The Big Break – Post-pandemic ‘New-Normal’ | Part 2

The Big Break – Post-pandemic ‘New-Normal’ | Part 2

The Big Break

Following on from Part 1 of this report, see Part 1 here, Part 2 of this report covers sectors ‘A’ through ‘I’ impacted by ‘The Big Break’


In a survey of 2,373 accountants, four in ten suggested that COVID-19 would induce job losses in the industryv. This could compound an existing forecast that many of the functions performed by accountants today could be done by machines in three to five years’ timevi. At the very least, we are likely to witness a rise in the 72 percent of CFOs reporting a strong commitment to the digital transformation of finance and accountingvii.

While much focus is understandably on the immediate and direct impact of COVID-19, indirect long-term impacts could prove more significant. These could include the state of the economy or the services potentially offered by accountants and any associated professional liability consequencesviii. Being digitally ready and possessing wider business acumen will be a pre-requisite for exploring some of these new opportunities.

The Big Four have long since diversified their offerings; the quest for new services many now echo throughout the accountancy profession. Almost all corporate clients face a range of operational and strategic choices that are often confusing and more complex than they can handle alone. With many individuals and organisations turning to their accountants for advice, there are clearly new revenue streams opening-up in which accountants could add-value if they possess the requisite skill-set, but it is accompanied by corresponding risk.

New markets could also emerge that accountants could work in or benefit from. A centralised consumer data profile, outlined by the World Economic Forum as ‘…residing in an account where it would be controlled, managed, exchanged and accounted forix,’ by around 2028, could enable a range of financial services organisations to reposition themselves as trusted advisers able to deliver value over a wider remit. 

Working with intelligent machines and algorithms will become a key future success factor for accounting professionals: ‘intelligent automation, robotic process automation, real time analytics, automated reporting, predictive enterprise risk assessment, preconfigured Cloud ERP, and digital workforce automation,x’ will all impact the profession. 


  • New demands and risk factors.
  • New forms of client partnership.
  • Automation.
  • Analytical skills will be needed across many roles, and beyond traditional ones.
  • Traditional value propositions.

Challenges and Opportunities

  • Many financial services organisations start from a handicapped position with regards to digital talent; only 10 percent of young adults are interested in finance as a broad career optionxi.
  • Shifting demographics, changes in consumer behaviour, a dynamic tax and regulatory environment, technology, and a multitude of other factors are having a profound impact on the future of accountingxii.

Artificial Intelligence 

The need to continue operations with fewer people, in some cases without people at all, and doing things in different ways as a result, all create a compelling logic for why the pandemic could act as a catalyst for AI usexiii across a range of industries.

The suite of AI technologies are rarely plug-and-play, with considerable expertise required not just for installation but for employees working alongside and within automated systems. However, in places where mass retraining is not required, accelerated AI adoption may be increasingly plausible. For the 75 percent of global executives thinking AI is critical for their pre-COVID company’s futurexiv, plans for developing, testing and trialling such solutions will almost certainly assume new urgency.

It has been remarked that while AI isn’t on the verge of yet replacing all our jobs, it does create the opportunity for us to rethink what jobs arexv. Given the scale of the emerging employment crisis, moving this discussion forward in boardrooms, public policy circles and beyond would seem critical. 

AI may also form a key part of our built environments in the fight against COVID19. Indeed, even before the outbreak, Singapore had announced a national AI strategy that aims to ‘transform’ the country by 2030. It features adaptive learning systems, personalised risk scores for chronic diseases and a fully automated immigration system involving biometricsxvi. Adding COVID detecting features or other health dimensions seem a natural fit.

However, in the rush to find solutions to acute problems, we risk ignoring long-term problems. The EU Commission’s digital department has already recommended a regulatory framework for AI that would set transparency obligations on automated decision-makingxvii. Could AI be the next GDPR? Wired notes that ‘…Intelligent systems at scale need regulation because they are an unprecedented force multiplier for the promotion of the interests of an individual or a groupxviii.’ 


  • Ambient AI at work, home and city.
  • More AI in the public health realm.
  • Regulation.
  • The intelligent era.
  • Moving from plans to actions.


  • Anticipating regulations.
  • Talent and cultural preparedness.
  • Doing new things, not just doing things differently.


  • 45 percent of AI’s total economic gains by 2030 ($15.7 Trillion) is forecast to come from product enhancements and stimulating consumer demandxix.
  • Rolling out AI solutions across industries, lowering boundaries and reorienting their strategies.
  • Using data better, quicker and more effectively.


The impact of COVID-19 on aviation could be 5 or 6 times worse than the 9/11 attacksxx. Without financial aid, around half of the 800 or so airlines around the world could cease to exist by the end of Mayxxi. As of late April, some 164 airlines had grounded their entire fleets; another 91 were using less than 10 percent of theirsxxii. British Airways plans to make up to 12,000 staff, or more than one in four, redundantxxiii. The scale of this indicates a long-term challenge. Even allowing for recovery, ‘normal’ will not be the same as beforexxiv

Consumer behaviour will almost certainly shift, while there is an opportunity to revisit some foundations of the industry that remain little changed since the end of the second world war. Were the Chicago Convention to be revisited, cross-border ownership of airlines could be reexamined, truly global airlines could in turn emerge that better match consumer demand, for example. The degree to which any bailouts mix with politics will be key for the prospects of what remains an international industry and its indirect satellite industries such as tourism and closely related ones such as airports. Globally, airports could lose $76 billion in 2020xxv.

The crisis will likely, in due course, prompt investment in efficiency and new models. It has been suggested that connected airlines,’ could save $15 billion a year as well as 21.3 million tonnes of CO2 emissions by 2035xxvi. PwC also suggests new models be explored by airlines and airports ‘…that could boost revenues, lower costs, improve efficiencies, and enhance the customer experiencexxvii.’ Not all solutions need to come at high cost; value could be unlocked at limited incremental cost in terms of sales channels, loyalty programs, joint digitisation and improved real-estate development. Indeed, ‘…even after accounting for profit-sharing, these joint sales channels could boost airport commercial sales by 10 to 20 percent, while airlines could increase their commercial sales by more than 50 percentxxviii.’ 


  • New mashup models and ownership structures. 
  • Electric aircraft – eg: The Norwegian authorities are aiming for electric aircraft debut by 2030xxix.
  • Digitised aviation ecosystem.
  • Numerous regional airports and many airlines.
  • Assumptions about certain markets and routes.


  • Risk is becoming more systemic and complex. Aviation stakeholders may need to embrace ‘…a broader strategy of enterprise-risk management across their organisationxxx.’ 
  • Preparing for climate-change, sustainability and business model diversification.
  • Building resiliency and flexibility into models run on lean principles.


  • New forms of partnership.
  • Chinese aviation recovery offers hope.
  • Customer-centric propositions across the entire travel experience.
  • Abundance of resources potentially lowering costs.

Banking and Finance

The digital footprint of users was already healthily growing pre-crisis, with some 3.6 billion digital banking users expected by 2024xxxi. This could now extend to bank and finance employees. Approaches to talent management, and consideration of workplace dynamics, already evolving in a digital world, ‘…may be durably changed after an extended period of remote workingxxxii.’

‘Nevertheless, it is likely that customers, in response to COVID and its aftermath, will increasingly need and expect individualised offerings, and leaders will need to use data to fine-tune their customer, product and pricing strategy to deliver on those expectationsxxxiii.’ Likewise, the COVID-19 crisis will put to the test many of the ESG factors that many banks have acknowledged they need to factor into their future strategies and models. Such strategies, whether officially implemented or not, will probably be judged by the consumer starting now. Long-term damage could be wrought by short-term thinking.

Lastly, banks must be cognisant of changes in their wider operating environment, and of new post-COVID factors that will influence it. PwC notes that ‘…in every recent financial crisis, the number of bank mergers has exceeded the number of bank failures. Banks will not only look intra-industry for attractive combinations given valuation resets, but also outside of financial services given industry convergencexxxiv.’ New models would seem a given. UBS’ rise in digital engagement with its clients during lockdown, for example, is cited as having ‘probably accelerated by five years user adoption of its digital toolsxxxv.’


  • Data-driven personalisation of services.
  • New industry mashups and synergies.
  • Ambient banking and finance.
  • Product driven services that fail to treat customers as individuals.
  • Analogue systems, cultures, processes and people.


  • Developing a culture of collaboration that cuts across industry.
  • Long-held assumptions and mental models that have underpinned existing business models may need to change.
  • Trust is the future for banking and financial services. Demonstrating reasons for that now, and strategically in the future, is key. 


  • Banks and financial organisations can build greater operational and financial resiliency into their structuresxxxvi.
  • Gerd Leonhard believes ‘…we are going to see a new stock market emerge in the next five to seven years- a kind of NASDAQ for sustainable capitalismxxxvii.’
  • The banking industry occupies an almost unique position among private sector entities to play a driving role in restoring communities ravaged by COVID-19.


If the background for the post-war period of the 20th century was driven by physics, and the latter half by IT, we are now entering a potentially more significant epoch – the biotech eraxxxviii. It is likely that the COVID crisis, not least through the search for a vaccine or treatment or even more indirect impacts, such as the search for greener growth, will accelerate the emergence of this era.

Indeed, biotechnology is held as able to ‘…help address many global problems, such as climate change, an ageing society, food security, energy security and infectious diseases, to name just a fewxxxix.’ The way in which biotech addresses these issues will ensure disruption to existing business models and structures and remake what it is that industries do and how they do it. The speed of biotech’s impact on a given market is likely to be exponential once initial case uses are established and commercialised.

As organisations we remain unprepared for the changes that biotechnology could instigate not just within the healthcare, industrial and agricultural spheres but for various sectors in which ‘…biotechnology has become the driving force of radical changesxl.’ 

Our health, our houses, manufacturing processes, electronics and built environment and our food will likely all be impacted, as could the way we consume. For example, scientists have created a ‘mutant enzyme’ able to recycle plastic bottles in hours and has plans to commercialise the technology within 5 yearsxli. Innovations within the industry could impact sectors at best considered tangential in our current economic orthodoxy. Assumptions, limits and possibilities underpinning our thinking could all be revisited in due course. If data mastery has shown to erode existing industry boundaries, biotech could further rewrite our expectations.


  • Disruption across a wide range of industries.
  • The biotech era.
  • Large networks and ecosystems.
  • The digital era. 
  • 20th century approaches.


  • ‘It’s a big question – to what extent any political system in existence today is capable of handling the repercussions of breakthrough technologies like biotechnologyxlii.’
  • Regulatory barriers.
  • Ethical issues.


  • A new economy. 
  • Revised focus on health and wellness, post Covid-19.
  • Mitigation of humankinds’ environmental impact.
  • Innovation across a broad range of industries.


In response to major supply chain disruptions, starting with trade conflict and de-globalisation, ‘…chemical companies have started to (partly) relocate or rampup the production of critical chemicals supplies and medical goods closer to endcustomers.xliii.’ COVID will likely accentuate many of these trends.

The crisis, catastrophic as it is for humanity and even certain chemical industry incumbents, also provides opportunities for industries. Innovation around 3D printing, biotech-based products and new sources of energy could, for example, rise in importance, especially with the green stimulus featuring in many governments rescue packagesxliv.

Many of these technologies will prove foreign to some incumbents since the industry has been a relatively late adopter of digital innovationxlv. To-date this has not proven too large a burden, but continuing ignorance of these trends will prove costly.

The post COVID environment, featuring an emerging quantum computing scene, may well be different. Rather than improve existing processes, or boost back-office efficiency, quantum computing, along with biotech, promises to change our understanding of molecular structure, chemical reactions and the discovery of new products – all facets central to the success of the modern chemical industry. 

Since colocation of sufficient talent to explore quantum and biotech is difficult, owing to expanding market demand and supply shortages, collaboration will be critical. Accessing the talent to be able to test use cases and assess the required level of internal capabilitiesxlvi will be a key step in building future strategies. Quantum computing could form a $9.1 billion market annually by 2030xlvii. Biotech and biomanufacturing could in the coming decade present both an opportunity and challenge for the industry, with news ways of doing things also allowing new things to be done. Such techniques could drastically cut chemical input, with implications for production strategies and indeed the potential relevance of the industry as it is currently configured.


  • A range of new technologies. 
  • Prioritising cybersecurity and system resiliencyxlviii
  • New ecosystems.
  • Traditional supply chains and production techniques.
  • Existing skillsets as a sufficient basis for employment.


  • Create digital and AI enabled models to address end-user needsxlix.
  • Build capabilities to scale solutions across fragmented bases efficientlyl
  • Developing collaborative cultures.


  • Players able to harness quantum computing could reshape the industry, lower costs and create superior products.
  • Use technology to gain a real-time awareness of supply chainsli.
  • Greener solutions.


Peter Kelly, head of sustainability at ISG suggests that in the future, ‘…using off-site and digital construction techniques means buildings will be cheaper, quicker to build, higher quality, healthier and more productivelii.’ On a global level, full scale digitalisation over the next decade could yield significant cost savings up to $1.7 trillionliii, yet will require the type of investment that such a conservative industry is slow to embrace in good times, let alone a crisis. It is possible that the cost/benefit ratio will be changed decisively by the crisis, however.

Increasingly, all that is required is a trigger, since much of the technology is ready. Icon, in the U.S, has 3D printed a home for $10,000 in 48 hours and recently a home in 24 hours for $4,000liv. Such housing units are forecast to account for up to 30 percent of new construction by the mid 2020slv, while Dubai plans for 25 percent of new buildings to be constructed using 3D printing by 2025, reducing labour by 70 percent and cutting costs by 90 percent across different sectorslvi. Digitisation could also alter the need for collocated labour. For example, from Germany, South Korean construction machinery manufacturer Doosan Infracore, demonstrated the use of a 5G network and autonomous construction machine to overcome the 8,500-kilometer distance to a simulated construction site in Incheonlvii.

If COVID-19 does speed up the digitisation of construction, the implications will be systemic. Talent should also be sought from new places, with new pipelines established. Future skills central to the construction industry are likely to feature artificial expertise, data analysis, experts on modular design and logistics and even resilience experts and circular economy specialistslviii. The World Economic Forum cites the gaming industry as one possible talent pool given digital skills crossover for building information modeling and virtual or augmented realitieslix. Construction companies are already tech companies, their talent strategy and increasing parts of the workflow – need to reflect it.


  • New production and work methods.
  • New talent strategies and sources.
  • KPIs related to sustainability and building function.
  • Old supply chains could be withdrawn rapidly.
  • Necessary colocation of all labour inputs on-site.


  • ‘At the heart of many pressing challenges in capital projects and infrastructure are problems with culturelx,’ says McKinsey.
  • Initial investment lead times are likely to be long, and the capital required high, but the returns on such investment could be substantial.
  • The industry has traditionally been slow to adopt new tech: this must changelxi.


  • Maximize data and digital model use and standardise the data across boundaries and silos where possible.
  • Review the existing product portfolio and assess where new business opportunities could arise. 
  • ‘There could be a number of viable 3D-construction-printing businesses in five to ten yearslxii.’


In 2018, Clayton Christensen suggested that ‘We’re still early in the story of consulting’s disruption… More likely than not, alarms won’t sound until it’s already too late in the gamelxiii.’ Is our response to COVID that alarm?

Consulting’s underlying precepts of change and disruption may be insufficient for interrogating a world now subject to multiple drivers leading to our reimaging, redesigning and rebuilding our societies. Change and disruption are undeniable but COVID represents something deeper, systemic and involved.

Not all of these drivers of change relate to COVID but could be heightened by it. The rise of corporate pressures for change, from the IoT and other emerging trends, and arguably driven by many rushed digital transformations, could limit the value of traditional consulting roles such as collecting and using informationlxiv. Despite this shift in role, consultants are still in demand as companies across nearly all sectors grapple with the immediate economic consequences and begin to acknowledge the need to envisage tomorrow.  

The COVID crisis also necessitates consultants to conduct their work in a different manner. For example, ‘enVista, the technology and consulting business, is ramping up the use of tools it had used sparingly prior to COVID-19 as it builds a remote consulting businesslxv.’ Technology is also becoming a key part of what consultants do, not just how they do it. McKinsey has made tech-related advising more integral to its proposition, as have the Big Four and others such as Accenturelxvi, in efforts to build greater consumer-centrism. This implies not just the use of ‘…data, artificial intelligence and other technologies to predict outcomes, reduce costs, improve transparency and ultimately add value.’ 

Of equal importance is the need of developing closer ties to clients, in terms of ‘…understanding their business more deeply and delivering solutions to problems that clients may not even know they have yetlxvii.’


  • Development of more remote consulting models.
  • Further erosion between consulting and tech providers.
  • More in-depth forms of collaboration and partnership.
  • Less travel.
  • A possible retreat from ‘strategy’ to ‘operations,’ as acute problems dominate.

Challenges and Opportunities

  • Questioning assumptions, methods and the basis from which advice is provided.  
  • Developing new practices able to navigate new and undefined territories/markets. 
  • Developing new concepts and advice for a re-imagined business environment.


Business spend on key cybersecurity tenants – data protection, compliance with regulations and insurance – have boomed, yet the average organisation has a systemic blind-spot to its network endpoints. Prior to COVID-19 and the mass adoption of remote working, 71 percent of CIOs reported finding computing devices they weren’t aware of on a daily or weekly basislxviii. As a result, only 17 percent of organisation were considered leaders in cyber-resiliencelxix. Data breaches could potentially reach $5Tn yearly by 2024lxx. New models were needed pre-COVID: now is an ideal time to develop them.

COVID-19, not least through the enhanced cyber risk introduced by sometimes slapdash efforts to digitise and provide distance working, offers an opportunity to pilot zero trust models, rapidly and at scale. This model sees access to business apps, including legacy operations, funneled through a secure web-based gateway following leastprivilege principles. One survey suggests that 31 percent are considering this approach, 19 percent are in the adoption phase, and 8 percent have already implemented itlxxi

Emerging IoT and edge computing will also bring about significant changes to organisational IT architecturelxxii. The networked nature of the edge, the likely creation of ecosystems around edge data, and the increasingly intertwined nature of IT systems, all mean cybersecurity at the ecosystem level is necessary to protect potentially weaker links in the chain, such as third parties.

With most organisations having limited visibility to their network, let alone insight into their exposure to cyber risk, new standards will likely be needed. Security and privacy controls will need to be built at the edge and in devices. If information security strategy is to thrive in an edge era, new security and data architectures that span multiple organisations and even industries will need to emerge. 


  • 70 percent of Asia Pacific business leaders see more cyber regulation as needed to build public trustlxxiii
  • Edge computing and IoT.
  • Distance working.
  • New standards.
  • New cybersecurity architectures and methods.


  • Building trust.
  • Talent acquisition/access.
  • New technologies as threat vectors.


  • New cybersecurity ecosystems.
  • Opportunity to trial new models.
  • Chance to use information security as a strategic driver.


The World Economic Forum says ‘…the slow pace of change in academic institutions globally is lamentable, with centuries-old, lecture-based approaches to teaching, entrenched institutional biases, and outmoded classroomslxxiv. COVID-19 is a one-off shock to the system that compels things to be done differently. For David van Zandt, president of the New School in New York, ‘…the virus is an accelerator, like gasoline thrown on to burning embers. This is going to bring about a lot of changes in higher education that probably needed to be madelxxv.’  

Mass adoption of distance learning in the U.S, China and Japan, all 5G enabled, will allow the concept of learning anywhere, anytime to take hold. This method of learning also has the, probably unintended, effect of redefining the role of the educator. School and university have long been transitioning from places and education towards an activity. This has held interesting implications for the teacher that has hitherto been defined as a knowledge-repository who then dispenses it to the student. In a wider sense then, COVID could increase student resilience.

Changes to what we need to learn in terms of practical and theoretical knowledge for future jobs, the ascendance of soft skills and how we access knowledge all render this description close to invalid. COVID-19 may consign it to history. ‘This may mean that the role of educators will need to move towards facilitating young people’s development as contributing members of societylxxvi.’ Many academics likely have this as a goal. Indeed, even before the COVID crisis hit, some 98 percent of educators anticipated the rise of self-paced curriculumslxxvii, something which shifts their role significantly.


  • Learning,’ states WEF, ‘…could become a habit that is integrated into daily routines – a true lifestylelxxviii.’
  • A standardised micro-accreditation system is likely to emerge.
  • School district and educational lotteries could lessen if premium content is unlocked from anywhere.
  • The current model of higher education. Value for money, relevance in the future job market and continuous type learning contracts will all be key.
  • The end of education as a life-stage between childhood and adulthood.


  • Shifting the role of the educator towards that of facilitator/curator.
  • Universities are forecast to be hit by a £2.6 billion shortfall in the next academic year due to the pandemic, risking up to 30,000 direct jobslxxix.
  • The over-reliance on international students in the UK: 47 percent decrease in enrolment predicted, costing the sector £1.5 billionlxxx.


  • Businesses believe only 27 percent of workers have the skills they needlxxxi. 75 percent of employees agree that continuous education is essential to their success, yet nearly half don’t believe that they’re receiving the training they need to stay relevantlxxxii
  • If a micro-accreditation system does indeed appear imminently, the whole paradigm of tasks, jobs and skills will change.
  • Increased personalisation.

Energy, Oil and Gas

‘If the first phase of COVID-19’s effects on the global energy system is a story of energy consumption, oil demand, and emissions, the second phase will be how emerging supply chains of the energy transition shift,’ says Jennifer Gordon at Atlantic Councillxxxiii

While low oil prices for a sustained period could slow decarbonisation efforts, it is also likely to cause a longer-term oil supply contraction – some 6 percent by 2030lxxxiv. Together with the prolonged interest rate slump that is conducive to long-term financing of cleaner systems, this could, on balance, accelerate the transitionlxxxv. The IEA says that the crisis could wipe out demand for fossil fuels, with renewable electricity possibly the only source to withstand the biggest shock in 70 yearslxxxvi.

Even before the collapse of the oil price, many oil majors had already engaged in their pivot. BP has announced plans to achieve net zero emissions by 2050, while Total has stated that renewable investment is its priority. More specifically, Enerco and Shell are jointly investing in offshore wind, while Repsol and Equinor continue to purchase solar and wind energy capacity. These moves hint at an acknowledgment of the industry’s longterm sustainability or lack thereoflxxxvii. The degree to which the current crisis can catalyse change will likely have differing political footprints with regards to green stimulus money for example, but the opportunity is certainly there to accelerate the shift from the burning platform and onto new models. Might Qatar or other LNG heavy nations wish to completely abolish the gas-oil indexationlxxxviii? Might divestment of fossil fuel assets become incumbents’ key strategic future driver?


  • LNG talent wars and broader skills shortages when the industry rebounds.
  • Deloitte suggests that ‘…some of the larger healthier companies may alter or accelerate their plans to diversify into other energy segments, prompting a change in business modellxxxix.’
  • More partnerships with unrelated sectors as new models demand new skills, reach and approach.
  • Inefficient or highly leveraged companies may face a liquidity crisis or the end of operations.
  • Current structures of oil and gas markets – the oil industry itself may wither.


  • A market replete with depressed oil prices, revenue, and subsequently production declines will prove tricky to navigate for those unable to a) refinance debtxc, and/or b) diversify the business model.
  • The state of the global economy/ geopolitics.
  • Sourcing the talent for the future.


  • Low interest rates to fund long-term projects.
  • Green stimulus in European countries.
  • Creating sustainable business models.

Financial Advisors

Prior to COVID, two of the biggest trends for wealth management focused on AsiaPacific’s household wealth growth and the rise of female financial power. While Asia was on track to eclipse North America’s by 2023xci, women were expected to account for 60 percent of the UK’s wealth by 2025xcii. There is now uncertainty regarding these trends, with the former possibly accelerated and the latter slowed. 

Platformisation, use of AI and increasing personalisation have become more likely. In 2019, just 5 years after Ant Financial Services was launched, the number of consumers using its services passed the 1 billion mark. AI, not human workers, runs the showxciii. 8 out of every 10 Ant Financial customers use at least 3 of its 5 primary servicesxciv. Such models and technology can, at scale, provide cheaper and personalised advice, especially if Netflix style financial data markets emerge.

Hyper-personalised advice that closely follows client’s individuals’ goals is likely to appear by 2030, with 80 percent of advisors predicted to offer this ‘bite-size,’ approachxcv

With customers seeking both greater value and a different scale of approach, ‘…in the next 10 years, advisors will gradually shed their role as investment managers and become more like ‘integrated life/wealth coaches’ who advise clients on investments, banking, healthcare, protection, taxes, estate, and financial wellness needs more broadlyxcvi.’  Such a shift will have consequences for industry recruiting – including new talent pathways – as well as continuous training and education. 


  • On-demand Netflix style models for financial data.
  • A new breed of advisor.
  • Assets managed ESG fund could reach $2.08 trillion by 2025xcvii.
  • Robo-advisor use could nearly double in the next five yearsxcviii.
  • High fees for traditional services.


  • Re-evalute enterprise risk management frameworks for tech, operational and reputational risks.
  • New models and value propositions needed for Gen Y.
  • Competition from other financial professionals, such as accountants.


  • Model multiple business model scenarios & develop contingencies.
  • By 2030 the share of global wealth held by Baby Boomers will be surpassed by Gen X and Millennialsxcix
  • 60 percent of younger investors report they are concerned about ensuring their financial well-being, about twice the level of Baby Boomersc

Food and Farming

In the short-term, many international production and trade channels are likely to be interrupted due to a combination of possible worker scarcity, freight volatility and even the banning of certain food exports from some countriesci. Beyond the crisis, notions of food security will sustain importance, and have a lasting impact – witness Abu Dhabi’s recent $100m investment in indoor farmingcii.

The world’s population is set to grow by 2.2 billion between now and 2050ciii, and given that this is in tandem with rising prosperity, it is forecast that we will need an extra 70 percent of food than we did in 2009civ. Despite the serious challenge of climate change, a range of technologies, from GPS and drones to robotics could help achieve much of the needed gains. 

To facilitate a sustainable breakthrough, the future of food is going to have to depart radically from its traditions. This is unavoidable if we are to sustain a growing array of environmental, economic and social needs. Business as usual, plus technology, as in so many other industries, will probably not meet the multiple demands being placed on food producers. 

Given the water intensiveness of meat, for example, alternatives are needed. Indeed, the alternative meat industry could become toward a $140bn market by 2030 and by 2040, AT Kearney believes that 60 percent of all meat will either be grown in vats or come from textured plant proteinscv. It is perhaps worth noting that 3D printing could also become a viable production method of proteins, however unappetising that sounds. 

Regardless, the shift from industrialised agriculture to scientific agriculture could be one of the most important changes in the last hundred years or so. UBS notes that ‘…the ability to grow food in a lab that replicates meat, fish, eggs, and dairy products — with lower carbon footprint and without the need to slaughter animals — is likely to become a commercially viable option in the next decadecvi.’ WEF suggests that food computers could be the future of agriculturecvii. Precision fermentation and the ‘food-as-software’ trend are helping dramatically lower manufactured protein cost. By 2030, the U.S market for ground beef could shrink by 70 percent, the steak market by 30 percent and the dairy market by 90 percentcviii.


  • Farming is already, in places, a highly digital industry. It will become more so. 
  • Fully autonomous farm equipment is already becoming commercially available, meaning machines can completely take over many taskscix
  • More locally grown foods.
  • Alternative meat and protein products.
  • Farm employment numbers.


  • Value chain players need to build bridges between today and what food production could look like tomorrow.
  • Forming partnerships with competitor industries.
  • New skills and talent needs.


  • Sourcing strategies and supply chains can be reimagined.
  • Diversifying business models.
  • Sustainable production.

Government/Public sector

A range of companies will need to explore ‘…public-private partnerships wherever applicable. Companies’ best partner in recovery may be a local municipality, mayor, governor, a regional committee, or a country’s governing bodycx.’ With these new relationships blurring the lines between private and public sectors, public services may be able to tap new sources of innovation, new skillsets and new ideas.

In the UK, the Economist reports that the ‘NHS struck a deal at cost price with private hospitals for beds, ventilators and clinicians and to improve data usecxi.’ Longer-term however, the links formed not to mention the growth of GovTech to $1 trillion by 2025, from $400bn nowcxii, suggest deep-seated change in how public services operate, and indeed even what they do. Putting aside the future role, scope and structure of the state, the day to day workings of government will shift. For one, the barriers that have traditionally halted government in the widespread adoption of flexible working are being overcomecxiii, albeit imperfectly with culture and cybersecurity sometimes lagging technology.

The nature of many public-sector jobs is also likely to change, with some 42 percent of core job skills set to change as soon as 2022cxiv. The skills needed to utilise data analytics and the suite of AI technologies differ quite substantially from what most public sectors can provide. For those able to attract, train or access such talent through partnerships, these technologies could change the scope of public services as well as boost existing efficiency. Natural language processing, for example, is cited by Deloitte as able to ‘…provide the tools needed to identify patterns and glean insights from data, allowing government agencies to improve operations, identify potential risks, solve crimes and improve public servicescxv.’ 

Together with predictive analytics and machine learning, such systems could become more anticipatory, connected and thus able to scale to meet various demand. Various public sector bodies could also benefit from augmenting their workforce, with AI and automation cited in the U.S, as able to free up to 1.2 billion federal working hours and induce annual savings of $41.1 billioncxvi.


  • A greater discussion about the role of government and how to fund public services.
  • Greater use of certain technologies will make governments less dependent on physical locations and, potentially, more resilient to any future crisiscxvii.
  • Predictive services.
  • More public-private partnerships and other enhanced forms of collaboration.
  • Significant uncertainty around future government finances and funding.


  • Technology doesn’t work in a vacuum. Already scarce talent and skills will be needed.
  • Coordinating the energy, leadership and will to further transform after the COVID-19 catastrophe abates.


  • Create citizen-centric services.
  • Provide better service at lower cost.


The demands and restrictions of COVID have forced grocers of varying digital capacity into full on transformation efforts at speed. Pre-COVID, the online grocery market stood at 8 percent of the total market, while that figure is likely to reach around 15 percent as a direct result of COVIDcxviii. Future intent for online grocery shopping is mixed, however. Consumers in the UK, Italy, and Japan intend to increase their share of online grocery shopping, while American, German, French, and Spanish consumers intend to do lesscxix.

Once the crisis is over, not only will IT capacity need revisiting, stores will need to develop a strategy for introducing safe and innovative ways of rebuilding brickand-mortar grocery shoppingcxx

Perhaps most prominently, ‘Just Walk Out’ shopping and other smart checkout tech pioneered by the likes of AmazonGo that minimise queuing could create a $45 billion market by 2023cxxi. Sustainability could also become a key and actionable driver of success; while 98 percent of business executives see the IoT contributing to a sustainable future, only half currently use data and connectivity to support such effortscxxii

Harvard Business Review correctly notes that ‘…the next generation of smart assistants and connected devices will learn from user habits and pick up on behavioural and environmental patterns in order to make these experiences more predictivecxxiii.’ Demonstrating and delivering value to the customer will be key in gaining trust and acceptance as models become ever more consumercentric and perhaps even more local as vertical farming offers new possibilities for reducing food miles and so on.

Of equal import is that there are more points at which we can engage consumers (both physically and in hybrid forms), especially with forthcoming micro-GPS that can better contextualise data to within mere feet of our position, and the ambient passivity with which we will ‘interact,’ with technology. Emerging data sources and forms of personalisation will ultimately spawn new services and even industries, enabling retailers to add value in entirely new ways – perhaps by creating shopping lists for specific health conditions or personal life goals, for example.


  • Blockchain forecast to be used for 20 percent of leading grocers by 2025cxxiv
  • Design thinking for store layout.
  • Fluid consumer wants and needs.
  • Traditional supply chains.
  • Old layouts.


  • Adjusting to sudden consumer changes and segments.
  • Investing in technology coherently.
  • Aligning tech to overall strategy.


  • Greener solutions throughout the supply chain.
  • P2P logistics for delivery.
  • More localism.

Commentators suggest that ‘…very few things could rival COVID-19 for catalyzing and accelerating the long-anticipated transformation of healthcarecxxv.’ During the initial outbreak, China moved at pace to shift half of all medical care onlinecxxvi. Telemedicine was already reaching a turning point in Asia-Pacific. COVID has prompted the number of new users on Ping An Good Doctor, a Chinese healthcare services platform, to rise nearly 900 percent in January 2020, compared with December 2019cxxvii.

This adds impetus to the increasing technological capability to redesign healthcare models. For example, technologies such as the Medwand, a diagnostic tool not much bigger than a computer mouse, can ‘…listen to your heart and lungs, measure respiratory rates and blood oxygen levels, take your temperature, scan your skin and even peer at your tonsilscxxviii.’ 

Such tools are likely to raise the efficacy, utility and attractiveness of digital home health, with Peter Diamandis suggesting that ‘…we’re going to see Apple and Amazon and Google and all the datadriven companies that are in our homes right now become our healthcare providerscxxix.’ The foundations for this model are already in place: Alexa has partnered with the NHS to field routine health questions, and with numerous healthcare insurers in the U.S, while Apple’s HealthKit connects Apple’s products and electronic medical records with healthcare providers. Indeed, Apple’s ‘healthcare plans now appear to extend beyond adding features to AppleWatch, as it researches photomedicine techniques for use in medical cases ranging from opthalmology to surgerycxxx.’ 

Healthcare will be moving toward patientcentric models that seek to prevent disease as much as cure it. Although new regulatory, organisational and business models would be needed, 96 percent agree that the future of healthcare will be people-drivencxxxi, while 68 percent expect this scenario to be the norm in major healthcare markets by 2030.

China’s COVID-19 response has seen 5G thermal imaging now supporting contagion monitoring and accurately detecting a person’s temperature in real-time as they move around a citycxxxii. Physicians, meanwhile, expect almost a third of their current duties to be automated in 20 yearscxxxiii. The acceleration of this in the presence of COVID-19 ravaged healthcare systems could be sudden, farreaching, and dramatic.


  • The future of healthcare would appear increasingly decentralised, networked, automated and likely features our home at the heart of our own personalised health ecosystems. 
  • Our health data at our fingertips.
  • DIY diagnostics and treatments.
  • Waiting for appointments.
  • Hospitals as centres of healthcare system.


  • Regulatory barriers.
  • Big Tech and privacy.
  • Ecosystem formation.


  • Personalised/preventative healthcare.
  • Reducing healthcare as a percentage of GDP while boosting outcomes.
  • New advisor-type health roles.
Human Resourcing and Recruitment               

COVID-19 is changing the recruiting and hiring processcxxxiv, perhaps for good, but this is not enough to make the function future ready. New ways of working, team formation, collaboration across multiple industries and public-private spaces will all demand a new range of skills and HR approach. This could accelerate the prediction that by 2024, more than onethird of the skills believed essential for today’s workforce would changecxxxv.

If the COVID crisis has emphasized anything, it is the need for agility. This is already partially acknowledged, with 57 percent of HR executives saying that if HR does not modernise its approach, it will become irrelevant within the modern organisationcxxxvi. Reskilling and the provision of it would appear as one clear proxy for agility. However, while 78 percent of employees indicate a readiness to reskill, only 45 percent of execs think their current workforce can adapt. Furthermore, investing in future learning is only fourth on HR’s priority listcxxxvii.

COVID could also further blur the distinctions between customer, candidate and employeecxxxviii, as technologies, processes and even ‘ownership’ of a given brand overlap and become more fluid. Planning to engage these blurring segments will become increasingly possible with the rise of platforms such as HireSweet, which aim to help employers find candidates that are not actively looking to change jobscxxxix. Building networks of ‘pre-workers’ able to contribute to problems, ideate and so on could become a standard practice for organisations.

Accessing skills, talent and ideas will likely see more fluid organisational boundaries. The concept of a small core team surrounded by agile on-demand teams is more than a possibility as we enter the mid 2020’s. Forrester meanwhile, foresees an era in which core staff, expertise-as-a-service and robots will work side by side on teams that form to address a specific initiative – and dissolve as those needs expirecxl.


  • Our current concept of work silos.
  • Work in and alongside automated systems.
  • New talent pathways, recruitment tech and access to talent.
  • HR as an admin centre.
  • Execs unable to envision and deliver the future.


  • HR becomes too important to be left to HR alone.
  • Ensuring future facing talent becomes a key priority.
  • Integrating robots and other facets of automation with the human workforce.


  • The strategic view of future needs.
  • Develop an agile model able to quickly access talent.
  • Solving talent shortages can also be achieved via work design strategies focused on structure, workflow and systemscxli.
Information Technology/Communications

IT and communications are on the verge of becoming ambient, embedded and to an extent, become part of other products and services. The IoT will turn any object into a gadget and communications tool. 

Surveillance technologies emerging from the COVID period, such as Taiwan’s electronic fence or China’s use of drones and mobile phone positioning, highlight the trade-offs between liberty and securitycxlii. This crisis may also be a point at which IT and communications system develop in a new way. 

Security will likely triumph over privacy in the years ahead in the struggle against COVID. Tech companies, large and small, were already looking to innovate with location-tracking technology – and this will acceleratecxliii. Yet a huge gap is opening between technological possibilities and the reality many companies find themselves in.

For example, 90 percent of businesses do not consider themselves as IT resilientcxliv, even though by 2022, some 80 percent of revenue growth will likely depend on digital offeringscxlv

The role of IT will need to change accordingly. IT could cease to be a standalone functional organisation but is perhaps equally unlikely to become a fully decentralised competency that feeds tools, expertise, capabilities into the wider organisation. Rather, ‘…IT could be deeply federated with a central control frameworkcxlvi.’ CIOs roles, already strained by COVID-19, will need to be reimagined as a result of systems further shifting away from traditional control or provision and towards an ‘ambient’ type framework.


  • New communications methods, including AR, VR and possibly without wordscxlvii.
  • By 2025, 70 percent of IT functions will be completely automated, claims Oracle cxlviii
  • Small paper and plastic devices will be able to connect to the internet for a short duration, providing information on everythingcxlix
  • IT and communications will be ubiquitous and ambient.
  • The boundary between IT and communications, and IT and the organisation will further erode.


  • New CIO skills and aptitudes required.
  • Balancing privacy and security – especially in the post-COVID period.
  • Building data systems capable of supporting ubiquitous data.


  • Chance to rethink core functions of the company and its organisational chart imprint.
  • IoT based business models.
  • Reorient current business models and strategies across a range of industries.


Recessions usually initiate an acceleration in business model change, but the type of deep-seated economic shock COVID will unleash has the potential to compound another existing trend of technology enabling entirely new categories of businessescl

Traditional efforts to innovate in this way are often thwarted. McKinsey notes that 70 percent of complex change programmes result in failurecli whilst only half of reorganisations are deemed successfulclii. Legacy assets, cultures and previous success all conspire against innovation in many big firms. Yet Gary Hamel of the London Business School notes that while ‘…in a small crisis power moves to the centre, (in a big one) it moves to the peripherycliii.’ This could change the nature of innovation strategies for a prolonged period, especially if successful solutions are found.

Solutions for the short-term have already proliferated. American food distributor Sysco, for example, built ‘…an entirely new supply chain and billing system to serve grocery stores in less than a weekcliv.’   

Designing organisation models that allow for urgent and rapid innovation will become a pre-requisite for future success. This redesign must be holistic –oriented towards employees just as much as consumers. Companies spend $1 trillion on the customer journey, yet around one thousand times less on employees’ journeysclv. Such an imbalance makes innovation more likely to fail and remains a clear space for exploration.

Might we also change our definition of innovation as a result of the pandemic? MIT Technology Review argues that the pandemic has revealed that the US has largely been distracted by ‘software-driven bling,’ and ‘…is no longer very good at coming up with new ideas and technologies relevant to our most basic needsclvi.’ Might we measure innovation in a different way, to account for rural areas and others traditionally overlookedclvii?


  • New metrics for measuring it.
  • More outside-in/bottom-up ideation.
  • New business categories (mash-ups)
  • Focus on core human issues.
  • New focus on employees.
  • Relegation of top-down strategies.


  • Only a fifth of execs believe they understand the best ways to achieve agility and innovationclviii.
  • Regulations and legal systems constrain innovation.
  • Overcoming old approaches and cultural resistance.


  • Create new cross-industry solutions.
  • Shift innovation from a department to an organisational ‘process.’
  • Move beyond Silicon Valley definitions of innovation.


McKinsey believes that the US and Eurozone’s economies could take until 2023 to fully recover from the impact of the COVID-19 crisisclix, while the World Economic Forum suggests that ‘…the industries hardest hit by COVID-19, including commercial aerospace, travel and insurance, may see a slower recoveryclx,’ than others. 

Insurers not dependent on paper-based applications and processes will almost certainly stand a better chance than analogue insurers in surviving what is almost certainly set to be a period in which insurers – possibly many of them – failclxi. This may prove especially true in areas of the industry with unscaled and untried comms technologies, or else those lacking digital workflow tools or possessing only limited virtual or mobile work capabilitiesclxii

Earlier in 2020 it had been reported that insurtech funding over the next five years was forecast to be greater than the prior 10 years combinedclxiii. The depth and length of the crisis may well impact the viability of many insurtechs, perhaps lending insurers the upper hand in acquiring new ideas and innovation on the cheap. 

Indeed, the longer-term impact of the crisis may be to drive a wave of digitalisation and innovation in the industry as market conditions prohibit the continuation of incremental change or else business as usual. Some 89 percent of insurers expect that, within five years, personalised insurance will be expected as a standard practiceclxiv. Closer engagement with customers will demand insurers develop greater levels of trust, real-time data analytics ability and the organisation structure able to respond in real-time. This goal will take a new commitment to digital transformation, with omnichannel service capabilities and other capabilities rising in importance not just for the acute phase of the crisis, but the period afterwardsclxv.

Asia will continue to innovate in advance of Europe and North America. In China For example, Ping An, already uses AI to recruit and train its 1.5 million agents, who are deemed 50 percent more efficient than their competitionclxvi.


  • Digitally transformed insurers.
  • Personalised services and products.
  • Insurtech boom.
  • Product driven policies.
  • Legacy culture and technologies.


  • Diversifying sources of income.
  • Developing leadership and midmanagement cadre capable of transitioning to digital.
  • Ensuring digital does not just become a veneer.


  • Pivot towards necessary investment in digital capabilities and people.
  • Developing new ways of working, communicating and transacting business.
  • Becoming more relevant and trusted by consumers starting with actions taken today.

Insurance Brokers

In May 2019, 51 percent of insurance brokers acknowledged concern for the future of their businessclxvii. The challenges arising from the COVID crisis are very real, but so too are the opportunities for those willing to accelerate their transition and skills acquisition. 

On the one hand, ‘50 percent of the top 30 insurance brokers are backed by private equity, and publicly-traded brokers have dropped by 30 percent since February in anticipation of future business strainclxviii.’ On the other hand, COVID has increased the already significant potential for brokers concerning emerging risks. 

Insurance brokers could therefore morph in relatively quick order to becoming risk facilitation leadersclxix. 70 percent of brokers think AI ‘…will enable them to work smarter and offer personalised solutions to clients,clxx’ but a broader emphasis on data will be required. A better understanding of the role of IoT in risk handling is one example of where sophisticated analytical tools could be used to help brokers develop ever more granular data and resultant consumercentric servicesclxxi

Brokers are already repositioning as underwriting and risk advisorsclxxii, COVID could bring forwards the immediate value in strengthening these customer relationships.


  • Better data qualityclxxiii will emerge, requiring better collaboration and transparency needed for brokers, insurers and risk managers.
  • New insurance services will be created. Brokers that leverage necessary data at speed will emerge and excelclxxiv.
  • Asia as the main innovation source.
  • Risk placement will always be important to commercial insurance brokers but will no longer be their sole focus.
  • Non-digital brokers/brokerages.


  • Extensive re-skilling could see brokers include underwriting & risk advisory services.
  • To succeed in a digital world, brokers must demonstrate their ability to add value to the market. 
  • Establishing the collaboration and buyin needed to create the future insurance ecosystem.


  • Brokers focusing on customer support could help prove the value of the relationship modelclxxv.
  • Speed, accuracy and convenience can help brokers be a key part in the hybridisation of physical and digital systems clxxvi
  • Lead the creation of new industry ecosystems.

The Big Break – Post-pandemic ‘New-Normal’ | Part 3 – … To be continued/…

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