Quarterly Newsletter - January 2016
by Alexander Beard, on Jan 19, 2016 3:34:16 PM
A new year is always a time for reflection as well as looking forward and we can reflect on a difficult and turbulent year for the world, encapsulated in awful fashion by the tragic events in Paris.
It seems right now that there is very little optimism to be gleaned from the whole shambles that is now unfolding in the political fortunes of the Middle East region and the grief, fear and uncertainty felt by families living in the affected countries even though this is brought to us 24/7 by rolling news surely cannot really be imagined by us, but will directly and indirectly, impact every one of us, both socially and economically in the next few years.
In UK politics we had the return of a majority Conservative government for the first time in 23 years and this time last year you would have got keener odds on a non-League football team winning the FA Cup than you would for Jeremy Corbin to become the next leader of the Labour party.
With the London Mayoral elections to come in May followed at some point within the next 18 months by what I personally believe will be a very close run referendum on Britain’s continued membership of the EU, we certainly live in interesting times.
The business year, which seems now to start on or around on January the 4th or 5th every year, began with a mini-crash in China stock prices, reflected (though not by the same magnitude) in falls in all major world markets, although the falling oil prices bring a mixed blessing of cheaper fuel but serious problems to some emerging markets which rely on their petro-dollar revenue.
The beginnings of the much vaunted and speculated upon interest rate rises began just before Christmas, with the 0.25% rise from the US Federal Reserve and it will be interesting to see whether this is premature, as our own Bank of England seems to think. What is inevitable is that by the end of this year we will see interest rates beginning to nudge upwards, better news for savers, but not so for many over borrowed mortgagees.
Turning now to our company, during 2015 I was particularly pleased that our fourth apprentice completed her course and now is a fully fledged administrator in our Head office team. It is really rewarding to be able to offer hard working and enthusiastic youngsters a stable and rewarding career path and help them develop skills that will be of use throughout their working lives.
Steady growth across all our 4 businesses saw annual revenues increase, for the first time, to over £2.5 Million; we have exciting plans ahead for 2016 and beyond to grow our group even more but never (I trust) losing sight of our core values of good advice and great service.
Over the Christmas break I read an interesting article by Google’s Chairman, Eric Schmidt, who argued that the UK and Europe is fast becoming the new technology sector boom area for start-ups and our own international employee benefit business in 2015 reflected this, winning over 25 new accounts from US headquartered IT companies setting up or acquiring UK and mainland European companies. The merger of our EB business with Netherlands based Bogaard Pensioen B.V. is now 13 months old and we can safely say has been a success which we will build upon this coming year. The expansion of our international EB business continues this year with the imminent opening of our first office in France, a direct outcome of our acquisition 12 months ago of London based financial planning business, Lepretre and Partners (see below: “London office”). This new office will deliver international EB services as well as Expatriate financial planning.
During 2015 our International Schools and Aid Agency Division renewed our partnership with U.S. based InsideNGO and London based People-in-Aid (which has now transitioned into its new identity CHS Alliance), headquartered in both London and Geneva; we look forward to working with both in the coming year. The more established arm of this division, our international schools business, celebrated its 10th anniversary during 2015 and over 40 international schools, ranging from Peru in South America, to Beijing, Dar-es-Salaam, Dhaka in Bangladesh, Jakarta, the Czech Republic, Belgrade and Spain to name but a few places and countries, now utilise our international retirement and healthcare plans.
The withdrawal by HMRC of QROPS transfers to Australia and New Zealand meant that those two businesses saw very little, if any growth during 2015 but we are confident that this will return at some point in the next 12 months; our US based business in California however saw tremendous interest in and growth of our AMVE$T plan with almost $10M of new monies being invested.
The bedrock of our group however continues to be the UK financial planning business, which contributed 40% of the Group’s revenues, partly enhanced by the opening of our first permanently staffed London office, located in the centre of the legal world in Temple Avenue.
My thanks therefore to everyone at ABG and the contributions they made to a successful year, but more importantly thank you, our clients and partners, for your continued support and business; we know we have to continue to earn your trust and take nothing for granted.
Paul D Beard
Founder and Executive Chairman