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Friday, April 12, 2024

Perspectives

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“COVID-19 IS AN ONGOING PANDEMIC AND ONE THAT IS CHANGING THE VERY FABRIC OF OUR DAILY LIVES. PROFESSIONALS AND INDIVIDUALS ARE LEARNING TO LEAD THROUGH CHANGE AND UNCERTAINTY WHILE ADAPTING TO A CHANGING WORKPLACE. HOW DO YOU THINK THIS TRANSITION COULD BE EASED AND A BETTER WORLD BE CRAFTED?”

Arundhati Roy, an Indian author, in The Pandemic is a Portal writes, “Historically, pandemics have forced humans to break with the past and imagine their world anew. This one is no different. It is a portal, a gateway between one world and the next.”

The world today is radically different and change has now become a norm. Leaders and organisations have no choice but to continuously adapt to the ever-changing scenarios. The world is facing a kind of change and complexity that has not been seen before. This pandemic where on one hand has presented us with new challenges, circumstances, and uncertainties, has also, on the other hand, opened up new avenues and opportunities.

In this new world, adaptability and flexibility are the armours needed to navigate the uncertain waters and evade crisis. The current crisis has kept the world on its toes due to its unfamiliarity, a global medical emergency, and a self-inflicted economic catastrophe. The world will probably not return to what it was but if taken proper actions, a better world could be crafted.

This is especially true with regard to the digital evolution. The pandemic brought an environment where remote working, e-learning, telemedicine, and online services are no more a thought and luxury but a way of life. The transition to a post-COVID world will see further expansion in e-commerce and FinTech. The pandemic also tested the limits of global cooperation with developing economies struggling and all eyes on the international community to respond appropriately. COVID-19 will leave a lasting imprint on the world economy, causing permanent changes, teaching important lessons and if the right choices are made creating a more inclusive, resilient and sustainable world.

One of the lessons that this pandemic has shown us is the importance of working together on problems that affect the entire human race. As organisations are now revising their plans, it is imperative that choices are made that will shape the world for the better for decades to come; and economies that deliver inclusive growth, prosperity and well-being for all.

As the pandemic has already had a significant impact on the progress of SDGs, undermining decades of developmental efforts, new policies and strategies have to be put in place by countries for investments, creation of job opportunities, healthcare and transition to a carbon-neutral space.

While it is still too early to predict exactly what the post-COVID world will look like, industry experts and organisations are coming to terms with the changing norms of workplaces, accelerated pace of digital transformation, and a diminishing global village.

We asked few industry professionals their views and opinions on what will the post-COVID world look like and how can organisations ease this transition to a new normal.

 

WAJAHAT AZMI, PHD
ISLAMIC FINANCE EXPERT

 

 

 

Undeniably, COVID-19 is one of the biggest challenges humanity has faced in recent decades. In fact, I doubt any of us has ever witnessed anything like this before; despite this, human race is gifted with this wonderful ability to acclimatise themselves to any change. However, change of any kind requires a helping hand for a smooth transition.

According to Donald Winnicott, to cross a bridge one needs a transitional object, which could be in any form either physical or something intangible. It is easier said than done. The problem with these transitions is that it is difficult to identify those transitional elements aas the world is moving towards a new normal, it is crucial for leaders to identify those objects and convey these identified mediums to their employees.

In a recent article in Harvard Business Review, Victoria M Grady says that there are three key attributes that can assist in the transition: choice, connection to a purpose or mission and establish a bridge.

1. CHOICE:

Neuroscience suggests that our brains are designed to be malleable and hence quick to adapt to new changes by letting go of the past. Again, this is easier said than done, however, the current evidence on the issue suggests that if the people are made part of the decision-making process, it becomes easier for them to move on. So, the transitional elements that can prove to be a bridge is the “Choice”. As an example, in an organisation, this choice could be working from home or commuting to the workplace. Once the employees feel they have the choice to select any of the options and are not being forced with the decision made by the senior management, the transition becomes easier for them.

This writeup is based on the article published in Harvard Business Review – 3 Tools to Help Leaders Steady Their Teams During a Transition by Victoria M Grady (30th March, 2021).

2. CONNECTION

There is mounting evidence indicating the importance of clearly articulating the purpose and goals of the firm to its employees. When people understand the purpose of their firm, they feel more connected and can visualise the bigger picture. A better understanding of purpose of the firm can help the employees cope better with the stress and pain related to temporary transition.

As pointed out by Victoria Grady, the clear understanding of the mission can help people achieve impossible feats. This is aptly reflected in the often-said story of a NASA janitor who was once asked by JFK during his one of the visits to NASA as to – what he does in NASA?” He responded by saying “I am helping to put a man on the moon.” This is the power of employees who feel connected to the vision and the goal of the organisation, as clear articulation can make them feel part of it. This connection to a purpose motivates people to stay on the job and with their organisations even when major changes occur. These changes could be anything from aggressive growth to financial distress.

3. ESTABLISH A BRIDGE

This is a final link in making a smooth transition to a new normal. The COVID-19 has forced us to rethink the process of most of the thigs that we do – be it schooling our kids to accessing the healthcare to groceries and office meetings. If it was not for technology, we would be struggling with everyday chores and activities. Essentially technology played a major role in bridging the huge vacuum left by the pandemic. Bridges, like in this case technology, help us to perform the activities effortlessly. Imagine a scenario where schools are closed and we do not have any assistance from technology. In other cases, the zoom meetings that we have on regular basis won’t be possible because of lack of such platforms. Without these technological platforms, life would have been way more difficult than what it is today. Technology effectively bridged that gap and made it easier for the people to move to a new normal.

‘’WHEN PEOPLE UNDERSTAND THE PURPOSE OF THEIR FIRM, THEY FEEL MORE CONNECTED AND CAN VISUALISE THE BIGGER PICTURE. A BETTER UNDERSTANDING OF PURPOSE OF THE FIRM CAN HELP THE EMPLOYEES COPE BETTER WITH THE STRESS AND PAIN RELATED TO TEMPORARY TRANSITION’’.


 

MUTIA SARI SYAMSUL, MBA
FOUNDER MARLIN GROUP

 

 

 

There is an opportunity in every crisis. The pandemic has not been different. Ever since COVID-19 hit us two years ago, we have had to learn new things. One of them was leadership.

Only a persistent and persevering leader can take advantage of an opportunity.  In any business, it is the responsibility of the leaders to lead from the front and prepare their team to face the music.  The problems presented by the Coronavirus required strong leadership to wade the country through the hard times.

A transition from ordinary life to a life of lockdowns could only be tolerated if the leader understands the problem.  I want to highlight a few areas where transition has been inevitable.

1. PHYSICAL AND MENTAL HEALTH

Acceptance is the first ladder to a tolerant life in a time of crisis. In addition, social distancing and spending most of the time working from home brings new habits.

In the beginning, we all enjoyed it, but one year down the road, it started taking a toll on our lives. We started realizing that personal interaction and dealing with people face-to-face has no alternative. Sitting on the computer most of the time and meeting people in the virtual world is not humane.  Even children have been unable to normalise life during the closure of schools. They missed meeting friends in school and teachers. 

While we need instructions and guidance on how to lead a professional life with restricted movement, we also need guidance on how to take care of our health so that our productivity is not affected. In addition, a fresh and clear mind is necessary to support a productive professional life. Therefore, body movement for an active life is even essential at home.

2. NEW SKILLS

Pandemic taught us to do old things with new skills. We have been pushed to unlearn certain things, relearn a few, and learn some other skills from scratch.  We have to learn to adapt to new ways of interacting with our peers, colleagues, and friends through technology. Communication is now a different ball game. Much more nuanced and varied. Pandemic has made us more efficient and effective.

3. SUPPORT CIRCLE AND SYSTEM

Through social media, we get information about anything we need. It can also become handy in lending support to our circles like families, friends, and colleagues. Doing most of the activities from home gives us time to reflect on our priorities. In a way, we can say the pandemic has brought new meaning to the lives of those who had been resistant to change and always found it challenging to be flexible and give time to their families and friends.

CONCLUSION:

For humanity’s sake, we should help others and support them in times of crisis. People have reacted differently to pandemics depending on their culture, family background, and values. Survival is for those who learn to adapt and build a robust skillset.

Taking care of one’s health, learning new skills, and supporting our friends and families are essential if we want to lead an everyday healthy life during the pandemic. We cannot depend on machines. We need human beings around us to regain control of our lives and emotions.

‘’PANDEMIC TAUGHT US TO DO OLD THINGS WITH NEW SKILLS. WE HAVE BEEN PUSHED TO UNLEARN CERTAIN THINGS, RELEARN A FEW, AND LEARN SOME OTHER SKILLS FROM SCRATCH.  WE HAVE TO LEARN TO ADAPT TO NEW WAYS OF INTERACTING WITH OUR PEERS, COLLEAGUES, AND FRIENDS THROUGH TECHNOLOGY’’


 

DR AREEBA KHAN

FOUNDER & CHIEF EXECUTIVE OFFICE TAQWA INVEST

 

 

 

Robots and Artificial Intelligence (AI) have transformed the way of doing business from manufacturing sector to the retail and services industry. Although this transformation has been threatening to the traditional principles in economy and labour, it has been growing at the rate of 20% per year (International Federation of Robotics, 2017). Transformation is also happening in the financial sector; as financial technology has become a key element in banking and financial start-ups. FinTech does not only mean e-banking and customer digitalisation but also includes the introduction of innovative financial products to meet the demands of the customers. It also provides greater value and opportunity for entrepreneurs.

One of the most innovative and disruptive FinTech phenomenon is the automation of investments with the help of artificial intelligence, known as Robo-Advisory. By disintermediating conventional wholesale distribution networks, robo-advisory radically challenges incumbents in the wealth management industry. Robo-advisory offers its users ease of use, convenience and services at affordable rates. Given these characteristics, robo-advisory services are likely to be most appealing to Asia Pacific’s retail and affluent consumer segments.

In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the World Health Organization (WHO) recommended preventive measures to reduce close contact human interaction and public gatherings. Consequently, the pandemic forced financial advisors to conduct virtual meetings instead of physical ones, which created a new challenge in securing new clients due to higher advisory fees and existing biases. This development thus accelerated the adoption of digital technology, including robo-advisory platforms that preclude human intervention within the automated processes. In addition, the COVID-19 crisis has led to financial volatility, prompting investors to adopt robo-advisory services for wealth and investment management.

The global COVID-19 crisis has negatively impacted the Malaysian economy and job market, resulting in reduced income (Shah et al., 2020). The Financial Education Network (FEN) in 2019 reported that only 24% of Malaysians could survive for at least 3 months or more if they lost their primary income source; whereas, merely 10% of Malaysians could sustain for more than 6 months during critical times. Moreover, 41% of Malaysians have only the employee provident funds as their primary savings for retirement (FEN, 2019). The 2020 RinggitPlus Malaysian Financial Literacy Survey revealed that Malaysians generally have poor financial habits, which has led to a lack of emergency funds and inadequate retirement planning. Such practices have changed little since November 2019 and were particularly evident during the pandemic, which raised concerns about the need for personal financial planning among Malaysians (Suriya, 2020). Considering this circumstance, robo-advisors can ideally support financial planning, wealth management, and investment at lower cost during the COVID-19 crisis. Robo Islamic Advisor (RIA) is the world’s first automated Islamic investment platform for customers. RIA aims to provide access to halal portfolio management for the 2 billion Muslims around the world. Besides, the introduction of RIA is considered to be the world’s first automated ethical investment platform. Wahed Invest (the investment company) offers a lower minimum investment of US$7,500 as a starter. The investment company claims to be the first global Robo Advisor and their services are accessible for the lower socio-economic demography. 

Wahed Invest was initially only available in the United States, but later, by 2017, it expanded its business to over 100 countries worldwide. Two months after the launch of the world’s first Islamic Robo Advisor, another company known as the Kuala Lumpur-based Farringdon Group launched the Asia’s first Shari’a-compliant Robo Advisor. The online tool, called Algebra, will provide automated portfolio management advice and will be open to investors across all geographies with a minimum investment of US$200 per month. In this regard, clients can choose funds from its Islamic Master Select Portfolio. This shows that RIA is important in Islamic investment where it will help investors to perform investment on an Islamic platform.

Islamic banks can feed data into RFA on all available Shari’a-compliant investment options. This will also encourage the industry to expand its wealth management schemes because with RFAs the visibilities for those investment options will be gaining momentum. In relation to this, when a Shari’a-compliant investor wants to know his or her return, the investor can enter his or her preferences. The robot (RFA) will analyse various patterns, trends, options and provides the best possible return on investment. This will pave the way for a universal Islamic wealth management option. Therefore, the services are accessible at any time so investors can analyse and compare the possible results. Following this innovation, the notion that Islamic banking is only for Muslims can be eradicated.

RA can be attractive to the unsophisticated investor as well because of a number of reasons, one of the most important of which is that RA eliminates the need for a middleman, bringing the services directly to the client. Additionally, one of the distinct features of RA platforms is that they place no limit on the size of funds to be invested. For example, the Betterment platform is by far the best in this respect as it does not demand any funds in order to open an account with them. However, a typical RA will require (only) between US$50017 -$2000 for these purposes. In comparison, human advisors will start with US$500019 and go as high as US$50000 account minimum. Notably, because human advisers will typically require substantial investable assets, they will therefore work only for the wealthy and high-net-worth individuals (HNWI).

Although equity investments constitute a significant proportion of Shari’a-compliant investments, in the absence of an organised exchange that tracks the performance of global Islamic equity markets, it is difficult to measure the size of these investments. Regarding the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the stock market, the Shari’a-compliant counterpart of any major index performed better than the main index, especially after March 2020, when the stock markets crashed as a consequence of the COVID-19 crisis and global trade contraction fears.

Despite the benefits, robo-advisors have certain disadvantages given the lack of human interaction and personalised advice.

‘’THE PANDEMIC FORCED FINANCIAL ADVISORS TO CONDUCT VIRTUAL MEETINGS, THIS DEVELOPMENT THUS ACCELERATED THE ADOPTION OF DIGITAL TECHNOLOGY, INCLUDING ROBO-ADVISORY PLATFORMS THAT PRECLUDE HUMAN INTERVENTION WITHIN THE AUTOMATED PROCESSES’’

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