YouGov CFO on Brexit planning

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Robert Lovell
Journalist
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AccountingWEB caught up with Alan Newman, YouGov’s chief financial officer, at SuiteWorld to find out how to make modern finance decisions amid political uncertainty.

The internet-based market research firm has a solid track record in future gazing. Only polls conducted online correctly foretold that Brexit was a real possibility. In fact just three days before the vote last June, YouGov showed a two-point lead for Leave, but it was barely reported and didn’t move the markets.

Political uncertainty now facing businesses presents the biggest challenge for finance leaders since the 2008 financial crisis and senior management are increasingly looking to the finance department for strategic insight.

Newman, an Oracle + NetSuite user, said the UK’s departure from the European Union presented a number of key challenges for finance leaders around the regulatory climate and the availability of labour.

“One of the challenges of Brexit specifically, and I’m speaking as a UK-based company, is that the regulatory environment we work in is essentially EU-based, so it’s important to understand how and whether that will change.

“Different businesses have different types of regulations that affect them most, so if you’re in manufacturing or product selling then you’re more concerned with things like customs and orders,” he said.

Newman explained that for YouGov the two things that come up most from a regulatory point of view were intellectual property law and data protection, both of which in the UK fit within the EU framework.

“My hunch is that because the UK led a lot of the development of the European law and framework, and the fact that there’s a lot of international intellectual property commonality, I don’t think it’s going to change very much.”

However there are further specific issues that present potential challenges for the organisation.

“We have our data centre in London, so would you have to have data processes inside the EU? Again, I think there are ways of sorting that out and the advantage of a cloud-based system is you can switch that very easily when it comes to financial information,” said Newman.

For the CFO the other obvious challenge is the availability of labour.

“The UK particularly depends on a lot of EU citizens, and how that change will affect the ability to hire the best it’s hard to see. It’s the other big question,” he said.

When it comes to scenario planning YouGov is keen to stay ahead of any big changes, but Newman believes Brexit will hit other organisations harder: “YouGov operates largely around national data businesses and our single biggest market is the US, so that’s not going to change because of Brexit.

“There are other businesses focussing much more on exports direct across the border, we have less so than others. So it’s not such a big deal for us.”

 

AccountingWEB and Oracle recently hosted a webinar on making modern finance decisions around Brexit.

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