Senior leaders from businesses across the South East gathered at our annual economic conference in Chelmsford on Thursday 5 March discuss the state of the UK economy and its future outlook.
High on the agenda for delegates was the potential impact of coronavirus as well as the volatility of global politics. Indeed, ranked amongst a no deal Brexit and the policies of the current government, those attending the event identified coronavirus as the biggest current threat to productivity.
Despite a recent bounce in the performance of the economy, recent developments mean the majority of delegates are running their businesses with the expectation that the Bank of England won’t be cutting interest rates in the coming months.
Speaking at the conference, Alex Golledge, Deputy Agent (South East and East Anglia) at the Bank of England, discussed the bank’s position on interest rates, growth, and inflation, as well as examining the impact uncertainty has had on the markets.
He said: “The Bank of England’s role is to help UK businesses and households manage through an economic shock that could prove large but will ultimately be temporary.
“The Bank will take all necessary steps to support the UK economy and financial system, consistent with its statutory responsibilities.
“We are monitoring the situation closely across all our functions and ensuring all necessary contingency plans are in place.”
The theme of uncertainty causing a potential slowdown in the improving economy was confirmed by Svetlana Dimitrijevic, Senior Insight Manager and Rosalia Wood, Regional Industrial Strategy Manager, of accounting industry body ICAEW. Presenting the results of the ICAEW’s latest Business Confidence Monitor, concerns were raised around the potential for South East businesses to be subject to late payments as a result of ongoing disruption in their supply chains.
Looking further afield, renowned market commentator Justin Urquhart-Stewart, who co-founded investment firm 7IM, explored the impact of global affairs including America’s ongoing economic ‘sugar rush’ as well as the influence of nation states and media reporting on the UK’s outlook.
“We’re living through a strange time, and it can be difficult to work out what is actually real news and also seeing through our own tech-enabled echo chambers. It’s important to remember that the one word that runs the economy is ‘confidence’.
“While it can be easy for individuals to be swept up in the tide of doomsday headlines about coronavirus and its effect on the markets, it’s really crucial that we maintain our perspective. We’re operating from a position of strength and in the long-term, things will level out – it’s about time in the market, rather than timing the market.
“Making sensible investment choices, keeping our assets where they are, and then leaving them there – for the long haul – is the surest way to minimise disruption and maximise profits in the long term. That’s why the sound financial guidance FRP can advise on is so needed – they help to navigate succession planning and understand the intricacies around investment and inheritance law to ensure businesses can make sensible and informed decisions, plan ahead and take stock of liabilities and assets.”