L&G’s Wilson Says UK Must Speed Up Reforms to Lure Investors

The UK needs to accelerate reforms to help attract more investments, according to Legal & General Group Plc Chief Executive Officer Nigel Wilson.

(Bloomberg) — The UK needs to accelerate reforms to help attract more investments, according to Legal & General Group Plc Chief Executive Officer Nigel Wilson.

The Mansion House speeches on policy reforms in July have been very positive, but the government needs to speed them up, Wilson told Anna Edwards, Tom Mackenzie and Mark Cudmore in a Bloomberg Television interview on Tuesday in London. The perception of the UK externally isn’t as good as it should be and that needs to be changed, the boss of the insurer said.

The British government is planning to loosen some of the EU Solvency II rules — which the UK inherited from the EU — to release capital for investment, allowing firms deploy their customers’ retirement savings more widely.

“We want to crack on and get going,” Wilson said, adding the UK needs to take a leaf out of the US book in quickening and implementing reforms. “We have a massive opportunity sitting in front of us and we see the Americans grabbing it with two hands and we have to replicate it at pace.”

L&G, one of UK’s largest insurers, on Tuesday reported an almost 2% decline in operating profit in the six months through June from a year earlier, but Wilson sounded upbeat saying “we’re feeling pretty good about life.” 

Read more: LGIM Assets Decline as Outflows Combine With Rising Rates

The company has a lot of “firepower” to invest in the UK, but he’d like a bigger opportunity to do that, he said.

In July, the UK government announced an agreement between nine of Britain’s largest pension providers to boost their investment in growth companies, a move it said could unlock £50 billion ($63 billion) if the rest of the industry follows suit.

“We have to change the perception for overseas investors and the fact that the prime minister has been stabilizing the economy is helpful on that journey, but we definitely want to be seen more as a destination for foreign direct investment than we currently are,” Wilson said in a separate telephone interview.

Some of the optimism about UK’s prospects in Wilson’s comments echo those made by Blackstone Inc. President Jonathan Gray back in January, when he said the economy was attractive relative to other countries and sentiment had become too negative. 

Incoming CEO Antonio Simoes, who is set to start his new role on Jan. 1, will help accelerate L&G’s growth and take it to markets that Wilson couldn’t because of the pandemic, the latter said.

In its earnings statement, L&G said its asset management arm, Legal & General Investment Management, reported net outflows of £19.3 billion in the first half, while assets under management dropped to £1.16 trillion from £1.29 trillion. Outflows from LGIM’s funds included pension risk transfers.

Under Wilson’s leadership since 2012, LGIM grew to become one of Europe’s largest asset managers. Wilson also established Legal & General Capital, the group’s alternative asset platform, in 2013. The platform has enabled investments in infrastructure and housing projects across the UK.

–With assistance from Anna Edwards, Tom Mackenzie and Mark Cudmore.

(Updates with detail on net outflows in the penultimate paragraph)

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