Illustration: Joe Wilson

Capital markets volumes show how well the industry has adapted since the coronavirus crisis began, but as economies emerge from lockdown, bankers and their clients need to look much further ahead.

On March 20, blue-chip Unilever sold €2 billion of bonds. It’s a deal that would typically pass without much comment, but this time was different. The company was bringing the first trade in Europe to be attempted with all its participants working from home. 

The borrower did have maturities coming up but was not desperate for the money. Investors, having seen US corporate bonds swing back to life a day earlier, poured in, with demand of more than €10 billion. 

After nearly two weeks of meltdown, when even commercial paper was on the ropes and revolving credit facilities seemed to be the only money to be had, at last there was a sign that deals could be done.

Fast forward to mid May and youthful Norwegian video conferencing company Pexip was celebrating its $200 million flotation on the Oslo Stock Exchange. In just 10 weeks markets had gone from being shut to all but a select handful of supranationals to being open to a growth story IPO, albeit one that ticked the most on-trend industry box imaginable: helping people collaborate when they can’t be in the office.

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