All Posts By


Pacem Supports ‘Brewing Ideas & Crafting a Business’

Pacem is delighted to continue it’s efforts in supporting early-stage businesses and entrepreneurs by partnering with Belfast City Council & Innovation Factory on the upcoming ‘Brewing Ideas & Crafting a Business’ event which will be held at Innovation Factory on Friday 15th September 2023.

This is an ideal event for any pre or early-stage entrepreneurs from within the Belfast area, offering the opportunity to hear from fellow Belfast-born entrepreneur, Alan Mahon. Alan is the Founder and Executive Chair of Brewgooder, a purpose-driven brewery which has now been recognised as the UK’s fastest growing beer brand. Having started the business in 2015 at the age of 26, the company is now worth over £3m and has so far, helped over 100,000 people worldwide across 140 different projects, providing clean water and food to those in need.

The session is designed to provide inspiration and encouragement to attendees, offering them the opportunity to learn practical advice and invaluable lessons from Alan’s journey, whilst also networking with like-minded individuals. Attendees will be afforded the opportunity to ask questions, learn from an expert and gain the support needed to start or grow their business and network.

Daniel Glover, Managing Director at Pacem, spoke of his enthusiasm in supporting the event:

“Pacem is thrilled to, once again, be involved with an initiative that really celebrates and stimulates the entrepreneurial spirit within Belfast and offers aspiring entrepreneurs expert advice, allowing them to push the boundaries and challenge themselves no matter what stage of their journey they’re at. We are looking forward to meeting old faces and new for an enjoyable morning of inspiration, impetus and networking and are delighted to be involved in such an exciting event which aligns so closely to our core values”.

Tickets to attend are fully subsidised thanks to the event partners and can be accessed via the link below.

Employee Spotlight – Yvonne Dunlop

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 Accounting Technician, Yvonne Dunlop, Yvonne supports the accountancy team in delivering our bookkeeping services as well as payroll and accounts preparation. She is AITI qualified and has over 30 years’ experience in Bookkeeping in a wide range of businesses.

Yvonne tells us a bit more about herself below.

Employee name
Yvonne Dunlop

Your role at Pacem
Accounting Technician

How long have you been with Pacem?
3 years 7 months

What does your day-to-day role entail?
Providing book-keeping backup for financial directors–  preparing year-end accounts for our clients, vat returns, payroll, business and personal tax returns and statutory returns

How would you describe yourself in three words?
Logical, conscientious and hard-working

Tell us something that might surprise us about you.
I originally did a history degree and drifted into admin roles before realising that accounts work interested me more. I was qualified by experience for many years before doing any professional exams, I think I was easily the oldest one on my ATI course!

What do you like most about your job?
At Pacem we have a wide variety of clients with different business requirements and priorities. Preparing accounts requires work on all aspects of book-keeping which means that things rarely get boring or too routine. Each day tends to be different. I also appreciate the friendly and hard-working atmosphere amongst the staff in the office and the supportive attitude of the directors.

If you won the lottery, what is the first thing you would do?
Probably re-visit Venice, Paris and Vegas, this time 1st class flights and 5* hotels

What would you do (for a career) if you weren’t doing this?
I’m a bit of a bookworm, would be happy working in a library.

Favourite book(s)
I like historical books fiction and non-fiction– My current favourite is the Wolf Hall trilogy by Hilary Mantel

If you could learn to do anything, what would it be?
I’ve started to learn Spanish several times, still only know the basics but I would like to be fluent.

Winners Crowned at Belfast Business Idea Award 2023

A busy mum of three has been crowned this year’s Belfast Business Idea winner for her innovative range of plastic-free hair and skincare products for children.

Sarah McKegney pitched her Percy and Pop concept to judges at the finalists’ night, held on Tuesday 20 June, and received a £2,500 cash injection and support package worth over £3,000 to enable her to take her idea forward.

The Belfast Business Idea competition, organised by Belfast City Council, and supported by Pacem, Danske Bank, the Open University and the Innovation Factory, helps unearth, recognise and fast track the best business ideas in Belfast.

Sarah was one of five budding entrepreneurs selected by an independent panel of judges to pitch their ideas to an audience at the event. Sarah explained how she came up with the concept for her own range of solid shampoo and conditioners, after she was unable to find natural, plastic-free alternatives for bath time with her three young children, all aged under five. Her pitch was selected as the overall winner, following an audience vote.

I am delighted to win this award. All of the finalists were outstanding, so it’s a real honour to have been chosen as the winner,” said Sarah.

“This package of support will be invaluable in developing the next stage of our journey and we are really excited to see where we can take Percy and Pop, with the help and advice from a trusted support network. This initiative is a lifeline to budding entrepreneurs and a fantastic opportunity to springboard our business and we can’t wait to take our bathroom revolution to the next level!”

Sarah was presented with the award by Daniel Glover, MD at Pacem who have supported this initiative for the past four years.

“A massive congratulations to Sarah on winning this year’s Belfast Business Idea Award –  ‘Percy and Pop’ is a great concept with exceptional potential and we are looking forward to working alongside Sarah in bringing her business to the next level,“ said Danie

“The calibre of entries from across the board this year was exceptional and is a real testament to the entrepreneurial spirit we have within our city – well done to all those who took part and to the other organisations who, alongside Pacem,  continue to support business start up and growth in the city”.

The four other business ideas chosen by the competition judges will also receive a support package worth over £3,000  which includes:

> Six months free accountancy services (including software) from Pacem Accounting and Tax Advisory

> 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.

> A 2 hr group mentoring session with Alan Mahon, Founder of Brewgooder.

The other four finalists announced on the evening were:

  • Ankit Goel – PropAI
  • Ciara Doherty and Sinead Molloy – Shevron
  • Maebh Reynolds – GoPlugable
  • Ryan Forde – Medical AI Systems (MAIS)

All aspiring entrepreneurs in attendance also had the opportunity to hear from, and put questions to, Belfast-born businessman Alan Mahon, founder of Brewgooder, the UK’s fastest growing beer brand in 2022, who provided them with inspiration and advice on taking forward their own business journeys.

Speaking at the finalist’s night, Elizabeth Crossan, Director of Accounting & Tax, commended all applicants and expressed her enthusiasm towards working with the winners,

We are looking forward to working alongside the newly crowned winners of the 2023 Belfast Business Idea Award by providing six months free accountancy services. We love helping new businesses develop and grow and to play a part in their journey is a real privilege. We can’t wait to see what is in store for these blossoming businesses and predict great things ahead –  watch this space”.

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.

FAKE NEWS!! Active outperforms passive!!

Unfortunately we now live in a world of fake news and ‘alternative facts’[1] where parties shamelessly push their own agenda at the cost of salient facts.  In order to be heard in the noise of social media, research headlines need to be bigger and more eye-catching.

For those investing using an evidence-based approach that means it is important to make sure that any evidence being reviewed is based on true facts, reliable data and sound research methodologies.  There is much good research and empirical evidence available, but some of a lesser quality occasionally makes the headlines.

A recent piece of research by a fund management firm that manages over US $580 billion[2] is a case in point, making the statement:

‘Active funds beat passives in every market in the UK over a 20-year period’

That is quite a claim to make.  The firm looked at funds in seven Lipper categories[3] and – somewhat surprisingly for an investment house filled with bright and talented people – compared how the fund with the best performance over the past 20-years had done relative to passive alternatives (index funds) and the index.  The methodology is so evidently flawed as to hardly be worth reviewing. It is best summarised as requiring a fund-picking strategy of perfect 20-20 hindsight!  They concluded that it would have been worth identifying the best active fund instead of using a passive fund. The problem is that this is almost impossible to do without a crystal ball.

Alan Miller of SCM Direct – a firm which has campaigned to improve investor outcomes – summed it up most effectively:

‘It’s a bit like saying you’re better off buying a lottery ticket than putting your money in the bank because had you won the lottery each year, you’d have done much better.’

Unfortunately this type of naïve research risks misleading retail investors, and even some advisers, against a sensible evidence-based approach suggesting that a passive approach makes good sense.

In their own data, the fund management firm in question revealed that in the six Lipper categories where there was a passive fund with a 20-year track record, in five the average passive fund beat the average active fund.  In the sixth, there was nothing much in it.  The best passive fund – which you do have a fair chance of identifying, unlike an active fund – outperformed in all six categories.  Another methodological flaw arises; no account seems to have been taken of the high proportion of UK-based funds that would have failed to survive the period.  A reputable study[4] reveals that only around 50% of GBP-denominated funds survived the 10-year period to the end of 2022.  Over 20-years this figure is likely to have been even worse.  We also know from this study that, on average across the eight categories of funds denominated in GBP (so a similar fund set to the flawed research above), 80% of active funds failed to deliver on their promise of beating their market benchmark over 10-years.  For a 20-year period this is likely to be higher, as evidenced in the US version of this study.

‘Enough, already!’ as our American friends might say.

[1]      This was a term used by White House adviser Kellyanne Conway to defend an untrue statement about the number of people attending President Donald Trump’s inauguration.

[2]      As reported in–do-its-claims-stack-up/

[3]      Lipper is a data provider who break down the fund universe into categories such as global equities and emerging market equities.

[4]      SPIVA Europe Year-End 2022 Report