As we move into 2021, it’s safe to say that no one has a good handle on the world’s economy. Sure, there are plenty of opinions, and you may have your theories, but 2020 taught us that we don’t know as much about the future as we previously believed.
So, when it comes to risk management, where does that leave us? How should you approach your credit management in the years to come? Now is an excellent time to take a deep breath, review the situation, and develop a plan to move forward with confidence.
Returning to Your Lending Fundamentals
For many businesses, the pandemic has served as an unwanted wake-up call. It’s easy to allow your business to coast in many different areas, but any coasting you were doing was suddenly brought to a halt early in 2020. Now is a good time for your B2B lending practices to get back to managing credit and risk management fundamentals.
- Establish and maintain relationships – this is perhaps the most basic of all fundamentals in B2B lending for an industry like home furnishings. You are likely dealing with a limited number of clients, and as such, you want to create relationships with those businesses so you can work together effectively. It’s when you lose touch with these accounts that problems tend to develop. Keeping in touch will help you spot signs of trouble before they become significant issues.
- Assess accounts regularly – our second point ties in directly with the first. Routinely assessing the condition of your credit accounts and adjusting those accounts as a result of your review is essential. For example, if an account seems to be struggling to keep up at its current limit, pulling that limit back for some time is an easy way to reduce exposure in an uncertain market.
- Revise lending criteria. The criteria you use to issue credit are the backbone of your lending program and the foundation of your risk management plan. Given how dramatically things have changed in the last 12 months, it would be wise to review your lending criteria. That doesn’t necessarily mean you need to use stricter criteria, however. It might be necessary to loosen your standards slightly, given the struggle that everyone faced in the early days of the pandemic.
The Limitations of Metrics
You likely make most of your credit decisions based on a set of metrics that evaluate the borrower’s creditworthiness. That’s a great place to start, but the pandemic has thrown those metrics into turmoil. The numbers you see on paper for a company’s performance in 2020 are skewed by the situation and may not reflect the business’s health.
Now we come back to the value of conversations and relationships. To some extent, you will have to lean more heavily on personal contact and honest discussions since current business performance metrics will not be beneficial in your risk management plan. You don’t need to throw all the numbers out of the window but use them within the context of the larger picture and consider all angles while making credit decisions.
Pandemics come and go. The last year has not been anyone’s idea of an ideal world, but better days are to come. With the big picture in mind, resist the temptation to panic and make drastic, reactionary changes to your lending procedures. Retreating into extremely tight lending rules isn’t the best option – and neither is offering credit to anyone and everyone who asks. Making small changes based on market conditions is wise, but be patient and work with your clients to arrive at a brighter future.
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