2020 Business Predictions: Keith Ross, Barclays Corporate Director for the East Midlands

It’s that time of year, when Business Link Magazine invites the region’s business leaders to offer up their predictions for the year ahead. It has become something of a tradition, given that we’ve been doing this now for over 30 years.

While none of us possess a crystal ball, it is uncanny how accurate some of these forecasts have been over the years.

Here we talk with Keith Ross, Corporate Director for the East Midlands at Barclays.

I believe the path for Brexit has become clearer in so far as we can say with confidence that the Withdrawal Agreement Bill will pass and the UK will leave at the end of January. But what remains unclear is the future trade deal with the EU. Whilst it’s not impossible to achieve, it’s challenging and on a very tight timescale.

However, the unanswered question is whether this clarity will sufficiently restore confidence both for businesses operating in the region as well as within households.

The skills shortage, I so often hear about when I am speaking to businesses, is likely to be the new operating environment so employers will need to work hard developing and fine tuning their attraction and retention strategies for employees. Wage inflation will be an important tool in this regard.

In March 19 (but much less so in October) we witnessed a propensity of manufacturers and suppliers in the retail and wholesale chain to ‘stock up’ with a view of mitigating any challenges with continuity of supply. This affected liquidity and a parallel softening of consumer demand, which manifested itself in an element of discounting in an attempt to liquidate stock. Given this behaviour was diluted as we approached the end of October I believe this will be less prevalent in 2020.

If Sterling continues to strengthen, it will come as welcome relief for the importers but clearly will have the opposite effect for exporters, which have been a shining light over recent years. The continual move up the value chain should help sustain overseas demands for UK products.

To conclude, however, I am always confident the dexterity of leadership we have in our region will continue to serve the economy well, whatever the future.