The fourth season of the life and finance podcast from Fortress Fund Managers (FFM) is underway with a focus on the impact of COVID-19 on Barbadian lives, businesses, and the economy.
In a sobering yet hopeful discussion, the six-week season of “Do It Fuh Grantley” kicked off in conversation with economist and former head of the Barbados Economic Society, Shane Lowe. He now works in Washington D.C. at an international organisation.
Lowe noted that his office closed abruptly in mid-March and that he had been working from home since, in what he described as a “seamless transition”. He noted, however, that because of the impact of the pandemic on the risk portfolio he covers, there’d been an increased workload.
During the conversation moderated by co-hosts FFM marketing manager, Kim Howard, and entrepreneur and investment professional Omar Kennedy, Lowe shared his professional views on Barbados’ National Insurance Scheme (NIS) and the urgent need for diversification in the tourism industry.
With regard to the NIS, the economist noted that in light of the record number of claims for unemployment benefits it was vitally important to deal with the question of getting citizens back to work and reducing the burden on the social security system. “In Barbados hotels, restaurants and associated services such as transport seem to have been hardest hit regarding unemployment claims,” Lowe added.
The economist went on to express concern about the balance between contributions and claims being lopsided because of Barbados’ aging population. “This means you have fewer people on average working and more people on average receiving benefits. Another issue is that the NIS was hit by having some of the debt that it held restructured.”
In other conversations this season, guests share candidly how the pandemic has affected their personal, working, and business lives as well as the lessons they’re learning.
For example, in the episode, “On the Rise” guests, broadcaster, Alex Jordan, and Fortress’ client relations associate, Krystal Dowell noted the importance of supporting local farmers and producers by purchasing directly from them as well as becoming more self-reliant during lockdown.
With regard to investments, Dowell noted that clients and prospective clients were asking whether now was a good time to invest. “It’s always a good time to invest especially when prices are depressed and in order to see the growth that you want you have to invest continually.”
The client relations associate also reminded investors not to panic. “Panic does not lead to any benefits and could have a negative impact on the market and on potential financial gains. You might see a depression in your account balance right now but those are paper losses. If you were to react and redeem at that point, however, those would be real losses.”
Jordan has found the COVID-19 pandemic to be a wake-up call as she sees income contract significantly. As a result, she better understands the need to be increasingly self-reliant with her finances.
In the episode, “Panic or Pivot”, Lily Dash along with business partner Sophie Bannister of WiFetch were able to quickly get a start-up off the ground to solve problems created by the lockdown in Barbados.
“In the villa rental space we take care of guests and they get things on demand. Someone goes out and does their grocery shopping and gets their deliveries while everyone else in hotels and AirBnbs goes to the supermarket. We wondered how we could democratise this service that we offer to our guests and technology was the way to do this. We had the resources and the team in place so we just pivoted,” Dash explained.
George Griffith of Surfside Wellness Centre was also able to pivot to maintain his client base and the jobs of his trainers. “Initially we tried to broaden our reach online and we shared free content on our social media, such as free classes. That helped to build our online presence. Then we moved to Surfside Online (with special software on the website). Once we got an ease on restrictions we started to come into people’s homes, and we also started beach training. That was how we started to transition. We still have a brick-and-mortar facility but we also have an online facility and an outdoor facility. It’s Surfside on demand now.”
Launched in January 2019, the “Do It Fuh Grantley” podcast seeks to demystify the world of investing and enhance the financial knowledge of Barbadians. Upcoming episodes this season will continue to explore investor behaviour and how our relationship with money has changed since the pandemic. New episodes will be released every Thursday until October 8th and can be heard on Apple or Android podcast apps or at www.fortressfund.com.
Fortress Fund Managers manages approximately $700 million across 11 different funds with regional and global investments.