(No reference to the wonderful novel by Garcia Marquez)
Doing business in a pandemic means doing business without many things a company normally takes for granted, such as going to the office, travelling for business, making plans and so on. In the current pandemic, such certainties have vanished and uncertainty has become inescapable. This uncertainty is not incidental, and it will continue - a change in our DNA one could say - even once we have moved beyond the V or U of the curve.
Uncertainty has long been a serious ailment of the society in which we live. It is one of the roots of widespread malaise and a cause of the often extreme and "irrational" political solutions found in our nations. Environmental uncertainty: will our planet survive? Geopolitical uncertainty: will the world's great powers remain at peace? Macroeconomic uncertainty: is secular stagnation inevitable? Social security uncertainty: will pensions be paid? Will the welfare system be able to handle an ageing population?
Today, more than during other recessions, there is also widespread uncertainty about the companies that people work for and whether the employment relationship, in its traditional sense, will survive. Will the company where I work survive the coronavirus crisis? Since smart working has replaced "real work", will we all ultimately become freelancers for an ever more distant and virtual entity?
This challenge is undoubtedly unprecedented, but not something that merely concerns managers and business leaders. Furthermore, especially if the crisis persists, only the most robust companies will make it.
A company’s resilience and its ability to keep going will clearly depend on choices about strategic positioning, investments in technology and cash flow management, but also about "softer" factors that are not always properly valued by managers or "quantitative" and "hard core" investors and analysts.
In a world filled with uncertainty and smart working, the motivation to work and the consequent commitment to corporate results, will be more linked than ever to a sense of belonging to a company.
And this sense of belonging is tied to some very specific factors:
· How much does my company focus on me and my peace of mind, rather than just about how productive I am?
“This challenge is undoubtedly unprecedented, but not something that merely concerns managers and business leaders. Furthermore, especially if the crisis persists, only the most robust companies will make it.”
· To what extent does my company work as a team across all corporate levels, rather than simply being a performance "factory"?
· What value does my company bring to the community and how ethical is its behaviour?
Imagine that, during this pandemic, smart working is not seen merely as a necessary evil, but has been designed, from the beginning, as a mechanism to improve the work-life balance. It is not simply a response to an imposition by the government, but a genuine effort to keep employees, and their families, healthy and unconcerned. In this case, it's likely productivity won't drop during the pandemic, and it might even increase.
Imagine that, during this pandemic, everyone who works for a company - and I really mean everyone - is kept in the loop about how the company is doing, and the management team maintains a united front that is perceived as such by each and every branch of the organisation; or it's possible not merely to guarantee business continuity, but also to develop new strategic projects despite the current emergency.
Imagine that, during this pandemic, the social utility of the company one works for becomes clear and it is evident that, on the back of the company's efforts, the local community is doing better than it would have done without it. In such a case the pandemic is not an obstacle, but an opportunity to reassert that company pride alluded to above. And this pride will make it possible to overcome all difficulties.
Such pride is something I feel when I think about illimity and the team of nearly 500 people that is building our company.
We are needed now and we'll still be needed in the coming months and years. Many, many businesspeople will turn to banks like ours to achieve their potential or to be able to get growth going again once the initial impact of the coronavirus subsides. And we'll be there. Many, many banks and other investors will need a bank like ours to breathe new life into company assets that are struggling. It will be necessary to get all sectors going again quickly. And we'll be there. Families will feel under pressure for an unknown period of time, and they'll be looking for banking and insurance services that will give them peace of mind and simplify their lives. And we'll make our contribution to reducing the uncertainty a bit.
“ Such pride is something I feel when I think about illimity and the team of nearly 500 people that is building our company."
Many others will also do the same, because the energy and generosity of our country is often quite surprising, especially in trying times like these.