Pictured: Professor Ian Greer, President and Vice-Chancellor of Queen's University Belfast addresses the audience of Chief Executives and Directors of some of Northern Ireland's leading businesses.
The Chief Executives’ Club at Queen’s was pleased to hold its first physical event in well over a year, when member Keith Farley of Aflac Northern Ireland hosted an executive breakfast event recently at the company’s City Quay premises. Guest numbers were restricted and all COVID guidelines were carefully followed.
Those members who attended clearly appreciated the opportunity to meet in person and to network once again, especially in such a fabulous office setting, with the Aflac NI offices affording great views over Belfast Lough and across to Titanic Belfast.
Queen’s President and Vice-Chancellor, Professor Ian Greer, and Aflac NI Managing Director and Vice President, Keith Farley both addressed guests, following welcome remarks and introductions by Sarah Milliken, Leader of Talent and Culture, Aflac NI.
Taking innovation in Belfast as the broad theme for their talks, Professor Greer extolled the benefits of a partnership approach in bringing about economic growth in Northern Ireland.
Speaking about partnership in the context of innovation, Professor Greer said that groundwork and collaboration involved in preparing to deliver the Belfast Region City Deal, offers the potential to create something really significant. He added that groundwork for the City Deal also made possible the recent Innovation City Belfast initiative – another partnership initiative involving the two universities, Belfast City Council, the Harbour Commission and Catalyst Inc.
He explained that four key elements are required to make a regional economy cluster grow:
- Research ability and capacity, as provided by our universities
- For businesses to be involved in a cognate sense
- The involvement and support of regional government, and
- Really good civic leadership.
Professor Greer concluded by saying that he thinks these ingredients are now in place and that the scene is set for Belfast to become a real innovation cluster that not only Ireland and the UK can be proud of, but the world.
Keith Farley, Managing Director and Vice-President of Aflac Northern Ireland, moved across from the USA in 2019 to establish Aflac Northern Ireland. Keith gave an entertaining overview of how the Fortune 500 company came to set up a base in Belfast and explained the work of both the parent business and the Belfast team.
Aflac Northern Ireland is a dynamic and exciting digital start-up, focusing on the development of innovative software and intelligent cyber security solutions for its US-based parent company. Aflac provides supplementary health insurance for over 50 million people worldwide and is a leader in its field with almost 12,000 global employees.
Keith shared that Belfast was selected not only because of its culture, energy and resilience, but because of its people. He said that their warmth, passion, ideas and drive were compelling, coupled with the fact that the region has a strong ecosystem of companies and universities.
Keith shared that the Belfast office has steadily grown its team over the last year and that with 100 employees currently, he expects the team to continue to grow.
Sarah Milliken chaired a lively discussion with guests following the two presentations.