You could feel the buzz in our London Gresham Street offices last week. At Investec’s annual UK CEO Conference, we hosted 100 CEOs and CFOs from over 75 listed businesses, enabling them to present to over 250 institutional investors. The corporates who presented were from a wide range of sectors, and they included everyone from household names to specialist service providers. Some have long pedigrees as listed companies, while others are relatively new to the public markets.
As happens every year, we witnessed hundreds of lively, open and engaged discussions. In face-to-face conversations, away from Zoom and Teams, investors got to catch up with some of the UK’s leading businesses in an informal setting. They could feel the confidence of management teams, and understand in more detail how their strategies are supporting growth and profitability.
If there was one common theme to the discussions, it was the impact of the challenging macroeconomic headwinds. Inflation, interest rates, and the cost-of-living crisis have of course all impacted the business environment. Naturally, from some presenting teams, there was a strong focus on how they’re getting through these headwinds, be that with increased scrutiny of the cost base, deferral of capex-heavy expansion plans, or a greater focus on organic vs inorganic growth in the short term.
Still, there was a feeling of confidence to most of the meetings. Amid the uncertainty, management teams are executing on their plans. For some, that means positioning for a return to growth or further growth. For others, it’s about acquisitions and new markets. In other words: it was business as usual. However, for many of the leadership teams, the message was that 2024 is about seizing opportunity. Many of them mentioned the fast-moving field of artificial intelligence, which is acting as a tailwind for many businesses, especially those that have large amounts of proprietary data. Meanwhile, ESG conversations are evolving, from being about minimising risk to maximising growth. Other structural trends, such as the transition to clean energy, will support growing businesses for years to come.
In the meantime, though, the future of UK PLC is in the hands of the management teams like the ones who presented at our conference last week. Based on the conversations we hosted last week, that gives us plenty of confidence about the future.
These conversations continue into 2024 and beyond. We will be there to support our clients in reaching their ambitions, by offering innovative financial solutions to our private, corporate and institutional clients both in the UK and abroad. This year we celebrated Investec’s 30th year in the UK. It was a big moment for us, marking a milestone in our own growth story from starting out as a small, entrepreneurial team into becoming a dual-listed, international bank and a member of the FTSE-250 ourselves. We were also incredibly proud to be named number one broker for UK Small and MidCap companies in the prestigious Institutional Investor survey. It reflected the hard work and investment that we’ve put into our investment banking business. We remain committed to delivering outstanding service to our institutional and corporate clients – no matter the market conditions. In uncertain times, it’s trusted, long-term partnerships that carry us forwards.