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Financial times

Looking at global markets by industrial sector as opposed to pure geography is finally gathering wider support among investment managers.

After all, for many truly global companies, location is probably a quirk of history rather than the main market for their services.

Technology as a global sector has had its period in the sun recently but last year&#39s Nasdaq decline has cast a shadow over the whole sector. Health and biotechnology is another sector which became popular in 2000 as a number of funds in this area doubled in value.

But two other global sectors – financial services and natural resources – which are now becoming the focus of investor attention again, are worthy of further study, most particularly financial services.

Companies in the financial sector include commercial banks, investment banks, insurance companies, life insurance companies, investment companies, real estate and speciality and other finance companies.

The speciality and other finance sectors include managers and consumer finance companies and stockbrokers. These sub-sectors together account for over a quarter of the value of the FTSE All Share index and are equally important sectors in the US, Europe and Japan. In Japan, they form the second-biggest sector of the stockmarket.

The financial services sector is becoming increasingly globalised as leading companies try to build global brands.

The global financial industry is also in the middle of a huge process of restructuring and change as a result of political, social and technical developments and deregulation of the financial sector has played a large part in forcing the pace of this change.

Use of the internet as well as changing customer needs and requirements have also intensified competition. This brave new world is asking for innovation from the often newly assembled market players. The restructuring and consolidation process in the financial sector is accelerating and companies such as JP Morgan and NatWest have lost their independence and will no doubt be absorbed into bigger global brands. In this environment, there will be winners and losers as change brings opportunity to those able to meet new challenges.

Beyond the pace of change in the current restructuring, there are bigger global trends which support the growth of the financial services sector.

With the dramatic increase of life expectancy in the world&#39s developed countries, financial provision schemes for old age are becoming more important.

This is of increasing significance as governments try to shift the responsibility of provision away from the state and back to the individual.

The need in Europe for countries to harmonise with the full EC Third Directive on pensions is only one part of what will lead to an exponentially growing individual and collective asset accumulation and creation.

Against this backdrop of reform, we can expect steep growth trends in the asset management and life insurance business.

In addition, the ongoing disintermediation and securitisation in the financial sector will provide consistent long-term growth to the investment banking and securities business.

As the globalisation of financial markets spreads into the financial industry, the pace of cross-border mergers and acquisitions will increase.

The major beneficiaries of these mergers will be the investment banks and securities houses, with the massive fees they will earn from this consolidation.

We believe that, given the current macro-economic backdrop in terms of the prospect for interest rate cuts, there are a number of money marketing opportunities within the financial services sector.

With the nervousness of investors in technology and telecom sectors, there are safe havens within financial services where there are reasonably priced growth stocks. These have relatively solid earnings prospects and also pay dividends to shareholders, something technology investors are unaccustomed to.

In the banking sector, there are clearly two attractive major UK banks.

Royal Bank of Scotland is extracting greater than expected cost savings from its acquisition of NatWest. Barclays is a takeover target for a bigger global player as well as benefiting from its distribution deal with Legal & General.

HSBC remains attractive as a global bank although its Far East exposure makes it slightly more vulnerable to a US slowdown.

Asset managers remain attractive across the spectrum of size. Schroders, despite its repeatedly poor investment performance, will be bought by a bigger, more successful company in search of increased assets under management.

St James&#39s Place remains a firm buy for the long term, as does Man Group, now very different from the old ED&F Man Group, of which it was once part.

The property sector will be another to benefit from lower interest rates and higher levels of occupancy in the office sector, with companies such as British Land, Minerva and Derwent Valley set to do well.

In the face of continued volatility across many of the world&#39s market, the financial sector will have an increas-ingly compelling story to tell in the coming year.


Anger as annuities left unchanged

The Chancellor has dashed industry hopes of a review into the annuity market, over Treasury fears it would cost hundreds of millions to implement.In the Budget statement the Treasury says it has ruled out such a move after costing the alternatives proposed by interested parties including Dr Oonagh McDonald’s Retirement Income Reform Campaign.The Treasury’s inaction […]

Lower rate tax threshold raised

Chancellor Gordon Brown raised the threshold for the 10 pence tax rate from £1,520 a year to £1,880 a year, a cut he claimed would cost £1bn.Brown said this would benefit 25m taxpayers, adding that 7.5m pensioners, who made up 70 per cent of all pensioners, would now pay either no income tax or tax […]

WP survey slams free-asset ratios

The UK&#39s top with-profits life offices are Britannic Assurance, Liverpool Victoria Friendly Society and Teachers, according to a new survey by Cazalet Financial Consulting. All three life offices get 10 marks out of 10 in the survey which uses a new system designed by Cazalet. Equitable Life was rated before it closed to new business […]

John Stones – Money Marketing&#39s feature writer at the House of Commons

If you like tractor driving, swilling whisky, having a gamble and, erm, procreating, this was the Budget for you.So a prudent budget? In perhaps what was an attempt to atone for some of the unsavoury associations, Gordon Brown also promised that repairs to churches would attract a reduced rate of VAT.Oh, and the miners. Sorry […]

DB transfers – one more factor to consider

Jim Grant – Senior Product Insight & Technical Support Analyst We look at how higher DB transfer values could cause a lifetime allowance issue and how that affects the advice process. Advisers are receiving an increasing number of requests from clients looking to transfer their pension from final salary schemes to personal pensions. This is a […]


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