A week ago I received this mail from the PLSA.
We have received a number of inquiries as to the steps the PLSA is taking to mitigate the risk posed by the coronavirus at our up-coming Investment Conference in Edinburgh.
Please note that there are no current plans to cancel the conference. We are, however, very much aware that the coronavirus situation is evolving. We are monitoring, and will continue to monitor, the UK and global situation, and will act upon any official advice from the UK Government.
Your health is of primary importance to us so please be assured that we, and the Edinburgh International Conference Centre (EICC), are acting upon all official UK Government advice received in order to ensure your safety, to act responsibly and to help minimise the spread of the coronavirus.
We ask that you please act responsibly when attending the conference and follow the UK Government advice regarding travel. You can keep up to date by visiting GOV.UK and the National Health Service. We will of course also keep you updated on any developments with regard to the conference.
Why am I going to this conference?
The PLSA was still the NAPF when I last went to an investment conference. It will be interesting to see whether things have improved, back then all the conversation was about how to buy-out pension schemes – one of my colleagues called it the disinvestment conference.
I am going this year because I can afford to go, I have a press pass from the PLSA which allows me to report on key issues using this blog as a platform for longer pieces and using the micro-blogging site.
I can stay in an airbnb for less than I was paying for a bedroom back in 2005 when I last went. The train is fast , comfortable and cheap. I can combine my trip with business meetings with the people in Scottish insurance companies who don’t come south.
And I’m going with fear of infection and a determination to behave as responsibly as I can. I’ve had diseased lungs for the past four months and as a 59 year old, I am more “at risk” than a risk.
A personal and corporate risk assessment
I run my own company and I am the largest shareholder. I have 500 other shareholders and I know that my health is on the risk register.
Every person who attends the conference is taking risks, not just personal, but corporate.
The irony is that this is a conference about mitigating corporate and private risks. The conference is about making sure that pensions are paid to people’s expectations.
But the risk to the PLSA is existential. Cancel the conference at this point and the PLSA’s financial position could be severely impacted.
If attendees pull out , they lose their substantial delegate fees. Those who get a free pass, have to pay £370 + VAT to the PLSA if they cancel now.
The risks no-one could foresee
Those invested in the market know that the FTSE will continue to fall, the FTSE 100 short- term future is around 6,000. The market is only pricing in so much of the risk that could come from a nation in lock-down. But we know that we have time to see the market recover, we are not crystallising those losses.
But if you go to Edinburgh and the conference is contagious, the risks of coronavirus are crystallised – crystallised in your impact on the organisation you work for.
Disease does not spare the fund manager , investment consultant or trustee because he or she is aware of the risk. We all have to behave responsibly as for once, we are taking more personal risk than the people we invest money for.
None of us, when we signed up for this conference could have foreseen these risks and we now know the price of not- going.
I’m still going to Edinburgh – are you?
If I was attending under the instruction of the organisation I was working for, I would question why. Should my employer be putting me in peril?
But I’m going as a business owner and on a promise to the PLSA, who made the ticket available to me so that I could report the conference.
The best I can do is to follow the PLSA’s, the conference organisation’s and the Government’s advice.
Every other person at that conference will be taking risks being there they could not have foreseen when booking.
It would be safer to stay at home, but sometimes you have to take risk. I hope that that will be a theme of the conference.