The coronavirus pandemic has presented a lot of opportunities to change for ever-adaptable financial planners, writes Keith Churchouse, who emphasises how preparation is becoming more important...
We will take our personal experiences from the Covid-19 lockdown deep into the summer, perhaps the autumn, as some restrictions are eased and sensible measures, such as social distancing, are being advocated and practiced.
I do not anticipate that we will be out of the woods with regards to the disease until at least the end of the year, and then only if a suitable vaccine can be identified and produced in sufficient billions to make it effective. It's going to be a long social marathon, rather than a business sprint. However, there are many ways in which it can be seen as a worthwhile haul.
Financial planning does not stand still, and nor do financial planners. Indeed, as a profession and in my experience, we are one of the most innovative in embracing change - real chameleons - and the last few months has certainly been a great example of this. The ‘can-do' spirit we normally see has not ebbed and is very apparent on social media.
And certainly, for me, the initial expectation was that this crisis would only last a few months, but now it seems set to continue for the balance of 2020, and probably beyond. Will ‘normal' ever exist again? And, one important question asked by many now, as you will see from the ESG notes below, is do we want it to be the same again?
This certainly shifts the balance of current thinking to the long haul, rather than focusing on a serious but short lockdown. Virtual everything is now the new norm, and as this enforced lifestyle (either from our authorities or from our own volition) becomes entrenched, it is itself becoming our ‘normal', indeed easier in many respects. Just hop on the computer and communicate, noting as I did in my last article for Professional Adviser that this seemingly simple operation takes communication skills, and some practice.
There is a bigger issue on communication for all businesses. Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) as an investment focus was rising in prominence before Covid-19. Watching a recent webinar on the topic of analysing corporate behaviour in the context of the pandemic, both in terms of immediate corporate reaction to change and what the future holds, there were some important observations.
It is clear that the ‘S' - Social - is going to be front and centre (and not to the detriment of Environmental) in most clients' and investors' minds. How corporates handle and care for the way operate their business and its effects on society are going to be as important as what a company produces or delivers. As the public's scrutiny of how we got here grows, so will the questioning of why we do what we do, irrespective of whether a company is a PLC or a sole trader.
So what have you taken from it all, good, bad or perhaps indifferent? For me, I am not sure part of my home, namely the unused bedroom, will ever be the same again, either physically or in my mind's eye. And, in anticipation that we may see another lockdown at some point in the future, I am not sure it should change much.
Do you feel that your tolerance levels have increased? Are you fearful or hopeful for the future? Perhaps the better question might be what have you given back to those around you? Were you the person you envisaged you would be and what has changed in how you view your life, your surroundings and your business?
Importantly, what have your clients and professional contacts taken from the experience? I think that this will be a key feature of review meetings and new client engagement discussions for a long time to come.
When tested, was your resilience, either in business or your personal life, what you thought it would be? Being prepared is always worthwhile, but perhaps more so now.
Keith Churchouse is director and Chartered financial planner at Chapters Financial
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