Author Archives: Seán Kelly

Interview with Liam Booth – President of Trinity Business Alumni

I sat down recently with Liam Booth, Managing Director of Investec Ireland’s Corporate Finance Advisory Business and President of the Trinity Business Alumni to ask him about his career, Investec, the corporate finance industry and what advice he would give to students.

Liam attended Trinity from 1978 to 1982 before graduating with a Bachelor of Business Studies. He went on to have a very successful career working for a number of different companies before securing a job at NCB Group. NCB Group was acquired by Investec in 2012 and it was then that Liam became Managing Director of this company here in Ireland where he remains today.

Q1. What did you study in College?

I did Business Studies in Trinity, which was ESS at the time. I graduated with a Bachelor of Business Studies in 1982.

Q2. What did you then go on to do after college?

After college I went and entered the Chartered Accountants programme and worked with Coopers and Lybrand (now PwC).

Q3. Could you outline what you do here at the corporate finance side of Investec Ireland?

I head up the corporate finance business here at Investec and we’re essentially M&A and equity capital markets advisors. The world of M&A advice revolves around advising, either on the sale of Irish businesses or working with our corporate clients and acquiring other businesses. There’s the two terms sell side and buy side which tend to be how we look at it from an M&A point of view. Our business probably has good mix of sell side and buy side mandates and working with companies on transactions that range from deals of €30 million, coming up into the hundreds of millions.

Then on the fund raising / equity capital market side. We work on fundraising both for private companies as well as for public companies. The public side of that can involve IPOs, which we have done with companies like the Irish Residential REIT (Real Estate Investment Trust) and also follow on offerings in the market. So it’s the blend of both of those activities from a corporate finance point of view, both M&A and fund raising.

Q4. Was the Irish REIT IPO a recent occurrence?

IRES, as we as we refer to it, had its IPO in April 2014 and we did a follow on fundraising of €130 million in June for Irish Residential REIT which it’s the third substantial fundraising . IRES has been a great Irish success story for investors and the REIT property sector.

Q5. What would your job as Managing Director of Investec Corporate Finance Ireland entail on a day-to-day basis?

The good thing about the world of corporate finance is that no two days are the same. Typically it can involve sitting down and meeting with the rest of the team, talking about the pipeline of activity that we have going on in terms of the slate of transactions, how we are resourcing those transactions, how we are engaging with clients, what our go-to market strategy is on live transactions, that is generating interest and positioning companies who are looking to sell or indeed how we are researching buy side opportunities.

In terms of the internal side of it, it involves a lot of interaction and collaboration with the rest of the team here. We have a team of 15 professionals and there is both a formality and an informality to those meetings. We operate in an open plan area so there is a lot of interaction on a day-to-day basis between us.

More and more of my time is outward-looking. This involves meeting with existing clients and also then looking to see where we can originate new business. Typically, this involves pitching new ideas to companies, some of which you may know and have met before and others where you’re literally going and saying “This is who we are, this is what Investec Corporate Finance have been doing over a long time in the Irish market, here’s a really good, interesting and relevant idea for your business and this is why you should work with us on that”. So there is a fair bit of my time that goes into new business origination. This means that most days involve varying degrees of client engagement and prospecting as well as working on business planning internally.

Q6. Would you say that your work on new business origination coincides with your long-term responsibilities as Managing Director?

Yes, if you think about the nature of any M&A transaction from start to finish it can take anything from six to nine months. Occasionally you do get shorter deals but given the world that we operate in now where there is increased regulation and complexity, deals generally do take from the start to finish about six to nine months. So, whilst it’s good that you are busy and active on current deals, you’ve also always got to be thinking about how you’re filling the pipeline for the next wave of transactions, so there is medium and long-term planning that goes into that.

As well as this we must try and identify where there are the next attractive areas of opportunity. As we all know in business, certain sectors can be particularly hot and interesting for a period of time and others can become less interesting. So at times you’re just looking to see where those deep pockets of opportunity are going to lie. In an Irish context there are sectors such as technology and food that are constant and then there’s others that have become more interesting from a deal point of view, particularly the whole areas of energy and health care. So to some degree you’re just trying to anticipate where those opportunities are going to be and that’s where some of the medium and long-term planning comes into it.

Q7. You formally worked as a Director at NCB Group before it was taken over in 2012 by Investec, what effect did this have for the company?

We enjoyed good success in running NCB as an independent small Irish investment bank as it were from 2003 when we bought the business in a management buyout from Ulster Bank. Even though we had built up a very successful business, we had to face into the enormous challenges of the global financial crisis in 2008. So from then through 2010, there was some very tough decisions to make around the business but we were fortunate that we went into the crisis in good financial shape and we were able to withstand it. But we realised that survival wasn’t enough as we had seen how as a relatively small financial services business you are subject to the vagaries of substantial macro trends so we decided that it was probably right to look at a new home for the business with a bigger international partner. We were fortunate to come together with Investec and agree the deal in late 2011. It got approved in 2012 and that’s been really good for the business and the business has gone on to prosper under Investec ownership.

Q8. Was there an effect for you personally of this change? Did you move positions due to this take over?

Yes and no, I continued to do what I was doing to a large extent. At NCB I was both a head of Corporate Finance, an executive director of the business and also a shareholder in the business. Now at Investec I am still the head of corporate finance and also an executive director of Investec Ireland. The main difference now is being part now part of a large international bank and making that international network relevant for our Irish clients.

Q9. Gift Voucher Shop, the company that operates the One4all gift card scheme was sold to Blackhawk Network in a deal worth roughly €100 million. Investec advised An Post on this sale but what exactly is involved in a project like this?

The origins of our involvement with Gift Voucher Shop was through An Post who would be a longstanding client of ours that we’ve done a lot of work for. Gift Voucher Shop, although it was majority owned by An Post, a substantial portion of the equity was owned by the management team led by Michael Dawson and some other private shareholders. In the first instance, although An Post introduced us to the opportunity, we had to meet with Michael and his team and persuade them that Investec were the right people to hire.

Michael is a hugely successful entrepreneur and has built up that business from scratch with the support of An Post, so from that point on it was a matter of looking to identify who we considered would be the best buyers for the business. In that regard we looked at two potential pools of buyers. The first we certainly looked at the leading trade players in the gift card and digital card space. We also looked at the private equity firms that are active in fintech who would have had an interest in it. We went after both of those potential pools of buyers and Blackhawk emerged after a number of months as being clearly the best buyer for the business. Given their international footprint they had the most to gain from the acquisition of GVS and so were in a position in a sense to pay that strategic premium that was attractive to An Post, and to Michael and the team.

Q10. What would you see as the biggest threats and opportunities for Investec Ireland at the moment?

Of course, the Brexit threat that we’re all growing quite weary of. The reality of it is from the Investec Ireland point of view we’ve had to make some substantial changes in our business on account of Brexit. Thankfully we have made those changes and we are now in the best place to deal with whatever form and shape that Brexit may take. Aside from that, the main issue for any Irish financial services businesses comes down to the strength of the Irish economy. We are roughly 5 million or so people, we are a small country and so we’re constrained by the opportunities that are largely here. The main concerns revolve around the strength of the Irish economy, which thankfully, notwithstanding the threats of Brexit, has been remarkably robust and hopefully can remain that way for some time.

On the other hand, the opportunities we have to address as a result of that is looking to see where we can develop and generate more business internationally and not to be overly dependent on the local market.

Q11. What are Investec’s plans for the future here in Ireland? What are your long-term goals?

We decided as part of our strategic planning to exit our wealth management business, which we’ve recently sold to Brewin Dolphin. We had a really fantastic wealth management business, but it’s an industry that requires scale, so you’re either going to be the consolidator and getting much bigger in that area or you take advantage of the opportunity there is to realise substantial value. We went down that latter course, but that means for the remaining businesses, the opportunity now focuses even more on growing our corporate finance business, our treasury business, looking at further opportunities in private banking.

I think in large part we can continue to look at gaining more market share in Ireland in all those areas which is good in itself.

However, we are also looking to see where we can look at doing more international business in particular in Europe maybe post Brexit or indeed depending on how things shake out in the UK there could be opportunities to do more business in the UK. There could be opportunities also maybe to partner with other institutions that are looking to deal with someone who has the fully Brexit approved platform to transact in Europe. There are obviously a lot of US companies and institutions looking at Ireland now as a hub or base rather than the UK.  

Q12. Would you be looking to work more with companies in Europe in the future?

We definitely are. We have done deals in Europe before. Recently this year we did a deal in Europe with one of our main clients, ATA Engineering which is a hugely successful Cavan based engineering company. We worked with them on an acquisition of a German company. Through collaboration with both the international network that Investec has and then some other partnership relationships that we have in Europe, we are looking to use that international network to generate opportunities, be it in Europe or indeed as we’ve successfully done that using the Investec network in terms of finding opportunities with South African businesses. We have had two substantial deals here in Ireland with South African businesses, the first was Spar South Africa who bought BWG Group which is the Spar franchise owner here in Ireland and then Bidvest bought Noonan Services. So that’s part of not just looking at the set of opportunities that are here within the Irish economy but looking further afield and using international networks to see where opportunities for either those companies to buy and invest into Ireland or vice versa for we can facilitate our clients in doing deals internationally.

Q13. What does the Trinity Business Alumni involve?

The TBA is first and foremost a network for graduates of Trinity who are involved in business, they don’t have to be a business graduate like you and I, but any graduate of Trinity involved in business. The idea of the network, as with most networks, is that it can have both a business and social purpose. You can use that network for your career, for your business, for finding a financial partner and or for finding other entirely new business opportunities. It also does afford a social dimension to it in terms of keeping in touch with people that you were either in college with or developing other relationships. So, there is that network side of it but I think the other interesting aspects of it are for those of us who have warm memories of our time in Trinity, it’s a way of remaining connected with Trinity.

In this regard, I think an increasingly interesting area is the opportunities for continuing education. For people who left Trinity like me in the early 1980s it’s a bit ridiculous that was the last point of contact with Trinity from an education point of view. Now the business school has a tremendous range of executive education modules. I know one of the things that Dean of the Trinity Business School, Andrew Burke is keen to do is facilitate members of the TBA being able to access those modules. That doesn’t mean going into an MBA for a year or two years, it could be much shorter courses and just increase the relevance of Trinity from a continuous education point of view.

Q14. What does your role of the President of the Trinity Business Alumni involve?

The role of the President is to help promote and make a number of these previously mentioned things happen. The main role I believe is to try and increase the relevance of TBA through the series of events and activities that we run. We do this to make sure that we remain relevant to the network of business graduates and look to foster that network as best we can. Throughout the year we look to run a series of what we consider to be interesting events such dinners or master classes. We have a master class coming up in November on artificial intelligence that one of our corporate partners Deloitte have arranged. Alongside that we also look to support the student activities in the college if they are business related such as Foresight Business Group, the SMF and sponsoring the business student of the year. Through that we’re hoping to get the next wave of business graduates signing up to become members of the TBA.

Q15. How did you become the President of this group?

I was involved with the TBA about 15 years ago where I was the treasurer on the committee for a good period of years. After that I stepped back from a direct committee involvement. Both NCB and Investec have been corporate sponsors so there has been an ongoing involvement at that level. I was privileged that the committee through that involvement over the years asked if I would be open to take up the presidency which I was delighted to do.

Q16. You have changed companies on multiple occasions and have progressed your career whilst doing so, what advice would you have for young people entering the professional world that are looking to make the most of their careers?

Yes, I have had a number of career changes along the way, less as I’ve gotten older with the last seven years here now with Investec and at least the same with NCB. Before that I was certainly open to a degree of career exploration, of not feeling tied to a straight-line career. I was looking to explore different aspects in terms of either working in professional services, working in a startup, being involved in an Irish technology company, being involved in a company that listed on NASDAQ. I suppose it was a sense of willing to explore as I said and look at new challenges and opportunities. Some of these I would have to say worked out great and others quite frankly didn’t. But when you’re young and have both equal amounts of ambition and resilience I think the one thing I’d say is just don’t be afraid to pursue those opportunities and be prepared to take a certain risk and if it doesn’t work out you can dust yourself down and find another opportunity. I think that’s a great way of accumulating experience and ultimately develop your career. It’s about building that experience and learning and also developing that resilience along the way which is a great attribute to have.

Q17. What was it that made you want to go into corporate finance? Did you always have an interest in it?

When I was in Trinity doing Bess (ESS) I liked finance and corporate finance and I certainly had an interest in accounting for my three and a half years studying to be an accountant. I had a fantastic time at Coopers and Lybrand or PwC as it is now but I quickly realised that I didn’t want to be involved with auditing and around that time there was the emergence of more public company activity in Ireland in the mid-1980s. I was very attracted to the profile that Dermot Desmond built up in establishing NCB. I wrote a letter to Dermot saying that I’d love to go work for NCB. I was then fortunate enough to get an interview and a job in NCB Corporate Finance, so yes it was always an area that I wanted to get into. As I said my career has moved around a little bit and if you go back to NCB my career spans over thirty years. Of that time frame I spent about twenty four years in corporate finance and the other years have been in business. I think the effects of having had spent time in the business side of it, in both a startup and in a public company which are two different extremes, is that it does give you slightly better empathy as an advisor. You understand what it’s like to be at the sharp end of raising money or doing deals and pressures that that involves. So yes, it was right from the get-go an area that I wanted to get into corporate finance and I’m delighted that I did.

Q18. Do you see this industry as an attractive industry to work in right now, especially for students leaving college?

Yes, I think it is. It doesn’t have to be necessarily a career long vocation. I have seen over the years that we’ve attracted a lot of wonderful talent into the business and a good number of those individuals have worked for us for years and obtained some great experience working on a wide variety of transactions, exposed to a wide variety of sectors, different people, different personalities and they then have leveraged that to move into industry. Quite a number of them have gone into corporate development roles where they act as the internal M&A advisor with a large company and others have gone into the world of private equity which is an increasingly big area of opportunity in Ireland. By all means it can be a great career as I’ve enjoyed or it can be the springboard to do a number of other roles in business or financial services.

Q19. Are there graduate or internship opportunities at the Investec offices here in Dublin at the moment?

We have for the last five years taken on into our corporate finance team at least one if not two graduates each year and we tend to do that in six month cycles. We have been delighted with the talent that’s in the market and I’m glad to say that our most recent hire has come from Trinity, but we are broad church, and we have recruited graduates from UCD, UCC and Queens as well. We ourselves have got better in terms of being able to best assimilate graduates into the team. Graduate talent can be great but equally raw so we just have to find the best way to upskill new recruits and that’s generally best done through on the job mentoring by more senior members of the team. 

Q20. Are there things that you now know that you wish you knew when you were younger/ in college? What would you go back and tell yourself?

Opportunities come with the possibility of risk and reward so don’t get overly seduced with the potential of massive rewards but equally don’t be afraid of the downside of risks that go with it. In looking at those situations I think it’s useful to have some form of mentor, an experienced businessperson that you can turn to and say “This is how I’m looking at this opportunity, what do you think”. To  have someone that you have a trustworthy relationship is very valuable, whether it’s a family friend, relative, someone you’ve got to know in business, in college or through the TBA. That way you have a reliable sounding board when you’re faced with a situation and you don’t have all the answers.

Q21. What societies were you involved in at trinity during your time there?

Apart from the rugby club I was involved with DUBES for a while (Dublin University Business and Economics Society). Back then the societies weren’t as developed or evolved as they are now. DUBES were good in terms of organising a number of business breakfasts but I think the good thing now is that there’s a lot more involved student societies such as the SMF, Foresight and the initiative that has been taken in establishing the Trinity Business Review which is great.

Q22. Do you think being involved in societies in college is important in terms of gaining relevant experience before entering the workplace?

The more practice you get at being involved in anything that just takes you out of your comfort zone and forces you to go into a room to network with other people is a really good thing. No matter how young or old you are, there’s just are countless times you’re going to have to do that. Developing skills and just being comfortable in those environments and understanding how best to conduct yourself from an interpersonal point of view are the habits you want to learn early as it will be really worthwhile.  

Q23. What have you learned during your career about managing people and what advice would you give to students looking to become managers themselves in the future?

For anyone who assumes that responsibility there’s a lot of learning that is best done on the job. I think an important thing is not to pretend to be someone that you’re not. It is important to be open and authentic with people. Nothing beats developing the ability of being able to be part of a team and not being afraid to take on more responsibility. In terms of managing people I would recommend involving them in the whole process and giving them ownership of what that process is, what the objectives are, as this makes it easier to manage people. If you sit down and look to keep it all to yourself and then try to dictate and tell people “This is how it’s going to be done”, that doesn’t generally lead to very good outcomes. I think for students getting exposure to teamwork is very important, be that within Societies or where you are working on projects in college. It’s also great if you can assume a leadership role to get that added exposure and learning so as to become comfortable in assuming more responsibility. We are in a world where you deal with a lot of different personalities and there’s no such thing as the secret sauce but it is hard to beat practical experience.

Q24. Is there anything that stands out for you in an interviewee?

Just doing an internship in a firm so that you can put a certain brand name on your CV isn’t in my view the best use of someone’s time. For example, amongst a number of candidates we were recently reviewing was a candidate who stood out to me because they were running their own business through college. It was a proper business with real customers and some heavy service demands to make sure that the business performed. He kept that business going and when he wasn’t around he outsourced it to his friends to ensure it kept going. The point here is that such a real world experience is very important when it comes to interviewing for a job because being able to show to your perspective employer that you have good interpersonal skills, can work in a team, that you could deal with potentially difficult situations, that you’re used to negotiating over the price of things as opposed to sitting in a large professional services firm doing an internship where you may get some learning but it may not really challenge you in the ways you should be. So, I think it’s looking for those type of real world opportunities and then at an interview being able to talk about in a manner that brings your personality to life.

Q25. Is there something that you’re most proud of during your career?

I think it’s certainly important that we all have a degree of humility so equally well I can remember lots of things that I wish hadn’t happened! I wouldn’t look to call out any single deal but one thing I am proud of is how we in NCB built up a superb corporate finance business and how we have successfully transitioned that franchise into Investec and continue today to be highly relevant as one of the leading players in corporate finance in Ireland. I think that is certainly is something that I’m proud of. I am equally proud of the people have been part of that journey along the way. It is certainly fulfilling when you see how their careers have developed and prospered, in some cases they have gone on to become clients of ours and that is particularly gratifying.

Q26. How do you deal with failures?

It’s can be a feature within the world of corporate finance where you’re not always going to win every mandate! Then when it comes to deals themselves, sometimes the best advice you can give to a client is to say “maintain your discipline and don’t chase the deal”. You have to tell them not to do something even if it means we’ll be disappointed that the deal hasn’t happened. The important thing in any of this is looking to do that post match analysis. You need to analyse what happened, how did it happen, what more could we have done to influence the outcome and some cases you’ll say to yourself that we did what we could. Then in others you might say we could have done more and should have done more. You need to learn from these situations and it is as simple as that. It’s something that we do here. That post match analysis is very important.

These 10 Companies Control Almost Everything we Consume

It’s a scary thought isn’t it. All of our favourite brands owned and controlled by no more than 10 individual companies. How is it possible for such a small number of companies to be associated with every single major food and drink brand that we have ever come across and who are they? Some of them you will most likely recognise and some maybe not. 6 of these companies are American, 1 is Swiss, 1 is British, 1 is French and there is also a British-Dutch company.

Oxfam released the information as a way of spreading awareness about the huge concentration of market power in the industry so that people would be aware of who owns what they are buying, ultimately in an effort to push these companies to make positive changes. Let’s take a look at them:

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  1. Mondelez
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Mondelez made about $25.9 billion in snacks in 2017. They own all of Cadbury (which incorporates a huge number of chocolate bars such as Crunchies, Freddos and Twirls) as well as other consumer favourites Oreo, Milka and Toblerone. They also own Sour Patch Kids and Kenco.

2.Unilever

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Another one of the well known companies that make up the 10 we will discuss. Unilever owns a vast wide-ranging catalog of brands including Lyons, Knorr and Hellmans. They are also the single biggest ice cream producer in the world with Magnum, Cornetto and Ben ‘n Jerrys under their belt. Unilever accumulated $51 billion in revenue in 2018.

3. Coca Cola

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Next on the list is soft drink giant Coca Cola. Coming in at a revenue in 2017 of 35.41 billion, the company is in charge of Coke, Sprite and Fanta. It is not just soft drinks that they own however as they also control Smart Water, Innocent Smoothies and Honest Tea.

4. Nestlé

The Swiss company made a staggering $90.8 billion revenue in 2017. These guys produce a lot of the chocolate we consume that Mondelez doesn’t under Cadbury. This includes KitKat, Smarties, Rolos and Aeros. They also own Nescafe of course but one that you mightn’t have been aware of is Polo mints being owned by Nestlé.

5. PepsiCo

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As far as drinks go PepsiCo owns Pepsi, Gatorade and Tropicana fruit juices. Interestingly they also own and market the Starbucks drinks available outside of Starbucks stores. Surprisingly Walkers is owned by PepsiCo, meaning that they control the production of Walkers crisps, Doritos and Cheetos. They recorded revenue of $63.53 billion in 2017

6. General Mills

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$15.62 billion is how much this company managed to make in 2017. They did this through their companies that include Green Giant, Old El Paso and Nature Valley. Not to mention the fact that they own 25 different cereal brands, one of which is Cheerios. Haagen-Dazs is another company owned by General Mills and they also own Parker Bros., the makers of Monopoly.

7. Kellogs

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Kellogs made $12.92 billion revenue in 2017, smaller compared to the rest of the companies in this domain but certainly not something to be scoffed at. This company produces Kellogs alongside over 30 other different cereals. Pringles, Nutri-Grain and Pop-Tarts are produced by Kellogs as well.

8. Associated British Foods

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The only solely British company in this group received revenue of roughly $19 billion in 2018. Probably owning some of the lesser known brands in the group, the company is in charge of brands like Twinings, Kingsmill and Ryvita Biscuits. They are however responsible for the export of massive American brands such as Tabasco hot sauce and Skippy peanut butter.

9. Mars

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Apart from the obvious, Mars owns pretty much any chocolate that isn’t Cadburys or Nestlé. Chocolate such as M&M’s, Galaxy and Snickers. What’s less obvious is their ownership of Wrigleys, which produces a plethora of chewing gum brands like Extra, Hubba Bubba and Orbit. Wrigleys also makes Skittles and Starbursts. The brands that few people would know are owned by Mars include Uncle Ben’s and Dolmio. $35 billion is how much revenue Mars made in 2017.

10. Danone

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In 2017, Danone received roughly $27.5 billion in revenue. Bottled water brands Evian and Volvic as well as yoghurts Activia and Actimel are owned by Danone. They also sell medical nutrition products such as Cow and Gate.

So there you have it. These are the 10 companies and the brands that they own. I’m sure you’ve heard of most if not all of these companies. However, it is still a little overwhelming to see just how many brands they own between them. Hopefully you got some interesting insight into who actually owns what brands and if you’re anyway similar to me, you will find it difficult to eat your Uncle Ben’s microwave rice knowing that it is made by the same company as your beloved M&M’s.

Boojum: Hungry for Growth

Boojum. It’s everyone’s favourite burrito joint, right? Although we are all aware of the divide in opinion about the best place to grab a burrito, one must admit that Boojum stores just seem to keep on popping up out of nowhere. That just can’t be a coincidence. In the next few paragraphs or so we will delve into how exactly the company came to be where it is today (Undoubtedly the best burrito place around), what’s been happening for them recently and where it is they aspire to take their Mexican wholesomeness in the years to come.

Burritos in Belfast:

            Boojum was established in 2007 by John and Karen Blisard when they opened a burrito bar called Boojum in Belfast. The idea of having a burrito bar was unusual at the time in Ireland but the couple refused to listen to outside criticism and skepticism and continued to run their burrito place despite the boldness of the move. It took €200,000 to get the first Boojum restaurant up and running and this was the only Boojum around for 3 years until the Blisard’s opened their second restaurant in Dublin in March 2010 followed by another in Belfast City Centre later on that year.

The Belfast couple experienced continued growth and in 2013 opened another restaurant in Galway and their fifth one on Kevin Street a year later. Their expansion plan was simple, to find good locations with affordable rent. It is also interesting to note the couples reluctancy to franchise their business, something that they admit was due to their research into their highly successful US counterpart “Chipotle” and the fact that they did not franchise their business.

Buying Boojum:

The initial success of Boojum lead to it being bought in 2015. The burrito chain was taken over by a partnership between Renatus Capital Partners and former Ulster rugby player Andrew Maxwell. Renatus is a private equity company that is backed by wealthy individuals and this was the first deal for them since their establishment, taking a 50% stake of the company. The other half goes to Andrew Maxwell along with his brother David, who previously ran a number of restaurants in the US. The company was bought for over €3 million.

In the last 4 years Boojum has gone from 5 to 18 stores and now spans from 5 restaurants in Belfast and 9 in Dublin to locations in Galway, Cork, Limerick and even just last month opening its newest restaurant in Derry. The now Managing Director David Maxwell states that targeting the brand at a core market of young professionals and students aged 18-40, with the disposable income and desire to eat out regularly in the evening but also requiring speedy delivery at lunchtime has been key to growing the Mexican food chain. The company has also increased its workforce from 125 to just under 600 employees.

The company has not only been opening up new stores but has been exploring other possible ways to maximise its growth. In 2016 Boojum teamed up with Deliveroo so that people could order their well needed burrito fix straight to their door. Not only this but they launched their “Boojmobile” to serve college campuses and festivals when burritos are typically that bit harder to access. These developments by Boojum really showcase their understanding of their target market and their ability to exploit the opportunities available to them.

In their financial year 2017-2018 (year ended 23rd April last) Boojum recorded revenue of €18.5 million, a growth of more than 50% from their previous year. They did however record pre-tax losses of just over €650,000. This was due to exceptional costs such as store closures during the “Beast from the East” and delayed store openings. The directors state that “overall, it proved to be a very positive transitional year for Boojum. By the end of the period, the group had a strong foothold in Ireland, new stores were established and management was well positioned to explore new opportunities to drive the business forward”. Boojum has evidently put itself into a very favorable position, one as aforementioned will grant them access to expand on their recent prosperity.

British Burritos:

             Brexit has admittedly been a concern for the company considering its cross-border presence says Maxwell. They are tasked with trading and purchasing in multiple currencies and so they must manage the risks associated with this. Maxwell also states that looking forward they are trying to understand what the impact of a hard/soft Brexit might be on their supply chain and logistics. Despite all this there have been rumours of Boojum targeting Britain in the years to come. Although it is too early to really know whether this will happen or not it would not come as a surprise. I mean where else can you go when you’ve already established yourself so strongly in the Irish market and you’re still hungry for growth.

Why Companies Should Play More and Pay Less

“All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy”, right? It’s safe to say that employers tend to think so. With the modern day and all of its distractions has come the increasing importance of switching off from work and taking the time to relax. The phrase “work-life balance” has become a buzz word known to every person who has every entered the workplace and rightfully so. Work-life balance has become the most important aspect of a company people look at
when applying for jobs. Don’t believe me? A survey done in September of 2018 revealed that 63% of Irish job-hunters found work-life balance to be important when searching for a job. This placed it at the top of the list of priorities, ahead of “the ability to have nice things” which only 42% of job hunters found to be important.Why Work-Life Balance?Naturally we begin to wonder what has led us to the point where people value the ability to wind down over earning lots of money. From looking back at the previous generations of “Baby Boomers” and “Generation X” we notice how these generations didn’t have the luxury of demanding a work-life balance. Work was oftentimes scarce and so any work was good work as long as it provided an adequate income. As time has passed and economies and technologies have developed, endless opportunities have been bestowed upon “Millennials” in such a way that they know nothing else but being able to choose the best option possible. Now Millennials aren’t the only generation in the workforce, but they are in the overwhelming majority when it comes to the number of people who are seeking employment right now. As well as this it
is estimated that by 2025, 75% of the workforce will be comprised of Millennials.So why is it that work-life balance has become the most sought after feature of a job given that there are many benefits that a company can offer potential employees other than the ability to balance their lives. As it turns out there are quite a few reasons actually:

  • Fewer health problems- being overworked, tired and stressedleads to higher risks of mental health problems, flus and heart-related problems.
  • Higher productivity- employees who are able to achieve a work- life balance successfully will have the ability to be more engaged at work, leading to higher levels of productivity.
  • Decreased likelihood of burning out- employees that “leave workat work” are much less likely to burnout.
  • A healthy lifestyle- employees can pursue goals outside of work. such as travel, hobbies or raising a family without work interfering
  • Increased levels of happiness- working for an employer that gives you the freedom to live and enjoy your life outside of work really benefits how we feel on a day-to-day basis

These reasons all work massively in favour of the employee when we take into account their life as a whole, which is what really matters at the end of the day. As the saying goes “Money can’t buy the decreased likelihood of burning out”, or something like that. When we consider the above factors it is no wonder that work-life has become increasingly important in recent years and why employees value this more than that big pay cheque or fancy company car. Of course this isn’t to say that these things aren’t important to people. Not only is a good work-life balance important to employees but its benefits for employers can also be seen.

As we know employees will be more productive if they are happy at work and this will generate more profit for companies. Not only this but a company that strives to achieve this balance for its employees will have much more favourable employee retention and so reduce its costs. It has been reported that replacing an employee costs on average around £30,000 and it takes up to 28 weeks to get them up to speed. Not exactly what a company wants to deal with.

How is it being promoted?

Unfortunately for some employers they have misconstrued what is meant by a work-life balance and have truly promoted “play” in their “Millennial-friendly” workplaces by adding such features like bean bags and tables tennis tables. Now these perks are all well and good and some of the best companies to work for such as Facebook and Google employ these within their offices (along with effective techniques which we will discuss later) but employees don’t really tend to care for such things.

Many of you may think that giving your employees a healthy work-life balance is as simple as letting them work 9-5 and not giving them too much work to do. However, in today’s demanding world such an ideal job is just not possible, especially not for companies who want to be the best at what they do. So what are companies doing that is actually effective?

  • Encourage time off- offering and enforcing the usage of holidays will allow employees to shut off and take a break from work.
  • Implement short breaks throughout the day- allowing employees to go for a walk, grab a coffee or socialise for a few minutes really helps employees keep their concentration when they are working.
  • Offer a flexible working environment- flexible work hours, working from home and personal time off give employees the freedom to work around their busy lives and live their desired lifestyle.
  • Promote a positive culture- employers can promote a healthy lifestyle within the workplace and offer services such as meditation, sports teams and even social events.

Salesforce is a prime example of a company that has really adopted the idea of promoting a great work-life balance for its employees. Currently ranked 2 and in the “Fortune 100 Best Companies to Work For 2019”, it offers its employees a wellness reimbursement for engaging in healthy activities (getting paid to look after yourself!), the freedom to finish work at a reasonable hour every day and giving them huge flexibility in terms of when and where they can work. Companies should take a page out of Salesforces’ book as they have become such a strong firm in recent years and perhaps all down to their ability to keep their employees happy in this way.

Where to next?

Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos stated just last year that he doesn’t believe in the term “work-life balance” as it is “debilitating”. He says such a term implies a strict trade-off between the two and so employees should instead adopt a term he has pronounced “work-life harmony”. The wealthiest person in the world suggests that we should strive for a holistic relationship between work and life where it is not a balance between them but instead a circle where one feeds into the other. In reality there is little difference in the practical application between “work-life balance” and “work-life harmony” yet the mind-set of the multi-billionaire suggests a subtle difference in how we can structure our approach to applying the concept in our own lives and it has certainly seemed to work for him anyway.

Perhaps in the years to come employers will begin to use this term instead and look at truly allowing their employees to have full control of the healthy and happy lifestyles that they envision for themselves.

​Yet we have to consider the other side of the coin. Will it really be practical for companies to give employees as much autonomy and flexibility as they desire? At what point will it become too much and stop benefiting the profitability of a company? Although this will be very hard to predict, we can rest easy knowing that it is in the interest of both employees and companies to continue to work together to promote the right work-life balance within organisations so that they can both reach their respective goals of happiness and profit.

Revolut: Banking Built For Millennials

Sean Kelly

revolut_1

Let’s face it, if you don’t have it now then what are you waiting for?
Revolut has taken Ireland and the UK by storm the last couple of years, for those of you who are unfamiliar with the mobile-based current account let me fill you in.

Revolut is just like your normal banking app on your phone, except that it actually works. It was launched in July of 2015 by its two co-founders, Vlad Yatsenko (CTO) and Nikolay Storonsky (CEO). The pair had previously spent 10 years in the investment banking industry where they experienced first-hand the astronomical fees applied to foreign exchange
transactions. Their exposure to these fees led to the light bulb moment that in 2018 was
valued at $1.7 billion.

The mobile app offers a range of features and all for free if you stay with the standard
subscription. The customer is straight away met with the simplicity and convenience that
sets it apart from its competitors as opening an account takes only a few minutes and can
be set up directly from your phone.

Once you’re set up you can manage your money through instant payment notifications and vaults that allow for the putting away and saving of money. If your friends are on Revolut you can send and request money from them instantly or even split a bill. Spending money abroad becomes a whole lot easier as you canuse your card abroad at the interbank exchange rate and take out money from ATM’s in the local currency with no withdrawal fee (up to a certain limit).
Not to mention you can buy cryptocurrencies and do some casual checking of the exchange rates (This article is not sponsored by Revolut).

Revolut has described itself as a “World Beyond Banking”. The benefits of using Revolut are endless and its slick app design and efficient processes make it
every millennials dream.

At the start of 2018 the fintech company reached a million users, 2 and a half years after it
was first established. In April of 2018 the company raised $250 million from a funding round
that was led by DST Global, a company that was early investors in Facebook and Spotify. The
funding round also included high profile venture capital firms such as Index Ventures and
Ribbit Capital. This funding round led to Revoluts’ $1.7 billion valuation which subsequently made it at the time “Europe’s Fastest Growing Unicorn”, which is by all means a highly
impressive feat.

The company now has over 3,000,000 users (200,000 of which are in Ireland) and is supported in all countries within the European Economic Area (EEA), along with Switzerland and also Australia. It recently announced its Metal subscription plan, which is essentially its Premium plan on steroids. For a cost of €8 a month users can enjoy a premium subscription where they can avail of upgrades such as a higher limit on feeless ATM withdrawals abroad, global medical insurance and discounted device insurance. The Metal subscription allows the user to earn 1% cashback on card payments, free concierge and access to airport lounges, coming in at €14 a month. The introduction of the Metal plan is testament to the constant updates that Revolut provides its customers. It is one of many examples of the company continuously progressing. Another such example is the previously mentioned airport lounges feature. This allows Metal users to get access to over 1000 airport lounges worldwide. Users simply book a pass, present it and you’re waiting for your flight in style.

Perhaps the biggest piece of news surrounding Revolut recently is the securing of a European banking licence. With this the fintech firm plans to start accepting deposits, offering overdrafts and also personal and business loans that are comparable if not better than traditional high street lenders. This really sets the way for the company to establish itself as a fully functioning bank.

​What I find most interesting and admirable about the company is its plans for the future.
With its banking licence secured, the company has focused its efforts on progressing its
commission-free stock trading along with its plan of launching its five new international
markets. CEO Nikolay Storonsky stated that they truly are on their way to becoming the
“Amazon of banking” as he intends to have 100 million people using his platform within the
next 5 years.
For those interested I’d highly recommend following Revolut’s blog where they consistently
post news and updates surrounding their business. You can keep up to date first hand with
the developments in this ever evolving fintech and also its questionable use of emojis on
social media!

Irish Corporation Tax: How It really works

Sean Kelly

We all know about Irelands’ low corporation tax. It is one of the biggest, if not the biggest factor that attracts foreign direct investment into Ireland. Being an English speaking, highly-educated island on the American side of Europe is already enough to be considered the ideal place to locate a European HQ for many multinational companies. It would seem that our low tax rate of 12.5% on the profits of a company is the icing on the cake for all the sweet toothed global firms. Let’s look at just how many of the worlds’ top companies actually are located in Ireland.

This list of companies includes old favourites such as Apple and Microsoft but also some of the more recent companies like Google and Facebook. For a country with a population of roughly 5 million people this is highly impressive and just goes to show how attractive our rate of corporation tax really is. To put our low corporation tax rate into perspective we can compare it to the rates of other countries within the EU. Ireland has the joint 3rd lowest rate in the EU with Cyprus, following only Hungary and Bulgaria (countries which are all on the far side of Europe and are less likely to attract American companies).
As I’m sure many of you are aware, we can’t simply put multinationals and Irelands’ corporation tax in the same sentence anymore without thoughts coming to mind of the Apple tax case that was ruled upon in 2016. This is the most prominent case that demonstrates that multinationals in Ireland do not necessarily pay the rate that is advertised for all companies (the statutory rate).
In 2016 it was ruled by the EU Commission that Ireland had given the multinational tech giant illegal state aid amounting to a staggering amount of €13 billion in the previous decade. In 2003 Apple paid an effective tax rate of 1% on its’ European profits recorded by its Irish subsidiaries and this had fallen to a rate of 0.005% in 2014. In the second half of last year €14.3 billion (including EU interest) was collected by Ireland from Apple and is now being held in escrow (a financial agreement where a third party holds funds for two parties involved in a transaction) until the Department of Finances’ appeal of the decision is complete.
This effective tax rate paid by Apple is not unusual for multinationals in Ireland however. It was found through a report by PwC that in 2015 in Ireland, 13 of the top 100 companies with the highest taxable income had an effective rate of less than 1% in 2015. Among this cohort, eight had an effective tax rate of 0% on qualifying income. It is important to note that this official report also recorded an estimated effective rate of 12.4%, which is obviously just below our statutory rate of 12.5%, showing little variation between what is advertised and what is paid overall in the country from all firms.
So how and why is it possible for the largest multinationals to pay such low amounts you may ask? As to the how, well this reflects the use of significant tax credits and reliefs, such as double taxation (when tax is levied by two or more jurisdictions on the same income/asset or financial transaction) relief and also research and development tax credits. Companies have been and are still using in particular tax avoidance arrangements provided by the Irish government such as “Double Irish” and “Single Malt” (10/10 for creativity on the names) which basically involve exploiting double taxation agreements Ireland has with other countries. Ireland has received much criticism on how it taxes (or lack thereof) multinationals in this way.
In the case of Apple, they were attributing billions of dollars of profits each year to three Irish subsidiaries that declared “tax residency” nowhere in the world, something which other firms hadn’t been doing. This was one step too far for the EU commission and so they made the subsequent ruling of the €13 billion payment to Ireland.
And why does Ireland allow this to happen? Simple. Having these multinationals located here is nothing but beneficial for Ireland. Our economy benefits, jobs are created and revenue is generated from the tax that is collected. Not to mention that it makes the country look great as well. If the government heavily enforced the 12.5% corporation tax rate on multinationals then they wouldn’t locate here and that to the Irish government would be more costly than taxing them the statutory rate.
So I suppose you could say the government are between a rock and a hard place, just involving billions of euros.