More than 12 months after the World Health Organization declared Covid-19 to be a global pandemic, the world has changed dramatically.
However, the US banking sector has remained resilient due to the work of the sector’s two million “economic first responders”, according to the American Bankers Association’s (ABA) chief executive Rob Nichols.
In an article on the association’s website, Nichols said the work of the banking sector over the past year gave him “a deep sense of pride” in those who navigated changes to their own work and home lives to help others through financial uncertainty.
He cited the banking regulation reforms put in place following the 2007-09 global financial crisis, which were “intended to help banks better absorb financial shocks—and the success of those reforms was borne out in the crisis response”.
“It was widely acknowledged, by everyone from Financial Services Committee chairwoman Maxine Waters to Federal Reserve chairman Jerome Powell, that banks performed well and were part of the solution to the coronavirus crisis,” Nichols said.
The rapid growth of digital banking in 2020 “provided a push to bank customers who may not have fully embraced digital banking to do so in earnest”, the ABA chief continued, arguing that babks should be able to realize efficiencies in future from this online move.
“The robust digital banking landscape also bodes well for financial inclusion – the ability to remotely access banking services will enable a broader set of customers to take advantage of the full panoply of financial tools and resources at their fingertips,” he added.
Digital channels were particularly important for the facilitation of the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), with billions of dollars’ worth of emergency loans passed on to small businesses through online banking platforms.
Nichols also highlighted the importance of ABA’s relationships with state banking associations in facilitating the prompt dissemination of information and enabling collaboration on lobbying.
ABA and other organizations engaged with government officials regularly during the pandemic crisis, lobbying for the expansion of facilities such as the Main Street Lending Program. It also pushed hard for changes to the loan forgiveness process of the PPP to make it easier for borrowers to have loans written off.
The association also played a role in supporting health policies such as the wearing of face masks throughout bank branches to reduce the spread of the virus.