Tuesday 21 May 2019

Niall taking a 'hands on' approach to agri business

Sixth generation Mallow farmer takes up agri-advisor manager role with Ulster Bank

Mallow farmer Niall O’Regan, the recently appointed Agri Relationship Manager with Ulster Bank
Mallow farmer Niall O’Regan, the recently appointed Agri Relationship Manager with Ulster Bank

Bill Browne

"Working closely with farmers at some of the most important financial moments in their lives makes for a really rewarding and interesting job."

That's according to sixth-generation Mallow farmer Niall O'Regan, who has recently joined the team of Cork-based agri-managers with Ulster Bank. 

Speaking to The Corkman, Niall said his role entails travelling around the county visiting farms of all sizes to offer "meaningful help and support to farmers across all sectors." 

"Coming from a dairy farm in Mallow, which has been in my family for six generations, I understand the many and varied pressures farmers face on a daily basis and what they need to deal with these pressures", said Niall.

Steeped in the farming tradition Niall has always taken a 'hands-on' approach with all aspects of the home farm, something that sparked a keen interest in the inner workings of the wider agricultural sector. 

For the past decade he has combined farming at home with working within the sector, including a six-year stint working in the diary genetics business with LIC (Ireland), a New Zealand farmer-owned company specialising in dairy genetics. For the past two-years he served as the company's Ireland manager, giving him the opportunity to meet and interact with farmers from across the country. 

In 2016 Niall was awarded a Nuffield Scholarship, which provides people from the agriculture sector with an opportunity to travel internationally to research a topic of their choice with relevance to the wider Irish agricultural community.

"The idea is to learn more about global agriculture and relate that knowledge back to an Irish context. During my scholarship, I travelled to North and South America, throughout Europe and parts of Africa, looking at environment-related challenges for agriculture. This gave me a fantastic opportunity to learn more about global agriculture and further develop my interest in the sector," said Niall. 

"From practical experience at home, my role with LIC Ireland, and my study as part of the Nuffield Scholarship, I've picked up good, practical knowledge and understanding of farming, which I believe stands to me today. This is really important, because in my view an Agri Manager should be someone who knows farming and farmers, what their financial needs and concerns are, and how these can best be met".

While based in Mallow, Niall travels throughout Munster and south Leinster, interacting farmers from all different agri sectors. 

He said the first thing he does when he meets a farmer is to get an understanding of their business and what it is they are trying to achieve in the long-term. 

"Every farm and every farmer is different and my job is to tailor what we offer to best meet their individual financial needs. We'll regularly go though items such as the ICBF Co-op performance report, milk statements, factory dockets, grass growth figures, financial accounts and bank statements, etc. to help me understand the position the business is in, so that we can determine together their repayment capacity," said Niall.

"This kind of support is very important for farmers, knowing that someone is there to talk about their financial needs and help them plan sustainably for the future, so that they can get on with the important business of running their farms." 

Niall said that "thankfully" 2019 had gotten of to a relatively good start weather wise after what has been a tough 2018 for farmers, which led to higher feed costs, reduced outputs and cash flow worries for many farmers. He said that was why, last July, Ulster Bank announced a Weather Agri Fund to support farmers.

"Looking ahead to the rest of this year the main challenges for 2019 will likely be to replenish fodder stocks and build a reserve for future weather-related challenges. Brexit is obviously a big concern for the agri-sector, in particular the beef sector. That's why we're working with the Strategic Banking Corporation of Ireland (SBCI) to provide farmers with more support in these uncertain times," he said.

On a personal level, Niall said that one of the things that inspires him about his new role was that "no two days are the same, which is the way I like it." 

"I meet farmers, accountants, agri advisers and other agri related intermediaries, who all have different perspectives and something to contribute. Every day I find that I learn something new," he said. 

"My job is all about being out and about, face to face with people, rather than sitting behind a desk or laptop, which is one of the reasons that I love it. I find it a really rewarding role, having the opportunity to work so closely with farmers at some of the most important financial moments in their lives."