The latest edition of the National Association of Credit Management's (NACM's) Credit Managers' Index (CMI) marks its 10th-year anniversary of providing financial professionals, economists and policymakers with a startlingly accurate forecasting tool.
Since its inception in January 2003, the CMI's methodology has undergone a number of revisions, but never stopped being an immensely powerful economic predictor. In 2007 it was even able to tip analysts off to the start of the "Great Recession" in December 2007, showing a noteworthy decline in October of the same year.
Throughout the recession, the CMI reflected a remarkable sensitivity to the intricacies of the economic downturn, and resisted the month-to-month swings that characterized other economic indicators. Eventually it anticipated the recession's end as well, showing signs of market stabilization and nascent growth as early as February 2009, while the actual recession came to an end four months later in June.
The CMI's strength as a forecasting tool comes from the insight of credit and risk management professionals, whose responsibility it is to know what's coming next. "I think it's the nature of credit management," said NACM Economist Chris Kuehl, PhD. "Credit managers are as concerned about the condition of their clients 15, 30, 60 and 90 days from now as they are today. The tendency is to think ahead."
Moreover, the structure of the CMI survey eliminates the opportunity to speculate. Other economic indices ask respondents what their company intends to do in the coming months, but intentions don't always align with reality. "As soon as you start getting into that kind of conjecture, you kind of weaken the data," said Kuehl. "When responding to the CMI question, 'Do you have more credit applications?' there isn't a lot of room for interpretation. You're getting responses that have to do with credit applications and the status of accounts, and most of that stuff is oriented to the future."
Over the last decade these factors have combined to create an unrivaled forecasting tool that's relied upon by those in the highest levels of finance and economic policy. As participation continues to grow and people continue to recognize its value, the CMI looks poised for another winning decade.
For more on the CMI, or to participate, click here.
- NACM staff