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Coutts Entrepreneurs Research: Part Three - International Expansion


Weighing up whether to expand abroad, or to stay put at home, is one of the bigger entrepreneur decisions.

The third section of our exclusive research for Coutts Entrepreneurs Month asked the question: are entrepreneurs optimistic about global markets?

We wanted to hear first-hand how some of the UK’s leading business owners are feeling about Brexit. At a time when our trading framework with Europe remains uncertain, it’s fascinating to assess just how confident entrepreneurs are feeling about exporting to the continent.

And what about relations beyond Europe? In recent years, the UK has imported more than it has exported which raises question marks about the wider ambitions of our domestic businesses.

We asked just-shy-of 300 entrepreneurs whether they are happy at home, or intending to go international for bigger opportunities.


“I am concerned about exports to and from Europe”

In this instance, positivity reigns supreme. Our survey found that nearly two-thirds (64%) of entrepreneurs are either unconcerned about exporting to Europe post-Brexit, or are neutral on the topic. Only one-third (36%) of them felt negatively about the UK’s future trading potential.

“Two-thirds (64%) of our entrepreneurs are either unconcerned about exporting from the UK post-Brexit, or are neutral on the topic.”

Over the past decade, trade with the European Union (EU) has gradually decreased which might go some way to explaining why today’s political friction is having little impact on the mood of those surveyed. 

Statistics from the House of Commons Library show that between 2006 and 2018, the share of UK exports accounted for by the EU has fallen from 55% to 46%. In total, UK exports to the EU were valued at £289 billion in 2018.

“Two-thirds (64%) of our entrepreneurs are either unconcerned about exporting from the UK post-Brexit, or are neutral on the topic.”

“International expansion is something I’m keen to look at in the year ahead”

We know that many clients in our entrepreneur network are already exploring opportunities overseas. But others are drafting overseas expansion plans for the first time.

Looking ahead, more than half (53%) of respondents said they wanted to expand overseas in the next 12 months. They see paths to grow into new markets and, as ambitious business owners, want to seize those opportunities as quickly as possible.

“Over the past 12 months, I have started operating in new markets or explored doing so”

The appetite for international expansion is certainly not new. Two-thirds (67%) of our respondents have either entered, or explored entering new markets in the past 12 months. Only 23% have maintained a UK-only perspective, while 10% sat on the fence and stayed neutral on the subject.

In summary

Needless-to-say we cannot know the true impact of Brexit on the UK economy until our EU exit formally happens. But our entrepreneurs are confronting the uncertainty with optimism and a wider, global outlook. 

Ultimately, entrepreneurs are concerned – not with the impact of Brexit – but with the impact they can have on the world. And that’s just what the next chapter in our research will focus on.

When investing, past performance should not be taken as a guide to future performance. The value of investments, and the income from them, can go down as well as up, and you may not recover the amount of your original investment.

Key Takeaways

Coutts research of almost 300 entrepreneurs provides key insight into how they feel about the opportunities and challenges ahead.

Findings indicate a bullish mood when it comes to Brexit, with the majority of those surveyed down playing its impact on their business and ambition.

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