The resilience of the Irish economy is being tested by COVID-19. But for those who have chosen to locate here – Ireland and its workforce has proven remarkably resilient. This was the focus of a recent IDA Ireland supported CNBC Business broadcast, which highlighted Ireland’s role in helping multinationals prepare for future challenges, writes Anna Scally, Head of Technology & Media and FinTech lead at KPMG in Ireland.

Acceleration of Digital

I was delighted to participate in a recent IDA Ireland led discussion on CNBC Business which showed how the COVID-19 crisis has significantly accelerated the shift to digital and is shaking up the business landscape. In particular, it showed how Irelands resilience, track record and proven adaptability of its workforce are proving highly advantageous.

COVID-19 is a watershed moment in the digitisation of business and society. It is forcing stragglers to evolve or perish. In KPMG’s recent CEO survey, 81 percent of Irish CEOs confirmed the acceleration of their digital transformation during the pandemic.  Of these, 60 percent said the pandemic put them light years ahead of where they had initially expected to be on their digitisation agenda. 

We’ve seen CEOs adapt technology they may never have previously considered using. This time last year, it would have been uncommon for a leader, except perhaps those in the tech space, to host an online live streamed company-wide “all-hands”. It simply wasn’t commonplace for businesses to go online and reach out continuously to their staff. It has been amazing to see strong leaders exercise great their communication skills on new platforms. They have put themselves out there, in front of their teams. This has been instrumental in keeping their teams engaged and motivated through this time. 

81% of Irish CEOs confirmed the acceleration of their digital transformation during the pandemic

Digital and security

Digital transformation, which has accelerated exponentially, will continue to accelerate across all areas of business. As such, data and data security are going to become even more significant priority areas. In our recent KPMG Pulse of Fintech survey, we found there was more money spent on cybersecurity in the first half of 2020 than there was in all of 2019. This is no surprise to anyone in business. This investment will be expected to continue where data and data security continue to be a priority.

Sensible and Supportive Business Environment

In an uncertain world, such as the one we live in at the moment, businesses crave certainty. The Irish government has always been good at supporting business and providing a roadmap for business based on certainty. In particular Ireland operates on a no-surprises basis. The certainty, stability, and sustainability of our policies are really critical for investors and have provided ambitious businesses with the certainty that they need to invest in Ireland.

Ireland has made some very wise tax policy decisions over the past number of years. One such policy is the 25 per cent research and development tax credit. This credit ensures it makes financial sense for companies to do research and development (R&D) here in Ireland.  Doing R&D and other high value and strategically important activities here in Ireland has meant that those businesses and investments stick and have been buoyant throughout the current crisis.

Additionally, throughout the pandemic, we have seen the incredible resilience and flexibility of the Irish workforce. In Ireland, we have the youngest population in Europe. One third of our workforce is under 25 and they are highly educated. If you look at a number of the international rankings, including OECD research, we see the Irish workforce is highly productive. Our national workforce also ranks highly for flexibility and adaptability — essential characteristics for managing change. This was critical in helping a number of the multinationals located here to not just thrive but survive.

QUOTE: Our national workforce also ranks highly for flexibility and adaptability

Looking to the future

In addition to resilience, the crisis has also focused businesses on the sustainability and transparency of their supply chains. The demand shock that followed the global economy shut down exposed vulnerabilities in the production strategies and supply chains of companies just about everywhere. Ireland has played a key role in keeping key supply chains operational and I believe Ireland will play a key role in doing that into the future.

On a broader topic, the environmental gains we have made during the crises resonates with me. Again, and reflecting on some of the findings of our CEO survey, we should aim to lock in some of the environmental gains we’ve made during the pandemic. The behavioural shifts during the pandemic have shown that governments, companies, and individuals can make changes quickly that curb emissions. This momentum can be used to bring about lasting reductions. Notwithstanding the great challenges COVID presents, the green lush landscape of Ireland will no doubt help to remind us all to strive to maintain and sustain the environmental gains made during the lockdown.

Anna Scally is Head of Technology & Media and FinTech lead at KPMG in Ireland and was a guest of IDA Ireland and CNBC Business – you can watch the full discussion below.

Get in touch

COVID-19 is challenging leaders like never before. To find out more about how KPMG perspectives and fresh thinking can help your business or organisation get the best out of your investment in Ireland, please get in touch. We’d be delighted to hear from you.