Going West? Remote working is changing everything

This article is by Chris Reah, who is Head of Regional Offices at Arbuthnot Latham. He is a Chartered Wealth Manager and has 23 years’ experience in banking.

It’s difficult to discuss the current business landscape without addressing coronavirus and its effects – these considerations are ubiquitously front-of-mind. But as a full-service bank with more than 25 years’ experience serving clients from our offices in Bristol and Exeter, we are also starting to learn how the business landscape is changing. Beyond wearing masks and social distancing, how has 2020 changed people’s ‘big picture’ thinking?

Certainty in uncertain times

In March and April one thing we noticed immediately when speaking to clients was that they appreciated a pro-active response. Many have struggled in recent months, others have seen opportunities. As a service-led bank, we had the technological capability to ensure we were able to maintain strong relationships with clients, whether it’s discussions around Business Interruption Loans, Bounce Back Loans, wealth planning, or investment management – when life throws challenges, you need a trusted partner.

It’s really interesting to have seen the retrenchment of banks in recent times from regional towns and cities. Whilst the pandemic has made face-to-face meetings difficult recently, clients continue to tell us how much they miss and place value on local delivery. We consider it as important as ever, to maintain a local presence.

We feel this strongly, to the extent that we have just made two key strategic hires in our Bristol office; Paul Clifton, Wealth Planner and Tom Smart, Senior Private Banker. It’s not just about convenience, but also about having a thorough understanding of the local business landscape and for that, you need boots on the ground. There’s a lot you can do with technology, but proximity – local expertise – is also key. This is important because…

More people are looking to buy property in the West.

For many, remote working has highlighted the expense of London, the discomfort of commuting and the benefits of a better work-life balance. Through our teams in Bristol and Exeter, we’ve seen a big increase in people from the capital looking to buy and invest in residential property out West. Why? Because the pandemic has demonstrated that you can be committed to your role without being wedded to the office.

It’s easy to forget that those working for multinational companies have been using technology to break down geographical barriers for years. Now, peoples’ assumptions have changed. Why jump on a train for hours when you can speak face-to-face from your kitchen table? At the same time, the mortgage market has contracted, as it often does at times of economic friction.

For wealthy individuals who often have unusual income streams, there are now opportunities for lenders like Arbuthnot Latham to really help this group of wealthy re-locaters.

The great British holiday is back (for a year at least)

It was inevitable. With travel restrictions causing so much disruption, Brits have swapped cocktails and sun-soaked cabanas for windy walks and sandy sandwiches at the beach. Many will relish the chance to escape to warmer climes when restrictions ease, but even a small percentage who liked what they saw this year and stay at home next year, will have a major impact on British businesses. Many trading businesses who suffered during lockdown managed to claw back lost revenues as Brits stayed on-shore.

We’ve also seen these positive uplifts positively impact on the property sector, particularly privately owned holiday homes, where after a difficult spring, demand was at its highest ever level. This has made a number of our clients think about the usage of the properties they own and for incomers to the South West to consider whether they wish to purchase properties with rental opportunity.

People are re-thinking their financial goals

They are never easy conversations, but they are important. The events of this year have led to many of our clients thinking about their legacies and what they leave behind when they’re gone. It’s not just wealth succession but also retirement plans as people spend more time thinking about their own finances.

For all the difficulty this year has brought, it has focussed minds and at times of uncertainty, knowing that every eventuality has been planned for can be very reassuring. More broadly, the Wealth Management industry is reflecting on charging around advice, this has been a really positive step for clients. We’re revising charging tariffs for the rest of the year to make sure we’re giving clients the best possible value for our service.

Growing out of a crisis

At Arbuthnot Latham, we are a conservative lender. During the pandemic, we maintained high levels of capital and liquidity. As things begin to open up, we are in a position to support the right business propositions. From adversity, opportunities will arise and we look forward to speaking to our clients about how we can help them grow and prosper in the years ahead.