As you might expect, one topic dominated the conversation.
The hour-long, online discussion was led by Paul Mount, deputy agent for the Bank of England in Yorkshire and the Humber. He confirmed that the outlook for the UK and global economies remains uncertain due to the ongoing impact of Coronavirus, with investment intentions subdued.
Our withdrawal from the European Union provided additional uncertainty, he added.
Guests from a wide range of industry sectors shared their current business conditions and expectations for the next 12 months. The responses were candid and insightful and drove home some of the harsh realities facing directors now and over the coming months.
Attendees included individuals who have, in effect, seen their operations shut down by government restrictions on the movement of people. Others successfully adapted their businesses to meet changing industry demand but are nonetheless at the whim of unpredictable market conditions.
Guests talked of the difficulties involved in long-term planning and a reduction in appetite for risk.
Many referenced the challenges associated with furloughing staff, remote working and creating a Covid-secure workplace, while at the same time dealing with the fear that a colleague may test positive for Covid-19.
There were some positives to report. Some guests reported that turnover was slowly recovering while certain sectors are now benefitting from pent-up demand.
It was a sobering but enlightening discussion, a snapshot of a time in business that few will wish to see the likes of again.
For more on the Bank of England’s outlook, read its latest Monetary Policy Report https://www.bankofengland.co.uk/-/media/boe/files/monetary-policy-report/2020/august/monetary-policy-report-august-2020