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Oxford’s Place in the Global Market. An evening with Lord Digby Jones

Business leaders representing leading global companies based in Oxfordshire recently attended an evening dinner with Lord Digby Jones at the prestigious Divinity School within the Bodleian Library. The event was hosted by leading law firm, Freeths Solicitors and Accountancy and Business Advisory firm, James Cowper Kreston.

With over 60 guests in attendance representing industries ranging from bio-tech, education to property and construction that all contribute to the widespread Oxfordshire business landscape and the UK economy. The evening opened with networking in the beautiful surroundings of the Divinity School allowing guests to take the opportunity to catch up with their business peers while others took the opportunity to make new introductions before taking their seats.

The business theme for the evening was Oxford’s Place in the Global Market, which was to be led by the keynote speaker, Lord Digby Jones. Lord Digby Jones is no stranger to the principles of business and how the UK, Europe and Global economies operate. He has served as Director General of CBI and the Minister of State for Trade and Investment. Prior to this, Lord Digby Jones spent twenty years at law firm Edge & Ellison, where he reached senior partner level. He received his knighthood in 2005 for his services to business, making him the right keynote speaker to lead the discussion among the business leaders in the room.

On building up to the topic of Oxford’s Place in the Global Market, Lord Digby Jones began discussing something everyone is familiar with in Oxford, which was of course the amazing colleges it has to offer. He continued to take his guests on a trip down memory lane by regaling stories of his initial interview with Trinity College when applying to the University of Oxford as an undergraduate, which he then went on to explain it did not go according to plan. It was some many years later that Lord Digby Jones attended Trinity College as a guest and was asked by a fellow of Trinity why he never considered attending Oxford as an undergraduate. Lord Digby Jones humoured the guests in the room by saying he didn’t have the heart to tell the fellow what happened at his interview all those years ago.

He continued with his talk on Oxford’s Place in the Global Market, which included his views on Brexit, trade deals, UK population increase, and the public sector in respect of doing more for businesses. Throughout his talk he made clear how important Oxford businesses are to the local and national society, and how they are a vital component to keeping the economy moving. He also touched on other subjects such as technology and the differences it makes for modern businesses, the negative and positive communities it can create and how we have lost a lot of human interaction with one another due to the disruption of mobile phone technology, in particular society’s interaction with social media. Education in Oxfordshire was also on the agenda discussing ways to get the younger generation into businesses and how to keep them there. The talk also covered topics such as innovation in today’s current market, how do you keep on top of the pile and where do we go from here? The talk ended with an extremely interesting and extensive Q&A session in which all the guests got involved in and got to ask their burning questions to Lord Digby Jones.

Leon Arnold, Head of Corporate at Freeths, said “It was great to see Lord Digby, who was my first ever boss in 1997.

As always the room was interested and entertained as he talked about not only his past connections to the city but also its place in the British economy. Looking into the future he discussed Oxford’s opportunities and challenges, acknowledging that we are well placed to continue to thrive.

There were lots of questions and a lively debate, I suspect we could have gone on to the small hours had I not reluctantly let Lord Digby finish. The feedback from the evening was great with people enjoying both the third party perspective of such a qualified speaker and also the opportunity to exchange view in such a marvellous setting.

Thanks must go to him, James Cowper Kreston and the attendees, many of Oxford’s premier businesses and some genuinely world class companies amongst them. Thanks also to Oxford Fine Dining for some exceptional food.”

Sue Staunton, Partner and Head of Technology at James Cowper Kreston, said “We were delighted to host an exceptional event with Freeths, attracting a variety of prestigious companies from across Oxfordshire. Our key note speaker, Lord Digby Jones was engaging in providing his insight into a range of issues affecting the British economy now and in the future with a focus on Oxfordshire’s place in the global market. Located in the spectacular Divinity School (the oldest part of the University of Oxford) guests exchanged their views on the future for Oxford, proving that our City will continue to excel despite uncertain times ahead. We would like to thank everyone who attended, the venue and catering team and Lord Digby Jones for helping us achieve such an interesting event.”

As the evening drew to a close the business leaders in the room continued the discussions among themselves. The evening then ended with a lot of positive thoughts and praises from the attendees for another interesting and enlightening evening from Freeths and James Cowper Kreston.