On my trip, and in the week prior, I met senior executives of two of Australia’s big four banks. They were all still reeling from the aftermath of the Royal Commission and, alongside their two peers and much of the life insurance and financial advice industries, are waist-deep in historical paperwork. They are all trying to work out whether the advice given by employed or affiliated advisers up to 10 years ago was appropriate, or indeed whether it was given at all! There were numerous examples of “fee for no service” that were examined by the Commission. Just the cost of undertaking this work is eye-wateringly expensive and that’s before any client receives a cent of compensation. They have all made very large provisions over the last year but freely admit they have no certainty about what the final numbers will be. There will be a time to hold an Australian bank for our clients, but it’s not arrived yet.
Also on my trip I met two leading companies in the packaging industry. One in particular performed badly during the second half of 2019 on concerns that environmental campaigns against unnecessary packaging would present a severe headwind to their growth. It may, but the company specializes in high-end “flexible” packaging which the world’s best known brands need to promote, preserve and differentiate their products and that market isn’t going away.
Meetings with companies in telecoms, resources, waste management, plumbing fittings, wealth management, engineering, recycling, shopping centers, and beverages and with a number in New Zealand too filled the trip and left me with plenty of follow-up for dark January days in the UK.