Brian'S Story

Brian's Story

Brian Gerard Conlon was born in Newry to Gerry and Josephine Conlon on the 7th January 1966.

It was an auspicious year in Ireland with twin fiftieth anniversaries of both the Easter Rising and the Battle of the Somme.

Down GAA was still riding high winning both the Senior and Minor Ulster football Championships.

Newry Mitchels GFC had already won two of their four Down Senior Club Championships of the decade.

Across America and Europe political change was in the air. Change was coming to Northern Ireland too.

And in the world of commerce, the then Taoiseach, Sean Lemass opened up a new era by creating an outward looking Irish business environment when the Anglo Irish Trade Agreement came into effect in July 1966.

Modern Ireland was emerging.

Therefore, it was little wonder that in this same year, one of Ireland’s most successful-future entrepreneurs was born amidst this rising tide of change and opportunity.

Brian was the oldest of four siblings, with one sister Kathy and two brothers Ronan and Ciaran.

Newry was his home and the border town made a deep impression on the life of the young Brian. Roots were important to him. He passionately believed that personal and professional success was rooted in a person’s background, family and community.

It’s something he never forgot.

Unsurprisingly, life in the Conlon household revolved around sport.

Attachment to the Gaelic Athletic Association (GAA) ran deep.

Brian excelled at almost everything at school. Academically he was gifted and enjoyed learning. Perhaps less known was that Brian was a skilled orator and made his mark as a debater in competitions.

In his own words, he thought about football “night and day”. He lived for sport and it wasn’t just playing Gaelic football, Brian was equally enthusiastic playing soccer.

A life long supporter of Leeds United, Brian liked to recall ‘their glory days’.

He played with Newry Mitchel GFC during their successful revival in the 1980s and competed successfully in underage athletics winning all Ireland titles.

Naturally as a rising star he was noticed when he went to the Abbey Grammar and soon Brian was lining out for the Abbey football team. This culminated with a MacRory Cup medal. Whilst at school, Brian also played for the local amateur soccer club, Hereford FC. He had an all round talent for sport. He was competitive but also very modest about his achievements. (This is despite the fact that later in his life he was named in both Abbey Grammar and Newry Mitchel’s team of the century’s) 

At Queen’s University, Brian played in three Sigerson cup squads until a serious on pitch injury cut short a promising career with both Queens and Down GFC. He graduated with a degree in accountancy and took up his first job as an accountant in Belfast with KPMG.


Disappointed to lose the ability to play competitive contact sport, Brian turned to other sports where he challenged himself, particularly in triathlons, swimming and cycling.

The inventor, Alexander Graham Bell once wrote “When one door closes, another opens; but we often look so long and so regretfully upon the closed door that we don’t see the one which has opened for us”.

This may be true for some people who rue opportunities lost but not for Brian Conlon,

Accountancy was not motivating enough, in fact it bored him. Describing his first job he despaired spending much of the year counting trucks in and out of a depot!

Brian moved to London, first working with Morgan Stanley. He understood the importance of being challenged by a job and more crucially he had an appetite for information. He became the head controller of Morgan Stanley’s Derivatives trading desk.

The international world of finance opened up opportunities well beyond the life of accountancy. He joined the US software Sunguard Group. Brian grasped the chance of moving beyond his knowledge comfort zone. Equipped with new skills and ideas, he thrived in the dynamic and fast moving worlds of finance and technology.

Then, in 1996 he got restless feet.

Responding to a Northern Ireland initiative called ‘Make it back home’ -Brian decided to return to his roots. And so, the Brian Conlon story became the First Derivatives story.

And it all began in the back bedroom of his mother’s house with the start up finance provided by his local credit union in Newry. Those local roots were paying off.

As First Derivatives grew it expanded its services to other continents. It literally spanned the Globe from San Francisco to Hong Kong.

Brian also settled into a different type of expansion when in 2011 he married Julie O’Hare and they settled together in Carlingford. They had their son Fionn in 2013 and their daughter Danú in 2015. Brian found sanctuary in the simplicity of family and village life. They were the happiest of times.
Brian had a strong sense of where he came from and provided employment opportunities to thousands of young Irish people.

He believed with an education, an ability to communicate and a sense of ambition, young people could change their lives, help build the FD business and make a difference to the communities where they lived and worked.

Brian developed a strong sense of charity and philanthropy. He quietly and efficiently championed his passion for sport, his home town, education, the GAA and other charitable causes. This was done often without recognition or accolade.

When he was diagnosed with Oesophageal cancer, he faced it with the same stoicism and inner resolve which he demonstrated on the pitch and in the boardroom.
Brian Conlon left more than a footprint during his lifetime. He leaves a living lasting legacy which through the work of the Foundation will continue into the future. For all his success in business it was his beloved wife Julie and children Fionn and Danú  who were his pride and joy in life. Brian’s family remember him for his selfless, kind, soft hearted nature;  his positivity and zest for life. We will be forever grateful for the contentment, love and sheer joy he brought to our lives. Brian was a truly special gift.

Brian Conlon January 6th 1966 to 28th July 2019. 

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