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Counting the cost of natural disasters

Produced by The Commonwealth Bank of Australia (CBA) and powered by Beyond Analysis, this topical and insightful thought piece demonstrates the ability to turn Customer Transaction Data* into powerful business – and market - intelligence.

Natural disasters feature prominently in Australia’s history. Darwin’s cyclone Tracey of 1974; the Ash Wednesday bushfires of 1983; the 2009 Black Saturday bushfires and the recent Queensland floods and cyclone are just some of the devastating events that have made headlines around the world. So what can governments, financial institutions and retailers globally learn from Australia’s experience of the longer-term impact of natural disasters on personal income and the wider economy?

The human toll of natural disasters cannot be underestimated. For individuals, families and communities, the loss of life, homes and jobs is immeasurable. Our analysis provides new insight into the short and longer term effects that natural disasters can have on sources of income, salary levels and salary recipients. For example, it shows that it takes from 6 to 18 months for the majority of personal income sources to return to pre-disaster conditions, with very high proportions of people receiving some form of government support to rebuild their lives in the interim.

The key findings are as follows:

• We found there are four main factors that shape the pathway to personal income recovery in the disaster affected communities: scale, frequency of disasters, local industry profile and proximity to population hubs

• Frequent, repeated disasters can hinder personal income recovery. For example, the cumulative effect of flood and cyclone damage is still hurting North Queensland, with key agricultural industries (sugar cane and tropical fruits) having insufficient recovery time between events. As a result, increasing proportions of people are relying on unemployment benefits as their only source of income, with average salary amounts continuing to decline

• Even when people are not directly impacted by natural disasters, they can feel they are – two thirds of Australians believe the recent natural disasters had a negative impact on the national economy

• Some disasters such as the 2011 Queensland floods are of such magnitude that they impact on the broader economy. However at a macro-economic level, the economic cost of disasters is usually recouped in the subsequent rebuild. For instance, tradespersons engaged in rebuilding activity can look forward to strong employment opportunities

• Local industries are affected differently by natural disasters. Where agriculture is dominant, what is grown or farmed matters. For example, crops that rely on established trees, like bananas grown in North Queensland, may take multiple seasons to recover, impacting heavily on local employment prospects

• Proximity to large towns/cities makes a difference to personal economic recovery. For the Victorian bushfire communities, the close proximity to metro-based sources of employment and services helped residents to maintain employment and local residency. Whilst high proportions of bushfire-affected residents migrated in the aftermath of the disaster, the majority moved less than 50 km away

• Localised disasters have a truly national impact – almost four out of ten Australians say they were impacted by recent natural disasters (affected either directly, or indirectly through family and friends)

About the methodology

Using granular data about the lives of real people and based on a combination of transaction data and market research, Beyond Analysis has been able to deliver an extremely detailed economic picture.

Commonwealth Bank processes around 45% of the nation’s electronic transactions, giving them access to a rich pool of data. Apart from providing valuable insight to better understand and anticipate consumer needs, it offers a real-time window on the world of consumers, markets and economies.

This report has been prepared using this data, together with additional research. Details relating to the data measures used in this report, including any parameters or filters applied to the data, may be found in the Appendices located on the Viewpoint page on the Commonwealth Bank website at All data is anonymised and used in accordance with Commonwealth Bank privacy policies and applicable privacy laws.

Using customer data effectively

Paul Alexander, CEO, Beyond Analysis, “This work continues to reinforce CBA’s position as an influential commentator on current and future economic and market trends. The findings of this report have learnings and implications for government and business around the world. A better understanding of the longer-term implications of natural disasters, such as those experienced in Australia over the past couple of years in particular, will help institutions to plan more effectively for the impact they will have on the bottom line.”

About Beyond Analysis

Beyond Analysis is a customer insight specialist that helps businesses to become more customer-centric through behavioural analysis and applies the resulting insights to improve value and customer loyalty.

We strive to be the champion of the customer in our clients’ businesses, using our expertise and creativity to solve business problems, drive incremental revenue and reduce costs.

For a full copy of the report, interview opportunities or further information, please contact:

* All references to data refer to transaction information which is completely anonymous.

This press release was distributed by ResponseSource Press Release Wire on behalf of Beyond Analysis Ltd in the following categories: Men's Interest, Environment & Nature, Personal Finance, Business & Finance, Farming & Animals, Public Sector, Third Sector & Legal, Manufacturing, Engineering & Energy, Computing & Telecoms, Construction & Property, for more information visit