Sunday 18 August 2019

Tributes paid as First Derivatives CEO and founder Brian Conlon loses his cancer battle

Talented: Brian Conlon, CEO at First Derivatives
Talented: Brian Conlon, CEO at First Derivatives
Donal O'Donovan

Donal O'Donovan

One of Northern Ireland's most successful businessmen and a major employer on both sides of the Border, Brian Conlon, has died aged 53.

Mr Conlon was the founder and chief executive of the Newry-based software and consulting firm First Derivatives.

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He founded the company in 1996 when Newry was only just starting to emerge from the effects of the Troubles and grew it into a global business valued at £1bn (€1.1bn) with offices and customers around the world.

He is survived by his wife Julie and their two children.

Mr Conlon studied accountancy at Queen's University in Belfast before training as an accountant with KPMG in the city. The talented Gaelic footballer also played senior inter-county football for Down in the 1980s.

He moved to London in the late 1980s and took a job with US investment bank Morgan Stanley in the developing area of financial derivatives. He later joined Nasdaq-listed data company SunGard.

He returned to Ireland and in 1996 established First Derivatives - initially in his mother's spare room - as a software consultancy providing support to the kinds of global financial services firms he'd worked for himself.

The now stock-market-listed group employs more than 2,000 staff and has operations in London and New York, Dublin, San Francisco, Vancouver, Los Angeles, Singapore, Sydney, Hong Kong, Seoul and Tokyo. The opportunity to travel and work for an Irish company in those far-flung offices, combined with the fast growing firm's own need for staff, is a big reason First Derivatives has become a major draw for Irish graduates.

In May, the company announced that Mr Conlon had been diagnosed with cancer. He continued heading up the firm while undergoing treatment.

Company chairman Seamus Keating paid tribute to Mr Conlon, saying: "Brian built a world-class business in First Derivatives. His drive, ambition and determination inspired all who had the privilege to work with him.

"This news is a profound shock to all of us. We offer Brian's family our sincerest condolences and ask for privacy on their behalf at this sad and most difficult of times."

Mr Keating will act as executive chairman while the business recruits a new CEO.

Having started out as a provider of specialist software to investment banks, the firm has evolved into a provider of products and consulting services, particularly building on its strength in ultra-high performance data analytics.

It now operates in the retail, utilities and digital marketing sectors. Clients include the Red Bull Formula One team and Airbus Defence and Space.

Mr Conlon's 33.9pc stake in the business is valued at more than €200m.

Irish Independent

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