2021: The year of optimism

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2021: The year of optimism

2020 has been devastating for governments, stock markets, and industry. The steep rise in unemployment, industry closures, lockdowns, and the tragic loss of life has left many of us reeling. Not since the industrial revolution has the way our societies function been impacted so quickly. Yet, the power of optimism for a better future has seen society reimagined and rebuilt across the world.

As the pandemic continues to cast a shadow, privately and in business, we offer up four reasons to be optimistic about 2021.

 

1 - The vaccine

Finally, a 90% successful vaccine by Pfizer is almost ready for release, offering the most at-risk members of our society hope for a return to life as normal in 2021.

The speed of vaccination developments worldwide has been unprecedented, offering hope for future developments to move just as quickly in order to save lives. Yet, the most impressive feat by the pharmaceutical industry is the percentage of immunity this drug provides.

“A good flu vaccine protects around half of people, so 90% at the first attempt is a triumph.” BBC

 

The timeline for vaccination on a mass scale isn’t yet clear but priority will go to older people, those with high-risk factors, and health workers on the frontline. The results may be slower to reach those under the age of 50, who make up a significant proportion of the wholesale, manufacturing, and distribution workforce, so a return to ‘normal’ isn’t imminent. However, the existence of a viable vaccine has been enough for investors with a longer-term view to return to market.

The vaccine has not only boosted the morale of individuals but also global stock markets. Most notably in shares of industries most affected by the virus such as airlines with International Airlines Group shares up 40%, and entertainment venues such as Cineworld up 50%. Although it is acknowledged that the virus is not beaten yet, the multiple vaccines in development are giving newfound optimism to investors that its reign is coming to an end.

 

2 - Stability

Since the initial COVID-19 outbreak, a total of 26 countries have elected new presidents or prime ministers. Whilst for many the transfer of power and responsibility to new leaders has had little impact on the country’s response to the pandemic, leaders standing for re-election have had to adjust to include disaster planning as a core topic. Their perceived success or failure to tackle COVID-19 has had a big impact come polling day.

For some this has meant re-electing a steady hand, one that has delivered excellent results dealing with COVID-19, such as New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern. Jacinda directly attributed her landslide victory to her government’s impressive COVID-19 results.

USA

Whilst the race for the Presidency of the United States has demonstrated polarized opinions regarding COVID-19, as well as many other key campaign points. The on-going unrest felt between governing bodies and the general populous continues to slow a unified response, not only to the pandemic but also to creating a clear plan for the rebuilding of the country’s economy.

2021 will bring a conclusion to the struggle for power in the US, and clarify the direction planned for economic growth over the important next four years of recovery.

UK and Europe

Meanwhile, in the UK, the uncertainty of Brexit continues to subdue business growth. On top of setbacks from the Brexit process so far, the pandemic has reduced investment in UK business at a time when some flagship employers were already looking to move into mainland Europe to avoid possible import costs.

The shape of Brexit is still somewhat of a mystery to many people in the UK. As talks continue, the UK reports slow progress whilst EU representatives share frustrations at a lack of progress - The contradictions, looming deadline, and continued concerns over political stability in Ireland due to the issue of an Irish border.

There isn’t much time left to resolve many of these sticking points. One thing that is for sure is that 2021 will see the end to the uncertainty, whichever way the issues end up going.

 

3 - Technology

Whilst the sudden impact of the wide-spread COVID-19 virus shutdown global supply chains and trade routes, crippling industry world-wide, it opened the door for us all to try a new way of working, a locally supplied, remotely connected, greener, digital way.

By sheer brute force, the pandemic sparked an evolution that accelerated technological growth in every sphere of our existence. From the rise of online collaboration tools, such as Zoom, to the employment of mobile technology in the health industry to enable track and tracing of an individual’s movements to curb the spread of the virus.

The environment created at the height of the pandemic pushed investment in and reliance on new technologies from ‘what ifs’ to ‘what if we don’ts’.

“To effect change, there must be a stimulation of a magnitude that means companies cannot do anything but make bold decisions to survive. COVID-19 is that magnitude." Stuart Carlaw, ABI's Chief Research Officer 

 

Be it Industry 4.0 automation innovations on the factory floor, or a move to centralized SaaS cloud-based business system, such as sales-i, businesses have found themselves adopting new technology to survive the short-term. But new technology isn’t only a quick win. The same technology will continue to serve the business, contribute to future disaster preparation, widen the skillset of teams, and enable further innovations, all of which contribute to continued business growth in the long-term.

The monumental shift in working methods that the pandemic has instigated is likely to remain with many businesses well into 2021, if not beyond. An increasing number of employers have decided to integrate remote working into their business plan, opening up their potential talent pool for new employees exponentially. A few organization's have boldly made the move away from office working altogether, relying instead on online software platforms to create structure, space for career development, and places to collaborate with team members.

For blue-collar workers, the changes may be less apparent over the coming year, yet the mental shift in favor of using technology and connectivity to keep processes running has happened. Continued investment in hardware and software to increase efficiencies, better monitor supply chains, and automate processes is expected to continue throughout 2021 and beyond.

 

4 - Rebound

2021 will see the majority of markets start their recovery towards growth, how quickly we can expect specific industries to return to pre-COVID-19 figures is a more diverse picture.

According to data from Deloitte there is a definite correlation between the magnitude of the damage done to a country’s GDPs and the rate of infection/fatalities due to COVID-19. It stands to reason that those worst affected by the pandemic would also those whose economy had suffered most from lockdowns, healthcare crisis, and industrial shutdowns. However, this data does not account for reasons behind particular GDPs being more robust such as a higher percentage of GDP coming from manufacturing or services-based sources.

 

Screenshot-2020-12-03-at-12.38.31

Source Deloitte

 

The United States GDP forecast for 2021 is a positive 3.1% growth but if this figure is correct it will leave the US just short of pre-COVID growth figures. The British GDP forecast for 2021 is also below pre-COVID levels at between 5.9% and 11.5%. Although from the percentages estimated, the UK has forecast stronger growth in 2021, UK and US predicted growth rates are similar when compared to the GDP reductions experienced in 2020.

A recent survey of UK CFOs shows a marked caution with 79% rating the level of external financial and economic uncertainty as high or very high. As such, findings corroborate forecasts for a slow recovery throughout 2021.

Forecasts are showing a gradual increase in GDP over the next 5 years to regain the type of growth and profits seen pre-COVID. Considering the unprecedented, far-reaching implications of this pandemic, a five-year recovery is a solid positive outlook.

For those hoping for a quicker rebound, we can look to China as they were the first to feel the effects of COVID-19. Their growth began at a steady increase but has recently begun to increase at a greater rate. Although this growth rate cannot be expected to occur in every economy, the ability for business to scale faster than predicted is reason to remain optimistic.

Niche markets will deliver higher ROI for some investors as the virus is treated and society makes a gradual return from masked isolation. However, the transition will be a steady process throughout the year and likely continue into 2022, making a quick rebound for the desperate travel and entertainment industries highly unlikely.

But the light at the end of the tunnel can finally be seen, which when reflecting on the depths of the pandemic in March and April will be a welcome sight for many.

 

2021: The year of optimism

2020 has been a steep learning curve for many industries. Reliance on long-established processes, global supply chains, and manual labor have all had to be reimagined during the pandemic. The knowledge built and new ways of working tested in 2020 will serve as a solid foundation for us all to build back better in 2021.

“Sometimes when you're in a dark place you think you've been buried, but you've actually been planted.” Christine Caine

Green shoots of recovery have already begun, and these give hope to continued recovery for all markets. What we need to focus on now isn’t a return to what was once considered normal but come together to create a better way to build, manufacture, and communicate in a global market.

 

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