As we contemplate Christmas Day being just one week away, I’m sure we are all asking ourselves the question “where did 2023 disappear to?” Without any doubt, the year seems to have disappeared very quickly and as it draws to a close, we start to wonder what 2024 will have in store for us.
The title of this News and Views is referring to Stock Markets and last week, we saw a significant rally following a fairly dovish announcement by Jerome Powell, Chairman of the Federal Reserve. He indicated that not only have interest rates reached a peak in the US but during 2024, he is expecting a downward trend with a series of interest rate reductions being anticipated. (One would like to think that this reflects his view of the US economy rather than perhaps being related to the Presidential election which will take place in November 2024.)
It's a shame that Andrew Bailey, Governor of the Bank of England, struggles to find anything positive to say and most recently, commented that the outlook for the UK economy is as bad as he has ever known it – thanks for the positive thoughts Andrew!
Following the comments from the US, all that the Bank of England could say is that it anticipates interest rates remaining higher for longer and yet we see some contradictory information, inasmuch that mortgage lending rates have started to fall, and it is anticipated that two year fixed terms will drop below 6% for the first time since rates were hiked.
As always, markets are trying to anticipate 6 to 9 months ahead and the now expected interest rate reductions in 2024, will have prompted the positive movements last week. It’s often said that if the US sneezes the rest of the world catches a cold, so let’s just hope with some positivity and good news, the rest of the world can follow the upward trend. Time will tell whether this was just a temporary bounce pre-Christmas or if indeed we have reached that longed for turning point!
Christmas Opening and Seasons Greetings
Please note that over the Christmas period our office will be closed, with the last working day being 22nd December and we will reopen on the 2nd of January.
If you have an urgent need to contact us, please use my email – email@example.com and we will do our best to help out.
As in previous years, rather than sending Christmas cards, we have decided to make charitable donations and I can confirm that we have sent £100 each to the Kent Hospice in the Weald and Macmillan Cancer Support.
What’s Coming in 2024 – Our New Year Resolutions!
Once the Christmas celebrations are over, our attention will turn to the New Year, and we have a number of projects and issues that we have been working on that should be rolled out during 2024.
In July 2023, we saw the introduction of the Consumer Duty requirements by the Regulator in the UK, which are an ongoing measurement of how well we meet a number of standards and the onus is on us to provide the evidence that we are doing so.
Who we are and what we do! - We thought this would be a good opportunity to have a think about the services that we provide and what we do professionally behind-the-scenes to ensure that our standards are maintained in support of our client relationships. We are just putting the finishing touches to this document and will be sharing it with you in the New Year and we hope that you will find this to be both informative and useful.
Cyber Security - One of the key concerns that we have to keep in mind is that of cyber security and we recognise that as a profession, we gather and retain a lot of information about clients that could be misused if it fell into the wrong hands. For this reason, we are constantly reviewing our security arrangements and in principle, we use robust, cloud-based solutions which in themselves have several layers of protection.
We are also concerned about information that we share by email, and we need to look at methods of passwording or encryption to ensure security of sensitive data. We are also using digital signatures where possible and as the industry increasingly accepts these, we expect to do so more in the future.
Client Portal - With all of this in mind, we are in the process of looking at a client portal which will be totally secure and will enable unique access for each of our clients through a heavily protected, but easy to use system, through which you will not only be able to access your data and update it, but also we will be able to exchange documents securely.
We anticipate running a pilot in the early part of 2024 with a view to rolling it out to all clients thereafter. It is quite likely that we will introduce you to this at a future annual review meeting to ensure that you are totally comfortable using the portal or alternatively to agreeing other arrangements if you prefer.
European Regulation – for our European clients, since Brexit, when our cross-border regulatory passport was revoked, I personally have been authorised through a European network to maintain fully compliant advice where it is needed for clients resident in the EU.
This was intended to be a temporary fix and we have been looking at alternative solutions and I’m pleased to say that we have now formed a new group company, Alexander Bates Campbell Europe Ltd, which is in the process of gaining authorisation within Europe which will enable us to both maintain and develop relationships further for clients resident in the EU all within the ABC group.
All in all, 2024 will be anything but dull and that’s before we even think about the pantomime of elections in the US and the UK!
As we think about others and the struggles that they are facing, we sincerely hope that there can be a resolution to the conflicts in both Ukraine and Palestine and come to that, wherever there is suffering in the world.
Stay say and we wish you and your loved ones a very Merry Christmas and thumbs up for 2024.
As always, if we can assist in any way, please do let us know and we will keep in touch.
Best wishes from all at ABC.