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COVID-19: crisis with a legacy

24 July: Every business is affected by this crisis. So how can we use this as an opportunity to rebuild? In ICAEW’s latest podcast, we learn from the businesses that have already started.

Imran Nawaz, Tate and Lyle’s CFO, is proud of the efforts his company has made to shield itself from the negative impacts of COVID-19. 

Speaking on ICAEW’s latest More Than a Number podcast, he said the business had created a ‘cash war room’ where sales, finance and treasury teams would meet daily to address any cash issues and make sure Tate and Lyle was on the right track. 


Capital commitments were reviewed with a sense of urgency to ensure that nothing critical was cut. The business also raised $100m of extra debt in a market with a record-low interest rate. Alongside this, the leadership team moved swiftly to ensure it could still operate effectively in all of its locations around the world. Office workers adapted to remote working, while the mutual trust, communication and processes developed between workers and leadership allowed all plants to continue to run. 

Tate and Lyle also prioritised its research and development, keeping labs open under new COVID-safe conditions and shipping samples out to customers for remote product testing. 

“[Our progress] makes me rethink the work of the future and what that looks like for Tate and Lyle,” he says. “It’s clear to me that even in a post-pandemic world, we will not and should not ignore the learnings.”

Nawaz and Tate and Lyle’s success story is just one of several shared on the More Than a Number COVID-19 podcast. The episode takes a look at how the pandemic is reshaping our working environment, and how businesses are and could adapt. 

Alongside Nawaz, Professor Rob Field, co-founder and CEO of SME Iceni Diagnostics, explains how the company’s research into infectious diseases was pivoted from equine flu to a focus on COVID-19 – particularly on simpler testing and diagnosis kits – which has created better commercial opportunities for the firm. “We’ve taken huge steps forward in a direction we never expected to go in.”

Thomas Delgado, CEO and founder of Pollution Solution, which has created technology that captures and clean up to 97% of road-based emissions, explains how they were able to speed up progress during the pandemic. Lucas Ochoa, chief creative officer of the scripted division of Pulse Films, which Sky Atlantic drama Gangs of London, explains how COVID-19 is changing the kind of stories that people want to tell and see, and how the industry is adapting to a new way of working.

Commenting on each of these stories are Susan Cox-Smith, a futurist with changist.com, and Anna Leach, deputy chief economist, CBI. “There’s a very real tendency for organisations to think that moving forwards always means up and to the right and that you want to aim for that in every change or pivot that you try to make in future situations,” Cox-Smith says of adapting to the new conditions created by COVID-19. “What it does is hamstring organisations, often because they can’t see a way to shift out of their official future and look at other opportunities, spaces and possibilities.”

Leach explains that there are many lessons that companies and governments learned from the financial crisis that can be applied to the current situation. “So much government money was spent [during the financial crisis]. It’s so rare for that to happen outside of wartime. The government was very focused at the time on their own financial position. Now, with COVID, but also with that memory of the global financial crisis, governments can say: this is another shock with ramifications for government finances, what can we take away from our response to the global financial crisis and learn to do better this time?”

For full accounts of each business and analysis of what COVID means for the business world, you can listen to the COVID-19 – crisis with a legacy episode by clicking here. You can also subscribe to More Than a Number through any podcasting platform.