Dorset’s business leaders came together recently to discuss the future of the economy. Billed as ‘Business Clarity in Uncertain Times’ the event included guest speakers and featured a Question Time style debate.
Held at Bournemouth’s newest hotel, the towering Hilton, the event was designed to guide decision-makers and clarify their view of this future to their business against a background of uncertainty and change.
Brexit, export opportunities, addressing skills shortages, business rates and the Budget, all came under the spotlight.
The event was hosted by three major players in the Dorset economy, accountancy, investment management and tax group Smith & Williamson, solicitors Steele Raymond and the NatWest.
Presentations were made by NatWest Markets currency strategist Paul Robson, Steele Raymond Chairman Tim Stone and Smith & Williamson senior partner Chris Appleton.
This was followed by questions from the audience to a panel of experts including the three main speakers and NatWest Corporate and Commercial Regional Director Dan Salanson.
The session was hosted by Daily Echo Business Editor Darren Slade.
NatWest Markets strategist Paul Robson spoke of fiscal uncertainty and a slowing economy.
He said: “The problem with uncertainty is that is restricts growth and the ability to invest. That is fundamental to the development of SMEs, which are the backbone of the UK economic recovery. Business craves clarity and this might be in short supply over the next couple of years.”
Steele Raymond chairman Tim Stone reflected on why some businesses thrived and others withered.
He said: “What research shows us is that the best brands in the world have weathered economic storms and uncertainty because they’ve continued to invest in their business, in marketing and in business development – put simply, they haven’t stood still.”
Smith & Williamson senior partner Chris Appleton said the idea of the event was to pull three well-known organisations together to pool experiences and help businesses to see their way through a very complex set of circumstances.
He added: “Research by the ScaleUp Institute highlights six critical areas which seem to hold back British businesses. In our experience two key areas would be the absence of leadership experienced in delivering successful scale-up growth coupled with significant shortages in skilled and trained people. Skills shortage is, right now, a significant factor in Bournemouth and Poole.”
At the Q&A session the panel and audience debated Chancellor Philip Hammond’s first Budget, what Brexit would mean for British trade and overseas workers, how uncertainty was affecting job market movement and the future of the financial services industry.