Chair & NED Forum – Covid-19 | Thursday 9th April

  • Thought Leadership

The participants on our most recent Chair and NED forum on 9/4/20 hold Directorships in almost 50 businesses, ranging from early stage and high growth technology to global logistics and transportation as well as utilities, food manufacturing and infrastructure. These also range from PLCs to private companies – both family and private equity owned.

Emphasising the rapidly changing environment that we are all now working in it was noticeable how the conversation has now quickly moved on from the immediate shock of the Covid-19 crisis to trying to make some sense out of the gargantuan economic, social and health challenges it is producing and how businesses should now be strategising for the future.

Three themes emerged most strongly:

  • there is already a socio-economic crisis and its picking up pace – the longer the ‘lockdown’ continues the worse it’s going to get.
  • many aspects of our work and social life are likely to be changed for a very long time and perhaps forever. This crisis has heralded “an unprecedented change in our economy and life as we live it”.
  • we will however eventually emerge from this and there are going to be opportunities, some of which are already evident.

Events continue to unfold at a tremendous pace and Governments clearly have the hugely difficult decision to make of when and how to get us out of lockdown, and how to continue to protect the vulnerable whilst at the same time getting the economic wheels turning again. It was agreed that the ’exit strategy’ was key to everything. One Chair commented “we simply cannot keep the country in lockdown. We are already in for a deep recession and the question is only how deep and how long the tail is”.

There was also much comment on the fact that we have experienced 10 years of digital transformation in an incredible 4-5 weeks and that we won’t / can’t return to the same behaviours, work and social. The change has been too fundamental and that there will be a very new ‘normal’.

It was also discussed that travel and tourism are industries which will be changed for a very long time, possibly ever. The aircraft industry, all the way up and down its supply chain, has also been hugely affected and the employment consequences in these industries will be profound. We also heard of the challenges that factories which have been closed will face when they try to reopen, specifically on what the impact has been on their order books and how their employees will feel and react about coming back to work and being safe. In global logistics and transportation we learned about the challenges faced in trying to restart and gear up distribution. Again one of these is how to keep employees safe as well as getting all the vehicles, equipment and containers back to the right place. Other contributors spoke of their turnover dropping by as much as 80% and how they have now furloughed the vast majority of their employees. It was pretty grim stuff at times.

On a more optimistic note, we discussed how companies were already planning for future increased demand and how others, particularly software businesses and those which supported remote working were seeing increased opportunity. “Businesses which help to keep other businesses going are seeing great opportunities”.

There was also discussion of how management teams were rising to the challenge by showing strong leadership and making decisions quickly, right sizing and adapting. “You will quickly find out whether you have a good enough management team for this environment”. Boards should be asking “what do you want suppliers and customers to think about your business in the future” and that they should now be working out how they are going to get there, i.e. “what do you want your Covid-19 legacy to be?”

Returning to the socio-economic impact and the challenges society will face, it was pointed out to us that the crisis was having a disproportionate impact on women, young people and those on low pay and that for years we have witnessed a lack of innovation in government. The hope was expressed that there could be a fundamental societal win emerging from reappraised priorities, new models and new approaches. There was unanimous agreement that what we are experiencing will result in an “unprecedented change in the economy and life as we live it”.

This discussion was hosted by Willie Finlayson.

The Chair forum will continue during the crisis, particularly as the issues and challenges continue to develop and change day by day. If you would like to be involved please contact Willie Finlayson via

For a downloadable copy of the above article please click here.

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FWB Park Brown
FWB Park Brown continues to deliver its full range of services which includes providing support and advice during the Covid- 19 Public Health and developing global economic crisis.
We have established a range of cross sector as well as sector focused discussion forums for Chairs, NEDs, CEOs and all the main business management disciplines.  We are also working closely with the Scottish HR Leadership Group to provide constructive support including discussion forums and Q & As.
Summaries of the discussions will be posted on our news section and also on LinkedIn.
For further information about any of these forums please contact us via

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