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Road to New Reality

Podcast: Listen as CEOs reveal the future of business

Introducing the Road to New Reality podcast series, dedicated to exploring your questions about the future of business. Tune in as CEOs give insights into a post Covid-19 reality.


Covid-19 has put business continuity plans in the spotlight. In this first episode of the Road to Reality podcast series, our guest Sean O'Driscoll talks about planning for any eventuality, no matter how improbable.

Guest: Sean O'Driscoll, Managing Director - Country Head, Universal Investments
Interviewer: Stefan Kraiker, Partner, KPMG Luxembourg
Host: Rachel Featherstun, Presenter, KPMG Luxembourg


RACHEL FEATHERSTUN: There’s a light at the end of the tunnel, and with this light comes a new reality. But what will this new reality mean for the future of business? Listen as CEOs give the partners at KPMG their two cents of advice on how to best prepare for a post Covid-19 economy. My name’s Rachel Featherstun and this is Road to New Reality podcast. Each episode will give listeners an inside peak at lessons learned and what to expect for the future. In this episode we touch base with Sean O’Driscoll, Managing Director – Country Head at Universal Investments in Luxembourg who emphasizes the importance of being prepared for any risk regardless of how outlandish or improbable it might seem!

Over to our asset management Partner Stefan Kraiker to kick off the conversation.

STEFAN KRAIKER: Thanks, Rachel, for the introduction, hi everyone, I am Stefan Kraiker and I am an asset management partner here at KPMG Luxembourg. So Sean, thanks for being on the show today, my first question is….

Why was Universal able to respond so quickly to the crisis?

SEAN O’DRISCOLL: The regular BCP testing, the ones that we all go through on an ongoing basis, and our teams wonder why we go through this on an annual basis. Those well-designed plans and the tests themselves really is what led us to be in the position that we are in now to service our clients and continue managing through this crisis.

STEFAN KRAIKER: So, what will you be taking forward from this as we go into the next phase of building resilience?

SEAN O’DRISCOLL: The crisis did highlight how flexible models must be and how capable we must be to adapt and that we need to anticipate risk whose probability may sometimes seem very low, this is crucial which we have gone through in the BCP testing and sometimes can be easily overlooked.

STEFAN KRAIKER: Now a major part of Business Continuity is homeworking. Did all go perfectly to plan?

SEAN O’DRISCOLL: We had some concerns outside of the normal environment, we are in the home office or we are in an offsite location. Can we still work together while working on different projects or complex issues or challenges there? So that is something that we quickly overcame based on the technology that we had in place leveraging the audio and the visual. This really worked well with our clients with our teams with board meetings. So that challenge that we faced, quickly went away as we started to work in this environment.

STEFAN KRAIKER: How will you build out from this as we go into deconfinement?

SEAN O’DRISCOLL: So, the way we look at it is we didn’t come this far to take multiple steps back, so we really wanted to take a measured approach here. On the basis and coordination with the government and regulators of course. Our approach would be to apply a partial and gradual deconfinement. We remain flexible with our team based on their personal situations, I think that is key for us. We don’t want to force people back into the office we have the technology, we have everything up and running it’s working very well so we really want to make sure that we take the right approach for our colleagues and to manage the business. In preparation for our team’s gradual integration back into the office we will implement the regulatory requirements of course, along with probably stricter measures of number of employees per office, the two-meter distancing, necessary protections such as masks, barriers if need be. We will have rules visible throughout the building just to make sure that it’s clear. And of course, we will be circulating that to teams before they come back to the office and when they come back. Other measures we may take is we will have a further clean desk policy, so disinfecting work areas, issuing masks, gloves where necessary, every employee will have hand sanitizers available to them. We really want to make sure we have strict measures also including those common areas such as kitchens and elevators. So, you know, once again the health and safety of our employees is our priority the team is our biggest asset, so we need to remain flexible, it is crucial for how we manage this crisis going forward and how we go forward with the integration plan. How we are organized now, our set up and our approach really allows us to easily adapt to different scenarios. We’re in a good situation there…. taking into account we’re in a crisis situation.

STEFAN KRAIKER: Yeh, it feels like the industry as a whole has reacted really well to such an unusual scenario…

SEAN O’DRISCOLL: I think that in my experience going through this everyone that I’m dealing with is prepared and is going very well! And if we’re not, in my personal view we put the risk on our clients and also the industry.

STEFAN KRAIKER: Now let’s turn to the new reality post Covid-19. Should we expect any surprises or changes to asset allocation?

SEAN O’DRISCOLL: What can be observed in my view is that when a crisis happens, they rethink their allocation. So, I think there’s been a focus on ESG, it’s not an asset class as such but ESG has outperformed many other asset classes. And ESG has gained momentum over the years for obvious reasons. The question will be has this crisis given it further impetus? We experience continuation of traditional asset classes, alternatives is the same. I mean we service 90% of our products are in the alt space. This has been an ongoing trend and based on what we see from our clients it continues to go in that direction. What we will have to look at is the repricing and real estate market and illiquid assets as well. That’s still to come but we’ll see where that takes us.

STEFAN KRAIKER: So, you think we’ll see a real change?

SEAN O’DRISCOLL: For us what we see it seems like it will be a long term out performance of ESG. It seems that may continue. Based on what I was highlighting earlier and then if we look at the crisis, how we’ve experienced this crisis. How the countries, or some of the cities, major cities, you know the drop-in pollution levels, the clear waters in Venice, wildlife adventuring into areas that normally they’re not seen, where humans are. So, this is really taking a change to the environment. Do we take a step back and go greener? Focus more on sustainable investments? You know, I think time will tell.

About Road to New Reality podcast

There is no handbook for recovering from a pandemic crisis and no two businesses will rebuild the same way. Listen as CEOS reveal what comes next for their business.

Bookmark this page to access the latest episode and replay your favorites.


Ravi Beegun


KPMG Luxembourg
Tel.: +352 22 51 51 6248

David Capocci


KPMG Luxembourg
Tel: +352 22 51 51 5110

Chrystelle Veeckmans


KPMG Luxembourg
Tel.: +352 22 51 51 6244

Valeria Merkel


KPMG Luxembourg
Tel.: +352 22 51 51 6732