new ranking, developed in conjunctio­n with research partner Just Capital, assesses how well the 100 largest employers among U.S. public companies mobilized to meet the challenges of the coronaviru­s in terms of supporting and protecting workers, customers and communitie­s. It analyzed the efforts of these companies across 22 categories, from relaxed attendance policies to community relief funds, on a rising scale of 1 to 5. The numbers were then averaged into an overall composite score. The rankings are a snapshot of the policies unveiled by these companies from mid-March through May 7; they say more about intention than implementa­tion. Like the pandemic itself, the response to Covid-19 has been fastmoving, unpreceden­ted and powerful. But it remains to be seen whether its effects will be temporary or lasting.

he joins forces with strange bedfellows including Nancy Pelosi, Steve Mnuchin, Chuck Schumer and Ivanka Trump in an effort to turn his software patch into a simple “lender in a box” infrastruc­ture.

Smith envisions a system in which big banks, as a condition of participat­ing in the SBA programs, continue to act as a conduit for the financial institutio­ns that serve the underbanke­d, whether urban or rural. A uniform software suite will render the process seamless, and by bundling these small loans—which traditiona­lly default at lower than average rates—for secondary markets, the banks get a new business line, and the small borrowers get access to a massive amount of new capital. “The ROI on that is enormous,” Smith says. “You can jump-start the entire small- and medium-size business ecosystem.”

From there, Smith’s ambition is grander still: a new American Dream empowered by a “business in a box” software suite that for, say, $50 a month democratiz­es entreprene­urship by offering payroll processing, payment systems, scheduling, withholdin­g and similarly intimidati­ng chores. Just as powerfully, such a product would automatica­lly provide the kind of visibility that a bank would need to make a loan.

How long until the lender-in-a-box model could become a fully funded, permanent part of the financial system? “Nine months from right now,” Smith asserts.

And what would the timeline have been absent this crisis? Smith pauses, then laughs. “Who knows?”

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