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FINANCIAL MARKETS IN 2022: INFLATION, ENERGY PRICES, AND THE CONTRASTING PERFORMANCE OF STOCKS

Source: Finance Derivative

Bob Jenkins, Head of Research, Refinitiv Lipper

Anyone hoping for a reprieve from the chaos and uncertainty of the last couple of years is likely to be disappointed. The pandemic will continue to have an impact on global economies, both directly (such as ongoing lockdowns and restrictions to combat the disease) and the exhaust effects we’ve seen in areas such as the production of goods, supply chain challenges, labour shortages and rising energy prices.

At the same time, the digital disruption of the financial world continues apace, with assets once overhyped becoming increasingly mainstream.

To make specific predictions in such an environment might seem like a fool’s errand, yet it is possible to discern some themes that will shape the course of financial markets in the coming year.

  1. Global inflation gets stubborn: Inflation is not transitory, and we are seeing a foundation for higher prices being put in place thanks to the supply chain and labour issues previously mentioned. In major developed markets, I think we’ll see stubborn inflation regardless of whether Covid remains a pandemic or begins to enter an endemic phase. The situation is slightly more positive in the US; while inflation will remain at a 3.5-4.5% range, a reduction in supply chain bottlenecks, increasing labour force and improved unemployment rates will serve to reduce the impact of primary inflation forces. We should bear in mind that households are estimated to have around $2 trillion in savings, which will maintain consumption levels and keep up the pressure on labour and supply chains.
  2. Rates will rise: Rates are likely to rise, with discussions in several major economies indicating a tapered end to the period of low rates we’ve seen since the 2008 financial crisis. This will probably be achieved in fits and starts as central banks navigate virus outbreaks and any resulting economic shocks. For instance, both the Fed and the Bank of England have indicated there will be hikes, but it is likely that they will rely on tapering at first to slow stimulus while also trying to navigate sentiment swings and volatility arising from waves of infections and/or new variants.
  3. China to lead economic growth, but not by much: China’s growth is likely to be around the 4-5% mark, with the US just slightly behind at 3.5-4%, off its 6% pace from the first part of 2021. The European Union and United Kingdom will likely trail the US, even if they have been exhibiting similar economic issues, while emerging markets could be hit by a combination of the Fed tightening up and challenges dealing with Omicron and other COVID waves.
  4. Higher energy prices are here to stay: Multiple forces will provide support to higher energy prices: supply chain issues, political posturing, demand for heating/cooling due to climate change, but Covid will occasionally step in to disrupt and counteract these forces. Even carbon neutral efforts could cause overall energy prices to rise in the near term as energy producers shift to renewables, with many of these alternative sources remaining expensive. Oil will stay in the $70-$80 range, with the occasional dip towards $60 as intermittent Covid concerns influence energy consumption in the travel sector.
  5. Underperforming stocks with a positive finish: In general, slower growth and lower rates help Growth and Tech stocks while faster growth and higher rates benefit Value and Cyclicals and I believe the economy will tend to lean towards the latter scenario. That said, growth and value leadership will change hands throughout the course of the year as the economy reacts to Covid waves and switches between lockdown and reopening. I suspect Value and Cyclicals will outperform Growth and Tech at the margin, but the dominate capitalization size of the latter two will pull down overall stock market returns. Of course, as with consumers, there is a lot of money being held back at the moment. Businesses have significant cash reserves and self-directed traders continue to shovel money into markets, which, when combined, can help buoy stocks.
  6. Flattening the bond yield curve: I think we will see some retrenchment as a result of rising rate programs by central banks that will largely result in negative to flat returns across core fixed income. Any selling in longer term bonds in reaction to either economic or central bank activity will be mostly offset by buying due to the global desire for yield, thus keeping a lid on longer term rates. Rising short term rates in this environment will serve to flatten the yield curve. High yield bonds could provide for pockets of opportunity as they are potentially tied to cyclical areas of the economy that could show leadership.
  7. The contrasting futures of ESG and digital assets: In the coming year I think we’ll see digital and tokenized assets become almost as popular as Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG). However, whereas ESG is a permanent shift that will eventually encompass the evaluation of all mutual funds, digital currencies still look a little more niche. We could well see them proliferate over the next few years, potentially even becoming a new quasi-asset class, but they will remain a satellite allocation in risk tolerant portfolio strategies. They are unlikely to achieve the status of being included in mainstream portfolios such as defined contribution retirement plans where assets can flow in large, consistent amounts – unlike ESGs, which could well reach that point in the coming years.
  8. A more defined ESG: It is looking increasingly likely that ESG funds will begin to splinter into more thematic offerings as investors eschew the combined “ESG” mandates in favour of more targeted strategies that enable them to better assess stocks aligned with fund objectives. This will also help avoid those securities jumping on the ESG bandwagon.
  9. The continued rise of the Big Five: Of course, in an era of unpredictability, there are always going to be trends or themes that run counter to accepted wisdom. Despite the aforementioned attempts of central banks to raise rates, the Big Five stocks (Microsoft, Alphabet, Apple, Amazon and Nvidia) will continue to show leaderships. While technically falling into the camp of richly valued Growth, these stocks have begun to also acquire a status as a safe haven, with generally strong earnings demonstrating a consistency and dependability that attracts investors. They also populate immense amounts of passive and retirement plan assets under management, equating to steady flows into them in almost any economic environment.

All this plays out against a backdrop of our changing stance on COVID. While there are some commonalities in how different regions tackle the pandemic, the continued uneven nature of our global responses makes it hard to determine what state we will be in this time next year. If most major economies can move to an endemic setting, then we should have the tools in place to make ‘living with Covid’ a reality. However, the continued emergence of other variants will cause volatility, and with it a predictable jostling of market leadership. Perhaps the only predictions anyone can truly make is that life will continue to be unpredictable for some time to come.

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Business

Building thriving innovation hubs & startup ecosystems

By Gianna Pinasco

Building thriving innovation hubs and startup ecosystems matters because they serve as catalysts for economic growth, fostering collaboration, entrepreneurship, and the development of transformative solutions to societal challenges.

For the last 6 years, I have studied and worked with government, corporate, and academia partners to create and nurture innovation hubs and startup ecosystems — also known as entrepreneurial ecosystems. In this article, we will define these concepts and zero in on the key components for building thriving ecosystems that drive innovation and entrepreneurship.

What are innovation hubs and startup ecosystems?

Before we begin, we should clarify what is a) an innovation hub and b) a startup ecosystem. Sometimes, these terms are used interchangeably. Whilst they may be related, they are very different things.

Firstly, an innovation hub is a physical or virtual place designed to foster creativity, collaboration, and technological advancement, offering access to resources like mentorship, funding, and workspace.

In contrast, a startup ecosystem (also known as an entrepreneurial ecosystem) is an interconnected network that works together to nurture entrepreneurial development and societal growth. An innovation hub, for example, is only a small component of an entrepreneurial ecosystem.

The Building Blocks of an Entrepreneurial Ecosystem

At a basic level, most entrepreneurial ecosystems share six key interconnected elements that work independently and with one another to support entrepreneurs and drive innovation. These include:

Human Capital

Human capital is crucial for the success of an entrepreneurial ecosystem. Talented individuals bring expertise, creativity, and experience – essential for developing new ideas, solving complex problems, and scaling businesses. These drive skilled workforce, innovative entrepreneurs, and knowledgeable investors needed to drive growth and innovation.

By investing in and collaborating with universities, educational institutions, and training programmes that nurture desirable skills, you can develop skilled entrepreneurs and employees to secure a continuous pipeline of capable professionals to sustain the ecosystem’s dynamism and competitiveness.

For example, our team recently visited Kuwait to help launch the Kuwait Digital Startup Campus project. The project results from a public-private partnership aiming to nurture local talent to support the development of the Kuwaiti ecosystem. The project partners understood that Kuwait would need to invest in its human capital to achieve its vision of becoming a leader in finance and trade. This project will help to support the overall ecosystem by supporting the development of skilled entrepreneurs and employees.

Policy

Thriving entrepreneurial ecosystems require the implementation of policies that create a conducive regulatory environment for innovation. This necessitates the intervention of policymakers, regulators, and experts to formulate and implement suitable policies. Effective policies are typically designed to promote entrepreneurship, remove bureaucratic barriers, and provide incentives and support for startups (Stam & Spigel, 2016).

One can look to the UAE as an example of how progressive policies have helped it become a leader in developing and adopting innovative vertical take-off and landing (VTOL) technology. Last year, the UAE General Civil Aviation Authority published the world’s first national regulation covering vertiports’ design and operational requirements and the efficient and safe operation of VTOL aircraft. Looking ahead, the UAE can expect to roll out the world’s first air taxi services.

Finance

Access to financial resources and funding is critical for an entrepreneurial ecosystem as it fuels business growth and innovation. Startups need funding to develop products and services, hire talent, and scale operations. Adequate financial resources enable entrepreneurs to access critical capital streams to drive growth and navigate early-stage challenges.

Diverse funding options, including venture capital, angel investors, and grants, attract and retain startups. A major part of London’s success is due to its strength as a leading financial hub, providing access to venture capital (VC) firms, angel investors, banks, and other financial institutions. According to the Startup Genome, available VC funding for startups in London alone was $101 billion (2019-2023) compared to the global average of $4.6 billion. Additionally, the government’s startup loans scheme offers new businesses up to $31,500 per co-founder at a 6% interest rate.

Access to finance ensures that promising ideas can be transformed into viable businesses, driving economic growth, job creation, and technological advancements within the ecosystem.

Markets

Market access is vital for thriving startup ecosystems. It enables startups to connect with potential customers, suppliers, and partners. A healthy ecosystem facilitates these connections, providing opportunities for startups to gain traction and scale. For example, large corporations within the ecosystem can become key customers, suppliers, or partners, offering valuable resources and market reach.

Further, access to local and international markets ensures startups can grow, innovate, and compete globally, driving economic growth and sustainability within the ecosystem. London does this well, offering access to potential customers, suppliers, partners and other resources and connections needed to grow and succeed. This market access ultimately fosters a vibrant environment where startups and entrepreneurs can thrive and succeed.

Culture

Culture is another vital component in building a thriving entrepreneurial ecosystem as it shapes societal attitudes towards entrepreneurship. A supportive culture values innovation, risk-taking, and learning from failure, encouraging individuals to pursue entrepreneurial ventures. It fosters an environment where role models and success stories inspire aspiring entrepreneurs.

A strong network of experienced entrepreneurs also provides mentorship and guidance, helping new startups navigate challenges. This positive cultural foundation attracts talent, investment, and collaboration, creating a dynamic and resilient ecosystem where startups can flourish and contribute to economic growth and innovation.

Ecosystems like Silicon Valley in the USA, London in the UK, and Dubai in the UAE owe a great deal of their success to having cultivated cultures conducive to entrepreneurship, providing support and incentives for entrepreneurs and innovators, encouraging risk-taking and the ability to learn from failure, making them leaders in the development and adoption of several groundbreaking technologies.

Support Systems

Support systems within an entrepreneurial ecosystem encompass a wide range of resources and services that facilitate the growth and success of startups. Key supports include access to innovation hubs such as incubators, accelerators, and coworking spaces, which provide essential infrastructure, mentorship, and networking opportunities.

It also refers to university availability and professional services like legal, accounting, and marketing which are crucial for startup development and growth. Likewise, educational and training programs on entrepreneurship offer valuable knowledge and skill development, empowering entrepreneurs to innovate and scale their ventures. Together, these supports create a robust foundation that nurtures startup potential and drives sustainable economic growth.

Remember: context is king.

Whilst the elements outlined above are essential for building a thriving entrepreneurial ecosystem, potentially the most crucial element of all has yet to be mentioned: context.

When setting out to create a thriving entrepreneurial ecosystem, it is important to understand the unique social, economic, and environmental context within which it will exist and operate. Each local or virtual community has its own needs, strengths and weaknesses. Depending on where and when you are operating, you will have differing levels of access to resources, talent, and market opportunities. This is why you can take lessons from other thriving entrepreneurial ecosystems, but you cannot expect to replicate the results. You will need to tailor your support systems, policies, and initiatives to fit your unique context to allow for success.

Lastly, all ecosystems are vulnerable to disruption, affecting overall stability and success. By prioritising development based on your strengths and actively working to manage your weaknesses, you can build a more resilient ecosystem. At the end of the day, a context-aware approach creates a more sustainable and impactful ecosystem that will resonate with and benefit the community it serves.

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Why fintech is the catalyst for a new and bold generation of investors

Source: Finance Derivative

By Jeremy Baber, CEO of Lanistar

Investing has evolved since the days of safe blue-chip stocks and government bonds. There’s a new wave of bold investors who have been inspired by the accessibility and ease-of-use offered by fintech innovation. According to Charles Schwab UK’s Investment Forces report, this new generation of investors is taking a bolder approach. Dubbed ‘Gen T’, this generation is taking a pass on the slow game, and the influence of fintech has helped them gain the confidence to do so.

A new way to invest

Investing in stocks has been a route to growing cash for hundreds of years. Since the opening of the Amsterdam Stock Exchange in 1602, the fundamental principles of investment have essentially stayed the same. Investors balance risk and reward to maximise their return on investment. What has changed, particularly in the last decade, is that the ability to invest has become a much more democratised process, with many more people able to educate themselves on investment strategies and access a wide array of online investment platforms. Fintech has been a crucial component of this change.

What fintech offers consumers is an intuitive, tech-fuelled approach to finance with a focus on simplicity. At its core, fintech is consumer-centric, placing the user at the heart of all its products. It has also brought on a new wave of technological innovation to the financial world, producing the next generation of apps and platforms. Consumers today not only have access to a wide array of investment platforms that are simple and easy to use, but they also have greater access to financial education resources. A strong example of the broader range of investment options available today is micro-investing platforms, which allow their users to invest small sums into a diversified portfolio of assets that might include stocks, exchange-traded funds (ETFs), or even cryptocurrencies. This market continues to grow year on year, valued at $19 billion in 2023.

From the fintech wave has emerged a new way to invest. Investment platforms make use of the latest innovative technologies, like real-time data and analytics and automation, to deliver a hyper personalised customer experience that makes investing simpler and easier than ever before. In simple terms, these platforms are built using the fintech model.

Staying financially literate in a chaotic world

Whilst ‘Gen T’ are demonstrating behaviours closer to professional traders, according to Charles Schwarb UK’s report, they also harbour strong concerns over whether investment strategies will lead to heavy losses. Where 50% of boomers said they were unsure of how to adapt their investment strategies to avoid losses, 74% of millennials and 73% of Gen Z said the same. In this way, whilst investing has become easier and more accessible, younger and more inexperienced investors are feeling the heat of today’s turbulent financial markets.

Just as fintech helped to democratise access to investing, it also needs to ensure that all investors – from teenagers to old-age pensioners – are financially literate enough to know what they are investing in. The Organisation for Economic Co-Operation found that just 67% of UK adults were financially literate. This places the UK 15th out of 29 OECD countries for financial literacy. At a time where living costs are sky high and many people are struggling with their finances, it is crucial that financial services providers help to educate their customers and increase the UK’s financial literacy rates. In its customer-centric and highly personalised approach, fintech can lead the way with helping the UK to become more financially literate.

Some fintechs have already started to turn the wheel on financial literacy, providing educational resources within their apps and products. Data and analytics are also key to financial literacy, helping consumers to understand their specific spending habits and support them in making extra savings. When it comes to investing, there have been examples of apps that allow customers to set aside their savings to create portfolios, promoting a sustainable method of investing. Ultimately, where fintechs will deliver the most value to consumers is in providing a truly personalised and simple way to understand their finances.

Fintech’s enduring role

Times have changed, and with a new era of investing being ushered in by an array of new apps and products, the financial services industry must take steps to protect its customers. Whilst it’s a good thing that investing has become easier and more accessible, those who are signing away their savings must be protected. Regulation will play a key role, and the FCA has already enacted some encouraging work in its Consumer Duty regulation brought on in July 2023.

How we as an industry choose to enact this protection will be crucially important in the next decade. I am confident that just as it played a large role in democratizing investing, fintech will be a significant player in the continuing to shape the investing market in the future.

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The Future of Financial Services: Personalised experiences powered by AI, secured by privacy

Source: Finance Derivative

By Erin Nicholson, Global Head of Data Protection and Privacy at Thoughtworks

Over half (51%) of European consumers want more personalised financial services, but a
significant minority (22%) are less comfortable sharing data for this purpose compared to last
year, according to a report by Twilio. This highlights the core tension in today’s financial
landscape: personalisation and privacy.

Consumers crave tailored financial advice and products. They want their banks and financial
advisors to understand their unique needs and goals. Yet, data privacy regulations like GDPR and CCPA make leveraging personal data for such purposes a challenge. These regulations restrict how financial institutions can collect, store, and use customer data.

As a data protection and privacy specialist, I am fascinated by bridging this gap. I question how we can achieve personalisation for clients while remaining compliant with these regulations?

The answer lies in a three-pronged approach utilising Artificial Intelligence (AI): leveraging both predictive AI and generative AI (GenAI) and also leveraging Privacy Enhancing Technologies. This approach empowers financial institutions to personalise the client experience while safeguarding sensitive data.

AI-driven lead generation with privacy at its core

Traditional prospecting methods often rely on incomplete data or outdated strategies. Sifting
through vast datasets to identify potential clients can be a time-consuming and inefficient
process. Here’s how AI can help:

Predictive AI can analyse anonymised or aggregated data sets to uncover patterns and trends. This data can be used to create a “probability-weighted list” of potential clients, highlighting those with a higher likelihood of being receptive to specific financial products or services. This approach provides valuable insights without requiring access to sensitive personal information.

Cross-selling reimagined: connecting the dots without data sharing

Cross-selling within a financial institution can be a powerful strategy to deepen client
relationships and drive revenue. However, identifying potential connections between existing
clients and those who might benefit from products offered by different divisions has always been a challenge due to data silos and privacy concerns.

Here’s where GenAI comes in.

GenAI, Federated Learning, and Homomorphic Encryption unlocks the power of graph-based
algorithms. These algorithms can analyse connections between data points without actually
sharing the underlying sensitive data itself. Imagine a system that can identify potential
cross-selling opportunities between different client segments, allowing banks to recommend
relevant products or services while maintaining strict data privacy boundaries.

The power of combining personalisation and privacy

This two-pronged AI approach offers significant benefits for financial institutions:
Increased efficiency: AI streamlines prospecting efforts, allowing institutions to focus
resources on qualified leads.
Enhanced customer experience: Personalised recommendations based on anonymised
data insights foster stronger client relationships.
Reduced regulatory risk: Minimising reliance on sensitive data minimises regulatory risks
associated with data privacy violations.

The broader potential of genAI

GenAI’s potential extends beyond initial client acquisition and cross-selling. Imagine, for example, using genAI to create educational content tailored to each client’s needs and financial literacy level. This empowers investors to make informed decisions based on clear and relevant information, ultimately strengthening the client-advisor relationship.

Responsible AI adoption: a critical priority

While genAI offers exciting possibilities, responsible adoption is crucial to ensure the protection of the public’s data. Here are some key considerations:
Focus on high-value use cases: Identify genAI applications that deliver significant value
while minimising complexity and cost.
Ensure data security: Implement robust security measures to safeguard sensitive
customer data from potential risks associated with genAI models.
Combat bias and factual errors: Be mindful of potential biases in training data and
incorporate human oversight to prevent biased or inaccurate outputs.
Leverage Privacy Enhancing Technologies: PETs such as Federated Learning and
Homomorphic Encryption will enhance the utility of your data without infringing on
privacy.

By embracing AI in a responsible manner, the financial services industry can achieve its
personalisation goals while ensuring customer data remains protected. This paves the way for a future where personalisation and privacy go hand-in-hand, fostering a more secure and
empowering financial landscape for all.

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