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COVID-19: Important update from MD Stephen Girling re SGWM safeguarding measures

Following the new measures introduced by the government yesterday, I wanted to let you know that we have put in place a number of measures to safeguard our employees and clients. We are continuously monitoring the situation, fully adhering to guidance from Public Health England.

The precautions we are taking, which are detailed below, mean we can continue to serve our clients with minimal disruption.

Our Employees:

  • We have advised from today to work from home where possible and minimise travel between our Ipswich and Norwich offices
  • Our contingency planning had for a long-time included providing technology to allow remote working whilst maintaining usual working contact with clients and colleagues
  • We will be contacting any clients with whom we have already arranged face-to-face meetings with, to offer the option of conducting these meetings remotely via telephone or video call, or postponing until a later date.  Please rest assured that our “remote” meetings are just as effective as face to face meetings – we have the facilities to share documents / screens etc we may need to refer to, and can help you participate in these easily.  
  •  If possible, we will request any future meetings are made by either telephone or video call (we have the ability to use Skype, Microsoft Teams or other technology) for the time being
  • We will review these guidelines on a weekly basis in line with government guidance and the changing situation
  • Our Wealth Management team will be contacting all of our clients directly over the next day or two, with a reminder of the best contact details for you to use for them should you have any particular queries.

Business continuity:

  • We have been planning to ensure we would be able to continue to serve our clients in case of an office closure. We have capable IT systems to ensure our employees can work remotely.
  • Most employees will be home-working and for those who work in customer-facing roles, they will still be contactable by clients
  • Please call 01603 760866 and request who you would like to speak to, or telephone them on their direct dial number if this is known to you.  We will be sending out specific direct contact numbers to all clients shortly.
  • Alternatively please email your adviser for their contact details.

What about investments?

We are in regular contact with our platform providers, pension providers and fund management partners. They, like us, will all be assessing the situation in the markets before deciding what to do.  

It is important to note that more volatility (in both directions) in the financial markets is to be expected over the next weeks and possibly months.  Markets are unpredictable and it will always be difficult to foresee what will happen in the future. It may be wise not to take a short-term outlook, and avoid overreacting to immediate stock market moves.

The economic shock from Covid-19 is unique. It is not a financial crisis, where the bursting of a debt and asset price bubble causes a credit crunch.  It is a temporary shock to both global supply chains and global demand where today people who would otherwise be working, earning and consuming will be unable to do so because of restrictions on movement.  Governments around the world have announced measures to attempt to deal with the economic fallout from the COVID-19.

Over the years there have been many events we have come through that have had large impacts on financial markets, most recently the Great Financial Crisis of 2007-2008. Many investors can feel overwhelmed when markets have large swings. Particularly during downturns, it’s natural to think about selling your investment portfolio to protect yourself from further losses (also known as crystallising your losses). However, reacting emotionally to sudden changes in the market can often have adverse effects – investors could be locking in permanent losses when there is the potential for markets to bounce back.  Please remember that markets price their anticipation of the path of the economy in the future, and therefore many of the challenges we face economically will already be priced into current market levels, given recent falls.

We are watching the situation closely and of course considering the implications for the portfolios we manage. Clearly this is a developing situation which may still get worse before it gets better. However like previous global outbreaks we anticipate the authorities will, via the synchronised measures they take, eventually bring this under control. 

In the meantime, with many peoples’ usual lifestyles interrupted and potentially put on hold for a while, we are seeing a number of people start to consider whether it would be prudent to amend their income arrangements from portfolios.  Please feel free to discuss any changes that may be appropriate with your adviser – as limiting withdrawals from portfolios at times of market duress can help the subsequent recovery period of funds in the future.

What about insurances and employee benefits?

Should you have any concerns regarding a claim or possible claim on an insurance policy or employee benefit we help administer, please do not hesitate to contact us.  Our Corporate Services team will be in further contact with clients directly with more information that companies may wish to cascade to their staff.

Some employee benefits give you access to a remote GP. Employees should not be directed to the Remote GP service if the primary concern is infection caused by Coronavirus. Instead they should be directed to the NHS website https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/coronavirus-covid-19/

Directing people to the remote GP service would be inappropriate as it is inconsistent with the pathway devised by Public Health England and the advice being widely publicised by the Government and the NHS. The remote GP is a very valuable service for non-Coronavirus related medical issues and this will become more important if access to the NHS GP service is impacted by increasing numbers of coronavirus cases.

Going forward

We will continue to work closely and communicate with you through these times and take the relevant steps to safeguard our employees and our clients and businesses. This may result in us re-arranging meetings or meeting and sharing content remotely, but you should rest assured that we are confident we are able to continue to provide the high level of service we aim to, albeit potentially with some slightly different delivery methods for the time being.

I thank you for your understanding at this current time and of course, if you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact your usual SG contact.

Stephen Girling APFS
Chartered Financial Planner
Managing Director

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