Monday 22 January 2018

London calling Murray Consultants

Murray Consultants have finally unveiled details of their new London office and the Punt hears it's not the only change on the way.

In London, local hire Andrew Sharkey is now heading up what is Murray's first foray abroad in 40 years as a firm. Closer to home, Douglas Keatinge is set to join the firm next month from rivals Fleishman Hillaird.

It's a big scalp. Keatinge was previously head of investor relations for Digicel. The Oxford grad has also worked as a management consultant and as a reporter with Bloomberg and RTE.

Like current Murray's executive Avril Collins, Keatinge knows his way around the City, and both are likely to dedicate some time to the new London venture while remaining based in Dublin.

Newcomer Andrew Sharkey was previously a partner at Luther Pendragon and was chief executive at Redleaf Polhill – all firms based within the storied 'square mile' that remains the hub of UK banking, insurance and the legal profession.

Hiring locally is a sign that Murray's boss Pat Walsh's latest move is aimed at taking a slice of the lucrative City market – as well as bolstering his firm's offering to Irish clients who want to get in front of the City boys and girls who control so much of the world's dosh.

Time to get out the dairy-farming leprechauns

'It's a good day to be a dairy farmer," proclaimed Lakeland Dairies' chief executive Michael Hanley on the release of the co-operative's latest annual results, which showed a 15pc rise in revenues. He and the country's other dairy co-ops are gearing up for the abolition of milk quotas in 2015 and rubbing their hands in anticipation. But there's a few flies in the cream that The Punt can't help drawing attention to.

One of the biggest is a point made recently by Irish Dairy Board chief executive Kevin Lane, who said existing Irish dairy produce has "zero chance of success" in the lucrative Chinese market. Irish outputs favour more lactose-tolerant European tastes. "I just came back from (China) and I will tell you what the Chinese consumer is looking for is not the dairy products that are manufactured in Ireland today," Mr Lane said.

Still, his counterpart over at Lakeland is doing his best to address this. Michael Hanley has chefs in place around the world who feed back ideas for products that suit local markets. "Some want cooking fats with a lower fat content, some want creams that hold their shape for days," he told The Punt. And there's no doubt the co-op has its marketing sorted for foreign customers, conjuring images of red-haired beauties and leprechauns.

"Welcome to Lakeland Dairies Group. Set amid a beautiful environment of lush green Drumlin hills and misty blue lakes Lakeland Dairies is Ireland's second largest dairy processing co-operative," proclaims its website.

State still trying to patch up a broken system

MINISTER for Social Protection Joan Burton found herself in the firing line again over what an international think-tank claimed is our overly generous social welfare system.

The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) insisted that unemployed people should only keep payments on condition that they take up training places. It warned the Government to severely tighten up the grounds upon which welfare benefits are awarded.

Young people and the long-term unemployed are at risk of being left behind in Ireland's economic recovery and they must be encouraged to reskill, OECD officials said at its review of the Government's Action Plan for Jobs.

This is just the latest in a clutch of reports pointing out that welfare is a disincentive for people to take up jobs. Last summer the Citizens Information Board, a body funded by the Department of Social Protection, identified and listed a string of welfare traps it said were stopping people taking up employment.

And St Vincent de Paul has outlined poverty traps it said would mean people on welfare would be less likely to take up a job.

Now we have the international think-tank, the OECD, spelling out clearly what it sees as welfare that is too high.

Ms Burton has acknowledged the problem of some people getting too many different benefits and has spoken of the need to streamline the number of allowances people can receive. A spokesman for the minister insisted there had been a huge transformation of how welfare was paid.

The Punt remains to be convinced.

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