AS THE Scottish referendum came to a no vote, some might have assumed that meant it’s now business as usual. They would have been wrong.
For starters, business as usual doesn’t really exist post-financial crisis. Swathes of new lenders are looking to fill the hole left by under-capitalised and under-the-cosh banks, and new markets – by geography and specialism – have emerged alongside several global political risks.
Secondly, the ball set rolling by talk of devolution continues apace – and it might hit closer to home on the English side of Hadrian’s Wall. There can be no doubting that an ageing infrastructure and lack of business development outside of London have created inequities across the UK. Once-great industrial towns and cities have atrophied, until recent times.
For these towns, cities and regions – looking to improve the climate for prosperity, for businesses or for the 55 million citizens based outside of London – some measure of devolution seems the least that can be done to reset the balance.
For chief financial officers, the thought of regional tax rates, credits and investment centres might cause a headache, particularly as so many are considering branching out thousands of miles further afield – whether to sell products and services or to use a foreign labour force.
And just to confuse matters, the European Union is looking to take on more central control, in terms of banking stability and economic growth policies. Frankly, I fear for your sanity.
But whether there’s a threat of centralisation or devolution, opportunities abound. As new industries grow outside of London, we become stronger, encourage more inward investment, and sell more exports. Anything that could redistribute wealth and grow our home market must be positive. Broadening our skillsets outside of the London-centric financial and professional services has been ignored for too long.
I’m positive that a large group of FDs and CFOs, hardened by the tough times, will use their mix of forward-looking, analytical and prudential skillsets to drive the UK into good times.