The COVID-19 pandemic arrived suddenly in a world that was unprepared for such an event and impacted the global economy severely and at pace. While global markets have become accustomed to economic shocks over the past century, the COVID-19 pandemic crisis was different in one material respect – it stemmed from a global health crisis that quickly morphed into an economic crisis.
The combined force of these crises was unprecedented in many ways as it has severely impacted markets and individuals globally. Millions have been unemployed or furloughed at home. Companies and businesses, especially smaller ones, have been crippled by low or no revenue. Governments at the national and local levels have struggled to meet health care and other needs while facing significant shortfalls in tax revenues. Health care systems in many countries have been severely stretched in meeting patient needs.
In this context, we set out to analyze how financial markets and financial institutions have responded during the crisis in support of the global economy. We looked in particular at three core financial market activities – extending credit, facilitating access to capital and market-making in the secondary markets. In so doing, we focused primarily on the large, international banks that are most active across these areas.
Based on this analysis, it is clear that the decade-long implementation of regulatory reform initiatives has significantly enhanced the strength and resiliency of the financial system and banks. This, in turn, has enabled them to play a constructive role in providing financing, facilitating access to capital and supporting the functioning of key markets during the pandemic. It also has enabled financial markets in key jurisdictions to remain open and functioning during this extraordinary time of the COVID-19 health crisis, which has helped to maintain economic stability and market confidence.
The implementation of the regulatory reform initiatives has also enabled banks to support the official sector in its emergency relief programs. The impact of these official-sector initiatives on the economy has, as we know, been substantial. So, too, has been the work of investment management firms around the world, which are ultimately the purchasers of primary debt and investors in equity issuance that has helped enable companies and governments to maintain their operations during the COVID‑19 crisis.
As with every global crisis, there are opportunities to learn. Policymakers and market participants have voiced the need to assess whether measures should be taken to ensure markets and firms are better prepared to deal with the next crisis. Consequently, this report highlights issues that should be part of a broader, holistic analysis of recent events. The aim is not to provide detailed policy prescriptions, but rather to inform discussions on lessons learned so that our global economies and markets are even better placed the next time we face a major global shock.