"You never know how strong you are until being strong is your only choice" – Bob Marley
The beginning of 2022 will not be remembered for the world’s emergence from the pandemic, but rather the Russian invasion of Ukraine and the humanitarian atrocities that continue to unfold. It is somewhat surreal to witness war in the West following years of relative political cooperation and stability, and shocking that civilians are being targeted by the Russian military in a manner that will surely lead to war crimes prosecution. Our thoughts and prayers go out to the Ukranian people who have already demonstrated remarkable strength and resilience in the defence of their homeland.
There is mounting concern that Russia will use chemical or biological weapons to press their advantage which has led NATO to indicate that it would respond in kind to protect the Ukrainian people. Such warfare should be a last resort and we can only hope that the financial sanctions and redirection of trade imposed on Russia act as a sufficient deterrent to escalating the conflict in this way. The prospect of a doomsday scenario looms large over financial markets which, so far, have been volatile but weathered the storm of uncertainty caused by the Ukrainian conflict and ongoing impact of COVID-19.
In times like these, where there are potential inflection points in financial markets caused by black swan events, the requirement for Enhance’s brand of independent investment oversight naturally increases and as such we have had a very busy Q1 looking after our fiduciary clients’ interests. Whilst our reporting cycle is in arrears and therefore focused on investment performance and positioning to the end of 2021 in our formal reporting, the team have been proactively speaking with clients on the current macro-economic environment to provide reassurance and guidance on how to navigate the troubled waters.
Being a trusted partner to our clients is a key tenet of all of our services and that means that we must be accessible and on hand when the going gets tough. To support our Relationship Managers and Investment Consultants in their personal interactions with clients, we have continued to develop our intermediary-facing Client Portal throughout the quarter with a significant release planned for April. This release will include the ability for our clients to further interact with their clients’ investment accounts, self-manage action point workflows and differentiate between different types of portal users via a comprehensive permission structure.
Despite the continued disruption of the pandemic our team has continued to travel widely and regularly to see clients old and new. Trips have been undertaken to Isle of Man, Guernsey, Switzerland and London since the turn of the year and we hope to venture further afield to see our clients in the Americas and Asia later in 2022 when long haul travel normalises. We advocate a balance of Teams/Zoom and in-person meetings, supported of course by our Mosaic system, as the optimum client service mix in a post-pandemic world to blend commercial efficiency with long term relationship building.
Our work on data integration and automation continues at pace, with over 40% of our client base now benefiting from investment counter-party feeds. We are hungry to build feeds with all of the investment providers that our clients have investment accounts with and are reasonably flexible in how with implement such integrations. The challenge remains that many investment businesses do not have the systems or technical capability to provide us with electronic data, which is frustrating, and it’s our belief that fiduciaries will grow tired of this reality and increasingly seek to place investment business with modern and data enabled providers.
We were also pleased to welcome new staff to our Monitoring and Development teams in March. Shane Brown has joined our Monitoring Team as a Relationship Manager, bringing over five years of client facing Private Banking experience to the business. Meanwhile Allan Pister has joined our Development Team as a Senior Developer, bringing over 20 years of software development experience to the in-house team that build and maintain our Mosaic platform. We have plans to add more talent to our roster in 2022 to keep pace with our business’s growth and appetite for innovation.
As we head into Q2 we keep a watchful and sympathetic eye on Ukraine and hope that the conflict can end. The world is united in its support for Ukraine and condemnation of Russia, and Enhance will be carrying out various fundraising activities in the months ahead to contribute in a small way to the humanitarian effort. It’s at times like these that we should all pause and reflect on how very lucky we are to live in a democratic society free of the perils of war. Our Ukrainian brothers and sisters are showing us all what true resolve is in their defence of the rights and freedoms we all so often take for granted.