While it seems the peak of Coronavirus may be behind us, the road ahead is still long and its path uncertain. We’ve been in lockdown since 23 March. In that time we’ve seen the best of people and business and (to be frank) the worst.
It seems certain to us that the way a business has behaved during Coronavirus will stay in the memory long after this pandemic is over.
In our industry of financial services, people with investments have been looking for guidance as what they should do with their money. Hold tight or cut loose and move into cash for example? For people where retirement is a way off, and who do not need access their money, the guidance is simple – hold tight. There’s enough evidence from previous market crashes that recoveries end up being sustained and can be strong.
For people that have retirement in sight, and who are making plans for their life after work, the situation has become more complicated. Each person or couple’s circumstances have to be looked at on a case-by-case basis, and that is what we have been doing.
That’s not the end of the financial story. In fact, it’s probably only the first chapter. The people who need help just as much, are not those whose investments have taken a short-term hit (in no way diminishing that and we are helping clients through the difficulties,) but the people who had little, if any, rainy day money before Coronavirus.
At the moment, many families are trying to make ends meet, while staying at home in often cramped conditions, home-schooling and living with the uncertainty of what the future holds for jobs and livelihoods. There is a whole story to come out yet about what the impact of Coronavirus has been on the country’s mental health.
We know as a business there’s no magic wand to sort of people’s indebtedness and potential loss of income. But our experience is people aren’t looking for magic solutions, they want someone they can talk to. Someone that will listen to them and help put together a simple finance plan. They want explained to them, one-on-one, what the government schemes are and how to access them. They appreciate when it been explained how a household budget can help identify savings in monthly outgoings. They appreciate how various loans may be impacting them and how to prioritise paying them back, or look to restructure debts if needs be.
This is the kind of help we are making freely available, through our pro-bono work at Oakleaf Enterprise, the mental health charity in Guildford. Our view, as an SME business in the finance sector working to get through these unprecedented times, is that if every company shared some of its time and expertise, with no expectation of anything in return, when added altogether, it makes one massive self-help support package.
We will get through Coronavirus, we will beat Covid-19. We won’t forget those who fell victim, and we will celebrate those that rose to the challenge. If we, as Fryer Glass, can look back and know we did what we could – that’s our contribution to the cause.
Mark Fryer and Fraser Glass