Firms cannot wait for the state to solve their problems and must start to invest, the boss of finance giant Legal & General has said.
Nigel Wilson said billions of pounds of private sector cash is available to companies with big plans, and that Britain’s economic resilience after the Brexit vote showed it remained one of the world’s best places to do business.
It came as L&G revealed a 17 per cent rise in profits to £1.6billion for 2016, which was driven by strong performances in its pensions and infrastructure divisions.
Group chief executive Wilson said: ‘There are so many opportunities to grow – there’s so much money around and people are just not being ambitious enough.
Opportunity: Legal & General boss Nigel Wilson said billions of pounds of private sector cash is available to companies with big plans
‘There’s an enormous amount of money that’s just sitting on the side doing nothing. We have to have a mindset change.
‘We’ve got to stop waiting for the Government to do things, and the private sector has to step up.’
The company’s performance is largely dependent on the US and UK economies.
Last year, the election of President Donald Trump kicked off a bull run in American markets.
And in the UK, the economy continued to grow strongly after the European Union referendum, in spite of warnings there would be a recession if Leave won.
Wilson said he was not surprised by Britain’s resilience. ‘The UK economy has been much stronger than any of the experts predicted, exactly as we thought it would be,’ he said.
‘The UK is a great place to invest. We’re absolutely brilliant at start-ups in the UK but we have to scale them up and we have to stimulate more economic activity across towns and cities.’
L&G’s retirement division is its most lucrative segment, with profits up 18 per cent to £847million.
This performance was helped by a surge in demand for pension buyouts, where a specialist finance group is paid to take responsibility for a company’s pension scheme.
Many businesses are responsible for multi-billion-pound schemes and there are concerns about how they can be funded due to the record-low interest rates – fuelling a boom in the buyout market.
L&G was responsible for the biggest such deal during 2016, taking responsibility for the £1.1bn Vickers Group Pension Scheme, which was backed by Rolls-Royce.
Wilson said he expected the trend of mega-deals to continue in coming months.
Meanwhile, the firm’s capital arm, which invests in infrastructure, housing and small and medium businesses, increased its profits from £117million to £419million.
L&G has trebled its direct investments to £1billion since the division was established in 2013, with key projects based in Manchester, Cardiff and Bracknell in Berkshire.
The investment management arm saw its profits decrease by £1million to £334million in the face of turbulent markets.
It is focused on passive tracker funds which aim to mirror moves in the stock market, unlike actively managed funds which seek to outperform it but charge far higher fees.
Investors have been pulling cash out of active funds and putting it into passive ones amid doubts about the abilities of highly paid managers to deliver the stellar returns they promise. L&G won £29.2billion of fresh investment as this trend continues.
The company also runs insurance and savings businesses.
It announced a total annual dividend of 14.35p per share, up 7 per cent on 2015.
Shares fell 2.1 per cent, or 5.4p, to 248.8p yesterday.