Firing line  

‘We risk recession if we do not get Brexit over the line’

‘We risk recession if we do not get Brexit over the line’

Legal & General’s group chief executive Nigel Wilson says the biggest challenge facing the UK is self-belief.

Mr Wilson explains: “We are a country where people have under-saved and under-invested.

“Consequently, the industry is under-advised, under-insured, under-invested and under-saved.”

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The key to tackling these issues starts with a positive outlook, as this has been the key to his own success, he says.

Armed with a degree in economics from the University of Essex and a PhD from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, his foray first into senior management was at McKinsey in 1982.

He is also a member of the expert group advising on the government’s social care green paper.

But it has not always been easy to stay cheerful, in fact, Mr Wilson admits to having “plenty of scars from business”.

He says: “You learn from all of those lessons what you can do better.

“It’s about looking at the past in an informative way and not dwelling on it, and I think a lot of people tend to dwell; therefore they have negative feelings about things.”

Restructuring L&G

During his time at L&G, Mr Wilson has led several restructures within the group, with the aim to streamline the business, focusing on areas where he says would “accelerate the growth of the business”, and maximise each division.

In 2013, L&G confirmed that 600 jobs were at risk as a result of a merger of the company’s savings and protection business.

At the time, Mr Wilson explained: “The successful turnaround of the savings business now enables us to reorganise our business in a way which best reflects customer needs and the increasingly digital distribution environment.”

This has been his mantra for several years, but although he is electrifyingly optimistic about Britain, he also has a bugbear.

 He says: “The majority in the UK don’t have proper pensions, and as a nation, we have under-built housing.

“If you or I put together a list of the top 10 things that need fixing in the UK, we are probably working to improve all those areas and our willingness and capacity to invest is growing exponentially, rather than staying static.”

But every industry has to step up to the challenge, he says.

“As an economy, we are over dependant on banks and so institutions like us have a role to play.

Political uncertainty

Investing to try and deliver inclusive capitalism to bring everybody’s lifestyle up is not happening, because of the political unrest caused by underinvestment, notes Mr Wilson.

“It’s really a catch-22 situation,” he adds.

He continues: “As a consequence of that, we’ve created all this political fragmentation and this uncertainty which is now having an impact on business.”