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An Investing Megatrend: How Technological Breakthroughs are Shaping the Future

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Factors of Technological Breakthroughs

Since Apple released the first iPhone in 2007, few industries have been left unaffected.

This transformational device is a prototypical example of a technological breakthrough. It was a tipping point in turning entire business models upside-down, while also impacting our everyday lives at a more fundamental level.

New growth opportunities emerged from the ensuing disruption, while many status quo solutions were rendered obsolete.

Technological Game-Changers

Today’s infographic from BlackRock highlights the pervasive and positive impact that technological breakthroughs can have on the global economy.

Technological Breakthroughs Infographic

Fueling the Flames of Innovation

According to recent data from Accenture, it’s estimated that 71% of businesses are on the brink of being disrupted.

In fact, disruptive innovation most often emerges in two scenarios:

  • New solutions to existing problems or challenges that have proven difficult to solve
  • New competitors in highly profitable sectors with historically high returns

The occurrence of technological breakthroughs can also be accelerated through several factors, including significant demographic shifts, sustained economic growth, innovative political environments, and urgent societal needs.

Technological Adoption is Speeding Up

Breakthrough inventions have always sent ripple effects throughout society, but today those ripples are travelling faster than ever.

Moore’s Law – the assertion that number of components in a dense integrated circuit (i.e., transistors, resistors, diodes, or capacitors) will double every year, while still getting cheaper – is one factor. Similar examples of staggering increases in utility for less cost can be found in a number of other instances, from DNA sequencing to data storage.

The rate of technological adoption is also speeding up. For example, consider the mobile phone─due to the price point and ease of use, the number of U.S. adults with a cell phone jumped from 10% in 1994 to over 96% in 2019. This is also evident in new technologies such as smart speakers, where the adoption rate in the U.S. is expected to double to 55% in less than 3 years.

Breakthrough Investment Opportunities

Where innovation leads, investment usually follows. However, predicting which technological innovations will have a lasting impact on society has often proved difficult.

Instead, investors can track the wider trends that often spark technological disruption, in order to unlock potential opportunities:

  1. Research and Development Funding:
    The number of investments in emerging technologies is growing. Tech company acquisitions also totalled US$278 billion by Q2 2018—a 50% increase from the year before.
  2. The Future Workforce:
    Historically, productivity gains have increased the demand for more skilled labour. Technical and soft skills are top priorities for employers for their future teams, and it it’s projected that the amount of hours that workers spend using technological skills will increase by 55% from 2016 to 2030.
  3. Shifts in Consumer Demand:
    Companies aware of these factors should seek to incorporate innovations into their platforms for a more customer-centric experience.
  4. Societal Needs:
    Persistent global social issues such as access to better healthcare are drivers of innovative solutions that offer a better quality of life. Symphony Post-Acute Network harnessed artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) to be able to offer personalised healthcare for over 80,000 patients─cutting costs by more than US$13,000 per patient.

Future Impact of Technological Innovation

Technological change will likely continue to accelerate, and investors should tailor their portfolios accordingly.

At the same time, traditional barriers to entry for new competitors are consistently being eroded by these breakthroughs, sending industries into flux and creating potential new opportunities.

Humanity’s co-evolution with technology will continue to profoundly impact the economy, while improving life on Earth in unimaginable ways.

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Business

10 Global Insights into a Transforming World

Every day, global trends are reshaping society and the business landscape. Here are 10 insights into how the world is changing—and where we are heading.

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global trends

10 Global Insights into a Transforming World from 2019

Every day, global trends are reshaping society and the business landscape.

Today’s infographic from McKinsey Global Institute (MGI) presents a snapshot of 10 insights into how the world is changing, based on its research work from 2019.

How did we get here, and where are we going?

A Connected World in Flux

Globalization is making the world “shrink” every day, as humans and trade become increasingly connected. However, there are signs that point to a new phase of globalization that is leading to different outcomes than prior years.

1. Globalization in Transition

Global exports are fundamentally shifting. Although manufactured goods are traded at higher volumes, certain services have grown up to three times faster.

The compound annual growth rate (CAGR, 2007-2017) for different sectors are as follows:

SectorsGlobal CAGR (% of GDP)
Telecom and IT services7.8%
Business services5.3%
IP charges services5.2%
Total services3.9%
Travel services3.7%
Financial and insurance services3.2%
Total goods2.4%
Transport services1.7%

This has a profound impact on the mix of industries and countries involved in this shift away from goods and towards services. Asia is coming of age in this phase of the global economy.

2. Asia’s Ascent

Trade with and within Asia is rising, and shows no signs of slowing down. The region’s economic might is growing rapidly, and with higher disposable incomes, consumption is growing too.

In China, there is a new dynamic at play.

3. China’s Changing Relationships

Compared to other developed nations, China’s economy is relatively closed. The country is re-balancing its focus towards domestic consumption and relying less on other countries for trade, technology, and capital.

At the same time, the rest of the world is increasingly exposed and tied to China for the same things—and such unequal engagement has a ripple effect on everything from financial markets to flows of technology and innovation.

Technology and the Future of Work

New technologies like artificial intelligence are sparking new opportunities, but they also raise questions about the future of work across geographies and gender.

4. Increasingly Digital India

As the costs of devices and data plummet, India’s digital adoption is surging—it closely competes with China for the highest digital population across everything from smartphone ownership to social media users.

As mass adoption of digital technologies continues, it is poised to add significant economic value to the Indian economy.

Digital sectorCurrent economic valueMaximum potential value (2025E)
Core digital services
e.g. IT business process management
$115B$250B
Newly digitizing sectors
e.g. Financial services
<$1B$170B

Companies worldwide are also integrating new technologies—changing the nature of work itself.

5. New Geography of Work

By 2030, talent and investment in the U.S. will be concentrated in a few regions—with 60% of job growth coming from just 25 hubs.

Potential Net Job Growth
These are just some examples of places which see double-digit potential net job growth by 2030. However, all regions will face unique challenges in the next decade.

6. Automation’s Effect on Gender at Work

Globally, women and men are at similar risk of losing their jobs to automation by 2030.

  • Women: 107 million FTEs
    Share of female employment, 2017: 20%
  • Men: 163 million FTEs
    Share of male employment, 2017: 21%

*FTE: full time equivalent. Based on midpoint automation scenario.

While everyone needs to adapt in the age of automation, women face more barriers. They spend up to 1.1 trillion hours on unpaid care work, nearly three times that of men (400 billion hours).

Women are also often in lower-paid roles or male-dominated professions. Additionally, many women have less access to digital technology, and limited flexibility to pursue education. These factors make it harder for women to “catch up” and bridge the gap left behind by automation.

Inequalities and Uncertainties

It’s clear that while technology generates opportunities, it also creates new social challenges. Low- and middle-income households face stagnating incomes, higher debt, and rising basic costs.

7. Declining Labor Share of Income

The U.S. labor share of income has been dropping for years—but ¾ of this decline has occurred since 2000.

Labor Share of Income
According to McKinsey Global Institute, boom-bust commodity cycles and rising depreciation are the main factors behind this trend, more so than commonly-cited automation or globalization.

Stagnating incomes mean less purchasing power, while the cost of basics are sharply rising.

8. Changing Consumption Costs

The global inequality gap has narrowed, but within developed economies, it has actually increased.

Technology and globalization have made many discretionary goods cheaper. However, basic costs such as education, housing, and healthcare have ballooned compared to the rate of inflation over the past decade.

Category Inflation
With wages stagnating, the higher costs for basics have eaten into disposable incomes in many mature economies.

A Changing Business World

Global trends drastically influence how companies compete with one another, transforming corporate dynamics worldwide.

9. Corporate Superstars

In just two decades, the distribution of economic profits has been growing increasingly wider. The top 10% of companies (>$1 billion in revenue) brings in an ever-larger share of total profits, while the losses of the bottom 10% share deepen.

  • Average profit per company, 1995-1997
    Top 10%: $0.85B
    Bottom 10%: -$1.02B
  • Average profit per company, 2014-2016
    Top 10%: $1.36B
    Bottom 10%: -$1.56B

*In 2016 dollars. Considers corporations with ≥$1 billion average sales (inflation-adjusted). Sample sizes: 2,450 companies (1996–1997) and 5,750 companies (2014–2016).

In essence, the bottom 10% destroy as much value as the top 10% create—and it has only intensified in 20 years.

10. Latin America’s Missing Middle

Latin America best exemplifies this corporate trend of companies “thriving” versus “surviving”.

Compared to similar economies, Latin American countries lack mid-size companies with over $50M in revenue. The Latin American average for firms per $1T GDP is 65 firms, while 100 firms is the benchmark average.

While Asia’s share of the largest firms is widely distributed across countries, Latin American enterprises are lagging behind.

What does the Future Hold?

CEOs and leaders will need to adapt to the new age of disruption—and quickly. To become a 21st century company, they must ask 10 crucial questions about how they operate in an increasingly complex world:

  1. What is our mission and purpose as a company?
  2. How far do we go beyond shareholder capitalism? How are we accountable to different stakeholders?
  3. Who benefits from our economic success? How?
  4. What is the time horizon for managing our economic success and impact?
  5. What is our responsibility to our workforce, especially given future-of-work implications?
  6. How do we leverage data and technology responsibly and ethically?
  7. What are our aspirations for inclusion and diversity?
  8. What is our responsibility for societal and sustainability issues involving our business, and beyond?
  9. What are our responsibilities regarding participants in our platforms, ecosystems, supply and value chains and their impact on society?
  10. How should we address the global and local (including national) imperatives and implications of how we compete, contribute and operate?

As the 10 insights suggest, global trends are profoundly altering the course of our future. Their impact varies greatly depending on demographics and region.

Everyone—business leaders, policy makers, and individuals worldwide—will need to adapt to the realities of a world in transformation.

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China

An Investing Megatrend: How Emerging Wealth is Shaping the Future

Emerging markets are ascending on the global stage and wielding more economic power—and it’s drastically altering the investment landscape.

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Globalisation is a rising tide that lifts all boats.

In an increasingly connected world, countries are engaging with global markets more than ever before. As a result, global wealth is shifting towards emerging markets. This megatrend—a global trend with sustained impacts—is profoundly influencing everyday life, society, and business.

Shifting Economic Power

Today’s infographic from iShares by BlackRock explains how emerging markets are classified, along with which countries are growing the fastest—and how investors can follow the money.

BlackRock-Emerging-Markets Global Wealth

What Is An Emerging Market?

Every economy goes through five distinct stages of growth:

  1. Traditional Society: Based on primary industries, such as subsistence farming.
  2. The Pre-Conditions of Take-off: Spread of technology creates a more productive agricultural economy.
  3. Take-off: Industrialisation begins, and technological breakthroughs occur.
  4. Drive to Maturity: More complex manufacturing, and large-scale infrastructure investment takes place.
  5. Age of Mass Consumption: Urban society and a tertiary industry dominate, as disposable income grows.
  6. Source

    Emerging markets fall into the transitory stages between ‘Take-off’ and ‘Drive to maturity’ as their economies modernise. Today, such countries offer lots of promise, but also come with a range of challenges:

    • Pro: Greater return potential, growing middle class, increasing consumption
    • Risk: Political instability, lack of infrastructure, lack of market access

    Between 2000–2018, emerging markets’ share of global wealth has more than doubled from 10% to 24%. China is a major player in this transformation.

    China’s Economic Might

    China’s impressive trajectory from agricultural economy to global superpower cannot be ignored. The nation is on track to overtake the U.S. in terms of gross domestic product (GDP, nominal) by the year 2030.

    Year🇨🇳 China GDP🇺🇸 U.S. GDP
    2000$2.2T$12.6T
    2010$6.1T$15T
    2018$10.8T$17.8T
    2020E$16T$20.2T
    2030E$26.5T$23.5T
    2040E$36.6T$28.3T
    2050E$50T$34.1T

    China’s enormous growth has a ripple effect on its GDP composition. A more affluent middle class is buying higher-priced discretionary goods—such as cars and electronics—boosting the country’s domestic consumption.

    Investors must keep an eye out for other emerging markets that are emulating China’s example.

    One Piece Of the Puzzle

    China is just one case study—several other economies are also making strides on the world stage. Each country brings unique advantages, but also barriers to overcome.

    CountryReal GDP Growth (2019E)StrengthsWeaknesses
    🇮🇳 India7.4%✔ Rapidly growing economy
    ✔ Vast working-age population
    ✘ Red tape
    ✘ Lack of infrastructure
    🇨🇳 China6.2%✔ Good infrastructure
    ✔ High R&D spending
    ✘ Ageing population
    ✘ High debt
    🇮🇩 Indonesia5.1%✔ Cheap labour
    ✔ Diversifying economy
    ✘Wide income gap
    ✘ Lack of infrastructure
    🇲🇽 Mexico2.5%✔ Integrated with global economy
    ✔ Cheap and qualified labour
    ✘ Political unrest
    ✘ Reliant on U.S. ties
    🇧🇷 Brazil2.4%✔ Diversifying economy
    ✔ Strategic location
    ✘ High production costs
    ✘ Inflation
    🇳🇬 Nigeria2.3%✔ High FDI
    ✔ Diversifying economy
    ✘ Political unrest
    ✘ Lack of infrastructure
    🇷🇺 Russia1.8%✔ Natural resources
    ✔ Educated workforce
    ✘ Political unrest
    ✘ Lack of FDI
    🇹🇷 Turkey0.4%✔ Cheap labour
    ✔ Strategic location
    ✘ Political unrest
    ✘ Red tape

    Source: Global Finance Magazine

    With these major emerging markets in mind, how can investors tap into the global wealth shift?

    Where Are the Opportunities?

    There are several avenues for an investor to play into this megatrend: structural solutions, consumer goods, and international investment.

    Structural solutions

    Emerging markets are increasingly gaining access to technology. Growth in connectivity is closely linked with improved productivity, and many countries are ripe for a surge in online users.

    However, much can still be done to speed up technological adoption, such as boosting 3G/4G network volume and coverage, and lowering the cost of data and smartphones to be more economical.

    By helping solve some of these structural constraints through technological innovation, investors can tap into the economic growth of emerging markets.

    Consumer goods

    As disposable income increases, a sizeable middle class will seek out products that elevate the quality of life. In India, domestic consumption is estimated to hit $6 trillion by 2023—four times its 2018 level.

    The region’s spending will likely be propelled by higher-priced goods, as well as a wider variety of choices across food, transport, and fitness categories.

    Global brands that plan to expand into emerging markets, or companies with a proven track record in these areas, are potential winners for investment.

    International investment

    Last but not least, investors can identify local winners in emerging wealth markets, through active or passive investing.

    An active investment strategy would be to directly buy into individual company stocks, listed on a country’s stock exchange. Meanwhile, a passive investing strategy would be to seek out exchange-traded funds (ETFs) covering specific markets, and/or sectors within emerging markets. Many of these are also listed on major exchanges.

    Diversifying either or both strategies across two or more countries can help mitigate risk. Investors can also choose index funds that broadly encompass all emerging markets.

    As countries climb the economic ladder, the emerging wealth shift continues to gain momentum. By staying attuned to these macro changes, investors may unlock long-term growth from emerging markets.

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