Wouldn't a crystal ball be nice?

The uncertainty around Brexit was captured in London's last Chapter Meeting on 5th July, 2016.

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Jul 07, 2016

Following the historic vote in the United Kingdom to exit the European Union, FEM transformed our last London Chapter Meeting to one dedicated to discussing the uncertainty and future Global Mobility is facing as professionals come to terms with what Brexit will mean.

Hosted by ECA International, the lively and dynamic discussion was led by Nick Jackson, Head of Global Mobility & Reward at Lloyd's Register and David Remedios, Head of Consultancy at ECA International.

Andrew Shaw, Managing Director of ECA International and Sally Martin, Interim Event Director of FEM kicked the night off with a few words. Andrew's reflection on the importance of the topic while underscoring the uncertainty was mirrored in the conversation between Nick and David.

While the noise level around Brexit has been at a fever pitch, David and Nick appealed for calm. "We're only eleven days from the vote!" David cautioned at the question around the currency fluctuation the pound has experienced since the leave campaign won. It's a great point. While the sky has felt like it is falling, the reality is: it's business as usual for multinationals. What organisations need right now is a level head and steady communication. Until Article 50 is invoked, there is not much we know and the danger with predictions is what will come true?

That said, there are things professionals can do today to prepare for Brexit tomorrow and David and Nick took us through the journey. The first big takeaway was to get to know your population. Do you know where your Europeans are? Do you know where your Brits are? What can you do to reassure them that their positions, where applicable, are secure? Investigating alternative immigration routes now is not a bad idea, but it might prove fruitless as we do not know the stance the government will take on Europeans remaining, nor how European nations will alter their own rules. Immigration can often be an exercise in reciprocity, which may mean the landscape of today will be different in October, and different, still, two years after that.

Alternative talent pools may become more attractive, simply to mitigate risk. Americans, Canadians, Australians, Chinese, Indian and other nationals may experience an uptick in attraction to positions in both the UK and in Europe. With this possibility, what can we expect with administrative burden? Often, these positions have different treaties in regards to tax, pension and social security and, indeed, how will the positions between the EU and the UK change as we discuss the "divorce" of the UK from the EU? All we know right now is "they probably will".

The "I don't knows" are not a viable answer for businesses reeling from the vote and the benefit of Brexit was highlighted not only by David and Nick, but by the audience. This is the time for Global Mobility Directors to establish themselves as the first line. This your chance to underscore the strategic positioning of global mobility within an organisation and to make it known what mobility can deliver. The preparation for Brexit includes transparency, with open, frank conversations that right now, it is difficult to make decisions. Mobility should be encouraging the business to take a breath and a step back: to not be reactive, but instead proactive for the future.

The populations likely to be affected were discussed and the fear did not sit with graduates or VIPs, but rather with the middle management and talent identified as future leaders. With younger families and less "value" to the business at the onset, it is likely to impact whether or not UK and European talent can cross-train in the regions. The nature of commuting, business travel and rotating will be challenged, too, and with a rise in those policies, particularly in the first two, what does this mean for the way businesses have been delivering work and utilising their talent in the most cost optimised way?

The important takeaway from the session was in the role of being the voice of reason and the importance robust relationship between vendors and programmes to handle the information as it comes out, including if there is a rise in volume of repatriations. Mobility will be increasingly relied on to bring calm, communication and solutions to the business. An adaptive, flexible programme is going to be crucial in two years, but for right now: a steady, business as usual approach is key.

We would like to thank ECA once again for hosting and to David and Nick for sharing their incredibly valuable insight.

Want to know more about the London Chapter Meeting or receive updates on future events? Please email Marianne Aronsen

Go to the profile of Marianne Aronsen

Marianne Aronsen

Global Chapters and Membership Manager, Forum for Expatriate Management

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