By George Ralph, RFA
I have always put the people at RFA first, and the last 12 months have taught me a few lessons, along with so many others, about how resilient but also how fragile we are as human beings. The creation of a Covid-19 vaccine in such a short period of time is astonishing and must be applauded. I have watched with interest to see what consequences the vaccine rollout is having on the geopolitical landscape, supply chains and non kinetic political competition but also, closer to home, on RFA as a business and on our client’s and prospects businesses too.
The current 24/7 ‘always on’ news environment provides access to information and commentary from all over the world, but as leaders we must separate the fact from the fiction and develop an understanding of how the rollout of the vaccine might affect our decision making. I have always subscribed to the belief that data is king and I think our current circumstances are a case in point. The more data I have available to me, the better the decision I feel I can make. Data has the ability to afford a ‘best option’ decision in times of difficulty; without data in any situation, we really are shooting in the dark. The implications of the vaccine are unwieldly and wide ranging and, as has become the norm, we have worked both within RFA and with our clients to make the best decisions we can, based on the information available to us at the time.
This strategy has proved hugely successful for us and our clients and by adopting next generation technology, we have been able to continue our business flow and function without interruption. What is interesting is what comes next. There are two key challenges that have considerations around the vaccine: the perceived return to the office and also business travel.
RFA are using the opportunity of the massive shift in working conditions to develop a better understanding of ESG and how we deploy an even more successful policy within our own business. Business travel is a great example of this. Before 2020, I for one seemed to always be in flight somewhere. RFA have 9 global locations across 3 continents and as Global MD, I have a responsibility to each and every one of our 300 plus employees worldwide. Covid has taught me new ways to communicate and collaborate to still get the job done, just remotely.
What I am interested to see develop is how each country or region globally is working in terms of securing and distributing the vaccine. The better the health infrastructure, the bigger the access to fiscal resource and the smaller the population, the more successful the vaccine rollout has so far been. Will this lead to regional trading hubs where safe travel corridors will be set up for business? And how will that effect the trading centres outside of these hubs? Public cloud, a robust data architecture and best use of digitalisation to create superb collaboration tools are the answer. But is there really anything better than meeting a new investor face to face?
We also need to think about the logistics of the freedom the vaccine may give us. If we can return to an office environment, then should we? It is unlikely to be a condition of returning to work that someone is vaccinated. There is an argument to say that if not every employee can return, then a firm is better to remain in a 100% home-based satellite office environment. That way, everyone is on an equal footing. A hybrid working environment throws up its own issues too. If your firm aims to have all staff in the office but only some of the time to allow for better social distancing, then I can be certain no one will want to be on the ‘in-office’ rota on a Monday or Friday! Mental health, communication, environment, and work/life balance all have a part to play. Wellbeing both professionally and personally for our teams in so important to me, and the responsibility lies with RFA to create alternative ways to operate in the short and long term.
The way we do business in the future may change. But we have been provided with the opportunity to try something different, and technology has given us the freedom to innovate as never before. We have the answers, the technology and the skills to make business better than ever. Please do get in touch if you’d like to talk to me more about how we can help your business over the coming months.