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Q&A Perspective Series: Supporting Small Businesses During COVID-19

With new legislation, including the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act impacting how data furnishers will report accounts, and government relief programs offering payment flexibility, data reporting under the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak can be complicated. Especially when it comes to small businesses, many of which are facing sharp declines in consumer demand and an increased need for capital.

As part of our recently launched Q&A perspective series, Greg Carmean, Experian’s Director of Product Management and Matt Shubert, Director of Data Science and Modelling, provided insight on how data furnishers can help support small businesses amidst the pandemic while complying with recent regulations. Check out what they had to say:

Q: How can data reporters best respond to the COVID-19 global pandemic?

GC: Data reporters should make every effort to continue reporting their trade experiences, as losing visibility into account performance could lead to unintended consequences. For small businesses that have been negatively affected by the pandemic, we advise that when providing forbearance, deferrals be reported as “current”, meaning they should not adversely impact the credit scores of those small business accounts. We also recommend that our data reporters stay in close contact with their legal counsel to ensure they follow CARES Act guidelines.

Q: How can financial institutions help small businesses during this time?

GC: The most critical thing financial institutions can do is ensure that small businesses continue to have access to the capital they need. Financial institutions can help small businesses through deferral of payments on existing loans for businesses that have been most heavily impacted by the COVID-19 crisis. Small Business Administration (SBA) lenders can also help small businesses take advantage of government relief programs, like the Payment Protection Program (PPP), available through the CARES Act that provides forgiveness on up to 75% of payroll expenses and 25% of other qualifying expenses.

Q: How do financial institutions maintain data accuracy while also protecting consumers and small businesses who may be undergoing financial stress at this time?

GC: Following bureau recommendations regarding data reporting will be critical to ensure that businesses are being treated fairly and that the tools lenders depend on continue to provide value. The COVID-19 crisis also provides a great opportunity for lenders to educate their small business customers on their business credit. Experian has made free business credit reports available to every business across the country to help small business owners ensure the information lenders are using in their credit decisioning is up-to-date and accurate.

Q: What is the smartest next play for financial institutions?

GC: Experian has several resources that lenders can leverage, including Experian’s COVID-19 Business Risk Index which identifies the industries and geographies that have been most impacted by the COVID crisis. We also have scores and alerts that can help financial institutions gain greater insights into how the pandemic may impact their portfolios, especially for accounts with the greatest immediate exposure and need.

MS: To help small businesses weather the storm, financial institutions should make it simple and efficient for them to access the loans and credit they need to survive. With cash flow to help bridge the gap or resume normal operations, small businesses can be more effective in their recovery processes and more easily comply with new legislation. Finances offer the support needed to augment currently reduced cash flows and provide the stability needed to be successful when a return to a more normal business environment occurs.

At Experian, we’re closely monitoring the updates around the coronavirus outbreak and its widespread impact on both consumers and businesses. We will continue to share industry-leading insights to help data furnishers navigate and successfully respond to the current environment.

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About Our Experts

Greg Carmean, Director of Product Management, Experian Business Information Services, North America

Greg has over 20 years of experience in the information industry specializing in commercial risk management services. In his current role, he is responsible for managing multiple product initiatives including Experian’s Small Business Financial Exchange (SBFE), domestic and international commercial reports and Corporate Linkage. Recently, he managed the development and launch of Experian’s Global Data Network product line, a commercial data environment that provides a single source of up to date international credit and firmographic information from Experian commercial bureaus and Tier 1 partners across the globe.

Matt Shubert, Director of Data Science and Modelling, Experian Data Analytics, North America

Matt leads Experian’s Commercial Data Sciences Team which consists of a combination of data scientists, data engineers and statistical model developers. The Commercial Data Science Team is responsible for the development of attributes and models in support of Experian’s BIS business unit. Matt’s 15+ years of experience leading data science and model development efforts within some of the largest global financial institutions gives our clients access to a wealth of knowledge to discover the hidden ROI within their own data.