The COVID Diaries: syndicate 2

The following interview is with an Asian-based syndicate banker covering Australian dollars. 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?

Our firm is now operating out of two sites plus about a third working from home. Actually I have been working out of the main office. The connectivity has been relatively seamless and productivity has not been affected dramatically.

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?

The interesting thing about the East Asia experience under COVID-19 is that workplaces have been able to remain open to a large extent. Domestic cases in Hong Kong had come under control by early March and life was beginning to return to normal. We have had a spike in imported cases but numbers remain relatively contained.

We have been on the front line since January. East Asia has faced pandemics as recently as SARS in 2003. The hardships are still ingrained in the current generation and that is why measures were undertaken quickly.

Not only did the government act but citizens adopted measures over and above on their own. They stayed at home, took extra care on hygiene, wore masks on a population level and so forth. East Asian values of the collective good make gaining compliance an easier task.

“After we get through this, do governments push on with the status quo or is this the catalyst for a new social contract?”

What other changes are you making in your personal and professional life?

The hardest part has been social distancing – things like having to explain to my two-year-old that preschool is closed and she can’t play with her friends.

We have not been hoarding! The supermarkets experienced shortages 6-8 weeks ago but they are now fully stocked again.

What are you most worried about in this period, personally or professionally – and how worried are you in general?

Absent a vaccine, it seems almost impossible to keep outbreaks from recurring. We were seeing a light at the end of the tunnel in early March in Hong Kong with domestic cases coming under control but imported cases started to rise substantially from people returning to Hong Kong.

Quarantine may stay with us for the foreseeable future, but collectively we need to find a way to open borders more freely again, to restart the flow of people, trade and ideas – on the economic front but also to help fight the virus.

This is just one of many issues facing governments: trying to balance the health crisis with a social and economic one is no easy task. Finally, after we get through this, do governments push on with the status quo or is this the catalyst for a new social contract?

What is the latest article you have read in relation to COVID-19 and what did you like like about it? Can you provide a link?

An opinion piece by Yuval Noah Harari on the world after coronavirus. 

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