World Business Forum: International Insights

by SixFigureStart | October 07, 2009

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The opening hour and a half of the second day here at Radio City Music Hall has been dedicated to an International Insights Panel—a collection of speakers who really put the “World” into the World Business Forum. It’s also put something of an optimistic feel back into the event, with the general impression from each of the participants being that things are looking up around the world.

First, we heard from PwC Chairman Dennis Nally, who thinks that “we have reached the point where we can stop reexamining the past and, quite frankly, start looking to the future.” Then, both Taiwan Semiconductor founding Chairman Morris Chang and Vale CEO Roger Agnelli gave pretty upbeat assessments on their respective companies, industries, and global outlooks. Even the banking sector was represented in a mostly optimistic fashion: Banco Bilbao Vizcaya Argentaria Chairman & CEO Francisco Gonzalez reported that he believes banking is still fundamentally the same business as when he entered it (in that the majority of it still revolves around “plain vanilla” customer service).

If there was a note of caution to be found, it came from Royal Dutch Shell CEO Peter Voser, who tackled the question of how the world can afford a sustainable energy supply, and what governments should do to facilitate it. His answer: that “heavy investments are required in all forms of energy production and low carbon technologies”—something that will likely cost billions and require a considerable amount of political and corporate cooperation. Even, though, it was a clear indication that the energy market is likely to be a major driver of jobs—both within the U.S. and around the world—in the decades to come.

The worst thing—from a U.S.-centric job seeker’s perspective anyway—is that so few of the panelists even mentioned the U.S. when considering the future for their businesses. Much was made of emerging markets in Brazil and China (particularly China), suggesting that those seeking high-potential careers in fast-growing sectors in years to come may do well to look beyond national borders—or at least at companies based outside of the U.S. Moderator Antoine van Agtmael perhaps put it best when he offered the opinion that “we now live in the emerging markets century,” but it wasn’t all doom and gloom for the U.S.-based worker. As Morris Chang pointed out, “The U.S. has the best technical universities in the world.” Which is why his company still gets most of their top talent from the United States.

--Posted by Phil Stott, Vault Staff Writer

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