British banks' optimism hits crisis-era low on Brexit uncertainty

Optimism about the business environment for Britain's financial services firms fell for a fourth consecutive quarter, according to a survey, the longest decline since the global financial crisis.
Pedestrian passing by as skyscrapers stand beyond in London, on June 28, 2016.
Pedestrian passing by as skyscrapers stand beyond in London, on June 28, 2016.PHOTO: BLOOMBERG

LONDON (REUTERS) - Optimism about the business environment for Britain's financial services firms fell for a fourth consecutive quarter, according to a survey published on Monday (Jan 23), the longest decline since the global financial crisis.

The latest quarterly survey of 103 financial services firms by business lobby CBI and consultancy PwC found sentiment about Britain's overall business climate fell the most since December 2008, with banks especially pessimistic.

Ninety per cent of banks surveyed said preparing for the impact of Britain's exit from the European Union was their top challenge.

"Uncertainty has contributed to the low levels of optimism reported by many financial services companies, particularly by the banks," Andrew Kail, Head of Financial Services at PwC, said in the report.

Banks have begun signalling how they will put plans into action to cope with a "hard" exit by Britain from the EU, after Prime Minister Theresa May said Britain will leave the single market.

Kail also said that greater clarity on the UK position on Brexit from the Prime Minister's speech this week was welcome, not least a commitment to a period of phased implementation.

The survey revealed a more optimistic outlook for hiring, with 18 per cent of financial firms saying they had increased employment in the period compared with 10 percent showing a decrease. IT was the biggest area for new jobs.

The survey also said firms considered increasing their dialogue with regulators as the biggest priority as Britain negotiates its EU exit.