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A virtual solution for an age-old affliction?

Last week, I picked out highlights from an interview I carried out with Tom Becket, who talked about his role as chief investment officer for Punter Southall Wealth.

That full exchange is on the way and should give you a real insight into what, for many, can be an opaque world. As ever, Tom is straight and to the point. Which is why you should look out for it.

Given how fast things have moved, was there, I wondered, anything worthwhile I could add this week? In a matter of days, what’s happened is no longer a conversation piece but a global crisis which confronts us all.

AI an ally against coronavirus

Technology is something of a theme for me. It’s transformed our business and the world around us and has been a thread to which I’ve returned a number of times. And it is now a key component in the global response to the coronavirus.

I have to say that I never envisaged having to blog about it in this context but I don’t think it's gratuitous to do so.

Our business has been built on relationships which have endured testing times over more than 30 years. Now there is an extra layer of resilience from which we all benefit.

Networked nation

By and large, what we do in person and in board rooms can be carried out from wherever you have a laptop, smartphone and the internet. Technology is already playing a critical part in keeping businesses like ours running, largely uninterrupted. I know we’re not alone in this regard and it does offer a sliver of optimism.

It’s worth emphasising that (most) of our networked nation can still talk, see and work from their kitchen table, back bedroom or home office. The same could not be said for any of the crises that convulsed world markets before 2008.  

Twenty-first century tech has succeeded, in many respects, in duplicating your working life in the digital realm and it’s during times like these that business resilience and continuity planning really takes tangible shape.

Global response required

At the other end of the tech spectrum, there is surely optimism behind what needs to be a concerted, worldwide effort to halt the virus.

The Spanish Flu epidemic of 1918 is often cited as a comparison but we live in a vastly changed world more than a hundred years on. Our connected continents might have hastened the spread of the disease but will also accelerate the eventual vaccine when our most eminent scientists share medical data and expertise on a scale unimagined previously.

We live in an age of voluntary, constant surveillance, each of us a blinking nodal point on a mammoth matrix. This, too, can be harnessed to help track and predict the progress of the pandemic. For big tech, it really is the opportunity to live up to their boilerplate platitudes to “change the world”.

A virtual solution for an age-old affliction must, surely, be within our grasp? As a society, we often gripe about the growing influence of artificial intelligence on our lives but its power to connect and influence, invent and map, might have coalesced at a time we need it most.

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Technology is now a key component in the global response to the coronavirus.

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After 40 years of experience in the pensions world, I'm sharing my insights.