Photo: Andres Poveda
Leading Irish business figures came together at the Aviva stadium, Dublin, on October 6th for The Business Show 2022. The in-person event was themed Rethinking Business and featured a number of thought-provoking speakers and provided a chance for business people to network and make connections.
As the world was rocked by the COVID-19 Pandemic, the business community was disrupted. Ireland is emerging from that challenging period to be faced with another set of hurdles to jump. The Russian war in Ukraine has destabalised the world’s economy at a time when climate action should be at the top of every company’s agenda. Against this backdrop of uncertainty, luminary business figures in Ireland convened in the Aviva stadium to discuss what’s to come for the economy and how they can find solutions to the myriad challenges we face.
The themes of this year’s event inlcuded Sustainability/ESG, Business Transformation, Digital Evolution, The Future of Work, Cybersecurity, Diversity, Equality & Inclusion, International Expansion and Wellness.
Sarah Freeman, Editor, Business Finance Magazine welcomed attendees to the President’s suite located in the belly of the Aviva. “Today, you’ll hear from a number of renowned and recognisable faces in the Irish business and tech communities and will take away some valuable insights you can implement in your own working lives and businesses,” she said in her opening address.
Launched in May 2020 at the very height of lockdown restrictions, TBS has enjoyed success as a series of engagements across digital platforms, which twice culminated in Ireland’s largest virtual summit. The Business Show 2022 was the third iteration of the event and marked the first in-person programme in the event’s history.
Mark Cassidy, Deputy Governor, Central Bank of Ireland details the challenges we face heading into 2023
Mr. Cassidy took the stage shortly after the announcement of the Central bank of Ireland’s Quarterly Bulletin No.4 2022. He referenced the documentation to communicate the shifting economic landscape and how the immediate future may look.
“Ireland has faced two successive shocks”, he said early in his talk, referencing the COVID Pandemic and the Russian war in Ukraine. The deputy governor made reference to the positive response to the pandemic and the economy’s bounce back:
“The domestic economy recovered more rapidly than most economists could have predicted”.
He elaborated on the indications of the recovery saying, “The best evidence of the rebound of the economy was the remarkable recovery of the labour market. Employment levels have reached a new pique of 2.6 million people”.
However he also outlined how the situation in Ukraine has presented a new set of issues:
“The Russian war in Ukraine has very clearly exacerbated global inflation”.
“The economy faces a challenging period in the face of on-going high inflation and uncertainty. Inflation in Ireland was running at 8.6% in September,” he continued and explained the implications of this fact for the business community. “Businesses are facing dual wages of rising wage and rising non-labour costs”.
He outlined how the Central Bank of Ireland are forecasting a “sharp slowdown in economic activity” and pointed out that “there is some indicative evidence to suggest insolvency levels will rise”.
He also offered a lighter takeaway from the bulletin noting that they “do expect positive growth momentum to continue during next year”.
Anne Sheehan, General Manager, Microsoft Ireland discusses the importance of tech and up-skilling
Anne Sheehan joined journalist Paul Hearns for a fireside chat about digital perseverance. “Up-skilling and how we find new workforce are super important”, she said. “There isn’t a business leader here in the room who isn’t concerned about skills and in particular digital skills”.
Mr. Hearns broached her on the issues presented by Mark Cassidy to which Anne outlined the importance of digital perseverance. “We just have to weather this through and that’s what digital perseverance is”, the general manager said. “We have to somehow figure out the challenges that are facing us. War, inflation, labour shortages”.
The Microsoft leader highlighted the importance of digital skills for business leaders and managers:
“We really have to empower leaders. We have to enable leaders and mangers with the right digital tools, the tech and the right skills”, she said.
“People want to come into the office to build bonds, to form teams, to reconnect with the purpose of their company”, stated Ms. Sheehan about the importance of company culture. “Employees don’t want to come into the office to hear about the goals. That gives an energy when employees come in”.
Also on the agenda was the climate change challenge facing business like Microsoft who are responsible for the usage of huge amounts of energy and water. “Any business leaders who speak to you now when you talk about their top three challenges, sustainability is right up there”.
“We are really sincere in really going after these goals” she said about Microsoft’s climate change goals. This was in reference to their plans to eliminate the company’s carbon output from its inception (1975) and achieve carbon negativity by 2030.
Danny McCoy, CEO, Ibec and Dermot O’Leary, Chief Economist, Goodbody Stockbrokers and the future outlook of ireland
Morwenna Coniam, Dublin Bureau Chief at Bloomberg News moderated a discussion between Danny McCoy and Dermot O’Leary. There was a charming camaraderie between the pair epitomised by their back-and-forth regarding Ireland as a destination for investors.
“The outlook of investors towards Ireland is that Ireland is one of the better prospects in this region”, said Mr. O’Leary “We’re considered the best within the Euro area at least”.
“The brightest of the dunce class” Danny McCoy joked in reply.
The pair also explored how far forward Ireland has come in such a short space of time and the dangers of getting too big too quick.
“When I think about 2022 what we would’ve been talking with investors, we would’ve been talking about that we were growing to fast and that the capacity side, the supply side couldn’t keep up”, said Mr. O’Leary. M. McCoy delved the affects of this saying: “We’re starting to see the fallout of over-valued companies and undervalued employees, to be quite blunt about it”.
The topic of a Sinn Féín government was brought into the discussion to which both expressed their apprehension.
“My biggest fear of a Sinn Féin government is if their approach to a border poll is too hasty”, said Mr. McCoy. Mr. O’Leary explored how potential investors are concerned about the prospect.
“Sinn Féin comes up in every meeting with investors that I have. It’s the uncertainty that poses problems”.
Eoin Hinchy, CEO & Co-Founder, Tines and Shane Curran, CEO & Founder, Evervault on the next gen of cyber solutions
“A common misconception is ‘we’re a small Irish company no one’s going to attack us.’ That’s not true”, said Eoin Hinchy early in the discussion.
“Irish company’s don’t think about cyber-security as much”, agreed Shane Curran and went on to explain why that may be in the talk about cyber security.
“Irish starters operate on the basis that they may get there, they may not, they’ll figure it out when it happens”, citing a lack of confidence in Irish businesses from the offset that stops Irish companies from creating robust cyber security, which leads to them getting targeted.
Cian Ó Maidín, Founder & President, NearForm on the success of the Irish company
Cian Ó Maidín was joined onstage by Edmund Heaphy, Digital Strategies, RTÉ Investigates.
“I’m known as the Steve Jobs of Tramore” Cian joked early in his talk here he advocated for remote working. The main benefit for remote work that Cian outlined was the increased autonomy over lifestyle.
“The best years of life, when you’re moving up in your career, are probably spent most of the time picking up and dropping kids”, he said.
“The benefit to people who want that kind of lifestyle is huge”, he stated with regards remote working.
Matt George, Director: Enterprise Transformation EMEA, Equinix, and Professor Martin Curley, Director: Digital Transformation & Open Innovation, HSE talk about business innovation
Matt George noted the importance of digital infrastructure and the speed at which it is advancing.
“If you want to compete in the digital world you need a digital infrastructure”, he said.
“The pace of transformation is continuous, it’s not going to slow down”, he added. “Technology is advancing faster than people can cope with it”.
Professor Martin Curley conveyed the problems facing the health sector in no uncertain terms.
“I’m going to introduce a technical term — Does anyone know what an MFP is? It stands for major f***ing problem”.
“We’ve probably got one of the worst healthcare services in the Northern Hemisphere,” and this is in spite of the fact that “we spend almost the same as Denmark and Austria on healthcare per-head of capita”.
“We have a huge snowplough of issues and we need to take the same urgent response we took with COVID”, he continued but offered a note of optimism during the panel discussion.
“The good news is we can actually fix this”.
Siobhán Sweeney, Global Diversity, Inclusion and Belonging Leader, HubSpot and Sandra Healy, CEO & Founder, Inclusio on healthy workplaces
David Monaghan, Deputy Editor, Business & Finance Magazine moderated a discussion between Siobhán Sweeney and Sandra Healy on how companies can build a workplace where employees’ want to work.
Siobhán Sweeney highlighted how individual actions can make a big difference when it comes to building positive work environments:
“By all of us leading and doing one thing — big or small —that’s how we can create a movement”.
Dr. Aman Kwatra, Consultant Psychologist & Research Associate, Spectrum Life and Dr. Heather McKee, Behaviour Change Specialist discuss the wellness bubble.
Wellness has become a hugely important topic for work forces and executives who recognise the imperative need for healthy workplaces. The acknowledgment of the issue does not solve the problem however and Dr. Heather McKee expressed what must be done.
“We focus too much on the ingredients of change and we neglect the method in the recipe for health”, she added.
“A lot of programmes focus on information over implementation” she continued. “It’s not a knowledge gap, it’s an action gap”.
Dr. Aman Kwatra doubled down on this sentiment and posited that some company’s are misguided in their attempts to create work environments where employees’ wellness is properly catered for.
“If I’m having a really stressful day, but there’s a free yoga class and lunch, it means very little”.
“Without a central meaning as to how these things relate in my life, they don’t have the affect they’re sometimes designed to”, he added.
The road ahead for IT decision makers in Ireland
Michelle Kearns, Head of IT, Boots Ireland, joined Seamus Dunne, MD, Digital Realty, in a fireside on the future of IT.
Business & Finance Awards UCD Smurfit School MBA scholarship recipient Éamon Fennell closes out the day
Former inter-county footballer Éamon Fennell sat down with Sarah Freeman at the end of the event to discuss his experience with the UCD Smurfit Business School MBA Scholarship. One thing he relished upon beginning the course was the challenge it presented him with.
“Between the MSc and being on the MBA journey, the big thing for me is the challenge and the learning that comes from that and the development”, he said. Mr. Fennell also spoke about the importance of learning from mistakes and how business can benefit from being more transparent with slip-ups.
“With business, we nearly try to hide the mistakes”.
“For me, high-performance is being able to have an environment where you can apply learning from mistakes and grow from it”, he added.
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