The Global Boardroom Day Three Summary

On the final day of the Global Boardroom, the Monetary Authority of Singapore’s managing director Ravi Menon said he was optimistic about the economic outlook for Asia-Pacific but that there was more “urgency to act” on continuing digitalisation, reskilling the workforce and meeting sustainability goals.

Tokyo governor Yuriko Koike said the coronavirus was under control in the capital but that the speed of vaccinations nationally needed to be faster. She said she was determined to hold the Olympic games safely as a “symbol of human unity”.

In a discussion assessing China’s economic and political strategy, Minxin Pei, professor of government at Claremont McKenna College, called for greater diplomacy in China-US relations: “If you stare down the path towards confrontation we are looking at a very dark future – neither country would win.”

At the Global Boardroom on Wednesday Katherine Tai, US trade representative, had said she expected to meet her Chinese counterpart soon, in the first sign that the Biden administration was preparing to talk to Beijing about trade tensions.

In a session looking at the future of tourism, EasyJet’s chief executive Johan Lundgren criticised the “overabundance of caution” from the UK government for its approach to reopening international travel, adding that it would “not be following its own advice” if it only opens up travel to a handful of countries.

Federico González, the chief executive of the Radisson hotel chain, said the pandemic had led to a “step change” in the need for flexibility in employment, which will have long-term consequences.

Margrethe Vestager, the European Commission’s head of digital policy, insisted that proposed regulations were to ensure a level playing field for business, not to prevent foreign investment: “The goal is simple and that is fair competition, full stop, no buts.”

4:00 – 4:45 BST

China’s Strategy in Asia-Pacific: Striving to change the regional order

Bert Hofman, Director, East Asian Institute, National University of Singapore

Minxin Pei, Tom and Margot Pritzker ’72 Professor of Government, Claremont McKenna College

Susan Shirk, Chair, 21st Century China Center, University of California San Diego

Moderator: Jamil Anderlini, Asia Editor, Financial Times

A fear-based system has taken hold in China, suggesting it is edging closer to totalitarianism, and Beijing seems to be picking fights with everybody

SS: “The door is open if Xi Jinping wants to walk through it to try to stabilise relations with the US. If China can use reassuring diplomacy as it did for several decades before the 2000s – reassure its neighbours that it is not a threat as it grows more powerful – then it’s got this great security blanket surrounding it.”

SS: “What’s really going in the Xi Jinping administration? Is the leader getting accurate information about the backlash? Is he just living in an echo chamber of good news and praise? It’s actually very worrisome.”

MP: “Before Xi Jinping, the Chinese Communist Party relied on the greed principle – incentive-based governance systems. This has shifted to a fear-based governance system.”

SS: “XI Jinping seems to believe this Maoist idea — that you can actually brainwash people, that in a coercive setting you can work on their thinking. It’s just so amazing that after all that time that Mao tried to do that with tragic results that Xi Jinping is basically trying to do the same thing again.”

China’s economic strategy does not necessarily align with the political strategy

BH: China has decided to rely more on its domestic economy. This could seem a reasonable proposition, but it could also be a risk management strategy, i.e. what if something grows wrong?

BH: “There have been important initiatives in mass entrepreneurship. The only question mark is to what extent this economic strategy matches the political strategy. China’s reforms, success and three decades of growth came from allowing more of the market to come in, more entrepreneurs to come in … now we see a much more top-down approach.

MP: “The economic plan is really a framework – a lot of aspirations. Chinese leadership needs to contend with two issues: you cannot purchase security for free – so growth and efficiency will suffer because China will be buying security – and who do you rely on to achieve security?”

Anti-China rhetoric in the US helps Xi Jinping

SS: “There is a move from the focus on development to a focus on security.” International security threats have been hyped up.

SS: “As a way to muster bipartisan support for big domestic initiatives, President Biden is framing everything in terms of the ‘China threat’ – so the public continues to hear about the China threat; public opinion appears to be negative towards China.”

MP: “You need to give diplomacy some room to play because if you stare down the path towards confrontation we are looking at a very dark future – neither country would win.”

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5:00 – 5:45 BST

#TechAsia Live: The reshaping of Asia big tech

Nisa Leung, Managing Partner, Qiming Venture Partners

Santitarn Sathirathai, Group Chief Economist, Sea

Dan Wang, Technology Analyst, Gavekal Dragonomics

Moderator: James Kynge, Global China Editor, Financial Times

Much of the coverage of the Asia tech scene focuses on US-China rivalry. This risks obscuring the rise of dynamic tech companies across the region

NL: “Last year, end of Q2, investment activity really picked up [in Asia]. Very similar to what we’re seeing in the US. At Qiming we have had 16 IPOs in the last 15 months.”

SS: “We always talk about the economic potential of southeast Asia, but it somehow always [felt] like it’s a market of tomorrow. Digitalisation has brought about this huge leapfrog into interconnectivity. It has unleashed the potential people have been talking about for years.”

Online sales account for 5 per cent and offline 95 per cent in southeast Asia, suggesting huge potential for the future

NL: Internet usage continues to multiply in southeast Asia. It has shown swift recovery from the pandemic; we are seeing investments in healthcare, anything internet-related.

SS: There is breadth to digitalisation, a deepening of consumer engagement, and the trends are sticky – indicating that these changes are permanent.

US policy on China has not brought much change

DW: “It is striking that US policy has not changed substantially against China in the last few months. Biden has designated more Chinese firms to the entity list, and is still sanctioning Chinese officials allegedly subverting Hong Kong’s autonomy.”

DW: “Semiconductors are China’s Achilles’ heel in terms of technology. I think self-sufficiency is a fantasy; the value chain for semiconductors is incredibly complex. China’s semiconductor industry is leading in pretty much nothing right now, but it has figured out the basics of competing in every segment of the chain.”

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7:00 – 7:20 BST

Keynote Interview

Yuriko Koike, Governor of Tokyo

Moderator: Robin Harding, Tokyo Bureau Chief, Financial Times

Tokyo has the virus under control, but a pragmatic and scientific approach must be taken to control the spread

YK: “We are under control, in particular the new strain is spreading more among active, young people, and as we approach a holiday in Japan, we will be taking advantage of this vacation period to halt any potential spread.”

YK: “In order to slow the spread of the highly infectious new strains, it is important that we take an intensive and comprehensive approach to enact strong measures to prevent the movement of people. These measures have been based on scientific findings.”

Japan’s national vaccination programme is lagging behind, and progress is needed urgently

YK: “The vaccine is expected to become a game-changer in the fight against coronavirus, unfortunately Japan’s speed of vaccination has not been fast.”

YK: “I urge the national government to promptly secure and provide vaccines to all people in need.”

Protecting local businesses through this crisis is a key priority. Tokyo has been implementing businesses support measures

YK: “Tokyo has asked operators to close or shorten business hours, and a corporation grant will be provided only to companies that fully comply with our requests.”

YK: “Tokyo has been implementing new support measures to purchase equipment to assist with air ventilation.”

Coronavirus is not the only crisis which stands before us — climate change means that we cannot, as a city, simply return to normal following the pandemic

YK: “We will evolve into a city where anyone can live safely and happily through sustainable recovery. This is our responsibility we must fulfil for our future generations.”

Tokyo is determined to hold the Olympic games safely and securely and sustainably

YK: “We are focusing on fighting the virus so that we can provide a safe environment for all. The Tokyo 2020 games are a highly significant event for the world that can become a beacon of hope, and will become a symbol of human unity.”

YK: “We aim to make the Tokyo 2020 games a new model for the Olympic and Paralympic games — a symbol for sustainable recovery.”

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7:30 – 8:15 BST

The Future of Tourism: How will the pandemic change travel in the long term?

Clement King Man Kwok, CEO, The Hongkong and Shanghai Hotels

Johan Lundgren, CEO, easyJet

Jane Sun, CEO, Trip.com Group

Moderator: Ravi Mattu, Deputy Asia News Editor, Financial Times

The tourism industry has bounced back in China, but in Europe, the US and other parts of the world it is still in the doldrums

JS: “We have just had the labour day holiday and the government has published its numbers. Compared with pre-COVID 2019, headcounts for travellers have fully recovered. For our company, our numbers are higher. For air tickets, we have grown more than 20 per cent compared with 2019. For hotels, it was even higher during the five-day weekend, closer to 50 per cent year over year growth. So we have seen a very strong rebound from the pre-COVID levels, which we are very excited about.”

JL: “There are parts of the world that have moved into the growth phase. But Europe at this moment is a place of divergence because of the different restrictions governments have imposed. Countries around the Mediterranean are craving for tourists to return and are doing everything they can to open up for travel. At the same time you have an overabundance of caution in, say, the UK, where it is still illegal to travel abroad unless you are exempt for certain reasons.”

Consumers are eager to travel and still have the same needs as before the pandemic

JS: “Consumers’ pent up demand for travelling abroad to Europe, North America, South America and the rest of Asia is very strong. Everywhere Chinese consumers go, they bring buying power and create jobs for the local economy.”

CK: “As a luxury hotel operator, we only cater to a small segment of the overall travel population. What we have seen is that the fundamentals of hospitality have not really changed. Things that we emphasise such as personalisation, attention to detail, providing very good service, anticipating what the needs of our guests might be – those qualities continue to be very much welcomed.”

Pandemic travel restrictions and sustainable tourism demands present major challenges to travel companies

JL: ““At this moment in time, check-in procedures and border force touch points are where the issues lie. Governments have many restrictions in place and a number of documents need to be checked to prove you have been vaccinated in some cases, or that you have been tested. While governments are imposing these restrictions they are not equipping their border forces to deal with them. In some cases they are handing off the liability to the airlines to check some of these things.”

CK: “We understand the importance of sustainability. Our global footprint is not very big but nevertheless we believe that we can play a part. In the past people might have not associated luxury with sustainability. But we believe that by providing luxury, we can do it in an increasingly sustainable way. Examples are things like sourcing more responsibly, and making some sacrifices. Our group was one of the first in the world to ban shark fin from its menus. It is a very important Chinese delicacy, but we decided to forgo it because of the bigger picture.”

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8:30 – 8:55 BST

Keynote Interview

Ravi Menon, Managing Director, Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS)

Moderator: Chris Giles, Economics Editor, Financial Times

The economies of Asia Pacific did not suffer as much as other regions during the pandemic

RM: “The Asia-Pacific region in aggregate suffered a milder recession than virtually any other region in the world. By Asia Pacific, I mean Japan, Korea, Taiwan, Hong Kong, China, the five Asean countries – Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand, Philippines and Singapore – Australia and New Zealand. It contracted by less than half a per cent in the whole of 2020, whereas most other regions contracted by minus 2 to minus 7 per cent.”

RM: “There are three reasons [for the milder recession in the region]. One, China shored up the region. It recovered first off the block very quickly and registered positive growth last year. That has been a powerful locomotive for the region. Secondly, the export-driven sector of the region has recovered quite nicely with the rather rapid restoration of supply chains, which were seriously disrupted in the first two quarters of last year. Third, the COVID-19 infection rates in the region have been significantly lower than in other parts of the world and this has helped considerably in the partial recovery of economies.”

The economic outlook for Asia-Pacific is an optimistic one because of the region’s ability to control the virus relatively well and widespread vaccine deployment

RM: “Looking ahead, there will be a pick up in the growth momentum. We are seeing signs of that already in the first quarter, and I would expect the out performance of the Asia-Pacific region to continue this year and into next year; 6.5 per cent growth, that’s our forecast for the region this year, which is not too bad. There will be quite a bit of a tail wind coming from manufacturing especially.”

RM: “There are serious uncertainties and risks still on the horizon. The situation in India is deeply worrying and has implications for the rest of the world, both by way of infection rates coming up again as well as the supply of vaccines from India. The vaccine deployment in Asia-Pacific has been relatively slow, perhaps because infection rates are lower and there has not been as much urgency. In Singapore we’re pushing ahead full steam, but in other parts of the region for a variety of reasons vaccine deployment has not been as rapid. That does leave the region a little vulnerable if there is a renewed outbreak on the scale we saw last year.”

The three main long-term challenges are to ensure the continued digitalisation of Asia-Pacific economies, re-skilling the workforce and meeting sustainable development goals

RM: “The challenges remain pretty much the same as they were pre-COVID, but the urgency to act has grown substantially. [The challenges are ] the march towards digitalisation to create truly digital and connected economies, the re-skilling of the workforce and, of course, to ensure that development is on a sustainable path.”

RM: “We have seen a strong resurgence of interest in the need to create a more sustainable planet, to mitigate carbon emissions and so on. I see this in all my conversations in Asia and it is on policymakers’ priority lists. Asia accounts for nearly half of global carbon emissions, and yet Asia is not where Europe and America are with respect to social and economic development. There is still ongoing rapid urbanisation and so on [in Asia]. The transition challenges are going to be significant. The trade-offs are sharper in Asia than in the developed economies and that will be one of the most important challenges lying ahead.”

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9:00 – 9:45 BST

Lessons from Japan: The dos and don'ts from 30 years of deflation

Jenny Corbett, Project Professor, University of Tokyo, Emeritus Professor, Australian National University

Sayuri Shirai, Professor of Economics, Faculty of Policy Management, Keio University

Hiroshi Yoshikawa, President, Rissho University

Moderator: Robin Harding, Tokyo Bureau Chief, Financial Times

Combination of low interest rates, low growth and low inflation is often called ‘Japanification’

SS: “There is a global trend of inflation dropping over a period, and this is to do with structural factors such as globalisation and digitalisation. So far central banks continue to say that monetary easing is effective – but maybe that’s not the whole story.”

There were two periods for Japan: debt deflation in the 1990s, when the bubble burst, and something different later on

HY: “I strongly believe the peril of deflation is exaggerated. Asset price deflation is truly dangerous. ‘Japanification’ is not good terminology; people usually use it to exaggerate the threat of deflation. The problems Japan faced from the 2000s were real rather than monetary.”

Confident messaging is needed to support policy

JC: “You have to be very careful about how you message your policy actions. One of the problems for Japan in the early stage was to be doing policy actions that were probably correct, but messaging that you’re not confident they were going to work and may change direction at a moment’s notice.”

JC: “Gentle disinflation is not a significant problem but the real risk is you fall into a deflationary spiral where price expectations get locked into the idea that prices will continue to fall. That can be very damaging to incentives to invest, incentives to spend.”

SS: The framework [for the corporate governance programme] is there but imposing it is not strong enough.

Ageing affects the population’s ability to adopt new technology, to change society

HY: “Whether you like it or not, the role of the public sector must increase to cope with the many issues of ageing. Japan suffers from the worst public deficit, but this has much to do with ageing.”

JC: There has to be some kind of mechanism to transfer resources from the young to the old. There are different models that can do that; some arrange this without government involvement.

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10:00 – 10:45 BST

Post-Pandemic Employment: How will labour markets adjust to the opportunities generated by digitalisation and the green economy?

Carl Benedikt Frey, Director, Future of Work Programme at the Oxford Martin School, Oxford University

Federico González, CEO, Radisson Hotel Group

Saadia Zahidi, Managing Director, World Economic Forum

Moderator: Martin Sandbu, European Economics Commentator, Financial Times

Flexibility will continue to be a key feature of work going forward, and the pandemic has taught us that flexibility goes both ways. There are tremendous opportunities but also considerable challenges in managing the balance between productivity and innovation

FG: “There has been an increased need for flexibility, not only in how people need to be open to do different jobs in different moments, but also how we need to enable employees to perform different jobs and different roles.”

CBF: “Flexibility is key. It is being offered by technology, but there is no ‘one-size fits all’ answer. The project life cycle gives us a framework in thinking about how the future of work is likely to evolve, and its impact on innovation. Although we know that people can work very productively from home, if innovation suffers in the short-term, then our long-run productivity potential could be reduced.”

SZ: “The new flexible frameworks that we are beginning to lay out contain massive coordination problems. While companies can help to solve these issues themselves, there will need to be a stronger role played by governments to solve the problems at scale for society themselves.”

Governments need to take a greater interest and provide more guidance on the direction of the labour market, and the types of jobs that will be available in tomorrow’s employment market

SZ: “If there is a clearer orientation from governments towards the jobs of tomorrow, that will help our entire system in being able to move forward.”

FG: “I would prefer governments and institutions to enable, rather than dictate, the direction. Businesses can see the direction their industries are moving, and I believe governments need to help build frameworks and enable businesses to build structural solutions.”

CBF: “It makes sense for governments to take an active role if there are missions we would like to accomplish to benefit society, that help create jobs and reduce inequality or tackle climate change.”

The pandemic has offered an opportunity for a geographical diversification of the workforce

CBF: “The pandemic has induced a massive shift to remote work and has made it possible for declining regions to level-up.”

FG: “Technology and the communication tools we now have can be used to enable us to rebalance and give the opportunity for people to relocate to a place where their quality of life can be better. It also means we can distribute the income and the wealth down to many other places that have suffered in terms of economic growth in recent years.”

SZ: “If we take seriously the fact that skills are now the new currency of the labour market, then we need ways for there to be a common language around skills. At the moment what a business may describe as data and AI-related skills may be wholly different from how someone else may describe those skills. We need a better skills taxonomy.”

The distribution of jobs offers an opportunity for developing nations to catch up digitally, but infrastructure is key

CBF: “If we do believe that convergence globally is a worthwhile pursuit, then offshoring is a good thing. It is an enabler for countries that are building technologically to catch up rapidly.”

FZ: “If the right infrastructure from a technology perspective exists, then the world is reachable from anywhere. I think the opportunity of poorer countries is linked closely to developing infrastructure.”

SZ: “I have a cautiously optimistic view on the outlook for developing economies. The pandemic has had a ravishing effect on developing countries. There are a lot of challenges to overcome, but at the same time there is an opportunity here provided the fundamental bases around education, talent and broader digital infrastructure can be built in.”

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10:50 – 11:00 BST

Session Framer - Africa: How quickly can it bounce back?

Goolam Ballim, Chief Economist and Head of Research, Standard Bank Group

Moderator: David Pilling, Africa Editor, Financial Times

The structural drivers for growth in Africa remain largely intact

GB: The youthfulness of Africans has provided a shield – a degree of resilience from harmful COVID disease and fatalities. But we take lessons from India, that one cannot let one’s guard down.

GB: We have avoided harsh lockdowns, which has allowed for economic resurgence.

GB: At Standard Bank, we have identified structural drivers for growth that I would argue remain largely intact: population growth, urbanisation remains in force, resource abundance and buoyant demand, financial services and technological deepening.

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11:00 – 11:45 BST

Africa: How quickly can it bounce back?

Kamissa Camara, Senior Visiting Expert for the Sahel, United States Institute of Peace

Rebecca Enonchong, Founder and CEO, AppsTech

Eghosa Omoigui, Founder and Managing General Partner, EchoVC Partners

Dimieari Von Kemedi, Co-Founder and CEO, Alluvial and Angalafintech

Moderator: David Pilling, Africa Editor, Financial Times

Africa may have, until now, escaped a health crisis, but the pandemic has created an economic crisis which can only be solved through collective action within the continent

DK: “The impact of COVID itself has been relatively mild, however the greatest impact has been economic. It has really brought about a lot of damage to household economies, big businesses and of course the countries as a whole. As you mentioned, it’s a continent-wide recession and this impact is going to be with us for quite a long time.”

RE: “Only 11 per cent of the trade is done within our region, which makes absolutely no sense. A lot of the import and export activity is done with China or with Europe and that’s something that we as African’s in signing the EFCFTA want to change. We want to see more cross-border trade within African countries and so lowering all the barriers to that trade is something that needs to happen quickly.”

DK: “Coming together as one continent, beginning urgently with the free movement of people because it’s always about exporting goods, it’s more important to export ideas. If you export ideas, you can work with those ideas whether in Cameroon, Ghana or Kenya simultaneously.”

EO: “There is certainly a lot of demand internally for: made in Africa or built in Africa or grown in Africa or powered in Africa types of products, goods and services.”

We can not allow Africa to become a forgotten continent when it comes to vaccine production and distribution

RE: “This is a global health crisis and we need to all come together, trying to profit and benefit from the crisis is something that we in Africa have been suffering from for a long time.”

DK: “We need to vaccinate more people in Nigeria. At last count the number of doses were still less than a million.”

DK: “We need to do a lot more in getting people vaccinated, because it will affect people from Nigeria travelling to other parts of the world.”

EO: “We don’t have enough of an insight into the real reach of this virus. We’ve been very lucky, we have got away with it similar to the way India did and there’s always the risk as you can now see in India, with the second and third waves, that Africa will actually get there and people are not ready to deal with it.”

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12:00 – 12:25 BST

Keynote Interview

Margrethe Vestager, Executive Vice President for a Europe Fit for the Digital Age, European Commission

Moderator: Javier Espinoza, EU Correspondent, Financial Times

Proposed regulations are about ensuring a level playing field for European business, not preventing foreign investment

MV: “The goal is simple and that is fair competition, full stop, no buts.”

MV: “There is a negative side to foreign direct investment — if we have an unlevel playing field in an acquisition or in public tendering and that will outweigh the risk (of losing FDI) because, obviously, Europe is still open for foreign direct investment, if people come with the right intentions then they are very welcome to invest in Europe.”

MV: “The purpose of the tool is to have fair competition; it is not to target specific sectors or specific countries.”

MV: “I think in everything we do we should welcome reciprocity, and the second thing that is important for reciprocity to work is of course full transparency.”

The EU expects these regulations to help stimulate innovation not stifle it

MV: “I am absolutely certain the big tech companies will keep innovating and that will be complimented by an open marketplace.”

MV: “Who would invest in innovation at a smaller company if that company cannot reach their customers?”

MV: “The point is to make sure the market is open, contestable, so that innovation can thrive. Of course, then it’s up to consumers to choose what they want, but the choice has to be made in a way where consumers are not victims of gatekeepers.”

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13:00 – 13:45 BST

Geopolitics: Gauging the post-COVID flashpoints

James Crabtree, Executive Director - Asia, International Institute of Strategic Studies (IISS)

Kori Schake, Director of Foreign and Defense Policy Studies, American Enterprise Institute

Leslie Vinjamuri, Director, US and Americas Programme, Chatham House

Moderator: Gideon Rachman, Chief Foreign Affairs Commentator, Financial Times

The COVID-19 pandemic is one of the defining geopolitical moments of this century

KS: “I do think it’s been a major geopolitical event, because shutting down the global economy, the revelation of our dependencies in the global economy, supply chain reliability, nationalism that impedes that. We’re all an education on the extent of global interconnectedness and the desire of governments to take care of primarily their own people.”

JC: “Biden’s arrival has complicated the position for China. You have had much more active diplomacy from the Quad grouping from Japan, Australia and India.”

The Biden administration needs to build back international trust after Trump, and the fear of the Republican party’s next move remains

JC: “In Asia and in Europe there is a big trust deficit, because of what happened under Trump. It could be Angela Merkel or it could be the South Koreans in different respects, people are very worried about what happens in three years.”

KS: “The argument that the Chinese government is making is that the combined effect of the 2008 financial crisis and the mistakes of the Iraq War show American untrustworthiness and the Americans are arguing that the big divisive mess you see of us is essential for creativity and invention.”

LV: “It’s really only now that it feels like we are moving beyond a really intense internal parochial and nationalistic focus in the US, and frankly in the UK, caught up in Brexit, to hopefully an era where there is a concerted effort to cooperate and align on any number of issues.”

China’s diplomacy is becoming increasingly more erratic in comparison with the US

KS: “Their government had the terrible luxury of welding people into their homes in a way that none of our governments could do.”

JC: “China’s short to medium-term game is to become the dominant actor in its own region, I don’t think China in a realistic time frame of the next decade or two can aspire to be a hegemonic power in the Americas in the way that the US has been in Asia.”

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14:00 – 14:45 BST

Commodities: Set for a new investment cycle?

Ivan Glasenberg, CEO, Glencore

Steele Li, Vice Chairman, CMOC

Kathleen Quirk, President and CFO, Freeport-McMoRan

Moderator: Neil Hume, Natural Resources Editor, Financial Times

The post-pandemic recovery combined with the transition to clean energy means there is a long-term, sustainable demand for commodities

IG: “China recovered quickly from COVID, and infrastructure spending then continued, which helped the commodity prices reach where they are today. On the demand side, it’s clear it's there and remains strong.”

IG: “If you look at demand and supply, I’m pretty positive for a long-term future.”

SL: “The commitment to the energy transition to net zero carbon by 2050 is a long-term structural change, and its effect means I believe we are in a supercycle.”

KQ: “The world is serious about the transition to clean energy, and that is going to create a level of demand that the industry is really not prepared for. Now in the industry [copper], we really dont have the supply pipeline that we have had in the past.”

The demand for copper in particular could outstrip supply for a long time. The price needs to remain high to justify new investment in mining projects

IG: “To go and develop new projects you have to be certain that the price will be at the right level in seven or eight years’ time, when you can bring it into production. To get another million tons of copper per year to meet the demand, it is going to be extremely difficult.”

SL: “Based on existing production we would need another two Glencores — that’s the scale of production we would need to meet the demand now.”

KQ: “We’re going to have to see more copper coming, and the price will need to incentivise more scrap coming into the market.”

High-end consumers, such as renewable energy and electric car companies, are not sufficiently worried about the fragility of their supply chains given the potential shortfall in crucial metal commodities — especially in terms of sustainable and responsible sources

IG: “The Chinese are seeing the shortfall, and are reacting to it, but the western car companies are not seeing it in the same manner.”

SL: “It matters that we find ways to cling to responsible commodities, with the highest ESGs, that we can demonstrate sustainability to the end user.”

KQ: “It’s striking the amount of new awareness to this issue, not just from companies and consumers, but also from governments.”

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15:00 – 15:45 BST

A Blueprint for the Future Office: How will workplaces evolve in the year ahead?

Jennifer Christie, Chief Human Resources Officer, Twitter

Phil Harrison, CEO, Perkins&Will

Patrick Hogan, Chief Commercial Officer, Honeywell Building Technologies

Bill Schaninger, Senior Partner, McKinsey & Company

Moderator: Janine Gibson, Assistant Editor, Financial Times

Remote working offers opportunities for companies to grow like never before

JC: “One of the reasons we were on this path (shifting to remote working) was to open ourselves up to more diverse talent pools. Limiting ourselves to hiring in two places for a global company didn’t make a lot of sense.”

PH: “Companies that are good at this (decentralising workplaces) will be thriving.”

PH: “One thing we’ve learnt for sure is that the clients need us, but may not need us in their face.”

Businesses need to find a balance between financial gain and employee happiness when deciding the future of work

BS: “First and foremost, just self care and helping people compartmentalise what they’re being asked to do and what really matters to them, we have to help people do that.”

BS: “We’re going to have to take into account the attributes and types of people who will thrive in these environments and what support we have to give them. I think significant introverts may struggle with the intensity of Zoom, there is an emotional toll that comes through Zoom and this that wears on people.”

JC: “Any company that turns a blind eye to what employees want and this growing demand for work/life balance and flexibility and being able to live where they want and have the jobs they want to have can make those choices, but they’re going to lose out on talent. The people that they have will not stay and they will not be able to tap into a growing workforce.”

BS: “There’s a group of people who want a return to control, but I think they are on borrowed time.”

PH: “One of the big surprises this past year is that people are working harder and they’re working more, but that was actually not a good thing in the long run because people are being burnt out.”

BS: “I think we have a grand reckoning coming, which is the workforce we all need so much having spent 15 months wondering ‘what the hell am I doing?’ and ‘is this worth it at all?’ — because every hour spent at work is an hour away from your partner or your children or the people that need you. I would take it incredibly seriously that your job has to be attractive enough, meaningful enough and have enough personal renewal that someone wants to do it.”

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16:00 – 16:45 BST

Cities post-COVID: In search of social and environmental resilience

Yvonne Aki-Sawyerr, Mayor, City of Freetown

Vimal Kapur, President and CEO, Honeywell Building Technologies

Giuseppe Sala, Mayor, City of Milan

Claudia Sheinbaum Pardo, Chief of Government, Mexico City

Moderator: Hannah Murphy, Tech Correspondent, Financial Times

To encourage behaviour change you need to go beyond the experts; you need to go to community level to find voices people can relate to

YAS: “What we learned during Ebola was even though the epidemic was so lethal, behaviour change was the way to go. To do that you need a message that people could relate to, and that messenger had to be a trusted voice.”

Sustainability goals are being built into cities’ recovery plans

YAS: “Dealing with inequalities means getting to the root of creating wealth and creating jobs, as we face a climate crisis as well. So it’s how to build, but with green jobs. We are planting a million trees: ‘Freetown the tree town’. It’s dealing with environmental sustainability, but also creating jobs.”

CSP: “In spite of the pandemic, investments in environmental sustainability continued [in Mexico City]. We are planting 40m trees and shrubs, there is huge investment into water systems and moving towards zero waste – to make sure at least half of waste is going to sanitary landfills.”

VK: “All of us have realised air quality matters. And that we plan for one thing, but something else might happen. The question is do we have the technology, systems and processes to help with emergency response?”

We need to think about financing cities differently, and integrating more technology into public services

YAS: “You can’t make the decisions without the data. Cities are at the frontline of dealing with these challenges [like the pandemic]. Funding needs to come down to city level. For example, we have a heat emergency in many cities – all of this requires finance.”

VK: “There are many definitions of smart cities. But how do we enable our frontline workers with technology? Why do they not have access to technology to do their work? This goes hand in hand with city administration, because these things make cities more liveable.”

CSP: “Making sure people have access to an equitable city has to be done with technology and innovation. We believe a lot of services require new technology. During the pandemic we developed our own epidemiological model that helped us to make decisions.”

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17:00 – 17:45 BST

5G: Can new networks provide a post-pandemic boost?

Laura Abasolo, CEO, Telefónica

Nishant Batra, Chief Strategy and Technology Officer, Nokia

Lise Fuhr, Director General, ETNO

Ferry Grijpink, Senior Partner, McKinsey & Company

Moderator: Nic Fildes, Telecoms Correspondent, Financial Times

5G opens up vast opportunities for all industries

LA: “5G is going to impact almost every industry. 4G is a great technology but it is not adequate in terms of processing capacity, interconnectivity and so on.”

FG: “Where digital meets the physical world, that’s where the real impact will be. Eighty per cent of this can be done with today’s technology. But we need to invest now because there is so much value to be created in all industries.”

More investment is essential, and hands-on support for SMEs

LF: “To achieve full 5G in Europe you need €150bn for the network and €150bn for the fibre. That investment should come from the private sector. Europe is heavily regulated, so investments are not as big as we want them to be. There has been a tendency to focus on technology-specific regulation, when we should be technology-neutral.”

LA: “Private companies are ready to invest. The EU recovery fund is going to be a boost for telcos.”

FG: “We really need to help SMEs understand what they can do with technology and on what the business opportunity is.”

LF: “The more we can consolidate as an industry will help. 5G is extremely expensive. What is important here is that Europe allows all investment models.”

Creating the right infrastructure for the ‘edge’ – the many computing devices that intersect with the real world – is crucial

NB: “The edge will be one of the most fundamental building blocks of digitising networks. It cannot happen without economics. The edge is as critical to digitalisation as 5G.”

FG: “You can have super fast computing, but if there is no network connected to it it doesn’t mean anything.”

LF: “On edge computing and the cloud Europe is doing the right thing. But we need to develop this together.”

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18:00 – 18:25 BST

Scoreboard Interview: How can sports franchises embrace the disruption of 2020 to reimagine their growth strategies?

Scott O'Neil, CEO, Harris Blitzer Sports & Entertainment

Moderator: Sara Germano, US Sports Business Correspondent, Financial Times

The pandemic has switched the focus beyond fans watching games live

SO: “It has been a really tough 16 months financially. What we learned – is what we already knew – that only 1 per cent of fans around the world will attend a Sixers game live. We need to know who our fans are around the world, and how we can reach them at the right time.”

SO: Currently we are only allowed to have 25 per cent of the fans back. We are still social-distanced in the arena. The opportunity is how we take these learnings and fast-forward.

Lessons have been learned from the European Super League

SO: “It’s a reinforcement of what we all know in our hearts: we are stewards of these brands. Our job is to bring people together and build community. These brands are going to outlive me, my children, my grandchildren – we may own the team, or part of the team, but our jobs are just that.”

There is opportunity to make big changes in the sports business in the next decade

SO: People generally don’t like change. Whenever you have a bold vision and want to accomplish something great, there are going to be roadblocks and objections.

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19:00 – 19:45 BST

Emerging Markets: As debt continues to rise, how strong will the recovery be?

Tobias Adrian, Financial Counsellor and Director, Monetary and Capital Markets Department, International Monetary Fund (IMF)

Cate Ambrose, CEO and Board Member, EMPEA

Mark Fawcett, Chief Investment Officer, Nest

Moderator: Michael MacKenzie, US Investment Editor, Financial Times

Although emerging markets have suffered an economic downturn and rising debt levels in the past year, investors remain optimistic

TA: “In 2020 we saw a massive global economic contraction as a result of the pandemic. We haven’t seen such a big contraction in 100 years and some countries, like the UK, have not seen such a contraction in 200 years. Yet at the same financial conditions and investors stayed positive. In fact, stock and bond issuance globally has been at record levels, including in emerging markets.”

TA: “Emerging market investors are positive. Why is that? There are a number of reasons. First of all, we have seen supportive [government] policies. Advanced economies’ central banks have purchased more than $10 trillion of assets and that has eased financial conditions globally, benefiting emerging markets.”

MF: “The recovery of emerging market economies depends a lot on how long the pandemic goes on for and how quickly they can roll out vaccine programmes.”

MF: “Quite a few bond markets have a lot of purchases done by local residents – I think in Brazil it’s something like 90 per cent of government bonds – so they can sustain relatively high levels of debt.”

Some of the main investment opportunities in emerging markets are in low-carbon industries and technological innovation

CA: “Many investors think about longer-term sectoral opportunities in specific areas. Two of the biggest are climate and everything related to environmental sustainability, and then innovation and technology.”

MF: “As a pension fund, we have committed to our portfolios being aligned with the Paris Agreement – that’s net zero by 2050, if not before, and that includes our emerging market investments. So we need to see a transition from fossil fuels to renewable energy taking place. It’s clearly more of a challenge for emerging markets to make that transition as they tend to be more carbon intensive and use dirtier fuels to generate electricity.”

Emerging markets are diverse, so it is difficult to generalise about which present the best investment opportunities or are most likely to suffer from poor economic performance and high levels of indebtedness

CA: “The term emerging markets is problematic because when you are talking about markets as diverse as China or Kenya or Brazil and others there is not one cohesive set of opportunities or risks. So we, EMPEA [Emerging Markets Private Equity Association], are moving away from talking about geographies and thinking more about long-term sectoral trends, like the energy transition that’s happening globally and the impact of innovation and technology.”

TA: “Issuance has been at record highs for emerging markets, both at the sovereign and company level. That’s true for 2020 and it’s true for 2021 to date. That is good in terms of stimulating economic activity but they do end up with more debt in the future. So sovereign debt is at a record high, and we also see in a number of countries that corporate debt is elevated.”

TA: “The pandemic – we were hoping it would improve but we now see a deterioration. We hope it can be tackled, but we don’t know. There could be further adverse shocks and scarring of some economies as a result. As the economic recovery is slower than expected, the vulnerabilities start to become a burden.”

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20:00 – 20:45 BST

Managing the Debt Crisis: Distressed investing and restructuring strategies

Jeffrey Aronson, Co-Founder and Managing Principal, Centerbridge

Marianna Fassinotti, Head of Debt and Related Assets, DE Shaw

Julian Gething, Partner, McKinsey & Company

Moderator: Robert Smith, Senior Credit Correspondent, Financial Times

The market does not show signs that we are in the middle of a debt crisis. The corporate default rate is only slightly higher, interest rates on investment grade and high-yield corporate bonds are at all-time lows

JA: “There was a great opportunity for a month or two and we capitalised on that in a big way. This is the fourth [cycle] I’ve been through. They are all caused by different things, but ultimately fear plays a big part and typically coincides with downturns in the economy. So it happened, it was just brief; if you weren’t ready with the capital and you needed courage as well it passed by quickly.”

MF: In the early days [of the pandemic] we determined pretty quickly that the global financial crisis of 2008 would not be a good proxy for assessing credit risk.

JG: “Forecasts that have been made have been quickly found to be incorrect because the pandemic has been deeper, lockdowns have been longer. For some companies that has meant they have had to go back to the proverbial well – shareholders or debt markets – to increase liquidity.”

Opportunities to make money in distressed investing – a deeply cyclical business

JA: “There are typically lengthy periods where the strategy is pretty dull. It will be interesting to see what happens now; if all you do is invest in distressed businesses then you probably just had an excellent period of performance … but your raison d’être is now out the window, there’s nothing left to do. The best thing to do is nothing – the hardest thing to do as an investor – the other thing to do is return the capital, or the third thing is that people start to drift into something related.”

JA: “The things we will pivot to are ‘opportunistic financings’, which typically are not for troubled businesses, but often complicated businesses that are growing but are not readily understandable by most investors.”

MF: The public markets are not an interesting space to deploy capital. We see opportunities in opportunistic financings, and also looking at the private markets for more idiosyncratic exposure – either in areas where the banking system has retrenched, or in response to regulatory catalysts.

How the pandemic has changed the landscape

JG: Zombie companies are not a new phenomenon. It is clear that as we emerge from the pandemic, the level of the support will be influential on how many zombies we get to.

MF: The MPL market went into the pandemic at tight valuations. With the pandemic, banks completely stopped selling portfolios, private sales were put on pause. The market has timidly returned and banks are just now starting to assess which portfolios to bring to the market.

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21:00 – 21:45 BST

Tech for Good in Latin America: Can the crisis be turned into a development opportunity?

Pierpaolo Barbieri, Founder and CEO, Ualá

Mariana Costa Checa, Co-founder and CEO, Laboratoria

Rafael de Castro Figueroa, Co-Founder and CEO, Portal Telemedicina

Moderator: Benedict Mander, Southern Cone Correspondent, Financial Times

The pandemic created opportunities for development

MCC: At Laboratoria we transitioned to a remote [job placement] programme and were concerned about our ability to build a sense of community remotely. Today we reach women from the south of Chile to the north of Mexico, so it’s opened up huge opportunities.

PB: We are a neobank that started in Argentina and we launched our first international market during the pandemic. Latin America has a big access problem – 50 per cent of adults have never had a payment mechanism other than cash. We believe there is a great opportunity to greatly scale the services that the continent needs.

RCF: We are a digital healthcare company [a telediagnostics platform], so the pandemic hit us directly, both in a good and bad sense. A lot of cities instruct patients to not go physically to clinics, so these patients needed ways to talk to doctors. It is not the tech by itself, it’s more a mindset – a way of thinking – and the pandemic has accelerated that.

Supporting entrepreneurship will help LatAm to build back better

MCC: “As entrepreneurs we have a huge role to play. Tech and digital have proven to be more resilient sectors in circumstances like this. The more we invest in growing these sectors and spaces, the better prepared we will be to embrace the future.”

MCC: “Every crisis that comes around, it is often that women are the most impacted. How do we make sure that’s no longer the case? From our work a key intervention is education – preparing women with the skills they need to thrive in tomorrow’s world of work.”

PB: “We need to equip every citizen with the ability to create a credit history, to access a loan … we can provide digital services that are much cheaper than what existed before. We are furthering digital services – inclusive, transparent and free financial services in Mexico and Argentina – to break with the cycle of inequity.”

RCF: “Regulation in LatAm is ten years behind compared with Europe, for example, and it is not good for us. It allows us to be more aggressive at some points but I don’t like that.”

Sessions will soon be available on-demand should you wish to revisit any of our speakers’ fascinating insights.