Angela Mitchell, senior partner for the company in Scotland, said the Levelling Up session at the Mazumdar-Shaw Advanced Research Centre at the University of Glasgow was attended by 70 senior leaders, with represented organisations including power firm Aggreko and financial services players Barclays and Scottish Friendly, who took part in groups each focusing on one of the five pillars of the controversial National Strategy for Economic Transformation for Scotland (NSET) that was published in March.
Ms Mitchell, who underlines aims for Deloitte to grow its business in Scotland significantly in the next two years, said: “[The event] was an opportunity for [attending decision-makers] to really table and champion what was important, both to their organisations but to them personally, to combine and link those priorities and generate a greater shared understanding, and to make some joint commitments as well, to really, truly drive change. Everybody seemed to be pulling in the same direction... The energy in the room was absolutely fantastic.”
In terms of how the initiative that took place on Monday November 21 came about, she explained that when she took on her current role earlier this year – the first woman to hold the post – she was keen to use Deloitte’s convening power in Scotland to unite all sectors to support economic growth. She added that the event showed a “real recognition that government and public sector can't do this on their own, it needs to be an all industry approach”, and the need for bold and long-term action, that now is very much the time to grasp opportunities given the level of crisis regarding the environment.
The event coincided with the publication of new data showing that Scotland’s private sector was again in contraction mode, and looked set to face an “extremely difficult period”, and Ms Mitchell said businesses are expecting the next 12 to 24 months to be challenging. “CFOs are anticipating thinner profit margins, so it’s unsurprising that corporates are focusing on resilience, and tilting to more defensive balance sheet strategies, cost control being being a top priority”.
That said, she pointed to resilience displayed by companies, and still sees a “reasonably buoyant” Scottish deals market. “If you take mergers and acquisition in energy transition, specifically, then the level of deals in Scotland has been really strong over the last 12 months”. Turning to boosting firms’ coffers, a new survey shows the trend towards larger deals in Scottish equity markets appears to be continuing this year.
As for the hoped-for impact of the Levelling Up event, Ms Mitchell sees the need to close the gap between policy and implementation and “prioritise and focus on defined actions”. She also said: “There was definitely an appetite in the room to continue the dialogue, so I expect we might meet in six months’ time [with the five breakout groups], and then maybe in a year's time bring them all together again, ideally with an even increased number… it would just be brilliant to look back in three, four years’ time and think we contributed to creating that success.”