The New Year is a time for looking forward and back. For most advisers and providers I would estimate 2007 has been something of a bumper year. Four years into a bull run, virtually all sectors of corporate benefits, with the notable exception of group income protection products have seen growth ranging from the modest to the spectacular.
Nobody I speak to is predicting more of the same in 2008, but what is up for debate is whether or not we are in for a recession, a soft landing or continued modest growth. I think the answer to that question depends on what sector you are operating in, and for many corporate intermediaries operating multi-discipline businesses, the truth is the diversity of their operations means they will be to a large extent insured against the worst of the bad news that the coming year may bring.
Look at the financial pages of any of the broadsheets and you will see nothing but negativity about what 2008 holds for the economy. Our own columnist at the back of this magazine, James Daley of The Independent is one such commentator with a negative view of the outlook, and on the City desk of a national newspaper he is a lot closer to the workings of the global economy than I am.
But while I would not profess any expertise in macro-economic matters, there are two statistics that struck me recently as being worthy of more column inches than they actually achieved, no doubt because good news is not as newsworthy as bad news.
The first was the news last month that the number of people seeking jobless benefits in the UK had fallen to a 32-year low according to the Office for National Statistics. Only 813,000 are claiming jobseeker’s allowance, the lowest figure since June 1975.
The second figure was a statistic from Fidelity that showed the total amount held in Isas exceeds £220bn, neatly beating the £214bn of consumer credit recorded by MoneyExpert in September.
What these statistics paint are a population who are in work, and who have debt but also have savings to deal with that debt. Of course there is no need for complacency but by these key indicators some employees have never had it so good, and a recession fuelled by a housing market crash is not inevitable.
These employees will tend to be those working for the ‘good’ employers that value their staff to the extent that they provide employee benefits for them. Of course nobody will be insured from a global recession, but the typical corporate adviser’s client is likely to be at least prepared for a downturn.
While there may be choppy times ahead, the future looks positive for corporate intermediaries that can give clients a service that truly adds value.