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UK technology and finance expertise reason to stay post-Brexit - business chiefs

Business and banking leaders have offered further commitments to the UK post-Brexit, as it emerged that growth in British businesses has fallen to a four-year low.

Google executive Matt Brittin and Barclays chairman John McFarlane praised the UK's expertise in technology and financial services respectively, saying this gave businesses a reason to stay here.

It comes as just 39% of UK firms surveyed by the Chartered Management Institute said they experienced growth following June's referendum, which was the lowest figure since 2012.

Of the 1,118 UK business managers surveyed, 65% are now pessimistic about the UK's economic prospects over the next 12-18 months, and 49% expect Brexit will have a negative impact on growth over the next three to five years.

Around 35% of bosses polled said they also "lack confidence in current UK leadership and management's ability to capitalise on post-Brexit opportunities".

However, Mr Brittin, who heads up Google's business and operations in Europe, told the BBC Radio 4 Today programme that the company was looking to focus on "big trends" amid this uncertainty, such as more people getting access to the internet.

He added: "The UK is starting with a lead in this area, so a world leader in e-commerce. So for us, there's great talent here in the UK.

"We announced an intention to create 3,000 more jobs here in a big new investment in our facilities here, but that's only because the UK is so good at the internet that we can support companies here in that growth agenda."

Mr MacFarlane, meanwhile, said there were some services currently based in the City of London which would make sense for both Britain and the EU to stay here post-Brexit.

He said: "The City of London is here because of its competitive advantage and therefore that is the reason why people are here."

He added that Barclays was increasingly focusing on the UK and US markets.

In the Chartered Management Institute survey, three-quarters of those polled said skill investment would be even more important after the UK left the EU, though 20% said they did not receive the training and development needed to "perform their job effectively" this year.

But only 25% were pessimistic about prospects for their own businesses, in line with levels recorded by the Chartered Management Institute over the past year, while 57% were positive about their business's performance in the year ahead.

Ann Francke, chief executive of the Chartered Management Institute, said: "In this climate of heightened political uncertainty and economic turbulence, the time is now to position Britain as a global leader in responsible capitalism, targeting essential issues like workplace ethics, inclusivity and executive pay to restore trust and transparency and improve productivity."

She added: "There are uncertain times ahead, but I agree with many of those surveyed that there are opportunities for forward-thinking UK businesses."

Fund manager Helena Morrissey, who guest-edited Wednesday's Today programme, also said Brexit could be a success.

She said: "I'm not complacent by any means, but I'm not worried.

"The City was successful long before the EU was created, and it has all the potential, particularly with our global outlook, our very innovative approach, obviously we have fantastic talent here, to be successful for decades if not centuries to come.

"We have had people before flexing their muscles, as it were, and saying they're out of here and then realising, actually, London is the place to be and we have a huge amount going for us that would be incredibly difficult to replicate anywhere else.

"We do have to have a different mindset, I think. We do have to embrace the opportunities, we have to look forwards, not at what we might have lost, and I think that's something that isn't quite there yet."

Rishi Khosla, co-founder and chief executive of challenger bank OakNorth, told the programme his company had tripled its loan book in the few months since the Brexit vote.

He added: "We think a part of that is actually a function of businesses not being able to get the speedy responses from the big banks, but even less timely responses from the major banks, and actually therefore looking at alternatives."

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