Supporting sovereigns and aiding the private sector: agencies bridge gaps
The coronavirus crisis has brought the role of the public sector agency into sharper focus than ever. With companies suffering devastating losses of revenues, sovereigns are doing their best to shoulder the burden and ensure companies have what they need to protect jobs. To do this, many sovereigns are leaning on their agencies as the best way to transmit economic support packages. GlobalCapital held a roundtable in mid-May to discuss the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on the agency sector and how it is managing the crisis.
Because of the economic disruption of the virus, banks are tightening their belts. As a result, private sector lending is scarcer and agencies are stepping up to fill that gap.
For some, the increased demand from their clients means that they face increased funding requirements. For others, it is a question of facilitating the implementation of government support programmes.
Thanks to the support of the European Central Bank and its arsenal of lending programmes, the economic and health crisis of Covid-19 has not turned into the liquidity crisis that gripped financial markets in 2008.
As a result, most agencies are not facing the huge funding requirements that they had to achieve then. As one panellist put it, the job for agencies is not to channel liquidity from the public sector to the private sector, but to channel credit risk from the private sector to the public sector.
Nevertheless, sourcing liquidity is still an important challenge, and agencies have substantial cash requirements. Fortunately, their credits and business models are robust enough to take the additional capacity. Perhaps even more importantly, investors are more eager than ever to deploy cash into safe and ethical endeavours.
The rise of the Covid-19 labelled thematic bond has been far more sudden than the advent of previous themed bonds. The speed of the crisis has galvanised issuers and investors into developing new instruments or adapting existing ones to better channel funds to where they can make the biggest impact in fighting the coronavirus pandemic and its consequences.
Participants in the panel, which took place in May, were:
Antonio Cordero, head of funding and treasury, Instituto de Crédito Oficial
Stefan Goebel, managing director, treasurer, Rentenbank
Antti Kontio, head of funding, Municipality Finance (MuniFin)
Peter Nijsse, managing director treasury and capital markets, BNG Bank
Nicolas Painvin, managing director, global head of international public finance ratings, Fitch Ratings
Petra Wehlert, first vice-president, head of capital Markets, KfW
Moderator: Lewis McLellan, SSAs and MTNs editor, GlobalCapital
GlobalCapital: Welcome. How are your borrowing programmes being affected by the coronavirus pandemic? Are you seeing increased demand from your clients?
Antti Kontio, Municipality Finance: Our funding programme for this year is going to be almost €9.5bn. It was increased by 16% just a few weeks ago due to the impact of coronavirus on the Finnish municipal sector. We are not expecting a huge increase but of course, it’s very difficult to know the actual impact at this stage. So far we have issued roughly 50% of our estimate for the year — roughly €5bn.
Peter Nijsse, BNG Bank: We have a funding programme of about €16bn-€18bn this year. So far, we don’t have a need to increase that, but we may come out at the higher end of that programme.
Antonio Cordero, ICO: Regarding our funding programme, we have €5bn to raise for the year 2020. We believe we are not going to have to increase our funding programme due to the coronavirus. The main package that is implemented in Spain is coming through guarantees from the sovereign. Guarantees of loans don’t imply an increase in our funding at this stage. We will stick to the initial plan of €5bn and so far we’ve netted most of it at around €4.5bn.
Stefan Goebel, Rentenbank: Our borrowing programme is going to range between €11bn and €12bn. The net impact from the coronavirus crisis is likely to be relatively modest. We expect to see somewhat higher liquidity assistance lending, but less investment in the agricultural sector. We are currently quite well on track, having borrowed €5bn equivalent.
Petra Wehlert, KfW: KfW is the principal institution mandated by the German government to handle the Covid-19 loan measures in Germany. Therefore, we have implemented a new funding option via the economic stabilization fund, which is managed by the German Finance Agency.
Our funding programme is not determined by the Covid-19 loan programmes as their refinancing is safeguarded through the government-owned economic stabilisation fund. However, our funding programme is determined primarily by KfW’s regular promotional business and its needs, as well as supplementary refinancing options such as the Eurosystem. We have not yet changed our funding target, which is €75bn for the year. We have funded €35bn so far. However, we will review our funding requirements at the end of H1 and we will give an updated outlook immediately thereafter.
GlobalCapital: Nicolas, a lot of agencies are facing bigger demands than usual and are having to fund more than expected. How will that impact the credit risk of the sector?
Nicolas Painvin, Fitch: We are seeing big changes at the moment. In particular, a lot of agencies and development banks that implement public policies are issuing much more debt than we typically see.
Most of these debt programmes are implemented on behalf of the government. That is fully consistent with what we expected. We consider the agencies part of the state apparatus and we rate them on this basis.
The names we are dealing with today are aligned with their relevant sovereigns, and that is not likely to change. We believe the pandemic just confirms the way we were looking at it. Many people find reasons to have confirmation of what they thought before in all fields, and we belong to that number as well, but to us the massive increase of debt that we’re seeing is a sovereign phenomenon merely implemented by agencies.
GlobalCapital: With that in mind, have your relationships with your sovereigns been altered by the crisis with expanded guarantees, or new programmes to be implemented?
Cordero, ICO: The role of the agency is to help their respective economies when there is a problem attacking the real economy.
Clearly the relationship that we have with the government is much closer than we had in previous years. We are the tool whereby the government is implementing a €100bn guarantee line to help mitigate the effect of the coronavirus pandemic.
The policy is implemented in a triangle. The government provides the guarantee, then we at ICO are very agile in being able to implement those measures, so we can be a very useful tool for the government in that respect. We are working together with the third part of the triangle: the banking industry in Spain. Together, we’re channelling funds to small and medium sized enterprises and the self-employed that are having great problems facing the consequences of the confinement due to Covid-19.
It’s a clear example of PPP: public private partnerships, where the government provides guarantees, ICO implements the guarantees and banks provide the liquidity.
This is unlike the previous crisis. Then ICO was very active in channelling liquidity towards the private sector, because that was what was needed. This time, there is no liquidity issue in the market. Thanks to the European Central Bank, commercial banks have plenty of liquidity. They can resort to the different lines that the ECB has set up — new Targeted Longer Term Refinancing Operations, the new Pandemic Emergency Longer Term Refinancing Operations, as well as the ECB’s older facilities as well.
But even though there is liquidity, the guarantees from the sovereign are very important. It is a good combination of public sector and private sector in co-operation in order to make a defence against coronavirus and protect the lending channels to the real economy. We are playing a central role in providing that channel to aid the real economy of Spain.
Nijsse, BNG: Our relationship with the sovereign isn’t really changing, but we’re a bank for the rest of the public sector. We’re not executing any special crisis programmes, but it’s especially in times like these that the value of institutions like ours is most clear. We are there to always provide financing to our clients in all circumstances.
They may go somewhere else for their financing, but in crisis times liquidity from commercial banks can be scarcer.
That’s where the value of an institution like BNG really shows, because they can come to us when we’re the only institution still providing financing.
Kontio, MuniFin: It’s the same for us. During the financial crisis in 2008, our competitors, which are mainly the commercial banks, withdrew from the market. This is what we’re seeing happen again this year, so we’re essentially left alone to provide the funding for Finnish municipalities and social housing.
Nijsse, BNG: Our market share in normal circumstances is typically very high because the terms at which we can provide financing to our clients are attractive enough that commercial parties don’t get a large share of the business. Nevertheless, commercial banks are starting to see balance sheet restrictions in the current climate. That means they are not able to provide as much funding as usual, or at all the maturities their clients will demand, so that’s where we can step in and play a very important role.
Painvin, Fitch: As Antonio mentioned, the previous crisis was about a lack of liquidity, while this crisis is more about risk. My perception is that the current crisis demonstrates that agencies are able to play a different role. Last time they had to channel liquidity from the public to the private sector because there was a break in the chain. This time, they are channelling credit risk protection from the public to the private sector.
They’re making the banks remote from the insolvency risk of their clients. That’s a different role, or at least, it puts the focus on a different part of the agency’s role. Both roles were already there, but the importance of the latter has increased compared to the former thanks to this crisis.
That, I believe, is very much the merit of large institutions like these agencies; they can take on the credit risk and make sure the market functions smoothly because their creditworthiness is not in question.
Wehlert, KfW: As a promotional bank, our role is to have a close link to the government. In times like this, it’s a little bit closer. On the other hand, our role is also to come between the commercial banks and the government, forming a link.
If I look at the Covid-19 loan programmes we are doing at the moment, they are in close co-operation with the government and with the commercial banks. The banks can concentrate on what they do best, which is assessing the credit risk. We can cover the liquidity part of that. That’s a very good combination, because it allows us to act very rapidly to deliver policy, which is one of the most important aims here.
It’s not a financial crisis like last time. It’s an economic crisis. That requires fast action and we believe KfW is a very good vehicle to aid the commercial banks in protecting the economy.
Goebel, Rentenbank: If I can add one point here, we have existing liquidity bridging loan programmes in place already from the past crises.
In the agricultural sector, many of the entities which will be most badly affected by the Covid-19 crisis in some shape or form already know Rentenbank. They have borrowed money under our loan programmes, either for investment purposes or for liquidity support purposes, in the past. That means it’s very easy for them to get funds now.
Using commercial banks is extremely efficient and gets boots on the ground quickly, ensuring things don’t drag on forever and help actually reaches those in need.
GlobalCapital: There have been huge amounts of borrowing across the SSA and corporate sector as issuers go to the market to replace lost revenues. Have you noticed any strain, or has there been sufficient depth?
Wehlert, KfW: We came to market in March with a five year euro transaction of €4bn. At that time, it was not clear in what ways the environment had changed. Our Bund spread was around 50bp, compared to 28bp for a similar deal we did in January, so that was a big difference. In the order book, we had a lot of banks involved, particularly local banks, so that meant the domestic share was higher than for our deal in January.
Fortunately, the market is being very well supported by the ECB’s measures. It’s a central bank-driven market, so that really kickstarted issuance again very quickly. We already had nicely oversubscribed books, but they became much bigger thanks to the ECB’s support.
The ECB is giving confidence to markets, which means every transaction we see is very nicely executed. We had 140 investors in the book for our euro three year deal, which is a very good result.
If you look at the performance from those bonds, all of the investors are quite pleased to have been involved at an early stage because the deals have performed so much. Therefore, I have no concerns about market depth at the moment.
We have been relatively quiet in the last weeks simply because we raised a lot of cash with those two transactions. We have been carefully monitoring how much liquidity is needed. Since we are fairly liquid at the moment, we have decided to stay on hold for the moment. We can afford to be on hold and not rush in for more cash because the market is relatively stable. I don’t see the next few weeks providing any major disruptions.
Goebel, Rentenbank: We looked at the markets in March as well, but we were fairly liquid at that point, and we felt that the demand from the agricultural side would not come until later. Hence, we thought that we would probably want to wait for a while until the dust settled.
We’ve seen this kind of knee-jerk reaction in the past. Spreads widen significantly when you see a supply shock, but back in 2009, we didn’t have the ECB waiting in the wings promising to absorb a huge amount — more than the net issuance that was initially planned — through its purchasing programmes.
It was reasonably clear for us that we would see spreads widen initially and that we would see very demanding new issue premia simply because investors were smelling blood. But it was also clear that this was set to come down at some point.
What has certainly helped a lot to take the pressure off the market in the meantime is that the dollar has become a cost-effective funding currency again. For many months at the beginning of the year, the only game in town was euros and, to a certain extent, sterling. But now the dollar has proven to be a quite cost-effective currency for benchmarks for borrowers based in euros, and we’ve seen many deals being done quite successfully.
GlobalCapital: Nicolas, there has been a lot of discussion so far about the support that the ECB is providing. What if that were to disappear, or be diminished? With debt burdens growing, if the ECB was not able to keep spreads in check and refinancing costs were to climb, would that be a serious concern for agency credit risk?
Painvin, Fitch: Yes, if refinancing costs were to climb then questions of credit would arise. However, I think that will primarily affect less robust entities lower down the rating scale. It won’t have too much of an impact on the entities we’re discussing today.
GlobalCapital: We’ve discussed the bond market, but what about money markets? Have your needs been increasing there, and what has the disruption been like?
Nijsse, BNG: Our needs have not really increased but we always have quite an active short term funding programme. What we saw was that commercial paper of three months and longer was very illiquid at the beginning of this crisis. It was not easy to get because investors were uncertain and kept their money very close at hand and very short term. It wasn’t so much that there wasn’t enough liquidity in the market, but that it wasn’t available in all maturities.
It wasn’t really a big problem, but it is a bit of an issue as a bank if you want to maintain your liquidity coverage ratio. The slightly longer dated short term funding became less available, but you could still go to the capital markets for bonds.
Now, liquidity has largely come back at three months. It’s become easier to issue CP again, but longer maturities are still in less demand by investors. I think it’s slowly coming back though.
GlobalCapital: Given its importance, should the ECB do more to ensure that the short term market continues to function? It has done a great deal to provide liquidity in bond markets, but not so much for money markets.
Nijsse, BNG: I think that the ECB does not have all that many instruments to do that under its mandate. I think they provide a lot of liquidity in the market, and under their current mandate that is all that they could do.
Goebel, Rentenbank: I’m somewhat surprised that the ECB seems to be so relaxed about the fact that six month Euribor has been going up so much. Just looking at the screens right now, we have 10 year swap rates at minus 18bp, we have four year swap rates basically the low point at minus 32bp and then we have six months Euribor sitting above both rates at minus 13bp. That’s a little bit odd to me. It is driven by the fact that unsecured interbank lending is happening much less than in the past. But this rate is used for a lot of loan contracts and so there’s a hidden increase of rates which is not negligible. We’re talking 20bp to 25bp.
The ECB had the means at its disposal to reverse that trend, but for one reason or another, they haven’t chosen to do so. That took me by surprise.
Wehlert, KfW: We had the same expectation. We see good spread performance in the SSA business if you measure versus swaps, but any swapped issuance versus Euribor is not very attractive because Euribor is so high. I’m surprised there hasn’t been something done about that, because it’s just kept moving higher. There’s been no turnaround. That could turn into an issue in the medium term if we don’t solve that. It’s quite eye-catching at the moment.
GlobalCapital: Since the Covid-19 crisis took off, issuers have been looking for additional funding. Now that green and social bonds are well established markets in their own right, investors have got used to the idea of themed bonds, with proceeds targeted on projects with positive environmental, social and governance aims. Raising cash with Covid-19 bonds was a natural development. What do you think of these products? Antonio, you’ve already used this kind of instrument. How did the experience differ from conventional bonds, or from other ESG themed bonds?
Cordero, ICO: Yes, we’ve already issued a Covid-19 social bond transaction. We printed it on May 6. It was quite an interesting process because we were already updating our social bond framework before Covid-19 really took off. ICO is well known in the market for issuing social bonds. We’ve been selling those products since 2018, although last year, we also issued a green bond.
For us, it developed in a very natural way. We were updating our social bond framework in order to make it more inclusive. This was in January, so we weren’t thinking about Covid-19. At that time, obviously, we didn’t know that Covid-19 was going to turn into a global pandemic.
We included the possibility of addressing natural disasters and pandemics, so we were lucky with the timing and we were able to incorporate the Covid-19 related projects into the framework.
We decided to go ahead and issue a specific thematic social bond addressing the problems stemming from Covid-19.
In fact, our initial plans were to issue a green bond transaction in the first half of the year and issue a social bond in the second half of the year. We have an objective of bringing one social and one green bond to the market each year. But because of how serious Covid-19 quickly became, we decided to change the order and we came to the market and raised €500m with a four year Covid-19 social bond.
The reception was pretty warm. It’s not a new idea to present these kind of sustainability products, but the deal was seven times oversubscribed, which is remarkable. We saw that the investor community was really engaged in trying to be part of the solution. It’s been a nice experience. I think it is part of our DNA at ICO to issue social bonds, so it was a natural step for us to take.
Kontio, Munifin: When it comes to the Covid-19 issue, we have also had discussions around these bonds. They fit perfectly for issuers who finance the operational costs of their clients anyway. But in our case, our lending is mainly related to long term financing for long term projects. So therefore, it doesn’t really fit into our thinking.
But it is worth raising the governance question. Nowadays we do have clear governance for green bonds and for social bonds, regarding the frameworks and second opinions etc, but this kind of approach does not exist for Covid-19 bonds yet.
Therefore, our preference would be for issuers to use social bond frameworks when possible. In our case, we do have a framework in place and we are planning to issue our first social bond later in this year. Hopefully, we’ll be able to earmark something Covid-19 related as well.
GlobalCapital: There’s always a strong bid for green and social bonds. Is there an extra appeal for investors with Covid-19 bonds?
Cordero, ICO: Based on our experience, the answer is yes. We had a lot of calls with investors and their ESG teams and they were very interested in knowing which projects we would be using the proceeds for. One example of one of our projects is the specific credit lines we set up to help the companies in the tourism sector, and the health sector.
We have a variety of projects where the focus is specifically addressing the Covid-19 pandemic. We have a lot of funding requirements specifically for this. Some investors appreciated the fact that, within our social bond framework, we were focusing on an issue that is in the limelight, and that they want to engage with. The demand we saw was very strong.
Wehlert, KfW: To us, Covid-19 bonds are obviously social bonds. While we appreciate all projects which pay out benefits for ESG factors, our top priority is still green bonds.
As an issuer, we’re very involved with looking at the long term trends in the green bond market. One of the recent trends there is that we’re not seeing the same price differentials we used to. Of course, green bonds and social bonds are well subscribed but the price differentials are narrower than they used to be.
When you look at the green bond class versus the conventional class, there has been a gap in the cost of funds those products usually achieve, but we’re not seeing it at the moment. It’s a bit disappointing. Surely, given the unique time we are in, and the huge demand we’re seeing from investors, it’s surprising that the price differentials aren’t there.
My own explanation for this is that in a crisis market like this, everybody concentrates on the core considerations. These core points are: how big is the bond and how liquid is the bond? That’s why we’re not seeing measurable price differentials in favour of green bonds at this point.
But perhaps we will get back to that situation. For us, the green bond market is the top priority, funding our efficiency programme and it’s still going very well.
GlobalCapital: As well as increasing the pace of funding activity in capital markets, and requiring the establishment of new programmes and lending facilities, Covid-19 has led to another type of more mundane disruption for many people. Have you been working from home? Has that brought new challenges?
Nijsse, BNG: My treasury is still fully working from the office. The rest of the building is totally empty.
The funding has all worked quite well. The team has been split between two locations. We have our main office and our disaster recovery site. We’ve upgraded the whole disaster recovery site so it has a fully operational permanent dealing room.
As well as splitting the team in two, we have to make sure we are sitting far enough apart in each office to avoid problems with Covid-19.
However, in payments and settlements, we do see hiccups once in a while. Back offices around the world are working from home partly or fully. That does sometimes cause operational problems and maybe it raises operational risk because we’ve seen a number of difficult settlements or indeed non-settlements since the crisis began.
Cordero, ICO: ICO had started a pilot project for tele-working in mid-February. It started with a small group as a test to see if this is something that we would be able to enlarge afterwards.
But with the coronavirus outbreak, we have had to speed up the process. At the beginning of March approximately 95% of the workforce was tele-working. We’ve been implementing all these special measures for facing the Covid-19 crisis from home and everything is working reasonably well.
The processes take longer than when the whole infrastructure is in place normally. But we’re very satisfied with how things are working, even remotely. We’ve managed to expand this way of working very easily and quickly.
Kontio, MuniFin: For us, the change has not been too large. We’re used to travelling a lot, so the team has been used to working while split between different locations anyway. The change has been quite minimal to be honest, which is good.
We executed a five year euro benchmark just a few weeks ago, and we ran the operation fully from our homes. We have a four-member team and all of us took care of different areas. In the end, it was a smooth process. During a primary transaction, books may grow fast so a quick response is important, but we were able to cope. I think the only challenge was for us to navigate who does what, particularly on the pricing call. All in all, it’s something we’ll get used to in the future.
GlobalCapital: You mentioned travelling, which is something none of us can do at the moment. Once the danger of coronavirus is over, will we go back to normal, or do you think that attitudes to travel are changing permanently? Obviously there are ESG considerations to frequent trips abroad.
Wehlert, KfW: My hope is that we use this break to rethink what we are doing. We all do many of the international conferences around the world, and these are potential hotspots for Covid-19.
But what we’re discovering during this time is that many of the things we want to discuss at these events, we can do in different formats. We would never have made that change without having the pressure to find new solutions.
Now we have the experience. Home offices work and digital conferences can work. In a way, it’s also going back to the roots. It’s an interesting experience because if we have talks with investors, you can get to the people who really do the business. They can talk for half an hour digitally, when they couldn’t fly out for a conference.
It means a reduced marketing focus, but increased concentration on the core business. Twenty-five years ago when I started in this market, that’s how we did business.
We have to rethink things. Obviously we will have some physical conferences, but perhaps these should just be for special occasions and special events.
My hope is that we don’t just write this year off and then go back to doing the same things the same ways we used to do them before the crisis. Instead, we should use this opportunity to reshape our business.
Nijsse, BNG: Even before this crisis, we were looking at doing more virtual and digital roadshows. For our last ESG bond we did all the investor meetings on the phone or by video call. From an ESG perspective there should be less traveling.
It will never fully replace personal contact, particularly for first meetings, but follow-up meetings could clearly be done in the form we’re using now, so I agree with Petra.
Painvin, Fitch: I’m a transport economics specialist. This debate reminds me of old debates where people predicted a drop in travelling. You might remember when the fax machine came in and the first virtual conferences appeared, people said that would cause travelling to decline, but it didn’t happen. There is a very strong body of research demonstrating that over centuries, not over decades but centuries, the proportion of time and money dedicated to travelling has been constant.
So we travel more and for higher cost because we are getting richer and we travel more quickly. So speed and wealth have changed the magnitude but not the proportion. Sometimes we have changes of behaviour, so it could happen, but it would be surprising.
Nijsse, BNG: I think what has really changed is the focus that we as a bank have on reducing the carbon dioxide emissions caused by travelling. We have a target to reduce the flight kilometres travelled. That has changed compared to the past.
Cordero, ICO: I go along with Petra and Peter. We should take advantage of this opportunity to really change the way we do things. But I don’t think that this crisis is going to make things specifically different in travel.
In my humble opinion, I think that the consequence will be that the process that has already started is going to be accelerated. Behaviour is changing, so yes, we’ll see less travelling. But we cannot lose sight of the fact that human beings are social animals.
It’s true that we should be concerned about pollution and the ESG factors, but at the same time, I think it’s also fair to recognize that people really appreciate the effort that you make when you go to their home city to have a face to face meeting.
It’s completely different now obviously, because there is a fear that by having physical meetings, you can increase health risks. But I’m not 100% sure that once we have an effective vaccine and we start feeling safe again, that we will not resume the previous way of doing things.
Let’s see what happens. I would say that it would be good to take advantage of this opportunity to make sure we’re going in the right direction, but I don’t think that there’s going to be a dramatic change in the way we do business once the health risk of having physical meetings is passed.
Kontio, MuniFin: I’m also very pro on all these video conferences. Soon it will open some new doors and allow us to broaden the base of investors that buys our bonds. When you don’t need to travel, you can you can use that time to do something else, so it is highly valuable from an efficiency standpoint to use these systems.
Issuers and investors, if they haven’t done so already, will be investing more and more into the technology so soon everybody will be capable of doing meetings this way. Some of the central banks don’t have the capability yet but hopefully after the crisis everybody will be able to participate in videoconferences.
Goebel, Rentenbank: There are three factors when it comes to the adoption of new technology. There’s cost, there is social acceptance and then widespread availability of the required equipment.
I would actually expect that, given how widespread this crisis is, videoconferencing technology will soon be widely available. It will simply become more commonplace and convenient.
We could be sitting in the same room now, and while it would be nice to see all of you in person, as a matter of fact, in terms of being able to participate in this discussion, it’s quite similar to if we had all travelled to London.
There is going to be a big push for this sort of activity, because it significantly reduces costs, and reduces the amount of business travel and its negative ESG impacts going forward.
GlobalCapital: Yes, I can imagine that videoconferencing technology is really going to take off as a result of this crisis. What about other technologies? Are you pushing for more digitalisation or automation in your own teams? Is this a time when we can push for more efficient, up-to-date working practices in capital markets?
Nijsse, BNG: I think the other thing that has become clear in this crisis is that the primary market, at least as I see it in my dealing room, is the market that requires the most things to be done manually and requires the most personal contact.
For instance, documentation is still sent around and then signed physically. I hope that we learn from the current situation that we have to improve this and that there are still large efficiency gains to be made in the systems and procedures of our market. We could have benefitted already if we had taken those steps earlier.
Wehlert, KfW: That’s a good point because the biggest challenge for us always was that documents have to be signed physically. We have to agree on having two people for signing the documents.
We ourselves have to be more efficient, but also some legal models have to change. Hopefully, we’ll get some push to overcome these challenges as a result of this crisis.