Whatever Brexit or the lingering pandemic throws at us in 2021 there will be fresh faces and innovative ideas grabbing the headlines. So who will be among the news makers this year?
Aside from those starting new jobs, there are top positions yet to be filled. The British Chambers of Commerce is seeking a successor to Adam Marshall, a chief executive will be appointed at Scottish Enterprise, and a new head is being sought for the Institute of Directors Scotland.
Retail, leisure and tourism will face particular challenges for some months, while a Brexit deal is awaited for the financial services sector. Each sector is putting its faith in the talent and experience of those who can build confidence and strength in defiance of the pressures facing them.
No PR companies were involved in this compilation of rising stars and well-versed executives which has been selected on recent performance, prospects, and breakthrough ideas and technology.
Stephen Bird, CEO Standard Life Aberdeen
Bird arrived in September, replacing long-serving Keith Skeoch who had initially, and controversially, run the combined Standard Life and Aberdeen Asset Management as co-CEO with Martin Gilbert.
The new leader has set about resolving what has been described as a “Noah’s Ark” approach to decision-making. He has already sold an advisory business, and is giving some clarity to the remaining core operations in four distinct areas – global asset management, fund adviser platforms, strategic partnerships, and retail savings and wealth..
Expect the branding to be simplified, possibly tackling the confusion around the Standard Life Aberdeen holding company and Aberdeen Standard Investments operating business.
Since the merger in 2017 an £11 billion company has shrunk by almost half and it lost its title as the UK’s biggest independent investment company by assets to Schroders.
Bird’s arrival and early changes have met with investor approval with the shares up by more than 25%.
Charlie Nunn, CEO, Lloyds Banking Group
Although his appointment was announced at the end of November it’s possible Nunn will not take up his new role until the end of this year because of a six-month notice period at HSBC and a further six months of restrictions.
When he does get behind his desk he will be charged with building on Antonio Horta-Osorio’s progress in restoring Lloyds to profitability following the 2008 crash.
Aside from shouldering the government’s loan schemes, banks are coping with rock-bottom interest rates and the uncertainties around the Brexit arrangements for financial services. Nunn should at least hope the latter is resolved by the time he takes office.
David Montgomery, executive chairman, National World
Former News of the World editor David Montgomery announced on New Year’s Eve that he had engineered the acquisition of the The Scotsman owner, JPI Media. At a price tag of just £10.2m for a stable of 200 titles, it looks like JPI was eager to offload a group that had bled money for years. Crucially, the deal is debt-free, removing a burden that had blocked previous interest in the business.
So will this mean investment in the papers? More likely will be an attempt to shift the balance further towards the digital operations. National World is a quoted takeover vehicle whose objective is “to create a modern platform for news publishing by implementing a new operating model, powered by the latest technology.”
The images used on its own website show people staring at laptops and phones, not newspapers.
In 2012 Montgomery, founded Local World which published more 100 local papers and websites, and sold it three years later to Reach (publisher of the Daily Record) with a total return to its investors of approximately four times their original investment. The company states that it intends to apply the same strategy to National World, suggesting it may not be in charge long term.
Montgomery has appointed former Mirror colleague Mark Hollinshead as chief commercial officer and has brought former Johnston Press executive Danny Cammiade on to the board as a non-executive director.
David Duffy, CEO, Virgin Money
Irishman Duffy’s merger of the historic Clydesdale Bank with Virgin Money could be crowned with another bold acquisition as banks flex their muscles for more M&A activity.
A bid for Spanish bank Sabadell’s unwanted TSB could create a new Scotland-based banking giant and enable both Virgin and TSB to properly challenge the established players. Santander is reported to have dropped its interest in TSB which paves the way for Duffy to make a move.
Credit card provider New Day looked at merging with TSB last year, and could also make a bid, backed by private equity firms Cinven and CVC.
Eilidh Mactaggart, CEO, Scottish National Investment Bank
Global banker Eilidh Mactaggart has returned to Scotland as the first CEO of the Scottish National Investment Bank which is expected to play a leading role in reviving and growing the economy.
Her annual base salary has been set at £235,000, dwarfing Boris Johnson’s £158,000, so she has a lot to live up to.
With more than 20 years experience in banking and investment management, the Glaswegian most recently worked for MetLife Investment Management in London and has also had spells at Commonwealth Bank of Australia and ABN Amro Bank.
She has led large scale investments in social infrastructure (schools, universities, hospitals, social housing), transport infrastructure (ports, roads, airports), regulated utilities and renewable energy.
Malcolm Cannon, ex-director Institute of Directors Scotland
Cannon, national director for the Institute of Directors Scotland, is leaving after just 15 months in the role to take up another, yet to be confirmed, position.
He replaced David Watt in September 2019 and revealed his departure to Daily Business on 6 December when he told us: “Off to something new in January…all the huge changes now in place at IoD and future looks settled.”
There has been no official word on his leaving or speculation on who might replace him.
Recruitment firm Livingston James has been appointed to recruit a successor.
Tony Danker, director general, CBI
Danker stepped in to replace retiring Dame Carolyn Fairbairn after the November annual conference and was immediately thrust into the heat of the two big debates: Brexit and Covid.
He is a former Treasury adviser who has spent the last three years trying to tackle Britain’s poor productivity record, so expect this to feature highly in his list of priorities.
Danker forms a new partnership at the CBI alongside crossbencher and Cobra Beer tycoon Lord Karan Bilimoria who became president and who, two years ago, urged the government to drop Brexit.
The pair will now be at the top table working with government on ensuring there is rapid progress in getting a deal for the important services sector.
Jade Robertson, founder of Little Lies
It’s been a tough few years for retailers but five years after setting up her Little Lies fashion boutique, 31-year-old Robertson is making a name for herself by diversifying her operations. She closed her Dundee shop and has invested £70,000 to double the size of her new HQ in Perthshire. She hired nine additional staff, taking the payroll to 12. More recruits are expected.
Robertson – who founded the company from her bedroom in Kirkcaldy – said plans to expand online had to be accelerated after a huge sales spike last spring.
It has a new unit in Glencarse, on the A90 between Perth and Dundee, providing offices, creative space and a fulfilment centre for orders from customers around the world.
Reece Donovan, CEO Iomart
Stepping into the shoes of long-serving Angus MacSween is no easy task, but Donovan has been chief operating officer since last March and has been part of building the strategy.
His first results statement was to post a 29% fall in pre-tax profits from £8.4m to £6m for the half year to the end of September, though this could be excused in the grip of the pandemic, and a resumption of growth can be expected.
One subtle shift will be in the Glasgow company’s approach to acquisitions. The South African said he is keen to build on the 21 businesses acquired during the past decade. However, he wants to focus on “capability, rather than just market share.”
Clare Wareing, founder and CEO, Cumulus Oncology
Cumulus creates spin-out companies developing anti-cancer therapies and fast-tracking treatments into clinical trials for cancer types that do not respond well to existing procedures. It sees “significant market opportunities in Europe”.
Wareing has sought to maximise opportunities and founded Cumulus Oncology three years ago as Europe’s first oncology drug discovery accelerator.
Last year it received £1.7 million from a consortium of investors led by St Andrews-based investment firm Eos Advisory. Expect more deals and a higher profile for one of Scotland’s emerging academic entrepreneurs.
Genevieve Patenaude, founder of Earth Blox
It has been quite a year for Patenaude whose Edinburgh University data analysis spin-out is involved in projects such as climate change.
Dr Patenaude, senior lecturer at the School of Geosciences, has been working with and supported by Edinburgh Innovations, the university’s commercialisation service, since January 2019.
She followed up her success in winning last year’s Converge Challenge and an Edge award by securing the backing of the UK Space Agency to help students navigate their way through the COVID-19 disruption. More accolades could be in the pipeline.
Craig Robertson, founder, Epipole
Robertson set up eyecare technology company Epipole to identify the symptoms of preventable blindness. Its patented technology enables clinicians to scan the retina.
The Inverkeithing-based company secured £1.5 million last year to prepare for its expansion into the US ophthalmic imaging market. It has appointed Ian Stevens, formerly of Optos and Touch Bionics, as chairman.
Robertson says he is focused on the US primary care optometry and ophthalmology markets, and plans to have his product available early this year.
Stephen Ingledew, executive chairman, FinTech Scotland
Ingledew has spearheaded Scotland’s growth in one of the developing industries and the cluster has grown to more than 100 firms.
He is now ready to take it to the next stage, stepping up from CEO to executive chairman of FinTech Scotland.
He has also taken on an additional role with Scottish Enterprise, more of which is expected to emerge in the coming weeks.
With a vacancy to be filled at the economic development agency could Ingledew be in line to fill the role?
Nadeem Sarwar, founder and CEO, Phlo
Sarwar’s online pharmacy and delivery company, Phlo, launched in the latter part of 2019 aims to disrupt the traditional chemist shop model.
Within months it was in high demand from locked down customers who helped drive turnover from £1,000 a month last January to £75,000 by the end of the year.
A team of 20 engineers is expected to double this year, supported by a crowdfund exercise which exceeded its £1.65m target within 24 hours.
Sarwar is on a fast-growth trajectory and Phlo could become Scotland’s next IPO.
Nick Jones, CEO, Zumo
Jones founded cryptocurrency Zumo in 2017 and the Edinburgh-based wallet and exchange platform last year raised almost all of its £1.1 million target ahead of a formal crowdfunding campaign.
In August it formed a partnership with digital payments scale-up Modulr and secured a £500,000 investment from Ilya Fund, adding to backing from Murray Capital’s David Murray and Coldplay musician Guy Berryman.
One fund manager said Bitcoin had overcome a “credibility hump”and has just ended one of the biggest years in its history. The price is up 300% during the last 12 months, climbing past its 2017 highs amid renewed institutional interest and the prospect of broader mainstream adoption.
Bill Buchanan, Napier University School of Computing
Professor Buchanan is part of a team at Napier University forging a reputation in tackling cybercrime.
It has seen a number of spin-outs, such as ZoneFox and Symphonic Software, snapped up by global players. The university hopes its latest spin-out Memcrypt will tackle new and increasingly sophisticated tactics used by the cybernats.
Ping Identity’s acquisition of Symphonic, revealed by Daily Business last November, saw huge returns for investors including Par Equity and Maven Capital Partners.
After the deal, cryptographer Buchanan tweeted: “this amazing City of #Edinburgh supports innovation at every heartbeat. @EdinburghNapier and @ComputingNapier, too, has supported these spin-outs from research to commercialisation.”
Colin Horne, Hearing Diagnostics
Edinburgh company Hearing Diagnostics received £715,000 from the Archangels investment syndicate to allow its pioneering testing system to undergo trials with universities and hearing aid retailers in the UK with a view to full market launch this year.
Horne, co-founder and chief technology officer at the company, said the investment would enable the firm to realise a “paradigm-shifting new product”.
Niki McKenzie, joint managing director at Archangels, noted that the technology around hearing tests has barely changed in recent years.
“Hearing Diagnostics appears to have invented a low cost, accurate and accessible test that will help hearing aid retailers to identify customers who need support with their hearing quickly and cost effectively.”
Andy Herbert and Richard Boyd, Invizius
Scottish biotech firm Invizius has developed a way of reducing long-term side effects and health complications from dialysis treatment.
The H-Guard system allows dialysis to take place completely undetected by the body’s immune system.
Invizius co-founder and CEO Richard Boyd (pictured right with co-founder Andy Herbert) said extensive testing of its system has shown “considerable promise” and manufacturing has been completed.
It was due to conduct further testing at the University of Groningen pending lockdown rules.
Nick Peel, managing director, St James Quarter
Peel was appointed to head the onsite team of Edinburgh’s £1bn shopping, leisure and residential complex a year ago hoping to oversee its opening before Christmas.
The pandemic put paid to that and it is now scheduled to welcome its first shoppers in the Spring.
Lockdown has accelerated the shift to online shopping, putting extra pressure on St James to deliver and it will be hoping that a mix of curiosity and some brands that are new to Scotland will get it off to a good start. All this assumes the pandemic is sufficiently under control to encourage consumers to leave their homes.
Peel will draw on a track record that includes spells as head of asset and estate management at Battersea Power Station, head of UK retail property management at Landsec for five years and two years working as Arsenal Football Club’s retail director.
After 22 years of failure, Scotland’s national football team will take their place at the delayed Euro finals in June and July.
It’s a big moment for Clarke whose team has failed to excite, but has managed to grind out results and raise the nation’s hopes.
With two of the initial games being played in Glasgow it will be a focus for national pride, though it might also provide a platform for the nationalists to build on their independence ambitions.
Whatever the outcome of the clash with England at Wembley on 18 June it will be a talking point for at least another 22 years.
Johnnie Walker, whisky experience
Reputedly Scotland’s biggest brand will make a big statement this year when the famous striding man presents the first Johnnie Walker whisky experience in a former House of Fraser department store in Edinburgh.
The eight-storey facility is part of a £185m investment in whisky tourism announced by drinks giant Diageo.
It will offer tours, tasting rooms and bars with views over the city and, as such, represents something new for the beleaguered tourism industry to promote post-pandemic.
It also sets the tone for repurposing redundant retail units and reviving town and city centres bereft of shoppers.