Norman Tenray

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Justin Urquhart-Stewart: Confidence is all we need

I recently had the very great pleasure of hosting an event at Preston’s College, in my capacity as President of the N&WL Chamber of Commerce, in which the keynote speaker was the irrepressible Justin Urqhurt-Stewart.

Justin Urquhart-Stewart of Seven Investment Management is a well-known financial commentator who arrived, resplendent in his trademark red tie and red braces. Justin’s presenting style was fantastically flamboyant and engaging, whilst the breadth of his knowledge was tremendous.

Discussing the state of the economy, Justin suggested the second decade of the 21st Century will be remembered as the “Tiny Teens”, arguing that we’ve entered a period of lower and slower growth, in which interest rates, inflation and returns will all be smaller than they’ve ever been before, representing a huge transition in the global economy from that of the noughties.

When thinking about the investment industry, Justin argued that it’s going to need a radical overall for people to start getting better returns for their investments, as at the moment, the investment industry utilises old fashioned business models that he believes are likely to be severely disrupted by competition and the restructuring (to maximise returns) this will bring.

The City often dominates our outlook on the economy, however we must remember that over 90% of business in the UK is done by SMEs. It’s time the investment industry realises their palaces of marble and plate glass are built and maintained on the huge profits of the boom; and as Justin argues, profits of the same proportions are unlikely to come through as investors look to maximise the returns on their investments, without significantly increasing their risk. The investment industry must therefore restructure to focus on how they can benefit SMEs, as well as the largest corporations and the mega rich.

Justin reminded us that until the London Stock Exchange consolidated the trading base of the UK, we used to have around 50 local stock exchanges which were much better at providing finances to businesses locally. Of course, we’re now in a world of crowd funding and financing, and in the future it may be technology which encourages local activity, as businesses look to individuals and other businesses to provide the capital they require, due to a loss of confidence and lack of progressiveness in existing financial mechanisms.

Too many people, it can feel like we live in a world of huge inequalities, a society which Justin jokingly referred to as The Have Nots, The Haves and Have Yachts. I passionately believe it’s our responsibility as business owners to find ways to overcome the inequalities in our communities and to give something back wherever possible, by getting involved in education and charitable and cultural activities, all of which will have tremendous benefits to our businesses as well as the communities we serve.

We’re constantly being bombarded with negativity, but the economy is growing and gaining pace, so now is the time to concentrate on building a positive message for the economy. I believe it takes courage, confidence and leadership to grow a business and the economy is no different. If we allow our media and government to constantly put out negative messages, we’ll stifle the growth we’ve already attained. To back up this point, Justin said we only have to look at the UK’s standing in the world. We’re the:

  • 5th Largest Economy
  • 8th Largest Manufacturer
  • 10th Largest Exporter

Not bad for a country outside the top 25 largest by population and 80th in terms of land mass.

So let’s all stop talking our economy down. Let us demonstrate the courage and confidence necessary to drive the economy out of the recovery, whilst actively pursuing a role of leadership in our communities to counteract the negativity we all too often face on a daily basis.

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