Is there a cliché we haven’t drawn on in the febrile, and at times downright frightening, aftermath of the EU referendum?
There have been the exhortations (from me included) to take a deep breath, wait until the dust settles and keep calm and carry on, while others have talked of keeping a watching brief, weathering the storm, genies let out of bottles, people sitting on their hands and catching the flu… or a falling knife.
This is quite aside from the whole new Brexicon of words that has emerged such as Bregret, Brexcuse and Brexistential (as in Brexistential angst) and oh-so-witty wordplay using the acronym EU instead of you.
All of this would be funny if the situation were at all funny. The reality is that we’re resorting to such platitudes in a bid to make sense of and sanitise what’s going on, to shove the chaos that has been unleashed back into Pandora’s Box (two more clichés) - or, and this is where the danger lies, to nihilistically revel in the chaos.
As Standard Life’s decision to close the doors on its £2.9bn open-ended fund sent the dominoes toppling (yet another), commentators were quick to liken the situation to the credit crunch of 2007, when a run on the funds was one of the first indicators of the financial crisis.
In this very issue, Jefferies analyst Mike Prew warns that “funds selling REIT shares and then real assets could set up a vicious cycle of value destruction” and there is no doubt that this week the panic properly set in, prompting fears that we’re on the brink of a full-scale property and economic crisis.
But while there are undoubted parallels, this is not 2007. It is not just that the sector is not as highly leveraged. Vacancy rates are at record lows in parts of the office market, notably London, so even if there were a sharp fall in demand, it is not likely to lead to a sudden glut of space. Moreover, the banks have more capital so can - in theory - continue lending, and as we report, although the headhunters say there has been a recruitment freeze, no one is talking about redundancies… yet.
For one, most have not returned to the heady headcounts of the mid-noughties, so they are pretty lean. They have also learned an important lesson since last time: namely that you need your best people around you in a crisis.
Plus, we should be alert to the ‘Brexcuse’. Some firms will use the opportunity to make changes they wanted to make before the vote but felt they couldn’t.
Of course, come September, redundancies will be inevitable if the market has not picked up. No one is fooling themselves that the next few months are going to be easy.
The referendum was a seismic event that is already having seismic consequences. However, if you talk a market down, sure enough it will go down. We all need to keep clear heads and resist the temptation to succumb to the general hysteria.
What is needed is balance: balanced minds making balanced decisions and balanced reporting of those decisions. The latter is certainly what Property Week is striving for. Anything else would be irresponsible in my view… and the scary stuff is scary enough as it is.