The COVID Diaries: Syndicate 4

The following interview is with an Australian-based fixed-income syndicate banker. It was conducted on 1 May 2020.

Does your business have a timeline for returning to office working – and are you looking forward to it?

Not as yet. But I am very much looking forward to getting back to the office! One of the things I have missed most during lockdown is the socialising at work. Conversations with colleagues is easy and seamless when you are in the same space and building.

Working from home is slightly more challenging from a functioning perspective as well. Work life will be easier and streamlined once we head back to the office. That said, technology has come a long way and it is easier to connect with everyone – if this crisis were to have happened even five years ago it would have been a lot more challenging.

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?

It is a delicate situation for any government. The federal government has handled the crisis well: it found the right balance in managing the health and economic trade-off. It is spending a lot of money and there will be impacts on the economy in the years to come but, ultimately, had it not made the decisions the virus and health pandemic would be far more widespread. That would have a far larger detrimental affect on the economy in the long-run.

We are fortunate that we are an island nation that already had strict border controls. The government was quick to close a lot of things down that have gone a long way in flattening our curve. The results we are seeing now are putting us in the position of transitioning out of lockdown quicker than other nations.

“Technology has come a long way and it is easier to connect with everyone – if this crisis were to have happened even five years ago it would have been a lot more challenging.”

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?

More optimistic. The discussion of a second wave is something we need to be conscious of and goes to what I was just saying. For a lot of nations, particularly in Asia, if there was a second wave it was from the virus being imported. Not a lot of the new cases were from within the country.

With Australia, it doesn’t look like there is going to be too much international travel. That puts the onus on people here to continue to do the right thing, to follow guidelines and restrictions. We need to follow them to the extent we can to limit the effect of the second wave rather than going back to normal life, only for us to go back straight into lockdown.

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?

From a work practices perspective, it highlights that in a number of sectors and industries people can work efficiently from home. I am aware of one firm that has indicated to its staff that they are looking to reduce office time and are encouraging staff to work from home for half the week.

It is going to be a big development for a lot of industries although admittedly less so for those of us working in banks.

Socially, people are going to be sensitive to large crowds and confined spaces. As the crisis is fresh in everyone’s mind, it is something people will be very conscious of. Over time that will probably reduce slightly but I don’t think you will see people standing on top of each other at shopping centres and events anytime soon.

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

I have been watching the Michael Jordan documentary The Last Dance on Netflix.

When I first started working from home I had the news on all day. I was following every update and I eventually got sick of it. Now I am just looking at the numbers and headlines, as well as the announcements from the federal and state government.

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