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INFOGRAPHIC: recession. Do you know what it really means?

The Millennial generation. Self-centred, sheltered, tech-obsessed, entitled, choosy. 

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Millennials, according to the Pew Research Centre, are those born between 1981 and 1996 and the first generation to come of age in the new millennium. 

"The natural state of an economic crisis is that it is evolutionary as opposed to revolutionary.”  - Molyneux

I only recently (and rather delightfully) discovered this was the generational cohort I belonged to. Despite being the oldest Millennial within this category, I felt a perverse glee at the fact I could now rightfully experience the blithe optimism and confidence towards life alongside my 20 and 30-something colleagues and friends.

Cliches aside, research has found Millennials are better educated than their predecessors, more ethnically diverse and more economically active.

What they’re not is experienced when it comes to a national economic downturn, a recession. For these smashed avo on sourdough toast devotees, facing the hardship of a recession is only real through spectacular tales of economic suffering told like war stories by older generations (or through Millenial-approved methods of inquiry - “Hey Google! What is a recession?”).

(For those interested, here was Google’s response: “According to Wikipedia - In economics, a recession is a business cycle contraction when there is a general slowdown in economic activity”. Thanks Google.)

What’s true for the general population is just as true in the financial services sector. According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, the median age for workers in the financial services industry in 2018 was 39. Roughly speaking, that would mean today’s workforce in the banking and finance industry would primarily be made up of Generation X (no precise start and end dates exist, however demographers and researchers typically use birth years ranging from the early-to-mid 1960s to the early 1980s to categorise Gen X-ers) or Millennial cohorts.

So is this generation actually ready for the next recession? Because it will come….

Does society today (including government, regulators, customers, and the workforce) have the resilience and adaptability to weather an inevitable recession considering its limited personal experience with economic hardship? And what have we learnt from past recessions that will better equip us to endure through the economic downturn?

bluenotes spoke to Rob Molyneux, ANZ's Senior Risk Advisor – and veteran of more than one Australian recession - to get his insights into what a recession feels like as well as his thoughts on the things we should keep front of mind to prepare ourselves for the next inevitable economic downturn.

Survivors - Rob’s perspective

Humanity as a whole has the natural ability to come together and help one another out at the onset of a sudden or tragic crisis. If you think back through the years of some of the natural disasters that have occurred across Australia and New Zealand – the Queensland floods, Victorian bushfires, and the Christchurch earthquakes and more recent atrocities – they were all very sudden.

These are the times however, where communities show the capacity to overcome differences, support one another and work together towards rectifying the devastation.

About 25 years, ago in 1994, I was in Darwin chatting to some locals at the local pub. “How’s Norm going?” one of the locals asked me out of the blue when he learnt I was from ANZ.

 I looked at him blankly for some time. After a few minutes of discussion, I uncovered that “Norm” was the Senior Manager in the Northern Territory when Cyclone Tracy devastated Darwin on Christmas Day 1974 – which placed this conversation approximately 20 years after that crushing event in the region’s history.   

This local went on to tell me a meticulous tale of how “Norm” had stood outside the severely damaged ANZ Darwin branch with a bookie bag, handing out cash to customers. There was no bookkeeping, just an avowal of “I know you, you’ve got integrity. If I give you some dollars to get you through this, I trust you’ll pay me back”.

Twenty years later, this local still remembered this wholesome act of trust and support provided by a fellow human being (and ANZ) in a desperate time of need.

The natural state of an economic crisis is different, evolutionary not revolutionary. Rather than being sudden like a natural disaster, it creeps up on you. It happens over time. And then abruptly, suddenly, precipitously – just like that – you’re in an economic crisis.

The question we need to pose to ourselves is would we, or rather ‘could we’, respond to an economic crisis with the same adaptability, nimbleness and resilience as we would when a natural crisis strikes us down?  

How should we be preparing our people now to adapt for the future event? And how do we prepare enough “Norms” for when the event happens? What Norm did was invaluable, compassionate, truly innovative – but it was also, in essence, good banking.

The below infographic is an edited version of a presentation from Rob Molyneux to ANZ’s Extended Leadership Team. 

Melissa Currie is Visual Production Editor at bluenotes

The views and opinions expressed in this communication are those of the author and may not necessarily state or reflect those of ANZ.

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