Monthly Archives

May 2023

Employee Spotlight – Kevin Kelly

Each fortnight we will be spotlighting a member of the team so that you can get to know the people behind the Pacem brand. This week we feature director, Kevin Kelly. Kevin leads on business development, strategy and marketing. Originally a client of Daniel and Tony, Kevin co-founded Pacem and ensures the customer is at the centre of everything we do. He holds a 1st Class BSc Hons (Marketing), MSc with Distinction (Strategy) and an MBA. He is also a Director of Podiem and Co-owner of MLN.

Kevin tells us a bit more about himself below.

Employee name
Kevin Kelly

Your role at Pacem
Strategy and business development.

How long have you been with Pacem?
Since before it all began!! I was a client of Daniel and Tony before co-founding the business with them in 2017.

How would you describe yourself in three words?
Competitive. Solid. Fortunate. Others have described me using the sentence “couldn’t like him if you reared him!”

Tell us something that might surprise us about you.
I started my career as a carpet-fitter! Since then I have been variously employed as a petrol station attendant, a mystery shopper (for Guinness – I brought a lot of authenticity to this role), a go-cart attendant, a male model (1 shoot which required me to look upset and hide me face – I thought I had found my niche, alas not!), a removals man (“person”), and a roofer (for 1 day, during which time I discovered that I had vertigo and started crying in front of my new colleagues – thankfully it was in the USA and I haven’t seen them since).

What do you like most about your job?
That it is not any of the above! In all seriousness, we have a fantastic group of people at Pacem, and it is an honour and pleasure to work with each and every one of them. Pacem’s 5th birthday in Barcelona will live long in the memory.

If you won the lottery, what is the first thing you would do?
Tell my kids they aren’t getting any. Tough love.

What would you do (for a career) if you weren’t doing this?
I was particularly effective as a Guinness mystery shopper so I could revisit that.

Favourite food?
Christmas Dinner. In truth I love all food with the notable exceptions of celery and blue cheese!

Favourite book(s)?
The best book I have read in the last 5 years would be ‘A Prayer for Owen Meany’.

Favourite film?
The Lord of the Rings films (sad, I know). This trilogy would probably be my favourite books as well.

Where is the best place you’ve travelled to and why?
I worked in San Francisco for a couple of summers. Great city to live in. To visit I would go for the Perhentian Islands off the Malaysian coast. An enjoyable paradise.

If you could learn to do anything, what would it be?
A second language and/or a musical instrument. Standard issue answers!

What is something you learned in the last week?
To say ‘no’ to writing Employee Spotlights and organising 7th birthday parties – my nerves are still wrecked!

What interests/hobbies do you have outside of work?
I love sport although it is more watching than playing these days. Recent highlights were being at the Aviva to watch Ireland win the Grand Slam, in Madrid to see Liverpool win number 6 and at Anfield’s greatest ever night!

Most importantly…….. of course…… is spending ‘quality’ time with my wife and 4 young children!

Marketing, Communications and Events Executive

As one of Northern Ireland’s leading Financial Advisory Firms, Pacem is a boutique practice which offers a unique Financial Planning & Accountancy Business Advisory service. As a company we are people focused and we have a very close relationship with our clients. Our culture is that we want all team members to realise their potential and we provide this through mentoring and coaching. We promote employee well-being and a supportive team working ethos in line with company values and objectives.

We are now recruiting for a shared role of a marketing, communications and events executive with our sister company, Podiem.

50% of this role will be devoted to leading on Marketing & Communications activity for Pacem – This is an exceptional opportunity to own and grow the marketing function at a growth-orientated business. As part of its impact and engagement activity, Pacem regularly co-designs initiatives such as ‘The Expedite Programme’, ’30 Under 30 Climate Change-makers’ and the ‘Belfast Business Idea Award’ alongside Podiem,  and so the remainder of the role will be in helping Podiem to deliver these joint events.

Pacem is a multi-award-winning provider of coordinated business accounting and financial advice to business owners and successful professionals. Founded in 2017 and now employing 23 people, Pacem is one of NI’s fastest growing financial advisory firms with a strong focus team development and wellbeing evidenced by multiple ‘employer’, ‘best company to work for’ and ‘growth’ awards.

This is a unique opportunity for the right person to carve out a long-term role, becoming an integral member of the team. For more information and to apply, please download the job specification below. For any queries please contact Frances on 028 9099 6948. Pacem and Podiem are equal opportunities employers.

Marketing Communications and Events Executive – May 2023

Just a few stocks drive market returns

It is sometimes easy to forget that when markets rise and fall, we are looking at this through an aggregated, market-capitalisation weighted lens.  In reality, the fortunes of individual companies and even sectors may be quite disparate over both the short and longer terms.  Take a look at the figure below that illustrates just how widely dispersed US stock outcomes have been year-to-date 2023 (to the end of April).  The S&P 500[1] is up by around 9% in USD terms (4% in GBP terms as Sterling has strengthened against the US dollar).

In the first quarter of 2023, the top ten contributors to performance accounted for 90% of the market rise, with Apple, Microsoft and Nvidia contributing to half of the rise.  Yet in 2022 the top ten companies by size collectively fell 37% compared to the market fall of around 18%[2].

Figure 1: Individual US stock returns differ widely (YTD to 30/4/23)

Note: (1) This represents the return of the Vanguard S&P500 ETF in USD. Holdings data from Morningstar Direct © All rights reserved.

A combination of recency and hindsight biases can tempt the unwary into thinking that it is easy to pick stocks (e.g. ‘It was obvious that Meta would rebound after last year’s plummet in share price!’). Nothing could be further from the truth.

Active investors – who aim to beat the market through their stock-picking skills – see charts like the one above and lick their lips at the opportunities they offer.  Yet they are not guaranteed to beat the market, or even deliver the market return.

Passive investors on the other hand – who believe that markets work well incorporating all public information into prices – see the dangers of picking the wrong stocks and missing out on the returns that market, in aggregate, delivers. They can, more-or-less, capture the market return with a high degree of certainty.

A research paper in 2018 titled ‘Do stocks outperform treasury bills?’[3] had the remarkable effect of being claimed by both the active and passive sides of the investing debate as evidence as to why their approach is valid. He identified that the US$32 trillion of wealth created between 1926 and 2015 in the US market, was entirely generated by the top 1,000 companies, or put another way, less than 4% of the total number of companies that had existed on the US stock exchanges. A follow-up paper[4] focusing on non-US markets found that over 60% of all stocks failed to deliver a return higher than US T-bills and less than 1% of companies delivered all of the wealth creation from 1990 to 2018. The author states (in his original paper):

‘Not only does diversification reduce the variance of portfolio returns, but non-diversified portfolios are subject to the risk that they will fail to include the relatively few stocks that, ex-post, generate large cumulative returns. Indeed the results help to understand why active strategies, which tend to be poorly diversified, most often lead to underperformance.’

The challenge of structuring a highly active, concentrated portfolio to attempt to identify and capture the returns of these few wealth generating firms is immense, and at risk of both hubris and a lack of humility around the power of the collective market view (‘it’s all in the price’). The active management industry’s track record of delivering on its promise to beat the market is well-documented and extremely poor, with over 95% failing to do so over a twenty year period[5].

For those who accept that markets work, they can simply capture the market return through a low-cost, highly diversified systematic fund (of which index funds are a subset).

As the late, great John C. Bogle, the founder of Vanguard liked to say:

‘Don’t look for the needle, buy the haystack!’

Risk warnings

This article is distributed for educational purposes only and should not be considered investment advice or an offer of any security for sale. This article contains the opinions of the author but not necessarily the Firm and does not represent a recommendation of any particular security, strategy, or investment product.  Reference to specific products is made only to help make educational points. Information contained herein has been obtained from sources believed to be reliable but is not guaranteed.

Past performance is not indicative of future results and no representation is made that the stated results will be replicated.

[1]      This represents the return of the Vanguard S&P500 ETF in USD

[2]      Nasdaq, (2023) Top 10 Names in S&P 500 Responsible for 90% of Q1 Gains, April 05.

[3]      Bessembinder, H. (2018) Do stocks outperform Treasury bills? Journal of Financial Economics, vol. 129, no. 3, 440–457.

[4]      Bessembinder, H. (Hank), Chen, T.-F., Choi, G. and Wei, K.-C. (John). (2019), Do global stocks outperform US treasury bills? SSRN Electronic Journal.

[5]      SPIVA | S&P Dow Jones Indices. (2022)

Supporting Innovation: Pacem Backing the 2023 Belfast Business Idea Award

Pacem is delighted to, once again, support the Belfast Business Idea Award 2023. The Idea Award, supported by Belfast City Council, Danske Bank, Pacem, Open University and Innovation Factory, differs from other awards in that it is the strength of the idea that is assessed, rather than the achievements of the venture so far. The competition is designed to unearth, recognise and help to fast track the best business ideas in Belfast and means that people who have yet to set up a business have as much chance of winning as those who have already started to trade successfully.

This competition celebrates budding entrepreneurs, encouraging them to push the boundaries of creativity and contribute to the vibrant business ecosystem of Belfast.

Applications for the 2023 Belfast Business Idea Award will be open from Friday 12th May until 3pm on Thursday 8th June .

The prize pool is outstanding and will make a real difference to early-stage businesses and those thinking of taking the next step with their idea. The overall winner will receive £2,500 cash plus a support package (below) worth over £3,000. The other four finalists will also receive a support package worth over £3,000 which includes:

  • 1 year Innovation Factory membership (including an open plan co-working desk, access to masterclasses and on-site bespoke business mentoring)
  • A complimentary place on a Business and Management or Marketing Short Course via the Open University.
  • Six months free accountancy services (including software) from Pacem Accounting and Tax Advisory
  • A 2 hr group mentoring session with Alan Mahon, Founder of Brewgooder.
All Idea Award applicants will receive:
  • A place on the ‘Create Catchy Content’ online video marketing masterclass on Thursday 1st June at 12noon. Register at:
  • A VIP place at Finalist’s Night on Tuesday 20th June where they will hear from (and get to put their questions to) Belfast Born Entrepreneur, Alan Mahon, founder of the UK’s fastest growing beer brand in 2022, Brewgooder.

Pacem is delighted to be involved, once again, with the #BelfastBusinessIdeaAward which serves as a launchpad for aspiring entrepreneurs, providing them with the platform, resources, and network needed to transform their ideas into successful businesses. We believe that supporting this initiative is a testament to our commitment to fostering innovation and economic growth, ultimately benefiting the local community and the region as a whole and we cannot wait to see what this year brings!


Employee Spotlight – Frances Neeley

Each fortnight we will be spotlighting a member of the team so that you can get to know the people behind the Pacem brand. This week we feature our People and Talent Manager, Frances Neeley.  Frances has 20 years’ professional HR experience and is an accredited executive Coach of 8 years, she also has her own business, Lighthouse Consulting & Coaching.

Frances tells us a bit more about herself below.

Employee name:
Frances Neely

Your role at Pacem:
People & Talent Manager

How long have you been with Pacem?
4 Months

What does your day-to-day role entail?
My role is quite varied, I work on delivering our company growth plans through people resourcing activities, recruitment and engagement with universities and further developing our Employee Value Proposition. I support company operations management in preparation of company presentations, quarterly strategy meeting document updates. I work as part of our company impact team to enhance our 4 Pillars of People & Wellbeing, Empowering Enterprise, Charity & Community and Planet & Environment.

How would you describe yourself in three words?
Optimistic, Creative & Supportive

Tell us something that might surprise us about you:
I’m also an Accredited Executive Coach qualified in Emotional Intelligence.

What do you like most about your job?
I love interacting with our current team and engaging with potential new team members. I enjoy working with our Directors to develop and introduce great People and Wellbeing benefits and initiatives.

Favourite book(s)?
The Help and The Book Thief

Where is the best place you’ve travelled to and why?
The best placed I have travelled to is Val Thorens in the French Alps for a family ski holiday. The scenery was breath taking, especially at dawn and dusk, the snow was amazing and well-developed ski resort for all skiing abilities, and the food was fantastic too!

What interests/hobbies do you have outside of work?
I love getting outdoors with family and friends, painting or drawing, listening to music and having a dance around the kitchen with my kids!

Don’t just take our word for it!

We fundamentally believe that a systematic approach to investing provides the best chance of experiencing a successful investing journey. Sticking to some key guiding principles – which are grounded in evidence and logic – gives investors a solid foundation on which to build a sensible investment solution. This short note provides an insight into five of our favourite insights from experienced and accomplished academics and practitioners and explains how these words help us plant our investment philosophical flag in sensible space.

1.    A focus on risk management, rather than chasing performance

‘You don’t find out who’s been swimming naked until the tide goes out.’

Warren Buffet, Berkshire Hathaway 1994 Annual Meeting

The financial media enjoys reporting on top performing fund managers. Humans like exciting stories. Good investing, however, should – to most – seem relatively boring through taking a ‘risk-first’ approach. Ultimately, sensibly considered risks should be rewarded appropriately over time. The risk management process involves deciding which risks one wants to be exposed to in portfolios (such as broad global equity market risk) and which we do not (such as the use of leverage). Managing these risks tightly over time and monitoring them on a regular basis is key.

2.    Be diligent and act rationally, with due patience

‘Activity in investing is almost always in surplus.’

Charles D. Ellis, Winning the Losers Game, 1993

Ensuring any decision made is free from an emotional reaction is a must. Many are prone to making knee-jerk – and sometimes permanently damaging – investment decisions. Taking steps to avoid this is well-advised.

3.    Take part and believe in capital markets

‘You’ve got to talk yourself out of the market portfolio.’

Eugene Fama, Nobel laureate, speaking with The Rational Reminder Podcast, May 2020

Owning a share of companies through investing in capital markets is an effective way for investors to grow their wealth over time. Owning a little bit of everything is not a bad place to start. Luckily for investors these days, one can do so with relative ease through investing in mutual funds. Doing so enables investors to participate in the growth of listed companies from around the world in a diversified manner, avoiding being overly concentrated in a single stock.

4.    Keep costs low

‘In Investing, You Get What You Don’t Pay For.’

John C. Bogle, Founder of The Vanguard Group, February 2005

Cost is by no means the only factor separating better and worse investment solutions, but it is a significant one. Costs can be implicit (e.g. frictional trading costs) or explicit (e.g. fund manager fees). Clearly, any saving made by an investor is retained in the portfolio, rather than being passed off to another party in the process.

5.    Stick to the plan

‘Real-world application of fundamental investment principles produces superior outcomes.’

David F. Swensen, author and former CIO of Yale University endowment, 2005

An investor who can recall their key investment principles stands in good stead to avoid making mistakes. Abiding by some simple guidelines – such as those outlined by the investment mavens in this note – enables investors to employ a robust and repeatable process for managing their wealth.