We’ve now hit a full year since the start of COVID:19 and coming off a year filled with surprises, Financial Adviser, Dale Martens reflects on the last 12 months and where we are now in the financial market.  

Well, it has been 12 months since Australian and world markets were thrown into chaos and bottomed out due to the unprecedented fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic.

Just this week, the All Ords has now regained and surpassed their previous high, which was established just prior to the 36% drop over a matter of weeks in what was a disastrous and unforgettable March of 2020.

I think it is safe to say that it wasn’t just financial markets that were impacted in such a massive way, it seems our way of life has been changed forever and the way we now adapt to challenges and new circumstances has been a very steep, albeit rewarding learning curve.

Unlike bushfires or earthquakes, the pandemic has been more than a fleeting event. It has unfolded over many months, with still no firm end date in sight. Vaccines have started to roll out across the globe, and we can only hope that this will give us the opportunity to return to some sort of normality.

It has affected virtually every element of life. The grocery suppliers were disrupted (think toilet paper, hand sanitisers and face masks), schools became virtual and people who could work from home where required to do so. Things we took for granted, like a trip to the dentist or the hairdressers, became forbidden.

People quickly figured out how to work from home. Now that the pandemic appears manageable in Australia, WFH has remained popular with professionals, and that will force companies—even those that were not the biggest proponents of having a virtual workforce—to become more flexible. Now that more people have had a taste of it and proven their productivity, it will be hard for companies to take it away from their employees.

It also became clear to companies that the huge line item on their spreadsheets for real estate may not be the best way to spend their money. Having people work from home—even if it’s not everyone all the time—is proving to be profitable and will flow on to commercial property needs and values.

Video is at the heart of many of the changes above. The developers behind Zoom, All Teams, Skype and other video communications tools made the grand WFH experiment possible. Video became fully integrated into the work experience in an astonishing variety of ways.

Dialing in and seeing workmates in their homes has meant the line that separates work life and personal life has faded. Ironically, technology has made this transition possible, but it has also led us to understand how much we value our natural, human interactions more than ever before.

On another front, sometimes it takes a global pandemic to get us to appreciate our own backyard, and in 2020, the year in which the coronavirus decimated international travel and brought terms like “quarantine” and “social distancing” to the fore, millions of Australians turned to the great outdoors for refuge.

You would only have to look at the ever extended wait times on motorbikes, 4wd’s, campervans, caravans and bicycles as well as a hefty hike in prices to show you what Australians have been getting up to in the previous 12 months. It has invigorated this industry and flowed on to the now full caravan parks and regional areas that otherwise would’ve been passed up for in favour of a quick overseas getaway.

People also used this time to channel their money into home renovations that they may have previously been putting off. The inability to spend their hard earned on overseas travel, dinners and nights out on the town, coupled with extremely low interest rates meant that this was the perfect opportunity to get those jobs around the house done. Builders, plumbers and electricians seemed to have no shortage of work and who would’ve thought that Bunnings would be a major drawcard during a pandemic!

All in all, almost no one has been left untouched after 12 months of such dramatic disruption. A generous dose of empathy and understanding of that truth has made us all stronger as we rebuild and remake our world in the year ahead.