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Introducing….The Trinity Global Business Forum

The Future of Business - Putting Vision and Strategy back on the agenda

By Professor Andrew Burke, Dean of Trinity Business School



“…it is striking that very few business, political and social leaders or organisations have a vision and strategy which moves beyond the ‘where are we now?’ to answer the ‘where are we going and how do we get there?’ questions.”





Welcome to the launch of the new annual Trinity Global Business Forum which will take place on the last Thursday of May every year.  The Forum is intended for anyone who is interested in engaging with the Trinity business community in order to address the main issues facing business as well as to network and make things happen.  Participants at the event include Trinity alumni, professors, students, and others in the business world who have an interest in engaging with the pivotal issues for business.  The event is comprised of keynote speakers and panels addressing some of the key issues facing business today such as flexible work, ethical leadership, social entrepreneurship, making manufacturing work in Ireland, leading in an uncertain world, the accommodation shortage, preventing another financial crises, managing the wealth of nations…through to meeting the business leaders of the future, getting beyond the hype about entrepreneurship and gaining an insight into the managing and making of the Pogues!

While these are clearly some of the pressing issues in today’s highly uncertain and rapidly changing business environment, it is striking that very few business, political and social leaders or organisations have a vison and strategy which moves beyond the ‘where are we now?’ to answer the ‘where are we going and how do we get there?’ questions.  People are very clear about what they are against – whether that is water charges, high taxation, social deprivation and unethical levels of wealth inequality – but there are few leaders or organisations who have a clear strategy which outlines a vision for the future and a strategy to deliver it.  This void is reflected in the global kick-back against the political establishment which can come in diverse forms such as voting for Trump in the USA, for Brexit in the UK or for political parties and independents in Ireland who prefer opposition over government. 

One of the ambitions behind the Trinity Global Business Forum is to develop a vision and strategy for business and society that focuses on developing economic prosperity, social well-being and an ethical society.  To this end, we commence this first forum with the theme ’The Future of Business’ where speakers and panels will not only be addressing some immediate practical concerns but will also be formulating a vision and strategy for the future.  Guided by Trinity Business School’s DNA with its core values of: putting in more than you take out, being creative, analytical rigour and putting good ideas into action, we intend to put vision and strategy back onto the agenda for business, politics and society.

We are so fortunate to have an eminent business community to draw on for this initiative and who have been so generous with the time and expertise in taking part in the event.  We invite you to join in on this agenda and hope to see you on May 26.    


For more information go to our website and to join the conversation follow us on Twitter and Facebook



Managing the Wealth of Nations

By Brendan McDonagh, Former Chairman of NT Butterfield and Sons Ltd

"...despite the recent successes in debt markets, we are far from achieving sustainable debt levels."

Adam Smith first published the "Wealth of Nations" in 1776, some 240 years ago. At that time, the use of sovereign debt was to pay for wars with the debt repaid from higher taxes in the post war period. Today, Ireland has accumulated over €200 billion of debt but thankfully not from waging wars. However, all debts need to be serviced and repaid down to a sustainable level. A few years ago, Ireland could not borrow beyond 100 days tenure. Today it can and has just issued a 100 year bond. In addition, Ireland is transforming its sovereign wealth fund into a sovereign development fund to assist in the economic recovery of the nation. The Ireland Strategic Investment Fund has already committed over €2 billion in direct investments. "Managing the Wealth of a Nation" has become very complicated since Adam Smith's days. 

In our session, we will discuss the current approach to managing the nation's debts and that, despite the recent successes in debt markets, we are far from achieving sustainable debt levels. In addition, we will explore the pros and cons of deploying a sovereign development fund as an economic tool which is neither traditional fiscal nor monetary policy.

On May 26, I will be joined on the panel by 3 leading experts, namely Conor O'Kelly, CEO National Treasury Management Agency, Ruairi Quinn, Former Minister of Finance, and Frances Ruane, Former Director, Economic & Social Research Institute. 


For more information go to our website and to join the conversation follow us on Twitter and Facebook


Digital marketing and technology trends and knowing which 50% works

By Laurent Muzellec, Assistant Professor in Marketing and Academic Director of MSc in Digital Marketing Strategy




“I know that half my advertising works; I just don’t know which half” John Wanamaker


Is this famous quote -which is attributed to John Wanamaker, a department store owner in the US in the early 20th century- still representative of the current state of advertising?

Arguably, not… Thanks to website analytics, purchase can now be attributed to some specific digital channels and advertising campaigns; companies can therefore calculate the true return on advertisement. Google Adwords and Google analytics for example, allow marketers to track metrics (Cost per Clicks, Conversion rates) that tie directly to revenue and adjust ad spending based on Return on Investment (ROI).

Yet, scepticism about the effectiveness of digital advertising and social media marketing is still prevalent and possibly on the increase. The rise in the adoption of ad blocking technologies by European consumers (now at 20% in Ireland) is a clear indicator that digital marketing is a constantly moving battle field… Electronic Word of mouth or viral marketing through social media couId be the solution but once again, it may be difficult to assess the true benefits and ROI of such techniques. Meanwhile, traditional players in the industry such as TV channels and newspaper are fighting back, adapting and spreading their valuable content through digital means while developing new sources of revenue.

To discuss the above trends and issues, we will be joined by Fionnuala Meehan, Director EMEA Sales (SMB) at Google, Paul Quigley, CEO and Founder of NewsWhip, a company specialised in benchmarking and boosting social publishing performance and Aidan McCullen, Head of Innovation Partnerships and Funding at RTE. The panel will be facilitated by myself, Dr. Laurent Muzellec, Associate Professor in Marketing and academic director of the newly launched TCD M.Sc. in Digital Marketing Strategy.  

For more information go to our website and to join the conversation follow us on twitter and Facebook


Photo credit: Pixabay


Have We Done Enough to Prevent Another Financial Crisis?

By Brian Lucey, Professor in Finance (Business and Administrative Studies)


Have we done enough to prevent another financial crisis? No. Have we done enough to delay one? Perhaps. Have we learned from the last one? Doubtful. Now you know why economics is known as the dismal science! Let me parse these ideas, and perhaps provoke some thoughts before the forum, where I will be joined by eminent thinkers on matters financial, Frances Coppola, Financial Writer and Commentator, Megan Greene, Managing Director at Maulife Asset Management, Alan Duffy, CEO HSBC Ireland, and Kyran McStay, Director and Founder of Key Capital.

We can no more prevent financial crises than we can stop the waves from washing on the shore. They are endemic, not just in capitalism but in human society.  The idea that we can stop the cyclical nature of crises took root post WW2, where in the developed world at least we saw very few between 1945 and the early 1970s. But 25y is barely a generation and making long-term inferences from one generational experience is a bad idea. There is a reason why the icy land north of Iceland is called Greenland, and it is not just marketing hype. An overlooked book from the 1840s (but one which I assign to students!) is Mackay’s “extraordinary popular delusions and the madness of crowds”. It's a deep dive into the nature of crises. More recently the magisterial “this time is different” by Reinhart and Rogoff lays out in stark terms the extent of financial crises over the last millennium. So, no, we can’t prevent financial crises. It is known.

So have we done enough to delay one? Perhaps. We have poured a Golconda of tax payers’ money into the financial system in one way or another, through bailouts and quantitative easing.  For a given level of fixed it is fixed. We have beefed up regulations and the regulatory framework, we have had supranational and national inquires, we have even had economics as a discipline examining its soul (and finding it pure and unsullied…).  All parts of the financial system have become much more acutely aware of the degree of interlinkage. Chinese SME loans impact on Dutch mortgage holders; the actions of hedge funds shorting tech stocks impacts on the credit card debt of consumers and so on.

So what then have we learned? All too often I think we, like John Snow, ‘Know Nothing”. At least he came back after a near-life experience. By ‘we’ I mean, of course, the political classes who after all make the decisions. In general the solution to the debt precipitated crisis of 2007-8 has been… more debt.  The allopathic response has masked the problems but it depends on a benign constellation of low interest rates and renewed economic growth. The low interest rates can only be achieved by ever more QE, fuelling a bond bubble and driving a gadarene search for yield which has inflated bubbles all over the place. The unreformed nature of bank compensation and shareholder expectations, aligned to the above, has led to little productive lending.  There has been zero appetite for truly radical solutions – debt monetization or write-off, bank concentration limits, bank breakup and firewalling etc. So, we may wait, until the stars come right.  And then the next crisis will erupt. 

For more information go to our website and to join the conversation follow us on twitter and Facebook



The Accommodation Shortage and the Future of Irish Business

By Mary-Lee Rhodes, Associate Professor, Business and Administrative Studies


The session I'm chairing on the 26th of May concerns the massive 'opportunity' we are all aware of and sick of hearing about.  [Note - in management speak, no matter how bad the problem - its an 'opportunity'.]  There's a serious shortage of housing arising from the meltdown of the construction and housing finance sectors in 2008.  Studies by ESRI and Future Analytics Consulting for the Housing Agency forecast a need for 20,000 - 25,000 new dwellings per year for the foreseeable future - and that was without considering separately the approximately 90,000 households on social housing waiting lists.  These people may be in accommodation, but being on the housing list means that their accommodation is unsuitable.  So they need something else.  And let's not forget all those international students that the universities want to attract into Ireland ...

And there ain't anything out there.  In his quarterly housing report for Daft (Q1 2016) Ronan Lyons reported that as of May 1st, the number of properties available for rent was 3,082 nationwide - "by far the lowest total since the series started in 2006".   Furthermore, the Social Housing Strategy 2020 stated that 35,000 new social housing units were needed over six years beginning in 2015.  In 2015 less than 500 units were completed. 

The same strategy proposed that an additional 75,000 households (more or less consistent with the housing waiting list figure) would be accommodated through housing assistant payments (HAP) and Rental Accommodation Scheme (RAS) leases in the private market over the period 2015-2020.  In 2015, 7,500 households (10% of the overall target) were accommodated through these schemes.  Where are the other 67,500 households going to go if there are only 3,600 properties available at the moment? 

Returning to the private market, purchase price and rent are still moving upward and largely out of reach for the average wage earner.   The 'median multiple' ratio is used to measure housing affordability and divides the median house price by the median gross (before tax) annual household income.  Based on a median household income of €42,400 and an average house price €223,000 - Ireland is in the 'seriously unaffordable' housing category.  And that's after our median household finds a way to save up the 20% down payment. 

Rental prices are similarly challenging - or should I say present another 'opportunity'? - in that a household earning the median gross income and paying average rent (€998/mo) will be shelling out 28.5% of income ... before tax.  Affordable in this context is generally understood to be anything under 30% ... after tax!  

The thing is that there is plenty of capacity to build houses.  Another recent report on Housing Supply Capacity from the friendly lads in Future Analytics (shout out to Billy Hynes and his crew) - this time for the Society of Chartered Surveyors in Ireland - estimated that there was enough zoned land in the Dublin region to build a minimum of 102,500 extra dwellings.  And its not like we don't have willing hands in the construction industry to build what the market wants (and will pay for).   Before the crash, total housing output hit 93,419 units (2006).  Last year there were 12,666 new dwellings delivered.

So that brings us to our topic:  "The accommodation shortage and the future of Irish business".  There's plenty of opportunity - why the delay?  What's holding us back from supplying what is clearly demanded?   What's wrong with this market and what impact will continued under-supply have economically, socially and environmentally?  Policy wonks might want to read the latest on the topic from ESRI - but the rest of us should just show up on the 26th of May.  Bring your hard-hats ;)

I will be joined by Ronan Lyons, Assistant Professor of Economics at Trinity and Author of reports, Kevin O’Kelly, Trinity Dean of Students and Associate Professor in Mechanical and Manufacturing Engineering, Brian Moran, Senior Managing Director at Hines, Aidan Culhane, Consultant at WK Nowlan Real Estate Advisors and Former Special Advisor to Department of Environment, Community and Local Government.


For more information about the Trinity Global Business Forum go to our website and to join the conversation follow us on twitter and Facebook

household income figure based on 2014 SILC reported nominal median income of €40,338, adjusted for 2% per annum wage increases for 2015 and 2016 - see IBEC survey report

see EBS Index of housing affordability March 2016



The Future of Work in the 21st Century - how freelancers are transforming business and careers

By Professor Andrew Burke, Dean of Trinity Business School


The World of work is changing. The fastest growing segment of the workforce over the last 15 years have not been employees or new business owners.  Instead, the biggest growth has been by people who are choosing to work on a freelance basis.  These freelancers – who include contractors, solopreneurs and independent professionals - work on a project by project basis.  They are usually paid for their output – the completion of a project – rather than their input – number of hours worked.  They have been hired by firms in the modern dynamic economy who use freelancers to: innovate, managing risk, manage change, introduce new technology and provide unique skills not available in-house.  Through all of these activities they enable businesses to become far more entrepreneurial and agile than they ever could be through the use of an employee-only workforce.  Highly skilled freelancers have been able to share in the value that they generate in these businesses and they typically earn more than double the earnings of equivalent employees in managerial, professional and technology roles.  So it should not be surprising that some countries like the UK refer to freelancers as their ‘economic secret weapon’. 

If businesses like to locate in countries with low corporation tax, freelancers like to base themselves in countries with low income tax.  Low income tax not only enables freelancers to have greater net earnings but also to be more competitive in the international market for freelance work.  Notably, many businesses based in ‘high income tax’ Ireland are citing a shortage of freelance workers as a constraint on the level innovation and growth activities they carry out in the country.  So Irish enterprise taxation policy has just become harder as enabling low corporation tax revenue by having higher income tax has countervailing effects on entrepreneurial activity.

The opportunities from freelancing are not just economic and much research has highlighted how freelancers have much higher job satisfaction when compared to equivalent employees as they work on more fulfilling projects and have greater flexibility in their personal lives.  However, challenges exist as there are also significant segments of freelance workers – particularly among the lower skilled – who earn less then employees and who have a very precariat income stream.  Many of these vulnerable workers are clearly worse off than equivalent employees.  Likewise, there are some employers who reclassify employees as self-employed in order to avoid paying employer’s national insurance.  By consequence, they create false freelancers who not only cost the government in terms of lost taxation but also cause a problem for legitimate freelancers by falsely tarnishing them as potential tax dodgers. 

So as we move into the 21st Century where we want to enable workers to have the ability to choose the flexible freelance option if that is their wish and businesses to tap into the value added enabled by freelancers, we need to avoid a ‘one size fits all’ government policy approach to freelancing which either enables productive freelancing but ignores false self-employment and vulnerable workers or vice versa.  Put differently, we need to avoid public policy that either ‘leaves the baby in dirty bathwater’ or worse still ‘throws the baby out with the bathwater’.  Instead, we need to recognise the heterogeneity in the freelance labour market and attempt to divide it into advantaged, disadvantaged and false segments.  We need a targeted and differentiated policy approach which legitimises and supports the advantaged segments, protects freelancers in the vulnerable segments and clearly defines the difference between false and legitimate self-employment so that the former can be prevented.  Through this approach each economy can define and support a workforce fit for the 21st Century that serves both society and business.

You can hear more on this discussion our youtube channel at

On May 26th I will be joined on a panel by Simon McVickers from The Association of Independent Professionals and the Self-Employed (IPSE), David Jackson, Chairman and Founder of Hudson Contract, Derek Butler, CEO of Grid Finance, and Lan O’Connor, Director of Capgemini.

For more information go to our website and to join the conversation follow us on Twitter and Facebook

Beyond the Hype: What Really Distinguishes High from Low Performing Ventures?

By Sean Melly, CEO of Powerscourt Capital and Chairman of Trinity Business School Advisory Board



It’s the Entrepreneur, stupid!


Having built up 3 businesses and spent most of the last 15 years investing in other start-ups the only conclusion I can come to is that the Entrepreneur is the only common factor, everything else being equal, that distinguishes high from low performing ventures.

But of course everything else is not equal and how do you know someone will be a successful entrepreneur?  In this session we will, in addition to examining the traits of a successful entrepreneur, address the other key success factors the entrepreneur or investor wants to see in an attractive start-up opportunity such as: addressable market, sustainable economic model, technology risk & exit opportunities.

In our session I will be joined by three seasoned entrepreneurs: Patrick Sweeney (, Founder & CEO of two successful US based tech companies; Odin Technologies & DwinQ, Dr. John McKeon ( ), Founder & CEO of, Trinity spin-out, Allergy Standards and, Ronan Higgins  (, currently building his third technology company TVAdSync, to give insight and perspective into this enduring question; What Really Distinguishes High from Low Performing Ventures?


For more information go to our website and to join the conversation follow us on Twitter and Facebook


The Future of Manufacturing in Ireland

By Frank Barry, Professor of International Business and Economic Development


Until the 1960s Ireland was underindustrialised by Western European standards. Today, manufacturing’s contribution to Irish GDP is much higher than the EU average. But manufacturing is migrating eastwards.

In the late 1990s one third of all personal computers sold in Europe were assembled in Ireland. The closure of Dell’s assembly plant in Limerick in 2009 sounded the death knell for the sector.

Industry after industry has shifted, some to Central and Eastern Europe, many much further eastwards – to China and the neighbouring region. Does manufacturing have a future in Ireland?

Much of manufacturing’s contribution comes from the foreign multinational sector, which has an unusually strong presence in Ireland. Pharmaceuticals now account for half of Irish manufactured exports. What is it that keeps the pharmaceutical industry here while other sectors have disappeared?

And if the multinationals disappear, through pressure on Ireland’s corporation tax regime for example, what then? We will be thrown back onto the resources and ingenuity of our indigenous industries. How will they cope?

As recently as the 1980s the Irish dairy industry looked like a ‘high volume, low value’ sector. Now it is populated by dynamic indigenous Irish firms which are themselves substantial multinationals and leading global innovators. How has this come about, and what lessons might there be for other sectors?

And we read increasingly of small new niche firms that are developing successfully into export markets, exploiting with ingenuity the positive brand image of Ireland that exists abroad. How can this brand image be strengthened and leveraged to its full potential?

These are some of the questions to be addressed in this session, where I will be joined by a panel of guests including Richard Keegan of Enterprise Ireland, Colm Healy of Skelligs Chocolate and Anne Randles of Ornua. For more information go to our website and to join the conversation follow us on Twitter and Facebook


For more information go to our website and to join the conversation follow us on Twitter and Facebook


Meet the Future: Views and Visions of the Emerging Leaders

By Lara Connaughton, Auditor of Dublin University Business and Economics Society

Lara Connaughton, Daniel Philbin-Bowman, Emma-Louise Leavey and Rosa Langhammer 

“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times”

So wrote Charles Dickens in his famous novel ‘A Tale of Two Cities. Millennials who have entered the workforce have encountered this environment, made up of two different worlds: the 9-5 working day, with a neat separation of a professional and social life - which is quickly becoming obsolete – and the evolving, dynamic workplace, with its unprecedented challenges and demands.

Millennials will make up approximately half of the global workforce by 2050 – and these individuals who were both the testers and trailblazers, the experimenters and evangelists of living with technological change will both create and shape the horizon of enterprise. Topics on hand will be maintaining a work-life balance, integrating travel opportunities into a career, and the pursuit of charitable endeavours.

Our panel will hold a discussion on the expectations and obstacles that they have collectively encountered on their career paths, from which we’ll glean some insight into the trends of the trenches in the workplace of the future.

In this kaleidoscopic new working world, people are moving around more than ever before, and this dynamism means that the impetus for leadership is no longer strictly reserved for the top of the food chain.

We have Daniel Phiblin Bowman (Potentialife) on our panel to illuminate this new arena of pervasive leadership, and to delineate why leaders are more important than ever before for businesses. We are also delighted to have Emma-Louise Leavey with us on the day, to introduce us to her interpretation of the working world at Google Ireland, and also her interactions with undergraduates through her role as mentor for 100 minds. Finishing up our all-star cast is Rosa Langhammer who will take us through her exciting new venture of continuing on with social entreprise startup Coderdojo as she simultaneously travels the globe this coming year.

It is a particular honour to have the entire panel composed of distinguished Trinity alumni, and so we might as well delve into how university life prepared our panel for the trials, tribulations and triumphs that greeted them upon graduation!


For more information go to our website and to join the conversation follow us on twitter and Facebook



The Ethical Dilemma for Leaders and How to Solve Them

By Gemma Donnelly-Cox, Assistant Professor in Business 


“…the failure to take correct action can destroy firm value, diminish corporate reputation - and ruin lives.” 

The session I'm chairing on the 26th of May concerns responsibilities business leaders face in identifying, managing and making decisions when confronted with ethical dilemmas.  As our colleagues in the Accommodation Shortage group have noted, problems such as ethical dilemmas present opportunities for acting in ways that can create value - but as our speakers will make clear, the failure to take correct action can destroy firm value, diminish corporate reputation - and ruin lives.

Dealing with ethical dilemmas requires business leaders to apply ethical values when making decisions about the conduct of individuals and the actions of the firm.  The actions of the firm encompass all elements of company conduct - from board governance, to HR and supplier policies, and in sales techniques and accounting practices.  As our panel will illustrate in their presentations, the application of ethical practices and standards is as much an issue for the startup entrepreneur as it for senior executives in multinational corporations. 

So that brings us to our topic:  "The Ethical Dilemmas for Leaders and How to Solve Them.  Our panel will confront us with the cost of failures in decision-making when faced with ethical dilemmas - and the value that can be - and is - created when leaders handle these challenges and turn them into opportunities. They will present us with the range of resources that are available to leaders.

 I will be joined by Mary Lawlor, Executive Director of Front Line, the International Foundation for Human Rights Defenders and Adjunct Professor of Business in TCD, Gráinne Madden, founder of and senior consultant in GMJ Associates, and Ken Rushton, formerly Company Secretary for ICI and Director of Listing for the Financial Services Authority and currently a Trustee of the Institute of Business Ethics and Senior Consultant for Board Insight Ltd.


For more information about the Trinity Global Business Forum go to our website and to join the conversation follow us on twitter and Facebook