International Finance
Magazine November - December 2018 Opinion

Overcoming the Brexit communication challenge

Overcoming the Brexit communication challenge
The UK’s pending withdrawal from the EU is expected to pose numerous challenges to businesses, and specifically place a burden on communication models

There are numerous uncertainties and challenges businesses need to tackle in the face of the United Kingdom’s impending withdrawal from the European Union and, for those looking to move people to new locations due to Brexit, maintaining effective communication among employees across new and far-flung locations is a big one. In banking and finance, where ensuring teams are able to correspond and collaborate in real time is absolutely critical, the uncertainty surrounding what workplace communication will look like in a post-Brexit world is even more of an issue than it is for most other sectors.

For many industry players, there is a lot riding on maintaining the same level of internal cooperation they have enjoyed previously—whether London remains Europe’s primary financial hub or not. Many banks and other financial enterprises are already moving to protect themselves with London’s once unassailable position as the bridge between the EU and other regions such as Asia and North America under threat. With a no-deal Brexit a genuine possibility, they are now choosing to hedge their bets and not wait to see if the UK walks away from negotiations with the EU with a bespoke arrangement.

A large number of banking and finance businesses are looking into —or are already are—moving some operations to mainland Europe to minimise any potential disruption from Brexit. German broadcaster Deutsche Welle has reported that some 50 London-based banks have approached eurozone banking regulators about relocating key services from London to rival EU centres. The Japanese bank Nomura, which currently employs over 2,000 people in London, has already announced it will use Frankfurt as its trading hub once the UK leaves the EU—with German officials claiming another 20 banks have already committed to launching new operations there.

David goulden
David goulden

Clearly, Brexit is making it increasingly likely that banking and financial service organisations will relocate employees, and one of the immediate effects is that more teams will be scattered across multiple time zones and locations with more employees likely to be working from different locations—including their homes. As a result, it is crucial that the right tools are in place before this change takes place to ensure teams can communicate effectively and implement a standardised and coordinated way of working so that employees are not juggling multiple applications and communication platforms to collaborate on projects, monitor progress, manage resourcing, and stay on top of deadlines. Fortunately, there are tools that can be employed to transcend borders and time zones and so ensure teams at different locations keep on the same page—in real-time.


Teams working across multiple locations—whether in offices in different geographies, travelling to conferences or to see clients, or working from home—is not new. In fact, workplace flexibility has increasingly become part of the package many businesses offer. However, despite its surge in popularity, there are still challenges that businesses struggle to overcome in order to maximise efficiency. These include limited access to the most up-to-date files, difficulties in communicating with colleagues, knowing which tasks to prioritise, and even struggling to feel part of the team.

Banks and financial services companies need to ensure that these issues are addressed before Brexit takes place. Otherwise, they will have to deal with the negative impact having teams working from multiple locations can have on effective collaboration, productivity and business agility. Relocating operations is just one area of business that the industry will need to navigate as the UK moves to withdraw from the EU. Other areas such as internal company restructuring, product and services analysis and engagement planning will also need to be considered—which is why it is so crucial that teams have tools that support a coordinated work environment during this period of change. What can help achieve this is a cloud-based platform that enables real-time collaboration across locations and empowers teams to coordinate workflow, track progress, align goals, allocate budget and meet deadlines from any device and location.

When it comes to improving collaboration among teams, it is tempting for businesses to select an array of popular applications focused on improving communication. Many businesses have fallen into the trap of choosing social media apps to facilitate easy and frequent employee discussion—such as WhatsApp and Facebook—in the belief they would streamline communications between workers and minimise long email chains that result key information being missed, causing delays and confusion. Others have turned to communication apps. A global Clarizen survey showed that, in the past year, companies deployed one or more of the following apps to improve productivity: Skype (39%), Microsoft Teams (14%), Google Hangouts (8%) and Slack (7%).

What many organisations have found, however, is that such applications can in fact hinder productivity by encouraging non-work chit chat and oversharing of irrelevant professional information that doesn’t bring employees any closer to meeting business objectives. Even those more focussed purely on communication tend to overload people with numerous notifications and interruptions and can become yet another conduit for office banter, all of which negatively impacts productivity.

Having layers if communication via various apps and platforms is symptomatic of a modern workplace malady: ‘communication overload’. It leads to workers struggling to stay on top of an endless stream of unfocused messages, meeting requests and unnecessary interruptions. Clarizen’s research indicates that, in the end, apps that fail to directly link communication to business activities, aims and status updates actually prevent fruitful collaboration, effectiveness and efficiency: 81% of respondents said that, despite taking steps to improve communication among employees, they still lack a way to keep projects on track and provide management oversight. Only 16% of the companies surveyed said productivity levels were ‘excellent’—while a nearly quarter said they we ‘just OK’ or ‘we need help’.

TO BREXIT AND BEYOND The Brexit-related communication and collaboration challenges banking and finance players face could put revenues and profits at risk. However, organisations should look at the change needed to overcome the challenges as an opportunity to nurture a more productive and collaborative environment that can boost business agility. Even though it’s not clear what Brexit the UK will get, banking and finance organizations can minimise any potential disruption and even gain a competitive advantage by providing their employees with the methodology and tools they need to succeed—a common approach and single shared platform that keeps each team connected and able to stay on top of their objectives.

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