How are FMCG leaders preparing for Brexit?

25th September 2018

By Stuart Richards

With difficulty is the simple answer. Because the only thing that appears certain at the moment about Brexit is that it is causing a great deal of uncertainty…across all industry sectors.

Speaking regularly as I do with commercial leaders in FMCG, it is the subject that is unsurprisingly raised every time we meet.

The actual Brexit deal (or no deal) the UK will end up with remains unclear with just six months to go. But key concerns about the impact on the bottom line centre on how restrictions on freedom of movement of both people and goods will affect supply chains, and how new import duties will alter the share of wallet.

Short term impact will include losses from currency fluctuation, and increased costs from arranging work visas (or whatever system replaces free movement of people) and changing packaging and labelling.

Longer term effects include delays in new product development and investment in UK factories, as companies wait for clarity on the UK’s future relationship with the EU.

Industry areas such as farm to fork are already suffering negative effects. A survey published by the Food & Drink Federation found nearly a third of the EU workforce had left the UK within a year of the referendum while 47% of the remainder were considering joining them.

Earlier this month, in response to the impending staffing crisis, the Government announced a post-Brexit migrant farm workers’ visa scheme for up to 2,500 EU nationals for 2019 and 2020.

There is an expectation that the post-Brexit import duties could radically change consumer spending habits, with many likely to reduce expenditure on premium items which will become more expensive, as UK wage restraint continues.

These are not only restricted to ranges like high end skincare products; a recent report by the LSE found that food shortages and price rises could mean even dairy products we import from the EU like butter and speciality cheeses could become occasional luxuries, with milk products attracting tariffs of up to 74%.

In response, increased investment is being made in data analytics to make sure the right product is available to the right consumer at the right time. An example is the personalised online targeting of luxury items to those less likely to be impacted by price increases.

At the same time discussions are underway with retail partners about product placement on the shop floor, simplifying ranges and doubling down on the everyday essentials for the average consumer.

Unlocking further value from the supply chain is another key area being explored, with import duties and potential restrictions on the movement of goods leading firms to seek new UK based suppliers where feasible.

An executive at a global FMCG firm told me: “Brexit, like political turmoil, is not new for multinational FMCG giants as they face similar changes every year across the globe. However, the UK economy has always been a lucrative market for higher value per capita sales and Brexit will undoubtedly throw more caution in the spending power of the shopper.

“We need clarity on overall government policy and other rules to trade across the European region. For the UK to continue being the spearhead for business investment, any dynamic FMCG firm needs immediate clarity and stability on future government policy.”

With just over two months until the last European Council of 2018 – widely seen as the last possible date for an Article 50 divorce deal to be agreed – the clock is ticking. FMCG leaders needing certainty to plan a path to steady growth in a new post-Brexit economy wait in hope.

Stuart Richards is a Senior Consultant in the Global Consumer Practice at HW Global Talent Partner. Contact him at or +44 (0) 161 249 5170 or +44 (0) 7787 254 600.

Former treasury executive encourages others considering an interim career to ‘go for it’

22nd June 2018

Growing numbers of executives are leaving permanent roles and moving into the fast growing professional interim management market.

The drive for digital transformation and customer experience programmes across the consumer, retail and financial services sectors is creating huge demand for interims to help steer companies both large and small through organisational change.

The sudden departure of a senior director or need for a highly specialised skill set which a business may not have in-house are also major driving forces for this burgeoning market.

For the client seeking the interim manager, their appointment is an effective way to achieve key business objectives and obtain highly specialised leadership skills at a crucial time.

For the interim candidate, attractions include the flexibility, remuneration and variety of roles they can add to their CV.

We spoke to highly experienced treasury and financial consultant Goi Ashmore, who has recently moved into interim management after a long and successful career in corporate risk and treasury in financial services, to find out what attracted him to consultancy.


Q. Tell us about your career to date

A. I’ve had quite a varied career function wise, starting off as an economist analysing country and corporate sector risk, before moving on to heading up risk management in the insurance world, covering the full spectrum from pricing to reserving and capital.

After a quick spell in front office, I was back in risk for Barclays retail bank, covering non-credit financial risks and their hedging and credit risk transfer. The last piece took me into treasury in Barclays, in the capital management area, before I became European Treasurer, covering the run-off European retail businesses, the wealth management business and corporate owned branches.

My last role there was helping out on Brexit arrangements. I’ve developed some charity and other third sector interests that I’m closely involved with and enjoy enormously. I sit on the board of Cadarn Housing Group and chair their Audit and Risk Committee and I’m a trustee of Shelter and chair their Audit Risk and Finance Committee.


Q. When did you move into interim – and why?

A. I’ve very recently moved into interim as a result of the year end restructure at Barclays and this is my first interim role, working within the Group Finance area of a financial services client with colleagues in the Treasury and FP&A space.

I’m looking at it on a ‘testing the waters’ basis to see if it could work for me longer term, but so far I am enjoying it. I find working in a new organisation and on a specific and important project very refreshing and invigorating. Personally I like being dropped in at the deep end and being able to get on with things and making an impact quickly.


Q. What do you particularly enjoy about life as an interim compared with a permanent role?

A. It is a bit early to say and I’m still grappling with complexities of running as a contracting business. I think it is going to vary, assignment to assignment, because of the differences in organisation.

But I would say being able to work in a style that suits me and being able to cut through hierarchies much more quickly can really reduce the frustration which I think is common in larger organisations.

Also because the interim is clearly a scarce resource, there is a much greater willingness of people to engage and to help with what needs to be done, so you feel your effectiveness can really ramp up.


Q. What advice you would give an executive considering moving into interim?

A. I would say if you are considering it, then go for it. Initially I found I was nervous about how it would work out, but if someone has asked for an interim there is a genuine organisational need for it and people are more helpful than I’d imagined.

I would also say, get your company set up in advance, because it’s so difficult getting a company phone. I’m serious! Setting up a company was really quick, a bank account a little more difficult, but a phone or transferring a phone…well, I still haven’t got one eight weeks in!


Are you thinking about moving into interim management?

HW Interim provides experienced and talented interim and change management executives to PLCs, private companies, SMEs and private equity backed organisations both in the UK and overseas.

The key sectors we work in include Retail, Consumer and Financial Services, and the wide range of recent assignments we have completed have included interim CFO, FD, CTO, CMO, Supply Chain/Ops Director and Head of Risk.

Working alongside our executive search business with a team of dedicated and experienced researchers, we can turn round a shortlist of professional interim managers for a client within three working days who can typically be placed within two weeks. Completion rates are well over 90 per cent.

But given such client demand we are always looking for new talented candidates. If you have board level director experience in financial services or private equity in finance, transformation or treasury, and are mobile, flexible, and are looking for varied roles – get in touch.

We are holding an advice workshop in July in Leeds for both existing interim managers and executives considering moving into interim – contact us to book your place if you would like to attend.

If you would like to discuss interim opportunities contact John Wakeford, MD of HW Interim, via his LinkedIn page, by emailing or by calling him on +44 (0) 113 243 2004 for an informal discussion.

New technology and traditional values the winning combination for building society sector

18th June 2018

Combining new technology with traditional values is the winning formula for the building society sector, which is enjoying a healthy growth in market share this year.

That was the upbeat message from the Building Societies Association’s annual conference in Manchester, a two day gathering which more than 500 executives from the UK’s 44 building societies attended.

The latest lending and savings figures from the BSA for Q1 2018 show that the societies, which last year had a 22 per cent share of the £1.4tr UK mortgage market, were accountable for 43 per cent of its growth – and took 40 per cent of cash savings deposits – between January and March.

Industry leaders believe the increased trust consumers have in building societies over the larger banks is one of the key factors in this growth in market share, a trend which the recent TSB online banking debacle will surely have only aided.

But there is also a recognition that the sector needs to move ever quickly on the adoption of digital technology to meet the demands of the tech-savvy digital consumer preferring a responsive banking app to a passbook at the counter.

One of the keynote speakers, Nationwide Chief Executive Joe Garner, wrote in his conference blog: “We must be able to adapt to members’ changing needs, whilst retaining the essence of our heritage and our humanity…Our goal is digital convenience with a human touch, a service enabled by technology, and made meaningful by people.”

In 2015, the Nationwide committed to invest £500m into its branch network, introducing new technology such as Nationwide Now which combines market leading technology and human service.

But what about the other mutuals? How are they embracing FinTech? By being, well, innovative. They are courting the technology incubators and collaborating with the digital disruptors. Combining new technology with the popularity of local branches offering face-to-face customer service is the key.

In April the Coventry Building Society launched a recruitment drive for more than 80 head office IT roles, increasing personnel at its UK-based IT department to nearly 450 – double its size just three years ago. The positions include system delivery engineers, analysts, cloud specialists, IT security specialists and IT architects.

Meanwhile last month the Cambridge Building Society returned to its roots by launching a new city centre branch close to its original offices which opened in 1884. But following a model that worked for a relaunch of its St Ives store in 2017, the new branch offers customers digital and assisted-service technology as well as face-to-face expertise.

Andy Jukes, Head of Direct Distribution, said it “combines technology with expertise from our team members – something we know is valued by customers”.

Bank of mum and dad ninth biggest mortgage lender

And what about the financial needs of borrowers? People struggling to afford a mortgage or deposit was the subject of a recently released report by Legal & General which revealed that the ninth highest mortgage lender this year will be neither a bank nor a building society.

With £5.7bn of lending for £81bn of property purchases and an average ‘loan’ of £18,000, the bank of mum and dad is in the top ten mortgage lenders list.

The report found more than a quarter of housing transactions are dependent on financial help, with 43% of buyers aged 35 to 44 and 26% of those aged 45 to 54 relying on support from their family.

With the average age of a first time buyer having risen from 30 to 33 between 2006 and 2017 and a forecast that borrowing by people in their 20s will halve by 2030, the BSA has commissioned a study on intergenerational mortgages describing inequality between the generations as ‘a growing challenge in our society’.

Financial Services dinner

HW Global Talent Partner will be hosting an industry dinner in London in September. The informal networking event offers an excellent opportunity to make new executive and non-executive industry contacts.

Guest speaker is David Stewart, Chairman of Enra Group and Chair of the Audit and Risk Committees of M&S Bank, HSBC Private Bank (UK), and LSL Property Services plc., and former Chief Executive of Coventry Building Society. He will talk on how he managed to create a non-conflicting NED portfolio in financial services.

The event, which is aimed at helping FS executives to launch and develop their NED careers, is being held in Mayfair on Wednesday September 12th with drinks and canapes from 6.30pm. If you would like to attend please contact as there are only a few remaining places.

To find out how we can help your business, or if you want to discuss executive search, interim or NED opportunities, contact MD of HW Interim and Head of the Financial Services practice John Wakeford via his LinkedIn page, email or call +44 (0) 113 243 2004 for an informal discussion.