How inflation is impacting our clients
Conversations with Kate: in the first of a new series, Kate Leppard, our Head of Client Service, shares some of the real-life challenges and worries that emerge in her conversations with clients.
Even before Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in late February, clients were concerned about inflation. Official UK inflation came in at 5.5% in January, its highest level in almost 30 years.
Inflation impacts everyone differently. Some clients are concerned about the returns (the negative real returns, to be precise) that they are earning on their cash or fixed income holdings. Others have worries that relate specifically to their own circumstances such as their business interests.
Of course higher inflation, and in particular the prospects of continued energy price inflation stemming from events in Russia and Ukraine, will affect all of our clients’ investments. Inflationary forces will ripple out and alter the course of wider economic activity, affecting companies’ earnings and profitability – as well as touching many aspects of our own lives.
These issues have inevitably cropped up in our conversations with clients. And in some circumstances, there are actions as a result. We are helping some clients adjust their liquid holdings in cash or fixed income, for example, to capitalise on slightly higher interest rates and yields. This is a positive – after many long years of near-zero rates – but of course in after-inflation or “real” terms these returns remain negative. Interest rates and bond yields may have risen but inflation is rising faster, exacerbated by rising food and energy costs.
I love my job for many reasons, but primarily it is because I get to talk to such a wide range of clients. Many are enormously knowledgeable in their own fields, and from them I can garner insights which inform my own understanding of world events and consequences. I recently spoke to one family; this family owns a large agriculture business and a leisure business. The prospects of yet higher inflation pose very specific threats to their interests. Both businesses face fierce wage pressures as workers are in short supply, due to a combination of factors including Brexit and Covid. For the leisure business, the lack of suitably qualified staff is especially problematic.
Fertiliser costs have gone up too, for the agriculture business, but as it primarily produces organic food this has had less of an impact and it will be partially offset by rising agriculture prices for crops.
Interest rates and bond yields may have risen but inflation is rising faster, exacerbated by rising energy costs.
On the other hand, both rising food and energy costs have taken a toll on their leisure company. It operates at the top end of the industry so preserving client service is paramount. Rising energy costs will have a powerful effect here, and will probably mean a careful eye needs to be given to future pricing.
Inflation and returns are by no means clients’ only worries. The invasion of Ukraine is a humanitarian crisis involving huge numbers of displaced people and hardship. Many clients are eager to help as best they can – we offered to help with their donations to the Disasters Emergency Committee – Ukraine Appeal and were deluged with requests. We frequently get questions about philanthropy and effective ways in which to give and are fortunate to be in a position to give advice and support to our clients.
Our thoughts remain with the people of Ukraine and we are grateful to our generous clients. Meanwhile, we are focused on navigating the markets and managing our clients’ portfolios through these difficult times.
Issued in the Channel Islands by Cazenove Capital which is part of the Schroders Group and is a trading name of Schroders (C.I.) Limited, licensed and regulated by the Guernsey Financial Services Commission for banking and investment business; and regulated by the Jersey Financial Services Commission. Nothing in this document should be deemed to constitute the provision of financial, investment or other professional advice in any way. Past performance is not a guide to future performance. The value of an investment and the income from it may go down as well as up and investors may not get back the amount originally invested. This document may include forward-looking statements that are based upon our current opinions, expectations and projections. We undertake no obligation to update or revise any forward-looking statements. Actual results could differ materially from those anticipated in the forward-looking statements. All data contained within this document is sourced from Cazenove Capital unless otherwise stated.