Most people have a bucket list or some version of a collection of places or things they would like to experience in their lifetime.
Davos, Switzerland is my nirvana. Now, although it is simply put, just a stunning place, I want to go for a specific reason. The World Economic Forum held each January.
This may sound like a real Sophie's Choice to many people, but this is a week I look forward to every year. The World Economic Forum (WEF) is a Swiss non-profit foundation. The international body cites it's mission as "committed to improving the state of the world by engaging business, political, academic, and other leaders of society to shape global, regional, and industry agendas".
In layman's terms, it is a gathering of about 2,500 businesspeople, celebrities and journalists to discuss the state of the world. The theme for the 2018 forum is "Creating a Shared Future in a Fractured World."
The subsidiaries of the company I work for, Marsh & McLennan Companies, are instrumental in helping put together the Global Risks Report. The report is about 70 pages discussing the worlds largest risks. I think it is vastly important to be aware of the emergence and development of these risks overtime. In this post, I am going to present a synopsis of what was included in this years report.
CNBC plays an integral role in the forum. Coverage of the panels and discussions with global CEO's begin around 2 A.M. EST. As an early bird, and this week being my equivalent of Christmas (I am that much of a geek!,) I am aggregating some of the most poignant and interesting comments and views from Davos 2018 which I will include following the risks.
The 2018 report begins with the top 5 global risks in terms of likelihood and impact. The charts date back to 2008 to show how risks change year over year. A risk, such as oil and gas price spikes were the highest in terms of likelihood in 08'. In 2018, cyber attacks and natural disasters take the top spots.
In terms of impact, 2008 was when we saw the Great Recession. Triggered by a large decline in home prices after the collapse of the housing bubble, this led to foreclosures nationwide. With this, the greatest risk in 08' was a collapse in asset prices. In 2018, weapons of mass destruction have made a comeback. This time, not as much from the Middle East, but from growing tensions with North Korea.
Personal Debt. The International Monetary Fund (IMF) predicts global GDP growth of 3.6% for 2017 up from 3.2% in 2016. This has led to improved sentiment. However, over the past 3 decades, 53% of countries have seen an increase in economic inequality. So what does that mean? High levels of personal debt, inadequate savings, and scaling back of pensions, are all reasons to proceed with caution in the years ahead, regardless of current positivity.
Income Inequality. This tends to go hand-in-hand with rising income and wealth disparity. The "rich get richer" argument. Experts are bullish on the positive effects technological innovations will have on businesses. It does, however, raise concerns of automation pushing down on levels of employment and wages, which could further deepen the divide between the rich and the poor.
Risk of Conflict. Your mind probably jumps to President Trump and Kim Jong Un and the threat of nuclear weapons. The World Trade Organization (WTO) worries about this because of worldwide trade partnership agreements. If conflicts are unable to be resolved and appointments to the 7-person WTO appellate body remain unfilled, we could be facing increasing issues with trade. This could hurt not only economically, but geopolitically if relationships are strained as a result (which they inevitably would be.)
Currency Weakness. Along with this, the dollar is exceptionally weak currently. When the dollar is lagging, as compared to other currencies, it diminishes our purchasing power of foreign goods, EX: oil. This then trickles down to the consumer as prices will rise.
Natural Disasters, Weather & Climate. In 2017 when discussing devastating weather events, you would be hard-pressed to find someone who didn't automatically say hurricanes. From Harvey to Irma to Maria, the destruction bill from last seasons storms could near $200B. Temperatures were the hottest on record. Wildfires across the U.S. were 46% above the average.
Air Quality. The WHO estimates 90% of the worlds population live in areas where air quality levels fall below guidelines. Fossil fuels are still mainly to blame, as the world moves towards more renewable energy.
Food Sustainability. The main concern with temperatures is the sustainability of the agriculture system. Heat is not the only concern of killing crops. As we saw last month in Florida, a cold-snap hurt the already debilitated orange crops after the string of hurricanes. Reduced crop diversity and potential water supply issues, could lead to a smuggling of food causing, once again, geopolitical tensions. A solution posed is to implement stress-tests to avoid this happening.
Cyber. In Davos, Marsh & McLennan CEO Dan Glaser discussed the cyber threat as what he deems one of the largest risks we, as a world, will face in the near future. With hacks being ever-prominent, our cyber-defenses will be tested. Cyber breaches by businesses have almost doubled in 5 years. IoT devices now outnumber the global population. There are 8.4 billion devices to 7.6 billion humans. The cost of cyber crimes to businesses over the next 5 years is estimated to be $8T.
Government Internet Regulation. To follow, with cyber attacks increasing, it could lead to government-led Internet break-ups into national or regional divisions.
Trade. Following government regulation is the notion of a move away from globalization (businesses operating on an international, global scale) to more of a protectionist (shielding domestic industries by heavily taxing imports.) Most recently this has been seen with President Trump's move to heighten the tax on solar panels and washing machine parts, both generated in China. This move towards protectionism, experts worry, may roil supply chains and unequally disperse employment between countries. Something that could potentially follow this would be greater income disparity. Although America would profit from this, the long term effects are the worry.
Taxation. With the recent Trump Administration move to push corporate tax rates from 35% to 21%, we believe we will see more competition between countries. A large swath of companies are expected to repatriate to the U.S. with new laws in place pledging less tax penalties.
Geo-Economics. Formerly, the notion of globalism was prevalent in Western countries that benefited from low-cost manufacturing to lift economies. The positive sentiment around this has dwindled. The U.K. and the U.S. notoriously were two countries that held this in the highest of esteem. We now have seen a shift with Brexit and the election of President Trump towards more protectionist views, which seemingly, has benefited both economies.
Prescription Drugs. Resistance to prescription drugs has been an issue in the making for some time now. The cause of antimicrobial resistance (AMR) has been the over and misuse of prescription drugs and the fact no new classes of antibiotics have been invented since the 1980s. With this, concerns have been raised about immunity issues to come. The development pipeline is a key focus for the World Health Organization.
Financial Markets. In 2017 the Dow Jones Industrial Average rose by 25%. The S&P and the Nikkei in Japan by 19% and the German DAX by 11%. History shows stocks have only been higher twice; 1929 and 2000. If your memory serves you correctly, both of those were right before market crashes. However, analysts argue, we are posed to continue the 8-year bull run.
Global Debt. Compared to 2008, global debt-to-GDP is remarkably higher now. Global debt across the G20 (international forum for 20 countries ranging from Australia to France to the U.S.) totaled $125T up from $80T in 2007. Corporate debt has sky-rocketed and is showing some signs of strain. Emerging market debt which was barely there in 2008 has increased sharply. The U.S. is not alone in this. China is another leader in debt. A large discussion in the U.S. is what is an attainable and sustainable GDP. 3% is the current goal.
As you can see, Davos is chock-full of discussions and gives a good feel of sentiment for the year ahead. I will leave you with a few interviews with the CNBC anchors and some of the most influential business people in the world.
Brilliant people, in a beautiful place.
Hope you are as inspired by their insights as I am. Being amongst them is motivation for me each and every day!
Knowledge is power & I leave you with this:
"Look up at the stars, and not down at your feet. Try to make sense of what you see, and wonder about what makes the universe exist. Be curious."- Stephen Hawking
Bloomberg, CNBC, Investopedia, CNBC, CNN, Google Images, Marsh & McLennan Companies