Unwarranted pessimism as growth continues, advanced manufacturing seminar told

8th April 2019

It’s not all about Brexit and the economy has continued to grow since the referendum, delegates to our advanced manufacturing seminar heard, with speakers from Lloyds Bank and the CBI focusing on the broader picture for the sector away from the maelstrom of UK politics.

Dave Atkinson, Lloyds Banking Group’s Head of Manufacturing, SME and Mid Corporate, told more than 50 delegates that the message he has heard from the sector is that it remains cautiously confident amid uncertainty, while continuing to generate value and create jobs.

The event at the Hilton Puckrup Hall hotel near Tewkesbury, was led by sector head Robert Capper and drew delegates from both manufacturing and professional services businesses.

He advised businesses to take the chance to review their research and development opportunities, examine whether they can claim tax credits, assess their skills and productivity levels and investigate new markets. For those who already know their HS code, he suggested that Lloyds could provide a list of businesses already buying similar services in other countries.

The bank’s senior economist Rhys Herbert stressed that the economy had continued to grow in the 10 quarters since the referendum, but confirmed that that growth was slowing, along with the global economy; even the US has been affected.

Stockpiling by some manufacturers and a difficulty in recruiting skilled staff have been issues hampering the sector, but he told delegates that Brexit was not the only key factor, since growth was slowing elsewhere.

Skills were also a focus for Deborah Fraser, CBI regional director for the southwest, who called for a skills revolution to enable industry to respond to changing markets with greater flexibility.

The landscape for international trade was addressed by Nicolas Groffman, our Head of International, who advised companies to focus on due diligence, ensuring that they are doing business with the right overseas partners and thus reducing the need for contract reviews later.

He said: “When businesses are under pressure to perform, they rise to the challenge – when you’re faced with a deadline, you realise you can meet it.”

His positive view of the current situation was echoed by Andrew Newman of Sterling Management Consultants, who said that times of crisis tend to drive productive innovation and that the UK’s current prospects could prove a major opportunity for British manufacturing, provoking significant change for the better.