Tuesday 12 January 2021 2:06 pm

Robert Walters: We stand to benefit from any Brexit repercussions

Leading recruitment boss Robert Walters has said that despite a challenging year the firm stands to benefit from any Brexit repercussions because of its wide geographic reach. 

The FTSE 250 firm has offices across the world with a strong presence in Asia, where performance has improved in recent months.  

Its trading update published today showed the UK’s performance dragged on the figures, with profit down 28 per cent to £14.9m in the fourth quarter. 

Chief financial officer Alan Bannatyne tells City A.M. London had fared worse largely due to a slight uptick in manufacturing and exporting hiring in the regions. 

Read more: Recruiter Robert Walters profit falls a quarter

Walters notes that financial services are skewed towards London which remains uncertain on the Brexit front, but that the firm’s wide geographic presence means it is fairly sheltered from the effects. 

“We are in all the locations that, if there were to be a move of resources in banking to Frankfurt, Amsterdam or Paris, we’re in all those places and prepared,” he told City A.M. “We’re not complacent but we’re quite well positioned for any uncertainty within the financial services sector… We’re in all the right places around the world to benefit from any repercussions of Brexit, either positive or negative.” 

Fourth quarter sees marginal improvement 

Robert Walters fourth quarter trading update published this morning showed another disappointing quarter. Its gross profit for the fourth quarter came in at £71.4m, down 24 per cent from £94.2m in the same period last year. 

But it represents a marginal improvement on the last two quarters, when profit dropped 34 and 30 per cent respectively and the firm predicts profit to come in ahead of market expectations for the full year. 

Read more: Chancellor Rishi Sunak: The City could be set for a post-Brexit Big Bang 2.0

Walters said this was in large part due to pent up demand after a period of uncertainty, which has encompassed not just the pandemic, but the US election and Brexit. 

“I think some of the uncertainty has led to this pent-up demand across the world. We’re heavily weighted towards Asia Pacific and that was, arguably, first into the pandemic and maybe first out.” 

Gross profit in the region fell 21 per cent compared to 28 per cent in the UK in the fourth quarter. 

Remote working is not the future 

Walters believes the future of complete remote working has been overstated. “What we’ve found in our experience is whenever there’s an opportunity to get back to an office environment, it’s been seized on by people.” 

There had been a growing move after the summer that … , with even the government calling for employees to return to the office but this has stalled amid a growing surge in cases. 

That said Walters seems confident his firm will be able to adapt regardless of the future: “We can operate remotely if that’s the way it goes but I don’t think it will go there”.