Market update - brain drain - recruitment

I am worried…! Market update

I am worried…! Market update

Simon Roderick

July 7, 2023

I’m concerned, actually I’d go as far to say as I’m a bit worried. I’m very proud of the UK, of all that it’s achieved, and the modern society we are. I’m not worried about the economy; eventually politicians will pull the right levers or, most likely, the market will find its own level and human ingenuity will drive us forwards. It’s been my opinion for some time that we often succeed in spite of politicians and not because of them. Talking of opinions, of course any newsletter has some element of opinion, but in this newsletter I’m keen to share what some others feel and so much of what I write isn’t my opinion. Please have this at the forefront of your mind when digesting this piece, dear reader! There are of course a million of other things to worry about, but the world is never totally serene, and my intention is to focus on the UK. I’ve alluded to it in the odd post, but now I need to say it out loud. The UK is at serious risk of brain drain.

We’ve had far more economic shocks to deal with in the last 15 years than anyone should have to bear. Indeed, whilst I think the Bank of England shouldn’t escape criticism (we were seeing huge salary uplifts and yet the BOE was saying at the time inflation was temporary), I have huge sympathy given the complex issues and instability the bank has had to deal with. Looking across the globe, inflation is a battle many central banks are grappling with, and the UK comes out extremely favourably in comparison to other European economies when it comes to unemployment. I know that doesn’t take away the worry many have, but it does give some context that the UK isn’t alone in its struggle.

However, with the other shocks to the economy, I always sensed from candidates that there was a general belief that things would pass and there was hope. That once the storm had passed, their career would flourish and their lives steadily improve if they worked hard. This time it feels different. Over the last few weeks, conversations about relocating abroad - actually that’s too generic, relocating to Dubai is more accurate - have snowballed. It’s gone from a trickle to an almost daily occurrence. The push and pull factors of the UK and Dubai being? Many feel overtaxed in the UK, that public services are failing here, that Dubai is growing, positive, safe (safety is something that comes up quite a lot) and their children will receive a private education. Indeed, on private education, many (appreciating it’s a small percentage of the UK that pay for a child’s education) feel this is at risk with a change of government. Some also feel that educating their children privately will work against their child when it comes to job prospects. It’s a highly emotive area and it clearly takes us into DE&I. My experience is that DE&I initiatives have been a force for good in UK business, reflective of the dynamic country we are, which has always valued opportunity for all. The idea isn’t to discriminate against anyone - obviously it’s exactly the opposite of that thought - but to ensure those with ability can get in the room, which hasn’t always happened. If this isn’t the case at some firms, then the implementation of the policy is wrong, rather than the concept. Fram is very proud of our DE&I track record and all of our team are unconscious biased trained, and we see it is as an important facet of our offering.

It isn’t just individuals looking to relocate to Dubai. In February, it was reported that the DIFC were looking to help 50 hedge funds set up branches in Dubai. Of course, having a footprint in a growing region is important, but it also comes with the strategic benefit of being able to relocate significant amounts of operations there should one want to take up that option. For clarity, I have no idea if any of the firms mentioned in the article do.

I know Dubai well. My parents lived there for seven years and it’s a vibrant international community. Apart from walks down country lanes and the opportunity to drop into a underheated local with a scowling landlord, there’s every imaginable hobby and entertainment to enjoy. There was talk then that Dubai had decoupled from the Western economy, only for it to get clobbered by the financial crisis. However, in the age of the influencer, it sells itself well as somewhere where life is good at a time when European economies are sluggish. Not everybody will go to Dubai, the vast majority will want to stay near friends and family, some will go to other countries. However, at a time when we have an ageing population and there’s a general acceptance that we have a skills shortage, losing any doctors, lawyers, bankers or working age people with any skillset is a negative. I also wonder that if UK nationals are “bailing out”, who’s “investing in” the UK.

As mentioned, the UK isn’t alone in its battle, but government isn’t articulating well the global context of the challenges we all face and I’m afraid are losing the narrative, and potentially the hearts and minds of the strivers.

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