The new wave of innovation is cause for business optimism about 2021

Kevin Sneader, Global Managing Partner at McKinsey & Company, provides perspective on what corporate business leaders are thinking during the global coronavirus crisis:

Should businesses be pessimistic or optimistic about 2021?

It's easy to be gloomy about the year ahead when faced with the realities of a cold, bleak winter in much of the world. Add to that lockdowns across Europe, surging case numbers and hospitalizations, and dreadful events in the Capitol in the US to name a few reasons for pessimism. But I think there is a case for optimism when it comes to this year. After all, it's true to say that it's always darkest before the dawn, and my conversations with business leaders suggest there are reasons to be positive by 2021.

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EU's proposed DSA and DMA laws would broadly regulate digital economy

Marietje Schaake, International Policy Director at Stanford's Cyber Policy Center, Eurasia Group senior advisor and former MEP, discusses trends in big tech, privacy protection and cyberspace:

What are the DSA and the DMA?

Well, the twin legislative initiatives of the Digital Services Act and the Digital Markets Act are the European Union's answer to the challenges of content moderation online and that of the significant role of major market players, also known as gatekeepers in the digital markets. And the intention is to foster both more competition and responsible behavior by tech companies. So the new rules would apply broadly to search engines, social media platforms, but also retail platforms and app stores.

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If Roe v. Wade is overturned, Democrats will fight at the state level

Jon Lieber, head of Eurasia Group's coverage of political and policy developments in Washington, shares insights on US politics:

What is happening to Roe v. Wade?

Well, this week, the Supreme Court heard arguments in a case called Dobbs v. Jackson, which challenges a Mississippi law that would outlaw abortions after 15 weeks in the state. That law itself is a direct challenge to the legal precedent set by Roe v. Wade nearly 50 years ago, which is one of the most politically important Supreme Court decisions in American history. It has driven deep polarization between the right and the left in the US and become a critical litmus test. There are very few, if any, pro-life Democrats at the national level and virtually no pro-choice Republicans at any level of government. Overturning Roe has been an animating force on the political right in the US for a generation. And in turn, Democrats have responded by making protecting Roe one of their key political missions.

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Omicron variant unlikely to lead to lockdowns by governments

Ian Bremmer shares his insights on global politics this week with a look at the omicron variant, the Honduras presidential election, and the pros and cons of getting stuck in a UK pub for three days in a snowstorm.

As the omicron variant emerges, is a return to lockdown next?

The answer is, only in a few play places, because people are exhausted from lockdowns. They're angry with their governments from doing it. Governments are going to be very reluctant to have the economic hit as a consequence, especially when they know they can't pay out the relief money that they've been paying over the last couple of years, and they're not yet sure about just how much of a danger omicron is. I think all sorts of travel restrictions, but unless and until you see that the spread starts leading to significant lethality, hospitalizations, and once again, the potential for ICUs to be overwhelmed, I do not expect many significant lockdowns that are countrywide at this point. Not least in Sub-Saharan Africa, where the populations are very young and as a consequence, you can have a lot of spread and they're not paying attention to it, frankly.

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Facebook metaverse launch leads other Big Tech firms to focus on AR/VR

Marietje Schaake, International Policy Director at Stanford's Cyber Policy Center, Eurasia Group senior advisor and former MEP, discusses trends in big tech, privacy protection and cyberspace:

What is Facebook planning with the metaverse?

Well, my sense is that Facebook mostly prefers a virtual reality over the actual situation the company is in, with overwhelming criticism about the many harms to people it is causing all over the world. The metaverse at launch would be added to a number of services and experiences online in a more virtual and augmented reality setting. Think about what the gaming sector has done, but now, also, other big tech firms are jumping on the bandwagon. The thing to remember is that the user experience would be more immersive.

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Biden sticks with Powell as Fed Chair amid rising inflation

Jon Lieber, head of Eurasia Group's coverage of political and policy developments in Washington, shares insights on US politics:

Why did President Biden renominate Jay Powell to be the chairman of the Fed, and who's his No.2, Lael Brainard?

Well, Powell by all accounts has done a pretty good job of managing the Fed through the coronavirus pandemic. He dusted off the playbook, first pioneered by Chairman Bernanke during the financial crisis, and he's largely continued the relatively easy monetary policy of his predecessor at the Fed, now Treasury Secretary, Janet Yellen. With inflation growing the way it has over the last several months, Biden now owns the policies of the Fed and is essentially endorsing what Powell has been doing and giving Powell the political cover to continue to keep rates low for longer, or as many people expect, raise them slightly over the next 12 months in order to fight inflation.

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Kevin Sneader, Global Managing Partner at McKinsey & Company, provides perspective on what corporate business leaders are thinking during the global coronavirus crisis

Should big business care about small business in these times?

The answer is yes and for many reasons. First, small business is the lifeblood of our economies. 45% of employment in emerging countries and 70% in the OECD comes from small and medium enterprises. Moreover, these enterprises have been badly hit by the crisis. Surveys indicate as many as 50% of European small to medium enterprises feel they may not survive over 12 months. While SMEs are relying on government support, larger companies do have a role to play. After all, this includes prioritizing small business and procurement by locking in demand for multiple years, thus facilitating access to good credit, paying receivables to small business in time and where possible, ahead of schedule. Cash flow matters most when you're small. Looking out for small businesses that have lower resilience. For example, financial institutions can lend more and in doing so, ensure deeper customer relationships in the future.

Kevin Sneader, Global Managing Partner of McKinsey, looks at the challenges around a COVID-19 vaccine from the corporate business leadership perspective on Business In 60 Seconds.

What will it take to bring a COVID-19 vaccine to market?

Now, there are reasons to believe that a COVID-19 vaccine can indeed be developed faster than any other in history. For a start, the characteristics of this virus, unlike some families of viruses, coronaviruses overall have been shown to mutate at relatively low to moderate rates. Moreover, the sheer number of development efforts mean that over 275 vaccine candidates in development, with over 45 already in clinical trials. This is coupled with unprecedented access to funding, given over $17 billion has been committed to vaccine development and supply. That said, there are multiple hurdles to overcome. They start with getting the science right, including validating the platform technologies and demonstrating both safety and efficacy. But let's not forget that we also need enough capacity to manufacture and supply in place to reach patient populations now, and over time. And last, but by no means least, people need to be willing to be vaccinated. In the US in May, 72% of Americans said they would get vaccinated. That number has fallen to 51% in September.

Kevin Sneader, Global Managing Partner at McKinsey & Company, provides perspective on what corporate business leaders are thinking during the global coronavirus crisis:

What are the opportunities and threats on the horizon for 2021?

Now, given the pandemic is still raging, it's hard to narrow the threats and opportunities down, but here are three threats and three opportunities. One, a growing likelihood of increased inequality on several fronts. Gender, since a quarter of women in work we recently did with LeanIn.org were either contemplating leaving or taking time out of the workforce. This reached 40% for those with young children. Race, since Black Americans have seen their jobs disappear at a far greater rate than their white counterparts. And income, since COVID deaths are 4 to 5 times higher among the unemployed and are concentrated in jobs that have been hardest hit. The second threat, mental health. The signs are increasing that this is the other side of the health threat that the virus poses. And three, the environment. They need to ensure a green rather than brown recovery at a time when money is tight.

On the opportunities, first off, flexibility in working through remote and other forms of working that are now happening. Secondly, innovation; we've seen more startups this year being started than in any year before. And lastly, the environment; for all that I said there is a risk of a brown recovery, policy makers and businesses alike in much of the world assuring they're prepared to invest behind the business case for a green recovery.

Kevin Sneader, global managing partner for McKinsey & Company, provides perspective on how corporate business leaders think in response to the coronavirus crisis:

Why is managing for the long term difficult?

Well, we know from earlier research that companies that are oriented towards long-term performance, rather than short-term targets, generate more shareholder value, create more jobs, and contribute more economic growth. But we are seeing short-term behaviors, like cutting costs to boost quarterly earnings, have become more common in the past few years. Executives say they face heavy pressure from investors, and even fellow directors, to meet quarterly targets. And recently, disruptions from COVID-19 give executives more short-term issues to deal with. Now let me be clear, short-term results do matter. They're needed to stay credible. However, trouble happens when short-termism ensures focus in quarterly earnings, which have little to do with long-term value creation. It's far more important to pursue steady improvements, and fundamentals like growth, and return on invested capital.

Kevin Sneader, global managing partner for McKinsey & Company, provides perspective on how corporate business leaders think in response to the coronavirus crisis:

How can business leaders approach budget planning for 2021 when the environment is so uncertain?

In short, I believe that the planning process for 2021 presents an opportunity to turn hard earned lessons from the COVID-19 pandemic. It's an enduring exercise that links strategy to value. Now, five steps are needed for this to happen.

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Kevin Sneader, global managing partner for McKinsey & Company, provides perspective on how the pandemic has influenced climate action:

Has the pandemic helped or harmed efforts to tackle climate change?

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Kevin Sneader, global managing partner for McKinsey & Company, provides perspective on how corporate business leaders think in response to the coronavirus crisis:

What does the next normal consumer look like?

COVID-19 is changing how consumers behave across every aspect of their lives. A few examples. Overall, consumption is declining. 12% drop in private consumption is anticipated in the US over the next two years. 35% of Netflix subscribers now use Netflix for educational content. And over 40% of consumers are watching more TV, 40% more social media. But beneath these broad shifts, new behaviors are hiding significant variation. One example, for all the excitement around online shopping, not everyone liked the experience. 60% of Italian consumers shopped online during the crisis, a dramatic increase, but less than 10% said that they found the experience satisfying.

The result? Companies need to rethink their engagement with consumers and specifically reflect on the following, how consumers get their information, meet them where they are, not where they used to be, where consumers purchase, given a rebalancing of the channels that they use, and understand what they value in the shopping experience. Online shopping can certainly be efficient. And when there are no other alternatives, it can even be exciting. But it can also be deadly dull and often frustrating. Reengineering that experience is therefore key.

Kevin Sneader, global managing partner for McKinsey & Company, provides perspective on how corporate business leaders think in response to the coronavirus crisis:

How do we get remote and hybrid learning right?

For many, this is the back to school season. But this year's preparations are fraught with added anxiety as educators, public health officials, and parents try to balance the need to reduce the spread of the virus with a desire to get students into more productive learning environments. For many students, a full time return to the classroom will not be safe for some time. It's important to understand three lessons in order to get remote and hybrid learning right.

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