Covid-19 set to have lasting effect on Australia’s retail investment market

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A steep rise in the market volatility and a drop in equity prices due to coronavirus (Covid-19) outbreak is set to result in the contraction of Australia’s retail savings and investment market in 2020, predicts GlobalData, a leading data and analytics company.

GlobalData forecasted the country’s retail holdings to expand by 5.5% in 2020 before Covid-19 sent financial markets plunging. However, an analysis of the company’s Retail Savings and Investments Analytics now reveals that the market is set to contract by 1.1% during the year due to the ongoing disruptions to economic activity and resulting uncertainty

Heike van den Hoevel, Senior Wealth Management Analyst at GlobalData, explains: “Already in pessimistic territory due to the economic effects of the recent bushfires, Australia’s consumer confidence index dived 3.6 points in March 2020 compared to the previous month, reaching an over five-year low of 91.9.

“The trend is unlikely to reverse in the near future as the pandemic has thrust the economy into a deep freeze, which will continue for at least a couple of months. The resulting flight to safety will drive demand for deposit products, which are forecast to be the only assets class in the retail mix to experience higher growth in our revised forecast. Given the lack of returns from the asset class in the current low interest environment, this will have a negative effect on overall wealth generation.”

In addition, this will have a direct and negative effect on wealth managers’ fee income. The S&P/ASX 200 VIX index, which measures the 30-day implied volatility of the Australian stock market, reached a 10-year high in March 2020 as equity prices experienced large declines, leaving investors worried.

While the flight to safety is expected to subside as the economy recovers over the forecast period, the onus will be on wealth managers to entice clients back into riskier growth investments

Van den Hoevel adds: “As a result, we expect equities as a proportion of total retail holdings to decline by 4.3 percentage points over the course of the year, falling from 42.6% at the end of 2019 to 38.3%. On the flipside, the proportion of deposits is forecast to increase by 5.2 percentage points to 56.6%.”

Investors’ more careful stance is expected to have a lasting effect on Australia’s retail savings and investment market. While the flight to safety is expected to subside as the economy recovers over the forecast period, the onus will be on wealth managers to entice clients back into riskier growth investments.

Van den Hoevel continues: “The effects will be particularly pronounced in the private banking market given higher exposure to risk assets and correspondingly greater losses. Our surveying during and after the 2008 global financial crisis clearly highlighted that risk aversion among Australian HNW investors rose significantly in the aftermath of the crisis—more so than among any other country surveyed.”

To restore investor confidence, increased due diligence will be paramount. Providing evidence of due diligence by advisors on behalf of clients encourages clients back into riskier corners of financial markets in Australia.

Van den Hoevel concludes: “Advisor recommendations and bullish reports about forecast future returns, on the other hand, have proven to be of little effect. Consequently, it will be advisors who invest the time—and can show they thought about their clients’ interests and conducted the necessary research—who will win clients over again.”


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