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Maintaining credit health during this pandemic is key

When borrowers honor their obligations, there’s no reason to see credit in a bad light, especially as it helps the economy grow faster this way. But how do you manage credit in the middle of a pandemic?

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Keeping your physical and mental health in check during the COVID-19 pandemic is crucial, but global information and insights provider TransUnion emphasizes that financial health must not be set aside. For most people, this generally entails having a steady flow of income, looking after any savings, and maintaining bill payments and other financial commitments.

But with the severe economic impact of COVID-19 globally, this isn’t always possible and it is vital that consumers truly understand how certain aspects of finance work to find or even create opportunities amid these difficult times.

There is no standard measure of financial health as each person’s circumstances are unique, but there is one aspect to finance that is often misunderstood, and that is credit. Credit is an important part of the economy because it allows entities and consumers to engage in transactions now that may not be possible if they only rely on their current capacity.

Anyone who has a credit card, loan, bank overdraft, or other similar credit agreements has a credit report – a record of how they manage their credit obligations, collected and aggregated by credit agencies like TransUnion. When borrowers honor their obligations, there’s no reason to see credit in a bad light, especially as it helps the economy grow faster this way. But how do you manage credit in the middle of a pandemic?

“A healthy credit history can help determine a consumer’s ability to access financial products and their ability to get competitive deals. At TransUnion, we are working with financial institutions to help them better understand consumers so they can continue to provide them with the financial services they need. TransUnion’s data quality assurance team stringently reviews credit data contributions and ensures that consumers are being accurately represented so their access to financial services remain unhampered during the challenges presented by COVID-19,” said Pia Arellano, TransUnion Philippines president and CEO.

Regulatory and institutional safeguards notwithstanding, there are a number of habits that consumers can practice to maintain good credit health even amid a pandemic.

1. Pay bills on time

Make it a point to not miss any payment deadlines, even if you can only pay the minimum amount. Automate it if possible or set alarms if you must. The purpose of a credit report is to help lenders see whether or not you miss payments and predict a behavior pattern for the future.

There are grace periods accorded to consumers during the pandemic, so it’s best to be aware of the policies implemented by your bank or financial institution for your convenience. Depending on your case, you may need to contact them directly to arrive at a repayment plan that suits your needs at present. However, if you can pay as soon as the bills come in, do so and you’ll have less to worry about.

2.  Set a budget and stick to it

The economic impact of COVID-19 is likely to extend over many years and having the discipline to stick to a budget and not over spend now will benefit you in the long run. In addition, do not apply for several new accounts at a time. Having a lot of simultaneous inquiries on your credit report worries lenders as it is a sign that you might be using credit and loans to supplement your income because you are spending beyond what you can actually afford.

3. Maintain low balances

Credit cards are considered “maxed-out” when you have spent 90% or more of the credit limit. When you maintain lower balances, lenders view you as someone who uses their credit responsibly. To achieve this, you should be able to pay your bills in full, on time, every time.

4. Build a strong relationship with lenders by being a responsible borrower

Lenders recognize that with higher credit limits comes increased responsibility. Credit limits tend to be reflective of both your wider financial standing as well as historic account conduct. A high credit limit reflected in your credit report can signal to lenders that you are a trustworthy candidate for new lines of credit. Should an unprecedented event such as this pandemic arise, you know that you’re in a position to access financial products at competitive interest rates if you need to.

5.  Beware of phishing and other scams that proliferate even during crises

A recent TransUnion report found that fraudsters are decreasing their schemes against businesses but increasing COVID-19 focused scams against consumers online. With the rise in digital transactions in banking, make sure you do not fall victim to fraud activities like account takeover or unauthorized account opening schemes that can taint your credit report. As a general rule, steer clear of offers that sound too good to be true. Legitimate financial institutions can never provide miraculous results in the short-term.

Other precautions include doing a regular review of your bank accounts for any suspicious activity, never providing sensitive information such as PINs and One-Time Passwords, and keeping your information secure against phishing attacks. It’s worth looking into password managers and updating your passwords on your bank accounts every so often. If you need to communicate with your bank, stick to its official channels.

6. Contribute to a savings fund

Building an emergency fund is generally considered good practice in your overall budgeting and serves to keep your credit health in check as well. Having enough funds on hand will help cover credit obligations, keeping you in good credit standing until you recover and things stabilize again.

Navigating the road to economic recovery

Build and keep the above-mentioned habits and you’ll maintain a good credit standing and overall financial health. Now, what should you do if you still cannot pay your bills at this time due to sudden loss of income or other extreme circumstances?

Consumers should coordinate with their bank or financial institution to explain their situation. Generally, consumers can request a payment holiday, lowering of monthly payments until they have fully recovered, or restructuring of a loan or credit facility for a smaller payment amount and longer tenure. Needless to say, it helps if you are in good credit standing to begin with.

As a seasoned and trusted global data steward, TransUnion recognizes its unique position to help consumers as they pursue economic recovery by helping financial institutions address current uncertainties using the power of information. Building on its database of 25 million account points that features a more holistic and insightful view into consumer behavior, TransUnion has started harnessing trended data that looks at richer information from a longer period of time (24 months payment history) to determine a consumer’s current and likely future financial situation. This, in turn, gives businesses quality information to continue supporting customers even in uncertain times such as the pandemic. When done right, everyone contributes to helping the economy bounce back stronger.

“We’ve been called to do bayanihan to recover as one, which essentially recognizes the need for us to work together to fully address current financial challenges. Our mission at TransUnion is to use the data that we have to help businesses and consumers make smarter finance decisions, especially during difficult times like this pandemic. We hope to continue creating a virtuous cycle of empowered businesses that empower consumers to gain access to financial services which can uplift their lives and financial health, as we believe this contributes a great deal to their physical and mental well-being too,” said Arellano.

Strategies

3 Lessons from Coco Chanel on how to go from outsider to successful innovator

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Photo by Charlota Blunarova from Unsplash.com

From complete outsider, raised in an orphanage, to extraordinarily successful entrepreneur. With radical innovations, she managed to revolutionise a world, that of high fashion, immersed in a mature socio-economic context, dominated by men and reluctant to change. Gabrielle “Coco” Chanel was the first designer to have a global impact and one of the most influential women of the 20th century. But how did she manage, starting from scratch, to make her way in such a conservative and male-dominated world and end up turning it upside down?

Starting from this question, a new study reveals what are the key conditions that can make the difference for an outsider, leading them to success. The study was published in the journal Enterprise & Society (Cambridge University Press) by Mariachiara Colucci and Simone Ferriani, professors at the Department of Management, University of Bologna, together with Gino Cattani of the NYU Stern School of Business.

“There are three crucial factors behind Coco Chanel’s entrepreneurial success: her unique perspective on the fashion world, her ability to find and cultivate a niche of like-minded supporters, and her ability to exploit the ‘turning points’ of the historical period she lived in,” explains Professor Colucci. “This model, in which these three factors fit together perfectly, gives a clear picture of the seemingly inexplicable path by which some outsiders manage to lead radical innovations.”

Gabrielle “Coco” Chanel was born in 1883 in a small village in rural France, in conditions of extreme poverty, and grew up in the orphanage of Aubazine Abbey. There, she received a basic education, but also learned to sew. This skill helped her to find her first job in an underwear and hosiery shop in the town of Moulins.

This was the beginning of her career in the fashion world. In 1909 she opened her first business as a hat designer, and by 1916 she was already running a successful business with three clothing shops and hundreds of employees. By 1931, she had 26 ateliers and more than 2,000 employees, with a turnover of 120 million francs (more than 60 million euros today). It was the highest figure in the Parisian fashion world at the time, and it continued to grow. By 1935 turnover had almost doubled.

“Coco Chanel started with a modest cultural baggage and totally lacked a social, economic and symbolic background. When she began her entrepreneurial journey, she was the outsider par excellence, yet she managed to leave an unprecedented mark on the development of the fashion industry,” explains Professor Ferriani. “She is also credited with playing a decisive role in creating the image, and the new social custom, of the modern woman.”

YOUR BACKGROUND MATTERS

According to the researchers, the first crucial element behind Chanel’s entrepreneurial success lies in her education and early experiences outside the fashion world. A position that uniquely shaped her aesthetic vision, allowing her to challenge the pressure imposed by the dominant canons of Parisian haute couture.

The environments in which she grew up and the unconventional stimuli she received gave her the creative freedom she needed to experiment with the radical ideas that would become a cornerstone of elegance throughout the world. For example, the researchers suggest that her sense of rigour, taste for black and white, as well as the idea of “functional” and “natural” clothing, which until then was completely foreign to haute couture, may have been inspired by the Romanesque austerity of Aubazine Abbey, where she grew up. Furthermore, it is thanks to the world of horses and racing frequented at the Chateau de Royallieu, where Chanel lived with her first lover, that the corset disappeared, and men’s trousers and shirts entered women’s wardrobes.

DEVELOP CONNECTIONS

But a radical vision is not enough, she needed to find a way to implement it. Here comes the second element that explains Chanel’s success: her exceptional ability to cultivate strategic connections with sponsors and influential members of Parisian high society.

“Coco Chanel was a seductive personality and an extraordinary networker. Through her social skills, she gained quick access to members of high society and prominent clients whose aesthetic orientations matched her stylistic vision,” explains Colucci. “Our study shows that Chanel’s social network was not only confined to the business world. Instead, it embraced multiple domains, notably the French artistic avant-garde, which readily endorsed the modernist ideals behind her sober aesthetic vision.”

Over the years, Chanel forged relationships and actively worked with artists such as Picasso, Cocteau, Reverdy and Diaghilev. It is also thanks to their support that her innovative style received public exposure in plays, ballets, and films, thus facilitating the fame and success of her creations. She was also an active participant in the Art Deco movement, which led to her most revolutionary design: la petite robe noire, the famous “little black dress” evoked by US Vogue in 1936 as “the Chanel ‘Ford’ dress.”

Photo by Roberto Martinez from Unsplash.com

CONTEXT IS EVERYTHING

Last but not least, there is the context. The third key ingredient in Chanel’s rise was in fact her ability to read and ride the dramatic change in social needs and customs brought about by the First World War. The post-war period was no longer a time for extravagance, and the privations of war had made women more receptive to simplicity and functionality.

“The truth is that Chanel, like all great innovators, was the first to read and anticipate a change in women’s needs, that the Great War only accelerated, paving the way for the birth of the so-called ‘modern woman’,” explains Colucci. “Chanel was ready, her creations perfectly coherent with the new image of women in society. What a few years earlier was seen as a radical expression of the female silhouette, in the roaring 1920s would become the dominant fashion.”

From this in-depth look at Coco Chanel’s extraordinary life, researchers have identified the essential elements that can allow an outsider not only to break into a closed context, but also to revolutionise it and achieve extraordinary success. A radical vision from the margins of society, the ability to cunningly build a network of like-minded supporters, and the arrival of an exogenous shock that accelerates the process of acceptance.

The study was published in the journal Enterprise & Society under the title “From the Margins to the Core of Haute Couture: The Entrepreneurial Journey of Coco Chanel”. The authors are Gino Cattani of the NYU Stern School of Business (USA), Mariachiara Colucci and Simone Ferriani of the Department of Management, University of Bologna.

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Strategies

Why financial literacy matters in achieving your goals

A 2015 World Bank survey showed that Filipinos struggle with financial literacy, but don’t fret! There are many ways to be financially literate, which can help you turn the woes to wins, achieve goals, and live a happier life. Here’s how you can do it.

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Managing finances properly eases worries and provides a sense of security for the future. Whether it is making money decisions daily with your food and transportation or long-term plans like buying a house, traveling, and starting a business, being financially literate helps you become smarter with money to turn goals into reality.

A 2015 World Bank survey showed that Filipinos struggle with financial literacy, but don’t fret! There are many ways to be financially literate, which can help you turn the woes to wins, achieve goals, and live a happier life. Here’s how you can do it.

Budgeting
Woe: There are a lot of daily necessities and monthly dues so there’s no room to save or spend on personal wants.
These can be overwhelming to manage and there is a tendency to pour all resources there.

Win: Budgeting is one way to manage finances. It allows you to look into your expenses, reallocate funds to ensure needs are met and make room for wants. This way, you can spend on both important things and little luxuries and rewards for yourself every now and then.

Budgeting is easier with UnionBank Online as it allows settling and scheduling payments, sending prepaid load for your phone and e-wallets in real-time. You can also save up weekly, monthly, or quarterly using the Goals feature for the rewards or luxuries that you want. Being financially literate means avoiding spending money you do not have, and maximizing money that you do have to achieve your short-term and long-term goals.

Tracking and Organizing
Woe: It’s easy to get lost in all your transactions and not everyone has the time to keep track of them. It can also be a hassle to do, especially if there are too many accounts to look at, which would take time and effort.

Win: Conquer this challenge and take control of your finances to win in life. Tracking and organizing your accounts and transactions allow you to have better visibility of your finances, stay within your budget and prevent financial mishaps, to reach your goals faster.  

With UnionBank Online’s Spend Tracker, your credit card expenses are automatically categorized on a monthly basis, helping you see if there is still room to spend.  For your savings accounts, the app has a unified view so you can quickly and easily browse balances.  Tap into each account to access your transaction history. It even allows you to lock your physical card to avoid unauthorized use or prevent you from overspending.

Investing in the future
Woe: Investments and insurance can be intimidating because of the price tags that come with them. Because they can be pricey, they become additional expenses that don’t fit into the budget.

Win: Understanding the value of investing in the future is also part of being financially literate. You are not only preparing for what is up ahead, but also for how it can impact others. Whether it is investment for potential long-term wealth or insurance to keep yourself and your loved ones protected, the goal is always to live a better and more comfortable life.

At an affordable price, you can invest through Unit Investment Trust Fund (UITF) on UnionBank Online and let professionals help grow your money. For protection in case of emergencies, UnionBank Online partnered with Inlife to offer a variety of Life and Accident insurance plans that you can choose from to ease any unforeseen financial burdens.

Financial literacy matters because it helps you get past your financial woes and score wins in life, as it allows you to make better money decisions everyday. Budgeting, tracking and organizing finances, and investing in the future are just some of the habits that will surely make an impact on your future. As you become more financially literate and responsible, you are one step closer to achieving your goals.

Now’s the chance to make smarter choices to achieve your short-term and long-term goals. Lessen your woes and win in life with the right app. Download UnionBank Online now, and open an account or visit UnionBank Online for more information and to see all features helpful in managing finances.

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Strategies

Top tips to help business owners predict, prepare, and protect with coming of new season

Being aware of the current state of your business, identifying potential risks and addressing vulnerabilities will better prepare business owners should something go wrong.

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Photo by Isaac Benhesed from Unsplash.com

Spring is officially here, bringing its own set of potential risks for businesses. This year it is predicted that spring will see an increase in severe weather, including potential thunderstorms, tornadoes and even hurricanes, according to Accuweather. In fact, 2021 was the third most active Atlantic Hurricane Season on record and the National Hurricane Center began assessing  moving up the official start of the season due to increased threats happening earlier each year. With that in mind, QBE North America is sharing a list of top tips to help business owners predict, prepare, and protect throughout the season.  

“Being aware of the current state of your business, identifying potential risks and addressing vulnerabilities will better prepare business owners should something go wrong,” said Jan Young – Vice President, Loss Control Leader, Risk Solutions, QBE North America. “Having a plan in place at the start of each season will not only help minimize loss from a disaster, it can also help ensure a quicker and smoother recovery.” 

QBE North America suggests the following to help business owners ready their property and employees this spring:

Plan

  • Label indoor and outdoor shut-off valves (water, sprinkler, gas, etc.) and know how and when to use them.
  • Assess pipes for damage or substantial wear to avoid leaking pipes.
  • Create an emergency plan and review and practice it with employees.
  • Review and update your business continuity plan. Identify alternate suppliers to keep your business up and running and recover faster if a major disruption occurs.

Inspect and Test

  • Perform fleet maintenance, including inspecting vehicles, and checking wiper blades, tire pressure, treads and oil filters.
  • Inspect any exterior foliage and trees and trim as needed to prevent potential property, roof and incoming power supply damage.
  • Check sidewalks and parking lots for cracked pavement, potholes and any other hazards that may have resulted from winter weather/snowplows, and address as needed.
  • Perform necessary maintenance on any power equipment, including emergency generators.
  • If your facility includes playgrounds, recreational equipment or a pool, perform necessary inspections and maintenance.
  • Have your fire and smoke detection systems tested.

Clean

  • Remove any unwanted clutter and debris from both the interior and exterior of the property.
  • Review stored flammable and combustible liquids such as old paints and discard any materials not used within the last year.
  • Clean gutters and downspouts and conduct roof inspections. Check with your property manager on making those updates and fixes beforehand.
  • Clear any surface drains and grates. Check for site erosion or changes to drainage paths.
  • Clean and safely store any winter-related power equipment and be sure to secure flammable fuels properly.

In the event of property damage, there are steps businesses can take to get the problem solved as quickly as possible, and ensure the facility is safe from another catastrophe. Here are tips from QBE if a disaster does occur:

Respond

  • Conduct a damage assessment as soon as the area is safe to enter.
  • Inspect all fire protection equipment for physical damage, including sprinkler heads, valves, pipes, hoses and portable extinguishers.
  • Have damaged equipment cleaned, dried out and the electrical insulation tested.
  • Service heating equipment by a qualified technician before returning it to operation.
  • Monitor portable and emergency generator use for carbon monoxide buildup, power back feeds, and improper fueling.

“No matter how prepared you are, accidents and losses can happen in an instant,” said Monique McQueen, Assistant Vice President – CAT Claims, QBE North America. “We recommend business owners regularly check in with their insurer to discuss any changes to their operations and property, including employee workplace changes and new or updated equipment.”

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