Declan Kelly, Chairman & CEO, Teneo
There are three numbers to think about for 2019: $1 trillion, 20 billion and 3.8 billion.
In 2018 we saw the first companies reach a $1 trillion valuation. A note of caution. When ancient Rome granted a triumphal procession to a successful general, a slave stood behind him and whispered ‘Hominem te memento.’ ‘Thou art human.’ We also saw the largest single-day drop in market value.
So, a trillion stands for opportunity, but also for the challenge of staying at the top. Don’t think of it as dollars on a dusty balance sheet. Think of the billions of people whose lives are improved by these companies and what they offer. Hundreds of millions of savers and retirees who are better off. Millions of jobs created. Thousands of communities benefiting. William Nordhaus, winner of this year’s Nobel Prize for Economics, estimated that entrepreneurs retain about 2 percent of the value of innovation, the rest accrues to society.
20 billion is an estimate of the number of devices that will be connected to the internet in 2019. As Michael Porter of HBS put it, “In fact, there is no such thing as low-tech industries. There are only low-tech companies.”
Autonomous vehicles may get the headlines, but much of the change is invisible as IoT re-engineers existing processes. A farm in Nebraska producing one terabyte of data every month to improve crop yields. Smart factories planning production schedules directly from customized orders placed by customers in the showroom. Your daily commute being 20 minutes quicker because IoT- enabled traffic infrastructure reduces congestion.
Every CEO I talk to is thinking through the impact of technology on their business, the opportunities it creates, and the dangers it might pose. Cyber breaches will continue to hit the headlines in 2019.
The final number, 3.8 billion, is about hope. 2018 was the first year in history when more than half the world’s population were categorized as middle or high income; 3.8 billion people. This is great news. Better yet, that number will be 5.3 billion by 2030. Private household consumption accounts for half of global demand. And two-thirds of household consumption comes from the middle class. This will mean massive new opportunities for business.
How businesses configure themselves to seize these opportunities is changing. When I started in business there were more than 8,000 publicly- traded companies in the United States. Today, it’s less than half that. Share buybacks are at record highs and outweigh new issuance by a record margin, as companies return value to owners.
Also factor in close to 300 Unicorns globally, private companies with billion- dollar valuations. I now hear CEOs across several industries talking about the problem of bringing in innovation and talent, historically done through acquisition. Now that supply is drying up as entrepreneurs find alternate funding structures.
Of course, today’s Unicorn may be tomorrow’s S&P 500 company. Chinese tech companies outpaced U.S. companies for U.S.-listed IPOs in 2018. That trend may reverse next year, as we likely see ‘the play from the Bay,’ with several SF tech titans including Slack, Uber and Airbnb potentially looking to go public.
The owners of business are changing too. Today we have the paradox of activ(ist) versus passive investment. Index funds are over a third of the U.S. fund market and will likely overtake active funds in the next five years. But activist investing is also at an all-time high, with $54 billion of capital deployed into 174 companies through the first three quarters of 2018. Teneo advised companies worth more than a trillion dollars combined in activist situations this year. We are also seeing passive investors taking a more active stance, as they exercise their stewardship duties. As a result, it is more important than ever that companies engage with investors to tell their story.
Put all these disparate trends together and capital markets’ dynamics are changing fast, in ways business leaders are struggling to fully understand. What’s at stake here is the future of public markets and the efficient allocation of capital. And striking the right balance between entrepreneurialism and oversight. It underscores the vital importance of alignment, making sure that those with common interest in the success of a company understand each other’s perspectives.
As usual, this book is a tour d’horizon of the issues on top of the CEO’s agenda. We cover the globe looking at the shifting sands of macroeconomics and politics. It also delivers insights from Teneo experts on market issues, including: regulation, new consumers and the shifts caused by technology. Finally, we look inside the corporation at new thinking about security, purpose, governance and oversight.
The three numbers I have chosen represent the challenge and opportunity; the changing world we live in; and the sheer complexity of running a business with multiple, complex and overlapping stakeholders. They are the context for the most pressing reputational, transformational and capital markets issues that CEOs face.
Increasingly, there is no place to hide, in markets and beyond. We are living in an unprecedented political environment. Business is having to decide where and when it should express a political view. And not just on tax, regulation or narrow business areas. We saw more business leaders than ever speak out on social issues in 2018.
We live with paradox. We are more diverse than ever, yet we have more disharmony too. Women make huge strides in business, yet we have the reality that underpins the #MeToo movement. We see more opportunities available to more people than ever before, but also new obstacles and borders being created.
The more public a company becomes, the more reputation matters. And I don’t just mean publicly-traded. At the point you intersect with consumers, those they elect, and ultimately society, your reputation is rightly under the microscope.
The most important question for business today is, do people really trust you? Do they believe you are creating a better tomorrow? Businesses not trusted become businesses under pressure; their options narrow. Trust comes from reputation. Reputation is built on actions.
Thanks to Jim Hoge for his excellent work editing this book and thank you to the Teneo experts from half a dozen countries for sharing their insights. Also thanks to Steve Meahl, Ali Penaro, Solomon Chaison, Devin Mullin and Alexandra Rogan for making it all happen.
Finally, thank you to the CEOs who share their valuable time with us every day, allowing us to work with them to help guide their companies forward. At its core, Teneo’s job is to help CEOs follow their true North when the storm obscures the sky. It has been said that CEOs have one of the great luxuries in life, the chance to make a difference. Helping great CEOs do that is our great privilege.
Chairman & CEO, Teneo