As we start a new year, it is often a time to reflect on the last 12 months, to ask what we may have learnt and to speculate whether the coming year will have any major differences and it would be easy to fall into the trap of thinking nothing much has changed. After all, we still have the shadow of Covid hanging over us and with Omicron spiking both at home and abroad, there are some similarities with where we were this time last year but all we need to do is ‘to look under the bonnet’ and we will quickly see that things are actually very different.
It is worth remembering that the first vaccination was given in the UK on December 8th 2020, whereas now, there have been in excess of 133 Million doses administered, with the percentage of the population for each dose being demonstrated in the graph below.
Ignoring the political hyperbole, and the distortion of statistics not being reported consistently over the Christmas and New Year period, it would seem that Omicron is indeed spreading faster than Delta, but is less severe for most people and although hospitalisations are increasing, they are not soaring to anywhere near the degree they did a year ago and the mortality rates are also much lower – all of which is potentially good news, if indeed Covid is weakening through the mutation process as predicted.
Whilst we need more time to be certain, the investment markets certainly seem to be reassured that this is the case and that the major concerns are over staff absenteeism due to the self-isolation rules that remain in place, rather than the threat of further lockdowns or other restrictions.
This is part of the reason I believe, why markets ended 2021 in such a strong fashion, with the US and some European markets closing the year at record high levels. So, are we out of the woods? Not just yet I am sorry to say. As we know from history, markets are cyclical and periods of peak value are often followed but what the markets call ‘profit taking’ or ‘corrections’ – in plain English, that means values are likely to drop and we will in all likelihood, experience on-going volatility with some bumps in the road ahead.
That having been said, the longer-term picture remains a positive one with plenty of optimism being expressed by commentators who share this view. From an investment management perspective, we have also seen the Fund Managers we work with, taking a more defensive approach over recent weeks and so they should be well positioned to deal with the short term influences as they unfold.
And What About New Year Resolutions?
It is always dangerous to make firm resolutions as they can so often be easily broken and for this reason, I resist the temptation. However, a close-run thing to a resolution is my determination to see the evolution of our business, with the incorporation of Bates Campbell, into a new group structure to be completed in the early part of this year.
At the present time, we are in the hands of the FCA as our Regulator, who have to give their consent to our proposed changes, and in that regard, having submitted our application and answered their follow up questions, we are now playing a waiting game as their wheels tend to turn fairly slowly.
Once we receive their approval, we will then be able to launch the new branding which will include a new trading style and a revamped website, so we will have our work cut out to complete this task.
For our clients, apart from a new livery, there will be no changes to service levels or costs, although we are planning a number of improvements to systems and processes which we will keep you informed about as we move forwards.
Although predictions are dangerous, I am hoping that we will hear from the FCA soon enough to complete the process to coincide with our year end which falls on 31st March – we shall see!
Above all else, our priorities remain to provide an efficient and friendly service and to remain totally accessible and to help wherever we can.
Let me close by wishing you a Happy & Healthy New Year and let’s just hope 2022 shapes up to be a better year all round.
With best wishes from all at RAFP