Tuesday, 10 November 2015

Leicester's Business Summit

Leicester(shire) has been running a business festival for the last two weeks (to Nov 6th).

There were a whole host of events put together in six months by a collection of County organisations from Leicester University, our Economic Partnership (LLEP) and our local newspaper , the Mercury.

I attended the flagship first day "Summit" and have to say I was very impressed. Three key speakers all gave really insightful views on topics that were either directly or tangentially linked to business. The calibre was high, such that even the M.C. for the day (David Byron) was the former managing director of BMI Baby the low cost carrier bought by the British Airways group.

First was David Smith the Economics Editor of the Sunday Times. I had gone to the event really to specifically hear him talk, as I had read his column most Sundays for many years. He gave a generally benign prognosis for the U.K. Economy in the next few years, but I was most interested to hear what he had to say on the forthcoming referendum. 

My view is (was?) veering towards the exit, arguing that excessive regulation and cost was detrimental to the U.K.,  while surely we could go alone. Smith opined that regulation was largely here to stay and being in or out would not make much difference. An accommodation on free trade would be struck, if there was a Brexit, as it would be in the best interests of both sides to smooth an exit. However, there were two factors that, on balance, convinced him to stay. 

First the uncertainty and disruption would blight our economy for a few years; and, secondly, what makes us believe that we would do well outside. That was the consideration before entering in 1974, which we had rejected,  as our traditional world wide markets (particularly the Commonwealth) were already losing interest in our goods and services. 40 years on, it would not likely to be any better, especially with those partners, such as the commonwealth, who we had turned our back on then. In a totally non polemic way he had me seriously questioning my previous inclinations.

Second and third up were Bonita Harris and Gareth Davies. Equally interesting and persuasive. One spoke about her motivation  to become the youngest British woman at 22 to climb (from a start 2 years before when climbing out of bed was her biggest altitude rush of the day) Mount Everest. Gareth Davies, Chairman of Footsie 100 companies William Hill and Wolseley, gave a much more prosaic review of how to succeed in business  - but nevertheless interesting and illuminating from over 40 years in business.

This Business Festival definitely looks as though it is something whose time has come for the City and County.