Never in their worst dreams could New Zealand business leaders have imagined the havoc Covid-19 would wreak. As they try to wrestle chaos into some order, Andrea Fox asked them some searching questions. Today she talks to Craigs Investment Partners' Mark Lister.
Briefly describe recent weeks for you and your business?
Wild, frantic and surreal. I was doing this same job during the GFC, but this has been so much faster and such a rapidly developing situation. For the business, busy, yet reassuringly stable as we've gone into this very well-positioned, both in terms of our client portfolios as well as the preparedness for an unforeseen event like this.
What time have you been getting up and getting to bed during recent weeks?
Up about 5:30am and to bed around 11pm, as well as the odd middle-of-the-night check of the US markets, if our 1-year old dictates it.
If you are working from home, where in your house do you work?
I've got a makeshift office downstairs in our games room, so I'm set up between a pool table and a Street Fighter II arcade game.
How has the family reacted to you working at home?
I can't speak for my wife, but our three kids think it's awesome. I'm usually out of town two or three days a week visiting our branches, and then I'm in the office for at least a part of each weekend. Having me at home seven days a week is a massive novelty for them, they think it's one big holiday.
What will be the biggest challenge about working from home?
Probably just staying in touch with the rest of the team, and our wider staff. Many of us have been at Craigs a long time, so we're all mates as well as co-workers. In the interests of both productivity and morale, we've got to work a bit harder to ensure we stay in touch.
In contrast, the business can deal with this fairly seamlessly. We're very well set up to do things from afar, and to keep looking after our clients. We just need to adapt a little bit, which we're doing.
What has been your worst/most fearful moment/realisation in this crisis so far?
I had an inkling this could be a big deal when the flash PMIs (an economic indicator) were released on February 21. They looked ugly, and they certainly made me take notice. That day turned out to be the peak for the NZ sharemarket.
The next moment was probably when the travel restrictions were announced. At that point, it was clear that our personal lives were about to be disrupted (as well as our KiwiSaver accounts).
Your biggest personal challenge so far?
Just trying to keep perspective. My head knows that recessions and bear markets are a normal part of the economic cycle, and that they always pass despite how scary they might feel at the time. However, it's human nature to get caught up in the doom and gloom and lose sight of the bigger picture.
Your most valuable lesson so far?
As an investor, you certainly learn more during periods like this than you do when the going is good. It's been a stark reminder that risk can come from anywhere.
Have you bought shares recently?
Yes I've been doing some buying. There are loads of great businesses I want to own that have been sold off heavily lately. Mainfreight, Port of Tauranga and Ebos in New Zealand. Microsoft, Nike and Visa in the US, just to name a few.
My KiwiSaver is 100 per cent shares, which I self select through my Craigs KiwiSaver account. I'm certainly not stopping my contributions to those, and if anything I'll try and ramp them up while the rest of the world panics.
I've got at least 20 years until retirement, so for me periods like this are an opportunity, rather than a threat. Young KiwiSavers and investors should be thinking the same way.
Have you bought gold or any other perceived "safe" asset? If so, what?
I've been drip-feeding into a gold ETF for about a year through our MyStart product, and I've got no plans to stop doing that. I think owning some gold (in moderation) is entirely logical given what we're seeing from central banks and governments at the moment.
Have you made time for exercise?
Always, that's non-negotiable. I usually alternate between running, swimming and going to the gym, but it's really just running that's getting a look in at the moment.
What score between 1 and 10 do you give the Government's general performance in handling this crisis so far?
8. I don't envy politicians at the best of times, and this will have been really challenging. They were always going to get grief for either going overboard, or not doing enough.
Your prediction for the lockdown duration?
I'm mentally preparing for it to be two months.