From The Editor's Chair: "Debanking," Rising Japan And AI

Tom Burroughes Group Editor 10 August 2023

From The Editor's Chair:

July turned out to be a dramatic month in the UK wealth management sector following the "de-banking" of a politician and the reasons that came to light as to why. Elsewhere, the rising stock market profile of Japan, the role of AI in wealth management, and the rise of interest rates, remained significant themes.

Since I last updated readers at the start of July, it is fair to say that the banking industry – not just in the UK – has been slammed by what is sometimes called “cancel culture.” The term “de-banking” threatens to become ubiquitous. Revelations that NatWest’s CEO had breached client confidentiality by telling the BBC that Nigel Farage had lost his Coutts account because he had insufficient funds was bad enough. (See a story here.)

But the saga became a bigger scandal when it turned out that the NatWest group had compiled a dossier about the former UKIP leader, claiming that his views on topics such as Brexit, global warming, LGBTQ and other matters did not align with those of the bank. The story dominated the mainstream news for a fortnight.

This news service carried detailed reports, and we also delved into unmatched analysis of what this all means for “politically exposed persons” (PEPs). All along, we have sought to give a balanced view of the situation, giving the banks in question plenty of chance to explain what happened. 

The editorial team will continue to track this story, as well as intersecting topics such as central bank digital currencies, privacy, disclosure of beneficial ownership, KYC, AML controls, and much more. As well as giving my own views on the situation, I also was able to take a more positive tack by writing about the rising stock market appeal of Japan, and the status of “challenger banks.”

My colleague Amanda Cheesley has continued to keep a close watch on investment trends and, besides the Japanese story, we also look at the topical issues of agriculture and food security, as well as the asset allocation pressures wrought by rising central bank interest rates.

Crossing the Atlantic, our US correspondent Charles Paikert has chronicled the M&A and business strategies of firms building through acquisitions, pondering the impact of the macroeconomic environment. And we are keeping an eye on the ongoing interest in artificial intelligence and how that affects the wealth management value chain. 

During the past few weeks major banks have reported their quarterly and first-half 2023 results. In most cases, the figures are positive, reflecting the effect of higher interest rates on margins. We focus laser-like on the wealth and private banking aspects of these results.

I’d also like to draw readers’ attention to our guest feature slots on the websites. We have been ramping up our collection of expert views and contributors, and I think we are making a strong impact in setting a high standard for commentary and analysis.

Into the final quarter of this year, we will look again at the asset allocation strategies of firms that have had to adjust to a changed interest rate environment. Another theme, under the general title of "protecting the client," examines how private banks/advisors help HNW people avoid problems of physical and cybersecurity; how they guard clients' reputations by managing their physical and online presence; how they handle conditions such as cognitive decline in older family members – touching on the intersection of health and wealth management – and deal with the complexities caused by divorce and separation. There's plenty to ponder.

As we get deeper into the month of August, I am going to take a break from the news for a spot of annual leave. A break from the 24/7 news cycle is necessary. I hope all of you manage to do the same and recharge your batteries. 

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