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Where We Are Finding Growth: Renewable Energy Economy
The team believes the world is in the early stages of a meaningful mix shift from hydrocarbon-based energy to renewables-powered energy enabled by improving economics, social awareness and increasing regulatory pressures. These dynamics have enabled the team to uncover several profit cycle opportunities globally.
Where We Are Finding Growth: Industrial Process Innovation
A relatively slower capital expenditure cycle is often cited as one factor behind the past decade’s tepid expansion in many developed markets. However, we believe this top-down point of view obscures a healthy, albeit different, sort of capex cycle—one that is more technology-driven and focused on efficiency and margin improvements.
Where We Are Finding Growth: Health Care Innovation
In the six-plus decades since Francis Crick and James Watson published their short but revelatory article about DNA’s double-helix structure, ongoing research has accelerated understanding of human genetics.
Are You Getting the Right Non-US Exposure?
Tepid economic growth in the post financial crisis decade left investors searching for companies that could stand out from the market by disproportionately growing their profits. The technology-centric US economy became the preferred destination for capital, with profit growth far exceeding its non-US peers (Exhibit 1). This rise in profits combined with more multiple expansion drove US equities to deliver over 600bps of higher annual returns and higher returns on equity (Exhibit 1). That said, it might be appropriate for investors to sharpen their pencils and give their non-US equity exposure a closer look given the price being paid for US profit growth appears a bit stretched today, and past performance is not indicative of future results (Exhibit 2).
Perspectives on the Trend Toward Stakeholder Capitalism
Beginning in the 1970s, Milton Friedman and his economist colleagues at the University of Chicago successfully steered private enterprises to prioritize the pursuit of profits as their sole social responsibility. While we will not venture to agree or disagree here, several forces are seemingly working together to shift this mindset. Though still in its infancy, our research and work on ESG for the past two years suggest a more balanced “stakeholder primacy” is taking hold.
The Importance of Profit Growth in Equity Returns
There is frequent debate among market participants about which style factors will be in favor in the future: growth, value, momentum, active, passive, etc. While we do not possess the ability to pinpoint the timing of when one style may be in favor over another, we believe the key element in determining the future path of a share price over the duration of an economic cycle is highly dependent on knowing which way profits are headed.
Thoughts on Recent Market Volatility
Escalating COVID-19 concerns and Saudi Arabia’s decision to cut oil prices and boost production have prompted a sharp selloff in global equity markets over the past month. We are monitoring both situations closely and believe the biggest relative performance risk from here is massive volatility. While there will likely be large up days for battered sectors, we expect a drift lower on balance until the true extent of the COVID-19 impact can be discounted into stock prices.
Our ESG Journey
We view the increasing importance placed on environmental, social and governance (ESG) factors as one of the most notable investment management trends in recent years. Conversations with our clients, management teams of portfolio holdings and team members have suggested that “how business is conducted” is increasingly important. The business news media certainly took note of this trend in 2019, prompting widespread public discussion of the role of business in society.
The Transformative Power of Data and Workflow Automation
The printing press, invented in Europe around 1440 CE, was for roughly the next 500 years the primary means of generating and storing data. However, since the advent of computers in the mid-1990s (depending on which model you consider the “first”), we’ve seen an attendant explosion of data, which is only accelerating.
Moore’s Law projected the number of transistors that can fit on an integrated circuit would double roughly every two years—which has proven particularly accurate. Remarkably, the rate at which data are being generated is even faster than Moore’s Law. However, the combination of 3 billion people on the Internet with mobile apps and sensors in an increasing number of smart devices is a recipe for an exponential increase in data which computers will have a hard time keeping up with—not only from a storage standpoint, but also a processing standpoint. The need to find ways to harness, understand and use data will ultimately transform the way we work.
The Digital Payments Revolution
We think there are several secular tailwinds contributing to the massive ongoing shift toward digital payments. First, we’re seeing rapid growth in e-commerce, which requires that customers be able to make secure, digital payments. The growth in cross-border transactions and the general impact of an increasingly globalized marketplace are helping accelerate this trend. Second, technological innovations that simplify cash transactions—such as Square and Uber, as well as point-of-sale devices in areas they’ve not historically been, such as taxis, vending machines, parking meters, etc.—are helping drive digital payments growth.