The banking and real estate industries are grappling with massive uncertainty about the future of their businesses right now, but COVID-19 won’t change two things: the imperative to help fix systemic racism and stave off dramatic climate change. 

As Steve Adams, Diane McLaughlin and Jay Fitzgerald all chart in this issue, the pandemic has upended what had, for decades, been standard practice.  

Lenders are being challenged to revamp their fraud prevention practices for our brave, new, completely remote world while simultaneously reducing friction for customers trained by one-click Amazon shopping. 

Retail landlords are trying different ways to diversify their properties’ cashflows as brands that represented solid credit tenants for years suddenly face dubious prospects and customers shy away from indoor shopping. For some, experiments with adding medical offices have proved to be good bets. Others are placing their money on multifamily housing. 

Developers in Boston’s inner core are faced with the thorny question of how to anchor a development’s retail portion when changing consumer habits – not to mention the seemingly never-ending pandemic – mean traditional approaches must be rethought.  

And let’s not forget the plight of office landlords trying to understand whether America is on the precipice of a seismic shift in the way white-collar work is done. 

But, amid all this disruption, it’s clear that once the pandemic is over two momentous problems from pre-COVID days will still be with us – and will likely be even worse. 

First, structural, systemic racism will still need to be confronted. Even before the pandemic, Americans of color faced staggering disparities in personal wealth, health and access to the top ranks of companies. The pandemic has not created the conditions to force corporate America to change the personnel policies that perpetuate this; much of the banking sector still uses lending practices that hinder, rather than help build wealth in minority communities.  

Second, while the pandemic temporarily reduced the world’s greenhouse gas output as collapsing demand for goods idled factories and work-from-home mandates slashed car trips, those emissions have since rebounded. And the virus has not suddenly eliminated the danger of letting our carbon dioxide emissions continue unabated. 

While feeling our way through the next several quarters until pandemic is defeated and the markets’ new directions and customers’ new habits become clearer, let’s make sure our experiments in shaping that new future help us build back stronger.  

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COVID Won’t Eliminate Two Major Problems

by Banker & Tradesman time to read: 2 min