It has been extremely hard for businesses in the UK to plan ahead amid the Brexit uncertainty, says Peter Ball, managing director and head of marketing and client services for Europe, the Middle East and Africa at Nomura Asset Management.
Mr Ball, former Kames Capital head of distribution, explains: “We’ve had to brainstorm all of the various scenarios, and we keep having to review our approach because of all the turmoil around Brexit.”
In fact, Mr Ball, who took on his new role in September 2018 after a year-long hiatus from the industry spent playing golf, rebuilding a house and visiting friends in New York, says he has a meeting regarding Brexit scheduled that very afternoon, “when I should be out talking to clients”.
He says: “Instead, we’re looking at, and focusing on, whether the regulators agree that our approach [to Brexit] is fine.”
He continues: “The government has just spent, essentially, something around 90+ per cent of its life working on Brexit, and while the regulators seem to be much calmer and in good discussions, they’re still sitting on the sidelines a little bit, waiting for the big resolution before they come out and say ‘everything is fine’.
“I don’t think people truly appreciate the amount of ‘eye off the ball’ of general business that has happened across the industry due to Brexit.”
Indeed, following years of uncertainty, companies across the sector have struggled to understand how to take precautionary action to safeguard interests against the many uncertainties and questions surrounding Britain’s exit from the EU.
Mr Ball continues: “I’ve got people who sell in Italy; so the question there was will they be able to do that if we crash out? It’s still not obvious if that’s going to be the case.
“However, we’re very fortunate that we have a Germany office with fund managers as well, so we can use that legal entity to help us, but having the uncertainty still around is not helpful.”
But it is not just the business that has had to deal with Brexit; clients have had to bear the brunt as well.
He says: “We have naturally written to some of our clients to say ‘we might need to change you from contacting with our UK legal entity to continental European’.
“The answer to the client is: you don’t know, we don’t know, but we’re just trying to plan for every eventuality.”
He adds: “And that has had to be impactful for the UK businesses.”
A positive outlook
Despite the negative impact on business productivity stemming from Brexit uncertainty, Mr Ball says the outlook at Nomura Asset Management is very much a positive one.
To avoid further slowdown of the economy and risk plunging the UK into recession, there has to be a positive resolution to Brexit, he explains.