SW Business Leader Magazine: November/December 2020

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November/December 2020

South West


TRUMPED Business Leader investigates Britain’s ‘special relationship’ with America following Biden win

Business Leader Report: Is China Friend or Foe? Page 14

CEO in Focus – Greg Jackson from Octopus Energy Page 40

Top 32 business leaders set to take 2021 by storm Page 44


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10 26 40 18










26 Debate: Future of Funding Business Leader brings together a panel of experts to look at the future of funding and what trends business leaders should be aware of

50 Report: Food & Drink Leading figures within the food and drink sector discuss the true impact of COVID-19, government schemes and steering the industry to a brighter future

Latest News Breaking business news from around the region

10 Cover Story: US Election Business Leader looks at Britain’s ‘special relationship’ with America 58 Fast-Track: Tide Bank Business Leader sat down with Tide CEO Dr Oliver Prill


34 Feature: Debts Vs Equity We examine the role of debt and equity can play in scaling your business


14 Report: China UK Relations What does the future hold for the China/UK business relationship?

40 Interview: CEO In Focus We talk to Greg Jackson, CEO of Octopus Energy about his journey to success

18 Feature: Brexit Deal or no deal – what do you need to know about Brexit?

44 Top 32 Leaders Who are the business leaders set to take 2021 by storm?

Business Leader - Inspire • Inform • Connect

HR 54 Feature: HR Director Is the role of the HR Director set for its golden age? Business Leader investigates



Inspire • Inform • Connect

New office purchase signals £multi-million investment

EDITORIAL Oli Ballard - Editor E: oli.ballard@businessleader.co.uk Barney Cotton - Digital Editor E: barney.cotton@businessleader.co.uk DESIGN/PRODUCTION Adam Whittaker - Senior Designer E: adam.whittaker@businessleader.co.uk Melissa Shephard - Website Development E: melissa.Shephard@businessleader.co.uk Josh Dornbrack - Head of Multimedia E: josh.dornbrack@businessleader.co.uk SALES Sam Clark - Business Development Manager E: sam.clark@businessleader.co.uk Emma Filby - Business Development Manager E: emma.filby@businessleader.co.uk CIRCULATION Adrian Warburton - Circulation Manager E: adrian.warburton@businessleader.co.uk ACCOUNTS Jo Meredith - Finance Manager E: joanne.meredith@businessleader.co.uk MANAGING DIRECTOR Andrew Scott - Managing Director E: andrew@businessleader.co.uk No part of Business Leader Magazine may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means without the prior written consent of the editor. Business Leader Magazine will make every effort to return picture material, but this is at the owner’s risk. Due to the nature of the print process, images can be subject to colour variation of up to 15%, therefore Business Leader Magazine cannot be held responsible for such variations.

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See page 22 for details 2

A south west marketing and tech company, The Ascot Group, has reached a new milestone with the purchase of ‘Ascot 3’, the third office block it has occupied at Worle Park Way, Weston-super-Mare. The new office gives the company 15,000 sq ft and is part of a £multimillion investment in marketing, media and tech, with plans to fully refurbish the building with focus on sustainability and low carbon, including renewable energy. Ascot 3 will house a new TV/ recording studio, a data science and machine learning team, a training academy to support young people into work, and space for 100+ new team members across the Ascot Group. It will also provide a base for further business acquisitions and an expanding investment portfolio. Andrew Scott, Ascot Group CEO, commented: “This is big step with so much uncertainty right now, but the truth is I believe in what we are doing, I believe in my team and I am committed to giving our customers every tool and advantage I can.” Worle Park Way is a strategically located, modern office estate next to Junction 21 of the M5 motorway near Bristol, and adjacent to Worle mainline train station with Bristol Temple Meads 20 minutes away and

London Paddington under 2 hours. Bristol airport is also close by. Andrew added: “Worle Park Way is a magnet for people in the region, with easy transport links, plenty of free parking, local amenities and shopping. It is a buzzing, modern estate and makes an ideal HQ for the Ascot Group.” The Group purchased ‘Ascot 1’, an imposing three storey modern office on the Park Way in 2016 then in January 2020 occupied ‘Ascot 2’, a refurbished office suite directly overlooking the train station platform. The Group has employed 18 new members of staff since the Lockdown in March, and has plans to reach 200 employees over the next 3 years. “The new offices will act as a catalyst for growth, both organically and through acquisition, and we are already in talks with a number of marketing, digital, media and tech companies. It is hard to believe it all started 15 years ago from my dining room table with a telephone and a laptop. Over the years we’ve had so many knock-backs, crisis and challenges to overcome, but I’m fortunate to have so many brilliant people around me and we are now looking to the future.” www.ascotgroup.co.uk

November/December 2020

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Omar Al-Nuaimi – International CEO

Osborne Clarke appoints new international CEO from 2021 International law firm Osborne Clarke, which has around 500 people at its Bristol office, has appointed a new international CEO with effect from July 2021. Omar Al-Nuaimi is head of Osborne Clarke's infrastructure finance group and will take over from Simon Beswick at the end of his term, after eight years in the role. The appointment was announced to partners by Núria Martín who is chair of the international council and managing partner of Osborne Clarke's Spanish offices. Núria said: "I would like to thank Simon who has put so much energy into helping us build an international business to be proud of. We have come a very long way in only eight years. Congratulations to Omar. We believe he is absolutely the right person to build on Simon's legacy and take our business to even greater heights."

Bristol-based start-up company wins Innovate UK grant for £260,000 Bristol-based Airway Medical Ltd today announced that they have been awarded a nine-month £260,000 funded project; in collaboration with University of Portsmouth, via The Sustainable Innovation Fund from UK Government funding agency Innovate UK.

Innovate UK Executive Chair Dr Ian Campbell said: “In these difficult times we have seen the best of British business innovation. The pandemic is not just a physical and mental health emergency but one that impacts society and the economy as a whole.

Airway Medical Ltd produces novel Suction & Oxygen Therapy equipment for clearing blocked airways in emergency and chronic conditions.

"Airway Medical Ltd. along with every other initiative Innovate UK has supported through this fund, is an important step forward in driving sustainable economic development. Each one is also helping to realise the ambitions of hard-working people.”

Currently the Sustainable Innovation Fund is funding 1,103 projects, 1069 UK businesses and totaling over £130m in support across the UK.

Turnover and profits up at manufacturer of retro arcade machines Turnover and profits at a manufacturer of retro arcade machines have jumped dramatically in 2020.

life on a mission to build the best customer arcade machines in the business.

The team say this has been helped by an online overhaul it underwent.

It is currently based two factories spanning 7,500 sq ft factory in Oldbury-on-Severn, Gloucestershire.

As of the end of October, Bitcade has enjoyed 370% annual revenue growth, with website inquiries trebling and substantially improved conversion rates. Turnover has shot up from £180,000 to just under £700,000. Joe Cox and Paul Morris of Superb Digital, with Jack England of Bitcade, centre


Initially set up by Managing Director Jack England in 2017, Bitcade started

Jack England comments: “There’s not much positive to have come out of 2020 but as a business we’ve been lucky that more people are discovering, or re-discovering, a passion for arcade gaming as they spend more time at home, either as a break from work or because they’ve been on furlough.” November/December 2020


DAS UK moves to Bristol's Trinity Quay

Growth plans and new MD at Bristol-based Chorus Chorus, a Bristol-based IT services organisation, has embarked on an ambitious five-year growth plan driven by the appointment of a new Managing Director. In moving from operations director into the role of Managing Director at Chorus, Nicola Saner will be leading the executive team and driving the five-year business strategy. Saner said: “When Chorus was founded in 1999 the goal was to bring enterprise-level technology and support into the SME market and to help organisations of all sizes get the most from their IT, which is why our mission is ‘using technology to put people first’.”

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DAS UK, a national provider of specialist legal expenses insurance, is relocating its Bristol offices to 2 Trinity Quay. The letting of the 37,828 sq ft space will see DAS UK relocate its 550 Bristol employees from its current offices at DAS House and North Quay on Bristol’s Temple Back. Andrew Burke, CEO, DAS UK Group said: “The move marks the start of

a new era for us, with the bright, modern, inclusive space offering more opportunities for flexibility and efficiency, while remaining in a central location close to rail, road and cycle networks. "We’ve been working hard throughout the pandemic and our new offices – which are Covid-secure – mark an exciting development for us as we look to our next stage of growth."

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Job management software sees subscribers soar 914% since June Payaca, the ground-breaking software that’s helping small traders boost conversions and make higher-value sales, has seen a 914% increase in subscriptions since June. Payaca helps plumbers, electricians, gardeners, builders, window installers and others level the playing field by letting them create professional quotes and invoices, add optional extras for automated upselling, and collect e-signatures and record agreements. It can also automatically calculate profit margins from cost prices, and track performance analytics. What’s more, Payaca’s starter plan allows users to include finance options in quotes with no FCA authorisation required. Homeowners click a link, apply direct and secure the funding themselves, without any involvement or liability for the business owner. Further payment and finance options are available for businesses wanting to do more. The home improvement sector has boomed since the end of the first national coronavirus lockdown, as homeowners have diverted their disposable income into renovation work instead of foreign holidays.

Matt Franklin Founder, Payaca

Payaca’s target market has seen a dramatic surge in demand as a result, with many turning to the powerful app as a way of competing with larger, more established brands. “We’ve had an incredible sixth months since the first lockdown ended,” comments Matt Franklin. “After a worrying few months for millions of small businesses, it's extremely rewarding to see so many now succeeding – and we’re delighted that so many are embracing Payaca as a way of helping them do that.”

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Signed shirt and signed thank you card from sponsored player Exclusive Player/Sponsor Drinks event (subject to covid safety) Thank you video from sponsored player to be shared across social media channels A thank you post during the season to be shared across social media channels from player A minimum of 1 player appearance request (subject to availability and covid safety) Company logo and 100-word summary alongside the player profile on the website with links to company website Logo on social media coverage when the sponsored player scores a try Virtual Q&A with your sponsored player or a representative from Bristol Bears for you and your employees


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November/December 2020

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usiness Leader recently spoke to Plymouth Marjon University to discuss its business courses, its role within the city, and its plans for the future.

WHAT SEPARATES PLYMOUTH MARJON FROM OTHER UNIVERSITIES? At the forefront of education for 180 years, Plymouth Marjon University is a highly respected small university, currently ranked the No 1 university in England for teaching quality. Marjon’s four values of humanity, ambition, curiosity and independence mean that we believe in others, and we care about the success of all our students. CAN YOU TELL ME ABOUT YOUR BUSINESS COURSES? Marjon offers a range of flexible courses including; undergraduate business programmes in Business, and Leadership and Management, both as three year on campus courses or direct entry with the relevant recognised prior learning. Postgraduate provision includes a new MSc in Management for a Sustainable Future. WHAT ADVANTAGES DO GRADUATES RECEIVE FROM GAINING A BUSINESSRELATED DEGREE FROM THE UNIVERSITY? With managers and businesses under increasing pressure to adapt to a changing world and evolving customer requirements, innovative thinking and enterprise skills are a growing area of strategic focus. Traditional business education courses may not equip

the executives of the future with the toolkit that they need to succeed nor the valuefor-money and specialist focus afforded by Marjon’s business course provision. All our programmes are also accredited by the Chartered Management Institute enabling students to obtain an additional Leadership and Management qualification alongside their university degree. HOW DOES THE UNIVERSITY FIT IN WITH PLYMOUTH’S BUSINESS COMMUNITY? Nothing in business operates in isolation. Business is all about people and forging relationships and Marjon is closely tied to the business community it serves. Local business owners act as guest speakers and placement providers on our courses. Regional Chambers of Commerce work alongside the university to offer events for students to engage in and advise the university of the direction industry is headed. This enables the University to prepare its graduates for the jobs that will await them. WHAT ARE THE FUTURE PLANS FOR THE UNIVERSITY AND ITS ROLE WITHIN PLYMOUTH? Marjon University prides itself on its four values of humanity, ambition, curiosity and independence. These are crucial to how staff and students operate and ultimately what activities the university gets involved in. Marjon will always be the home for those individuals who wish to undertake their learning journey with small class sizes, feel a sense of community, and with a world class teaching and learning experience.

ABOUT PLYMOUTH MARJON UNIVERSITY Dr Sarah Preedy is Programme Leader for the undergraduate Business Programmes at Plymouth Marjon University, programmes which are built around experiential and social learning opportunities to ensure students are able to put business theory into practice. Sarah, an experienced business lecturer and researcher in enterprise education, has also led various extracurricular start up programmes which offer support and finance to student entrepreneurs. Dr Richard Thain founded and was CEO of an online education business, and now leads sustainable management programmes at Plymouth Marjon University in the UK. He is a passionate advocate for sustainability as a strategy for business success. He has developed a range of online distance learning courses to provide the broadest range of educational opportunities to support businesses and individuals alike.

To discuss our undergraduate business programmes please contact Dr Sarah Preedy, spreedy@marjon.ac.uk and take a look at our programme pages - https:// www.marjon.ac.uk/about-marjon/ marjon-business/business-courses/ To discuss our new MSc Management for a Sustainable Future (distance learning) please contact Dr Richard Thain, rthain@marjon.ac.uk 8

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n this article Business Leader looks at the impact of a Biden win, on the UK economy.

Trump administration. After all, Donald was always keen on the ideas of separation, independence, a level playing field and a strong national identity.

At the time of writing, Joe Biden will be the next president of the United States, having reportedly polled a record number of votes in an election that had the highest voter turnout since 1900.

“These values resonated well with the likes of Nigel Farage and many Brexiteers, including some senior Tories. Outside of his American Heartland Trump’s rhetoric wasn’t always crowd-pleasing. Pragmatism is king in a post-Brexit world and building closer commercial ties with the US became imperative in the trade deal agenda.”

If only it were that simple though; because the man, he ‘defeated’ – Donald Trump if you have been living on another planet – is digging his heels in and sticking two fingers up to the Biden and his political adversaries. He says the election is a fraud and as it stands, will not be conceding defeat any time soon. Those close to Trump believe he will see this through to the very end; a last hurrah for Trumpism which will likely live on too, considering he polled over 70 million votes and the man himself says he’ll be back in four years if needed. It has been said – by Biden himself – that our Boris is ‘Trump Lite’ in both character and appearance but the two have already spoke, cordially we hope, as the UK gears up for four years of Biden. So, what can we expect from Biden - who seems almost in every policy aspect the antithesis of Trump - regarding the UK and our relationship with the USA? Eric Silvestre, who is CFA Senior Investment Research Analyst at Alpha Portfolio Management, gives his view: “Over the last four years, the UK Government has been perceived by the general public as a net beneficiary of a 10

CONSIDERING THE PROJECTED CHANGE IN US PRESIDENT, SHOULD WE BE WORRIED ABOUT BUSINESS RELATIONS WITH OUR ALLIES ACROSS THE POND? Eric says: “From his campaign messages President-elect Joe Biden is expected to promote an economic model which is more akin to those within Europe. A higher degree of government intervention in areas such as fiscal spending, social security and a refreshing stance on climate change. "Therefore, leaving aside first impressions and Biden’s personal opinion about the UK, it would be reasonable to expect a closer alignment of policies as favourable, in particular when negotiating non-tariff barriers. “In addition to that, both countries have a multi-decade relationship in critical sectors, including defence and intelligence, which combined with a more aligned approach in terms of COVID-19 response, provide some comfort in the prospect of our future relationship.” In terms of the impact on markets, Eric believes that determining who’s in control of the Senate will be a key factor.

He says: “At the moment, it seems that Republicans are more likely to remain in charge. However, this won’t be decided until a special runoff election in January, as neither of the two candidates in Georgia managed to achieve the 50% of vote required. Assuming that Republicans win the race, some of the most ambitious Democrat proposals are likely to be watered-down, resulting in a smaller COVID-19 support package, lower-thanexpected infrastructure spending and a smaller increase in corporate taxes. “Whilst the market reaction was distorted by Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine announcement, the outcome of the election didn’t trigger any surprise move in prices. In the shortterm investors perceived a combination of a Biden administration and a Republican Senate as the lowest risk outcome for markets. "Whilst the prospect of any increase in corporate taxes will be felt as a negative for equities, we believe this will be offset by more generous fiscal stimulus, a more ambitious infrastructure agenda and a general improvement in international trade relationships. Or at least less nerve-racking than under the previous administration.” WHAT ABOUT THE IRISH BORDER AND BREXIT? It has been suggested that Joe Biden will have the strongest Irish association and ‘roots’ of any US President, since John F. Kennedy. Biden has also reaffirmed his support of the Good Friday agreement, post-election. With the Irish border such a contentious issue in sealing the Brexit deal – could November/December 2020


Biden – a vocal ‘remainer' - have any impact at this point? Eric comments: “Trump has been a stated fan of Brexit and has previously sought to leverage his position within the UK and with Boris Johnson. In contrast to a previously frosty relationship it experienced with Trump, the outcome of the election is likely to be a boost to US – Irish diplomacy, at the possible detriment to the UK. With a powerful ally by its side, Ireland could carry greater sway within the EU and beyond. “Thereby giving Ireland greater prominence with the Brexit withdrawal agreement and potentially the look and feel of any prospective US trade deals involving the UK, Ireland and even the EU. Biden has been critical of the UK's plans to override parts of the Brexit divorce agreement in relation to Northern Ireland, if no trade deal is reached with the EU. Business Leader - Inspire • Inform • Connect

“It was not surprising that Boris Johnson was one of the first heads of government to speak with the President-elect. Boris was also keen to woo the US with a green agenda, aiming to bring the US back onboard with climate awareness and invited Biden to attend the COP26 climate change summit that the UK is hosting in Glasgow next year.

“Post-election it might well be true, that Irish eyes are indeed smiling, and Boris has fresh obstacles in the way of Brexit.”

Cont.  11

COVER STORY In regard to the wider trade implications between the UK and the US, Tony Syme, finance and economy expert from the University of Salford Business School, comments: “The contrast could not be sharper between the ‘America First’ agenda of President Trump and the multilateralist approach of Joe Biden. Trump consistently sought to undermine the legitimacy of organisations such as the WTO, the WHO, the UN and the EU. The President-elect has vowed that, under his administration, America will lead by the ‘power of example’ rather than the ‘example of power’. “Biden’s Irish roots have been welldocumented. He visited Ireland while he was Vice-President and he offered support to the Irish Government after the UK Government published the Internal Market Bill in September. It reinforces the expectation that he will not support a US-UK trade deal unless the withdrawal agreement is maintained and the Good Friday Agreement protected. “This will not be the same as Barack Obama’s punitive statement in 2016 that the UK would be at the ‘back of the queue’ in any trade deal if the UK left the EU. Biden is too diplomatic and a firm believer in multilateralism to take the same approach. For example, he will need the help of the UK government if he is to repair relations in NATO. However, even though often

President Donald Trump boarding Airforce 1 to attend meeting with Boris Johnson

exaggerated, that ‘special relationship’ between the UK and the US will be much less special following Brexit.” THE UK TECH SECTOR To find out if a Biden presidency will be positive for UK business sectors, Business Leader also spoke to Russ Shaw, the founder of London and Global Tech Advocates, to get this view on the tech sector, which is known for its transatlantic cross-pollination around funding and knowledge. He comments: “After a much closer race than originally predicted, a Biden Presidency is looking increasingly likely and will largely be met with positivity by the global tech sector. His approach to digital policy seems much more actively geared towards partnering with private industry and other governments to set the technology agenda.


“For Big Tech companies, Biden still intends to impose stringent antitrust measures, as well as tough taxation and privacy regulations. However, with his history as the Vice President of a Silicon Valley-friendly Obama Administration – and Californiaelected Kamala Harris on his ticket – a victory would likely be the outcome of choice compared to Trump’s ongoing allegations of anti-conservative bias from social media giants. “Beyond Silicon Valley, there are hopes that Biden will be more open to a multilateral approach on key regulatory issues such as a digital tax. Following the lack of involvement from the Trump Administration with OECD talks on digital tax matters, bringing the US back to the table will help to potentially heal the Transatlantic division caused by the imposition of retaliatory tariffs in response to European countries progressing with a tax impacting US tech firms. “Elsewhere, Biden’s approach to immigration reform suggests he will be more favourable to global tech, particularly given how regularly US tech companies come up against caps limiting the number of overseas employees who can obtain visas. Compared to Trump’s resistance to the H1-B visa route, Biden’s more accommodating stance on temporary and permanent employment immigration policies are a clear positive for the tech industry. “For the UK, a Democratic victory presents something of an unknown when it comes to negotiating a post-Brexit trade deal, particularly on topics such as data flows, although we know that Biden is in favour of GDPR-style privacy regulation. It is likely that this will happen but perhaps not until 2022. Ultimately, the UK and global tech sectors can be hopeful that a Biden victory will bring with it a more collaborative approach to international digital diplomacy, as the Administration looks to rebuild relationships with allies around the world.” Christian Stadler, Professor of Strategic Leadership at Warwick Business School, says that Biden victory could not be all good news for businesses though: “The most pressing issue is COVID-19 and in that respect, a Biden victory appears to be good news for US businesses. He has shown a greater desire to deal with the health issues and has put together a massive investment programme to help businesses come out of this epidemic.


November/December 2020

JOE BIDEN Joe Biden on the Presidential campaign trail. © Photo by Adam Schultz




“US businesses will also welcome an end to the trade wars pursued by Trump. That’s not to say there won’t be ongoing tensions with countries like China on human rights issues, but we don’t expect Biden to adopt the same harsh attitude to international trading partners that we have seen in the last few years.

“It’s not all good news for businesses though. Biden plans to increase corporate income tax from 21% to 28% and he is likely to bring in more regulation. However, some sectors might welcome more regulation. For example, Silicon Valley welcome clearer rules on issues such as freedom of speech, which is currently an ethical minefield.

He comments further: “Biden’s victory is also likely to have a significant impact on businesses in Britain too. The Johnson government would have been more likely to pursue a no deal Brexit following a Trump victory, as they would be hoping for a quick and favourable trade deal with the US, though it is impossible to predict what kind of deal you will get with Trump.

“There are other key benefits for businesses under a Biden administration. Stability is very important for businesses and they can expect less policy flip flops under Biden than Trump. Indeed, the University of Chicago has observed that policy uncertainty was greater under Trump than it has at any other time since 1985.

“Under Biden, the US is more likely to favour a close relationship between the UK and the EU and a fairly comprehensive deal. As business leaders in the UK have repeatedly raised concerns about the prospect of a no deal Brexit, they will welcome a Biden victory and the prospect of a closer relationship with the EU.” 

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“One of the most immediate economic impacts of world events on M&A activity is on foreign exchange rates. The result of the Brexit referendum has resulted in a significant fall in the value of the pound relative to the US Dollar and Euro. For many years UK companies have been attractive acquisition targets for international buyers and this drop in the value of the pound effectively made UK companies ‘cheaper’. This more than offset the risks presented by Brexit and if a deal with the EU is announced in the coming weeks, we may see this effect start to reverse itself. However a no deal outcome is likely to exacerbate it. “The US election did lead to some FX volatility with the dollar considered a good investment in times of uncertainty, something which is in abundance at the moment. However there has not been a large shift in the USD to GBP rate compared to this time last year – it was at 1.29 in November 2019 compared to 1.32 recently and in terms of future trade arrangements all eyes are on a trade deal with the EU. “That said there has also been discussion of Joe Biden’s relationship with the UK with some commentators that are closer to the situation suggesting a trade deal with the US may now be harder to come by. This should not however have an immediate impact on transatlantic M&A activity.” 13



usiness Leader looks at the current UK and China business relationship and asks – what opportunities are there for UK firms and what does the future hold for its relationship?

Many pundits like to paint China as a mythical, seductive, and dangerous force that is about to unsettle the tectonic plates of world power and usurp the friendly, freedom loving USA. But it is still yet to attack another country in a military sense – it is still yet to have its ‘Vietnam’. Its actions in Hong Kong are of course brutal and serious but nothing on a par with past American conquests across the globe. However, critics of its rise to power point to its mineral exploitation in Africa, its domestic suppression of dissenting voices and its unorthodox international diplomacy and perceived malign influence on many matters. All valid points maybe; but you could argue no more controversial that many of USA, Russia or even the UK’s tactics past and present; in the battle for global relevance and power. Many argue that China just wants prosperity for its people, but others say it is ruining the manufacturing base of the Western world.

and political tensions around Hong Kong – and how they are shaping the UK and China context. Regarding Huawei, Business Leader spoke to Tamara Makarenko – COO & Head of Global Investigations for global risk consultancy Sibylline and regular UN advisor – to talk about the potential consequences of the UK government’s decision to block Huawei from its 5G network.

AS BORIS JOHNSON’S GOVERNMENT RECALIBRATES ITS CHINA’S POLICY AMID A HARDENED STANCE ON BEIJING ACROSS WESTMINSTER, WE CAN EXPECT FURTHER DETERIORATIONS IN UKCHINA TIES." Tamara explains: “If questions over Beijing’s initial handling of the COVID-19 outbreak had nudged the UK-China relationship onto a downward slope, then Whitehall’s U-turn to exclude Huawei from the UK’s 5G network has undoubtedly shut the door on what was heralded as the ‘Golden Era’ of close bilateral economic ties.

Whether hypocrisy or just to criticise China’s progress, the fact remains that it represents a huge opportunity for UK businesses thanks conversely to its expanding middle class and low manufacturing cost base.

“The Huawei decision will further raise the stakes in the already simmering tensions between the UK and China. Beijing, which views Huawei as a poster child of Chinese technological innovation, had repeatedly warned London not to politicise the matter.

SO HOW IS THE UK AND CHINA BUSINESS RELATIONSHIP REALLY HOLDING UP? In this article we will look at the current issues surrounding the two countries and to do this, let’s set the scene for a moment in relation to COVID-19, Huawei and Cyber

“In retaliation, Beijing will likely seek to reduce investment in the UK. Indeed, the message from China’s Ambassador to the UK, Liu Xiaoming, made it clear that China would no longer view the UK as “a businessfriendly, open, transparent environment”.


“Heeding to the advice of its government, it is also highly probable that Chinese business will roll back on UK-based deals and projects in the foreseeable future. The technological sector is likely to be at the forefront of this move.” NO TIK TOK LONDON HQ Tamara continues about the impact on the tech sector: “For example, Tik Tok, which itself was caught in this fast-evolving geopolitical dynamic due to its Chinese ownership, announced that it would suspend plans to build a new headquarters in London. “Huawei, although no longer involved in the 5G rollout, has a significant and longstanding presence in the UK. It reports that it established its first office here in 2001, employs approximately 1,500 staff, has a research and development centre, and has invested over £2bn since 2012. “This tech giant will almost certainly downsize its US operations, and it may seek a more business-friendly environment elsewhere as a long-term alternative to its UK R&D sites.” CHINA POLICY AND HONG KONG Tamara also says that should UK and China relations worse, UK businesses operating in China could have it hard. She explains: “As Boris Johnson’s government recalibrates its China’s policy amid a hardened stance on Beijing across Westminster, we can expect further deteriorations in UK-China ties, which will ultimately trigger a stronger response from Beijing. “It is expected that we will see Beijing take firmer action on Hong Kong, where China has passed new national security laws. Beijing has made no secret that it considers sovereignty and non-interference of internal November/December 2020


affairs as one of its diplomatic ‘red lines’, thus any British interference would be regarded with a degree of disdain. “In perhaps more spectacular news, it appears that China is looking to target HSBC in retaliation to Westminster’s Huawei decision and stance on Hong Kong. HSBC has already found itself caught in the middle of this political quagmire, as its share price fell earlier this month after the US looked to punish it over its endorsement of China’s new security law. “The pressures placed on HSBC exemplify what can perhaps act as a litmus test to ‘lesser’ British businesses operating in China." Tamara continues: “Within this maelstrom, British businesses not directly caught in the crossfires of Beijing or Westminster, may find themselves caught in the crossfires of public opinion. Of the approximately 8,000 British SME’s in China, it is unlikely that any would be directly targeted by Beijing’s punitive Business Leader - Inspire • Inform • Connect

sanctions; this is a tool that is best directed against multinationals that would yield greater political significance if China really wanted to set an example, or seek to exert greater influence on Whitehall. “With that said, the potential secondary impact on British SMEs from further deteriorating bilateral ties could be disproportionately higher, as SMEs are less resilient to geopolitical risks. For example, those that are over or solely reliant on Chinese customers could be significantly hit if public sentiment turns against the UK and British brands.


“On the flipside, SMEs – if they are adept at utilising intelligence within their operational and strategic decision-making – could be nimbler in adjusting their China strategy.”

UK AND CHINA TRADING OPPORTUNITIES This has painted a picture of headwinds that UK and China are facing – Hong Kong, COVID-19, Huawei, perceived cyber threats. It is a complicated puzzle but there are still opportunities for UK firms looking to trade in China. To find out more, we spoke to Dr Maria Rana from Salford Business School and Dianne Francombe – CEO at Bristol and West China England Bureau.

Cont.  15

REPORT of confusion and perhaps exporting to China has slipped down the priority list for some companies as a result. I am hopeful that the new administration in Washington will bring with it a new pragmatism in US-China relations, and that UK-China relations will settle down in their wake."

Dr Maria Rana Salford Business School

HOW WOULD YOU CURRENTLY ASSESS THE UK AND CHINA TRADE RELATIONSHIP? Dr Maria Rana: "Historically, the UK has run a trade deficit with China, and 2019 has not been an exception. Exports from the UK to China, in fact, amounted to £30.7bn, while imports from China were worth £49bn with a consequent second-largest trade deficit of £18.3bn. As in previous years, the relatively small surplus on trade in services was offset by a larger deficit on trade in goods. "To put in context, in 2019 China was the UK’s sixth largest export market (accounting for 4.4% of all UK exports, after US, Germany, Netherlands, France and Ireland), and the fourth largest import market (accounting 6.8% of all UK imports, after Germany, US and Netherlands). (ONS data)."

WITH BREXIT NOW APPEARING TO BE DRAWING A CONCLUSION – HOW SHOULD FIRMS BE CONNECTING WITH CHINESE INVESTORS/ MARKETS? Rana: "Chinese global outward Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) kept falling in 2019, and early data suggest that this trend is continuing in 2020 with indication of the lowest outbound of FDI from China in a decade. However, over the past 20 years, the UK has been the most attractive country in Europe for Chinese investors (i.e. €50.3bn as opposed to €22.7bn for the second most attractive country in Europe: Germany). "Within Europe, the Chinese investments are mainly focused on the consumer products and services sector, as well as tech-related and automotive sectors, with an increase in R&D collaborations in the most recent past. "UK investment in China has hugely increased since the 2016 Brexit referendum (£2.9bn in 2018, which is 150% higher than 2017), with investment mainly focused on: consumer, pharmaceutical, automotive, financial, technology, design and educational sectors."

"Of course, much of this posturing is for domestic political purposes on both sides and the actual message being delivered to UK firms by the Department for International Trade (DiT) is that it is ‘business as usual’. "From a UK SME’s perspective, the dichotomy between what they are hearing and seeing in the media and the message from the DiT has caused a certain amount 16

WHAT HAS BEEN THE IMPACT OF THE PANDEMIC ON RELATIONS BETWEEN CHINA AND SOUTH WEST BUSINESSES? Francombe: "There has undoubtedly been an increase in anti-Chinese sentiment among US companies and with public opinion, but I do not see much evidence, if any, that UK firms share the same negative views. If anything, it’s the opposite, with many business leaders I speak to empathising with the Chinese people and expressing admiration for the way their government has brought the pandemic under control and turned the economy around in just a few months, while we are facing a second wave and months of uncertainty." ARE THERE ANY SECTORS THAT ARE PARTICULARLY ACTIVE IN CHINA NOW – THAT BUSINESSES SHOULD BE LOOKING AT? Rana: "According to a recent survey, the Chinese sectors considered to be most promising in the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic are, not surprisingly, the following: medical education, AI, internet, e-commerce platforms, delivery and logistics, health care, live streaming, scientific research, data service, software technology."

Dianne Francombe: "I think it is important to distinguish between government-togovernment trade relations and those experienced at grassroots levels by UK and Chinese companies, large and small. "At government level, the current relationship can best be described as somewhat tetchy with the UK trying to steer a course between strong US anti-Chinese pressure and the political need to be seen to be standing firm on issues such as Hong Kong and the Uighurs issues, and the inevitable 'blowback' from the Chinese government.

"On a micro level, the added layers of complexity that UK SMEs now face when exporting to the EU are making firms look further afield for new export opportunities and China may well be on their radar for the first time. With the same procedures, export documentation and effort now broadly applying to a UK export to say, Belgium, with a population of 11.5 million and China with 1.4 billion, it’s not hard to see how many boardroom negotiations will progress when new markets are being discussed."

Dianne Francombe – CEO, Bristol & West China England Bureau

Francombe: "On a macro level, Brexit puts clear water between the UK and the EU which, of course, has its own issues with China at present. This could be a good thing for UK-China trade if our government continues to take a pragmatic approach, which I think it will, and this may make the trading environment a little easier for South West firms going into 2021.

Francombe: "Agritech and aquatech is a high priority sector for the UK in general. This also happens to be a high priority sector in China, as the state seeks to feed an increasingly affluent population through improved agricultural productivity and a wider of choice of foodstuffs. "Other sectors that have great potential in China include training and knowledge transfer services and, of course, education. It is also worth noting that Xi Jinping has recently committed China to peak its CO2 emissions by 2030 and reach net zero by 2060, which will massively accelerate its transition from fossil fuels to clean energy."

November/December 2020


DELIVERING TECH TALENT FOR INDUSTRY Despite the COVID-19 pandemic causing significant disruption to businesses this year, the technology sector continues to thrive in city regions across the South West. For example in Bristol, tech has overtaken engineering as the fastest-growing industry with more than $1bn invested in the city since 2014. According to research by Tech Nation and job search engine Adzuna, the average salary in Bristol is £51k which is £15k higher than the average salary in the city, and recently there were 1,965 IT-related job openings, the highest of any industry in the city region. 430 tech companies now operate in Bristol employing over 8,000 people. It’s important to also note that the pandemic is spurring tech adoption across all sectors, from health, retail and agriculture, as we evolve the way we operate and do business. Data from the 2020 Transformation with Tech report by Lloyds Bank confirmed that almost half (48%) of businesses stated that they would have ceased trading in 2020 had they not used technology during COVID-19. This equates to roughly 2.7 million businesses across the UK. 11% have set up ecommerce since March, more businesses are using cloud software and analytics capabilities. More than half of businesses have been influenced to invest in tech, but threequarters need help with digitisation. However, the issue of having a pipeline of skilled people entering tech roles remains critical. Tech may present many job openings in cluster regions in the South West, but competition for talent is an everpresent for employers. Education providers, including Weston College, are certainly rising to the challenge to deliver tech talent ready for industry, and support businesses with the digital agenda. The new T Level course, a skills-focused alternative to A Levels designed by industry, is now live at Weston College with students preparing to enter tech roles. Weston Business Leader - Inspire • Inform • Connect

Kate Richards and Douglas King Director, Precision Dippings Manufacturing

College are one of a handful of education providers in the country offering this course. The T Level training route includes students spending time on an industry placement in a business for 315 hours alongside their course, applying their skills and providing an extra pair of hands for employers. In addition, degree apprenticeships in digital technology continue to grow in numbers as students choose the work based route and employers see four years degree level training which is 95% funded by the government as an attractive option. Precision Dippings Manufacturing Ltd, a manufacturing business in Bristol have recently offered a degree apprenticeship in digital technology. Kate Green, Director at PDM said “We are a Bristol-based rubber manufacturing business and are proud of having won a Queen’s Award for Enterprise for innovation in 2016 and another for international trade in 2019. We decided to recruit a digital and technology solutions degree apprentice because, knowing innovation is key to company growth, we wanted someone on our team who could specialise in digital analysis and help

us with our e-commerce plans. We’re delighted with the very positive impact the apprenticeship has made – especially during the pandemic when online sales have never been more important.” Dave Crew, Head of Employer Partnerships at Weston College said “We’re now seeing employers from across the South West recognise Weston College as a destination for tech talent. Close alignment with industry continues to evolve, and in early 2021 we launch new apprenticeships in Cyber Security and Data Analyst, responding to demand from employers.” For further information, email employers@weston.ac.uk







usiness Leader spoke with two experts at Descartes – Pol Sweeney and Martin Meacock – to find out where we are with Brexit and what businesses need to know at this stage.

With only a matter of weeks until the final Brexit deadline, there still remains uncertainty as to whether there will be a ‘deal’ or ‘no-deal’ come 1st January. The Prime Minister may have declared that trade talks are over, but background negotiations are still ongoing as both sides of the debate ideally want an agreement. But whether we leave the EU with or without a deal, there are elements of the transition which are already certain. Customs declarations and security filings, for example, will be mandatory for all goods imported and exported into and from the UK. If there is a trade deal, the detail of those customs declarations in terms of the duties and charges associated may change, but fundamentally from the 1st January customs declarations and security fillings will be required, so it’s imperative organisations address this within their businesses today. Especially with eCommerce booming as a result of the pandemic, it could mean that smaller businesses may be caught out if they don’t deploy processes and solutions to support trade at the end of the transition period and the inevitable changes to business that will follow. 18

BREXIT RESPONSIBILITY While a trade deal doesn’t change the practical situation as such, the lack of a free trade agreement could mean higher taxes on imported goods, putting pressure on areas such as customs warehousing and procedures where the duty is deferred when you know the goods are coming in. For those businesses that have not yet taken action with regards to Brexit preparedness, there are a number of considerations that must be factored in. Are you moving goods from EU countries into the UK? Are you exporting to the EU or to Northern Ireland? If so, you will need to ensure that customs declarations are filed in a timely and compliant manner – Brexit will create a 545% increase in customs declarations. You also need to think about whose responsibility is it within your trading relationships to submit those declarations? It could be you or the supplier, but identification is key to ensure that the right steps are taken to comply with regulatory requirements.


Businesses can decide to complete declarations in house, but the complexity involved could be overwhelming for those unfamiliar with customs processes. Alternatively, an intermediary such as a customs broker or freight forwarder can be used that will handle the process for them. However, as time is running out ahead of the Brexit deadline, this is becoming increasingly difficult, some large brokers have already taken on so much new business in recent months. TIME IS OF THE ESSENCE Whether in-house or broker, both will need to address the requirement for the sheer volume of import and export declarations, as well as security filings, via a streamlined November/December 2020


Pol Sweeney VP Sales & Business Manager UK & Ireland

Martin Meacock Director, Product Management, Customs Regulations


solution that will digitise their data, with the ability to keep detailed records and submit electronic declarations to the appropriate authorities. System integration is key; traders, brokers, port systems for haulage and carriers – all of them must work together to make the process as simple as possible. Combining a Software as a Service (SaaS) customs solution that ensures all regulatory changes are automatically updated and available, with staff training to achieve in-house expertise, will deliver a smooth transition into Brexit and provides a strong foundation for current and future business development. This technology can also incorporate the Business Leader - Inspire • Inform • Connect

required security filings, helping carriers and logistics intermediaries manage Import Control System (ICS) compliance by providing a single point of access. Moreover, a digital solution also enables carriers to connect with brokers, shippers, and regulatory authorities around the world, without having to worry about data formats or specific state requirements. Combining customs and security filing software solutions with fleet optimisation and compliance management solutions will achieve even greater efficiency. Route optimisation can be achieved through solutions that incorporate intelligent algorithms and which can also deliver realtime vehicle location through GPS tracking – essential for businesses that need to

meet growing customer expectations and thwart anticipated Brexit-induced supply chain delays. Once the transition period ends, there will be an increasing need for supply chains to be digitally connected. Being able to combine the physical movement of goods with the transfer of electronic data that supports the journey along the supply chain will be more important than ever and critical for business as we head into and beyond 2021. Any delay in putting in place Brexitready systems and processes could disrupt firms’ logistics operations and supply chain, ultimately impacting on customer service and their bottom line. The time to act is now.





rexit, Brexit, Brexit. Have we as a nation and business community ever seen anything as long-winded, dividing and frankly energy sapping as Brexit? In the most perverse and catastrophic way, the COVID-19 pandemic has provided the only relief from the saga ever since the UK went to the polls, all those years ago.

In this article, Business Leader will explore some of the pertinent issues facing UK businesses and bring in experts for each point. To start, we look at preparing for the end of the Brexit transition period and what steps employers should take? Despite the end of the Brexit transition period being very close, little more than half (54%) of UK retailers believe they are either fully prepared, or will be for Brexit by the end of 2020. These are the findings of new research conducted by global ecommerce services company, PFS. At the time of writing, it’s still unknown if the UK will leave the EU without a trade deal, yet nearly a third (29%) of UK online or omnichannel retailers concede that


they are yet to make any preparations at all. That’s despite four-fifths (79%) admitting they will be impacted by any crossborder effects of Brexit. The impact of a no-deal Brexit could be devastating, with two-thirds (67%) of respondents believing it could cause an order backlog in the first quarter of 2021. More than half (56%) say these delays would be related to sending goods to customers in the EU from the UK, whilst two-thirds (67%) believe they will feel an impact when importing products from EU suppliers. So far, only a third of retailers have assessed or implemented new technology to increase supply chain efficiency (37%) and have done, or are in the process of integrating inventory and order tracking software (36%). A similar number (33%) of retailers have split or will be splitting their inventory to base fulfilment in the existing UK and European facilities. Just two-fifths (44%) of the survey respondents say they have set up, or

are setting up, an Economic Operators Registration and Identification (EORI) number to move goods between the EU and UK. The same is the case for the setting up of Merchant of Record services for VAT management and reporting (43%). Furthermore, only 39% have implemented or are implementing a new fraud management system, potentially leaving them in breach of guidelines. Two-thirds say they are preparing for an order backlog early in 2021 (67%) and expect delivery times will be longer than they are currently able to promise customers (65%). More than half


November/December 2020


Tom Brett-Young - VWV

Joe Matusiak - ABGI UK

Nick Farmer - Menzies LLP

(55%) said their contact centres are not adequately resourced to handle the anticipated increase in customer complaints about delivery delays in January 2021. The same number of retailers (55%) will not be able to handle an upsurge in returns that are not related to Christmas.

He comments: “At present there are a range of available grants to help UK businesses accelerate the ambition and vision of their product or services portfolio, including the EU’s Horizon programme.

Strikingly, a third of respondents (34%) already anticipate an increase in customer complaints during the first quarter of 2021 as a direct result of Brexit. To manage these concerns, 40% plan to proactively notify customers about delivery delays and reduced stock availability.


Joe Farrell, VP of International Operations at PFS, comments on this survey: “The retailers that are putting measures in place now, such as using multiple distribution points across the UK and the EU to get goods to customers on time, will survive and thrive post-Brexit. Retailers operating in the UK and Europe should also look to third-party fulfilment providers to help ready their supply chain.” What will happen to Grant Funding Grant Funding is another topic businesses need to be aware of. Business Leader spoke to Joe Matusiak, Grants Manager at innovation funding specialists ABGI UK to answer the question – what will happen to Grant Funding after Brexit.

Business Leader - Inspire • Inform • Connect

Tom Brett-Young

“Horizon 2020 (H2020), the current EU Framework Programme for Research and Innovation, is the largest to date and has been supported by nearly €80bn (£71.4bn) of funding since its launch in 2014. At the end of the year, H2020 will be succeeded by Horizon Europe, a programme supported by a further €80bn (£71.4bn) which will go into effect until 2027. “H2020 has been one of the key mechanisms in providing crucial funding for innovative EU companies, including those in the UK. If, however, a Brexit deal fails to

materialise before the UK’s departure at the end of the year, British business will very likely need to look elsewhere for support.” Tom Brett-Young, Partner at VWV says that existing grant funding schemes in the UK could become particularly important in providing that support. He says: “Existing UK grant funding schemes, including Innovate UK, may be called upon to pick up any slack should a No Deal force our withdrawal from the Horizon programme. "A further option is for regional bodies, which include Local Enterprise Partnerships (LEPs) in England, Scottish Enterprise, the Welsh Development Agency, and Invest Northern Ireland to be given funds and autonomy to provide grants to support innovative companies within their local areas. “Another new grant funding option could come via the UK Government’s ‘blue skies’ science and research agency, part of a series of pro-business measures designed to boost Britain’s competitive edge. “The Prime Minister has often stated his preference for a Canadian-style trade arrangement with the EU, going forward.

Cont. 


FEATURE "If they are however unable to secure a deal which would keep the UK within the Horizon programme, he would do well to look to Canada’s model in devising alternative grant funding arrangements to ensure businesses are able to thrive post-Brexit.” Is the professional services sector ready for Brexit? Nick Farmer, who is an international advisory partner at accountancy firm Menzies LLP, argues that those in the service sector have no time to waste no in preparing for Brexit. He explains: “The UK services sector contributed 81% to the economy in 2019 and accounts for around 30 million jobs. A key sub-sector, which is often described as ‘professional and business services’, comprises HR, recruitment, advertising, legal services, market research, accountancy, audit, architecture, engineering and PR and management consultancy firms. “This sub-sector alone is thought to employ around 4.6 million people and is a strong exporter of services to the EU. As such,

BREXIT & BUSINESS leaving the Single Market without a deal or without securing any mutual recognition of qualifications, residency requirements and mobility rights could have a major impact on many services sector firms. “A recent report produced by the House of Lords’ services subcommittee has raised concerns that the needs of professional and other business services firms are being overlooked by UK negotiators. If nothing is done to address this, many of them could lose contracts and jobs when the Brexit transition period terminates at the end of the year. "The report warns that even if a Canadastyle trade agreement is reached in the nick of time, services sector exports could still face major trade barriers.” Nicks says that the potential issues that could arise for firms if there is no deal, or a deal that fails to address non-tariff trade barriers, include blockages caused by jurisdictional reservations, a lack of recognition of professional qualifications, data transfer issues, loss of passporting rights and reduced business mobility.


While in many cases, larger corporates have found the resources required to prepare for an uncertain future, many SMEs in the services sector have not yet prepared a Brexit plan that will allow them to continue trading, he says. So what can they do? Nick says that when drawing up a Brexit transition plan, firms should consider the following specific issues around market access, data transfer, business mobility, embedded services, professional qualifications, intellectual property rights and hiring EU staff. He concludes by stressing that it’s vital to seek advice from relevant trade bodies and experts. 

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November/December 2020


Preparing for the end of the Brexit Transition Period: What Steps Should Employers Take? By Tom Brett Young – Partner

It will not have escaped the attention of most employers that the Brexit Transition period comes to an end on 31 December 2020. After that date the EU's rules on free movement will no longer apply in the UK. This change will have significant implications for almost all employers both in terms of their current workforce, and their recruitment activities from 1 January 2021 onwards. What employees will be affected? The EU's free movement rules currently allow citizens of the European Economic Area ("EEA") and Switzerland - and their family members - to live and work in the UK. Therefore, anyone currently in the UK on the basis of those EU free movement rights will need to take steps to ensure that they do not lose those rights after the transition period ends on 31 December 2020. From 1 January 2021 onwards the UK will apply its Immigration Rules to EEA nationals and their family members who wish to enter and remain in the UK for any purpose. The government have also introduced changes to the existing Rules with which employers will need to become familiar. Steps that businesses should take With so much changing, employers should be aware of the necessary steps to take:

• If future EEA national employees are living in the UK, are they aware that they will need to submit an EUSS application, or have they applied already? • If they are not currently living in the UK, is it possible to arrange for them to enter the UK before the end of 2020? • If not, will they qualify for a visa allowing them to work in the UK? The main routes for foreign-national workers to come to the UK require sponsorship by a "Tier 2" sponsor. On 1 December 2020 the Tier 2 categories will be replaced by the Skilled Worker and Intra-Company Transfer categories, but the principle of employer sponsorship will continue. On that basis, employers should review their sponsorship requirements. Review sponsorship requirements • Employers without a sponsor licence should urgently review whether they may need one in the future in order to sponsor workers to fill skilled vacancies. • Employers with a Tier 2 sponsor licence should ensure compliance with current sponsorship requirements and review how the licence is set up to confirm that it covers the required sites and branches, both in the UK and overseas.

• Businesses with offices in the EEA/ Switzerland should consider the future needs of employees of those offices to travel to the UK for work purposes and whether their activities will be covered by the Immigration Rules for visitors or whether they will require immigration permission to work in the UK. Staff with responsibility for recruitment and immigration compliance will need to consider how these changes will affect the business in the future. Factors to consider will be the changes to the immigration system (including which roles will be eligible for sponsorship), processing times and costs.

For a more detailed overview of the above, please view our vodcast at www.vwv.co.uk/ immigration-brexit. Please also feel free to share with colleagues who may be involved with immigration aspects for your business. Tom Brett Young is a partner and immigration specialist at award-winning law firm VWV. Tom can be contacted on 07393 148 352 or at tbrettyoung@vwv.co.uk

EU Settlement Scheme for current employees • Are current EEA/Swiss employees and their family members aware of the requirement to apply for status under the EU Settlement Scheme ("EUSS")? Residence in the UK before the end of the Transition Period will entitle someone to apply under the EUSS, and the deadline for applications is 30 June 2021. EEA/Swiss nationals joining the business after 31 December 2020 Business Leader - Inspire • Inform • Connect


TIME IS RUNNING OUT. IS YOUR BUSINESS READY? NEW RULES FOR DOING BUSINESS WITH THE EU START ON 1 JANUARY 2021. BUSINESSES – INCLUDING THOSE IN YOUR INDUSTRY – NEED TO ACT NOW. Business is changing and new rules are coming. The UK has left the EU and will leave the single market and customs union at the end of the transition period on 31 December 2020. There are definite actions that businesses need to take now. If you run a business, it’s important that you check what you need to do. You can be confident that preparations for these changes will not be wasted. By taking action now, you can make sure your business is ready from 1 January 2021 to take advantage of new opportunities. Getting ready can take longer than you think. You’ll find full guidance on the gov.uk/transition website, along with a checklist to help you prepare. But for businesses within your sector, here are some areas where you’re likely to need to take action. YOUR WORKFORCE • Work travel – if you travel to the EU for work purposes after 31 December 2020, you may need a visa or work permit. • Driving – if you’re likely to need to drive whilst on a work trip to the EU, check you have the right documents. • Current employees – if you employ EU, EEA or Swiss citizens, signpost them to the EU Settlement Scheme to secure their future in the UK. • Recruitment – if you’re recruiting new employees from overseas, whether they’re EU or non-EU citizens, you


must comply with the new immigration policies from 1 January 2021. • Professional qualifications – make sure your staff are able to continue to practice and provide services to clients in the UK after 31 December 2020 by ensuring their professional qualification(s) are recognised by their professional body in the UK. DATA • Personal data – prepare for new rules. If you receive personal data from the EU for business use, you may need to take action on data protection. • .eu domain names – if you hold a .eu top level domain, check if you need to replace it. You may not be able to renew it after 31 December 2020. • Online services – if you provide online services to countries in the EEA, check if rules in those countries will apply to you from 1 January 2021. • Network and Information Systems Directive – if your business is a UK based Digital Service Provider to the EU/ EEA, make sure you comply with these new measures. To help UK businesses, the UK Government has put a range of support measures in place, including introducing new border controls in stages up until 1 July 2021 and providing more than £80 million to boost the capacity of the customs intermediary sector. In July it announced a £705 million funding package for border infrastructure, staffing and IT, to ensure border systems are fully operational after the end of the transition period. Find everything you need to know to prepare for 1 January 2021. Visit gov.uk/transition


November/December 2020


‘WE’RE MAKING GREAT STRIDES WHEN IT COMES TO DIVERSITY IN THE FUNDING SECTOR’ To find out what the future holds for the funding sector – and what trends business leaders should be aware of – Business Leader brought together a panel of experts in the sector.

THE EXPERTS Andrea Reynolds Founder & CEO, Swoop Funding Ben Barnamel Head of Debt Finance, OakNorth Veronika Lovett Co-Founder and Chief Commercial Officer, Esme Loans Roxana Mohammadian-Molina Chief Strategy Officer – Blend Network Maggie Rodriguez-Piza Chief Executive – Funding London


WHAT ARE THE MOST RELEVANT TRENDS YOU ARE SEEING IN THE FUNDING SECTOR? Andrea Reynolds: "The start of the pandemic was all about CBILS and the bounce back loans and not much crossed our desks over and above these. What we are seeing now though is that some of the businesses who received this government support are now coming back into the market. "This is because of the new rule which says that repayment of the loan can be made within ten years, so this is giving businesses leeway in regards to what other types of funding they can access."

Ben Barbanel: "It’s very important to stress that we’re still very early on in the crisis and we haven’t yet felt its full impact. OakNorth tend to lend from £500k to £50m, and since lockdown we have taken around £1bn through the credit process. "But only 40% of that has been part of government schemes and the rest has been lending outside of these. We have devised our own scenarios for how we see the pandemic affecting businesses and put together a COVID-19 vulnerability rating which ranks every sector that we lend to. We are trying to nail down how we think each company will be affected and if they can afford the debt they are taking on." November/December 2020


Veronika Lovett: "We offer unsecured funding up to £250k and we did not participate in CBILS and the bounce back loans. Certainly, demand for nongovernment loan schemes did drop earlier in the year because it was hard for lenders to compete with what government was offering but we’re now seeing a slow rise in lending enquiries from businesses looking to explore solutions that will fund growth. "It can seem like a negative picture and the extent of severity has not been felt fully and government schemes have been providing a lifeline that will at some point, need to come to an end. "Still though, many sectors and regions have not been affected and when you look at the data at a granular level, it’s a much more positive picture than you’d think. "Another trend I’ve seen is that some businesses that took out a bounce back loan may not have deployed it and are using it to re-finance pricier debt they have in the business, which is a smart thing to do." Roxana Mohammadian-Molina: "We are a peer-to-peer lender which focuses on the property market and small construction firms and we lend between £300k and £3m. It is coming up to a decade of when P2P lending first emerged as a solution to the global crisis and firms not being able to get funding and investors being penalised by low interest rates. "Since then, £17bn has been funded in the UK through P2P lending. The trends we are seeing now is the growth of a more diversified investor spread and borrowers are forming closer relationships with lenders. We are also seeing more funding coming from high-net worth people and family offices. "There are many more retail investors using the platform now too – from doctors and dentists to accountants. I think it has been good to see the tightening of regulations to attract retail investors." Maggie Rodriguez-Piza: "It seems the old ways of working may not be coming back so you need to look at who are the businesses that are getting funded by VC investors Business Leader - Inspire • Inform • Connect

Andrea Reynolds Swoop Funding

Ben Barbanel OakNorth

and fund managers. I would say that any portfolio company in a venture capital fund that proves it is resilient and has remained relevant will be receiving lots of support from investors and will be OK. "Businesses that have not yet raised funding will be having a tougher time, as we have seen a shift away from backing early stage companies that do not have a proven business model. Businesses that can show they can thrive in this ‘new normal’ or help the digitalisation of business models – or looks at the future of work – will be well placed." THE DEADLINE TO RECEIVE A CBILS LOAN HAS BEEN EXTENDED – WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE TO BUSINESSES AT THIS STAGE?

Veronika Lovett Esme Loans

is don’t take out a loan unless you can repay it.” HOW ARE YOU SEEING TECHNOLOGY CHANGE HOW BUSINESSES ACCESS FUNDING? Veronika: "There has been a clear shift in customer demand for simpler and digitised solutions that remove the hassle and allows you to receive funding solutions very quickly. We have seen an unbelievable acceleration of digital adoption due to the pandemic and an increase in the adoption of open banking, as SMEs consider cashflow and identify how they can access funding quicker. Even before the pandemic there was only one direction of travel in regard to technology and funding and this has only been accelerated."

Andrea Reynolds: “In April, the liquidity wasn’t there in the market but we’re seeing more and more alternative lenders who can offer CBILS for businesses that are either high-growth or maybe going through a difficult trading period. Platforms like Swoop are helpful because it can triage your business and put you in touch with the correct lender. Regarding advice, the fundamental one remains which

Cont.  27


Roxana Mohammadian-Molina Blend Network

Maggie Rodriguez-Piza Funding London

Andrea Reynolds: "It’s interesting, because before the pandemic the early adopters of platforms like Swoop tended to be younger entrepreneurs who were integrating open banking with their businesses and using our technology but we’re now seeing more mature businesses coming on and using the platform, as they often struggled to get somebody to answer the phone at the bank. "We are seeing that entrepreneurs are now more willing to share their company data on our platform, to speed up decision making in regard to their funding. Technology is compressing the time it takes to get funding decisions, compared to going to see a bank manager and getting a no and then having to look at alternatives.

"To conclude, I would say we’re already at the autodecision stage for funding decisions but when you look at more complex deals such as M&A and real estate you will need an element of hybrid that will be online and offline. You need somebody there to move it forward so a customer does not get stuck on an online journey."

Ben: "We cover a wider part of the lending market, so if you’re funding up to £50m the borrower will be different. Having said that we use technology in the process, and we license a platform to other banks that they use in their underwriting and loan decision making process. "You could say that we use technology to augment our decision making but we use people to make the decision; and at the later stages of the deal we’ve gone back to the older model where we bring the borrower into the process and have an old fashioned credit committee scenario."

WHAT ARE THE FUNDAMENTALS YOU LOOK FOR WHEN LENDING? Ben: "I am still surprised by the number of opportunities that come across my desk that aren’t debt opportunities and I think there is still confusion in the market as to what debt is and what equity is. Many businesses also do not come to us well prepared enough and we encourage them to use advisors so they can put together a sound proposal. "Quality of the management team is also key, as you would expect, and it does surprise me when a borrower can’t articulate the levers in their business around how they can navigate uncertainty. Banks are not here to take equity risk, so borrowers also need to have their own skin in the game." Maggie: "Venture capital is similar to what Ben said in regards to the fundamentals to a successful pitch, but the main difference is that many companies will be better suited to equity because the issue with debt can be that you need to produce cash flows that can pay back the funding. "There comes a point in the business when you reach that level and that is the growth stage – when more cash is being generated than is being invested and debt suits these businesses typically.

As we are the marketplace though, we need digital adoption on both sides as we also require lenders as well as businesses to embrace it.


November/December 2020

FUTURE OF FUNDING "But the fundamentals to being successful are similar – it’s about understanding cash flow models and building strong management teams. Equity investment can be more expensive though as you are giving away a chunk of your business." Roxana: "Regarding how technology is changing funding – the hybrid model is key for us. The eyes can tell more than the balance sheet, so you need to have the best of new and the best of the old – combining digital experience with human interaction."




Many people believe that succumbing to lending means that you are not financially stable; however, this outlook in the world of business can be detrimental to sustainability and growth.

Andrea: "We’re seeing many more females leading businesses and gaining successful funding rounds on the equity investment and debt side, but the VC world still has a fair way to go and that’s where we are lacking space.

There are several positive reasons as to why you might borrow money, and the value you can gain through lending often outweighs the reasons not to borrow.

"Overall, the trends and trajectory are going in the right way for diversity."

Here are the most common reasons for lending; 1. Growing your team – recruitment is a high-cost exercise and if you do not have the required level of finance available you might put off hiring. By putting off your plans to grow your team, your business will suffer through lack of resource.

Maggie: "Absolutely the VC industry is behind but it has some done some valuable work in understanding where the issues are; as it’s about women and ethnic minorities often having less access to the network and the knowledge to shape a strong pitch. You have to have decision makers in funding reflecting a better balance of genders and ethnicities." COULD GOVERNMENT HAVE DONE ANYTHING DIFFERENTLY? Ben: "Has it been successful is the key question? It has enabled businesses to bring funding into the market and I think time will tell to see if there will be any remediation on these schemes and whether they went far enough, or too far. "Another question is, is it a lifeline that is kicking the problem down the road and causing problems further down the track?" Andrea: "When you compare to Ireland and Australia for example, this government has been the most proactive on the debt side regarding making funds available and launching schemes quickly. Values and volume are much higher than other schemes in other countries. "I am most concerned about the bounce back loan because from a lenders perspective it is too easy to obtain one. When we have debriefed in five years’ time, I think they’d say lesson learned on that." Business Leader - Inspire • Inform • Connect

Nicola Mapp – Business Manager

2. Investing in stock - whether you have just started out, or even if you are an established company creating new product offerings, the chances are that you will need to invest in assets, be it the products themselves or the raw materials. 3. Investing in marketing – you may want to invest in a digital agency to boost your business profile, or you may be a ‘one-man-band’ who is bootstrapping – either way, without effective marketing you will not be able to reach new customers. 4. Relocating your business – perhaps your current premises are too small, or maybe you need to relocate to another, more visible location. Upfront costs of business premises are often high and without external finance this transition can be difficult. 5. Investing in machinery – maybe you have secured new contracts, or perhaps your machinery is outdated. Machinery is expensive, and the chances are that there is not enough ‘spare’ capital to cover the costs. But what if new machinery could improve efficiency and drive productivity? Investing in machinery can be a win-win situation. Properly planned business lending is a valuable tool to help business growth. However, it must be affordable, and fit with your business’ objectives and model. Therefore it is vital to produce financial forecasts that allow you, as a business owner, to make decisions that ensure the correct finance is sourced so that the investment(s) you make have the required impact. For more information on business lending, please contact SWIG Finance, call 01872 227 930 or email info@swigfinance.co.uk



CASH FLOW CONUNDRUM what financial support is available to businesses?


ash flow is a hot topic in the wake of COVID-19. John Clarke, Head of Direct Sales, Wesleyan Bank, outlines the financial support available to businesses and the alternative funding solutions they can consider to aid their recovery.

CJRS EXTENDED UNTIL MARCH The Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (CJRS), which was due to end on 31 October, has now been extended across the UK until 31 March 2021. The Government will review the policy in January to decide whether economic circumstances are improving enough to ask employers to contribute more. In the meantime, the Job Support Scheme has been postponed. As per before, the CJRS will pay up to 80% of a furloughed employee’s salary up to £2,500 a month with employers being liable for national insurance and pension contributions. CASH FLOW SUPPORT The deadline for Bounce Back (BBL) and Coronavirus Business Interruption Loans (CBILS) applications has been extended from 30 November to 31 January 2021. If they wish, CBILS lenders can now offer borrowers more time to make their loan repayments, from six years to ten years, which will result in monthly payments being reduced by nearly half. Despite the BBL and CBILS offering greater flexibility, it’s worth bearing in mind that these schemes have been an equal blessing and a curse as some lenders are focusing on these exclusively. As a result,

we are all about you

John Clarke Head of Direct Sales, Wesleyan Bank

some have withdrawn other financial products from sale and are struggling to cope with the influx of last-minute enquiries. INVESTING IN THE FUTURE OF YOUR BUSINESS For all its disruption, COVID-19 has highlighted how embracing technology can give businesses the ability to deliver efficient client services and increase staff productivity. For businesses planning to invest in assets, you should urgently take advantage of the Annual Investment Allowance (AIA) to offset the cost of qualifying purchases against tax. From 1 January 2021, the AIA limit will reduce from £1m to £200,000, following a temporary increase introduced by the Government. Those looking to invest in qualifying expenditure could benefit from faster tax relief as the AIA allows a business

to deduct the total amount of qualifying capital expenditure from its taxable profits in a given tax year. Most assets purchased for business use qualify, including IT investments, specialist equipment, furniture, flooring and lighting. In addition, funding though an unsecured loan facility from a traditional high street lender or alternative finance provider can assist businesses in preserving cash flow. Asset finance loans enable the cost of refurbishments, premises relocations, as well as specialist equipment and technology to be spread over a period of one to five years. While the weeks ahead remain uncertain for businesses, there are a plethora of government schemes and funding options available.


Depending on the circumstances and where required by law, loans will be regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority and the Consumer Credit Act. Wesleyan Bank Ltd (Registered in England and Wales No. 2839202) is authorised by the Prudential Regulation Authority and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority and the Prudential Regulation Authority (Financial Services Register No.165116). Wesleyan Bank Ltd is wholly owned by Wesleyan Assurance Society which is authorised by the Prudential Regulation Authority and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority and the Prudential Regulation Authority. Incorporated in England and Wales by Private Act of Parliament (No. ZC145). Registered office for all of the above Group companies is: Colmore Circus, Birmingham, B4 6AR. VAT number 487282114. Telephone: 0345 351 2352. Calls may be recorded to help us provide, monitor and improve our services to you.


November/December 2020

WE CAN SUPPORT YOU EVERY STEP OF THE WAY At Wesleyan Bank we understand your need to work with a finance provider you can trust. Our dedicated team of account managers can support you every step of the way to find a tailored finance solution to meet your commercial needs. This includes:

► Asset finance ► IT finance {hardware, software and services) ► Commercial mortgages *

► Cashflow finance for purposes such as tax and return to business costs Wesleyan Bank acts as a broker and a lender.

* Your property maybe be repossessed if you do not keep up repayments on your loan.

Call 0800 980 9348 (Mon to Fri, 8:30am-5:30pm) or email us at bankcommercialsales@wesleyan.co.uk #hereforyou

WESLEYAN BANK we are all about you

Depending on the circumstances and where required by law, loans will be regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority and the Consumer Credit Act. Wesleyan Bank Ltd (Registered in England and Wales No.2839202) is authorised by the Prudential Regulation Authority and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority and the Prudential Regulation Authority (Financial Services register No.165116). Registered office: PO Box 3420, Colmore Circus, Birmingham, B4 6AE. Tel: 0800 358 1122. www.wesleyanbank.co.uk. Calls may be recorded to help us provide, monitor and improve our services to you.



Call for homeworkers to be taxed Deutsche Bank is proposing a 5pc levy for those who choose to work from home outside of lockdowns stating that working from home is a ‘privilege’. The banks suggests a tax of 5 pc of a worker’s salary if workers choose to work from home when they are not forced to by the current pandemic. The tax would be paid for by employers and the income generated would be paid to people who cannot work from home. This could earn $48bn (£36bn) if introduced in the US and would help redress the balance, the bank says (according to the BBC). Deutsche Bank strategist Luke Templeman comments: “For years we have needed a tax on remote workers. Covid-19 has just made it obvious. Quite simply, our economic system is not set up to cope

with people who can disconnect themselves from face-to-face society. “Those who can WFH receive direct and indirect financial benefits and they should be taxed in order to smooth the transition process for those who have been suddenly displaced.” Angela Love, director at Active Workplace Solutions, comments: “There is simply no logic to Deutsche Bank’s proposal to tax people working from home between lockdowns. Where were these suggestions when people were working remotely pre-pandemic? Home workers are not makeshift units to be taxed, they are real people who have gone through an awful lot of upheaval in 2020.”


Access2Funding Are Here To Hold Your Hand (well, in the most 2020 way we can... room for another Zoom call, anyone?) BOOK A FREE REVIEW What are R&D Tax Credits? A scheme from the UK Government that rewards companies for creativity, innovation and problem solving.


0333 990 0125 hello@access2funding.co.uk W W W. A C C E S S 2 F U N D I N G . C O . U K

November/December 2020

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n each edition of Business Leader Magazine, we look at the subject of funding and for this edition we examine the role of debt and equity can play in growing a business and the issue of the need to increasing diversity in funding decisions.

The consequence of the 2008-2009 financial crash for corporates was a liquidity crisis. Huge capital losses in the banking sector and a breakdown in the interbank lending market caused banks to withdraw facilities from even blue-chip corporate customers. In contrast, the pandemic has triggered an immediate supply of liquidity through the furlough scheme, CBILs lending and the Bounce-Back Loan Scheme (BBLS). Instead, companies face a health crisis in which they are physically prevented from engaging with their customers. This has challenged many well-established business models and has accelerated the demise of others that have already been undermined by new technologies that reduce physical interaction. Some companies are looking to raise funds to stay afloat, while others need additional working capital to seize new opportunities. All need to think carefully about how they present themselves to funders and investors. Is debt appropriate? If so, what type of debt? Or is equity financing the better option? 34

PLENTY OF FUNDS AVAILABLE Besides the government initiatives mentioned above, there is money available to support fundraising. Private equity and debt funds have been busy raising money in the last few years and are still seeking opportunities. And, since COVID-19 has disrupted deal flow, many now have a backlog of investments to make.

Companies can also turn to medium term note (MTN) programmes, which LGB manages. These establish common documentation for multiple issues of securities. The key feature of such programmes is access to a diverse group of lenders. Companies can develop relationships with loan note holders, who make independent buying decisions.

Banks are far better capitalised compared to the 2008 crisis, and innovative challenger banks are also now available that simply did not exist 12 years ago. Additionally, private and institutional investors are on the hunt for yield.


Of course, the sector in which a company operates is highly relevant to their funding prospects. Companies in certain sectors have prospered, while others in sectors such as hospitality, travel and leisure sectors, for example, have faced an existential crisis. DEBT STILL AN OPTION AS A BRIDGE TO REVENUES Fundamentally, debt is a bridge to expected cash flows. Companies facing short term business interruptions can therefore consider debt as a financing option. Nevertheless, these companies should ensure they have an appropriate repayment profile for their businesses. Short term options could be using an overdraft or invoice discounting, while longer term options might be a term loan of four to five years.

If COVID-19 has caused a fundamental, adverse change in a company’s business model, it will require more than a bridge to expected cash flows. In this case, equity capital, rather than debt, would be appropriate. Equity capital can provide the resources required to restructure a business. Given that many companies have suffered a fall in revenues, the key factor in discussions with investors and lenders are balance sheet ratios. It can be important to get these back in line through an injection of equity. Once the outlook has improved, there may well then be an opportunity to take on debt further down the line. If a company has an equity shortfall it should be proactive, whether this entails a radical rewriting of business plans or creating new initiatives. For example, it could concentrate its operations on areas that offer the highest return on capital, or it could restructure, sell parts of the business, or collaborate with other firms. November/December 2020



‘As a bank, we truly understand the full life cycle of an enterprise’


usiness Leader recently spoke to Mark Lucas, Director and Head of Bristol office for Arbuthnot Latham, to find out how the bank are helping people on their entrepreneurial journey.

Mark Lucas - Director and Head of Bristol Office

HOW HAS THE BANK HAD TO ADAPT IN THE LAST FEW MONTHS? In terms of our day-to-day business operation, COVID-19 has not restricted us and service levels have remained high. We have robust procedures in place to make sure we’re always available to our clients. Colleagues were provided with everything they needed to work effectively from home, clients with borrowing were contacted early on to offer support in the form of forbearance, and more latterly to highlight our involvement in the BBLS and CBILS schemes. Despite the challenges and pressures we’ve all been facing, the bank and the Bristol office have remained in ‘growth mode’ over the last few months, with the welfare of clients and staff being a priority. HOW DID YOU ACHIEVE THE LEVEL OF GROWTH YOU’VE HAD OVER THE LAST FEW YEARS? Our regional offices (Bristol, Exeter and Manchester) have grown their collective book from £350m to £600m in three years with plans to get to £1bn in the next two years. We are all immensely proud of what we have achieved. We continue to build the Bristol team with staff well known in the region. We’ve recruited experience and network, to allow us to fulfil the opportunities we are seeing. The Arbuthnot Latham balance sheet is strong, with excess liquidity and no borrowing from wholesale markets. As a result, we are in a strong position to continue to lend and react to opportunities in the months ahead. WHAT WEALTH PLANNING OPTIONS CAN YOU GIVE TO ENTREPRENEURS? Funding – we have experienced bankers and a proactive and understanding approach. This has been evidenced throughout the pandemic and it was great to Business Leader - Inspire • Inform • Connect

be accepted onto the government support schemes. Mortgage finance – annual income is often insufficient to satisfy less flexible serviceability requirements on larger sums. We have particular expertise in this area and we spend time understanding the wider picture. Opening private and commercial bank accounts – we understand that it is taking a long time to open new accounts, in particular, commercial and trust accounts, through some of the high street banks. We can open accounts quickly and, as a result, we are seeing an increasing number of new clients coming to us for help. Outgrowing existing advisors – we see this from time to time and the consequences can be costly. We can make introductions to our extensive network of professional contacts. WHAT WEALTH PLANNING OPTIONS CAN YOU GIVE TO ENTREPRENEURS? We look at the relationship between personal and business assets and structuring our clients’ affairs in the most tax efficient way. This has been topical over recent months, with many clients and prospects wanting to focus on their personal affairs. The pandemic has caused us all to reflect on important personal and family matters

and to consider the ‘what if’ scenarios… for example, if something had happened to the main breadwinner where would that have left the family, the business, etc. and what can be done to plan for such an eventuality – trustworthy wealth planning is a critical element of these reflections. We work with many successful entrepreneurs and whilst being focused on creating an incredible business, they often neglect their personal finances…we see this a lot. We also work with our clients’ existing advisors to help develop and manage an appropriate wealth management strategy. Specific areas include protection, retirement planning, succession and IHT planning, exit planning, savings and investments. WHAT KIND OF CLIENT SUITS ARBUTHNOT LATHAM? We offer private and commercial banking across a whole range of sectors, as well as wealth planning and investment management for clients looking to deposit, borrow or invest £500,000 or more. We know wealth is very dynamic and are careful not to draw too many lines in the sand. So, by definition, high net worth individuals, often entrepreneurs, business owners or corporate execs, also trading companies, trusts, insolvency practitioners and solicitors. 35


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or this funding segment, we spoke to Sam Smith – CEO at finnCap and Patricia Keating – CEO of Tech Manchester, about funding and diversity. Do females raise less funding than males – and why is this?

IS FUNDING FOR FEMALE LEADERS STILL AN ISSUE? Patricia Keating: "A recent report by Tide looked at a small demographic of university graduates and found that women graduates raise their first £1m funding faster than men. But beyond the scope of this narrow demographic the challenges are very different. 36

"For example, Women In Tech found that when it comes to achieving capital following a pitch for a start-up, men are four times more likely than women to succeed. "There are many factors to explain this. Unconscious bias of typically male investors considering them the most topical. Early stage venture capital is dominated by men. Women make up 13% of decision makers in the UK. However, to consider women who are 51% of the population ‘niche’ is a fundamental missed opportunity for investors. "Ethnic founders commonly find a similar problem when they create a product to meet a need because nothing exists for their market but meet the same objection of not a big enough audience.

"The British Business Bank ‘Alone Together’ report also indicates that it’s still an issue. Female business owners median turnover is a third of that of male business owners and median productivity is less than half. Black, and Asian and Other Ethnic Minority female entrepreneurs see least success. 37% of Black female entrepreneurs did not make a profit last year, compared to just 16% of White male entrepreneurs.



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Sam Smith finnCap

"Turnover has a significant impact on the ability to raise funding. Investors are interested in scalable profitable businesses." Sam Smith: "Unfortunately, it is still very much an issue and one that needs addressing urgently, as we’re not seeing much progress year to year. A recent report by Extend Ventures found that 68% of the capital raised across the seed, early and late VC funding stages went to all-male teams while just 3% went to all-female teams, with female teams also raising lower sums of money than their male counterparts at each funding stage. "It is happening for several reasons. Firstly, VC firms tend to focus on sectors such as software, AI and MedTech, which all have Business Leader - Inspire • Inform • Connect

a low proportion of female founders, so they have a low representation in venture capital deals. Secondly, over 70% of VC decision makers are male, which likely skews things significantly. Another reason may be that such inequality can perpetuate itself, for example with men often having more developed business networks. This does matter because start-up founders who are recommended to a VC firm by someone they know are 13 times more likely to get funded." WHAT IS BEING DONE TO ADDRESS THE ISSUE? Patricia Keating: "The good news is there is lots being done. Following the Rose Review lead by CEO of Natwest Bank Alison Rose, The British Business Bank along with the UK Business Angels Association, UK Finance and HM Treasury launched the Investing in Women Code. It works with investors and fund managers to increase transparency in this area. The British Business Bank made a number of other commitments as a result of Alone Together report which include improving Start-Up Loans, seeking out actively diverse funds to engage with, as well as provide research and evidence to building targeted investment funds.

Patricia Keating Tech Nation

"There is a long road ahead though. We need to see more of our male allies helping raise the awareness within the maledominated investor community about the opportunities before them, and how they may unknowingly discriminate against women led opportunities." Sam Smith: "To really make a difference requires a coordinated effort and a cultural shift at VCs. VCs should start by running office hours where founders without ties can meet investors and get advice, and it’s good to see this already happening. "Tech Nation, for example, is proactively working with Playfair Capital to provide office hours year round for female founders with leading VCs. "It would also be a step in the right direction if VCs made data on their investments publicly available so the industry’s performance on diversity can be tracked. There has been some action at the government level too. Last year the Treasury drew up an Investing in Women Code, under which banks, VCs and investors pledge to “support the advancement of female entrepreneurship”, which is good to see and sends an important message. What has to happen now is that it’s acted upon."  37


Thriving Together; Oakwood Launches Funded Consultation Initiative We are in a time where so much change is needed. We see it everywhere, in our homes, in our businesses, in our communities and in our world. Yet with too many external challenges, the pressure can limit our focus on our organisation’s ability to thrive rather than survive. Our businesses are reducing staff headcount to cut cost so there are no resources available to work out what change is needed in this future changing world. And this is the last moment where there is spare cash around for trying schemes that might work or hiring consultants to help. We believe that anyone can implement successful and sustainable change and we want to provide the tools and resources to six companies and their teams to help navigate and thrive through these troubled times. As part of the Government’s Kick Start Scheme, Oakwood Management Consulting are opening a fully funded offer for an initial phase to six organisations of any size, across any industries and in all sectors taking place from January 2021. Change Scoping Analysis Sessions We can help establish whether a longer 38

change project is possible or will have a return on investment which makes it worth doing. We will undertake a short sharp analysis of the problem you want to solve and its root causes. Then we will work with you to build a series of solutions at a high level and undertake an assessment of which is the optimal choice before fully developing an implementation plan with you for the optimal option and leaving you with a fully implementable change with a predictable return. Change Project Support Alternatively we can work with you to implement a short-term agile change project (lasting three to four months), working with the experts on your staff to develop and pilot a series of improvements which can be fully implemented within our free consultancy period. In addition to helping organisations of all sizes this opportunity will give Oakwood the ability to provide skills, training and valuable experiences to bright individuals who are struggling to gain a foothold in employment in this difficult time. We fundamentally believe that everyone can be trained and supported to deliver successful

and sustainable business change and we look forward to proving that with this fully funded offer. Our intention is to continue offering these opportunities for as long as the Government’s Kick Start Scheme continues and we anticipate that we will be able to support more than 30 companies across 2021. To apply in our initial phase, please contact us to request access to our short application process by 18th December 2020 email interested@ oakwoodmanagementconsulting.com. Should you be interested in future phases please email an expression of interest to the same email address.

oakwoodmanagementconsulting.com November/December 2020

Delivering Business Ambition How can we help you deliver yours?

Financial services for growth companies ECM | Public & Private M&A | Debt Advisory | Private Growth Capital | Sell-Side Specialists

To find out more about our services and sectors visit www.finncap.com or www.cavendish.com Call – + 44 020 7220 0500 Email: info@finncapgroup.com 1 Bartholomew Close London EC1A 7BL





reg Jackson is the CEO of Octopus Energy – a fast-growing electricity and gas supplier that is driving the shift to sustainable energy in the UK and abroad. He spoke to Business Leader Magazine about being a disruptive force, his leadership style and how the energy sector is on the cusp of a green revolution.

CAN YOU GIVE AN OVERVIEW OF OCTOPUS ENERGY? The company is nearly five years old now – and we set the business up to use technology to drive lower and more transparent energy prices, whilst at the same time increasing the drive for renewable energy. In a way, our job is to make the global renewable energy revolution faster and cheaper through technology. CAN YOU TELL ME ABOUT YOUR CAREER PRIOR TO OCTOPUS? AND THE LESSONS YOU LEARNT? I left school at 16 to start writing video games, and even back then, technology was 40

moving so fast. Eventually I went back to school, and I knew the pace of technology was going to keep up, so I did a degree in economics at Cambridge. As an economist who understood technology, I started to see these opportunities where you could use a technology to create a win-win, by driving down prices yet increasing the

levels of service – all while bringing in new, innovative and disruptive services. In 2003, along with a couple of partners, I set up a business that created eCommerce platforms, which gave me an incredibly privileged view of digital disruption across a variety of sectors. One thing we learnt there, was that digital disruption does not


November/December 2020

GREG JACKSON now have more than 1.7 million household customers here in the UK, with revenues of around £2bn – and growing by about £80m a month. We also have businesses in the USA, New Zealand, Australia and Germany - and we license our technology platform ‘Kraken’ to other energy companies. We’re now contracted to serve more than 17 million customers over the next three years. Octopus has grown incredibly rapidly. It is the fastest-growing private company in the UK, and employs almost over 1,000 people across the country. I am incredibly proud of what we have achieved so far. We have demonstrated that green energy can be cheap energy, and that outstanding customer experience can be delivered with incredibly good value because of the efficiency that the technology brings – but this is only the beginning. Our job is to now use this as a launchpad to dramatically drive the amount of renewable energy here in the UK and globally.

WE NOW HAVE BUSINESSES IN THE USA, NEW ZEALAND, AUSTRALIA AND GERMANY - AND WE ALSO LICENSE OUR SOFTWARE PLATFORM TO OTHER ENERGY COMPANIES. OUR PLATFORM NOW WILL COVER MORE THAN 17 MILLION CUSTOMERS OVER THE NEXT THREE YEARS." WHAT DOES IT TAKE TO BE A DISRUPTIVE BUSINESS? come from companies inside the sector. Uber wasn’t built by a taxi company and Deliveroo wasn’t built by restaurants – disruption comes from people who understand technology, who can look at a sector and can work out how to change that sector through innovation. That then gave us the confidence that when we sold the eCommerce platform business, we were able to look at the global energy sector and ask ourselves, ‘how can we use technology to change that?’. HOW WOULD YOU DESCRIBE THE GROWTH OF OCTOPUS SINCE IT WAS FOUNDED? Octopus launched in May 2016, and we Business Leader - Inspire • Inform • Connect

It is about having your own view on what the fundamental problem is within the industry – and how you are going to solve it. Don’t react to short-term pressures – instead look at the fundamental challenges and how you can solve them. For us, we know that in 1020 years, the world needs to be completely decarbonised. In the long run, consumers always win – and we know that every sector is being transformed by technology. When you bring these observations together, we can say that we are investing in our future to relentlessly drive for change – we know that those truths around climate change are the same around the world. We have to make a change. So, companies that lead the way are the companies that will win.

Our job is to not look at what others are doing, or just do best practice – it is to define what best practice is for others. That industry leadership approach is something that businesses should think about. This is particularly true for our sector, which is at the crux of the massive disruption – and one that is regulated and heavily supported by governments. Everyone is looking for answers to this global challenge – so if we can innovate and provide some of those answers, then we can take those solutions to those governments and decision-makers so that change can happen.. HAS THAT IDEOLOGY SET YOU APART FROM OTHER BUSINESSES WITHIN YOUR INDUSTRY? Yes – absolutely. We do not really look at the competition – other than for pricing - and we are in a great place. However, when it comes to the vision and our view of what needs to be achieved, we have to be absolutely confident in the vision we have set, and then our ability to help deliver that for our customers and clients – and for nations around the world. HOW WOULD YOU DESCRIBE YOUR LEADERSHIP STYLE? My main aim is to decentralise. I am the root of the tree, and each branch needs to reach out for itself to grow. Many leaders run behind their team with a pitchfork to speed them up – however, I see my job at the front of the team with a brush to clear the way, so they can run faster. My job is to create a culture and set a direction to empower my team to deliver. The benefit of that is that I am not stuck in meetings all day – I have four or five hours a day of undiarised time. So, no meetings means that I can directly contact people within the business and help them in any way I can. As a result, I have more time to engage with customers and leaders within the industry – as well as other innovators. This means I am focused on the overall direction of the business. I don’t spend my time reviewing individuals against KPIs – we created a culture where we have decentralised certain responsibilities so that they can grow.

Cont.  41


WAS IT ALWAYS THE PLAN TO EXPAND INTERNATIONALLY? It was always my plan! But I was very nervous about admitting that to people. When you first set up a business you are nervous about declaring lofty ambitions. I said in front of a government committee that we intended to be ‘the Amazon of energy’ – and some of the MPs sniggered. There are a lot of pressures on you not to declare these ambitions. You create a plan, but then you are pegged back by others for being unrealistic in their eyes – but as a business leader, if I don’t declare the company’s ambitions, then we would have no chance of achieving them. WHAT ARE THE FUTURE PLANS FOR OCTOPUS? The joy of Octopus is that energy is a $2tn (£1.5tn) global market – and it will grow to about $4tn (£3tn) once we decarbonise transport. Today, people look at us as a £2bn revenue company – but in reality that is a very small percentage of the global market. We have got a long way to go. The fact that we have incredible growth opportunities still to come is so exciting. We are on a mountain looking at how far we have climbed – but then turning round and seeing that there are many more, even higher mountains ahead of us. The decarbonising opportunities that will be 42



available over the next 10-15 years are very exciting. The challenge is that we need to grow exponentially quickly, if we are to deliver on our services and tackle the problem behind the reason we set up the business. The reality is that with our goal we will never be less busy than we are today. There is a long way to go and we are leading the way. Overall, I am incredibly proud of what we have achieved. We had the Prime Minister and the Chancellor in the office for a serious discussion. It wasn’t just a photo opportunity for them. They spoke at length with myself and our CFO/co-founder about the most important aspects of the energy industry, to drive the change to renewables. We have gone from a start-up less than five years ago, to an incredibly influential force in the industry. We helped lead the change for an energy price cap. So, on top of the 1.7 million customers that we serve, we have also helped 11 million low income households save, on average, £100 on their energy bills – more than £1bn in total for UK consumers. I am very proud, but in the future we need to do a lot more and have a bigger impact – not just here in the UK, but across the world.

WHAT DO BUSINESSES IN ENERGY HAVE TO DO TO SURVIVE THE TRANSITION TO A NEW ENERGY SYSTEM? Companies like ours that can help governments meet the Paris Accord, without asking for handouts, will succeed in the future. They will be helping governments, and driving change within the business world in a direction that the public want. I am optimistic about the energy sector. Green energy is now cheaper than fossil fuels – all we need now are companies to compete, to bring customers green energy at a fair price and to drive the renewable transition. We are now sitting on the solution within energy – the industry has changed due to the advancements in technology, which now means the renewable generation is here. We just need to market it at scale as quickly as we can. That is the job for companies like Octopus. Adapting to the change, and embracing renewables is the future – the ones who fight against the tide will go bust. Look at Kodak and Blockbuster – those that resist change can maintain profits for a while, but then spiral into oblivion. Grabbing the opportunity to drive change can create incredible value and now we have the opportunity to start a new industrial revolution.  November/December 2020

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TOP 32



his year has been challenging for businesses and entrepreneurs across all industries. The COVID-19 pandemic has been a devastating force, leading to many companies going bust and millions being left unemployed. However, with 2021 on the horizon, Business Leader Magazine has put together a list of 32 individuals and their businesses that are set to lead the UK into the future. Whether they are already established or are a disruptive entity – over the next 12 months, these are the names to look out for. The men and women listed below have been suggested by our readers, however, if you feel there are other individuals that are deserving, please email editor@businessleader.co.uk, and they will be included in the digital version of the list on www.businessleader.co.uk. This list is in no particular order.


JACK DYER AND JAMES WREN FREETRAIN The Birmingham-based fitness company created an innovative alternative to phone holder armbands to give fitness enthusiasts the freedom to train smart and train free. Set up by former Aston Villa youth player Jack Dyer and former Walsall FC goalkeeper James Wren in 2015, the firm has experienced significant growth, increased their product range and have sold over 80,000 units worldwide and an annual turnover of £2.1m. The big break though came when Manchester United midfielder Paul Pogba posted a video of himself wearing the vest in April 2020. Manchester United forward Mason Greenwood and David Beckham have been spotted wearing them as well.

RACHAEL FLANAGAN MRS BUCKÉT At 18, Flanagan failed her business A-levels and was told by teachers that she’d never

make it in business. With her signature gogetter attitude, Rachael defied expectations and started Mrs Buckét with only £20 worth of black and white flyers and a mop. Today she is the proud owner of an award-winning cleaning operation worth nearly £3m, employing 250 members of staff across the South West and Wales. Mrs Buckét has achieved fantastic growth, increasing turnover year-on-year whilst maintaining excellent profit margins. This year alone, despite the COVID-19 pandemic, the business has expanded by £250,000; welcomed 30 new clients and grown its team by 10%. In the next five years, the team is looking to grow internally by 300%, to invest heavily in innovative cleaning technology and branch out its services into new sectors across the UK.

GREG JACKSON OCTOPUS ENERGY Jackson featured earlier in this edition in our Fast Track feature – and after five

November/December 2020

SET TO TAKE 2021 BY STORM years of incredible growth at the Londonbased retail electricity and gas supplier specialising in sustainable energy - the firm now records annual revenues of around £2bn. However, with the green energy market set to exponentially increase in value, Octopus is perfectly placed to achieve its goals of becoming the ‘Amazon of energy’.

DR TOM CARTER ULTRALEAP The recent recipient of the Rising Star Award at the Amazon ScaleUp Awards, Carter is the CTO and Co-founder of the world leading haptics and hand tracking firm, based in Bristol. The innovative and disruptive tech firm makes virtual reality feel more ‘real’ – and with its real world applications merging with VR/AR all the time, Ultraleap’s perfect blend could set the industry alight with its technology.

Jack Dyer and James Wren Freetrain

GUY HARRINGTON GLENHAWK Glenhawk, the fast-growing real estate challenger lender, was recognised as StartUp Business of the Year at the Amazon ScaleUp Awards. Launched in January 2018 by 33-year old entrepreneur Guy Harrington to disrupt the UK short term lending market and backed by Rightmove founder Harry Hill, Glenhawk has quickly become a mainstay of the £4.5bn industry. In March they announced a new funding line with J.P. Morgan, which will support Glenhawk’s ambitions to grow its UK loan book to £200m by the end of 2021.

Guy Harrington Glenhawk

CHRIS LARMOUR ORBEX Founded in 2015, Orbex is a low-cost orbital launch services company, serving the needs of the small satellite industry. Orbex has developed one of the most advanced, low carbon, high performance micro-launch vehicles in the world. The Moray-based firm plans to launch its small satellite rocket in 2021 from a spaceport being developed in Sutherland - and has been earmarked as a future unicorn business.


Rachael Flanagan Mrs Buckét

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Online car retailer Cazoo launched less than two years ago, and has become known as Britain's fastest-ever technology unicorn, after raising £25m from investors earlier this year. Founded by prolific entrepreneur Chesterman, Cazoo is his latest successful

Dr Tom Carter Ultraleap

enterprise. He also set up start-ups Lovefilm and Zoopla.

VISHAL CHATRATH SECONDMIND CEO and Co-founder Chatrath founded Secondmind in 2016, with a mission to empower people in business to make better decisions. Secondmind closes the gap between people and AI, and supercharges decision-making with the Secondmind Decision Engine, an intuitive and insightful software platform that helps people in industries from supply chain to automotive predict, plan, influence outcomes, manage risk, and make complex decisions with ease and confidence. Secondmind is backed by global venture funds including Amadeus Capital, Atlantic Bridge, and Cambridge Innovation Capital. Cont. 


TOP 32 DR OLIVER PRILL TIDE Established in 2015, Tide is one of the first digital-only finance platforms in the UK to provide current accounts for businesses, and promises to do so in less than five minutes. Tide is a fintech firm providing mobile-first banking services for SMEs. It enables businesses to set up a current account and get instant access to various financial services, including automated book-keeping and integrated invoicing. The challenger bank has now expanded into a 250-strong team in London, and also has offices in Bulgaria and India.

RICHARD BARLOW WEJO The Cheshire-based tech firm has created a data exchange platform to enable smarter mobility for transport across the UK – and globally. The firm collects billions of data

points from millions of connected cars to help analyse trends within transport – to reduce congestion and pollution. The firm has expanded into the US and has raised more than £100m. The firm is now 35% owned by General Motors.

FRANZ DOERR AND DANIEL JECZMIEN FLATFAIR Winner of the Tech Start-Up Award at the Go:Tech Awards, Flatfair was founded in 2016 by Doerr and Jeczmien after the much-publicised struggles renters and landlords had when dealing with the financial aspect of their transactions. Plus, with the government deposit schemes and insurance policies of the time not benefiting either party, Flatfair was born. The founders, inspired by the success of deposit alternatives in Germany and Switzerland, combined the most effective government deposit schemes with smart

technology to make renting more affordable for tenants, more secure for landlords and more efficient for agents and institutions.

HUGO TILMOUTH AND CHARLIE BARON CHARGEDUP Two young entrepreneurs who pivoted their mobile phone charging network business - ChargedUp - into hand sanitising supplier - CleanedUp - as COVID-19 hit, have fully powered back up their on-the-go portable mobile charging business by securing a five year deal with Europe’s two largest shopping centres, Westfield London and Westfield Stratford City. ChargedUp now provides mobile charging stations in public spaces, has grown a network of 2500 charging points across 50 European cities and takes inspiration from bike-sharing, letting you rent a mobile charging pack from one destination and return it at a different location.

ALICIA TEAGLE SR2 Winner of the Rising Star Award at the 2019 Business Leader Awards, Teagle looks set to keep SR2’s momentum going into 2021. SR2 stands for Socially Responsible Recruitment, with a double bottom line that measures the firm’s contribution to society as well as its monthly turnover figures. SR2 is part of a new wave of business that cares as much for people as it does for profits.

BRIAN ALLEN ROVCO Bristol-based Rovco is a global provider of ROV and hydrographic services, supported by unique artificial intelligence-based technology products. The firm has a vast

Hugo Tilmouth & Charlie Baron ChargedUp

Dr Oliver Prill Tide


Richard Barlow Wejo

Franz Doerr & Daniel Jeczmien Flatfair

November/December 2020

SET TO TAKE 2021 BY STORM Will Britton Autonome

Alice Stephenson Stephenson Law

Alicia Teagle SR2

Brian Allen Rovco

track record in supplying services and technology to the offshore energy industry across the globe. Allan’s firm seeks to not only replace subsea video surveys with 3D, but to introduce AI and further disrupt the sector with innovative techniques and ground-breaking concepts.

WILL BRITTON AUTONOME Britton is the Founder of AutonoMe, a Bristol-based scale-up helping the social care sector combine educational technology with one-to-one support to improve the outcomes for vulnerable people in social care settings. With the impact of COVID-19, AutonoMe could play a crucial role over the next 12 months. The firm helps people across the UK with needs such as learning disabilities, mental health needs, care leavers, homelessness and more. They work closely with local governments, housing associations and, mental health organisations.

OLIVER WOOLLEY ENVESTORS Woolley is an ambitious leader looking to transform the early stage investment Business Leader - Inspire • Inform • Connect

market in the UK. Traditionally, the industry has been slow in updating processes and utilising technology. It has also been scrutinised for the lack of opportunities for BAME founders and is dominated by exclusive, hard-to-break-into groups of white, middle-aged men. Oliver’s ambition is a connected ecosystem of investment networks, accelerators, VC’s and universities that utilises technology to lower barriers to entry. Investors have already established a network of over 6,000 investors in the UK.

ALICE STEPHENSON STEPHENSON LAW Stephenson is an entrepreneur, lawyer, angel investor and avid spokeswomen for diversity and disruption in the legal industry. She founded Stephenson Law in 2017 to create a law firm that does things differently and has helped inspire young women to challenge the perceived barriers to success in business and to see that anything is possible.

firm Attraqt Group plc, a company that he co-founded in 2003 on an initial capital investment of £20,000. During his time there, he grew the business to become the major player in the European market with more than 200 retail clients. In 2014, the company listed on the London Stock Market. He left in 2018 to start work on a new software company, Advanced Commerce, which launched in October.

FAISAL LALANI AND JAMIL MAWJI NATIONAL CARE GROUP Co-founders, Lalani and Mawji have created a sustainable and innovative business that has also had a positive impact on society. The pair identified a gap in the market and now run the UK’s largest specialist adult care provider. As disruptive entrepreneurs with a multitude of awards behind them, the firm now provides care and support services to over 1,200 individuals and operates in nearly 250 locations across England and Wales.

ANDRE BROWN ADVANCED COMMERCE Brown is the former CEO of global software

Cont.  47


Rimi Dabhia LoveRaw


Poppy Gustafsson Darktrace

With the vegan revolution picking up pace, LoveRaw have risen to prominence as a popular vegan chocolate firm. Over the last seven years, the firm has established itself as one of the leading companies within the industry and has picked up multiple awards. With new innovations within vegan food hitting shelves all the time, the future is bright for LoveRaw.

POPPY GUSTAFSSON DARKTRACE As one of the UK tech sectors ‘unicorn’ businesses, Darktrace’s world-leading ‘Cyber AI’ protects businesses against unpredictable threats online. The company covers a firm’s entire enterprise, from workforce devices and IoT, to SaaS and email. More than 4,000 organisations – and growing – now rely on Darktrace to autonomously respond to emerging cyber attacks in seconds.

Ben Francis Gymshark

BOYAN SLAT THE OCEAN CLEANUP Every year, millions of tons of plastic enter the oceans primarily from rivers. The plastic then filters its way into the ocean. Therefore, solving ocean plastic pollution requires a combination of stemming the inflow and cleaning up what has already accumulated. The Ocean Cleanup, a nonprofit organisation - headed by Slat - is developing advanced technologies to rid the world’s oceans of plastic.


Ethical fitness retail entrepreneur Beverley is one of the UK’s most up-and-coming business leaders, having started her first company – B_ND – which produces veganfriendly resistance bands whilst studying in her first year at Oxford University. Since then she has expanded her empire through FitTech firm Shreddy and activewear brand Tala.


Boyan Slat The Ocean Cleanup


Nicholas Kelly Axela Ltd

Armoo is the Co-founder and CEO of social media marketing company Fanbytes - which specifically helps companies target the Gen Z audience. Led by a team of young techies and advertising veterans, the firm

November/December 2020

SET TO TAKE 2021 BY STORM help brands engage with younger audiences in the most interactive ways. Fanbytes has received many industry awards for their innovative and disruptive approach to the marketing sector.

BEN FRANCIS GYMSHARK Founded eight years ago by Francis, when he was a student at Aston University, Gymshark is the latest British firm to join an exclusive list of companies that have achieved ‘unicorn’ status. The sports fashion retailer recently sold a 21% stake in the company to reach the $1bn (£750m) valuation and looks set to further disrupt the retail sector. Gymshark has risen to prominence through its use of social media influencers, rather than traditional advertising and marketing campaigns. The brand has 4.6m followers on its main Instagram account, alongside 2.8m Twitter followers.

URENNA OKONKWO CASHMERE Okonkwo is the founder of the app-based company that helps women save towards purchasing luxury items, while being responsible with their money. The app is praised for helping the millennial generation of shoppers from falling into debt over ecommerce purchases. Through Cashmere, a user can create a list of items they desire,

then save through its automated wallet – once the target is reached, the user can purchase the item.

ZANNA VAN DIJK & NATALIE GLAZE STAY WILD SWIM The premium swimwear brand uses regenerated ocean plastic to create a range of beachwear items. The co-founders Van Dijk and Glaze say that growing up scuba diving, snorkelling and spending time by the water allowed them to develop a strong connection with the sea. Every day approximately 8 million pieces of plastic pollution find their way into our oceans, so the firm have committed to fighting this problem and providing a solution.

JAMES WILLIAMS SERO Williams is the MD of fast-growing Cardiff-based start-up Sero. His firm is delivering their own new zero-carbon homes and working with other partners to decarbonise new and existing homes. It has developed its own customer smart energy management app, as well as a range of digital tools for retrofitting existing homes, that will pave the way for others to follow suit - and overall help reduce the carbon footprint of the UK’s housing stock to help meet the Government’s Net Zero 2050 targets.

AXELA LTD Founder and CEO Kelly created the healthtech firm in 2016 and has since led the firm to now have more than 1,200 employees and turnover of £5m. Axela Ltd is made up of two healthcare businesses for the elderly and includes an innovations arm, which has created a range of innovative tech products. Kelly is now launching a new consumer healthtech product in 2021 that looks set to help take the business to a new level.

TIM CAMPBELL MBE ITERNAL The first ever The Apprentice winner, Tim Campbell MBE is launching a new company - 15 years after the first series was broadcast - in the form of tech brand, Iternal. It is a new memory sharing site that allows family and friends to experience the life stories of their loved ones even after their death. It’s a safe haven to privately share fond memories with those closest to you. Currently under construction is the companies AI function, which will give the user their own AI which will save, store and then share your memories with whomever you choose.

SAMANTHA RUTTER OPEN STUDY COLLEGE Rutter was 19 when she founded Solihullbased Open Study College with her father, Mark. Fast forward 13 years and as CEO, Samantha has grown the distance learning business, to provide over 650 courses, from A-Levels to nail therapy and animal care, to more than 90,000 students. She has plans to grow turnover to £12m by 2024, through acquisitions and international expansion.

Zanna Van Dijk & Natalie Glaze Stay Wild Swim

Samantha Rutter Open Study College

Maxine Laceby Absolute Collagen

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MAXINE LACEBY ABSOLUTE COLLAGEN Laceby is the Founder and CEO of awardwinning brand Absolute Collagen. Created in 2017, within 12 months Laceby had turned her kitchen table product into a multi-million-pound supplement. She stumbled upon the benefits of collagen at home, and after extensive time and research, became an expert in the world of ingestible supplements and collagen. Now heading for a £100m turnover in just five years, Absolute Collagen is fast on its way to becoming a global brand.  49





November/December 2020




usiness Leader Magazine spoke to some leading figures within the Food and Drink sector to discuss the true impact of the virus, whether government schemes have helped and the future trends that could help steer the industry to a brighter future.

THE EXPERTS Emma Clifford Associate Director, Food and Drink Research UK – Mintel Rhian Thomas Head of Shopper Insight – IGD Peter Backman Founder and Foodservice Consultant – Peter Backman Ian Stewart Chief Economist – Deloitte Ben Perkins Head of Consumer Research – Deloitte Graeme Littlejohn Director of Strategy and Communications – Scotch Whisky Association Shirley Ryder Director – Craft Bakers Association Gavin Wren Centre for Food Policy & Wren&Co Simon Lawson General Manager – Casella Family Brands

WHAT HAS BEEN THE TRUE IMPACT OF COVID-19 ON THE FOOD & DRINK SECTOR? Clifford: “The pandemic has created huge challenges for the food and drink industry, but it has also been the catalyst for huge opportunities. These are both immediate, with many businesses thriving from agilely adapting to new consumer needs, and in the long-term as the crisis will leave a number of lasting legacies. Although many aspects of the ‘next normal’ are shrouded in uncertainty, Mintel expects this phase to be characterised by a heightened interest in physical health, emotional wellbeing, local businesses and communities, the environment and real value for money.” Backman: “COVID-19 has been, and will continue to be, a great accelerator for the shifts between in and out of home consumption that have been emerging over the past 15 years. Current consumer behaviour is a catalyst for change, which is happening far faster than anything I predicted just six months ago. As we move forward, every part of the supply chain will have to be able to adapt rapidly to this changing landscape. “The hospitality industry has taken an unimaginable hit, but many operators have used it as an opportunity to pivot their businesses and redefine both their offer and the way it’s delivered. The entrepreneurial spirit and dedication to save a much-loved industry has been refreshing for all to see. “Consumer demand will drive and shape the eating in and dining out markets more than ever before, so suppliers,

foodservice operators and retailers will need to react, adjust and innovate to allow for evolving scenarios. The food industry has always been fast-paced; it’s about to get faster.” Wren: “It has had a massive impact. It has reshaped many aspects of the food and drink sector by triggering changes in supply and demand, which have endured long enough to become habitual, the 'new normal'. It has consolidated sales and capital into large retailers, while placing many food service outlets at risk of closure.” Lawson: “The biggest single change has been the huge increase in the ‘at home’ occasion, due to lockdown and the latest tiered restrictions reducing out of home and on trade visits. During the initial lockdown, overall alcohol consumption fell to 1.3 billion litres, down from two billion the previous year, but that shift of occasions into the home has seen the off-trade sector grow by over 25% since restrictions began.” WAS THE EAT OUT TO HELP OUT SCHEME A SUCCESS? Stewart: “The path of the virus continues to dictate the direction of the economy as a whole, and that of consumer spending in particular. Despite the boost from pent-up demand, staycations and the Eat Out to Help Out scheme, there was less bounce in August’s GDP figure than expected. Now, with case rates rising, new restrictions being introduced and government support reducing, the outlook is for an even slower pace of growth in the coming months.” Cont. 

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CAN THE SECTOR RECOVER? WHAT WILL THIS RECOVERY LOOK LIKE? Littlejohn: “The Eat Out to Help Out scheme was one of a number of important government measures put in place to support businesses hit hard by the impact of COVID-19, and in restoring public confidence as the country emerged from lockdown during the summer. The scheme was part of a package of vital economic support which was important to our sector, including the gradual reopening of tourism and the reopening of Scotch Whisky distillery visitor centres over the summer.” Wren: “It depends on how you measure success. It created a feelgood vibe around eating out and helped a lot of restaurants to fill seats. In retrospect, £500m is a huge price to pay, making the scheme seem like a fanciful use of public money when so many livelihoods are at risk as we enter the next phase of restrictions.



“The knock-on effects of restaurants and food service outlets closing, or facing severely limited custom, has had an enormous effect on producers who were supplying this part of the food system.” WHAT OTHER GOVERNMENT HELP IS NEEDED? Perkins: “The gradual reopening of the physical high street and strong online trade has seen retail sales growth rebound to pre-pandemic levels. Consumers, already poised to spend, have been enticed back by end-of-season discounting. Following a challenging Q2, many consumer businesses will find improvements to net spending this quarter encouraging, but the lead up to Christmas will remain important. With consumers indicating a reduction in planned spending, maintaining momentum of online sales, and ensuring distribution channels can cope with demand will be key to a successful ‘Golden Quarter’.” Lawson: “The hospitality sector, and suppliers to it, are massive casualties and the biggest tragedy is the number of young people that sector employs. This is compounded by Brexit and the additional regulations on imported wine that add cost and insult to injury. De-regulation and additional support for businesses and employees in that sector are vital. Reducing duty on wine, beer and spirits would add some much needed support to the industry.”

Littlejohn: “Recovery will depend on a variety of factors - the success of public health measures in the absence of a vaccine, the impact of economic policies and support measures, the easing of lockdowns in global markets, and how quickly international travel, hospitality and consumer confidence rebounds. Despite the challenges, the industry will continue to work to regain our strength globally, and in doing so it will be critical to us to have the support of government in keeping trade flowing. “The longer restrictions go on – both in restricted opening times and sales – the harder it will be for these businesses to survive or play a full part in the recovery.” Wren: “Recovery will reshape the sector, placing more sales into the big retailers and delivery companies, while bringing more food service opportunities to the towns around major cities where workers are relocating due to working from home policies.” Lawson: “As far as the hospitality sector is concerned I am sure it will. We have seen tremendous innovation from wine suppliers with increased focus on online marketing, tasting and selling. While the hospitality sector is undoubtedly hard hit by the regulation and behavioural changes that it’s beset by currently, I have every faith the innovation that the sector is renowned for will see the hospitality industry bounce back.” November/December 2020

FOOD & DRINK WHAT FUTURE TRENDS WILL WE SEE IN THE INDUSTRY AS A RESULT OF THE CORONAVIRUS? Thomas: “COVID-19 has resulted in the boundaries between in-home and out-ofhome consumption breaking down further and faster than any of us could have imagined. The future is unpredictable; we don’t know what path the virus will take or how lockdown measures will affect the performance of markets in the medium to longer term. “In this highly uncertain environment, it is crucial that retailers and suppliers are able to respond successfully and quickly to events as they unfold. Considering which changes in shopper behaviour will become permanent will help identify the solutions that you want your business to nurture. “Foodservice companies must balance customer focus with practical, operational issues and work collaboratively with partners to achieve this. Much thought must be given to the best time to reopen and foodservice companies must be prepared to rewrite their business plans with a start-up mentality.” Ryder: “Although the pandemic has presented the sector with some significant challenges, we have also been impressed with the way many craft bakers have successfully adapted their businesses to not just survive, but grow too. The lockdown prompted many people to shop more locally. As a result, some consumers discovered their local bakeries for the first time and came to appreciate the great quality and taste of the products available. We expect this trend for regional products and ingredients to continue into 2021, which is, of course, a real positive for the craft bakery sector. “We expect the trends for shopping locally and for products offering provenance and traceability to continue into 2021. Health and safety will continue to be a big priority for business, customers and employees into next year and beyond. At the CBA, we will be with our members every step of the way – providing them with the very best support and guidance, so that they and the wider craft baking industry can continue to thrive.” Lawson: “No question the significant growth in online food and drink shopping is here to stay, with October seeing almost 80% growth in online grocery sales.”  Business Leader - Inspire • Inform • Connect

ONLINE WILL OVERTAKE STORE SPENDING FOR THE FIRST TIME THIS CHRISTMAS According to new research, Brits are likely to spend £39.41bn online this Christmas as online spending outstrips high street sales for the first time. The home delivery firm ParcelHero says that online sales are set to overtake spending in physical stores for the first time this Christmas as Brits brace for a ‘Covid Christmas’. In Christmas 2019, Britain’s shoppers spent over £78bn on Christmas presents and food. The research shows that Brits will look set to spend around the same amount again this year but, this time, a far bigger slice of our Christmas budget will be online. ParcelHero’s Head of Consumer Research, David Jinks MILT, said: “Last Christmas, we spent £25.43bn online and £53.15bn in stores. This year, our research shows the situation will be reversed and we’ll spend more online than offline in the first truly digital Christmas. In September, sales online sales grew 53% year-on-year, according to the Office of National Statistics (ONS). This Christmas, we think they will inch up to 55%. That means online shopping will rise to a record-breaking £39.41bn. “We don’t think it’s likely we’ll see a massively increased overall spend this Christmas, as people are concerned for their jobs because of the impact of Covid and Brexit, which looms just seven days after Christmas. So, assuming Brits spend roughly the same as last year, that means in-store shopping will correspondingly drop considerably to £39.17bn. “YouGov says English shoppers spent £381 on presents last Christmas and £159 on food and drink. Over half of this budget will be spent online this year. We’ve already seen proof we’ll be buying many more presents online in 2020. Online department store sales rose 88% year-on-year in September as people pre-ordered new PlayStation 5s and Xbox Series X consoles in time for Christmas delivery. “With Amazon and Tesco promising free grocery deliveries for Christmas for shoppers in their membership schemes, we’re also expecting food deliveries to soar over the festive period. As even Marks & Spencer launches full-scale food deliveries thanks to its new Ocado tie-in, you could say it’s not just an online Christmas revolution, it’s an M&S online Christmas revolution this year."





he role of the HR Director or Manager is always changing but you could easily argue that it’s change has never been faster accelerated than in the last ten months. But how is the role changing and is it set for its golden age at the business table. Business Leader investigates.

With millions forced to work from home, while others have had to adapt to a more blended way of working, the HR Director’s (HRDs) role has risen to the forefront of running a company. The business world is a far reach from where it was a year ago. Even with the ongoing struggles with Brexit, Trump’s America and international relations strained across the globe – their collective impact is dwarfed by that of the magnitude of the coronavirus pandemic. All industries and ways of life have been turned upside down, and as a result, businesses have been playing catch up in response to the crisis. As a result, the importance of human resources and employees wellbeing has been brought to the fore. Ranjit Dhindsa, Head of Employment at European law firm Fieldfisher, comments: “COVID-19 has thrusted the HR team, and therefore HRDs into the centre of critical business continuity planning. “They've had to deal with managing employees that have gone off sick or are worried for themselves and their families who might be vulnerable. Also, they've had to be quick to come up with solutions on how manage career development and training remotely, particularly for junior employees. It's been business as usual 54

plus the extra workload from the pandemic. When lockdown finally came, they had to support the business in the rollout to remote working, checking in on employees, ensuring that productivity and morale is up. “Following this, the UK government announced the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme, a monumental piece of employment and tax law legislation which no one had heard of or had time to prepare for. Within this, there was immense pressure to put employees onto furlough, even though there was little detailed guidance on the scheme, so HRDs had to help other business leaders manage who and when to put on furlough and put in measures to manage this process. “Then came the HMRC crackdown on use of the scheme, so HRD were challenged with working with finance teams and people managers to ensure the accuracy of their furlough records. “Also, navigating redundancy processes at a time when employment tribunals are at an all-time high has led to increase pressure for HRDs to ensure they're protecting the business and adhering to employment law.”


It is clear that the role has significantly increased in its importance in the day-to-day running of a business. Ross Seychell, Chief People Officer at Personio, agrees: “Throughout the COVID-19 crisis, and all the challenges, changes and disruption that it has entailed, HR directors have been an important guiding force, helping companies to adjust to this new reality. “Indeed, during this rocky period, HR has proven itself to be a company’s backbone; on top of their regular responsibilities, HRDs have found themselves supporting businesses on multiple fronts – whether establishing remote working policies, November/December 2020


Ranjit Dhindsa Fieldfisher

Ross Seychell Personio

ensuring everyone has the tech they need to successfully work from home, keeping employees engaged, or advising on furlough, redundancies and resourcing needs. “As a result, in what is essentially a ‘trickle up’ effect for the function, HRDs have now become much more visible to the C-suite – with 71% of HR managers saying the HR function has become more closely involved at board and senior team level during the outbreak. And it’s about time this happened. "Among many leadership teams, there is now greater recognition of the importance of building, managing and supporting a great team, and it’s hoped that this will help to build political capital for HR – and Business Leader - Inspire • Inform • Connect

help HRDs create the case for more budget investment in the future.” RELATIONSHIP WITH THE BUSINESS LEADER It is clear that the role of the HR lead within a business has never been more businesscritical – and as a result, its necessity has driven a renewed interest in the wellbeing of employees from business owners. The acceleration of the new-normal created by the COVID-19 pandemic has led to an increased importance in the eyes of business leaders. Nick Burns, CEO Gallagher Benefit Services UK, said: “HRDs are generally the closest link with employees and key

stakeholders. As such, they need to take on board employee feedback, shape their people strategy to reflect organisational and workforce priorities, and have a clear mandate from the board to take action. This includes having access to budget and an appetite to invest, particularly given the current challenges, in terms of discretionary spend. "Investment aimed at improving the people agenda should be seen as critical spend, to help businesses to adjust, survive and focus on future growth as we continue to transition into a new commercial environment. Cont.  55

FEATURE “The global pandemic and local lockdown restrictions has brought executive and functional leadership teams closer together. From a HRD and CEO relationship perspective, autonomy comes through trust. All executive leadership teams are under significant pressure to make critical decisions with increased ambiguity, with the expectation they have all the answers. Decisions by committee is no longer an option in most situations. The pandemic response is a moving target and CEO’s should be passing responsibility down, not only to HR, but to the leadership team collectively to enable nimble, informed and increasingly intuitive decision making.” ROLE OF TECHNOLOGY The pandemic has elevated the importance of the HR function within businesses across all sectors. But, what the crisis has also done is accelerate the adoption and creation of new, innovative technologies. But, are HRDs prepared? And do businesses need to adopt new tools to help them survive the months ahead? Ross Seychell, Chief People Officer at Personio, said: “Technology has huge potential to improve the productivity of the HR function. For many HRDs and their teams, paperwork and admin take up valuable time that could instead be redirected to delivering their HR strategy. And, right now, with HR teams more stretched than ever, time for strategic thinking is more critical than ever before. “From productivity and absences, to employee satisfaction and leaver data, HR technologies can also provide HRDs with critical data insights about their people, which they can use to support their strategies, and become a more powerful ally to businesses. “Worryingly, however, HR is still chronically under informed and under equipped. Our research found that 48% of HRDs do not have all the HR tools and systems in place to be as effective as possible, whilst 71% struggle to access data or analytics in the business. “Amid so much change and upheaval, and with businesses having to make tough and complex decisions now and over the next 12 months, good data and analytics will be crucial to underpin successful HR strategies and to give HRDs the time and ability to focus on their business’s greatest asset their people.” 56


Nick Burns Gallagher Enefit Services UK

However, just rushing out to introduce new technologies can be harmful – and just adds another level of complexity to a role that is already stretched for time and resources. Kate Cooper, Head of Research, Policy and Standards at The Institute of Leadership & Management, said: “Technology can certainly help; it’s the great connector. However, if your technology's not working, it adds an additional layer of dysconnectivity in a disconnected workplace - an additional level of frustration, when the only channel you have to talk to people, to collaborate, to connect, is being patchy at best or not working at all. “Reliable, fit for purpose technology is a business imperative, as is the understanding that people have got to learn how to use that technology. Again, another role for HR, businesses need to ensure that appropriate, timely development is there – sending a clear message that, yes, people are working differently and they need to learn how to do that – along with a recognition of the experience curve as a result. Not only is there is a requirement to invest in training and development, but also the need to be patient until everybody gets to the right level of capability.”


Kate Cooper Institute of Leadership & Management

INCREASED IMPORTANCE No matter the industry or size of a business, the role of HRD has never been more crucial to the future of a company. Also, as the newnormal becomes more clearly defined, HR will see new roles within the team become a necessity for future business functions. David Banaghan, Co-founder of Occupop, concludes: “HR directors need to adapt and broaden their skillset to manage the new normal and how businesses will operate going forward, but that also calls for a requirement to hire or retrain HR team members with the skillsets and abilities to be able to meet this new world of work. In fact, a recent study by Harvard Business Review found that there are over 20 new HR jobs of the future, including Human Bias Officers, Diversity Officer, Chatbot Facilitator and Head of Well-Being. “HRDs need to work with the business leaders firstly to identify what a company needs now to function at its best under disrupted circumstances, assigning job roles within the HR team to overcome any challenges. HRDs then need to identify what a company will need to operate in the short, medium and long-term in regard to skills gaps and employee issues such as inclusion, well-being and engagement. “With a people-first approach, HR can now be seen as the face of the future of the company in a more empathic way. Through the adoption of technology and practices that help employees feel appreciated and help them achieve their goals, HR can successfully navigate any company through the pandemic storm and beyond.”  November/December 2020

From 1 January 2021

The way you hire from the EU is changing

Free movement is ending, and the new points-based immigration system will introduce job, salary and language requirements that will change the way you hire from the EU.

You will need to be a licensed sponsor to hire eligible employees from outside the UK. Becoming a sponsor normally takes 8 weeks and fees apply.

This will not apply when hiring Irish citizens or those eligible for status under the EU Settlement Scheme.

Find out more at GOV.UK/HiringFromTheEU Business Leader - Inspire • Inform • Connect









n each edition of Business Leader Magazine, we profile a UK business experiencing exponential growth in a feature called Fast-Track. This time, we spoke to Tide, an SME-focused digital bank.

The banking sector in the UK is in the midst of a digital revolution, and as companies look to differentiate themselves from the major high street banks, a selection of innovators have risen above the rest. One of these companies is Tide, who have seen their membership numbers (customers) soar over the last few years to more than 270,000, and a 4.5% market share of SME business banking. Tide also now has more than 320,000 current accounts. Tide’s CEO Dr Oliver Prill joined the business in 2018 and has led its rapid scaling into one of the UK’s leading business financial platforms. He has over 20 years leadership experience in financial services, having worked across the banking and insurance sectors. RELENTLESS FOCUS ON SMES Oliver comments further on what Tide offer: “Tide is effectively a business finance platform. We are the go-to place for SMEs for all their banking and admin needs. Our mission is to help small businesses save time, by helping them through the disjointed financial parts of running a business. Tide makes it possible to have the entire processes available in a single platform, saving companies time and money. “In terms of scale, we have been growing very quickly – and the COVID-19 crisis has accelerated it further. We have risen to around 4.5% of the market share in just 58

a few years. We achieved this through a relentless focus on SMEs – and this is the group we solely focus on.” Founded in 2017, it isn’t just financial services that they have become known for. Prill continues: “We provide everything that a small business owner would need to sort out their finance and admin. In total, the UK has almost six million SME businesses that don’t have a formalised finance function – so it is a very large market. Many don’t have a finance department and the business owner might be doing it themselves along with the other parts of their job, for example.

OUR MISSION IS TO HELP SMALL BUSINESSES SAVE TIME, BY HELPING THEM THROUGH THE DISJOINTED FINANCIAL PARTS OF RUNNING A BUSINESS. TIDE MAKES IT POSSIBLE TO HAVE THE ENTIRE PROCESSES AVAILABLE IN A SINGLE PLATFORM." “Tide solves the finance and admin worries an SME owner is presented with every day. So, in addition to banking products like current accounts and credit, we also provide admin tools like payroll, invoicing, expense management and other accounting systems. We don’t interfere with the core elements of running a business – but we are the go-to for the crucial financial admin side of the business.” PLUGGING A GAP IN THE MARKET So, how has Tide achieved its levels of growth in less than four years? Prill explains: “What we saw was that business banking was pretty broken. After the last financial crisis, the competition

report into the SME banking market revealed that business owners were not satisfied with how their banking worked. Our view was that it wasn’t only banking that was broken, but it was the whole finance and admin industry. At Tide, we call it the connectivity chain – our admin and finance processes feed into each other, but in the past, they were all dealt with separately and manually. We connect these, and that is what Tide is all about. We deeply embed the processes and make it work seamlessly together to save SMEs time and money. With the growth we have had – we must be doing something right.” GROWTH THROUGH FUNDING With high levels of growth and lofty aspirations to continue their upward trajectory, Tide have utilised venture funding to accelerate the implantation of their technology, and grow their team to meet increased demand. While many companies use funding as a way to facilitate growth – Tide have used it differently from others within the banking sector. Prill comments: "We are fully venture funded and investor owned. Our Series A happened in 2017 when the company launched – we raised £11m. I joined a year later as CEO, then we have a Series B in September 2019, which raised £44.1m. Series C is due to begin sometime next year. Like all venture funded businesses, we go through the cycle of going through rounds of funding, and we will continue to do so. “A lot of our competitors have venture funding rounds when they are running out of money – which is not the right way to think about growing a business. We use it, so that at every Series point, we have a strategic milestone. For Series A – it November/December 2020



was proving basic product market placement. It was to discover if there was a place for our proposition – and this was proven in 2017. Series B was to prove minimum efficient scale – that was when we grew to over 100,000 members. Series C is about proving our ability to provide true transformational scale in the UK – and we now have more than 270,000 UK SMEs banking with Tide and 4.5% market share. Series C funding is about a proving point for the business.” OVERCOMING CHALLENGES Despite the rapid rise of Tide, and its successful venture funding rounds – there have been issues that Prill and the company have had to face. He explains: “As you grow, there are different challenges provided by the growth path – and in the last few months there have obviously been some exceptional circumstances facing businesses across the UK. The general challenge that has faced Tide is similar to many other exponentially growing companies – you need to match the ever-growing demand that is out there, while correctly scaling the business internally to meet that demand, and to maintain a high level of service to customers. “Also, a lot of what we do is cutting edge product development. As you scale, you need to meet the increasing volumes of requests for your services, which means you need to scale your product engineering to match it to continuingly delivering on what you are providing.” HOW TO LEAD A FAST-GROWING BUSINESS? Tide has scaled at pace, and despite the clear challenges that the company has Business Leader - Inspire • Inform • Connect

Dr Oliver Prill - CEO, Tide

faced, it has established itself as a leading figure within business banking in the UK. With any exponentially growing company, the role of the leader is vitally important, and Prill has guided Tide through funding rounds and increasing market share. So, how would he describe his leadership style? Prill explains: “Fundamentally, my view of a leader is what I would call a ‘servant leader’. My role focuses on three areas. One third of my role is focusing on strategic leadership – to plan the future of the business. This is an especially important challenge for a leader of a fast-growing business. You need to have someone focused on what is the future direction of the business. For us, that means speaking with investors and senior managers within the company to create a strategic roadmap. “The next part of my role is about helping with the organisational side of the company – hiring the best talent, setting up processes that can handle scalable growth and putting plans in place for employees to work with high levels of autonomy. My role is to implement these processes

and set the right targets. Then, as part of this role, when issues arise, I spend time solving them. Finally, the role of every leader involves a lot of admin, speaking to shareholders/investors and meetings.” FUTURE FOR TIDE Notwithstanding Tide’s incredible growth in a relatively short space of time, Prill believes that the company will continue on its current growth trajectory, and expand internationally. He concludes: “We have done well over the crisis to grow the business and help out our members, but we need to stay on top of this and face the challenges that will be there. "Also, we are halfway to our target of a 9% market share and 500,000 members – and this next level of growth won’t achieve itself without a lot of hard work – we still have a lot to do! In the future, I don’t believe there will be players in the SME market that will have more than 10% market share – and if there was, I don’t think it would be right for the country. Therefore, we will cast our eyes away from the UK and our future plans involve internationalisation of Tide.” 





ollowing a challenging 2020 that has seen the devastating impact of the coronavirus pandemic, the most emotionally-charged election in US history and international relations strained across the globe – Business Leader Magazine spoke to some industry leaders about what to expect for the year ahead.

PETER BLANC, GROUP CEO ASTON LARK: “2021 will see a continued very ‘hard’ insurance market, where difficult risks prove extremely challenging to place. Many insurers have pulled out of classes of business where they foresee potentially large losses, including Directors & Officers Liability, Professional Indemnity, and large property risks. This is resulting in a reduction in capacity in the market, leading to significant rate increases and, in some cases, making certain risks practically uninsurable.

such, this is a time when Insurance Brokers have to really earn their crust. “There are still insurers out there willing to underwrite business, but they have to be persuaded and convinced - so choose your broker carefully!” RYAN PULLEN, HEAD OF CYBER SECURITY, STRIPE OLT: “In 2021, I think we'll see a massive increase in Cyber Security engagement. What I mean by this is an increase in a cyber-first mindset and business culture. I think if we've learnt anything from this year, it's that cyber-

criminals will take advantage of those who are not equipped to protect themselves, and in an increasingly digital business environment, it’s imperative we take action. Employees are typically the weakest link when it comes to an attack, so, naturally, if we nurture a cyber-first workforce, we can quickly turn our number one weakness into our first line of defence.” DANNI RUSH, CHIEF CUSTOMER OFFICER, VIRGIN INCENTIVES AND VIRGIN EXPERIENCE DAYS: “With a global pandemic, two national lockdowns, and a recession in the UK, it’s fair to say that 2020 has been a whirlwind, and next year will hopefully be much calmer. But, while a COVID-19 vaccine offers a route back to some normality by spring, we shouldn’t presume that business changes that emerged this year aren’t here to stay.

“The last time the market faced these challenges was in 2001 following the World Trade Centre attacks, with the next two years seeing premiums increased by nearly a third. As


Ryan Pullen


November/December 2020



“One such trend is the end of working five days in the office. Although working from home started before 2020, the pandemic made it a nearly universal requirement for every business. And while this universality won’t persist post-COVID-19, It’s likely that for some businesses and some employees, going back to five days in an office will not be the preferred option, with or without a vaccine.” ROB VIVIAN, CEO PURECOMMS: “Although, in all honesty, I suspect that the start of 2021 will be another year of

Peter Blanc - Aston Lark

uncertainty, however, by the middle of the year I see normal life largely returning. “For us we have a very strong plan in terms of sales and marketing whatever happens with the coronavirus. We have to adopt an attitude of positivity – business will carry on, but you have to have a plan and be

Ryan Pullen - Stripe OLT

confident, now more than ever. We have brought forward the home working products and we are focusing more and more on short term internet solutions – the advent of 5G is allowing us to expand into that area.

2021 is fast approaching and many of us are still wondering what happened to this year. If we have learned anything from the last few months, it is how important people are, and at Nebula, we believe that staff are one of the most important factors within a business. With this in mind, we want to help you get the most from yours! As you may have seen, this year we have launched our brand new UNIVERTUAL education platform. Packed full of how-to videos, courses, certificates and much more, and we want to help you increase productivity within your workplace. Studies show that happy staff = hardworking staff and with technology revolutionising the market, could your knowledge be holding you back? Investing in your staff is vital to your business, as it is them who are the face of your company. We are not robots of course, and realise that not everyone has time to sit and learn all day. Maybe in this case our mini videos are what you’re after; running no longer than 3 minutes, to help you with those little problems you encounter every day. We aren’t here to scare you though, in fact we want to do the opposite. 2021 is a new year, and you have plenty of time ahead of it to make plans. For Nebula, our plans are to grow UNIVERTUAL and give you ever expanding content. Helping you drive performance through learning!

Call us today on 01454 534009, visit our website www.nebulait.co.uk or follow our unique QR code to go directly to our UNIVERTUAL platform. Business Leader - Inspire • Inform • Connect

Cont. 

76% of employees are looking for career growth

Happy employees experience 31% higher productivity

74% of employees don’t believe they are reaching their full potential

65% of the population are visual learners




“I firmly believe that companies that are bold and are prepared to adapt will improve their relationships with customers – and in the process pick up new clients. For me, change is always an opportunity for any business; “We have recruited this year – and provided we stick to our plan – I can see this continuing through 2021. Bring on 2021!”


Danni Rush - Virgin Incentives & Experience Days

Rob Vivian - PureComms

Ketevan Moseshvili - Newable

Stephen Kelly - Tech Nation

Rob Vivian

KETEVAN MOSESHVILI BUSINESS DEVELOPMENT MD NEWABLE: "Start-ups are the future. Many COVID-19 support schemes help existing businesses but start-ups are less supported, although arguably they are more crucial for the medium term. "As state aid fades away next spring, a new wave of unemployment will come upon us and we will need a very vibrant start-up culture to generate new products, services and businesses. Many new jobs will need to be created and the biggest creator of new employment is the SME sector. Currently there is plenty of online advice and support for start-ups, but these lack the crucial 1-2-1 personal support of an experienced business adviser.”



STEPHEN KELLY, CHAIR TECH NATION: “The tech sector will play a critical role in the UK's recovery in 2021, following a rapid acceleration towards the digital economy in 2020. Before COVID-19, the UK’s tech sector was growing six times faster than the UK economy as a whole, creating highly-paid and skilled jobs. "The UK is a world-leading tech centre with the collective strength of its regional tech clusters, where 45% of the UK’s high-value scaleups are based outside of London. With a strong pipeline of global tech leaders in the regions, we can expect the sector to continue driving the levelling-up of Britain next year. "We can also expect the UK to be growing its presence on the global stage, with tech services exports projected to grow by 35%


by 2025. Predictions project Creative, Digital and Tech industries to be 50% of the UK economy by 2030 and there will be further acceleration and growth in 2021. “Net Zero technology companies will continue to play a critical part of the climate change solution next year, with recent Government investment showing positive signs of its commitment to supporting the sector tackle the greatest challenge of our time.” 

November/December 2020

With the right procurement partner, you enjoy access to specialist resources and expertise in maximising efficiency and managing costs across your business. But finding that partner can be tricky. So it’s always good to get a second opinion from people you trust. At BCR Associates, most clients come to us via referral from bank managers, accountants, solicitors and other professionals – all valuing the level of service and technical support we provide in telecoms, energy, insurance and much more. To discover what makes us the professionals’ procurement choice – and what that means for you – get in touch today.

Call 03330 433 233 Email steveb@bcrassociates.co.uk Visit bcrassociates.co.uk


CYBER SECURITY IN A COVID ERA By Nicola Saner, Managing Director, Chorus

In 2020 we’ve all come to experience firsthand just how vital technology is. At the start of the year, business leaders rightly focused on business continuity, having to remain resilient against financial and operational challenges. Organisations rapidly adapted to remote working and were forced to accelerate digital transformation. In fact, according to Microsoft, at the start of the year we saw two years’ worth of digital transformation in just two months. However, this sudden shift has meant that IT security may have fallen down the list of priorities. Given the limited capabilities of traditional perimeter firewall and VPN solutions to protect against modern threats, companies need new security measures, new levels of expertise and new technologies to protect their data, devices, and people in this new COVID impacted era. It is against this backdrop that I have been fortunate enough to take over as Managing Director at Chorus.


Identities Devices Applications Data


I look forward to leading our skilled technical teams as we accelerate the development of our Security Operations Centre services for organisations looking to bolster or outsource their IT security operations. With a predicted shortfall of around three million Cyber Security professionals in the coming years, organisations need to consider how they meet the growing cyber security skills gap. Chorus is well placed to help organisations maximise their existing Microsoft cloud investments by enhancing their security posture and providing dedicated security support. Today, organisations need a new security strategy that adapts to the complexity and flexibility of modern working and supports a mobile workforce to secure people, devices and data wherever they are located. This modern approach is known as Zero Trust. By embedding Zero Trust into digital transformation, businesses can use this as an opportunity to drive an innovative and flexible IT strategy with security at the core – creating a modern workplace built for the future. In my new role, I know that COVID-19 is proving to be a revealing test of leadership. Business leaders have had to react rapidly and adapt their businesses to this new environment. Now is a good time to reflect on these earlier operational changes and review them with IT security in mind protecting your organisation going forwards.

Chorus specialises in Microsoft technologies and, now more than ever, organisations need the right support to help them get the most from their technology and securely embrace a cloud-orientated modern workplace.

If you would like to speak to us about your business technology or cyber security, please call Chorus on 01275 398900 or email hello@chorus.co

November/December 2020

By Your Side. On Your Side.

As you navigate the obstacles and opportunities that lie ahead, having a trusted business advisor on your side is more important than ever. As the South West’s largest network of chartered accountants, we are always by your side.

01392 288555 www.thomaswestcott.co.uk

Brought to you by Business Leader Magazine

THE UK'S LEADING TECH AND INNOVATION AWARDS The Go:Tech Awards is a prestigious event that showcases the UK’s outstanding companies and entrepreneurs, operating in the technology sector.




November/December 2020


Kenneth Siber WeWorks

Joel Blake OBE GFA Exchange

Asma Bashir Century Global


Nathan Guest VWV

Roland Emmans HSBC

Ryan Legge Hayes Parsons Insurance Brokers

Business Leader - Inspire • Inform • Connect Dr Alex Young Elisabeth Kohlbach Virti

Jonathan Lister Parsons Pension Bee

Konstantin Sidorov London Technology Hub

Oz Alashe MBE CybSafe

Dr Johnathan Matlock

Mark Wesker Osborne Clarke

Ben Bilsland RSM

Ann Hiatt Armadillo

Nicole Junkermann NJF Holdings

John Farrugia finnCap

Anthony Rose SeedLegals

Adel Eisa IC Resources

Zain Ali Centuro Global

Rita Liu Mode




CAN YOU TELL ME ABOUT YOUR CORPORATE DAYS AND M&E VENUES? Offering four very distinctive trackside venues, the Motor Circuit accommodates a range of business needs. From a 1960’s themed Jackie Stewart Pavilion to our iconic Race Control Building, both are the perfect venue for conferences, exhibitions or board meetings. As well as offering excellent meeting space, we offer a variety of driving experiences both on and off-track to impress your clients and guests alike. Sam Medcroft – General Manager

Business Leader recently spoke to the General Manager of Goodwood Motor Circuit, Sam Medcraft, to discuss its storied history and the corporate days they offer to businesses and the public. CAN YOU GIVE AN OVERVIEW OF GOODWOOD MOTOR CIRCUIT? Nestled at the foot of the Sussex Downs, Goodwood Motor Circuit is the only classic circuit in the world to remain entirely in its original form, after being lovingly restored. Home of the world-famous Goodwood Revival and Members' Meeting, Goodwood Motor Circuit combines all the nostalgia of the golden era of motorsport with the modern technology of today. The historic two-and-a-half-mile circuit provides a real challenge and joy for any driver who loves the feeling of high speed. Goodwood’s passion for driving and wealth of motorsport knowledge has created extraordinary driving experiences. Here you have the chance to drive an impressive fleet of BMW M Performance models, classic saloons, GTs, and iconic Land Rovers. 68

Whether you are looking for an adrenaline rush from driving the fast and challenging circuit, the fun of speeding in a Rage Buggy across a dirt track, the nostalgia of stepping back in time with the Revival Racing experience, or the feeling of freedom from touring the South Downs in a classic Land Rover, our team will make your day truly memorable. The circuit is also available for a wide range of events including automotive events, large and small, film and TV shoots, and other sporting events. Our diverse client base also welcomes fashion, music and lifestyle brands and events. WHAT SEPARATES A GOODWOOD CORPORATE DAY FROM OTHER COMPANIES? The Goodwood Estate offers a whole host of activities, which makes it unlike any other Estate or venue in the UK, perhaps the world. From a competitive day of golf on The 'Top 100' Downs Course, a driving experience at Goodwood Motor Circuit to clay shooting in a bowl-like arena, the Goodwood Estate has something for every taste. Bespoke packages are available with the option of adding different sporting

activities to your day for a truly memorable Goodwood experience. In terms of our corporate driving experiences, this historic race track has hosted some of the most inspiring names in motor racing history – from Sir Stirling Moss and Bruce McLaren to Sir Jackie Stewart and Juan Fangio. The circuit is an exceptional venue for a multitude of events with first-class facilities. Whether you are organising a track day, a business meeting or a new product launch, our welcoming team provide excellent attention to detail, as well as everything you need for the ultimate corporate experience. YOU ALSO OFFER DRIVING EXPERIENCES FOR THE GENERAL PUBLIC – CAN YOU TELL ME MORE ABOUT THEM? Goodwood offers a range of unforgettable experiences that will give you the wow factor from start to finish. The Performance Track experience gives the driver over 50 miles of driving in a selection of the latest BMW M models, the Spin & Slide experience offers the chance to master power slides, handbrake turns and J-Turns on the lowgrip area, while for something away from the track there is the Goodwood Off-Road experience in our fleet of classic Land Rovers from the 1960s. We also offer the chance for customers to drive their own cars in our popular Goodwood Track Days. With gift vouchers available for all experiences, they make the perfect gift this Christmas. For more information on Goodwood’s corporate offerings, visit Goodwood.com November/December 2020

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