Four views of the future – for business and the world

12 Jan 2021

Focus

Digital content team

While there are many reasons to be pessimistic about the current state of both domestic and global economies, there is a case for optimism in the future.

In a recent CA(SA) of the Future webinar series hosted by SAICA and Investec, panellists Richard Wainwright, Kate Robertson, Kele Boakgomo and Gideon Botha shared their views of what forces are shaping the world.

Richard Wainwright, CEO of Investec Bank Limited – 2008 crisis prepared banks for pandemic

Without the 2008/09 global financial meltdown, Wainwright said, the impact of the current pandemic would have been significantly worse.
 
The banking system, he said, is today far more robust because of the lessons learned in the last decade. It has largely absorbed the resultant rise in bad debts caused by the lockdown restrictions without bringing into question the sustainability of their businesses. Having navigated previous crises, he added, has prepared leadership Investec to support both employees and clients.
 
He cited the behaviour of equity markets – which tend to look past short-term ‘noise’ – as evidence that the global economy has begun trekking the path to recovery. He acknowledges that the travel and hospitality sectors are struggling, and that will likely take two years for South Africa GDP to reach pre-pandemic levels. However, he was quick to draw attention to the positives of the crisis.
 
As an example, he mentioned how one of Investec’s CSI initiatives, Promaths – which helps prepare 4,000 students for university annually – moved swiftly online during the pandemic. As data costs decline, these online educational initiatives will scale and make a greater impact. In turn, these opportunities will attract foreign investment, helping to create the jobs our country desperately needs.   
 
He also said that a changing corporate psyche means that purpose is becoming a central driving force for how businesses conduct themselves. Many corporates are evolving their purpose and aligning their strategies to their core values.

Kele Boakgomo, CEO and co-founder of Yugrow – Covid-19 a dry run for future disruption

Seeing a diverse future where female leadership is empowered provides an opportunity for real change. It is a change that Kele Boakgomo is working hard to bring about. Yugrow provides women in the workplace with the motivation, the resources and the networks to bring down the barriers hindering their career progression and, by extension, their ability to drive innovation and growth.
 
Accumulating a critical mass of women in leadership positions, and reaping the proven benefits of such a paradigm, needs to be accelerated. Boakgomo said the Covid-19 pandemic could be a dry run for a future characterised by severe disruption. Such an eventuality will demand better problem-solving skills, a deeper pool of entrepreneurs and the wide-spread adoption of technology, all areas in which female leadership would enhance the outcomes.
 
Businesses, at least those that will be successful, will need to adopt a regenerative mindset where their legacies are not only defined by sustainable growth, but also by the economic, psychological, and physiological upliftment of its employees, the betterment of the communities in which they operate and the preservation and sustainability of our planet.
 
She also stressed the need for South Africa to embrace the idea of becoming a learning society – the skills we learned yesterday must be built on for us to remain relevant in a shifting landscape.

Kate Robertson, co-founder of One Young World – the world still needs chartered accountants

The corporate scandals of late, often characterised by misrepresentative accounting malfeasance, have often drawn the indignation of younger generations who want to work in a world where businesses conduct themselves with irreproachable integrity. As a result, many have voiced their desire to distance themselves from big business and the accounting profession in general.
 
This attitude is problematic, said Robertson. Big business generates the tax revenues that governments around the world need for social and economic development initiatives, without which many of their citizens would be worse off, resulting in the very outcomes the younger generations are hoping to prevent.  
 
She encouraged those thinking about becoming chartered accountants to stay the course as their skills have never been more important.
 
Robertson believes that the single largest inhibitor to economic growth, the world over, is corruption. Only accountants have the nous and technical ability to reconcile the cash a business is generating with the profits they’re reporting – closing the gap that often causes trouble. 
 
READ MORE:Auditing: should it be about rules, or people?

Dr Gideon Botha, senior financial manager Nedbank and futurist – nationalism a threat to globalisation

In a recent research paper that Botha co-authored with Prof. André Roux of Stellenbosch University Business School, Botha highlighted how the global political swing toward nationalism is threatening globalisation, a force responsible for the upliftment of innumerable communities during the last century. Add to this the steep rise in government debt, and the increased risk of a sovereign default that follows such a trajectory, be believes there’s reason to worry.
 
But, there is a flipside. He noted the changing mindset of global business around its purpose. There is a broad acknowledgement that the model of business for profit alone has its limitations. This is partly in recognition that governments have failed to address some of the larger societal issues we are facing as a species, such as inequality and climate change. 
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    Focus and its related content is for informational purposes only. The opinions featured on the site are not to be considered as the opinions of Investec and do not constitute financial or other advice. The information presented is subject to completion, revision, verification and amendment.

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