How experts predict our financial future

A look at some wider considerations on the road to a driverless future.

Pull a thread here and you'll find it's attached to the rest of the world.
- Nadeem Aslam, The Wasted Vigil

None of us can see into the future, but for those who work in the finance sector the ability to see around corners and pre-empt changes can be beneficial.

Rather than guesswork, understanding the challenges and opportunities that could arise in the near or distant future is often based on an ability to identify trends and understand them in a broader context.

Financial advisers and planners know that the markets they work with every day do not exist in isolation. Prices on the trading floor can fall like dominoes and set off a chain reaction; interest rate changes have flow on effects across a range of sectors; and even more nebulous influences - such as consumer sentiment - carry weight when it comes to the overall economic ecosystem.

It is this enhanced understanding of financial connections and the weblike interplay of industry, consumerism and governance that can make top-notch finance professionals seem on par with ancient seers when compared to the average citizen.

Changing lanes: The new speed and efficiency of tomorrow's mobility

Consider the rapidly advancing likelihood that driverless cars are set to become the dominant form of transport over the course of the next few years. To someone outside of the finance sector the implication of this is simple: We will not have to drive anymore and it will be easier and cheaper to get from A to B.

But what are the implications from the perspective of someone with a deeper level of insight? Let's take the topic off-road and begin with a look at the housing sector.

The impact of driverless cars on real estate

Location has always been a key word in the real estate industry. It stands to reason that an enhanced ease of mobility, transferring people more readily from one location to another, might change the unchallenged status of geographic positioning as property ownership's king and commander.

Commuting in the driverless age will be a whole new world - faster, more comfortable, cheaper. Escape the annoying co-passengers of public transport and the inconvenient and inexplicable delays and timetable changes. Leave behind the need to use elbows to leverage your body into a tightly packed scrum of weary commuters. Forget the way you dismiss your normal ability to be cogent of hygiene risks, and grasp hold of a filthy hand rail to balance your footing.

Driverless vehicles look set to make it all disappear.

This is good news for people paying exorbitant rent to live closer to work in the city's inner echelons. Finding a spacious rental with a leafy yard in suburbia might suddenly become more attractive. Suburbs with poor public transport options will no longer deter home-seekers of renters, nor will areas where parking spaces are a rarity.

Increased speed and convenience of driverless cars could undermine the 'proximity premium' of certain real estate.

More broadly, following on from the theme of parking spaces, less of those spaces will be needed overall - which will free up space for new developments. In time, this could help to correct the dearth of affordable urban housing and contribute to lowering the cost of real estate.

Putting the insights to use

Based on the economic considerations outlined above, an astute Financial Adviser could begin planning for likely opportunities or risks in the real estate market that could be triggered by the arrival of driverless technology.

Yet real estate is only one slice of the pie - with similar implications justifying a range of economic forecasts across multiple sectors and industries.

The predictive insights of the best Financial Advisers might not actually be on par with Nostradamus, but their ability to plan ahead and interpret a complex and dynamic marketplace could easily be mistaken for the gift of prescience.

At the very least, clients who utilise their expertise have a better chance of remaining a few steps ahead of the financial pack.

For more information on investing in new technologies please contact your Morgan Stanley Financial Adviser.

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