One of the many silver linings of COVID-19 has been the sense of community many of us have experienced. I believe it has made us all aware of the value of social connections, neighborliness and a sense of belonging and mutual trust. We have seen communities spring into action to support each other, and collaborate to tackle the challenges created by the virus, not only locally but nationally, globally and in business.

The most critical example of this is the current global collaborative effort of scientists to find a COVID-19 vaccine, but we have also seen a number of companies in different industries collaborate in innovative ways to achieve a goal. For some, such as Rolls Royce, Dyson, McLaren and Airbus, there has been collaboration on the design and creation of ventilators and for others, such as Aldi who recruited McDonalds staff in Germany to keep them employed whilst McDonalds was closed, there has been collaboration to keep staff in employment. This community-driven collaboration also stretches to the financial services industry where the FCA have recently launched a ‘digital sandbox’ to bring together technology firms actively innovating to tackle challenges presented by the pandemic.

Community thinking in the wealth management sector

On a much smaller scale, and from my own perspective, it has been affirming to experience community and collaboration in the wealth management sector. We have been bringing together a ‘virtual community’ of senior leaders in the sector on a regular basis to share, discuss and debate approaches to COVID-19 and the future of the wealth management workplace. The honesty and transparency of everyone involved has been inspiring, with senior leaders setting aside competitive agendas to collaborate and share ideas which could benefit their employees and their clients. There is no doubt that it is affirming to hear other CEOs in the sector grappling with the same challenges and to be able to consider ideas that others are implementing to address mental health, engagement, workplace design and client engagement.

Interestingly, one of the key concerns we all share in this CEO/COO community is that prolonged working from home could lead to a decay in collaboration. Yet, whilst we all miss in-person interactions, the reality is that if I had tried to organise a physical forum of this nature last year it would have been unlikely to attract the twelve senior leaders that attended the meeting last week. This wouldn’t necessarily have been due to a lack of interest but to the demands of being a senior leader pulled in multiple directions. There is definitely a sense that if we can get the right technology tools in place, they can provide a rich forum for discussion and can be particularly beneficial in bringing together senior leaders who are time-starved.

A mutual exchange of ideas to solve pressing problems

As we all look at the challenges facing our business in the coming months it is clear that learning from one another will be crucial to our success. For example, one of the key challenges facing our business, and so many others, is how can we bring those staff members who want to return to office back as safely as possible. We cannot make this decision in isolation. In such an unprecedented time, we need to look to and work with our neighbouring businesses and let our approaches educate and influence each other.

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