Investing through uncertainty

Harley Kagan, Group Managing Director

Yet again we find ourselves publishing our newest edition of The Specialist in a period when political change is an almost daily occurrence…

Our Spring edition came out just a few days before the end of March when we ‘should’ have originally left the EU. Today is the 30th October, the day before the date Prime Minister Boris Johnson pledged in the strongest terms that we would be Brexiting. We now have another extension to the 31st January 2020 and Parliament has finally agreed to holding a General Election on December 12th. With the House of Lords expected to rubber stamp the move later today, who knows what the political landscape will look like by Christmas.

The extension, whilst prolonging the uncertainty, will hopefully avoid us leaving the EU without a deal. The recent report from the Institute for Fiscal Studies predicting that even a ‘relatively benign’ no deal scenario would push the UK’s national debt to the highest level since the 1960s, was sobering.

Living and working with uncertainty has become the new normal for many of us. We cannot simply put life and plans on hold and wait for stability to return. Whatever the circumstances, Brexit or remain, deal or no deal, something else will eventually come along and change the picture. When planning, we are prepared for the unexpected but not deterred by it. Whilst not ignoring what’s going on around us, we have nonetheless continued to invest in our business, both in people, processes and technology. We have introduced some exciting new fintech solutions such as a smart facial recognition ID verifying system, used at present by our mortgage customers, and our Deposits division is about to unveil the results of many months of hard work developing an online banking system for our savings customers.

Employing technology appropriately will enable us to up-scale our business significantly over the coming years, so these steps are exciting milestones in UTB’s evolution. Investment takes money of course and our recent successful placing of £20m of Tier 2 debt at encouragingly favourable rates was a firm vote of confidence in our business, our people and our future. We also continue to attract the brightest people to come and work with us as we recruit across the Bank and the boardroom. We have been delighted to welcome two outstanding new non-executive directors to UTB. Maria Harris is well-known in the mortgage industry for her influential role at Atom Bank and her deep interest and knowledge in all things fintech. Sarah Laessig is a highly experienced senior executive involved in the highest levels of decision making in the public and private sectors. As a Commissioner on the Civil Service Commission, she’s part of an independent regulator that oversees senior appointments to the Civil Service. Their knowledge and experience will bring additional expertise to our board. You can read more about Maria and Sarah later in this magazine.

UTB is heading towards another successful year of lending growth, but we will predominantly reflect on 2019 as a year of investment. Whatever happens, this year or next, UTB is committed to remaining a significant player in the specialist lending industry for many years to come.