This year’s FEAL conference theme proved prescient when chosen, what seems a long time ago, in February. The theme was: ‘Resilience: How to Survive and Thrive in a Time of Disruption’. With a bit of luck, the organisation is showing similar foresight in announcing that the postponed annual members’ dinner will take place on November 18.
Joanna Davison, the chief executive of the Fund Executives Association Ltd, said that what had happened since February, when her conference committee met to decide on the theme, had only heightened its relevance. “It is some comfort to me to see how the industry has adapted and still maintained its focus on the interests of our members,” she said. Jane Perry, the FEAL chair, is ensconced for the duration in the NSW southern highlands where, unfortunately, her internet connection was not good enough to participate in the virtual event. “I hope it’s not too long before we can all meet again face to face,” Davison said.
David Braga, the head of securities services for BNP Paribas in Australia and New Zealand, the major conference sponsor, chaired the event. He said that securities services providers were a critical foundation for the integrity of the whole investment industry. “Today (August 6), we have more people online than would have been able to attend in person,” he said. “Partnerships are more important in times of stress like this.”
Last week, BNP Paribas launched its ‘Australian Climate Transition Index’, which ranks 100 companies which are transitioning to a 1.50-degree and zero carbon-emission world. The index was developed by BNP Paribas, with Climate Watch, which is supported by the Australian Government, and First State Super. “We’re looking to partner with our clients and others in this transition to a low-carbon environment,” Braga said.
Julia Baird, journalist, author and TV presenter, who is a recent cancer survivor, spoke about “the cross beams of our resilience”, which was a theme of her recent book, ‘Phosphorescence’. “I didn’t want to write about being ill or about wellness,” she said. “It about living deliberately and sustaining attention… I want to talk about savouring the good things which give us hope. It’s about the beauty you’re seeing in the moment. For example, it’s about getting a lot of green in your life, about getting outside and working out what it is that makes you strong… All of you are an important part of this, for example, in building a carbon-neutral economy.”
Coincidentally, on the two evenings prior to the FEAL conference, there was the once-in-20-year phenomenon where Jupiter, Saturn and the moon were aligned. The first astronauts in space, in 1961, who were Russian, remarked on their return how they were overawed with the beauty of our world. Baird said that there was a lot of evidence which shows that when people are exposed to sunlight, trees and water – even if it’s just a view – they become happier and have a lower risk to psychiatric disorders.
Another crucial part of resilience is relationships, such as with friends. “I don’t think I would have survived the last few years without my friends,” Baird said. The magic of “freuden freuden” (German for joys or delight) as opposed to schadenfreude (taking pleasure in other people’s misfortunes) was a joy, she said. It was an “unselfish pride and joy in another’s happiness… It’s a way to get out of your own head and bask in someone else’s sunshine.”