It was a good year for NI com­pa­nies ... and there is more to come

Belfast Telegraph - Business Telegraph - - Business Awards - By Richard Don­nan, head of Ul­ster Bank in NI Richard Don­nan is head of North­ern Ire­land for Ul­ster Bank. Full de­tails on cat­e­gories and cri­te­ria and how to en­ter are avail­able at www.belfast­tele­ busi­ness/news/busi­ness-awards. The clos­ing date

Last year was cer­tainly one that will go down in his­tory. A few will say it will do so for some of the wrong rea­sons. How­ever, for many North­ern Ire­land com­pa­nies it was a year of real achieve­ment and progress.

While there are many fac­tors that en­cour­age a good de­gree of cau­tion as we en­ter 2017, we as a bank also see real rea­sons for op­ti­mism about the fu­ture for both Ul­ster Bank and lo­cal busi­nesses. In 2016 we helped sup­port a num­ber of North­ern Ire­land’s most suc­cess­ful and in­no­va­tive busi­nesses.

By way of ex­am­ple, we sup­ported north west-based Learn­ing Pool in its strate­gic ac­qui­si­tion of Mind Click, whose clients in­clude As­trazeneca, Boots, Proc­ter & Gam­ble, and Google. As an­other il­lus­tra­tion, we sup­ported the £30m ac­qui­si­tion of Damolly Re­tail Park in Newry by MJM Group. And we re­main strongly com­mit­ted to help­ing good busi­nesses achieve their am­bi­tions in 2017 and beyond.

We’re also ac­tive in help­ing lo­cal en­trepreneurs set out and ad­vance on their growth jour­neys — our back­ing for the En­tre­pre­neur­ial Spark Hub in Belfast is a key part of that, along­side the devel­op­ment of the skills of our peo­ple. The hub of­fers, among other things, free of­fice space, free Wi-fi, ad­vice, and ac­cess to a pow­er­ful net­work of busi­ness men­tors. Around 160 lo­cal busi­nesses have made use of it to date, and dur­ing De­cem­ber alone en­trepreneurs based there se­cured over £500,000 in in­vest­ment. We have also just trained over 130 of our peo­ple on en­tre­pre­neur­ial skills so that they can con­tinue to bet­ter sup­port en­trepreneurs and un­der­stand their mind­set.

Part­ner­ing with the Belfast Tele­graph Busi­ness Awards is an­other ex­pres­sion of Ul­ster Bank’s com­mit­ment to sup­port­ing the North­ern Ire­land busi­ness com­mu­nity. The awards are a well-es­tab­lished plat­form for cel­e­brat­ing the achieve­ments of lo­cal com­pa­nies, and we are re­ally pleased, with the Belfast Tele­graph, to be ex­pand­ing the cat­e­gories this year to in­clude IT Com­pany or Team of the Year, Emerg­ing Busi­ness/start Up of the Year, and SME Health­care Busi­ness of the Year. As a bank that is ac­tive and sup­port­ive in each of these ar­eas, we know that there are fan­tas­tic busi­nesses do­ing in­no­va­tive things who should have a plat­form to be recog­nised for their achieve­ments.

As we move fur­ther into 2017, we ex­pect to see good North­ern Ire­land com­pa­nies con­tin­u­ing to adapt to mar­ket con­di­tions and gen­er­at­ing fur­ther success. Ef­fec­tively man­ag­ing the things that are within their con­trol is key to this — for ex­am­ple im­prov­ing pro­duc­tiv­ity and com­pet­i­tive­ness, hedg­ing currency and man­ag­ing in­ter­est rate risks, and smooth­ing out fluc­tu­a­tions in work­ing cap­i­tal.

A ris­ing tide lifts all boats, but skil­ful sailors can still ex­cel in any waters, and many busi­nesses will con­tinue to make good in­vest­ments and de­velop ex­pan­sion plans, what­ever lies ahead this year. Ul­ster Bank, as a customer-fo­cused bank, is very much here to help busi­nesses fu­ture-proof their plans, man­age risk and ful­fil their am­bi­tions.

From left: Richard Mc­clean, Belfast Tele­graph man­ag­ing di­rec­tor; Mar­garet Can­ning, Belfast Tele­graph busi­ness edi­tor, and Richard Don­nan, head of Ul­ster Bank NI

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