Building wealth in a recession: latest medirectalk focusses on challenges and opportunities

After a difficult and volatile 2022, financial markets around the world had a bright start to the new year but the macro-economic and geo-political outlook remains highly uncertain and recession in the world’s largest economies remains a distinct possibility

Following a difficult and volatile 2022, financial markets around the world had a bright start to the new year but the macro-economic and geo-political outlook remains highly uncertain.

Recession in the world’s largest economies, including the United States and the European Union, remains a distinct possibility.

Within this context and following a medirectalk webinar with Maltese investors hosted by MeDirect, we spoke to Mike Coop, Chief Investment Officer EMEA at Morningstar, a leading provider of independent investment research in North America, Europe, Australia, and Asia, to discuss the outlook for the rest of 2023 and what investors can do to protect and even grow their wealth in the event of a recession..

The best place to start is probably to ask if the EU will be in recession in 2023?

Well, to be honest it is practically impossible to predict correctly if an economy is going to go into recession or not and, if it does, how long or severe that recession might be. Our analysis shows clearly that economic forecasters have a poor track record, so any forecast should be regarded as more of a guess than a reliable prediction. 

What is clear is that growth in the EU slowed dramatically over the second half of 2022 and that sentiment and expectations about the economy fell to levels normally seen before or during a recession. 

In truth, the worst predictions have failed to materialise, and sentiment has picked up a little in the new year, but I would not say that we are out of the woods. There are still lots of challenges facing the EU and other major economies as we continue to grapple with the aftereffects of Covid and the ongoing war in Ukraine. Whether the EU will enter a recession, which is defined as two consecutive quarters of negative growth, I cannot say for sure. But 2023 will certainly be challenging for the economy, and for investors.

2022 was a difficult year for investors. What should they be looking out for in 2023?

The first thing I would say is that being in a recession does not mean that the value of your investment portfolio must go down. Obviously, I would avoid, or exit, any investments in speculative stocks or non-profitable companies. Rising interest rates inevitably increase the risks of defaults and bankruptcies so investors need to be careful. 

However, one of the interesting points I highlighted during my medirectalk presentation was the difference in returns between those who continued to invest during the 2008 financial crisis versus those who moved to cash for one year and then came back in. If you started will US$100,000 in 2008, those who stayed invested are now some US$200,000 better off than those who took a year out. So, it’s not about panicking and moving everything to cash, it’s about sticking to your long term investment strategy that will achieve your goals, being patient and waiting for the recovery. 

There are certain investments that have a clear track record of outperforming during a recession. These include healthcare and consumer staples, in other words the essentials that consumers will continue to spend money on. And, of course, there are Government bonds which, in developed economies, are guaranteed to give you a return. In addition, there are also options that are a little more specific to the current situation. To give you just one example, Germany and China really took a beating last year due to the energy crisis and Covid lockdowns respectively so equities in both markets are really undervalued. As I said, sentiment may not be great for the rest of this year but if you buy equities that are clearly undervalued and can be patient, the returns for those with a longer-term perspective can be significant. We believe that other opportunities exist in the currency markets and in specific sectors so it’s important for investors to do their research and turn volatility and a possible recession into an opportunity.

In your discussion with Maltese investors during the medirectalk, what were the most common concerns raised?

I am no expert on the Maltese economy so my presentation was, of course, focussed on the macro scenario. Inevitably, however, the Q&A session that followed raised some interesting points that were Malta specific. One area we discussed was construction. Clearly, inflation and rising interest rates have an impact both on costs for the industry and the capacity of potential buyers to invest so there could be some challenges ahead there. Of course, a broader recession in the EU and the UK would also impact tourism. While the Maltese economy continues to show significant resilience, thanks also to lower debt levels when compared to other economies, there is no way it can avoid being affected by a broader EU or global economic downturn.

Any final thoughts?

Recessions do not last forever. In fact, since the Second World War recessions have become shorter and shorter as governments have become more interventionist to minimise their impact. The year ahead may well be a challenging one, maybe more or less so than we are expecting, but there are always opportunities. My advice to investors in Malta and elsewhere is to seek out good, reliable information to help you develop a sound strategy which you can pursue with discipline and patience. Events like the medirectalks also provide an excellent opportunity to get great insights and connect with the highly qualified advisers at MeDirect. Despite everything, with the right advice and strategy, 2023 could be the start of a prosperous future.

About medirectalks

medirectalk are a series of online and in person events organised by MeDirect Malta. Now approaching its twentieth event, the talks provide market leading insights and analysis to MeDirect’s clients and investors from a range of global experts. The purpose of the talks is to give investors the tools they need to take control of their finances. More information, including recordings of past events and updates on upcoming talks is available at

The speakers at the medirectalk events, personally or on behalf of the institutions they are representing, are not responsible for the opinions they express during the discussions.

The information given during these talks is for general information purposes only and is neither intended to provide legal or other professional advice nor does it commit MeDirect Bank (Malta) plc to any obligation whatsoever. The information given during the talks is not intended to be a suggestion, recommendation or solicitation to buy, hold or sell, any securities and is not guaranteed as to accuracy or completeness. The financial instruments discussed may not be suitable for all investors and investors must make their own informed decisions and seek their own advice regarding the appropriateness of investing in financial instruments or implementing strategies discussed herein.

MeDirect Bank (Malta) plc, company registration number C34125, is licensed to undertake the business of banking in terms of the Banking Act (Cap. 371) and investment services under the Investment Services Act (Cap. 370). 

Morningstar Investment Consulting France is a member of Morningstar’s Investment Management and Morningstar group, a leading provider of discretionary investment management and advisory services. Morningstar Investment Consulting France is authorised and regulated by the French Autorité de contrôle prudentiel et de resolution (ACPR) as an investment firm. SAS with a capital of 213,030 euros - RCS Paris 441 812 674 - APE 7022Z. Registered office: 52 rue de la Victoire 75009 Paris France. 

Morningstar Inc. is the ultimate parent of the Morningstar Group. Where any reference is made to Morningstar Inc. this incorporates all aspects of the Morningstar organisation and may reference services provided by regulated and non-regulated entities. Delivery of services, by MICF, is supported by appropriate arrangements established between MICF and other relevant Morningstar group entities captured under the Morningstar Inc. banner.