Traffic jams on motorways, lorries banked up at ports, deliveries parked in warehouses – but across the financial and business sector another enormous backlog has been building: literally dozens of presentations and conferences have been put on hold pending clarification (ha!) on Brexit.
For months it has been virtually impossible to mount a ‘look-ahead’ conference on trends and prospects due to the impenetrable fog of our EU withdrawal, or not, as the case may be. Who could dare make any confident prediction about the outlook for UK companies? Or growth potential? Or sales and profits performance?
The Cabinet is split, Parliament has been in gridlock, the Prime Minister’s Withdrawal Agreement in deep peril – and with no agreement in sight on a ‘Plan B’ alternative. Any conference held over the past 12 months would have been agony for the speakers – and as good as useless for the audience.
But there is one conference on the horizon in Edinburgh that should at least help to lift our eyes from the hopeless tangle of Brexit to broader horizons. For we should not neglect the greater context in which the Brexit imbroglio has deepened and the opportunities – and threats – that lie beyond.
For years The Scotsman’s investment conference has been a popular draw for private and professional investors alike. It has been so because it has always taken a global perspective and brought together an array of different speakers and specialisms, covering markets in China, Asia Pacific, Europe and emerging markets as well as the US.
It has also looked beyond the confines of UK equity funds and trusts and offered guidance and advice on other asset classes such as fixed interest and corporate bonds. And it has also sought to bring a historical perspective on financial market performance as an antidote to the relentless short-term focus of much investment commentary.
As we prepare for the new financial year the conference seeks to assess the outlook for global markets out to 2020 and beyond. How can investors best position themselves amid changing central bank policies and geopolitical risks?
Expert speakers will look to answer some of the key questions on global issues:
What is the outlook for Far Eastern markets after the late 2018 sell-off? Will Europe overcome its growth slowdown?
How can we interpret the China slowdown and its impact on Western economies and companies and the impact of a continuing tariff war between the US and China? What are the prospects for commodities and in particular the oil price?
How can we protect our long-term savings and investments from geopolitical turbulence – for example, the looming showdown between Italy with its high-spend budget plans and the European Commission – a Greek stand-off in the making?
What is the outlook for the high flying the stocks – Facebook, Amazon, Netflix and Google after the sharp sell-off in recent months?
Are UK-facing equities still to be avoided because of Brexit turmoil – they have been shunned by international investors for much of the past two years? Domestic investors have also turned cautious with billions of pounds withdrawn from UK fund and trusts. Or have the shares of many UK companies been over-sold and due a rally in 2019?
Our expert speakers will address these issues and seek to offer practical advice – tactics for the cautious and tactics for the bold.
The conference will be held on Tuesday, March 5 at the Principal Hotel, Charlotte Square Edinburgh (formerly the Roxburgh) between 8.30am and 11 am. Speakers will include Caspar Rock of Cazenove Capital, Mark Whitehead, Portfolio Manager of Securities Trust of Scotland and David Coombs of Rathbones. Yours truly will be in the chair to make sure no-one throws any furniture.
I would not normally highlight this conference so early. But already bookings are filling up – a reflection, perhaps, of the hunger and thirst for good guidance and advice in such a markedly volatile and uncertain period. We may not be clear of the Brexit fog by this date, but that is all the more reason for private investors and investment advisers alike to consider the merits of portfolio diversification and the opportunities that lie beyond immediate preoccupations.