Well here we are at the end of what has been a brutal year for all of us. Everyone has faced their own individual struggles, sadness, worries and anxiety.
We started 2020 in optimistic mode. The years of hung parliament were finally at an end, an ‘oven ready’ Brexit deal was on the menu and American markets looked set to roar into stellar growth mode.
I recall reading about a hushed up virus in a little known place called Wuhan in January and a spider web of fear started in my brain as I considered the risk to our business of that virus spreading. Then I thought ‘surely our world leaders will act swiftly and stop everyone travelling right?’
As February moved into March, it became clear that the virus was now a major risk to our very way of life. I don’t think that any of our world leaders covered themselves in glory in those early months – then again – who would want their job right now?
The comment that stood out for me was from Mr Trump when he was interviewed about his response to the pandemic. He was asked how he could account for so many deaths and such hardship spreading across his country. His answer with a companionable shrug was simply ‘it is what it is’.
That phrase caught on in our household, and I have lost count of the amount of times I have heard people say it since.
Like so many of our clients, I have found myself frustrated and puzzled by some of the decisions taken by various governments in 2020.
The collateral damage has been staggering, with businesses, marriages, education, planned operations and lifesaving treatments all being sacrificed in the path of the pandemic. We will be living with the long term effects of this for a long time.
And now we are faced with possibly a few months in lockdown and markets are falling again.
So is the position for 2021 completely hopeless? Should we just accept defeat and mope our way into a new year?
Whilst I think that 2020 has been all about survival, I have a hunch that 2021 will be much more about revival.
I want to look ahead to that point when enough vulnerable folk are vaccinated and the rest of the population can start to work, plan and dream again. Believe it or not, I think we are far closer to that revival point than we currently realise.
I always take great comfort from history and trying to understand how our ancestors coped with similar challenges to the ones that we face today.
The last deadly pandemic was the Spanish Flu of 1918/1919. This avian virus was reckoned to infect a third of the global population and played its part in the death of over 50 million people. It moved in three waves, according to the centres for disease control and prevention. Even without a vaccine and no widespread antibiotics to beat off secondary infections, the virus final wave was its least deadly in the middle of 1919. Around 18 months from its starting point – it burned itself out.
In 1957, the Asian flu (again an avian virus) hit the western world with devastating effects. Once again, it burned out within around 18 months and was in decline before the vaccine was fully rolled out.
All of this offers us some perspective. These lockdowns and quarantine rules are awful things, but we may be now heading towards the last round of them, if history is anything to go by.
Whilst I am sure the media will enjoy lambasting us with the long term negative consequences of this pandemic both socially and economically, I believe we can see rapid recovery as soon as the summer of 2021. Yes, there will be many long term casualties and we haven’t even begun to unravel the furlough scheme yet. However, I can see real opportunities for new businesses to thrive and our society to improve when this has ended.
Throughout 2020, I have worked harder than ever to ensure that every one of our clients are well cared for and kept fully informed. It has been a truly exhausting year for me and one I would not want to repeat. Dealing with all of this whilst Old Mutual completely changed their platform (which was sadly not without issues) added considerable pressures that we are still working through. It has felt like a year where you have had to sprint – just to stand still.
Having said that, we end 2020 with great pride at the way that our clients’ portfolios have performed. None of them are in negative territory from last December at the point of this article, and the ethical investment strategies that we pursued really paid off.
Katy and her husband Danny are expecting their second little family addition in February and we wish them well. Katy goes on maternity leave this week and we promise to give you baby updates as they arrive. Bethan has settled in brilliantly and I am confident that our small team can continue to deliver our legendary service in 2021 until Katy is back with us.
We will be closing the office on the 23rd of this month and reopening on the 4th of January so I am very much looking forward to a rest. During that period, I shall still monitor emails so let me know if you need anything urgently. I would like to wish you all a very peaceful and healthy Christmas holiday. Look after yourselves, stay safe and sane during this lockdown and I will be in touch in January with another article I am sure.
Very best wishes as ever and thank you for being our clients.