EU uncertainty ‘ the biggest threat’ to future prosperity
Leeds chief in warning as mutual hits record profits
UNCERTAINTY AROUND Britain’s future membership of the European Union against a backdrop of global instability is the biggest threat facing Britain’s prosperity, according to a leading figure in the UK financial services industry.
Leeds Building Society chief executive Peter Hill, who is also chairman of the Council of Mortgage Lenders, also said voters should focus on the long- term view rather than “short- term soundbites”.
He told “For example, you have got ( the employment minister) Priti Patel quoted as saying that coming out of Europe will reduce the cost of car insurance for women.
“I would say the right way to look at this is on a multi- generational basis and not think about short term and relatively frivolous matters but think in terms of big picture, long term and make a decision on that basis.”
Mr Hill added: “Uncertainty is always the biggest concern. Of course, in the first half of 2015 we were preparing for a general election where the outcome was very difficult to call and here we are in the first half of 2016 preparing for a referendum where the outcome is very difficult to call.
“So that uncertainty with the backdrop of global instability is probably the biggest risk to the UK economy.”
He said that the coming months would see much information, insight and analysis on the consequences of staying in or getting out of the EU and it would be up to members to make up their own minds.
Mr Hill added: “Personally, I think there is sufficient momentum in the domestic economy to keep things moving in the right direction.”
He made the comments as Leeds Building Society reported record profits of £ 108m for 2015 and announced plans to create 150 new jobs.
The mutually- owned lender increased new residential mortgage lending by 15 per cent to £ 3.1bn.
Savings balances grew by £ 751m to £ 9.9bn, the highest level in its history. Mr Hill said: “We have had another strong year.”
He added that economic fundamentals such as employment and earnings growth are good but cautioned that house price inflation is making it more difficult for people to get on to the property ladder.
Last year, the UK mortgage market saw strong competition from the activities of challenger banks like Virgin Money and TSB, said Mr Hill.
He added: “You have to have the price right and proposition right to be successful.”
Leeds Building Society has invested in speeding up services and has shifted its data storage from its own servers to a cloudbased system run by HP Enterprises.
Mr Hill welcomed the appointment of Bank of England veteran Andrew Bailey as the new chief executive of the Financial Conduct Authority.
He said: “I think he will be balanced and proportionate. I think a lot of hard work has been done around regulation...
“I think Andrew is quite a pragmatic person and will want to engage with the industry in a dialogue. I don’t think he is a person who is either inclined to or needs to use megaphone diplomacy.”
PETER HILL: A need to... ‘ think in terms of big picture, long term and make a decision on that basis’.