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CEO UPDATE 19 March

 

Hello, I hope this finds you and your families safe and well.

I thought that I should offer a more direct update on the current situation seen from SKAGEN. Over the past week or so, we have been in contact with a number of you calling in to seek advice. The most common questions have been:

  1.  How has SKAGEN prepared for the corona situation?
  2.  What is our advice to clients worried about their savings?
  3. How are investment teams dealing with the situation?

I will try to answer each of these in turn.

How has SKAGEN prepared for the corona situation?

Because we participate in a regulated industry, we are required to have in place business continuity plans for a range of scenarios. Once the course and extent of the challenge from COVID-19 was clear, we were able to quickly enact these plans. I also had the advantage of dealing with pandemic outbreaks in an earlier career, so we were able to incorporate this experience into our measures. As of today, most personnel are working from home, and all systems and processes are working effectively. Our data infrastructure is the critical enabler, and we have significant back-up and flexibility built into this. My focus now is the protection of our people, maintaining investment operations, and communicating clearly and frequently to our clients. I expect the current restrictions to endure for some time.

What is our advice to clients worried about their savings?

It is entirely normal for clients to be concerned during periods of market volatility. What is not all right is to act without thinking, or on the advice of the armchair experts that are currently disrupting social media with their noise. There is only one piece of investment advice that I can give to clients, and that is to speak to us. The situation for each client is different. What matters is your investment horizon and tolerance for risk, both of these are personal to you. If you have received advice from a SKAGEN advisor, then you will have decided upon a long-term investment strategy. Depending on your circumstances, that strategy is likely to be equally correct for the conditions that we see in the market today.

Also, some of you have asked about SKAGEN's financial health and whether this is tied in any way to your investments in our funds. The simple answer to this is no. The truth is SKAGEN is a well-capitalized and solvent company, and we stress test this on an annual basis against a range of scenarios. We are also part of a much larger and well-capitalized group in Storebrand. But it is important to understand that, in Norway, the investment funds are entirely ring-fenced from SKAGEN. No matter what happens to SKAGEN, the investments in the funds are protected from this by law.

Either way, if you are worried, we are here. We have ceased face to face contact with clients, but we are available by phone, video, webcast and email. Please contact us and we will offer the best advice that we can, based upon your exact circumstances. Even if you just want to talk to someone, call us. We are here to help.

How are the investment teams dealing with the situation?

The SKAGEN investment team are ideally suited to dealing with the kind of fear and uncertainty that we see in the market currently. That is why we selected them for the roles in the first place. Market volatility presents both risk and opportunity. We know that loss of capital will be temporary; but we also know that some companies and industries will suffer long-term damage. Here the advantages of active management within broad mandates are clear. The approach of the SKAGEN portfolio managers combines the defensive with the offensive. They will continue to adjust their portfolios based on their analysis of company and market conditions; some companies will become less attractive, some more. At the same time, they will be identifying those companies that will flourish when more normal conditions return, which they will. William Shakespeare wrote his greatest work, King Lear, during a period of quarantine, so I expect a great deal from the SKAGEN team over the coming weeks and months.

 

Let me close on a more personal note. Many of us experience fear and uncertainty in times like these. This is quite normal. We fear for those closest to us, and we are uncertain regarding what is happening and what it means for our long-term prospects. My elderly Father is nearly 90 and suffers an underlying health condition. He is isolated and a long way away in Yorkshire. He is alone and he is uncertain. I know from long experience that communication is the best way to reduce this uncertainty. My job is to speak to him daily, to inform him about what is going on, to ensure that he has what he needs. Here in SKAGEN, we have this same responsibility towards you, our clients. We will continue to update you regularly by all means at our disposal. And please, do contact us if we can help in any way.

 

I'd like to end by offering our admiration and support to those in the uniformed services, especially our doctors and nurses. Both my sisters-in-law are health professionals here in Norway. They are the heroes of the hour and we in SKAGEN are truly grateful for their efforts.

 

That's all from me for now. Thank you for watching. Keep well.

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Historical returns are no guarantee for future returns. Future returns will depend, inter alia, on market developments, the fund manager's skill, the fund's risk profile and management fees. The return may become negative as a result of negative price developments.