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We caught up with Finance Director Paul Atherton following his incredible performance in the Parish Walk at the weekend. Paul crossed the line after 15 hours 23 minutes, earning him first place and a spot in the event's history books.

Q: How are you feeling today?

A: I’m feeling a lot better today than on Sunday after the race! I’m trying to stay as active as possible by doing lots of short walks around the office to prevent my muscles from stiffening up.

Q: Have you always been a race-walker? How did you get into it?

I got into race walking in early 2019 when Capital’s Chief Operating Officer Werner Alberts set completing the Parish Walk as one of my work objectives. He then coached me and helped me with my race-walking technique. We trained together regularly before entering the 2019 Parish Walk where I finished 8th.

Q: What’s been involved in your training?

A: My training started in early 2019, but when the lockdown came along in March 2020, I decided to focus on running instead due to only being able to train for 1 hour per day. After lockdown restrictions were lifted, I moved forward with a combination of both running and walking training.

My running had improved a lot during lockdown and on hearing about Christian Varley’s 19 Marathons in 19 days, I decided to run an unofficial marathon by myself, completing it in a time of 3 hours 22mins.

After this first attempt, I had definitely caught ‘the bug’. I wanted to beat my time and so entered the Isle of Man Marathon in August 2020, completing it in 3hours 5mins. I then competed in the IOM Vets Marathon in May 2021, achieving a time of 2 hours 37mins and coming first.

The fitness and endurance I have gained through my marathon training undoubtedly helped me in the Parish Walk. I’ve been training in both disciplines for over a year and am the fittest I’ve ever been.

Q: Do you have any rituals on race day? 

A: I have a very well-organised race day. I like to meticulously plan out my itinerary in advance. On the day of the race, I was up at 5.30am and at the NSC before 7.00am, so I could casually take a few steps around the track and talk to some of the other competitors who were there.

Q: What do you think about during the event to get you through?

A: I find a good distraction is to spend a lot of time thinking about where I’m up to on the course, what’s coming up next, what I should be eating and what pace I should be doing based on all that.

Q: What did you eat and drink during the race?

A: During the Parish, I knew I had to regularly take on a lot of calories, but after 4 or 5 hours of walking, you really don’t feel like eating. I try to consume as many non-sugary foods as possible earlier on in the race such as sandwiches, bananas and rice-pudding. Later in the race, it’s much harder to tolerate those foods so I tend to then turn to energy gels and Jelly Babies, as well as Crunchies (my favourite chocolate bar).

Q: Did you ever think you would win? 

A: I never thought I had a chance of winning. My aim was to improve on my finishing time of around 18 hours from 2019, and to get as close to 16 hours as possible. So to beat the time I was hoping for by 40 minutes and win the race was a real surprise.

Q: How did it feel when you finished? 

A: I’m not normally the sort of person to get emotional, but as I approached the finish line to the cheers of all the supporters and my colleagues, I could really feel myself getting emotional. There was such a long build up to the Parish walk with months of training which all culminated on the one day with incredible support all around the Island and at the finish. The icing on the cake was to see my two daughters at the finish line and get a big hug from them both.

Q: What’s the next challenge?  

A: Now that the border restrictions are easing, I’m hoping to get away to compete in a larger marathon later in the year and after that I’ll be working towards next year’s Parish Walk.

Disclaimer: The views, thoughts and opinions expressed within this article are those of the author, and not those of any company within the Capital International Group (CIG) and as such are neither given nor endorsed by CIG. Information in this article does not constitute investment advice or an offer or an invitation by or on behalf of any company within the Capital International Group of companies to buy or sell any product or security or to make a bank deposit.

In a world where technology is evolving at an exponential rate and disruption has become the new normal, we should ask ourselves: how do we find opportunities in one of the most transformational times in human history?

In the past 20 years, there has been more innovation than what we saw in the past 300. The power of battery technology is improving exponentially every year. Our cell phones have become our second brains, our experiences, our memories and soon, they will become a copy of us.

We also find ourselves in a world where people prefer experiences over things. Look at the rise of platforms such as Instagram and Facebook, it’s all designed to show off your experiences and connect you with the world, even if those experiences are only a snapshot in time.

Will technology replace me?

Some of the biggest fears people have when they think about technological change are: will I still be valuable? Will I be replaced by technology? Or will Skynet activate and end the earth? Thankfully, Skynet isn’t a real threat but the opportunity to harness the power of technology is very real.

We need to realise that people are inefficient. We need to eat, we need to sleep, we are emotional, we question things based on our beliefs and this makes us slow and expensive. Computers and robots don’t feel. They don’t eat. They don’t question. They don’t sleep. They just do and they do it much faster than we can.

While computers and robots will inevitably do some of our work, this shouldn’t be seen as a threat, rather, it should be seen as an opportunity. It allows us the time to focus on the things that cannot be automated, it allows us to focus on smarter work.

Things like human only traits such as creativity, imagination, intuition, emotion and ethics are becoming extremely more valuable not just in the future, but right now. I’d even argue that when having a conversation, it’s maybe more important to think about what I am not saying rather than what I am saying. These are the things that computers will not be able to do.

When thinking of the future of technology and the impact it will have on your business, focus on “what can be” not “what is”. Never confuse the tool with the purpose. The tool (technology) is your force multiplier, the purpose is to give your client the best experience possible.

The problem with laggards

Another question to ask yourself: What is the downside risk of delaying the adoption of technology in your business? Is there a fundamental threat to your business model if you don’t act? Or is the reason to act purely to unlock more upside potential?

By delaying the adoption of technology, you run the risk of locking yourself and your business into a trap in which any advancements that do take place, will be to your detriment. Now, this doesn’t mean that you cannot at a later date implement technology, but it does mean that whilst you delay, your competition will be leapfrogging ahead of you.

Let’s look at the global pandemic. Advisers who embraced the change, albeit a forced change, flourished. Those that didn’t lost a lot of clients and ultimately a lot of money.

There is also a reason to act because of the upside potential. I have spoken to a lot of advisers in my time in the industry and there seem to be three things that advisers want; more time, more money and more/better clients. As I mentioned earlier, people are inefficient and by using technology, businesses can become more efficient and effective which will allow them to manage increasingly larger numbers of clients.

Where to start with implementing tech?

I want to start by making a note that you must not be scared to scrap what isn’t working and focus on what does work. Focus on implementing the ‘Agile’ methodology as it involves rapid iteration.

As an adviser, you already know what you client needs from you, so I would start by defining what experience you want your clients to have when dealing with you and your business. Once you have done this, implement the plan and then ask your clients what they think about the plan you have implemented and then tweak the experience as you go along.  

Next, break down every aspect of your business and determine how it impacts the client experience. Determine what impacts the clients experience. Anything that does should be seen as a cost of sales item.

Once you have done this, determine what you need from your technology partner/s. This will help with your search for a technology partner because you will have a good idea of what you need walking in. Know that you don’t need one system to rule them all. Rather implement a tech stack, a set of tools and technologies that work together to build your client experience.

When evaluating a technology partner/s, don’t focus on price, especially if it’s a cost of sales item. Rather focus on what value you will get from that piece of technology and how that technology is going to improve the client experience.

You will almost certainly have a demo from the potential tech partner that you are interviewing. It’s important to make note that a demo is generally a perfect world scenario and that your experience won’t be like that on day one. There is likely to be crinkles that will need to be ironed out.

Technology is a force multiplier that will help you give your clients the best experience possible, but without data feeding into the system, the technology won’t be as effective as you need it to be, so it’s important to understand what data you need to feed into these systems and then speak to the relevant data aggregators.  

Last but not least, give your clients a digital portal. If possible, give them one that not only allows them to access their info but actually do some planning themselves. Give them a sandbox to play around in so that they can better understand the implications of their actions on their plan. This will push your client to take more responsibility for their plan going forward because they will feel more involved rather than being told what to do.

The API Economy - Is it the next big thing?

An API otherwise known as an application programming interface has been around for decades. It’s only in the past decade that we have seen APIs becoming so prevalent. Gary Hoberman, the Founder and CEO of Unqork explains an API like this, “They allow different systems to talk to each other in a seamless, fast fashion”.

The API Economy enables organisations new ways to create value and extend their services. This leads to an improved customer experience, continuous innovation and fast delivery of products and services to market. It also means increased efficiency because contributors in the API Economy focus on making their digital assets readily accessible.

At Capital International Group, one of our digital assets is the client data that we have stored in our system. We have employed an Open API architecture which allows you to access your clients’ information. We did this for two reasons:

1) We believe that client data belongs to the client.

2) We understand that this data will be valuable to you when managing your client accounts, so we have made this info accessible to you.

Technology is the reason that Batman is able to beat Superman. The new way to work is to embrace technology, not to be scared of it. When thinking about the future and technology, ask yourself - am I driving change, or am I being driven by it?

Disclaimer: The views, thoughts and opinions expressed within this article are those of the author, and not those of any company within the Capital International Group (CIG) and as such are neither given nor endorsed by CIG. Information in this article does not constitute investment advice or an offer or an invitation by or on behalf of any company within the Capital International Group of companies to buy or sell any product or security or to make a bank deposit.

There has been a lot of talk of the potential for a roaring 20s-like era following the pandemic, where the economy flourishes and society plunges into a decade of hedonism and excess. After over a year of restrictions, there is without doubt pent-up demand for leisure activities, but will the release from lockdown and society’s new-found freedom see the economy boom for an entire decade?

What happened in the 1920s?

Influenza broke out in the aftermath of the first world war and the deadly virus went on to spread around the world killing around 50 million people. Unlike today, there were no effective drugs or vaccines to fight the virus or treat those infected. There were however measures introduced to reduce infection rates such as mask wearing and the closure of schools and theatres.

Despite influenza leading to more deaths than the first world war, society did not remain in a long-term state of mourning but bounced back quickly. After many years of deprivation and loss, much of the western world entered a golden era of partying, concerts and extensive social interaction. During the roaring 20s, the American economy grew by 42% and the Dow Jones Industrial Average rocketed from 71.95 points in 1921 to 381 points before the market plummeted in the Wall Street Crash of 1929.


If history is to repeat itself a century on from roaring 20s, we would now be on the cusp of entering into a period of increased spending and economic prosperity. But after COVID-19, can we really afford it?

While some people’s finances have been decimated by the pandemic, many have remained in employment throughout or have suffered no reduction in income thanks to government support packages. In fact, unemployment in the UK sits currently at around 5% - much lower than economists had predicted at the start of the pandemic.

Stuck at home for almost a year, in the UK, approximately £100bn has been set aside by households, and the savings ratio, which measures the proportion of disposable income that is put away, hit a peak of 29% in 2020, almost twice as high as the former record.

In normal circumstances, this extra cash would have likely been spent on leisure activities and enjoyment. Is it now then the case that holes are being burnt in pockets and that manic spending will ensue as soon as we are permitted to socialise again?

Spending habits post-covid

Research by Santander would suggest the pandemic has changed consumer habits significantly. They revealed that almost 50% of adults have established a rainy-day fund and 60% of 18 to 34-year-olds believe their spending habits have been changed forever.

Many are astounded by just how much money they are saving by staying at home. For some it equates to hundreds of extra pounds in their pocket every month. People are enjoying the frugality and are now unwilling to return to their old ways. 

Of course, some will splurge post lockdown, but research shows that this is more probable in lower income households. A study was conducted that looked at the propensity of households to spend unexpected temporary extra cash. It concluded:

“Better off households are likely to spend almost half of the windfall, saving the rest, whilst less well-off households are likely to spend over three fifths of the windfall.”

Furthermore, in a survey of consumers who have available funds after deducting their monthly expenses, more than half of those, as a result of pandemic restrictions, plan to save some of that money from now on (see graph below).

With increased saving and less spending, what will drive the economic boom?

While we might not be spending and partying like they did in the 1920s, this might not be as economically important as first thought.

When we think of the roaring 20s, we picture the Great Gatsby era: a period of fun and frivolity. At this time however, what was propelling the economy to new heights was not the jazz parties or gin drinking, but the advent of numerous new technologies over a short period of time. Because of the war and the influenza outbreak, the development of new technologies had been halted, but once these threats were no more, focus could return to the tech projects that had been left to gather dust.

Throughout the 1920s, there was a flurry of new technology released to the masses. Electrification gave rise to washing machines, refrigerators and radio. It also transformed the manufacturing sector, as factories no longer had to rely on huge engines and piston powered production lines. Motor vehicles, aeroplanes and agriculture also benefited from the invention of the internal combustion engine.

So significant was this period that it is known in history as the ‘Technological Revolution’, but can we in post-pandemic 2021 now expect a similar wave of new inventions capable of sustaining the economy for the next decade?

The tech sector post-pandemic

The use and adoption of digital technologies has increased significantly in the last year.

In terms of digitisation, it’s as though the world has been set to fast forward with video conferencing and eCommerce now part of our everyday lives. A global survey of executives by McKinsey & Co revealed that companies are seven years ahead of where they planned to be in regard to the share of digital or digitally enabled products in their portfolios.

Governments have also spotted the potential for a tech fuelled recovery. The EU for example recently unveiled a stimulus package of €1.8tn with the aim of creating “a greener, more digital and more resilient Europe”.  Similar action has been taken in the UK. Back in March, Chancellor Rishi Sunak revealed plans to launch a £375m initiative to invest in highly-innovative businesses in the life sciences and technology sectors.

Are there enough technological developments in the pipeline for a repeat of the roaring 20s?

Although there are lots of advancements on the horizon, the planned developments are nowhere near as revolutionary as those witnessed a century ago. Electricity and motor engines - these were transformative developments that led to a shift away from the frugality, thrift and rationing of the early 1900s towards the consumer culture we know today.

Even if there were revolutionary technologies on the horizon in the 2021, manufacturing and logistics have slowed due to the pandemic and while countries like the US and UK might be returning to normal, the emerging markets where many goods and technologies are produced are lagging behind in terms of vaccine rollout and the backlog of orders that remain unfulfilled is mounting.

We saw an example of this recently with the global scarcity of semiconductor chips. Unable to source this tiny piece of technology, Jaguar Land Rover in Merseyside was forced to temporarily cease production. Similarly, Samsung has announced it may have to delay the launch of its latest smartphone because of the shortage. This kind of disruption to supply chains could take a long time to recover from and without the necessary supplies, how can we expect new technologies to revive our economy? 

Is our economic situation really comparable to the 1920s?

As nice as it is to picture the world emerging from the pandemic and entering a decade-long golden era of economic prosperity, it could be argued that our economic situation is much more comparable to that of the late 1920s and we all know what happened then…

In today’s markets, we are seeing examples of asset price bubbles which occur when market participants drive stock prices and the price of other assets above their intrinsic value. The period leading up to the Wall Street Crash of 1929 and the Dot com bubble just before the millennium are two examples. Prior to both of these economic events, prices were driven by speculation around new technologies with investment pouring into these sectors.

In 2021, there are similar things happening. Elon Musk’s TESLA for example has soared by more than 700% in the last year. Similarly, investment into cryptocurrency has far exceeded any other asset class, with bitcoin’s value rising 600% in just a year. Even Doge Coin, which was originally created as a tongue-in-cheek reaction to the hype surrounding Bitcoin, has soared following endorsement from Elon Musk on Twitter over the last few months (see below graph).

Source: https://www.coindesk.com/price/dogecoin

In summary, of course there is going to be a short-term ‘Roaring 20s’ style revival of the likes of the hospitality, retail and travel sectors. People will emerge from lockdown eager to enjoy themselves and are likely to spend at least a small portion of their savings on the fun they have been deprived of for over a year. This pent-up demand will likely fuel a short-term boost to businesses in certain sectors, but whether it can sustain the economy for an entire decade is yet to be seen.

Disclaimer: The views, thoughts and opinions expressed within this article are those of the author, and not those of any company within the Capital International Group (CIG) and as such are neither given nor endorsed by CIG. Information in this article does not constitute investment advice or an offer or an invitation by or on behalf of any company within the Capital International Group of companies to buy or sell any product or security or to make a bank deposit.

Google defines ‘Identity’ as:  

The qualities, beliefs, personality, looks and/or expressions that make a person or group.

In South Africa, identity is so much more than that – it’s a survival technique.

For South African citizens, an ID card is essential in order to:  

·        Access state healthcare services

·         Apply for a job

·         Register for the Unemployment Insurance Fund

If you don’t have an ID in South Africa, you don’t officially exist, and many clients of our Cape Town based partner charity, Souper Troopers, find themselves living on the streets without an Identity card.

Souper Troopers was founded back in 2014 with the aim of restoring dignity, love and respect in the homeless population of Cape Town. The charity began back when its founder, Kerry Hoffman, spent her free time handing out food from the back of her car. Seven years later, the charity’s team has grown, and its role has developed from serving up food on the streets to offering a number of services to homeless people, including the provision of ID cards.

Homeless people can find themselves without ID cards for a variety of reasons. They might have lost their card of had it stolen while living on the streets, law enforcement might have confiscated their belongings, or it could be that they never had a card to begin with if their birth was never registered.

In South Africa, an ID card is a powerful thing. The Souper Troopers have shared stories with us of individuals who were able to turn their lives around after successfully obtaining an ID card.

Let’s take their client Sipho as an example. Sipho was a barista at a coffee shop, earning a decent salary and renting a small room just outside Cape Town. During lockdown in 2020, the coffee shop was forced to close and Sipho was retrenched.  

Unable to pay rent, he found himself living on the streets and one night, whilst sleeping under some cardboard boxes, law enforcement officers arrived and confiscated all his belongings, including his ID.

It was soon after this that Sipho got in touch with Souper Troopers, who got to work contacting his family for copies of all the relevant legal documents. After many phone calls and multiple trips to the Government Home Affairs offices, a jubilant Sipho had his new ID card and was now able to start applying for jobs.  

Like Sipho, Jack and John are also clients of Souper Troopers and they too became homeless during lockdown. Unable to afford rent, the men sought refuge in the mountains above Cape Town. Their daily 10km walk from their sleeping spot to a central soup kitchen allowed them to access meals and it was there that they met Souper Troopers fieldworker, Tasneem. Together, they started navigating their journey from homeless to hopeful.

A few months later, Jack and John are getting their lives back; they have ID cards, a tent and sleeping bags, all of which had previously been removed during a law enforcement operation in the city.

At Capital International Group, we are very proud of our ongoing partnership with Souper Troopers and realise the importance of the work they are doing for their clients, many of whom live on the fringes of society. Not only does having an ID card unlock many opportunities for an individual in South Africa, but it also provides a sense of belonging and self-worth. Without an ID card a person can feel invisible or like they don’t exist. By providing an ID card, Souper Troopers are remaining true to their mission of restoring dignity and as a Group, we could not be happier to support them in their goal of providing as many ID cards as possible.

If you would like to donate to the cause, please follow this link: https://www.soupertroopers.org/donate-now/

Disclaimer: The views, thoughts and opinions expressed within this article are those of the author, and not those of any company within the Capital International Group (CIG) and as such are neither given nor endorsed by CIG. Information in this article does not constitute investment advice or an offer or an invitation by or on behalf of any company within the Capital International Group of companies to buy or sell any product or security or to make a bank deposit.

At the time of the 2017 UK general election, then Prime Minister Theresa May spoke at various times during election debates about ‘there not being a magic money tree.’

This was in the face of high spending pledges made by the Labour Party, under Jeremy Corbyn, which included the abolition of student university fees and the nationalisation of railways and all the major utility companies.

The comment referenced the old adage that ‘money doesn’t grow on trees’, and implied that government spending pledges must be financed – usually by higher taxes and/or spending cuts in other areas.

The inference was that the Labour plans were unrealistic, and that the spending could never happen because the money would not be available.

Yet roll forward four years to today, and it does seem that there is indeed a ‘magic money tree’ in existence, and that it allows governments to spend vastly more than they receive in revenues – in the short term at least.

This ‘tree’, if that is the right word, has allowed the UK government to rack up an expected budget deficit of £355bn in this financial year (to March 2021), or 17% of GDP – massively higher than the deficit of £60bn in the year to March 2020, or 2.7% of GDP. Conveniently, the Bank of England has been buying most of this up through its Asset Purchase Facility.

The UK is also expected to run a deficit of £230bn in the year to March 2022. Thereafter, the deficit (the difference between government spending and taxes) is expected to fall gradually to £74bn, or 2.8% of GDP, in the year to March 2025.

At the Budget announcement of 3rd March, the Chancellor of the Exchequer did little to get the finances back in order. The furlough payments, and other government assistance including higher NHS spending and the vaccine rollout, which has cost a total of £352bn thus far, will remain in place until September.

The huge stimulus offered to the housing market, alongside rock bottom interest rates, also stays in place. The Stamp Duty holiday on house purchases up to a value of £500,000 remains till June, while a new 95% mortgage guarantee scheme for first time buyers has been introduced.

We even saw some new additional stimulus, such as the 130% ‘super-deduction’ on capital spending over the next two years, whereby companies can offset a large portion of their capex budgets against tax liabilities and which is expected to cost £25bn.

So, in other words the Treasury remains committed to keeping the economy ticking over – funded by increased debt – until the vaccines have been rolled out and COVID case rates have dropped significantly. Lockdowns can then be released, and the economy can go back to ‘normal’, with all the natural rebalancing of the deficit through increased tax revenues and the lower spending that this will entail.

Yet there were measures introduced by Rishi Sunak to get the government finances back in kilter over the long term. The rate of Corporation Tax will increase from the current 19% level to 25% in April 2023, a rise of six percentage points. This will reverse some of the reductions introduced by George Osborne in the previous decade, although ministers claim the UK will still have the lowest rate among G7 countries – assuming President Biden follows through with his pledge to increase corporate tax rates in the USA. Also, the rate will remain lower for smaller companies, and the government claims that only 10% of companies will pay the full higher rate.

Mr Sunak has also frozen tax thresholds for individuals, meaning that most people will slowly slip into higher tax brackets over time.

We heard much in the previous decade about ‘kicking the can down the road’, in terms of restoring the health of government finances after the Financial Crisis – deferring tax increases to later years by which time the economy has hopefully recovered – and this looks to be another instance of this.

As a result, the state of the government’s ‘balance sheet’ – the UK’s debt to GDP ratio – gets worse in the near term, reaching 110% of GDP in 2023/4, but starts improving after that as the economy continues to grow and debt as a proportion begins to decline.

But it is going to be fairly tight, and the truth is that the government’s finances are in the most precarious state they have been in in decades. Today’s spending largesse is only possible because the government’s interest rate cost is less than 2% of the size of the economy, and equally a relatively small proportion of government revenues.

Intriguingly, the initials for ‘magic money tree’ are the same as for an economic theory called Modern Monetary Theory (MMT), which states that, as long as governments can issue debt and print money in their own currency, there is no need to restrain deficits and debt, as long as the additional spending stimulates nominal GDP growth.

Assuming the real interest rate is lower than the real growth rate, the government can continue to run a deficit indefinitely, without getting into a ‘debt trap’.

On this basis, the increased debt should be manageable in the future, though it is likely to sit on the government’s books for a very long time indeed, with no prospect of a rapid paydown, and we will all be contributing more to it over time.

Disclaimer: The views, thoughts and opinions expressed within this article are those of the author, and not those of any company within the Capital International Group (CIG) and as such are neither given nor endorsed by CIG. Information in this article does not constitute investment advice or an offer or an invitation by or on behalf of any company within the Capital International Group of companies to buy or sell any product or security or to make a bank deposit.

The winter of 2020 is one that few will wish to remember. The human cost of COVID has touched most of us in some way, while the insidious impact of lockdown has hit everyone hard. Despite a significant recovery in the latter part of the year, UK economic production still contracted an extraordinary 8% in 2020.

It is sobering to pass the one year anniversary since the first lockdown and apposite now to review the current COVID situation in the UK.

Back in November, tiered restrictions were just starting to bring the second wave of infection under control when a new variant emerged initially in Kent. This new variant proved to be up to three times more virulent and began to spread uncontrollably across the country. New cases soared to a peak of 80,000 in a single day in early January, one of the highest infection rates in the world.

Since January, the picture in the UK has changed dramatically. The chart above shows the 7-day moving average of cases plummeting from 60,000 to around 5,000 a day currently. This may still sound like a high number, and indeed it's higher than the peak of the first wave in 2020; however, this overlooks another critical factor – the number of tests being conducted.

In April last year, the average number of tests was c30,000 a day, with nearly 18% of all tests returning positive. The testing rate now is regularly in excess of 1.8 million tests a day and the percentage of positive tests has fallen to just c0.3%, illustrated by the orange dotted line in the chart above. This is about as close to zero as it is likely to get while we are testing on such an extraordinary scale.

Thankfully, we see a near identical pattern when we look at hospitalisations and patients in ICU; this is illustrated in the chart below, with hospitalisations plotted on the left hand scale and ICU beds plotted on the right hand scale.

Unsurprisingly, the peak in hospitalisations came toward the end of January, about 3 weeks after the peak infection rate, with the peak in ICU patients about a week after that. Hospitalisations peaked at c40,000 patients or roughly double the peak from the first wave. Fortunately, ICU patients only modestly exceeded the previous peak, reflecting an improvement in the treatment options and patient outcomes.

Since then hospitalisations have fallen dramatically, mirroring almost precisely the drop in new cases with around 5,000 COVID patients and 680 in ICU, although these numbers are likely to drop significantly further still over the coming weeks.

I am pleased to note that these improvements have also fed through to the UK’s mortality figures. The previous chart illustrates UK weekly mortality (the blue line) relative to the five year average (the grey range). The yellow shaded area shows the numbers where COVID 19 was mentioned on the death certificate.

The impact of COVID is abundantly clear in UK mortality rates; however, it is also apparent that excess deaths, the level of deaths above average, was much higher in the first wave than over the winter. Indeed, whilst COVID related deaths have been of greater number during the second wave, the level of excess deaths, while significant, is not as extreme as we might have anticipated. It is likely that this is because COVID deaths have largely replaced other respiratory and flu related deaths during the winter months.

In line with falling case rates and hospitalisations, deaths from COVID have dropped dramatically this year to levels not seen since the summer. Indeed, deaths have fallen to such an extent that excess deaths have turned negative, meaning that mortality is now significantly lower than the five year average for this time of year. This is excellent news.

What has happened in the UK to result in such a remarkable turnaround and what can we expect over the coming weeks as a third wave of infection is growing in Europe? The answer is very clear and very stark; vaccination.

The UK has achieved a quite astonishing rate of vaccination roll-out, with around 5% of the population vaccinated every week since January. Despite criticism at the start, it is now accepted that delaying 2nd doses was the optimal strategy and at the time of writing, has allowed the UK to vaccinate close to 60% of the entire adult population that includes the top 10 most vulnerable risk categories.

The impact this is having on cases, hospitalisation and deaths is illuminating. The chart above shows the percentage of the population that have received both 1st and 2nd dose vaccinations and we see this increasing steadily through the population. Above this the yellow line shows the estimated percentage of deaths averted by vaccination. This increased very rapidly as the most vulnerable groups received their 1st doses, passing the 50% mark as early as mid-January. By the middle of February this had increased to 90% and has now reached as high as 97% of projected deaths averted as a direct result of vaccination.

This is a truly extraordinary achievement and completely changes the outlook.

Governments will rightly move cautiously to unlock economies for fear of yet further waves of infection, but if vaccination proves as effective as these projections suggest then the prospects look good for the summer. The next few weeks will prove decisive for the UK. The level of infections is almost certain to rise as restrictions are gradually lifted, but the real test will be whether the rate of hospitalisations and ultimately deaths continue to fall as a proportion of cases.

Disclaimer: The views, thoughts and opinions expressed within this article are those of the author, and not those of any company within the Capital International Group (CIG) and as such are neither given nor endorsed by CIG. Information in this article does not constitute investment advice or an offer or an invitation by or on behalf of any company within the Capital International Group of companies to buy or sell any product or security or to make a bank deposit.

Over the last 4 years, we’ve been building a team capable of bringing our digital corporate banking proposition, Capital International Bank, to life. Now on the cusp of opening the bank’s virtual doors to new clients, we’ve been putting the final pieces of the puzzle in place by adding to our front office team.

Three new faces recently arrived at Capital ready to assist our clients as Client Engagement Analysts. We spoke to Natalie Parker, Danny Howard and Gareth Jones to find out more about them and their new roles.  

First off, what was it that made you decide to apply for your new role?

I had heard that Capital was the place to be and that everyone who worked there enjoyed it. I decided to go onto the Facebook page, and it seemed like perfect timing! I stumbled across the Client Engagement Analyst role, applied straight away and here I am!

I’d heard feedback from current colleagues on what a great place Capital is to work. I started following Capital on Linkedin and was blown away by the company’s culture.

I could see that Capital was thriving and with the bank set to take off, I was drawn in by the potential. It’s great to be able to play a part in the journey.

What will you be doing in your new role?

Within our roles, we will be supporting clients through their onboarding journey, ensuring their experience is as smooth and efficient as possible.

We will be their first point of contact not just through the onboarding process but also once their accounts are up and running. This means we will be getting to know clients quite well and building long-term relationships.

Our role is to make sure clients receive the best digital banking experience. Communication is key for me and I am looking forward to wowing clients with our service levels and showing them what the banking platform can do.

Sounds like you will be getting to know our clients quite well. You must enjoy talking to and meeting new people. Is there anyone you would really like to meet one day?

All the cast of F.R.I.E.N.D.S without a doubt. I have so many questions!

For me it’s Tyson Fury. I think his story is unbelievable. It just goes to show that you can be one of the toughest people in the world yet still face difficult times and have to fight to overcome them.  

Anne Boden, the CEO and founder of Starling Bank. I have been following her journey for quite some time and her motivation, passion and the hurdles she has overcome within her career are really inspiring.

You mentioned that you will be helping clients to onboard onto Capital’s new banking platform. What is it that excites you about Capital’s approach to banking?

 One thing I have learned while working in banks is that the onboarding process tends to be lengthy. The way that Capital plan to cut this down will no doubt impress clients.  

I agree. From working in other banks previously, the exceptionally fast digital onboarding will be a real game changer.

I’m impressed by the self-service aspect. The interface is easy to use and simplifies the whole process for clients.

Capital International Bank will use new technology to bring something unique to corporate clients. If you could have any piece of technology what would it be?

I think it would have to be the DeLorean from back to the future.

 Something from the Marvel Universe like Ironman’s suit or his car!

A VR Headset so I could spend my spare time in lockdown pretending to be on holiday!

It’s a very exciting time for the Group, but what are your own goals both personal and professional for the next few years?

Professionally, one day I would like to have my own team. This would allow me to support people and teach the skills that I have learned from many different people over the years. On a more personal level, I would love the opportunity to become a mum one day. I have created a happy home for myself and whoever is around me.

I am looking to further my knowledge within the banking industry and continue working towards my investment management certificate.

My personal goals are to keep being myself and to keep broadening my own knowledge. My professional goals would be similar. I want to continue pushing myself to be the best I can be.

Disclaimer: The views, thoughts and opinions expressed within this article are those of the author, and not those of any company within the Capital International Group (CIG) and as such are neither given nor endorsed by CIG. Information in this article does not constitute investment advice or an offer or an invitation by or on behalf of any company within the Capital International Group of companies to buy or sell any product or security or to make a bank deposit.

To mark International Women’s Day 2021, we asked the wonderful women of Capital to tell us about the females who inspire them to achieve extraordinary things every day.

Natalie Parker - Client Engagement Analyst

Positive thinking is everything.

My mum is someone who inspires me. From a young age I was taught understanding, compassion, to stand up for what I believe in and to treat people how I would like to be treated.

My Mum has experienced such loss in her life including losing her daughter, yet with this great loss, she has taught others (myself included) to be kind always, appreciate every moment and that no one knows what someone is going through in their personal lives.

She believes in self-love, wellbeing and that a “stomp” is good for the soul. I asked her once why she does this everyday and she said “walking is good for the happy hormones; my daughter can’t so I do those miles for her”.

She has made friends with other bereaved women and families and I know she has given them a friendship that only someone who has unfortunately gone through the same things can. She has inspired me to be the best version of myself and to find the good in every day even when I have to search a little harder.

Candice Coetzee – Senior Project Manager

Power to the women!

Wonder woman inspires me - ethics, integrity, kindness and leadership. While she is a fictional character, she has become a reality for many women, as an inspiring and indomitable human.

She embodies a realistic (minus the superpowers), strong and healthy place of being that I think lots of women aspire to, not just within themselves but for their families too.

Wendy Oliver - Relationship Manager

I am inspired by women who are honest, true to themselves and don’t fear the views of others.  

My sister follows her traveller heart and has created a life full of wonder and experience. Settling in Hong Kong to fly off to so many places, as well as devoting herself to teaching children and volunteering in poor countries.  

My mum devoted her life to children, her own, and fostering/caring for many others.  She has been living with breast cancer since September 2019, but does so with a positive, determined attitude and won’t be beaten.  

My nana has just celebrated her 100th birthday.  Born into poverty in the 1920’s, she worked in the Mill towns of Lancashire, raised 4 children by herself. She now has over 25 grandchildren, great grandchildren and great great grandchildren!

I also find Baroness Lady Michelle Mone very inspiring, I read her daily social media posts. They provide food for thought and recognise that anything is possible with determination.

Inner strength, empathy, compassion and determination are my superpowers. Women rock!

Donna Proctor – Risk Manager

My inspiration is Erika Abrahams, the Executive Director and founder of Animal Aid Unlimited.

She relocated her family from Seattle to Udaipur India and has dedicated her life to protecting and re-educating on animal welfare. Their missions to help over 7,000 animals a year include animal rescue and hospital, neutering, street treatment, inoculation and a sanctuary.

Erika has worked endlessly to have out-dated laws changed, unravel political bias and corruption, campaign for donations and funding and to promote awareness via their social media platforms. Her philosophy is “Little things add up, so just do something…anything, do it repeatedly and make small changes.”

René Walker – Senior Relationship Management Consultant

I grew up having my inspirational mother as my role model. Being a single mother to myself and my brother, she did everything she could to ensure that we had everything we needed. Working in a pressured sales environment, regardless of her circumstances, she managed to be on top of her targets each month. They often had to audit her status because she was so brilliant at what she did!

Times were tough, but she managed to pull through with school fees, food, clothes and I truly admire her for how strong she is.

Everything I do in my daily life and at work is because of the important lessons that she has taught me. She is my daily drive and I hope to soon be teaching the same standards and morals to my daughter on the way.

Hendrika Goussard – Financial Controller

I find inspiration in the sentiment of the poem ‘How I became a Warrior’ by Jeff Foster. I take great motivation from the poem which encourages us to become warriors by uplifting ourselves.

The following is just a short section of the longer poem:

In the depths of my wounds,

in what I had named “darkness”,

I found a blazing Light

that guides me now in battle.

I became a warrior

when I turned towards myself.

And started listening.

Disclaimer: The views, thoughts and opinions expressed within this article are those of the author, and not those of any company within the Capital International Group (CIG) and as such are neither given nor endorsed by CIG. Information in this article does not constitute investment advice or an offer or an invitation by or on behalf of any company within the Capital International Group of companies to buy or sell any product or security or to make a bank deposit.