Approaching uncertainty

Harley Kagan – Group Managing Director

It’s been nearly six months since a majority of UK voters decided that we should leave the European Union. Today, we really don’t know an awful lot more than we did back in June. In terms of politics, the most recent rhetoric is whether we will move towards a ‘hard’ or ‘soft’ Brexit, whatever that really means.

We are however, seeing some of the economic consequences of the result. [color_quote]Since the 23rd of June the value of the Pound has fallen by more than 15% against the US Dollar and inflation has risen faster than expected to 1.2%, the highest rate in more than 2 years. Rising inflation may have implications for the Base Rate and with inflation adjusted retail sales remaining largely flat in the run up to Christmas, there’s still the spectre of a spending slowdown hanging over us.[/color_quote]

We have been led to believe that Article 50 is most likely going to be triggered around the second quarter of 2017, but other than that, there’s a huge amount of uncertainty about what the next few years will mean for us. American physicist, [pull_quote]Brian Greene, once said; “Exploring the unknown requires tolerating uncertainty”.[/pull_quote] Many UK business owners and individuals will feel that this particular unknown has been thrust upon them, but nevertheless, we will all have to tolerate uncertainty for the next few years and embrace some inevitable changes if we are going to keep pushing our businesses forward. We should remind ourselves that we have 65 million people in the UK and we have a pool of vibrant, talented and entrepreneurial businesses.

We have our own home grown uncertainty, but there are also events further afield over which most of us here in the UK had no control whatsoever. One of these was the US Presidential election, one of the most controversial contests ever seen for tenure of the Oval Office. There is no doubt that President-elect Donald Trump is likely to be an unpredictable and unorthodox leader and his cabinet selections to date point to a completely different style of government than that of previous Republican Presidents, let alone Barack Obama. When we asked brokers which candidate they thought would be most beneficial to the UK economy, just 17% chose DonaldTrump compared to 69% for Hillary Clinton. We’ll never know who was right of course. We can only observe and be prepared for an interesting 4 (or maybe 8!) years.

Despite the distraction of the Brexit poll, we had another successful year at UTB and we have the support of our broker partners and the dedication of our excellent staff to thank for that. We increased our lending volumes, launched several new products and the launch of our Mortgage Division has been a great success; not just commercially, but by the way our entry into the sector has been welcomed by brokers and intermediaries. We were also delighted to be named Specialist Bank of the Year in 2016.

What 2017 has in store for us is uncertain, but we can tolerate that. In fact, we’ll go a step further, we relish the challenge.