GRAPEVINE: Dedicated Minister needed to drive eCommerce for Irish SMEs; plus other business news

Lorraine Higgins, CEO of Digital Business Ireland (DBI), says Irish SMEs need a Minister dedicated to support the nation's online export ambitions

GRAPEVINE: Dedicated Minister needed to drive eCommerce for Irish SMEs; plus other business news

Ireland needs a minister with a dedicated eCommerce brief to help build and underpin the nation’s online export ambitions, says Lorraine Higgins, CEO of Digital Business Ireland (DBI).

At present, only 32% of Irish SMEs can take sales orders or process transactions through their website. DBI’s goal is to help retail, hospitality, professional services, property, leisure, travel to agri-businesses boost their online performance.

DBI is a new trade body formed to provide cutting edge insights, training, education, advocacy, policy and compliance advice to all Irish businesses selling or promoting goods and services online across the globe. It will also lobby on behalf of its members.

“Given the huge presence of technology industries in Ireland, and given the ever increasing need to trade in the growing global digital marketplace, we think the country needs a senior ministerial portfolio responsible for this area,” said Lorraine Higgins.

“This is already very important, and it will only become more important to help Irish exporters into the future. This is what we are being told by business owners and by the experts on our advisory council.”

DBI’s advisory council includes: Sarah Carroll, eCommerce consultant; PJ Byrne, Flexi-Fi Europe; Victor Timon, lawyer; Peter Walsh, OpenOut Ltd; Rose O’Donovan, financial services exper; Áine Collins, eFM Ireland and ex-TD; David Campbell, eCommerce expert; Alasdair McDonnell, ex-MP and SDLP leader; Luke Moriarty, Moriarty Group; Eamon Moore, Hikari Data Solutions; Martina Fitzgerald, communications exper; Adam Hankin, Wagestream; Tracy O’Brien, The People Password; and Cathie Farrell, Grant Thornton.

“I used to sit on the board of eCommerce Europe, where we could see the huge opportunities for Irish businesses to become more globally focused,” said Lorraine Higgins. “I could see that the eCommerce space represented a huge opportunity for business, and that there was an important role within that for education and training, as well as lobbying for Government support for the area.

“Our policy committee has also identified that businesses, and particularly SMEs, need greater clarity around data privacy and digital marketing. Online is very data-dependent. Companies need clarity on what they can and can’t do with the data they gather through online sales.”

DBI’s advisory council says Irish businesses have a lot of uncertainty around what they view as onerous and stringent conditions around their use of data. It seems this lack of clarity may be one of the key impediments leading to only 32% to SMEs investing in transactional websites.

DBI is offering members a range of eCommerce seminars, digital courses and strategic research insights. It plans to host tailor-made visits to the premises of eCommerce leaders to learn more about their operations.

Its learning events will feature useful case studies across its target sectors from retail and hospitality to agri-business. For instance, online is the main business channel for clothing company Magee 1866, which exports around 80% of its total output.

Similarly, fellow Donegal-based retail business McElhinneys exports to more than 100 countries worldwide, while also maintaining a strong high street presence. DBI cites many similar models for SMEs to follow across all of its target sectors.

“Small companies can avail of a range of Enterprise Ireland supports to help them develop their sales within the EU and indeed globally,” said Lorraine

Higgins. “There was a time when businesses only sold within a limited radius, but businesses really are no longer defined by their geography.

“People are now commuting longer distances to work, and more and more people on the train, bus and Dart are filling that time with online shopping. SMEs are missing out on huge opportunity in the domestic market, in the EU and the global marketplace.”

A qualified barrister, Lorraine Higgins brings a lot of experience to DBI. As well as being a former director of eCommerce Europe, she was also a consultant with MKC Communications, honorary consul of the Slovak Republic, a trustee with Sightsavers Ireland, and chair of the Emerald Leadership Programme.

All of DBI’s committees have very experienced leaders. The Policy & Government Affairs committee will be headed up by Victor Timon, experienced data and technology lawyer and partner at Lewis Silkin; the Sustainability and CSR committee will be chaired by former AIB, executive, Rose O’Donovan.

Meanwhile, communications expert Martina Fitzgerald will chair the Women in eBusiness committee, experienced HR professional Tracy O’Brien will chair the Talent committee while David Campbell, head of eCommerce at Flexi-Fi Europe, will chair the Digital Marketing committee.

Lorraine Higgins said: “Despite the globalisation of online trade and the move by businesses to various online fora there was a lack of focused representation of the sector’s interest in Ireland. Our function is to ensure our membership is empowered to scale up their online business and assist them to reach their full potential across borders. Everything we will do will have this principle at our core.”

The One Building, home to Stripe, a ‘green building’ success story, says Kenneth Rouse of BNP Paribas Real Estate Ireland.
The One Building, home to Stripe, a ‘green building’ success story, says Kenneth Rouse of BNP Paribas Real Estate Ireland.

Property investors see future in going green, says BNP Paribas MD

Investment in greener buildings is gaining traction, with investors, developers and financial institutions all increasingly aware of the longer term security offered.

Kenneth Rouse, MD and head of Capital Markets at BNP Paribas Real Estate Ireland, says the current age of climate change is prompting a rapid rise in risk factors for real estate investors.

“Lenders and investors are increasingly focused on sustainable finance strategies,” said Mr Rouse. “With the explosion of demand in the green bond market, and over $255bn issued in 2019, it is no surprise real estate lenders are becoming more active in this area.

“Investors are demanding green investments, while financiers are starting to reward owners with competitive financing packages. Financial institutions are progressively integrating ESG (Environmental, Social and Governance) criteria into their due diligence and decision making, as regulators increasingly focus on sustainable finance.”

Mr Rouse cites The One Building, home to Stripe in Dublin, as an example of a successful ‘green’ building investment. It was refurbished in 2016, achieving an annual rent of €2m, and later selling for €49.5m in 2019.

He also said investors and occupiers alike are now more likely to demand action across the vast portions of Ireland’s existing real estate portfolio that don’t meet lean and green criteria.

“The challenges include the accelerating obsolesce of buildings that don’t meet sustainable standards, and which fall short of the carbon neutral protocols that many big corporates have targets in place for,” he said.

“There will be significant capital expenditure required to retrofit existing stock to achieve ‘A ratings’, with ever increasing building standards. However, the build technology and expertise is there, and proven returns are being demonstrated.”

Jason Oxman, US Info & Tech Council; Deirdre Crowley, Matheson; Dr France A Córdova, US National Science Foundation; Mark Redmond, CEO of AmCham; and Carin Bryans, 2020 AmCham president.
Jason Oxman, US Info & Tech Council; Deirdre Crowley, Matheson; Dr France A Córdova, US National Science Foundation; Mark Redmond, CEO of AmCham; and Carin Bryans, 2020 AmCham president.

American Chamber celebrates US-Irish relationship

The unique US-Irish relationship continues to deliver dividends for business, delegates heard at the American Chamber of Commerce 2020 Transatlantic Conference ‘Shaping the Future of Transatlantic Trade’ at Croke Park Conference Centre.

Business leaders from both sides of the Atlantic welcomed the success of the two-way business relationship.

Am Cham president Carin Bryans said: “This is a relationship that delivers remarkable impact into the Irish economy, and one which is central to the country’s economic success.”

Am Cham’s US Ireland Business Report has shown that US direct investment stock in Ireland has totalled a record $444bn, while figures from the Bureau of Economic Analysis show that Ireland’s share of US investment stock in Europe was 12.2%.

Irish investment into the US contines to grow, with a record 900 Irish companies active in the US market, investing over $146bn and employing over 110,000 people. Ireland is now the 9th largest investor into the US.

Wall Street economist, Joseph P Quinlan, said: “The economic fundamentals of the Irish-US relationship remain rock solid. Europe in general, and Ireland in particular, remain critical entities to the success of Corporate America, whether in manufacturing or service activities.”

Rosalind Carroll, named as CEO of the Personal Injuries Assessment Board.
Rosalind Carroll, named as CEO of the Personal Injuries Assessment Board.

New PIAB chief focused on fair claims at low cost

Rosalind Carroll has been appointed as CEO of the Personal Injuries Assessment Board, the independent State body which assesses personal injuries compensation.

She takes up the role vacated by Conor O’Brien when he left to become European COO at Link Asset Services.

Rosalind was most recently CEO of the Residential Tenancies Board, the independent regulatory body for the rented sector, where she led a very significant reform programme and substantial expansion of the organisation both in terms of size and remit.

Rosalind has also previously held a number of senior roles across the public sector, including head of regulation and head of housing services roles at the Housing Agency, as well as in the Department of the Environment and Dublin City Council. She holds MSc and BA degrees.

She said: “PIAB is committed to delivering major benefits for society by dealing with personal injury claims fairly and at low cost, while curtailing claims costs which impact on the cost of insurance. We have an important role to play in providing an alternative way of resolving claims which is fair to all parties, but with far lower costs.

“We also will continue to be a key contributor to reforms in the area, through the provision of transparent information and expertise and working constructively with all stakeholders.”

Legal costs in motor insurance claims rose slightly to €112m in 2018, according to the latest figures from the Central Bank of Ireland. In total, there were legal costs of €112,275,745 in 2018 in relation to 4,714 claims taken through the courts.

Dermot Divilly, chair of PIAB, said: “I am confident Rosalind will do an outstanding job for the organisation. Her experience will be invaluable in the important work ahead continuing the delivery of the essential services PIAB provides, and in driving and contributing to the reforms underway in the overall insurance sector.”

The recent National Claims Information Database report by the Central Bank of Ireland clearly showed the benefits provided by PIAB for all parties including policyholders through resolving personal injuries claims fairly, with low processing costs and in a timely way.

Kevin O’Byrne, Stephen Archer and James Cronin of Munster Rugby in the newly refurbished Meeting and Events Centre at Clayton Hotel Silver Springs, Cork.
Kevin O’Byrne, Stephen Archer and James Cronin of Munster Rugby in the newly refurbished Meeting and Events Centre at Clayton Hotel Silver Springs, Cork.

Silver Springs invests €3.5m in events centre

Munster Rugby will be among those to use the Clayton Hotel Silver Springs the Meeting & Event Centre in Cork, newly renovated with €3.25m spent on its 12 dedicated meeting suites.

The centre offers ample parking, great views of Cork Harbour and state of the art audio-visual equipment including large 3M screens and 5,000 lumen LCD projectors.

The beautiful Tivoli ballroom can host conferences, corporate events and gala dinners. It can be divided in two and can accommodate up to 800 delegates.

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