If there ever was a year in which past predictions could be swept under the carpet, 2020 was that year. Who could have predicted a worldwide virus pandemic, an economic collapse with a 32% drop in GDP, Fed funds at 0%, a stock market fluctuating between crazy highs and lows—all coupled with historic hurricanes and wildfires? With that being said, the need to look forward and plan for the new year is essential, especially after having experienced what will be considered the greatest of multigenerational events.
The top ten trends I see developing for 2021 are:
1. With a new administration and a split balance of power in Congress, expect a high number of executive orders issued from the White House and continual support for financial relief around the COVID pandemic. With Janet Yellen as the incoming U.S. Treasury Secretary, expect new emphasis to be placed on the oversight of financial institutions and the revival of the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform Act.
2. Sales tax revenue will be down slightly, but not as much as once feared. While direct restaurant, retail stores, and travel sales will be down in the first half of 2021, there will be a continual surge in home improvement, internet, and auto sales.
3. Short-term interest rates will remain low. Despite the low-rate environment, cash will still have value in the marketplace, allowing the opportunity to capture rates higher than the Treasury benchmarks. In 2021, big bank-balance sheets will be at peak levels, leading to scant appetite in taking on new deposits. Community banks deposit products may still be a great option. However, off-balance sheet investments will be much more likely. Proactive investment management of cash will be paramount. Dormant cash will not be viewed positively, especially given recent government audits highlighting cash-management practices.
4. Liquidity and financial data collected throughout 2020 will shed major light on certain trends and potential stresses on an entity’s liquidity during one or more major catastrophic events at once. Such data will allow public and higher Ed institutions to better prepare for future events, both in budgeting and financial forecasting.
5. Given the lower-rate environment, a larger sale of new municipal debt issuance and refinancing will occur. Rating agencies will continue to have a negative outlook on higher Ed debt; that may also cause these agencies to take the same view on local and state debt, given the financial stresses inflicted as a result of the pandemic. Please note that rating agencies use liquidity forecasting in consideration of one’s financial strength, with a weighting average up to 10% of the total rating. To help achieve or maintain a strong credit rating, a liquidity analysis—both quantitative and qualitative—is highly encouraged.
6. Technology will continue to be a big focus in 2021, with ongoing enhancements to virtual conferencing, along with stronger cybersecurity protection against potential malware and other levels of fraud impacting government, healthcare, and higher Ed institutions. Remote online banking will continue to grow in popularity, with less emphasis on direct branch banking.
7. Climate control and green initiatives will continue to gain public support, with greater emphasis on infrastructure projects. Solar will continue growing to meet electricity demands. Due to an aging national electrical grid, major financial commitments will be necessary from both the public and private sectors to be successful.
8. Pressure on higher Ed will continue from the COVID-19 fallout and a long-term trend of lower student enrollment. Though online classes will continue to expand, I foresee a major drop off in campus construction projects and greater competition in attracting new students. It should be noted that the forgiveness of student loans at some level will be a major initiative in early 2021.
9. Given what the COVID-19 pandemic has done to the nation’s economy, there’s likely to be a sizeable increase in Requests for Proposals (RFPs) for banking services in 2021. Competition will remain strong among larger national banks as they provide a broader suite of treasury services and fraud protections.
10. In-person association conferences will gradually phase in over the second half of 2021, with a hybrid model used between virtual and in-person attendance until vaccinations are sufficiently widespread across the United States.
As a fintech company, three+one’s liquidity management platforms—cashVest®, rfpPrep®, bankfee✔® and the Pathway to Recovery®—will continue to deliver new sources of revenue and savings to public institutions and higher Ed entities that utilize these platforms, reaching a cumulative level of over $500 million in 2021 back to those entities we serve.
It is our wish from three+one that you, your families, employees, communities, constituents, clients, and students stay safe and healthy throughout the new year. Please know that given whatever the circumstance, we are all here to be of help and support to your entities and those you serve.