Akshaya Bhargava, CEO Wealth and Investments UK, looks back at the surprise political events of 2016 and the implications for private banking
2016 will long be remembered as the year of the unexpected; very few would have predicted at the start of the year that the UK would have voted to leave the European Union, both major political parties would have appointed new leaders, and that the US President would be Donald Trump. Throughout these turbulent times Barclays has remained committed to helping our clients navigate through the uncertainty, whilst developing new and innovative ways to engage and interact with clients.
The EU Referendum was a once in a generation political event, the impact of which will be felt for many years to come. Barclays has a clear message that the complexity of the situation will not hinder our ability to help and support our clients. We are yet to see the impact that leaving the EU will bring; following the initial panic post-referendum the short term landscape has remained unchanged and markets are waiting to see the long term outcome of the vote to leave. While we are waiting for more information on the UK economy, our view is that Brexit will have a more or less localised effect, with any potential headwind to UK activity slowing but not upending the European economic recovery.
With regards to the US election, we maintained that the gap between campaign rhetoric and actual policy implementation is routinely wide and we believe that economic self interest will prevail. Just as with the UK’s EU referendum, our view remains that investors are better served by focusing on the underlying global economy. The global economic backdrop continues to look favourable for those who would lean their investment portfolios towards stocks and away from bonds. The ongoing rout in government bonds is certainly being hastened by fears of the next administration’s potentially inflationary agenda, but this is a correction that we see as long overdue in a world where the forces of inflation are less structurally impaired than only recently imagined.
The service we offer to our clients continues to be increasingly enhanced by technology, bringing unprecedented levels of client engagement to our industry. This year we launched the Barclays Mobile Banking app for Wealth and our Direct Investing platform, representing our commitment to delivering our holistic investment philosophy in a way that clients can truly interact with. The app provides clients with a comprehensive view of their investments, in as much or as little detail as they would like, anytime and anywhere. This has had a great impact on our overall client experience, evidenced by improved NPS scores.
The world of savings and investments has continued to evolve. In this low interest rate environment, people are looking for financial products that will give them the best returns. Our new online direct investing service provides a simple way to invest online, putting our clients in control of their financial decisions and helping them to achieve their goals. In an increasingly digital world, it is vital that Barclays and the wider industry develop products and services that clients find usable, clear and engaging, and this will continue to be a focus for us as we move into 2017.