3.4 Bank of Finland’s statistics service responds to the heightened need for information due to the COVID-19 pandemic
The Bank of Finland is responsible for producing key financial market statistics. The COVID-19 crisis changed the operating environment and made it necessary to rapidly access reliable information and analyses of the situation. The fast-changing operating environment of the financial markets highlighted the need for up-to-date analysis and a comprehensive picture of market activity.
Compiling statistics is one of the statutory tasks of the Bank of Finland. The Bank meets the information needs of users by actively developing the collection and compilation of statistics and by ensuring that they are up-to-date, relevant and comprehensive even in a changing operational environment.
The COVID-19 pandemic has changed the nature of the Bank of Finland’s statistics and information services
Statistical data lie at the heart of information-based decisions. During the crisis, decision-makers have needed information faster and over a wider range than normal.
The Bank of Finland’s statistics service responded to this need by starting to collect monthly data on card payments after the crisis broke in March. This data has been used to assess the financial and economic impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Data on card payments has made it possible to analyse consumer behaviour in a way that was not possible previously.
The Bank of Finland statistics service sent detailed secure credit institution data every month to the Helsinki Graduate School of Economics Situation Room to be analysed for the purposes of controlling the crisis and drafting decisions.
This new material quickly provided information on how the COVID-19 crisis was affecting private consumption and different sectors of the economy.
Due to the crisis, there was a rapid increase in the demand for credit flexibility from businesses and households.
Credit institutions offered their customers payment holidays in large numbers in the period March–April 2020. These appear in the statistics as renegotiations of loans. The Bank of Finland added the information to its external statistics dashboard.
Towards the end of 2020 it became normal to take payment holidays.
Bank of Finland statistics service produced new data on indebtedness
The Bank of Finland has a statutory right to obtain from credit and financial institutions and other financial market participants the data necessary for carrying out its statutory duties.
In 2020, the Bank drew up plans for data collection in respect of other financial institutions. The aim is to acquire a comprehensive picture of indebtedness in Finland and broaden the analysis of changes to financial channels.
Experts at the Bank of Finland carried out the survey and analysis of indebtedness and financial channels using existing sources, such as the Trade Register and the data that companies had themselves published.
The Bank of Finland also endeavoured to obtain a broader overall picture of financial intermediation by means, inter alia, of an analysis of debt collection agencies. Debt collection agencies are not included in the new data collection exercise. They are nevertheless networked with financial institutions in many ways.
Bank of Finland actively developed compilation of statistics to meet European guidelines
Payments have changed in many ways in recent years. This change is also reflected in statistical requirements.
The Bank of Finland has continued to participate actively in the drafting of European legislation defining new requirements for payment statistics.
The Governing Council of the European Central Bank adopted the amendment to the relevant Regulation in December 2020. The compilation of statistics under the Regulation is to commence in 2022.
The amendment allows for wider and more frequent access to information on phenomena related to retail payments, which will make it easier for the Bank of Finland and the European Central Bank (ECB) to discharge their functions.
In the compilation of statistics on pension funds, the Bank of Finland employs the results of the Financial Supervisory Authority’s data collection, which is undertaken in accordance with European regulations. The data collection exercise extends to pension funds providing individual voluntary pension insurance.
Unlike in many European countries, the sector has not grown very substantially in Finland and the pension institutions still amass most pension funds. Finland provides the data as part of its contribution to the compilation of European Statistics.
February 2020 saw the start of the provision of data on pension funds to the ECB. The first batch of data related to the third quarter of 2019. The information on Finland can also be examined using the ECB’s Statistical Data Warehouse.
Finland has long experience of combining several reporting data collection exercises into an integrated reporting framework. The Bank of Finland has been actively involved in developing the Eurosystem’s Integrated Reporting Framework.
It is expected that the framework will be deployed for the period 2024–2027. A cost-benefit analysis of it is currently being undertaken by the banks and other stakeholders.
The Analytical Credit Database permits broader analyses
The largest statistical project under way in the Eurosystem in recent years has been the establishment of a common analytical credit database.
Now that the database is ready, the Bank of Finland is able to produce more precise and timely analyses using new information.
Unlike before, the analyses conducted can focus on credit by region and a company’s size, its other debtors and its credit characteristics.
The publication of the data began as analyses based on it. The first published analysis concerned loans to housing companies.
In future the material will be used as an essential component in internal and external assessments and analyses of both the Finnish and European loan markets.
Furthermore, the Bank of Finland released on its dashboard new data on securities issued by Finnish residents. The material can be used to undertake a sectoral breakdown of securities issuance by country of ownership, sector and instrument.