Brokers Market Data

Brokers cautiously optimistic about UK economy

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Richard CameronMD of Close Brothers Broker Solutions

The latest independent research from Close Brothers Broker Solutions has found that commercial brokers are more confident about the UK’s economic prospects than their own. Despite this, however, recruitment of new staff is strong, and few suffered a decrease in income in the past 12 months.

Conducted by research specialists, Censuswide, the findings are based on the results of a large-scale survey of 500 independent commercial finance brokers from across the UK.

Comparisons are made with the results from a similar survey of SME business owners, where relevant.

Macroeconomy

The Close Brothers survey asked brokers what their views were of the UK economy’s prospects for the next 12 months. Results found that brokers tended to have stronger views – either positive or negative – than SME business owners, who were slightly more cautious about committing to an opinion. The findings suggest that – on balance – brokers have a generally upbeat view about the economy, despite the multiple headwinds firms have recently faced, from high inflation and rising interest rates to energy prices rises.

Q: Which of the following best describes your business’s economic outlook for the next 12 months?

 Commercial BrokersUK SMEs
Confident that the economy will grow50%46%
Concerned that the economy will slow down44%40%
I don’t think there will be a significant change in the economy6%14%

Individual business performance

When asked about their own business’s prospects, brokers were notably less optimistic than business owners from other sectors. According to survey findings, only 23% of brokers expect to expand in the coming 12 months, against 40% of UK SMEs. And three times as many brokers say their operations will contract during 2024 against only 9% of small business owners.

Q: In general, how do you expect your business to perform over the next 12 months?

 Commercial BrokersUK SMEs
Expand23%40%
Stay the same41%50%
Contract29%9%
Close down8%1%

Business priorities

When asked about their business priorities, the results again differed significantly – brokers’ areas of focus were different from their customers.

For example, for SMEs achieving growth is, by far, their number one priority, with a third of respondents selecting this option. This contrasts with just 14% of brokers who say growth is their focus, behind ‘remaining open’, ‘investing in staff’, ‘business consolidation’, and ‘paying down debts’.

Q: What is your main business priority for 2024? (select best match)

Remaining open16%
Investing in staff16%
Business consolidation15%
Paying down debts14%
Continue trading at current levels14%
Achieving growth14%
Developing our products/services12%

Recruitment and income

Despite not being as positive as their SME peers about their own prospects, three-quarters of the brokers surveyed said they had recruited new staff in the last 12 months.

Unexpectedly, perhaps, when set against other findings, a further 58% of brokers admitted their business income had increased in the past year, with only 9% seeing a decrease. 

Q: How has your business income changed over the past 12 months?

Commercial Brokers
Increased58%
Stayed the same33%
Decreased9%

Richard Cameron, MD of Close Brothers Broker Solutions, said: “What these initial results tell us is that despite their caution about what the future holds, brokers have – in the main – had a solid last 12 months in terms of their income.

“It’s also encouraging to see that the sector continues to attract new talent and has prioritised investing in their staff above other considerations.

“It will be interesting to understand if brokers’ predictions about their own performance does come true given they have erred on the side of caution with more brokerages expecting to contract than expand in the coming year.”