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The CFO Agenda 2016 Overview: Alistair Darling’s Thoughts on Brexit

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Laura Paterson client, Qualified Finance, Recently Qualified Finance...

The CFO Agenda is Financial Director Magazine’s annual flagship conference. Cedar partnered with this year’s event held at the Waldorf Hilton, London, on Tuesday 28 June.

 

Key insights from the event

The conference brought together over 100 of the UK’s most senior CFOs and Finance Directors, with 25 superb panelists including Alistair Darling, Sir Clive Woodward, Shell CFO Simon Henry, Deutsche Bank and UK Chief Economist George Buckley.

This year’s theme was culture, strategy and change. Unsurprisingly, with the shock result of a leave vote the previous Friday, the day’s main focus was on the myriad of permutations ahead for the UK, Europe and the rest of the world.

Alistair Darling’s keynote speech warned members of the UK finance profession that good long-term corporate governance will be vital following the result of the EU referendum. He highlighted that the uncertain economic and trading conditions could last for several years and advised businesses to be prepared for potential exposure to new risks.

 

Johnson did not intend the UK to leave the EU

An interesting revelation in Darling’s speech was that  the leaders of the Leave Campaign did not intend the UK to leave the EU and instead were forcing the referendum for other reasons. Darling claimed, “Even Boris Johnson and the others who won were looking miserable on Friday… I know very well why they were looking miserable because they didn’t intend that to be the result either.”

“The government didn’t have a plan because it wasn’t contemplating it (I happen to know that) and equally the leavers didn’t because they could never have agreed on a plan in the first place if they had sat down and tried to come up with one.”

 

Brexit is a bigger concern than 2008

Alistair Darling served as Chancellor of the Exchequer during the most turbulent and far-reaching economic crisis the world had seen. At the conference, he warned that the current situation was more concerning to him than the financial crisis of 2008 – when he had just three hours to save RBS from having to close its doors.

The reason I say it’s worse this time is because there’s not just one problem you need to fix, there’s several  problems and while some of them may not  be as bad as you think, the problem is as time goes on we remember we’re never       living in a static environment, it’s complicated and what might not be a problem today might be a problem further down the line.”

He continued,“When you put the overlay that we’re not just dealing with the situation in this country; this is not like a divorce amicable or otherwise, here you have two people involved. You’ve got one person on one side and 27 on the other side who  don’t always speak with one voice and have very different interests.”