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The Actuary The magazine of the Institute & Faculty of Actuaries

Financial services sector booming

The UK’s financial services sector experienced a significant improvement in business conditions in the second quarter of this year, according to a survey of firms by the CBI and PwC.

financial services booming / shutterstock
Financial services more profitabe ©Shutterstock

The findings reveal that companies enjoyed higher business volumes and greater profitability in the three months to June, while almost half said that they had increased employment.

However, the sector as a whole was less optimistic about the overall business situation, with finance houses, insurance brokers and investment managers, notable exceptions.

“The robust performance of financial services firms over the last quarter gives us a good dose of summer cheer,” CBI chief economist, Rain Newton-Smith, said. “But there are mixed messages coming from the sector.”

“While business activity is holding up strongly, optimism took another dive, which likely reflected a mix of Brexit uncertainty and concerns that financial market conditions could tighten.”

Some 94 firms took part in the survey, with 41% reporting that profits increased in the last quarter, and 6% saying they fell, giving an overall balance of +35% - similar to the March score of +33%.

Almost half enjoyed increased business volumes, while 3% said they were down, giving a net score of +44%, compared to +18% in March, while a balance of +29% hired more, compared with +11% three months earlier.

In addition, financial services firms expect to increase IT spending at the fastest pace since December 2015, although they intend to cut back on investment in land, buildings, vehicles and machinery.

It was also found that 63% are actively investing in technologies to enable data analysis, such as customer history and risk profiling, while 40% say they may invest in artificial intelligence, and 35% in situational data analysis.

“The UK will continue to be a leading financial centre, but political uncertainty and is fuelling more questions about companies’ futures and the performance of the wider economy,” PwC head of financial services, Andrew Kail, said.

“In response, firms continue to fine tune their contingency plans, which include options for establishing operations in the EU27 and ensuring they are adequately resourced.

“More widely, the sector continues to respond to the impact of digital advances in the way they serve their customers and they run their business. We are seeing plans in this area accelerate markedly.”

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