The COVID Diaries: corporate borrower 1

The following interview is with an Australian-based corporate treasurer. It was conducted on 24 April 2020.

Do you feel you have adapted to working from home and how close are you to business as usual – personally and in the sense of market functionality?

Everything has been quite seamless in working from home. The only things that still require physical presence are those that require wet ink, such as finance documentation requests, which is an archaic process and a bit annoying in this digital age. A lot of the workarounds involved in working from home are not as efficient as normal practices, but they are all working.

We have conference calls and video meetings, but I do miss the collaborative team environment. There are four of us in the treasury team and in the office we sit close to one another, so it is much easier to have light conversation during the day as opposed to having to schedule a meeting.

It is also much easier to bounce ideas off one another when everyone is in the office. By its nature, internally and externally, treasury is very relationship driven. The fact we can’t have the same amount of face-to-face contact is not a good thing in my view.

Has your view of the crisis and the nature of the challenges it presents changed? It seems Australia has prioritised public health over the economy, at least in the medium term. How are you thinking about that trade off?

In health outcomes Australia has been leading the pack, which is great. But the economic problems we will endure are going to be around for a long time. I feel for the younger generation which is now out of work because the unemployment situation will likely be dire for quite some time.

There will be a lot of hurt and a lot of economic downtime in Australia. At first everyone was hoping the lockdown would be short and sharp and, as much as we can probably see some light at the end of the tunnel now, we don’t know what the new normal will look like.

The economy will certainly not be going to be back to where it was prior to the crisis for a long time, if ever. This is what I am most worried about – how long we will be suppressed for and what the long-term implications are.

“One thing I can’t get my head around is public transport. When people begin regularly going into work again, how do we determine how many people are allowed on a train carriage?”

How do you think things will be different when we get back to normal? What changes can you see to work practices, social changes and the economy?

The crisis gives everyone an opportunity to reassess work practices. Clearly there will be more working from home. In a treasury role I could easily do one or two days per week at home, but I would prefer to be in the office on the other days. This mix can easily be organised, so we are working efficiently and still can have the face-to-face meetings that are necessary.

Are you more or less optimistic about the crisis than you were during the early acceleration period of moving to home working and adding social distancing measures?

I have had a bit of rollercoaster on this. Initially I was over-optimistic and thought it would be short and sharp. I am still optimistic that it will turn out okay in the end but the longer it has gone on, the longer the road out seems to get. It makes it difficult to plan for anything, whether it is work related or personal related.

How do you think the exit route might play out?

The restrictions started light and became more forceful very quickly. I think it will unwind in a similar way. It will be probably be more prolonged on the way out though.

A lot of organisations will probably still have ‘A’ and ‘B’ teams alternating going into the office and social distancing measures will probably still need to be in place for a while as restrictions are eased.

One thing I can’t get my head around is public transport. When people begin regularly going into work again, how do we determine how many people are allowed on a train carriage?

We have been asking people what they have been reading relating to the crisis but we think everyone has seen enough by this stage. What are your entertainment recommendations for lockdown?

We are all being overloaded with COVID-19 information through work and media. We are all looking for an optimistic article but there does not seem to be one out there at the moment.

At home we have been playing a lot of card games and doing a lot of cooking. I have rediscovered the kitchen, which is quite nice.

Everyone is thinking a lot about the negatives of self-isolation, but we are quite lucky in Australia that we can get out and about to exercise. I have been going for a walk every day. It is amazing what you find in your own neighbourhood when you get out and have a look.

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