Betsy Williamson: Brexit ‘fog’ is impacting Scotland’s finance sector

Betsy Williamson

Betsy Williamson, managing director and founder of Edinburgh-based Core-Asset Consulting, discusses the impact of Brexit and COVID on recruitment in the Scottish financial services sector.

Top talent is continuing to depart one of Scotland’s most influential sectors as confusion around the nature of Britain’s EU withdrawal is compounded by COVID-19.

Over the last three months the number of new roles created in financial services is down 10.8% on the same period last year, despite a modest uptick in temporary roles being filled.

In addition, as firms offering “products” designed for the EU move operations and roles formerly in Scotland overseas, specialist recruiter Core-Asset Consulting is urging for some clarity of behalf of employers.

We need greater awareness of the day to day issues facing the financial sector right now. From our perspective, Scotland is struggling and losing more talent and roles than needs to be the case.

Because it’s a service, it isn’t as tangible as the movement of goods, so the industry doesn’t get the same showing as fisheries, or physical import and export businesses.

Yet roles working on EU-specific frameworks or products are leaving our shores without something there to replace them. It’s quite difficult to see it happening in front of our eyes.

This isn’t about politics, or the rights or wrongs of Brexit. The time for that discussion has passed – it is now about plain economics. Giving businesses certainty to plan and people the confidence to stay and benefit our society and economy.

Against a backdrop of COVID we can’t lose sight of the gargantuan changes that Brexit is bringing. We need policymakers to do their job, the main thing they’re paid to do, and make decisions.

As Scotland’s leading recruiter in the financial services sector, in which it specialises, Betsy and her team have access to insights from thousands of candidates and Scotland’s very top employers in the sector, which in total accounts for around 7% of Scotland’s entire GDP.

In recent months, Core-Asset has been made aware of unusual individual cases, with talent stuck “in limbo” as Brexit and COVID-19 implications combine.

Ms Williamson added: “We have numerous cases right now, where we have candidates from mainland Europe that we’ve placed in roles in Edinburgh. Their roles have now been relocated, often to Ireland, or back to the mainland.

“Yet because of COVID, they’re still here working from home. It doesn’t bode well longer term for Scotland unless it can be addressed by policymakers. We need these jobs here – they’re highly valued well remunerated – and therefore a big contributor to the local and national economy.

“At the start of the year, our annual salary guide pinpointed Brexit as the huge overriding issue the sector needed to face and adapt to.

“While COVID has jumped ahead in terms of urgency, the ramifications of Brexit are still playing out – and the picture is far too foggy as it stands. It’s impacting the health and prospects of a vital cog in the Scottish economy.”

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