Aberdeen and Grampian Chamber of Commerce (AGCC) has announced the appointment of industrialist Bob Keiller as its chairman and has published accounts which reveal the impact of the pandemic on the business group’s finances.
AGCC posted a “very small” deficit for the year to the end of December 2020, according to the annual report. Membership fell 12% as businesses either “resigned due to financial concerns” or were uncontactable, the chamber said.
Chief executive Russell Borthwick further warned this year “promises to be even more challenging unless we see a fast rebound of economic activity”.
The chamber accessed a number of financial levers during the year which are likely to be “unrepeatable”, including bids that resulted in being awarded grants as well as taking “limited” access of the government furlough scheme.
AGCC’s annual revenue fell 21% to £2.17 million which delivered an operating deficit of £25,872, compared to a profit of £85,749 the year before. However, the chamber was able to deliver a net profit after tax of £18,961, which compared to £185,366 in 2019.
In his directors’ report, Mr Borthwick said: “The events of 2020 put enormous pressure on our business model and commercial income streams. Despite this and the challenges created by having to largely work remotely, the team produced some great results in difficult circumstances.”
He added: “While conscious of the risks as we hopefully move into what will albeit likely be a gradual recovery phase, we need to remain strong and visible in support of our business community.
“This chamber has been there for its members for around 150 years and we need to make good decisions now that will ensure we are around for the next 150.”
Mr Keiller, a former chairman of Scottish Enterprise and chief executive officer of Wood Group, replaces Dr Colette Backwell. She will remain on the board in the role of immediate past president.
He said: “I am deeply honoured and very proud to be the new president and chair of the chamber.
“I’d like to thank Colette for all her hard work over the past two years and am looking forward to supporting the organisation as we move forward.
“The chamber is highly valued by its members however we have the opportunity to become even more valuable to the existing network but also more attractive to the wider business community.
“As an SME itself, the chamber needs to be run in a way that enables it to be responsive, flexible and react to both the needs of its members but also the economic opportunities that face us in this fast-moving world and I relish the opportunity to be part of making that happen.”
In her final president’s report, Ms Backwell said her term had “gone by incredibly quickly, accelerated in part by the bizarre circumstances arising from a global pandemic”.
She added: “There is much that I would have liked to achieve as president that was halted by the restrictions we all face.
“When we look back at this time, we will remember the challenges we faced as business leaders, as a society and as individuals but I am confident that we will ultimately reflect on the innovation and opportunities that have arisen in the face of those challenges and on the camaraderie and support of colleagues, who lifted us up and supported us through it.”
Jill Webster and Steven Nicol have both been appointed vice-presidents, joining existing VP Padraig McCloskey, external relations manager at Shell.
Ms Webster has over 35 years’ experience as director of SMEs as well as experience as provost of Aberdeenshire Council. Mr Nicol is chief financial officer at Wood.
John Michie of Charles Michie Pharmacy Group, Craig Stevenson of the Bon Accord and St Nicholas Centre, Jennifer Stanning of OGUK, Steven Alexander of SFF Services, Donella Beaton of Robert Gordon University and Graeme Ross of Aberdein Considine were reappointed for further three year terms.
Joining the council after having been endorsed at the AGM – its 166th held on Tuesday night – were David Phillips of First Aberdeen and Andrew Askew Blain of Brodies.