Times Like These

by Chris Halverson, STA Chairman

For most of us, the past few months have felt like Groundhog Day, the classic Bill Murray movie where Phil Connors (Murray) relives the same day over and over in a seemingly endless loop. Thanks to the pandemic, our days are now spent largely in captivity, filled with repetitious tasks (think virtual meetings). It’s easy to identify with Phil Connors. In the movie, Phil eventually embraces his situation and uses his prophetic knowledge to learn new skills and help others. It’s a nice pivot to hope for and I love the film, but the real-life adaptation isn’t nearly as much fun.

Despite not traveling, I’m guessing few of us have used our extra time to master the piano, learn French, or become an ice sculptor. There have been some positives, though, beyond more sleep and a flexible dress code.

For me, I’ve traded my commute for family time and repurposed just about every place in the house. The playroom is now a classroom, our garage is a dance studio, and the kitchen table is my office. I’ve held Zoom meetings in the hallway, sitting on a bean bag and on the back porch while watching my two “employees” (ages 7 & 9) take advantage of Dad’s lack of management experience.

Like Phil Connors in Groundhog Day, I am adapting to my situation. Our industry is doing the same, adapting to challenges, finding creative solutions and being productive. Traders are working from their apartments, investment staff are mastering video conferencing technology and firms are learning to be flexible in a variety of areas. Working through this pandemic has reminded us of how resilient we are as an industry. Business Continuity Plans (BCPs) are being rapidly deployed on a massive scale while dealing with extreme market volatility. Upgrades that were in the works are being implemented at an accelerated pace. Across the board, the coronavirus has served as a catalyst for change. To be sure, none of us would have chosen this turn of events but overall, the securities industry is performing incredibly well. 

For me, I’ve traded my commute for family time and repurposed just about every place in the house. The playroom is now a classroom, our garage is a dance studio, and the kitchen table is my office. I’ve held Zoom meetings in the hallway, sitting on a bean bag and on the back porch while watching my two “employees” (ages 7 & 9) take advantage of Dad’s lack of management experience.

In a similar fashion, STA is adapting as we prepare to host the 87th Annual Market Structure Conference in Washington DC, Oct. 7-9. We’ve used this time as an opportunity to explore additional ways to deliver content and engage the financial services community on a deeper level. We remain optimistic that STA will host the conference in DC, realizing that it will look and feel different from years past. Even so, it may be exactly what we need: an opportunity for the STA community to come together, catch up personally, compare notes on the past year and exchange ideas on what’s to come. Relationships still matter and human contact is needed, perhaps now more than ever.

These past few months have also reminded us how much we rely on each other. We have developed a renewed appreciation for those on the front lines, not just medical workers but for those who stock, sell and deliver the everyday items that we’ve historically taken for granted. 

STA continues to serve the securities industry through our ACES philosophy (advocate, communicate, educate and support). Given how disruptive the pandemic has been, we have shifted our attention accordingly. I’m happy to see STA affiliates across North America supporting their local communities by donating masks and hosting online fundraisers to get valuable resources to those in need. 

Like you, I cannot wait for some form of the “good old days” to return. In the meantime, let’s be thankful for how well our industry has adapted. 

We look forward to seeing you all in DC this October.

Stay safe,
Chris

And in case you were wondering, “Times Like These” is a nod to the Foo Fighters song, recently covered by the Live Lounge Allstars, 25 artists recording their vocals in isolation. Proceeds from the sale of the song will support those affected by the pandemic. While I love the video, the chorus seems particularly appropriate:

It’s times like these you learn to live again
It’s times like these you give and give again
It’s times like these you learn to love again
It’s times like these time and time again