At the time of writing the FTSE 100 index has recorded an all-time high. This is good news although it is worth remembering that the index is very much weighted towards the larger more internationally focused companies with a concentration in resources and it is these which have rebounded the most. The more domestically focused FTSE 250 Index remains some 18% off its high. Elsewhere, international markets have broadly lagged in the period, particularly in sterling terms. The upshot is that the UK market performance has not yet translated into strong portfolio returns.
A key reason for the improving UK performance has been the removal of some of the political instability that was weighing on investor sentiment. The new Prime Minister has, for now, calmed the markets which have appreciated the Chancellor’s more fiscally responsible approach; this has been a relief, particularly for bond investors. As for inflation, we hope the most recent rate rise may be the last for the time being. As a nation we are hugely sensitive to interest rates, with our shorter term fixed rate mortgages and high levels of personal debt.
Given the big lead the Labour Party currently have in the polls, we thought we would look ahead and examine how Labour, should they win the next election, might be seen by business and markets. Our guest editorial this issue has been penned by a former Labour member of parliament and it is encouraging that she shares our view that a Labour government would continue to see the financial services sector as hugely important to the health of the country. Interestingly she is not totally convinced of a Labour victory.
Whatever happens in the next General Election it is unlikely to change the battle that is still raging within the retail sector. Our editorial this quarter features a look at the strength of the high street and the continued threat of online retail. The suggestion is that physical retailers can continue to hold off the online giants via a re-imagination of what shopping looks like and of course, greater use of technology.
I would also like to draw our readers’ attention to the news article which highlights the upgrade to our client portal. This is an important step in the development of our client offering with the new platform enhancing both the security of client data and providing the opportunity to improve the functionality of our core digital communication channel. We have been delighted that many of you have chosen to use the portal and the secure messaging service within it, which can offer a more secure method of communication.
As we approach the end of the tax year, can I remind clients of some impending tax changes which we highlighted in the last edition of Prospects. As a reminder, both the CGT allowance and the amount of dividend charged at the ‘nil rate’ are both reducing from April and then reducing further again in April 2024. If you have any concerns with regard to this, do speak to your investment manager and remember that our wealth planning team can also help.
An increasing number of clients have appreciated the complexities associated with financial planning and pensions and retirement planning continue to be the focus for our wealth planning team. One area where we are seeing a sharp increase in people needing advice is in the Lifetime Allowance rules for pensions. Wealth planner, Atticus Kidd has summarised the key points his the article The Lifetime Allowance. Is it just a nice problem to have?, where he has simplified a dry and complex, but important, topic.
Finally, a new regulatory regime is being implemented later this year giving us the requirement to ensure that all of our communications are meeting the needs and understanding of the intended recipient. To this end, we will be inviting clients to take part in another client survey later in the year which I hope will be a good opportunity to share your thoughts on how we provide our services to you.
Hugo Bedford CEO