Since our first announcement about our preparations for dealing with the challenges of the Coronavirus situation, our Executive Committee has continued to meet virtually to discuss each development in this emerging national situation. As I hope we’ve illustrated to date, we’ve not hesitated to take the action we believe has been best able to protect our co-owners and their families, whilst also recognising fully the very important role we perform for each of our clients.
Our last update (please see below) indicated that we had been quick to reduce the density of people working in our Manchester office and had already moved to home-working in the case of most of our people. Prior to the Prime Minister’s announcement last night (23/3/20), that the UK economy is effectively being put on hold, with the movement of everyone to be restricted severely for at least three weeks, we had already decided to mothball our office and move to complete home-working for all of our co-owners. Since we were fairly early in recognising how serious this situation could become, we’ve had time to settle into the new way of working and to make sure that all connections function as they should.
At the time of writing, I’m pleased to say that we seem to be able to carry on as we would have hoped. Home offices are now well and truly up and running and each of us is adjusted to the idea of working physically remotely from our colleagues for what will probably be a period of many weeks, if not months.
We’re fortunate in that we have a business which can be operated in this way, albeit that the ‘personal touch’ can be more challenging when the option of a face-to-face meeting has been completely removed. In order to make this way of operating a complete success we need to ask our clients to play their part. In particular:
- Please don’t send us any physical post. There won’t be anyone in the office to receive it. If you have sent post to us recently and are unsure whether we might have received it, please get in touch and we’ll check;
- Please do use email and the telephone to make contact with us. We’ll do the same with you. All our usual phone numbers and email addresses remain operational. As previously mentioned, if there’s more than one of you and you need to speak to one or more of us, we have plenty of conference call lines to make available for the purpose. If you still prefer to see the whites of the eyes of the people you’re discussing money with, we have options for video calling too;
- If you have something containing sensitive personal information to send to us please make use of our secure client portal. You can even sign documents electronically this way, so there really is no need for paper. To be clear, never send details you wouldn’t ordinarily want to share with a stranger via a simple email – it’s not secure;
- Please don’t send us a cheque. Most of our clients don’t send cheques these days anyway, but the option to pay by cheque now needs to be revoked. We’ll let you have bank account details to make electronic payments;
I hope it goes without saying that all of the co-owners at Castlefield are extremely focused on making sure that we keep doing what you expect of us. We can’t influence directly investment markets or government policy but we can do our utmost to react speedily and professionally to events as they emerge. We believe very much that this is what we’re doing. We know that this is a worrying time for everyone so if you feel that a chat with your usual Castlefield contact would help to settle any concerns you have then please do get in touch. Afterall, our (virtual) door remains very much open.
Here’s what we’re doing about Coronavirus (Covid-19).
Our Executive Committee, made up of senior people from across each of our three businesses, has been meeting regularly (more recently ‘virtually’) for some time now. At each meeting we’ve analysed and discussed the latest information available about the present and likely impact of what’s now a global pandemic. This information has come from the Government and its own expert advisers and also from other prominent authorities and from those other firms with whom we interact closely on a daily basis. At a fairly early stage, we took steps to mitigate the risk of infection amongst our co-owners and clients by raising awareness and being vigilant in terms of our own actions. We have been operating a form of ‘social distancing’ within our office for a while now; providing every means to allow for improved hygiene and reduced risk of infection. This means that we’ve already reduced the density of people in the office and moved most people to homeworking. We’re a business which relies a lot on technology day-to-day so we already had a plan to deal with this sort of unusual set of circumstances and we’ve tested it to make sure it works. Face-to-face meetings with clients have now ceased.
By far the majority of our clients are already happy to interact with us electronically, via a combination of email and secure portal. One or two have remained keen to receive paper. If you’re a paper-lover we’ll continue to do our best to persuade you of the benefits of joining the IT revolution. The present global emergency illustrates why it’s a good idea. We do need to contact you from time to time and sometimes that’s because we have a regulatory obligation to do so. We may need to ask for your permission to do something and time may be of the essence. We’re not convinced that the UK postal services will remain willing or able to maintain a normal level of deliveries – either from you to us or vice versa. We’ll do our very best to contact you where we need to, using the various media available to us, but please make it as easy as you can in return. Please don’t send us a cheque in the post. We can easily arrange for payments to be received electronically.
As of now, our office in Manchester is operating with a very small skeleton staff of local heroes. As long as we continue to have access to our shared building they’ll make sure that they check for incoming post and pass it on to fellow co-owners for action. Most of us are now working remotely and will continue to remain available to clients via email and phone. All our phone lines and email accounts continue to act as normal. We’re adding extra conference call lines for holding virtual client meetings and we’re encouraging those with access to the likes of FaceTime not to be shy and give them a go. Whatever service you currently ask us to provide will continue, albeit that face-to-face contact won’t be possible for the time being.
In short, we hope that you can see that in extremely uncertain times we’ve done everything we think you might reasonably have expected us to do. It’s not quite ‘business as per usual’ but rather ‘business as per the new-normal’.
Please get in touch in the way you would normally do if you feel you need any further reassurance. In the meantime, please keep an eye on the news section of our web-site. We’ll let you know if anything significant changes.