Innovation, transformation and opportunity

Big transformation is when things bring down the cost for ordinary people—and quite low tech things can change pretty dramatically and can change our lives,” said best-selling author, scientist and journalist, Matt Ridley. Former Apple, Tesla and GAP Executive, George Blankenship also offered an optimistic outlook on the future saying that it’s still possible for big companies to innovate and be successful “as long as, at the top of the company, you have an innovative mindset and the courage to continue to be innovative.” 

Tom Naratil, President Americas and President UBS Wealth Management Americas kicked off the event on September 26.

These and other insights into the future of innovation, transformation, and opportunity were on full display at the 2017 CIO Global Forum in New York City, hosted by Mark Haefele, Ph.D., Global Chief Investment Officer, UBS Wealth Management, and Mike Ryan, CFA, Chief Investment Officer Americas, UBS Wealth Management. Preeminent thought leaders from a diverse range of expertise and disciplines around the world shared timely perspective on the most important trends impacting the global economy, markets and investments.

Panelists explored the impact of politics on the economy, provided insights into navigating financial markets in today’s unique investment environment and delved into the psychological dimension of investing. Looking beyond the headlines and into the future, they also identified emerging long-term investment themes around the world.

Keynote discussion: Innovation, transformation and opportunity

Are disruptive companies disrupting themselves? Which companies are redefining innovation and how will they benefit from it vs. those who don’t innovate? What’s the future of innovation and how can we participate in its growth? Our keynote speakers, George Blankenship and Matt Ridley, offered their perspectives. Key insights and takeaways included:

  • On the question of whether the U.S. is in jeopardy of losing its leadership position in innovation, George Blankenship said, “I don’t think so...The reason is, I think what you need to start with in order to have innovation and disruption at an ongoing rate, is you need to have a mindset that nothing's impossible. You need to have a group of people who really believe that anything can be done. The second thing you need is money…And the money’s there. The third thing we have in the U.S. is we have a reward. We reward innovation and disruption.” In terms of innovation throughout the world, Matt Ridley said that, despite the fact there are over 1 billion people currently without electricity, “There’s some spectacular success stories in Africa. Child mortality is coming down. Malaria mortality was halved in the last 15 years—an incredible change…And when you look at the data, global inequality has been plummeting these last ten years, particularly since the Great Recession.”
  • Where will the next generation of innovation appear? Though Matt Ridley acknowledges, “We’re not very good about identifying where the next innovation will come from,” he asserts that the "Cognification revolution," which is the ability of machines to learn about the world without being programmed for it, could be humanity’s next breakthrough and “where we should be investing.” George Blankenship pointed out that “20 years ago, 90% of groceries were bought in grocery stores. Today it’s 50%.” He argues that companies that will be most rewarded for significant growth will be the ones that create products or delivery methods that answer "yes" to the questions: “Does it save time? Is there a convenience factor? And is there an experience associated with it?”

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