How the UK’s Executives failed convert on the pre-Brexit opportunity

Published on 10/11/2021

No one would deny that the fallout from Brexit hasn’t been fully realised with the likes of the EU trade and cooperation agreements, Northern Ireland protocol, EU workers visas still being fleshed out. With this lack of clarity, consumers and businesses alike are still trying to second guess what 2022 (and years to come!) will look like and the true impact it will have on businesses both within and outside of the EU.

What is certain is that the status quo, as we know it, has changed and whilst we should all be looking to the future and planning for a ‘new normal’, there is also a need to look to the past in order to understand where we came from, what we’ve learnt and the tricks we’ve missed.

The UK, and London in particular, has historically been the European headquarters of the world’s top companies. A review by Deloitte, found that as many as 40% of European businesses had headquarters in London, while 60% of non-European businesses chose London as their European base. As a comparison, Paris hosted just 8% of regional headquarters. However, since Brexit, Britain’s export-import trade fell by 12% and 24% in both Q1 of 2021 and 2019 respectively. In addition, billions of Euros of trades have moved from London to other European heavyweights. These factors have led many to think that the UK service offering has been made less competitive by Brexit. This comes at a time when 53% of companies admit to be facing disruption across start-ups and corporates. In almost every market, change is happening. But many leaders aren’t noticing the urgency in the air; corporates are augmenting their businesses instead of reinventing them and start-ups are turning a blind eye to the gaps in their leadership.

«In almost every market, change is happening. But many leaders aren’t noticing the urgency in the air; corporates are augmenting their businesses instead of reinventing them and start-ups are turning a blind eye to the gaps in their leadership.»

So if location (and being seen as the capital of Europe) is no longer a fall back for businesses in London, and disruption is afoot across all markets and sectors, how do businesses stand out and communicate in this time of uncertainty? How do business leaders differentiate their organisations from everyone else? How can digital real-estate help to supersede the physical? This is where our C-Level Index reveals a growing disparity between the UK and the rest of Europe and where businesses in London have failed to build on their pre-Brexit status.

We audited over 150 leaders across the UK, Germany and France, looking at their digital presence; everything from their followership, the type of content they share and the impact it has. Whilst the UK has historically dominated the business world, it lags behind in terms of the digital presence of its leaders. Have the UK’s business leaders historically relied too much on their geographical superiority, while their European counterparts have looked to embrace digital profiling as a way to find competitive advantage?

On a deeper review, it isn’t that the UK’s business leaders have failed to maintain parity in certain aspects of the index, it’s that they’ve failed to meet the mark across all areas. From the editorial story they tell (covering the likes of DE&I, Tech4Good and Employee wellbeing), around 1.5-2.5 times lower than German and French counterparts and associated engagement, again 2.5 times lower performance than Germany, to the number of people that follow them, five times lower than France.

C-Suite communication is a cornerstone of JIN’s work in digital influence. For a long time, we have advocated the use of digital platforms to amplify thought leadership and championed leaders to invest in the use of LinkedIn to elevate organisational and personal points of view. Through engagement with communities, increased transparency (on all topics), leaders have the ability to transform their organisations from the inside out and build relationships with those outside of their organisation. It’s, therefore, no surprise to see a market underperforming in all areas as they are inextricably linked – the editorial you share is a reflection of not only your personal outlook but also that of your organisation and people will follow and engage with those individuals who they feel are reflective of their interests and beliefs. Today more than ever leaders need to set out a stall that talks to shareholders and stakeholders going beyond profit to earn the trust of their employees and future clients and customers, whilst simultaneously transforming their organizations to meet the increasingly complex needs of innovation, diversity and inclusion and sustainability.

So given that geography is no longer a given advantage, isn’t it time to embrace the role digital plays in transcending physical borders and breaking down hierarchies, after all even the most senior of leaders have embraced the likes of Zoom and Hangouts over the past 18 months so isn’t it time to step out of our walled gardens and be more inclusive in what we say and who we say it to. Our Index shows that Europe agrees, and given the current uncertainty it would be a brave leader who doesn’t look across the channel for any and all competitive advantage.

More about JIN’s C-Level Index :

We believe it’s time to investigate this notable acceleration of public C-level accountability with an index that measures quantitative performance of C-level communication and deciphers the digital editorial narrative to contrast it with real life indicators across three comparable European economies —France, UK, Germany. The results, while imperfect, shed some light on leaders in key industries that we depend on to innovate and successfully transform their organizations.

More than ever, organizational change will be a driving force for positive environmental, societal and economic improvement. This index aims to give us indicators and an overview of the virtual and physical real life positive impact of C-level communication. We encourage all corporate leaders to acknowledge and model good leadership to all their stakeholders in real life: in the policies they make, the tone they set, in the rules they break, in the progress for people and the planet they initiate and drive. And then ensure that they use powerful tools like LinkedIn to amplify their leadership and lead with positive influence.

Related content
Presidential Election of 2022: TikTok, new HQ of electoral influence?
Read more