How to plan during a pandemic - Lessons from 4 women in finance
Described as a ‘coronacoaster’, the Covid-19 pandemic has caused unprecedented chaos. South Africa’s economy has experienced its biggest contraction in 90 years. July saw the third-fastest reduction in employment on record. The economy is on its knees and financial planning is pivotal. This Women’s Month, four of Sanlam’s leaders advise on how to plan – during the pandemic and for its aftermath.
All well-known voices in the financial services sector, each woman gives guidance on how to plan in different aspects of life:
HOW TO PLAN FOR YOUR HEALTH: by Dr Marion Morkel, Chief Medical Adviser at Sanlam
While our Health Minister, Dr Zweli Mkhize, is cautiously optimistic coronavirus cases have peaked in the country, he urges against complacency. Covid-19 has been a curveball that has made many of us come face to face with our health, finances and mortality.
As a medical professional, I am required to provide daily medical advice on adjusting business plans according to the latest medical forecasting of the pandemic. This has carried over into my personal life. I believe adaptability is key. We can’t just look at one future outcome, but rather need to focus on making many plans. These shouldn’t be seen as ‘second best’ – they’re just alternatives. I’ve come to appreciate the desired end goal should be a strengthening of core values, like resilience, optimism and a sense of family.
When planning for your health, set small targets and systematically tick these off. Try to make provision for medical aid, life cover, income cover and other essential policies to keep you and your loved ones protected. Remember, should you cancel life cover now and become ill, you may struggle to successfully apply for cover again. Plan for the long-term. Short-term decisions made in panic can often end with regret.
HOW TO PLAN FOR YOUR INVESTMENTS: By Helena Conradie, CEO at Satrix
In my early years as an investment professional, I believed that having access to all the clever people and plentiful insights around me should put me in a very good position to make smart investment choices. It wasn’t entirely incorrect to think that way, but it also didn’t take me long to understand the full meaning of ‘one size DOESN’T fit all’ – an obvious investment choice for my colleague might not be the right investment for me.
That’s why, in my view, it is key to follow a holistic approach to investment planning. Start by asking multiple questions about your own situation, covering your risk appetite, your needs, goals and dreams. Next, write down a plan and only then consider the investment options to execute your plan.
Your questions should also include observations of the world around you. ‘How does the current pandemic influence my income, should I take my money offshore, how can I diversify my investments, can my investment have a social or environmental impact?’ Good examples of recent investment products addressing some of these questions include Sanlam’s Investors’ Legacy range, the multiple ESG funds out there as well as the Satrix global ETF suite of funds.
If all these questions confuse you and the options intimidate you, rather consult a financial adviser. I did and now I not only have a better perspective of my own financial situation but I’m also more alert to those factors that can influence and drive my savings and investments.
HOW TO PLAN FOR YOUR BUSINESS AND TEAM: By Jeanett Modise, Chief Executive: Group Human Resources
According to McKinsey, South African SMEs employ between 50 and 60% of the country’s workforce and foster a quarter of job growth in the private sector. Right now, small businesses are in dire straits, with TransUnion finding that 9 in 10 are struggling or temporarily closed, with 96% reporting a drop in revenue. Lockdown and the economic climate are forcing many to pivot and change plans.
When planning, it’s important to have clarity on your overall objective and know where you are going as a business, team and individual. Stay focused on your purpose as the dynamics in your business environment and personal life change. It’s also crucial to be proactive and not reactive. Change will never be this slow again, therefore leaders need to recognise the need for flexibility and to do things differently. From time to time, take a step back, reflect and consider the bigger picture. This will help you to refocus, while you connect and add value to your friends, family, community and business stakeholders.
Ask yourself what conversations you should be having to help build resilience and set yourself and your business up for success in the future. Consider what support structures you need to build and how you can share responsibilities with the people around you, while holding each other accountable. Critically, leaders need to acknowledge that they don’t have all the answers and, therefore, they need to collaborate with others and leverage the value that their teams bring.
Consider how opportunities could stem from this chaos. In my view, this could be a chance for businesses to make better progress around gender diversity as new ways of working open more options for women with children to work from anywhere, at different times. This is a season for women leaders to shine in business. Organisations should also be adjusting their people practices, policies and cultures to be flexible and abreast with the evolving world of work.
As you plan for the pandemic and post it, consider how many of the most innovative ideas stem from periods of crisis. This is an opportunity for women to tap into their experiences, strengths and passions, which, in some cases, may be turned into business opportunities. Consider who you can partner with and seek help when you need it.
HOW TO PLAN TO MAKE A DIFFERENCE: By Nozizwe Vundla, Head of the Sanlam Foundation
On Mandela Day, an NGO called Ladles of Love smashed a world record for the most sandwiches made in an hour. Countless South Africans contributed over 300 000 sandwiches to distribute to the country’s most vulnerable. In times of crisis, people rise to the occasion and lift one another up. We’ve seen this time and again through our Foundation work.
It’s tough to plan ahead as none of us is sure what the coming months and years will bring. So, it’s pivotal to decide on your non-negotiables, while leaving flexibility to accommodate the unknown. If giving back is a priority, try and find ways to incorporate this into your plan. Payroll giving has become a very important avenue, where those who are fortunate to still have jobs can quickly give to others. Many people may also be supporting family members who have lost their jobs or are receiving a reduced salary right now. That’s a profound act of kindness as well.
Be gentle on yourself. Giving your time and energy to a cause is just as meaningful as a financial donation. Making a difference can be as simple as sending a WhatsApp to check in on a friend. I’ve learnt over time that when I feel most disempowered and despondent, doing something for others immediately lifts my spirits, while benefiting the other person too.