2020 was a year of uncertainty – with a global pandemic affecting international travel and global supply chains, it has also been an unprecedented 12 months for the precious metals industry. We spoke to some experts to get their opinion!! Thank you to Andrew Dickey (AD), Division Director, Precious Metals at The Royal Mint, and Lorne Whitemore (LW), Managing Director of Sales for the Royal Canadian Mint for their participation!
How has 2020 been for you compared to previous years?
AD: Sales for precious metals from The Royal Mint were unprecedented in 2020, and 2021 has started on a high too. Often regarded as a ‘safe-haven’ investment, gold has proved extremely popular during these uncertain times and it’s more accessible than before. Over the last 12 months, thousands of new customers have purchased Royal Mint bullion for the first time and we’ve noticed a significant increase in the number of younger customers buying our products.
LW: It’s difficult to compare 2020 with any previous years because it was certainly something the world did not expect! The impact of COVID at the Royal Canadian Mint included not only a production stoppage for a period of two weeks in order to focus on employee safety but also a shift in production capacity to focus on bullion to meet the global surge in demand. This resulted in a smaller numismatic portfolio of 115 products in 2020, with a higher focus on our premium segment of customers. This pivot was well received by customers and dealers alike and allowed us to embrace new ways of thinking in all areas of our business.
What processes did you have to change in order to deal with the pandemic?
AD: The absolute priority for The Royal Mint during the pandemic has been the safety of our employees. We acted really quickly to ensure that all safety measures were carefully considered and implemented and we provided the relevant equipment and training to those who could work from home from the very early stages of the pandemic. We made a conscious effort to continuously check in on our employees and maintain high levels of communication and engagement to support the wellbeing of our people.
You may also have heard about how The Royal Mint switched up our manufacturing processes to support key workers with PPE. We were one of the first organisations to produce approved protective visors for healthcare staff, an idea which was taken from concept to sample stage within a 24 hour period. We went on to make almost two-million medical visors throughout the pandemic, something we are all really proud of at The Royal Mint.
LW: As with many other industries, the Mint suspended operations for a two-week period with the exception for refinery and secure metal storage services. This allowed us to re-configure production shifts and implement more than 30 safety protocols to protect our production employees and support staff so they could return to a healthy and COVID-safe workplace. The modified operations allowed us to maintain uninterrupted support to essential sectors of the Canadian economy, specifically financial institutions and mining companies.
After this short pause, the Ottawa production team shifted to focus on bullion coin production to meet sharply increased demand for gold and silver bullion with numismatic coin production resuming shortly thereafter.
What were your most popular products and biggest achievements in 2020?
AD: The Britannia 2021 Bullion Coin series has been a huge hit, along with the gold Britannia bars. We also launched a range of gifting bars which proved really popular, especially during the run-up to key celebration events such as gold bars with henna-inspired packaging that sold well in the run-up to Diwali.
We achieved lots of exciting things in 2020 including the launch of our 2021 Britannia Bullion equipped with ground-breaking security features that took the industry by surprise. But in terms of our biggest achievement of all, it was how we managed to keep working through a global pandemic whilst keeping our employees safe and connected. The team at The Royal Mint has adapted amazingly well to new safety procedures and working from home and has shown each other enormous levels of empathy and kindness during these difficult times.
LW: Our bullion products were the star performer from the RCM’s Precious Metals suite of products. The numismatic side also found a number of successes with sell-outs on premium products such as the Real Shapes – Polar bear and Coat of Arms.
In the mainstream product portfolio, the Recognition Medal initiative was our top performer. Released in June 2020, this meal honored essential workers and everyday heroes who worked hard to keep Canadians healthy, safe, well-stocked, and connected during the pandemic. To date, we have raised $400,000 for the Breakfast Club of Canada’s COVID-19 Emergency Fund. We are thrilled at the success of this initiative where the entire Mint community came together, with 254 volunteers packaging more than 100,000 medals in their homes at nights and on weekends.
Are different products more popular in different parts of the world?
AD: Definitely yes. In the US there is a strong preference for silver bullion coins whereas, in Europe, gold shines brightest. The Middle East and India have a strong affinity for our iconic Sovereign coin whereas, across Europe and the US, the Britannia coin leads the way, particularly since we introduced the brand new, ground-breaking security features in September last year.
LW: Yes, some products do better in some parts of the world than others. Our Silver Maple Leaf and Gold Maple Leaf bullion products are a stand-out favourite across the world! This is owing to several factors including our iconic maple leaf design, the extensive security features, and the proprietary MINTSHIELD© surface protection which prevents white spots on our silver bullion coins.
What are your predictions for the year ahead in terms of the precious metals industry?
AD: The world goes into 2021 with elevated unemployment rates and an expectation of increased fiscal sending to support global economic recovery. Increased fiscal spending, accommodative monetary policy, and elevated inflation rates are all traditional drivers of gold demand. The future of silver looks interesting too. Consumption in industries such as electronics, solar panels, and water purification accounts for around two-thirds of the silver market. As President Biden outlines his commitment to the green agenda, this could progress the utilisation of these clean technologies which will increase the global demand for silver. With this in mind, we’re expecting demand for our precious metal products to continue to shine throughout the year.
LW: It is difficult to predict the year ahead, but many of our customers believe that markets will continue to favour precious metals. Similar to 2020, the Mint is committed to listening to our customers, following the markets, and pivoting where necessary to meet our customer’s needs.
Thank you Lorne and Andrew for your time and keep up the amazing work!
If you have any further questions or would like to purchase some precious metals, reach out to our fantastic team at [email protected].