By Charlotte Dennery, CEO of BNP Paribas Leasing Solutions
Markets overview across our different countries
“We’re going through one of those phases where the only certainty is the uncertainty. Accurately predicting a likely scenario for economic rebound therefore becomes a complicated exercise – will we see a V-shaped recovery? A U? Or maybe even a W? As many countries start to come out of months of lockdown, will there be a second wave of COVID-19 that will upend all the efforts of companies to restart their activities? The questions are numerous, and the answers are mere estimates, at best.
However, as an international company serving other companies for 70 years there are certain indicators we’ve learnt to turn to.
In China, where we are present through a partnership with Jiangsu Financial Leasing, our business has almost returned to normal since mid-April. It reached around 80% of last year’s level, with some sectors still suffering losses, such as the cinema.
In Europe, the countries hit hardest by the health crisis – like Italy, France and the UK – show the most significant decline in activity. But this can’t be generalised for all the countries. Spain, for example, showed a slight increase in business in April despite a very critical situation. The Netherlands, Belgium and Germany also managed to maintain their activity in April at the same level as the same period last year.
On the markets side, we have seen that the agricultural sector has resisted quite well against the effects of the crisis, which can be explained by it being probably the most essential of all activities: countries will need to feed their people even during the lockdown. On the other hand, transport and construction were heavily affected and we recorded a decline in activity of about 50% in April. Another sector that resisted well was IT, as companies had to invest in large-scale homeworking solutions and we saw an acceleration of digitalisation like never before. Indeed, it is this sector of technological equipment that seems to have had the strongest recovery in May. As a result, curve seems to look like a V, but we remain cautious with our presumptions at this stage.
Support for businesses
Despite a faint light at the end of this long tunnel that lasted more than two months, let us not forget that the shutdown of companies, factories and other independent businesses have had a dramatic impact on the financial situation of businesses in Europe. Therefore, in order to help them face this, we have re-organised ourselves to meet their requests for rescheduling contracts. We approved more than 144,000 requests for 3-6 months payment deferrals in all our countries. The largest volume of such requests came from France (around 60,000) and Italy (around 40,000).
To cope with this huge influx of requests, we set up automated processes in most countries. Our Robotics Process Automation (RPA) department, which existed even before the crisis, enabled us to deploy these new robots within 15 days. We therefore remain confident in our ability to support businesses, thanks to the adaptability and the flexibility of our people.
Vision for the post-crisis world
The crisis has brought forward many challenges, but beneath these challenges, there are also some underlying opportunities. It prompted us to implement new ways of working and management, more innovative and efficient processes, newer digital tools, and we want to continue to capitalise on these technological leaps we’ve taken during the crisis.
For instance, the remote connection capacity that was increased to allow all our employees to work from home will be maintained.
We also realised that, while travel is essential for maintaining strong relationships with our partners and clients, we can certainly reduce it and thereby limit our environmental footprint.
Contributing to a more sustainable and inclusive future will become more important than ever and, as we slowly emerge from the crisis, our ambition will be to finance even more equipment and businesses that support energy transition and to further develop our circular economy solutions.
This crisis must not be a brake on sustainable development but rather an accelerator. In any case, this is how we see it at BNP Paribas Leasing Solutions!”