The Garrulous Jay – Brit Awards

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Last Saturday singer-songwriter RAYE took the Brit Awards by storm, winning a record six gongs over the course of the evening, including Album of the Year. Not wanting to be upstaged, three days later Jeremy Hunt delivered his own version of the Brit Awards in what may be his valedictory Budget.

RAYE’s story is something of a fairytale. Signed to Polydor Records for a number of years, she enjoyed behind-the-scenes success as a writer for other artists, but her wish to release an album of her own was not supported by the label.

She parted company with Polydor in 2021 and her debut album was released to critical acclaim on independent label Human Re Sources in 2023.

Jeremy Hunt’s Budget makes much of seeking to identify and provide financial support to high growth, high potential British business talent.

He outlined four measures designed to stimulate investment in British business…

BritPensions (my name) will require UK money purchase pensions “to publicly disclose the breakdown of their asset allocations, including UK equities”. There appears to be both carrot and stick in this, with the thinly veiled threat that, “The government will review what further action should be taken if this data does not demonstrate that UK equity allocations are increasing”.

YewkISAs (aka UK ISAs) were also announced. These will provide retail investors with an additional £5,000 annual ISA allowance “for people to invest in UK-focused assets”. I’m not surprised Hunt said the government will “consult on the details” as I foresee both the definition and the operational mechanics of this new product presenting challenges.

BritBonds (aka British Savings Bonds) will be a new savings product issued through NS&I that will offer “a guaranteed interest rate, fixed for three years”. It’ll be interesting to see what rate of interest BritBonds pay and whether “increasing the savings opportunities available to consumers” in this way will see significant take-up.

Finally, we have BritBank, otherwise known as the offloading by the government of part of its stake in NatWest (or Royal Bank of Scotland as it was called when it was rescued from oblivion in 2008) to the great British public. The laudable intention is partly “to support the development of a savings and investment culture”… Better tell Sid!

All of these initiatives are well-intentioned and may enjoy some success in stimulating investment in and the growth of British businesses. But not for the first time they run the risk of missing the point.

There is no absence of a savings and investment culture in the UK.

The sad truth is there is an absence of attractive investment opportunities. The reason investors, whether directly or indirectly, have spurned the UK is because better returns can be achieved elsewhere. But that’s a much harder nut to crack and it takes a lot longer.

RAYE’s award-winning album is called, My 21st Century Blues. I wonder if it might also be the title of Hunt’s autobiography. I guess he’s hoping her hit single Escapism will be more appropriate.