Top talking points – and why Davos has a vital role to play

Greetings from a cold Davos! It’s a privilege to have the opportunity to mix with business and thought leaders from around the globe.

December 16, 2019

The main Congress Center here is a swirl of constant activity, with delegates juggling meetings, presentations, media interviews, and chance encounters in the corridors. As always, from among the wide range of topics and issues, some key recurring themes and views rise to prominence. Here is my quick take on some of those top Davos talking points this year:

  • We’ll see slower global growth this year, with the slowdown in China, increased political uncertainties, and steady financial tightening all acting as braking mechanisms.
  • But conversations with most executives suggest continued confidence in their companies’ performance in 2019, albeit with a watchful eye on external factors.
  • As you would expect, there’s much discussion here on digital transformation and The Future of Work, including at JLL’s well-attended event earlier this week.
  • Given that digital technologies impact the value of skills – enhancing some and diminishing others – there’s discussion of the impact on income inequality and social stability. As one speaker said at a gathering of corporate chairmen yesterday, “Machines don’t take to the streets, people do”!
  • In a session on investor stewardship, it was noted that the average time an investor holds a stock has declined in the last few years from 8 years to 8 months – the result of trading practices and investor activism, forcing companies to focus on short term results.
  • At the same time, index investors like Blackrock are increasingly outspoken about long-term stakeholder interests – clients, employees and the community – as well as shareholders. While this has been a discussion topic for a while, it’s clearly getting traction.
  • So the best companies, like JLL, reconcile these pressures by short-term execution of a long-term plan that values clients, employees, healthy communities, and a sustainable environment.
  • I’ve been struck by how many of the topics on the agenda here: cybersecurity, privacy, blockchain, reskilling, environmental sustainability to name a few… require collaboration between the private and public sectors for substantial progress and success. And that requires trust, an agreed structure of rules and standards, and a willingness to co-operate in pursuit of a shared benefit.
  • That’s a demanding set of requirements, but public-private partnerships are what Davos tries to promote in bringing together business leaders of established and emerging companies, policy makers, and researchers in a flurry of meetings, conversations and exchanges, building valuable relationships along the way.

Sheila Penrose is JLL’s Chairman of the Board of Directors.

For more on our presence at the World Economic Forum, please visit JLL’s Davos 2019 page.