March 31, 2020

What I learnt from the financial crisis

Two years ago I switched careers. Having spent twenty years working for investment companies, asset managers and hedge funds, in Europe and the Middle East, I started working within the creative industries. Setting up a UK office for Dragoman, a brand management consultancy allows me to use the skill sets that I developed during that time in new and varied industries.

During the last financial crisis, I was working for a large international investment company running its Middle East office from Dubai.  We had a diverse group of clients invested into a wide range of investment products and services. Everyone was affected by the downturn. The financial crisis has cast a long shadow and its impact can still be seen today. 

As we are in the middle of another crisis, this time a health as well as a financial crisis, there are a few observations from the last time round that might be relevant today when working with clients.


In times of uncertainty there will be a mixture of different emotions. Not only are people’s careers and livelihoods, on the line, but for many of my clients, their client’s wealth and security were at risk. In times of extreme stress all that we want is reassurance and information. We all react differently but no one wants to be kept in the dark. 

During the Financial Crisis budgets were slashed and so travel to meet clients wasn’t always possible. Ten years ago, the only convenient ways to remain visible were either by telephone or email. Communication channels such as Skype, Zoom, WhatsApp, certainly make visibility much easier today, but those difficult conversations still need to be had.  Given the emotional environment many clients’ primary need was to vent anger and frustration at the circumstances.  

Honesty and Transparency

Clients had trusted us with the management and safeguarding of their money. With the exception of a few notable players such as Bernie Madoff, banks and asset managers did act in the best interests of their clients. However, this trust was tested when the short-term outcome was very much at odds with the long term goals. 

Having maintained a level of visibility we were able help support one aspect of the clients immediate requirements, their emotional needs. The next is perhaps more quantitative and qualitative. Analysts certainly needed the data, but also the story behind the numbers to explain how we got to where we were. Constructing an honest and transparent narrative was an important part of this dialogue. Much of the understanding of the how and the why were only fully comprehended a long time after the events. At the time not every question had an answer, and so admitting this knowledge gap was also an important part of developing and fostering trust.


Once the dust had settled and the immediate concerns were addressed, the industry was able to evaluate what had happened and how they had performed. Lessons were able to be learnt and changes to behaviour, policies, procedures and in some cases, people were made. These reflections were then shared with clients and prospects, and the task of reestablishing the trust.


Applying the lessons learnt from the Financial Crisis to the creative industry in today’s world there are many similarities. Over the last few weeks the world has come to a complete stop, with livelihoods and health at risk. Spending has largely disappeared and budgets for marketing, design and branding vanished. 

Given all of the obstacles for businesses how are we to procced going forward when we don’t know how long we will live with the current crisis? As previously mentioned the technological world has developed beyond recognition over the last decade. Business tools facilitate the ability remote working while still being able to maintain a collaborative approach.

Social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and LinkedIn have led to a change in the way we engage with clients and share or produce content. Trust and visibility can be built up through these platforms and producing relevant content. 

Not every business can rely solely on digital marketing, but for those that are able to adapt, they are in a position to radically transform their business model and position themselves for future growth. Then again there is always the telephone!





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