U.K. Finance Most Upbeat Since 1996 as Employment Jumps

Optimism in the U.K.’s financial industry reached a 17-year high in the third quarter as lenders, insurers and brokers hired staff at the fastest rate in six years, a Confederation of British Industry report showed.

A net 53 percent of respondents said they were more optimistic about their business in the three months through September, up from 31 percent in the previous quarter, according to a survey by the CBI and PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP. That was the highest reading since 1996. Respondents who have hired staff jumped by a net 24 percent, the biggest increase since the third quarter of 2007.

“This is an encouraging quarter,” Stephen Gifford, director of economics at the CBI, Britain’s biggest business lobby group, said in a statement. “Firms are expecting positive momentum to carry into the next three months, alongside a strong recovery in business volumes, which will boost profits further.”

The CBI and PwC estimate the financial industry added 10,000 jobs in the third quarter and will increase employment by a further 14 percent, or 2,000 positions, in the fourth quarter. That would bring the total number of people working in financial services by the year’s end to 1.14 million, the report said.

Profitability climbed for a fourth straight quarter, the survey showed. A net 26 percent of respondents said profit improved in the quarter as cost reductions helped offset a decline in revenue. That proportion is expected to grow 35 percent in the next three months as sales improve.

Banks were the most upbeat among the six industry groups highlighted in the report, followed by life insurers. A net 95 percent of bank respondents said they were more optimistic, up from 64 percent in the three months through June. It’s the biggest increase since the survey started in 1989.

The CBI, based in London, and PwC surveyed 99 respondents between Aug. 19 and Sept. 5.

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