Belfast Telegraph

Angela McGowan first woman to head CBI in Northern Ireland

By John Mulgrew

The first woman to become director of business group the Confederation of British Industry (CBI) in Northern Ireland will start her new job in October.

Belfast economist Angela McGowan, who has been with Danske Bank for eight years, is taking over from Nigel Smyth.

It means two of Northern Ireland's big business organisations will soon be headed by women.

Ann McGregor has been the chief executive of the Northern Ireland Chamber of Commerce and Industry for eight years.

Ms McGowan was a strong voice in opposition to a UK exit from the EU, and will lead the local CBI during one of the most uncertain periods in business following the vote for Brexit.

Carolyn Fairbairn, CBI director-general, said Ms McGowan's "business experience and wealth of economic knowledge would help the CBI create the best possible conditions for its members in Northern Ireland".

"Following the United Kingdom's decision to leave the EU, Angela joins us at an important moment for Northern Ireland's economy, when businesses will be looking for political stability and certainty," she added. "I look forward to working closely with her to achieve this."

Danske Bank's chief financial officer, Stephen Matchett, said that Ms McGowan "has played an important part in bolstering our reputation through her public-facing role as chief economist. "As long-time CBI members, we wish her well in her forthcoming new role as we continue to work alongside the CBI and other stakeholders to help ensure continued growth in the local economy," Mr Matchett explained.

Ms McGowan began her career with Danske Bank, just as the UK entered the worst period of financial decline since the Great Depression.

Originally from the Cavehill Road in north Belfast, she is the youngest of four girls and the only one in the family to choose economics as a career path. She went to school at Belfast Royal Academy, before moving on to Queen's University, and then Ulster University to study a master's degree in business.

David Gavaghan, the CBI's Northern Ireland chairman, said Ms McGowan's "strong grasp of public policy issues and a deep understanding of the regional economy will be very important".

"The CBI is recognised as the voice of business and, as we all face a new set of challenges, Angela is ideally placed to lead the local team and engage widely in representing the interests of the business community in Northern Ireland," he added.

The economist's first job was as a researcher for a European Commission project at Queen's that saw her travel the length and breadth of Ireland.

She then worked at the Northern Ireland Economic Council, where she was later bumped up to the role of senior economist after around three years in the job, before joining Danske Bank in 2008.

She has arguably been the most visible and public face of the bank, and she has helped to promote its international arm, which has its parent company in Denmark.

Ms McGowan is married to fellow economist Peter Dunne, and has two teenage sons, Dermot and Rory.

Her husband is also prominent in the field, working for the Central Bank of Ireland in his native city, Dublin.

During a debate on Brexit last month, Ms McGowan warned that Northern Ireland voters were "sleepwalking" into a decision to leave the EU.

She added she was "worried the vote will go the wrong way" and that "people are not fully informed" about the implications of Brexit.

Wilfred Mitchell, the FSB's Northern Ireland policy chairman, said he looked forward to working with Ms McGowan when she takes up her role on "issues that engage all businesses" across the region.

Belfast Telegraph