Has anyone forgotten how to knot a tie? I know my feet are not ready for high heels again, but it’s back to the office for many of us (double vaxxed of course).

Returning after months of working from home, I found my desk to be a time capsule, with notes dated 18 June, just before I found myself in isolation lockdown after an unwitting visit to one of Sydney’s first Delta outbreak sites. 

As we turn towards the year’s end – and hopefully several Christmas drinks parties  it’s a good time to reflect on how we have coped. We are all debating the pros and cons of Zoom and Teams; why we love incidental Nespresso machine chats with colleagues; how we’ve missed the lunch runs, the “swivel factor,” sharing of personal news with our work-friends at the desk behind. The fact we don’t need to make an appointment to drop by someone’s desk. 

A recent Sydney Financial Forum digital meeting with peers in our industry identified some key issues post-pandemic – firstly, people. The war for talent and retention of our best people is real, few think a great culture can be developed online, and many think a hybrid-style, flexible workplace will be permanent if we are to retain our best and brightest. 

Secondly, planet, with ESG issues coming to the fore in unprecedented waves, as the world’s biggest fund managers and superannuation/pension funds  under growing pressure from clients  hold the pens on investment direction.  

Thirdly, technology has completely re-shaped how we do business. A year ago, I downsized our FSC headquarters by almost half because we no longer had to schlepp across town, fly in from another state, or rely on dodgy old phone tech to attend meetings. Zoom and Teams have transformed the meeting. Is it ideal? Not at all, but it saves time and money. I can’t see the day anytime soon where we fly to Melbourne/Sydney for one meeting and spend an hour in traffic getting from the airport to the CBD (and two hours back on any Friday afternoon). 

I am pleased to say that despite COVID, the FSC has coped remarkably well. We have grown by 10 per cent in member numbers, we have engaged some brilliant new people (all of whom I’m yet to meet in person), delivered some ground-breaking reformist pieces of work like the White Paper on Financial Advice, and moved some critical boulders around in the policy space. As has been announced, I will be ending my tenure as CEO after seven years just before Christmas and will have more to say in the last Engage for 2021. 

Finally, as a patron of the Emerge Foundation, which provides education for women and girls in East Timor, please consider joining many financial services colleagues at the Foundation’s annual Rugby Lunch on Thursday 2 December. Find out more here and here.


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