A Message From Matt – 11th December 2020

So how is it that we have already arrived at the end of 2020?

I think this year has been the ‘fastest, slowest’ year I have ever experienced. In some senses 2020 really seems to have dragged on. It seems forever since I saw my family or friends properly and I am sure we are all looking forward to hopefully getting back to this kind of thing as we move into the Spring next year and beyond!

In other ways, 2020 has flown by.

I know we say it every year, but the last 12 months seem to have gone by in the blink of an eye. Perhaps it is the fact that much of this year has felt like a bit of a groundhog day? The big ticket events that punctuate our years and photo albums (birthday celebrations, weddings, overseas holidays) have largely been absent and so the months have seemed to blur into one a little bit.

I think it is fair to say that 2020 will not go down as one of most people’s favourite years, but, being the eternal optimist, I do like to look at the positive in all of this.

First of all, we have learned a lot, both individually and collectively. The ingenuity of the human race never ceases to amaze me and 2020 is testament to the power of our collective minds. Not only have we developed and rolled out the vaccine in record time, we have also celebrated several other scientific and technological achievements which have pushed us forward, despite the challenges of the pandemic.

Although crisis sometimes brings out the worst in us, it can also bring out the best of us. I am sure we have all seen acts of incredible kindness and selflessness in 2020 – let’s hope we can carry some of that sentiment forward with us.

Finally, on a more local level, I could not be more pleased with how we have adapted and thrived as a business and as a team during the past 12 months. Have there been challenges and failures and frustrations – of course there have, but I feel that we have far more to celebrate than commiserate as a team this year.

This will be my last blog post of 2020 as I am taking an extended Christmas break, having taken relatively little holiday all year to help guide the business through what has been the most tumultuous of years.

I would like to close by thanking each and every one of you, our clients, from the bottom of my heart. I am always grateful for every client that chooses to join us on this journey, but I cannot express how incredible it has been to have your support during this year above all others.

You are the reason that I get to do what I love each and every day and I am not sure that many people get to say that in this world.

Wishing you all a very merry festive season and a happy, healthy and prosperous 2021!

Yours sincerely,
Matt Smith, Director, Buckingham Gate Chartered Financial Planners

A Message From Matt – 27th November 2020

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!

Yours sincerely,
Matt Smith, Director

Turbulent Times – 6th November 2020

Well, it certainly has been a tumultuous few weeks.

Lockdown part II seems to have coincided with a fairly inconclusive US election result, which at the time of writing, looks as if it could remain that way for many days or even weeks at this stage. Throw in a relative lack of news over the progress (or not) being made with the Brexit trade deal and we have a recipe for an interesting winter.

None of these things were totally unexpected, in fact you could argue that all of them were fairly likely, however that still doesn’t make the uncertainty any easier to deal with.

As always, we like to look for the positives in all of this.

First of all, although we are now in a second lockdown, it is far less restrictive than the first. Parents across the land will be breathing a sigh of relief at the fact that the schools are remaining open. We can at least have a tiny bit of outdoor contact with others outside of our immediate family and we are not restricted to just a single dose of daily exercise (quite what the logic of that rule was the first time around I will never know!).

As far as the US election is concerned, I think we can take some comfort from a financial planning perspective from whichever outcome we receive. A Trump victory would arguably be the stock markets favoured outcome. He would likely maintain the status quo in terms of low corporate taxes and reasonably low levels of regulation. If Biden prevails on the other hand, although he might introduce some policies which would create a short-term market shock, he is perhaps the more moderate candidate and might be more willing to negotiate and cooperate with other countries around the world which would do geopolitics a world of good.

Finally, we have Brexit. Although the news on this front has been rather quiet of late (it’s amazing to think just how much Covid-19 has stolen the show in terms of media airtime), there are some glimmers of hope that we might reach a deal. My own view is that they will be able to pull something out of the bag at the eleventh hour, it just depends what that ‘something’ is.

It just goes to show that most clouds do have a silver lining.

Enjoy your lockdown the best you can – it will be over before we know it (I hope!)

A Message From Matt – 19th October 2020

So I caught it. The invisible and deadly virus that I have been terrified of for the past 6 months. Despite us not really seeing anyone for the first three months of lockdown, despite all the hand washing and alcohol gel, despite the face masks and social distancing, I still managed somehow to pick up the virus.

We don’t really know where it came from and in truth we never will. That is perhaps one of the most frustrating facts about this virus.

So, what lessons have I learned over the past 2 weeks?

1 – This virus can find you, no matter how careful you are. For me, this underlines the importance of everyone ‘doing their bit’ to keep others safe.

2 – My personal experience of the virus was not too bad at all. I was fortunate to be one of the mild cases. I first had a mild temperature a week ago on Sunday and ordered the obligatory test, which to my surprise came back positive.

Following the positive result, I was a little tired and achy for a couple of days and then I lost my voice for a day or two. After this, I felt generally ok (not perfect, but ok) for around a week and then I lost my sense of smell for a couple of days. It just vanished all of a sudden which is rather disconcerting I must admit. After that, I have been fine and I am pleased to report that I feel as if I have completely recovered, having got back to my exercise regime three days ago.

3 – Despite my case being very mild, the sheer ‘catchability’ of the virus does make me worry for some of my frailer family and friends (see point 1 above).

I suppose actually having the virus has put things into perspective for me and this experience has, once again, reinforced the fact that the media reports on the extremes of things.

When I went to book my test, I expected the whole experience to be a nightmare given media reports of 3 / 4 day wait times and 300-mile drives! My experience was anything but.

I ordered my test at 4:30pm on Sunday afternoon, had it in a drive-in test centre 15 minutes away from my house at 6pm that same evening and then the results followed only 24 hours later – pretty much a flawless service in my view.

Now, I am not saying that no one is having issues with testing, but it does go to show that the media rarely report on the positive. I haven’t seen a single media report where they interview someone about testing and they just say “yes – my experience was very speedy and efficient thank you very much” – it just doesn’t make good news.

They also rarely seem to interview the thousands of people who have had a mild version of the illness. “Well I was a little under the weather for a day or two and then I felt fine” doesn’t make particularly compelling watching I suppose.

But, this does underline the need for perspective when thinking about the virus as with all areas of life. The media will tend to report at the extreme ends of any spectrum, but this hides all of the people in the middle, which will tend to make up the majority.

Now, please don’t get me wrong. For some people, the virus is devastating. It has had a huge impact on many of the client families that we work with and we have lost a relative close to home as well.

But, having now ‘been through it’, I have a healthy respect for the virus, but it’s fair to say I have a more balanced and unbiased view. There is nothing worse than the fear of the unknown and that is the problem with our current fight. Unlike with other crises, we can’t see the enemy, we don’t know what impact it will have on us if we are one of the unlucky ones.

All I wish is that you keep well and keep safe through winter as we head back into a lockdown of sorts and I look forward to ‘seeing’ you at our 2020 Client Event which of course will be held virtually this year.

Getting Ready For Round 2

It was almost inevitable, but we are now dealing with ‘lockdown’ round 2. Just as things were beginning to return to some vague kind of normality, the virus has staged its resurgence and more restrictive measures are being introduced.

The timing of Boris’s announcement was almost comical for the Buckingham Gate team – our builders signed off the first phase of our office building project on Tuesday morning and ‘handed back’ the office to us and then the ‘work from home’ message came on Tuesday evening.

I would like to reassure clients that our commitment to getting back to the office (and to face-to-face meetings for those who want them) is unwavering. We have spent considerable time, money and effort re-designing the Buckingham Gate office and client experience and we can’t wait to show you the fruits of our labour – we will just have to wait a little longer until the government guidance and health crisis allows.

We have started doing a small number of home visits with clients where this is necessary (the signing and witnessing of wills and trusts for example) and will continue to offer this service, with all the gloves, masks and other mitigation’s in place, for as long as we are permitted to do so.

As we enter the colder, darker months I think this is the point where the economic pain might start to become more visible. Up until now, although both people and businesses have undoubtedly been struggling, there has been a very significant element of government support with the furlough scheme, grants, loans and handouts galore.

All of that is about to change. While the announcements from Rishi Sunak last week will be welcome, the schemes being introduced to take us through the winter are nowhere near as generous as the ones that they are replacing.

The Furlough scheme paid up to 80% of a workers whole wage, the new scheme will pay only around 20%. The same is true for the self-employed scheme, with the grant available now only £1,500 for a 3-month period – Just £500 a month to survive on!

The sectors most impacted by the new restrictions (hospitality, travel etc) make up a reasonably small portion of the stock market in relative terms, but they do account for a large percentage of the workforce. As such, I think any impact on markets will be due more to waning consumer confidence, rather than down to the fortunes of the companies themselves.

The companies that have accounted for much of the stock market growth and recovery we have seen this year (mainly the large technology giants) will most likely continue to perform well in this environment as our demand for their devices and subscriptions grows ever larger.

We will, of course, be monitoring developments carefully, not just with Covid-19, but also with the Brexit process and the US Elections (two events that would nearly account for all of the headlines in any normal year, but that we are hearing relatively little about vs Covid).

Most importantly, I want to reassure clients that we are here for you. Our mission is to create financial peace of mind for each and every one of you and if there is anything more we can do to help you achieve that, even in these most unusual of times, please don’t hesitate to ask.

A Message From Matt – 2nd September 2020

As we enter September, it strikes me that we are now 2/3rd’s of the way through the year and about to enter the final 4 months of what has been a rather tumultuous 2020 to say the least.

In some ways 2020 feels like a lost year. Many of the key events that punctuate our photo albums and memories (holidays, weddings, birthday celebrations etc) will have been cancelled or postponed and in some respects it feels like we are waiting to get back to doing these things that we love.

My planned family trip to Florida in April was of course called off and I am still disappointed by this, especially as this would have been our first major overseas trip since my daughter Amy was born and my first trip to the States in some time.

In other ways however, 2020 will be marked as the year that changed everything. Our way of working, our way of relaxing, our way of life is being re-written as we speak and the longer that the now rather strange dynamic of not being in lockdown (but still somehow feeling as if we are) continues, the more permanent these things will become.

What is for sure is that we are very excited about getting back to the office as a team and we are also very much looking forward to welcoming clients in for face-to-face meetings (for those who are ready and comfortable to do so – Zoom meetings will remain on the menu for those who are not yet ready or for whom it is simply more convenient).

Although the narrative at the beginning of lockdown was around the ‘death of the office’, as time has gone on, I think businesses are taking a more balanced view and are starting to see the benefits of teams being together in one place and collaborating. Although we will not be insisting that the team is in the office all of the time, we are all looking forward to being there together some of the time.

During lockdown, we have been putting a great deal of effort into redesigning and improving our on-going financial planning service to clients, the highlight of which is the annual forward planning meeting. We are excited to show you what we have been working on and will launch this new and improved review service as we open our brand new office on Northumberland Avenue to clients for the first time (which we are hoping will be in early October – case numbers and Government Advice permitting).

We are incredibly grateful for the fantastic ongoing client relationships we have and will never forget the kind words of support and encouragement we have received throughout lockdown.

If there is anything more you think we could be doing for you, or if you can think of anything else you would like included in your ongoing financial planning service, do be sure to let us know – we would love to hear your ideas.

The Importance of Data

It can’t be underestimated how important good data is. In the age of fake news, social media feeds and media speculation, it can be hard to know what to believe, but good, accurate data, can make it easier to see through the noise.

You will have to excuse the rather tenuous link here, but two things this week have made me reflect on the importance of data.

The first is to do with my personal health. I was scrolling through the Apple health app the other day when I had a few moments as my computer was doing an update. What I discovered was a very interesting chart on my average resting heart rate, not just recently, but over the past few years.

Now, I have always been fairly into my fitness and generally (in the pre-lockdown era) managed around 4/5 workouts a week. If I look at my resting heart rate average from the beginning of the data I have available (coinciding with my first Apple Watch purchase in January 2018), it has always been in the reasonably respectable range of 58-61 – not too bad.

However, what really surprised me was the change since March (the start of lockdown). As lockdown began, I had a little more time for exercise, so I have been doing longer sessions and more of them. Since the middle of March, there has been a very significant and notable trend downwards and now, as of the end of July, my resting heart rate is consistently in the range of 50-54.

Now that may not sound like much, but it is a significant change in the right direction and is a noticeable sign of the impact that greater exercise duration and intensity has had on my physical wellbeing. I wonder what other insights could be gleaned if we all looked at our fitness trackers and the data they produce in more detail.

The other surprise that I gleaned from good data this week was during our investment committee meeting with Square Mile. A lot has been said and written about the market crash and then recovery over the course of the Covid-19 pandemic and many people have been shocked by the speed of the recovery, especially in the US market.

When you interrogate the data, however, things start to make more sense.

If we look at the global stockmarket (as measured by the MSCI World Index), we see that it has produced a circa 43.9% return over the past 5 years – not too shabby.

However, it is the way that this return is attributed which is shocking.

For a start, the US market has produced 83.7% of those total returns – this means that the US has been responsible for more than 4/5ths of the total global returns.

That in itself is quite stark, but the data goes deeper. If we interrogate the return of the US index, we can see that the top 10 stocks within the US market make up around 56% of the total US return.

Putting it another way, the top 10 companies in the US have accounted for around a third of total global returns.

Taking it one step further still, we can see that just 3 companies – Apple, Microsoft and Amazon make up over 23% of that total US return.

So in summary, the US makes up 83% of the total return in the world over the past 5 years, the top 10 companies account for around half of that return and the top 3 companies account for nearly a quarter of it.

Apple alone accounted for 8% of the total global stock market returns over that 5 year period.

This just goes to show how reliant we are becoming on these major tech giants.

Another very interesting fact is that, despite the US markets being back at (or very close to) record highs, the growth has been more concentrated than ever. If we look at the S&P 500 (the top 500 companies in the US market) year to date, only 10 of them have grown in value, meaning that the other 490 have fallen. However, the growth in those top 10 (again, mostly the big technology companies) has been enough to offset (and then some) the falls in the other 490 – quite amazing!

When you look at data like this, it gives you an interesting new perspective into the shape of the global economic recovery and this just goes to show just how concentrated it has been.

Read into it what you will, but it certainly gives a different perspective on things and perhaps it explains the seemingly irrational growth in the US market especially.

You see, although the market is growing, the vast majority of companies aren’t. It is just that the growth on those top 10 (only 2% of the total) is outweighing the losses on the other 490 (the other 98%).

A Message From Matt – 29th June 2020

As it becomes clear that Coronavirus is not going away any time soon, we move from the initial panic phase of the crisis into the management and maintenance phase.

If we accept that the Coronavirus pandemic is going to be a marathon and not a sprint, you could use the analogy that we have started a little too fast, running the first 5 miles in record time, but that might come back to bite us later as we struggle to settle into a more consistent pace for the rest of what is still a very long race ahead.

It feels to me as if, in general (notable exceptions being New Zealand and Germany for example), governments were a little too late to lockdown and we have exited lockdown a little too early. Katherine and I were shouting at the news for Boris to lockdown around a week earlier than he actually did, and we also feel that the ‘unlocking’ is coming a bit too early as well.

Others will disagree and if anything is for certain at the moment, it is that Covid-19, just like Brexit before it, is proving to be a divisive issue with people’s opinions largely informed by how the crisis impacts them and their family.

Although this is a vast over-simplification, I would summarise the position as follows:

The more severe the economic pain people are going through, the less they seem concerned with the health implications of the crisis.

The more severe the health impact that people have suffered, the less they seem concerned with the economic implications of the crisis.

Of course, these issues are never binary and there will be a variety of different views on the matter. The other issue is that we will only know which view was ‘right’ (if there is such a thing in this kind of situation) with the benefit of hindsight. I certainly know that I don’t envy the impossible decisions the government is having to make at the moment.

What I would say that we could all do with is a little more understanding. No matter what angle you view the pandemic from, it has touched all of us in some way and caused some form of pain or suffering – sometimes severe, sometimes moderate.

Whatever your view though, I think it is important to remember that other people may have been impacted in different ways.

In my personal little family bubble, we have definitely been more focused on the health implications of the crisis, to the point where we have barely left the house in 3 months. Other members of my wider family are suffering financially and therefore can’t wait for the economy to re-open.

Regardless of your perspective, the one thing that binds us all together is that we are in this together. We have already seen the capacity for human kindness and generosity during this pandemic and hopefully this will continue as we enter what could well be an extended period of ‘tough times’ for certain people.

Above all – stay safe, stay sane and enjoy the sunshine!

 

 

A Message From Matt – 12th June 2020

I had planned to write a somewhat jubilant update today as stock markets around the world have recovered, in many cases to now show positive gains during 2020. Some markets have set new all time highs in the past few days! When you consider what the world has been through over the past few months, that really is quite extraordinary.

As hard as it is to believe, the ‘crash’ only really lasted 3 weeks – most markets started falling on around the 20th of February and hit their low points in the middle of March. Since then, the general trend has been one of recovery and I was all set to write about the old investment rules (time in the market, not timing the market) proving their worth once again.

I was even tempted to add in a sprinkle of ‘told you so’ pointed towards the media who were prophesising Armageddon during that 3 week period of market crashes, but who have barely mentioned a word about the spectacular recovery since then. Even in the height of the crisis, our advice to investment clients was to ‘keep calm and carry on’ and I am delighted that in every single case where I have had one of those conversations with clients, they have heeded our advice and remained invested.

Sadly, my bubble was burst yesterday as the US market took a circa 6% hit due to concerns about a second spike in cases and a less-than-positive update from the Federal Reserve. This morning, we have had some sobering news a little closer to home, with the ONS reporting that the UK economy shrank a record 20.4%.

However, I still have reasons to be cheerful. First of all, despite yesterday’s events, most global markets are still substantially better off than they were just 3 short months ago. If you had told me on 20th March (around when most markets hit their low point) that we would be in a position where the FTSE 100 and the S&P had recovered 22% and our own Balanced Portfolios would be up around 13-14%, I would have taken that!

Second, the fall in GDP was “only” 20.4% (Please note – despite my well-known love of inverted commas, I don’t think I have ever used them so seriously – I know that 20% is a huge number). While this is a big blow, it could have been much worse given the extent to which the economy has been shut down over the month of April. The fact that we managed to maintain 80% of economic activity is a big achievement, I think. The fact that the FTSE 100 rose this morning on the back of the news suggests that the market was expecting worse.

Finally, the recovery has been one driven very much by certain sectors – technology and pharmaceuticals in particular. This means that there are other sectors (airlines, travel, hospitality, car sales etc) where there is still room for a significant recovery to take place, potentially taking markets higher as economies are re-opened.

Please don’t get me wrong – I know there is a still a long way to go before anything gets back to anywhere approaching normal, however I still believe that this crisis is nowhere near as bad as other events that the human race has lived through and ultimately prospered after.

We have better science, better technology and more information and knowledge today than at any point in human history and surely all of this combined progress will get us through this crisis (second spike or not).

When markets are in free-fall, our emotions can sometimes get the better of us and lead us to take irrational investment decisions. However, there is also a second point where our emotions can lead us astray – that time is now – that time is when previous losses have been recovered. I would strongly encourage you to read this article by 7IM to learn more:

 

This post shall not constitute or be deemed to constitute an invitation or inducement to any person to engage in investment activity and is not a recommendation to buy or sell any funds of individual stocks that are mentioned in this post. Past performance is not a guide to future returns and the value of capital invested and any income generated from it may fluctuate in value.

Your Post-Lockdown Life

As we enter the month of June, we find ourselves in an interesting dichotomy.

The UK is beginning to relax lockdown measures as other countries are having to reimpose them, given that they are seeing a resurgence in the virus.

Japan and South Korea are this morning reporting an increase in case numbers and therefore are having to do a U-turn and reintroduce some measures which had previously been implemented.

This gives us some idea about the road ahead and shows that the path is probably not going to be a straight one, but rather a very bendy one with several U-turns along the way.

As we begin to open up though, I think we have also reached a point of maximum risk. Risk both to health, but also to our future’s. Not so much from a financial point of view, but more from a lifestyle perspective – how we choose to live our lives.

I have used this metaphor before, but I am going to go with it again.

At this moment – sitting here on 1st June 2020, picture your life as a mostly empty box. The elements of your life in the ‘old world’ have mostly been taken out of the box by force and are now sitting outside the box on the dining room table.

As the UK begins to ‘open up’. You, yes you, get to decide what to put back in. If the past few months have shown us anything, it is that the things currently outside the box are not necessities. You know the things – the frenetic activity, the perhaps slightly unhealthy lunches while in the city, the putting off things which we know are really important because we are ‘too busy’.

Now, please don’t get me wrong, in the ‘old world’ these things probably felt like necessities. They felt like we had to do them, but we have now been shown conclusively that this is not true.

So, this begs the question. What do you want to put back into your box?

Alongside all the elements of your old life now sitting on the table are the new things that have been added to your life since lockdown began. Some of these are good – perhaps weekly zoom calls with the family, more exercise, eating better quality food. Some not so good – too many biscuits in the home office, getting up late etc.

So, on the table, spread out for you to see are all of the elements of your old, pre-lockdown life and all the elements of your lockdown life. The question is which of these things do you want to keep in your life as lockdown eases?

I suspect for many of us, there will be elements of both that we would like to carry forward into the future.

I for one am desperate to get back to a restaurant for a meal out. This is something I enjoyed before but will truly savour in the future (although I certainly will not be rushing to do so when the doors open – wait and see is perhaps the best approach with something as unpredictable as the virus). I am also keen to get back to face-to-face meetings in the office, although I think we all acknowledge that may not be possible or practical for some time yet.

I am keen to maintain the now-every-day exercise routine I have implemented and continue to connect with friends and family more frequently as we move forward.

I suspect that I will also be spending more time on Zoom and other online conferencing tools as we move into the brave new world – I just hope it is not the whole time.

What we keep and what we leave behind can be conscious choices, but these choices can also so easily be made for us. Made for us by the world outside, by external forces, by our bosses, by our friends and family.

My hope is that we don’t sleepwalk into this new world which we are going to find ourselves. That we don’t just wake up one day and wonder what happened to all of the ‘good bits’ of lockdown.

There is a real risk of that happening over the next few weeks as the economy starts to re-open in many cases with little to no notice.

Dentists are a great example of a profession which might be catapulted from zero to 100 in very little time indeed. Having had little information on the re-opening of practices for months, there is now an expectation that they will be ready to open a week on Monday.

So, as our activity, both vocational and social, starts to ramp up over the coming weeks, I just hope that we can choose the best bits to carry forward into our ‘new lives’.

This is perhaps a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for us to re-invest how we live and work. I just hope we make the most of that opportunity.