The Year Ahead – Day 1
January 26, 2021
2021 is shaping up to be a decade-defining year for global business. What do the unprecedented disruptions of the past year mean for executives navigating the new normal? Bloomberg’s The Year Ahead brings together CEOs from across industries along with other global experts and the power of Bloomberg News and Intelligence to map out a strategic blueprint for global business in 2021.
Here are highlights from our Day 1 program.
- Erna Solberg, Prime Minister, Norway
- Piyush Gupta, CEO & Director, DBS Group
- David McCormick, CEO, Bridgewater
- Albert Bourla, DVM, Ph.D., Chairman & CEO, Pfizer
- Sharmistha Dubey, CEO, Match Group
- Christopher J. Nassetta, President & CEO, Hilton
- Arnold Donald, President & CEO, Carnival Corporation
- Michelle Gass, CEO, Kohl’s
- Aryeh Bourkoff, Founder, Chairman & CEO, LionTree
- Luke Petherbridge, CEO, Link Logistics
- Lior Ron, Head, Uber Freight
Click here to access videos of all the sessions.
On Norway possibly refining vaccine strategy after elderly deaths: The Prime Minister of Norway, Erna Solberg, says her country may fine-tune the vaccination of its oldest, sickest citizens as it tries to make sense of a recent spate of deaths. “We don’t believe there’s any problem with the safety of the vaccines, but we will maybe not give them to the most vulnerable of the elderly, because that might speed up a process where they were what we would say, at the end of life phase anyway,” so, “that probably is not what we will continue to do.” The prime minister added that she hopes Norway will finish vaccinating its most vulnerable citizens by March.
On 2020’s accelerated global digital transformation: Piyush Gupta, CEO of DBS Group, highlighted the rapid uptake of digital services that he witnessed in 2020. Customers over 60 years of age had a four-fold increase in the usage of digital banking tools. Looking ahead, Gupta sees 2021 as a tipping point for blockchain and distributed ledger technologies, with more use cases set to emerge.
On America’s frustration and anxiety remaining unaddressed: David McCormick, CEO of Bridgewater shared his views on the current state of U.S. politics. Looking back, McCormick shared that it’s extremely important to recognize that Trump tapped into frustration and anxiety within a particular part of American society that remains unaddressed. Political parties need to embrace this and work to channel this energy in the right direction. On President Biden, McCormick hopes the new President will address issues that existed before the Covid-19 pandemic – these being the differences in equality of opportunity between social groups, and the rise of China and America’s changing role in the world. On the latter, McCormick said there is no clear plan for America to lead the world in multiple areas and that this needs to be a focus of the Biden administration and those that succeed it.
On new variants of Covid-19, vaccine implementation and supply: “We are focusing on having a very good surveillance network so every time a new variant comes up, we should be able to test, at least in the labs, if we are effective or not….Once we discover something is not as effective, we will very very quickly produce a booster dose that will be a small variation to the current vaccine,” said Albert Bourla, DVM, Ph.D., Chairman and CEO, Pfizer. Bourla stated it is important to give the second dose on time in all scenarios, adding that a week or two later was not a big issue. “In general you need to make sure that you give the second dose as the studies recommend that the vaccine works, which is 3 weeks. Within this framework I’m fine, but beyond that it’s a risk…We know what data we have and the recommendation is to give the vaccine as it was approved.” On vaccine supply, Bourla shared that Pfizer will be able to supply the U.S. with 200 million doses of the Covid-19 vaccine two months sooner than previously expected. “It’s a similar situation in Europe where we will be able to provide way more in the second quarter.”
On the evolution of online dating during a global pandemic: Sharmistha Dubey, CEO of Match Group, described the pivots they made in April in response to the lockdown. “It made all the sense in the world for video to be part of the platforms. We also started giving users things to do. How do you do a good video date? Is it ok to cook together? What are the ice-breakers that you do? By summer about half of our users were telling us they had been on a video date. That was a big transformation for our category and our platforms.” Looking ahead, Dubey continued, “Even if the degree of usage comes down a little bit, people have gotten comfortable to the point where they see the value of this medium going forward.” On the future, Dubey added “I do expect short term volatility but finding love and meaningful connections is that much more important when we are dealing with difficult situations, so ultimately I think our products have a strong value proposition and a role to play.”
On what to expect in 2021: Christopher J. Nassetta, President & CEO of Hilton said that the “second half of the year will be better than what we think. I would say the next 60-90 days will be difficult. In Europe and even China, we’ve seen cases increase and business drop off. So while we are still in the eye of the storm, light is at the end of the tunnel. I think when you look at the data as you get into the early spring you should be in a place where you can sensibly start to see things shift. There are things that need to happen, the roll out of the vaccine and the political system support, so legislatively making sure we have the right bills in place to help those impacted by the crisis and also liquidity issues that have impacted small businesses need to be dealt with.”
Nassetta added: “I will strongly encourage all my employees to get the vaccine as it’s the only way to get us through this pandemic.”
On Carnival as a bellwether for the industry: Arnold Donald, President & CEO of Carnival Corporation said: “It’s been a tough time, a very difficult time for travel and leisure. We paused way back in March in 2020 and here we are in January 2021 and we are still not sailing. So to have a business with no revenue and no significant burn rate has been very challenging. On the other hand, our company has proven resilient. We have raised over 19 billion of capital, and we got 90,000 crew members back home at a time when there were no flights.”
Arnold added: “I think our return is going to be slower than others because if you take a cruise you go somewhere, we have to go to destinations and those destinations have to feel safe. But we will come back. We are cautiously optimistic that we can have all the fleet going again by the end of the year.”
On the challenges and accomplishments of 2020: Michelle Gass, CEO of Kohl’s said, “We will look back on 2020 as one of the most pivotal times. We closed our stores for weeks and navigated financial liquidity and put the health and safety of staff above anything else. From a business standpoint I think most businesses can see the power of omni channels. I am a big believer in stores, but we used this time to tighten and focus our strategy and I believe that will be transformational moving forward.”
On media growth in 2021: Aryeh Bourkoff, Founder, Chairman & CEO of LionTree spoke about the transformative deals to watch for in 2021. “I think tech and media coming together is still going to be a big theme,” said Bourkoff. “Media is now in a growth mode, having figured out the plus strategy, and the investment horizon and the shareholders are rewarding it. They’re going to stay focused on that and on the streaming services and the video games. And then I think you’ll see some consolidation among the players with their investment now focused on growth versus just the cash flow streams of the core business.”
On the top logistics trends accelerated by the pandemic: Luke Petherbridge, CEO of Link Logistics stated that they’re seeing “a significant acceleration of that last mile warehouse space, 20 to 30 miles away. It’s really driven by the consumer. To be able to deliver those goods in a timely manner, and timely nowadays is not multiple days. It’s hours and days, which has really forced suppliers and e-commerce providers to get as close to the consumer as possible. We’ve really tried to focus on that last mile or that infill location because we believe that is where the puck is going to move.”
Lior Ron, Head of Uber Freight shared how imperative the digital transformation has become to eliminate shipping inefficiencies. “Thirty percent of miles being driven on the highways around us are being driven by empty trucks. This can be addressed by equipping the entire supply chain with visibility through digital tools. We can optimize the entire network and greatly reduce all of those inefficiencies by better planning those routes by better bundling routes together by better planning those empty miles and as a result, we can optimize and cut the costs for both sides and greatly help the environment with that challenge. We’ve seen great acceleration of digital adoption both on the demand side with shipping and shippers, and the supply side with truck drivers in fleets. It’s now becoming essentially table stakes if you want to run a modern supply chain organization.”
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