Pub. 10 2021 Issue 1

8 By Rob Nichols, President and CEO, American Bankers Associat ion WASHINGTON UPDATE COVID-19 Turns One: Lessons Learned from a Global Health Crisis A s impossible as it is to believe, we have been living in a global pandemic for an entire year. What began as a headline from a distant corner of the world quickly became a worldwide health crisis that continues to wreak havoc on our way of life and has, unfortunately, claimed the lives of too many of our fellow citizens. As I reflect on the last twelve months and the incredible changes that occurred virtually overnight to keep our society moving in the face of perilous uncertainty, I am filled with a deep sense of pride in how the banking industry stepped up to help make that happen. It speaks to the “can-do” spirit of America’s 2 million bank employees that as the world was shutting down, as daily routines were being upended, bankers embraced their role as economic first responders and got to work extending aid that helped keep individuals and businesses afloat. With vaccines now being rolled out to certain groups, we are anxiously awaiting the day when we can finally return to some semblance of a normal life. But achieving herd immunity from the virus will take time, and as we prepare to mark one full year of quarantines, social distancing and face coverings, I’d like to offer a few observations. Our financial system is resilient. After the last financial crisis, banks worked diligently to increase safety and soundness and manage risk more effectively. The post-2008 reforms 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 (D-Calif.) to Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell, that banks performed well and were part of the solution to the coronavirus crisis. Thanks to the strength of our financial system, there is reason to be hopeful for the economic recovery. In fact, the top economists at some of the nation’s largest banks who serve on ABA’s Economic Advisory Committee agree that we could see growth topping 4% in 2021. We must, of course, temper that expectation with the knowledge that the recovery will likely be uneven, and that labor markets could lag behind overall growth, given the massive job losses that occurred. That’s why, going forward, our advocacy for pro-growth policies will be more important than ever. The digital revolution has been rapidly accelerated. Banks were already well on their way toward digital transformation