One thing we have always known—which has been reinforced over the last two months — is that the world is interconnected. Klemens von Metternich, a 19th century diplomat said, “When France sneezes, Europe catches a cold.” While the geographies might be different, this is literally true today with the global spread of COVID-19 (coronavirus).
Collectively, we face a daunting challenge as the novel coronavirus pandemic is the new disruptor. While we feel our company is well-prepared to manage through this period of disruption, it will require all of us working together to prevail. First and foremost, it’s important for us to focus on the safety and health of employees, clients and their families, which we have done and continue to do.
While much of our attention has been focused on the virus and its spread, we have not taken our eye off our global operations or how the financial markets have responded to the crisis. Many businesses are directly impacted by market activity. We have benefited from a 10+ year bull market, providing a tailwind to all of the strategic growth initiatives we have implemented over that period. During that period, we continued to invest in our future. We are better prepared for what we and our clients are dealing with today and the ability to rebound once we get back to a more normal operating environment.
It was just over a decade ago that we were exiting another financial crisis. The financial crisis of 2008-2009 was triggered by financial mismanagement and the excess leverage of many financial institutions. This current crisis is triggered by something much different: worldwide panic over health and well-being. In these types of situations, it’s difficult to forecast how deep it will go, when it will abate, and when the inevitable turnaround will begin.
Our company has prided itself on managing our business for the long term. We have proven business models that provide a strong foundation to help us work through these periods of uncertainty. Our resilient operations, predictable service delivery, strong balance sheet, and most importantly, high-quality and innovative workforce continue to be our strengths. During the financial crisis a decade ago, we used these same strengths to see our way through the difficulties and prepare ourselves to take advantage of the opportunities presented once it was over.
This time is no different. If we have protracted negative markets, similar to the last crisis, we will look to make smart adjustments to our business in the short term, while ensuring that we are well-positioned to capture our long-term opportunities. And once again, our ability to perform well in the current environment and thrive in the future is dependent upon sustaining and supporting our workforce.
Uncertain times lead to uneasy thoughts. Despite these perilous times, and the disruption to our work environment, our employees have remained focused on the best way to help the company and our clients: to operate as close to business as usual as possible. In fact, this is the time we need to lean in to our clients to ensure they have what they need from SEI for both the short and long term.
We are functioning well. We identified the critical functions that can only be performed in our offices and staffed them properly. We also have a strong and efficient remote workforce in place. While we’ve implemented physical distancing among our workforce, we continue to encourage virtual social engagement. Technology not only drives our business, but it empowers our culture of openness and connectedness in a virtual environment.
We greatly appreciate what our employees do for our clients and SEI each and every day. It is the time to help each other when needed, exceed client expectations and continue to execute our strategy. Similar to the last financial crisis, I’m confident that we will emerge from this a stronger company having seen our way through it.