Crawling From The Wreckage

Crawling from the wreckage

There’s a certain amount of inertia in all our lives, things that we just do because we do them, and we’ve always done them. Life grinds on day after day apart from small breaks for business trips and holidays where the routines and the food are different. But the COVID-19 outbreak has given us a chance to take a break from habits and re-evaluate what is important, and there will be winners and losers.


What would I do given the time and  resources? I’d probably start an airline.

Here’s my short list. Feel free to suggest other areas that may be positively or negatively impacted.


I’ve spoken to a number of people who have decided not to renew car their leasing arrangements for the time being. Some cancellations are a result of wondering whether you may have a job to go back to, or just looking out of the window at something that you can’t use and that is nonetheless costing you £500-1000 a month in lease payments, car tax, insurance and Benefit in Kind. That hurts.

I suspect that come June or July many more people will be re-evaluating why they need a Range Rover for the school run, with consequences for car finance companies and the vehicle manufacturers who rely on personal contract purchase plans to drive the sales of new vehicles. An increased amount of vehicles being handed back combined with pressure to move on existing inventory will result in a depressed market for years to come. Finance and leasing companies will need to be very creative to retain customers.

One potential winner will be Mobility as a Service (MaaS) providers whether that’s Über or car clubs. I also suspect we’ll see strong sales in the urban run-around section of the market, but mid size vehicles will be increasingly squeezed out.

Not Going to Work

After enforced working from home for a couple of months, more and more people will question why they have to get up at 6am and commute to an office in order to spend the day staring at a computer monitor. While videoconferences can never replace face-to-face meetings, or even a few drinks after work, there will be plenty of people who had not considered using Zoom or Team or Slack, because they never had to, who will now realise how useful they can be.

Obviously there are a number of jobs that can’t be done remotely, but plenty of companies will be evaluating whether they really need to lease that extra floor come renewal time. Yields on commercial office space will be heading in the same direction as high street retail.

A clear winner has been videoconferencing companies, but I suspect that there is an even bigger opportunity for companies providing monitoring of remote workers. As more people choose to work from home both cybersecurity and productivity monitoring will show strong growth.

In addition, the additional hours of leisure time gained by ditching the commute and consequent resetting of work life balance should lead to increased demand for health, leisure and wellbeing products, from cookbooks to yoga mats.

Not Going to School

After two weeks of home schooling we have realised three things. Firstly, its nowhere near as bad as anyone expected.

Secondly that the children can finish all the work set by the school by 11am, meaning that they can spend the extra time learning languages, doing art and crafts or just playing.

And thirdly that there a wide variety of online resources that do a very good job of stimulating interest in learning, probably a better job that many teachers can manage. Of course, I’m biased here because I have the world’s most beautiful and intelligent children, as we all do, but it does make me wonder why education has to be so rigid.

The downside is the lack of extracurricular activities, and while we can replicate some of them (gardening club, art club etc) the social interaction in the schoolyard can’t be so easily replaced.

After a couple of months of this I suspect that many people will be giving serious consideration to home schooling while others will be in despair. Schools that charge fees will be hard pressed to justify any increases once this is over, and educational software will see a big leap forward in both technology and adoption.  

Not Flying Around

With most airlines grounded and a slow recovery in prospect there will be plenty who wished that they had provided better customer service. Personally, I’d veto any bailout of British Airways after they spent the past decade introducing the same abysmal level of customer service at which Iberia used to excel. Given the choice I’ll use Ryanair or EasyJet where at least you get what you pay for.  From Manchester, Glasgow or Edinburgh BA make you transfer through Heathrow to go anywhere but for long haul I can connect locally with Emirates, Swiss, Qatar and Lufthansa, all of whom have better international offerings than BA.

They may never be a better time to start thinking about starting an airline. Legacy carriers will be financially crippled and looking to claw something back from passengers, while there are plenty of planes mothballed that aviation leasing companies will only be too happy to get a return on.

Air travel could be the greatest example of the power of creative destruction.

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