Earlier this week I was given responsibility for a vitally important delivery to my daughter’s home – my grandson’s most cherished toy that he would “need” to play with that evening. Whilst driving off having completed my mission, I reflected on the fact that this house is currently the location where important company audit and national policy decisions are being worked on. As I continued to drive back towards home, observing how many cars were parked outside residential properties on a weekday, it struck me that these are doubtless the principal locations of the likes of corporate finance teams, pension fund boards and a whole plethora of key economic functions. A very different nationwide industry picture to that which had existed just 6 short months ago.
As recently as March of this year it was the expression on everyone's lips: ‘The New Normal’. It was the subject that largely dominated discussion forums everywhere, giving us plenty to talk about on Zoom, Teams and the plethora of other online communication forums we have come to depend upon. We just couldn't get enough of New Normal discussions.
During the past two weeks I enjoyed one of the experiences we have COVID to “thank” for – a staycation. Mine involved a mixture of enjoying the (occasionally) nice Scottish weather, playing a bit of tennis (badly) and considerable walking of my sometimes uncooperative dog. All of this and more within a 20km radius of my home in Fife.
I was taken with by how much evidence there was on display of our ability to get used to significant change. How for example many of us seem to have adapted relatively easily to life behind face masks. Embracing the abnormal? The new normal? Call it what you like, it’s reality.
What’s in a name?
An awful lot, judging by the effort and time devoted to choosing the “right” one. Most parents will empathise, as will many pet owners.
The same applies in the world of business. Doubtless you have heard the argument: “Our organisation needs a name that tells the world what we do and what we stand for”.
I have often wondered about how the industry I am most familiar with arrived at its name, Asset Management? Can this title be said to adequately address the 'what we do and stand for' test?
Twenty seven years ago I started out in the asset management industry. I was very excited to be entering the world of financial markets with its focus on macroeconomic-based decision making which I had been trained to do.
But my line manager at that time had other more immediate plans for me. And so for large parts of the first year in my role as fund manager I was given the task of replying on behalf of the organisation to letters from members of the public. This was after all the era before email.
It's amazing how in some cases the unimaginable becomes normal very quickly.
- Soccer matches played behind closed doors.
- Sugar-free Irn-Bru (non-Scots may need to research that one!)
- Trump in the White House.
Yet often-times change comes slowly.
During a recent client webinar I was struck by an observation from a participant – that the asset management industry has not witnessed a meaningful innovation in client relationship management in more than two decades.
Could that really be correct? Having pondered the matter ever since I admit to be unable to come up with an example I could use to refute this assertion. So I ask myself, how can this be?
All around us for the past three months we have seen examples of individuals and businesses demonstrating initiative in support of others and of their clients. My personal favourites have been the local jogger dressed as Spiderman entertaining children in lockdown (and their parents!) and our favourite seafood restaurant thankfully deciding to promote a home delivery service.
Like many of you I suspect, I have become more conscious of risk. At the outset of the COVID crisis, the prospect of having to go almost anywhere made me feel uncomfortable. This was especially true of the poor innocent supermarket. Perhaps I will have similar misgivings about offices, albeit to a lesser extent, when or if they ever again become a significant feature of how we do business.