The CEO’s Perspective

Unprecedented Change

October 2020 / 2 mins
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Autumn is traditionally a season of reflection. Certainly, 2020 has provided us much to reflect upon.

It has been a year filled with unprecedented disruptions and uncertainty to our lives, jobs, and families. It is changing how we do business, socialize, receive healthcare, and even educate our children.

Uncertainty has also led to higher volatility in the financial markets as investors react to varying economic indicators and the impact of COVID-19. The Federal Reserve has been and will remain important for investors. One recent example economists cite: the stock market’s climb after the Fed’s September pledge to keep interest rates near zero for years if need be and then its pullback on renewed concerns about the stability of the economy. They also note that volatility could continue leading up to the presidential election on November 3.

Despite such challenges, William Blair remains focused on the long term. We have an 85-year history of evaluating and analyzing the likely effects of world events on the economy and investment and continue to be agile in serving clients, helping them meet their financial goals.

In our everyday lives, COVID-19 continues to accelerate broad structural changes within our economy and society. Analysts see a greater chance for a “new normal” to take root in many areas rather than a return to pre-COVID ways. The reopening of schools this autumn is a perfect example.

John Ettelson
John Ettelson, William Blair President and CEO

This issue of Client Focus puts a spotlight on the serious challenges that K-12 schools up through universities are facing this fall. Administrators, educators, and parents are struggling every day with the health risks to students and staff returning to in-person classrooms at a time when COVID cases are on the rise in many areas. We take a look at how teachers are embracing the latest technology to help and the ed-tech companies that are seeing a huge demand for their products and services.

The events of 2020 have also underscored the firm’s mission to engage in our communities. COVID-19 has been especially difficult on our most challenged, diverse populations. I am proud of how our staff has responded, working with our community partners. In this issue we describe the efforts by two of our partners—Golden Apple and Chicago Children’s Choir—as examples of the great work that can be accomplished when people reach out and work together. 

While COVID-19 has changed many aspects of everyday life, it cannot dissuade Americans from voting. Early voting has already begun in some areas of the country and we encourage you to vote. Please stay safe as we exercise the single most important duty we have as citizens in our democracy.

On behalf of everyone at William Blair, thank you for your trust and the opportunity to serve you.



President and CEO