As the calendar year nears its conclusion and the festive period gets underway, I hope you will have the chance to spend quality time with family and friends. 2021 has without question been another eventful and demanding year, with the move towards normality continuing to be disrupted by the emergence of Covid-19 variants.
Yesterday the S&P 500 hit an all-time high amid optimism that economic growth will weather the Omicron coronavirus outbreak. However, it does seem likely that the ebb and flow of concerns relating to the Omicron variant is likely to increase volatility, particularly in UK markets. Initial data around the severity of the variant is somewhat heartening but more data and time is required to gain a thorough understanding of the variant’s risk profile.
There cannot be anyone reading this article who hasn’t heard of COP26, the conference on climate change and global warming which took place in Glasgow in the first two weeks of November. (If you didn’t know, COP stands for Conference of the Parties – those countries which signed the original UN Convention on Climate Change in 1994).
All our clients will have their own views on climate change and the Conference. Some will agree with Boris Johnson’s assertion that it is “one minute to midnight” for the planet: others may be slightly more sceptical, wondering why attendance at a conference on climate change needs 400 private jets – between five and 14 times more polluting than commercial airliners – flying in and out of Glasgow.
This is not the place to discuss the merits of those arguments – but perhaps it is the place to ask another question. What effect – if any – will COP26 have on my savings and investments?
Three days into the Conference, it was widely reported that most big UK companies and financial institutions will soon be required to show how they will hit climate change targets. “The rule book will be re-written for net zero,” said Chancellor Rishi Sunak, referring to the UK’s stated aim of reaching ‘net zero’ (a balance between the carbon a country or business is emitting and the carbon it is removing from the atmosphere) by 2050.
By 2023, companies will need to set out detailed plans for how they will move to ‘a low carbon future’. “The aim is to increase transparency and accountability,” said the Government, adding that it was not “making firm-level net zero commitments mandatory”.
…Not yet, anyway. You suspect that in the future that may very well be a piece of legislation that finds its way onto the statute books. Add in the increasing pressure on companies to comply with ESG (environmental, social and governance) requirements and you suspect that in the future, a company’s results may be reviewed for a great deal more than the bottom line.
‘Impact Investing’ – investments made with the intention of generating positive environmental and societal change alongside a financial return – is growing rapidly, especially among younger investors. Whatever their feelings about the environment, companies may well find themselves with little choice other than to meet the demands of legislative change and/or pressure from potential investors.
The simple answer to the question we posed is that COP26 – or even COP27, which will be in Egypt’s Sharm El Sheikh – may have little immediate effect on your savings and investments. But the mood of legislators and campaigners is clear: companies will need to change what they do and how they report results to investors.
That will be a challenge for the companies – as well as fund managers and investment managers. They’ll need to consider a lot more than profitability, market share and future growth prospects. But as all our clients know, we work with some of the very best fund managers there are, and we’re in regular contact with them, making sure that your savings and investments stay on track to meet your long-term financial planning goals.
Could Putin turn off the Gas?
November was a month when supplies of both oil and gas – or the lack of them – dominated the news. In many countries, inflation is reaching levels not seen for two or three decades, and the escalating price of oil and gas – and the inevitable supply chain problems – has much to do with it.
Currently, the price of oil is more than $70 a barrel. Alarm bells started ringing in mid-November when the Bank of America forecast that it could reach $120 by June of next year – with the consequent knock-on for the price of petrol and hence prices in the shops.
The US announced that it was releasing 50m barrels from its reserves in an attempt to bring the price down. Several commentators, though, pointed out that in terms of total oil consumption, it was a ‘drop in the ocean’ and said the move would have little or no long-term impact.
Meanwhile, the price of gas was also increasing sharply as German regulators suspended approval for the Nord Stream 2 pipeline. With Europe getting 40% of its gas from Russia, relations with the Kremlin will be at the top of Olaf Scholz’s in-tray.
As I look to 2022 with optimism that the severity of the Omicron variant is less severe than initially thought, we hope to bring clarity, assurance and contentment to more client families. If you’re not currently a Charters client and think you could benefit from our services, then why not contact us to pencil in a date for a chat and a coffee? Your exploratory meeting does not involve any type of fee and puts you under no obligation to take up our service. As current clients can tell you, we can help you position your finances for the long-term within the context of your personal situation and where you want to go in your life in the future, with the flexibility to adapt as circumstances change.
To round off this article, it gives me immense pleasure to tell you that our client reviews mean I currently meet the criteria to achieve Top Rated status in 2022. If I continue to meet the criteria, I’ll feature in the 2022 Guide to Top Rated Financial Advisers, distributed in The Times, for the third year in a row.
That’s it from us until January. I would like to take this opportunity to thank you for reading our articles throughout the year and to wish you a very happy Christmas and a healthy and prosperous New Year. Please feel free to get in touch with me on 01789 263888 or email email@example.com.
PS, if you’ve enjoyed reading this article, you can find links to some of our most popular articles of 2021 below: