A very warm welcome to GIC Insights LIVE 2020.
I am delighted that so many of you have joined us. Even though we are not travelling much, we seem to be busier; partly from attending conferences like this one. So I want to thank you for choosing to join us.
With or without a pandemic, GIC is committed to linking up our partners, to exchange views and learn from one another. With all the big changes going on in the world, we need to re-imagine the future. We need to do so by identifying the key forces at work, deduce their implications and formulate our plans.
At last year’s forum, I highlighted three of those forces: rising inequality, disappearing interest rates and technology disruption. They are still very much in play. This year, let me add three more to that list.
FIRST ON THE LIST – LARGE POLICY INTERVENTIONS
With the COVID-19 emergency, policymakers have doubled down on government interventions. These actions are necessary to avert an immediate economic collapse. They have indirectly, or shall we say directly, boosted financial markets, benefitting all investors – but they are not by themselves a long-term solution. Most emergency spending and lending have gone towards relieving short-term pressures. They are a liquidity bridge. Solvency remains an issue.
The resulting low interest rates, debt loads and heavy financial market reliance on policy support could lead to large distortions of economic decisions, macro instability and market fragility. Just think about the few occasions when a slight pop-up in real yield would lead to markets experiencing wobbles.
We expect the economic environment to be volatile and challenging, but for long-term investors like ourselves, we are prepared for new risks and hopeful for new investment opportunities. We welcome collaboration and working opportunities with all of you.
SECOND ON THE LIST – GREAT DISPERSION OF OUTCOMES
There are a great many divisive trends at work, in economics, politics, technology and geopolitics. These trends will likely be with us for many years. We will all be required to deal with the resulting wide dispersion of outcomes.
We will need to look carefully at all the dimensions differentiating winners and losers. This applies whether it is a company, sector, country or asset class. In GIC, we believe size, technology capability and domicile will matter a great deal going forward.
We will need to understand history more carefully, and be more circumspect about extrapolations and mean reversion. As an example, bond yields cannot repeat their historical declines.
We will need to look under market aggregates and indices more thoroughly, as important risks and opportunities may be hidden in them. For example, in the area of emerging market equities, the doubling of China’s weight just within the last five years, from about 18% to more than 40% now, has surely impacted the overall risk-return characteristics of the asset class.
To these ends, we will tap more of our partners’ capabilities, especially going in deeper and at earlier stages, into various market segments to seek opportunities.
THIRD ON THE LIST – SUSTAINABILITY
Third, but not the least, sustainability is firmly at the forefront. This in our view represents an opportunity for all of us to both do good and do well.
As a large and long-term investor, GIC’s fortunes are tied to the larger investment universe. We are concerned about sustaining that for future value creation. In other words, we care about growing the pie and taking care of the goose.
Sustainability is hence critical and forms an essential part of GIC’s investment strategy, risk management and corporate culture.
It is important to note that this issue goes beyond climate change. As highlighted by the COVID-19 crisis, there are other gaps and opportunities. For example, social inequality issues around access to technology, healthcare, jobs, and social safety nets.
Let me share a few examples of what GIC is doing in this space:
First, in the investment area, we are seeking more sustainability-related opportunities. This includes renewable energy assets, “green” buildings, and emerging technologies that support the low-carbon transition. We already have an impact investing effort, done both internally and externally. But what we really hope to see, in the long run, is that all our investments are impact investments, meaning they are profitable both commercially and socially. In that regard, our effort is not limited to new assets, but existing ones too, through thorough engagement in transition efforts.
In terms of industry participation, we are a supporter of TCFD (Task Force on Climate-related Financial Disclosures) and are working with World Economic Forum’s International Business Council (IBC) to help harmonise the many reporting metrics. Getting to a common set of reporting standards will be a big step in the ESG (environmental, social and governance) effort. I think that is something that investors, as well as many of our corporate investees, appreciate.
In our own organization, we are learning and improving our own ESG practices, including committing to zero-emissions, supporting efforts to build communities, and fostering diversity and inclusion. An example is our “With Love, GIC” initiative which has enabled us to support many ground-up community projects by our own staff around the world.
Sustainability is a global existential issue that no single party can solve. Let’s work collectively to find solutions.
In summary, as we re-imagine the future, we need to identify various changes. In fact, we need to embrace these changes and adapt our approach accordingly.
But one thing that does not change is good partnerships. Many of our partners have been long-time partners – over 10, 15, 20 years and some even 30 years – and know GIC’s commitment to enduring partnerships. Some partners are newer, but will soon confirm this.
I thank our partners for helping us in many ways – including putting our capital to good use, expanding our network and offering insights on important issues.
INTRODUCING GIC INSIGHTS LIVE
This brings me to the webinar series this week. We are extremely privileged to have 12 distinguished speakers share their insights on three areas of great interest – Sustainability, Healthcare and Technology.
Our opening speaker is the honourable Al Gore, former US Vice President and now Chairman of Generation Investment Management. Well-known for his devotion to environmental issues, he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2007 for his efforts in combatting climate change. We are extremely privileged to have him speak on the topic of The Future of Sustainability.
This will be followed by a panel discussion on the prospects and challenges of sustainable investing.
Over the next two days, our focus will turn to bio-pharma supply chains and tech-enabled healthcare.
Finally, closing this series will be Eric Yuan, the Founder and CEO of Zoom, who will speak on the evolving world of communications.
I am sure you will find these sessions insightful.