Advancement of Education

We have an excellent educational base in NI. Whether it is the quality of the feeder schools or the first class universities  offering research facilities or focussed degrees, we are able to offer hundreds of young people global opportunities all from the island of Ireland”. Brian Conlon 

Brian was an outstanding academic. He knew the value of a good education. 

Academic ability was a key criteria for a job in First Derivatives alongside having a positive attitude towards hard work and and an outgoing personality. Once graduates commenced work with the company they undertook a custom made training programme designed by Brian to ensure that his employees had the tools to succeed in major financial institutions throughout the world. Training and education was at the core of the companies DNA and an area that Brian was hugely passionate about.

Brian worked closely with schools, colleges and universities to help young people achieve their goals and avail of opportunities. These opportunities ultimately created potential pathways into First Derivatives ensuring that they attracted graduates of the highest calibre. Two examples of this was with QUB he set up the first training trading room in Ireland and in 2018 he launched a masters in capital markets with Ulster University of Jordanstown.

The Foundation intends to build on the relationships initiated by Brian with educational institutions across Northern Ireland and locally in Newry. We hope by supporting academic achievement through bursaries and endowments young people will able to pursue goals well beyond their current  reach.

My first job out of college was at First Derivatives. Within two weeks of arriving, Brian pulled me aside one Thursday evening and asked if I had a passport, he told me I was going to Palo Alto on Monday for a quick visit. Over 20 years later I’m still in the US and have Brian to thank for it all – work, family, everything. I was one of the many people Brian gave such a wonderful start to. He believed in us and gave us as much responsibility as we were willing to take on. At that stage in our careers and being so young the faith that Brian showed in us was amazing and provided us a springboard for the rest of our careers. I come across FD alumni all the time working in the top firms in the industry each and every one of them owe a lot of where they are to Brian and his drive and vision. He was a great man and a true leader.

Peter Durkan, CEO Lucera, New York City.

Advancement of Amateur Sport

Brian lived and breathed sport. He excelled, whether it was in athletics, Gaelic football, soccer, cycling or triathlons. Sport was important for Brian in nurturing self discipline, goal setting and team building. On and off the field, Brian was a leader, a motivator and mentor.

Participation in sport helped mould and shape him into the formidable leader he became. It can do the same for others who have the dedication and ambition to achieve. The Foundation hopes to promote and assist others achieve their goals through sport by way of endowments and grants. 

Amateur sports deserve support at a grassroots level. Brian understood that amateur sports are built on huge personal commitment of literally thousands of volunteers.

A key objective of the Foundation is to develop and encourage participation in a range of sporting activities both at club and college levels. Helping people become the best that they can be through sport is something which Brian would appreciate very much and we envisage that any individual who receives a sporting bursary on behalf of the foundation will display the characteristics that set Brian apart both on and off the sporting field.
When Brian had his injury the business world’s gain was certainly GAA football’s loss – his departure from the game due to his injury in 1987 was a tragedy for Brian, his family, his club and his county and for the countless numbers of Down supporters who were robbed of the opportunity to witness and appreciate the outstanding natural skills of Brian as a great Gaelic footballer.
Sean O Neill, triple all All-Ireland winner with Down and named in GAA team of the century   
Brian was a talented all round sportsman who excelled at Gaelic football. It was a passion that stayed with him throughout his life. From his early beginnings on the Rice Cup teams in the Abbey Primary right through to the hallowed turf of Clones and Croke Park with this beloved Down. He was as they say ”A natural”. Two footed, tall with a physique to match. A stylish footballer with a panache for high fielding.
I played with Brian for school and club and it was no surprise when the Down senior team came calling. He was a prolific minor and immediately moved on to the senior team at 18 years old.
An Ulster final appearance in 1986 with Down indicated that his greatness and ability was coming to the fore. The following national league campaign showed him to be an integral part of the senior team facing the likes of the Kerry golden team in Newcastle Brian showed he was able to hold his own with some of the greats of GAA football. 
Brian had all the attributes you would’ve wanted to play Gaelic football in those days. I would safely say had it not been for his injury he would have been part of those Down teams that won All Ireland’s in the 90’s. Brian was a great GAA player for Down and in later years a great GAA man for Down.
DJ Kane, Down All Ireland winner and captain 1994

Community Giving

One of Brian’s biggest strengths was his generosity. Charitable and Community contributions were an important part of his ethos to give back. 

Brian was a very private man therefore many of the stories of his remarkable kindness and what he did for others only really came to light post his passing. These contributions were often done quietly under the radar, but they made a difference when they were needed most. Our Foundation wishes to continue with the spirit of Brian’s kindness by donating to charities embedded in the community that where close to his heart.

I had the pleasure to know Brian personally as a team mate (a privilege) with Newry Mitchel’s GFC and also i played under him when he managed the team when his playing days were cruelly cut short. He will be forever remembered as an athlete, a genius, an entrepreneur, a Newry man – but I will also always remember his kindness and goodness.

When our son, Kevin, was killed in a hit and run incident in New York in 2013 and we were in turmoil and despair wondering how we would get Kevin home – and how we were able to afford it – we were informed through a very trusted intermediary that Brian had our backs and that Kevin would be coming home. No fanfare (not Brian’s way) but typical of the man.

As it turned out we did not need to avail of Brian’s generosity but this quiet goodness along with the the amazing support of the people of Newry inspired us to set up the Kevin Bell Repatriation Trust which now offers the same comfort and relief to families throughout Ireland devastated by the loss of loved ones abroad as Brian’s offer did for us.

Ni bheidh a leitheid aris.

Collie Bell, founder Kevin Bell Repatriation Trust

Brian donated to various charities & supported charitable events locally & nationally. However there were five specific charities that he donated to annually at Christmas time without fail. The foundation wishes to keep this tradition alive and on an annual basis we will continue to support each of these charities from our funds.

Simon Community NI is Northern Ireland’s leading homeless charity. It is a community of homeless people and volunteers living and working together in a spirit of acceptance, tolerance and understanding.

The largest, voluntary, charitable organisation in Ireland.

Concern Worldwide is Ireland’s largest aid and humanitarian agency – working in some of the hardest to reach and most fragile places on our planet.

SAHS provides invaluable support and care to people living within the Southern Health Board Area, who are suffering from Cancer, Multiple Sclerosis, Motor Neurone Disease and AIDS.

Established in 1973, the Gateway Club’s mission is to recognise the continuing role of people with learning disabilities in the Community and endeavor to raise an awareness of the benefits of participation in an active lifestyle.

Hometown Of Newry

I decided to buck the trend and to come home to set up my business in Newry. What I have done here could be replicated in other Irish towns. But I did it here because it’s where I am from.
Brian Conlon

Brian’s own words sum up the intensity of his pride in Newry.

There is an African saying that it ‘takes a village to raise a child.’ Brian got that. Alongside his parents, Gerry and Josephine, he had many mentors throughout his childhood and adolescent years, teachers in school, coaches in football and lifelong friendships all grounded and formed in his hometown.

Brian had a strong sense of place.

He didn’t just start his business in the town he loved so much but by headquartering, First Derivatives there, he made Newry a recognisable place name throughout the international arena of banking, high finance and IT.

The Foundation shares Brian’s love of Newry and its people. It is the intention of the Foundation to continue to make a social investment in Newry by supporting local initiatives, individuals and organisations on an annual basis.

Continuing the living legacy of Brian, the Foundation will contribute to projects and activities which will help improve communities and contribute to a pride of place in Newry.

The Brian Conlon Foundation will partner with the Community Foundation (NI) who will manage the application & grant making process for our community giving in Newry. The process for potential beneficiaries to apply for Grants is now closed for 2022.

Proud people indeed because Newry people are proud of the achievements of our sons and daughters. And for those of my generation in the Newry area Brian Conlon stood the tallest of all those achievers. Brian’s decision to locate his headquarters in Newry cannot be underestimated. The Newry he knew of the 1980’s was blighted with unemployment a staggering 28%…He was Newry through and through. His shadow looms large not just in the industry which he dominated but in the physical regeneration of Newry and the lives of thousands of young people for whom he provided opportunities beyond their imaginations.

Tom Kelly, Journalist Irish News

I don’t think he cared about the wealth, making an impact in Newry was really the big thing for him. When I worked in Newry, we got an awful lot of people from the full spectrum calling in to chat to Brian. It was most notable that people would re-emphasise what a great person he was – football coaches, schoolteachers, everyone. I have never seen the like of it anywhere else.

Danny Moore, President and CEO Options Technology

I have witnessed first-hand Brian’s personal drive and ability which has been pivotal in establishing Northern Ireland as a global centre of excellence for financial services. Brian was deeply attached to his home city of Newry and ensured that the success of FD as a company had a positive impact on the wider community.

Alastair Hamilton, CEO Invest NI

Cancer Research

in partnership with Queen’s University School of Medicine, Dentistry and Biomedical Sciences

The School of Medicine, Dentistry and Biomedical Sciences is a world-class teaching resource and internationally recognised research infrastructure. 

Each year, over 9,000 people in Northern Ireland are diagnosed with cancer and this number is growing as our population ages. Brian was diagnosed with Oesophageal cancer in 2019.

Oesophageal cancer occurs when abnormal cells in the food pipe (oesophagus) grow in an uncontrolled way. Most people with oesophageal cancer are asymptomatic, and diagnosis is often late. Over the last 15 years there has been a 24% increase in oesophageal cancer in Northern Ireland. There is a direct correlation between funding and patient survival rates. At present only 6% of UK research funding is allocated to oesophageal cancer and as a result survival rates have changed marginally over the last 40 years. 
Barrett’s oesophagus can increase the risk of cancer of the oesophagus and is present in 1-2 % of the population. Only 20% of those that have it will be diagnosed. Early detection of oesophageal cancer concentrates on detecting those in the high risk /bad Barrett’s category. Research has shown that by detecting Barrett’s early, cancer cases will be reduced by 50%. 
As a result of the pandemic, there is the added concern of a significant number of undiagnosed cases. In NI, during the first six months of the pandemic there was a reduction of 59.3% in oesophageal cancer cases. Early detection is now of even greater importance and the emphasis is on detecting high risk Barrett’s oesophagus through the development of a test. 

To accelerate this early detection work, Queens University must invest in the appropriate resources. The Brian Conlon Foundation supporting a team that includes a Clinical Fellow, a Biobank Nurse and a PhD student will help the university accelerate this. Team will be recruited over the spring and summer of 2022 with the plans to start the research in September 2022. 

The key objectives for this team would be:
  • To develop an algorithm to identify asymptomatic Barrett’s Oesophagus patients from GP data by year 3. 
  • To collect translational tissue and blood samples – a large collection will have been generated by year three – to validate current research findings and develop further grants. 
  • Use RNA sequencing of Barrett’s biopsies to develop a test by year 3 to identify high risk Barrett’s patients as part of our wider Cancer Research UK programme 

To get involved , contact or donate to the Brian Conlon Foundation click here.