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The uproar over last month’s Brexit vote shines a spotlight on just how much business dislikes surprise. Following Great Britain’s June 23 decision to exit the European Union, we’ve heard many predictions of gloom and doom — including dire consequences for the British financial sector and all companies who do business with organizations in the United Kingdom.

I’m quite certain that there will be some painful moments for many companies and for individuals impacted by the forthcoming economic shifts. If you work in London for an investment firm that relocates its workforce to Paris or Frankfurt, it could be a bumpy ride. For industries that are benefitting from the current trade agreement, change is certainly in the air.

For companies in most enterprises, however, Brexit will create a little turbulence, but not an economic meltdown. Based on some of the analyses I’ve seen, the European gross domestic product is expected to remain steady at approximately 1.5% growth. After invoking Article 50 of the EU’s Lisbon Treaty, probably this fall, Britain has two years to develop new trade relationships with the EU and settle on issues ranging from customs procedures and import/export regulations to regulations on environmental, health, and safety standards. It will take time to sort things out.

Investment uncertainties


For those concerned about their relationship with SAP, the news is good. For companies with the right strategies and executional capabilities in the software and IT sector, there is the opportunity to be resilient to both market volatility and macro headwinds. Like most leading companies in our industry, we have a well-diversified revenue mix across industries and geographies. Analysts at Alliance Bernstein point out that SAP is particularly well-positioned, thanks to our revenue mix across regions and business models.

We are carefully watching the impact of Brexit-related activities on each of the industries that we serve, however. EU funds are heavily invested in the retail and wholesale, mining and quarrying, financial services, high tech, telco, utilities, transportation, and food and beverage sectors. For UK companies in these industries, post-Article 50 renegotiation of trade deals may shift how – and whether – funds are invested. Decision makers will be tracking investment news to understand the net effect of these shifts.

To understand the specific industry- and firm-level implications of Brexit, executives must conduct their own impact analysis. Writing in a recent issue of BCG Perspectives, Martin Reeves, senior partner and managing director of The Boston Consulting Group, and Philipp Carlsson-Szlezak, the firm’s chief economist, advise executives to develop a scenario-based approach to planning, modeling, and preparing for the potential outcomes of Brexit, where each source of uncertainty is assigned a value and a likelihood. Various values can be combined to form multiple scenarios, each of which should be analyzed based on their impact on a company’s business model, operating mode, EU institutional arrangements and financial structures, and performance.


“Use the scenarios and sensitivities that you’ve identified to test the resilience of your current plans, highlight risks, formulate response options, build capabilities, and reflect the results in strategies and initiatives and in risk management,” write the authors.

Opportunity for insight


Interestingly, the quiet period after Britain invokes Article 50 may actually provide a productive pause for select enterprises. Wise executives can use the timeout to assess their options, line up expert guidance, and even deploy supporting technology that will aid analysis and deliver new insight. In other words, there is an opportunity for companies to use Brexit as a catalyst for better decision making.


SAP’s Digital Boardroom for instance, allows executives to quickly analyze data and conduct sensitivity analysis on global macro trends. It’s similar to the stress testing that financial institutions use to address economic, regulatory, and geopolitical challenges.


No technology can eliminate all of the surprises that the world throws our way. But partnering with a technology vendor who can help you deal with turbulent times can remove some of the sting from those upsets when they inevitably occur.

How can SAP help you prepare for the impact of the Brexit vote? Connect with me on Twitter @pbakey.

Pat Bakey is President, Industry Cloud, at SAP.

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