Responding to and Recovering from the COVID-19 Recession

September 2, 2020 by Jim Bander

This is the fourth in a series of blog posts highlighting optimization, artificial intelligence, predictive analytics, and decisioning for lending operations in times of extreme uncertainty. The first post dealt with optimization under uncertainty, the second with predicting consumer payment behavior, and the third with validating consumer credit scores. This post describes some specific Experian solutions that are especially timely for lenders strategizing their response to the COVID Recession.

Will the US economy recover from the pandemic recession?  Certainly yes.

When will the economy recover? There is a lot more uncertainty around that question.

Many people are encouraged by positive indicators, such as the initial rebound of the stock market, a return of many of the jobs lost at the beginning of the pandemic, and a significant increase in housing starts. August’s retail spending and homebuilder confidence are very encouraging economic indicators.

Other experts doubt that the “V-shaped” recovery can survive flare-ups of the virus in various parts of the US and the world, and are calling for a “W-shaped” recovery.  Employment indicators are alarming: many people remain out of work, some job losses are permanent, and there are more initial jobless claims each week now than at the height of the Great Recession. Serious hurdles to economic recovery may remain until a vaccine is widely available: childcare, urban transportation, and global trade, for example.

I’m encouraged by the resilience of many of our country’s consumer lenders. They are generally responding well to these challenges. If past recessions are a guide, some lenders will not survive these turbulent times. This time, many lenders—whether or not they have already adopted the CECL accounting standards—have been increasing allowances for their anticipated credit losses. At least one rating agency believes major banks are prepared to absorb those losses from earnings.  The lenders who are most prepared for the eventual recovery will be those that make good decisions during these volatile times and take action to put themselves in the best position in anticipation of the recovery that will certainly follow. The best lenders are making smart investments now to be prepared to capitalize on future opportunities.

Experian’s analytics and consulting experts are continuously improving our suite of solutions that help consumer lenders and others assess consumer behavior and respond quickly to the rapidly fluctuating market conditions as well as changing regulations and credit reporting practices. Our newly announced Economic Response and Recovery Suite includes the ABCD’s that lenders need to be resilient and competitive now and to prepare to thrive during the eventual recovery:

A – Analytics. As I’ve written about in prior blog posts, data is a prerequisite to making good business decisions, but data alone is not enough. To make wise, insightful decisions, lenders need to use the most appropriate analytical techniques, whether that means more meaningful attributes, more predictive and compliant credit scores, more accurate and defensible loss forecasting solutions, or optimization systems that help develop strategies in a world where budgets, regulations, and other constraints are changing. For example, Experian has released a set of Spotlight 2020 Attributes that help consumer lenders create a positive experience for customers who have received an accommodation during the pandemic. In many cases motivated by the new race to improve customer experience online, and in other cases as a reaction to new and creative fraud schemes, some clients are using this period as an opportunity to explore or deploy ethical and explainable Artificial Intelligence.

B – Business Intelligence. Credit bureaus like Experian are uniquely situated to understand the impact of the COVID recession on America’s consumers. With impact reports, dashboards, and custom business intelligence solutions, lenders are working during the recession to gain an even better understanding of their current and prospective customers. We’re helping many of them to proactively help consumers when they need it most. For example, lenders have turned to us to understand their customer’s payment hierarchy—which bills they pay first when times are tough. Our free COVID-19 US Business Risk Index helps make lending options available to the businesses who need them most. And we’ve armed lenders with recommendations for which of our pre-existing attributes and scores are most helpful during trying times. Additional reporting tools such as the Auto Market Tracker, Ascend Market Insights Dashboard, and the weekly economic update video provide businesses with information on new market trends—information that helps them respond during the recession and promises to help them grow during the eventual recovery.

C – Consulting. It’s good to turn data into information and information into insight, but how do these lenders incorporate these insights in their business strategies? Lenders and other businesses have been turning to Experian’s analytics and Advisory services consultants to unlock the information hidden in credit and other data sources—finding ways to make their business processes more efficient and more effective while developing quick response plans and more long-term recovery strategies.

D – Delivery.  Decision science is the practice of using advanced analytics, artificial intelligence, and other techniques to determine the best decision based on available data and resources. But putting those decisions into action can be a challenge. (Organizations like IBM and Gartner estimate that a great majority of data science projects are never put into production.) Experian technologies—from our analytics platform to our attribute integration and decision management solutions ensure that data-driven decisions can be quickly implemented to make a real difference. Treating each customer optimally has a number of benefits—whether you are trying to responsibly grow your portfolio, reduce credit losses and allowances, control servicing costs, or simply staying in compliance during dynamic times. In the age of COVID, IT departments have placed increased priority on agility, security, customer experience, and cost control, and appreciate cloud-first approach to deploying analytics.

It’s too early to know how long this period of extreme uncertainty will last. But one thing is certain: it will come to an end, and the economy will recover someday. I predict that many of the companies that make the best use of data now will be the ones who do the best during the recovery.

To hear more ways your organization can navigate this downturn and the recovery to follow, please watch our on-demand webinar and check out our Economic Response and Recovery Suite.

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