South West businesses believe it’s time for UK and EU Governments to stop playing political football and deliver

On Thursday October 13, the High Growth Knowledge Company (HGKC), in collaboration with Bluefin insurance, lawyers Royds Withy King and accountants, Milsted Langdon, hosted a roundtable at the Bath Priory Hotel.

Joined by CEOs and MDs of ten successful South West businesses, Peter Quintana and Kim Jones of HGKC facilitated an in-depth discussion that explored the threats and opportunities to international trade brought about by the UK’s vote to leave the European Union.

Subjects covered ranged from the politicking currently going on in the negotiations, the relative importance of EU trade relations to the businesses present (some depending on Europe for their supply chain, others already downplaying EU trade ambitions), the increased geographical risk of trading in new parts of the world (the Middle East, Latin America, China), the impact on the already difficult area for many of recruitment (particularly for those businesses in manufacturing and engineering), and the challenge of keeping up with rapidly and sometimes randomly changing trading regulations in some parts of the world.

Peter Quintana, in summarising, said businesses need to be innovative in the way they find partners, where they source funding, how they protect their IP, their dealings with Government (including our own), finding professional advisors overseas who were prepared to give open and honest guidance, and, most importantly, in making sure they get paid.

Kim Jones said: “The overall impression I gained from the roundtable is that innovative people will always find a way to do business. They are relying on their networks, connections and experience to navigate the complex environment of working across borders. What was clear is that they have the appetite to do more and are being held back by the current environment. There was a universal disenchantment with the infrastructure we have relied on in the past – banks, financial institutions, government and its agencies to provide the appropriate level of specific, timely and risk assessed advice and support due to their political and rather introspective priorities. If we truly want to grow, economically and socially then we need to target resources to support these entrepreneurial firms.”

Ian Sandham, Branch Director of Bluefin Insurance Services in Bath, said: “The International Business roundtable produced very lively debate on the impact of Brexit and what businesses should do in preparation.  It was fascinating to hear different perspectives which reflected various businesses’ dependence on exports and, to a lesser extent, imports. I enjoyed sharing some of my knowledge relating to the risks of trading internationally and gained some new insights in return.”

Jessica Bent, head of the Technology and Media team at co-sponsor Royds Withy King said: “We were delighted to partner with HGKC on the issues facing organisations doing international business. There was a strong feeling amongst businesses that they needed to be aware of their customer and supply chains, and how these might be affected by Brexit. Businesses should be thinking now of their key contracts and how to future proof them in relation to Brexit type issues, as well as their IP portfolios and how those might be affected.”

Ian Lloyd, partner at co-sponsor Milsted Langdon, said: “In this age of uncertainty it has never been more important for businesses to explore the opportunities available to them overseas. Conversely the current situation in the UK also offers new opportunities to overseas businesses looking to buy British companies or set up subsidiaries. With Brexit looming, this will be even more essential in the strategic planning for all. We recently set up a trade mission to China through our international association MGI, which also provides worldwide coverage and support for our clients and business contacts in the South West. It was fascinating meeting again with the attendees of the recent HGKC roundtable to discuss these important issues and listen to forward-thinking local businesses.”

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