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Posted: 15 Jan, 2018

I am delighted that the first TMA meeting of the year took place at GVA and was hosted by Ros Goode. With standing room only, our 100 plus guests were obviously concerned that they might have been bored…they had little to worry on that score.

  I have asked Ros to summarise the event for those of our members who could not make the evening.

I was particularly pleased that a number of my Board Directors did not know all the guests. I certainly didn’t and I think it’s really refreshing to have such a varied group of people. Nowadays our meetings have a huge influx of new members, sponsors, sponsor’s guests and new people “checking us out”. This is to be encouraged.

Our next London meeting, 7th February, is hosted by Gordon Bros and will concentrate on what I think will be a major area for our members this year - Retail. We also have an entertaining and thought provoking Cyber Security expert, not long out of the Government services, to add a bit of spice. (Book here)

‘A bumpy road but the money keeps on flowing’

The panel comprising Ros Goode (GVA) Moderator, Rob Asplin (Better Capital), Stephen Cowperthwaite (GVA Retail), Geoff Rowley (FRP Advisory) and Peter Manning (Simmons & Simmons) delivered an insightful commentary on the views and predictions for their markets for 2018.

Rob themed heavily on the continuing availability of cheap senior/ equity and mezzanine funding expressing concerns over the credit bubble albeit not seeing any triggers this year for there to be a significant correction. Steve gave his take on the substance behind the Retail headlines so far this year with stories or woe from New Look, Mothercare, Debenhams and House of Fraser. The fundamentals are clear as evidenced by Next and John Lewis where trading has been more positive - two operators who are strong on multi-channel selling with online increasingly outperforming stores. Food spend on essential items remains robust for the supermarkets but turning to ‘food and beverage’ the prospects are looking grim, Byron hitting the headlines, Strada having gone before.

Geoff offered his perspective on the mid-market and reported many and varied mandates with no core themes and the sentiment that there has been no Brexit effect on work flow from FRP’s perspective. Geoff echoed Rob’s view on availability of funding but expressed frustration that boards are not taking action early enough to address problems and thus creating time stresses unnecessarily. Reporting on a very busy start to the year in terms of pipeline one of the concerns expressed by Geoff was the capacity challenge. The Restructuring sector has inevitably downsized over the years following the GFC and the fight for talent and people retention is on. Peter focussed his commentary around the challenges that S&S continue to see in the Fintech market, the impact of the squeeze on consumer credit, and debt trading. Furthermore echoing Geoff’s views Directors are taking action too late to address problems.

Moving into the Q&A the theme of construction received a cautious response from Rob, from a funding perspective an unattractive sector where access to returns remains an unacceptable risk area. The panel were rightly reluctant to be drawn on the prospects and impact of a change of Government this year but moving on to the impact of AI on professional services all agreed that we are on the tip of the iceberg in terms of a significant impact which will drive consolidation. Surprisingly there were no Brexit questions coming from the floor, conclusions made afterwards over a glass that we were all heartily sick of the subject…

As the session came to a close Iain Lock (Head of Health GVA) shared his views on the other significant ‘elephant in the room’, the hangover of non performing nursing homes in the market. The elderly care market continues to be in crisis and there is a need for a political shift in prioritising what will soon become a significant societal issue. 

Andrew J Pepper

TMA UK President 

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