Twenty-six directors from private companies with combined sales of £29bn, profits of £2bn and employing 100,000 people gathered in London last night for the second in our series of four Sunday Times HSBC Top Track 100 directors’ networking events, co-hosted by senior representatives from our sponsors, HSBC, PwC and Linklaters.
With the Brexit negotiations front of mind, our poll suggests that on balance directors remain positive about their company’s prospects, although confidence has declined since last year.
The use of social media to engage customers, the challenge of attracting and retaining talent and the role of government to stimulate the economy was the focus of a pre-dinner roundtable discussion for directors from the 18th annual Sunday Times HSBC Top Track 100 league table.
The 26 directors, from Top Track 100 companies such as New Look, Edrington, Harrods, McLaren Group, and Specsavers, were asked how confident they were about their companies’ prospects over the next 18 months. Sixty percent said they were optimistic despite the uncertainty over Brexit, although this was down from 75% at this dinner in 2018.
All the companies were congratulated for their success in achieving a place on the 2019 league table. Stretch Kontelj, board director of Specsavers, the largest company in the room with sales of £2.8bn, was presented with his company’s award certificate by Fast Track’s founder, Hamish Stevenson, who co-hosted the dinner.
Three guests spoke to us about the opportunities they see for their businesses, from their use of social media influencers to the impact of new disruptive technologies.
Stefanie Fitzgerald, non-exec director of Edrington, the Scottish distiller behind famous brands such as The Macallan, Highland Park and The Famous Grouse, explained how the company was engaging more women and millennials, partly through the use of micro-influencers on social media.
Anthony Murray, chief executive of McLaren Applied Technologies, discussed how the technology enabling the automation vehicles is developing extremely quickly, but that challenges remain.
Stretch Kontelj, board director of Specsavers, reflected on the breadth of companies in the room and the value of the experiences that they were able to share. “It was really good to hear that others are equally challenged and to pick up some ideas of how they’re meeting those challenges,” he said.
At our pre-dinner roundtable, senior directors from 12 Top Track 100 companies discussed the opportunities they see in their markets and the challenges they face.
Jonathan Graham, Head of Large Corporates at HSBC UK, facilitated the discussion and explored how the companies were harnessing social media to drive sales, improve customer service and engage staff, as well as the role of government in stimulating the economy.
A word from our sponsors
The dinner was also co-hosted by senior representatives from our Top Track 100 title sponsor HSBC, and main sponsors PwC, and Linklaters, as well as Oliver Shah the business editor of The Sunday Times, our media partner.
The companies’ achievements were recognised by Jonathan Graham from HSBC UK, who said: “It’s not often you get the captains of Britain’s largest private companies together and it’s important to celebrate your success and network at times like these.”
Oliver Shah, business editor of The Sunday Times, highlighted growing investor concerns over the health of the global economy, but he emphasised that while newspapers will report negative news, The Sunday Times remained “very pro-enterprise and will continue to celebrate success”.
Here he explains why The Sunday Times partners with Fast Track on the Top Track 100 programme:
Suzi Woolfson, UK Private Business Leader at PwC, echoed this theme as she congratulated the companies on their achievements. “You are grabbing opportunities and making decisions for the long term. I’d encourage you to share your successes to inspire others,” she said.
She highlighted to our camera how Top Track 100 events provide access to the leaders of Britain’s largest private companies:
Sir Christopher Bellamy QC, Chairman of the Global Competition Practice at Linklaters, said that the tangible “buzz” in the room was a good sign that Top Track 100 companies were continuing to make progress. “As long as companies like yours are in good hands, we have every confidence in the UK economy,” he said.
His colleague John Lane, global co-head of Linklaters’ equities practice, explained why the law firm had supported Top Track 100 for the last six years.
More information on the league table and directors’ dinners
This directors’ roundtable discussion and dinner was the second in a series of three dinners and one lunch to be attended by senior directors from the 2019 Sunday Times HSBC Top Track 100.
For more information about the league table and events programme, see: https://www.fasttrack.co.uk/league-tables/top-track-100/