It was going to happen sooner rather than later. The news that Standard Life has appointed a new “Head of Brexit Strategy” was quickly followed this week by an FTfm report on the preparations asset managers are making for Britain’s exit from the EU, indicating the investment industry at least is no longer prepared to wait (not even until the outcome of the General Election) to take action.
The mechanics of preparing for such a fundamental change in landscape will be complex, challenging and above all lengthy. It should therefore come as little surprise that asset managers want as much time as possible to get their affairs in order.
We are told that asset managers, concerned about the UK’s position as a preeminent financial centre, have sought to expand their presence on the continent via recruitment, establishing new offices to grow their geographic footprint and applying for new licenses from regulators to circumvent any difficulties in distributing and selling their products.
All of this seems sensible. Granted, we have a long way to go until the final terms of Brexit are ratified and while it seems unlikely at the moment, it is entirely possible that the City retains its standing and that conditions for investment businesses seeking to sell their products end up being favourable. At this stage however when so much is uncertain, a “hope for the best, plan for the worst” approach appears the best course of action.
This said, media coverage of these issues to date have almost exclusively focused on what asset management companies are doing to protect their businesses and safeguard their long term interests. Far less mention, at least explicitly, has been made of the implications for underlying investors, particularly those here in the UK.
As if the challenges of Brexit weren’t enough, it will be vital for asset managers (and other financial services providers) to factor this into their plans and actively communicate the benefits their efforts will have for their clients.
For domestically headquartered businesses, this will require regular efforts to address the issues directly affecting their UK clients to reassure investors they have not been forgotten about in business’ preparations for the Brexit maelstrom. For overseas firms, communication efforts will need to be focused on reaffirming their commitment to the UK market and clearly articulating the provisions they are putting in place to ensure investors here face minimal disruption from Brexit negotiations and an eventual settlement (assuming any does come to pass).
The best communications are those that are client-centric. Those relating to Brexit should be no exception.