Brexit - The view from Ireland

04 Jul 2018

Brexit - The view from Ireland

In this third extract from the Odgers Berndtson Report on ‘Brexit, Business Leaders and Investment’, Mark O’Donnell, Partner in Dublin, provides the perspective from Ireland. How is the prospect of Brexit playing out in the UK’s nearest European neighbor?

From the day of the vote to leave Europe, Brexit had a material impact on business. On that first day, we lost two assignments. Ever since then, it has continued to create great uncertainty.

Our clients are large corporates, multinationals or public companies. If you exclude the American multinationals, they all have a very high dependency on the UK. Especially those in the food sector who export up to 90% of their product to the UK.

Clients are trying to be as Brexit-ready as they can, doing scenario planning exercises on what may or may not happen. All we can do is be agile and try to cope with the new reality.

Major UK trade concerns

There’s a host of issues around getting products in and out of the UK and all the increased barriers to trade.

As I mentioned, food is a big issue, but every client, be they in building materials, plastics, or whatever, is impacted. Ironically, in Financial Services, where ‘dam-bursting’ kinds of activity were anticipated in banking, insurance and asset management, we haven’t seen a similar impact yet. Outside of Bank of America, very little has happened here so far, although it’s now two years since the referendum.

Perfect storm

Dublin is seeing a perfect storm. Brexit is massive, but so is Trump. The latter has a major impact because he came into power, first and foremost, to bring jobs back to America. That is very significant because of Ireland’s huge dependency on foreign direct investment, mostly by the US.

As if that’s not disruptive enough, the pace of technological change cannot be ignored.

I suspect that huge uncertainty and ambiguity is the new normal. We’ve got at least three more years of this. Even then, based on whatever the deal is, issues around trying to make it all work will be a constant.

Time to be more agile

All of this upheaval means organizations and their leaders must become more agile, and better able to cope with uncertainty and change.

Leadership teams need to say “Look, guys, nobody knows what’s going to happen, so we need to be thinking on our feet and get into a position where we can be as nimble as possible”.

There is, I think, a positive impact in all this. Brexit has prompted many organizations and leaders to recognize they need to sharpen up, become more flexible and put in place more adaptable, multi-faceted people. We’re working with our clients on this, and using succession planning to help identify and develop greater leadership agility and more flexible approaches to talent.

To discuss any of these issues further, please don’t hesitate to get in touch.

These insights by Mark O’Donnell, Partner in Odgers Berndtson Dublin and a C-Suite Executive specialist, are part of ‘Brexit, Business Leaders and Investment’, a major report from Odgers Berndtson. As leaders in global executive search, across multiple functions and sectors, we have a unique perspective that comes from being close to top executives in almost 30 countries.

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