How the Bank of England chief might affect charities

Conditions for charities should improve our time, but they should not expect a quick fix, says John Hildebrand

John Hildebrand
John Hildebrand

A new governor will soon take his place at the Bank of England. Specialist charity investors such as our firm will be interested in whether this appointment helps charities.

The latest figures from the Office for National Statistics, which show growth in the UK of 0.3 per cent, might make the governor's job easier, but this question remains: how much can one man add to a weak economy?

The new man at the Bank of England will be Mark Carney. He is currently governor of the Bank of Canada and is generally thought to have helped Canada avoid many of the effects of the global downturn.

The statistics generally support this view: Canada's GDP has grown at between 2.1 and 3.2 per cent per annum over the past three years. However, growth in the first quarter of 2013 was only 0.2 per cent. Given that the UK's latest growth rate is one-tenth of a percentage point higher, Carney might just be canny at timing his career moves.

Stimulating activity

Growth in the UK over the past three years has been very poor, ranging from 0.2 to 0.9 per cent per annum, with several quarters in which GDP was negative. In real terms, the economy has not grown at all. The hope for the markets is that Carney can raise growth here in the UK to levels similar to those experienced in Canada.

He has already indicated that there are things he can do to stimulate activity. Consequently, markets have started to anticipate changes. We can expect more easing of credit conditions, higher growth, higher inflation, a weaker pound and the maintenance of low interest rates for the foreseeable future.

But although he will bring new ideas to the Bank of England, he will have only one out of nine votes on the Bank of England's Monetary Policy Committee, which sets interest rates, so charities should not expect a huge change in prevailing economic conditions as a result of his arrival.

Some organisations might have already noticed expectations being talked down in recent months. Once the recovery takes hold, interest rates will start to rise, which will act as a brake on growth.

Charity link

Perhaps not unexpectedly, Carney has not made any major comments on charity, but his wife is well known in environmental circles for her website, Eco Products That Work.

This means that charities, like other organisations, will have to continue to survive in an environment of low growth and interest rates where recovery is gradual.

Overall conditions for charities should improve over time, but they should not expect a quick fix. Under Carney, it is likely that interest rates will stay lower for longer and inflation will be higher than it otherwise might have been.

So charities with large amounts of cash might still feel under pressure to switch this money into real assets, which will generate a higher level of income and protect them from the effects of inflation.

John Hildebrand is an investment manager at Investec Wealth & Investment

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