Belfast Telegraph

NI businesspeople pay tribute to Brian Conlon

Local businesspeople pay tribute following the death of First Derivatives chief executive Brian Conlon

Brian Conlon received a DSc(Econ) for services to business and commerce from Queen’s University
Brian Conlon received a DSc(Econ) for services to business and commerce from Queen’s University
Margaret Canning

By Margaret Canning

The business world in Northern Ireland has reacted with sadness to the death of First Derivatives founder and chief executive, Brian Conlon.

Mr Conlon, who was 53, built the company into a world-beating technology plc with nearly 2,000 employees from a base in his home town of Newry, Co Down.

While it started out providing consulting and software to investment banks, the company had expanded to offer services to other sectors such as utilities and Formula 1.

In 2010, Mr Conlon's achievements earned him the title of EY Entrepreneur of the Year in Ireland - later representing the island in a global final in Monte Carlo.

Frank O'Keeffe, managing partner of EY Ireland and former partner lead of the EY Entrepreneur Of The Year programme, said: "We were deeply saddened to hear of the untimely passing of our friend Brian Conlon.

"Brian's legacy of entrepreneurship will live on, and his remarkable determination and passion will continue to inspire generations of entrepreneurs and business people across the island of Ireland and around the world. He will be deeply missed by his many friends in EY and in the EY Entrepreneur Of The Year community. We offer our heartfelt condolences to his wife Julie, his children and his family."

Mr Conlon had studied accountancy at Queen's University, and later received an honorary degree from the university in 2012. A spokesman said: "'Queen's University was very sorry to hear of the untimely death of Brian Conlon, a graduate, honorary graduate and long-time supporter of the university. As a passionate advocate for the skills agenda in Northern Ireland and an inspirational figure for many of our students and graduates, his loss will be keenly felt. The university wishes to extend its sincerest condolences to Mr Conlon's family, friends and colleagues."

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Alastair Hamilton, chief executive of economic development agency Invest NI, described him as "a true entrepreneur with the vision and commitment to set up First Derivatives and grow it in to the global business it has become.

"I have witnessed first-hand Brian's personal drive and ability which has been pivotal in establishing Northern Ireland as a global centre of excellence for financial services technology. Brian was also deeply attached to his home city of Newry, and ensured that the success of First Derivatives as a company had a positive impact on the wider community," he said.

"I extend sincere sympathy to Brian's family at this sad time and recognise that his passing will be strongly felt across our business community."

Danny Moore, a former employee of First Derivatives, and now joint chief executive of fintech company Options, said a "giant" of technology had been lost. "Brian had another 20 years ahead of him. With the current environment it would only have been a matter of time until they acquired some larger businesses and would have had a £1bn turnover."

He praised Mr Conlon's abilities. "He was an exceeding intelligent individual. I spent about a year going through spreadsheets he'd built about pricing derivatives and other financial instruments. Out of about 100 spreadsheets I found one small error, and that's remarkable.

"The rest of us now need to make sure we continue his legacy."

Paul Convery, the president of Newry Chamber of Commerce, said: "Brian put the city of Newry on the global map.

"He was an inspirational business leader with his heart in Newry but most of all, he was a family man and our thoughts are with his family at this sad time."

And Eleanor McEvoy, the former head of Budget Energy, who met Mr Conlon through her involvement as a finalist in the EY Entrepreneur of the Year, said: "Brian was a visionary who could see ahead and had the ambition to build a huge business, which is remarkable.

"He brought high quality jobs, and what he did locally is what the likes of Invest NI look to go out around the world to bring back to Northern Ireland. He was a polite and engaging individual. His business is at such a stage that it will go on and that will be his legacy. Brian was a real people person and a brilliant mind."

Belfast Telegraph