Brian Conlon, founder of NI tech company First Derivatives, dies

Newry-based businessman (53) ‘inspired all who had the privilege to work with him’

Brian Conlon, founder and chief executive of First Derivatives, previously won the EY Entrepreneur of the Year award. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill/The Irish Times

Brian Conlon, founder and chief executive of First Derivatives, previously won the EY Entrepreneur of the Year award. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill/The Irish Times

 

Brian Conlon, the founder and chief executive of Newry-based technology company First Derivatives, has died at the age of 53.

Mr Conlon was widely considered one of the North’s most successful business people. He was a former Down GAA player and set up the company in his mother’s spare bedroom in 1996, eventually transforming it into a firm employing more than 2,000 people with an estimated valuation of some £800 million. Mr Conlon was diagnosed with cancer in May but continued to lead First Derivatives during his treatment.

The company provides trading and risk management software systems and consulting services to some of the world’s top investment banks, brokers and hedge funds. In recent years it has also expanded into several other industries, including manufacturing, digital marketing, retail, gaming, telecoms, automotive and space.

Mr Conlon trained as an accountant with KPMG and later earned his investment banking stripes with Morgan Stanley in London and New York during the 1980s.

When he returned to his Newry roots in the mid-1990s, he realised he had enough experience to start his own business. He founded First Derivatives as a consultancy and services business aimed at the investment banking market, with a seed capital of just £5,000.

The company is one of just two listed companies in Northern Ireland. It floated in 2002 and trades on both the AIM in London and on the Iseq in Dublin.

Mr Conlon was named EY Enterpreneur of the Year in 2010, one of many awards bestowed on the businessman.

First Derivatives confirmed Mr Conlon’s death. Non-executive chairman Seamus Keating said: “Brian built a world-class business in First Derivatives. His drive, ambition and determination inspired all who had the privilege to work with him. This news is a profound shock to all of us.”

Sinn Féin MLA for Newry and Armagh Conor Murphy also paid tribute to Mr Conlon.

“I engaged with Brian on numerous occasions and always found him to be hugely committed to the Newry area and region,” he said.

“Brian Conlon and his partners have grown First Derivatives from a small local company into a globally renowned company. Over those years they have given many young people from the area and across Ireland opportunities to gain employment and to travel the world,” he added.

First Derivatives said it had initiated a process to appoint a new chief executive, which will be led by Mr Keating.

Last September, the company announced the creation of 1,000 jobs to bring total employed over the next three years to about 3,400 people.

More recently it agreed extended bank facilities of £130 million (€144 million) to finance the acquisition of a minority shareholding in Kx Systems to give it 100 per cent ownership of that company.