Brexit - six months on
SummaryStuart Britton provides an SEC Recruitment perspective on what the business has seen from pharmaceutical industry employers since the Brexit vote.
Stuart Britton, CEO of SEC Recruitment, provides a pharmaceutical recruiter's perspective on what SEC Recruitment has seen in the industry since the decision to leave the UK was made by the British public.
When the announcement came through on 24th June 2016 that the UK public had voted to leave the European Union, my first reaction was to think of the people we have within SEC. We’re a multi-cultural business, speaking over 20 different languages and I knew that there would be some anxiety about what the future holds for individuals. So my immediate response was to communicate with the SEC team and tell them that whilst there would be a lot of noise about the result, as a business we would adapt and deal with it together as a united team moving in one direction. We are a small business of 75 people with over 50% that are European and it is because of the diverse nature of our business that we have such a vibrant environment in our office and a fantastic culture.
Fast forward six months, and I find myself once again thinking back on that message that I sent to our people, reflecting on what we have seen as a business and what the future potentially holds.
I pride myself on knowing our marketplace and the other recruitment specialists in the life sciences industry. There are some great competitors that deliver fantastic services to the pharmaceutical industry and I often meet with many of them for dinner and social engagements. Whilst I cannot profess to know intimately how each business is performing, from the information I have from those within the pharmaceutical industry, what I have heard is that the permanent recruitment side of the industry saw a slowdown leading up to the Brexit vote. From an SEC perspective we didn’t see that with our key clients though. We had a record first six months of the year through both contingency and permanent recruitment. In the immediate aftermath of the vote there was inevitably less growth, but when we spoke to our clients, the feedback we got was quite simple:
Business as normal.
We work in a global marketplace where clinical trials can last decades, let alone months and years, so therefore they expected little change in their hiring requirements. The inevitable length of this type of work is that political ramifications of such decisions made on a country level, having little impact on the requirements of some of these organisations conducting their business as normal. Of course, it doesn’t mean that there is no impact, but we did not see as big an impact from an SEC perspective.
That message from our customers was of course good to hear, but it was also important to be able to communicate that to candidates too. At a time of uncertainty, when you can tell your candidates that the demand will still remain, it is a positive message to send out.
Business has indeed, as our clients stated, returned to normal. The initial shock of the result has subsided and from an SEC perspective we have returned back to pre-Brexit levels in terms of the business we generate. In fact, because of the success of this year so far, we have undertaken an ambitious growth plan where we are able to take on more people to support the demand of our customers.
So where do I see us as a business by 2020 when Article 50 has been triggered and the dust has begun to settle on a United Kingdom who are independent of Europe?
For us, there are some considerations that we are looking at, like the possibility of the European Medical Agency (EMA) moving in to Europe from the UK. That would be a real shame because we have some fantastic individuals in this country and to see that move happen would be a shame for the UK pharmaceutical industry. But conversely, the government have been talking about greater investment in research and development to boost the UK economy, so there are some signs of positivity out there.
So overall, our business still remains predominantly European, we still speak over 20 languages and the majority of our business is delivered across Europe. There will inevitably be fluctuations, ups and downs, as trade deals are negotiated and the UK comes to terms with the requirements needed to negotiate those deals. But the life sciences industry has shown that it is an industry that behaves very much in a ‘long term’ and global way and as a result, the overall stability of the UK will not have a massive knock-on effect from our perspective.
We see ourselves as part of a global economy and we will continue to work with our partners to provide them with the support they need. I’m certainly no economist and I’m not a politician, but I believe our business – and our industry – will go from strength to strength.
If you would like to talk to SEC about what opportunities are available in 2017, get in touch on +44 (0) 207 255 6600.