FOR some people, working from home means converting their TV screen for trading.
Ordered to stay home for two months, Filipinos learned to adapt to the “new normal” and realized that going to office daily physically may not be the best course of action considering the risk of contracting the highly infectious coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19).
Companies were forced to adopt continuity plans to avoid massive business disruption during the enhanced community quarantine (ECQ, now the modified ECQ) while many employees learned to establish “offices” in the comfort of their homes.
For Kevin Palma, peso sovereign debt trader of Robinsons Bank Corp., he converted his flat screen TV into a trading platform and gathered four more gadgets to help him trade at home and make up for the four screens he uses in the office.
“I have about four gadgets helping me trade at home. All of those have functions such as trading platforms, real-time news, charts, reading e-mail, my recorded communication with counterparties and colleagues, etc.,” he said in an interview conducted via Viber.
For a job that entails huge risks especially in terms of data protection, he said Robinsons Bank was quick to provide them with the needed tools and support for their work-from-home (WFH) setup ( in his case, trade from home), without compromising work quality and classified information.
“Even before the ECQ was implemented, Robinsons Bank proactively triggered business continuity measures including splitting the operations into two or more sites while adopting a skeleton force, just to name a few,” he said.
His work routine also changed with the work from home scheme, noting that the line dividing work and rest has blurred.
“The thing is, ever since I started working from home, there is this urge to be productive as soon as I wake up. Unlike before, I needed to get ready and drive going to the office and that somehow enables me to warm-up and think how I will be able to attack the day,” he said.
But in terms of work quality, he said nothing changed drastically as he still aims to deliver the same output quality, if not better, so his colleagues and higher-ups will not feel any difference.
“At the end of day, the company provides us with so many tools to be able to work from home efficiently and the least we can do as employees is to give it back and work accordingly,” he said.
Aside from adjusting to his new work setup and work routine, he recalled that the first few days of the lockdown “presented unforeseen challenges across all industries and the first week of it was a pivotal moment to adjust from the old to the new normal.”
“In the case of financial markets, everyone had to adjust to the new normal and digest everything that’s happening as COVID-19 cases continued to escalate at that time and we were just in the initial stage of the global health pandemic,” he said.
It was around mid-March when the benchmark Philippine Stock Exchange index (PSEi) posted its biggest single-day drop since the global financial crisis in 2018 as pandemic fears spooked investors.
Looking back, the Philippines was the first country to shut all financial markets amid the pandemic during the first day of the Luzon lockdown on March 17.
Officials attributed the sudden but temporary shutdown to oversight when the services arm for trading Philippine Dealing & Exchange Corp. (PDEx), securities Philippine Depository & Trust Corp. (PDTC), and payment and transfer Philippine Securities Settlement Corp. (PSSC) were not exempted from home quarantine protocols.
Exemptions were given the following day, prompting the market platforms to resume operations within the week but adopting shortened hours.
For fixed-income trading, the schedule of the pre-open session at 8:30 a.m. and morning session of 9 a.m. to noon were retained, while the break period was shortened to 12:00-12:59 p.m. The start of the afternoon session was moved earlier to 1 p.m. from 2 p.m. previously, and the closing of the market is now at 2 p.m., from 4 p.m., previously.
Following the new work setup, Mr. Palma starts his day at 7 a.m. to go about his morning routine and get ready for his 8:30 a.m. daily virtual meeting with his colleagues and bosses via Microsoft Teams during which they discuss their strategies for the day before formally starting the trading day at 9 a.m.
He usually spends his one-hour lunch period working on the reports he needs to finish and squeezes in a light snack before government securities reopen at 1 p.m.
“The GS market ends at 2 p.m. daily and from there I do my end-of- day reports that I need to report to the management,” he said.
Mr. Palma said there are pros and cons to working from home, and for someone who learned to adapt like he did, he said remote working benefits both the employees and the company.
“Looking forward, I think the work from home scheme is sustainable for some since it saves a reciprocal deal of time and money for both the employees and the company,” he said.
“Satellite trading is not as exciting as trading onsite but the technology is exactly the same as we had in the workplace minus the social interactions with colleagues,” he added. — Beatrice M. Laforga