Markets have felt the full effects of these events, with equities in particular going into freefall and even asset classes that we would typically assume are “safe” recording sizeable losses. Investment performance has also suffered significantly, with only a handful of managers making any sort of gains.
In such dire circumstances, one might expect an air of desperation among investors. Yet the response from many asset managers has been resolute, recognising the seriousness of the situation, yet making efforts to reassure. A number of prominent industry figures – the most recent being Ken Skeoch at Aberdeen Standard Life – have sought to argue that we have already reached the point of “maximum panic”, though things will likely continue to prove difficult for a sustained period.
A recent paper from Goldman Sachs, published at the beginning of March, is typical of this type of thinking. Defining “bear” markets into three categories (structural, cyclical and event-driven), its analysis seeks to assess the current scenario we are in and its implications.
Goldman Sachs’ suggests that we are currently experiencing an event-driven downturn, which – albeit with significant caveats reflecting the unpredictable nature of the virus – offers some cause for optimism, reflected in the views of other commentators, that we might begin to see some rebound sooner than anticipated, as further bad news is already priced into markets.
Time will of course tell if this proves true. At time of writing, equity markets have continued to fluctuate markedly, with strong gains at the beginning of last week followed by further losses in more recent days.
From the perspective of long-term asset owners, this does not however tell the full story. The potential for future market rises will be welcome in the immediate term, but the increased volatility that will likely remain in markets will be a bigger issue. And it is this point that investment providers will need to address.
Over the course of the coming weeks, the JPES team will be publishing a range of views assessing key issues arising from the COVID-19 crisis, and how asset managers and other service providers should address these – be it in how they communicate with their customers, assess satisfaction levels, or respond to key businesses issues. We hope that these views will provide helpful insights and would welcome your thoughts on other topics that would prove useful.