How the UK economy has changed during Queen’s 70 year reign

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12th September 2022

Bite-sized business news from the UK and beyond
Good morning It’s been confirmed that next Monday will be a bank holiday to coincide with Queen Elizabeth II’s burial. The state funeral for the late monarch will be the first since that of Winston Churchill’s in 1965. 
Today's stories
  • How the UK economy has changed during Queen’s 70 year reign 
  • EY bosses green light breakup 
How the UK economy has changed during Queen’s 70 year reign

What happened?
As the UK marks the passing of Queen Elizabeth II, its longest-serving monarch, we look at how the economy has changed since her reign begun in 1952.

The economy has transformed from the one when she came to the throne
Since the 1950s there have been economic booms and busts, oil shocks, currency turmoil and financial crises. But the overwhelming trend over the past 70 years has been one of expansion. Despite the current cost of living crisis, the UK on the whole is healthier and wealthier:
  • The economy today is five times larger than in the 1950s.
  • At age 70, men and women can both expect to live seven years longer than they did seven decades ago.
  • Women form about half of the workforce, compared to a third in the early 1950s.
  • The average house price has jumped from less than £2,000 — the equivalent of around £60,000 today — to a record £274,000, according to Nationwide Building Society.
The monarchy itself has also impacted the economy. A study by the Brand Finance consultancy estimated the Royal Family adds £1.8bn to economic output each year and cost each Brit £4.50 annually.

Zooming out: One economic trend that has fallen behind after decades of growth is real wages. Since the 1950s average pay has grown ahead of inflation but that came to an end in the wake of the Global Financial Crisis of 2008. The recent spike in consumer prices means that the average worker pay has reverted to levels not seen since 2006.
Other stories to keep you in the loop
EY bosses green light breakup 

What happened?
Last week leaders at accounting giant Ernst & Young announced a groundbreaking plan to break up their own company. The move will lead to major payday for partners and alter the course of the global accounting industry in the process.

How did we get here?
For years the big four accounting firms — Deloitte, PwC, KPMG and EY — have come under scrutiny from financial watchdogs in the UK and the US. Regulators are particularly keen for them resolve the potential conflict of interest that occurs when selling consulting services to companies while also claiming to be independent auditors of companies’ finances. 

Recent examples of where the big four have faced criticism for their work include the collapse of builder Carillion, audited by KPMG, and retailer BHS, audited by PwC, in the UK, and Wirecard, audited by EY, in Germany. In 2020, UK regulators ordered the big four to split off their auditing businesses by mid-2024 with EY the first one off the mark.

It plans to split the company in two: 
  1. The high growth advisory business which advises companies on taxes, mergers and acquisitions and strategy. 
  2. The lower growth accounting business that reviews company accounts. 
Splitting the business will be complicated: If the proposal succeeds, EY will be faced with the huge task of dividing its IT infrastructure, human resources, physical offices and countless other resources across the world.

Next steps: EY operates as a network of national member firms in 150 countries with 312,000 employees, where partners will vote over the course of several months on whether to split their $45bn revenue firm into two. Partners could reportedly net a $8m payout from the break up.
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