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CEO update: more normal times

It is odd to reflect on when last we shook hands or hugged someone from outside our household. Life will be different of course, certainly until such time as there is an effective COVID-19 vaccine at scale, perhaps even longer. We will need to help each other to adjust to yet another new normal pattern of life, while keeping further waves of infection at bay.

Now the reckoning will start. Already there is a league table of nations rating the effectiveness of their response. The truth is, each nation entered this crisis with a differing set of strengths and vulnerabilities. Some possessed the hard-won lessons of earlier regional pandemics; others had well-resourced health infrastructure; others still had obedient populations and cultural advantage, or even geography on their side.

What we do know is that there has been a collective failure of leadership at a global level. Global and regional organisations have faltered, partly through inaction, mostly through our failure to resource and empower them effectively. National responses are all well and good; but if we cannot learn to coordinate and cooperate better in the future, then our capacity to respond to crises of this scale will remain fragile.

The Ebola regional pandemic in West Africa gave us the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness and Innovation (CEPA) – a body supported by both Norway and Great Britain. Perhaps this global pandemic will give rise to the full empowerment and funding of CEPA, the World Health Organisation (WHO) and similar such institutions. I hope so.

Now the challenge must be to learn from this and build a better and more sustainable world together, something that we in SKAGEN are glad to commit to.

SKAGEN service

May will also see SKAGEN execute a controlled return to more colleagues working from our offices. This will be guided by government advice and subject to appropriate protocols, but we see a need to allow the rotation of personnel through our offices where this is possible. This will enable us to meet with clients, under controlled conditions, and by appointment. We know that not all our clients enjoy a purely virtual relationship, and we will respond to this need shortly. Further detail will be notified to clients during the next week or so.

We will, of course, continue to invest in our digital interaction with clients, and communication will remain frequent and of ever-increasing quality as on-line collaborative tools develop at a fast pace. Certainly, this period of confinement has accelerated the move towards more sophisticated digital interaction with clients and we are pleased to be part of this.

Recovery

As the global economy begins to restart, many will be considering their investment portfolios. The IMF estimates a 12% reversal in global GDP growth during this quarter but anticipates recovery to pre-crisis levels by the end of 2021.

SKAGEN, as a long-term investor, will not claim any particular prowess as a market timer; but we do know that the capital markets front-run the real economy. Those with short-term investment horizons will need to tread carefully, for there will be volatility ahead; but for longer-term investors the opportunity is clear. My advice remains, seek counsel from a SKAGEN advisor; and for those that struggle with risk/reward calculations, a regular monthly savings agreement makes eminent sense but, again, please seek advice.

The COVID-19 pandemic is far from over. Maintaining vigilance against further waves and continuing to protect both medical capacity and the vulnerable remain vital – I am unlikely to see my elderly father in Yorkshire anytime soon. For now, here in Norway, we can allow ourselves some small congratulation for a competent response to the first wave of infection; while soberly remembering the tragedy that has befallen some amongst us. Now the challenge must be to learn from this and build a better and more sustainable world together, something that we in SKAGEN are glad to commit to.

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