Tough time ahead for financial services

BY Richard Summerfield

As higher inflation impacts UK households, and as a decline in real wage growth continues to take hold, the financial services sector is in line for a tough 2018, according to the latest EY Item Club Outlook for Financial Services.

The report notes that inflation will peak at around 3 percent in the second half of the year, while real household disposable incomes are forecast to decline by 0.2 percent in 2017 - the first drop since 2013. This fall in household income is likely to decrease the demand for mortgages and other 'big ticket' items and general insurance in 2018.

The combination of higher inflation and decreased real earnings will likely lead to an increase in consumer credit next year, as households look to compensate for any shortfall with increased borrowing. The amount of consumer loans will grow from £204bn in 2017 to £206bn in 2018 before rising to £212bn in 2019 and £218bn in 2020, according to the report.

EY UK financial services managing partner Omar Ali said: "Even modelling for a Brexit transitional deal, the outlook for 2018 remains tough for financial services as the impact of higher inflation is felt by households up and down the country. Business lending, mortgage lending and general insurance look set to be the hardest hit. Despite warnings from the Bank of England and some high-street lenders, the only type of lending that is expected to grow in 2018 is consumer credit."

Indeed, the pressures applied to consumer spending in 2018 could dramatically affect the UK’s short term economic prospects. With consumer spending accounting for 60 percent of the UK’s GDP, any significant reduction in consumer spending could have a knock on effort on GDP. With pay growth expected to remain subdued in the short term at least, real earnings are expected to fall by 0.5 percent this year.

The report predicts business lending will rise to £435bn by 2020, but only if the UK is able to strike a transitional deal during Brexit negotiations with the EU. Mortgage lending, however, will fall to £1.1 trillion in 2018, compared to a forecast £1.2trillion in 2017, though it is expected to climb slightly in 2019 and 2020.

Report: EY ITEM Club Outlook for Financial Services

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