Five British Myths

This past week has been a whirlwind of evening cocktails in London, here is a few reflections:

  • “This is a time to start battening down the hatches with valuations of businesses at unsustainable levels reminiscent of 2006.” Yet talking to over 40 entrepreneurs this week, particularly with strong and dynamic mid-sized and smaller businesses the reality sharply contradicts that statement. Order books are near record levels, access to cheap capital persists and a great many are experiencing double-digit growth in existing and new markets.
  • “Brexit is an uncontrollable mess”. In the company of the chief protagonists, UK Prime Minister Theresa May and Chancellor of the Exchequer, Philip Hammond on Tuesday night at Lancaster House, yes, the process resembles a tartan-kilted drunk on Edinburgh’s Princes Street staggering home but isn’t it premature to start fretting about the impact, positive or negative, for businesses and families that is many years ahead?
  • “Me Too has changed everything.” Really? Looking across the room at three events, which are highly representative of London as a financial centre, there are still far too few women in influential positions (banking, private equity, real estate, professional services and so forth). Yet those, who have succeeded are treated to the naked eye with absolute respect and dignity.
  • “Cyber warfare is a battle we cannot win.” Talking to Robert Hannigan, the past Head of Britain’s GCHQ, the real battle that is within our power and control, is the attraction and retention of the finest technologists and engineers. It is leaders in government agencies, and businesses, who are able to sustain a visceral connection between the purpose of those organisations, to safeguard people’s lives, and the ability to do the job without the constraints of endless bureaucracy. Leadership is a bigger issue than money but no one talks about that.
  • “Ultra High Net Worths are abandoning London in their droves.” A major New York real estate developer suggested to me 3,000 of them had become resident in Monaco over the past 12 months, Roman Abramovich’s travails are adding weight to the exodus. The facts and strong anecdotal evidence don’t support that view. My daughter’s private school in Central London has record levels of international families including Russians schooling their children in her Senior School. Almost exclusively those wealthy Parents are resident here, working and pursuing career opportunities. Last night in London’s famed, Annabel’s nightclub, it was a hive of lavish spending by London’s superich. Brits are in a minority. You cannot find the same opportunities to spend gargantuan incomes on fun and excitement in Europe, anywhere quite like London, on a balmy Thursday night.

© James Berkeley 2018. All Rights Reserved.

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