The COVID Diaries: sustainable finance banker 1

The following interview is with an Australian-based banker working in sustainable finance. 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?

Personally, I am very much looking forward to it. I find that market-related roles, by nature, are more effectively done when you are with the various teams in the office.

We have all adapted and coped with working from home, albeit at different rates and with different challenges. We went to alternating teams six weeks ago but went pretty immediately to everyone working from home when that came into effect.

When we will go back to office working is a day-to-day proposition for us. There is no fixed date, but people are still able to work in the office if there are transactions or specific reasons for them to be there under the alternating team requirements.

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?

The public health response should be first and foremost. Everything is secondary to people’s health and wellbeing. The economy is inextricably entwined, but you can’t put the economy ahead of people’s lives and I don’t think there has been any debate around that.

Internally, people come first and foremost. Businesses live and breathe by people being healthy and able to work.

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 am now more optimistic that we will be able to transition from where we are at present, but the reality is sinking in that this crisis will not just come and go. It will take a while to get back to where we were before all this in day-to-day life and the domestic and global economy.

It will have long-term impacts on the way certain industries operate. Hospitality and travel will obviously be affected for a long time. But there is also the long-term impact across many other industries where the human capital flow across borders will be materially affected.

“The speed at which we were able to mobilise work-from-home technology for the entire organisation was amazing. The fact you can do this at such short notice shifts the goalposts and will no doubt influence future business models globally.”

Do you think Australia should accelerate the easing of restrictions?

It all depends. It must be a staged easing of restrictions region-by-region, sector-by-sector and state-by-state. We clearly cannot revert to normal on a countrywide basis immediately. People are obviously getting cabin fever but the long-term goal needs to be the focus.

If we completely ease restrictions, we could easily find all the hard work of isolation and social distancing undone and could be in an even worse position. It will take time and it is not an easy position for governments to be in, particularly with the necessary coordination across states with different agendas.

What opportunities do you see in the economic recovery?

There are definitely opportunities. In sustainable finance, there is already a lot of focus shifting to how we can drive more positive social outcomes, which until now had been at a much smaller scale than capital flowing towards driving positive environmental outcomes.

Driving positive societal impacts and outcomes is as important if not more important than ever and I expect the range of financing opportunities for borrowers and investors to mobilise capital will be tilted towards social outcomes for the near and medium term.

The low-carbon transition is also in the spotlight. We have seen already the impact of less air travel, less manufacturing and energy usage. People are realising we do not need to use vehicles and travel as much. Remote working is also having an effect.

Perhaps there could be a shift to having remote-working hubs and using technology much more effectively. For us, the speed at which we were able to mobilise work-from-home technology for the entire organisation was amazing. The fact you can do this at such short notice shifts the goalposts and will no doubt influence future business models globally.

There will be opportunities in new industries, services and business models. Sustainable finance should play a major part in supporting this and in helping the economy get back on its feet.

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?

I am of the mindset that at the end of the day the last thing I want to do is turn on the TV and see the same COVID-19 news over and over again. I have been spending a lot of time with my kids. They are at the age where they are getting into Marvel movies, so we have watched a few of those together, and we have also started cooking together.

I have also worked my way through a few good boxsets. Some of the highlights have been Killing Eve, False Flag, the recent Beastie Boys documentary and The Capture. All of these are not COVID-19-related and have been good fodder to switch off to.

KangaNews is your source for the latest on the COVID-19 pandemic’s impact on Australasian debt capital markets. For complete coverage, click here.