Two primary issues have made things difficult for businesses this year. One is obvious: the pandemic has disrupted swaths of the economy, sinking revenues, interrupting supply chains and forcing the U.S. into a recession after years of consistent growth. The other is the upcoming presidential election, which threatens to introduce regulatory and financial changes. What both have in common is that each has introduced a great deal of uncertainty.
“Both economies and financial markets don’t do terribly well with uncertainties,” said Mike Ryan, UBS Global Wealth Management Chief Investment Officer, during the opening panel of the Philadelphia Dealmakers Conference on Managing Through Uncertainty. Regardless of the outcome of the election, he expects policy and regulatory changes will be made that will affect planning for businesses — and how the landscape for acquisitions looks.
Michael Araten, president and CEO of Sterling Drive Ventures, acknowledged that it’s a very difficult time. But the challenges in the market have enabled some businesses to do better than expected — his business, for instance, found success by pivoting to create personal protective equipment.
It’s not, however, just about what one business does. Companies are seeing their customers struggle — whether that means they weren’t able to stay open during the shutdowns, or that revenue shortfalls have made it difficult to pay vendors.
John Savercool, senior lobbyist and head of the U.S. office of public policy for UBS, said the results of the election may not be known on election nights, given the expected record number of mail-in ballots expected to come through, all of which need to be processed. If it’s ultimately a close race, it could also require resolution through the judiciary, all of which could prolong the uncertainty, or, worse, create unrest. For businesses, it could mean an inability to plan into 2021 while waiting for the results to be confirmed.
“The markets don’t like surprises,” said the panel’s moderator, Ted Durkin, managing director of UBS Financial Services.
Within this environment, there’s still M&A activity, especially in the health sectors, Ryan said. There’s also venture capital activity flowing into health services seeds to fuel the needs of larger companies looking to innovate through these challenges. A lot of capital and activity, he said, will be focused around med-tech, at least in the short-term.
“It’s an area where we continue to see growth,” Ryan says.
Watch the video above to catch everything Ryan, Araten, Savercool and Durkin discussed during their Dealmakers Conference session on Managing Through Uncertainty.