UK

The UK’s universal language of business, highly skilled employees and wealth of opportunities across many thriving industry sectors position it as a hotbed for foreign investment.

 

Welcome to the UK

After opening our first office in London over 150 years ago, the UK has become home to the global headquarters of the HSBC Group, where an extensive branch network supports the needs of personal and business customers. The shape of this business in the UK continues to evolve, as our UK head office gets set to move to Birmingham in 2018.

With the world’s largest financial centre, a flexible market and a thriving entrepreneurial culture, the UK is a perfect location for businesses to explore their international potential. This, alongside a highly developed transportation network, enables the country to serve enterprises of all shapes and sizes.

As the UK prepares to leave the EU in March 2019, we will keep you updated on what Brexit means for doing business in the UK and what impact the departure from the EU will have on your industry sector.

I look forward to working with you.

Ian Stuart Chief Executive Officer, UK

Head office address: 8 Canada Square, London E14 5HQ

Essentials

Population
65.6 million1
Size
242,495 sq km
Main languages
English (with English and Scots Gaelic in Scotland / English and Welsh in Wales)
Capital city
London
Other major cities
Birmingham, Liverpool, Manchester and Glasgow
Currency
Pound Sterling
Dialling code
+44
GDP
USD43,124 per capita2
Top exports
Manufactured goods, fuels, chemicals, foodstuffs, beverages, tobacco3
Top imports
Manufactured goods, machinery, fuels, foodstuffs3
Unemployment rate
4.2%4
Corporation tax
19%5
Typical office hours
9.00am – 5.00pm, Monday to Friday
Time zone
GMT (Greenwich Mean Time)
Emergency numbers
999 or 112 (medical emergency, fire brigade & police)

UK: A land of opportunities

Ranked

# 7

for ease of doing business (in a survey of 190 measured economies by The World Bank)

  • Financial services leader

    The UK’s largest export is its financial services sector. The City, based in the heart of London, is home to some of the world’s most important finance institutions and is considered by many as the global FS epicentre.

  • An economic powerhouse

    Long established as the world’s fifth largest economy, the UK attracts more foreign investment to its shores than any other European nation. English is also the global language of business.

  • Low corporate taxes

    The UK’s corporation tax rate, which will reduce to 17% from 2020, is below that of most of its core competitors. As a comparison, the average of the rest of the G7 leading economies is almost 30%.

  • Less red tape

    More companies set up their businesses in the UK than anywhere else in Europe. The World Bank ranks the UK as the second easiest place to operate a business in the region.

  • Entrepreneurial culture

    There is a thriving entrepreneurial culture in the UK. In 2016 alone, over 650,000 start-ups were launched.

  • A stable society

    With a long-established stable political democracy in place, the UK also ranks highly among its peers for anti-corruption.

Country profile

In the 19th Century, the UK (United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland) was known as the ‘workshop of the world’ – producing items more efficiently and competitively than anywhere else.

Today, this proud island nation continues to lead the way in many industries; from its thriving services sector, to high-tech manufacturing, finance, technology and more.

It may now be better known for Big Ben, black cabs and the Beatles. Yet, it is business that oils the UK’s wheels. This is helped by low tax rates, a reasonably well-educated workforce and stable government. Not to mention excellent transport links.

London may, at first, appear to dominate the UK’s political, cultural and economic landscape. After all, it generates 22% of UK GDP, despite accounting for just 12.5% of the population.

The UK is steeped in history and tradition and today boasts a truly multicultural society. Sitting on Europe’s doorstep, with historic links to many Commonwealth countries, it is a global leader and an ideal business destination for international organisations.

Read on to discover more about the dos and don’ts of doing business in the UK. Also find out how trading in or with the country could help boost the future growth of your enterprise.

5 reasons to do business in the UK1

  1. Skilled employees
    The UK boasts a highly qualified English-speaking workforce. Almost half of the population has been through higher education.
  2. Opportunities in different sectors
    Whether it’s aerospace, asset management or advanced manufacturing, the UK is home to many thriving and diverse industries.
  3. An expanding workforce 
    The UK is one of only a few European countries expected to have labour supply growth in the next 15 years. By 2050, it is likely to overtake both France and Germany to become Europe’s largest population.
  4. Low labour costs
    UK labour costs are some of the most competitive in Western Europe – lower than France, Ireland, Netherlands and Germany – helped by low employer social security contributions.
  5. A logistics hub
    Highly developed transportation networks help serve businesses of all shapes and sizes.

5 key challenges2

  1. 1

    Complex tax rules

    Despite having some of the lowest corporate tax rates across the globe, the UK’s tax system can be tricky to negotiate. It takes 110 hours for a medium-sized company to prepare, file and pay its taxes each year.

  2. 2

    Slow decision-making processes

    The pace of negotiation with some UK companies can be hard to predict. The decision-making process at some more traditional companies can appear slow, so it’s worth factoring in plenty of time for negotiations.

  3. 3

    Multiple legal systems

    The UK does not have one legal system. Instead, there is one system for England and Wales, a second for Scotland and a third for Northern Ireland.

  4. 4

    Registering a property

    The World Bank cites registering a property as the most arduous task in setting up a business in the UK, involving an average of six procedures and taking 29 days to complete.

  5. 5

    Attitudes to time

    Punctuality is a virtue within UK business circles. Merely turning up late for a business meeting can be a deal-breaker. If you can, arrive 10 minutes early.

     

    These statements relate to a pre-Brexit landscape and will be updated in due course.