City stockbroker Shore Capital and BlackRock, the world’s largest fund manager, are likely to receive somewhat varying takes on what Brexit means for business from their different political advisers.
While BlackRock took on former chancellor George Osborne as adviser on the global economy earlier this year, City A.M. today reveals that Shore has appointed Matthew Elliott as senior political adviser for its capital markets business.
Last year’s Brexit vote marked a crushing defeat for Osborne, who campaigned strongly for a Remain vote and later lost his job as chancellor, and a major victory for Elliott, who was chief executive of the official Brexit campaign, Vote Leave.
Howard Shore, the founder of Shore Capital, was himself an outspoken Brexiteer. And like Elliott, Shore remains optimistic about Brexit and says the move to appoint him is an “offensive move”, rather than defensive, as the firm seeks to take advantage of opportunities from leaving the European Union.
Realistic, not optimistic
Having played a prominent role in persuading the UK to vote to leave the European Union, it could be suggested that Elliott’s take on Brexit is bound to be optimistic.
“Put it this way: so far, all the developments since the vote on 23 June have given me cause for optimism,” Elliott tells City A.M.
“Because the whole ‘Project Fear’ scenario which was concocted hasn’t come to pass. So, really, I think there are huge grounds for optimism.
“At the same time, I think people who know me and who’ve heard me speak and give commentary on things realise that I can give balanced commentary.
“I don’t always just emphasise the positive things that are going on – I paint a realistic picture of what’s going on.”
What will Shore be seeking from Elliott? “Intelligent analysis of how the political dimension can affect our corporate clients,” Shore tells City A.M.
“Whether you’re in favour of Brexit or not in favour of Brexit, I think you have to hold your hat up and say the guys who ran the campaign did it brilliantly.
“They did it against the odds, against the establishment and against the machinery of government that the establishment had to work in its favour.”
Shore believes the effect politics is having on the corporate world is “really interesting and not covered well enough”. This is where Elliott fits into his plans.
“In today’s world, politics is so fast-moving because of predominantly electronic communication,” Shore adds. “It has changed everything and it’s made things less predictable, fast moving.
“And as a consequence, I think people need people like Matthew to explain what the current trends are and what the implications are, and how that affects business, and how that might affect regulation.”
Shore says Elliott will be able to provide “practical answers to practical questions”:
“Are there going to be tariffs of not? How big are the tariffs going to be? If you’re in financial services, what’s the likely outcome? If you’re in pharmaceuticals, what’s the likely outcome? How do you see a trade deal working with the US?”
He adds: “Matthew’s a true expert, he’s very close to the coalface, it’s something that he’s really living and breathing all the time, and he’s got a fantastic, analytical brain and can add a lot of value to our clients.”
Populism and Corbyn
Elliott is also a senior fellow at think tank the Legatum Institute. Here, he is researching, among other things, the rise of populism.
“I’d say the key conclusion is that populism can’t just be seen as a right wing phenomenon,” he says. “I think that after Brexit and [the election of Donald] Trump some people, incorrectly, saw it as being a right wing thing.
“I actually see it as being an anti-establishment, or an anti-status quo, phenomenon.”
This would suggest Jeremy Corbyn, who has put attacking “greedy bankers”, Sir Philip Green, Southern Rail, “press barons” and “crooked financiers” at the centre of his General Election campaign, might be playing a clever game.
“It’s interesting. I think the closest politician to Jeremy Corbyn in recent times was Bernie Sanders, who of course did pretty well – much better than people thought he would in the Democratic primaries,” Elliott says.
“Both of them hail from the far left of politics, but seem to have repackaged themselves as being more populist.”
And how well does Shore Capital’s new senior political adviser think Corbyn can do on 8 June? “I think he’s certainly going to do a lot better than people thought he would do at the start of the race.”