Ian Marshall: Scotland’s tech sector is leading the way to stability

Ian Marshall: Scotland’s tech sector is leading the way to stability

Ian Marshall

Ian Marshall, head of tech strategy at Anderson Anderson & Brown (AAB), details why Scotland’s tech sector is leading the way to stability.

LinkedIn and newspaper business pages are awash with articles claiming to wisely summarise the learnings from the last 12 months, so I’m not going to stand idly by without having my say, though I will, at least try to, circle back to my day job, which is advising Scottish, mainly tech-focused, companies.

As I write from my spare-room office, with my lockdown puppy asleep under my desk (what a cliché) there is no doubt that this 12-month jolt to the economy has hastened the return of the work-life balance to the top of the agenda. That said, some tech companies such as Edinburgh’s Administrate have been committed to a four-day week for years, citing happier and more productive employees.

Never has it been more important to truly look after your people. A tech-focused client of mine who was very anti-working from home, is now a true convert to the hybrid model.

They are also spending a lot of time and money on bringing their employee benefits packages into 2021, looking for both valuable and fun ways to thank their predominantly young team for their hard work.

What else has changed?

Our shopping and banking habits, of course. My weirdest indulgence has been ordering small bottles of Hildon sparkling mineral water from Drink Supermarket to try to replicate that authentic meeting room experience, and collecting them from my new Montpellier drinks fridge, contributing to Amazon’s 84 per cent growth in profit.

Banking-wise, we’ve all taken to mobile banking apps like ducks to water. Global mobile payments revenue was $1,400 billion in 2020, up from $1,100 billion in 2019. But it will take more than a pandemic to get my father away from his cheque book.

Let’s not forget that there’s been huge political change in the world’s largest economy in the last 12 months too, with President Trump moving aside for the more conciliatory and less confrontational Joe Biden.

In this post-Trump era, I’m already noticing the climate change agenda moving back up in terms of column inches and I think we can expect that to continue in the short-medium term for a couple of reasons.

Firstly, COP26 will be taking place in Glasgow during the first fortnight in November this year and, secondly, Scotland provides fertile ground for building Cleantech companies, as Topolytics have proved.

Tech features heavily in all global trends as do people, climate, e-commerce and banking.

So, what can we expect from the Scottish Tech Sector in the next 12 months?

My personal belief is that Scottish tech, with all its various subsectors such as games, cleantech and fintech, will become as important to the Scottish economy as oil and gas has been.

Helping to fuel the eco-system are the Scottish universities. There have been successful fundraises for spin-outs from Glasgow, Edinburgh, Napier and Strathclyde Universities in recent times, as well as successful exits too.

As Jamie Coleman from Codebase was quoted as saying, “…brainpower…has always been the core asset of Scotland. The industrial mindset of building bridges and steam engines has transitioned into building complex software. We no longer have the chimneys of the industrial revolution in our cities; our factories are in the cloud.”

The success of the Scottish tech sector has been under a spotlight over the last few years, and particularly the last 12 months. For us as a team at the tech-enabled business critical services group, Anderson Anderson & Brown (AAB), our clients have relied on us more than ever before, and we are looking forward to focusing our efforts on continuing to serve tech-focused companies.

There has been a sense of optimism in the air of late and, as economies start to recover, we believe that it will be tech leading the way to stability.

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