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Northern Society of Chartered Accountants

At the heart of northern business since 1882

Confidence fallen to lowest level for nearly a decade says ICAEW UK Q4 BCM 15 November 2018

The latest ICAEW Business Confidence Monitor (BCM) shows that despite stable financial data business confidence has fallen to its lowest level for nearly a decade – reflecting lack of progress on Brexit negotiations.


“Business confidence is at its lowest point since the financial crisis ten years ago.

Leaving the EU and its potential impact is at the front of everyone’s minds.

This is a difficult time to run a business, let alone finance the major investments the UK economy will desperately need post Brexit to drive growth.

The Budget offered some relief to business but more significant action is needed by Government to provide stability and reassurance.”

Key findings this quarter
  • A sharp fall in business confidence from -0.2 in Q3 to -12.3 this quarter. The decline is widespread across most sectors and all regions.
  • Despite low confidence, growth in sales volumes is still around 4% and is expected to remain at this rate over the next 12 months.
  • Profit growth is marginally down, as are expectations over the year ahead.         
  • Capital investment is growing well under profit growth – reflecting caution on the part of businesses.
  • Employment continues to grow, but at a low rate. No significant change in the pace of growth is expected.
  • Concerns over regulation still dominate the increases in challenges businesses face, though the pace at which these concerns are rising has eased a little.
Trends in confidence by region

Confidence is in negative territory in every region, with the South West, Scotland, Northern England as well as West Midlands showing the greatest concerns.

London is towards the leastpessimistic end of the range, probably helped by its IT & Communications and Business Services sectors.

All regions report confidence in negative territory, compared with six out of eleven in the third quarter.

The West Midlands region is one of the most pessimistic regions, at – 16.7. It is possible that more companies in the region are deeply embedded in pan-EU supply chains than in other regions, reflecting its particular reliance on medium-sized engineering companies in the automotive and related sectors.

These supply chains are widely seen as being particularly vulnerable to Brexit. Unsurprisingly, concern about marketplace competition in this region is on the way up, as is concern about non-managerial skills, to 40% and 39% of companies.

The South West confidence index is even more negative. The region has seen the second slowest sales growth over the past year, at just 2.9%, with only Northern England reporting a weaker figure (1.7%).

It is also striking that London is among the least negative regions. It has experienced faster and more stable sales growth than most, although not markedly so. It seems likely that the strongly negative sentiment in the Banking, Finance & Insurance sector is being offset by the neutral position of the IT & Communications and Business Services sectors: all three are important to the capital.

Download the latest report

Q4 2018 ICAEW Business Confidence Monitor – download the report HERE.

Find out more at our next Business Confidence Monitor meeting

Join us to find out more at our forthcoming ICAEW Business Confidence Monitor briefing:

Newcastle upon Tyne, 4 December 2018 – Business confidence and economic review breakfast with Bank of England

The event is free of charge but pre-booking is required.

About Northern Society of Chartered Accountants

Northern Society of Chartered Accountants (NorSCA) represents 4,000 ICAEW members and ACA students working in business and the finance profession across the North East of England, Teesside, northern Yorkshire and Cumbria.

We have been assisting businesses in the north of England and producing chartered accountants for over 130 years.


There are over 1.7m chartered accountants around the world – talented, ethical and committed professionals who use their expertise to ensure we have a successful and sustainable future.

Over 149,000 of these are ICAEW Chartered Accountants. We train, develop and support each one of them so that they have the knowledge and values to help build local and global economies that are sustainable, accountable and fair.

We’ve been at the heart of the accountancy profession since we were founded in 1880 to ensure trust in business. We share our knowledge and insight with governments, regulators and business leaders worldwide as we believe accountancy is a force for positive economic change across the world.

ICAEW (Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales) is a founder member of Chartered Accountants Worldwide and the Global Accounting Alliance.

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