Berwick Partners’ Business Leaders forum, with the Institute of Directors

5th May 2020

Berwick Partners' Business Leaders forum, with the Institute of Directors

The Institute of Directors is one of the strongest business voices in the UK, alongside the Confederation of British Industry, Make UK, British Chamber of Commerce and Federation of Small Business. On Thursday the 30th of April, Berwick Partners were delighted to host an online event for thirty business leaders with guest speaker Jonathan Geldart, Director General, of the Institute of Directors.

Prior to joining the IoD, Jonathan was a Director at Grant Thornton International where he had responsibility for their business in China. Jonathan is a published author of books on Chinese business and still has strong contacts in China. As they are a couple of months ahead of the UK, Jonathan was able to discuss what UK businesses can learn from the Chinese organisations as we plan for a return.

As part of the ‘Big 5’ business lobbying groups, the Institute of Directors (IoD) has helped to shape the government’s strategy to support UK companies during the pandemic. Jonathan himself has had weekly contact with ministers and civil servants in the Department for Business, Skills and Innovation.  Consequently, Jonathan has a good insight into the government’s current thinking and their views on the future for British Business, which he was able to share with our audience of business leaders.

A wide-ranging discussion took place, with Jonathan answering a myriad of questions from our attendees.  Some key takeaways from the event included:

  • The ’re-set’ button has been pushed
    Now is the perfect time to assess what we want to be, both as businesses and as a nation.  As business leaders we should be thinking about doing ‘good business’, not just what’s good for business.
  • Positive mindset is key
    Lockdown has changed the habits and perceptions of millions of people across the UK.  Understandably people are nervous about returning to work and resuming their normal lives.  Business leaders need to address these concerns, install the policies and practices that give assurance to employees and customers that it’s safe to return.
  • A long road ahead
    The government has been planning our lockdown exit for some time, but the road ahead will be lumpy.  Decisions will be based on science, but will also consider other leading nations, both in Europe and globally.  Public sentiment will be influential, and the government are regularly gauging this.
  • A return to UK manufacturing
    Businesses are assessing their supply chains, and we are likely to see a natural repatriation back to the UK.  China is no longer ’cheap’, and whilst companies have diversified sourcing to low labour cost alternatives such as Cambodia and Laos, the shipping time and bulk ordering can lead to weaknesses in the supply chain.  UK manufacturers can assess what opportunities are available for them to deliver competitive, quality products, in an agile way.

The discussion lasted for an hour, with pertinent questions from the attendees, however one big question remains – Tax: how will the UK Government seek to restore the public finances in the future?

To address this issue we arranged for Alan McLean to share his thoughts, via a webinar on the 13th of May.  Alan is a highly regarded individual in the world of taxation and has been successful in influencing tax policy on a global platform. Alan is the vice-chair of the tax committee of the Business and Industry Advisory Committee to the OECD and a member of the Tax Committee of the 100 Group as well as being the executive vice president taxation and controller at Shell. We will be speaking to Alan about his views on the tax function of the future, the current crisis and how corporations may be taxed as we look to re-build and recover.

Categories: Finance