Businesses more concerned about staff and data than Brexit

Latest survey from KBC Bank finds business sentiment has slipped somewhat

Irish businesses are more concerned with data protection and staffing issues than Brexit, according to a report by KBC Bank.

The KBC Bank Ireland / Chartered Accountants Ireland Business Sentiment Survey is based on responses from chief executives, managing directors and finance directors in the Republic's leading companies.

The survey found that sentiment has slipped somewhat so far this year as companies report a slightly slower pace of growth in their activity levels and hiring in the past three months.

The business sentiment index slipped to 116.4 in the spring of 2018, largely reversing the previous quarter’s gains that took the index to a two year peak of 120.8 at the end of 2017.


“The trend in business sentiment in early 2018 remains consistent with a strong Irish economic performance,” the report noted.

“On the basis of the historic relationship between the business sentiment survey and official GDP data, the current sentiment reading, if sustained, could be consistent with Irish GDP growth in the region of 5 per cent in 2018.”

KBC Bank chief economist Austin Hughes said the Brexit was no longer the “overarching focus” for businesses.

“The drop in business sentiment was driven by softer activity levels and hiring in the past three months, but companies expect some pick-up in coming months and the general tone of the survey suggests a positive outlook remains firmly in place,” he said.

“Brexit is no longer the overarching focus as firms deal with what are seen as more immediate problems in the shape of staff/skill shortages and data protection issues.

“Regulatory deadlines and increased focus on data privacy issues led four out of five firms to say they had taken specific action in this area in the past six months.”

Chartered Accountants Ireland chief executive Barry Dempsey said the easing in business sentiment was "partly a reflection of severe weather" through March.

“It also hints that while the pace of growth in business volumes and in the broader Irish economy should remain solid it may be somewhat slower than was seen in 2017,” he said.

Colin Gleeson

Colin Gleeson

Colin Gleeson is an Irish Times reporter