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CEO update: The six-month wall and how to get over it

We have been living with the challenges of the global pandemic for six months or more now. Those experienced in living with sustained crisis know that the six-month point is invariably a challenge. It is not an accident that many military operational deployments short of general war are of approximately six months duration. I have seen even the most able and resilient solider begin to suffer skill-fade and loss of energy after six months of sustained crisis response operations. This is normally solved by a return home for a period living a more normal pattern of life. In a global crisis such as this, there are few places to go to recharge. We are in this for the long-haul and in a professional services firm like SKAGEN we must ensure that our delivery is the best that it can be, no matter what. How then, to get over the six-month wall?

The most important thing is to recognise that suffering a dip in mood and performance around now proves we are human. Few of us can sustain that perfect balance of self-care that combines diet, sleep, exercise and emotional regulation – although my teenage daughter claims to. We are all challenged by living with the pandemic and we are not alone in finding these times trying. The next thing to recognise is that humans are the most adaptable of species. Most of us will circumvent the wall even if we do nothing about it whatsoever, but it may take time for us to find new energy and inspiration and our performance might diminish in the meantime. There are, however, a range of actions that can help us to pass through this period more swiftly, and in better shape.

Five steps to surmount the wall

  1. Recognise the condition and be prepared to discuss it with colleagues, friends and family. This creates strength and resilience within the teams that we occupy. Toughing it out and adopting the strong and silent approach did not work for the Victorians and it does not work today.
  2. Allow time for the mind to be occupied by other things, whether this is art, literature, or physical activity, such distractions are of the greatest importance in times like these. Dips in creativity, initiative and energy will recover within a few weeks and stimulating the mind in other ways can help to shorten this. Certain pieces of music, a favourite book, and the occasional gallery website have lifted me through the strangest of periods in times past.
  3. Consider a period of skills training – this is a focus in SKAGEN currently – since lessons old and new will do much to compensate for the sense of sameness in the current routine.
  4. Reward or pamper yourself and others, whether it's a new winter coat, a new book, or an investment in SKAGEN, even such modest actions can have a restorative effect. Unexpected gifts have disproportionate positive impact on well-being, as does an unexpected kind word.
  5. Finally, and above all, do not worry; recognise and appreciate that you and yours have already adapted to these odd times in which we find ourselves. With the help of colleagues, friends and family you will overcome any challenges that you experience at this six-month point – so don't be afraid to ask for help.

Surfing the blue wave

It is hard to escape the wholesale coverage of the ongoing US presidential elections. While this event only occurs every four years, it starts so early and takes so much attention that there are times when it seems perpetual. As a fund manager we are often asked for our view on the likely outcome of elections, and Alexandra Morris offered analysis of this in her excellent recent article 'Trump or Biden – Does the stock market care who wins the US election?' 

The truth is, no matter our personal experience, in SKAGEN we claim no special skill in political forecasting. These elections and similar such occasions are events that occur from time to time. As members of the public, we generally overestimate their short-term impact and under-estimate the longer-term trends that result; as professional money managers we seek to make such long-term investments that will handle these and other changes in the political weather, even in such stormy times as these.

Meeting our clients online

Despite no let-up in the barriers to meeting clients in person, we are keen to ensure that our clients are kept up to date with what is happening in our funds and we are continuously developing our digital platform to provide an even better user experience. We launched a range of interactive monthly webinars this autumn where clients and others can find out how the funds are faring and ask the portfolio managers questions directly. The next webinar will be held with Fredrik Bjelland, portfolio manager of our emerging markets fund, SKAGEN Kon-Tiki, on 2 November. Invitations to the event will be sent out shortly and you can watch all our webinars here.

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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.