By Zafar Kanani, Manager, Forbury Investment Network
Last week, the Hurun Report and Visa Consulting Group suggested that the UK slipped down the list of desirable destinations for high net worth Chinese investors, putting the country behind the USA and Canada to third place. Although Brexit has added an additional layer of uncertainty for the future of the UK, it has too much going for it for it to be discounted as an attractive place to do business.
The UK has been a global financial centre for hundreds of years and boasts an unrivalled standard of education. Its universities generate high quality research resulting in a tremendously advanced and productive technology development ecosystem. Such history and pedigree will not be diminished overnight by Brexit, and indeed these factors continue to attract the interest of foreign investors.
Despite the uncertainty, Forbury Investment Network continues to experience strong demand from overseas professionals interested in investing in the UK across all asset classes, particularly given the relative security on offer for investments compared with many other countries. On an individual level, many investors who come to the UK have an existing connection with the country, the most common being a former period spent studying in the UK, or a long-held ambition to ensure the next generation has access to its world class education.
One popular route, the Tier 1 Entrepreneur Visa, encourages investment in the UK whilst also attracting top entrepreneurial talent from around the world. There is great opportunity for these investors to create value for themselves and for the UK economy by using their expertise and capital to support emerging UK businesses, which will need to rely increasingly on overseas markets as an essential source of growth in an uncertain domestic and European macroeconomic environment.
As of Q1 of this year, Home Office statistics state that 839 investors, of which 631 were entrepreneurs, invested in the UK since the Brexit vote. That investors, especially entrepreneurs, are choosing the UK over other destinations with similar or even less onerous requirements, illustrates the continuing attractiveness of the UK despite the unknowns created by Brexit.
Forbury's experience with Chinese investors validates the Home Office data. We have recently been approached by investors with interests in acquiring assets in the UK and have worked with others wanting to start or invest in a business that has potential in their home market. These interactions would not be forthcoming if there was no perceived potential value in the relationship, be it monetary or otherwise.
The UK should be proud of its heritage as an innovator; investment in businesses by both UK investors and foreign investors is as welcome as ever. However, it is important to remain mindful of the fact that entrepreneurs looking to accelerate their business will not hesitate to accept investment, given the right terms, from any part of the world. Instruments like the Tier 1 Entrepreneur Visa are important in encouraging and sustaining overseas investment in the UK.