Keep Calm and Carry On - 25/3/2020
I am sure like us, that you have been closely monitoring the news and official guidance provided by the Government in relation to Covid-19 (Coronavirus). On Monday night (23rd March), Boris Johnson announced some robust measures to delay and hopefully reduce the spread of this virus, including staying at home for 3 weeks, although as we expect, potentially for much longer.
Client and Staff well being
Our highest priority will always be to keeping our Clients, staff and their families safe. The best way of us all beating this virus together is to follow the official guidance and to stay at home as much as possible. This will be a difficult time for us all, both personally and professionally. Please do rest assured however that we will be doing all we can in the background to ensure that we continue to keep our promises and to provide a comprehensive a service as we possibly can.
Business continuity plans
As previously outlined, we have robust procedures in place that will assist with the day to day operation of our business. There will of course however be some impact on our operations and our ability to process certain paperwork. It is likely that things will take a little longer than would ordinarily be the case; even if we do our bit, many of the pension companies and other providers we deal with, are also operating on skeleton staff or have teams of people themselves working from home. Many companies, ourselves included, are looking at ways in which we can do a lot more things using electronic methods rather than the traditional paper and post system. We please therefore ask for your understanding on this when things taking a little longer to deal with or if your phone call or email is not responded to as quickly as we would ordinarily.
As of Monday the decision was taken, as recommended by the Government, to effectively close our Maidstone office to all visitors and our team will now, where possible, be working from home until further notice. Arrangements will be made for post to be collected from the office and distributed to relevant team members for action.
When required, we now also have the ability to undertake online meetings via “Zoom” which can include screen sharing with audio and video connections (provided you too of course have a web cam and microphone). Plus there is still the good old telephone! Zoom is new technology to us also, so please bear with us if this bit of the service is not quite slick yet. We do believe however that it is a very good and easy to use facility.
We will continue to use a remote telephone answering service, whereby messages are taken and then emailed to the relevant team member for action.
We thank you for your understanding during what is a rapidly evolving and challenging situation. We will do our best to keep the information flow coming – the best way normally being via our Facebook page where updates can be posted quickly and easily. Please visit us at https://www.facebook.com/IPSLUK/ for future updates.
A few words on Global Markets & Values
As you no doubt appreciate, because of the whole Covid-19 situation we have seen significant volatility on global stock markets and this has of course impacted on investment & pension values. We have seen values decrease one day only to recover again the following day and then fall again. Markets at the moment will react to any piece of news no matter if it is positive (infections falling in Italy) or negative (infections increasing in the UK). There is an awful of “noise” out there.
The volatility is likely to continue and we will still see big swings either way, however history tells us that these things are often short lived and that markets can recover again quite quickly.
I have attached for you a chart showing the UK stock market performance back to 1925. It shows both the bear (falling markets) and bull (rising market) positions and puts things into context and why investment is for the long term. The worst bear market in the UK was the 1972-1974 oil crisis; many of you may remember the 3 day week, significant power cuts, cooking on an open fire and going to bed with candles. The market in those 2 years fell by 67% only to then enter a 12 year bull run that saw it recover and go up by 3514% (no that is not a typo!)
Markets will remain volatile until the good news starts to filter through and some form of normality returns e.g. lower infection rates, businesses opening again, a vaccine being launched, coordinated worldwide Government intervention etc.
In the meantime our advice is to remain invested. Hard as it is, we just don’t know how long this will last or when the good news will come. The problem with moving or changing investments now is that you then run the real risk of missing out on the upside when it comes. The upside could well be as quick as the recent falls, if not quicker. Changing an investment portfolio based on the news today may also mean then having to change it again later in the week when the news changes and try to second guess things and chase performance, is, we believe a fools game and can only do further damage to investment portfolios. Hard as it may seem, at times like these, doing nothing is often the best option.
It is all about "time in the market" rather than "timing the market" - in other words looking at the bigger picture and the total investment time horizon which for m any is likely to still be another 20-30 years.
Whenever shares prices fall sharply, people talk about a bear market, but the definition is generally agreed to be a fall of around 20% or more from recent highs amid widespread pessimism and negative investor sentiment. Markets can sometimes fall less than 20% but in hindsight it is generally agreed to be a bear market. Given we have experienced falls in excess of 30%, we are clearly in a bear market.
Bear markets come in different shapes and sizes, not all bear markets are the same. Some are called ‘event driven bear markets’ where external shock can create rapid share price falls. Catalysts could be war (US market 1990, Iraq invades Kuwait), an oil price shock (UK market 1972/74), Sovereign debt default fear (Europe 2010) or an emerging market crisis (Asian financial crisis 1997). This often provides a sharp shock to an established bull market and can produce sudden sharp falls.
What makes this unusual as an event driven bear market, is the geographical scope (no country is immune from either the virus or the economic consequences) and the speed and scale of the economic downturn, as well as the fiscal and monetary policy reaction – everything about this event seems bigger.
There are two other types of bear market; the ‘cyclical’ – a kind of end of economic cycle unwind of investor euphoria; and the ‘structural – longer in duration and more damaging. These are usually created by imbalances and financial bubbles, policy errors and deflation. The long bear market of 1929-1937 is the best example of this.
Goldman Sachs have looked back at bear markets since 1835, dividing bear markets into these 3 categories.
The good news is that event driven bear markets typically regain their previous levels within 15 months. These are ‘V’ shaped recoveries based on the shock dissipating, successful policy response and/or markets being able to see through the short-term pain. Event driven bear markets are all different, but they have usually been market driven, so a monetary and fiscal response has been effective. Here we a facing a non-monetary shock, but with unprecedented economic consequence and a far more challenging political and economic puzzle to solve, where the normal tools of cutting interest rates are not sufficient on their own to restore market confidence.
Event driven bear markets tend to recover their losses quickly- but not always. It is possible for this to be like the vast majority of event driven bear markets, but that is not guaranteed.
Once the bear market has exhausted itself, significant investment opportunities will present themselves. This will be even more the case here, given the profound levels of economic and industry disruption taking place and the huge levels of uncertainty around outcomes. Markets will have experienced significant dislocations from the distortions created by the virus and its impact. Herein lies the opportunity, where the right selection of funds and fund managers can add value, in the same way that the right selection can help preserve value during the market correction.
This week has already seen a significant improvement in market conditions. At the time of writing all major markets are up on the week but of course still down overall since the beginning of the year.
Our advice is to ride out the storm, sit tight and to take a long term view.
Please note that this is for information only and no specific action is required from you at this time.
Coronavirus (Covid-19) - Company Update - 18/3/2020
We hope that this message finds you well in these somewhat challenging times.
We thought you would appreciate a quick update from us on how we are responding to the rapidly evolving situation in relation to Covid-19 (Coronavirus), our team members and our business operations.
The safety and security of our team, Clients and families is of paramount importance to us. We continue to closely monitor the spread of the virus and to follow official guidance provided to us by government agencies. You will appreciate that the advice and guidance itself keeps changing as more information comes in, so the below is our planned course of action as of today’s date, which may of course change again in the future if the official guidance changes.
Meetings and updates
The latest advice from Government is to keep to a minimum face to face contact and large gatherings of people. For this reason we have decided that as of Monday 23rd March we will no longer be providing face to face meetings in our Maidstone offices until we are advised that it is safe and reasonable to do so again. We will instead be providing a number of technology based meeting solutions from simple telephone calls to online shared screen individual and conference meetings, all subject to us getting the necessary technology and training in place.
Please do therefore bear with us and we apologise in advance for any cancelled or rearranged meetings that we have to organise. Similarly please bear with us whilst we learn to use and embed the required technology into our business.
Business continuity plans
We have robust plans in place that will ensure our business continues to operate without disruption and that Client service remains unaffected as much as possible. We have always had the ability for certain team members to work from home and this option is now being extended to everyone. Our office structure is also such that several people can continue to work from the Maidstone office without being in close proximity, or even in the same room as their colleagues.
We already make use of a telephone answering service and will continue to use this system moving forward. Messages are taken and then emailed to the relevant team member for action. Whilst we hope to be operating as much as we can “business as normal”, there are bound to be times when things take a little longer than we would ideally like.
We thank you for your understanding during what is a rapidly evolving and challenging situation. Our priority is also to ensure the well-being of our team, clients and families while ensuring continuity of service.
Global stock markets have reacted sharply to growing concerns about the spread of the Coronavirus, and the subsequent threat it could pose to the global economy. This volatility has continued over the last couple of weeks as central governments take specific actions to try to contain the virus and to protect economies as best they can. The UK stock market had enjoyed a strong finish to 2019, buoyed by the removal of short-term uncertainty following the General Election and the prospect of a step up in infrastructure spend across the UK. For the time being however, focus will remain on the efforts to contain the virus outbreak, and markets are likely to remain volatile, and may well get worse before new virus cases start to ease. The economic impact on the UK is likely to be significant, especially in the short term.
That said, please rest assured that moves like this are not uncommon on the stock market. Most of us have lived through the Stock Market “Crash” of 1987, the Financial Crisis of 2007/08; the Dot Com Bubble of 2000 and the Russian Financial Crisis of 1998 to name but a few. These periods of increased market volatility have historically been short lived and stock markets have gone on to outperform most other asset classes during the following years. Whilst we are still at an early stage in this downturn, your investment is designed for the long-term and will continued to be monitored and adjusted when necessary. We fully hope and expect markets to recover in the future, as they have historically done, we just do not know when this will happen or how long the recovery will take. Again history tells us that timing the market is impossible and the advice is to remain invested, ride out the volatility and take a long term view.
As an existing client, you can check the value of your investments by either logging onto our Client Portal Wealth Platform or online direct with the provider.
Please note that this is for information only and no specific action is required from you at this time.
If you have any queries please contact the IPSL team via email at firstname.lastname@example.org