I have mixed emotions as we approach December. On the one hand, as I mentioned during our client event last week, I feel that there is a lot to be optimistic about as we head into 2021. On the other hand though, it does feel like we have a fair few hurdles to jump over before we get there. Before we look at those though, let’s focus on the positive…
First of all, we have not one, not two, but now three viable vaccine candidates in the pipeline and although none of them has thus far received regulatory approval, it seems almost inevitable that at least one or two of them will in due course.
The arrival of the vaccine hopefully signals the beginning of the end of the pandemic which has caused so much pain and disruption on both a financial and emotional level.
Furthermore, we now have a clear result in the US election and hopefully we will see an outcome (not necessarily a deal, but an outcome – I have always maintained that certainty, even bad certainty, is better than uncertainty) of the Brexit process before the year is out.
All of the above has removed a lot of uncertainty from the world, hopefully creating a more stable foundation for us as individuals and for stock markets as we head towards the new year.
So far so good. But it is not all sunshine and rainbows.
First of all, although the vaccine seems to be on the way now, it is clearly going to take some time for the rollout. In a way this makes things harder to bear as rather than waiting for an unknown, we now know we have the vaccine, and it is ‘out there’ and so we are simply waiting for it to arrive. Knowing something exists, but not being able to benefit from it yet, I personally find quite frustrating – perhaps it is just the entrepreneur in me wanting to make things move faster!
Then, we had the announcement yesterday of the new tier system. On the basis that the vast majority of us seem to have ended up in tier 2 or 3, it feels to me very much like we are heading out of lockdown on the 2nd December and going straight into …… wait for it …..lockdown.
Finally, we have the issues surrounding Christmas. Christmas is an incredibly important time of the year for me for all sorts of reasons, not least because of the chance to see extended family and friends. It will come as no surprise to those who know me that I was disappointed to learn that we can only have 3 households in our bubble over the festive season. Although this was not at all unexpected, it is nonetheless disappointing.
Please don’t get me wrong, I understand the reasons behind the decisions and of course I wish to protect my vulnerable family members as much as the next person, but it is still a disappointment for me not to have the usual mass meet up over the holidays.
So, perhaps rather unusually, it seems to me as if the longer term is somewhat clearer and easier to predict, with more uncertainty existing in the shorter term.
-In the longer term we now know with a fair degree of certainty:
-That we will have a vaccine
-That we can begin to return to some normality at some point
-That we can hope to return to our offices and workplaces at some point
-That we have a more stable political environment moving into 2021
-That the economy can hopefully recover
I think if I could summarise the final quarter of 2020, it would be that we have moved from wondering ‘IF’ things will happen and it is now just a matter of ‘WHEN’.
However, in the short term we have to deal with:
-What tier is my area in now and where will we be in the coming weeks?
-How on earth am I going to negotiate the social minefield of picking just 2 other households to spend the festive season with?
-What will the Brexit deal look like?
-When will the vaccine deployment begin?
-Will we actually have ‘significant normality’ by Easter, having already been promised ‘significant normality’ by the government on at least 2 or 3 previous occasions that have now come and gone.
So … an interesting dichotomy and a feeling that I am not sure I have experienced before where the medium / longer-term looks very clear in my mind, whereas the next 3 months are very hazy indeed!
Unfortunately, I don’t have the answers to any of this uncertainty, but I do know that it will pass, and probably faster than we imagine. Just remember that the darkest hour is before the dawn and this too shall pass!
Matt Smith, Director