Posted: 30 Jun. 2020 10 min. read

A world beyond the crisis

COVID-19 has presented the world with a crisis that is without parallel, with almost every industry facing a fundamental change in operations once restrictions are lifted. Businesses themselves are in the process of grappling with how to implement new procedures, such as social distancing and phased working, while also planning for the future in an economically challenging environment.

The effects of the COVID-19 shutdown have been far greater than any initial estimates, leaving a scar on the confidence of consumers who have used this time to take stock of their finances and re-evaluate their spending priorities. Governments themselves are now major participants in funding enterprises and reducing their role will take some time.

When faced with this new environment we all find ourselves in, the short-term focus has necessarily been on survival. However, to thrive in the longer term, attention must turn to strategy sooner rather than later. Historical strategies that have led businesses to success in the past are likely to be based, in part or in full, on pre-COVID-19 assumptions that may not apply in the ‘new normal’ moving forward.

As businesses emerge from this crisis with higher debt, they will have to fundamentally reshape their operations. They will need to assess their capabilities, their key areas of focus and their systems and processes for the post-COVID-19 environment to formulate revised strategies around customers, products, supply chains, and funding to ensure they are best placed to drive growth in the future.

The future of work is here, and leaders need to take a proactive stance in understanding how work will be done and how that shift impacts the workforce. COVID-19 has fast-tracked the world into unchartered territory with many of us now indefinitely working from home. Virtual teams that work across geographical boundaries can increase agility and improve collaboration between organisations and industries, and we have already seen huge growth in demand for digital infrastructure and cloud enabled technologies.

However, one size does not fit all and employers need to be sensitive to the challenges remote working brings to colleagues and how they are coping with enforced change. Trust, teamwork and technology will be key to motivating the workforce and attracting and retaining the best talent moving forward.

Alongside this, there will be greater expectations on enterprises to behave ethically and sustainably. Brands that are seen to actively look after and invest in their employees’ health and wellbeing will be well placed to capitalise on changed consumer habits and the opportunities that arise. This was underpinned in a recent survey by Deloitte Digital which showed that more than one in five consumers in Scotland have stopped using a business due to their response to COVID-19, while 61% said they would be more likely to spend money at a business that takes extra steps to ensure the safety and well-being of their employees once lockdown restrictions have lifted.

While no one could have foreseen the shock and impact of COVID-19, it has changed society and the way we live our lives forever. The ‘new normal’ is here to stay and it is unlikely we will see things return to the way they were before. Businesses that are agile and that have embraced this fundamental shift looking beyond the crisis, will be well placed to thrive in this new world.

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Stephen Williams

Stephen Williams


Stephen’s experience over the past 30 years has always been exclusively with retail financial services clients. Stephen is a member of the Board of Deloitte NSE, Chair of the UK Oversight Board and is the Chairman of Deloitte NSE's own Audit & Risk Committee. Previously Stephen worked on secondment for the EBRD in Eastern Europe, and spent 6 years in South Africa where he worked with local financial institutions. His present external audit clients include a number of regulated banks and other retail financial services businesses; including a number with an international presence. He also leads a number of propositions in the Challenger bank space, and leads a number of assurance and advisory projects in this space; including internal audit arrangements, regulatory advisory work, and work on assessing corporate governance and risk management frameworks. Recent other projects in which Stephen has been involved include: leading a HM Treasury CCA investigation resultant from a significant redress programme,  leading the reporting accountant work on the IPO of a now listed bank; leading the due diligence on behalf of a number of investors into a failing Building Society, and  Undertaking a number of S166 reviews on behalf of the regulator in relation to corporate governance and risk management at Challenger Banks.