Market update – April 21

Simon RoderickMarket updates

Notes from the park - monthly updates

Things seem to be going okay, don’t they? I don’t want to tempt fate, but there does seem to be light at the end of the tunnel, and the miracle of the UK vaccine roll out seems to be paying dividends. We’re certainly seeing a positive effect on client confidence. Areas that were previously hard hit, such as sales roles, are coming back at pace (within wealth & asset management) and our Asset Finance practice expected a surge in roles within collections & recoveries. Whilst demand is higher than previous years, it’s not quite at the level perhaps originally thought. This is perhaps reflected in banks reducing their provisions for bad debt in their recent results.

Virtually every money manager has seen an uptick in assets over the last year, mainly from clients topping up. However, whilst businesses can be run remotely for this period of time, there is some fraying around the edges now. Productivity is slipping a bit, some operational functions aren’t quite as strong, and investors at some point need to meet new managers. Remote due diligence is here to stay, hybrid working is here to stay, but my feeling is that in some shape and form offices need to re-open and seminars need to restart in person. I’d like to see more guidance and confidence around this from the government, so that we maximise the benefits of the vaccine success. About 30% of people we recently surveyed are in the office one day a week with a further 20% dropping in sporadically. However, the rest have no plans to return. The reality is that some don’t need to return often. However, I do fear that there will be a divide between those in the office benefiting from being known and those at home missing out. It shouldn’t happen, but I wondered if there’s something in human nature that means it does. We shall see.

What themes are we seeing? Digital marketing is accelerating and won’t drop off post pandemic. ESG isn’t a fad and whilst the financial services industry is tackling this subject with real zeal, there is lots more to be done. ESG comes mainly in two forms: assisting clients in participating in ESG investments and managing their own ESG governance. I expect a hiring boom in both areas, as we understand this subject better and the City re-positions itself as a funder of the green business. The final theme may surprise some, I feel there are lots of people considering a new role. COVID has given us all thinking time. We all exhausted Netflix by last May, and so we’ve had time to think about what we want from life. This will create turnover and change, but change is opportunity.

The UK struggled very tragically at the start of this pandemic, but we are coming out of it very well and I think it should give us enormous hope for the final half of this year and for 2022.

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