By: Felipe Rivas
2 min read May 2020 — Charlotte is strongly positioned to capitalize on the investment diversification push from both local and foreign investors to keep its growth sustainable. Tom Finke, chairman and CEO of Barings, walks Invest: through the key features and challenges of the Queen City’s financial landscape.
What is your assessment of the Charlotte market?
Charlotte is a great story. It has grown dramatically since the 1980s, fueled by the growth of the two big banks headquartered here at that time, as well as Duke Energy. It also enabled the expansion of the city’s hospital system and other important institutions, along with other companies growing contiguous to that ecosystem. Today, companies such as Honeywell have chosen Charlotte as their corporate HQ, along with a number of business startups, not necessarily tied to the financial industry but related to either the energy industry, the healthcare sector, education and high tech, to name a few. The Queen City benefits from the fact that through its growth was launched by the financial sector, over the years it has become much more diversified, making it a highly attractive city to any company and industry looking to grow.
What challenges are looming in Charlotte’s financial sector?
Asset management, like the rest of the financial sector, is dealing with the ongoing economic and market crisis stemming from the COVID-19 pandemic. It is hard to predict the long-term effects and trends. At Barings, we are primarily focused on the short-term situation, managing risk appropriately for our clients through this crisis. It is likely that the financial markets will change after the crisis subsides, much like they did after the 2008 financial crisis, which ushered in an unprecedented decade of lower rates. The macroeconomic picture remains uncertain in terms of the downturn’s length, albeit clearly severe. Looking ahead, investment decisions will be impacted not only by macroeconomic factors but also by understanding which businesses will survive, grow and thrive, which among them will need restructuring, with inherent opportunities to invest on a distress basis and how it affects different asset classes.
How have tax reform and low tax rates impacted your side of the business?
The most recent tax reform enabled corporations to bring capital stranded overseas back into the United States, leading to reinvestments in the home market. It had a positive stimulus effect in terms of growth rates coming into 4Q19, contributing to the strength of the U.S. economy. Over the longer term, lower rates are also an indication that the Fed and other central banks are set on stabilizing inflation at a reasonable level, tangentially worried about deflation. Rates are going to remain low in part because there is a lot of stimulus, both fiscal and monetary, injected into the crisis situation.
How would you rate Charlotte’s attractiveness for national and foreign companies?
Charlotte has been on the radar of several international companies for a long time. The large number of multinational European firms that have operations in Charlotte or nearby in the general region between western North Carolina and into South Carolina, demonstrates that it is definitely a place that attracts business. The next level is to not only continue to attract growing businesses such as technology companies, but also attract Foreign Direct Investment (FDI). We work with several asset owners, such as sovereign wealth funds and foreign pensions. We direct our discussions toward Charlotte and its inherent opportunities, whether it is investing in real estate or in local companies. Charlotte is in a strong position to continue to attract global investment. Since the financial crisis of 2008, the investment market has further globalized. Several investors, such as the superannuation funds in Australia, are investing in U.S. markets. This diversification push from home to foreign markets is a sizable opportunity for cities such as Charlotte to tap into.
What strikes you most about the growth of Charlotte’s real estate market?
Barings was the first company to break ground on a new office building post-crisis in Charlotte in 2014. We have seen a significant number of new developments up and down Stonewall Street and other parts of the city since then. It primarily reflects demand coming from within and outside of Charlotte. Coming out of the financial crisis, developers have shown more discipline around ensuring there is demand to support specific types of development.
What impact do you anticipate COVID-19 will have on the economy?
The virus outbreak is unlike anything we have experienced in our lives. It is indiscriminately impacting communities across the world. From a business perspective, we anticipate a high level of defaults and bankruptcies, as well as companies that may thrive in terms of the demand for their products and services. Anytime we go through a significant recession of this sort, there is an initial shock that we are still reeling from, as evidenced by overall economic weakness and the erratic stock market.
What is your outlook for 2020?
It will take a period of time for economic growth to get back to where it was in the United States and globally, well beyond 2020. It is a question about the severity and the length of the impact on the economy of this shutdown state and how we start getting out of it so companies can again start building revenue.
To learn more, visit: https://www.barings.com/us/guest