next 50 years of operation.”



Bombardier staff numbers to climb

QUB confirms new vice-chancellor


ueen’s University Belfast’s next President and Vice-Chancellor will be Professor Patrick Johnston, the University has announced. Professor Johnston, who is Dean of the School of Medicine, Dentistry and Biomedical Sciences at Queen’s, will take up post as the 12th Vice-Chancellor in the University’s 168-year history in early 2014. Queen’s Pro-Chancellor Sir David Fell, who chaired the appointment panel, said: “ Professor Johnston, a Fellow of the Academy of Medical Sciences, is an outstanding academic with a distinguished record of achievement. Throughout his career, he has led transformational projects, and combines vision with a determination and passion to deliver change which will benefit society as a whole. “As one of the world’s foremost experts in cancer research, he has shown extraordinary leadership in making Queen’s and Northern Ireland a truly innovative world-leading centre for medical research. I know that as President and Vice-Chancellor he will be an inspirational leader for the whole University and that exciting times lie ahead. I wish him every success.” Speaking about his appointment, Professor Johnston said: “In an environment that throws up many significant challenges, both at home and abroad, Queen’s objective is to become an international leader in both education and research. I will work tirelessly to achieve this objective, which will bring benefits not only to the University but to the local economy and to everyone who lives in Northern Ireland.”


Prime Minister David Cameron told Bombardier staff their hard work was behind the company’s success.


ircraft manufacturer Bombardier has announced plans to create 250 new jobs in Belfast across its various aircraft programmes. The news came as Prime Minister David Cameron officially opened the company’s stateof-the-art wing manufacturing and assembly facility, which is used in construction of its new CSeries aircraft. The Canada-headquartered company said it would be creating the 250 positions over the next 12 months to cater for its expanding aircraft programmes and component repair business. Mr Cameron was in town for the much vaunted Investment Conference, which saw existing foreign direct investment companies, including Bombardier, Allstate and HBO present to 120 delegates from other firms who are seen as potential investors at an event in Titanic Belfast. A day earlier Secretary of State Theresa Villiers revealed that the UK and Northern Ireland governments had approved the business case for a new £120m R&D project at Bombardier which could create as many as 230 more jobs. Ms Villiers said Invest NI and the Department for Business, Innovation & Skills (BIS) will provide up to £12m and £8m respectively towards the R&D project at Bombardier. Bombardier has already added close to 1,000 employees to its Northern Ireland workforce in the last two years and will have a workforce of

around 6,250 by the end of 2014. The company’s new 600,000-square-foot, £520m facility is producing the wings for the CSeries aircraft, which had its successful maiden flight in September. The wings are made using an innovative carbon-fibre composite technology developed by Bombardier engineers in Northern Ireland. “The CSeries is setting new standards in the commercial aircraft marketplace with its unmatched environmental scorecard, and our employees’ expertise and dedication are playing a key role in the success of the program. The prestigious LEED certification of our new Belfast facility also demonstrates that not only are we on the right track with our innovative and environmentally conscious products, we are also delivering on our commitments as a responsible corporate citizen,” said Pierre Beaudoin, President and Chief Executive Officer, Bombardier Inc. Michael Ryan, Vice-President and General Manager, Bombardier Aerospace, Belfast, added: “We believe that our advanced composites process enables a step-change in the way aircraft wings are made. The benefits of weight reduction compared to conventional metal wings, and reduced inspection and maintenance activities, are making an important contribution to the CSeries aircraft’s success. “Bombardier’s major investment in the CSeries aircraft programme continues to bring significant benefits to the 200 companies in our UK supply chain as well as to the Northern Ireland and wider UK economies.”


GOING GLOBAL: Women in Business NI have announced they will host an international conference in Belfast next May.The International Business Women’s Conference - ‘Creating a New Economy’ will bring delegates from across the globe to join Northern Ireland business women for this event, which is aimed at empowering and inspiring, unlocking potential and building economic capacity in what the organisation describes as an ‘economic ripple effect’. Kate Marshall, Chair of Women in Business NI, said: “As the world’s economy climbs back to recovery, it has never been more vital for women business leaders to come to the fore. Harnessing potential and championing diversity in business is key to ‘creating a new economy’ and we are therefore thrilled to create such a valuable opportunity to do so at our International Business Women’s Conference in Belfast next May.” Pictured launching the event are Kate Marshall, Roseann Kelly from Women in Business and OFMDFM Junior Minister Jennifer McCann.



Belfast-based neuromarketing and media analytics start-up, Sensum has secured earlystage investment as it prepares to take its product from beta-testing to commercial availability. It has developed new technology which helps advertisers, marketers and other creative industries to gauge the effectiveness of their content by measuring the physiological and emotional effects their content has on an audience. The funding from the Technology Strategy Board, eSynergy and Invest NI is worth $1m. Sainsbury’s is recruiting 64 new permanent and temporary staff at its Strand Road store in Derry~Londonderry to coincide with a multimillion pound upgrade to the store, including a new online delivery service. Over the coming weeks Sainsbury’s will also recruit for more than 150 seasonal roles across its stores in Northern Ireland to help cope with the Christmas and New Year rush, many of which could become permanent, the supermarket chain said. Construction giant Caterpillar has confirmed plans to produce additional products in Northern Ireland as part of a £7m capital investment supported by Invest NI. The Illinoisheadquartered company, which currently makes FG Wilson generator sets at four sites in the province, said it will start production of wheeled material handlers from the middle of 2014. Production of the machines, typically used for scrap sorting and handling, and forestry applications, will create 100 jobs. Belfast technology company Novosco has secured three new private sector contracts in the UK and Ireland worth more than £7m. Novosco, which is headquartered in the Northern Ireland Science Park, has won the deals with a global financial services provider, an English retail chain with over 360 outlets, and a leading pan-European recruitment company. Novosco provides cloud computing and IT infrastructure services and is a partner of Cisco, EMC and VMware. Danske Bank in Northern Ireland has moved back into profit for the first nine months of the year, driven by reduced bad loans on its books and an improvement in its underlying business. The Danish owned bank posted a pre-tax profit of £1.4m for the first nine months of 2013 after recording a second consecutive quarter back in profit. That compared to a £35.5m loss over same period in 2012.

10 NOVEMBER 2013

Review to ensure a viable business model for Ulster Bank


oyal Bank of Scotland says it will conduct a review to help it find a sustainable business model for Ulster Bank, but won’t be putting its Irish subsidiary into a bad bank, as had been speculated. The review was announced as HM Treasury published its report on the bank entitled ‘RBS and the case for the bad bank’ in which it sets out a new strategy designed to ensure the bank is a boost to the British economy instead of a burden. RBS is currently majority owned by the taxpayer after the Government had to bail it out during the financial crisis. The bank has been working with Treasury to decide what to do with a pool of £38bn of poorly performing loans, with one option to create an external bank separate from RBS. There had been speculation Ulster Bank could be placed into that bad bank. But instead of an ‘external’ bad bank that would require more taxpayers’ support, it will now create an ‘internal’ bad bank funded by RBS itself and known as the RBS Capital Resolution Group. Around £9bn of Ulster Bank loans will be managed by the new bad bank. RBS chief executive Ross McEwan, who took over the top job on October 1, said: “Through this review it has become clear that the effort, risk and expense involved in the creation of an external bad bank is not justified. One of the first steps we are taking is to create an internal “bad bank” to manage these assets down so as to release capital. Our goal is to remove between 55% and 70% of these assets over the next two years.” “Disposing of these assets over a shorter timeframe will reduce the value we can expect to recover, and will lead to accelerated and increased impairments,” he added. RBS also announced a review would be carried out with Treasury to find a “sustainable business model” for Ulster Bank. Mr McEwan said: “Like all of our businesses, Ulster Bank will form part of our February 2014

review. Subject to regulatory approval, a number of Ulster Bank assets (approximately £9bn) will be managed by the “bad bank” and run down. But we also need to have full confidence that the rest of the Ulster Bank business is doing all it can for its customers and is playing its part within the wider company. We need to ensure that we have a viable and sustainable business model for Ulster Bank as part of this review. It’s an important business for the whole island of Ireland and we understand the need to get this right.” The tone of the statement was echoed in HM Treasury’s report, which said: “While Ulster Bank fits well with RBS’s strategic footprint and core capabilities, a sustainable operating model needs to be found for it so that it is a viable business in a normalising Irish economy.” A spokesman for Ulster Bank said the company welcomed the UK government’s review, which “confirms Ulster Bank as a core business for RBS and acknowledges the importance of Ulster Bank”. “We will now work through the detail of how we will operate the “bad bank” and the structure required to support this. In the meantime, it is business as usual for our customers and we will communicate directly to any impacted customers,” he said. Meanwhile, Ulster Bank also posted an operating loss for the third quarter. While the bank had an operating profit of £72m for the quarter before impairment losses, once bad debts of £204m were added in, it registered a loss of £132m. It was the same story for the year to date, with operating profits of £246m cancelled out by £707m of impairments, leaving an operating loss of £461 for the nine month period. The figures were better than the comparable period a year ago, when Ulster Bank posted operating losses of £242m in the third quarter and a loss of £797m for the first nine months of 2012.

Calming in currency By Brian Telford, Head of Markets, Danske Bank

Hugh Cormican

Andor and Cirdan make acquisitions


wo of Northern Ireland’s leadings scientific imaging companies have made acquisitions in the US. Andor Technology, which makes scientific digital cameras for academic, industrial and government applications, said it had acquired California-based Apogee Imaging Systems for £2.32m Apogee makes and supplies specialist cameras known as cooled CCD cameras to government laboratories, astronomers and instrumentation manufacturers around the world. The company employs 19 staff, including the original founders, who will remain with the business following completion of the sale, said Andor. It also said that it expects Apogee to deliver revenue in the first year of £2.79m. Conor Walsh, Chief Executive of Andor, said: “This is a strategic acquisition for Andor, as it significantly broadens our mid-range camera offering. The Apogee portfolio allows us to leverage our existing OEM customer base and our global distributor network, both of which currently source these products elsewhere. I am delighted to welcome the Apogee team to Andor, building on our recent acquisition of Spectral Applied Research. We are confident both businesses will contribute positively to the expanded Andor group.” Meanwhile, Cirdan Imaging, the specialist medical imaging technology company owned by Andor’s founder Hugh Cormican, has acquired a US subsidiary of GE Healthcare. The firm’s subsidiary Cirdan Ultra has acquired the intellectual propert and assets of the Centricity Laboratory Division of GE Healthcare IT in collaboration with Belfastbased Kainos Software for an undisclosed sum. As part of the acquisition, Cirdan Ultra has taken on responsibility for the support of the customers using the current versions of the Centricity Laboratory Information System (LIS) products across North America, Asia Pacific and the UK. Hugh Cormican, Cirdan Imaging’s CEO, said: “This acquisition positions us for faster growth in one of the most dynamic global healthcare markets. The market for laboratory information management systems is projected to grow rapidly to nearly £1bn by 2015.”


t’s sometimes said that no news is good news – after the rollercoaster ride that global markets have been on, the past few months have seen a more benign backdrop for global export. Concerns around the Eurozone, disappointing growth in the UK or the US debt ceiling standoff have either been resolved, or at least seen the can kicked down the road to the point where a resolution is more likely. That’s not to suggest that currency volatility has vanished, it hasn’t! However, the absence of a large-scale event to influence markets means that recently currencies have been valued much more in accordance with their fundamentals, as opposed to political fallout or rumour. This breathing space has been useful in giving exporters the room to plan their currency strategies and potentially lock in rates that may be more in line with budget exchange rates. After all, currency needs to be considered like any other raw material that a business needs in order to trade – exports can be a major driver of growth but businesses need to keep a close eye on maintaining their margins which can fluctuate when dealing in a foreign currency. Exchange rate forecasting is an inexact science but taking sensible evidencebased precautions based on the needs of individual export businesses is just good risk-management. A major talking point in recent months has been the strengthening of sterling against other leading currencies. This has been driven in part by numerous reports of positive economic data at the better end of what might have been expected, indicating growth in all sectors of the economy and a welcome return in confidence. While there is still a long way to go, and the UK’s austerity programme still has many years to run, this has reinforced the perception that growth will pick up and gives businesses more confidence about investing and branching out into new markets. All this is a reminder as to how quickly things can change – just six months ago, George Osborne was looking at the prospect of a triple-dip recession (when in fact the double-dip has now been revised out of existence). Now UK exports, a crucial component of recovery, have started to rise, albeit from a low base. Although the pace may change, and there are likely to be some speedbumps along the way, hopefully this is indicative of easier trading conditions and renewed confidence to buoy demand for local exporters. Get in touch by emailing me or my team at or telephone 028 9004 5000

NOVEMBER 2013 11


The BIG Numbers


The average number of sick days taken by Civil Service workers in the 2012/2013 financial year, up from 10.1 a year earlier and below the annual target of 9.5 days. The level of sickness absence equaters to a paybill of over £30m.


The number of Northern Ireland firms who were classed as being “in distress” in the third quarter of the year. That was a 61% drop from the 104 firms in distress in Q2, according to Begbies Traynor’s Red Flag report.


Social network giant Facebook reported a 60% surge in revenue, to $2.02bn in the third quarter, with sales from advertising up 66% to $1.8bn, over half from mobile adverts.


The government decided to float Royal Mail with a share price of 330 pence, which raised £3.3bn. Within a week the share price had broken 500p, a more than 50% increase.


The Consumer Council renewed its calls to reduce or scrap air passenger duty on short haul flights, which it argues puts consumers in Northern Ireland at a disadvantage to the rest of GB, particularly with the Irish government set to end the tax, currently only €3 per person, from April 2014.

Moy Park welcomes new CEO


orthern Ireland’s largest company, Moy Park, has announced that its CEO Nigel Dunlop is to leave the business at the end of this year. The Craigavon-based poultry producer said that after six years as CEO of Moy Park and following 33 years in the consumer goods sector, Dunlop had decided to step down as CEO and retire at the end of this year in line with his own long term retirement plans. Moy Park’s parent company, Marfrig said in a statement that Janet McCollum, currently Moy Park Group Finance Director, will take over the role of CEO on January 1, 2014. Prior to joining Moy Park, Janet McCollum held roles at Coca-Cola and Schweppes Beverages after graduating in Business Administration and French at the University of Aston in Birmingham. She is an Associate Member of the Chartered Institute of Management Accountants and sits on the main board of the Northern Ireland Chamber of Commerce. Since joining Moy Park in 2008, Dunlop had played a pivotal role in the complete reorganisation and turnaround of the business which has seen Moy Park become fully responsible for the Brazilbased company’s entire European business. Moy Park has since achieved record levels of profitability and has almost doubled in size during this period. The business was listed at number one on the Ulster Business Top 100 Companies in Northern Ireland list in 2013, with turnover of £1.1bn and pre-tax profits of £24.4m. “Nigel has successfully led Moy Park through one of the most challenging periods in recent times and leaves behind him a proud legacy of a strong, profitable and growing business which is today recognised as one of Europe’s leading food companies. Nigel will remain in the role of CEO Moy Park until the end of this year,” the company said.


While other cuts were brought in, Ireland reaffirmed its commitment to the 12.5% rate of corporation tax which has helped it to attract so many multinationals, illustrating the policy’s perceived importance to the Irish economy.


Analysis undertaken by S&P Capital IQ revealed that there are only 11 female CEOs at FTSE 350 companies, meaning that just 3.14% of FTSE 350 companies have a woman in the top job.

12 NOVEMBER 2013

SAY CHEERS: Northern Ireland’s best pubs will be named on November 13 at the Pub of the Year Awards 2013. Forty shortlisted premises from across Northern Ireland will go head to head to be named the toast of the trade in eight categories including the hotly contested overall Pub of the Year. The contenders for the overall award are The Dirty Duck Alehouse in Holywood,The Harbour Bar, Portrush,The Garrick, Horatio Todd’s and Kelly’s Cellars, all in Belfast.


Beat the Freeze, urges NI Water ‘B

eat the Freeze’ is this year’s message from NI Water as it launches its Winter Preparations Campaign. Following on from the successful ‘Two Step Pipe Check’ campaign of 2012, the new message reinforces the call to check that homes and businesses are prepared for the cold weather conditions. Regional Development Minister Danny Kennedy commented: “Preparation is once again at the very core of NI Water’s advisory campaign. The cold snap in March of this year, following a relatively mild winter, acts as a reminder to prepare our homes and properties, now, before winter returns. “‘Beat the Freeze’ is a quick and cost effective approach to help combat the cold weather. Simply, take a few minutes to ensure that water pipes are protected and well insulated, if not, then take action now and potentially save money, time and the inconvenience of dealing with a burst pipe. By taking a few simple steps, we can all play our part and help ‘Beat the Freeze’. Interim Chief Executive of NI Water, Sara Venning commented: “There are simple procedures the general public can carry out in order to ‘Beat the Freeze’. These include knowing where your stop valve is and keeping the contact number of a registered plumber on hand to deal with any bursts on your property.” The launch was supported by representatives from a number of organisations, including the Utility Regulator, CCNI, UFU, Federation of Small Businesses, NIIRTA, CBI among others.

Pictured at the recent launch of NI Water’s ‘Beat the Freeze’ winter campaign are: Sara Venning, NI Water; Danny Kennedy, Minister for Regional Development; David Fry,(CBI) and Phil Mynes, Northern Ireland Independent Retail Trade Association.

NOVEMBER 2013 13


Playing their part at the

heart of local business Ulster Business meets some of the senior team at BDO NI to hear how the firm has adapted to ensure it can play a central role in the business of its clients that goes way beyond just auditing their annual accounts.


n April next year it will be 25 years since accountancy and business advisory firm BDO Northern Ireland first set up in Belfast. Back then, the company’s workforce comprised the three founding partners and a receptionist. Today, BDO NI has grown to a full service firm with nine partners and 150 staff operating across multiple tax, accounting, corporate finance and advisory disciplines. While many companies marking 25 years in business would be tempted to dwell on their past successes, BDO NI is looking to the future. Peter Burnside, employee number nine at the

14 NOVEMBER 2013

firm six months after it was founded, recently took over as the firm’s Managing Partner from Francis Martin, who is now leading a resurgent Corporate Finance team. An expert in corporate taxation including corporate reconstruction, mergers, acquisitions, pre-flotation planning and financial services, he says the company’s history of spotting opportunities and adapting to clients’ needs in changing economic circumstances continues to inform its flexible approach today. “We started in 1989 in the last recession, which maybe wasn’t the best time to start an accountancy practice. But back then it was

about seizing opportunities and, as a new practice, opportunities came to us that other people didn’t want,” he said. “We did a lot of MBOs back then because the other big accountancy practices didn’t want to waste their time on work that they thought had uncertain outcomes. We were willing to work with businesses and match that need. That was the reputation on which we built our corporate finance practice,” he explained. “But we really went from being a small firm to being a medium sized firm when we won the receivership of the Europa Hotel. We were


BDO NI Partners (left to right) Sean Lavery, Alex Ward, Maybeth Shaw, Michael Jennings, Peter Burnside, Nigel Harra, Carol Malcolmson, Brian Murphy and Francis Martin

receivers of the hotel group for a number of years and ran it through three separate bombings – one fire bomb the day we were appointed. We eventually sold it to the Hastings Group. We had to staff up significantly to deal with that assignment. It was really the genesis of our business recovery practice, which remains one of the largest in Northern Ireland today.” Burnside acknowledges it has not been plain sailing through the recent downturn. He is confident though, that the firm retained its in-house skills by transferring people from corporate finance into business recovery, when insolvency work was crucial. “We tightened our belt in the recession and we retained our good staff. So in many ways we are better placed to respond to that challenge because we still have a senior corporate finance team and a senior tax and transactional team,” he said. BDO NI has an established tradition of promoting from within, meaning a number of the firm’s partners started as trainees. As he welcomed the new graduate trainees last month, Burnside says he warned them to be prepared that “this may be the first, and also the last, job they’ll ever have”.

“Outsiders may look in and think growth is a function of avarice. But in a firm like this growth is a necessity because we have eleven new graduates in this year who are looking to pursue their careers with the firm,” he said. Having a really strong partner-to-staff ratio means clients get more access to senior staff than might be the case in other firms. Partner-time is at the centre of BDO NI’s commitment to excellent client service and they pride themselves on providing clients with all the service streams they would expect from larger accountancy firms while still offering levels of partner access that would be the envy of much smaller firms. “We’ve always prided ourselves on the fact that BDO NI’s office in Belfast is a full service office. We have retained that offering and that has assisted our growth over the years. Some of our clients have grown together with us over the last 25 years. We’ve dealt with their international expansions, we’ve dealt with their successions and transitions, we’ve gone through acquisitions,” said Burnside. “If you have good relationships with your clients, if you see them more than once a year, you’re more likely to be aware of how they are thinking, what their ambitions are, what’s going

on with their family. That allows us to react and support them as opposed to just finding out afterwards when we’re doing their accounts. We want to be at their side, helping them grow, and being their trusted adviser.” Senior Partner Nigel Harra leads BDO NI’s audit and business assurance department, which has 42 staff and a management team who all started as trainees with the firm. “Most of the satisfaction of the work we do comes from the personal relationship you build up with the client over a period of years, it is not just about signing off a clean audit report or submitting a tax return, it is that interaction with the people, going through ups and downs with them,” he said. Nigel has many years of experience in auditing clients in a number of business sectors including manufacturing, construction, wholesale, services and charitable organisations. While he notes there has “definitely been an improving mood” in recent months, he believes funding and access to finance remain the biggest problem for businesses which often still have property debts on their books. “We’re seeing some improvement with banks more willing to fund trading businesses. >

15 NOVEMBER 2013


But there is still a long way to go. For a lot of companies their relationships with the banks have broken down, so there is a degree of uncertainty about the future,” he said. It is an assessment that BDO NI’s tax partner Maybeth Shaw agrees with. Maybeth, who joined the firm as a trainee, specialises in providing corporation tax compliance and consultancy advice, capital gains tax planning and inheritance tax planning, to clients across the property, leisure and hospitality, manufacturing and food services sectors. “There’s definitely more of an appetite now for acquisitions and expansions that people have put on hold for a while. We’re starting to see more action,” she said. “We’re helping clients realise we have good reliefs for R&D and highlighting the patent box regime. We’re finding clients taking much more of an interest in those measures to encourage innovation – they’re starting to look at R&D projects because there are tax reliefs to help fund it. It is an incentive to get people to spend their money rather than just talking about it.” One of BDO NI’s main strengths has been in its understanding and knowledge of the common challenges and issues facing local owner-managed businesses. Peter Burnside explains: “By far the vast majority of our clients are locally-owned, however that doesn’t necessarily mean they are small – we look after many of those listed in the Ulster Business Top 100 and several of the top 10 firms in Northern Ireland. “Locally owned family businesses have specific advisory needs and one of Maybeth’s roles is developing our family business consultancy division, which helps businesses to plan for succession and transition because that’s when they are most vulnerable. The issues those businesses are struggling with are often not unique to them, other companies are going through the same things.” The recently announced Managing Partner believes there are a number of areas which will provide BDO NI with growth potential in coming years. For example BDO NI’s energy team have helped one of their clients complete the first investment with the UK’s Green Bank and are looking at several other innovative waste and energy projects. Burnside also sees opportunity in the fact that a lot of businesses are “unsettled” at the moment as relationships with their banks have broken down over the last five or six years. “As the banking sector normalises I think there’ll be a lot more work in that re-banking world. We can already see a pick-up in corporate finance enquiries and it hasn’t been as busy for some time. We have clients looking at acquisitions in England and beyond UK shores. That transactional activity picking up will undoubtedly lead to future growth within the firm,” he said. “I get the feeling generally that business is now looking beyond this recession. Lots of people I talk to are keen to do things – to

16 NOVEMBER 2013

expand, to look at new markets – despite any visible central government support. In the last recession the government introduced enhanced capital allowances to encourage businesses that had reserves to invest in competitiveness. They introduced rules to let them carry back their trading losses further to create cashflow. In this recession the government is doing the opposite – they restricted loss relief, they restricted capital allowances. It is not a platform for recovery that they’ve created. “The lack of clarity on Northern Ireland enterprise zones is also frustrating because we have clients looking at substantial investment plans who have this reticence. What if you expand 100 yards just too far outside a zone which is going to be an enterprise zone? If you’re spending millions of pounds the difference of a hundred yards could be significant,” added Burnside. And having played a leading role in the drive to see the devolution of corporation tax varying powers, BDO NI is hopeful of a swift resolution after the referendum on Scottish independence. “We’ve done all we can to campaign for change, all we can do now is wait for a resolution,” said Burnside. “If you look at what low corporation tax has done for Malta and Cyprus, there has been a huge increase in business activity on those islands. I don’t think we should underestimate the impact it would have on Northern Ireland.” Whether or not a lower rate of corporation tax comes to Northern Ireland is still unclear. Whilst Peter and his partners at BDO NI would welcome it, it is clear that their main focus will be their own growth strategy in the forthcoming years.

Peter Burnside

Preparing for FRS102


he new accounting standard FRS102 was announced this year with more of a whimper than a bang. The long anticipated standard affects companies as early as January 2014 and businesses need to be prepared, says BDO NI. FRS 102 is the core of new UK GAAP, providing a concise and simplified accounting framework for companies. There are some key differences with current accounting standards. “It has been overdue, we’ve been waiting for it a long time and when it has finally arrived nobody has really noticed it,” says Nigel Harra. “If you have a December year end then the first year where it is compulsory is December 31, 2015. But that means you need comparative figures for the year before. That year starts on January 1, 2014, so people do need to be aware of it and do need to plan ahead for certain aspects of it that could create an impact on their accounts that they might be surprised about.”

“One of the things that will have a big impact is that where company accounts have investment properties in them. In the past you were able to revalue that up and down into a revaluation reserve rather than through your profit and loss account. With the new standard any revaluation down or up goes straight to the profit and loss account so it will affect people’s posted results, it could affect bank covenants, bank facilities, the growth strategy of the business. It is something to think about.” Also, under FRS 102 deferred tax is recognised on valuations and fair value adjustments in a business combination. Maybeth Shaw comments: “Companies have to potentially provide for more deferred tax than they would have in the past, which could have an impact on the balance sheet. And we are still awaiting clarification from HMRC around how certain things will be treated, such as goodwill and intangible assets. The tax rules and accounting rules are not always aligned.”

When business hots up, we won’t let you down. We’re serious about business. That’s why we have the newest fleet of trucks on the road, and use the latest technology to get your oil delivered on time and in precisely the quantity ordered.

Get winter-ready call 02890 456 789 or visit Emo. Energy you can depend on.


The Northern Ireland Investment Conference brought together existing and prospective foreign direct investors in Belfast for a co-ordinated charm offensive. But was it a success? Symon Ross reports.


s PR exercises go, the Northern Ireland Investment Conference appeared to be something of a triumph. The conference – really a series of events which took place over 24 hours – was a slick, persuasive pitch designed to leave you feeling at the end of it that, yes, Northern Ireland is a great place to do business. It brought together 150 people from companies who were either existing or prospective investors in Northern Ireland to showcase the best of what we have to offer. The delegates were wooed with an exclusive dinner at Hillsborough Castle, a showy, hi-tech conference at Titanic Belfast and a reception at Stormont. In a competitive world for FDI, it helps to have a Prime Minister who is a PR expert leading the charge and giving a keynote speech in which he said he didn’t believe it undignified to act as a salesman for the “exciting economic story” that is Northern Ireland. David Cameron had obviously read the promotional pack given to delegates, reeling off with gusto impressive statistics about the number of aircraft seats and London buses made here, the growing success in capital markets technology and the established expertise in

18 NOVEMBER 2013

mobile quarrying equipment. He even gave a nod to portable defibrillator maker Heartsine having beaten him into the White House. Notwithstanding the fact that the PM was in Yorkshire a day earlier extolling its virtues as a great place to do business, and that he has to wax lyrical about all the UK regions with equal relish, it was a convincing performance. When he said Northern Ireland was a “destination of choice” for inward investment and urged delegates to be part of Northern Ireland’s “shared future” he seemed genuine. Of course the powers that be understood that the assembled international business people in the audience would know it was the job of the Prime Minister to talk up Northern Ireland, just as Peter Robinson, Martin McGuinness, Arlene Foster and Stephen Farry were always going to say how great we are. The smart thing was getting existing inward investors who’ve had a good experience to do the sales pitch for them. Yes, the cynic would say that of course they would be positive too – after all they get generous grant assistance and government support. And yes, the presenters were obviously well briefed to stay on message. But there was no hint of the fixed smile of your

average QVC presenter. These were not people who were being forced to sell something they didn’t really like. There were glowing endorsements from Bombardier President Pierre Beaudoin, who announced later as the Prime Minister officially opened the company’s CSeries aircraft factory that it plans to create another 250 jobs in Belfast. Allstate Vice President Suren Gupta then suggested the US insurance company had saved over $1bn in the last 15 years because of the cost savings created by being in Northern Ireland. And HBO’s Jay Roewe said the First and Deputy First Ministers had lobbied passionately to ensure Game of Thrones was filmed in the region and Northern Ireland helped make the hit fantasy series the success it is today. It was compelling stuff, albeit hard to measure at this stage in terms of what the tangible lasting payback will be of the outlay on all the razzle dazzle of the events. Invest NI ensured an optimistic mood was engineered in the run up to the conference with the announcement of 260 new jobs being created in Omagh by US-owned Terex Corporation.


And Alastair Hamilton, CEO of Invest NI, was upbeat heading into the event about what more could be achieved. “There are some firms here today who we have not been able to get into, who we’ve not been able to assess or present our story to and they are here on a purely speculative basis to hear the message on Northern Ireland,” he said. “We have a very stretching target to deliver 9,500 foreign direct investment jobs out of the 25,000 target over this four year period. We’re well on our way to do that. This conference is at a critical time for us half way through that programme and I believe it will jump start some new opportunities for us.” Mr Hamilton said that while it generally takes 12 to 18 months for projects to go from an initial conversation to jobs on the ground, some projects already underway “could come to fruition in the next four or five months”. The Invest NI chief understandably did not want to dwell on any negatives – such as dissident threats – that could undermine the conference, although he acknowledged there were still issues to be addressed in terms of skills, available office accommodation and corporation tax, which could influence investment decisions. However, existing investors at the conference preferred to focus on the advantages already at our disposal – such as our skilled workforce, competitive operating costs, advanced telecoms infrastructure, strong university links and generous financial assistance and support.

“THIS CONFERENCE IS AT a critical time for us and i believe it will jump start some new opportunities for us.” “We’re not here with the begging bowl out. We believe Northern Ireland can offer businesses an opportunity to reduce their costs, to satisfy their customers, to improve their quality and have a longevity here. Bombardier are a good example of that,” said Michael Ryan, vice president of Bombardier in Belfast. “There’s always this nervousness when you look at foreign investors that they’ll take advantage of whatever grants and assistance are available and then they’ll move on. Bombardier bought Shorts in 1989. There was no peace process to jump on the back of then. They’ve worked with us and invested £2bn in the business even before the latest £520m CSeries investment. We’ve got to be competitive, we’ve got to be able to deliver for them in terms of quality and customer satisfaction and obviously competitively in terms of cost as well. But we believe we can do that.” Andrew Brammer, head of operations in Belfast for magic circle law firm Allen & Overy, told Ulster Business that Northern Ireland needs to ensure it is on the radar of the specialist

companies which advised A&O when it was selecting the location for its legal processing centre, which now employs over 300 staff here. “If you’re not on the radar of those sorts of organisations then big swathes of opportunity will be bypassed and companies will never come here to have a look. This conference was absolutely a good thing to do. If you don’t do it, nobody else is going to do it for you,” he said. “It means you get the chance to shape potential investors’ thinking. If you’ve got something that makes Northern Ireland stick in their mind more than Budapest or Warsaw or Bangalore, then you’ve succeeded in your goal,” added Mr Brammer. “The message I gave to the conference was that it is possible to do a range of work here, both in terms of volume and complexity – for example the different types of finance and legal work we do here. I also told them they should have confidence in the labour pool here. We had 9,000 people apply for the 320 jobs we have in the centre, so for the most part we’re able to find what we want very quickly. To us the > The conference ended with a reception at Stormont

NOVEMBER 2013 19


PIERRE BEAUDOIN, President & CEO of Bombardier Aerospace

Prime Minister David Cameron is pictured with First Minister Peter Robinson, Michael Ryan from Bombardier and Pierre Baudoin, President and Chief Executive of Bombardier during a visit to the Bombardier factory.

labour pool looks pretty stable in the medium to long term, which means your cost base is under control.” Brammer said he believed that the more FDI investors who come into Northern Ireland, the better the talent that could be attracted back to the province because of improved career opportunities. It was a theme picked up by Karl May, CEO of Californian software firm Vello Systems, which set up shop in Belfast in March. He cites the quality of the people here as the main attraction and says Vello’s local office has grown at about three times the rate initially forecast. “We’re already at 25 people and we’ll probably have about 40 engineers by the end of the year. When we made the announcement we were predicting 70 people after three years but we may hit that number by the middle of next year if we can find the people,” he said. “What’s interesting is that for the skills that we’re looking for, there is a good base here. When Nortel and others came and went over the last 20 years they brought a lot of talent here to Belfast that had harder core software development skills. That is a great source of the sort of skills we want,” he added. “If you look at Silicon Valley, which is probably the best example in the world, when you build a core of talent, that pulls in others, it really becomes a magnet to entice more and more people to come here.” Craig Rinehardt is executive vice president for global operations at Japanese owned life sciences technology firm Terumo BCT, which announced an expansion and 417 new jobs in Larne over the summer. He similarly believes the more successful the region is, the higher the talent draw and the more everyone will benefit. “We’ve had a good track record of attracting and retaining high quality people. We’re a very metric driven organisation and quite frankly if the site didn’t achieve its metrics we wouldn’t

20 NOVEMBER 2013

be doing the investment we’re doing because cost quality is key for us. But this site consistently meets and exceeds the expectations I have for it,” he said. “We have a good foundation of the solutions sterilization business that’s here and now as we start to get more into the assembly, the bag sealing operations, we’re bringing in different technologies and actually transferring a very large product line out of our Japan factory to Northern Ireland. That’s another part of the expansion to a second facility.” Contact centre operators Teleperformance have been in Northern Ireland for about 15 years and Alistair Niederer, chief executive for UK, Ireland and South Africa, said for them too, the main attraction is the people here. “The key for what we deliver here for our clients and their customers is the attitude of the people, the ability to adapt really quickly. That’s important because we run some really important lines for government and private enterprise where we need to skill up quickly and get numbers in, for example in adverse weather or during pandemic situations. For our general customers the adaptability is key. The attitude people display on the phone, their ability to learn, their good grace and humour,” he said. “Northern Ireland ranks right up there with the best because of the empathy people create in conversations, whether on voice or social media. The way the customer service industry is now, you are a valuable part of the centricity that clients are looking at for their customers. It is a customer service industry, it’s not a call centre industry, not even a contact centre industry.” You’d like to think that out of such positive references from high profile cheerleaders like these, some good would come. Invest NI was a closed book on the identities of the potential investors in the room but by the first quarter of 2014 it must be hoped that the big ticket job announcements are beginning to flow.

“I would strongly recommend Northern Ireland as a good place to do business and a good place in which to grow that business. Every time I visit Belfast I feel that we have made the right decision to acquire Shorts. Bombardier in Belfast has grown to become one of the world’s top aerospace design and manufacturing facilities.”

SUREN GUPTA, Executive Vice president of Allstate “Our offices in Northern Ireland have played a key role in our success so far. As a result of us being here over the last 15 years we have saved the company more than a billion dollars. Every time we open our doors to work every day in Northern Ireland we save half a million dollars, and that is something that we don’t take lightly.”

JAY ROEWE, Senior Vice President at HBO “The success of HBO’s Game of Thrones is in large part due to our presence and the collaboration with the people here in Northern Ireland. The reason we at HBO think it’s successful is because there’s a special relationship here with the people of Northern Ireland. In many ways I don’t think Game of Thrones would have been as successful if we were shooting some place else. This is a true partnership.”


Lifting the lid on Venture Capital


he term ‘Venture Capital’ can be misleading. The media seem to use it to describe everything from seed funding for start-ups, to substantial investments in well-established businesses. These are of course very different, not just in the way investment deals are structured and managed, but in the assessment of risk and the techniques by which companies are analysed and valued. We think early-stage venture investing is by far the most exciting part of the spectrum. It is all about finding, investing in and supporting committed people with bright ideas, who want to create growth businesses. The risks are high, not least because many of these companies are breaking new ground, but the ones which do succeed can provide substantial benefits to the community and high returns to investors. E-Synergy has been investing in early-stage companies for more than ten years. During that time we have invested, directly, more than £60m from our funds and private investors and also helped companies to raise over £100m from other sources. We have a growing investment portfolio of over 70 companies, which we manage from offices in London, Belfast, Nottingham and Newcastle. But we don’t just provide cash – useful though that is – we also run support and mentoring programmes aimed at helping companies to raise investment and to use it effectively in growing their businesses. As you would expect, our teams are made up of highly experienced investment professionals. However, unlike some other venture capitalists, most of our people also have personal experience of running early-stage companies and have learned, the hard way, the particular issues facing businesses at this stage in their evolution and what they need to achieve commercial success. We are always on the look-out for bright people. Our Open Evening is an opportunity for you to meet us, to find out more about the world of earlystage investing and to explore whether this is something you would like to consider as a career. There will be short presentations on our activities and the opportunity to quiz people who have worked on both sides of the fence – as investors and as managers of companies receiving investment. We look forward to meeting you at our Open Evening. You don’t need to have experience of early-stage investing, just a genuine interest in the possibility of your career going in this direction. You can find details of E-Synergy on our website, and we will try to answer all your questions – the more difficult the better!

NOVEMBER 2013 21


From Ulster to Ulaanbaatar Exporting to Mongolia, the world’s fastest growing emerging market, could provide a big opportunity for local companies, writes Richard Holmes, Honorary Consul of Mongolia in Northern Ireland.


he choice of Mongolia as an export market for Northern Ireland companies is not one that may obviously spring to mind, however the Central Asian state has recently been ranked by the “Economist” magazine as one of the world’s fastest growing economies. Situated between Russia and China and with a population of almost three million, Mongolia has undergone a truly remarkable transformation since the fall of communism in the early 1990s. Coupled with the subsequent transition to a stable multi party democracy, Mongolian economic growth is now projected to exceed 18% in 2013 alone. This significant forecast by the Economist reflects an increasing upward trend in economic activity within Mongolia that has witnessed continued double digit growth in recent years. The key to the Mongolian economic miracle lies underground. Mongolia is a treasure trove of natural resources in the metals and minerals sector, with the resultant wealth arising from substantial new mining projects now generating an ever increasing demand not only for industrial and commercial products but also for

24 NOVEMBER 2013

consumer goods and services. Exploitation of copper and gold resources in one particularly significant mining project, Oyu Tolgoi, has been identified as the key driver for Mongolian economic growth in the years ahead. Located in vast expanses of the arid South Gobi region and close to the main market in China, Oyu Tolgoi will become fully operational in 2013 as one of the world’s largest copper mines. Agriculture is the other mainstay of the Mongolian economy with animal husbandry, rather than crop production, being the main focus of agricultural output. More than one third of the population still follow a traditional nomadic lifestyle moving with their herds of sheep, goats, camels, cattle and yak across the vast steppes that make Mongolia in overall terms, a country seven times larger in land area than the British Isles. It is the humble goat in Mongolia however, that produces the most valuable product, with fine quality Mongolian cashmere being in significant demand worldwide both as a raw material for the garment industry and as finished articles from luxury brands such as Gobi Cashmere.

Tourism too is an expanding industry with the unique heritage and culture of this Buddhist nation making Mongolia a popular destination for travellers, especially those stopping over on the epic train journey from Moscow to Beijing. In recent years over 7,000 British tourists have visited Mongolia annually, a figure that is likely to grow further given the expanding opportunities for eco tourism. Unlike larger export markets such as China which can involve visits to multiple locations, doing business in Mongolia is logistically much more straightforward with virtually all commercial activity centred in the capital city Ulaanbaatar. What was once a byword for the very essence of a remote city, Ulaanbaatar or “UB” as it is commonly known, has been totally transformed by the ongoing economic boom. With construction cranes filling the skyline, chic boutiques and foreign restaurants now cater to an increasingly expanding Mongolian middle class and visiting foreign investors alike. With a stream of other mining projects due to come on stream in the near future including the Tavan Tolgoi coal deposit, some commentators contend that Mongolia could evolve into the next Qatar or Brunei, a country with a relatively small population supported by substantial wealth based on natural resources. The inclusion of Mongolia as the next target market for Northern Ireland exporters is worthy of consideration particularly amongst those companies already experienced in supplying other Asian markets including China. Although not a current proposition in Northern Ireland, a number of other UK regions already run a dedicated trade mission to Mongolia or alternatively a joint mission visiting Mongolia combined with another market, typically China. With 2013 representing the 50th anniversary of diplomatic relations between the governments of Mongolia and the United Kingdom, Mongolia looks set to confirm its place as a key emerging market for the UK business sector and its attractiveness as a potential export market for Northern Ireland businesses should not be overlooked. Richard Holmes as the inaugural Honorary Consul of Mongolia in Northern Ireland. For further information Richard can be contacted in the first instance by email at

Public Sector


Are the new Local Government Councils important for business? John Simpson takes a look ahead at the implications for the business community when the 11 new super councils agreed in the Review of Public Administration are formed next year.


he 11 new local government Councils will be elected next May on the same day as the European parliament elections. The Councillors will be elected with interim responsibility to plan to be able to function fully from 1 April 2015. Then the new councils will assume full responsibility for the increased range of functions to be delegated to them from the Stormont administration. The radical realignment of local government is much more than a simple merger to reduce the 26 current District Councils to only 11. The wider functional responsibilities will have much larger repercussions, some of which have not yet been adequately recognised. Whilst the current local government framework has only a small impact on the world of business and employment, the restructured framework will have clear consequences for private sector and community organisations. The explanatory statement for the Local Government Bill, currently going through the legislative processes, contains an interesting statement which merits careful reflection. It says that the Bill “does not contain any provisions that will result in an increased or adverse impact on businesses... or the community or voluntary sector.”

26 NOVEMBER 2013

Of course, the Bill is worded as a rulebook, or guide, to the functioning of local government. In that sense, the Bill is positive but neutral in its impact. The Bill is designed to secure good governance, linked to agreed standards of good conduct by Councillors (and in council decision making), linked to over-riding objectives of improved community planning and regard for the well-being of citizens. However, the wider scope for local government policy making will, necessarily, be of interest to all the residents of each local government area including the businesses located there. In the reorganised local government, reshaped by the newly elected councillors, after April 2014, there would be an important benefit if the range of expertise available in the Council Chambers was much wider than has been in evidence currently. The optimists will be hopeful that the delegated responsibilities for planning decisions, community planning, local economic development, business start-ups, social enterprise, and aspects of tourism and leisure development will make the Council arena much more constructive. The pessimists will worry that the wider and more demanding range of responsibilities may be inadequately delivered in traditional negative,

orange and green, Northern Ireland politics. Conversely, the argument needs to be made that becoming an elected Councillor will become a more important influence on local developments and that, therefore, the expectation is that candidates will be drawn from a broader community base and will include a diverse range of professional, vocational and community related representatives. In anticipation of the new arrangements, there are critical issues which have yet to be fully understood. At least, two groups of questions stand out. First, will the proposed governance framework be efficient in managing debate and decision making? Second, has the list of delegated functions been selected to encourage innovative positive management? GOVERNANCE The newly elected Councils, if the Bill is approved as now drafted, will consider one of two alternative forms of administration. Some may opt for a Committee system where Committees deliberate and make recommendations to the full Council. Others may opt for a system where the Council creates a ‘cabinet-style’ executive which has delegated


authority and reports its decisions to the full Council. Decision making will normally be by simple majority on an issue. However, there is provision for rules that specify that on some issues a qualified majority may be required. The procedures to determine when a qualified majority may be required and the weight of the qualifying numbers will be a critical injection which, once accepted, may be a force for stability. Whichever system is preferred, the Councils will be operating under rules which ensure that there is sharing of posts of responsibility amongst the parties represented on the Council, including scope for involved Councillors elected as independents. The Local Government Bill is written, for this reader, with an implicit preference for the creation of cabinet-style executive structures. The cabinet-style executive format may be counterbalanced by two further devices. First, neither the Council Chair nor Vice-Chair would sit on the Executive. Their role would be one step removed from day-to-day executive decisions. Second, the Bill envisages the creation of a strong system of scrutiny committees with an ability to challenge the Executive and gain access to adequate information to test the merits of various decisions. DELEGATED FUNCTIONS The responsibilities for the new Councils are extensive. Some of them bring real decision

“There has been little publicity for any calculation of the amount of funding to be transferred to local authorities.” making challenges affecting the well-being of the local community. To the disappointment of some local stakeholders, the Councils will not gain any delegated authority for house building, roads or public transport. New to the agenda of local government is a responsibility for community planning linked to a power of general competence. The ambition to devise social, economic and environmental plans that can be effective will be a critical test of innovation and enterprise. This will have to be done with statutory co-operation but without a power to compel other agencies. This may prove to be an area where ambition runs ahead of practical delivery. An early and critical responsibility will be the assumption of power to decide most planning applications. There will be exceptions for major applications and a reserved power for DoE to ‘call-in’ specific applications. However, memories of the pre-1972 system, which was often regarded as showing why local government

needed to be reformed, have now been forgotten. Councils, and Councillors, will be much more professionally accountable in 2015 than in 1971. For the business community, there is an important test for the new Councils as they take responsibility for local economic development and encouraging business start-ups. The existing local enterprise agencies will be looking to the Councils to make their impact stronger. However, there will be rules about the degree to which Councils can offer financial support to new businesses and also a tension in the impact of these functions on the Council budgets. The new Council structures make provision for the Councils to co-opt non-elected people to the emerging committees. The business organisations, looking after the interests of the economy, will now be expected to encourage more business people to stand for election or, when asked, to be prepared to be co-opted. Local Government should not be vulnerable to a description as a cold-house for business. A critical issue as the new structures evolve will emerge from decisions about the allocation of costs. There has been little publicity for any calculation of the amount of funding to be transferred to local authorities and how it will be managed. In simple format, this could be done by allocating a portion of the regional rate into the district council rate. That may be an easy concept but there can be expected to be a claim of underfunding when the eleven new bodies make estimates about their new responsibilities. To help ease the initial functioning, the planned new formal partnership between Stormont departments and the Councils may need to be put into action at an earlier date than currently envisaged. The next 18 months will be a critical test of motivation, good-will and political co-operation.

NOVEMBER 2013 27


Collaboration the key to SME procurement Intertrade Ireland CEO Thomas Hunter McGowan says more firms could tender for public service contracts if they were prepared to work with a partner.


mall and medium sized businesses across the island of Ireland should consider teaming up and working together in order to win lucrative contracts in the public sector, according to the head of cross border agency InterTradeIreland. InterTradeIreland supports SMEs across the island to identify and develop North/South trade and innovation opportunities. While tenders for contracts in the public sector are often too daunting for a smaller company to bid for on their own, success can be achieved in partnership with other firms, said Thomas Hunter McGowan “SMEs are small by nature but public contracts are getting bigger and bigger and there is a drive towards aggregation because with aggregation you generally get lower costs,” he said. “One of the things we’re trying to do is to get companies to collaborate. Even if they are bitter rivals in day to day life, for a public service contract they should definitely consider joining forces and winning extra business. That is not going to take away from their normal day to day activities.” Mr Hunter McGowan, a native of Donegal, has experience in both the public and private

28 NOVEMBER 2013

sectors and acknowledges that companies will naturally be cautious about any such moves. “There is a general reluctance among SMEs to share what they have with their neighbours, there’s always a fear factor there. You have to be careful with partnerships and maybe it would need a company from the north and south who are not direct competitors,” he said. “But the key is that they collaborate to win the contract and then worry about the rest of it. It can be done in small steps too, you don’t have to give away all your trade secrets in a contract. You can start small and then move it on once trust has been built up between those companies.” InterTrade has been stepping up its efforts to help companies in Northern Ireland and the Republic procure contracts from the public sector in other jurisdiction. It has taken 180 companies through its Go2Tender training programme and held a series of Meet the Buyer events, where companies got the chance to sit down with 50 key public sector decision makers to find out how to tender successfully, both through the Central Procurement Directorate in the north and the National Procurement Service in the south. The CEO says one company recently secured

a contract worth €9m and attributed much of the success in winning it to Go2Tender. He also believes the Small Business Research Initiative (SBRI) initiative introduced by the Technology Strategy Board and DETI last year is beginning to “open the door to new and innovative thinking” where problem solving is concerned in the public sector. “People often know they have a problem but they don’t know how to fix it and it has been the practice that if the public service has a problem, they try to come up with a solution and then they tender for that solution. If it doesn’t work out it could be that it is the wrong solution in the first place,” he added. “With SBRI you are seeing a real mix of people with problems and problem solvers coming together and we think the public procurement process should be moving in that direction as well. That would encourage people who are innovative to come forward and suggest a solution that nobody has even thought about.” STRATEGIC PLAN Mr Hunter McGowan, who was appointed CEO of InterTradeIreland in July last year, would appear to have the perfect blend of experience for the role.


He has worked in the public sector for sixteen years and for eighteen years in the private sector, with more than 22 years of top management experience in strategic management, finance, and corporate governance since starting his career with Donegal County Council.   He led Swansea Cork Ferries Ltd profitably as Managing Director for 18 years, bringing on average 150,000 tourists to the region, directly employing 200 people and supporting a further 600 jobs. His exit from that business shows him to be a man who is not afraid to take tough decisions. With Sterling weak and the price of oil rising, he saw there was no future in the service and set about closing the business down in a way that meant all his creditors were paid off and he “could walk down the street without being accosted”. “The big issue was to do it cleanly. It was very difficult because it meant laying off all the staff, including myself, but it was the best thing to do and the right thing to do,” he said. “Two years after I closed it another company set up to try to restart it – they lasted 18 months and lost €13m.” In 2008 he moved to local government in Kildare as Director of Finance and Town Manager of Newbridge Town Council, where he was a key member in the Local Government Efficiency Review Group which published its report in 2010 which identified savings and efficiencies of over €500m. Fittingly, the Intertrade CEO has a keen interest in innovation and is currently pursuing academic research on the subject that is in tune with the organisation’s own goal as an incubator for Enterprise Ireland and Invest NI. “We see the way forward as innovation and exports, those are the ways companies will grow and we’ve done research on the characteristics of exporting companies. Over 70% of all companies that export from the island of Ireland had their first experience of exporting on a North / South basis,” he comments. “Trading in your own market can only go so far, so a lot of companies are now looking to see where else they can go. It is a safe option going north or south in the sense that the costs are low and you don’t really have to invest a huge amount in infrastructure and staff. “Once people get into the mould of trading north / south they often very quickly go for the GB market full on and then it’s only a few steps to go to America or Asia.” He believes that while challenges remain for businesses, not least access to finance and the ongoing squeeze on public finances, there is some reason for optimism again, citing Intertrade’s quarterly business monitor survey, which showed in the first two quarters of 2013 that companies were no longer planning to reduce staff levels. “We’ve got to the point now where we can say with a certain level of confidence that unemployment has peaked. That doesn’t necessarily mean employment has come back, but at least the downward spiral has stopped. We’re now hopeful of seeing some growth,” he said. Intertrade itself has just finished its corporate plan for 2014 to 2016 and, with a tight budget of £10m, will be focusing on the programmes that can bring short term wins. They include the Fusion programme – which places a graduates with firms who need particular skills; the Challenge programme – which helps management teams find innovative ideas to commercialise; and its aforementioned public procurement programmes. “We’re a connector – whether that’s a graduate with a company, a consultant with a company or a company with another company,” said the CEO. “You hear people say it’s not personal, it’s just business. But all business is personal. Generally you only do business with people you like doing business with, so connecting people and forming those networks is very important.”

A costly case of mistaken identity Celia Worthington highlights how a simple error ended up costing a housing association dearly.


recent Court of Appeal decision has highlighted the care that needs to be taken when completing insurance proposal forms. Genesis Housing Association Limited, an English housing association providing homes across London and the South East of England, unsuccessfully appealed against a decision that it could not recover under an insurance policy in circumstances where the builder had gone into administration because the proposal form had been incorrectly completed. The facts of the case are quite simply that the insurance proposal form completed on behalf of the housing association named the wrong builder. It named a company in the builder’s group of companies but not the company that was actually carrying out the building work. The policy was to provide cover in respect of latent defects emerging during the first ten years of the construction of the houses and, as an optional extra, offered cover against the risk of the builder becoming insolvent during the construction period. The building company carrying out the building work subsequently went into administration and, when Genesis claimed on the policy, the insurance company refused to pay out because the wrong building company was stated in the proposal form. The proposal form included a ‘basis of contract’ declaration to the effect that “this proposal and the statements made therein shall form the basis of the contract between me/us and the Insurer”. The Court held that this declaration had contractual effect and, as such, all statements in the form were “warranties” on which the insurance contract was based. Genesis argued that the error in the form was inadvertent, there had been no intent to defraud and that there was a comprehensive list of documents referred to in the policy that had made no reference to the proposal form. These arguments did not persuade the Judges either in the High Court or the Court of Appeal. The Appeal Judges held that where there is a ‘basis of contract’ declaration such as in this case in a form completed by the insured in connection with the policy, to deprive same from having contractual effect, the contract must specifically stipulate this. The mere omission of the form from the list of documents stated in the policy was insufficient to deprive the proposal form from having contractual effect. The Courts held that the insurance policy was void. This case obviously had profound effects for Genesis and is an important reminder to those involved in the construction industry that they must ensure that insurance related forms are correctly completed and accurately identify the contracting parties.

Celia Worthington, Senior Partner of the commercial department of Worthingtons Solicitors, Belfast office can be contacted on The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

NOVEMBER 2013 29


Reform: what’s on the agenda?

The need for Public Sector Reform has become Finance Minister Simon Hamilton’s mantra since he took ministerial office, but what does he actually want to see happen? Symon Ross met him at Stormont to find out.


overnment departments and public sector bodies will have to axe services that don’t produce results as budget cuts imposed by Westminster start to bite in the next few years, according to Finance Minister Simon Hamilton. Speaking to Ulster Business the day after delivering the first of what will be an annual Budget-style statement following the October monitoring round, the Minister said reforming the public sector could no longer be about reprioritising spending but would require tough decisions and innovative thinking. The part of his address that raised eye-brows were the forecasts that departmental resource budgets at Stormont could be cut by 10.4% in real terms by 2017/18. Mr Hamilton told Ulster Business reductions in current budgets each year could put pressure on day to day expenditure on essential services like running schools and hospitals. “You either come at it from the perspective of ‘we’ve less money so we’re going to provide less’ – which I don’t think we’d get away with – or you take a critical look at some services and ask ‘are those services working, are they providing the outcomes we desire’ and if they’re not departments should be asking themselves should we provide them?” he said. “We haven’t got the money any more to squander on providing services that aren’t working.” Public sector reform is the issue Hamilton has focused on most since succeeding his DUP colleague Sammy Wilson as Finance Minister at

30 NOVEMBER 2013

“It is not about turning the public sector into a business, it is about us being much more business like.” the end of July. He believes that while it has been difficult for departments in recent years, Northern Ireland has yet to feel the full force of the Coalition government’s austerity policies – something that will change as Chancellor George looks to achieve his goal of running a budget surplus by 2020 by reducing resource expenditure as tax receipts rise in an improving economy. “The platform is not burning but it looks like it could catch fire. If you compare us to the Irish Republic, their platform is on fire so they’re having to reform. But they don’t have time to reform in the right way, they’re having to cut very quickly. But I can see five years down the line where pressure is really going to hit us and we’ve got to start thinking about what we’re going to do now to avoid that,” he said. REFORM DIVISION To shape the transformation agenda Hamilton has formed a unit called the Public Sector Reform Division within the Department for Finance and Personnel. Its aim is to provide support to Northern Ireland departments in the implementation of

reform across the public sector and to encourage innovation in service delivery by identifying and sharing best practice. Responsibility for planning and implementing reforms will remain with departments but the Minister says the Division will not just be a toothless tiger or a talking shop. “We are the department that has the money. Reform always requires some investment up front so it’s good for departments to work with us from the outset,” he said. Colin Sullivan, formerly of DSD, is heading up the new division and it has been questioned in some quarters whether installing someone from a public sector background to reform the public sector will really engender change. “I’ve heard the argument that we should have had someone from the private sector heading this up and I can see superficially why that might appear to be a good idea. But the risk of that is the person would not have an understanding of how the public sector works and might take the view that, this is the way we do it in business, this is how you should do it here,” the Minister said. “We have different rules and standards and


there’s politics involved. Politics can frustrate people from the private sector. I think it needs someone with a private sector approach but a public services background. It is not about turning the public sector into a business, it is about us being much more business like.” One of the Division’s projects will be to look at the potential of using social investment models and payments by results contracts. Hamilton sees potential for such contracts in health, social development and justice. “Instead of paying for failure, which is what we have been doing sometimes, we’d start to pay for success. We construct contracts in such a way that the company or charity or social enterprise who are delivering for you only get paid when they hit certain measured outcomes,” he explained. “People are critical of government because they are paying a fortune in taxes and rates every year and they are seeing, in many cases, minimal change in the standard of the services that are being delivered. That doesn’t have to be the way. It will require a complete mindset change within departments, but the role of the division is to champion that change.” Having visited the OECD’s public service innovation observatory in Paris as well as Estonia, Denmark and Wales, Hamilton says there is a lot of “best practice” that Northern Ireland can draw on out there. “When I’ve visited other countries or parts of the UK, one of the things that is reassuring is that everybody is grappling with the same issues that we’re grappling with. We’re not

doing this in isolation, other states are dealing with cut budgets, less resource expenditure, the public demanding more for less. If you look at comparable states like Wales, the Nordic countries, what they are doing to solve those problems probably has more of a read across to Northern Ireland than Germany does or Italy or UK government nationally,” he said. Plans are underway to emulate a Danish unit to which civil servants are encouraged to take ideas for improvement to be tested, scaled up and potentially rolled out across government. “Some of the best reforms are going to come from lower levels within government. But often you hear from civil servants that they don’t feel comfortable taking ideas to their superiors or they don’t have time to take it forward, they don’t want to take a risk. So you have to almost create a physical environment for them to go to,” said Hamilton. The Minister also expects procurement – an area that has been the subject of many less than successful reforms – to feature heavily in the Division’s remit. “I want to use the £3bn we spend every year on goods and services to be generating more opportunities for the companies delivering those services to be creative,” said Hamilton. “If you have a problem how do you use the power of the public purse to solve that problem. If that problem is solved by a local company then that company can sell that product or service elsewhere and it starts to grow their business. So instead of the public sector being a benign purchaser of goods and services it

becomes an enabler for economic growth. The best area that can happen in is probably local government.” After the Review of Public Administration, 11 new super councils with extended powers will be operational by 2015, and the Minister believes they can use those powers innovatively, particularly in capital infrastructure investment. He notes that unlike Stormont, the councils are not constrained in terms of borrowing and could conceivably go to the European Investment Bank for funding, raise bonds and use Tax Increment Financing or other innovative financial instruments. “If you’re a council and you have regeneration powers, power of community planning, you are the planning authority, there’s no reason if you wanted to shape your council area better that you couldn’t go out and look at those instruments. They might not be appropriate but we want to get them at least thinking that way,” he said. Hamilton believes that with better collaboration within the public sector, a lot of reforms can be set in motion sooner rather than later. “I don’t expect the public sector’s contribution to the economy or the number of people it employs to drop drastically over the next number of years,” he added. “Our strong public sector has been something of a cushion over the last number of years but I think the message is now that it is going to be continually under threat so we have to be innovative and creative to deliver services.”

Delivering public service reform

By Jackie Henry, CBI NI Public Service Reform Committee Chair

report, Time for Action, entitled Moving Up A Gear. The report had, as one of its five key recommendations for public and private sector partnership, the creation of a Northern Ireland Efficiency and Reform-type organisation. The Efficiency and Reform model, embedded within the Cabinet Office in London, was brought in by the current Coalition Government in 2010. The main aims of the body would be two-fold:


he announcement of a Public Service Reform Division within the Department of Finance and Personnel by the new Finance Minister at a CBI breakfast in August is seen as a major step forward by the business community. In April this year, we published a stocktake report of our 2010 public services

• Making government more efficient by reducing operational overheads to give taxpayers better value and allow resources to be focused on key priorities and; • Radically reforming how public services are provided to ensure they meet rising public expectations – using transparency to improve accountability, delivering more integrated services and shifting power to people. Further, our view is that such a body would act as an internal consultancy and

would need experienced staff that had strong commercial skills and experience, good listening and analytical skills, practical financial skills and appropriate strategic skills. This body would also collaborate with Private and Voluntary sectors in exploring delivery innovation and pulling through valuable experience and insight. Since Minister Hamilton’s initial statement, we have been further encouraged by much of the additional detail and direction that he has provided on the Reform Division and its initial programme of work. Being innovative in service delivery by looking to use new models like co-operatives, by looking to deliver public services in a more cost effective and efficient manner, by looking for means to enhance collaboration between government departments, by looking to the example of others, like the OECD, as a means to guide how we take forward reform in Northern Ireland – these are all examples of the refreshing attitude to reform that the Minister exhibits. A reform programme to which the CBI can give its full support.

NOVEMBER 2013 31

Self-funded insurance An alternative option for Public and Private sector organisations?


ack in the early 1990’s Jack McIlduff (now Managing Director of RSA Insurance Northern Ireland Ltd) pioneered the concept of nonconventional (self-funded) insurance programmes for large organisations. This type of proposition was established in response to high liability premiums that left many insurance customers feeling they were paying for the poor Health & Safety records of other organisations. From these early beginnings, RSA Insurance now works with a large number of clients to help them manage the cost/risk of Employers and Public/Products Liability, while at the same time focusing on reducing the number and severity of incidents within their operations. Funded accounts are now commonplace for medium-large customers in both the public and private sector and act as a form of self-insurance for these organisations.

Far from being mysterious, vague or confusing, self-funded insurance is straightforward and makes practical and commercial sense. So what are the main points and benefits of this approach? First of all let’s remind ourselves of the core purpose of insurance. Essentially it exists to protect your assets, to compensate you in the event of a loss, to control the cost of legal liabilities, to transfer risks you do not want to accept and to avoid sleepless nights! The normal process goes as follows; you pay a premium to an insurer, you leave them to deal with the claims, you get agitated when claims arise and you get even more agitated when the insurance company considers paying third party claims. In basic terms, you want to transfer the risk to an insurer but retain control of the claims management. All of this begs the question – How do you transfer risk but keep control? The solution might just lie in ‘Non-Conventional Insurance Programmes’.

Taking this approach allows your organisation to share the risk with the insurer and it also allows you to participate in claims reviews. You work together with your insurer to agree a suitable claims management strategy. So what are the benefits of taking this approach? Firstly, it reduces costs and avoids money swapping as you only pay the insurance premium for the risk beyond your excess/retention limit. Secondly, it allows you to regain considerable control of claims. Thirdly, it allows you to create a fund to introduce effective Risk Management. New money is not required to do this; rather cash comes from savings on IPT, interest on claims cash reserves and surplus claims reserves. Fourthly, as the policy holder, your organisation benefits immediately from risk improvement through early investment from those funds saved (as opposed to the conventional insurance basis on which insurers may eventually reduce terms after the risk improves). In summary, a non-conventional self-insured product is appropriate for organisations that have frequent claims of a lesser value and are forward thinking. Organisations that are interested in accepting risk but want to improve the position going forward. Organisations who wish to benefit directly from an improved claims experience with cost benefits. After an appropriate time, which can vary, but normally after three years (or alternatively when all the claims are settled) arrangements are made to close off the outstanding claims or potential outstanding liabilities. The Insurer agrees a premium and this removes the outstanding financial liabilities from the organisation’s balance sheet and transfers them to the Insurer. In the current financial climate every organisation is focused on saving costs and finding ways of staying competitive in a difficult market place. I believe the best approach is to work in partnership with clients to create customised insurance solutions that deliver for them in areas such as Commercial Motor, Property, Engineering and Professional & Financial Risks. Non-Conventional Insurance Programmes offer another means of working with clients to identify the ‘right’ solution for them – one that reduces cost, increases control and delivers improvements in systems and risks.

Vincent McIvor is Head of Commercial Lines Sales and Development at RSA Insurance NI. He can be contacted by telephone on 028 9032 0190 or by email at

The OKT Partner Team are (from left): Iain McCabe, Brian Kennedy, Ross Sweeney, Brian Turtle and Mark Patterson.

OKT celebrates 20 years in business


ne of Northern Ireland’s leading commercial property consultants, O’Connor Kennedy Turtle (OKT) is celebrating its 20th year in business. Established in 1993 by partners Tony O’Connor, Brian Kennedy and Brian Turtle, OKT is a specialist commercial property consultancy focusing on acquisition and disposal of retail units, industrial / warehousing space, offices / business space and land throughout the UK and Ireland, together with the complimentary services of asset management and professional services. Uniquely, OKT is the only agency in the sector with both Belfast city centre and provincial offices ensuring clients can benefit from hands-on experience and knowledge throughout Northern Ireland. The company has also enjoyed remarkable stability during the past two decades with its founding partner team still at the helm and guiding the business going forward. OKT has grown significantly and now boasts a total of over 200 years of experience in commercial property consultancy. OKT Partner Brian Turtle said: “We are very

proud to meet the 20-year milestone at a time when the local economy is returning to growth. Commercial property is an important indicator of the economic performance of the region and we have seen a noticeable rise in transactional activity in most sectors especially in the business space and development land sectors. With an increasingly skilled workforce in technology, pharmacy and biomedical sectors and with affordable occupational costs, we believe Northern Ireland is well-placed to attract sizeable investment. “Overall, with the construction sector now out of recession and registering growth, we are confident that better times for the economy lie ahead.” Over the years OKT has been associated with large-scale projects such as: • Assembly of development sites for retail parks in Derry, Craigavon and Bangor. • Development consultancy and sale of Northern Ireland’s largest housing land transaction at Lisburn. • Consultancy in respect of retail and leisure scheme at Junction One in Antrim including lettings to Asda, M&S and Omniplex.

• Consultancy services to University of Ulster in respect of their new £150m Belfast city centre campus and ongoing developments in Derry and Coleraine. Mark Patterson added: “OKT has assisted clients through both recessionary and boom periods. At this phase in the economic cycle, we are working alongside expanding local companies and also larger multinationals seeking to invest in the region. We are also attempting to advise on work-out solutions for distressed building projects which have been casualties of the ‘fall-out’ of the housing crisis.” To help mark this major milestone in the development of the company, OKT are rolling out a stylish new website and branding update. Brian Kennedy said: “As a company we constantly look at innovative new ways to develop and broaden our service portfolio. As part of this renewal process we have added significantly to our senior team and are now rolling out a new website and branding design. We look forward to strengthening our position in the local market and supporting local firms as they seek to grow their businesses in the years ahead.”

For further information about OKT and its services log onto or call the Belfast Office on 028 9024 8181 or the Northern Office on 028 7034 4244

Building a future, one layer at a time MATRIX panel member and materials technologist at Seagate Technology Rob Hardeman discusses the importance of Advanced Materials to the Northern Ireland economy.


ome might say the MATRIX report published in 2008 was ahead of its time in setting the local agenda for Advanced Materials as a key enabler for economic growth. “Building a Future, One Layer at a Time” is very much what we do in Derry~Londonderry – a global high-technology business uses some of the most advanced materials and nano-scale manufacturing techniques that you can find anywhere on our Earth to produce the “heart of the hard drive”. Seagate Technology is a world leading provider of devices to store, protect and share the world’s digital creations, working in a market where demand for storage continues to grow dramatically, powered by the needs of mobile data, video and “The Internet of Things”. By 2020 the quantity of digital information stored could exceed 40 zettabytes, (40 billion terabytes) around ten times today’s figure [IDC/ EMC, 2012]. MATRIX reports, such as the recent one on Telecoms, continue to identify the critical place this digital arena will have in building Northern Ireland’s future prosperity across sectors from the creative industry to financial services and law. In this City of Culture year we have been fortunate to see much of this opportunity reflected in the digital strand, bringing some of the world’s thought leaders in fields as diverse as animation, artificial intelligence, robotics and social networking to our city to inspire us to create a valuable and long-term legacy. Our Springtown facility is celebrating its own twentieth anniversary this year and has grown to be the largest fabrication site – commonly known as a “wafer fab” – for magnetic read-write heads in the world. Today, in any hard disk drive in your laptop, DVR box or the data centre powering the cloud there is a one in four chance that the head was made in Springtown. We have invested over £1bn in some of the most technically demanding equipment, comparable to that used by the manufacturers of the leading-edge integrated circuits. In a 24/7 365 day a year clean-room operation over 1,300 staff are employed to produce more than a million heads every day. Each year the site contributes over £70m to the Northern Ireland economy Advanced materials processing is often energy-intensive; sustainable, secure and costeffective sources of energy are key to many manufacturing activities such as ours and we welcome the continued attention MATRIX is paying to that topic. The success of our industry and our site

34 NOVEMBER 2013

depends on the continued availability of talented and focused individuals with expertise in STEM subjects (Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths), a priority reflected in all of MATRIX’s work. It is essential to present young people with as wide a range of options as possible and to that end Seagate has worked with many local agencies to build an ambitious educational outreach programme and strong relationships with schools. A combination of an annual STEM conference, work placements, student and teacher mentoring and school visits reaches more than 1,200 students each year. Seagate CultureTech Junior demonstrated the great appetite for STEM with over 5,000 schoolchildren attending over two days in September. The partnerships we have built with Northern Ireland’s two universities are strong and mutually beneficial and in combination with excellent support by Invest NI have resulted in a substantial increase of Seagate Research & Development activities, based both within the universities and at the Springtown plant. Over the last five years this has enabled us to support entire drive programmes throughout their entire

life cycle working with our design centres in Asia. Innovation is at the heart of all we do and we are fully in support of raising awareness of Intellectual Assets as identified by the recent MATRIX report on that subject. All businesses of whatever size need to recognise the true value of their human and knowledge capital for their continuing success. As we ourselves move towards the next generation of hard disk drive technology – Heat Assisted Magnetic Recording or HAMR – which will integrate optical components into the read-write process, we will again demonstrate that Northern Ireland can address the ongoing advanced materials challenges. We hope that the experiences we have enjoyed – and continue to enjoy in Derry~Londonderry – will inspire other global companies to follow our lead and invest in a location which is ready to do international business. MATRIX Panel member, materials technologist Dr Rob Hardeman is a one of the 20 year serving employees with Seagate in Springtown. He also holds a Visiting Professorship in nano-technology at the University of Ulster.

18 Boucher Way, Belfast BT12 6RE

109495_tease_and_revealv4.indd 1

04/02/2013 09:46

Harnessing the power of innovation By Noel Culbert

Noel Culbert


e holds over 3,000 patents on 500 different inventions and the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art is just one of a number of museums that exhibits his products as masterpieces of industrial design. A self-made billionaire, vacuum cleaner salesman and entrepreneur, Sir James Dyson is possibly the UK’s best-known living inventor. From boats to wheelbarrows, Dyson’s genius has been the ability to look at the ordinary tools of everyday life – things the rest of us take for granted – and find ways to improve them. That’s the power of innovation. That laser focus on innovation has taken Dyson from penniless art student and aspirant engineer to billionaire and knight of the realm, but innovation is making a lot of other people pretty wealthy too. The world’s most innovative companies expect to grow by an average of 60% over the next five years, with UK companies that invest in innovation expecting to grow 50% faster than their competitors who don’t. The UK section of a global PwC report, Breakthrough Innovation and Growth – your $500 million opportunity, surveyed companies across the UK regions and found that, while there is a direct correlation between innovation and accelerated revenue growth, too few UK firms actively exploit the opportunity.

The report survey found that only 32% of UK companies see innovation as ‘very important’ to the success of their business compared to a global average of 43%; that, in turn, falls far behind 46% of German firms and 56% of Chinese companies, that perceive innovation as ‘very important’ to future success. Breakthrough Innovation and Growth is the largest and most comprehensive study of innovation ever undertaken, exploring innovation from a global, national and multi sector perspective. However, recent surveys on innovation tend to throw up the same question from those companies not evangelistic about the topic: just how do we harness innovation for growth and profit? There is a perception amongst some companies that innovation is the preserve of the research and development (R&D) department; people who sit at the sidelines of the business seeking new and breakthrough products and services – not so. Successful companies recognise that innovation is a mainstream process, which brings together frontline teams, customers and a range of different partners from beyond the organisation. At the heart of these shifting priorities is a realisation that how you innovate determines the innovations you actually deliver. In that regard, Dyson is typical. From his early inventions – the Seatruck, Wheelboat and Ballbarrow – to the Air Blade, Air Multiplier and the market-leading vacuum cleaner, Dyson’s preoccupation has been on continuous improvement of existing product rather than on a slam-dunk revolutionary, neverseen-before, new invention. A quick review of the Times 100 Innovation Case Studies reveals the same trend – typically organisations that collaborate internally, with their supply-chains, customers and end users – endlessly seeking to improve on the status-quo. McDonalds’ new product development is aimed at sustaining brand reputation through innovation based on research on how to please customers; 3M UK uses creative thinking to turn ideas into realistic, affordable solutions that people want; and Sony merges the entertainment world of music and games, personal computing, telephony and the wired world of television, video and cable set top boxes, into integrated digital products – in pretty much every case, the story is of rolling improvement – a continuous search for the better mousetrap. Innovation is not restricted to

the end-user product or service either. Applying innovation to improve operational effectiveness is moving mainstream in business strategy, with the public sector particularly, looking to innovating processes to reduce cost, without impacting service delivery. Our Breakthrough Innovation and Growth report is unambiguous – innovation delivers, but it doesn’t just happen somewhere, somehow and neither is it a game for amateurs. The most successful UK companies have formalised their internal innovation programmes, from Rolls-Royce with a network of University technology centres, GSK’s corporate venturing for biomedical drug delivery, and Google, where staff are allowed to work on their own projects 20% of the time. When it comes to innovation, the best UK companies get it – companies like ARM, Dyson, and Rolls-Royce. But far too many have yet to realise how innovation can be industrialised to become a mainstream corporate activity. In many parts of the UK, including in Northern Ireland, too many companies tend to associate innovation with tree hugging, beards and sandals – that’s a terrible mistake to make. Noel Culbert is an Associate Partner in PwC and leads the PwC NI Technology Sector Group. He can be contacted at email: or Tel: 028 9041 5828

That’s about the only answer you won’t get from Agnew Fleet Manager. From tracking vehicles to reducing fuel costs - we have the solution.

Want to know how to save time, money and take control of managing your fleet? Then Agnew Fleet Manager is the answer. It brings everything you need together – all at the touch of a button. Pair this with our competitive rentals and find out how Agnew Corporate is the complete fleet solution. Call us on: 028 9038 6600 Take control today – we’d be happy to give you a full demonstration of how Agnew Fleet Manager could benefit you.

18 Boucher Way, Belfast BT12 6RE

109495_tease_and_revealv4.indd 2

04/02/2013 09:47


Keith keeps business flowing Keith Scott, Business Performance Manager at NI Water, explains what his job entails in the latest “Ulster Business School – Leaders In Business” alumni profile series.

What is your current role and why does it appeal to you? I am the Business Performance Manager at Northern Ireland Water (NI Water). The primary focus of the role is reporting performance against our Business Plans, internally to the Executive Committee and the Board, and externally to our Stakeholders. I have recently been working on the redesign of our key performance indicators for the Price Control 2013 period (2013-2015). Other aspects of the role include major incident and business continuity planning, corporate governance, internal investigations, and the delivery of in-house training on economic regulation. One of the areas which appeals to me is seeing how the Business Plans are delivered and

38 NOVEMBER 2013

Keith Scott, Business Performance Manager, Northern Ireland Water; Post Graduate Diploma in Accounting, Ulster Business School.

being able to frame how that performance is communicated. We recently completed our three year (PC10) Business Planning period which saw further improvements in our comparative efficiencies and levels of service when compared against our comparator group in the rest of the UK. How did you choose this career field and what has been your path? Having initially completed an undergraduate degree in Environmental Science and Management Science at The University of Stirling, I enrolled on the Post Graduate Diploma in Accounting at the Ulster Business School. This provided a robust grounding for undertaking a professional accountancy qualification and I can’t recommend this course strongly enough. It is specifically designed for students from non-relevant degrees and provides the same exemption as an accountancy degree. I decided to train as a Chartered Accountant with ASM, a mid-sized practice in Belfast. This provided a broad exposure to the audit of private and public sector organisations, along with experience in taxation and economic appraisals. I also completed the Chartered Institute of Internal Auditing (UK and Ireland) qualification while at ASM. I joined NI Water Service in 2006, one year before transformation to a Government Owned Company. This was a very busy period which saw the introduction of new legislation, a Regulatory Licence and the establishment of an Economic Regulator for water. I relocated to Bermuda in 2008 to work in

offshore investment funds for two years. This provided exposure to other forms of regulation and involved servicing a client base across North America and Europe. It also offered the opportunity to undertake the Chartered Financial Analyst qualification. Can you provide us with an example of a challenge which you have dealt with in your current role? The reclassification of NI Water’s status to a Non Departmental Public Body (NDPB) following the deferral of domestic water and sewerage charges resulted in the need to review the corporate governance arrangements. This involved combining the private and public sector governance codes into a new governing document with our sole Shareholder, the Department for Regional Development. Operating within the two codes makes NI Water unique within the UK water sector. Do you have any current links with Ulster Business School now and if so, how valuable are these in your day to day work? I manage the relationship between NI Water and Ulster Business School. NI Water works closely with the Ulster Business School on its undergraduate and postgraduate programmes. We regularly present on areas such as business strategy, economic regulation and corporate governance. We also support students with their dissertations, which provides access to best practice across the water sector and further afield.



Can we

fix it?

The Donegal-born businessman Sir Gerry Robinson has become well known in recent years for his TV programmes which focused on fixing the NHS. Symon Ross spoke with him while he was on a recent visit to the University of Ulster in Belfast.


he Health Service in Northern Ireland is unlikely to change radically until difficult management decisions such as the closure of hospitals are separated from politics, according to one of the UK’s foremost business leaders. Sir Gerry Robinson has become a regular commentator on the NHS since fronting the BBC show Can Gerry Robinson Fix the NHS? a few years ago, and spoke about the issue again when he took part in the University of Ulster’s Life Stories series last month. The former chairman of BskyB, ITN and Granada told Ulster Business he couldn’t see how radical reforms would take place until politicians were capable of “leaving it alone to be managed” or taking the right decisions themselves, even if they are not popular. “There are too many hospitals in Northern Ireland and in Belfast in particular so it requires a bit of courage to say ‘that needs to close, that needs to become more specialist, we need to have this service out here, we need helicopters there to solve the speed issues. Nobody is going to do that because the moment you say to someone ‘do you want your local hospital to close’ they don’t like it. Anyone who stands up politically and says we want to close a hospital doesn’t do well on the voting front,” he said. “You almost need a really hard edged separation between the management decisions that need to be taken and the political consequences of those decisions. Nobody politically is willing to have go. And it gets worse the smaller the community. In Northern Ireland it is worse than it would be in the rest of the UK because everyone knows their MP or MLA, which heightens the fear of being attached to

40 NOVEMBER 2013

the decision even to close the accident and emergency unit at a hospital, which you’ve seen happening both here and in the Republic.” Health Minister Edwin Poots is currently rolling out the wide ranging Transforming Your Care strategy, which is designed to make the Northern Ireland health service more efficient and effective, saving money while at the same time improving patient care. But the Minister has recently spent more time arguing about controversial issues such as the differences between local and UK policy towards abortion and blood donation than the success of the process. He has also been bogged down in disputes, campaigns against his proposed closure of the A&E department at Belfast City Hospital and reviews into serious deficiencies in some Trusts. But while health might be a political hot potato, Sir Gerry thinks the connection of policy to what actually happens on the ground in a hospital is often tenuous. “The NHS in an operating sense works, and it works pretty well in most instances because of the simple principle reason that the people at the sharp end a) want to do the right thing, and b) are pretty smart. The system in a way simply can’t stop them doing what needs to be done medically in some kind of sensible way,” he said. “Management can only alter that if management is spectacularly good. But management is not spectacularly good in the Health Service, it is poor.” PRIVATE SECTOR The view often expressed from the world of business is that inserting more people with private sector experience into key leadership

positions would sort the health service out. It is a view Sir Gerry only partially agrees with. “I think that could help but it would have to be done intelligently. The NHS is not a business and should never become a business. It is a public service we all know and love, and by God, we need it. So if you go into it with a private sector mindset, that everything has to be dead sharp, making cuts here or there, I think you run a greater risk of harming it than helping it,” he said. “The NHS needs intelligent management. There are probably massive savings you could make intelligently and with the people involved feeling like they’re part of it, but it has to be done by someone who really really knows what they’re doing. You would get a hell of a lot from a short sharp burst of a really hard edged Michael O’Leary type player and then take him away from it as quickly as you could and get in someone who can follow it up to make things happen in a more collegiate way.” The business leader has, however, written about the ways he believes the NHS can borrow ideas from the private sector – for example Tesco’s ability to purchase. “They’ll tell you purchasing in the NHS is brilliantly run but you kind of know it’s not. It will be run in a way that saves tuppence and pisses off a surgeon who wanted gloves from XYZ rather than the ones from ZYX. Intelligent purchasing can get people precisely what they want, done well across a wide range of products. Tesco do that sort of thing brilliantly. That sort of capacity within the NHS would probably save billions and shouldn’t irritate people at the sharp end who use what’s bought.” Sir Gerry also thinks there should be more


reward for NHS managers who are prepared to try new things to increase efficiency, rather than just promoting the ones who play the game. “More often than not it is safer to not take any chances, to not do anything innovative or change anything because it is risky. So you end up with a group of people who the further up the organisation they are the more averse they are to taking a chance to change something,” he said. “In a well run organisation people should be able to come forward and say something is not right and talk to those who can alter that. There is a fear factor which is unhealthy. You have to guard against the other side of whistle-blowing, where every time somebody gets fired they make things sounds worse than they actually are. But if you haven’t got people at the sharp end who can say ‘this doesn’t work but this might’ then you miss an opportunity and allow things to perpetuate that can be very harmful, which is what happened in Mid Staffordshire.” Stafford Hospital was the focus of a major public inquiry after it was found poor care may have led to a higher-than-expected number of deaths as a result of maltreatment and neglect. An Inquiry highlighted “appalling and unnecessary suffering of hundreds of people” under the trust’s care. Sir Gerry believes negative reporting in the media has hindered NHS reform to some degree, but concedes coverage won’t change – and nor should it – because health is such an emotive issue. “It’s much more exciting if you start talking

about banning gay blood donors from the system than it is talking about getting a decent booking system,” he added. “Management is often about putting in place processes and the everyday things that are not complicated but need to happen time after time after time. If in this day and age we can get a taxi to you within five minutes of you making the call because the system is in place, why can’t we get a booking system for something that is happening in a week or a month’s time. It is all do-able. But that kind of management just doesn’t happen. If it does it stays where it is done, so you can have one hospital doing brilliantly and another 20 miles away making a hash of it because there’s no reporting mechanism within the NHS which works.” A major focus of Transforming Your Care is on increasing efficiencies and making sure those mechanisms are in place to ensure delivery of high standard healthcare. Speaking after attending the recent Connected Health Week in Boston, Health Minister Edwin Poots said the “healthcare sector presents a significant opportunity to promote inward investment, create job opportunities and bolster economic growth through innovation and collaboration with international organisations”. Mr Poots said that “in the current very difficult financial climate, we can also see the very real opportunities which healthcare innovation presents, not only for transforming the delivery of care and services to patients, but also for the growth of our economy”. Sir Gerry Robinson believes that’s a positive

approach, because not changing is no longer an option. “I don’t think it can remain exactly the same,” he said. “A number of things are working against it: the age of the population is getting greater; the capacity to cure things is getting greater; the cost of procedures is growing to some degree. “We are getting to the point where we have to get to a scene where some of it has to be paid for. I personally don’t much like that, but I think it is a stark reality that we are going to have to start paying for things that are, maybe not life threatening or are a choice rather than necessity. That might go into all sorts of territories but it will have to be genuinely tackled.”

FACTFILE Gerry Robinson was born one of ten children in Dunfanaghy, Co. Donegal. After moving to England he began his career as a clerk with Lesney Products (Matchbox toys) before working for Grand Metropolitan and leading the management buyout of Compass Group. He joined Granada as CEO in 1991, becoming its chairman in 1996 and has also been chairman of London Weekend Television, BskyB PLC, ITN and Allied Domecq PLC. Now a regular on both TV and radio he has presented several shows for the BBC including I’ll Show Them Who’s Boss and Can Gerry Robinson Fix the NHS?

NOVEMBER 2013 41


Leckey still focused on making a

difference James Leckey, founder of James Leckey Design, speaks to Symon Ross about his ambitions for the company and his excitement over the launch of the company’s new division, known as Firefly.

42 NOVEMBER 2013



ames Leckey is clearly a man who is passionate about what he does. The founder of James Leckey Design uses words like “phenomenal” and “incredible” and “amazing” a lot when describing the products made by his company and his staff. Established in 1983, the Lisburn-based company has become a global leader in the development of innovative postural support, therapy and rehabilitation equipment that improves the lives of children and adults with disabilities. As the company celebrates 30 years’ in business, its charismatic CEO is brimming with enthusiasm for its newest brand, Firefly, which has just launched a lightweight, portable seating solution for children who need additional postural support and stability. The GoTo Seat helps children with disabilities such as cerebral palsy to engage with family life by sitting up to join their family at the table, go for walks in pushchairs, sit in swings and sit safely on shopping trolleys. Firefly bridges the gap between Leckey’s more expensive, clinical products, which often require NHS funding or government purchasing, and what is affordable to families. Available direct from the Firefly website, the simple, effective and affordable seat has the backing of Cerebra, the charity for children with neurological problems, and its site is getting 1,000 hits a day. “We wouldn’t get five hits a day on the Firefly website if it wasn’t for the parents endorsing the product. The response has been phenomenal,” says Leckey. “We know from our research that there is a greater degree of stress within a family unit when there is a disabled child. A lot of our products are aimed at actually getting them to engage. There’s a much softer side around Firefly, an emotional side around the family unit and helping the child engage and participate,” he adds. “The uptake of Firefly and the comments were betting by email from parents brings me right back to the ethos of when we started. I like that we’re back working the families directly again after years of being focused mainly on the clinical side.” MAKING A DIFFERENCE James Leckey trained as a mechanical engineer, serving his apprenticeship at Mackies. His own business was born after he and some friends started raising money for charity. “A few of us were doing a marathon and a parachute jump to raise money for charity and we took the money up to Mencap. When I walked through the door and saw what they were buying in I knew I could make it better and cheaper than what they were importing

from America,” he said. “When I saw those kids and had that idea, it was definitely one of those moments that I knew I would be doing this for a long time.” Initially he worked with therapists and children’s carers to develop a simple range of seating, standing frames and bathing products, which he built in a small workshop at home. By 1986 his team had moved to a small factory in Kilwee and in 1988 the business took a major jump forward after bringing three newly designed standing frames to the Naidex trade show in Alexandra Palace in London. They were so popular that within two years Leckey had become market leaders in the UK. Through the 1990s the firm developed new adjustable seats and expansion into the US market through a distributor followed. Today Leckey distributes in the UK and Republic of Ireland through a direct sales team and globally has signed successful international distribution agreements with Handicare ASA in Norway and Otto Bock Health Care and its 44 sales subsidiaries who currently service 144 countries. It exports 98% of its products outside Northern Ireland and its range now offers 24 hour postural care across seating, standing, walking, bathing, toileting and sleeping products. The company has in recent years also made a big push into products that help children walk or be transported by parents under its Leckey Mobility brand. Northern Ireland Secretary of State Theresa Villiers officially opened James Leckey Design’s new £3m custom built factory in Lisburn in September. The 80,000 sq ft state-of-the-art facility now houses all of Leckey’s research, design, production and marketing capabilities under one roof. Since moving to the new single location output has increased by 30% with additional recruitment anticipated in the next year. And with the launch of Firefly, the company’s founder says further expansion will be needed. “Production had actually been moved to the facility three years ago and it is now at full capacity and is renting a space next door to support the growth in terms of Mobility and Firefly,” said Leckey. He explains that while the assessments and appointments required for clinical products mean a lead time of up to six weeks, with the GoTo Seat “parents want it tomorrow”. “That will mean we need to change our production systems. Instead of making to order we now need to stock and have a large warehouse from which we can supply.” THE RIGHT ATTITUDE Leckey modestly puts the company’s success down to “good, fortuitous decisions that worked

out well” as well as the support of his long term Managing Director Gary O’Hagan and the rest of his senior team. The firm employs 140 people, mainly at its Ballinderry Road site, and the founder says all have to buy into the company ethos. “They have to have Integrity, Responsibility, Passion and Innovation. We want to project that to our customers, we want them to embody that,” he says. “There are very few people in here who are grabbing money. The sales people who come on board learn that and they like it. You’re never asked to sell anything, you’re asked to advise on what is the right product for that child. It is a soft sell industry, but we seem to be very good at it.” Walking through the factory floor its clear Leckey is in touch with his workforce. Everyone says hello to him by name and more often than not he knows their name back, telling me several have been with him for over 25 years. Leckey’s focus on the wellbeing of its employees as well as maximising their potential to collaborate and be creative has led it to work with design specialists Triplicate and architects Hackett-Hall McKnight on an interactive employee area and restaurant, which will replace its existing canteen next year. The company has also kicked off an employee engagement programme to get staff ideas on what is working, and what isn’t. THE FUTURE Key to Leckey’s success has been the continual modification and improvement of existing products complemented by investment in research and development of innovative solutions to postural support challenges. Its R&D team are working across Leckey’s brands to identify the products that will drive the company on for another 30 years. “What we do, our mission, hasn’t changed. We make products that help disabled kids. The vision is growth. We are very ambitious. The vision will change but currently I want to be the fastest growing in our sector and we’re achieving that,” says James Leckey. “But we’re looking to broaden out the spectrum of what we do. We’re not just looking at metal bashing, we’re not just looking at product, we’re looking at technology products, interactive products. That high tech side is something we’re very very interested in.” And perfectly emphasising that his passion for the job hasn’t waned in the slightest, he adds: “We’re working with a parent in Israel on another product that is coming to market in April which is another simple product which helps the children to engage with the parent. I can’t tell you any more right now but it is going to be phenomenal. Watch out for that on the 1st of April.”

NOVEMBER 2013 43


HeartSine lands Singapore contract N

orthern Ireland defibrillator manufacturer HeartSine Technologies has landed a multi-million pound contract to supply life-saving defibrillators to the Singapore Ministry of Defence. In one of the company’s largest orders to date, almost 1,900 Automated External Defibrillators (AEDs) have been purchased by the country’s Armed Forces after a competitive tendering process involving all the major AED brands. HeartSine is the only company to design, develop and manufacture AEDs, which deliver a shock to the heart to restore a normal rhythm following cardiac arrest, in the UK or Ireland. The devices are made in Belfast and exported to 40 countries around the world in more than 20 languages. Every Singapore military camp, more than 50 in total, will now have HeartSine defibrillators installed. Chief Executive of HeartSine Technologies, Declan O’Mahoney said: “This is our biggest contract in Singapore and follows the placing of HeartSine devices in the Singapore Civil

44 NOVEMBER 2013

Defence Force, Singapore Parliament and the Ministry of Health.” He added: “Every military camp in Singapore – for all land, air and sea troops – will now have our defibrillators installed. This will ensure that extremely easy to use, life saving AEDs are always readily available should they need to be used.” Sudden Cardiac Arrest (SCA) occurs when blood stops flowing around the body and the heart stops beating unexpectedly. SCA claims the lives of 270 people every single day in the UK. If someone suffers SCA, their chances of survival using Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation are around 5%, but, combined with the use of a defibrillator, this can rise to 75%. HeartSine was co-founded by the late Professor John Anderson who, working in the Royal Victoria Hospital in Belfast in the 1960s in a team brought together by clinician Dr. Frank Pantridge, led the work to develop technology to create the first portable defibrillators for use outside hospitals. The company’s modern AEDs now talk responders through the entire ‘save’ process step by step until professional medical assistance arrives, meaning the devices can be used even by those with no previous first aid training. HeartSine’s reputation has been growing in recent years, with its defibrillators deployed everywhere from the European Parliament Buildings in Brussels, George Best Belfast City Airport, on board American Airlines aircraft and even at the White House. One of its AEDs was famously used to help keep footballer Fabrice Muamba alive after he suffered SCA during a match. There are almost 8,000 cases of SCA in Singapore each year, with over one thousand deaths reported in 2011. Don Mok, Chief Executive of HTM Medico, the HeartSine distributor in Singapore who secured the contract, said: “SCA can happen to anyone, including those who are young and physically fit, just like our soldiers. “Having life-saving defibrillators at hand really will be the difference between life and death for our all members of our valued Armed Forces.”

Focus on mental wellbeing By Peter McBride, Niamh


ll of us at some stage in life are likely to encounter stress in the workplace. On occasion stress can be positive. But often it can prove difficult to overcome. In an effort to ensure that organisations are equipped to build a productive and resilient workforce, Niamh, (the Northern Ireland Association for Mental Health) along with the Equality Commission for Northern Ireland, have launched a ‘Mental Wellbeing in the Workplace’ initiative We are collaborating on the delivery of training that looks at both what the law requires and also the positive action that employers can take to ensure high levels of mental wellbeing, whether it be in an office, factory, hotel or shop. We are also encouraging employers and employees to talk about mental health and to take the taboo out of something that affects us all. We have seen some really good examples of companies who have developed means of dealing with stress. These range from preventative measures and stress relief techniques to professional counselling services to help staff members deal with difficult personal or professional matters. Bombardier have taken a proactive approach to the mental wellbeing of their 5,000 staff. Not only have they an in-house Occupational Health department, who offer a comprehensive health surveillance programme, but they also offer physiotherapy, chiropody, nutrition advice and stop-smoking programmes to all their staff. Bombardier also work with CareCall to offer an Employee Assistance Programme, which supports them through emotional and personal traumas and work challenges. When someone does experience mental illness, it is particularly important to support their return to the workplace. It can be extremely difficult to face people again after an absence, and so it is vital that the workplace is a welcoming and open place for them. We can all play a part in making this return as easy as possible. For details go to

Allianz - rules of engagement A

lthough the market in both Personal and Commercial lines insurance continues to be challenging one local insurer believes that there are still ample opportunities to consolidate a strong business base and continue to expand in the sector. Allianz’s team of Business Development Executives comprising Helen Hutchinson, Ken Cathcart and Nicholas Crawford believe they provide a vital link to key insurance brokers, developing relationships, identifying business potential and optimising opportunities. Helen Hutchinson explains: “We realise that there still appears to be plenty of capacity in the market for most standard risk profiles. For those however that do not fall into this category, here at Allianz, we are able to provide alternative solutions for our customers. We have a very strong local presence enhanced by a globally recognised brand and believe that our recent relocation to our new premises reaffirms our commitment to the local market. “A major focus of ours is to explore and set up bespoke insurance solutions for brokers and clients in terms of competitive arrangements, products and service. We understand that the closer we are to our customers then the more able we are to engage effectively creating significant advantage for everyone involved. We have specialist knowledge across all categories of products and are continuing to focus on potential growth areas. “The remit of the Business Development Executive has expanded in recent years and we are now the representation of Allianz products and services both outside and inside the company. We offer clearly defined and well positioned products, understanding that there are viable alternatives to the “one size fits all” approach frequently found in the market. If an individual customer and risk warrant individual consideration then we are happy to provide the expertise and determine appropriate ratings and policies. Ultimately what Allianz aims for as a company is for our clients to have confidence in ourselves, confidence in our products and confidence in our service.” Ken Cathcart expands on the product and service offering that Allianz provides: “Unlike many of our competitors all our key functions are serviced from our Belfast office – sales, underwriting, claims and accounts. Our underwriters and claims handlers all provide excellent service and have the authority to make swift decisions. This can be of critical importance when delivering an effective client service. Equally the asset of having local knowledge cannot be over-estimated in relation to risk assessment and the inherent value that this brings to all aspects of risk management.

Nicholas Crawford, Helen Hutchinson and Ken Cathcart from Allianz

“The economic downturn has resulted in many companies re-evaluating their fixed costs which in turn can often put pressure on insurance rates. This has led Allianz to refocus strongly on our customers, to understand exactly what products they require and how they wish these products to be delivered and serviced. “Currently our product offering expands right across the spectrum of personal and commercial lines, encompassing private car, home, property, liability, construction, SMEs, marine and motor fleet. We are also highly experienced in offering insurance covers for schools, churches and social/not for profit sectors. “We believe that it is the responsibility of the Business Development Executives to ensure that we accurately assess customer requirements and deliver the appropriate products and solutions. We therefore keep a watching brief on new developments and innovations in the insurance market ensuring that our internal capacities, products and aptitudes are at the forefront of local players and that we are able to compete effectively.” Nicholas Crawford comments on changing customer demands: “As we are witnessing ever new technologies and innovations we see firsthand how consumers are changing their decision making processes and behaviours. Purchase barriers are being changed or eradicated and customers have tightly defined purchase criteria. They quite rightly expect that their

insurance requirements will be met via a timely distribution method that suits them and which delivers the appropriate product to meet their needs. “We believe we offer an integrated service that meets both our broker and customers’ insurance requirements and recent feedback from our Business Partners has ratified the success of the approach currently being adopted. “Challenging market conditions combined with economic constraints, increasing competition and regulation have led some commentators within the insurance industry to note that conditions are ripe for the “perfect storm”. “Within Allianz however, as Business Development Executives we are at the front line of servicing this industry sector, and would disagree saying instead that conditions are ripe for consolidation and growth. “We know we are critical in driving the strategy and the long term development of the company forward. Pockets of traditional thinking understand that key relationship management is essential for the well-being of any customer transaction and none more so than in the insurance industry. We will continue then to work in partnership with our brokers, delivering on their requirements, assisting with their customer insurance solutions and ensuring that our products and services are meeting key expectations.”

For more information on Allianz products and services please contact Nicholas, Helen or Ken on 028 9089 5600 or email


To Err is...

Managerial To err is not human, it’s managerial. Exploring the psychology of leadership, David Meade explores the top mistake every single manager is making in your organisation today.

46 NOVEMBER 2013



or the first time in years it feels like the business community is breathing an exhausted sigh of relief. The general – if cautious – consensus seems to be that our economy is finally being released from ‘fiscal intensive care’ and resting comfortably in the recovery ward. So there’s never been a better time to take a second look at what makes our organisations tick, and explore how we can capitalise on burgeoning consumer confidence. When it comes to bettering our businesses, few changes make more impact than those that improve the fundamentals: leadership, decision making, and strategy. These areas underpin the critical success factors that drive your organisation, and they all have one thing in common – people. Leaders are the people whose responsibility it is to catalyse efficient and effective decision making across their operation, and inspire the teams and individuals to roll out and troubleshoot the strategies that will make or break your recovery. There’s no doubt that you have some extraordinary human capital in your organisation already, and we’d love to believe that our people are perfect. The truth of the matter is, though, that a huge body of research has shown that every single person in our organisation can fall victim to common psychological blunders that hamper innovation, stifle strategies, and even cost companies money each and every day. The biggest blunder of all stems from confidence, is fostered by enthusiasm, and yet while characterised by the greatest of good intention could spell disaster for you, your organisation, and your balance sheet. SCHOOL BOY ERROR Entrepreneurs love a hunch. Few things get their commercial juices flowing more than seeing a niche that could be exploited, or spotting an opportunity to leverage their experience against a new opportunity to make a sale. Take Philip, the junior car salesman aged in his early 20’s, working at one of the country’s largest motor retailers. Philip has worked on the forecourt for five years and had extraordinary success with year on year growth selling affordable and efficient small vehicles to the school leaver student market. Seeing that these make up 90% of his sales, he spots an opportunity to capitalise on this trend and opens his own competing business across the road, focusing on this market that has been so bountiful for him in the past. He knows this market is a sure commercial certainty, because he’s got the experience to back it up. Or does he? In actual fact, the well-meaning budding entrepreneur shows evidence of one of the most damaging psychological mistakes any businessperson can make, known as The Confirmation Bias. In short, we take a small piece of information or experience, and look around for evidence to support and bolster

it’s value to build the case for whatever action we want to take. We tend to pay much more attention to the information that confirms our hunch, often ignoring all else. So enthusiastic are we to roll out our new idea, we are blinkered to the warning signs around us that are hinting at a less than rosy picture. Since it accounts for virtually all of his sales, he’s certain it’s a flourishing market that’s sure to grow at its current pace. While his margin is small, his volume justifies focusing on this narrow niche. More likely though, he’s ignoring all the other factors that are at play; He’s the youngest salesperson on the yard so tends to attract queries from younger browsing customers, which in turn just happens to lead to more sales from this category. He drives a small efficient car himself so he tends to know a little more about their performance, and can speak more authoritatively about them than other staff who are older and drive more family-oriented vehicles. More likely though, the more senior sales staff would much rather focus their effort and attention on high value vehicles to drive their yield and commission, so they leave the smaller budget leads to Philip. Philip is falling into the psychological trap of only paying attention to the factors that confirm his ‘hunch’ and in doing so is sleepwalking into a disastrous investment. He feels like it’s a market brimming with potential, because his skewed experience is clouding his ability to make a reasoned judgement. We all make this mistake every day: convincing ourselves that moving to new office space will give our business better visibility, but ignoring the dramatic increase in operating cost that it might incur over your current address; or delighting in the charisma and charm of an interviewee that we are certain could give our team the motivation they need, we gloss over the fact that their experience and competency in the field is much less than we had hoped for.

BACK AT THE OFFICE As human beings, we are all equally susceptible to this particular managerial gaffe, whether we are a CFO, or a secretary. We’ve all heard the romantic stories about entrepreneurs that have put their lives on the line and won big by following their dreams and ignoring all the nay sayers. The truth is even those stories are an example of how powerful the confirmation bias is – the failure stories aren’t particularly inspiring or memorable unless they have a happy ending. So the next time you find a piece of information or data that convinces you once and for all to take a giant leap, remember to take all information with a pinch of salt. That includes this article!

About David

David is a researcher and lecturer in international business with one of Ireland’s leading universities, whose personal interests have always focused on aspects of popular psychology, consumer behaviour, and choice. He’s driven by a passion for understanding how and why we think the way we do. David has become a sought after international speaker and corporate advisor in the USA and Europe with a reputation for an innovative style that forces audiences to think critically about the challenges around them. In this series of articles for Ulster Business, he’ll cultivate a wide range of cutting edge research in management and leadership to help you achieve peak performance. Find out more about David’s work on and follow him on twitter @davidmeadelive

NOVEMBER 2013 47


By Colin Mathewson, Retail Director, Osborne King Commercial Property Consultants


s we emerge slowly from the economic gloom of recent years, encouragingly it appears that we have reached the bottom of the market and, in some property sectors, green shoots are beginning to appear. This is reflected in positive economic data released by the EU and UK over the past months suggesting that both jurisdictions are coming out of recession. The residential market across most UK regions and Ireland has experienced modest growth, and while Northern Ireland may be at the lower end of the scale, the government’s “Help to Buy” initiative should act as an impetus for continued UK-wide growth. Turning our attention to home, 2013 has been the busiest year for investment property since the peak of the market in 2007 with approximately £200m worth of deals due to be completed by the end of the year. This figure is more than double the value of sales transacted during 2012. This year also marks a significant change in the commercial property landscape in terms of ownership. New investors entering the Northern Irish market include Threadneedle Investments, BAE Pension Fund and Pramerica, all respected global asset managers or investment property companies. The return of institutional investors and major property companies should act as a catalyst for further investment in 2014. Noteworthy sales during 2013 have included the Invest NI building, which was sold for £39m and Scottish Widows Investment Partnership’s recent purchase of a Tesco store in Newry for £30.3m. Whilst quality of product plays a pivotal role in the return of the institutional investors to our local market, they are also attracted by returns that are marginally better in Northern Ireland

48 NOVEMBER 2013

than in other regions of the UK. Prices locally are also at a significantly more realistic level compared to six or seven years ago when local debt-driven buyers effectively priced these fund buyers out of the market at its height. Undoubtedly, prime commercial property is attracting interest from institutions and major property companies, however something of a two-tier market is emerging, with a second tier characterised by short leaseholds, less secure income and multiple occupation which is heavily reliant on a small pool of local investors who depend upon access to debt funding. It is vital that this funding is made available if we are to see any significant improvement regarding

sales of second-tier properties. Transactional activity within the hospitality industry has increased significantly over the past year. One of the notable ‘highlights’ has been the sale of the Kurkova portfolio of seven pubs, which Osborne King sold recently for over £4m. This portfolio attracted in excess of 20 offers from serious buyers, which was extremely positive but entirely reflective of the quality of assets on offer. Demand for office space has been at its highest level for the past six years with companies and organisations taking around 280,000 sq ft of space during the first three quarters of 2013. The biggest letting of the McHughs was sold as part of the Kurkova Group.


year was to Land & Property Services, which acquired circa 98,000 of Grade A office accommodation at Lanyon Plaza. Meanwhile, established inward investment companies including Allstate, Citi, Allen & Overy and Concentrix acquired additional office space. We also understand that a number of global corporate occupiers with an existing presence in Northern Ireland have plans to expand their business and are considering design and build opportunities owing to lack of Grade A stock availability. At present, Belfast city centre has less than 135,000 sq ft of Grade A offices available, and with no substantial developments in the pipeline, this is an issue that needs to be addressed sooner rather than later. Rental levels currently remain static with Grade A transacting at £13 per sq ft but, clearly, a lack of supply should force this rental level upwards. As general economic conditions improve, this has not yet translated into any significant increase in transactional activity within the retail sector. That stated, retail is fast moving, so we expect the sector to react swiftly to improvements within the overall economy and during 2014 we expect to see a reduction in vacancy levels. Unfortunately, occupational costs and in particular existing rates liabilities remain key obstacles in terms of retail expansion, and in some cases, survival. Given that landlords have played their part in re-negotiating rents downwards in many instances, some relief from government on the rates issue would provide a substantial boost to hard-pressed retailers. Discount retailers have undoubtedly secured a major foothold within the high street, however a genuine and sustainable recovery within the retail market will not occur until a new energy and vibrancy returns to the fashion segment of the market. There are initial signs that this may be gathering some momentum and we anticipate positive movement next year. At any rate, it is unlikely that any significant retail-led development proposals will get underway in the short to medium term. Clearly, we need to develop a sustainable solution to rejuvenate our towns and cities, which will require considerable thought and a structured approach to regeneration. It is difficult to see how this can occur without our politicians, both in Stormont and Westminster, recognising the damage that our current commercial rating system is inflicting on our high streets. Substantial tax breaks will be necessary if we are to encourage the fundamental changes that will bring arts, community, business, educational and residential uses back to prominence as part of the mixed fabric in our urban centres. For our city and town centres to thrive once more, they need to rediscover their points of difference, distinctiveness and character in order to engage shoppers and visitors more. Prevailing conditions within the banking sector and general property market means that the restructuring and insolvency process will

continue to be an important avenue of recovery. This “cleansing” process needs to run its course and can do so in tandem with other sectors in recovery. A rising market will accelerate the banks’ ability to dispose of these assets in greater volume and therefore assist in the return to normal market conditions. Across the broad property landscape, the outlook is more optimistic and predicated on

the key elements of increasing demand, rising values and greater transactional activity. The general sense within the market is that we are in recovery mode albeit one that is measured and sustainable. It is clearly going to take some time for this recovery to gather momentum but the building blocks are now being put in position and growth is beginning to appear in the sector.

Invest NI bought its Belfast headquarters and a neighbouring building for approximately £39m from Bedford Street Developments Ltd.

NOVEMBER 2013 49


Belfast comes to Silicon Valley Tim Brundle from University of Ulster reports on the recent tech mission which took some of the leading lights in Belfast’s technology sector to the home of hi-tech in California to mix it with the big boys.

Innovative bio-tech start-up SiSaf Ltd secured new funding in the region of £500,000 to carry out clinical trials of its new drug delivery system while in California.


n a weekend in the middle of October, a team of twenty technology companies, the University of Ulster and Queen’s University departed Belfast for California in pursuit of investment, customers, partnerships and an insight into the workings of the world’s foremost technology hub. The trip was conceived and led by Belfast Lord Mayor Máirtín Ó Muilleoir, who wished to foster closer connections between the city and Silicon Valley’s innovation ecosystem. Silicon Valley is located in the Bay Area of San Francisco, and has grown out of more than a century of defence technology research, sixty years of development of silicon transistors and the advancement of computing technologies and forty years of Venture Capital investment. In the past decade Silicon Valley has incubated over one hundred thousand digital media startup companies, as teams and technologies arrived from around the world to build their businesses. Many Governments have tried to replicate the conditions in which Silicon Valley has flourished. However, one of the region’s strengths is that it is an open system. We don’t yet need another Silicon Valley because we already have one within which we can all do business. The team first mobilised at Foley’s Irish

52 NOVEMBER 2013

Pub in San Francisco, sharing their businesses aspirations for the week. The companies ranged from startups, such as Beacon, Taggled and Venuebooker, through to Belfast’s established and expanding technology companies AirPOS, Cirdan Imaging, Jar Technologies and SpeechStorm. Monday morning started in San Francisco’s financial district with a visit to the US Market Access Center and the RocketSpace Incubator. The team received tips on how to pitch to local Venture Capitalists from the Center’s Alfredo Coppola and Chris Burry, both serial entrepreneurs who have found success in the valley. Each company was challenged to communicate their ‘wow’ statement in less than 20 seconds, distilling their differentiating features and crafting their compelling benefits. The afternoon provided an opportunity for a selection of the team to travel across the new Bay Bridge to visit Ekso Bionics, a company that is intent on developing exoskeletons to assist the mobility of paraplegics. The company wishes to help people who suffer from stroke, multiple sclerosis, and other debilitating conditions to get back on their feet. The visitors were energised by how Ekso Bionics had brought together world leading technology, an international team and smart capital to change the lives of 1.3 million

paralysed American citizens. The evening brought diaspora and friends of Belfast together at an event organised by the NI Bureau and NI Connections. There was enormous goodwill and support for the Belfast Tech Mission, with introductions made to many of Silicon Valley’s notable companies. Tuesday took us to Menlo Park, where more than sixty per cent of the venture capital in the USA is located. Companies pitched to a selection of Silicon Valley’s most prominent Venture Capitalists, including Tim Guleri of Sierra Ventures, who has led over $1.5bn dollars of investment. One of the highlights was Cargo’s Chris McClelland’s pitching of ‘Brewbot’, a home brewing device that is controlled by a smartphone. Chris was championing advocacy of a kickstarter campaign to secure £100k of crowd funding and as the week advanced, so did Brewbot’s fortunes, with the project successfully funded by the time of our return. On Wednesday, delegates were hosted by John Hartnett, founder of the Irish Technology Leadership Group, at his SVG Accelerator in San Jose, where the week’s first investment of $800k, in Sisaf Ltd, was announced. A portfolio company of the University of Ulster, Sisaf Ltd is a biotech company chaired by John Hartnett with a novel drug delivery system currently in clinical trials. That afternoon brought the team to the University of California, Berkeley, to the SkyDeck Incubator which benefits from one of the greatest views in the Bay Area. The university theme continued on Thursday, with a visit to Stanford University’s famed D School with colleagues from Northern Ireland’s Department of Employment and Learning. In parallel, many of the Belfast Tech Mission companies took the opportunity to conduct business development activities, including Performa Sports, which held sales and partner seminars at supporting locations throughout the Bay Area. On our return to Belfast, the emails flowed from the delegates, showing deep gratitude for the support of the Lord Mayor, Belfast City Council and Invest NI. It may have been the first Belfast Tech Mission to Silicon Valley, but will most definitely not be the last.

Conferencing & Events

Sponsored by


Getting a return from events Ahead of his appearance at the In Any Event industry conference in Belfast, international speaker Dr Elling Hamso, Managing director of the ROI Institute, gives Ulster Business his views on getting the most from events.

Return on investment, what does this mean when organising events? Corporate events are often thought of as just a part of marketing or admin costs. But they are investments, we spend the money because we expect more value in return, either by increasing sales or making the organisation more effective. Every event has its own profit and loss account, if the value generated is greater than the cost, ROI is positive. ROI is the profit generated by the event as a percentage of the event cost, so it is always a percentage figure based on real money values. So, how do events create value? There is only one value creation mechanism, and it applies to all kinds of meetings and events; the participants have to physically do


something as a result of attending the event, something which adds the value to one or more of the event stakeholders. There are no exceptions to this. We have to influence, educate, inspire or empower the participants to do something they would otherwise not have done. Thinking and feeling is not enough. What matters is what participants do when they feel or think differently. Learning is not enough. Learning on its own is a waste of time. The only thing that matters is what participants do differently when they have learned. Ask any training manager, training is wasted unless it makes the trainee do his or her work better. Unless we first identify the participant behaviour which is likely to have an impact on the bottom line, or the mission of a non profit organisation, most of the event budget will be

wasted because we don’t really know what we are trying to achieve. What should organisers concentrate on when planning an event? Objectives. When you have a complete set of detailed and measurable objectives, the rest is easy. When events fail to deliver maximum value, it is usually because objectives were not detailed and measurable. This is just human nature. When you have a set of detailed and measurable objectives, you will focus your efforts on achieving those objectives and nothing else. It is critical to understand the different types of objectives and how they relate to each other. We start by setting Impact objective, how will the event impact the bottom line or the mission of the organisation. By how much will it increase product sales, for example. Then we have to set Behaviour objectives, what is it we try to make participants do in order to generate an impact as a result. To make people do something, there must first be a cognitive change, conscious or subconscious, which is another way of saying that there must be a learning experience. Is it important to have a target group for an event? Defining and recruiting the right participants is fundamental to success. As the only mechanism for creating value from events is to influence participant behaviour, we need to have the right people in the room. For customer events we often use the BANT criteria, they need to have the Budget, Authority to make or influence purchasing decisions, and the Need for our product within a reasonable Time frame. As a general rule, we need to identify those people who may change their behaviour and do something which has an effect on the bottom line, in the case of a corporation, or the mission of a not for profit organisation. How should the audience of an event be chosen? It all starts with the question “How will this event impact our bottom line?” By which mechanism will it contribute to profit? The answer always included the word ‘behaviour’. The only way of creating value is through influencing the behaviour of participants. If a financial services company wants to repair an image of irresponsible lending practices, the audience should be those who a) hold this


negative opinion and b) have a significant influence on where his or her company place their business. The host company may want participants to go back to their senior management team and share some facts and stories from the event that could help to change the negative image. Or maybe participants should initiate a review of preferred suppliers, or invite the supplier for a follow-up meeting with key decision-makers in the company, etc. Why should events be organised? When I ask event owners about their objectives, they will typically mention things like networking with customers or colleagues, learning about products or better ways of doing the job, inspiring staff, impressing customers, engaging emotions and creating a ‘wow’ effect and memorable moments. But these are not the end objectives, these are the means to an end. What will participants do differently when we have educated them about our products, developed trust and liking through networking or inspired or ‘wowed’ them? For a corporation, there are only two possible reasons for organising an event. It has to either increase sales or reduce costs. Those are the only ways of increasing profit and deliver a positive ROI. For a non-profit organisation, increased sales is replaced with whatever is the mission. If it is not clear how the event will contribute to sales or reduce costs, there is only one thing to do: cancel it! What would be your best advice to companies that spend a lot of money on meetings and events? Cancel everything. Unless your events are designed according to detailed and measurable objectives, including objectives for bottom line impact, and results are measured accordingly, your events may well make a loss. If they make a contribution to profit, that contribution could probably have been much bigger. In either case, you are wasting money. Then start taking applications for event budgets. Make sure that the applicant can explain the connection to the bottom line, what participant behaviour will create the impact value, why participants are not displaying this behaviour already and what learning experience will make them do it. If you feel comfortable with the answers, if the logic in their reasoning is clear, if it is evident that their audience research has been thorough, then give them the money and require an evaluation report afterwards. Dr Elling Hamso is speaking at the In Any Event conference at the Ramada Hotel, Shaw’s Bridge, on November 13.

Below the line, above the radar Carl Desmond from Partridge Peartree Promotions believes event organisers shouldn’t underestimate the power of below the line promotion.


he goodie bag is a fixture of any conference or event of any size. More often than not they are fairly uninspiring, containing pens, pads, maybe a key ring or a memory stick. If you’re anything like me, it is a rare event when the branding on the items in such packs makes an impact, makes you think “that’s clever” or delivers a message that really sticks in your head. But Derry-based Partridge Peartree Promotions, which recently celebrated 25 years in business with a showcase event at the Wellington Park Hotel in Belfast, believes these “below the line” promotional items have massive potential for organisations. “We want to emphasise that promotional product does play an important part in the marketing mix, even with all the digital marketing that is out there it is still alive and well. Psychologically it works, people respond to it, that’s proven,” says managing director Carl Desmond. “You can use below the line product in a creative and effective way, it is not just about a throwaway pen or a throwaway keyring that’s there for the hell of it. It is there because of the repetition, because it has a message and it is functional,” added Carl. “For people not using it, I would say to them can they afford not to. Repetition of your message is a very strong force when it comes to

availing or buying of services. If you’re not going to do it your competitors will, so whose message do you want to see out there?” Established in 1988, Partridge Peartree supplies a range of products to organisations throughout Ireland and UK – from staff uniforms to corporate gifts. It sources directly from factories in Mainland Europe, Eastern Europe, the Far East and India and has an in house design department and production facilities. Desmond says clients who have recognised the value of this type of branding include universities, drinks companies, energy companies, charities, sports clubs and schools. For businesses the products often support an above the line promotion. “There are many different types of promotional products out there and innovative products that come out every year. But we’re talking about things that are actually useful to people as well, that have a practical use, ranging from pens to new devices to clean iPads that are more up to date with the way the way we live our lives now,” he said. “Another item is a microfiber mini screen cleaner which comes on a card that sticks on the back of your phone. The likes of a school or university might use that because they are trying to get a message out to kids to prevent them being silly and ending up online with a message that reminds them about filming.”

NOVEMBER 2013 55


Two of a kind: Waterfront and Ulster Hall


elfast Waterfront and The Ulster Hall are ‘two of a kind’ in terms of their array of spaces and legendary reputation for creating memorable experiences. So if you are seeking the ‘ultimate experience’ for your next event, you will be spoilt with choice at Belfast Waterfront and The Ulster Hall. From intimate meetings between a few colleagues to spectacular gala evenings, The Ulster Hall offers exceptional support alongside a truly enviable and dramatic backdrop. Ideally situated in the very heart of the city The Ulster Hall is not only an iconic venue with a rich heritage but convenient to the entire city centre. Whether you are organising a gala dinner, award ceremony, wedding, drinks reception or a corporate meeting then look no further than The Ulster Hall. In contrast, Belfast Waterfront is one of the World’s Best Convention Centres, with a 2,000-seat auditorium, 2,400m2 of exhibition space, 380-seat studio and a choice of 14 meeting rooms for 10 to 90 delegates makes it suitable to cater for large-scale and smaller events such as staff training, board meetings and AGMs. This award-winning venue boasts flexible and stylish spaces, from the private spaces fully equipped with technical support to glass fronted areas overlooking the city for when your meeting requires the ‘wow factor’. With spaces to accommodate between 2 and 2,000 plus delegates, Belfast Waterfront provides the resources and exceptional service to exceed all your meeting requirements. And the venue is set to get even bigger. As part of a £30m planned expansion programme, 2016 will bring additional flexible exhibition, banqueting and breakout space to facilitate even larger events than ever before. For more information on the venues contact the sales team. Telephone: 028 9033 4400. Email: or visit and

56 NOVEMBER 2013

Hilton Templepatrick helps focus Northern Ireland businesses in 2014


hilst the Northern Ireland business community is working tirelessly to achieve their budget for 2013, it’s also time to start planning time out to focus on 2014. Having just been named the “Best Business Hotel in Northern Ireland” at The World Travel Awards, the staff at Hilton Templepatrick are celebrating by giving away free meeting room hire to help businesses in 2014. The experienced business conference team at the hotel were asked to provide feedback on how businesses get the most out of away days, business teambuilding and business planning bookings. The result was a two day business away format, giving time to review and plan the year ahead. These sessions were combined with breaks for activities such as golf lessons, time out in the health club or boot camps – all of which can be arranged onsite at the hotel. Any business booking of at least five to ten bedrooms between January and March 2014 will be given a free meeting room with full use of the business facilities, including a data projector and screen with unlimited tea and coffee. Due to demand, this offer must be booked by 31st January 2014 at the very latest. Hilton Templepatrick boasts unparalleled service and quality with 129 luxurious, recently refurbished air-conditioned bedrooms and ten of the finest meeting rooms – catering for up to 500 people, a business centre, wireless internet access in all areas of the hotel and 24 hour room service. It also has the most comprehensive list of leisure facilities of any hotel in Northern Ireland with not only a golf course but chipping and putting areas, a floodlit driving range and also tennis courts and a Livingwell Health Club with an 18m swimming pool, gym, steam room and Jacuzzi. Beauty rooms are also on site with both relaxation and therapeutic treatments on offer.

Hosting an event, meeting or sales conference? Choose the venue that sells itself


rom briefing meetings to presentations, seminars to AGMs. Whatever your meeting requirements, you can relax in the knowledge that our unrivalled hospitality, flexible catering options and experienced staff will ensure your event is a resounding success. Hosting a conference or meeting between January and March 2014? Simply book our best available bedroom rate for each delegate and we will give you the MEETING FOR FREE! Included in the residential rate is your overnight accommodation, meeting room hire, data projector, screen, along with unlimited tea and coffee.

SPECIAL OFFER: Stay with us and have your meeting for free!! From £85.00 per person. Book by 31st January 2014. For more information please contact the events team at Hilton Templepatrick, call 028 9027 7225 or email: Subject to availability. Terms & Conditions apply

Castle Upton Estate, Templepatrick, BT39 0DD Visit

Odyssey Arena and Electric Ireland continue to entertain in style


dyssey Arena, Northern Ireland’s premier entertainment venue, is celebrating the second anniversary of their luxurious Electric Ireland Lounge. Electric Ireland came on board in 2011 as sponsor of the Odyssey Arena’s lavish lounge facility which provides customers with the ultimate hospitality experience while attending the biggest concerts and shows at the venue. The partnership came at the perfect time for Electric Ireland, who at the time were looking to obtain a rebranding opportunity in Northern Ireland having served the Northern Ireland energy market for over ten years as ESB Independent Energy. This excellent partnership has worked extremely well for both parties, as Clare Tarbuck, Commercial Executive at Odyssey Arena, explains: “Events at the Arena provide

a superb forum for marketing opportunities thus maximising Electric Ireland’s brand within the market place. With over 150 events each year we have been able to provide Electric Ireland with a fantastic opportunity to target music fans. Our fans always leave the concert with a memorable experience and so driving engagement and an emotional connection with customers.” Clare continues to explain how Electric Ireland has been able to benefit from their sponsorship, increasing brand awareness through both online and off line marketing tools: “Branded Electric Ireland Lounge tickets and ticket wallets were produced; customers receive an exclusive souvenir Electric Ireland Lounge lanyard and concert pass. This differentiates customers and provides that added extra tangible experience which customers can take away to remember a great night out. Branded hospitality lounge menus along with a 20 metre advertising panel inside the Arena bowl all provide Electric Ireland with valuable advertising. “With over 100,000 email subscribers, and hundreds of thousands of visitors per month to the Odyssey Arena website, Electric Ireland has also been able to benefit from valuable online exposure and branding opportunities to new audiences. An advertising banner showcasing the Electric Ireland Lounge is included on all new event email notifications

and website event listings.” Clare McAllister, Senior Customer Relationship Manager for Electric Ireland highlights the importance and benefits of their affiliation with the entertainment venue. “Electric Ireland has benefited greatly though the relationship with Odyssey Arena. This form of Corporate sponsorship provides a very unique opportunity to increase brand awareness and provides multiple outlets for communication with new audiences. We are able to combine direct marketing, print advertising, face-to-face, word of mouth, targeted online and email marketing. All of the above are essential tools to developing a high profile visibility strategy here in Northern Ireland,” she said. In the dynamic and sophisticated world of marketing in which integrated communication strategies play roles of increasing importance, both partners are enjoying the benefits of this unique relationship and know the importance of obtaining every opportunity to seek ways to enhance the customer experience. Odyssey Arena will be celebrating its 13th anniversary this December and continues to provide the best in world class entrainment. With acts such as Gary Barlow, Premier League Darts, Dolly Parton, Ellie Goulding and John Bishop all heading to Belfast in 2014 the Electric Ireland Lounge will continue to provide the ultimate hospitality experience.


DESIGN, CREATE, IMPRESS. AV SOLUTIONS FROM NIAVAC Talk To us Today... 028 9079 3000 Tel: (028) 9079 3000

Fax: (028) 9079 3035

NIAVAC 290 x210mm Ulster Business Advert v2.indd 1


Conlavon House, 5 Prince Regent Road, Belfast, BT5 6QR

25/10/2013 15:18

Taking pride in Ireland’s storytelling culture Michael Barry is currently Director of Content Operations & Development at Cineplex Entertainment, Canada’s largest theatrical distributor, which hosts 71 million visitors per year. Prior to Cineplex, Michael worked at Canada’s largest telecommunications companies including Telus Communications, Bell Media and Astral Media, managing acquisitions from international content providers and studios. He co-founded and launched the Toronto Irish Film Festival in 2010, promoting the work of Irish filmmakers to Canadian audiences. Connections event early in 2013, just after the latest edition of the Toronto Irish Film Festival. It didn’t take long to realise that I was the single representative from the entertainment/media sector and that there was a clear opportunity to promote Northern Ireland outside of the industrial, medical and academic sectors. To that end, in September 2013 during the Toronto International Film Festival, TIRFF hosted a reception bringing together Canadian directors, producers and distributors with organisations like NI Connections, Northern Ireland Screen, Invest NI and the Northern Ireland Bureau. Enterprise Minister Arlene Foster spoke brilliantly about Canadian content creators viewing Northern Ireland in a new way.

Where’s home for you? I currently live in Toronto, Canada, having emigrated here from Belfast in the summer of 1992. At that time, I had two brothers living here and so, thankfully, the process of emigration and sponsoring was quite painless. Certainly, in recent times, the entire procedure seems to have gotten more complicated, so I’m grateful that I made the move when I did. In researching the Irish community in 2010, prior to launching the Toronto Irish Film Festival (TIRFF), I learned that it is almost 250,000 strong and the fourth largest ethnic demographic in the Greater Toronto area. Those are, obviously, big numbers and reflective of historical ties between Ireland and Canada. What’s the best things about living and working where you do? Well, I can say without any doubt, that the worst thing about Toronto is the winter season. There are some years that are great, temperatures stay moderate and snow fall is minimal. However, for the most part, winter can be long and cold. To balance that, life in Toronto is extremely exciting. The demographic make-up of the city

62 NOVEMBER 2013

has changed in the 21 years that I’ve lived here and, I believe, for the better. Pick any country and you’ll find it – its culture, its food and its music are all here at your fingertips. Just two hours north of the city is beautiful cottage country where you can access rural life and amazing landscapes during all four seasons. Working here has also been very exciting – I’ve been fortunate to work on projects of national and international scope, attended some worldclass events and travelled to some amazing countries throughout my career. What’s your connection to Northern Ireland? I was born and raised in Belfast and lived there until I was 24. It does seem like a lifetime ago and I’m getting close to that tipping point of being in Canada just as long, and longer, as I lived in Northern Ireland. However, I’ve never forgotten where I grew up and remain a proud Co. Antrim man. My parents and brothers all live in Ireland. Why did you get involved with NI Connections? I was fortunate to be invited to a NI

What’s the perception of Northern Ireland where you live? I’d have to say that the general impression of Northern Ireland aligns with the historical viewpoint that it is a country with a very unique, politically troubled, past. Additionally, I think most people I have met over the years have a hard time comprehending the intrinsic differences between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland. During my earlier days in Canada, when my accent was undoubtedly stronger, I would get asked a lot about the history of the country, which I am glad has been replaced with new discussions focused on rebuilding, not only the community of Northern Ireland, but the brand. How do you rate the quality of the film work coming from the island of Ireland? We should all feel very proud that the quality of work being delivered by Irish filmmakers, from both north and south of the border, is world-class. As a culture, storytelling is in our blood so it makes sense that we can create amazing films. I’ve screened thousands of films throughout my career, and I’ve seen it all. So, I am pleasantly reminded every year, as I work my way through TIRFF submissions, that the Irish sensibility for compelling stories, interesting characters and impressive production values, are second-to-none.

Sport & Business


64 NOVEMBER 2013


Day 1

From Belfast Winning the chance to bring cycling race the Giro d’Italia to Northern Ireland has been hailed as a real coup. But what is the likely value of staging part of the event in terms of tourism and what businesses will benefit from the race coming to these shores? Amanda Ferguson reports.


ne of the greatest cycling spectacles on earth – the Giro d’Italia – will get its Big Start in Belfast next May. The world’s second-biggest cycling race, first started in 1909, is expected to generate millions of pounds for both the Northern Ireland and Republic of Ireland economies and encourage further and new participation in the sport. More than 200 of the world’s best cyclists, from over 30 countries, will arrive in Northern Ireland for the Grande Partenza (Big Start) on Friday May 9. On Saturday, May 10 the Giro travels up to the North Antrim Coast and races along the stunning Causeway Coastal Route. Then it’s back to Belfast before concluding on Sunday, May 11 with a road stage from Armagh to Dublin. In Italy, and among the global cycling community, the countdown to the event is already on. The official Giro d’Italia Twitter account went into overdrive when the route was announced earlier this month. “21 stages, 3.449,9 km, a pure show from Belfast to Trieste... this is the Giro d’Italia 2014 route!” the enthused social media team wrote about the event, which is expected to end in Trieste in Italy on June 1. In 2010 when the Big Start was hosted in Amsterdam it generated an economic return of €7.4m and attracted around 200,000 spectators. Last year the Big Start was held in Denmark and represented a bit step up, drawing an estimated 500,000 spectators. In 2014, the Northern Ireland Tourist Board (NITB) is expecting in excess of 140,000 overnight visitors for the start of the cycle race

and local cycle businesses are also expecting to get a boost. Sports Minister, Caral Ni Chuilin told Ulster Business the success of the World Police and Fire Games held over the summer demonstrated the region’s capacity to host and deliver large events. “The local spectators who came out in their thousands helped to create the buzz and atmosphere which was evident at all the venues,” she said. “Sport is an important component of many people’s lives here and I am sure this enthusiasm will be evident when the competitors from the Giro d’Italia arrive. “Cycling for many of us is an excellent way of staying healthy, getting out and about and enjoying our magnificent scenery. “This event however will offer a unique opportunity to witness the high speed, adrenaline fuelled sport of competitive cycle racing,” the Minister added. “DCAL will be working closely with DETI, Sport NI and Cycling Ulster, to maximise the outcomes here of the Giro legacy, particularly in those areas of greatest need.” Indeed, cycling enthusiast and WPFG chief executive John Tully says the Giro will be a huge logistical project for organisers to ensure athletes from all over the world and spectators are at the centre of everything. “Giro is a very special event,” he said. “It’s very different from WPFG but also absolutely fantastic for Northern Ireland. The level of television coverage is huge. Eurosport will run live pieces every day and wrap up programming too. This is great for our profile.” Mr Tully said hosting the Big Start is “another feather in our cap” when it comes to staging >>>

Day 2

Day 3

NOVEMBER 2013 65


The launch of the Giro attracted huge media attention, a sign of things to come.

major international sporting events. “It’s a hugely exciting event for Northern Ireland, which will see world class athletes compete in Belfast,” he said. “NI PLC has a track record and the capability to deliver on major events. “It is a phenomenal success story for Northern Ireland to get this event and fitting that it goes right up to Stormont on the first day. “I am a cycling enthusiast, it’s my sport, so to see top notch cyclists cycle the roads of Belfast is hugely exciting. Cycling businesses will get a boost and its another opportunity to attract young people into sport. Seeing the exciting buzz that goes around will be good for everyone.” Among those hoping to cash in on the Giro buzz is Derek Armstrong, owner of Bike Dock on the Ravenhill Road in south Belfast. He says there are still many people who do not fully appreciate the magnitude of the event. “A lot of people don’t understand how important this is for Northern Ireland,” he said. “It really is phenomenal. The following for this event is up there with the Tour de France. “Seeing this spectacle will engender a fair amount of enthusiasm. Hotels in some areas are already fully booked and it will be enormous in terms of tourism and a buzz in the city. “A lot of the brands we sell will be represented at the event and we will hang on the back of that to push publicity further. “Our promotional vehicles will display information about the event as will the shop and the website.” Mr Armstrong said this “pure cycle event” is growing in popularity as each year passes and the

66 NOVEMBER 2013

“Last year’s event attracted massive media coverage when it was broadcast in 165 countries with a global audience of 775 million.” cycle industry in Northern Ireland see staging the Giro’s Big Start as a very big deal. “We are looking forward to capitalising on it as much as possible,” he added. Meanwhile, Tourism Ireland chief executive Niall Gibbons described it as “a wonderful coup” for Northern Ireland that the first stages of the Giro d’Italia will take place here in 2014. “There is huge interest in this prestigious event, which will be seen by an estimated 775 million sports and cycling fans everywhere, presenting us with a fantastic opportunity to highlight Northern Ireland around the world, as a top location for sporting events, as well as a wonderful holiday destination,” he said. “Tourism Ireland is working hard to capitalise on the tourism potential of the famous Giro d’Italia and the Giro promotions will be a major focus for Tourism Ireland in Italy, the home of the Giro; in Great Britain, the largest market for tourism to Northern Ireland; and in other key markets like Spain and Germany, where there is strong interest in cycling.” Meanwhile, NITB’s Director of Marketing Naomi Waite said clinching the event once again highlighted our growing reputation as a world

class destination. “The benefits of an event like this for Northern Ireland are huge,” she said. “We’re expecting more than 140,000 overnight visitors for the event, as well as countless more spectators on each day, which will generate millions for the local economy. “On top of this, we expect the event to generate around £10m worth of international media coverage which will really showcase Northern Ireland as a top quality destination and host for world class events. “Last year’s event attracted massive international media coverage when it was broadcast in 165 countries with a global audience of 775 million people.” Giovanni Nipoti, Sport Manager for the event organisers RCS Sport, said it was delighted that the Big Start of the Giro d’Italia 2014 is in Northern Ireland, as it is a place known around the world for its rich sporting heritage. “I am confident the cyclists will enjoy the route which I believe they will find very challenging,” he said. “Northern Ireland is a beautiful part of the world and will make for a very scenic race.”


Niall McGinn

Gerry Carlile (centre) winning a recent award

The best of both worlds

Football agent and entrepreneur Gerry Carlile gives Ulster Business the low-down on why he’s extending his empire of pubs, clubs and restaurants from west Belfast into Scotland.


ne of west Belfast’s most successful young entrepreneurs is set to expand his hospitality empire into Scotland with the launch of a new club in Glasgow. Gerry Carlile is this month launching Light nightclub at Royal Exchange Square in the heart of the Scottish city, the first site he has invested in outside of Northern Ireland. Carlile, who first showed his entrepreneurial flair by spotting a gap in the market to become Northern Ireland’s first registered football agent, already has a growing portfolio of bars, restaurants and hotels in Northern Ireland which includes the Whitefort bar and the Devenish complex in west Belfast. He has formed a formidable partnership with Aberdeen and Northern Ireland footballer Niall McGinn, with whom he owns Fáilte on the Falls Road and 26 West in the Kennedy Centre alongside business man Sean Duffy. Carlile told Ulster Business that his two careers are complementary. Having helped McGinn secure a move from Derry City to Glasgow Celtic as his agent, he saw an opportunity to not just advise him on where to invest his money, but to invest with him. “I had always wanted to be involved in bars and restaurants, the first job I ever had was washing glasses in a local bar, but I didn’t know how I would go back into it. So I said to Niall ‘you’ve got a few quid, I’ve saved a few quid,

would you be interested in opening a restaurant on the Falls Road?’ The fact that he was playing for Celtic at the time was a PR dream,” he said. “I felt like there was an onus on me to make it successful. I wasn’t saying to him invest in a building and hopefully it will work for you, like some agents do. I was actually investing myself in it so it had to work for me too. A lot of players probably take bad advice and invest wrong. There is a bit of a vulture culture because they are young and impressionable. The relationship I have with Niall, as his agent, is different.” Situated on the Falls Road in the heart of West Belfast’s Gaeltacht Quarter, Fáilte Restaurant is one of the busiest restaurants in the area. In August this year the same team opened the 26 West Bar and Grill in shopping complex the Kennedy Centre. A proud West Belfast man, Gerry says he struggles to articulate the passion he has for helping to reinvigorate the area. “I was born on the Falls Road and lived in Beechmount. I’ve watched that area go through so much grief and so much trauma. There was never any hope in the area, it was always despair. It was treated very badly. “So I always said if I was going to be successful in business I would love to do it in my own area, to create a bit of wealth, to create jobs to boost the economy in the area. It isn’t just as

simple as me wanting to make money, there’s more to it,” he said. “The timing was right politically – 15 years ago you couldn’t have opened a restaurant on the Falls Road without a cage going in front of it,” added Gerry. “There’s a real good feelgood factor that someone as successful as Niall, who scored that goal for Northern Ireland against Portugal, who’s so popular, about having him associated with west Belfast. There is still a wee bit of a stigma attached to west Belfast but having Niall involved helps normalise it for more people and we have a wide demographic coming into our restaurant.” Although he wanted his next investment to be in a nightclub, Gerry says he couldn’t see it working in Belfast due to Northern Ireland’s “draconian” licensing laws. “You have to close your bar at 1am, which is bonkers. The culture has changed, people don’t go out until later and our laws haven’t adapted to that change. I looked at Glasgow and saw laws that are very conducive to the sort of business I want to do. I decided if I was going to invest the money I wanted to be somewhere a bit more progressive,” he explains. “We’re opening a nightclub here that we want to be the number one nightclub in Glasgow. It is a big investment and it is going to be really top notch.”

NOVEMBER 2013 67

Ulster Business caught up with Belfast Giants general manager Todd Kelman to find out why and how the organisation has gone about packaging its sport as an entertaining night out for all the family.

NOVEMBER 2013 68



port – or in US parlance sports – has been big business in North America for many years. Whether due to the early involvement of television networks or just the sheer scale of their markets, American football, basketball, baseball and ice hockey teams are run as huge commercial enterprises, attracting massive sponsorship deals and huge audiences. But when those sports are transported across the Atlantic to new territories such as Northern Ireland and are up against other sports ingrained in the fabric of local culture such as football, rugby and GAA, they don’t have the same draw. That requires innovative thinking on behalf of those running teams, says Todd Kelman, general manager of ice hockey franchise the Belfast Giants. The Giants were formed in 2000 and have enjoyed relative success since then in the Elite Ice Hockey League, which features teams from England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. But Kelman says they’ve made a conscious decision not to go toe to toe with the established sports, pitching ice hockey instead as a fun and entertaining Saturday night out for people of all ages. “We’re not competing with other sports, we’re competing with other forms of entertainment on a Saturday night – going to movies, staying in watching X-Factor, going to dinner – so how do we get them to choose us over other things,” said Kelman “It can’t be that serious and just about ice hockey because if it was there’s a limited amount of ice hockey fans in Northern Ireland. We need to make sure we’re providing entertainment and fun for the whole family and that’s what we try to do.” In his playing career on the ice, which included seven seasons with the Giants, Kelman was known as The Killer, a nickname that was down to his offensive style of play, uncompromising defending and strong penalty record. When I ask if it’s an approach he’s taken into the business world since transitioning into the role of General Manager in 2007, he laughs. “What we preach to our staff and volunteers is that sometimes sports at all levels takes itself way too seriously and you have to understand nobody cares as much about the outcome as the players and coaches,” he said. “Fans get passionate, they follow their teams religiously, but at the end of the day if we get 5,000 people at a game 1,500 are probably die-hard Giants fans and the other 3,500 are there for a night out. Maybe it’s the first game they come to, maybe the fifth, maybe it’s a yearly treat. We have to make sure they all have fun before, during and after the game and give them options to make sure it is an entertaining night out,” he adds. “Sometimes sports lose track of the fact that it

Todd Kelman

is entertainment first. When it gets to the point where it is just about wins and losses, where there are millions of pounds on the line, that’s the Premiership, that’s where Ulster Rugby are. I’d love to get to the point where we are selling out every game, our players were making big money and it was a huge commercial business but we know where we fit in Northern Ireland, we are entertainment first. The reason our fanbase has grown for seven years in a row is that we’re doing a pretty good job of it.” While fun and entertainment are the watchwords, that’s not to say the Belfast Giants isn’t aiming to be successful in business. After some well documented ownership issues over the years, the team is now owned by the Odyssey Trust, owners of the Odyssey Arena, where the Giants play their home games. Kelman says he and his team are constantly trying to find new ways for partners such as title sponsor Stena Line to engage with fans and get their message across in ways that go beyond the traditional billboards around the arena. Some of that follows the American model – for example the firing of Subway sandwiches into the crowd from a cannon – but other methods are more innovative. “Rather than just having static advertising we have the ability to, say, for a sponsor like Tayto, we do a quiz on the big screen in the arena so fans can win crisps for a whole section, or Stena will do competitions during the game where people can win ferry trips. It is more engaging than just static advertising, which I don’t think works any more,” said the GM. It is, he says, about trying to make sure a

sponsor feels it is important to be part of the team in the sense that they don’t want to lose it because it is a unique and engaging sponsorship deal that fits their needs. He notes, for example, that Pizza Hut gives away pizzas in the crowd because the smell encourages more people to buy pizzas at their outlet next door after the game. “If people just want to advertise at a sporting event and they want their brand to be seen by the most people, then I’m pretty clear they should go to Ulster Rugby. They’re on TV every week, they get 14,000 people at their games. But if people can’t afford that and they want to be involved in a sport that is going to give their brand as much hit for the money they can spend, come to us,” said Kelman. “We’re not just a bunch of fools firing food into the crowd, there is a plan behind it. We check what other sports are doing, we check what other family events are doing.” The product has also been a big hit with corporate Northern Ireland, with companies surprised at the affordability of hiring their own suite with a waitress and bar (which Kelman notes is warm, despite being at an ice rink) and the Electric Ireland suite offering an attractive option for larger gatherings. One unique attraction among the sports on offer here is that the Giants’ fanbase is fairly evenly split 50/50 between men and women. “A lot of options for sporting events end up being a guys night out so it’s not that easy to invite female colleagues or people’s wives. I always say everyone equally doesn’t understand ice hockey the first time they come, that’s the big selling point, it is for everyone. You don’t need to understand hockey here to have a good time,” said Kelman. It is an attitude that seems to typify the Giants ethos. The team has won a lot of friends in Belfast for the way it engages with fans, particularly children and that responsibility is something the players have all bought in to, even if it means disrupting match day rituals, says Kelman. “Players have to accept they have to meet and engage with their fans. Our players are really good at that. As a player you maybe want to focus on the game rather than commitments off the ice. But what we’ve done is made sure we get the right type of guys who understand what they’re signing up to when they sign with the Giants,” he said. “I always tell the guys the day the Odyssey is sold out every game with 7,000 season ticket holders and a waiting list of 1,000 we don’t have to engage so much. In top level sports, like the Premiership, you can see why players have to be removed from the fans, but in minor league sports like ourselves it is so important to build personal relationships and give people that access they don’t normally get to sporting clubs.”

NOVEMBER 2013 69


Let’s get ready to rumble E

arlier this month two local insurance companies took their rivalry to the next level by going head to head in the boxing ring as part of the Prince’s Trust Million Makers campaign. Pictured sparring in preparation for the big night are Sam Geddis, Director of Adelaide Insurance Services (right) and Gareth Brady, CEO of Hughes Insurance, who agreed to get in the ring and duke it out to raise money for the charity, which helps young people into work. The Adelaide Millions Makers amateur boxing evening, Boxstars: The Rivals, was due to take place on 8 November – after Ulster Business went to print – at the Clarion Hotel in Carrickfergus so we are not sure who emerged victorious. But the event is sure to have been a big success as it brought together a number of local friendly rivals from the sporting and business communities to face their match in the boxing ring for a great cause. The charity event is in keeping with a growing trend for so-called White Collar Boxing nights, where people who normally work in the corporate sector take part in training programmes before being matched up with people of similar size and ability in the ring to raise money for good causes close to their hearts. The event was hosted by BBC Sports Presenter Stephen Watson and a number of local celebrities were expected be in attendance. To find out more or donate to the fundraising effort go to

Sponsorship proves a winner for local firm


ocal firm Velocity WorldWide has been celebrating after the race team it sponsors, Wayne Taylor Racing, clinched the 2013 and final ever Rolex Grand-Am Sports Car Series title. 

70 NOVEMBER 2013

The final race at Lime Rock Park in Lakeville, Connecticut saw the team beat its closest rivals to take the race and the championship by 13 points. Pictured is Brian Stockman, Velocity WorldWide, Wayne Taylor of Wayne Taylor

Racing, Paul Blakely, Velocity WorldWide and Enda McShane, CEO Velocity WorldWide at the prize giving in New York City’s Gotham Hall. Speaking from New York, Enda McShane, CEO of Velocity WorldWide, welcomed the win: “Grand-Am is one of the most competitive, dynamic and exciting motorsports series that there is. Working with a top-tier organisation like Wayne Taylor Racing has represented an excellent opportunity for us to build our brand internationally. We are delighted with our success – working with a winning team like Wayne Taylor Racing gives us unparalleled access to influential business contacts at the highest level of corporate America. No-one manages partnerships better than Wayne and we now have a number of major contracts about to close after this Rolex Grand-Am series win.” The Rolex Grand-Am Sports Car Series is one of the largest endurance racing contests in North America and will become The TUDOR United SportsCar Championship from next season. Velocity WorldWide is an international digital customer engagement firm with its head office in Belfast. At the start of the year Velocity undertook a multi-million dollar sponsorship of the Wayne Taylor racing team, one of the tournament’s top competitors.


Risk Management – think the unthinkable Gareth Wright, Risk Assurance Manager at Phoenix Natural Gas, talks about how effective risk management can be translated into business growth.


heodore Roosevelt once said: “Risk is like fire. If controlled it will help you. If uncontrolled it will rise up and destroy you”. Risk management is a fundamental component of sound corporate governance; in business it is good practice to think the unthinkable. The effective management of business risk can even lead to enhanced profits through the early improvement of business processes and the prevention of events that may have a negative impact on profit or the public image of an organisation. I have a career background in Enterprise Risk Management, having previously worked for Deloitte in Belfast and London. I joined Phoenix initially in an internal auditing role and this developed into my current position, which sees me take on responsibility for identifying and overseeing Phoenix’s management of risks throughout its many internal and external functions. The aim of risk management is to maximise the positive outcomes and minimise adverse results. It should be used to support business objectives whilst protecting an organisation’s assets, employees, property, income and reputation, at the lowest possible cost. Business leaders should see the mitigation of risks as a challenge and should utilise risk management processes to identify and implement measurable actions. Some of the key aspects of risk management include: • Understanding the risks facing the organisation.

74 NOVEMBER 2013

• Identifying the level of tolerable risk exposure. • Identification of controls to mitigate identified risks – you may be surprised to realise that your organisation has already implemented controls to mitigate against your risks. • Implementation of new controls if existing arrangements are found to be inadequate. • Continual review – risk management is not a one off process. As a utility company working in a regulatory environment where everything is measured and benchmarked, we are acutely aware of the importance of risk management. At Phoenix we have a holistic approach to the identification of business risks, creating controls to mitigate those risks, and monitoring and revising them. Risk management is integrated throughout Phoenix at both a strategic and an operational level. All businesses are different with regard to managing risk and in the effort required to implement effective management processes. The identification and formal recording of known business risks, in for example a ‘Risk Register’, is a good first step. Risk Registers are generally commercially sensitive and as such it can be difficult to share best practice on their content. However, this should not be viewed as a barrier to prevent you from looking internally at the risks facing your business and developing a Risk Register to formally document and manage them. It is important that you consider the probability that each risk identified could

materialise and the impact on your business if this happens. If there is a high probability that an unwelcome event will occur, and the possibility of a significant financial or reputational loss, then that risk should get your attention first. The use of a traffic light system to rank your risks is a very useful tool to aid effective risk management. Key Risks

Moderate Risks

Minor Risks I would suggest the following steps when developing a Risk Register: • Brainstorm to identify business risks. • Eliminate irrelevant issues. • Develop a scoring mechanism to assess and rank risks. • Identify existing controls utilised to manage each risk. • Identify additional controls required to further mitigate against risks identified. • Assign a unique reference number to each risk identified. • Ongoing monitoring and review. I firmly believe that all organisations, both big and small, should have their own risk management process – it simply makes good business sense.

Executive Motoring By Pat Burns

Sponsored by Extra comes as standard


2008 – a vintage year for Peugeot


he Peugeot 2008 is a new crossover that brings contemporary design, a versatile interior and a new level of sophistication to this expanding sector of the market. Measuring 4.16 metres long and 1.74 metres wide, the Peugeot 2008 brings together the robustness of an SUV with the practicality of space, comfort and modularity displayed so successfully in the marque’s existing passenger cars. The goal for the design and engineering team was to combine Peugeot’s strong reputation for styling flair with a unique driving experience while offering desirable user benefits. The result is a car that’s equally at home in town or on the open road. The 2008 puts a new twist on the existing Peugeot family face, as seen on the 208. The floating grille is cut from a solid block and set upright to create a powerful and dominant design cue. The sculpted headlamps with LED daytime running lights blend into the nose. From the side, the car presents a dynamic and elegant profile enhanced by the roof bars which hint at the car’s practicality and versatility. At the rear, the wide tailgate and low loading lip – just 60cm off the ground – guarantee ease of use. Complimentary to the appeal of its elevated driving position, the 2008 has many other attractive features; stylish matt-finished alloy wheels, black bumpers and body sills, stainless steel front and rear scuffplates and chromed side mouldings are the perfect blend of practicality and style. A new Grip Control system, first seen on the 3008, builds on Peugeot’s crossover experience and is available on the 2008. Due to the success of the 3008, Peugeot has extensive expertise in the Crossover sector. Drawing on this has enhanced development of the 2008 which sets a new standard for on-road handling in the segment. The 2008 Crossover range consists of four trim levels: Access+, Active, Allure & Feline.  Range highlights include CO2 from 98g/km, economy up to 74.3 mpg in the Combined Drive Cycle and the new 3 Cylinder VTi 82bhp petrol engine, successfully introduced on 208. With four badge levels, six engine choices, six alloy wheel designs, seven trim environments, eight colours and 18 options to choose from, customers need only think of one number – 2008! Prices start at £12,995 on the road.

76 NOVEMBER 2013


Executive Czech-in Š

koda has launched a new vRS version of its latest Octavia range that offers a superb combination of performance, space, style and even economy in its diesel models. With prices starting from £22,990, it also sets new standards for value. Based on the acclaimed third-generation Octavia launched by the Czech manufacturer earlier this year, the new Octavia vRS is equipped with a host of standard features designed to fully exploit the car’s performance potential. With new technologies combining to make the car lighter and more affordable to run, the new model is the most complete vRS package ever offered. Offered in both hatchback and estate forms, the new Octavia vRS’s bold, motorsportinspired design pays homage to its predecessors. Despite its obvious sporting ambitions, the new Octavia vRS is as practical and clever as the award-winning standard models. The hatch

78 NOVEMBER 2013

offers 590 litres of boot space with the rear seats in position, while the estate delivers 610 litres of luggage room. With the rear seats folded, the figures rise to 1,580 litres and 1,740 litres respectively. At the heart of the new Octavia vRS is an engine line-up that is as powerful and exciting as it is frugal and clean. Two advanced powerplants are available: a 2.0 TSI petrol that generates 220PS, and the most powerful diesel engine ever to be offered in an Octavia in the form of a 2.0 TDI 184PS. Both are available with the choice of a six-speed manual transmission or a DSG automatic. To allow drivers to fully exploit the vRS’s performance potential, Škoda has engineered a new chassis set up that features a lowered ride height (12mm hatch, 13mm estate) and advanced multi-link rear suspension design. Electronic differential lock (XDS) is fully integrated into the Octavia’s electronic stability

control (ESC) system, and helps improves traction in corners. The new Octavia also introduces a new progressive steering system that varies the amount of lock required according to road speed. The new Octavia vRS also boasts the highest level of safety. Included in the newly developed safety system are the Front Assistant with city emergency braking, Lane Assistant to keep you on track, Automatic Post Collision Braking System with automatic brake intervention in the event of an accident, Crew Protect Assistant to protect the vehicle under accident conditions and the Driver Fatigue Sensor. In the event of an accident, a comprehensive package of passive safety features work to provide the best possible protection for the driver and passengers with up to nine airbags amongst other things. The new Octavia vRS will continue Škoda’s run of success, with diesel engined vRS models sure to be a popular sight on Ulster’s roads.


Drive your business with fuel efficient Honda CR-V


he new Honda CR-V 1.6 – hailed as one of the most fuel efficient Honda crossover vehicles to date – has arrived at Donnelly Honda. The long awaited new CR-V model can be viewed and booked for test drives from the Group’s Honda showroom on Boucher Road, Belfast. Complete with the new 1.6 i-DTEC engine, customers benefit from the practicality and styling of an SUV, but with lower emissions and higher fuel efficiency similar to that of a small diesel engine. “Fuel economy is one of the biggest draws of the new CR-V 1.6, particularly for business customers,” said Paul Compton, Dealer Principal at Donnelly Honda Belfast. “Whilst this new model, complete with a huge interior and 1669 litres of luggage capacity, is more affordable than ever before, its quality and performance have certainly not been compromised. “At Donnelly Honda, CR-V 1.6 i-DTEC customers will pay no road tax for the first year. From year two this will be as little as £30 per year, and with up to 800 miles on one tank of fuel, this car is both cheaper to buy and cheaper to run.” The new Honda CR-V offers an outstanding 62.8 mpg on the combined cycle and will be available with three generously equipped trim levels – S, SE and SR. The entry level S features DAB Radio, dual zone climate control air conditioning, cruise control, electric adjustable and heated door mirrors, and USB connectivity, as well as all the driver safety aids such as ABS (Anti-Lock Braking System), and Vehicle Stability Assist (VSA) as standard. To arrange a test drive please contact the Donnelly Honda Belfast showroom on 028 9044 5900. Directions and more information can be found at the Donnelly Group’s new-look website – The Donnelly Group can also be found on Facebook and Twitter – @ DonnellyGroupNI

NOVEMBER 2013 79



uzuki’s latest addition is a new crossover four wheel drive model. Built in Hungary, the SX4 S-Cross range starts at £14,999 for the SZ3 1.6-litre petrol model. The SX4 S-Cross is the latest of Suzuki’s world strategic models and the distinctive design offers ample room for passengers and luggage. It features the world’s first double sliding panoramic glass sunroof which has the largest opening area in this category. The next-generation four wheel drive technology combined with the acclaimed handling of the Swift, and active and passive safety features make the new model a very appealing proposition. Allgrip is Suzuki’s new generation 4WD system, created by evolving the company’s renowned 4WD technologies to provide driving enjoyment and peace of mind in diverse conditions. The 4WD system has four driverselectable modes – auto, sport, snow, and lock. Suzuki created the new SX4 S-Cross by combining its compact car knowhow with technologies honed for sport utility vehicles. As a result of focusing on giving the new S-Cross distinctive crossover styling, class leading space for passengers and luggage, next-generation 4WD performance and one of the lowest CO2 emissions in the segment, it achieves a remarkable combination of styling, utility, safety, performance and fuel economy. It is a model which can offer great driving enjoyment and versatile family usage to many more people in a wide range of situations. The CO2 emissions for the new S-Cross petrol models are 127g/km with 2WD manual transmission, 125g/km with 2WD CVT, 135g/km with 4WD manual transmission and 130g/km with 4WD CVT. The CO2 emissions for the diesel models are 110g/km with 2WD manual transmission and 114g/ km with 4WD manual transmission.

Cross Roads


GTD – Great to Drive

he latest version of the Volkswagen Golf GTD starts at £25,285 on the road – just £310 more than the previous model despite enhancements in performance and equipment. The new GTD is powered by a 2.0-litre turbocharged common rail diesel engine (TDI) with 184 PS. Maximum torque – has risen from 350 Nm (258 lbs ft) to 380Nm (280 lbs ft) from just 1,750 rpm.  Acceleration from zero to 62mph takes just 7.5 seconds, while the top speed is 142mph, yet the new Golf GTD consumes just one gallon of fuel every 67.3 miles, making for CO2 emissions of only 109 g/km. With the optional six-speed DSG, fuel consumption is 62.8mpg and CO2 emissions of 119g/km. As evidence of the progress which Volkswagen has made over the years in combining performance and economy, when the first generation Golf BlueMotion went on sale at the end of 2007, it too returned 62.8mpg and had CO2 emissions of 119g/km. Distinctive GTD features distinguish the interior: along with tartan ‘Jacara Grey’ sports seats, a black roof lining, sports steering wheel, and stainless steel pedals; there is also a GTD-specific gear lever, trim strips and instrument cluster. Comfort is guaranteed thanks to standard features including progressive steering, white ambience lighting, 2Zone climate control and a touchscreen infotainment system which also includes DAB digital radio, Bluetooth and iPod connectivity.

80 NOVEMBER 2013


Award-winning cars at Lindsay Mazda


azda’s ability to defy convention and manufacture uniquely efficient cars has been given glowing endorsements this year by experts at Britain’s best selling car buyer’s guide, WhatCar? magazine and at the trusted CarBuyer website. Both the Mazda CX-5 compact SUV and the all-new Mazda6 on sale at Lindsay Mazda are equipped with Mazda’s innovative fuel-saving SKYACTIV technologies – the result of completely rethinking traditional engineering – and feature the Japanese brand’s new distinctive ‘KODO – Soul of Motion’ styling theme. Mazda’s SKYACTIV engines, transmissions, chassis and body technologies were declared winner of the WhatCar? ‘Ultra-low-carbon’ Award for 2013. The monthly publication stated: “Mazda wins because it has taken a totally fresh approach to improving fuel efficiency and lowering emissions, demonstrating it can deliver real improvements without resorting to more expensive hybrid or electric technology, and without compromising the driving dynamics. The latest version of the Mazda6 delivers CO2 emissions from as low as 108g/km – a remarkable figure which shows how a radical rethink can deliver real gains.” Launched in the UK at the end of January, the all-new Mazda6 has already received two awards – ‘Best Large Family Car’ for the saloon and ‘Best Estate Car’ for the Tourer – from the influential website CarBuyer, which is linked to the weekly Auto Express magazine. The all-new Mazda6 is the first mass-production Mazda model to be equipped with i-ELOOP, the company’s unique brake energy regeneration system. Fitted as standard to the majority of Mazda6 models, this innovative system can boost fuel economy by up to 10 per cent. For more information about all-new Mazda6 and Mazda CX-5, or to arrange a test drive, call Lindsay Mazda in Lisburn (028 9260 0200) or Mallusk (028 9084 7940).

NOVEMBER 2013 81


ANNA mcclimonds



Anna McClimonds has been appointed Assistant Solicitor in the Litigation Department at Cleaver Fulton Rankin Solicitors. Prior to completing her training contract at Cleaver Fulton Rankin Anna worked as a paralegal in the Property department at a large Belfast law firm. Christopher McCluskey has been appointed Assistant Solicitor in the Litigation Department at Cleaver Fulton Rankin Solicitors, where in addition to general Commercial Litigation Christopher’s main areas of work include Debt Recovery, Mortgage Repossession and Product Liability. Kernel Capital has appointed Jayne Brady as a Partner based at its newly opened Belfast Office in Donegall Square. Jayne is current Chairman of the Institution of Engineering and Technology in Northern Ireland and has served as a Board member of Momentum, the trade body representing the ICT sector in Northern Ireland.




Mandy Patrick, director of the Park Avenue Hotel has been appointed President of the Northern Ireland Hotels Federation, the trade association that promotes the business interests of the hotel and guesthouse sector. The Federation was formed in 1999 and Mrs Patrick, who was made an MBE in 2010 for her contribution to tourism, is its first female president. Lesley-Ann Starrett has been appointed Associate Director and Head of Office for Abbey Bond Lovis in Armagh. Having entered the industry on a graduate training programme 15 years ago, Lesley-Ann has worked primarily as a commercial broker, concentrating on SME business.  ASM Chartered Accountants has appointed Pauline Poots as a Director in the firm’s Belfast office. Pauline joined the firm over eight years ago, having previously worked with another large professional services firm and the Ministry of Defence. In her new role, Pauline will also be responsible for ensuring the further growth of the Internal Audit department.




The Culloden Estate & Spa has announced the appointment of Helen Caters as its new General Manager. Helen, who was previously General Manager at Malmaison Liverpool, is from Northern Ireland and has over 20 years of experience in the hospitality industry working for a range of hotels locally and in Liverpool. Stephen Meldrum, who previously managed the 5-star Culloden Estate & Spa, is moving role within the Hastings Group to take over as the head of the Slieve Donard Resort & Spa. Dr Noel Purdy has been appointed as chair of the Northern Ireland Anti-Bullying Forum, which has a membership of over 25 regional statutory and voluntary organisations. Dr Purdy is currently Head of Education Studies and Chair of the B Ed Primary at Stranmillis University College.

82 NOVEMBER 2013


Orla Hanna has been appointed Banking and Finance Associate at A&L Goodbody. In her new role she will advise lending institutions and borrowers on a wide range of finance transactions, in particular corporate lending and security, asset finance and project finance.







Carla Hosie has been appointed General Manager of the Malone Lodge Hotel, responsible for overseeing the operations of the 119-room Malone Lodge Hotel and its staff. Carla has previously acted as Hotel Manager at the London Ealing Hotel and General Manager of the Marks Tey Hotel in Colchester. Connect Telecom has appointed Robin Johnston as Sales Manager for the Scottish market after its recent expansion into Scotland. Robin has extensive experience in the field of telecoms with expertise in mobile security and mobile computing as the former Enterprise and Commercial Manager of BlackBerry UK & Ireland.

Richard Charles has been appointed Head of I.T. Services at Rainbow Communications. With over 21 years’ experience in the I.T solutions industry, Richard will manage and develop the new I.T. Services department, providing proactive support to Rainbow Communications’ extensive customer base. Roy McLean has been appointed Senior I.T. Consultant at Rainbow Communications. With over 27 years’ experience in the I.T. industry, Roy will be responsible for sales within the new I.T. Services department at Northern Ireland’s largest independent business telecoms company. Julie McNeilly has been appointed Customer Relations Coordinator at Rainbow Communications. With over ten years’ experience in sales support, Julie will be responsible for service and account management in Northern Ireland, and will act as a coordinator for customer service in the business telecoms company’s Scottish division.

Gaelectric, the renewable energy development, operations and energy storage group, has appointed Alice Murphy as Geographical Information Systems (GIS) Project Officer. Her role involves investigative research, data analysis, mapping, site layouts and preparing professional maps and renderings. Alice previously worked for a large transport and distribution company.



Niketa McClenaghan has joined Gaelectric Developments Ltd as a Project Assistant. Prior to Gaelectric Niketa worked for a lighting design company as a Personal Assistant to the company directors.  Oxfam Ireland has appointed Michael McIlwaine as Head of Retail with responsibility for the day-to-day organisation of Oxfam’s network of 51 shops throughout Ireland. Originally from Belfast, Michael has spent his entire career in retail.

NOVEMBER 2013 83


1. Pictured are the winners of this year’s Social Enterprise Awards held in Derry/ Londonderry UK City of Culture. Social Enterprise of the year was awarded to Ashton Community Trust. The start up category ‘One to Watch’ went to South Armagh Childcare Consortium, Consumer facing social Enterprise went to Willowbank Ltd, Social Enterprise market builder was awarded to the Northern Health and Social Care Trust. Social Investment deal was won by Drumlin wind energy co-operative.

2. Author of the “Beermat Entrepreneur” series and Business Ambassador and Entrepreneur Mentor for the City of Liverpool, Mike Southon, addressed business leaders at the Institute of Directors Northern Ireland Annual Lunch. It was a full house as hundreds of local directors attended the prestigious event at the Hilton Hotel in Belfast. The keynote speaker (right) was joined at the lunch by IoD NI Chairman Paul Terrington and Sales and Marketing Director of the event’s sponsor, Rainbow Communications, Stuart Carson.



3. Flybe, Europe’s largest independent regional airline and the biggest operator at George Best Belfast City Airport has been named ‘Best UK Domestic Airline’ at the Northern Ireland Travel and Tourism Awards. This is the second consecutive year that Flybe has won the accolade ahead of BA, Aer Lingus, easyjet and Jet2. The award was decided following independent voting by travel agents.

4. Evelyn Collins CBE, Equality Commission and Claire McIntyre of New York Stock Exchange Euronext have been named as the latest partners to be associated with Women in Business NI. Pictured with Chief Executive of Women in Business NI, Roseann Kelly, they will be associated with the organisation for the next two years.

5. Two solicitors, Alan Gibson and Caitriona Flanagan from leading Belfast law firm, Cleaver Fulton Rankin have been awarded their Certificate of Proficiency in Insolvency from the Insolvency Practitioner’s Association (IPA). Both achieved success, Caitriona with a distinction, despite the exam typically being taken by accountants.

84 NOVEMBER 2013






6. Garvan O’Doherty, CEO of The Garvan O’Doherty Group, picks up his award for Hospitality Hero at the 2013 Northern Ireland Hotels Federation President’s Annual Gala Dinner. The accolade was presented to him by award sponsor James Greer of Greer Publications, with Enterprise Minister Arlene Foster and Mandy Patrick, President of the Northern Ireland Hotels Federation.

7. Marco Marro, food & beverage manager for The Merchant Hotel and Johnny Leake, head chef at The Great Room Restaurant are pictured with their Grub Club Best Restaurant Award. Established over 30 years ago, the Grub Club is an exclusive private dining club, which scours the whole of Northern Ireland to find the very best restaurants that the region has to offer.


8. Straight Communications, a new business telecoms company, has officially launched with a commitment to helping Northern Ireland businesses to cut through the clutter by delivering tailored telecoms solutions to match their individual needs. The company, headed by Managing Director Adrian McCourt, has ambitious plans for growth.


9. Laura Jackson from BDO NI, Carol Thompson of McCulla (Ireland), Teng Leong from Moy Park, Maria McAllister of Bank of Ireland UK and Zoe Salmon are pictured after hosting Action Cancer’s 40th Ruby Business Lunch in The Merchant Hotel. Over 40 local companies supported a female business lunch event organised by Action Cancer.



10. Law firm A&L Goodbody recently awarded four scholarship placements, in addition to the firm’s regular summer internship programme, open to local law students. Gareth Walls, Head of Employment Law is pictured with winners Ben Smith and Jade Gabriel, office manager Linda Burton, partner Ciaran McAlinney, and winners Mary Hassan and Gemma Coulter.

NOVEMBER 2013 85


11. Santander’s very own Superman Chris Burns joins colleagues Paula Flannagan and Laura McAleese at the Santander ‘Big Sleep In’ event in aid of the CLIC Sargent. Staff spent the night in Santander’s head office in Belfast to raise money for CLIC Sargent’s ‘Homes from Home’ Appeal that aims to build two specialist homes for the families of children, teenagers and young adults who are undergoing a cancer treatment.

12. Planning consultancy Clyde Shanks announced it has advised on over £500m worth of development projects in its first 24 months, with a noticeable upturn in work in planning residential sites and housing schemes. Clyde Shanks, front, is pictured with his team, Clare Jackson, Gavin Rolston, Thomas Bell, Stephanie Hughes and Gavin McGill.

13. Sendmybag, the online door-to-door baggage delivery service, has announced the creation of 12 new jobs at its main office in Bangor. The new jobs come ahead of a planned expansion to the US in the early part of 2014. Founded by Adam Ewart in 2011, SendmyBag allows users avoid the ever-increasing baggage handling fees charged by budget airlines and the inconvenience of strict ‘hand luggage’ rules.


12 13


14. Low cost electricity supplier Budget Energy has secured a £1m loan from the Growth Loan Fund to assist in its expansion plans. The deal will provide working capital funding to double the current workforce through the creation of 50 new jobs, expand into other markets and assist the firm with its customer growth and acquisition. Pictured are Mark Canning, Senior Investment Manager, WhiteRock Capital Partners, Eleanor McEvoy, Chief Executive, Budget Energy and William McCulla, Invest NI, Director of Corporate Finance.

15. Marie McMullan, Head of Consumer Sales, BT and Deborah McConnell, Business in the Community share Business in the Community’s Employee Passport initiative with Karen Pearson, Diversity & Inclusion Champion for Workplace 20:20

86 NOVEMBER 2013




16. With so many inherent legal and PR risks, companies need to be aware of how their employees are using social media. Northern Ireland Chamber of Commerce and A&L Goodbody briefed over 70 businesses on these concerns at an event in Belfast. Pictured with NI Chamber’s Oonagh O’Reilly are A&L Goodbody’s Ivan Waide and Gareth Walls.

17. Lowden Guitars, which makes hand-crafted acoustic guitars for export across the world, has secured a significant loan from the Growth Loan Fund to finance its expansion plans. David McCurley, Senior Investment Manager at WhiteRock Capital Partners, announced the loan with George Lowden, owner of Lowden Guitars.


18 19

18. Celebrating the opening of Annaghmore Mushrooms’ new premises and £1m investment are Eamon Murray, Managing Director of Annaghmore Mushrooms, Jelena Milos, Director of Annaghmore Mushrooms and David Small, Deputy Secretary of DARD, who officially opened the facilities.

19. Movers and shakers from the world of online retail came on board the SS Nomadic to celebrate the launch of Export Technologies’ latest version of its software, the International Retail Platform – an e-commerce platform that helps businesses maximise their online sales potential. Pictured are Nick Stevenson of Surf Mountain, Dermot Hegarty from Golf Store Europe and Daniel Loughlin, Export Technologies.


20. The official handover of the £60m contract with Lagan Construction at Guernsey Airport took place last month. At the official opening were Airport Director Colin Le Ray, Gerry Prickett of Public Services, Lagan Construction’s Director of International Operations Steve Turner and PSD Minister Paul Luxon.

NOVEMBER 2013 87


21. Thomas Malnight, Professor of Strategy and General Management at Switzerland’s International for Management Development Institute (IMD), addressed over 150 business people at a Northern Ireland Chamber of Commerce breakfast. Pictured with the professor are the Chamber’s Mark Nodder and Ann McGregor, with Ellvena Graham of Ulster Bank.

22. Dennis McCarroll, executive head chef at Almac in Craigavon, scooped the Chef of the Year title for the second year in a row at the Sodexo All-Ireland Salon Culinaire, the annual culinary competition run by the foodservices company for its 1,800 staff across Ireland. He will now compete in the Sodexo UK and Ireland Grand Final at Hotelympia in 2014.

23. Pictured are SEP Programme Manager Stephanie O’Kane and Gavin Woods from Aurion Learning at the launch of the SEP Digital Training toolkit. This free online resource is to raise awareness among service providers of what it is like to be blind, partially sighted, deaf or hard of hearing and using every day services.

24. Neueda Consulting Ltd, a Belfast based IT consultancy company, is to collaborate with Queen’s University Belfast to develop next generation systems for Real-time Data Analytics. Pictured confirming the partnership are Brian Fitzpatrick, Business Development Director with Neueda and Professor Dimitrios Nikolopoulos from QUB.

25. Local business people attended Business in the Community’s Connections Plus Selling Skills Masterclass to pick up tips and ideas from leading business experts including Colly Graham, Steve Pollard from Business in the Community and Martin Clark, Economic Development Officer at Coleraine Borough Council.

88 NOVEMBER 2013

21 22






26. Brian McManus, Managing Director of Surefreight and Jim Finnegan, Managing Director of JMC Mobile, celebrate successfully installing 260 mobile voiceconnections in 190 of Surefreight’s modern fleet of HGVs in sites all over the UK including Newry, Cardiff, Heysham and Bradford.

27. Bank of Ireland UK recently hosted a special lunch for Johnson Brothers (Belfast) Limited, Ireland’s oldest family owned award-winning coffee roasting company, to celebrate its centenary. Pictured are Philip Mills from Johnson Brothers and Clare Guinness, Bank of Ireland UK’s Regional Business Manager.  


28. A Carryduff-based dental practice is expanding its business with the opening of a second practice on Belfast’s Lisburn Road. In addition to creating several new jobs, NI Dental Care will offer NHS treatments as well as private treatments. Dentists David Mann and Anne Higgins are pictured with Claire Cooper, Senior Business Manager at Danske Bank, which supported the expansion.


29. Translink has launched a new smartcard which provides flexible unlimited day travel in Belfast for adults and children and aims to benefit those who do not need to travel on consecutive days. Launching the card are Catherine Mason, Translink Group Chief Executive and Transport Minister Danny Kennedy, MLA.



30. Michael Loughlin of Liopa is pictured with Dame Mary Peters, Lord Lieutenant of Belfast, NI Science Park Chairman Frank Hewitt, Fabian Campbell West, also of Liopa, and radio presenter Wendy Austin. The Lord Lieutenant, Vice Lord Lieutenant and a party of Deputy Lord Lieutenants were attending an information evening at the Science Park, where they toured the Here & Now museum.

NOVEMBER 2013 89


Galgorm offers a fair challenge Galgorm Castle Golf Club recently hosted the European Challenge Tour’s Northern Ireland Open. Symon Ross got the opportunity to play the course a few weeks after the event.


laying a golf course only a few weeks after it has hosted a large tournament usually guarantees that course will be in tip top condition. It also normally means the way the course is set up, its hazards and its rough are also still set up to provide the sternest of tests to even the best scratch players. Both proved to be true on the day I got the opportunity to play the magnificent Galgorm Castle Golf Course as part of the Northern Ireland Tourist Board’s Writer Cup tournament, which pits a team of journalists from the South against a team from Northern Ireland. The spacious, Par 72 parkland course was chosen to host the Northern Ireland Open event of the European Challenge Tour, the second tier competition of Europe’s elite golfers, which is seen as a testing ground for players keen to make it on the European PGA tour. Set in scenic surroundings close to the Galgorm Resort & Spa, the course successfully mixes the new feel of its clubhouse with the old, including the historic Rory Oge MacQuillan Castle, which overlooks the tenth green. It was still in fantastic condition when my group teed off and, while not daunting in the same way as some of the province’s links courses are for an occasional player with a handicap in the high teens, it still proved to be challenging. The course dares you to take it on from the word go. The first hole, a 400 yard par

90 NOVEMBER 2013

four with a 90 degree dogleg right tempts you to drive over the corner with trees just high enough to convince you to go for it. While it is possible to score well and the greens were in great condition, the green keepers were obviously in impish mood with their pin positions the day we played. For example the second shot on what appeared a straightforward 300 yard par 3 second hole was made very hard by the flag being tucked away behind a large mount in front of the green. The course is not too tight on the fairways but its rough is heavy and unforgiving, making it easy to drop shots. Water is also in play in seven of the first nine holes with the rivers Maine and Braid bordering the course and five

impressive lakes, adding that extra element of doubt for higher handicappers and making sure that better players can’t just take their driver out of the bag on every tee box. Holes that really stood out for me as both challenging and fun included the tricky Par 4 fourth, the long par 5 ninth, the tempting par 3 fourteenth and the straight but bunker peppered par 5 eighteenth. Located in easy distance of the North Coast links courses, Galgorm Castle perfectly complements the golfing experience on offer at the likes of Royal Portrush and Castlerock. It is a very enjoyable, immaculately kept track and definitely worth adding to the golfing itineraries of tourists and locals alike.


The Gadget


Technology journalist Adam Maguire reviews some recently released and soon to be available gadgets. REVIEW: GOPRO HERO 3+


ou may have noticed a lot more highquality videos online lately, featuring impossible shots of adventurous people undertaking heart-racing feats. The chances are that was shot on a GoPro. Adrenaline junkies, artists and stunt-men alike have taken the GoPro to their hearts because they are small and light enough to put almost anywhere, while also being powerful enough to shoot HD quality footage. The fact that they are relatively inexpensive is no harm, either. The GoPro Hero 3+ is the latest version of this device, boasting a 12MP lens capable of recording 4K video (that’s an image that is four times the resolution of full HD). The Black Edition comes with a remote control, while its built-in WiFi means it can connect to an array of other devices. Even if you are not the adventurous sort the GoPro has a definite allure. Its high frame rate makes it easy to shoot impressive slow-motion shots, while its small size opens up an array of new angles and shots not possible with larger camcorders. The GoPro Hero 3+ Black Edition costs £359



s Microsoft struggles to overcome the meek reception for Windows 8, Apple has attempted to capitalise with an aggressive launch of its latest operating system upgrade – Mavericks. First launched in 2001, OSX has now gone through ten changes, with Mavericks being the latest. This version bucks the trend by being the first that is not named after a big cat – more importantly it is the first upgrade that Apple has offered free to existing users. Overall, and like previous updates, Mavericks is not revolutionary. Instead it offers a lot of nice little features – including a number that help to make the most of the computer’s power while also saving on battery usage. Mavericks also continues Apple’s recent trend of bridging desktop and mobile. For example its Maps application is now on OSX and lets a user find directions and then send them seamlessly to their phone or tablet. Mac fans may have feared being forgotten as mobile devices became the company’s bigger business. Far from that, Mavericks proves that Apple actually hopes to lure Mac users into buying an iPhone and vice versa. OSX Mavericks is available free on the Mac App Store and with any new Mac

92 NOVEMBER 2013




here was a time – not too long ago – when phone companies seemed hellbent on making their devices impossibly small. That time is long-gone. Today bigger is definitely seen as better – at the premium end of the market at least – and the so-called ‘phablet’ category (a device that’s somewhere between a phone and a tablet) is growing rapidly. Enter HTC’s One Max – a super-sized version of its flagship smartphone. It boasts a palm-filling 5.9 inches screen – ever-so-slightly bigger than the leading competitor made by Samsung. To help power this visual behemoth, a larger battery has been crammed inside – though the processor, memory and storage on offer stays the same as the HTC One. One feature it does have over its diminutive sibling, however, is a fingerprint sensor, allowing users to unlock the device and even start designated apps with the tip of a digit. Many may wonder if a 5.9” screen crosses the thin line between comfortable and cumbersome – the arrival of the One Max might help answer that question. The HTC One Max is beginning to launch on a number of networks this month



okia has finally decided to enter the tablet race with its Lumia 2520, but it may find its arrival a bit too late, if not too little. It has only really been in the last year or two that Nokia got serious about competing with modern smartphones – and despite releasing some nice hardware, it has been tough going for the former mobile giant. It will hope for a slightly better fate with its tablet foray – the Lumia 2520 – as its screen, camera and processor all promise a solid user experience. However Nokia’s relationship with Microsoft – and its use of Windows 8 on the tablet – will certainly hold it back, as the number of apps available remain limited when compared to iOS and Android. The fact that Nokia will likely soon be subsumed by the aforementioned tech giant may also be an issue, as potential buyers will wonder how well-supported the device will be when Nokia is no longer calling the shots. Nokia has promised the Lumia 2520 will be released by the end of 2013.

NOVEMBER 2013 93


Business Books

Sam Davidson, HR Director, Henderson Group How often do you travel and where to? I don’t have a fixed routine, but would travel around a dozen times each year. Given that SPAR is one of the largest global food retail brands, my involvement in working groups and projects would bring me to various parts of the UK and Europe, and sometimes further afield. What are the three things you couldn’t do without when travelling on business? In no particular order... my Blackberry, a wellpacked bag, and a credit card (just in case). What would be your top tips for anyone embarking on a job that involved travel? Firstly, plan your itinerary in advance, and always be conscious of the possibility of delays. Secondly, learn how to be comfortable in your own company, which helps enormously if you are stuck at a station or have a long trip. Finally, try not to be in rural Italy when an Icelandic volcano erupts – it took me a week to get home in May 2010! Do you see many other Northern Ireland business people when overseas on business? I regularly bump into colleagues, associates, and recognisable business ‘personalities’ when I travel. I’ve had lots of chats on the plane with fellow business travellers who are exporting to, and doing business in, many parts of Europe. What do you enjoy most about work travel and what are your pet hates? I really enjoy seeing how SPAR colleagues operate within a very different set of circumstances – culturally, economically, as well as discussing how we can learn from and help each other. The only way to do that is to get to their ‘backyard’ and that’s the value of work travel for me. I don’t have many pet hates but have a tendency to get annoyed with leisure travellers who often don’t move at the same pace as business users. What location have you been most pleasantly surprised or disappointed by? I was in Oslo for a conference several years ago, and was amazed by the city and the people – it’s so compact that you can easily walk around the main attractions, and the people are really friendly – well worth a visit. I haven’t been disappointed by too many destinations, but I do recall being in Dallas many years ago, and feeling a bit underwhelmed – it was full of skyscrapers but lacking in character.

fINDING THE NEXT STEVE JOBS By Nolan Bushnell and Gene Stone (Business Plus) With refreshing candour, keen psychological insight, and robust humour, Bushnell explains in this book how to think boldly and differently about companies and organisations – and specifically the people who work within them. For anyone trying to turn a company into the next Atari or Apple, build a more creative workforce, or fashion a career in a changing world, this book will enlighten, challenge, surprise, and amuse. what happened to goldman sachs By Steven G. Mandis (Harvard Business Press) This is an insider’s take on the shift at Goldman Sachs from a private partnership to a publicly traded company. A banker, investor, and Columbia Business School professor, Mandis offers an insider’s take on what happened to Goldman Sachs – informed by his own experience, interviews with others who worked at or with the firm, and previously unreleased research. Readers and business leaders will also learn about what Steven G. Mandis calls “organisational drift” – and how to avoid it in their own firms. THE EVERYTHING STORE By Brad Stone (Transworld) started off delivering books through the mail. But its visionary founder, Jeff Bezos, wasn’t content with being a bookseller. He wanted Amazon to become the everything store, offering limitless selection and seductive convenience at disruptively low prices. To achieve that end, he developed a corporate culture of relentless ambition and secrecy that’s never been cracked. Until Brad Stone enjoyed unprecedented access to current and former Amazon employees and Bezos family members, giving readers the first in-depth, fly-on-the-wall account of life at Amazon.

Do you speak any languages? I studied French and German at school and really regret not taking them further. One of my daughters is studying for a French and Spanish degree at QUB and I’m really encouraging her to use these when she graduates – there’s a big world of opportunity out there! Where are you off to next? I’m due to be at a SPAR meeting in Amsterdam next month.

94 NOVEMBER 2013

All titles are available at easons. To win copies of the featured books go the Ulster Business facebook page.


Air Passenger Duty “a big disadvantage”


orthern Ireland MPs have stepped up their efforts to raise the unfairness of Air Passenger Duty (APD) during a Westminster debate on the topic. In Northern Ireland we pay £13 per passenger, per flight for short-haul journeys, and in fact pay more in taxes to fly to Glasgow than New York. That’s because APD for longhaul flights was devolved to the NI Executive, which decided to remove the charge in January in order to retain the United Airlines flight between Belfast and Newark. However, decisions on APD for short-haul flights - which represent 98.5 per cent of journeys by Northern Ireland passengers - are still taken at Westminster. Although Northern Ireland’s population represents only 2.9 per cent of the UK population, flights taken by Northern Ireland passengers account for 14 per cent of all UK domestic flights.  Supporting the MPs, Aodhan O’Donnell, Interim Chief Executive of the Consumer Council, said: “Air Passenger Duty puts consumers and Northern Ireland at a big disadvantage. On an island, off an island, consumers here rely heavily on air travel to get to Great Britain and beyond. With the Irish Government doing away with the equivalent tax from April 2014, there is a risk that we will see a decrease in demand for air services from Northern Ireland, which could in turn reduce

choice and convenience for consumers here.” The Republic of Ireland Air Travel Tax (ATT) has been charged at only €3 per passenger since March 2011 and the Government in the Republic has announced that it will remove the tax altogether in April 2014. “There are only four other countries in the EU which still charge an equivalent tax and we are paying more than double that of the next highest, Germany (£6.37). Factor in that those other four countries - Italy, Austria, France and Germany - are all mainland Europe, which means passengers have the choice of other means of transport, and the disadvantage NI consumers face becomes even clearer,” added Aodhan. “As our MPs stated today more airlines offering an increased number of routes, and carrying considerably more passengers would not only be good for consumers it could also bring significant employment and investment… We urge Westminster to take steps to correct this glaring disadvantage.” A year ago MPs supported a motion for HM Treasury to commission a comprehensive study into the full economic impact of APD in the UK, with specific focus on Northern Ireland. “We need to know, as a matter of urgency, whether the proposed cost to the NI Executive of removing APD – estimated at £60-90m

– would be outweighed by the benefit to consumers, business and the wider NI economy,” added O’Donnell. “If we do nothing about APD the risk is that decreased demand for air services from Northern Ireland’s airports could lead to a decline in the number of services and routes operated, reducing choice, convenience and competition for consumers living here.”

BELFAST CITY AIRPORT COMMUNITY FUND REACHES £100,000 MILESTONE George Best Belfast City Airport has announced that its Community Fund, which provides financial support to community groups, schools and projects in the airport’s neighbouring areas, has surpassed the incredible £100,000 donation milestone. It comes as Belfast City Airport revealed at a special celebration in Stormont Parliament Buildings, widely attended by politicians from across the board and past recipients, that the funding will now be open to projects across greater Belfast. Michelle Hatfield, Human Resources and Corporate Responsibility Director at the airport, celebrates with members of Music Theatre 4 Youth (MT4Uth) and pupils from Avoniel Primary School and St. Joseph’s Primary School, all of whom have benefitted from the Community Fund. For more information, please contact or view the criteria at

NOVEMBER 2013 95



96 NOVEMBER 2013


Business Diary December 2013 For more information and to book visit date event



3 December 14.00

Enterprise – Customer Focus Masterclass Organiser: Belfast City Council

Skainos, 239 Newtownards Road, Belfast BT4 1AF

Email: or 028 9027 0482. For more information visit

3 December 09.15 - 16.45

Export Skills & Knowledge Workshops Developing Your Export Markets Organiser: Invest NI

Ramada Plaza, 117 Milltown Road, Shaw’s Bridge Belfast BT8 7XP Cost: £75 +VAT per person

Email: or 028 9069 8668. Visit already/selling/exportskills/all_workshops.htm

5 December 17.30 - 20.30

CBI’s Festive Networking Party Organiser: CBI Northern Ireland

Radisson Blu, Belfast * Maximum of two persons per organisation can be accepted

For more information contact Anthea Savage on email:

5 December 18.00 - 20.00

Women in Business Christmas Networking Event (Speaker Billy Dixon) Organiser: Women in Business NI

Ulster Museum, Belfast Cost: £10 +VAT for Members Cost: £25 +VAT for Non-Members

For more information or to book email:

10 December 12.00 - 14.00

Women in Business Christmas Networking Lunch (Speaker Roslyn Bell) Organiser: Women in Business NI

Canal Court Hotel, Newry Cost: FREE

For more information or to book email:

10 December 12.00 - 14.00

Governance Masterclass: Making the Most of Your Board Organiser: Arts & Business NI (Speaker: Áine Gibbons)

Cunningham Coates Stockbrokers, The Linenhall, 32-28 Linenhall St, Belfast BT2 8BG Cost: FREE to A&B NI Members

Email: or 028 9073 5151. For more information visit

King’s Hall Pavillion, Balmoral, Belfast Cost: Pay on arrival or early bird tickets available online

For more information call 028 9066 5225 or visit

12 December 09.00 - 17.00

12 December 18.00 - 20.00

Royal Ulster Winter Fair in association with Danske Bank

The Most Wonderful Time of the Year – A Christmas Thank You from A&B NI Organiser: Arts & Business NI

James Street South Restaurant, 21 James Street South, Belfast

Email: or 028 9073 5151. For more information visit

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

People in Business as well as re-introducing the popular Pre Theatre Menu and Cocktail Master Classes.

Who or what has been your biggest influence?

Working for Galway entrepreneur and businessman John Sweeney, who mentored me over the years and taught me the true value of a lifetime customer.

Do you have any “golden rules” ?

No not really, only not to take myself too seriously and be grateful for what I have.

What would you regard as a “cardinal sin” for anyone doing business with you? Sharp practice.

What is your most hated business expression or cliché?

“It is what it is. “ I’m not sure who coined the phrase but it’s a cop out.

If you hadn’t been in business what would you have liked to have done?

I would have like to have been a chef as I love food.

On a scale of 1-10 (10 being the most) how important is money to you?

I will give it a 7 ... money is a by product of useful endeavour for me.

factfile NAME & job title: Cian Landers, General Manager Fitzwilliam Hotel Belfast BORN: 1967 FAMILY: One daughter, Eva Grace Landers INTERESTS: Cycling, golf, GAA

My introduction to the hotel business began as a trainee chef in Co. Meath. What started out as a weekend job, soon progressed to working in the busy bars and restaurants. Gaining experience in a busy provincial hotel was very exciting for me.

What’s the worst job you’ve ever done?

I was a mini bar attendant in a 1000 bedroom hotel. I often got lost on the floors and worried that no one would even know if I was missing!

What do you like most about your current role?

I work with a great group of people who deliver excellent levels of customer service for our guests on a daily basis. I’m really proud to say that I am the General

My health and my bike.

What are you currently reading?

CAREER: Hotel Manager

What was your first paying job?

What is you most treasured possession?

Manager of The Fitzwilliam Hotel.

Are you switched on 24 hours or is there a time when you switch your phone off?

I have learned to keep work and my home life reasonably separate. Having a fantastic team is also a help as you know things are being looked after when you’re away.

Has your personal life suffered because of your career?

At times yes it certainly has a little, but you need to make sacrifices in the early days to enable better times ahead for all the family.

What do you consider your best business decision or idea? Investing more resources in our online revenue management and CRM systems

I’m reading an autobiography by Sean Kelly called “Hunger “

What has been your toughest challenge?

The last five years have been challenging, adapting and reacting to dramatic changes in the hospitality industry.

What do you worry about?

All the usual stuff but I try not to be consumed by things I have little or no control over and focus on the present.

What advice would you give to the 18-year-old you?

It is all about how you do things that matter. Getting along with people is critical in the university of life.

Which person, living or dead, would you like to have met, and why? I’d love to meet the professional cyclist Sean Kelly who is the only Irishman to be No. 1 in the professional rankings. His hunger to succeed and career success is inspirational.

Ulster Business - November 2013  
Read more
Read more
Similar to
Popular now
Just for you