5th September 2014


'Something major is stirring in the Irish economy. The place looks set to take off ' writes David McWilliams in the Irish Independent, whilst media outlets carry the story about housebuyers queuing five days before new homes go on sale. It all sounds a bit like the early 2000s doesn't it?

Of course we all welcome any positive signs for the economy – we will all gain from it, both individually and as a nation, we hope – but I wouldn't be popping champagne corks just yet. It seems to me, typical Irish sentiment: we swing irrationally between euphoria and despair. Just as we were in the doldrums after crash, now we're expecting things to go mile-high again. And you'd be worried

We're at the mercy of the Eurozone, its deflation and travails with Russia. While at home, is there a housing bubble about to build once more? Stories like those about the housebuyers are the start of it. We went from building too many houses, to none at all in the space of just a f ew years and now we're seeing the pent up demand coming to the fore. We've a rising, young population, of course they will need housing – especially if there's none being built!

Families and young people need a proper supply to ensure that a buble doesn't occur again, and of course, a revivial in the housing market will mean an uptick in business for our insurance products. But the reason I won't be going out investing my last penny in property just yet is because the reality for a lot of people and businesses is that things are still really tough out there.

There's a long corner for many that still has to be turned, personal debts are still high, houses are in negative equity and wages are stagnant in the face of rising costs. Likewise for small businesses like Low.ie, it remains tough as we go up against the big boys with their multi-million euro budgets.

"any fool can make money in a boom, the real talent figures out how to make it in a recession"
We've been an early embracer of digital and the disruption it can bring to an industry and we have been the beneficiaries of that, but the flipside of course is that technology is available to everyone and while you may get an early march on the bigger competitors, they're soon in your rearview mirror catching up.

I think it was Michael O'Leary who said that any fool can make money in a boom, the real talent figures out how to make it in a recession. We may be through the worst and technically out of recession, but the boom times are still a distance away so you have to continue to box clever in terms of strategy, marketing, product and service.

In truth, I didn't envisage it would be this tough trying to get the word out and I have been surprised at how much longer it takes for the message to make an impact. But we're getting there, one step at a time and we'll be ready when the sage words of the Dalkey Delphi come true and we all take off together.