Biggest business challenge? Automation without annoying customers...
Many delegates who sat attentively through the GCA conference session by behavioural economist Roger Martin-Fagg will have left the room believing they had at least a better idea of how our “inherently unstable” economic system works, even if much of what he was telling us whiffed of smoke and mirrors.
But as layman’s guides go, this was a masterpiece in his usual incisive, light-hearted and often wickedly humorous style (last enjoyed at the conference in 2013).
Insisting he was in the businesses of illustrating scenarios, not forecasts, he gave us points like this to think about:
1. Only 4% of our economy exists as “real money” – the rest is electronic digits.
2. Banks are our biggest manufacturing business – they ‘manufacture’ money every time they led some to you.
3. Over 80% of bank lending is on property – only 10% on business development.
4. The UK money supply needs to grow 4-5% a year to create the 2% of economic growth in real terms the government seeks – a big ask, he said.
5. Growth of 1.5% was more realistic, because we are at full employment and are losing the advantages of EU labour.
6. Interest rates will probably go up twice next year – by 0.25% in both May and October.
7. Of all the major economies, the UK’s is growing the slowest, but it’s in the context of a global upswing led by US (+3%), the EU (+3.5%) and China (+8%).
8. Real incomes are falling due to the collapse of sterling after the Brexit vote.
9. The rate of retail sales is trending steadily downwards.
10. If the economy grows at only 1.5%, the weekly take base will drop by £350m and the government’s annual income will be 10% less than forecast.
11. A property tax will be the only acceptable way to raise income.
12. The biggest challenge for UK businesses will be how to increase automation (as the labour shortage begins to bite) without annoying the customers.
13. A hard Brexit will cause a sterling crisis and a recession, because confidence will crash and companies will immediately delay payments.
14. A soft Brexit is the most likely outcome because we are pragmatists and will fully align with EU regulations, accept the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice, permit selective immigration control and pay a £45bn settlement over two years.
15. “The transition deal will be the future deal – we don’t really leave.”