AAB: trust in technology to deliver economic stability

Tech venture advisor Ian Marshall on the moves the Scottish sector is making to lead the way to economic stability following the shock of the Covid-19 pandemic

Scottish tech could become as important to the Scottish economy as oil and gas

LinkedIn and newspaper business pages are awash with articles claiming to wisely summarise the learnings from the last 12 months, so I’m not going to stand idly by without having my say, although I will – at least try to – circle back to my day job, which is advising Scottish, mainly tech-focused, companies.

As I write from my spare-room office, with my lockdown puppy asleep under my desk (what a cliché), there is no doubt that this 12-month jolt to the economy due to Covid-19 has hastened the return of the work-life balance to near the top of the agenda. That said, some tech companies, such as Edinburgh’s Administrate, have been committed to a four-day-week for years, citing happier and more productive employees.

Never has it been more important to truly look after your people. A tech-focused client of mine who was very anti-working from home, is now a true convert to the hybrid model.

Ian Marshall is Head of Tech Strategy at Anderson Anderson & Brown

Companies are also spending a lot of time and money on bringing their employee benefits packages up to date for 2021, looking for both valuable and fun ways to thank their predominantly young team for their hard work.

What else has changed?

Our shopping and banking habits, of course. My weirdest indulgence has been ordering small bottles of Hildon sparkling mineral water over the internet from Drink Supermarket to try to replicate that authentic meeting room experience, and collecting them from my new Montpellier drinks fridge, contributing to online retailers’ vast surge in profits.

Banking-wise, we’ve all taken to mobile banking apps like ducks to water. Global mobile payments revenue was $1,400 billion [£986bn] in 2020, up from $1,100bn [£774.78bn]in 2019. But it will take more than a pandemic to get my father away from his cheque book.

Let’s not forget that there’s been huge political change in the world’s largest economy in the last 12 months too, with Donald Trump moving aside for the more conciliatory and less confrontational President Joe Biden.

In this post-Trump era, I’m already noticing the climate change agenda moving back up in terms of column inches, and I think we can expect that to continue in the short-medium term for a couple of reasons.

Firstly, COP26 will be taking place in Glasgow during the first fortnight in November, and, secondly, Scotland provides fertile ground for building “cleantech” companies, as Edinburgh-based data analytics business Topolytics has proved. Tech features heavily in all global trends as do people, climate, e-commerce and banking.

The next 12 months?

My personal belief is that Scottish tech, with all its various subsectors, including games, cleantech and fintech, will become as important to the Scottish economy as oil and gas has been.

Helping to fuel this eco-system are the Scottish universities. There have been successful fund raises for spin-outs from Glasgow, Edinburgh, Napier and Strathclyde universities in recent times, as well as successful exits too.

As Jamie Coleman, managing director of tech incubator CodeBase was quoted as saying, “Brainpower... has always been the core asset of Scotland. The industrial mindset of building bridges and steam engines has transitioned into building complex software. We no longer have the chimneys of the industrial revolution in our cities; our factories are in the cloud.”

The success of the Scottish tech sector has been under a spotlight in the last few years, and particularly the last 12 months. For us as a team at the tech-enabled business critical services group, Anderson Anderson & Brown (AAB), our clients have relied on us more than ever, and we are looking forward to focusing our efforts on continuing to serve tech-focused firms.

There has been a sense of optimism in the air of late and, as economies start to recover, we believe that it will be tech leading the way to stability.

Ian Marshall is Head of Tech Strategy at Anderson Anderson & Brown