A year of change
An interview with Nigel Wixcey
What have been the key trends and areas of change this year?
Changing consumer behaviours and expectations, and the constant drive for businesses to become more efficient and create more value, have led to greater digitisation – ranging from SAP transformations to providing services over cloud technology.
This, of course, was accelerated with COVID-19 when lockdown measures were announced and, very quickly, companies had to adapt. We’ve had a clear focus on supporting organisations through this. From providing operational resilience and assurance to helping them access finance and stay cyber secure, we’ve worked with clients to completely transform their operations or to take first steps on their digital journey.
How has Deloitte supported the response to COVID-19?
Our people have been at the centre of vital work to ensure the UK could respond, and recover, from the COVID-19 pandemic.
For government, we've been involved in scaling up the UK's testing capacity. We also helped to source and buy personal protective equipment, designed and implemented business support schemes, and advised tax authorities on switching to digital and remote working.
We’ve teamed up with groups such as TheCityUK, the ScaleUp Institute and Innovate Finance to develop proposals that give organisations – particularly SMEs – the financial help and liquidity they need. We’ve also assisted banks in managing support payments to UK companies.
Many organisations have been hit extremely hard. Our restructuring professionals helped safeguard thousands of jobs by stepping in to support distressed businesses. For example during the crisis, we supported Matalan to bridge a potential funding gap, and have worked with many businesses on new funding and ownership arrangements so they can continue to operate.
At the peak of the pandemic, research to better understand consumer attitudes and anxieties was really important. We conducted both consumer and business surveys to provide meaningful data for clients and consider the implications.
Our Future of the City study explores the impact COVID-19 and working from home has had on the financial services workforce, what the city of the future will look like and how business models need to evolve.
How has COVID-19 changed how we support our clients?
Our response framework is helping clients to navigate the three phases of the crisis – respond, recover and thrive. Crucially for business leaders, we’ve focused not only on their organisational resilience, but their personal resilience too.Many of our client programmes shifted to virtual formats, providing insight and support on the implications of COVID-19, the economic outlook, government funding and the actions that peers were taking.Our COVID-19 weekly webinar programme has drawn more than 30,000 attendees. Chaired by our chief economist and featuring specialists from across the firm, the webinars cover a range of topics – from corporate communication during crises and scenario planning for businesses, to the design of post-COVID workplaces and the happiness and wellbeing of people during lockdown.Our executive and board programmes, including our Deloitte Academy series of webinars and virtual meetings, engaged with more than 5,600 business leaders on a wide range of topics designed to support them through the pandemic and enable them to look forward. We were joined by many external speakers including Mark Carney, Dame Elizabeth Corley and Sir Donald Brydon who shared their personal perspectives on the topic of the day. Our customised transition labs also helped more than 50 newly appointed executives to establish themselves and transition successfully to their new role.
What are we expecting in the year ahead?
The financial impact of COVID-19 will be felt for some time but there’s an expectation that a stronger recovery will start to emerge next year, so businesses must be ready. We’re helping leaders to prepare for a world beyond the crisis, and a fundamentally reshaped economy and society.
Digital acceleration during the pandemic, and new business models being introduced overnight, have shown that companies can move at pace. Agility is an important lesson we must all learn and this will lead to a significant transformation in the way we work. The expectations of consumers and workforces have shifted dramatically. Deloitte will have a key role in supporting clients as they adapt to this new environment.
To date there has been a big focus for many businesses on restructuring, but we’ve also seen the emergence of large-scale mergers and acquisitions (M&A). Companies are looking to us for support at all stages of a transaction, whether it’s the disposal of a distressed asset, moving forward with an acquisition, the acceleration of a wider M&A strategy or the transformation of a newly acquired business.
We’re also working with business leaders to prepare for the end of the Brexit transition period and act on the ‘known knowns’ that impact their operations, processes and people.
What are the longer-term implications of COVID-19 for our clients?
COVID-19 has shone a spotlight on organisational resilience and highlighted weaknesses and challenges. We expect this to be an area of focus in the year ahead as clients look to embed financial, operational and reputational resilience into areas such as the supply chain, workforce, digital and cyber.
The impacts of COVID-19 have placed a greater focus on responsible business – the decisions companies make now will be remembered by employees, customers and the wider market for years to come.
We have an opportunity to build trust and lift confidence in the economy. But to do that we need to focus on people, society and the planet, not just profit. We will help clients to consider, for instance, their impact on climate change, ethical supply chains, the safe storage of data, and responsible investment and lending strategies. We want to help them emerge stronger while recognising the fundamental changes in the economy and how businesses must operate.
Nigel Wixcey was previously Managing Partner for Clients & Industries, Deloitte UK and has now been appointed as Managing Partner of Clients & Industries, Deloitte North and South Europe as of 1st October 2020