Over the past 15 months or so, we have all witnessed what happens when borders, businesses and whole segments lockdown.
As transport and logistics operators, you have been at the pointy end of dealing with a new set of pressures and priorities.
Some of our experiences may have been very different to yours, such as managing through turbulent financial markets, government early release schemes, while servicing some 100,000 members.
Going into the pandemic, TWUSUPER was perhaps better equipped compared to some super funds, in that we were holding higher levels of liquid assets such as cash.
But nothing could prepare us for the length of time as well as some of the unexpected outcomes of the pandemic.
I am conscious of the enormous impacts on some sectors such as aviation, hospitality, and tourism — including to some of our clients and their people who suffered enormous harm.
One theme that I have noticed is the way the future has been brought forward in a number of respects, specifically in the wide uptake of teleconference technologies, but also in business practices and the way people work.
A quote attributed to science-fiction writer William Gibson – “The future is already here. It’s just not evenly distributed yet” – sums up how technologies that already exist sometimes require a catalyst for wide acceptance and adoption to take place.
The pandemic has certainly been that catalyst of change. It is difficult to imagine the business routes between Sydney and Melbourne being at the same high pre-COVID levels, now that many meetings can be conducted remotely.
This is not to say that human interaction isn’t important, and people won’t travel for business. I think we have all learnt that we are social animals and meeting in person is vital to building relationships.
It will really be a case of balancing the costs, convenience and benefits of in-person compared to remote zoom-type meetings.
Such has been the length of lockdowns and restrictions to travel, that some of the habits we have formed will become ‘baked-in’ with perhaps some modification over time.
Already, some of the companies we are talking to are discussing reducing floor space or hybrid working models, although this is very much business dependent, noting the opposite trend in segments of transport and logistics dealing with demand.
At TWUSUPER, we have a lot of meetings internally and with key suppliers and partners, and it’s been a challenge — there has been a level of technology fatigue and it has been difficult managing more distant relationships.
World leading organisational psychologist Adam Grant, from Wharton business school, says research shows during the pandemic that primary business relationships have become much closer on average, however secondary, or less regular contact relationships may have deteriorated, and that could include suppliers and clients.
Another big shift that you would be aware of is the way people have moved to online purchasing. As a trend that has been occurring for some years it has ramped up enormously.
Australia Post reported year-on-year increases of 57 per cent for 2020, compared to the previous year.
The United Nations conducted a survey of 3,700 people in nine emerging and developed countries that showed the shift to online purchasing during COVID-19 has, according to the UNCTAD, “forever changed online shopping behaviour”.
According to UNCTAD Secretary-General Mukhisa Kituyi the COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated the shift towards a more digital world.
“The changes we make now will have lasting effects as the world economy begins to recover,” he said.
Despite these trends, humans will still want to interact, go on holidays, dine at restaurants and visit shopping centres for social reasons, so it’s possibly a balancing act to see where online shopping hits a plateau. Its currently still only about 16 per cent of the total retail spend but outperforming the pre-pandemic predictions of 12-13 per cent according to an eCommerce report by Australia Post.
One of the biggest positives to come out of this period, is something I have mentioned before in Prime Mover, but worth repeating. It is that your industry has finally been recognised by Australians for its vital role in keeping Australians fed, healthy and entertained — and in no small way, people in transport kept the economy working.
Looking forward, at TWUSUPER we are also preparing for changes to your industry as well as a myriad of potential legislative and policy changes to superannuation. Some of these since flagged in the Government’s ‘Your Super, Your Choice’ Bill such as ‘stapling’ of super so that when a person changes jobs, so does their super, were intended to reduce account numbers and fees, but could have serious unintended consequences.
We believe there is a risk of people being permanently attached to poor performing funds, and those without adequate or any insurance for the risky transport industry.
It’s worth mentioning that TWUSUPER insurance covers risky occupations. There is also a risk that the burden of finding previous super accounts for new employees may be a time-consuming process for businesses.
If needed I will cover these issues in a later article depending on where the legislation lands.
For now, I am looking forward to a return to some normality but am also realistic enough to know that the times, as the song forewarned, they are a changing.
About the author:
Frank Sandy, CEO of TWUSUPER has been with the fund since 2005. His previous roles have involved managing both finance and human resources. Frank is a CPA and has a Degree in Business Studies in accounting as well as a wealth of experience in finance and superannuation.