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Learnings from Asia for navigating the COVID-19 challenge

Alfred Lee
Alfred Lee
Managing Director, Asia Pacific

Since the COVID-19 virus outbreak in December 2019, the disease has spread to almost 100 countries around the globe with the World Health Organization declaring it a public health emergency.

The impact of the coronavirus both on the Asia region and globally is now the biggest challenge for financial markets in 2020, evidenced by the steep declines in global markets and trillions of dollars wiped off market values, with some heading into bear market territory.

As the situation continues to unfold, it’s difficult to predict what the eventual impact the COVID-19 virus will have on the global economy. With Asia being the first region in the world to be impacted by the virus, the potential for on-going disruption and the value of being better prepared for such black swan events, we can offer several key insights for companies seeking to ensure business continues as usual as much as possible and seek out new opportunities in times of crisis.

Employees from a disinfection service company sanitize a subway station amid coronavirus fears in Seoul
Employees from a disinfection service company sanitize a subway station amid coronavirus fears in Seoul

Challenging COVID-19 with technology

What is interesting is how Asia has had to be the first to leverage technology to navigate the coronavirus challenge. At a government level, we have seen countries like China, Singapore and Korea leveraging on technologies in testing, tracking and containing community spread of COVID-19. Sitting at the heart of financial markets, Refinitiv plays an important role in providing the data and information our customers need to better understand and manage the current turbulence in the global supply chains and financial markets.

A software engineer works on a facial recognition program that identifies people when they wear a face mask at the development lab of the Chinese electronics manufacturer Hanwang (Hanvon) Technology in Beijing
A software engineer works on a facial recognition program that identifies people when they wear a face mask

Key learnings from Asia on COVID-19

Based on our ongoing support for our staff and clients across the region, here are five learnings from Asia on how businesses can effectively mitigate the impact and disruptions from COVID-19:

1. Proactive, transparent and open communication

At the center of good communication around this crisis is the need for human empathy and understanding for people. It’s paramount that companies demonstrate that the well-being and safety of their people remain the top priority, particularly when staff are managing both fear and anxiety in dealing with disruptions at home and their daily lives.

Regardless of whether they are currently impacted, companies should stay actively abreast of the evolving COVID-19 situation, engage and communicate regularly with all their staff, internal and external stakeholders and be prepared to act swiftly.

With the spread of panic and misinformation during this challenging time, companies can play an important role as a trusted source of information for both their employees and clients. On the external communications front, it is vital for companies to implement proactive customer engagement plans to highlight how they are doing everything they can to minimize the risk of disruption and start a conversation on potential contingency measures during a virus outbreak.

As employees will likely be exposed to conflicting information, communicating policies promptly, clearly, and in a balanced manner will be crucial to reassuring staff that the company is mindful of the situation and keep them fully informed about progress on measures to safeguard employees’ wellbeing while ensuring that day-to-day operations can continue uninterrupted.

2. Leveraging data and intelligence during times of crisis

Given the fast-changing nature of the coronavirus situation, companies can use data and information to ascertain the potential impact of the COVID-19 outbreak and inform their business decisions.

To help clients obtain the data they need to manage and understand the current turbulence in the financial markets and global supply chains, our team in Beijing worked swiftly (and remotely) to launch the Coronavirus App on Eikon within days, at the start of the outbreak to provide targeted and up-to-date intelligence on the impact of COVID-19 across different financial markets globally and business sectors.

The app in Eikon offers a single destination for users to keep track on the key market-moving news as well as impact analysis, charts and relevant data analytics on the markets, sectors – including healthcare, consumer goods, transportation and utilities – and various commodities asset classes. If you’re an Eikon user, simply search for ‘Corona Virus’ to have access to this useful application.

3. Accelerating digitalization

With organizations around the globe implementing remote work policies and homebound safety measures to mitigate the spread of the coronavirus, shifting businesses online and migrating more processes to the cloud will help to ensure that operations can resume smoothly during a crisis.

Having strong and robust infrastructure and technology prepare businesses to transition and adapt to this shift towards online collaboration tools.

This is a timely opportunity for companies to evaluate their technological capabilities and accelerate their digitalization plans in order to be better prepared for the next potential crisis.

4. Implementing a solid BCP and plan for recovery

It goes without saying that every company should have a well-established and comprehensive business continuity plan (BCP) in place to address key business operational risks and respond to the virus outbreak effectively. This should be activated as soon as a crisis hits to ensure that workflows are intact and services to clients remain consistent.

The BCP should be well-rehearsed and communicated within the company and with other key stakeholders so that employees have a clear understanding of their roles and responsibilities.

5. Getting and giving the right support

Lastly, companies should leverage global networks and resources to mitigate risks as one team, and to get sufficient backup for customers to receive uninterrupted services. These are especially important for businesses that offer products and services online.

Ultimately, this epidemic is a wake-up call for businesses to carefully review their policies and processes in place to safeguard employees, customers, and business operations in the current and future epidemics.

How to track the market developments:

The Corona Virus app in Eikon is your single destination to keep track on the key market moving headlines as well as the charts, data and impact analysis on the markets, sectors and commodities asset classes. If you’re an Eikon user, simply search for ‘Corona Virus’. If you’re not a user, get access now or switch to Eikon.