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NOVEMBER 2016 Price ÂŁ2.30 (â‚Ź3.75)

The full banking circle Richard Caldwell and Shaun McAnee explain how Danske Bank has banking covered, from personal right through to corporate

Export: Are we doing enough?

Sporting business: Robbie Diack on rugby, business and wine

ISSN 1363-2507

9 771363 250005


The current. The future. soni.ltd.uk

Contents 6 News

38 Apprenticeships

78 Motoring

The pick of the month’s news from across the region

The Apprenticeship Levy comes under the spotlight ahead of next year’s introduction

Flat-to-the-mat Pat Burns cuts no corners in this month’s motoring focus

14 Cover Story

48 Human Resources

82 Appointments

Danske Bank’s Richard Caldwell and Shaun McAnee talk personal and corporate banking

How to deal with the ups and downs of a merger from the people who know

Who has moved where, when and why? It’s all in here.

22 Export

56 Corporate Law

90 Events

Is Northern Ireland exporting enough? John Simpson takes a look

We profile Legal 500’s Corporate and Mergers and Acquisition listing

Were you out and about? You could be pictured here

28 David Meade

64 Sport & Business

94 Travel

Meade delivered copy for the second month in a row! This time he’s talking disruption

How Ulster Rugby’s Robbie Diack is building up a business empire

New York, New York. Enough said.


22 64



We’re approving 9 out of 10 credit applications.*

Better for your business.

Speak to Claire Derby, your Belfast City business adviser. 07919 397 593 bankofireland.co.uk/business

Northern Ireland’s Enterprise Bank

*9 out of 10 is based on the number of business lending applications received for credit facilities less than £250k for the period Jan 2016 to June 2016. Bank of Ireland UK is a trading name of Bank of Ireland (UK) plc. Registered in England & Wales (No. 7022885), Bow Bells House, 1 Bread Street, London, EC4M 9BE. 10997161010 A


The pros and cons of a post-Brexit world


elcome to the November edition of Ulster Business. We come to you this month as winter starts to take hold and as the full effects of the UK’s decision to the leave the European Union are being felt. Considered opinion suggests that it hasn’t been all that bad, certainly not as bad as first feared, at least where Brexit is concerned. Economic growth, while slightly dented, remains a reality with surprising recoveries emerging from areas as diverse as property through to retail sales. The latter factor is particularly apparent in Northern Ireland where the devaluation of the pound has played into the hands of retailers close to the border and, in many instances, further afield. It’s already been widely reported that the number of shoppers heading north across the border has increased markedly in towns such as Newry and Enniskillen. Meanwhile, exporters have been enjoying an uplift in overseas markets as the weak pound allows them to lift

Publisher Ulster Business c/o Independent News & Media Ltd Belfast Telegraph House 33 Clarendon Road, Clarendon Dock Belfast BT1 3BG Printer W&G Baird Greystone Press, Caulside Drive, Antrim BT41 2RS www.wgbaird.com

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the price of their goods and services and still remain competitive. The benefits of the currency move have been so pronounced in fact that Bank of England deputy governor Ben Broadbent said it was an important shock absorber for the economy in the aftermath of the Brexit vote. But it’s also been a drag for many companies, most notably those which import (you only need to witness the spat between Marmite maker Unilever and Tesco last month to see evidence of that) and threatens to drive up prices in the coming months (European holidaying business editors have also been hit but that’s another story). As a result, inflation forecasts have risen for the months and years ahead with Mr Broadbent expecting the Bank of England’s target of 2% to be hit within two years. That could prompt the central bank to raise interest rates and reveal how dependent the Northern Ireland economy is on cheap money. Time will tell. David Elliott

Editor David Elliott

Art Editor Stuart Gray

Manager Sonia Armstrong

Production Manager Stuart Gray

Deputy Manager Sylvie Brando

Cover Photography PressEye

Sales Executive Sarah-Ann Gamble

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


The Big Numbers 1.6%

Housing market perks up after Brexit vote

The growth in the Northern Ireland economy in the second quarter of 2016 compared to the same time last year, according to the NI Composite Index. It is 7.1% below the record reached in the second quarter of 2007 while the UK average GDP is 7.6% higher than its pre-economic downturn peak of Quarter 1 2008.

5.6% The unemployment level in Northern Ireland, down 0.7% on the same time last year and the lowest rate since January 2009, according to the Labour Force Survey.

303 The number of Gold stars won by 84 Northern Ireland food producers in this year’s Great Taste awards. In addition, 25 businesses secured 38 Irish Quality Food Awards and in the Blas Na hÉireann, Irish Food Awards, Northern Ireland companies won a total of 45 awards.

£0.85228 The exchange rate for one euro which will be used to calculate European Union payments to Northern Ireland’s farmers. The weaker pound means higher EU payments but since the rate was agreed in September the pound has fallen further to more than £0.9000.


he Northern Ireland residential property market has bounced back in the wake of the EU Referendum vote with new buyer enquiries and prices heading higher. That’s the conclusion of the latest survey from the body which represents estate agents across the UK which found the market here has been one of the best performing of all UK regions in the last three months. The RICS (Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors) and Ulster Bank Residential Market Survey of agents showed that new buyer enquiries rose for the first time in six months and along with prices, new instructions by home owners to sell also edged higher. However, the supply of homes for sale remains low meaning the market is likely to remain tight, RICS said, a situation which tends to underpin prices. More than 90% of surveyors who responded to the survey said residential property in Northern Ireland offers good value, more


than any other UK region. RICS Residential Property Spokesman Samuel Dickey said the market is growing in confidence. “As we move out of the summer months and further away from the shock EU Referendum result, the market has gathered some momentum. With supply remaining tight, and the perception that the local market offers good value for buyers, it would not be surprising if prices and activity continued to edge up.” Sean Murphy, Managing Director, Branch Banking at Ulster Bank, said low borrowing costs are helping. “With a very low interest rate environment, it is an affordable time to borrow, and we are seeing a growing number of mortgage enquiries. At Ulster Bank, our standard variable rate has been reduced in line with the Bank of England base rate reduction, and new or existing customers can take advantage of the some of the bank’s lowest mortgage rates on offer; including 1.94% on a 60% LTV two year fixed rate deal with no product fee.”


Google exec calls for more collaborative working


ina Bjornstad, the UK and Ireland Country Manager for Google for Work, addressed an audience of business leaders in The Hive, the PwC and Google Innovation Lab, in Belfast last month. She talked on the subject of Reinventing Work and how businesses are redesigning how people should work, putting collaboration and transparency at the centre. Seamus Cushley, Director, PwC is pictured with Nina Bjornstad, Google for Work Country Manager, UK & Ireland, Dr Joanne Stuart OBE, Director of Development, Catalyst Inc, Georgina O’Leary, Director of Innovation & R&D, Allstate NI and Andrew Webb, Director, John Hogg Operational.

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Quotes of the month

Novosco creates 21 jobs at new Belfast base

“Northern Ireland is uniquely exposed to the type of structural changes that could be triggered by Brexit – especially if it is a ‘hard’ exit. It is therefore vital that our unique interests are understood and addressed by the UK Government during the upcoming negotiations.” CBI Northern Ireland Regional Director, Angela McGowan, appearing before the House of Lords EU Select Committee to discuss the potential impact of leaving the European Union on the regional economy.

“I will continue to listen intently to business here to ensure priorities, challenges and opportunities in Northern Ireland are properly understood, as we build an economy that works for everyone.” Secretary of State for Northern Ireland James Brokenshire after meeting with construction sector representatives.

“Being a globally competitive economy won’t mean that Northern Ireland will become one of the biggest economies in the world. But what it does mean is that we will have a well-earned, totally justified, evidence based reputation as one of the world’s most dynamic, innovative and high performing small advanced economies.” Economy Minister Simon Hamilton MLA responds to the 1.6% growth in the Northern Ireland economy last year.

Novosco Directors John Lennon and Patrick McAliskey at the newly acquired offices at Catalyst (formerly the NI Science Park), where they are doubling their space in Belfast, investing over £1million, and expanding their workforce


Belfast IT company has created 21 new jobs to service its growing business across the UK and Ireland. Novosco, which provides cloud services, said it has won a number of new contracts with organisations including, universities, global financial organisations and some of the largest NHS trusts.

“We’ve taken inspiration from what the absolute leading companies in the world in places like the US are doing. We don’t think there are any other offices in Northern Ireland quite like what we have created and we feel that they will play a crucial role in the continuing growth of our business.”

The additional business is set to drive its annual turnover up 18% this year and the expansion has called for bigger premises.

Novosco, which is on the list of the Sunday Times Top 100 Companies to Work For, currently employs around 140 in its new Concourse 3 building at Catalyst.

It has bought 11,000 square foot of new office space at Catalyst in Belfast’s Titanic Quarter, more than doubling its original 5,000 square feet of space.

The office includes a customised staff gym, a library, a specially-designed staff coffee dock, and a virtual reality room for staff entertainment.

Managing Director Patrick McAliskey said the expansion is a statement of the firm’s growth plans: “What sets us apart without any doubt is that we have some of the most talented people, including IT engineers, sales professionals, and project managers, in the business,” he said.

Founded in Belfast over 20 years ago, Novosco now has offices in Belfast (its headquarters), Dublin, Cork, Manchester, and Cheshire.

“We wanted to create a unique office environment to support our efforts to recruit


and retain the very best,” he explains.

It is a cloud provider, and one of the island of Ireland’s fastest-growing tech companies, and recently acquired English specialist IT security solutions and managed services expert NetDef in a seven-figure deal.


CFC Interiors celebrate Rugby anniversary


amily-owned CFC Interiors has celebrated its ruby anniversary in style product launches from international furniture and home ware brands.

The business, which has stores in Cookstown, Campsie and Newtownabbey, has partnered with brands, including leading bed manufacturer Silentnight, to offer customers significant savings on new season stock like Silentnight’s Limited Edition 70th Anniversary Collection. Founded in 1976 by Norman Wilson, and now employing 60 staff, the family are set to welcome thousands of customers to their biggest ever interiors event, Furniture Show NI. Running from Saturday 1st October until 23rd October 2016, Furniture Show NI will feature amazing reductions and offers on all stock across the three stores. Last year customers saved more than £750,000 and the owners are promising even more savings. Pictured L-R: Paul Wilson, Norman Wilson and Stephen Wilson – CFC Interiors.


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Cerberus swoops to buy up Ulster’s problem loans By Donal O’Donavan

Planning lodged for more grade A office space in Belfast

Ross McEwan from RBS.


lster Bank has sold its €2.5bn ‘Project Oyster’ book of problem loans to Cerberus – the buyer of Nama’s controversial Northern Ireland portfolio. The loans sold by Ulster Bank include more than 900 family mortgages, which are all in deep arrears. The total sale by Ulster Bank is made up of distressed business loans (71pc), buy-to-let mortgages (19pc) and the owner-occupier mortgages (10pc). Some 88pc of the total is in the Republic, with the rest in Northern Ireland. The sale came as Ulster Bank parent RBS was accused of exploiting some vulnerable business customers in the UK after the credit crunch in a so-called “dash for cash”. The UK bank tried to secretly profit by swooping in and buying assets cheaply from struggling businesses, according to leaked documents seen by the BBC. RBS said it had let some customers down in the past but said it did not set out to bring them down. In the Republic, it’s thought the loans sold to Cerberus went for a steep discount.



lanning permission has been lodged to turn one of Belfast’s most prominent buildings into much-demand grade A office space.

is key to unlocking ideally located office space in the city and will be a step towards filling the gap in the grade A market.

Oyster House, which sits on the junction of Upper Queens Street and Chichester Street, currently comprises of both retail space and office accommodation but the owner is planning to upgrade the space.

“Most of the existing office space in the city is fragmented across various remote buildings and cannot accommodate companies wishing to secure large floor space for sizable teams or to allow for future expansion.”

He hopes to catch the well-publicised strong demand for grade A office accommodation by both indigenous companies and overseas investors.

The building is also home to on-street retail and restaurant tenants including Rio Brazil, Home, Stix and Stones and Centra. CBRE are the agency acting on behalf of the developer.

The planned work includes refurbishment of the ground floor office lobby and common areas throughout to create “international standard reception and open environments”, as well as an extension to the rear of each floor to provide large sized floor plates of around 23,800 sq ft.

Ciaran Deazley, director at Like Architects which designed the extension, said: “This upgrade to OYSTER House will convert it into an attractive, functional, modern space. The considerable extension that is being undertaken will make the scheme a much more eye-catching prospect to firms in need of grade A office space.

Lisa McAteer, director of Office Agency at CBRE, said the move is well timed. “Demand for grade A office space is extremely high in Belfast and we have now reached a critical shortage which could impact our ability to secure FDI going forward,” she said. “The refurbishment of such a prominent block

“The key aspects of the refurbishment are the extensions to increase the floor plates, allowing for bigger teams within a firm to be situated across one floor, which is usually a key stipulation of companies in need of grade A space.”


Miscalculating gross profit By Andrew Galway, Business Development Director


usiness in the Community, in partnership with Action Mental Health, has launched a new Mental Health Toolkit for Line Managers to help support local employers to deal with mental health issues in the workplace. Pictured (from left to right): Amy Kieran, Workplace Programme Manager, Business in the Community; Fiona Murray, Senior HR Officer, Firstsource; Gary Kane, Employer Development Co-Ordinator, Action Mental Health.

Danish home accessories store set for Belfast


Danish home accessories store is set to open its first shop in Northern Ireland this November.

Søstrene Grene has signed a lease on a unit on Belfast’s Ann Street and said it has plans to open several more across the region in the coming months. The retailer specialises in home accessories, kitchenware, gift wrap, stationery and small furniture and has 120 shops worldwide. Richard and Norma Power, Joint Venture Partners of the company, said the offering is unique. “We believe Belfast is a perfect location for Søstrene Grene,” said Richard Power. “No other retail shop in the province offers the same unique concept, so we consider it a great opportunity to be able to introduce the brand that has proven itself so very popular across Europe.” Co-owner and CEO Mikkel Grene said he was excited about the new Belfast store. “Northern Ireland is a new adventure for us, but we are very optimistic about this opening in Belfast. We hope we’ll be met with enthusiasm and joy when we open the doors to the shop on 4 November.”



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Brexit: motorists head north for car bargains


Londonderry car dealer is offering free delivery of his vehicle range to anywhere in Ireland as the collapse of sterling sends shockwaves through the industry.

However Garrett Mallon, the managing director of Desmond Motors, says many of his new customers south of the border have never even been to Derry – they’re grabbing bargains online. Sales of nearly-new cars have surged since the Brexit vote, with bargain-hunters in the Republic among his best customers. Motorists from the Republic can save up to €7,000 on cars which are more than six months old – and that’s after paying Vehicle Registration Tax (VRT). There remains very little difference in prices of new cars between the two jurisdictions. That’s because of VAT on new cars. However once a vehicle reaches 6,000km or six months old, the vehicles are exempt from VAT. And the rise of the euro against the pound means motorists south of the border can get vehicles at vastly reduced prices, vehicles which often come with a higher specification on basic models. Last month Desmonds delivered three cars to customers in Galway who bought them online. The Derry company even takes RoIregistered vehicles on part exchange.

Garrett Mallon, Desmond Motors

“We’ve been dealing with fluctuations in currency for 35 years,” said Garrett. “So we’re experienced in the market. The difference between what happened in 2010 when the currencies last converged and now is that a lof of our cars are being bought online. “We’ve also introduced free delivery to anywhere in Ireland and we also now take southern-registered cars as trade-ins. “We were selling maybe three or four cars per week to southern Ireland motorists earlier in the year but within days of the Brexit vote there was this surge and now we’re selling four or five cars every day.”

Economy stagnates as consumers shy away


he Northern Ireland economy stagnated in September as consumers kept their hands in their pockets in the wake of the European Union referendum, according to the latest PMI report from Ulster Bank.

It showed business activity held steady during the month with job creation picking up and the weak pound boosting exports. But the currency slide, caused by uncertainty in financial markets in the wake of the Brexit vote, is boosting the cost of inputs for many companies who are being forced to pass it on to customers. That’s dented new orders in the manufacturing sector, amongst others, according to Ulster Bank Chief Economist Richard Ramsey. “There were signs of weakness in manufacturing at the end of the third quarter, with new orders falling for the first time in seven months and production growth slowing accordingly. Elsewhere, services saw a modest return to expansion in new business, but their activity was little-changed. Retail saw the strongest rise in activity of the four sectors.” He said companies are struggling to regain traction in the wake of the Brexit vote. “While growth in the UK economy as a whole continued to recover from the surprise vote to leave the EU in late-June, the latest PMI data signal that firms in Northern Ireland are facing a more difficult time of things at present.”


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Danske’s full service banking Danske Bank’s Richard Caldwell, Managing Director of Personal Banking & Small Business, and Shaun McAnee, Managing Director of Corporate Banking, talk personal banking through to corporate banking at one of Northern Ireland’s biggest lenders


ichard Caldwell and Shaun McAnee are busy men. As the Managing Director of Personal Banking & Small Business, and the Managing Director of Corporate Banking respectively at Danske Bank, they have a lot on their plates, not that you could tell by their breezy nature. That comes from their years of experience in the banking world, experience which enables them to handle the not-inconsiderable responsibility of their roles. Richard has been at Danske Bank for more than 20 years, with previous roles which have included being Head of Finance Centres and Head of Private Banking – so he’s well placed to take on the newly created Managing Director of Personal Banking & Small Business role. It entails responsibility for all of the bank’s retail customers, a sizeable number just to maintain but one he wants to add to with the aim of establishing the biggest market share for personal accounts in Northern Ireland, now helped by the introduction of the bank’s new cash reward current account



Shaun has responsibility for leading Danske’s Corporate Banking, Markets, Specialist Business and Agri-Business teams, as well as the bank’s regional Finance Centres throughout Northern Ireland. He joined Danske Bank in 2012, having previously held a number of senior positions in the banking and financial sector across the UK and Ireland. He also has big ambitions in an area of the bank which has been market-leading for some time, enjoying table-topping customer satisfaction survey scores and being voted as the ‘Corporate Banking Team of the Year’ at the annual Insider Deal Maker Awards this year. >

offering. Improving share of the mortgage market is also in his sights and he points to the current £1,200 cashback offer for customers who borrow £75,000 or more. In addition to personal banking, he is also tasked with growing the bank’s small business customer base and hopes to achieve all of these aims by introducing a more integrated approach to service delivery. “We have a great opportunity to find out which of our personal customers also run businesses and to inform them of our small business offering,” Richard told Ulster Business. “By the same token we are able to sell the benefits of our personal banking offering to our small business customers.


“If they have experience of Danske Bank then they realise that the service we can offer is second to none, so it’s just about getting the opportunity to show them what we can do.” The approach seems to be working with the bank establishing around 40 new small business relationships per week since the spring – aided by their cutting edge digital offering and £500 cashback offer for start-ups and switchers. Richard says he is also determined to further improve customer satisfaction ratings amongst the personal and small business customer base.



have also offered an insight into how a wide cross-section of the business community are coping in the post-EU referendum era.

Richard Caldwell

“The uncertainty is frustrating for businesses,” Shaun said. “Planning is difficult and there is a lot of concern about issues such as the border and the continued availability of labour from across Europe.” Shaun said the latter issue is a particular worry for the agri-food sector, as was the prospect of inflationary pressures in the coming months as a result of the devaluation of sterling. “We’re a net importer so the weaker pound is going to drive up prices for some and the uncertainty around trade agreements will call into question future export arrangements.

The team has also been involved in a number of major commercial property deals over the past few months – including the sale of Bloomfield Shopping Centre in Bangor to Ellandi and Tristan Capital – and is one of the biggest lenders to the social housing sector in Northern Ireland, an area in which it invests heavily.

“If they have experience of Danske Bank then they realise that the service we can offer is second to none, so it’s just about getting the opportunity to show them what we can do.”

Shaun doesn’t underestimate how important the bank’s people are to its business. “Our people are hugely important to the bank,” he said. “That’s something which we hear regularly from our customers.” Much of that feedback has emerged directly from the bank’s customers at the Danske Advantage series of Boardroom lunches which it has been holding with its business customers in recent months. Not only have the events given the bank insight into how their services rate, they

“The feedback we’ve been getting is that people are delighted with the service, with our people and particularly with our ability to be agile. We are able to respond quickly and efficiently to requests from customers and that counts for a lot” Shaun said. “If you wrap all that up we have a pretty compelling package.”


Shaun McAnee

Despite the issues, both men said the Northern Ireland economy should remain strong and able to fend off any post EU Referendum challenges. “The currency move means exporters are going to get a boost and we’ve been helping to facilitate that by encouraging more of our customers to sell their goods and services abroad,” Shaun said. “Whilst there are a lot of challenges, there are also plenty of opportunities and we must make sure we help our customers to make the most of them.”

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Martin McDowell and Paul Henry

Local angle on global issues “A

nd another thing...”. Odd as it is to open this year’s column of wisdom from the wise heads at Osborne King with a quote, there is little else which can adequately sum up the two hours of debate, conjecture and – whisper it quietly because they certainly didn’t – joviality which emerged from this year’s OKUB summit.

– at the interviewees’ request – it’s only right this year’s column follows suit.

Serving as the bellwether for commercial property watchers the world over, this annual series of lectures was given this year by managing director Martin “On The Buses” McDowell and director Paul “The Gatekeeper” Henry.

“In the first half of 2016 we had strong demand in nearly all sectors and had returned to a more traditional, normalised market,” Martin said. “Then, on June 23rd (the date of the EU Referendum), the market paused and entered a holding pattern.”

No better team to fill Ulster Business in on what has been going on in the intriguing world in which they operate. Given last year’s column swiftly dealt with the elephant in the room from the off


“How has the commercial property market performed since the UK voted to leave the European Union?” Although not so much a “boom” as more of a “pfff” moment, the question does however elicit plenty of measured response.

That stasis, he went on to explain, is primarily related to overseas investment in commercial property in Northern Ireland which, while considering the implications of the Brexit vote and waiting for clarity

on the economic picture for the region when the divorce from Europe is finalised, has taken to cowering on the sidelines. Speculation has been rife that a number of deals, both for commercial property purchase and the establishment of Northern Ireland bases by overseas brands, have been put on hold as uncertainty trumps opportunity. On the face of it, such a situation could lead to a short to-do list for commercial property agents across the land, but that has not been the case for Osborne King in the month’s following the Brexit vote. The reason for that is its diversity of clients. While the institutional investors – pension and hedge funds – which are being so cautious make up a good chunk of its business, it also spends a lot of time working with the local investors and companies who tend to make up the core of the market here.


sign of any meaningful supply coming on stream any time soon. It’s for these reasons that both he and Paul see growing opportunities for local investors in the commercial property market before institutional investors return as buyers. “The outlook is positive in the short term and that view is reinforced by low interest rates which are making people view property as a much more attractive investment,” Paul said, adding that Northern Ireland in particular has a greater potential yield for investors than in other parts of the UK. “In Northern Ireland the returns tend to be greater than in Great Britain but the tenant covenant risk is the same.” Martin reinforced the point that the risk profile of property investment hasn’t increased since Brexit and the fundamentals of the market have remained strong. “People are back to realising that property is a medium-to-long-term investment and that makes for a much more healthy market.”

“We’re the largest independent commercial property agent in Northern Ireland and pride ourselves on having local knowledge and local expertise,” Martin said. “Because of that we’ve been busier than ever over the last few months as established companies continue to expand and improve their facilities. “That’s because fundamentally, not much has changed. We still have a good workforce, a growing economy and plenty of other positive advantages.” Paul Henry agreed, and pointed to solid growth in the local economy. “Local businesses are more au fait with the export opportunities available to them at present,” he said. “More and more are realising the potential market in the likes of London and other major UK cities and that makes us less reliant on the internal market.”


He also pointed to a big competitive advantage which Brexit has offered to retailers in Northern Ireland through the fall in the value of sterling against the euro. “Post Brexit we’re benefiting from a big increase in the number of southern registered cars heading up here and that will a big boon to a sector of the market which has struggled.” In the office market, the one overriding positive that Belfast has over other major UK cities and over Dublin is rental values. At £18 a square foot, office space in Belfast is much more competitive than Glasgow or Manchester at £30-£35 and far below the €55 (£50) going rate in Dublin. That’s even after taking into consideration Martin’s prediction that £20 will be achieved in Belfast before the year end given still high levels of demand for space and little

They should know, having decades of experience between them and at least five clients who’ve been on the books for more than 20 years. “We’re not afraid to warn people against buying property if it’s not right for them or it’s not the right time. When we’re spending our clients’ money we spend it like it’s our money.” This is just the tip of a quite considerable iceberg of the day’s discussion, where we touched on social media in the commercial property world, the renting generation, The Great British Bakeoff, someone uttered the phrase “keep on keeping on” in relation to Osborne King’s plans for the future, and of course we spent a long time on, not in, Belfast’s bus lanes. Once again the OK team outperformed, with only the clock, and space on this page getting the better of us. Until next year.



How Facebook ate the media – and what media companies can do about it By Steve Dempsey


he Reuters Institute recently found that 44% of people across 26 countries now rely on Facebook for news. Factor in Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp, and Instagram, and up to 55% discover news content on apps and algorithms designed by Mark Zuckerberg and Co. But Facebook still insists it’s not a media company. “We build the tools, we do not produce any content,” Zuckerberg said recently. It’s not the most credible claim. And it’s one that comes under the microscope of a new report from the International News Media Association, which refers to Zuckerberg as the “super editor-in-chief”. The report is called The Facebook-Media Relationship Status: It’s Complicated. It aims to examine Facebook’s relationship with the news industry and explain how its news feeds work. And it does so in an interesting way - by examining Facebook’s patents. “Facebook’s algorithms are the invisible hands of the most powerful news editor in the world but we know very little how they work,” says Grzegorz Piechota, the report’s author. “Patents show that the platform has been designed to facilitate private interactions between users, and has always prioritised their private content. Facebook’s News Feed is clearly optimised for engagement, not to inform people about what’s going on. When Facebook ranks stories, it has no way to judge stories’ merits, so it rather tracks and calculates the probability of a user interacting with a story, like sharing it.” Piechota found that Facebook’s algorithms change regularly and these changes can have huge implications for media companies that rely on the social network for traffic acquisition. “Facebook tweaks its algorithms frequently, a few times a week,” he says. “It is doing surveys to identify problems or opportunities, and then it runs tests


on groups of users before it releases the change worldwide. Most of the changes go unannounced. “Sometimes the change is significant and has a profound impact on news consumption. For example: 79 out of the top 100 US digital publishers receiving Facebook referral traffic saw it decrease in Q2 2016 versus Q1 2016, according to SimilarWeb, an analytics company. New York Times fell by 25pc, CNN by 33pc, Newsweek by 47c. Facebook has never explained what happened.” But media companies aren’t just relying on Facebook as a referrer of traffic. Many of them are now relying on Facebook to monetise content through the likes of Facebook Instant Articles. Through Facebook’s Audience Network they’ll soon be able to fill inventory with ads from Facebook. “Publishers report mixed experiences with monetisation of ads sold for Instant Articles,” Piechota says. “For example, Liberation in France claims it has been getting a better cut from ads sold by Facebook than when it sells on its own, and the Independent in the United Kingdom has found the opposite. We’re at an early stage in the development of monetisation models for content on Facebook. The platform hasn’t needed them so far as it has been flooded with free content. Video seems to be changing that. To disrupt television advertising markets, digital platforms like Facebook need to provide high quality content. Amateurs and their private clips alone won’t do anymore.” This is good news for media companies that can create valuable video content that Facebook users can like, share and discuss. But not great news for creators of general news, as Facebook now does a better job of many of the activities that previously created or captured value in the media industry, including aggregation, advertising and distribution.

Mark Zuckerberg

“While journalism may be needed now more than ever, its financial and operating models have been disrupted by the likes of Facebook and Google,” says Piechota. “Software companies grew big and important because they excelled in innovation and provided great service to users. With such scale, though, comes greater responsibility and scrutiny about what service or disservice they do to society. We should expect more transparency about what social platforms filter, what societies learn about the world, more acknowledgement and accountability for their editorial choices, and collaboration with the news media to find ways to secure the future of our free and self-governing societies.” The report concludes by suggesting that publishers need to fully engage with digital transformation. But not a transformation that’s focused on technology, but one which requires a re-engineering of the fundamental relationship between media brands and their audience. As a result, media companies shouldn’t see Facebook as a silver bullet in relation to their online evolution. “Publishers need to look at Facebook in context of their whole digital strategy to evaluate opportunities and risks of doing business with the platform,” Piechota says. “I’d suggest the pragmatic approach to Facebook and other platforms. There are more choices than love or hate. It’s not marriage. It’s just business.”

Export & International Business


Selling more to more people, and in more places Economist John Simpson asks how important exporting is to the Northern Ireland economy


he objective to increase exports is easily stated. Successful delivery is less certain.

If we had a bigger flow of exports to customers around the world, that would underpin a stronger economy. It would make a significant contribution to the Programme for Government, currently being developed by the Ministerial Executive. The starting point is that too few local businesses are in the export business.


Official policy to encourage a stronger flow of exports is not controversial. However, the range of actions to support the outworking of such policies is wider than is often appreciated and their implementation is not an easy task. Simon Hamilton, Minister for the Economy, has launched a multi-dimensional package of assistance and general support.

selling exports to Glasgow or Cardiff is just as useful as selling to Goa or Cape Town. The term ‘exports’, for local policy, means sales outside Northern Ireland. Technically exports are best described as from one country to another. For this region of the UK, sales to other UK regions have value as exports even though they might technically be described as ‘internal sales’.

A critical feature of policies to incentivise more businesses to explore new and/or larger export markets is an appreciation that in the context of the local economy,

A further feature of a growing export market must be an acknowledgement that, whilst the emphasis might initially be on the export of goods, as produced by


manufacturers or processors, in a modern economy there is an increasing external market place for services of all kinds. Ready examples of potential exports of services can be found in the professions allied to construction contracts and the out-sourcing of back office processes for finance, customer services and legal administration. The range of export related services (including internal sales within the UK) has been expanding in recent years, particularly with the arrival of some large back office enterprises.


The concept of encouraging exports also needs to take account of the occasional addition of sub-contracts as aspects of manufacturing, construction, or professional services. Local manufacturers which include ‘bought in’ components can often add local content to the meeting of a specific contract. Two features, therefore, stand out. First, exports have value because they mean that local businesses add value that increases income generation and employment. Second, the term ‘exports’ embraces a wider range of economic

activities than is sometimes recognised. An economy which exports successfully will assuredly need to be a competitive economy. Buyers in Goa or Cape Town will sign contracts with Northern Ireland businesses only if (to use the trite phrase) the price is right. Of course, ‘price’ is an outcome from setting a selling price linked to the specification of the quality of the product or service. In this period of 2016, price setting is also a product of local costs (or the sterling baseline) and the adjustments for exchange rates that have recently been less stable. >



Local expertise in doing business in third country currencies is a slightly more complex addition to the bidding for export contracts. Some local businesses are developing expert advice on forward exchange contracts and in using the protection of financial derivatives. Of the range of different market uncertainties that deter businesses from seeking new export markets, possibly the most formidable is quoting for contracts in non-sterling currencies. Against the risks of fluctuations in nonsterling currency values, experienced businesses demonstrate that worries against an appreciation in value of sterling can be factored into any contract with easily understood insurance against currency risks. Critically, the local exporter must be able to offer competitive terms because the cost structure of their business leaves an adequate trading mark-up. That brings the debate about seeking to develop export markets back to the base line of being a business with cost and productivity records that can expect to make


exports profitable. Exporting is not the route for the rescue of a non-viable business. It is, however, a possible route to make a successful business even more successful. Economy Minister Simon Hamilton’s Trade Accelerator Plan has several useful marginal incentives for an ambitious exporter. The plan depends crucially on the product or service being available on a competitively priced basis. The exported goods or services are not directly being subsidised. That would be illogical and subject to anti-competition objections. The plan helps to reduce the information gap: how do we know that our product or service is of interest to new buyers? The plan offers information and support at the exploratory and uncertain stage. In simple terms, businesses are encouraged to get access to essential preliminary information about potential markets and particularly finding potential buyers. Serious efforts to gain access through well directed desk based research are a useful early exercise.

Depending on the project, there can then be up to the equivalent of 30 days of assistance through the Trade Advisory support scheme. The Trade Accelerator Plan then becomes more ‘hands on’. Financial assistance is available towards travel and accommodation support for principals from SME businesses to make visits to places in Great Britain and, for accommodation, to potential customers in the Republic of Ireland. On a modest, but useful scale, there can be support for visits to further destinations, along with support to attend trade exhibitions through the SOLEX scheme. In an additional incentive, there is a UK Export Finance scheme which claims that it aims to make sure that no viable export will fail due to lack of finance or insurance. However, with apologies, beware the cautionary use of the words ‘no viable export’ which comes close to making the claim unnecessary! Exporting can be exciting, but it is demanding of skills and expertise. Nevertheless, it is central to improving the local economy.

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My story – Michael Hall, managing director of Kestrel Foods ‘It is important to be brave in business – but you have got to minimise risk where you can...’


hen things get challenging, you’ve got to ask for help. In 1996, I convinced my wife, Lorraine, to join me in the company to help build on our experience of copackaging nuts and turn it into a new dried fruit and nut snack production firm under the Kestrel Foods name.

make a conscious effort to spread our risk by targeting multiple sales channels in numerous geographic market locations.

“Business planning is a necessary evil, both to get the business strategy straight in your own head and to present to third parties for external funding. It is an ever-evolving process, but has acted as a point of reference for our strategy and funding considerations and to communicate our goals to our team.

“Get close to your customers – they are the most important thing in any business. We strive to give them what they want while putting our own contemporary slant on our products.

“It’s important to be brave in business but minimise risk where you can. We

Michael and Lorraine Hall


“This helps to navigate through different challenging times and negates the risk of having too much business with too few customers.

“Keep a close eye on cash flow and put systems in place to ensure that money comes in from debtors in a timely fashion. This has been very important for us as we’re a growing

business with direct imports from around the world. Our business needs a lot of up-front cash for raw materials as credit isn’t always an option when dealing with a global supply base. “Thoroughly know the market in which you operate, which can be challenging when you operate in a lot of countries. External factors are constantly on our mind – whether it’s the currency exchange rates (our imports are paid in US dollars), weather forecasts affecting crops on the other side of the world, global raw material prices or politics. “We hedge our currency and forwardpurchase as far as possible to protect the business from outside factors. At the same time, our close supplier relationships keep us well informed of any supply chain issues.”

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Innovation for the nation, disruption for the sake of it Meade’s back and this time he’s being even more disruptive than usual, but in a good way...


he secret of innovation? Understanding your customers’ ‘jobs-to-be-done’.

If you want to stand head and shoulders above others in your field, then being innovative is generally the best way to do it. Indeed, most people consider innovation the secret to any successful business. If you can offer customers something they both want and need in an attractive package – which they can’t get elsewhere – then you’re onto a sure-fire winner. Research shows however, that when it comes to innovation, many business people still find it incredibly difficult and are dissatisfied by their performance in this regard. For example, in 2008, McKinsey & Company found there still exists ‘a wide gap between the aspirations of executives to innovate and their ability to execute.’ With a wealth of information generated by today’s data-driven marketplace, it can be easy to think we have everything we need at our fingertips to innovate in business. We can find out almost everything about our customers – what they like to eat, where they shop, what age they are, where they work and so on – yet still, innovation can be elusive. For some however, it seems to come naturally – we all know of businesses that seem to have sprouted up overnight and are raking in the rewards. The question is – what are these companies doing to create their success? What makes them innovative?


Why it isn’t all about disruption Often, when businesses take off, their success is put down to their disruption of the market – or ‘disruption innovation’. Someone assesses the current offerings in their field, then develops a cheaper and better way of delivering those services or products. Think Uber and Airbnb. However, a more recent theory suggests that while disruption innovation is part of the answer, there’s more to innovation than just this. According to the Harvard Business Review, the theory of disruptive innovation is about competitive responses to innovation. It models and forecasts the behaviour of market places in danger of being disrupted and helps them identify disruptive threats threats. It finds, though, that real innovation comes from disruption that’s facilitated by the ‘jobs-to-be-done’ theory. If you haven’t heard of the ‘jobs-to-be-done’ theory, it refers to understanding what ‘job’ your customers need your solution or product to do. Look at it >





this way; customers are essentially ‘hiring’ a product or service to do a job and, if you know what that job is ahead of time, then you’re on your way to achieving innovation. So, the first and most important question you need to ask yourself as a business owner is an obvious one, with a less than obvious answer: What do customers really want from your business?

Correlated data vs jobs-to-be-done Statistics, data insights and all the information we can glean about customers from technology shows key trends and correlations about the people who buy from us. However, correlated data, as we’re discovering, just isn’t specific enough to result in successful innovation.

“If you haven’t heard of the ‘jobs-to-bedone’ theory, it refers to understanding what ‘job’ your customers need your solution or product to do. Customers are essentially ‘hiring’ a product or service to do a job and, if you know what that job is ahead of time, then you’re on your way to achieving innovation.” Over the past 20 years, researchers have found key insights to support the jobsto-be-done theory that can drive business performance. For example, they’ve found that while correlative data can generate a ‘typical’ customer profile for a particular product, the customer purchase isn’t necessarily attributable to this data. Two people may have the same customer profiles but buy


something for very different reasons; or two people with opposing customer profiles may buy the same product/service. The information businesses actually need therefore, is the information that tells them what job customers need their product or service to fulfil. If they know that, then they can focus on offering the consumer something that truly satisfies them. The other interesting thing to note is that the job may not always be what we as businesses owners expect it to be. In fact, sometimes, you might think you’re selling a product when in actual fact, you’re actually selling an experience.

Knowing why people buy If you put yourself in your potential customer’s shoes and think about why you might want to buy something, based on what it will do for you, then you’re starting to get the idea. To truly innovate, businesses must be savvy to what jobs need to be done – and as already mentioned, these jobs might just surprise you. For example, a five star restaurant with Michelin credentials could invest heavily in the best culinary team and produce money can buy, delivering world-class service nightly. Even with special offers, discounts, and introductory deals, the high-roller experience offered might not translate into bums on seats. Next door though, the moderately priced Bistro might be busier. With homely meals served informally to couples and families, their steady flow of visitors shows they’re doing something right. The answer lies not in the quality of the produce or the accolades on the door. Put simply, they’re delivering on the ‘jobs their customers need done’. Whether it’s a treat, or a lazy evening away from the oven, the Bistro recognises their customers have a need to unwind and relax in a place there they feel comfortable slouching in their chair and slurping a glass of house red. The five star chef is serving a ‘jobto-be-done’ too, of course, but their volume appeal is narrower by design and perhaps so is their growth potential. Estate agents have a similar challenge. The best home in the world will be rejected

simply because ‘there isn’t a good spot for a TV’ or ‘granny’s dresser would never fit in there’. The ‘job-to-be-done’ isn’t finding an and curating a great selection of homes, it’s about moving ‘lifestyles’ not moving boxes. So the real challenge is not finding the right house, but finding what the ‘job-to-bedone’ is for every client, lead, and prospect. Even if it is shoehorning a clapped-out dresser into a swanky glass apartment.

Back at the office If you want to innovate using the customers’ jobs-to-be-done theory, start with your systems. Every customer informs and educates the way you handle them – and others – in the future. Record not just their requests, but their emergent (and perhaps initially unarticulated) needs.

Ask yourself... • What does the customer actually want your service/product to do (which may not be what you thought). 
 • Remember that customer circumstances matter more than correlation data or the attributes of what you’re selling. 
 • Truly innovative businesses are those which solve problems much more effectively than anyone else, or they find solutions no-one has ever tried to offer. 
 • Consider the social and emotional factors around a sale. 
 Ultimately, if you can solve the problem of what job’s your services or products are doing for customers, then you can innovate your business by offering exactly what consumers want. This means embedding flexibility and agility into your work, and not being 100% reliant on correlative data, taking the time to research around why your customers buy from you – or why they don’t. Used alongside other data, the ‘jobs-to-be-done’ theory might just be what you need to push ahead of the competition.

David is a researcher and lecturer in international business whose personal interests have always focused on aspects of popular psychology, consumer behaviour, and choice. Visit www.davidmeade.co.uk and follow him on twitter @davidmeadelive

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The green fingered growth story Templepatrick company Out There Services on its growth, rebrand and exciting exporting future


rriving at the headquarters of Out There Services, the only evidence of the fast-paced dynamic company which lies behind the darkened glass are two liveried vans parked outside the building. That’s because it’s late morning and the Templepatrick company’s fleet of vehicles are already hard at work in all corners of the country, and beyond. Formerly the Landscape Centre, it has been designing, building and maintaining gardens for residential, commercial and public sector clients for 35 years, rebranding only recently to the very apt Out There Services. That move comes at a salient time for a business which has grown exponentially over the last few years and is, as the name suggests, truly out there in its approach to a very traditional sector and in its level of activity. Started in 1981, the firm then had a strong retail focus with landscaping a side arm, one which was bought by managing


director Steven Thompson 12 years ago, and which has flourished since. The initial focus was on the domestic market – landscaping and maintaining gardens across Northern Ireland – which counted for half of the business back then. That has shifted toward public and private sector maintenance contracts since then with 85% of the business’s turnover now made up of long-term maintenance contracts, many of which have been successfully renewed over the last few months, such as those with NI Water, Choice Housing and the Education Authority.

Given average maintenance contracts in the sector last eight years, that’s quite an achievement and is furthered by the fact the firm has also picked up a number of new clients. “We’ve been successful in retaining a lot of existing contracts while also attracting a number of new clients,” Steven told Ulster Business. “Encouragingly, they have been won more on the quality of the work we’re proposing, rather than on price.” It was the round of contract wins which seemed like a natural junction to rebrand the company, hence Out There Services.


“We’re out there working in your community and making it a better place to live,” Steven said, pointing to the company’s continual involvement in community initiatives with a number of corporate social responsibility initiatives. “It’s important we support the people we work for.” Brand Etiquette were the agency behind the rebrand which aimed to stand out from the competition, according to Creative Director Tim McAllister. “We wanted to deliver a brand that reflected simply what the company does,” he said. “The Out There brand is bold and contemporary standing out from anything else in the sector allowing them to achieve their objectives of breaking into new markets and becoming one of the largest Landscape Contractors in the UK.” Stephen said the company is poised for a busy future. “With the new name and a number of big contract wins under our belts, we’re well positioned for further growth in the coming years.” Impressively, that growth isn’t confined to these shores. Out There Services has its sights set on further afield and has just reaped the rewards from a concerted export push having picked up a maintenance contract with Viridian Housing in North London. It’s a region Steven is keen to expand in and one he is familiar with having learnt his horticultural trade at college in Essex. “Breaking into new markets like this presents us with new opportunities and challenges but we’ve already proved we can hold our own in London,” he said. “Obviously there’s a lot of competition over there but the market is significant and, because we’re small we can provide a top class service.”

to help capture more of the market while in the meantime managing the work from the Templepatrick base. Such strategic planning is also evident in the fact Out There Services has already put in place a specialist team dedicated to tendering for long-term contracts, one of which is the Viridian deal.

“With the new name and a number of big contract wins under our belts, we’re well positioned for further growth in the coming years.”

“I know the market, the opposition and I’m confident we will be able to grow there in the future.”

It’s given us the ability to tender in some areas which we may have avoided before and opened up a huge raft of potential business.”

With that in mind, he’s keen to put in place a management structure in London

That has resulted in some pretty impressive targets.


“We want to see steady growth of 15%20% annually,” Steven said. “We want to lead the market in all the regions we operate in and be the best we can.” That means continual training for the 240 people who work of the company, right from the off. Every member of Out There Services is put through a Level 1 qualification in Horticulture as well as continual training as they progress through the firm. It is obviously paying off with the majority of staff extremely loyal and some even staying for more than 20 years. In financial terms, turnover has climbed to £9m annually from £1.5m when Steven took over and will soon be “knocking on the door of £11m”. That’s quite a transformation and one which shows no sign of slowing down. Out There Services certainly isn’t hiding its light behind a bushel, rather looking ahead to a landscape of growth and expansion.



Need for speed Blend and Batch

Spoilt Belle Boutique


n today’s fast moving world, speed is everything, and that applies just as much in business decision making as it does in our internet downloads. Following a significant increase in demand for business credit and a growing appetite among the business community for expansion, First Trust Bank recently announced a commitment to make decisions on new business loans and overdraft requests up to £25,000 within 48 hours – a market first in Northern Ireland. Speaking about the move Brian Gillan, Head of Business Banking, First Trust Bank said; “With over 118,000 SME businesses active in Northern Ireland, the ability to support their ambitions is vital to growing our economy as a whole and this latest commitment is designed to do just that. Across a range of sectors including retail, hospitality, agri-food and the service sectors, we see that businesses often experience seasonal fluctuations or need access to finance quickly to avail of new opportunities. From working with a diverse range of start-up, micro and small businesses, the Bank knew first-hand the flexible and innovative approach they take to growth and we have responded accordingly.” Among the first to avail of this quick access to finance was ‘Spoilt Belle Boutique’ – a clothing outlet aimed at fashion forward women. Already established in Magherafelt and with a strong online presence, they used the


money to support the opening of its second store in Coleraine, an expansion which also created seven new jobs in the process. Rachel Shivers, owner and founder of Spoilt Belle Boutique believes the quick turnaround was vital to deliver her expansion plans; “Given the fast-paced nature of fashion retail, it’s essential that businesses like mine have access to a flexible cash flow or we risk losing out on opportunities. We were given our decision by First Trust Bank well within the 48 hours which helped accelerate our growth plans so I’m thrilled to have opened our new store in Coleraine and create jobs in the local area. While having an increased physical presence in Northern Ireland is important, much of our growing customer base is also owed to our online presence across social media platforms; in particular Snapchat and Instagram. Having the support of a Bank who took the time to understand the quick nature of retail and the evolving needs of fashion conscious consumers helped fast forward our expansion plans.” This commitment to a maximum 48-hour decision from First Trust Bank comes on the back of an increased confidence from the region’s growing micro and small business community. Also fast of the mark was Blend and Batch, a contemporary coffee shop based in Banbridge, Co Down. When husband and wife team, Peter and Marion

Fairbairn saw a clear gap in the market for a coffee shop which would not only serve top quality coffee, batch baked produce and made to order food, but would also become a popular meeting point for the local community, they needed to move quickly. Explaining the value of the quick decision making from his bank, Peter said; “We spotted the opportunity to open a coffee shop/kitchen in Banbridge which had a prominent location on the edge of the town centre. We needed a bank which not only bought into our overall vision for the place, but which also understood the need for speed in their response. With First Trust Bank’s help we were able to move quickly to establish Blend and Batch as a contemporary and welcoming coffee shop in the town – and create a shared space for the local community. Today we also deliver an appetising food range based on local sourcing and seasonal produce, to go with our top quality coffee which is roasted by 38 Espresso on the Ards Peninsula. We believe in the value and strength of ‘local’ and it is comforting to have a local Bank that shares our passion.”

Further details about the 48-hour decision commitment can be found at www.firsttrustbank.co.uk. First Trust Bank is a trade mark of AIB Group (UK) p.l.c. (a wholly owned subsidiary of Allied Irish Banks, p.l.c.)




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# Imaginethat

Investing in skills to transform regional economies Michael Kane, Director in the consulting practice at PwC, says the Northern Ireland economy could be transformed by an initiative to upskill employees akin to that in the Sheffield City Region

It starts with the very basic, yet difficult to achieve, aim of raising prosperity by upskilling the current workforce of the SCR, an area made up of nine local authority areas. Accelerated economic growth is then achieved by backfilling these roles with new recruits including Apprentices. To do that the SCR appointed PwC and we, after some in-depth research and

Michael Kane


magine a world where small and medium-sized businesses were given the time and space to have their skills needs precisely assessed, defined and met by a range of training providers. Imagine a skills development system which is completely demand led, where training providers flex to meet the ever-changing needs of businesses, no matter what size. Imagine what SMEs across Northern Ireland could achieve with that combination of support and how much their success could transform and drive the economy here forward. It might sound like a pipe dream but it’s become a reality for the 60,000 businesses operating in the Sheffield City Region (SCR), a part of the country which has historically been reliant on heavy industry, has a relatively low skilled working population but has huge ambitions to upskill and grow its economy. Does that description ring a bell? You could be forgiven for thinking we were talking about Northern Ireland, a similar sized economy faced with the same challenges. To understand how we could transform our economy into a highly skilled and finely tuned engine, we first have to visit Sheffield to see how local government there is already well on the way to doing just that.

development, have developed the Skills Bank, backed by funding of £17m from the UK government and the European Union. It pools together the full offering from training providers in the region and beyond to make it substantially easier for companies – particularly SMEs – to access the training they need. On a practical level the Skills Bank is administered by PwC, either on an online platform, over the phone or in face-to-face business focused conversations, during which the skills needs of each company is assessed and then matched with the provider able to offer the best solution. From a financial perspective, the training is part funded – up to 80% – by the SCR while the remainder is paid for by the business (the former isn’t paid until the latter has cleared). The pooling of need also means that small companies who may only want to train a small number of staff members can join together with other firms to effectively fill courses which require larger numbers. The system has transformed the way training provision is developed in the SCR and is dramatically improving the skill level of businesses throughout the region. In the past government has put the direction of skills development into the hands of the provider rather than the employer. Now the employers are in the driving seat, able to dictate what type of training they need and armed with more market share.

It has forced providers to flex their offering to meet the demand emanating from the market rather than provide one-size-fits all courses. It has transformed the skills development of the workforce within the SRC and set the region’s economy on a path of growth unthinkable only a few short years ago. And it could do the same for Northern Ireland. The Skills Bank could be the catalyst needed to arm the economy here for the next stage of growth, take advantage of our increased globalisation and put us on a par with other advanced economies around the globe. Imagine that?

For more information contact michael.kane@strategyand.uk.pwc.com

Training & Apprenticeships


Training and apprenticeships The Apprenticeship Levy looks set to catch many businesses out. We explain – with as much information as we have so far - how it impacts you, what you need to do to comply and how you can take advantage of the reforms.



lot of noise has been made in the last couple of months about the Apprenticeship Levy.

It was the brainchild of the government in Westminster as a means to help fund 3m apprenticeship places across the UK and, despite pressure from business groups, looks set to be introduced in April 2017. With that deadline looming, employers need to make sure they are properly prepared for its introduction, if it applies to their businesses.


Does my business need to pay? The apprenticeship levy applies to employers in any sector with a “pay bill” of more than £3m a year. The levy is charged at a rate of 0.5% of the company’s annual pay bill – the total amount of earnings subject to Class 1 secondary National Insurance Contributions (NICs) and, according to the Treasury, “you will have a levy allowance of £15,000 a year to offset against the levy you must pay”. That, apparently, means you’ll only pay the levy on the amount over and above the £3m annual pay bill (0.5% of £3m is £15,000). For example:

An employer who would have pay the levy is one with an annual pay bill of £5,000,000: • levy sum: 0.5% x £5,000,000 = £25,000 • subtracting levy allowance: £25,000 - £15,000 = £10,000 annual levy payment An employer who would not have to pay the levy is one with an annual pay bill of £2,000,000: • levy sum: 0.5% x £2,000,000 = £10,000 • subtracting levy allowance: £10,000 - £15,000 = £0 annual levy payment The levy will be paid to HMRC through the Pay As You Earn process. If you have calculated that you will pay the apprenticeship levy, you will need to declare this and include it in your usual PAYE payment to HMRC by the 19th (or 22nd if you report

electronically) of the following month. The first submission in which you will declare that you will pay the levy will therefore be in May. Earnings include any remuneration or profit coming from employment, such as wages, bonuses, commissions, and pension contributions that you pay NICs on. We will not charge the levy on other payments such as benefits in kind, subject to Class 1A NICs The levy allowance will operate on a monthly basis and will accumulate throughout the year. This means you will have an allowance of £1,250 a month. Any unused allowance will be carried from one month to the next. For example, if your levy liability in month 1 is £1,000 you will not pay the levy and your allowance in month 2 will be £1,500. If you have some unused allowance in a month, but paid the levy previously in the tax year, you can receive a credit which you can use to offset against your other PAYE liabilities. The credit will also reduce the amount of levy paid. If you have multiple PAYE schemes and do not use the full £15,000 allowance, you will be able to offset the unused amount against another one of your schemes once the tax year has ended. I already pay into an existing industry levy scheme. Do I also need to pay the apprenticeship levy? Yes. Even if you contribute to another levy system for your industry, you will still be liable to the apprenticeship levy. How do I access apprenticeship funding? Once your business has declared the levy to HMRC, you will be able to access funding for apprenticeships. You will be able to use it to pay for training and assessments and it will help you find training providers to help you develop and deliver your apprenticeship programme. In England, employers will be able to set up an account to which will store your apprenticeship funding. It’s not clear how the process will work in Northern Ireland but a >




< spokesperson for the Department for the Economy told Ulster Business: “The UK wide Apprenticeship Levy will apply to all employers in Northern Ireland, across the public and private sectors. It will impact on all employers with an annual pay bill in excess of £3 million as they will pay the Levy. HM Treasury will allocate funding to the Northern Ireland Executive through the block grant as a result of the Levy it will be for the Northern Ireland Executive to decide how to spend any funding received and whether to link this funding to apprenticeships. The Department is currently considering the impact of the Levy in Northern Ireland and intends to publish a consultation paper in the near future. This will focus on seeking the views of the business community.”

What you can spend apprenticeship funding on Funds can only be used towards the costs of apprenticeship training and end point assessment. This must be with an approved training provider and assessment organisation. It can’t be used on other costs associated with your apprentices or wider training


effort. For example wages, statutory licences to practise, travel and subsidiary costs, managerial costs, traineeships, work placement programmes or the costs of setting up an apprenticeship programme. What is an apprenticeship? There are rules governing what an apprenticeship is. The main ones are: • the apprentice must be employed in a real job; they may be an existing employee or a new hire • the apprentice must work towards achieving an approved apprenticeship standard or apprenticeship framework • the apprenticeship training must last at least 12 months • the apprentice must spend at least 20% of their time on off-the-job training

Funding training and assessment costs All existing and new apprenticeship frameworks and standards will be placed within a funding band. The upper limit of each funding band will cap the maximum amount of digital funds an employer who

pays the levy can use towards an individual apprenticeship. The upper limit of the funding bands will also cap the maximum price that government will ‘co-invest’ towards, where an employer does not pay the levy or has insufficient digital funds and is eligible for extra support. It will be up to employers to negotiate prices with providers, within these funding limits. The same funding bands will apply to all employers paying for apprenticeship training.

Levy-paying employers You will be asked to negotiate and agree a price with the training provider you have chosen from the approved register. This price will cover the delivery of apprenticeship training towards a specific standard or framework, and the cost of assessing the apprentice at the end of their apprenticeship. If you negotiate a price with a training provider that is more than the maximum allowed by the funding band, then you must pay the difference between the band maximum and the agreed price, in full. You can’t make this payment from your digital account.


NEDs in demand to bridge skills gap


ne third of businesses in Northern Ireland plan to recruit non-executive directors (NEDS) to address a skills gap on their boards.

That’s according to a survey of businesses and organisations by recruitment company 4C Executive which found firms are recruiting NEDS to help with access to new contacts and networks, challenge executive teams, assist with strategy development and improve corporate governance. Around 35% of respondents said they had a skills gap on their board while 42% have no NEDs serving. 4c’s Founder and Managing Director Gary Irvine said Brexit could prompt more to bring a NED on board: “There is no doubt that the need for the expertise and leadership of NEDs will grow significantly as Northern Ireland companies contend with the many challenges and opportunities that exiting the EU will bring. “As well as playing a vital role in ensuring effective corporate governance, NEDs can bring the high-level knowledge, experience and strategic outlook needed to drive the growth and financial

Pictured (L-R) are Gareth Hanna, Search Consultant, and Gary Irvine, Founder & Managing Director, 4c Executive.

performance of a business. Such a support network could prove invaluable for local firms negotiating the complexities of a changing business environment in the coming years as the UK prepares to leave the EU.” 4C launched the report as it launched three new specialist divisions within the business – 4c Boardroom, 4c Interim and 4c Third Sector.

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By David Elliott

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

Diner: Will Miscampbell, Fetherston Clements Estate Agents Venue: A penthouse apartment, The Obel


alking back to Ulster Business towers after meeting with Will Miscampbell, your correspondent bumped into an acquaintance. In the course of the usual chitchat I happened to mention I’d just breakfasted with the kingpin of the residential property world “up there” and pointed to the penthouse apartment in the Obel building where I’d just come from. It was only after bidding farewell and wandering on my way that I realised I didn’t explain that the meeting was for this column and I hadn’t actually spent the night there but met Will, whose company Fetherstone Clements is marketing the apartments, so he could show off the quite phenomenal view from the top floor. And it is, stretching down toward Newtownards in the east and right the way round toward Lisburn in the south west, there can be fewer better views than from the top of what is still the island of Ireland’s tallest building.


Fetherstone Clements was appointed as the selling agent of the apartments by Lisney, the building’s US owners earlier this year and has been notching up sales at pace. That has been helped by a £2m refurbishment of the apartments which keen observers will have noted includes the installation of a “high performance solar control window film” which Will, eager at the best of times, is registering an excitement level of around 11 about. “It reflects up to 80% of heat in summer months and reflect 39% radiant heat back during winter, as well as cutting down glare,” Will said. “It’s truly amazing.” If you didn’t know Will you could be forgiven for thinking his enthusiasm is typical estate agent bluster but I can confirm he is possibly one of the most genuine people in Northern Ireland business so sadly he really is that excited about window film. Nor is he the typical estate agent having arrived in the profession after completing an economics degree and spending a couple of years in the business advisory world. Once destined to enter the family accounting practise, he made the brave decision to carve a career for himself in the property world and hasn’t looked back since. After carving out a niche for himself with a number of major estate agency names, he


Will Miscampbell, left, and David Elliott

joined up with Mike Fetherston and Alastair Clements shortly after they formed the company in 2011 and one of his most recent scoops is the marketing of the Obel building. It’s why we’re here in one of the building’s penthouse apartments on a Wednesday morning, eschewing the proposed posh catered breakfast in favour of a flat white and a croissant (him) a flat white and a pain au raisin (me) from The National. Yes it’s been done a thousand times by his column but once again the happy coincidence of geography took us there and, like its sit down breakfasts, the pastries didn’t disappoint.

where it should have been from the outset,” he said. He also revealed how he hasn’t lost his love of a good set of statistics and only needs the merest prompt to wax lyrical about the performance of various aspects of the property market over the last few years. He notes how the local market for apartments has outperformed as an asset in the last few quarters and how the overall Northern Ireland property market has grown every quarter since bottoming out in 2012.

Will explained how the Obel refurbishment project – Phase 2 – has seen enhancement works being carried out to the internal finishes of the apartments as well as to the lifts, lobbies, reception areas and, as already mentioned, to the tower’s external facade.

Reassuringly, Will is a proponent of data from the Land and Property Services – which every good statistician knows is the daddy when it comes to accurately assessing property prices here – and said his experience in the wake of the Brexit vote chimes with the “it wasn’t the end of the world” feeling that other economic commentators have hinted at.

“We’re now able to position this building

“We’ve never been busier,” he said.


“August was our busiest month ever and we expect more of the same in the coming months as the market consolidates, more lending emerges and new homes come onto the market. That’s encouraging for Fetherston Clements which, following its exponential growth over the last few years, now consists of 20 staff across three offices on Belfast’s Lisburn Road, in Belmont and in Bangor. Aside from sales, it also has a growing lettings and management agency which has 650 house on its books. All-in-all, the business is growing at quite a rate and becoming more and more influential. “We’ve got to the point now where people have got to take notice of us,” Will said. With that it was time to hot foot it out of the sumptuous surroundings of the Obel, Ulster Business back to its fourth floor tower and Will back to the cut and thrust world of property.


WHAT is your



n the past, everyone had an idea of what the workplace looked like, either through family connections or through education, we grew up with a certain amount of reality embedded into us. Today, this is not as true as it once was. For example, the millennial experience of a workplace is no longer as straight forward as it once was for previous generations. The technology boom in the last two decades has created a mobile world, where information is at the swipe of a finger. This has embedded an aspirational workplace experience into a generation. The values and world experience of a work-naïve generation present challenges, but we need to understand them and convert these challenges into opportunity for growth. These challenges manifest themselves in different ways, depending on the market area, but the most common are; 1. Timing is key – The new workplace generation have experienced their world at a pace unlike any other before them (just look at the push for faster internet speeds). This generation works at a much faster pace than we expect, picking up new tasks quicker, and wanting to deliver results faster. If our workplaces present obstacles rather than opportunities, we can often frustrate individuals with slow processes. 2. Building a Network – This generation has grown up with a large value placed on creating a network around them. The rise in social media has shown that millennials desire time to socialise and build relational network across every element of the lives. If we limit or even dismiss their need to communicate and network with employees, we can limit their positive workplace experience.

3. Development and growth – The average tenure of a millennial is around two years, versus five years for Gen X employees and seven years for Baby Boomers. For the most part, millennials have a strong entrepreneurial work ethic, and are constantly on the lookout for opportunities to grow and develop. In order to keep up with this fast moving generation, don’t slow them down. If a Millennial employee feels like their bosses are invested in their personal growth they will be more likely to develop a stronger relationship not just with the company but with the people in it.

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Planning your recruitment for 2017? Consider this... Justin Rush, Director at Abacus Professional Recruitment, runs through a checklist of points you need to consider if you’re taking on professionals next year New entrants heighten competition in the local marketplace A recent inter-trade Ireland report showed that 58% of businesses surveyed stated that new competitors were the biggest threat to their businesses growth prospects. With each business sector facing increased competition, the acquisition of key people with the necessary skills becomes even more paramount.

Justin Rush


or the purposes of this article I am going to define ‘talent’ as qualified professionals working within a commercial business environment. Accountants, lawyers, software developers, HR executives, marketing managers, etc, with salary expectations in the £35-£50k bracket. Basically, the people most firms are seeking to hire. At present, a number of significant trends deserve your attention. The rise of contracting/self-employment Currently, more than 4.37 million people in the UK work on a contract/self-employed basis. For the past five years we have seen a year-on-year increase of approximately 100,000 in this figure. The attractiveness of contracting/self-employment to professionals is not a new phenomenon, but the return to a steadier phase of the economic cycle has seen a greater uptake in this type of offering. Northern Ireland is trending in-line with the UK in this area.


Candidate confidence continues to rise Professionals know when they are in demand and therefore become selective in respect to opportunities they progress with. At the time of writing, more than 1700 job adverts exist online within Northern Ireland for the definition of professionals I have outlined. Such choice directly affects your application rates. The development pipeline for professionals gives cause for concern The training requirements necessary for an accountant, lawyer, HR executive, etc, to become fully qualified can be up to four years. A noticeable slowdown in admittances to chartered institutes in recent years has occurred due to the reduced number of trainee positions being offered by firms during the period 2008-2012. The result: fewer qualified professionals in the market in the 25-35 age range than normal. Salary levels are moving closer to UK averages Historically, Northern Ireland average salary levels have been 30% below UK averages. This trend is changing, with some disciplines now beyond the UK average.

NI graduates not returning home At present, approximately 15,875 Northern Ireland post-A-Level students are studying in UK and Republic of Ireland. In recent years, fewer than 30% of those students return to seek work in Northern Ireland upon graduation. That is over 11,000 high potential people Northern Ireland businesses are not accessing. Future jobs growth UU Economic Policy Centre Spring Outlook 2016 projects a 23,000 net increase in IT, professional, and administrative jobs between 2015 and 2025. The long-term demand trend is clear. Brexit (Sorry I was trying to get through without mentioning it). Although only 4% of the Northern Ireland population are classified as ‘migrant’, how will your business cope if you lose these people and their skills? Potentially, there will be more gaps to fill. So what does all of this mean? Well, quite simply you must have a clear strategy to gain the appointments you seek. A significant amount of time and effort will be needed to make the strategy a success, and if you do not have that resource, you will need to obtain it. You will have to work harder to engage with key talent, inevitably you will have fewer (but still high quality) candidates to choose from, you must act at pace, and as salaries are trending upwards, it will cost you more to appoint.

Justin Rush is a career recruiter and Director at Abacus Professional Recruitment. He can be contacted on justin@abacus.jobs

Human Resources


Seamless acquisition T

he buying and selling of companies is big business in Northern Ireland. Analysts Experian reported there were 140 deals done for £851m for the first three quarters of 2016, which is a 6% increase on last year. Industry experts predict the trend is likely to increase due to the impact of Brexit next year as firms look to make the best deal possible ahead of uncertain times and an unstable pound. Manufacturing firm Whale Pumps from Bangor is just one of the Northern Ireland companies that has been successfully bought


By Joanne Sweeney

over by American Brunswick Corporation from Illinois in 2014 for a reported £20m. The entire process took six months, according to HR manager Kate Roberts, who helped steer the company through a “getting to know you phase” phase for management and staff to get up to speed with Brunswick’s American-style work culture. She advises: “Good communication is key throughout the workforce. It is important to communicate to employees, customers, distributors and all stakeholders and create a plan about how that communication will be distributed. Employees will have a lot

Martina McAuley, HR Team Limited


be best advised to seek professional assistance when dealing with this complex area of employment legislation.” Her top tips for companies considering a merger or disposal are to: 1. Remember that even if the business has its head office in another jurisdiction, TUPE will apply to the part of the business that is transferring in Northern Ireland. 2. Carry out a consultation process with staff to ensure they are fully informed of the changes. 3. Be aware that existing employees will transfer to the new company. 4. Ensure that continuity of employment is preserved. 5. Ensure that existing terms and conditions of employment are preserved. HR consultant Diane Allen (Allen People Solutions Limited) recommends that good planning, preparation and communication can help reduce any possible stress on management and employees going through the complex process. “From our experience, of dealing with business transfers across a range of sectors and industry types, the ‘human factor’ can be one of the most essential, yet often overlooked, aspects in ensuring success. “Employees can feel stressed and uncertain about the future and how the changes will >

of questions so you need to be prepared to answer any question they may have. “There was a 90-day detailed plan put in place for managers, to help with the transition. The CEO of Brunswick and other executives came over to Whale and held a meeting with the entire workforce to introduce them to the Brunswick culture and welcome them to the team.” While Kate says that there were no redundancies in the local Northern Ireland Whale Pumps workforce or changes to terms and conditions, job losses along with changes to pre-existing terms and conditions and working practices.


Martina McAuley, managing partner with HR Team Limited in Londonderry, says that early planning for employees under TUPE (Transfer of Undertakings, Protection of Employment) legislation is essential earlier in the process. She adds: “We have witnessed a huge increase in organisations requesting guidance with TUPE year on year. This is partly due to the recognition by smaller organisations that TUPE legislation is not only the preserve of multinational companies. “It needs to be factored into the process that TUPE can apply regardless of the size of the business. Organisations would

Diane Allen, Allen People Solutions Limited



Gareth Walls, A&L Goodbody

John-George Willis, Tughans

impact them. They may also feel a sense of loss relating to; organisational identity, their status and other colleagues not transferring etc.”

companies here for those people who develop software, and that they have terms of engagement. Key people have to properly incentivised to stay on. That’s even before the deal is done.

One the legal firms which advise companies in the process is John-George Willis, head of Tughans corporate department which advised Brunswick Corporation during the purchase of Whale.

“Remember it’s challenging for those running the business as they are also at the coalface answering the purchaser’s queries, both in writing and face-to-face, doing due diligence.

“Prepare, prepare, and prepare, both in terms of getting your financials right and getting your legals right,” advises John-George.

“Senior management can be running the business while facing extra workload in managing this important part of the process.”

“Preparation goes a long way to achieving the outcome that you want on valuation as it gives the impression that it’s an efficient, well run business.

Gareth Walls, head of legal firm A&L Goodbody’s employment team also works on acquisitions and disposals daily.

“It’s essential for the buyer to understand the employee dynamic in the target company, for instance are people on market rates of salary? how strong are the terms of employment, etc? “And when the buyer and the seller are announcing the deal to employees, it’s important to announce whether if there is going to be any rationalisation, hopefully not, but if there is explain why that’s happening and the fact that there jobs will not be at risk. “It’s vitally important for the buyer to retain key people, particularly for technology


He says: “Experience shows that there are two key aspects to any successful merger/ acquisition or disposal, being planning and timing.

“Preparation goes a long way to achieving the outcome that you want on valuation as it gives the impression that it’s an efficient, well run business.”

“While most owners/directors appreciate the importance of finance and communication with financiers, accountants and shareholders, there are many other aspects which must be addressed far enough in advance of proposed completion to ensure a smooth transaction. “This starts with compliance with statutory or regulatory guidance, not just on consultation with employees for example, but other aspects apply in an increasingly regulated and sophisticated market, such as EU Competition authorities, visa compliance with the UK Visa and Immigration service and related. Time needs to be set aside to address all those issues well in advance because each has the capacity to delay completion and impact on value realised. While ultimately an acquisition or disposal is the final figure that the sale is agreed for, and facts and figures dominated the process, the human factor is an integral. “I consider the human element in a significant transaction as key,” adds Walls. “It is generally accepted in the Northern Ireland economy that most people still do business with people, not brands. That may well change over time with the advent of more FDI, which is of course to be welcomed, but even then, no-one should lose sight of the fact that people drive business and maintain the reputation.”

Easing the employer burden


he people management function is hugely important in today’s organisation. You want to develop your people – to grow their performance, improve skills and competencies, and build first rate relationships with managers. It is also necessary to securely store records which can be easily accessed to create meaningful reports. And in Northern Ireland, there are the annual demands of the Equality Commission to be met. As each company is unique, you might want to think about what your human resources issues are at this moment. Paul Donnelly, Sales and Marketing Manager at Hallmark Solutions said: “Companies come to us when they recognise the need for human resources software that can evolve as they do. It might be due to a sudden increase in the total number of employees, or the arrival of human resource professionals with new ideas.”

Hallmark has a number of applications. Each intuitively integrates with the others, streamlining the HR process.

Paul continued: “Senior management teams realise that they cannot continue with systems that were once adequate. They may have several software programs that do not integrate well with each other, leading to security risks, replication of entry, endless emails with attached pdfs, resulting in waste of valuable time.”

Personnel Administration Management System (PAMS) is a powerful human resources referential database. PAMS allows firms to control and monitor all aspects of personnel data. The equality monitoring reporting facility is ideal for small- and medium-sized enterprises together as well as for larger organisations.

Good human resource software should be built on a secure database. Managers need to keep track of recruitment and training, contracts, as well as learning and development records. Recording of sickness and absences, leave requests, and the ability to schedule and manage mandatory health and safety requirements are also important.

eRecruit is Hallmark’s online recruitment system. It is designed to enable firms to find the right people for the job using their own company website.

And when accessed online, the software should be a good fit with the look, feel and culture of the organisation. The result for you will be greater trust in leadership, growth in talent and a more satisfied and effective team. Hallmark Solutions Limited Hallmark Solutions Limited is a premier developer of human resources software. The Carryduff-based firm offers software which is currently used by over 200 HR teams throughout the UK and Ireland.

Gareth Clements, (left) Operations Director, and Paul Donnelly, Sales and Marketing Manager

eRecruit aids the recruitment process from job advertisement right through to appointment of the best possible candidate. It handles online submission of applications, the short listing process, interview outcomes and all communication with applicants. Any monitoring details entered by applicants can be easily downloaded for the purposes of the annual return. The result – the cost of recruitment is greatly reduced.

Hallmark’s Employee Self Service (ESS) system allows staff to take ownership of their own records, and to check and request leave online. The system allows streamlining the daily HR tasks for managers such as managing leave, absence and other data for their employees. HR can regularly audit tasks completed by both employees and managers. With its flexible configurable access rights and restrictions, ESS enables HR to allow managers and employees to edit and maintain as much or as little of their personnel records as they wish. When it comes to support, Hallmark Solutions provide both onsite and remote assistance; client satisfaction is paramount. Gareth Clements, Operations Director, said: “We make sure personalised and bespoke service from our sales and training teams will guarantee that your organisation is supported in the configuration, setup and maintenance to help you get the very best out of our system. ” And as your organisation grows, Hallmark software is designed to grow with you.

For an initial discussion, please phone Paul Donnelly at 028 9081 2618 or email: paul@hallmarksolutions.co.uk


Medium business of the month Name: Paul Haslam, Managing Director of the Web Bureau Company name: The Web Bureau Location: Studio 4, Potters Quay, 5 Ravenhill Road, Belfast

What makes your business stand out? The Web Bureau is a full-service digital agency. What sets us apart is that we enjoy helping customers through their digital journey. We have a super talented and growing team, who are all dedicated to always going that extra mile for our clients. They understand their business and customers, allowing them to be able to deliver excellent results. We are proud to have recently achieved the Google Partner status. How did you come up with the idea for the company? The Web Bureau was formed 10 years ago. We are actually fast approaching our birthday, so look out for the party invites very soon! Colin Graham and myself met during postgrad education. Colin’s background is technical and mine is more creative and strategy. We saw a space for an agency who understand and talk business, not just confuse clients with technology! We set out originally to offer effective strategy, technology and creativity – to this day, we continue to! How do you compare with the competition? The size of our team gives us the competitive edge – with 32 digital professionals we have experts in all areas from creativity and strategy to technology and leadership. We are also very proud to have won quite a few awards, including Digital Agency of the Year, two years in a row! We attended the Realex Web Awards last Wednesday! We won ‘Best Sports Site’ for the Irish FA. The UK Social Media Awards in London are coming up too – we’ve been shortlisted for ‘Best Use of Paid Social Media’ for our work with Love Nature.


Paul Haslam

Over the years, we have gained plenty of experience of business’ in a range of sectors in NI, ROI and internationally. We are just about to launch Kingspan in 18 different countries and Love Nature in 33. We feel this definitely sets us apart from competitors! How will your business look in five years’ time? We hope to continue to grow and improve our skills as a company. There’s been lots of talk about a small office in Republic of Ireland and we are hoping to begin building a team there. We are also making solid progress across Great Britain – so who knows! We’ve chatted a lot about progressing in App development and having IOS and Android Space too. How do you encourage innovation in your company? We have an open door policy in The Web Bureau – this encourages idea cultivation.

Lots of time for training and continued personal development within our team is also encouraged. We are delighted that we successfully achieved Investors in People accreditation, helping us continue to unlock the talents of our staff as well as creating an enriched working environment. We also like to have some epic staff nights out and pizza parties etc. – fun is important for creativity in the team too! What is the secret to your success? Continually going further for our clients through creativity, strategy and delivering results. We do this is in a straight talking manor, never overcomplicating our solutions or how we present them to clients! Our clients trust us. That’s why we continue to work for them and why they highly recommend us to friends and colleagues.


Tax return deadline It is tax return season once again, much to the despair of business people, landlords and investors, to name but a few. In this article, Jennifer Glover, Tax Manager at Exchange Accounting, looks at who should be filing a tax return and why you should be avoiding the last minute January

Who needs to complete a tax return? If you receive a notice to file a tax return, you are legally obliged to complete it, even if you think it is not applicable to you. Failure to do so will result in penalties. If you have not received a notice to file a tax return, you may still be required to do so if you receive any income from that has not been tax at source, or not taxed at the correct rate of tax. Such income would include rental income, trading income, interest and dividend income, casual earnings, disposals. If you are unsure whether you should be filing a tax return please contact us today.

Registering for selfassessment If you are new to self-assessment, you need to be registered to file a 2015/16 tax return with HMRC by 5 October 2016. Not registering in time is not a valid excuse for missing the deadline.

How to submit your 2015/16 tax return Your 2015/16 tax return must usually


be filed with HMRC by 31st October 2016 if you file on paper or by the 31st January 2017 if you file on-line.

Don’t Delay At Exchange Accountancy we understand that dusting off that box of tax documents may not be at the top of your weekend agenda, but here are a few reminders about why you should get ahead of the other 11 million people preparing for the filing deadline. Penalties • If you do not submit your return on time you will be levied with an automatic £100 penalty, even if you do not owe any tax. • If you are three months late, you will be charged a daily penalty of £10 per day, up to a maximum of £900. Further interest and penalties will be imposed if your return is not submitted within six months and so forth. Stress • If you leave your information in late, your tax return will unfortunately join the back of a long list of other tax returns your accountants has to complete by the deadline. Although all

accountants try their best to deliver a quick turnaround, you may be waiting right up until the 31st January to approve your tax return. • In recent years the HMRC website has crashed under the pressure of last minute returns. • If you choose to complete your tax return yourself and need HMRC to answer a query, you will have to wait in line for at least double the time.

Outstanding returns? If you are worried that you should have filed a Tax Return for prior tax years we strongly recommend you contact an accountant for help. Failing to comply with HMRC will only create a bigger problem. Your accountant will work with you to bring your tax affairs up to date, minimise penalties and liaise with HMRC to create an affordable and manageable payment plan.

Should you have any queries regarding the areas discussed, or any other area of tax, please contact our Tax Manager Jennifer Glover and she will be happy to assist. T: 028 9040 7470 or E: jennifer@exchangeaccountants.com



Time to get serious Managed offices for forward-thinking about social By John Moore, Regional Managing Director of Hays Northern Ireland



ew industries have been left untouched by the disruptive influence of digital technology in recent years.

Recruitment is no exception. In both the personal and professional spheres, social media is now fundamental to how we communicate, share experiences and discover new information. In the past, hiring companies would have placed a vacancy on a single job board and in the local press and waited for high-calibre applications to come in, but now potential recruits are proactively checking out company work environments on Glassdoor, scouring Twitter for jobs, applying for roles across multiple job sites and even directing employers to their LinkedIn profile. The latter, with its 450 million users worldwide, is often the first port of call for both candidates and employers looking for a new role or employee and its effective use is central to many employers’ recruitment strategies. Over the past few years, Hays has focused on growing our network and engagement through platforms such as LinkedIn, and we have just been named as LinkedIn’s ‘Most Socially Engaged Global Recruitment Company’. The award goes to the company best harnessing the strength of the platform and takes content marketing, social recruiting, and social reach and engagement into account. Social media platforms are powerful tools that have changed the way many companies work and recruit. The key lies in using these tools to enhance your ability to build relationships and provide insight which benefits your connections online. By operating as a trusted advisor and engaging consistently with online communities over an extended time period, we have been able to nurture positive relationships with jobseekers and clients and enhance our ability to find the right person for the job.

A ready-to-occupy office at Adelaide House


auseway Asset Management has re-launched its managed offices at Adelaide House just off Boucher Road, South Belfast, with facilities geared for forwardthinking and fast-moving businesses operating in today’s markets. The modern business facilities are within easy reach of Belfast City Centre and other parts of the country by both road and rail and comprise fully-furnished offices with one-to-10 person occupancy. Sizes range from 95 to 720 square foot and there is the availability of the added bonus of free car parking! The ready-to-occupy offices and floor space have been designed to provide an inspirational working environment complete with a refreshments and relaxation area, and rooms for board and small meetings or for just simply thinking. With 24 hours/seven days-a-week access and CCTV security, Adelaide House offices are available at extremely competitive rates based on a fixed price structure with very flexible lease arrangements from three or more months. Included in the price are heating and electricity; water and business rates; on-site management and security; reception and secretarial services including telephone answering, mail handling and message forwarding; cleaning services; canteen facilities and seating areas. Adelaide House also offers free Wi-Fi and ready to use super-fast broadband with 50MB fibre.

For further information please contact To find out more about how we use a host of digital media to

reception@causewayassetmanagement.com, or telephone

support our clients and candidates visit hays.co.uk/socialmedia,

028 9038 7000. For a virtual walk through Adelaide House visit

follow us on LinkedIn and on Twitter @HaysNews.



Corporate Law


Deal advisors make it into Legal 500 list Some of the biggest legal names in the legal sector in Northern Ireland were named in the latest Legal 500 corporate and mergers and acquisitions listing. We round them up.

Corporate and mergers and acquisition

Leading individuals


A&L Goodbody Arthur Cox Belfast Carson McDowell LLP Tughans


Cleaver Fulton Rankin Millar McCall Wylie LLP Mills Selig Pinsent Masons Belfast LLP

Richard Gray – Carson McDowell LLP Michael Johnston – Carson McDowell LLP Paul McBride – Pinsent Masons Belfast LLP Kevin McVeigh – Elliott Duffy Garrett Neasa Quigley – Carson McDowell LLP Peter Stafford – A&L Goodbody Alan Taylor – Arthur Cox Belfast Mark Thompson – A&L Goodbody John-George Willis – Tughans

3. C & H Jefferson Elliott Duffy Garrett Johnsons Solicitors

What Legal 500 said: A&L Goodbody’s team is noted for its ‘excellent business acumen and industry knowledge’ and for its ‘exemplary levels of client care’. Its wide-ranging M&A experience spans the agri-food, real estate, transport and manufacturing sectors; notable highlights included advising Ballyrashane Co-operative Agriculture and Dairy Society on its merger with the Town of Monaghan Co-operative and Dairy Society, based in the Republic of Ireland. In another crossborder highlight, the firm advised Danish manufacturer Micro Matic on its acquisition of the Valpar group of companies. Other clients include Aperture Debt Solutions and Deloitte. Mark Thompson and Alastair Keith heads the practice. Belfast office chair Peter Stafford is also recommended.


The ‘extremely bright’ Alan Taylor leads Arthur Cox Belfast’s ‘market-leading’ team, which acts for a number of household names in the agri-food, transport, pharmaceuticals and cosmetics sectors. Recent highlights include advising AGRO Merchants on its acquisition of Sawyers Transport Limited, a major haulage company based in Northern Ireland. Competition law is another area of expertise for the group. Other clients include Dunbia, one of Northern Ireland’s largest suppliers of red meat products. Alan Bissett left the firm in March 2016. 2015 highlights for Carson McDowell LLP’s corporate team included advising McKesson Corporation on its €407.5m acquisition of UDG healthcare’s Irish pharmaceutical

distribution businesses. The group’s sector expertise covers manufacturing, construction and healthcare and its client roster includes H&J Martin, Irish Energy Investments and Graham Investment Projects. Neasa Quigley and Richard Gray head the six-partner team, which includes managing partner Michael Johnston and Gerard Armstrong. In an illustration of Tughans’ presence in high-profile and high-value transactions, 2015 saw the firm advise longstanding client Totalmobile Holdings on its sale to Lyceum Capital. The team also has a strong following among private equity clients and recently advised Kernel Capital on its investment into Cirdan Imaging Limited. Other highlights included advising the


shareholders of Sawyers Transport on its sale to AGRO Merchants. John-George Willis heads the department, which includes Ciara Lagan, who advised Lagan Construction Group on its acquisition of H&J Martin. Cleaver Fulton Rankin’s workload in 2015 covered a broad range of M&A transactions in the construction, hospitality and insurance sectors, as well as advice to several private

equity firms. Highlights included advising Just Eat on its acquisition of Nifty Nosh Limited, and acting for Invest Northern Ireland on its equity investment into Titan IC Systems, a hardware engine development company. Scott Kennedy heads the team. Millar McCall Wylie LLP’s client base includes manufacturers, medical devices companies, and digital content businesses. In 2015 the firm acted for ConveyorTek, a Northern Ireland logistics manufacturer, on an investment in the client by Broadlake Capital. The practice also works on property acquisitions. The ‘creative and technically

excellent’ Damian McParland (who is also noted for his competition law expertise) leads the practice, which includes newly promoted partners Abbie Long and the ‘commercially minded and practical’ John Turley. Mills Selig’s client base includes insurance and construction companies as well as private equity firms such as Whiterock Capital and Crescent Capital. Highlights included advising First Derivatives, a Northern Ireland software company, on six international acquisitions in countries including the US, Canada, Ireland and the UK with an aggregate value of £28.3m. The ‘bright’ Chris Guy heads the practice, which includes IT and IP specialist Kathryn Walls and John Kearns, who has extensive insolvency and restructuring expertise. Paul McBride and Hilary Griffith head the group at Pinsent Masons Belfast LLP, which has particular strength in private equity and energy deals. In an illustration of the latter, Richard Murphy led the advice to TCI Renewables on its disposal of Crockbaravally Wind Farm. Other clients include Portman Healthcare. Ken Rutherford leads the practice at C & H Jefferson, which advises on company, partnership and LLP formations, corporate governance, commercial contracts and joint ventures, as well as M&A. The team also has a particular focus on commercial litigation including professional negligence matters and banking disputes. Elliott Duffy Garrett is noted for its ‘expert knowledge combined with highlevel client attention’. The practice acts for a wide range of sellers, buyers and financiers on transactions spanning the agri-food, construction and financial services sectors. Highlights included advising Nifty Nosh Limited on its sale to Just Eat. Practice head Kevin McVeigh is noted for his knowledge of competition law, corporate reorganisations and joint ventures. Johnsons Solicitors has advised on several high-value company purchases of own share. The firm also stands out for its track record in corporate reorganisations and local company acquisitions. Rhys Jones heads the practice.





What the firms said: Catriona Gibson, managing partner at Arthur Cox “This is a first-class set of results for Arthur Cox in Northern Ireland, which demonstrates the depth and breadth of our work. It’s fantastic to have been awarded Top-Tier status across so many practice areas and to be ranked in every area of law in Northern Ireland. I am extremely proud of the professionalism and dedication of my colleagues that has been recognised in these results.”

ALASTAIR KEITH, head of corporate at A&L Goodbody IN NORTHERN IRELAND “Together with nine other practice areas in the firm, our Corporate practice is delighted to have once again been ranked at Tier 1 by Legal 500 UK. This accolade is testament to the expertise, commercial focus and quality of work produced by our industry-leading team of corporate lawyers, supported by the wider team of over 100 people in our Belfast office. “Having been instructed on a wide portfolio of transactions over the past 12 months, we have been struck by the variety of deals, both in terms of value and sector. Transactions on which we have advised have ranged from international deals such as Huhtamaki’s acquisition of Delta Print and Packaging to significant local deals, including a number of management buy-outs. “We have also noted a steady stream of significant investment in local companies from the UK and Ireland, having acted for the Business Growth Fund on its investment into RiverRidge Recycling and Carlyle Cardinal Ireland on its investment into Learning Pool.”

John-George Willis, Head of Corporate “We are delighted to once again be ranked as one of the leading Corporate and M&A law firms in Northern Ireland, with a number of our corporate partners named as leading individuals. It comes at the end of a busy year which has seen our corporate team work on some of the largest deals in the province, and collect a number of industry accolades including ‘Corporate Law Firm of the Year’, ‘Young Deal Maker of the Year’ for partner John McGuckian and top the Experian Deal and Advisor League Table for Northern Ireland M&A activity.”

Michael Johnston, managing partner at Carson McDowell “The Legal 500 is an important series for us and we have consistently achieved top tier status for the last eight years. This year we saw an increase in the number of our lawyers who have been listed in the elite Leading Lawyers list, which is testament to our continued efforts to recruit and retain the best talent.”

For more information go to www.legal500.com



Setting the record straight on covert surveillance Rosemary Lundy, Head of Employment Law at leading law firm Arthur Cox, advises employers on how and when it is justifiable to use covert surveillance to obtain evidence regarding employee behaviour.


ractically everything is recorded these days, as former England football team manager Sam Allardyce discovered to his cost when a video of him recorded covertly by the Daily Telegraph led to him losing his job. But what are the rules when employers want to record the activities of their employees whom they suspect of criminal or fraudulent activity? Often one of the only ways to obtain evidence is by covert surveillance. Employers who do so run the risk of falling foul of the Information Commissioner’s Code of Practice on Employment Practices, which indicates that it will be rare for covert monitoring to be justified. That said, however, covert monitoring is likely to be lawful if there are grounds for suspecting criminal activity or serious misconduct such as fraud. These types of scenarios by their very nature require the monitoring to be covert. The Information Commissioner recommends considering whether the activity being monitored is of sufficient seriousness that it would be reasonable for the police to be involved (although it is not necessary to involve them). Employers should not undertake covert monitoring in areas where employees have a reasonable expectation of privacy such as toilets or shower facilities, and should also consider what the purpose of the monitoring is. They should ensure that any covert surveillance is strictly targeted and surveillance mustn’t be used to fish for information, while any information that is ‘incidental’ to the investigation should be ignored and deleted. Privacy rights must be at the forefront of employers’ minds at all times, as is illustrated in the case of ‘City and County of Swansea v Gayle’, where the employee was seen playing squash at a local sports centre when he should have been at work. About a month later he was seen there again, shortly before he emailed his manager to say that he was still at work. The employer arranged for a private investigator to covertly film him outside the sports centre, leading to the employee being dismissed and subsequently bringing a number of claims, including one for unfair dismissal. The Employment Appeal Tribunal (EAT) found that the footage was outside a sports centre and there is no reasonable expectation of


Rosemary Lundy

privacy in such public places; it was filmed during working hours and an employer is entitled to know where its employees are and what they are doing during working hours; and the employee was defrauding the Council so he could have no reasonable expectation of privacy. The lessons from the case law are that less intrusive alternatives to covert surveillance should be considered first and that the investigation must be for a legitimate purpose, proportionate and justifiable. Essentially, employers should balance the need to obtain information against an employee’s right to fair treatment and privacy, and they should carry out an impact assessment before conducting covert surveillance. Personal information collected by a private investigator must be handled in compliance with the Data Protection Act 1998. Employers should, by all means, consider covert surveillance when it is appropriate, but must heed the information above and seek legal advice before doing so.

The wide range of advisory teams at Arthur Cox are well positioned to advise on all areas of employment law in Northern Ireland. For further information, please call Rosemary or your usual Arthur Cox contact on +44 28 9023 0007.



Commercial disputes â&#x20AC;&#x201C; a forensic accounting perspective Michael Jennings and the Forensic Accounting team at BDO Northern Ireland have extensive experience in providing litigation support to legal teams and their clients. Below, Michael and his team have outlined some of the key issues that they have encountered in recent cases

The team here at BDO has also had experience in a number of recent dispute cases where insufficient contract clauses have caused serious financial and commercial ramifications for the businesses involved. While my team are skilled in providing valuable financial insight and will always try to assist in finding the most pragmatic resolution to a dispute during the litigation process, we also add value by identifying potential issues at an earlier stage.

Michael Jennings

Disputes Arising In Mergers & Acquisitions Here at BDO, we have assisted in numerous high value commercial disputes which have arisen in a merger and acquisition context. In any sale and purchase transaction, we advise that clear and concise contract wording is key to the avoidance of costly disputes at a later stage in the sales process. An example of this would be when we were recently involved in a very interesting case, where a standard accounting term had been incorrectly defined within the Sale Purchase Agreement for the transaction. This subsequently had a significant impact on the purchase price and deferred consideration that ultimately had to be paid by the purchaser, costing in excess of ÂŁ1m.


In this regard, we have been involved in a number of recent transactions where our early engagement in the contractual process has allowed us to identify potential areas for conflict. Pre-empting and mitigating potential issues at the outset has resulted in major advantages for our clients from a commercial perspective.

of a business, early intervention to seek advice from our dedicated Forensic Accounting team can provide valuable assistance and have a significant impact on the outcome for the business and for the client. For example, the BDO team were involved in the initial stages of a recent dispute between two company shareholders. Our clear explanation of the various financial outcomes that could arise as a result of the decisions in dispute and valuation of the shareholdings held, was highly effective in reaching an agreed position between the parties, and thereby avoiding a costly litigation process which would have had a significant impact on business trade.

What is forensic accounting?

My team and I have also found that it is often less costly and time consuming for our clients to engage us at the outset of their transactions. This enables us to liaise with their legal representatives to agree a comprehensive and well defined sale agreement. Through this early engagement, we have helped our clients to avoid commercial disputes or, where disputes inevitably arise, ensured that our clients are clear as to the remedies and/ or the likely outcome based on the terms and provisions of the agreement.

Forensic accounting is an increasingly complex area and almost every dispute will have financial consequences. Whether you are a private or commercial entity or a legal professional seeking specialist financial advice for your client, talk to us. The team at BDO Northern Ireland can give you the edge.

Shareholder Disputes

T: 028 9043 9009 W: www.bdoni.com

When a dispute arises between shareholders


Asset Services – going above and beyond! Gerard McCann, Director, CBRE Asset Services


BRE is well-known as the largest commercial real estate services firm in the world. Our office in Northern Ireland has seen rapid growth in the last number of years; with the Asset Services Team expanding rapidly in terms of personnel and scale of portfolio managed. This growth is due to a successful blending of the resources available to CBRE on a global basis and the expertise of the local team who pride themselves on delivering superior levels of services to both landlords and the occupiers they work so hard to attract.

placed than any of our competitors to offer integrated advice in a constantly evolving property environment where getting ready for change, utilising the latest technology and advanced customer services are the keys to success. Over the last year the CBRE Asset Services Team in Belfast have grown our retail portfolio from 400,000 sq ft of space to over 2,100,000 sq ft. under management simply because we are delivering an effective and efficient service that ensures first-rate property and asset management, adding real value to our clients’ portfolios.

The Asset Services Property Management platform available at CBRE brings industry best practice along with the latest technology, systems and processes allowing us to provide Advanced Property Management services to Customers & Clients in Northern Ireland. We now have one of the largest multi-skilled Property Management Teams operating in Northern Ireland supported by a national/global platform.

We are also working with colleagues in London and the USA to forecast the future needs of occupiers and bring the concept of managing office properties as “Premier Properties” to Northern Ireland.

In the current age where there is a continual pursuit of value creation in real estate management, we are better


Traditionally slow to change, the real estate industry must change from being a space provider only to the creator of experience and community. CBRE are utilising the latest technologies and customer service strategies to create environments where people want to work and occupiers want to locate.”

The approach of many firms that offer property management services can very much be a reactive one, only making themselves available on an ad-hoc basis when the occupier requires assistance. Our management approach at CBRE is on much more of a value-added basis – how can we go beyond to take ownership and deliver excellence is the concept of service delivery we continually strive to attain. The importance and significance of this proactive approach to service delivery has increased recently – with the announcement that Article 50 will be invoked by the end of March 2017 making Brexit a sudden reality. Landlords will need to be more responsive to the concerns of occupiers to recognise that they want partners who understand and are aligned with their business goals thus helping to ensure occupier retention securing rental income streams and ultimately protecting asset values. The CBRE team in Belfast has extensive experience in advanced property management to add significant value to our clients’ assets and is capable of handling the many issues that landlords are faced with on a regular basis, adding value every step of the way.



Connect Telecom selling iPhone 7 cheaper than your daily coffee! on the go or find themselves connected to a charging point at least twice a day. “In addition to that, both the 7 and 7 Plus have larger sensors which pull in more light for much better photos and with the traditional, physical home button replaced with a pressure-sensitive sensor, the device’s water resistance has been improved which will be welcome news to many! “Capacity for the iPhone 7 starts at 32GB of storage and goes right up to an incredible 128GB which is more than any business user should ever need.”


Scott Ritchie


elfast company Connect Telecom has announced the new iPhone 7 is now available to its business customers from £35.99 per month, considerably less than the amount many spend on daily takeaway vanilla lattes and skinny cappuccinos. Approaching nearly a decade in business, delivering best value has always been central to the ethos of Connect Telecom. The company, which provides unified IT and telecoms solutions to more than 4000 customers across Northern Ireland, Republic of Ireland, England and Scotland, remains the only Vodafone Platinum Partner in Northern Ireland, and it is these unrivalled relationships with leading providers such as Vodafone, Microsoft and Cisco that deliver the best value and service. In July of this year, Apple announced the sale of its billionth iPhone and the eagerly anticipated iPhone 7, launched in September 2016, has generated even higher levels of demand than originally expected.


And now, business customers can get their hands on the device from just £35.99 per month through leading telecoms solutions provider, Connect Telecom.

Scott continued: “It’s a common misconception that to get the best of the best you have to pay over the odds. With Connect, that just isn’t the case. “Our award winning team has the skills and experience to identify what it is your business needs, and our strong relationships with partners mean we can make that happen for less than our competitors.

Quality Scott Ritchie, Director at Connect Telecom, said: “Apple products have become synonymous with quality. Not to mention, the fact their devices ooze unrivalled levels of high-tech ‘cool’.

“That’s really important to us and that’s why we have worked so hard to build what we believe is the most cost effective corporate offer on the iPhone 7 in the UK!

“At Connect, providing our customers with tailor made telecoms and IT solutions that actually have a positive impact on their business is the key focus of everything we do, and the Apple devices allow us to do that.

“We are offering a range of data packages that, with a flat up-front fee of £50, means the devices are available to business users from £35.99 per month which is less than many of us spend each month on takeaway coffees or gym memberships.

“The new iPhone 7 doesn’t look terribly different to its 6 or 6s predecessor, but the improvements are great, particularly for business users.

“In order to add value for our customers, we are also incorporating a free subscription to either Sky Sports Mobile TV, Spotify Premium or NOW TV.”

“First of all, its battery life has been given a significant boost lasting for up to two hours longer than previous versions – a relief I’m sure to those who are constantly

For more information, contact Connect Telecom on www.connect-tele.co.uk or text ‘Connect 7’ to 60777.

Sport & Business




Business conversion Ulster Rugby’s Robbie Diack is becoming something of a business guru. He tells David Elliott how he juggles playing professional rugby and being involved in two successful businesses


he vexing issue of how top levels sports men and women fill their time once their sporting careers have ended is something which has reared its head on many occasions in the last few years. Finding something to fill the hours which training, matches and travelling once accounted for is difficult enough but that is multiplied tenfold when you try and replace the adrenaline rush which competitive sport offers on a weekly basis. Some struggle, as the headlines have revealed, some move in to coaching, some – the brave ones – into the media and some into business. One local sporting star who has made sure he ends up choosing the latter path is Robbie Diack.


wine label and he is also a partner in one of the most successful new restaurant’s in south Belfast. It’s there – at General Merchants on the Ormeau Road – where we meet on an unseasonably warm autumn morning and it’s pretty clear that this investment was definitely a canny business move. The place is packed – helped by the two musicians from the Ulster Orchestra which Ulster Business thought had been laid on specifically for this interview, but were actually taking part in a day-long promotional tour of the city – which is pretty par for the course, according to manager Jane. Robbie arrives – all six foot five of him – and this scribe is inwardly thankful that behemoths of such stature were rare in the back row in the many years since he last packed down at number 7.

The South African-born Ulster and Ireland rugby player is still very much in the prime of his sporting career but has already got at least one of his considerable feet in the business world.

We sit outside and start our interview, only to be interrupted when the coffees for the table next to us pop out of the serving hatch specifically for serving al fresco diners.

He, along with fellow Ulster player Ruan Pienaar, are behind their own South African

At this stage Ulster Business is still unware that Robbie is a part owner of the >



Ruan Pienaar, left, and Robbie enjoy their own Ballybosch wine.

establishment, so it’s a little surprising to see him jump up to serve the neighbouring couple who are either regulars and think nothing of being service by an international rugby player or aren’t followers of the oval ball game. “I’d always wanted to get involved in something in Belfast and had initially thought a wine bar would be the ideal, but then this opportunity presented itself,” he said.

“Our careers as rugby players are relatively short so it’s good to get experience of as many other parts of business as possible to build up experience.” Robbie is a joint owner of the second General Merchants along with Sam Alexander, Curt Wigham and Tim Fetherston and has been thoroughly enjoy the diversification, even if he does sometime have to roll his sleeves up.


“It has always been a goal of mine to get involved in business outside rugby and I’ve learnt a lot with General Merchants. The offering has proved really popular and we’re really proud with how it has performed.” The move into food service follows on from the formation of the Ballybosch wine label which Robbie launched in 2014 in partnership with Ulster lynchpin Pienaar. Ballybosch takes its name from ‘Bally’ meaning townland locally and ‘Bosch’ from Stellenbosch where the wine is made in South Africa. It is a partnership with Brenaissance Winery, which belongs to Robbie’s wife’s sister and brother-in-law Tom and Haley Breytenbach. They have come up with a sauvignon blanc and a full-flavoured red blend using Malbec, shiraz and cabernet sauvignon grapes. The idea and the name came about after a few discussions with Ruan over a glass of red and it has been a big success with the help of Direct Wine Shipments, the wine

merchant based in Belfast Harbour run by the McAlindon family. “Peter and Neil (McAlindon) were really interested in the idea and, more importantly, were really impressed with the wine. We took a gamble and shipped out first container in September 2014 and haven’t looked back since.” Robbie said the process of importing, dealing with fluctuating exchange rates (Brexit and the fall in the value of sterling in particular have been a big issue) and promotion of the product have been a steep learning curve but have left him well equipped to operate in a post-rugby world, whenever that may be. “Our careers as rugby players are relatively short so it’s good to get experience of as many other parts of business as possible to build up experience,” he said. “Rugby is a pretty stressful business so it’s good to be able to switch focus and I really enjoy getting stuck in to both businesses.” As a rugby player Robbie has already made a big impact on the pitch and is doing the same in the business world.


Now couch potatoes can represent their nation in soccer Football’s not just a money-spinner for the world’s top players, it’s also big business for gamers. Michael Cogley meets the co-founder of a competitive new league for punters

The Celtic eSports League (CEL) will see representatives from Northern Ireland take on others from England, Wales, Scotland, and the Republic in a competitive league format that could see the winner take home as much as £13,500. “The bottom line is the individuals, mainly in the millennials, that are playing these games on a regular basis. We’re creating a league format that brings together a couple of teams from the Celtic nations. They will play against each other just like the traditional season would be,” Celtic eSports League co-founder Geoff Wilson said. Manchester United superstar Paul Pogba features at Old Trafford in the hit FIFA 17 game for consoles.

ew sports can match the wealth and the reach of football. The sport has moved a long way since being first codified back in 1863.


The league has been created off the back of growing interest in esports from real life football clubs. More and more clubs are eyeing up the potential of esports and are looking to take advantage.

Not many would imagine rights to Premier League games would fetch a price as high as £5.1bn and even fewer would believe the likes of former Chelsea star Ruud Gullit and Arsenal god Robert Pires would be immortalised in a computer football game.

“What’s happening now is teams are starting to select esports players. Wolfsburg in Germany was the first one, Manchester City, PSG, Valencia, West Ham United, all have now signed esports players as if they are a player as part of their squad.

Soccer is no longer a game, it’s an obsession.

“These clubs get involved because they want to reach out to a new generation. They want to use it not only as a marketing channel but they see esports as having a technical skill. So it’s using both the marketing channel and developing the esports skill. These players will represent these clubs in tournaments,” Mr Wilson explained.

That much can be evidenced by the healthy growth of esports, where gamers play video matches against one another. The industry is worth $463m and is set to grow to $1.1bn by the end of 2019. Esports is growing at a ferocious rate and Ireland is about to welcome a new gaming league, centred on the massive gaming hit FIFA.


Once set up the league will see the best

players in Ireland compete with other nations on a Monday and a Wednesday in a league format. The league is set to run from November until Christmas before breaking until March. Players will be selected depending on their level. They don’t need to be representing a club but their ‘FIFA CV’, which could include things like win ratios and esports accolades, will need to be good in order to play in the league. The CEL is entering a very fragmented market with numerous ad hoc, oneoff competitions. Mr Wilson hopes to unify the sector under one umbrella. What can help it achieve that is the endorsement of top football clubs. While none have been announced yet Mr Wilson said the league is in “advanced” discussions with clubs in the top tier of each country. However, the league won’t be hemmed in by exclusivity. The CEL will have a lower league that will see community players battle it out for a chance to play with the elite of the Celtic nations. Mr Wilson is hoping to attract players at the upcoming One Zero sport and technology conference. Unified tournaments have long been something FIFA players have yearned for but numerous efforts have failed in the past. Getting the world’s top football clubs on board however could prove to be a game changer.



Diageo ever-present in a changing sponsorship landscape Rory Sheridan, Head of Sponsorship at Diageo Europe


s memories fade of 2016’s summer of sport, rugby will return to the fore with the return of the Guinness PRO12, Ireland’s landmark match against New Zealand in Chicago and the Guinness Series of November Internationals. No doubt much of the conversation will focus on whether Ireland will finally manage to break their New Zealand duck but there will also be heightened interest on whether sponsors and related stakeholders can further raise the bar on maximising the sponsorship opportunities following a summer of intense activity. This is particularly so given that Soldier’s Field in Chicago, home of NFL franchise the Bears, will for the first time serve as a warm up for the Guinness Series of November Internationals taking place in Dublin. The US remains at the heart of the global sports industry, valued at an estimated $67bn in 2016. Sponsorship contributes about $16bn to this total growing by an estimated 5% since 2014. This mirrors the 5% increase in sponsorship spend anticipated in Ireland in 2016 according to leading sponsorship consultancy, Onside, a rate of growth expected to continue for each of the next three years. The importance of sponsorship to the overall marketing mix is maintained both by the changing way in which many people consume media with sport retaining bigger live audiences than almost all other types of broadcast and the reality that three out of the four adults surveyed by Onside, see sponsorship as a form of brand engagement that they like and trust over others. Proven to help business build both brand awareness but more importantly, brand affinity in the long as well as the short term as well as assisting with recruitment and retention, it is unsurprising that sponsorship now makes up 18% of all marketing spend. This figure is likely to increase with almost half of all Irish brands indicating they are likely to double their sponsorship spend over the course of the current year. Social Media, along with public relations, remain the top two tools for leveraging sponsorship worldwide providing as they do a direct channel from the sponsor to the fan. Social media together with the rise of mobile, offers a growing opportunity for sponsors to maximise their sponsorships by serving the 39% and 26% of people consuming sport on mobile and social respectively with “exclusive” content and personalised marketing thereby enhancing the sports experience.


Rory Sheridan, Diageo Europe

Advancements in technology are increasingly impacting on sponsorship. Data will be a game-changer for rights-holders in terms of growing revenue and for sponsors in going beyond sponsorship as a tool for brand building, to delivering against commercial objectives. Sponsorship is increasingly subjected to greater accountability in terms of calculating return on investment for sponsors and there is no doubt that there will be greater value placed on partnerships built on a strong data-driven approach. Diageo and in particular, their Guinness, Carlsberg and Budweiser brands have a long standing track record of sport sponsorship in Ireland and overseas. Our approach has always been based in our knowledge of sport and understanding of what matters to the public and to the fans. Our approach to the growing digital and social opportunity to leverage our sponsorships is no different to our approach to more traditional channels. Creativity remains at the core of our sponsorship activity but we place a premium on creativity that doesn’t get in the way of the sport but rather elevates it. We are conscious that with 78% of sports fans saying ease of access and immediacy of information are key drivers for social media use, we need to be fast to stand out. True insight and understanding of the

sport, its athletes and the competition facilitates our agility in reacting to events as they unfold on the pitch. Guinness, is often cited as the leading sport sponsor in Ireland. We believe that this is because of the focus at the core of each of our sponsorships on enhancing the sport as a result of our association. We always look to support events and rights holders in a way that not only helps the event organisers or rights holders but also improves the overall experience for all involved. Be it Carlsberg’s association with the soccer or Guinness’s long-term association with Irish Rugby through sponsorship of the Guinness Series and our support for each of the four provinces, the Guinness Pro-12 which we hope will expand over the course of our four-year partnership or our long-standing relationship with the GAA we always look to add value. Central also to all our sponsorship campaign is the importance of unlocking value for our customers and their businesses from our sponsorship properties. For the fan that may be an enhanced event experience through the provision of unique content or analysis and venue entertainment or for our trade partners, enhancing the communal occasions at which their customers enjoy Diageo’s products in a socially enjoyable manner. The recent UEFA Euros 2016 campaign was a stand-out success in our business where more that 80,000 soccer fans engaged in our ticket competition, of which 60,000 participated in the experience through our Trade customers. 2.1 million fans engaged with our social media campaign as Marcel Desailly’s Guide to the Euros proved a winner with the fans. Sponsorship done well has proven over time to work for Diageo both as a business tool but more importantly, as a way to improve the communities with whom we do business and ultimately, by enhancing the social experiences that people can enjoy in their unique cultural settings.




Small business of the month Pheasants’ Hill Farm, Killyleagh By Amy Leonard

“I wanted to use old breeds. I didn’t want anything to do with modern food, which is on the edge of genetic modification, so I used the old predecessors that man hadn’t intervened in.” And so the farm raises Gloucester Old Spots and has the largest herd of Tamworth pigs in Ireland, committing itself to maintaining the genetic diversity of their chemical-free pigs. It was when Janis left her job as marketing consultant for PWC and opened her own B&B that things started to grow. They decided to produce bacon from the pigs for the guests and Alan said it was simply by word of mouth that people heard of the quality and began making requests. “We’d both decided to do something we like for a change. The whole thing just sort of grew by accident, not by design.”

Janis, Alan and Julia at Pheasants Hill Farm shop


t Christmas time we all have enough on our plates before we even get round to worrying what we’ll be putting on our plates. Luckily sourcing quality meat shouldn’t be a hassle because Pheasants’ Hill Farm will deliver everything you need to your door, from the bacon for breakfast to the turkey and ham for the grand finale. Alan Bailey, his wife Janis and daughter Julia are the brains and brawn behind the operation, where all the meat is free range, grass fed and seriously good.

after the outside catering side of things, for everything from small parties to weddings. Business is good, but it may not have been a business at all had it not been for a fateful sequence of events that led the family in this direction. Reared in the countryside of Fermanagh, Alan was warned off farming by his father who saw where the industry was headed. He told his sons that with the government sourcing food on the global market at the cheapest price it would not be a viable life for them.

Located just outside Killyleagh, the familyrun farm produces free range pigs that are hand-reared naturally, sustainably and in a way that is as good for the environment as it is for their customers.

Alan moved to Belfast to study and became a medical electronic engineer. Life in a busy city did not sit well with him. “I just think it’s madness to be confined in a concentrated place,” he said, a principle he’s taken from his own experience and applied to his farm.

They run a farm shop on site and sell their wares at St George’s Market every Saturday, as well as having an extensive website where you can order online for delivery or collection. Janis and Julia also look

Upon moving back to the country he started keeping pigs as hobby, an outlet from the stresses of his day job in a large telecoms company, and decided to see if he could do it all naturally.


When the internet bubble burst, the telecom company Alan worked for downsized on a huge scale. He took redundancy and used the money to scale up his work with the pigs. Pheasants’ Hill now also produces their own free range chicken and eggs from their rare breed Dorking hens and cockerels, and supply free range products from a small band of like-minded local farmers and breeders. It is these partnerships that allow them to offer everything from lamb to goose, beef to homemade preserves, atop their own products for your festive feast. They even have packages made up for their customers convenience, be it the lazy breakfast box of bacon, eggs and sausages, or meat and accompanying, perfectly matched chutneys and sauces. A lot has changed for the Baileys in the last 19 years, and Alan has no regrets of leaving the stresses of the commercial world. “After all that, I didn’t mind keeping pigs” he said, “and when you’re working for yourself you’ve only yourself to argue with.”

Dr Conor Fitzpatrick

Full STEM ahead As STEM industries continue to thrive, particle physicist and former Campbell College pupil Dr Conor Fitzpatrick welcomed the next generation of STEM innovators to one of the world’s most famous scientific centres, CERN (the European Organisation for Nuclear Research). 23 current Campbell College students and their teachers were given a rare tour of the facility.


r Fitzpatrick, who spent his formative

appealed to me and it is such an honour to now

school years at Campbell College,

be a Research Scientist at CERN.”

read Physics at the University of

Edinburgh where he gained a Masters with

The Head of Physics at Campbell, Mrs Christine

honours before going on to study a PhD in

Crozier commented: “Being able to speak with

experimental particle physics. His journey to

Old Campbellians who have thrived in the STEM

become a valued physicist at CERN was one

industry is fascinating.” A Level student Thomas

of excitement, curiosity and perseverance.

Gillan remarked: “Dr Fitzpatrick set the scene

Dr Fitzpatrick commented: “I was always

with an inspiring address about his path through

interested in the STEM subjects from quite

Campbell to CERN. We delved into the world of

a young age – experimenting and taking

dark matter and entered the antimatter factory

things apart to understand how they worked

where work leading to the next possible Noble

fascinated me. It took until my GCSEs at

prize for physics is under way – the creation of

Campbell for me to really think about pursuing


a career in this direction thanks to the respected careers advice from several of my

passion for physics and led to me spending


the penultimate summer of my undergraduate

degree at CERN on the Franco-Swiss border.

He continued: “I knew I was an

I found it to be a transformative experience,

experimentalist at heart after completing

working with some incredible people and in

work experience during my school days for

an environment where the research comes

an electronics R&D company. This fuelled my

first. The atmosphere and variety of work

Campbell College Belfast was established in 1894 and is situated in a 100 acre wooded campus in East Belfast. For more information visit, www.campbellcollege.co.uk.


Trump’s presidential bid propelled by workers’ anger By David McWilliams


ast month in Boston I passed by a place I used to work cleaning dishes in the 1980s. The restaurant/bar, on Boston’s fancy Newbury Street, is still there – which is quite an achievement in a fastchanging industry. As is now the norm in many American bars, the TV is always on. I stuck my head in nostalgically, only to be met by Donald Trump’s angry face on a big screen. As the Presidential campaign grinds on, the TV networks want to put on anything that grabs the attention of the punter, however fleetingly. As a result, there appears to be an exclusive diet of incessant fear-mongering from morning to night, highlighting horror stories, imagined and real, of what is about to befall the US. It’s extraordinary to behold. But, like all fears, there’s an element of truth to the rumours. So when the networks play Trump’s tune of American workers losing out to Mexico and China, it is not without some validity. Workers have lost out and, as a result, inequality has


increased in the US. This inequality is driving some of the anger that is propelling Trump. Whether this propulsion fades away after his lamentable performance in the TV debate is a matter of speculation. However, Trump is more the consequence than the cause of America’s travails. He has managed to clothe himself in the overalls of the working man, despite being about as far from the working man as one can imagine. Irrespective of the messenger, the message is accurate. Blue-collar America has suffered in the past 20 years. What the establishment in the US should do, rather than dismissing the allegations that the working man has not got his fair share, is admit that lowering wages was all part of policy. Inequality is policydriven – and that’s the bold fact. One of the consequences of this election, even if Hillary Clinton wins, is that the labourer will seek to get their share of the American pie. But before we look forward, let’s look back a bit to see how it all came about.

In the 1980s, when I was toiling away in those Boston kitchens earning expensive dollars to bring back home, the Federal Reserve was right in the middle of its war on inflation. The strong dollar was an essential part of this offensive. Beginning with Paul Volker in 1981 and for two decades thereafter, the Fed fought a campaign against inflation called “opportunistic disinflation”. The Fed welcomed recessions when they inevitably happened, because the downturn would compress wages and prices through unemployment. A corollary of this thesis was that the Fed should preemptively tighten in recoveries, prompted by leading indicators of rising inflation, rather than rising inflation itself. Such pre-emptive strikes would “lock in” the cyclical disinflationary gains wrought by the preceding recession. Each recession squeezed relative wages downwards, so that when workers finally got back up following a recession, they started each new upswing at lower wages.


Therefore, each recession was seen by the Fed as an opportunity to squeeze a little bit more inflation out of the system. All the while, the working man lost out as wages fell and the corporate man gained as profits rose. Such a massive switch from labour to capital underpinned the extraordinary bull run we have seen in asset prices over the past 25-odd years. The cyclical disinflation process was boosted by two huge secular events that drove inflation permanently lower and stocks higher: the emergence of China and The North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) – now two rallying calls of the Trump campaign. Both the emergence of China and the implementation of NAFTA pitted the American worker not against the American capitalist, but against poor third-world workers as US companies outsourced. The political cost of these developments has been the gradual erosion of the working man’s wages and the marked amplification of inequality. With workers’ incomes held down by China and Mexico,


a much bigger percentage of American value added went to profit, not wages, rewarding asset owners as opposed to wage earners. Only through increased personal indebtedness could US consumption be maintained, which is what happened. Ultimately, the Fed won its 20-year war on inflation, but at a cost of greater social inequality – which would come back to dominate this Presidential campaign. A Clinton victory needs to address this issue. Although Clinton promises more of the same, more of the same will not stem the groundswell of American public opinion that has driven the Trump phenomenon, and she knows this. But the plight of workers is not limited to the US. All over the Western world, the spilt in national output between profits and wages has increasingly been going to profits. In countries like Italy, this is now reaching crisis proportions. In fact, Italy is due to have a significant referendum in November on the way the country is

governed and its relationship with the EU. Expect Italian workers who have seen their incomes stagnate in recent years to be extremely vocal in this campaign. In the Republic we are seeing something similar with the strikes in the transport sector. This is natural. It is what happens after a long period of stagnation. One way to look at things is to view high wages as a sign of success. They can be taken as a sign that the economy is healthy and moving in the right direction. Low wages, on the other hand, signal all sorts of problems. Obviously, management and workers will see things differently – but what is being played out is nothing more than the ebb and flow of modern economics. In the US the pendulum has swung far too much in favour of owners of assets as opposed to wage earners. It will swing backwards. If it doesn’t, there will be more Trumps – emerging from both the Left and the Right – and eventually one of these outsiders will win, if not this time then the next time. That alone should be enough to jolt the American establishment out of its slumber.



Name: Laura Hourican Position: Vice-President Human Resources, UK, for Firstsource Solutions

A word from

The Wise How did you start out in business? I started out with the company ten years ago this month, as a Human Resource Manager for the Derry/Londonderry centre. This was hugely exciting because it coincided with the launch of Firstsource’s second Northern Ireland site. Northern Ireland was the only country back then with a presence outside of India – where the business is headquartered. Today, the company has 45 centres worldwide. It was also a fantastic boost and investment for the North West region. We started out with just 26 staff in Derry. The site is now fully operational; in excess of 1,000 staff and supports four clients. What did you find the most challenging during your years in business? My motto is if it doesn’t challenge you it won’t change you and I can safely say the last 10 years have thrown a few challenges along the way. I have experienced working in a fast-paced sector that has grown tremendously and with that you expect all sorts of challenges. Having a strong team to rely on through the tough days has been my saving grace! How would you describe your management style? Good question, probably better asking my team! I am very open, supportive and encouraging. I would have trust in my team and have been fortunate to work with the majority of them for ten years. I think the tenure of staff is also a testament to the success of Firstsource.We aim to nurture employees at all levels and carve out long-term careers. Investing in our staff is a key priority but that also has its business dividends too. A happier, engaged workforce enables us to continue to provide high


The column with an ear for experience...

quality and advanced services for key Northern Ireland clients such as Sky and giffgaff. What would you change if you could go back and do it all again? Honestly, nothing! I am, by nature, “look forward and don’t look back” kind of person. In this sector, a positive, progressive attitude is essential. You can always learn from the past but it’s about making that learning count and helping others learn from past experiences. I try to share this approach with colleagues too and that really does help us perform as a solid team. Have you done it all on your own? Of course not, and, not to have an Oscar moment, but I owe an awful lot to my parents who have supported and encouraged me throughout my education. They are local business owners and their work ethic provided me with immense inspiration to be ambitious in my own career path. I also need to give a shout out to my long-suffering husband. We have three young daughters and working full time in a demanding role that can be based anywhere in the UK or even India means that it’s a delicate balance between work and family life. My husband is great, very supportive and I wouldn’t have achieved half as much without him – I am very lucky. How would you like your business career to be remembered? I am very passionate about corporate responsibility and believe all organisations no matter how small or large can contribute to the wider community. I would like to continue to drive this agenda for Firstsource across the UK and support our local communities.

Flags, firebombs & flashbacks

Executive Motoring

By Pat Burns

Sponsored by

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Shifting up a gear Fleet Financial puts 2017 in its sights after a stellar year

Philip Miley


fter a stellar 2016, contract hire and vehicle management company Fleet Financial is already gearing up for a year of renewed and sustained growth in 2017 in its mission to maintain its leading market position in Northern Ireland.   As this year enters its final weeks, the company which employs 30 staff is about to wrap up the year in which it celebrated its 20th anniversary.   Part of Northern Ireland’s largest car retailer, Charles Hurst Group and under the umbrella of one of the UK and Ireland’s largest and ambitious automotive retail groups, Lookers plc, Fleet Financial represents more than 1200 customers across a variety of key sectors.   “Every business and every customer has specific challenges and needs, and, as a locally-driven company, we’ve worked hard to respond quickly to provide tailored solutions which bring flexibility, peace of mind and improved financial and economic certainty,” said Sales and Marketing Director Philip Miley.   “The market is fast-paced and people’s needs change quickly. With focus and tenacity,


we’re delighted to have grown alongside our longstanding clients while continually adding new clients who can also fully appreciate the benefits with vehicle leasing and effective vehicle management solutions.” Miley reflects on a year which brought new and exciting opportunities.   At the heart of its 20th anniversary celebrations was a Gala Ball held in association with its chosen charity partner, Hope for Youth NI, in which it helped to raise more than £30,000. The charity helps young people in Northern Ireland, particularly those from disadvantaged areas.   “This was an outstanding outcome and a testament to the strong relationships and brand perception the company has and we’re grateful for the support of all our partners and customers in helping us to deliver for the communities in which we work,” said Philip. Fleet Financial also put its weight behind the Construction Employers Federation (CEF) to become an approved new Patron of the largest representative body for the construction industry in Northern Ireland – it

represents over 800 companies as members, ranging from micro businesses employing just a handful of people to some of the largest construction companies in Northern Ireland. It also continued to innovate, adding new technology solutions to its unrivalled customer offer.   This year it unveiled its updated online management tool, Fleet Navigator, showcasing its growth and leadership in the sector. The bespoke web-based and mobile-ready product is designed to provide their customers with additional easy-to-access online support and reporting tools whenever they need it. Fleet Financial also continues to drive growth in the personal contract hire market, building on the success of ‘Preferences’ which it launched in 2015.   “We’re a nation of car lovers but all of us aspire to driving a new one,” said Philip. “Now more of us are doing just that, thanks to the options available.   “Contract hire has for many years been a popular way for SMEs and larger corporations to fund their vehicles but the door’s now firmly open for individuals too, as they avail of our fantastic discounts with motor manufacturers and market leading finance rates.” Miley is proud of the service which his team delivers, describing his staff as proactive and innovative, with excellent product knowledge and an enthusiasm for continual improvement.   “We have a strong, hardworking team who care about their customers and they will always put the best possible options forward. It’s why I’m confident and together we’re confident that we can continue to reach our goals.”

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Revised 2008 – the SUV for all seasons 130 S&S (stop and start) 6-speed manual which is one of the best sellers in the line-up. The extensive 2008 SUV range comes in four trim level choices: Access A/C, Active, Allure and GT Line with prices ranging from £13,615 to £20,565 (on-the-road) The engine choice includes three PureTech petrol units (82hp, 110hp & 130hp) and three Blue HDil (75hp, 100hp & 120hp). Passengers in every seat enjoy numerous well-designed storage areas, easily located due to the front and rear dome interior lighting: front door storage boxes, glove box, box and cup holder beside the gear stick, covered console storage, seatback pockets in the back of the front seats, etc. Total interior storage volume is 24 litres. Therefore numerous items, smartphones and other everyday items can always find a place aboard the new 2008.


he latest Peugeot 2008 has been updated, re-styled and features enhanced specification. It has an even more assertive and appealing SUV design, including new wheel arch extensions, new vertical front grille and scuff plates. The Access, Active and Allure levels are complemented by the new sporty ‘GT Line’ model. This desirable trim level is already a very popular choice on other key Peugeot models and adds a sporty theme to the car. The Peugeot i-Cockpit is unique to the brand and embodies the driving characteristics of the 2008, being agile, intuitive and safe. The compact sports steering wheel offers precise


steering and improved manoeuvrability while the 7” multifunction colour touch screen puts all the functionality at your fingertips. In addition, the head-up instrument panel allows driver information to be accessed without taking the eyes off the road. Grip Control - an adapted traction system gives the 2008 its versatility on all types of terrain. It is combined with Mud & Snow (AllSeason) tyres. The new 2008 is also equipped with MirrorScreen, based on MirrorLink and Apple Carplay, along with the reversing camera, Active City Brake and Park Assist - a rarity in this segment. The Euro6 engines offer both good performance while remaining fuel efficient. Four versions are ‘Best-in-Class’ in their segment, including the 1.2L PureTech

Peugeot are currently promoting attractive retail consumer offers for customers of the new 2008 SUV who can benefit from finance offers with 4.9% APR across all models. Customers will also benefit from an £850 customer saving on new 2008 SUV (exc Access A/C) and an additional £350 Dealer deposit contribution if the customer chooses Peugeot Passport or Just Add Fuel schemes. A Peugeot Passport finance package with a customer deposit of £1,000, on a new 2008 SUV PureTech 82, results in monthly payments of £211 for the Active and £237 for the Allure model. Customers choosing Peugeot’s ‘Just Add Fuel’ allencompassing, 3-year finance package on the same model will have a monthly payment of £241 for the Active and £268 for the Allure model, and the ‘Just Add Fuel Telematics’ finance package is also available for 18 year olds and above.

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Free upgrades on Mazda6 range


he highly acclaimed Mazda6 Saloon and Tourer models have been upgraded with a host of updates designed to enhance driving enjoyment and improve refinement. Highlights across the full Saloon and Tourer range include technology updates, interior improvements and the introduction of G-Vectoring Control. Already regarded as one of the best-handling and most engaging cars in its segment, the Mazda6’s dynamic setup has been refined with the introduction of G-Vectoring Control (GVC), the first application of Mazda’s new series of Skyactiv Vehicle Dynamics technology. Utilising integrated control of the engine, transmission and chassis to enhance the connection between car and driver, GVC varies engine torque to optimise the load on each wheel.

wheels, thereby transferring a fraction more weight onto the front axle which allows the front wheels to turn more precisely. Even on a straight road, GVC can reduce driver fatigue and increase passenger comfort by cleverly taking away the perceived need for the tiny corrections that some drivers make when driving straight. In doing this GVC lowers driver effort and reduces the amount of head and body sway small steering corrections can create for passengers.

Retaining an unchanged engine line-up, the upgraded Mazda6 features a choice of four engines: 145ps and 165ps 2.0-litre SKYACTIV-G petrol, plus 2.2-litre 150ps and 175ps SKYACTIV-D diesels. With diesel models accounting for around 75 per cent of UK sales, the 2.2-litre SKYACTIV-D engine features two key improvements designed to increase responsiveness and reduce engine This ingenious and largely imperceptible system noise: Transient Control and Mazda’s Natural improves driver confidence, passenger comfort Sound Smoother Technology (NSS). and vehicle handling via subtle manipulation of the powertrain. By monitoring steering By reducing turbo lag and boosting and throttle position when you enter a corner torque, Transient Control provides a more under power, GVC momentarily reduces positive throttle response, ensuring that the amount of torque delivered to the front the Mazda6’s diesel engine reacts better


than ever to the driver’s intentions, while refinement has been enhanced thanks to the introduction of Mazda’s Natural Sound Smoother (NSS) technology. Designed to cleverly reduce diesel knock noise during starting and low-speed acceleration, NSS suppresses resonance from the piston and connecting rod by using a dynamic damper inside the piston pin to suppress the three critical frequency bands in which engine components typically vibrate most loudly. This increase in engine refinement is complimented by a comprehensive improvement in sound insulation, including the adoption of upgraded door seals, tighter tolerances between panels and sound deadening materials added to the underbody, rear console, headliner and doors, while laminated front side windows further suppress wind noise. With cars arriving in dealerships later this autumn and pricing remaining unchanged, the Mazda6’s enhancements come at no extra cost and are set to reaffirm Mazda’s position at the forefront of this competitive sector.


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X marks the spot!


auxhall’s very popular Mokka range has been revised and the new model is now called the Mokka X. The new model builds on the popularity of the successful Mokka model, introducing a fresh interior and updated exterior design, as well as a new powertrain and featuring Vauxhall OnStar and Apple CarPlay. The elegantly sculpted front fascia gives the Mokka X a wider, more solid and muscular stance, while powerful and athletic lines at the rear and sides of the vehicle retain its sporty edge. On the inside, the Mokka X has a completely new dashboard inspired by the new Astra. The revised instrument panel looks simpler, sharper and more precise in its execution. The centre stack has been redeveloped completely around the sevenand eight-inch touchscreens of the new generation infotainment systems. Now with fewer buttons, it has many functions that are accessible via the touchscreen. The new Mokka X introduces two new engines/powertrains (1.4 152PS and a new 1.6CDTi 110PS) With an electromagnetic


multi-plate clutch, the all-wheel drive technology is clever and efficient. The frontwheel drive only or all-wheel drive settings adapt automatically based on the road conditions, benefitting fuel consumption without affecting the driving experience. In addition to the AWD system, Vauxhall engineers have made more innovative technology available to a broad group of customers by introducing LED Adaptive Forward Lighting (AFL) headlamps. The new AFL LED system adapts the headlights’ lighting patterns automatically to the driving situation to give the best possible light performance without dazzling other road users. It features nine different functions, with the new LED system replacing the previous BiXenon AFL. LED technology features a light quality that allows seeing the ‘true’ colours of things, to the benefit of visual comfort, while it is more reliable, faster and more accurate in its reaction. The new Mokka X will be available with the personal connectivity and service assistant, OnStar(1), from launch. OnStar offers customers a broad range of safety and comfort services, including access to

a trained advisor 24/7, 365 days a year. OnStar also turns the Mokka X into a 4G LTE mobile Wi-Fi(2) hotspot, allowing up to seven devices, from smartphones to tablets, to be connected simultaneously. The 1.4 152PS is only available in AWD with automatic transmission. The 1.4 140PS is available in manual, automatic and AWD (with manual transmission). The new six-speed manual 1.6CDTi 110PS diesel engine with front wheel drive is available at every trim level and delivers up to 72.4mpg (combined) and only 103g/km. It is available from £19,565 OTR with the Design Nav trim, which also gives 20 per cent BiK making it an appealing option to a company car driver. T&Cs – 1: The OnStar Services require activation and are subject to mobile network coverage and availability. 2: Wi-Fi Hotspot service requires account with nominated network operator. Charges apply after the free trial period. The OnStar subscription packages could be different from the services included in the free trial package. Check Vauxhall.co.uk/OnStar for details of availability, coverage and charges, or ask your Vauxhall retailer. Terms and conditions apply.


Your devices. Connected via 4G Wi-Fi. Your music. Streamed with Apple CarPlay™ support. Your adventure. Supported by OnStar personal assistant.

£229 per month




Visit your local Vauxhall Northern Ireland Retailer or Search Vauxhall Northern Ireland Official Government Test Environmental Data. Fuel consumption figures mpg (litres/100km) and CO2 emissions (g/km). Mokka X Active 1.4i Turbo (140PS) Start/Stop FWD: Urban: 37.2 (7.6), Extra Urban: 55.4 (5.1), Combined: 47.1 (6.0). CO2 emissions: 140g/km.# Personal contract hire offer on Mokka X Active 1.4i Turbo (140PS) Start/Stop FWD in free of charge metallic or brilliant paint with OnStar and 4G Wi-Fi, on orders received before 31 December 2016, subject to availability and status. Age 18+ only. Figures based on a non-maintenance contract hire package with advance rental of £2,977, then 47 monthly payments of £229. Excess miles over contracted mileage of 32,000 over 48 months charged at 11.08 pence per mile. Excess charges also apply if you breach manufacturer servicing or maintenance guidelines or if the car exceeds BVRLA Fair Wear & Tear guidelines for its age/mileage when it is returned to Vauxhall Leasing. Package includes Road Fund Licence and Vauxhall Assistance. Guarantee/indemnity may be required. Prices and details are subject to change without notice. For full specification and Ts&Cs contact your local Retailer. You will not own the car. ALD Automotive Ltd., trading as Vauxhall Leasing, BS16 3JA. Authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority. ˆOnStar and 4G Wi-Fi hotspot services require activation and are subject to mobile network coverage and availability. Wi-Fi hotspot service requires account with nominated mobile network operator. 4G subject to mobile network coverage availability. Charges apply after free trial period. The OnStar subscription packages could be different from the services included in the free trial period. Check www.vauxhall.co.uk/onstar for details of availability, coverage and charges or ask your Vauxhall Retailer. Terms and conditions apply. Vehicles purchased without OnStar cannot have the required technology retro fitted. Apple CarPlay and Apple are trademarks of Apple Inc., registered in the U.S. and other countries. #Fuel consumption information is official government environmental data, tested in accordance with the relevant EU directive. Official EU-regulated test data is provided for comparison purposes and actual performance will depend on driving style, road conditions and other non-technical factors. Correct at time of going to press.


Public sector built environment specialist Scape Group has appointed chartered building surveyor and project manager Gavin Wallace as regional business manager for Northern Ireland. Davy McGerrity has been appointed Senior Security Consultant at Cyphra. He will be responsible for advising on information security risk management and compliance matters. Fionntán Gamble LLB has joined consultative executive and professional recruitment specialist HNH Human Capital in its Queen Street Offices in Belfast.

Ashley Morrow has been appointed Senior Account Manager at Jago Communications following ten years’ experience in the PR and Communications industry. Michael Deeny has been appointed Account Executive at Jago Communications after graduating from Ulster University with a First Class Honours degree in Communication, Advertising and Marketing. Cathal Delea has been appointed as the Communication Manager for both Black Fox Solutions and Reactive Recruitment. Cathal will split his time across both companies.

Emma Murray has joined the board of ASG & Partners as Director of ASG Recruitment. She has led the Recruitment Advertising division for six years. ASG & Partners has appointed Valerie Ludlow to its board as Deputy CEO. She has spent six years at the company most recently as Director of Strategy. Vicki Caddy has joined the board of ASG & Partners as Director of PR. Vicki’s career with the PR division of the company spans over 20 years.



Gaelectric has announced the appointment of Barry Gavin as Chief Executive Officer. Barry is currently Gaelectric’s Chief Operating Officer and prior to this, its Chief Financial Officer. Gareth Hanna has been appointed Search Consultant at 4c Executive Search. He is the lead Search Consultant for three new divisions at 4c Executive Search – 4c Boardroom, 4c Interim, and 4c Third Sector. Fionnuala Byrne, Head of Facilities, CEMEA, Google has been appointed Southern Branch Chair of the BIFM Ireland Region.

Pat Gaughan, Managing Director, Advanced Workplace Solutions has been appointed Chairman of the BIFM Ireland Region. Wilton Farrelly, Director at H&J Martin Asset Management Services, part of the Lagan Construction Group, has been appointed Northern Branch Chair, BIFM Ireland Region Northridge Finance has appointed Ian Beattie as Business Development Manager. Ian has 27 years’ experience within the industry, of which 25 was with Clydesdale & Yorkshire Bank.

Robert Brechin has joined Northridge Finance as Head of Direct Channels Sales. He has has vast experience within the banking industry, including corporate, commercial and asset finance. Joanne Crawford has joined Colliers as Senior Valuer. With a BA Hons Degree in Business & Marketing, Joanne started her estate agency career over 11 years ago. Lisa Knipe has been appointed Corporate Tax Associate Director at Grant Thornton NI. Lisa is a qualified Chartered Accountant and a Qualified Chartered Tax Adviser with over 18 years’ experience.



PHOTOCALL 1. John Robinson, Director of Services for Methodist College, and architect Lidia Cabanillas of Hamilton Architects. Hamilton Architectshas been awarded a design contract for the college’s school house building.

2. Ulster Bank’s Leona McNicholl with new owners Chris and Ruth Bloomer, announces the couple’s investment to acquire the longstanding Boyd and Logue dental business on the north coast.




3. John Lowry, CBRE, & Niall Murphy, Photo-Me, launch the new outdoor self-service launderette which has recently been installed at The Park Centre shopping centre in West Belfast.

4. Ballymena BID has won free bus advertising worth £25,000 thanks to a competition launched by Exterion Media through its corporate partnership of Business in the Community’s (BITC) Healthy High Streets Programme. Pictured are Alison Moore and Jayne Hunter.

5. Rhonda Geary, RUAS, along with John Henning and Nicola McCleery, Danske Bank, announce a three year Danske Bank sponsorship deal of the Royal Ulster Winter Fair.


4 5



7. Minister Fearon and Minister Ross join Niall Lavery of PwC in welcoming Zoe Hartill to host Google Digital Garage on Tour – Northern Ireland for 200 delegates in Belfast.



6. Dennison employees recently raised £24,400 for Marie Curie. From back left are Henry Turkington, Paul Gillan, Neil Arbuthnot, John Johnston and Emyrs McBurney. From front left are Gwen Hill (Dennison Commercials) and Alison Wilson (Regular Care Giving Fundraiser at Marie Curie)

8. Belfast Chamber of Trade and Commerce (BCTC) is on the countdown to the festive season after investing £100,000 into Visit Belfast’s Christmas marketing campaign. Pictured are Gordon McIlroy, Michelle Greeves and Gerry Lennon.



9. Economy Minister Simon Hamilton visits Tyrone Fabrication Ltd in Ballygawley to help launch InterTradeIreland’s FUSION programme. Also pictured is Margaret Hearty, director of business programmes and services at InterTradeIreland and Aaron McDermott from Tyrone Fabrication.

10. Accountancy and business advisory firm, BDO Northern Ireland, today confirmed the appointment of 18 new trainees at its Belfast headquarters. Pictured with the new recruits is BDO Northern Ireland Senior Partner, Nigel Harra.



PHOTOCALL 11. Launching the Northern Ireland Housing Association Football League at the National Stadium are (L-R) Michael Boyd, Kris Lindsay Denise Burns and Cameron Watt.

12. Greggs has opened another new shop in the heart of Belfast’s city centre. Pictured is the team at Greggs Donegall Square West shop – (l-r front) Diane Sloan, Nikki Barclay, Ryan Ferris, Shop Manager, Lauren McKeown (l-r back) Gareth Murray, Robert Boothman, Conan Bradley and Leanne McLarnon.



13. Carol Magill (right), CIM Network Manager for Ireland gives the CIM stamp of approval to Ulster University Business School’s BSC and MSC Marketing degrees watched by Dr Danielle McCartan-Quinn, Head of Department of Marketing, Entrepreneurship and Strategy.

14. Corporate law firm A&L Goodbody has launched its 2016 Bold Ideas Student Innovation Award, by asking university students to put together their ‘Bold Ideas’ to address the legal, business or political challenges facing Ireland, north and south today. Pictured are Elizabeth Colvin, David Gillmartin, Aisling McDonnell & Stephen Egan.

15. International designer Wayne Hemingway joins Belfast Lord Mayor Brian Kingston and Innovation Factory Director Majella Barkey at the official opening of the state-of-the-art building. The pioneering Innovation Factory (IF) will provide a creative working space for start-up and expanding businesses in the city.





PHOTOCALL 16. Kate Cronin, IT Manager, Helm Housing is pictured with Tom Hall, Managing Director, Continu. In a deal worth over £70,000, Helm Housing has appointed local back-up power solution specialist Continu to implement state-of-the-art back-up power solutions at its headquarters in Belfast.


17 18

17. Chairman and CEO of Almac Group, Alan Armstrong (left), and Robert Dunlop, President and Managing Director, Almac Clinical Services (right), celebrate the company’s twenty year milestone in USA and new £4m investment with US Consul General Daniel Lawton (centre).

18. Core Systems has accessed expertise from Ulster University to further develop its latest software product. Patricia O’Hagan, Chief Executive Officer of Core Systems, is pictured with Dr Raymond Bond, lead researcher from Ulster University’s UX Lab.

19. Phil Ervine, director, Taste and Tour; Joanne O’Hagan, marketing manager Dillon Bass and Joe Magowan; Irish Whiskey Ambassador for Dillon Bass launch the new Belfast Whiskey Walk, part of a new Whiskey Club initiative from drinks company, Dillon Bass.

19 NOVEMBER 2016



20. Pictured at RiverRidge Recycling’s facility at Duncrue Road in Belfast are Paddy Graham from BGF and Brett Ross, founder and CEO of RiverRidge. BGF has made a £10m equity investment in the company, its second investment in Northern Ireland.


PHOTOCALL 21. Pictured at the Flavour of the North judging day in Loughrey College Cookstown are Damien Barrett, Managing Director of Henderson Foodservice, finalist Cathy Chauhan of Lough Neagh Eels and fellow judge Howard Hastings OBE.


22. Samuel Watson, Regional e-Commerce Manager for Asda NI (r), William Coulter, Section Leader Home Shopping and Customer Delivery Driver, Robert Hamilton celebrate further investment in the supermarket chain’s e-Commerce offering across Northern Ireland.


22 23. Asda has announced further investment in its online shopping services across Northern Ireland. Pictured are Samuel Watson, William Coulter and Robert Hamilton celebrating the creation of 20 new jobs, investment in new delivery vehicles and improved customer service systems.


24. John McDermott, Brand Director at AVB Brand, is pictured alongside Chris Suitor, Chairman of Belfast One and Clare Maguire, MD of Belfast One. Belfast One has revealed its new brand with the strapline – “Belfast One – Different Days”.

25. Launching the SPAR and EUROSPAR Tearfund campaign for 2016 are Paddy Doody, Sales & Marketing Director at the Henderson Group, Presenter Claire McCollum and Derek Hall from Tearfund.






26. Amy Bonnar and Barry Heaton from Canteen Belfast are pictured celebrating the café’s first year in business on the Belmont Road.

27. Pictured getting an advance preview of the new Bullitt Hotel, Anne Street Belfast which is due to open in October is Clare Stokes, Corporate Manager, First Trust Bank and James Sinton, Finance Director, Beannchor Group.


28. Boran-Mopack has invested £2.4m and created ten new jobs in Strabane to position the business for further export growth. Pictured (left) is John Hood, Invest NI, with Mairtin Boran, MD Boran-Mopack.

29. Barclays Wealth and Investment Management in Northern Ireland recently provided clients and guests with an insight into the world of local designer Sara Thompson, who is co-founder of Thompson Clarke Interiors. Pictured at the event are designers Sara Thompson and Lindy Clarke with Claire McCombe from Barclays.


30 NOVEMBER 2016

30. Pictured inside the newly expanded premises of Cunningham Butchers, Kilkeel, is James Cunningham Snr with his son who now runs the family business, James Cunningham Snr, and Kevin Fitzpatrick from First Trust Bank which has assisted the company with investment support.



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

(L-R) Roger Wilson, CEO, ABC Council, Pete McAvoy, Google’s Head of Performance Advertising EMEA, Councillor Garath Keating, Lord Mayor of ABC Council, Catherine Bennett, Twitter’s Senior Retail Account Manager and Gareth Quinn, MD of Digital DNA

The iconic Armagh Planetarium recently became Northern Ireland’s biggest creative digital hub as Armagh, Banbridge and Craigavon Borough Council joined forces with Digital DNA, Ireland’s leading technology event specialist, to create an exclusive world class tech event. A packed programme provided inspiration and new ideas for businesses, individuals, entrepreneurs and organisations to fully embrace their online potential and become tech-savvy in their operations and outreach.

Pictured are Becca Hume, BeccaHumeDesigns; Mark Godfrey, Automated Intelligence and Giovanna Forte Forte Medical.

The first ever ‘Pitch@Palace On Tour Belfast’ took place last month in the impressive surroundings of Hillsborough Castle. 19 Entrepreneurs pitched to an audience of 80 guests including CEOs, Investors and Mentors from across Northern Ireland and the UK mainland. Three companies – Automated Intelligence, BeccaHumeDesigns and Forte Medical – were selected to attend Boot Camp on 14th October, 2016 at Harwell Space Campus and also Pitch@Palace itself in November at St. James’ Palace.


(L-R) Stephen Kelly, MD of Manufacturing NI, event host and award-winning business journalist and broadcaster Jamie Delargy, Nicola Wilson, Head of Economic Development for ABC Council and Darren Johnston, Manufacturing Engineer Manager for Craigavon-based Hyster-Yale Group.

Armagh, Banbridge and Craigavon Borough Council recently held its inaugural Energy Awareness Breakfast at the Civic and Conference Centre, Craigavon. Bringing together a stellar line-up of energy experts and advisors, the event provided practical advice and assistance for local businesses and organisations to better manage their energy needs and costs.

Connect held its annual 2016 INVENT Awards, sponsored by Bank of Ireland UK, at the Belfast Waterfront last month. Distinguished guests – despite being dressed in smart business attire – were invited to have a go on a stunt bike, as the prestigious grand prize of £13,000 went to JumPack, a foldable, wearable ramp for BMXers, skateboarders and other extreme sports enthusiasts. An innovation that marks a new era in ramp technology. INVENT 2016 Winners Mike Crowe and Phil Macintosh of JumPack are pictured with Julie-Ann O’Hare of Bank of Ireland UK


The Manor House Country Hotel had reason to celebrate last month as they took home the award for AA Hotel of the Year for Northern Ireland. The accolade, given to hotels that are recognised as being outstanding in their particular market, was awarded to the Manor House Country Hotel at the AA Hospitality Awards at Grosvenor House on Park Lane, London, a lavish celebration of the best of the hospitality industry considered to be the industry’s own equivalent of the Oscars.

Pictured are host Hugh Dennis, Executive Head Chef David Earl, General Manager John O’Neill, MD Liam McKenna, MD Mary McKenna, Finance Manager Jackie Kinnear, Dep. General Manager John Dolan, Kirsty Lloyd-Jukes, AA Membership Services Director.

Remus Uomo has been named ‘Menswear Brand of the Year’ at the Drapers Independents Awards 2016. It received the accolade at the annual awards ceremony, which took place on September 14th in London, an event attended by the leading businesses Pictured on stage receiving his Lifetime Achievement Award is Richard Finlay of and influencers in the Douglas & Grahame with Kirsty McGregor, independent fashion retail left, and Keeley Stocker of Drapers Magazine. sector. At the same event, brand co-founder and former Managing Director Richard Finlay was honoured with a Lifetime Achievement Award for Services to the Fashion Industry. The award recognises the high standing that Mr Finlay has achieved in the UK and Ireland in the eyes of major industry figures and independent menswear retailers.

James Devine, Sous Chef at Deanes EIPIC in Belfast, has scooped the title of National Chef of the Year 2017 at The Restaurant Show in London. The James Devine is pictured with his award. Deanes chef beat off stiff competition from 10 finalists representing restaurants including Restaurant Gordon Ramsey and Petrus to win the UK’s most prestigious culinary competition. The brief focused on core culinary skills which were judged by a forty strong panel, chaired by renowned London Chef Clare Smyth. His winning menu featured Tees Valley Rib of Beef and a soft centred chocolate and coffee tart.

The final of WORLD CLASS 2016 is fast approaching with the world’s greatest mixologists competing in the industry’s most prestigious and respected bartender competition in Miami from 24th29th September – and Ireland will be ably represented by Andrew Dickey from The Merchant Hotel, Belfast.

Shane Long, founder of the Cork craft brewery Franciscan Well last month announced that the brewery is bringing its awardwinning craft beers into canned format in Northern Ireland from September. Rebel Red, Friar Weisseand Chieftain IPA will be available in a 330ml can for the first time in off licences across Northern Ireland, with selected bars also stocking the product. Pictured at the launch event in the Dark Horse bar in Belfast are Shane Long, Mark Glover and Alyson Magee


Andrew Dickey at the Merchant Hotel Belfast with Paddy McKenna, Petra Wolsey and Peter O’Connor.

Pictured are, from left: Economy Minister Simon Hamilton, keynote speaker Regina Moran (Head of Industry Sectors Business Application Services at Fujitsu EMEIA) and Chief Executive of Women in Business Roseann Kelly.

Northern Ireland’s most influential businesswomen and men gathered at the Ramada Plaza, Belfast last month to hear from a line-up of international speakers about how the future of business looks and how we must adapt to it. Economy Minister Simon Hamilton MLA was among a number of special guest speakers to address delegates at the eighth annual Women in Business Conference, supported by leading global ICT solutions company Fujitsu.



Tech talk

By Adrian Weckler

iPhone 7 Plus sets photo standard water-resistant. The iPhone 7 has no problems with splashes of water or beer. I also don’t miss the headphone jack one bit, mainly because I mostly wear wireless headphones anyway. But for those who might miss it, Apple has included a 3.5mm adaptor in the box that fits the end of your earphone jack and goes into the Lightning port. And there is still a pair of (Lightning) EarPod earphones included with the new iPhone 7 anyway. But the main feature here is the camera. This is unquestionably the biggest reason to upgrade to this phone. It’s actually two cameras (with two sensors, according to Apple) on one device. There’s a wideangle 28mm lens and a telephoto 56mm lens. This allows the phone to ‘zoom’ from one angle (or view) to the other without compromising much quality in the photo. Of critical importance to this whole process is the iPhone 7 Plus’s optical stabilisation (also now available on the smaller iPhone 7). When used with video, even a zoomed-in, apparently shaky filming process results in a nice, smooth video.

iPhone 7 Plus Price: from £719 (32GB) Rating: 5 Stars I’ve been using the iPhone 7 Plus for over a week now. Initially, I worried that its near-identical design to the iPhone 6S Plus (and iPhone 6 Plus) might make it feel a little same-old, same-old. And the removal of the headphone jack caused momentary pause. But the improvements under the hood, together


with a magnificent new dual-camera system, make it a worthy upgrade candidate. The new ‘haptic’ home button feels a little odd for the first while. Whether it’s nostalgia or muscle-memory, there is something satisfying about pressing down on an actual button. But it’s actually fine, and if Apple is correct in saying it makes the overall phone “more durable”, that’s definitely a good thing. It certainly helps make the phone more

You have to see this to believe it: it’s a huge advance. The amount of light that the camera lets in is much improved, too, with an f1.8 aperture. The iPhone 7 Plus’s battery life is around two hours better than previous iPhone Plus models. Apple credits this largely to the reduced energy consumption of the phone’s powerful, efficient new A10 processor. It also has more storage (starting at 32GB up to 256GB). Finally, iOS 10, with all its new widgets, messaging animations and quick actions, looks great on the iPhone 7.


AirPods keep me in tunes and in touch Apple AirPods   Price: £159    Rating: 4 Stars While Apple’s biggest launch in the last fortnight was the iPhone 7, a­ nother new product it unveiled has garnered almost equal ­attention. But will its new wireless AirPods e­ arphones stay in your ears, and how do they compare in audio quality with normal wired earphones? After over a week’s testing, I quite like them. They’re more ergonomically practical than the large wireless cans I normally wear (although they don’t have the same noise-cancelling properties). In the medium term, they could also become a digital assistant. Tapping the back of either AirPod automatically kicks off your (still pocketed) phone’s Siri voice command system. That means that you now have the potential for searching, calling or messaging without ever touching your handset. Each AirPod has a microphone as well as an in-ear speaker. As a basic level, that means that you can use them as hands-free accessories for phone calls.


I have no complaints whatsoever with the audio quality. One occasional drawback to Bluetooth-connected wireless headphones is that they don’t quite match wired models for technical audio prowess. But this used to be a bigger problem than it is now: current Bluetooth transfer technology has advanced a lot in recent years. The AirPods reached a decent – but not overpowering – maximum volume level, while the bits of the songs I know best bounced through just fine. Probably the biggest question most people ask with regard to the AirPods is whether they’ll fall out and get lost. All I’ll say is that I walked around with them for several days, almost non-stop, and didn’t come close to one slipping out. I did, however, feel the need to bring the small recharging case with me. The way the AirPods’ power work is that the carrier case automatically recharges them when you put them into it. (That case, in turn, can be recharged with any ordinary iPhone

or iPad Lightning cable.) The battery life on the AirPods is between four and five hours on a full charge, which is comparable to other wireless headsets. However, 15 minutes in the carrier case gives you around 2 hours 40 minutes of additional battery life in the AirPods. This means you shouldn’t get stuck for more than a few minutes on, say, a transatlantic flight. Speaking of the recharging case, this is one of the highlights of the AirPods from a design perspective. The moment you open the case, the AirPods look to connect with your iPhone: a message on your screen prompts you to connect and you’re all hooked up. There’s no messy manual three-second pressing down of a button or waiting for the correct sequence of beeps – it just works out of the box. (By the way, the AirPods don’t just work with the iPhone 7, or even just with Apple devices: they work with almost any Bluetooth audio source). As is to be expected, these aren’t cheap. But they’re pretty good.


Car to Plane... Simple. TRAVEL

New York with kids: How one family got the best out of the Big Apple

Orla Neligan takes her family to New York. But can she combine city culture with the benefits of the beach? ‘New York with three small children?”

imagined the Hamptons, but more humble and draws the moneyed Hampton crowd at slow-paced (the island speed limit is 35mph). weekends. It’s Tuesday, so there’s a quiet The US Customs and Border Protection Officer lull as we tuck into fat juicy prawns. at Dublin Airport looks at my husband and Sure, there are placid bays and beautiful The following day, a friend sails us to Sag I and our three toddlers. “I salute you.” beaches, but it has the edge on Harbour to catch the Hampton Jitney bus I laugh nervously, recalling our first family charming quirks and friendliness. back to the city. We enjoy one last swim in holiday: a three-hour flight delay, toilet breaks the warm waters and hit The Dock House on my lap and a general feeling that I was “Nobody locks their door here,” says a local (dockhouseny.com) for fish and chips and travelling with some really drunk friends - one in Marie Eiffel’s café (marieeiffelmarket. lobster rolls in the historic whaling town. vomiting, one starting a fight, one rummaging com) in Dering Harbour. She gives me a Disembarking the Jitney that evening in through a fellow-passenger’s handbag. run-down of her favourite island activities: Manhattan, skin silvery with salt from our But this time it was going to be different, right? Mashomack Nature Preserve with peek-aswim, we feel like a bunch of surfers gate boo displays explaining life in the forest; crashing a black tie party. “Mum, can Call it mawkish nostalgia, but I wanted my Sylvester Manor - a historic plantation; and we go swimming?” asks my daughter. children to see the city where my husband Pridwin Hotel’s Wednesday night family Although not wanting to admit it, I miss and I had shared so many great memories. barbecue; biking, kayaking, beachcombing. the easy charm and fresh-air freedom. The key to being intrepid with kids is to go We quickly fall into an agreeable rhythm with the flow. But is that possible in a city of mornings in the pool and afternoons The next morning, we arrive just as The Natural with infinite attractions and the frenetic exploring. We hire bikes from Picozzi’s garage History Museum opens equipped with our energy of eight million inhabitants? (jwpicozzi.com) in Dering Harbour and find NYC City Passes, which bump us to the top hidden inlets and beaches. We venture off of the queue. The first thing we meet is a Dragging kids around a city can be a the island to Greenport where the kids ride massive Barosaurus skeleton in the entrance high-friction slog, so we decided to split the waterfront carousel, to Bridgehampton hall. “Diiiinoooosaaaaur,” shouts my son. our week between Shelter Island, Long for ice-cream at family favourite The Candy Two hours later, we’ve seen the life-size Island and Brooklyn. Having secured two Kitchen, before hitting Hampton Beach - a model of a blue whale, incredibly realistic spacious and cosy Airbnb houses thanks to spectacular strand of sugary sand where animal dioramas and explored meteorites at local friends, our plan was to experience the kids hunted for seashells and yelled into the planetarium. The kids are enthralled, and the city with the benefits of the beach. the wind as the sun set over the necklace starving, so we retire to nearby Alice’s Teacup of million-dollar beachfront houses. (alicesteacup.com) for tea, cake and a sprinkle Shelter is a small island (70km²) in eastern Long of fairy dust from our ‘winged’ waitress. Island. As we depart the ferry, inhaling the On our last night, we splurge on dinner briny air and surveying the tidy shingled houses at Sunset Beach (sunsetbeachli.com) - a Last stop is the Empire State via Central and dramatic dunes, it feels exactly how I tastefully transformed 1960s motel that Park. It’s 5pm, the kids are lagging, but


For our cheapest parking book online



Martha “really wants to see the Eiffel Tower”. Half an hour later we’re savouring the view from the top, her big blue eyes as round as quarters. “Mum, you can see the whole world from up here.” The next day we stay local at Prospect Park, Brooklyn’s untamed version of Central Park, where the kids splash about in the water jets at the Le Frac centre and we take a pedalo out on the lake ($25 for an hour). We start our last day with a slow stroll through the Highline – the elevated former railroad that has become Manhattan’s second bestloved park. As we exit at Gansevoort Ave, the kids are at half mast, so we hire bikes from Blazing Saddles (blazingsaddles.com). My son falls asleep in his carrier as we cross Brooklyn Bridge, but wakes when he sniffs Grimaldis pizza at the other side. Some say its reputation rests on the dough whose crucial ingredient is rumoured to be Brooklyn water – whatever that means – but it’s the perfect New York slice. That evening is spent on the stoop of our beautifully restored Victorian Airbnb home. On the street, a group of Hispanic teenagers practise their dance routine for a sweet 16th party. Kids play football with a dog and homemade lemonade is being sold at a makeshift stand. The kids sit mesmerised; who needs attractions when you’ve got a real slice of New York life? As we bed down for our return Aer Lingus flight, a steward asks my daughters what their favourite memory is of New York. “The swimming pool,” answers Ruby without hesitation, while Martha muses for a few minutes before replying, “Well, we finally got to see the Eiffel Tower.”

Top Tips Kids under 44in in height go free on the subway. NYC City Passes (newyorkpass. com) skip queues and save up to 70pc on entry fees for major attractions. The Staten Island ferry is free, as are freetoursbyfoot. com. The Natural History Museum is free to visit for the last hour (4.45-5.45pm).

Get there Orla flew with Aer Lingus (aerlingus.com; €249 each-way) which operates daily services from Dublin and Shannon to JFK, along with a new, daily service from Dublin to Newark.


Belfast City Airport secures World Duty Free contract for Shortcross Local gin now on shelves at Belfast City Airport will be available in World Duty Free units across the UK


eorge Best Belfast City Airport has facilitated a relationship between one of the world’s leading travel retailers and a local distillery for it to supply its awarding winning craft gin to a number of its stores.

Shortcross Gin has arrived on the shelves of World Duty Free in Belfast City Airport as well as further airport outlets across the UK including London Heathrow, the busiest airport in the UK and Ireland and one of busiest in the world, London Stansted, Gatwick, Birmingham, Manchester and Edinburgh. Collectively in 2015 more than 185 million passengers were handled by the airports within which Shortcross Gin will be stocked meaning huge exposure for the Co Down distilled product. Joanne Deighan, Commercial manager at Belfast City Airport commented: “We have been working with both World Duty Free and Shortcross Gin in order to facilitate a commercial relationship for a while, and I am thrilled that this has now come to fruition. Having such a strong local brand take centre stage in terminal at World Duty Free provides a huge platform for the brand with tourists now able to take it home and enjoy a taste of Northern Ireland. “We are committed to supporting local goods and providing producers with the chance to reach new markets. So in this Northern Ireland’s Year of Food & Drink, it gives us great pride to have played such a key role in showcasing one of the most distinctive local products to a global audience.” Northern Ireland’s first craft distillery and the home of Shortcross Gin, was founded in 2012 by husband and wife team Fiona and David Boyd-Armstrong. Their Rademon Estate Distillery is located at the couple’s historic family estate just outside Downpatrick, Co Down. David Boyd-Armstrong, who is also the head distiller, said: “Shortcross Gin has been created as a classic Gin with a unique twist; best described as floral meadows, wild berries and grassy notes. It is highly aromatic with an exceptionally long and smooth finish. It has been an exciting year for us and our presence in World Duty Free in Belfast City Airport and across the UK is a landmark development which ensures that Shortcross Gin and Ireland’s distilling heritage will be internationally recognised.” Shortcross Gin is now available in World Duty Free in the Departures Lounge of Belfast City Airport.



App drives fan engagement Geoff Wilson explains how The Ulster Grand Prix’s new app is helping it keep in touch with its followers


n August 2016, the Ulster Grand Prix (UGP), the World’s Fastest Road Race, launched its new improved app aimed at its international and local fan base.

The app was produced by Sportego and achieved an impressive 2.2k downloads in eight days! The app, which is free to download to Android and iOS devices, provides fans with the latest news, rider statistics, circuit information, a predictor game and details on ticket purchase and more. Over 700 fans made predictions on the outcome of the race and with social media integration, in the form of youtube, Facebook and Twitter pop-up within the app, fans were given the ultimate second screen experience. Robert Graham, Chairman of the Ulster Grand Prix said: “The app allows fans to learn more about their favourite competitors, the circuit set-up and even gives up to date weather information to ensure that fans can be where they want to be, when they want to be, and can be dressed appropriately for the weather too! We have focused heavily this year on improving our digital communications through the implementation of this app and also the creation of an MCE Ulster Grand Prix Snapchat account, because we want our fans to be able to get the most out of bike week and really engage and get involved with us.” Managing Director at app design company Sportego, Trevor Keane said: “We are delighted to have the opportunity to work with the Ulster Grand Prix. Being involved in the world’s fastest road race is an

extremely proud moment for Sportego and we hope the app allows fans to get even closer to the action. Sportego is now working with a wide range of sports organisations and teams across Europe, pushing the boundaries on engaging the digital fan through a range of interactive tools and techniques.“

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


or the second year in a row, Newry-based construction company O’Hare & McGovern have taken the ‘Overall Award’ at the Construction Excellence Awards. The Awards Gala Evening, held last night at the Culloden Hotel & Spa, saw the firm win the award for its work on the IFA National Football Stadium. Hosted by the Construction Employers Federation (CEF) in partnership with Specify magazine, the awards also recognised an additional 14 category winners from across the construction industry in Northern Ireland for excellence in general construction, housing, infrastructure and quality performance. Pictured [L-R] are: Martin Lennon (O’Hare & McGovern), David Henry (CEF President), Nick Oldfield (O’Hare & McGovern).


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Uncovering the 9-5 Frank McManus

8:30am The day kicks off in earnest. I am leading the roll out of superfast fibre broadband across Northern Ireland to enable even more homes and businesses to avail of improved broadband speeds so that is what consumes most of my time. Monday’s are set aside for meetings. I have individual catch ups with my team to review the previous week’s activities and discuss key areas of focus for the week ahead. We follow this with an all manager session which allows me to share updates, news and feedback with them and for them to share with the team what’s happening in their area, what help they need or what’s on their mind.

of the jointly funded Superfast Fibre Broadband Extension Project which, when complete, will result in approximately 40,000 further premises receiving superfast speeds by December 2107. Meetings with politicians or party groups usually relates to questions of availability of fibre broadband in their constituencies and while in the main they acknowledge the progress BT has made to date and plans afoot, it is the remote rural dweller that provides the greatest challenge both technically and commercially. These conversations keep us grounded and while we may not have an immediate or planned solution it brings reality to the situation and the challenge that remains.

15:00pm 10:00am Monday aside, my first group meeting is usually scheduled for 10:00.

Name: Frank McManus Position: Head of Wholesale Sales Marketing at BT in Northern Ireland

6:00am I’m out of the bed at six – shower, dress and have breakfast while watching the morning news. The only change to this routine is a lie in until eight at the weekend or if I’m travelling to London for the day and then it’s a 4:00am start!

7:00am I have superfast fibre broadband so if I’m working from home, I log on with ease, check e-mails and review the day’s plan before 8:30 when the phones start ringing and the e-mails come flooding in.

I attend a lot of meetings focused on driving the take up of fibre broadband. We’re currently rolling out a marketing campaign, ‘Life is easier with Superfast’ to raise awareness of the availability of superfast fibre broadband and the transformational benefits it can bring to homes and businesses. For example, businesses with fibre broadband can upload a 16mb email attachment in just 4 seconds! We’re encouraging people to go to www. nibroadband.com to check where and when they can access fibre broadband, what download and upload speeds they can achieve and most importantly how they can get it and who they can get it from.         

13.00pm Lunch mainly consists of a tuna and onion sandwich wrap at my desk while responding to e-mails.

14:00pm If I’m travelling to work on the train, which is my favourite means of transport – I use Translink’s superb Wi-Fi and spend an hour sending e-mails and reviewing documents.

I’m usually with Department for the Economy officials or meeting with politicians at the assembly one afternoon a week. We discuss the status

If I’m not at a customer meeting, now is the opportunity to review recent sales, look at opportunities in the pipeline and review projects. As BT is a wholesaler it’s extremely important that we provide our customers, the service providers with the ability to satisfy their customer’s needs. We take this extremely seriously and engender an atmosphere that our customer is king and without them we simply would not have a job, a salary or a tuna sandwich.

16:30pm I set aside one hour each evening to deal with any key issues that have not been resolved by the team during the day. These can be from political representatives, organisations, business communities or occasionally individuals.

17:30pm The last hour of the working day is set aside for the e-mails not dealt with during the day.

18:30 pm That’s it – another day another dollar. And despite what any of my team might say I don’t send them e-mails after half six in the evening, before half six in the morning or from Australia. There would be no point – they wouldn’t read them!

A little local knowledge can go a very long way

The Penalty Kick invented by William McCrum, Co. Armagh 1885

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Profile for Ulster  Business

Ulster Business - November 2016  

Ulster Business

Ulster Business - November 2016  

Ulster Business