We closed the office to the public on Tuesday and most of the staff are now working from home. Fortunately for our business this is minimally disruptive as our entire client and portfolio management framework is electronic with remote access. We have been conducting meetings over the phone, on Skype, Facetime and Microsoft Teams. The digital world has come to the rescue.
Here’s an update on the logistics of Varria at present:
- For the time being we will be conducting all of the normal scheduled review meetings over the phone or electronically. Varria has clients all over Australia and, for many of you, this is business as usual. For others, it’s a new way of doing things. You will get the same contact from the same people and it should almost feel like nothing has changed.
- If you would like to speak to any of us, could we ask you to firstly email directly if possible, and we will come back to you asap. If you have called the office you will have heard the recorded message directing you to call a 0467 281 378. We have done this so that Nina, Gloria, Shanna, Jasmin and Louise can easily rotate this on a roster to ensure that you can speak to someone more urgently if required, or for those that don’t have email. Melissa will still be in the Toowoomba office on a daily basis as well.
- There is still staff present in the West End office including myself and Clare Sanderson, the Chief Operating Officer, so we can print documents and gather the mail etc. We are all sitting miles apart from each other. We are running our normal team meetings on Microsoft Teams and really it’s just business as usual albeit from 20 different locations.
Changes to Minimum Pensions
For those of your that are retired and taking a pension from your accounts, the government has announced that you are able to reduce your account based pension to 50% of the statutory minimum for the balance of this financial year and the next financial year. If you are interested in reducing your pension payments, please let your us know via email if possible and we will attend to this for you in due course. Please bear with us on this one as many of the pension accounts aren’t equipped to make this change as yet. ScoMo dropped this in our laps without notice late on Sunday afternoon and whilst we appreciate the legislative support, we might just need some time to process this change.
Markets and Portfolios
I’m sure that it’s no news to anyone that markets remain very volatile. Please try and remember that both the good news and the bad news herds the flock in one direction or another but, for the most part, it’s the boy that cried wolf for now. What you are seeing is almost exclusively big announcements and news stories driving sentiment and the market both up and down and what will eventually follow will be the truth. The truth in terms of markets is earnings, the actual results from businesses enterprise rather than the present speculation. It will be some time before we know the true impact on 2020 earnings. More importantly, the recovery of stock market pricing will eventually be narrated as true earnings reveal themselves over time.
Market prices are not zero because businesses are still valuable. Earning will undoubtedly be compressed as unemployment increases and consumption declines but, for the most part, core businesses will keep going and many of us will simply keep working. It’s worth sparing a thought for those in the community who rely on a wage to support their families that have been effected by the rapid contraction of the workforce.
If there is a silver lining in this for investors it’s the close proximity to the GFC. The lessons learnt from the GFC mean that the portfolios are absent speculative investment, have been purposely populated with assets that aren’t over leveraged and that have strong balance sheets. Our investment philosophies and strategies include active management and Dynamic Asset Allocation to cushion downside and capture upside opportunities. If you can heed our advice and exercise patience and steady hands you should see the benefits of these strategies play out. Every person and every portfolio is different as it caters for your own circumstances however the above guiding principals have long been applied to our approach to investment.
- If you are in receipt of Centrelink benefits then you will find that changes to the Deeming Rates will be passed through automatically and you won’t need to take any action on this front. This will reduce the reportable income for those of you affected by the income test.
- If you have access to your Centrelink details online, now is the time to check in and ensure that your assets are recorded accurately and you may also be able to update portfolio values whilst markets are down.
I appreciate that the world is changing rapidly and so we have had to be flexible in order to continue to meet our obligations to you all. If you have any concerns at all please feel free to reach out to us as we are very happy to assist.
Lastly, I’ve got my mother locked up in Taree, NSW with my sister delivering food and the essentials. Mum’s 85 and in great health and has agreed to stay inside as we advised her we aren’t ready to say goodbye just yet. I’ve been giving her phone calls disguised as “Graham” from the “COVID-19 Isolation Entertainment Service” and have been singing to her to keep her spirits up. It’s a great laugh but we are staying connected and making sure that the mental health matches the physical! Remember, it’s physical distancing, not social distancing so stay in touch with family and friends and reach out to anyone you think might be feeling isolated!
Take care and stay safe.