An update from our CEO – One month on …

    Consultant Declan O'Sullivan
    Declan O’Sullivan

    An update from our CEO – One month on …

    Dear Client / Candidate,

    We wrote to you on March 30 about the Covid 19 situation and a month on, it seems like a good moment to review the topic.

    As you know Kerry Consulting is an Executive Recruitment Firm. As such, we help companies find talent and we help talent find roles.

    So what is the outlook for executive recruitment, especially in SEA?

    Before we address this topic, let’s take a look at the impact of Covid 19 globally.

    As of today many millions are infected. Exactly how many is difficult to gauge and there is some suspicion that current estimates, in many countries derived from actual hospital based testing, is hugely underestimating the overall infected population, possibly by an order of magnitude.

    At least 207000 deaths attributed to Covid 19.

    The mortality rate, in that it relates to the overall infected population size, is also hard to gauge. 3% or .3%? Really who knows?

    What we do know is that Covid 19 is highly infectious.

    Some countries, notably China, have begun to reopen their economies. Individual European nations and US states are also heading in that direction. Though what specifically that will look like and their subsequent reactions to future infection spikes, is anyone’s guess.

    Economically, Covid 19 impact has been huge with massive, shut down induced, increases in unemployment. Again how quickly employment levels can return to 2019 levels is anyone’s guess, though state support of employers in many countries, does give one hope. Best not to think about the associated increases in state indebtedness. That can is being firmly kicked down the road.

    Markets have also been responding in very different ways, with many stock indices off by only 15 – 20% (yoy), while oil has tanked entirely.

    Much will depend on the “shape” of the recovery.

    So what about SEA?

    Well here there are still reasonable grounds to be optimistic relative to Europe or the US. The World Bank is suggesting that some countries such as Vietnam and Myanmar may well stay in positive growth territory with the worst affected likely to be Thailand (-5%?), due to its major exposure to tourism.

    There seems to be little media focus on the demographics of the region but this is a major positive for SEA. Basically young populations and therefore less likely to be massively impacted by the disease. Some approximate median ages are as follows: Philippines 23, Malaysia 28, Indonesia 30, Vietnam 30. Contrast this with Germany and Japan, both circa 47.

    SEA and especially Vietnam, is also likely to continue to benefit from greater FDI, as a consequence of many companies beginning to rebalance their supply chains away from China.

    And Singapore right now?

    Well we are still in the midst of the “Circuit Breaker” which is due to conclude in some manner or other, on the 1st of June.

    Recruitment volumes are down though many positions are being put on hold rather than outright cancelled.

    Of course some sectors are very resilient or indeed are benefitting from the situation.

    There are grounds to expect that May and June will see the bottom with recruitment activity picking up strongly in Q3 and beyond.

    We suspect that as countries are forced by economic necessity to ease their lock down measures and the near impossibility of containing the disease entirely becomes apparent, they will be forced to adopt something akin to the “Swedish” model. The emphasis may well be on responsible personal behaviour with yet more focus on protecting the vulnerable. Isolation efforts may need to go on for quite a while more for the elderly and people with serious existing medical conditions. Otherwise it seems likely that the general population will need to return to work and live with the virus.

    This is where understanding its actual mortality rate would be hugely helpful.

    And what is Kerry Consulting doing?

    Well, aside from working from home, it is very much business as usual. We are continuing to engage with clients who see this as an opportunity to gain a respite from the talent shortages of the last few years. This and an increasing amount of regional work, is keeping us somewhat busy.

    We are very deliberately keeping our entire team intact.

    We have also instituted two charitable programs. The first sees our staff contributing to a Singapore charity called “Food from the heart”. Kerry matches their contribution dollar for dollar. As ever economic crises are painful for most, but excruciating for the poor. We are trying to help.

    We have also instituted a fitness program which sees Kerry contributing $1 to “Food from the heart” for every km run by our staff. This program has stimulated a huge amount of semi competitive exercising while also generating a social good.

    I’d like to conclude by returning to Covid directly. One member of the Kerry team has already lost a relative to this disease. It is a tragic situation. It may get worse before it gets better. Having said that we absolutely must “Keep on keeping on” and if we do, the situation will improve in due course.

    Very best wishes to you and your family.

    Declan O’Sullivan
    CEO