What an extraordinary and challenging year we have experienced! Thankfully, the Covid vaccine is now being rolled out and fingers crossed it is as effective as reported. We can't ignore some positives that resulted during the course of 2020.
Firstly, we had a newfound appreciation for the NHS and other key workers across various industries whose jobs kept us safe, healthy and functional. Secondly, we now know that we don't have to be in the office for five days a week as we can perform our duties remotely. Admittedly, a balance between home and office working will be welcomed by many. This is also supported by several firms who have started making plans for flexible working arrangements going forward. Third on my list is the positive environmental impact due to not commuting. Incorporating policies that encourage more home working (where possible) will be an easy ESG score for firms.
So, what do we need to look out for in 2021?
On January 1st we begin a new era with regards to our relationship with the EU. (Get ready for to join the non-EU passport queues)! With a backlog of work that ensued following the COVID-19 pandemic, I expect a busy year ahead largely driven by regulatory change, more M&A deal announcements and execution, and a focus on product and capacity expansion that will chiefly lean on fintech solutions.
ESG remains high on the agenda and its subjective nature will further fuel focus on taxonomy. This is being supported by the Sustainable Finance Disclosure Regulation (SFDR), with the first implementation date in March 2021 when firms are required to disclose policies relating to ESG. Other notable regulatory changes will include preparation for the new Investment Firms Prudential Regime (IFPR) based upon the EU’s Investment Firms Regulation and Investment Firms Directive (IFR/IFD). On the LIBOR discontinuation front, there will be added focus on repapering LIBOR referenced contracts and this too will require technological solutions where contract volumes are vast. Some firms are still behind the curve preparation-wise and these will need to step up their game.
The amount of change triggered both internally and externally compounded by BAU deliverables will require close coordination in a world where people are perhaps a bit more disconnected by virtue of remote working over extended periods. Zoom fatigue does exist, and online collaboration and interaction has its pitfalls. Identifying ways to keep staff motivated will be key to combat some of these challenges. Our new way of working will test firms’ adaptability and ability to preserve their intrinsic values which formed their cultural identities and how we perceived them before Covid-19. I expect boards, senior management and HR will already be looking to address such challenges.
The year could have resulted in a precarious ending for Devlin Mambo LLP had it not been for our clients who identified value in our proposition and believed in us. For that, I’m grateful and I extend my special thanks to our team, advisory partners and associates for the support and outstanding service provided to our clients throughout the year.
I wish you all a merry and restful Christmas, and a fantastic and brighter 2021!