Rumors about Crisis: What We Do Know for Sure
The rumors about crisis have started to take shape: Romania might enter a recession – “technical” for the time being, that is two quarters without economic growth – in the second part of next year or in 2020, according to the chief economist for Central and East Europe with Unicredit, Dan Bucșa (Source: Agerpres). Here is my take on several consequences of the so-called technical recession.
What Technical Recession Means
The unanimously accepted definition refers to two successive quarters of economic contraction. Since the contraction is measured on the Gross Domestic Product (GDP), we may say that economic recession is just a first signal that a growth cycle of an economy is about to end. More somber terms, such as depression or crisis, refer to the subsequent effects: increase in the unemployment rate, inflation, decline in the purchase power, then production and so on. History shows that economic crises are frequent, but they differ in respect of severity. Experts say that growth is the natural tendency of economy, but sometimes a peak followed by a decline happens. For instance, since the year 2000 we have already had two global crises. The best known and most severe one, of 2007-2009 (followed by recession), but also the Dot Com Bubble at the beginning of the ‘00s, when many Internet companies imploded. The “breaking of the online bubble” at the time affected Romania very little, as compared to the 2007 crisis. 11 years ago, the real estate global meltdown was more noticeable in Romania, as the country was already in a local real estate bubble.
In other words, the economic statisticians can predict with a rather high degree of precision the decrease of GDP for two successive quarters, but the effects deriving from here are less predictable, especially from the point of view of severity and duration.
The Global Background and Romania’s Specificity
Besides the recent news regarding the decline on the stock exchanges, in principle, Romania’s economy is, first of all, interdependent with the other economies of the European Union and the forecasts are pointing at a slower growth in these economies. Most analysts have raised red flags because Romania’s surplus of a few good years was spent on state wages and other similar expenses, and this leads to a decrease in the efficiency of the economy on a medium term. Here is how Unicredit Chief Economist explains these things: “If Europe grows by 1%, it is likely that we will avoid recession. If, however, it grows by less than 1%, then chances are that a recession will follow. Our forecasts indicate a slower pace of the economy in 2020 by about 2%.”
As usual, the official sources are far more optimistic in respect of the years 2019 and 2020. Still, the global slowing of the economy is not a fact that can be denied or ascertained from Bucharest.
What Effects We Will Feel on a Personal Basis
Once again, according to this forecast, recession will be felt in business and in the pockets of each of us only by means of its consequences. If a safe workplace or the negotiation in Euro of the contracts/salaries is precautions within anybody’s grasp, it is more interesting to see what happens with the personal surplus of money. Forbes publishes an article that includes two recommendations worth noting:
- Avoid emotional behavior. The most common advice “buy cheap, sell expensive” is very difficult to apply in investments. This is proven by the fact that the assets of the American investors have increased over the last 20 years by only 2.5%. To give another example, without a massive demand, cryptocurrencies would not have increased in value so much until 2017, only to decrease dramatically over the last few months. Somebody invested and subsequently lost that money, contrary to the axiom “buy cheap, sell expensive”.
Paradoxically, this means that in a recession or crisis, there are plenty of bargains/understated assets. However, these are difficult to identify and profited from.
- Make several personal sub-pools, according to age and plans. If you are still active, a “safety net” comprising an amount sufficient to secure your lifestyle from three to six months should be enough. If you are about to retire from professional life, safe investments will have to provide a sufficient amount for many years. Optimistically speaking, at such point in time, the accrued surplus is higher, which means that other sub-pools, more risky, could be well represented.
In a nutshell, both personally and businesswise, the latest rumors suggest prudence, but they are not at all a reason to panic. Most of us went through our crisis apprenticeship ten years ago, which means that we will know how to behave logically and non-emotionally in the following recession, no matter when it might come and how severe it might be.
Over the last decade, I've built my professional life as an investor, focusing on 3 key areas: financial services, real estate and tech startups. I’ve participated in the setup and development of two major fintechs, and after those two successful exits I’m now directing my resources into building a new enterprise in this area – the Key Way group.
I've started, participated in and developed companies in Romania, as well as Bulgaria, Hungary, Czech Republic, Germany, the UK, Mexico, Dubai and South East Asia. I'm constantly looking for new segments, new markets and new opportunities, and therefore I interact regularly with the regulator institutions and official agencies in various countries and markets.
The most recent example is the GCC area (Gulf Cooperation Council - Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates, and Saudi Arabia). I started to research opportunities in that area at the end of 2018 - more specifically, the United Arab Emirates, which are establishing themselves as one of the most dynamic markets in the world.
The whole experience of working with the official institutions there was a great example of how to attract and encourage investors! ADGM, the Abu Dhabi Global Markets regulator, was established quite recently and I was absolutely impressed with their professionalism.
To start off, I researched the local market regulators online. The information was clear and easily available: I contacted them online, via their website and LinkedIn accounts. They responded promptly, and in only a few days, we set up a series of meetings with the financial markets regulators in both Abu Dhabi and Dubai!
The ADGM gave me full support and very clear, detailed information on what and how I need to do to obtain a trading licence in financial services in the UAE. I met with representatives from both the ADGM registration department (where all new businesses have to register before they acquire a licence for online trading) and from the FSRA (Financial Services Regulatory Authority).
They were very clear on the procedure, steps to follow and criteria we need to meet, which is a fantastic help for an investor on a new, highly regulated financial market.
In a few days I started the onboarding procedure - everything happens online, everything is digital, everything is set up for maximum ease and transparency.
They set investors up for success, but they make sure they vet them thoroughly as well! A "user friendly" approach does not mean lower standards, quite the opposite - they made sure I meet all commercial and business criteria, they assessed my financial, capital and business status and previous experience, and checked references from markets in which I operated previously.
We went through a process of very rigorous assessment and due diligence, and several meetings where I detailed our business plan and long term vision. Professional but friendly - you feel welcome, encouraged and supported as an investor.
Furthermore, their “enthusiasm”, or appetite for new business, equaled mine! They’re happy to welcome new businesses, they work hard to attract them and to set them up for success. I was very impressed that they genuinely appreciate the fact that investors, however big or small, choose their market to set up a company.
I’d love to see this same level of energy, hard work and appetite for business in my home country, Romania.
While other jurisdictions welcome investors and work hard to create the framework for development and success, I often feel that the Romanian regulators, for financial markets and not only, start from a default position of suspicion or, at best, indifference. Investors are regarded with thinly veiled (if at all veiled!) suspicion and distrust and sometimes downright hostility, you almost feel guilty or embarrassed to be successful financially.
I hope to see this mentality change in Romania, because I, as well as most Romanian entrepreneurs I know, really want to make our country a top choice for investments, not just in outsourcing and services. We want to make Romania known for its know how and creativity.
I think Romanian regulators should remember that their whole purpose of existence is to enable business, not hinder it. And as investors, especially once we see best practices from other jurisdictions, we need to remind them of this reality.
- Fintech OS - B2B services and TaaS enabling automation for financial services. The fact that this is a Romanian company that has achieved such rapid growth proves that (to paraphrase) geography is not destiny. Their experience is inspiring.
- Fagura - P2P Lending. Although Fagura is actually coming from Moldova, they are present in Romania. This is a friendly peer-to-peer platform, modelled on UK similar companies. I think it has good potential for success.
- Smart dreamers – a platform for recruitment marketing automation, they’re already in the UK, the US, and Singapore, with enterprise-ready software that helps companies reach and engage with potential candidates online.
- Medjobs – this is a platform for recruitment and jobs in the healthcare sector. I like their focus and the fact that they’ve honed in on this very specific opportunity, as it is a very dynamic niche and was generally very fragmented.
- Typing DNA – such an original idea! They’ve developed an app for typing biometrics authentication – recognizing people from the way they type, this is an AI-based solution for risk-based authentication and fraud prevention.
- Competitors.app – a very useful and comprehensive app for monitoring competitors’ marketing activity across online channels.
- Finqware – this was badly needed in Romania, since most companies and people have several bank accounts and they need a centralized dashboard for their finances.
- Keez – A user-friendly alternative to accounting, payroll, and ERP software.
- Teleport HQ - An AI powered platform and suite of open source tools which simplifies UI building and adds realtime optimisations by analysing user's intentions.
- Cyscale - a Multi-Cloud Platform, for all major providers like Amazon, Google and Microsoft, which handles Cloud Native Security, Threat management and Secure Cloud Design.