The COVID Diaries: New Zealand banker 1
The following interview is with a New Zealand debt market banker. It was conducted on 25 March 2020.
Presumably, you are now working from home. How challenging has the change been and how is your team dealing with it?
I imagine my experience of working from home is pretty universal, in the sense that it works but it’s clunky. The internet connection isn’t ideal, which means things can be slow and calls can drop out. I’m sure we are all experiencing not being able to get onto conference calls because of congestion.
Our part of the banking industry seems to have prepared quite well. We were having dummy runs and setting up hardware two weeks ago, and now we are running. Of course, we are all reliant on the size of the pipe we are trying to do business through.
One thing I’ve noticed that is quite hard is the number of bilateral conversations I am having that would be group conversations in the office. I spend a lot of time filling people in on conversations I have had with others.
A few people have noted that most others seem to understand everyone is trying to manage as best they can in a new working environment – with children at home, for instance.
We are certainly making sure to have more ‘check ins’ with people just to make sure they’re feeling okay, to the extent you can do that on the end of a phone. Maintaining some sort of normal contact is pretty important.
"What I’m thinking about most is that it turns out to be remarkably easy for governments to switch things off – closing borders, restricting domestic travel and closing a range of businesses, for instance – the hard part is restarting everything. I don’t know what that looks like or how it will go."
How close do you think the market will get to business as usual if we are in a period of social distancing for multiple months, including working from home and little or no face-to-face interaction?
On the other hand, we are seeing plenty of secondary activity so people are obviously transacting. I’d be optimistic that a deal could be executed in this working mode – assuming we get to stable markets. The world will keep functioning, debt will mature and issuers will need money.
What other changes are you making in your personal and professional life?
Professionally, we have to work out how to do business management. We have a colleague going on maternity leave soon, and while we have a replacement for her, it does make me aware that normal business issues are not going to go away.
What are you most worried about in this period, personally or professionally – and how worried are you in general?
I have been pleased with the policy response and how the government has reacted so far. I think this has gone a long way to easing anxiety.
What is the latest article you have read in relation to COVID-19 and what did you like/not like about it? Can you provide a link?