We all know COVID-19 has impacted our lives immensely, changing our economy just as much as our social lives. On June 25th 2020, we invited Verde’s own investment advisor Eric Tomaszewski, to lead a discussion in Verde’s second fireside chat, on the impact of the global pandemic, as well as the implications this has on the world of finance and beyond.
This fireside chat covers a wide range of topics, spanning from data available on the length that the crisis and economic downturn could last, all the way through discussion on behavioral finance and the counterintuitive ways we should be viewing our money. Included with this post are time stamps and a transcription of the discussion with corresponding figures from the chat.
7:03- Opening Remarks (Video Begins)
Cindy Lundberg(CL)- Moderator: Our presentation today will recap our last fireside chat, talk about the ‘negativity bias,’ opportunities and risks in the market today, and a personal experience from one of our investment advisors, Eric Tomaszewski(ET), regarding Verde’s performance and communication during the Covid-19 economic crisis, versus what he experienced during the 2008 financial crisis.
8:13- Eric Tomaszewski Introduction
ET: I’m one of three investment advisors at Verde Capital Management. I’m going to start with a recap of our last fireside chat. During this webinar, Carl discusses the state of the oil market and the three different kinds of bear markets that we’ve seen throughout history. I’ll also update you on what we’ve seen since our last chat. We will be discussing the negativity bias and I will go over why this recovery is so unloved, and why so many investors, including the supposed experts, had it wrong. After that, Cindy will join me for a pulling question today. You’ll have a chance to tell us what you think about a possible COVID-19 vaccine, and whether you would actually take it. We will then discuss opportunities and threats that our investment committee sees ahead, and how we are positioning client portfolios for the future. Last, I will share my personal experience in what I saw during the 2008 financial crisis at Merrill Lynch, and compare that to what I see today during the COVID-19 pandemic at Verde.
9:35- How long do Americans see the COVID-19 disruption lasting?
ET: During our last fireside chat, Carl spoke about a statistical poll we looked at. We were struggling to figure out how long the COVID-19 disruptions would last. When talking to epidemiologists, and other infectious disease experts, they often contradicted themselves with predicting the pandemic would keep us quarantined for a few weeks, while others said quarentein would be the new normal for several years. This obviously made it nearly impossible for us to form an investment thesis. We decided to harvest the ‘wisdom of crowds’ and conduct a survey to see how long Americans believed the level of disruption would last before things started to improve. The survey was conducted on march 13-22nd, as you can see from the results, the median result was a few more months[see Figure 1.]. This ended up being incredibly accurate since we’ve seen the economy all over the United States start to open up again.
Figure 1: How Long Do Americans See COVID-19 Disruptions Lasting?
10:43- S&P 500 Bear Market Decline: 1937-2019
ET: We also discussed different kinds of bear markets, and compared and contrasted them. As a quick refresher, the worst type of bear markets are structural(depicted with the dark blue line[see Figure 2]). They’re the deepest, and they also last the longest. They are caused by structural problems in the economy such as banking crises. The Great Depression and the financial crisis of 2008 are prime examples of structural bear markets. The second type of bear markets are cyclical bear markets, those are depicted with the gray line[Figure 2]. They happen due to the swinging pendulum of fear and greed. Cyclical bear markets are less severe than structural bear markets, and come about due to changes in the business cycle. Last are event driven bear markets. These are often caused by unexpected events such as wars, plagues, and abrupt political policy changes. Black Monday, during October of 1987 was the last event driven bear market that we’ve experienced. We also believe the COVID-19 bear market is an example of an event driven bear market. They are often characterized by sharp downturns followed by a sharp recovery. Although we can’t know for sure how this market will play out so far, the sharp drop and sharp recovery have made this look very similar and very much like an event driven bear market.
Figure 2: S&P 500 Average Bear Market Decline: 1937-2019
12:11- Pessimistic Professionals Missed the Big Rally, and so did Many Americans
ET: While this recovery seemed surprising to many, it shouldn’t have been. Pessimistic professional investors ignored historical data, and missed the big rally. There’s a rueful thing amongst traders that markets will move in whatever direction will cause them the most pain. Pros who distrusted the rally have performed worst since the March low, and the so called ‘down money buy and hold investors’ who rode the market down and right back up. The people who hate the rally are people who are market gurus because it makes it seem like their expertise is useless. And guess what, it is useless! Keep in mind that even for many of our clients, this rally is hard to love. It happened as thousands died, it doesn’t reflect economic pain, the fed gave the market a lot of help, bargains disappeared quickly, people that exited the market hoping to get back in at a lower price did not get the opportunity to do so[see Figure 3]. In addition big rallies benefit the top earners most. Most of those hardest hit by the pandemic did not have the resources to take advantage of the dip. I’ll consider one additional paint. The stocks that the pros picked to do the worst, have performed better than the market averages. Goldman Sachs Group Incorporated, maintains a basket of the 50 companies with more than $1 Billion each in market value, that have the most short interest. What that means is that it expects that it will fall as share of their value. Now, the basket’s membership changes once a month, and each stock is given the same weight. Not only did this basket of stocks not fall as wes predicted, but it’s value has risen 73% since March 23rd, nearly double the rise of the S&P 500 over the same period.
Figure 3: Reasons Why This Rally Is So Unloved
14:27- Poll Question: If scientists developed a COVID-19 vaccine, would you take it?
CL: As part of this fireside chat, we would like to get your perspective on the following questions. If scientists developed a COVID-19 vaccine, would you take it? Assume the vaccine is effective and works as intended to prevent COVID-19 in 99.9% of cases, with no side effects. In 1/1000 cases, the vaccine wouldn’t work, and could have the unintended consequence of infecting the person taking it with COVID-19. Please take a moment to respond in the chat feature at the bottom of the screen. Type yes if you’d like to take this vaccine, type no if you would not. We will be tallying up your responses and will let you know the result at the end of the presentation.
15:23- US Adult Opinion on the Time for Economic Recovery from COVID-19
ET: Moving ahead to what we are looking at today, as with before, we at Verde are trying to figure out now, how long it will take the economy to recover from COVID-19. To be clear we are not looking into how long it will take to beat the disease, and how we could have 0 cases, but rather how long it will take to recover. Again we turn to our partner, Statista. In a survey of 1,491 adults conducted between May 10-12th, we asked, how long do Americans think it will take the US economy to recover? The median response was at least one year [see Figure 4]. This tells us that even though the stock market has gone up a lot, we aren’t out of the woods just yet, and should stay vigilant. There will be some companies that will undoubtedly benefit from changes caused by COVID, while others could be significantly hurt. Over the last few weeks, our investment committee has been looking into areas of life that will see life return back to normal the quickest.
Figure 4: US Adults’ Opinion On The Time For Economic Recovery From COVID-19
16:33- Industries and Activities, Rebound From COVID-19
ET: From battles on the front lines and social distancing from friends and family, COVID-19 has caused a massive shake up from our normal daily lives. After second guessing everything from hugging our loved ones, to delaying travel, there is one big question that everyone is likely thinking about: will we ever get back to the status quo? And truth be told, the answer may not be very clear cut. The graphic on the left uses data from an NYT interview of 511 epidemiologists and infectious disease specialists from the US and Canada, and visualizes their opinions on when they might expect to resume a range of typical activities. Specifically, this group of specialists was asked when they might personally begin engaging in 20 common daily activities again. The response is based on the latest publicly available and scientifically backed data, varied based on assumption around local pandemic response plans. The experts also noted that their answers would change depending on potential treatments and testing rates in their local areas[see Figure 6].
Here are the activities that a majority of professionals see starting up as soon as this summer, or at least within a year’s time: hopes to be outdoors is pretty clear, with 56% of those surveyed hoping to take a road trip before the summer is over. Meanwhile 31% felt that they would be able to go hiking or have a picnic with friends this summer, saying the need for fresh air, sun, socialization, and healthy activity to help keep them on top of their physical and mental health during this time. Public transportation, transportation of any form, I would say is one aspect that’s been put on hold, whether it’s by train, plane, or even automobile. Many of the surveyed specialists lamented the strain the pandemic has had on relationships as evidence by the social situations they hope to restart sooner rather than later. On the other hand, there are certain activities that they considered to be too risky to engage in for the time being. A large share are putting off attending celebrations such as weddings or concerts for at least a year or more out of perceived social responsibility. Perhaps, I would say the most surprising finding, is that 6% of specialists do not expect to ever hug or shake hands as a post-pandemic greeting. On top of this only half consider making this necessary for at least the next year[Figure 6].
Figure 6: How Long Do Experts Think It WIll Take To Return To The Status Quo?
19:24- International Responses to the Pandemic
ET: Moving onto the visual on the right[see Figure 7]. COVID-19 has brought the world to a halt but after months of uncertainty, it seems the situation has slowly taken a turn for the better. Today’s chart measures the extent to which 41 major economies are reopening, by polluting two metrics for each country: the mobility rate, as well as the COVID-19 recovery rate. The mobility index refers to the change in activity around the workplace. Tracking activity around residences measured as a percentage deviation from the baseline. COVID-19 recovery rate is the number of recovered cases in a country being measured as a total percentage of total cases. Data from the first measure comes from Google’s COVID-19 community mobility report, which relies on aggregated anonymous location history data from individuals. Note that China does not show up on this graphic as the government bans Google’s services. In general, the higher the mobility rate, the more economic activity this signifies. In most cases, mobility rate also correlates with a higher rate of recovered people in the population. Here’s how these countries fared based on the above metrics:
#1: High Mobility, High Recovery- High recovery rates are resulting in lifting restrictions for people in this quadrant, and people slowly are returning back to work. New Zealand has earned praise for its early and effective pandemic response, allowing it to curtail the number of total cases. This has resulted in a 98% recovery rate- the highest of all countries. After almost 50 days of lockdown, the government is recommending a flexible 4 day work week to boost the economy back up[Figure 7].
#2: High Mobility, Low Recovery- Despite low COVID-19 related recoveries, mobility rates of countries in this range remain higher than average. Some countries have loosened their lockdown measures, while others didn’t have strict lockdown measures to begin with. Brazil is an interesting case study to consider here. After deferring lockdown decisions to state and local levels, the country is now averaging the highest number of daily cases of any country. On May 28th for example the country had 24,151 new cases and 1,067 new deaths[Figure 7].
#3: Low Mobility, High Recovery- Countries in this quadrant are playing it safe and holding off on reopening their economies until the population is fully recovered. Italy, once the epicenter for the crisis in Europe, is understandably where you have cases rising back up to critical levels. As a result it has opted to keep it’s activity to a minimum to try and boost the 65% recovery rate. Even as it slowly emerges from more than 10 weeks of lockdown[Figure 7].
#4: Low mobility, low recovery- Last but not least, people in these countries are cautiously remaining indoors as their governments continue to work on crisis response, with a low 0.05% recovery rate, the UK has no immediate plans to reopen. A 2 week lag time in reported discharged patients from NHS services may also be contributing to this low number. And although new cases are leveling off, the country has the highest coronavirus caused death toll across all of Europe. The US also sits in this quadrant with, as of writing this, 1.3 million cases in counting, now well in excess of 2 million cases. Recently some states have opted to ease restrictions on social and distant activity, which could potentially result in cases climbing back up. Over in Sweden, a controversial herd immunity strategy meant that the country continued business as usual amid the rest of Europe’s heightened regulations. Sweden’s COVID-19 recovery rate since is 13.9% of the country, 93% mobility rate suggests that people have been taking their own precautions[Figure 7].
Figure 7: Mobility Rate vs Recovery Rate: COVID-19 International Response
24:04- Zoom Communications
ET: With the COVID-19 pandemic, many people have transitioned to working and socializing from home. If these trends become the new normal, certain companies may be in for a big payout. Popular video conferencing company Zoom Communications is a prime example of an organization benefiting from this transition. Today’s graphic inspired by Lennard Dobrovsky at Lufthansa Innovation Hub is a dramatic look at how much Zoom’s valuation has shot up during this unusual period in history[see Figure 8]. May 15, 2020 Zoom’s market capitalization has skyrocketed to $48.8 Billion, despite posting revenues of only $623 Million over the past year. But separate Zoom from it’s competition, and what’s led to this massive surge in mainstream business culture? You might be asking yourself the same question. The reality is industry analysts say that business users have been drawn to the app because of it’s easy to use interface, and user experience, as well as the ability to support up to 100 participants at a time. The app has also grown amongst educators for use in online learning, after their CEO took extra steps to ensure that k-12 schools could use the platform for free. Zoom meeting participants have skyrocketed in past months, going from 10 billion in December of 2019, to a whopping 300 million people as of April 2020.
25:45- Airline Industry
ET: The airline industry has been on the opposite end of this, they’ve been suffering unprecedented unemployment, as international restrictions have shuttered airports. The world’s top airlines by revenue have fallen in total value by 62% since the end of January[Figure 8]. With countries scrambling to contain the spread of COVID-19, many airlines have cut travel capacity, laid off workers, and even chopped executive pay to try and stay afloat. If and when regular air travel returns, remains a major question mark for all of us. And even patient investors such as Warren Buffet have pulled out of airline stocks.
Figure 8: Zoom Is Now Worth More Than The Top 7 Airlines Combined
26:23- Toward a Meatless Future
ET: This visual looks at the future of meat consumption [see Figure 9]. The way people choose and consume their food is changing. It’s encouraging a sweeping shift from animal based to plant based food products. Whether it’s from the perspective of environmental impact, cruelty to animals, or health benefits, meatless diets are quickly becoming a new normal for people around the world. But where did it all begin?
Today’s infographic on earthly origins of vegetarianism, explores how the industry erupted into a lucrative web of subcategories that are wetting the appetite of investors the world over[Figure 9]. Taking a holistic view of vegetarianism, there are several different diets that people typically adhere to. A vegetarian for example, doesn’t eat meat, but still consumes animal products such as dairy and eggs. On the other hand, a vegan eats a strictly plant based diet. 70% of the global population are now reducing their meat intake. Veganism has become a lifestyle choice for many. By 2026, the global market is projected to be worth well in excess of $24 Billion. Now, while this seems like a relatively new phenomenon, the meatless revolution has been quietly building for almost two centuries.
Figure 9: How The World Is Embracing A Meatless Future
27:55- Merrill vs. Verde
ET: What I’d like to do now, is switch gears and talk about my personal experiences during the financial crisis of 2008. And for all of you, compare and contrast that to what I see during the COVID-19 pandemic that we’re currently living in. As many of you know I started my career at Merrill Lynch, in 2008 I was an intern at Merrill just as the global economy was beginning to implode. And what I saw in the office was a company very much in total chaos. Situations where brokers are reluctant to take client phone calls, interns were answering phones as well, I was one of those interns at one point. I heard from clients that were crying on the phone at times, even showing a range of other emotions. The company had to be bailed out obviously by rival banks or rival bank, Bank of America due to the toxic mortgage backed securities it had purchased during that time frame. In addition there was a ‘hunker down’ mentality that caused investors, I would argue, to be fearful, when in retrospect they should have been more opportunistic.
29:10- The Flip Side at Verde
ET: Here’s the flip side of that. Compare that to what I see today at Verde. As an investment advisor, I see a company that is very much ready for battle. As a firm, we have anticipated a possible recession and have prepared clients using our recession risk forecast tools. Although Verde did not predict the COVID-19 crisis, clients were very much prepared for the market turmoil. Communications during the crisis increased substantially, we had many more phone calls, additional video meetings, client wide emails, a new blog that we created, daily social media posts, and even this webinar that you are experiencing today. The company continues to grow verde, where even recently, we have hired 3 new full time employees. We also hired three new summer interns. We have a new office that has expanded, which is arguably 3x larger than the space we had before. Throughout the downturn, portfolios were being rebalanced to take advantage of investment opportunities. All of this makes me confident that you as clients are going to be well taken care of as we continue to navigate this market.
30:36- Survey Results (From Earlier in the Chat)
CL: Thank you Eric, and thank you to everyone that submitted a response to our question. Again, we wanted to know if there was a COVID-19 vaccine, would you take it?
Based on your response, 78% said that they would take the vaccine, while the rest of you chose not to. I’m going to turn it over to Carl Szasz(CS), Verde’s CEO and Chief Compliance Officer, for an explanation of the results and what we can learn from them. Carl, over to you.
CS: Thank you Cindy. You may have wondered why we chose to ask this question. The first reason is that we’re just naturally curious. There are many vaccines in development currently, for COVID-19, and we wanted to know, if a vaccine became available, would people actually take it? The way we posed the question, gave additional information that you could use to make your decision. When we told you that it would be at least 99.9% effective, we did this on purpose to give you some numbers so that you didn’t have to speculate as to the effectiveness. We also planted a negative seed, telling you that 1 of 1000 cases would actually get side effects, including also possibly COVID-19 itself. While we know that nothing is 100% safe, it’s interesting to see that only 78% of you chose to take the vaccine. The results show a negativity bias that exists in all humans.
If you were acting completely rationally, and looking strictly at probabilities, as a machine would: 99.9% would have taken this vaccine. The fact that less than that chose to take the vaccine, shows how our emotions and preconceptions derail us from making mathematically sound decisions. We’ve been researching this phenomenon, and it explains why some investors are skittish about getting into the market even now, despite a known probability that markets go up 80% of the time. Choosing to stay out of the market is a bad bet.
I’ll leave you with just one quote before we open it up for questions and answers: “Forgive the negative people, they’ve learned too many lies.”
What this quote means to us, is that we should embrace data, question and test conventional wisdom, and make the best decisions we can, knowing that the worst case scenario is often not the most likely scenario.
33:10 Question and Answer
CL: How long do you, or does Verde, see the COVID-19 disruptions lasting, and why?
CS: We don’t try to make predictions about how long we think things are going to last. The reason why you really shouldn’t care about our prediction, is that it will be no better than anyone else’s. Not only that, but it’s most likely going to be way off. We’re not infectious disease experts, we’re not epidemiologists. The best way for us to try to get to that question is really to harness something we call the wisdom of crowds. The wisdom of crowds is a concept we use here to poll large numbers of people, to get to the answer of something that perhaps 1 or 2 of us would not be able to get to. The best example I can give for this would be: imagine if one of you was a jeopardy guru, and you just knew how to play jeopardy really well, if we tried to play against you 1 vs. 1, we would stand almost no chance of beating you. But if, let’s say for example, I could bring 1000 of my friends to play against you, the chances of you beating the collective wisdom of 1000 people is slim to none. Which is why, today, the best jeopardy player in the world is not a human, but rather a Machine: Watson, owned by IVM computer company.
In our estimation, when we’re thinking about when the COVID-19 disruptions will last, we use the wisdom of crowds concept to figure that out, and as this presentation pointed out, we believe that that’s going to be within about a year, or maybe slightly over a year. When we surveyed about 1,400 adults, the predominant answer, the median response, was that it would take the economy at least a year to recover from COVID-19 economically. Now, we don’t know if that’s going to mean the disease will be completely dead by that point, but economically we should be recovering at that point. This gives us an indication for how we’re going to invest money, and shows us that this will be something that we can recover from relatively quickly.
CL: What do you think about the market’s behavior during the pandemic? Do you think the market is accurately reflecting what’s happening in the larger American or global economy?
CS: I think the market is reflecting the future. Maybe not quite what things are today, but rather where we’re going. The stock market is itself a crowd, if you think about it. It’s a bunch of investors that are self interested, making independent decisions on their own, based on their own personal circumstances. I think what the market reflects is optimism that the future is going to be better than the past. Consider for a second, that even though we’re not past the crisis, we know a lot more about the disease today than we did in the past. We know how it spreads, we know how you can get it, we know how to stop it. We’ve seen some countries like this presentation pointed out, like New Zealand that have beaten the disease. We’ve also seen other countries like the United States and maybe Brazil, that are continuing to struggle with it. There’s a multitude of different approaches that we can look to, and I think the stock market reflects the optimism that the entire human race is focused on this singular problem. And if I was a betting person, and I was to try to make a bet, humans vs covid: I would never bet COVID, I think humans are incredibly resilient as a species, incredibly ingenious when it comes to our medical capabilities. I do think that we’re working on several fronts to defeat the disease, whether it’s social distancing, face masks, quarantines, more testing, even on the medical front: some of the therapies that have been incredibly effective at fighting COVID, we’re seeing mortality rates drop even when someone does get it. Eminently we’re going to have a vaccine, hence the question that we asked.
We hope and are encouraged by the fact that 78% said you would take the vaccine, we think that that would be a good thing, otherwise why are we building the vaccine, if a larger percentage of the population wouldn’t take it? We think again, the stock market reflects, not where we currently are, but where we’re going. And in that sense, I think it has it right.
CL: Big drops in the market make me super nervous. I’ve worked hard for my savings and investments, and I don’t want to lose them. How do you feel when the market drops, and what words of wisdom do you share with your clients to help address their fears?
ET: When it comes to what’s happening in the market, it is normal for any of us to have raw emotions. Remember, we’re humans, this is how we’ve been created. We’re going to have visceral reactions when we see things that go against us or make us feel uncomfortable. So, the realization that things can be irrational within the market, also understanding that you have to flip things on its head and look at it from a different perspective I think is also crucial. So, specifically what I do: I have emotions, I have that same visceral reaction when the market moves down or moves against me in my own portfolio, let alone clients.
At the end of the day, I remind myself that there’s this normal, typical, course that emotions will take throughout a normal cycle. Case and point, when the markets typically go down, we automatically have this feeling of fear or apprehension that we’re entering ourselves that makes us feel uncomfortable, when in reality we should flip those emotions upside down on their head, and at that point, look at things from an opportunistic standpoint. And as I’ve alluded to in meetings, it’s where you literally have to look at the fire and when everyone is running away from the fire in the other direction, you have to look at me and I’ve gotta lock eyes with you, grab each others hands, even though we’re sweating together, and say “nope, we’re not going to go with the crowd and a bunch of the idiots. Instead we’re going to go towards it because this is our best opportunity to take advantage and capitalize moving forward.” And for many of you that we’ve had these conversations with, over this time frame, especially into the end of February, March, April, even into May, that is what we did, deploying cash to be opportunistic. Rebalancing when it was effective. Holding your hand and saying it’s going to be okay and just trust that this is a normal course of action with the market. That is how I deal through these normal instances. Understanding again, being visceral, having this feeling is typical, but also remind yourself of what we’ve talked about in meetings where you have to flip it on it’s head. Understand that the smart money is typically taking the other side of that.
CL: Have you tried plant based meat replacement products like beyond meat or impossible burgers? Do you like it? Do you think this is a passing pandemic fad? Or a new permanent staple of today’s life?
CS: Yes, I’ve tried both the Beyond Burger, the Impossible Burger as well. I like the Beyond Burger because it’s the one I can buy stock in (haha) but actually, the Impossible Burger is delicious as well. I’ve challenged many of you, I think, that are clients, to consider going on a date and instead of getting a normal burger, in this case (COVID-19) you might get carry out, but instead of getting a normal burger, consider getting a plant based burger. Whether it’s the Beyond Burger or Impossible Burger, I think that there’s several restaurants that serve these, and they can also be purchased, I believe, at Kroger and Costco.
These are not your typical bean burgers. They taste almost identical to meat. They have no meat and some of you may know this, but my wife is a vegan at this point. She became a vegan maybe 2-3 years ago. I’m not, but I do eat less meat now than I have in the past. To me, it’s indistinguishable, I can’t really tell the difference. I think when it comes to ‘The Meatless Revolution’ as we call it in this presentation, there’s lots of reason why this is becoming a long term trend. But I think that in order for it to happen, because again, we’ve had vegetarianism for 200+ years, the reason why it’s becoming more prevalent now, is because the taste is there, and we have the technology today to do plant based foods that are virtually identical.
My kids joke around now whenever we get something, they’ll cleverly ask the question, “Is this real or is it fake?” My wife says, “everything real.” But chicken nuggets, burgers, meatballs, spaghetti, all of that now can be made to be completely plant based. We see economic benefits in the sense that plant based foods are less harmful to the environment. They’re nutritionally, in many cases, better now. They include protein, which is the major thing that everybody has complained about, “you need protein.” These things have as much protein if not more than the meat alternatives. And most importantly they can feed the world sustainably. If everyone ate like the average American all over the world, we don’t have enough land mass to have that many cows, and that many pigs, and that many chickens. The plant based alternatives that we’re talking about use 95% less land, 95% less water, 85% fewer carbon emissions, and so they’re how we can feed the world in 2050, in 2100. At Verde we’re always thinking about where we’re going next, not where we are now. If you’re skeptical like I was, do yourself a favor, try it once, and come tell me I’m wrong.
ET: Let me add something to that Cindy and Carl. This is a much bigger theme outside of just something that’s edible, or what’s being put on our plate. I would argue this ties into, and think of yourselves and think of how your own mood and your approach toward buying things has changed, think of your kids or grandkids and how they approach buying things. This ties very much into this whole topic of ESG: Environmental, Social, and Governance factors. Everyone wants to be more conscious about not only how they’re taking care of their mind, but also how they’re taking care of their body, but also from the nourishment standpoint. And if you look at that market specifically, it is expected to reach up to $52 Trillion over the next two decades. Massive. And it’s not just big institutions, I think it’s also people within each one of our families. And that’s where the biggest shift is, it’s very much larger than just a meat replacement or a meat substitute.
And to give you an example more directly, there’s a specific company ( and if anyone is curious, please reach out to me) that’s based in the US, and they pride themselves on being able to have radical transparency. This is a clothing company, and what they do is they have radical transparency when it comes to their price, their products, and specifically how much they’re actually paying workers for working in other countries. And by the way, it will not say that it is made in lets say “Taiwan” hypothetically, but it will actually specify that specific region. And at times, give you even more clarity to know where your linens are coming from, to know where that product is produced. Understand who was involved with every step of that process from start to finish. They have made me a raving fan, and if I look at other aspects of my life, from Beyond Meat to many other areas, I am even becoming more conscious with some of these things. So know that there will be meetings that we’ll have where we’ll dive into this on a much greater scale, but know that that is very much the future. And I pose another question or test to all of you, outside of trying meatless burger vs a meaty burger. In this case, ask family or friends if they have different ways to approach buying clothes, or being more health conscious, and you might be pleasantly surprised.
CL: [Follow up question and commnet]- What about the gas mileage, as far as the output goes for producing meatless options? Unfortunately the beyond meat at Whole Foods adds a lot of additives, so it’s not as healthy as you might think. Do you have any response to that?
CS: I do. So, nutritionally speaking, a burger is not going to be that great for you. Nobody is saying that if you eat a plant based burger, it’s like eating broccoli. It’s not. It’s still a burger, right? There’s plenty of salt, there’s plenty of additives, as there is with meat as well. The main argument behind having a plant based alternative like impossible foods, or beyond meat, is not that it will just all the sudden make you healthier. It’s that you can essentially eat it guilt free, and not just that, but eventually you’ll see that the cost to produce these things will be significantly cheaper as well. In my estimation when you look at that and say, “okay, it’s going to taste virtually the same, it might not be that much better for me, it’s maybe a little bit, or maybe about the same, they’re both burgers. Shouldn’t have one every day, breakfast lunch and dinner, maybe once in a little while” I think that there is a market for it, and interestingly enough, the people that are pushing these are not your traditional vegan/vegetarian that’s been vegan for 20 years.
The people that are essentially trying these are people like me, meat eaters, that just say, hey, I’d love to reduce my meat intake, but I don’t want to give up taste. That’s really what stopped me from making a transition like that is because until now, a lot of the options were just really really bad and didn’t taste great. For me, taste is paramount, because I eat for pleasure, not just substinane. This is something that we’ve seen in the past, when you ask car buyers, why do you buy a car? People will list what they think you want to hear: safety, gas mileage, those kinds of things. What statistics often show is that that’s not really why people buy cars. They buy cars for things such as the styling, the 0-60 mph capability, how fast is the car, how sexy is it, how good does it look? I think food is very personal, and that people are going to not choose to eat something like this because you guilt them into it. If you say “look at that baby goat, or that cow. Don’t you feel terrible for slaughtering it?” I may feel terrible, but I’m not going to want to talk to you after you make me feel guilty for eating it. What it will take to convince people to do this, is telling them, listen: you can have it both ways. You can enjoy the taste, and you can know that you’re not slaughtering that baby goat or that cow. I think that’s the catalyst this time around, is for the first time around we’ve got both.
CL: Eric, what’s the single biggest reason for the differences in your experience at Merrily in 2008, and Verde during the pandemic? What have you learned from both?
ET: Good question. Off the cuff, the things that stand out most vividly is culture. There’s a family oriented culture that we have here at Verde that I never had the ability to see on the other side. It was more cut throat, not communal. Here, as much of our team has seen, we care about each other, we are a family. In addition, we treat our clients with the same level of dignity and respect, and I’d say that says something about who we are as a firm but also as people.
So culture is what sticks out vividly, and as a close second, it’s innovation. I know no one has had an opportunity -unfortunately- to see our new office space, which even by my wildest imagination couldn’t have thought of a space that’s 3x larger than where we were before. It is massive, and we have an incredible experience that people can have from one room to the next room, to even our outdoor deck. We change up not just how you have a meeting, but to revolutionize what’s been done in this industry arguably has not been done up to this point. I find us to be quite innovative to where you are at a brokerage house, very much drinking the kool aid. I will admit when I was there I drank the kool aid, and didn’t know what else was out there until I saw the light. It sounds crazy but that’s the reality check. You are told what to do and what to sell, while here we’re able to use our minds and be creative. So culture and innovation, those are the biggest things that I take away.
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