The strength of Scotland’s financial services industry is no secret. A history of world-class financial expertise dating back hundreds of years and our ability to remain competitive, innovative and adaptive has secured our position as a leading global financial centre. With such a stellar reputation it is understandable there is some apprehension as the UK’s exit from the EU draws closer.
Our industry is the largest international financial centre in the UK outside of London and is of great value to the economy and the people who live and work here. As outlined in the new industry prospectus, showcasing the extent of Scotland’s financial services expertise, the sector makes a large contribution to the Scottish economy at £12 billion (GVA) which is equivalent to 8.9 per cent. There are 161,000 people employed in financial services and related professional services in Scotland with that figure reported to reach above 250,000 when accounting for those indirectly employed by the sector.
These statistics are just headlines to the success story of financial services in Scotland and it is our priority, as it always has been, to ensure our industry continues to thrive.
Scottish Financial Enterprise (SFE) supports more than 100 member companies ranging in size from global organisations headquartered in Scotland to small, locally-based firms across all areas of financial services. One of the main concerns voiced during the last two and a half years across our membership is access to talent.
Our industry in Scotland is growing significantly which is positive news but this comes with its own challenge of ensuring the talent pipeline is strong, particularly with respect to digital skillsets which are driving a lot of growth areas. The demand for skills and talent is not exclusive to financial services, it is a challenge facing Scotland’s business community as a whole. While we must continue to promote our industry in Scotland in a bid to attract the best talent from the EU and the rest of the world, there is a need to intensify our focus on nurturing domestic skills and talent.
This is a priority to SFE. During the past 12 months we have been working collaboratively, and continue to do so, with our members, government and private sector bodies to ensure we have a sustainable pipeline of talent from our schools, colleges and universities while also supporting people to reskill as roles are replaced or transformed by technology.
Looking beyond talent to a more general view of Brexit; while uncertainty around the UK’s exit from the EU has been prolonged longer than expected financial services companies continue to prepare and implement appropriate plans for a range of possible scenarios which is absolutely necessary.
The financial services sector has always responded well to market changes and is used to flexing business operating models in order to secure continued growth. Brexit, while unprecedented, can be viewed as an additional layer to factor in to risk mitigation plans – something the Scottish financial services industry is well versed in and will continue to perform with a robust attention to detail.
In the meantime, SFE will continue to make the case for an orderly withdrawal from the European Union so that Scotland’s financial services industry may serve clients and customers without disruption.
l Graeme Jones is CEO of Scottish Financial Enterprise