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While the global financial crisis of 2007–2008 may feel like an increasingly distant memory, its effects continue to be felt across the whole of the financial world. Despite significant improvements in the global economic landscape in the intervening years, global growth has been hampered in recent years by various geopolitical factors, including in 2015 a slowdown of economic activity in China, and weakening energy and commodity prices. In the UK, political uncertainty – before and after the referendum on membership of the EU in June 2016 – has had, and is likely to continue to have, a potentially destabilising effect on the UK asset management sector and its clients. The impact of the UK’s decision to leave the EU is expected to be significant, in particular for the UK and across the European continent, but also more widely.
Nevertheless, the importance of the asset management industry continues to grow. Nowhere is this truer than in the context of pensions, as the global population becomes larger, older and richer, and government initiatives to encourage independent pension provision continue. By way of example, in the UK, changes to the rules governing what retirees can do with their pension benefits are creating new opportunities and challenges for discretionary managers and product providers.
The activities of the financial services industry remain squarely in the public and regulatory eye, and the consequences of this focus are manifest in ongoing regulatory attention around the globe. Regulators are continuing to seek to address perceived systemic risks and preserve market stability through regulation.
It is not only regulators who continue to place additional demands on the financial services industry in the wake of the financial crisis; the need to rebuild trust has led investors to call for greater transparency around investments and risk management from those managing their funds.
The world of asset management is increasingly complex, but it is hoped that this edition of The Asset Management Review will be a useful and practical companion as we face the challenges and opportunities of the coming year.