However,despite significant improvements in the global economic landscape, 2014 was marked bysignificant geopolitical events, which have taken their toll on financial markets outsidethe US and Japan. In the UK, both the Scottish referendum and predictions of a closegeneral election outcome in May 2015 created an uncertain political environment. At a European level, markets have been faced with continuing tensions in Eastern Europe,as well as the ongoing sovereign debt issues, with the Greek crisis featuring heavily innews headlines over the past 12 months. The collapse of oil prices, the spread of the Ebola virus in West Africa and the ongoing conflict in the Middle East have also had a significant impact on the global economy.
Nevertheless, the importance of the asset management industry continues to grow. Nowhere is this truer than in the context of pensions, as the global population becomes larger, older and richer, and government initiatives to encourage independent pension provision continue. By way of example in the UK, changes to the rules governing what retirees can do with their pension benefits look set to open up a new section of the market to discretionary managers and product providers.
The activities of the financial services industry remain squarely in the public and regulatory eye, and the consequences of this focus are manifest in ongoing regulatory attention around the globe. Regulators are continuing to seek to address perceived systemic risks and preserve market stability through regulation. In Europe, major changes to the regulatory landscape were introduced by the Alternative Investment Fund Managers Directive, which has applied in full since July 2014, and this trend is set to continue in other areas of the asset management industry with the implementation of changes to the UCITS regime and the revised Markets in Financial Instruments package.
In the UK, the Financial Conduct Authority has announced plans for a market study on the asset management industry and the charges it levies on investors.