Seven lessons for investors from 2021

It’s the end of 2021, the year that was supposed to herald the opening up of a brave new post-pandemic world.

That wasn’t quite how things worked out. We approach this festive season with restrictions reimposed and the threat of more to come… just like last year.

Who would put money on 2022 taking over as the year of renewal we expected of 2021?

Here’s what we’ve learned from the year that wasn’t quite what we thought it would be.

Lesson 1: it’s not over until it’s over

Don’t assume you know exactly how things will pan out. Read the evidence, look at the track record, but realise that events happen that can always throw a spanner into the works. Having a Plan B has never seemed a better idea.

Lesson 2: for every winner, there are many losers

There have been staggering wealth gains during the last year or so for those at the very top of the tree, but many millions more were pushed into poverty.

This is capitalism at its rawest – but the majority of evidence-based investors will have had a good year, returns-wise.

Lesson 3: we can’t get enough of experts.

From the scientists whose brilliance brought us the vaccine; to the doctors, nurses, paramedics and healthcare workers who kept the NHS going under almost impossible circumstances; to the teachers who kept our children learning online, in-person and socially distanced.

Any parent who struggled with home learning while trying to work will understand how much easier it is to leave it to the professionals.

Lesson 4: you can’t always believe what you read on social media

In the US, social media platforms have outperformed traditional news outlets as a source of pandemic-related updates, inevitably including conspiracy theories and anti-vax rumours.

Last year, Facebook admitted to putting warning labels on  90 million pieces of misinformation, including that Covid was linked to 5G masts, that the virus was manufactured in a Chinese lab, or that it didn’t even exist.

More about improbable news in our previous blog.

Lesson 5: we’re gradually getting greener

There’s a lot of hot air around when it comes to the environment, but the COP 26 conference in Glasgow helped focus our attention on the urgency of the climate crisis.

Traditional fossil fuel businesses are beginning to adapt to the realities of the green economy, reflected in the growth in renewable assets, which have outperformed their fossil fuel predecessors for over ten years.

Lesson 6: there’s always something new

The growth of bitcoin has spawned an even less intelligible phenomenon: NFTs. Non-fungible tokens are making waves in the world of alternative investments, especially the art and music businesses.

Notably Loȉc Gouzer, former chair of Christies, spent $12.9 million on a Banksy painting that’s now on show in Miami. Gouzer is intending to turn the work into 10,000 NFTs which he will sell to buyers who will not have collective ownership of the painting.

Lesson 7: there’s something more important than all of this

If 2021 has taught us anything, it’s the value of connection – with our families, our friends, our communities and our colleagues.

Being deprived of simple human contact with people we love and value for a large part of 2020 has helped us appreciate even more the time spent this year with family, visiting friends and relatives, helping neighbours, having a night out and, yes, even attending business meetings and events. Let’s hope that isn’t all lost as we gradually return to normal.

Here’s to 2022, and all it will teach us.

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