2014 has been busy in the financial advice industry. Government auto-enrolment pension legislation has led to a huge surge in demand for new corporate schemes, and things look set to become increasingly busy for us next year as smaller businesses reach their staging dates and receive notification from the Government regarding their obligation to provide compliant schemes for their employees.
We’ve also experienced a flood of enquiries from people looking to learn more or take advantage of the new, more flexible pension legislation announced earlier this year, which effectively allows them much greater choice at retirement as opposed to being shoe-horned into purchasing an annuity.
Our mortgage business has also increased, due in part to increased enquiries from customers finding it increasingly difficult to source a mortgage by themselves following tougher regulations bought introduced in April by the Mortgage Market Review.
The investment landscape this year has been quite volatile. The FTSE 100 index is down roughly 6% since early January. This is largely because the index contains many oil producers and mining companies, which are suffering from weak commodity prices.
Because of this, 2014 has been a tough year for most index tracker funds, whereas some actively managed funds which have consciously avoided exposure to these sectors have delivered substantial positive returns.
There are potential pitfalls going forward. The eurozone is still suffering and does not appear to be addressing the problems that the single currency is inflicting on its weaker constituents. It is almost certain we will see further drama within this area, which remains a major trading partner to the UK, accounting for around 50% of our services exports. Also escalating geo-political tensions in Russia and the Middle East may act as a headwind for the global economy.
Despite this we are cautiously optimistic about the outlook for 2015. We perceive the pullback in the oil and commodity markets in 2014 to be a boon. If low oil prices are maintained in 2015 it will provide a huge boost to the economy from the double whammy of decreased costs to businesses and increased discretionary expenditure for consumers.
Both these areas will benefit from savings on fuel and energy, with the potential to subsequently drive corporate earnings skyward.