Event Highlights from The Year Ahead – January 28, 2021

The Year Ahead: Event Highlights – Day 3 

By Bloomberg Live

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 3 program.


  • Kristalina Georgieva, Managing Director, International Monetary Fund
  • Carmen Reinhart, Vice President & Chief Economist, World Bank Group
  • Eric Peters, Founder, CEO & Chief Investment Officer, One River Asset Management
  • Jeff Blau, CEO & Partner, Related Companies
  • Jon Gray, President & Chief Operating Officer, Blackstone
  • Stephen Squeri, Chairman & CEO, American Express
  • Marcelo Claure, CEO, SoftBank Group International & Chief Operating Officer
  • Rakshita Saluja, Executive Editor, Equality Bloomberg
  • Dr. Soumya Swaminathan, Chief Scientist, World Health Organization
  • Dr. Uché Blackstock, Founder & CEO, Advancing Health Equity
  • Margaret O’Mara, Author, The Code: Silicon Valley and the Remaking of America
  • Brian Chesky, Co-Founder & CEO, Airbnb

Click here to access videos of all the sessions.

On leaning forward and doing more: Kristalina Georgieva, Managing Director of the International Monetary Fund said it’s important that fiscal and monetary policy makers do not withdraw support too quickly. “We need a profoundly effective recovery rather than the uneven recovery that we are currently experiencing.” Georgieva went on to highlight IMF research that shows accelerating global vaccination efforts will increase the global economy by nine trillion dollars to 2025. Sixty percent of this will go to emerging markets. Focusing on growing disparities between nations, Georgieva is seeing “advanced economies pulling out of this crisis much faster. Poor countries are falling behind. For the first time in decades poverty is going up.” 

On not confusing a rebound with a recovery: Carmen Reinhart, Vice President & Chief Economist of the World Bank Group shared that “Unlike 2008-2009, this crisis is really global. This is much more fundamental. I’m not looking for a quick recovery.” Reinhardt highlighted how diverging international credit ratings show today’s crisis is increasing economic inequality. “After 2008/2009…you saw the credit ratings of emerging markets go up while the advanced credit ratings of the advanced economies went down. Now there’s a difference. The gap [between emerging and advanced economies] is getting bigger and it isn’t because the advanced economies are being marked up.” 

On being the Bitcoin whale: Eric Peters, Founder, CEO & Chief Investment Officer of One River Asset Management called out Bitcoin naysayers commenting that, “you’d have to be a real pessimist to think that an emerging technology platform doesn’t become more interesting, more useful, more valuable.” On the future of crypto-currencies, Peters said, “if you believe the things that we have seen, then you look at them and you go, these are dramatically undervalued relative to some of these other stores of value. And so that’s what makes us excited about these. [They are] an undervalued asset for this macro backdrop.”

On the future of work and cities: “Culture does not work and is not created over Zoom or Skype. Interactions happen in the hallway,” said Jeff Blau, CEO & Partner of Related Companies. “Here at Related, our best meetings just occur when you walk down the hall and meet somebody. It’s hard to create that on Zoom, you can’t schedule that interaction.” Blau was confident about the future of cities. “We are going to have a vaccine, this will end. Restaurants are going to reopen, culture will open, all the reasons that people came to New York are going to exist again and I think people will stay in New York. I think the big cities will survive.”

On the recent market volatility and a post-pandemic recovery: When asked about potential repercussions following the recent price volatility around several stocks, Jon Gray, President & Chief Operating Officer of Blackstone, stated, “On the one hand, you can’t discourage individual investors from making investments they want to make in the market. The question is, are folks trying to guide things to generate short term gains? I think there will be more scrutiny. When you look at leverage, I think the question is, are there systemic risks? I don’t think there are from this, so from that standpoint, they’re just people taking losses. But as we move into this new distributed, social media led world, it creates new challenges for all of us, regulators in particular.” Gray was optimistic about the second half of the year saying, “I think a year from now we’ll be talking more about an economy that has reopened and has tremendous strength. I think there is a global cabin fever phenomenon that I think is going to reverse itself when we get back out. People are going to take planes, get in cars, go places, go to restaurants, go to ball games. Consumer savings are at record levels, credit card debt has been paid down, and so I think we could see a surge of economic activity in the second half of the year in a post-pandemic world.”

On consumer trends for 2020 and 2021: Stephen Squeri, Chairman & CEO, American Express said, “What we saw was a shift in spending. Consumers by definition consumed and if they weren’t consuming travel, they weren’t consuming dining, and they started to consume more and more online. As we look back at the last couple of quarters, we had growth over 2019 in our non T&E categories. Our expectation is that trend is here to stay and that will continue. But what we’re hearing from our consumers is they are desperate to get back in travel. They are desperate to get back and go out to dine. Sixty percent of the people that actually had booked vacations in 2020 have rebooked for 2021 more in the June/July/August time frame, but I think we’re going to see once you have the perception of herd immunity and the efficacy of these vaccines have been proven out, you will see a rush to travel.”

On SoftBank investing $100 million in Miami: Marcelo Claure, CEO, SoftBank Group International & Chief Operating Officer, SoftBank said, “What we decided to do today is to make what we call the 100 Million SoftBank Initiative. We all got together within SoftBank and made a commitment to [invest] one hundred million dollars in start up companies that are either in Miami or that are moving to Miami so when you combine talent with capital and with so many people moving to Miami these days we wanted to make sure that we contribute to Mayor Suarez who is truly welcoming to see a government official actually embracing tech.”

On global vaccine rollout: Dr. Soumya Swaminathan, Chief Scientist of the World Health Organization commented on the importance of transparency as we begin to roll out the vaccine globally. “A number of people rather than being anti-vaccine just want more information,” Dr. Swaminathan said. “They have questions they want answered, so communication is absolutely critical. We need to start communicating about how it was developed, how we’ve ensured the quality, how the follow-up is going to be done, and how the government is taking all steps to protect their communities. Especially when we want to vaccinate over seventy percent of the population to quickly bring an end to this pandemic, I think the more communication we do, the better.”

Dr. Uché Blackstock, Founder & CEO of Advancing Health Equity echoed the importance of transparency. “One of the challenges that we’re having in the states is that those communities that have been most devastated and impacted by the virus are the ones where we’re seeing higher degree of vaccine hesitancy. So that points to the importance of not only communication but the accessibility of the vaccine, ensuring that we don’t just have it as we have here initially in hospitals and pharmacies, but we have mobile units that can vaccinate in schools and community centers and that we really ensure that we make the vaccine access equitable to every community based on their needs.” 

On what to expect on tech policy from the Biden Administration: Margaret O’Mara, Author of The Code: Silicon Valley and the Remaking of America said “I’m just stunned by how the political mood has changed. Politics and sentiment about tech enabled this really smooth, almost frictionless runway for growth for a really long time. That has shifted dramatically. Both Republicans and Democrats see a lot of problems with that and there’s just this momentum to rebalance the imbalance between corporate power and government power, to bring a better more fair balance back.” 

Brian Chesky, Co-Founder & CEO of Airbnb shared the top findings from the 2021 travel trends study. “We did a survey of American travelers and they told us a few things. The first thing is they miss traveling. Second, Americans are telling us they actually are planning to travel this year. Fifty-four percent of Americans surveyed said they were either already planning their trip or plan to travel this summer but something’s going to be different about how they travel. They don’t miss business travel. They don’t miss landmarks, they don’t miss crowded lobbies, they don’t miss getting on double-decker buses. What they miss is connection to their family and their friends. So the kind of travel they want is meaningful travel not mass travel. They want to have meaningful time with their friends and family. I think that’s what travel is going to look like this year. A shift from mass travel to meaningful travel.”

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