Belfast Telegraph

'He gave me a chance without any hesitation when no one else did'

Danny Moore, now president and the joint chief executive of fintech firm Options, says he will always be in Brian Conlon's debt

Danny Moore
Danny Moore

It took the wind out of my sails to hear about the death of Brian. We knew he was ill but didn't realise how bad it was.

I wouldn't have had a career without Brian, and I have always been very open about that.

My second interview with Brian took place on a Monday afternoon, and on the Friday, I failed my Viva (doctorate presentation). I made 46 job applications and didn't get any of the jobs.

He gave me a chance without hesitation when no one else did.

I started out in First Derivatives on its first day of business in 2001, and left in October 2003.

Those were the times there were only about 10 people. There was a tough period then, when the tech bubble burst and there was a big recession.

But at that stage he always had the philosophy that the company which worked hardest through a recession tended to do the best in the upwave.

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The idea was to work very hard at business development, partnerships and sales and marketing to position the company well for when things improved.

And it had a similar strategy during the credit crunch. It availed of market conditions to make acquisitions.

They were very high-quality acquirers but the real story was always organic growth.

I started off answering the phone as a financial engineer and receptionist - but I also went on to set up the sales office in New York for First Derivatives and Kx Systems.

That came about as one Friday, Brian asked me did I want to go to New York to do sales, and that I had 20 minutes to think about it. Monday morning I was on a flight out to New York.

I think he was an intense and ambitious businessperson but outside of business in his family circle he was an exceptionally nice man and very well thought of.

Back in those days, we got an awful lot of people from the full spectrum calling in to chat with Brian. It was most notable that people would re-emphasise what a great person he was - football coaches, school teachers, everyone. I have never seen the like of it anywhere else.

He was a very well thought of individual and a very nice family man.

I don't think he ever cared about the wealth. Making an impact in Newry was a really big thing for him. Even in the early days it had a lot of problems with staff retention with staff from Belfast. People don't want to commute from Belfast but he had had made a really big commitment to his home town.

In time they opened up in Belfast, of course. He just loved running his business and loved doing a great job. FD was voted the most successful company ever in the AIM market. For long-term consistency it's up there with companies like Amazon in terms of growing between 20 and 40% every year.

I'm now president and co-chief executive of Options. I also worked as chief executive of Wombat, and we always used First Derivatives as the benchmark in Wombat.

At one point Wombat leapfrogged First Derivatives, then we got acquired, then through the credit crunch First Derivatives really scaled up dramatically.

If you look at companies like Wombat and Options, we are using variance on the same business model as FD - hire high quality enthusiastic young people in NI and deploy them in the global financial industry.

Belfast Telegraph