Sergei Bogatenkov: There is no escape today from retraining

Sergei Bogatenkov: There is no escape today from retraining

The COVID crisis strongly shook our existing norms. It was a loud and extremely harsh awakening, as for years the question of an economic crisis has been simmering. Now, it has arrived in a form which nobody could have anticipated. What happens next? Sergei Bogatenkov, the CEO of Admiral Markets, writes what he expects from the autumn.

COVID-19 is a public health crisis which quickly developed into a crisis of values. General attitudes towards public health, economic life, and social questions have rarely ever escalated so quickly. Today, we are competing with time. A new way of thinking is required on how best to approach financial stability, while at the same time, researchers are trying to find a vaccine that would stop the further spread of COVID-19.

There is no escape from retraining

Unemployment is one of the biggest issues resulting from the pandemic and affects millions around the world. Work which depends on the freedom of travel is on the verge of a catastrophe. The notice about extensive redundancies, recently made public, will not be the last of its kind. Restaurants are continually announcing a hiatus of activities, without clear plans for the future. What happens next? It may not sound convincing to those who have lost their job and their income, but the flexibility and capability of people to react quickly is becoming increasingly more important. Lifelong learning has been shown to be more significant in the aftermath of the crisis, and the realities of unemployment. The need for further and retraining is pushed to the foreground, as it may one day not be possible, under the changing circumstances, to continue in the field of specialisation in which one was previously trained in. We are witnessing all around us that such a change can occur in days.

Soft values and the consideration towards the mental health of employees have previously never been subject to such acute attention as today. The mental health of employees and attending to it is a new reality and norm. I have no reason to hide that the spring was also difficult for me – as an employer, manager, as well as a family member. It is not easy for anyone to spend weeks between the walls of their home. The situation may become tense if variables of different roles as an employee, parent and family member are added into the equation. How I could be available for employees, when this is not physically possible, became a question that I often asked myself as a manager.

Today, I am of the opinion that employees should have the right to stay and work in the home office. We need to be honest that is has been proven that working at home functions perfectly for those whose nature of work allowed it.

Working at home was supported and ensured by the Estonian IT capacity. There has been a debate for years if the Estonian IT tiger is sleeping or not, but this was premature. Schools shifted to virtual channels, and, despite criticism that not all who needed computers had them and technical mishaps often obstructed learning, we managed in the emergency situation. It was of course a major challenge for teachers, students and parents, but it showed the starting position – Estonia can be an international leader in investment in online education.  The need to include the investment in e-channels was voiced loudly in all fields. Companies which had for years been thinking about investing in the development of e-channels would probably have still further postponed the required cash injections. No marketing campaign could have achieved what the emergency situation did. It took weeks, if not just days, to establish online environments, into which sales and everyday work were conducted within. E-presence will become ever more important.

The green shake up becomes louder

The emergency situation has been a crisis of our values and achievements to date. The need, on one hand, has increased to manage a nation domestically, using domestic production. The value of domestically produced food will grow even more. Food industries which were accustomed to importing raw goods corrected their supply chains and, where possible, started sourcing them domestically. Personally, I sense how previously the subject of clean food and the security of its supply, was an overlooked or presupposed condition. Today it is no longer so. The value of domestically produced food will continue to grow even more.

It cannot be forgotten, on the other hand, the importance of cooperation between countries. In particular, concerning the positive outcome of situations which depends on the success that comes from thinking and acting together. A meeting, for example, took place at the IMF in which, representatives from different fields brought proposals on how to jointly proceed. The representatives of the business world, government officials, and activists who participated in the virtual meeting of the World Economic Forum in June made a proposal for a reset of the global economy. New far-reaching programmes are required, in accordance with the central idea that would be developed around concerns towards people and the environment surrounding them. The current situation resulting from the pandemic gives such changes a superb starting point.

I believe that the current situation will even further increase the will and desire of younger people to contribute towards making the world more sustainable and guide us to a green way of thinking. We, too, are increasingly bestowing more attention to socially responsible behaviour, as well as seeing how the awareness and interest of people towards a greener way of thinking and acting is increasing. We have learned, from a recent survey by Kantar Emor, that younger people up to the age of 24 years are paying the most attention to soft values. I am convinced that the youth are capable of speaking to those elder than them, and despite unemployment and the difficult times grasping the economy, we are more mindful of the environment than previously before. Soft values are no longer only addressed at the level of the individual but on the whole society.

Every crisis teaches us all something. And despite how much we prepare, we are not able to foresee everything which is to come. This last spring taught us that it is never possible to be fully ready for a crisis. It is, of course, possible to make preparations, as well as preventive activities. But the critical lesson is that regardless of a crisis, it is necessary to learn to react quickly and act accordingly. This is the only way to cope with a crisis and to pull ourselves out of it as successfully as possible.