Perhaps the biggest crisis of our generation. The decisions people and governments take in the next few weeks will probably shape the world for years to come.

Yuval Noah Harari, historian and philosopher

The COVID-19 crisis is forcing many businesses to adapt. Rapid change has taken place in a condensed timescale, with more than 3 in 5 firms making adaptations. Only a quarter of businesses reported operating as normal (26%), with only a small minority partially suspending trading (11%).

Around half have moved more of their business online (51%). And more than a third of businesses are finding new solutions through other means.

Reflecting both demand and supply side shocks, the split between those who have increased and decreased production is roughly even.

On balance these findings are better than feared given the speed and severity of the shock, coupled with a negative outlook for global growth. HSBC forecasts global GDP to contract by 4.8% in 2020.

In part reflecting easing COVID-19 restrictions, more respondents in Asia Pacific see their business as sufficiently agile to give stability. This short-term advantage may be bolstered by strong growth prospects. Furthermore, Asia has seen inflows of foreign direct investment, even as the rest of the world sees a decline, demonstrating that both local and global companies continue to recognise the structural opportunity.

Taken together, this suggests the rebalancing of economic activity and opportunity towards Emerging Markets and Asia could accelerate. Companies looking to source suppliers or sell to new markets may therefore look to Asia.

Key HSBC GDP forecasts*

2019 2020f 2021f
World 2.6% -4.8% 5.1%
Developed 1.7% -6.7% 4.6%
Emerging 3.9% -2.1% 5.7%
US 2.3% -6.4% 3.6%
Mainland China 6.1% 1.7% 7.5%
Eurozone 1.2% -8.1% 6.5%

*HSBC Global Research.

Aspects of business that need a new solution


of businesses are continuing operations with major or minor changes