Nearly a week after the historic Brexit vote in Britain, financial professionals in the United Kingdom say they are taking a cautious approach to the markets. But they are also a bit anxious to see how companies adjust investments and what measure the government takes in response.
Like investors everywhere, they were caught slightly off guard by the winning leave-the-EU campaign.
“The polling was quite close … and we were most surprised with the result along with [others],” said Chris Bailey, a London-based investment strategist with Raymond James, in an interview. “We were very surprised, despite the tight polls. In reality, as we are seeing the post-vote data, some factors were quite tough to gauge.”
Often in geopolitical matters, the status quo prevails, Bailey points out. On Sunday, for instance, Spanish voters favored establishment parties over more protest-oriented ones.
“Our clients were initially in a state of shock, then it became wait and see, which we advised them to do,” he explained, and the situation in the U.K. is still full of uncertainty.
On Friday, clients were certainly concerned, but only about 5% of them picked up the phone to call wealth manager Matthew Hunt, principal and founder of Prospect Wealth Management in London. “As sterling and the market rose the day or two before the vote, I was surprised so few clients contacted us on Friday,” he said in an interview.
Hunt’s group sent out a note to clients about Brexit “and recommended they wait for the dust to settle,” he says, noting that some markets and investments have rebounded.
“It’s still a highly polarized market, though, with British Airways trading at a price-to-equity ratio of 4,” the wealth manager stated. “There is a lot of uncertainty out there.”
Sixty percent of clients opened the note on Brexit that Hunt’s group sent out. “That’s a big hit rate, much higher than normal,” he said. “I think it helped put [clients’ concerns] to rest … They can look at their portfolios online – right now, with portfolios that are half in equities and half in bonds down about 4%, which is not catastrophic.”
An ‘Own Goal’?
About 52% of British voters opted to leave the EU, and 48% to stay in it.