2023: Doing Business In the United Kingdom

Published on Dec 3, 2023

Doing Business In the United Kingdom

1. What is the current business climate in your jurisdiction including major political, economic and/or legal activities on the horizon in your country that could have a big impact on businesses?

The GDP growth rate in the UK has been low since 2016 with occasional very positive years. It is likely that the UK will escape a recession, yet overall growth is likely to remain suppressed, with GDP growth at 0.3% in 2023, and projections rising to 1.1% in 2024. Therefore, despite challenging business conditions, forecasts show signs of improvement and predict further improvement for the years to come.

The headlines do not tell the whole story. There are many parts of the UK economy that remain incredibly resilient and successful on a global basis. The City of London is a truly global financial center that raises and deploys enormous pools of capital across the globe. The UK's life sciences, real estate, technology, and manufacturing sectors are vibrant with opportunity.

On a more general basis, the UK is an attractive place to do business. It ranks sixth out of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) countries in the World Bank Ease of Doing Business rankings and 18th (along with Belgium and Japan) in the Transparency International index.

2. From what countries do you see the most inbound investment? What about outbound?

The United States of America (US) is the leading source of inbound investment in the UK, with lots of US businesses setting up operations or otherwise investing in the UK. Additionally, almost one-third of the total outbound investment from the UK is in the US, with France and Germany being the second and third respectively.

3. In what industries/sectors are you seeing the most opportunity for foreign investment?

The technology sectors are leading in terms of foreign investment as digital technologies rise to become a determining factor of economic development and growth. FDI leads to knowledge spillovers and helps local companies improve their productivity and offerings, allowing them to compete more efficiently in the global market. The financial services sector and business and professional services sector continue to be the second and third most popular for inbound investment, and the pharmaceuticals and healthcare sectors are also performing particularly strongly following the pandemic.

4. What advantages and pitfalls should others know about doing business in your country?

We have already highlighted the UK's strong index scores. It also has a number of long-term structural advantages that, today, translate into a benign business environment. Those advantages include a stable parliamentary democracy, a reliably independent judiciary (with strong commercial dispute expertise), a superb educational infrastructure, proximity to mainland Europe, and, of course, general fluency in the English language.

The effects of Brexit continue to hinder businesses in the UK, particularly those who trade physical goods across borders. This is due to changes in tariffs and customs on cross-border trade, a reduction in the available workforce, and an increase in political uncertainty (though that factor is reducing as time passes).

5. What is one cultural fact or custom about your country that others should know when doing business there?

From a business point of view, the British value punctuality, politeness, and professionalism. The traditional greeting among the British is a light and firm handshake upon meeting, accompanied by a polite greeting. Another thing to look out for is the ironic humor used in business settings, which is to be taken with a grain of salt, and the British use of sometimes confusing idiomatic language.

Outside of business, the UK is a very creative country. From Shakespeare to Stormzy (or the Bard to the Beatles), literature, music, art, dance, and drama play a big part in the nation's life. The UK also loves its sporting heroes (which may be a function of rarity).

But let's not talk about the weather.

Our Firm

1. What distinguishes your firm from others in your market?

Gowling WLG builds long-term collaborative relationships with its clients that last through the economic cycles. Honesty and openness are the main aspects of collaboration, allowing the firm to meet the long-term and most strategically important needs in a context that most other firms in the market do not build. Gowling WLG has a strong depth of expertise in several key sectors including energy, financial services, life sciences, infrastructure, real estate, automotive, and technology. Along with that expertise, what further allows the firm to attract clients, and more importantly retain them, is its culture; in which diversity, inclusion, and equity are not only actively encouraged but weaved into the fabric of the firm.

2. What are three words that describe the culture of your firm?

Teamwork, knowledge, and fairness.

3. How does your firm participate in Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) and/or Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) initiatives?

Gowling WLG focuses on three main aspects in regard to its corporate social responsibility agenda: community investment, diversity, and the environment. The firm prides itself in being one of the founding signatories of the Law Society's Pro Bono Charter, in addition to the 4,500 hours of pro bono advice provided by Gowling WLG last year. As to diversity, the firm has achieved its goal for 2021 of reaching 25% female partners and is now targeting 30%. The firm has adopted six goals to reach by 2030 in relation to becoming more environmentally friendly, including sourcing energy in a renewable manner and enhancing biodiversity where possible.

4. Are there any new and exciting initiatives, practice areas or industry focuses in your firm?

Gowling WLG has created an initiative called CoLab, which seeks to receive ideas and insights from across the firm by gathering feedback and translating great ideas into deliverable solutions while empowering employees. The primary mission for this was to "make innovation inclusive." The challenge demonstrated the firm's increased capabilities when we embrace collaboration and creativity. It has been a huge success with over 238 ideas generated through the collaboration of 466 people from across the firm developing these ideas, and 405 people involved in selecting the winning idea. This, along with several runners-up, has already been put into development by the firm's cross-disciplinary collaboration task force.


Chris Letters