By Scott Wright

AS the new leader of accountancy giant Deloitte in Scotland, there is no shortage of big priorities demanding the attention of Angela Mitchell. However, instilling confidence in female colleagues is clearly a cause close to her heart.

Ms Mitchell, who has worked for Deloitte for 25 years, became the firm’s first female senior partner for Scotland when she succeeded Steve Williams

in June. Having studied for an MSc in business information technology systems, Ms Mitchell was at one stage “used to being the only woman in the room”.

Things have progressed since then, not least at Deloitte, where more than 50 per cent of her own team are female. However, there is still work to be done.

Ms Mitchell, who is “delighted” tobe the first woman to hold the senior partner role for Deloitte in Scotland, said: “I do think I bring a different perspective to the role. I am generalising of course, but I do think supporting other women to come through, which I have always tried to do, is really important.”

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Within that, encouraging colleagues to be “authentic” and “not be someone you are not” are hugely important.

“I just think that gives a lot of women confidence as they are developing their own careers,” Ms Mitchell said. “One of the things I always tell women in my team is to be kind yourself.”

Ms Mitchell said it was also important for women to realise they can take on more senior roles as they balance work and family life. One of the reasons differences on gender pay persist, she notes, is because of differing levels of seniority between men and women.

“It is giving women confidence to think they can take on new challenges,” she said.

Ms Mitchell has assumed the top job at Deloitte at a time of acute economic crisis. We speak the day before Ofgem on Friday announced its latest rise in the energy price cap, heightening fears over how households will cope with massive increases in energy bills this winter. Worry over energy costs is also being felt profoundly in the business community, which is also facing huge increases in other overheads, such as raw materials, pay and recruitment.

Deloitte’s latest Consumer Tracker, published this month, showed consumer confidence had fallen by 4% in the second quarter. That took it to a historical low of -20%, below the previous record set in the fourth quarter of 2020, when Covid restrictions were in place.

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However, when asked to comment on the prevailing sentiment among Deloitte’s clients, Ms Mitchell said firms were proving to be “resilient”.

“While finances have edged towards more defensive balance sheet strategies, they haven’t yet battened down the hatches,” she said. “Risk appetite is only slightly below average levels, well above the lows we saw in the financial crisis, the EU referendum or during the pandemic.

“I think businesses remain optimistic. They remain convinced growth and resilience will only come through increased spending on digital technology and the skills to use it.

“The Bank of England and other forecasters are predicting we are going to fall into a recession later this year and that business confidence is likely to be hit. But business growth isn’t dependent solely on the ups and downs of the economic cycle; it can be driven by other factors.”

These could include re-organisation of work, application of new technologies and investment to improve productivity and staff retention. “So I am positive about the prospects to improve productivity,” Ms Mitchell said, “and I think we will see increased investment in tools and digital technology.”

She also highlighted the growing awareness of the link between public health and the health of the economy, which is “crucial to recovery and growth” and increasingly featuring in discussions with clients.

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Meanwhile, Ms Mitchell said the deals market “remains strong” in Scotland, despite the cost of borrowing rising as base rates are increased. Businesses north of the Border continue to be seen as offering good value to investors such as private equity players from the UK and overseas, she said. Trade buyers from around the US and Europe are also targeting opportunities in Scotland, which she said highlights the quality of independent businesses operating in the Scottish market.

After a series of major Scottish businesses were acquired in recent months, with deals including the sale of Stagecoach to German infrastructure giant DWS, Ms Mitchell acknowledged widely held concerns that Scotland finds it hard to hold on to its most successful companies.

But she was encouraged to see the Scottish National Investment Bank link up with The Hunter Foundation to introduce an advanced iteration of the ScaleupScotland programme. It will aim to get more companies beyond the start-up stage and into the realms of turning over £100 million.

“Initiatives like that are fabulous because we do need to support our businesses get to bigger stages,” Ms Mitchell said. “It would be nice to see more Scottish scale-ups staying in Scotland.”

Six Questions

What countries have you most enjoyed travelling to, for business or leisure, and why?
I love Portugal. There’s nowhere better for a family holiday – great weather, great people, and great food and wine.

When you were a child, what was your ideal job? Why did it appeal?
A pilot. Flying above the clouds, visiting so many countries around the world. I had to start wearing glasses when I was 14 so that put an end to that.

What was your biggest break in business?
I became a partner with Deloitte 12 years ago. For me that was a massive step in terms of building my confidence and being able to take on new roles and new challenges. 

What was your worst moment in business?
March 2020 – moving everyone into remote working and not being able to see clients or my teams, not to mention home schooling at the same time. But we all managed much better than I could have imagined.

Who do you most admire and why?
I admire many people in everyday life, rather than icons or politicians, for overcoming their challenges and achieving wonderful things. If you force me to pick a known figure then I would say Sir David Attenborough – he has been exploring nature and bringing it into people’s homes for 70 years and I admire his passionate campaigning to tackle climate change.

What book are you reading and what music are you listening to?
I’m not very current in my music taste, I still like to listen to 90s. 
I went to see Hipsway at Barrowlands recently and it was just brilliant – sang along to every word! 
Reading is a luxury for me, but I discovered an author called Lisa Jewell last year and have read several of her thrillers, I love the gripping stories and they are brilliantly twisty.