A former chief executive of Royal Bank of Canada is telling investors all they can do is be patient through the COVID-19 pandemic, noting there will eventually be a recovery.

“Try to turn the screens off and pay less attention. Ultimately as we manage through this, there will be a recovery,” said Gord Nixon, who is chairman of BNN Bloomberg parent company BCE Inc., in an interview Monday. “That recovery may be longer and less obvious than some people think. But ultimately, there should be some form of recovery. ”

Nixon, who served as RBC’s CEO from 2001-2014, was at the helm during the financial crisis of 2008-09. He said the virus outbreak is, in many ways, the “most challenging thing” he’s seen in his career.  

“The reaction that markets and governments and the public are dealing with in the situation are very different than anything we’ve ever dealt with before,” Nixon said.

“It is a very difficult period when you’re trying to manage wealth,” he added. “I’ve never seen a market where everything – well 2008-2009 would be close – where everything other than Treasuries seem to be going down.”   

Nixon said the unprecedented nature of the pandemic means financial experts won’t be able to tell investors when or how the recovery will happen.

“All you can do is be patient. Cash and liquidity is an important thing whether you are an individual or whether you are an organization,” he said. “Maintaining the highest level of liquidity as possible is extremely important as we manage through this.”

“There will at some point be a bottoming and a recovery – the issue is when.”