Top 8 predictions for 2021

The dumpster fire that was 2020 finally is out. Here are 8 things to look forward to.

December 21, 2020

The brightest days, as they say, often come after the darkest nights.

And 2020 was one surprise after another, ranging from a worldwide pandemic to an actual invasion of murder hornets. It seemed like every day the dumpster fire kept spreading while we tried to put it out with a combination of dried lint and diesel fuel.

Of course, some economists do not agree. Like the one who said, “if you take out the pandemic, rioting, the election, and the economic collapse, it wasn’t half bad.”

This, obviously, is how we all explain away a Seattle Mariners season.

What should we expect this year—at least the part of the year when we can go outside again and enter a building without holding our breath?

Here are my top eight predictions for 2021.

1. Travel will explode.

“Stay at home” orders will be supplanted by the “go anywhere other than home” decree.

Flights will be packed, hotels and attractions swamped, and even little-known destinations such as “South Dakota” will be busy.

For credit unions, this will lead to increasing credit card balances and a rush of staff vying for prime vacation days.

2. Those hardest hit will still struggle.

Restaurants and other businesses hardest hit by the pandemic will continue to struggle even while demand recovers. This is because their reserves will be depleted and many will keep using food delivery services which are, to put it mildly, kind of a “thing.”

This will keep unemployment for folks in those industries frustratingly high.

3. Rates will increase.

While the feds have promised that rates short-term will not increase until at least 2023 or “when Nicholas Cage finally wins an Oscar” (whichever is first), better economic conditions will force the longer end of the rate curve up, cooling the housing market a bit and increasing the rates we offer on certificates.

In response, regulators will demand substantial planning for potential balance sheet risks due to higher rates. They’ll do the same for liquidity pressures around June.

4. Liquidity will fall.

The emergency funds people stashed will prove too tempting, so watch for some of that to leave.

This will be good (economic stimulus) but may mask weakness as some low-performing institutions will have increasing net worth as their assets shrink.

5. Staff will stay at home.

This is probably permanent, folks. Low and behold, people actually like working from home.

It is more convenient, saves on travel, and puts a well-stocked cafeteria within easy walking distance. Plus, somebody needs to take care of that pandemic dog.

6. Transactional members won’t return to branches.

While this has been the holy grail of many a strategic plan since 1980, all it took was for a deadly disease to scare the bejesus out of folks to adopt technology.

Unfortunately, some of us hadn’t invested enough in new systems when this sudden change occurred, so watch for a lot of new mobile and home banking systems to come online by the end of the year.

7. Business lending will be hit and miss.

Generally, economic downturns affect everyone, but in slightly different ways. Not 2020.

This year decided to surgically strike certain areas—like just about anybody playing the New York Jets. Knowing which areas have a future and which areas hope to have a future will be the name of the game.

8. Murder hornets.

The fact there is a hive of bees called “murder hornets” should have been front-page news for months. But due to the dumpster fire we call 2020, it barely made a mention on most news shows.

Look for this story to get additional traction during the summer months as the bees become more active and get their own reality show on Netflix.

As an economist I would estimate that fewer than 10% of my predictions come to fruition—which makes me one of the better economists. But as someone who might just be hoping for a better year, I think my accuracy is near perfect.

As they also say, hope springs eternal.

JAMES COLLINS is president/CEO of O Bee Credit Union, Tumwater, Wash.

► Read more about strategy in 2021, sponsored by Origence.