The expression “a smooth sea never made a skilled sailor” will have taken on new, personal significance for many of us this year. Coronavirus pandemic restrictions have been hard to anticipate and leaders in all businesses have been put under pressure to make prompt, reactive decisions without a clear line of sight on what the future holds.
As we close the door on 2020 we do so with a sigh of relief. It began so promisingly for Northern Ireland as the ‘New Decade New Approach’ agreement took shape under the new Executive, with women holding some of the key ministerial roles in Justice, Economy, Infrastructure and the Executive Office itself.
I was asked to speak at an economic conference recently on the theme of ‘putting digital at the centre of the recovery’ alongside speakers from other sectors which will have an important role to play in building the economy back from the shocks of the coronavirus pandemic.
If you’d been writing this piece a year ago, you would have forecast that the greatest challenges and opportunities facing the construction sector would in large part be comprised from the outworking’s of the re-establishment of the Northern Ireland Executive and the Brexit transition period.
This year was one like no other. It has been a year in which a safe place to call home and a connection to loved ones has never been so important. But, what for those individuals and families who didn’t – and still don’t – have a safe and secure home to turn to during Covid-19 and Christmas?
You may have seen the story about a former royal butler who secured several job interviews by holding up a cardboard sign and handing out his CV at Leeds train station after struggling to find work since losing his cruise ship job because of the pandemic.
Since launching HBAN in Northern Ireland in late 2018 I’ve had a lot of conversations with people who are interested in becoming angel investors but who don’t know where to start, aren’t sure what to invest in or who remain unconvinced about the quality of local companies to invest in.
When providing commentary on the Top 100 companies over the past few years, I have often referred to the challenging business environment in which Northern Ireland’s firms operate. That feels like a gross understatement this year, as halfway through 2020 companies are facing an unparalleled health and economic crisis, alongside efforts to deliver a workable Brexit trade agreement.
Undoubtedly, the long-established skills and attributes of the non-executive director (NED) role are more critical than ever as boards discharge their responsibilities to examine the impacts of Covid-19 on their organisations.
A lot has changed in the last few months. Some have even said that ‘everything’ has changed as a result of the Coronavirus pandemic. Yet, the fintech sector in Northern Ireland remains dynamic, resilient, adaptable, and innovative. Despite the difficulties faced, these traits have insulated many in the sector from the worst of the economic challenges.
There is no doubt that the past four months have been among the most traumatic the UK property market has ever experienced. Never before have we witnessed this sort of Government intervention, particularly of the scale and nature required but it is already abundantly clear that every scheme and initiative has been necessary within this period to support the wider economy.
One of the few positives to come out of the first half of 2020 for a lot of companies is that management teams have been forced to refocus on how they operate and evaluate the governance processes and controls they have in place.
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