Look ahead to 2021: What can we really expect?

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Following a challenging 2020 that has seen the devastating impact of the coronavirus pandemic, the most emotionally-charged election in US history and international relations strained across the globe – Business Leader spoke to some industry leaders about what to expect for the year ahead.

Peter Blanc, Group CEO, Aston Lark

2021 will see a continued very ‘hard’ insurance market, where difficult risks prove extremely challenging to place. Many insurers have pulled out of classes of business where they foresee potentially large losses, including Directors & Officers Liability, Professional Indemnity, and large property risks. This is resulting in a reduction in capacity in the market, leading to significant rate increases and, in some cases, making certain risks practically uninsurable.

The last time the market faced these challenges was in 2001 following the World Trade Centre attacks, with the next two years seeing premiums increased by nearly a third. As such, this is a time when Insurance Brokers have to really earn their crust.

There are still insurers out there willing to underwrite business, but they have to be persuaded and convinced – so choose your broker carefully!

Ryan Pullen, Head of Cyber Security, Stripe OLT

In 2021, I think we’ll see a massive increase in Cyber Security engagement. What I mean by this is an increase in a cyber-first mindset and business culture. I think if we’ve learnt anything from this year, it’s that cyber-criminals will take advantage of those who are not equipped to protect themselves, and in an increasingly digital business environment, it’s imperative we take action.

Employees are typically the weakest link when it comes to an attack, so, naturally, if we nurture a cyber-first workforce, we can quickly turn our number one weakness into our first line of defence.

Danni Rush, Chief Customer Officer, Virgin Incentives and Virgin Experience Days

With a global pandemic, two national lockdowns, and a recession in the UK, it’s fair to say that 2020 has been a whirlwind, and next year will hopefully be much calmer. But, while a COVID-19 vaccine offers a route back to some normality by spring, we shouldn’t presume that business changes that emerged this year aren’t here to stay.

One such trend is the end of working five days in the office. Although working from home started before 2020, the pandemic made it a nearly universal requirement for every business. And while this universality won’t persist post-COVID-19, It’s likely that for some businesses and some employees, going back to five days in an office will not be the preferred option, with or without a vaccine.

Rob Vivian, CEO PureComms

Although, in all honesty, I suspect that the start of 2021 will be another year of uncertainty, however, by the middle of the year I see normal life largely returning.

For us we have a very strong plan in terms of sales and marketing whatever happens with the coronavirus. We have to adopt an attitude of positivity – business will carry on, but you have to have a plan and be confident, now more than ever. We have brought forward the home working products and we are focusing more and more on short term internet solutions – the advent of 5G is allowing us to expand into that area.

I firmly believe that companies that are bold and are prepared to adapt will improve their relationships with customers – and in the process pick up new clients. For me, change is always an opportunity for any business;

We have recruited this year – and provided we stick to our plan – I can see this continuing through 2021. Bring on 2021!

Ketevan Moseshvili Business Development MD, Newable

Start-ups are the future. Many COVID-19 support schemes help existing businesses but start-ups are less supported, although arguably they are more crucial for the medium term.

As state aid fades away next spring, a new wave of unemployment will come upon us and we will need a very vibrant start-up culture to generate new products, services and businesses. Many new jobs will need to be created and the biggest creator of new employment is the SME sector. Currently there is plenty of online advice and support for start-ups, but these lack the crucial 1-2-1 personal support of an experienced business adviser.

Stephen Kelly, Chair, Tech Nation

The tech sector will play a critical role in the UK’s recovery in 2021, following a rapid acceleration towards the digital economy in 2020. Before COVID-19, the UK’s tech sector was growing six times faster than the UK economy as a whole, creating highly-paid and skilled jobs.

The UK is a world-leading tech centre with the collective strength of its regional tech clusters, where 45% of the UK’s high-value scaleups are based outside of London. With a strong pipeline of global tech leaders in the regions, we can expect the sector to continue driving the levelling-up of Britain next year.

We can also expect the UK to be growing its presence on the global stage, with tech services exports projected to grow by 35% by 2025. Predictions project Creative, Digital and Tech industries to be 50% of the UK economy by 2030 and there will be further acceleration and growth in 2021.

Net Zero technology companies will continue to play a critical part of the climate change solution next year, with recent Government investment showing positive signs of its commitment to supporting the sector tackle the greatest challenge of our time.

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