Strategy

Is COVID-19 Rocking Capital Market Foundations?

Jackie Bennion, 23 June 2020

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Governing through the crisis
Behaving badly in this crisis won't be easy to shake off, and nearly half thought the economic shock would result in more unethical behavior. Most agreed that regulations should not be relaxed to speed a recovery; and companies taking public money should not pay dividends or executive bonuses; but stopped short of suggesting a ban on short selling.

Impact on employment
Job losses have been one of the more shocking human statistics in containing COVID-19, but CFA members say it is too early to tell how this will play out longer term for the sector. The report found that most firms are freezing hiring for now. Equally, a "signficant proportion" in the profession are extremely worried about short-term job security. Half of UK firms reported no change to hiring plans, with just 10 per cent reporting any downsizing. But given that data was collected in April, this sentiment may not hold true in late June.

What about market volatility?
Again, too early to tell. Most members said that they were still analyzing volatility before making any strategic allocations or were not seeing any significant impact yet; but a quarter in the UK said they had already made significant changes to allocations.

Most managers acknowledged that liquidity was down and agreed that central banks were doing a good job of steadying that downward trend. But members were divided on whether aid should continue in the recovery or be stopped soon to allow free markets to take over. Only a minority in the UK thought that markets were heading for a severe liquidity shock, leading to fire sales and dislocation. About half the members globally didn't want regulations relaxing to bolster trading and liquidity, and there was overwhelming support to review ETFs activity over the past few months to look at any deeper impact.

Learned so far
Not surprisingly, managers want regulators to double down on educating investors about exposure to fraud and the industry as a whole to step up vigilence. While most didn't favor any security market holidays, some in the UK argued for a temporary stay for companies reporting changes in their financial circumstances.

Views on whether the crisis has changed much in the active versus passive debate showed around half in the UK seeing the steady shift toward passive investing unlikely to be reversed.

About the survey
The survey was sent to the global membership of CFA Institute between April 14 and 24. 167,312 were invited to participate of which 13,278 provided a valid answer, giving a total response rate of 8 per cent.

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