Glandore Belfast’s inaugural Alumni celebration with guest speakers Steve Harper, Executive Director of International Business at Invest NI and Rosie Gormley, Head of TP ICAP
Professionals from the technology, financial services, legal, cyber security, government and new media sectors were warmly welcomed to Glandore’s Arthur House on March 28 for Irish family business Glandore’s inaugural Belfast alumni celebration featuring guest speakers, Steve Harper, Executive Director of International Business at Invest NI and Rosie Gormley, Head of TP ICAP.
The evening, which commenced with a drinks reception, saw Glandore’s alumni and current members come together in an intimate, relaxed and enjoyable setting. The event offered an informative and enjoyable networking opportunity for Glandore alumni, Glandore members, Invest NI – Northern Ireland’s inward investment promotion agency, as well as Belfast City Council and Belfast Chamber who are responsible for the economic development and growth of Belfast City initiatives and enterprises.
Guests enjoyed the opportunity to hear about the growth of Glandore throughout the years and how it has supported foreign direct investment (FDI) and indigenous growth in Northern Ireland, from Glandore’s Managing Director Michael Kelly, who offered an insight into how he opened Arthur House in Belfast in 2006 and Arthur Place, also on Arthur Street in 2009.
‘This is our inaugural Alumni event here in Belfast and we hope that this is the first of many Alumni gatherings’ Kelly said. ‘The aim of our Alumni events are to facilitate connections between our existing members and our diverse Alumni and provide a space for you to share experiences of setting up and scaling companies in Northern Ireland.’
Michael Kelly sincerely welcomed guests in his speech, and mentioned how the Glandore team are very proud to have played a small part in the success of the companies and individuals in the room, and how and it gave him tremendous pleasure to have had those companies at the event that evening. He also discussed his hopes that the Glandore Alumni Network will connect with, and become a source of support and mentorship for, Glandore’s current member companies that are starting out on their journey in Northern Ireland.
Recognising the ‘tremendous work’ of Invest Northern Ireland and Belfast City Council and highlighting their commitment to supporting and scaling companies, as well as winning foreign direct investment for Northern Ireland, Kelly said, ‘Tonight would not be possible without the tremendous work of Invest Northern Ireland who have been responsible for building a strong proposition in Financial Services, ICT and Business Services’. He also expressed his gratitude ‘for the help and support of Belfast City Council’s Economic Development team’ and stated how ‘the companies in this room are testament to the great work of Invest NI and the regional councils’.
Guest speaker Steve Harper, Executive Director of International Business at Invest NI, opened with stating how fantastic the Arthur House space is, saying what Glandore has done is a ‘true testament’ to helping the Invest NI team to sell Belfast. Harper shared insights into how Invest NI differentiate themselves from other investment promotion agencies around the world by saying: ‘Yes it’s a highly competitive environment globally to try and win business and try to bring companies to here [Northern Ireland], but when you get here, our whole reason for being is to stand beside you and help you grow’. Harper spoke of how it’s about ensuring companies have all the facilities and support to grow and scale their teams.
Harper strongly encouraged new FDI companies coming into Northern Ireland to take advantage of the new, co-funded Invest NI leadership programme titled, ‘Leading within a team’, which places site leads within a network of like-minded individuals and offers high class executive education. Harper continued to highlight how Northern Ireland has demonstrated ‘fantastic leadership’ right across all sectors to develop some of the world’s most important and cutting-edge technologies. ‘It’s thanks to some of the people in this room that some people say that there are more cyber security engineers here than there are anywhere else in Europe, and that really is an astonishing statement’.
Addressing Brexit and other local political challenges, Harper remained optimistic and declared that ‘Northern Ireland is still punching well above its weight’ and how, ‘despite our small size, we cast a very, very long shadow’. Observing why companies continue to invest in Northern Ireland, Harper said that it was ultimately a result of its locally grown talent: ‘Being a small place allows us to be very nimble’.
‘Things are good here in Northern Ireland,’ Harper continued to say. ‘Invest Northern Ireland supported businesses, this year, have created over 11,000 jobs in Northern Ireland.’ According to Harper, business research and development (R&D) has seen an increase of 4% in Northern Ireland alongside the number of companies that are investing in R&D, which has also grown by 20%.
Fellow guest speaker Rosie Gormley, former Glandore member and Head of TP ICAP, spoke of how TP ICAP
have scaled their teams in Belfast to 200 persons, with the intention of increasing to 300 by the end of 2019 and 450 persons, ultimately. Echoing Steve Harper’s sentiments, Gormley stated that ‘it was the talent that brought us here’. With the intention of starting with only a technology team, due to the availability of high-class technology skills in Belfast, very quickly Gormley discovered that the skillset in Northern Ireland ‘goes across all domains’.
‘It has been a rollercoaster of a journey,’ Gormley said, to a chorus of light-hearted chuckles around the room. ‘We started with Brexit. We paused with Brexit. We accelerated with Brexit. And now we’re just giving up on Brexit!’
Sharing the story of how TP ICAP began their journey in Glandore, Gormley said: ‘For me what is very relevant is to see Michael and family and both Clare and Rebecca here. Overwhelmingly for us, Glandore was always part of the family’. She expressed her appreciation in being able to rely on the Glandore team at the beginning of their set-up in Northern Ireland. ‘To have that family infrastructure behind us when we were just one or two, or five, as we grew, was so, so important to our success in Belfast’.
Gormley continued to praise the ‘outstanding job’ Invest NI have done in ‘selling Belfast’ internationally. ‘To have that network of support is really, really important to me as an employer’ she said. Discussing some of the obstacles that UK or US headquartered companies with regional offices such as TP ICAP face, Gormley said: ‘There’s a lot done for indigenous businesses and there is that network for homegrown businesses, but sometimes you do feel like you’re going it alone.’ Gormley commended having a network of support from other businesses going through similar challenges. ‘If I had that three or four years ago it would have been brilliant. So, to have it now, I’m really appreciative of Glandore for laying it out for us.’
She concluded by providing a warm offer of support to those companies in the room who were starting their journey in Northern Ireland. ‘Anything you need, any advice or a shoulder to cry on, we’re here.’
‘It’s been a great journey, a rocky road, but it’s been craic all the way.’