Time to shape up

After months of selfie cuts and ad hoc trims, investment specialist Craig Brown’s hair is in chronic need of expert help. As businesses come out of the other side of lockdown, they’re likely to be in a similar situation.

Barber neon sign

It’s beyond a joke now. A month ago, when my shaggy hair became too much to bear, I resorted to a DIY haircut. My rather unsophisticated attempt was fine at first, particularly while the image of me is a rather pixelated one on Zoom, but it was no long-term solution.

As time has gone on and my hair has grown longer, my lack of haircutting nous is beginning to be all too apparent! Thankfully, Boris has given the green light for barbers to open up again. It’s time to get the professionals in.

Getting skilled help to look shipshape again isn’t just confined to the state of our hair. We’re seeing the corporate equivalent of businesses booking in haircuts and beard trims as the shutters begin to lift around the globe. As businesses peek out on the dawn of a new post-COVID world, many spy a decade’s worth of changes in consumer tastes and behaviour playing out over just a few years. Getting your approach right has never been more vital as the speed at which businesses can be left by the wayside has dramatically increased.

On a recent virtual conference hosted by the chief technology officer of Amazon’s AWS cloud-computing business, I was astounded to see the impact that cloud computing is having on the ability to build and then scale a business. What used to take years – and an enormous amount of money – can now be done in weeks with cloud services like AWS. These businesses can quickly upscale their capabilities as required to adapt to their customers’ needs. For large incumbents, this means the risk of disruptors coming for your customer base is cranked up to 11. If you can’t react quickly to fend them off, you will end up like Gulliver, tied down by a thousand Lilliputians. In our Multi-Asset Portfolio Funds we own Amazon, along with Microsoft and Alphabet, giving us blue chip exposure to key cloud technology players that will become ever more vital to all businesses.

Like with my hair situation, when it’s a small trim and tidy-up I’m confident in grabbing the scissors and giving it a go myself. However, when your style is old and tired (or the compounded shame of several self-inflicted hack-jobs) you need expert help to get you into the right shape. Some businesses are now looking in the mirror and seeing that they are sporting an ’80s mullet well after the likes of even Billy Ray Cyrus thought better of it.

Accenture, a consulting business which we also own in our funds, has expertise in areas across the digital landscape, from ecommerce and digital strategies to cyber security. Getting it right in all these areas – and ensuring that all parts make a coherent whole – is only going to become more important. Accenture has the skills and objectivity of an outsider that helps it assess a business with none of the emotional bias that can sometimes occur from within. This informed advice can be crucial in fighting off the disruptors – and maybe even propel companies to become one themselves. We have already seen companies considering changes to their fundamental business models, such as bypassing third-party distributors to sell directly to consumers. Oftentimes, in the digital age, that means working with a firm like Accenture. Accenture has been getting its own business in shape too, including retraining some 37,000 staff to shift to technology and cloud services, given how pivotal it has become.

On the cyber security front, after years of muttering, the flexible-working era finally seems to be dawning for real. Millions of white collar workers are likely to be accessing work servers using their own devices and through less-secure internet connections both at home and (one fine day) in cafes. No judgements here, but who knows what websites people decide to frequent in their own time. This opens up businesses to risks presented by the errant click of a link which could let malware into a business server the next time the employee logs on from their personal device. This is complex ground and we believe businesses are going to be enlisting experts to ensure they get it right.

So I’m hanging up my scissors and clippers for good and getting the professionals to set my lid right again. It seems that CEOs are thinking about businesses in the same way – or at least they should be.


Important legal information

This area of the site is for professional advisers

Please read this page before proceeding, it explains certain legal and regulatory restrictions applicable to the distribution of this information. It is your responsibility to inform yourselves of and to observe all applicable laws and regulations of the relevant jurisdiction.

This section of the website is directed only at investment advisers and other financial intermediaries who are authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA).

The information provided in this site is directed at UK investment advisers only and must not be circulated to private clients or to the general public. It does not constitute an offer to sell, or solicit an offer to purchase any investments by anyone in any jurisdiction in which such offer or solicitation is not authorised or in which a member of the Rathbone Group is not authorised to do so.

I confirm that I am an investment intermediary authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority. I have read and understood the legal information and risk warnings below:

Important Information (Terms and Conditions)

The information contained on this site is believed to be accurate at the date of publication but no warranty of accuracy is given and the information is subject to change without notice. Any opinions or estimates included herein constitute a judgement as of the date of publication and are subject to change without notice. Furthermore, no responsibility is accepted for the accuracy of any information contained within sites provided by third parties that may have links to or from our pages.

Rathbone Investment Management Limited ("RIM") is authorised by the Prudential Regulation Authority and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority and the Prudential Regulation Authority. Registered Office: Port of Liverpool Building, Pier Head, Liverpool L3 1NW. Registered in England No 01448919.

In accordance with regulations, all electronic communications and telephone calls between Rathbones and its clients are recorded and stored for a minimum period of six months.

The information provided in this site is directed at UK investors only. It does not constitute an offer to sell, or solicit an offer to purchase any investments by anyone in any jurisdiction in which such offer or solicitation is not authorised or in which a member of the Rathbone Group is not authorised to do so.

In particular, the information herein is not for distribution and does not constitute an offer to sell or the solicitation of any offer to buy any securities in France and the United States of America to or for the benefit of United States persons (being resident in the United States of America or partnerships or corporations organised under the laws of the United States of America or any state, territory or possession thereof).

In order to comply with money laundering and other regulations, additional documentation for identification purposes may be required.

Rathbones shall have no liability for any data transmission errors such as data loss, damage or alteration of any kind including, but not limited to, any direct, indirect or consequential damage arising out of the use of services provided or referred to in this website.

Past performance should not be seen as an indication of future performance.

The value of investments and the income from them can fall as well as rise and you may not get back the amount originally invested, particularly if your client does not continue with the investment over the longer term.

Changes in the rate of exchange between currencies may cause the value of an investment to go up or down.

Interest rate fluctuations are likely to affect the capital value of investments within bond funds. When long term interest rates rise the capital value of units is likely to fall and vice versa. The effect will be more apparent on funds that invest significantly in long dated securities. The value of capital and income will fluctuate as interest rates and credit ratings of the issuing companies change.

Tax levels and reliefs are those currently applicable and may change and the value of any tax advantage will depend on individual circumstances.

Investing in emerging markets or small companies may be potentially volatile, as these investments are high risk.

The design, text and images are owned, except as expressly stated by members of the Rathbone Group. They may not be copied, transmitted, displayed, performed, distributed, licensed, altered, framed, stored or otherwise used in whole or in part or in any manner without the written consent of Rathbones except to the extent permitted and under the procedures specified in the copyright Designs and Patents Act 1988, as amended and then only with notices of Rathbones' rights.

Rate this page:
Average: 4 (4 votes)

Subscribe to the In the KNOW blog email