2019

December 2019

Posted by Anton Murray Consulting on . Posted in 2019

2019: Year In Review

As 2019 draws to a close, we take a quick look at some of the big, global stories affecting financial services this year.

Hong Kong Protests

Hong Kong has been marred by many months of protests this year, which have grown ever more violent and detrimental to retail, tourism and commercial sectors. Hotel occupancy rates for October were an estimated 40% less than the same time last year. Protesters have called on police to be held accountable through an independent inquiry and also for Hong Kong SAR CEO Carrie Lam to resign. But the police have also documented the use of Molotov cocktails, bows and arrows and other dangerous weapons directed at them.

With Hong Kong now in a recession, businesses have been affected greatly by the chaos. Many firms are asking staff to work remotely or reduce their time in the city. As the situation becomes more tenuous and a resolution seems unlikely in the near term, many global companies will invariably look to other regions such as Singapore for economic and political stability.

US-China Trade War

In a political and economic power show of yesteryear, the US and China have been ‘shirt fronting’ each other for most of 2019. They have engaged in a trade war and an economic tussle that a number of commentators have feared could turn to military conflict. Thankfully this seems fairly unlikely given the mutually assured economic and physical destruction that would be inflicted on both countries, and the rest of the world. But tensions in Hong Kong have further amplified conflict between the two powers with the US showing support for protestors, and desiring a swift, fair solution to the turmoil.

Another component of the trade war is the growing artificial intelligence battle. Both governments are utilising AI and collecting data for their own means, but more importantly is the growth of this technology in the private sector. Much has been written about Huawei and its potential links with the Chinese government. Huawei is at the forefront of 5G technology globally, but has faced backlash from the US and Australian governments who have banned the company from taking any part in the roll out of 5G.

Brexit

The United Kingdom has been trying to leave the European Union for what seems like an eternity. The original deadline of 29 March 2019 has come and gone, as has Theresa May’s prime ministership. Ms. May fell on her own sword after her deal, which included a backstop to restrict border barriers between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland, failed to pass through Parliament.

New British Prime Minister Boris Johnson (a staunch ‘Leave’ supporter) has insisted he will have the UK out of the EU even without a deal. Johnson’s amended deal, which includes some goods tariffs between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland, and largely unchanged content, was set for Parliament on 19 October. The PM managed to secure an early election, where he will seek to gain further seats to support the passing of legislation needed to allow the Brexit deal to proceed. The saga has caused widespread political and economic instability in the UK and Europe. The UK does a huge amount of trade with countries in the EU and the continued uncertainty has been detrimental to the flow of capital investment, people and goods. Mr Johnson will be keenly awaiting the general election result so he can implement a swift exit.

Australian Financial Services Royal Commission

The 2019 Financial Services Royal Commission revealed both improper behaviour and a profit-over-customer mentality that has consumed the financial services industry in Australia. The Royal Commission also highlighted the ineffectiveness of the current regulatory framework and enforcement regime. In his findings from earlier in the year, Commissioner Hayne stressed the cultural toxicity of the industry and many of its participants stating, “Providing a service to customers was relegated to second place. Sales became all important”.

In response to the Royal Commission, the government stated it will be expanding the Federal Court’s jurisdiction to criminal corporate crime as well as increase funding to ASIC to improve the regulatory body’s ability to enforce and prosecute. In recent months Westpac has become one of the most prominent players to disclose the mounting cost of remediation, compliance costs and possible fines that will affect its business into the future. They recently added a $340 million post-tax cost related to a potential AUSTRAC penalty that pushed the total cost of its alleged misconduct to nearly $2 billion since 2017.

From everyone at Anton Murray Consulting, we wish you a very happy and safe festive season. As always, please reach out to a member of our team if we can be of any assistance over the Christmas break, and keep an eye on LinkedIn, Twitter andFacebook for updates on career opportunities and industry news during the holidays.

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