Agency MDs discuss Brexit's impact on the industry

Agency leaders gathered to discuss big issues such as Brexit at C&IT's annual State of the Industry MDs Dinner, held at The Landmark London.

The evening, sponsored by Business Events Canada and hosted at The Landmark London, was a rare opportunity for managing directors from some of the biggest event agencies in the country to gather and discuss the industry.

Naturally, Brexit was first on the agenda; a year on from the UK’s decision to separate from the EU, what does this mean for the industry?

Nic Cooper, CEO of Sledge, said: "I still don’t think we know. I think it has been compounded in a negative sense by the result of the General Election – everyone was hoping for a strong result, and we haven’t got that. So I think 12 months on, we are still in a similar position, perhaps a slightly more nervous position."

And while uncertainty still looms over the country as a whole, the good news so far is that the majority of leaders in the room have not noticed an impact on their businesses.

Elizabeth Heron, managing director of OrangeDoor, said: "When the announcement was made last year, there was utter shock but nothing has happened since, nothing has affected my business. Honestly, I’m not seeing any changes."

Alex Hewitt, CEO of AOK Events believes this is down to the business environment: "We now live in a very digital age, and you can’t afford as a business to stand still and not do anything anymore, otherwise you will be overtaken very quickly by your competitor. So whilst nobody really knows what Brexit means, clients have made decisions regardless of Brexit because if they don’t, they think they will be overtaken by someone else."

"I agree with Alex, perhaps with the exception of the Financial Services sector. Where I have seen clients with bi-annual events, either; postpone them, axe them completely or hold them in their offices in Paris," said Frances Green, managing director of Green & Pleasant Events.

Financial Services was recognised as an exception to the rule by others around the table, including Ian Cummings, vice president EMEA at CWT Meetings & Events, who said: "Aside from the banking sector, which I understand, the good thing is people are continuing to move forward and not put the brakes on.

"We are even seeing an increase in marketing budgets towards the event industry, which I think is fantastic – and is probably why we are all so busy at the moment. There is definitely a growth towards live events from the marketing spend – up to 30% or more now."

And so, the general attitude towards Brexit last night wasn’t a negative one – uncertain perhaps, but not negative. And in fact, Chris Parnham, managing director of Absolute Corporate Events, went as far to say: "I still stand by the prediction I made a year ago after the vote that it won’t actually happen.

"I think it will go on and on and it will either happen in such a diluted kind of way that not very much will have changed or it will just get taken off the agenda."

A full account of the MDs Lowdown will be included in this year’s State of the Industry Report and will be available to download later this month.

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