COVID-19 has all of us concerned – for our families and friends, our employees and the investment returns people depend on. Our hearts go out to all who have been affected by the outbreak. While State Street has helped clients navigate challenging market environments from recessions to global conflicts to trade wars for more than 225 years, COVID-19 represents a new challenge that investors have not faced before. Therefore, I want to give you an update on the steps we are taking at State Street Global Advisors to ensure our teams around the world can continue to serve your needs.
Maintaining Business Continuity
First and foremost, I want to assure you that we have strong and tested business continuity plans, including a Pandemic Response Policy, to prepare for situations like this. With operations around the world in segmented locations, we started to activate our continuity plans when the virus was first detected in China to ensure the health and safety of our employees and to maintain our operations.
Like many of you, we have already restricted travel, imposed quarantine periods for locations impacted, canceled conferences, and utilized business recovery locations. The majority of our employees world-wide will be on a remote work rotation program either working from home or at an alternate site.
Effectively Managing Your Investments
Our investment focus remains on effectively managing the assets you have entrusted to us. We continue to see heightened volatility and reduced liquidity across all major asset classes. With portfolio management and trading teams across the globe, we have worked diligently to manage cashflows and monitor market conditions.
As one of the largest index fund providers, we have teams with deep experience accurately tracking indexes during volatile times, including managing thinly traded, less liquid securities. Our more than 100 indexing professionals are meeting frequently throughout each day to discuss everything from the timing of trades to liquidating positions to minimizing trading and transaction costs. Meanwhile, our active portfolio managers, including our quantitative, fundamental and multi-asset class teams, are selectively making changes to balance risk and return appropriate to their mandates.
Our SPDR ETF business, which includes many of the most liquid ETFs in the world1, has already demonstrated its resiliency multiple times, including after 9/11 when markets were closed for six days, the August 24th “Flash Crash” and other significant market events. It has done so again these past two weeks, where in the US, our ETFs have represented 42% of total industry ETF trading volumes2, providing an essential source of liquidity and price discovery. This has occurred while also navigating three market-wide circuit breakers and several limit-up / limit-down trading halts.
Sharing Our Market Insights & Expertise
We are also increasing the volume and frequency of our market commentary to keep investors informed about market impact, the implication of policy responses and our macroeconomic and markets perspective. Last week, our Chief Investment Officer Rick Lacaille and other key investment leaders held a live panel to discuss the market environment, likely geopolitical responses and what it means for investors. Our thought leaders continue to offer insights through blogs, webinars and client newsletters on topics ranging from market volatility to central bank policy changes to oil price fluctuations and the impact of COVID-19 on specific geographies and industries. We have also been in close touch with regulators globally, sharing our insights and perspectives.
Our relationship management and investment teams are here to support you and your investment needs through this challenging period. Even in this era of social distancing, we are committed to staying connected to you via phone, WebEx, and other digital communications.
We will continue to stay in touch as this crisis continues. Please do not hesitate to reach out if we can be of assistance or if you have any concerns – and I hope that you, your family and your employees stay healthy and safe during this difficult time.
There are two things we know about all crises: each one is different and each one does end. This too shall pass.