The Business Exchange Swindon & Wiltshire Edition 40: Dec/Jan 2018/19 - Page 14

BUSINESS REVIEW OF THE YEAR Business Review of the Year 2018 From GDPR to Brexit, 2018/19 is certainly producing its fair share of challenges in the business world. But happily, it’s also been a time of successes in the South West. We spoke to businesses across a range of sectors to find out how 2018 went for them… and what they are (and aren’t) looking forward to in 2019. Recruitment: Rory Young, sales director, White Horse Employment “GDPR actually had a positive impact for us as this has given us the opportunity to engage more effectively with our customers” How was 2018? Tough market conditions and candidate shortages have taken their toll in 2018 but in the second half of the year, there were a number of highs, including the appointment of a new sales director to focus on growth, staff motivation and increasing our market share through opening doors into new specialist markets. We introduced a new candidate engagement strategy and invested in future proofing our business through new technologies and methodologies, as well as setting up a new specialist accountancy and finance recruitment division across the South West. GDPR actually had a positive impact for us as this has given us the opportunity to engage more effectively with our customers Looking ahead to 2019... We’re incredibly optimistic. We have a renewed focus on building a stronger culture of accountability and a market-leading service. Investment into new markets will aid business growth and staff retention will be improved through greater career choices and flexible working arrangements. There will also be new branding and a fresh new look for the business. And we intend to reduce our exposure by diversifying and specialising in niche staffing sectors. We are still unclear on how Brexit will affect our customers as we work with many international businesses. Many local businesses rely on the free flow of European workers so are naturally concerned if any barriers are put in place that could jeopardise this. But overall, many SMEs are adopting a ‘business as usual’ approach and some are seeing this as a great opportunity to forge new trade deals with other international customers. Finance: Mike Ingram, chief market strategist at WHIreland Wealth Management How was 2018? We certainly came into 2018 on a high. Economic momentum was very positive pretty much everywhere and earnings momentum was following. We were under no illusions that we would see a repeat of the 2017 ‘melt up’ but it seemed that further modest gains in risk markets were quite possible during the course of 2018. Although companies have largely delivered thus far, markets have clearly repriced, spurred by a more aggressive US Federal Reserve, crystallising political risk and the prospective knock-on into economic activity. October was a horrible month for equity markets, with the biggest decline in over six years. Much of this was indiscriminate. We would certainly hope that marks the low for the year. Looking ahead to 2019... We believe it’s going to remain choppy. Central banks are set to continue tightening monetary policy and political risk is real and, in Europe at least, appears to be growing. That’s a challenging combination. Closer to home we still have Brexit to deal with. That all said, both company earnings and economic growth remains reasonably robust, so valuation support should continue building. Perhaps one of the biggest unknowns is how this sometimes noisy environment will impact consumer sentiment, investment and employment. It’s not actually that difficult to talk yourself into a real downturn. One issue which we suspect has not been given sufficient airtime by investors is inflation. Despite the odd scare, it has remained a dog that hasn’t barked. Should we start to see a meaningful pickup on that front – and US Federal Reserve is clearly leading the charge here - then this could potentially introduce another destabilising element into the market landscape. Human Resources: Sue Tumelty, managing director at The HR Dept “Brexit, of course, hangs over everything but we need to see it as an opportunity” 14 How was 2018? Looking ahead to 2019... On a positive front, the big news has been the Taylor Review into employment statuses and the ongoing Government consultation. We welcome a potential end to the confusion over definitions of workers and the self-employed, to make life easier for all businesses and particularly SMEs. Our culture is changing – high profile court cases like those of Pimlico Plumbers and the Uber drivers will have major implications for all businesses in terms of the rights of their employees. Recently, the Budget spelled good news for SMEs with improved policies on apprenticeships, Entrepreneur’s Relief, delays to the private sector roll-out of IR35 and a reduction in business rates. Brexit, of course, hangs over everything but we need to see it as an opportunity. Even in a no deal situation, those companies which cope best will be the ones which are ready to take up opportunities which present themselves. We are already looking into up-skilling our advisors on the details of visa requirements, for example, and we have business development strategies on hand so we can make the most of whatever happens. We also expect 2019 to be a year in which employers will need to continue to adapt to changing times. Shared Parental Leave has not seen the take-up which was expected but further requests for flexible working may come with the introduction of Grandparent Leave. THE BUSINESS EXCHANGE 2018 “We believe it’s going to remain choppy”