What are the main uncertainties on the horizon for the financial service industry?
Financial services face interesting times and several unknowns. The impacts of the lockdown plus the uncertainties around our trading environment post BREXIT pose huge challenges. We have already seen proposals to legislation to enable the government to intervene under the 2002 Enterprise Act where the UK entity is the target of a takeover by a foreign firm – this change is on the back of a similar initiative by the EU. Interventions like these will affect companies in fintech and AI and they have been designed to protect companies with critical capabilities who are now susceptible because of the impact of Covid to their domestic economies. I suspect that we will see a range of similar measures where governments will be keen to act to preserve the business environment; I think that we are likely to see even more uncertainty in regulation. How we cope with the twin necessity of trying to protect consumers as well as promoting economic activities will be interesting but it is a balancing act that will have to be undertaken successfully if we are to avoid all the of the impact of the downturn.
What has been your biggest learning from these past few months?
Everyone has been championing the advantages and possibilities of working from home and I agree. However, I have sounded a note of caution. There are in my mind a number of psychological drivers that have made us all adjust so well in the pandemic climate. For example, a subconscious impression that this is temporary; that it is linked to a virtual shutdown of society etc. When these factors fall away, we will need to assess the impact on individuals and businesses. Working from home challenges that were previously surmountable may suddenly loom larger than they do at this time especially when we all face the prospects and reality that this is now permanent; we may also feel differently when we find that working from home is no longer an imperative as the lockdown eases. Besides, I don’t know that complete and absolute physical disengagement is positive long term; even for fintechs, a degree of human interaction is necessary. What we may see is some sort of hybrid that may tilt one way or another over the coming months and years. I just don’t see that complete remote working will last very long.
How do you keep yourself motivated in the current climate?
I think most colleagues will agree that the ever evolving challenges of meeting the unknowns of the lockdown provided enough to do with little opportunity to get distracted. In a regulatory sector like financial services not only do we have to deal with commercial issues, there is always the interaction with regulators that requires constant engagement and that was more than enough to keep one going. I have heard a few people say that they have been working longer hours and days, struggling to switch off and power down. I fell into that group until I intentionally determined what my work pattern should be and even then it has not been easy. I have spoken with others who say that remote working has created a new industry and culture of “meetings” so I tried to shut down completely and do a variety of things to take my mind off work. I also tried to do some reading and have been preoccupied with pieces by Thomas Merton and Victor Frankl.