Since I started my weekly blog back in May 2020 there have been a range of themes that keep appearing. The central theme has – deliberately – been that of investment, since I very much view my posts as a portal to the business community with whom I seek to engage. But one of the beauties of the world of investment is the way in which it touches every aspect of our daily lives, be that in the shape of capital to create and fund a business through to the mechanism by which we grow our savings for retirement. That said, one of my challenges in writing these weekly posts is making the connections of ‘real life’ to what might be perceived by those outside the world of investment as an esoteric activity carried out by anonymous individuals within the city of London. Increasingly that challenge needs to be met. Our investment choices have ramifications that impact not only our immediate lives and family but also the broader society, the way business evolves and the leadership within it, the distribution of the world’s wealth and ultimately the continued existence of the planet’s ecosystem.
So whilst I may struggle to articulate those connections, it is reassuring to hear the words from someone who can perfectly capture these big picture moments. I refer to a recent podcast by the Thinking Ahead Institute featuring Roger Urwin [i] – something I thoroughly recommend. Roger maps out a journey through the metaphor of a Shakespearean play, characterising our current positioning as at the end of Act III. The prior acts being defined by our realisation of the effects of climate change, the challenges faced by society as we became gripped by Covid whilst also tackling the stark realities of racial injustice. He depicts the current place as one with some sense of optimism, in particular through displays of kindness within society ‘paying it forward’ (an act of kindness being repaid by multiple acts to others). He also comments on the way businesses have adapted as result of the way in which working from home has changed our perspective on working and family life balances as well as the negative implications for mental wellbeing.
Perhaps most significantly, Roger talks about leadership and the ever-increasing expectations for improved models; better mixing the “dominant and serving styles of leadership … making sure you’ve got emotional intelligence, you’ve got forward thinking”, noting the need to balance empathic thinking with confidence.
So there is evidence of change and different thinking. Largely this is to be welcomed but there is also the need for caution and again drawing from Roger’s podcast he quotes Sir John Templeton “The four most dangerous words in investing are: ‘this time it’s different’”.
I don’t believe we are in a different world or are facing new paradigm, but there does seem to be an acceleration in our willingness to accept new ideas and challenge orthodoxy. In part it feels that there is greater complexity in our world and therefore a need for urgency to solve some of the problems. When it comes to investment I hope different thinking facilitates stronger connections between the deployment of capital and those ‘real life’ challenges facing us today and by generations to come.