While, in hindsight, some of my columns last year may have been a tad maudlin, I felt that they accurately conveyed the zeitgeist and prevailing mood of the market at the time: uncertainty, a lack of confidence and a semi-bleak outlook for the coming year. However, I’d say that has now changed. Whereas last year there was just a degree of blind hope that momentum would carry us to better things, there is now a palpable feeling of optimism in the air for a number of reasons.
There are teasing hints that decent net interest income levels will return sooner than we could have ever hoped for and those who can grasp the nettle of the Alternative Investment Fund Managers Directive—and the other 30-odd pieces of ‘relevant’ legislation coming down the pipe—will be rewarded. On this front, all credit to Northern Trust for its sterling efforts in building up the depository business in the UK. The bank will be the one to watch in this space. Likewise, increased optimism has led to a rise in the number of smaller firms having the confidence and desire to grow their market share, and these plucky, nimble newcomers will keep established players on their toes—SS&C Technologies, Wells Fargo, Alter Domus and U.S. Bancorp being just some of the names to watch out for.
This coming year, as ever, there will be some winners and losers, which is how it should be in a market structure—will it be the universal banks, the specialists, those offering a premium service or those going down the Primark (a low-cost British retailer, for the uninitiated) route of ‘stacking it high and selling it cheap’? Business, like life, is a series of trade-offs, and can you afford to be nice when there is no direct correlation with the bottom line?
From a hiring perspective, there is still, unfortunately, a misconception that nirvana can be achieved by continually buying in staff from outside rather than investing in the ‘Three Ts’ of ‘Time, Training and Trust’ for existing staff—and yes, I’ll keep banging on about it until people start to embrace it. Only one thing is certain—that it will all come down to the quality of the people employed and their drive, intelligence, morality and strategic thinking. Lots to look forward to, so let’s enjoy the ride.
As ever, do let me know your thoughts. Drop me a line at paul@localhost