Articles & stories Disruption Accelerated: Is it realistic to attain both Alpha and Sustainable Growth?

Disruption Accelerated: Is it realistic to attain both Alpha and Sustainable Growth?
After more than a year of Covid-19, the world is learning to adapt to its disruptive influence. With an economic recovery now underway, it is time to look ahead to a future that will inevitably be shaped by the trends initiated - and accelerated - by the pandemic.

From our embrace of a wide variety of digital tools and applications - ranging from video-conferencing and online education platforms to food delivery apps and telehealth services - to a renewed focus on environmental, social and governance (ESG) principles, as well as a growing awareness of the importance of equitable and inclusive growth – many of these have the potential to bring about positive change.

Only by learning to anticipate and understand crises can we capitalize on the inevitable disruption they bring, and build a sustainable long-term future. This thinking forms the core of the 24th Credit Suisse Asian Investment Conference (AIC), which returns on March 22-26 in a new virtual format.

The first-ever virtual AIC will bring together experts from the worlds of business, economics, finance, academia, technology and politics to discuss, debate and deliver insights on the theme of ‘Disruption Accelerated.’ The event will provide an interactive platform for more than 2,600 investors and entrepreneurs as well as over 330 corporates from around the world to explore the changes underway across Asia Pacific and the world, the state of the global economy and the path forward.

Markets and investing: the Alpha opportunity from Disruption Accelerated

The world’s financial markets have coped well through the pandemic, aided by ample liquidity and a host of fiscal and monetary policies which are supporting struggling economies, and have fueled record activity at most of the world’s stock markets and renewed investor confidence.

The market resurgence is especially evident in Asia as demonstrated by the Hong Kong Stock Exchange, which was ranked the world’s second-largest IPO market in 2020. Charles Li, the former Chief Executive of Hong Kong Exchanges and Clearing, will provide insights on how global investors can take advantage of the growth opportunities provided by the SAR and mainland China.

Still, there is always room for improvement, and Paul Milgrom, co-winner of the 2020 Nobel Prize in Economics and Shirley and Leonard Ely Professor of Humanities and Sciences at Stanford University, will show us how auction theory can make markets more efficient. And with the increasing influence of crypto assets and Distributed Ledger Technology on finance, Blythe Masters, CEO of Motive Capital and proposed Board member of Credit Suisse, will explore their potential to transform the field of finance. Meanwhile, as ebullient markets fuel investor wealth, Guillaume Cerutti, CEO of Christie’s International, will explain the appeal of alternate asset classes such as art and luxury goods.

Yet, real change can be hard to come by without the support of governments and markets. Andrew Mitchell, Founder, Global Canopy and CEO of Equilibrium Futures, will talk about the role of policymakers in preserving and enhancing the planet's natural capital, while Mirjam Staub-Bisang, CEO, BlackRock Switzerland, and Senior Advisor to BlackRock Sustainable Investing, will address how thematic investing can open up new frontiers for investors while aligning investments to both financial and purpose-driven outcomes.

ESG: Enabling the effort to build a better planet

Indeed our growing cognizance of the importance of sustainability is yet another silver lining in the Covid cloud. While countries and corporations alike have set ambitious targets to reduce or eliminate carbon emissions in the not-too-distant future, the past year has seen a surge in ESG-focused investments, including in Asia Pacific, which should help finance these efforts over the long term.

But even as we pay heed to ESG principles, questions persist about its role relative to growth. Mike Cannon-Brookes, Principal, Grok Ventures and Co-Founder and Co-CEO, Atlassian, will address just how key sustainability is to economic progress.

Lord Adair Turner, Chair, Energy Transitions Commission, will discuss the challenges in the world’s, and China’s, journey as we attempt to wean ourselves off fossil fuels and transition to a future with net-zero emissions. One of the biggest contributors to greenhouse gas emissions is the meat industry and Krijn De Nood, CEO and Co-founder of Meatable, will talk about the future of food and balancing the challenge of feeding 10 billion people while attempting to reduce carbon emissions.

Yet another worthy goal is equitable and inclusive growth. We’ve known for some time that the world’s poor suffer disproportionately from the impact of climate change. And even though most emerging markets are growing wealthier, they are doing so at vastly different rates. Nobel laureate Esther Duflo, Abdul Latif Jameel Professor of Poverty Alleviation and Development Economics, MIT, will talk about ways to tackle poverty and other global challenges, such as climate change, lack of basic infrastructure and future pandemics.

Admirable as these goals are, achieving them requires a sense of direction and purpose. Simon Sinek, an author and leadership expert, will speak about the qualities that are essential for people and organizations to succeed.

Another major hurdle on the road to a better world is diversity and inclusion, or lack thereof, and this topic will be addressed by Iris Bohnet, Albert Pratt Professor of Business and Government and Academic Dean, Harvard Kennedy School.

Technology: Harnessing disruption for progress

Technology stands out as possibly the single-largest beneficiary of the disruption accelerated by Covid-19. From remote working to online shopping, e-payments and food delivery, there’s hardly a technology-driven trend that the pandemic has not shifted into overdrive.

One place where these industries are especially thriving is China, which is making big strides in cloud technology. The country's push to enhance the penetration of cloud services - supported by the government's latest five-year plan - prioritizes the development of indigenous cloud infrastructure and has the potential to transform a variety of sectors, including healthcare. Two different panels featuring the heads of technology and healthcare corporations will chart the evolution of cloud technology in China, and highlight the risks and opportunities these developments entail for investors.

Fintechs, especially, have risen to the occasion by transforming the financial services landscape in Asia as it leapfrogs from paper to digital. The transition, however, is far from complete and senior executives from companies such as Paytm will outline the region’s path to a digital future.

Asia’s ongoing digitalization, fueled by the easy availability of funds, has led to a proliferation of unicorns - start-ups valued at over USD1 billion - providing services ranging from ride-hailing to online education. Byju Raveendran, Founder and CEO of BYJU’s, India’s largest ed-tech company, and Kevin Aluwi, Co-CEO of Indonesia’s Gojek Group will focus on the next chapter in digital transformation.
Not only has the tech sector provided us with the tools to make life in a pandemic bearable, it has also aided our response to it. Nicholas Christakis, Sterling Professor of Social and Natural Science at Yale University, will explain how social networks and data science are helping us learn more about the future trajectory of Covid-19, while Stéphane Bancel, CEO of Moderna, one of the first companies to release a vaccine for the novel coronavirus, will highlight the ways technology is revolutionizing disease prevention.

Macroeconomics: The Great Economic Recovery

Covid-19 applied the brakes on one of the longest global economic expansions in history. But a recovery led by emerging markets is already underway and experts at the AIC will seek to address key questions about the durability of an ongoing recovery.

While Tom Barkin, President and CEO of the Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond, will assess the impact of the pandemic on the US economy, Betsey Stevenson, Professor of Public Policy and Economics at the University of Michigan, will join a discussion about the prospects of a global economic resurgence. Liqun Jin, President and Chair of the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank, will talk about the role multilateral financial institutions can play in aiding the global economic recovery while Smt. Nirmala Sitharaman, Minister of Finance and Minister of Corporate Affairs, India, will address how Asia’s third-largest economy, home to a growing number of millionaires and, according to Credit Suisse estimates, 100 unicorns, can achieve faster, sustainable growth.

As the only major world economy to expand in the face of the pandemic, China has unveiled a five-year plan that puts a premium on sustainable growth and self-sufficiency to enhance its global stature. Chong-En Bai, Dean, School of Economics and Management, Tsinghua University, will explain how this ‘dual circulation’ strategy will play out, while Guangyao Zhu, former Vice Finance Minister, Ministry of Finance of the People's Republic of China, and Mike Froman, former US Trade Representative, will address the all-important question of where the US-China relationship is headed and how the world’s two largest economies can build stronger ties.

Ultimately, the world is moving on from a period of unprecedented crisis by making the most of a very human trait: adaptability. Resilience and constant reinvention are the order of the day as investors, markets, companies and policymakers treat the pandemic as a wake-up call and play an active role in making the most of disruption, regardless of its source. While there will continue to be near-term challenges, our proven ability to turn the ‘Disruption Accelerated’ of the past year into an advantage will open up fresh opportunities and help us build a more sustainable world.