Thirty-one directors from some of Britain’s biggest private companies with combined sales of £31bn, profits of £3.2bn, and employing 149,000 people gathered in London yesterday for the final dinner 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.
Our straw poll confirmed a mood of measured optimism in trading conditions over the next 18 months, despite the challenges of Brexit and the uncertainty posed by December’s general election.
The potentially complex make-up of the next Parliament, the need to attract and retain a mobile workforce, investment in IT and expansion into global markets were all discussed in a lively pre-dinner roundtable.
Directors from a cross-section of Top Track 100 companies such as Arqiva, Arup, Paysafe and Wates were asked how optimistic they felt about their companies’ prospects over the next 18 months. The answers they gave were all seven or eight out of ten.
All the companies were congratulated for their success in achieving a place on the 2019 league table. Caoire Blakemore, a fourth-generation director of A. F. Blakemore & Son – which has been a member of the Top Track 100 league table for all eighteen years – was presented with her company’s award certificate by Fast Track’s founder Hamish Stevenson, who co-hosted the dinner.
Caoire Blakemore was one of three guests who spoke to our camera about the opportunities and challenges at their businesses. She described the importance of positive values to the family-run firm of A. F. Blakemore, founded in 1917, and its strong links with stakeholders and communities.
The Labour peer William Haughey, co-founder and executive chairman of City Facilities Management, one of the largest privately-owned facilities-management companies in Europe, urged politicians to resolve uncertainty over Brexit, which is causing frustration to businesses and delaying investment.
Paul Flaum, group chief executive of Bourne Leisure – which owns and operates the Haven Holidays, Warner Leisure and Butlin’s brands – outlined how the company’s commitment to creating memorable holidays for guests is driving growth.
Our pre-dinner roundtable focused on the opportunities and challenges facing businesses.
Charlie Hoffman, managing director of HSBC’s Private Bank, chaired the session, exploring subjects such as company purpose, the ability of multi-generational firms to take a long-term view, and engaging and retaining staff.
A word from our sponsors
The dinner was 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.
Jonathan Graham, Head of Large Corporates at HSBC, welcomed guests and said to them: “You should be congratulated for driving British industry not just in these shores but also internationally,” adding that “the great thing I see here is a lot of optimism.”
Oliver Shah, business editor of The Sunday Times, recognised the achievements of Top Track 100 companies, confirming the newspaper’s “passionate” belief in free markets and wealth creation. He added, with regard to Brexit: “It’s been said that other parts of Europe, like Italy, have problems that are potentially terminal but not serious, whereas the UK has problems which are potentially quite serious but not terminal.”
Suzi Woolfson, UK Private Business Leader at PwC, highlighted the role private companies play in building trust in wider society, through their relationships with stakeholders and employees. “I love these events because private business is the engine room of the UK economy,” she said to guests, “keep doing what you’re doing, but do it more noisily, and tell a few more people.”
Iain Fenn, a senior corporate partner at Linklaters, set out four trends he and his colleagues are seeing in the market, namely a rising tide of regulation, a pick-up in M&A activity, a pent-up demand for investment opportunities, and an increased focus on governance. “I am delighted people are feeling optimistic,” he said, and joked: “I’ll leave you to your own crystal balls as to what is going to happen next.”
More information on the league table and directors’ dinners
This directors’ roundtable discussion and dinner was the final in a series of three dinners and one lunch, 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/