UK FS firms bouncing back

The UK’s financial services firms saw strong growth in the three months to September, with profits rebounding and hiring on the up. At the same time, though, companies will have to square up to significant regulation challenges and competition from new entrants, according to the 100th CBI/PwC survey of the sector.

Business volumes grew at their fastest rate since 2007 and the momentum is expected to continue into the coming quarter. Rising volumes helped push up overall profitability, which bounced back after the previous quarter’s contraction, and business volumes are predicted to grow strongly again through to the end of 2014. Profits rose robustly despite a spike in costs and are expected to grow at a similar rate in the next quarter. But while costs rose at a record pace, this was off-set by a drop in the value of non-performing loans, which fell at the fastest rate since 1996.

Firms, meanwhile, say statutory legislation/regulation and competition are likely to be the biggest constraints on business over the coming year, while concerns about level of demand have dropped off sharply. Kevin Burrowes, UK financial services leader at PwC, says: “The survey paints a picture of improving confidence and profitability. There is an increasing focus on new services and technology-enabled growth. Time will tell if established banks are underestimating their need for digital capabilities as we see a continued influx of new entrants without the chains of legacy systems, meaning that tougher competition is an increasing concern. There are hints of a new ‘war for talent’ and tighter monetary policy in 2015 could also pose a challenge.”

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