Global Head, Citi Private Bank
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After the pandemic, building and regenerating infrastructure will surely be as essential to accelerating the future as digital disruption.
The COVID-19 pandemic has summoned forth many heroes. Many of them have been rightly celebrated, including medical professionals, store workers, and delivery drivers. But there are also many others whose efforts are less visible to us day-to-day, but nonetheless critical. Behind the scenes, researchers and entrepreneurs – as well as the investors who back them – are working tirelessly to rid the world of the virus. The discoveries that they are continually making will not only hasten the end of the pandemic, but will also accelerate the future thereafter.
Understandably, attention this week has focused upon surging global infections. The US, Brazil, and India have suffered particularly large increases in cases. Less widely reported, though, was the ongoing progress in the search for a remedy. A Japanese supercomputer capable of 415 quadrillion computations every second has highlighted dozens of drugs that can bind with and then disable proteins associated with COVID-19. The European Union, meanwhile, is stepping up its funding for an experimental treatment that uses the blood plasma of virus survivors to treat current patients.
It is not only in relation to today’s pandemic that important advances are routinely overlooked. Too few businesses and investors appreciate the powerful long-term forces that are transforming the ways we live and work. We call these forces “Unstoppable Trends” and we believe they will continue to reshape the world for many years to come.
Starting next week, we are therefore holding a special six-part virtual webinar series to explore some of the exciting potential we see. In partnership with OpenExO – a Silicon Valley think-tank and innovation hub – we’ll be sharing deep insights into cutting-edge innovations across artificial intelligence, biotechnology, big data, and energy. As well as interactive discussions with top thought leaders, there will be virtual breakout sessions, expo booths, and networking opportunities.
Sectors and companies exposed to our Unstoppable Trends have been among the strongest performers during the pandemic. In particular, those associated with the trend of digital disruption – such as information technology, e-commerce, and digital entertainment – have outperformed the “COVID cyclical” sectors that proved most vulnerable to the economic shutdown. A vital question for investors is therefore when those battered COVID cyclicals might see a sustained recovery. Another is whether shares in digitally disruptive companies have entered bubble territory. David Bailin and Steven Wieting offer their analysis in their latest webcast and in their weekly report, due out this Sunday. Meanwhile, they expect greater volatility in both economic data and in financial markets.
In the spirit of accelerating the future and creating growth, I would like to leave you with a wonderful short film from our Global Citizens series. Sir Gordon Wu showed incredible vision as one of Hong Kong’s first entrepreneurs to see the potential of China’s great program of ‘reform and opening up’ under Deng Xiaoping. The infrastructure that Sir Gordon established across Southern China’s Pearl River Delta helped to transform the region from a patchwork of fishing villages and paddy fields into a world-leading hi-tech manufacturing hub. His ethos epitomizes what it means to be an enabler of progress:
“As an engineer, my job – my duty – is to help other people. It’s no good building ‘white elephant’ monuments. It’s about meeting people’s needs. You’re contributing to efficiency, helping other people make money. That’s what productivity is all about.”
After the pandemic, building and regenerating infrastructure will surely be as essential to accelerating the future as digital disruption. And engineers and entrepreneurs like Sir Gordon will prove as pivotal to restoring growth and jobs as the “Marshall Plan” initiatives that many governments are contemplating.