The COVID Diaries: nonbank financial-institution borrower 1

The following interview is with an Australian-based funding executive at a nonbank financial institution. It was conducted on 20 March 2020.

Are you working from home? If so, how challenging has the change been and, if not, do you think you will be working from home in the coming weeks?

Yes. We have all been working from home since 16 March. It is exciting as well as challenging, in that we have had to ensure systems are working and can cope with hundreds of people logging in remotely.

It has proved quite difficult, bedding it all down. The biggest concern has been ensuring people are not feeling isolated. When you are working from home, you lose the social element of the physical workplace – having someone ask you for a coffee and having that excuse to get up from your desk. There is an element of excitement but it has been challenging to adapt to this new world.

How close do you think the market will get to business as usual if we are in a period of social distancing for multiple months, including working from home and little or no face-to-face interaction?

We are some months away from things going back to normal. I was listening to [Westpac Banking Corporation chief economist] Bill Evans’ update yesterday and his view was that we will see cases continue to rise until June. His thinks we will not see life go back to normal until we see cases flatten.

Everything we do is affected by how the coronavirus progresses and spreads over the next three months. Social distancing and working from home will be the new norm for perhaps at least the next six months.

It is going to change the way we interact more generally, too. We will come out of this period with different views on things. Some of that will be positive – learning that we can work virtually. But we are in this for a fair while yet.

“We are thinking about what we can learn from this and how we are going to change our life off the back of this more positively. I do think there are opportunities, such as maybe working from home two days a week, after all this has cleared up.”

What other changes are you making in your personal and professional life?

I have stopped going to the gym as of yesterday. For people with children, there are question marks around whether it is appropriate to pull them out of school and childcare. That is a bit of a watching brief for the time being.

More broadly, we are thinking about what we can learn from this and how we are going to change our lives more positively off the back of this. I do think there will be opportunities after all this has cleared up, such as maybe working from home two days a week and changing the way we think about our workday.

What are you most worried about in this period, personally or professionally? How worried are you in general?

Professionally, the biggest thing is ensuring we as a business are well-equipped to ride this through. Most of us in the securitisation market, particularly on the issuer side, are making sure we are comfortable with our liquidity position and that bank relationships are strong and we receive the support we need. That is the biggest focus for me right now.

I feel the securitisation market will be closed for some time. I don’t think it will be closed for six months but the next couple of months will be difficult to get deals away. The Australian Office of Financial Management (AOFM) announcing its A$15 billion (US$9 billion) package will be a real confidence boost for the nonbank sector.

From a personal perspective, the most worrying thing is elderly people in my life becoming sick. I am also worried about how people are going to cope with social distancing over the next few months, especially those in nursing homes and those living on their own.

What is the latest article you have read in relation to COVID-19 and what did you like/not like about it? Can you provide a link?

I have been reading a lot of articles on financial markets. I think the last thing I read was what KangaNews put out yesterday around the AOFM funding and what that means for the market.

It is pleasing, from an economic and social perspective, to see the initiatives the RBA [Reserve Bank of Australia] and the government announced yesterday. It does feel as if they are stepping up their efforts.

I read an update on the ABC this morning that the death toll in Italy has overtaken China’s. Not a positive article but I don’t think I have read many positive articles on COVID-19.

KangaNews is your source for the latest on the COVID-19 pandemic’s impact on Australasian debt capital markets. For complete coverage, click here.