The COVID Diaries: service provider 1

The following interview is with an Australian-based service provider to the debt capital markets. It was conducted on 30 March 2020.

Presumably you are now working from home. How challenging has the change been and how is your team dealing with it?

At first, we went into the office with rotations of team A and team B but we have all been working from home now for close to two weeks. It has been challenging in that people have had to adapt while juggling everything else that is going on.

From a business perspective, it has been working well. The technology we use has been surprisingly good and videoconferencing has been much more useful than just talking over the telephone. You feel a bit more connected when you can see people.

In this respect, the amount of teamwork and collaboration has actually risen. The flipside is that it is a challenging set of circumstances for everyone.

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?

From a market perspective, I think we will adapt. The securitisation market is already showing signs of adaptation with the AOFM [Australian Office of Financial Management]’s programme in place. This will normalise and stabilise over time.

From the work environment point of view, I have a niggling concern that as weeks and months go by it will become more challenging. Maintaining contact with people and ensuring everyone’s mental health remains intact will be very important.

“Some parts of the medical system have had to be put on hold, which will have long-term impacts. I don’t think this has been discussed fully and transparently.”

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

We are all in the same boat in the sense that everyone is now at home. I have a very energetic 20-month-old at home, so this takes up a large chunk of my wife’s and my attention. We are working basically to a shift system.

Our social lives are also adapting to being more virtual. It is good that we can communicate with multiple people at once a lot more easily than we could in the past.

It has also become more difficult and more concerning to stay in touch with extended families. We all have parents who are older and in the more vulnerable groups. Making sure they are okay, have everything they need, and that we are connected to them is important – but so is making sure they are not taking any unnecessary risks with their health.

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

My personal worry is that the debate is not always conducted appropriately, in the sense that it is not just now that lives are being saved and dollars are being spent. If you look deeper, you’ll see that there will also be a huge impact on lives and livelihoods in the long run, from the mental effects of these isolation measures.

Also, some parts of the medical system have had to be put on hold, which will have long-term impacts. I don’t think this has been discussed fully and transparently.

It is not just about navigating the economic cost. We need to navigate these other costs as well in respect of quality and years of life. Striking a balance is extremely challenging.

I remain optimistic that the measures being implemented against the virus will be enough to avoid the initial forecasts. I hope they have flattened the curve, but at the moment, no one knows.

If they are successful, though, attention can turn to preventing a second wave. Previous pandemics have always come back in waves, which is a bit of a worry.

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

A friend sent me an article by Christopher Balding, who is a Hong Kong-based journalist. It is a long discussion on the numbers and models going into COVID-19 projections and is interesting because he makes a strong argument that many of the models are based on very uncertain data.

Some of the policy being put in place is, therefore, also based on very uncertain data. More attention should be paid to the fact that we are operating close to blind. Balding makes the case that the data is possibly overstated one way but uncertainty works both ways.

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