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Q&A Perspective Series: The Economic Impact of COVID-19

The economic impact of the COVID-19 health crisis is ever-evolving and requires great flexibility and planning from lenders. Shannon Lois, Experian’s Senior Vice President, Analytics, Consulting and Operations, discusses what lenders can expect and next steps to take.

Q: Though COVID-19 is catalyzing a sharp economic slowdown, many experts expect it to be temporary and liken it more to a global natural disaster than the prior financial crisis. What are your reactions?

SL: There is still debate as to whether we will have a U-shaped or a V-shaped recession and its probable severity and longevity. Regardless, we are in a recession caused by a health pandemic with uncertainty of what it will mean for our global economy and without a clear view as to when it will end.

The sooner we can contain the virus the more it will help to curtail the size of the recession. The unemployment rates and the consumer lack of confidence in the future will continue to contract spending which in turn will continue to propagate the recession. Our ability to limit COVID-19 over the coming months will have a direct impact in the economy, although the effects will probably linger on for six or more months.

Q: From an economic perspective, what are the current trends we’re seeing?

SL: Unemployment has skyrocketed and every business sector has been impacted although with   different degrees of severity. In particular, tourism/hospitality, airlines, automotive, consumer products and retail have suffered. Consumers’ financial status varies and will continue to fluctuate, and credit conditions tighten while welfare payments increase. The government programs that have started will help, but they’re not enough to counter a prolonged recession.

As some states seek to reopen and others extend their shelter in place orders, we will continue to see economic changes, with different sectors bouncing back or dipping further depending on their geographic location.

Q: How does the economic slowdown compare to what we may have expected previously?

SL: This recession is different than anything we have encountered previously not only because of the health concerns and implication of our population but because of the uncertainty of it all.

As an example, social distancing has significantly and immediately impacted consumer demand but overall it is their low confidence in the future that will cause a continuous drop in discretionary and non-discretionary spending. Not only do we have challenges on the demand side, we also are seeing the same on the supply side with no automotive manufacturing occurring in the USA, and international oil flooding the market causing negative impact on domestic oil and the broad energy market.

Q: How do the unemployment and liquidity challenges come into play?

SL: The unemployment rate has already jumped to a record high. Most consumers are facing liquidity and affordability challenges and businesses do not have enough cash reserves to sustain them. Consumer activity has shifted drastically across all channels while lenders are exercising more caution.

If this is a V-shaped recession (and hopefully it will be), then most activity is bound to spring back quickly in Q3. With companies safeguarding some jobs and the help of governments’ supplemental programs, businesses will restore supply and consumer demand will get a kick start.

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

SL: The path forward requires several steps. First, understand your customers, existing and new. Refine your policies with the right information around your customers’ financial situations and extend programs (forbearance and loan payment forgiveness) as needed under the right guidelines. It’s also important to use refreshed data to lend to consumers and businesses who need it now more than ever, with the proper policies and fraud checks in place. Finally, increase your agility to operate effectively and dynamically with automation, interactive communication and self-serving digital tools.

Experian is committed to helping lenders throughout these uncertain times. For more resources, visit our Look Ahead 2020 Resource Hub.

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About Our Expert

Shannon Lois, Senior Vice President, Analytics, Consulting and Operations, Decision Analytics

Shannon and her team of analysts, scientists, credit, fraud and marketing risk management experts provide results-driven consulting services and state-of-the-art advanced analytics, science and data products to clients in a wide range of businesses, including banking, auto, credit, utility, marketing and finance. Prior to her current role, she founded the Advisory Services practice at Experian, driving to actionable and proven solutions for our clients’ most pressing business problems.