18 Dec 2020

News

2020 – A year like no other

At the end of a year unlike any we have ever known, our chief executive, Joy Phillips, reflects on 2020, the challenges that it created and the resilience it has brought out in us all.

As we come to the end of what has been an incredibly challenging year, I think it’s safe to say that we’re all looking forward to putting 2020 behind us and looking forward to a more positive 2021.

It’s hard to believe that this time last year we had no idea what was in store for us all. As we all celebrated Christmas as usual and welcomed in the New Year, no-one could have known that 2020 would be a year we would all remember forever – for all the wrong reasons!

We’ve all had to endure so much this year, both personally and professionally, but as leaders of our business, we are incredibly proud of the spirit and resilience that our teams have shown and – thanks to a huge amount of hard work and flexibility – the results that they have produced. Many of our colleagues have gone above and beyond their normal roles and responsibilities for the good of our clients and to support each other. It has been truly heart-warming to see and makes me proud to call everyone one of them a colleague and a friend.

Despite all the challenges we’ve been presented with, we still managed to hit our business targets and provide a level of client service that we are all extremely proud of.

Like so many other organisations across the country, we moved a large proportion of our staff to remote working and they all adapted quickly to the new working practices, often juggling childcare and home-schooling commitments. As a provider of essential services, however, we needed to maintain some presence in the office throughout both the national and local lockdowns.  We were able to accommodate this by putting in place all the necessary COVID-safe working guidelines, giving clients the option of either meeting remotely or face-to-face.

While several of our services were hit hard by the pandemic, some departments have been busier than ever. Our conveyancing team, for example, have dealt with 11% more new instructions compared to 2019 – a staggering number when you consider that the housing market was locked down throughout April and May. With more and more people wanting to get their affairs in order or make changes to their home lives as a result of lockdown, our Wills and Family teams have also seen an increased demand for their services this year. And with businesses facing a whole host of employment challenges, our Employment Law team has been helping them navigate their way through the minefield of job retention schemes and employee returns to work.

Within Harding Evans, we have also used the opportunity this year to make some key strategic investments and developments to the business so that we are in the best possible shape when we emerge from this pandemic.  We have appointed several key individuals who we believe will be key to helping us grow our business, as well as making a significant investment in a business-wide IT system that will help us improve efficiencies, information flow and service delivery.

With promising news of the vaccine rollout now giving us all some much needed light at the end of this very long tunnel, we have high hopes that we will be able to return to some sort of normality over the course of next year, although we appreciate it won’t happen overnight.

As we look forward to 2021, we are planning to develop our own bespoke IT systems and programmes that will sit alongside the main capital expenditure investment.  Our in-house developers are currently working on a new online client portal which will further improve our client service and bring considerable efficiencies to our day-to-day operations, making it even easier for clients to communicate with us and for us to capture essential information from them.

So as we put 2020 to bed, we can all look back and be grateful that, for most of us, while life has had its challenges and inconveniences, we are able to spend Christmas with our loved ones – something that not everyone will be able to do.  Hopefully by this time next year the more negative aspects of 2020 will have faded into distant memory, although I do hope we can hang onto those positives and appreciate all that there is to be cheerful about and thankful for.

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