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10 lessons from Larry Fink's 2022 Outlook

Asset manager BlackRock recently held a 2022 Outlook event. Here are some edited highlights of what its CEO, Larry Fink, said about 10 topics.

1. Consumer behaviour has completely changed

“We saw a vast change [in 2021]. Because of what we're witnessing now with the new variant, we're spending much less money on services. We're not commuting as much. We're not going to restaurants as much. And the pool of savings has built up dramatically, but when we spend it we're spending it much more on capital goods. Some of the fundamental reasons why we have supply chain problems is the demand side is just so much greater than it's ever been.”

2. Inflation is not transitory

“Inflation is a big, big issue going into 2022 because of this change in consumerism. And we see it in wages too. We have the largest quit rate [leaving jobs] in the United States we've ever had, which is a great statement of the confidence of the worker. People…quit because they have confidence they could find something better and easier. That in itself is now stimulating more wage inflation. So the question is: are we going to have more wage inflation, or more core inflation? That’s going to be a big issue politically.”

3. ‘Sustainability inflation’ is a thing

“We are a big believer in the world moving faster and in a decarbonised way. But if we don't have proper government policies to navigate the demand side of energy versus its supply, we're going to have big imbalances. That’s what we experienced late last year, where there was so much pressure and supply mitigation of hydrocarbons, without any negation of demand. I believe this is going to be with us for some time. I could almost call it sustainability inflation. In 2022 this will be a backdrop that will lead to changes in the behaviour of central banks, especially the Federal Reserve.”

4. Equity investors shouldn't expect bumper returns

“The S&P was up 27% last year. It would be very hard for me to see those type of outcomes [again].

There's no question some valuations are very extreme. And there's so much momentum in the equity markets. Our clients are aggressively investing in more and more privates, whether it's private debt, private equity, or real estate. So we are seeing real changes in investor behaviour worldwide. But it should create less fear of higher inflation. So that’s why I’m not fearful of equities. I am a big believer of owning equities in 2022. Likewise, I’m a big believer that you can find opportunities in fixed income even with rising rates. So I am not that worried about global capital markets. The pool of money sitting on the sidelines is enormous. That’s probably the biggest question I’m being asked: ‘Where do I put my money?’ not ‘How do I protect my money?’”

5. Technology boosts resilience ...

“I don't believe remote working can create culture. There is a great need for interconnectedness with your team and with your organisation. Having the banter of a conversation about an economy, or having a political debate over dinner is far more expansive than doing it on a virtual call. We have to be mindful that human connectivity is the essence of so much of the culture of an organisation. I truly believe culture is the number one difference between a bad company and a good company, or a good company and a great company.”

6. ... but watch for mental health issues

“I feel bad about the young people who have joined with our organisations and spent so little time in the office. I don’t know how they are going to grow out of their vertical. Virtually and independently, it is hard to move people to different parts of organisations (…) and bringing back the essence of an organisation in person is going to be vital. There is so much evidence of growing mental health issues, loneliness is growing, despite how well everything is going in evidence by corporate profits. But it doesn’t mean it’s perfect, it doesn’t mean it’s lasting. It means we’re resilient, and I don’t think it’s lasting.”

7. The private sector can't be the environmental police

“The issue around climate and climate risk is going to be the biggest change in capital markets. At the same time, politicians have two, four, six-year terms to effectuate a proper policy, and we’re talking 20-30 years. Therein lies the imbalance we’re facing. Right now, governments are asking the private sector to do more because they are incapable of doing as much as they would like to. The risk is, we cannot be the environmental police on behalf of governments, so there is a delicate balance there. We are all going to have to be astute in terms of navigating our portfolios, and some industries that are going to be left behind if they are not adapting. I believe the opportunity of finding those new technologies to rapidly create a decarbonised world is going to be fascinating and it’s going to create huge sums of profits for those who discover those firms and technologies.”

8. We should decarbonise slowly

“Right now, we do not have enough technology to decarbonise in a fair, just way. If we want to decarbonise tomorrow, we probably could do it, but it would create hyperinflation, it would create more inequalities. We have to go from all these different granular shades as we move to green, and we’re going to create and find those technologies to accelerate this pathway. But all the money we manage is not ours. Our job is to inform and educate our clients – how should they be thinking about decarbonisation in a world that needs hydrocarbons, and how do you manage that transition?”

9. Hydrocarbon companies will become leaders

“Some of the best meetings I had in 2021 were with hydrocarbon companies. They are going to be the leader in the transition, and we are going to have some nascent new companies that are going to become leaders too. Just like what we may be seeing in EV, you had Tesla as the innovator but within time you had GM, Ford, Volkswagen, Toyota rapidly create an acceleration in this pathway.”

10. Stakeholder capitalism is not political

“There is no question in our evidence of research that the companies who focus the most on their stakeholders have more resilient, more durable long-term profitability. And let me just say one thing to everybody, stakeholder capitalism is not political. Stakeholder capitalism is the essence of what drives a company. It is a culture of an organisation moving forward, building connectivity with their clients, their employees and their communities, and these are the companies that you want to invest in.”

 

Ollie Smith is an Editor and Sunniva Kolostyak is a Data Journalist at Morningstar UK. This article does not consider the circumstances of any investor. Minor changes have been made to the original version for an Australian audience.

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5 Comments
Jan
January 28, 2022

MOST of the emphasis on "decarbonization" appears to centred around coal, while we are still burning 100 million barrels of oil a day. We have 2 totally opposed concepts driving the world, Maintaining Growth ( increasing consumption) and real concern about Global Warming.
For the world to survive, it strikes me you cant have both.
As a insane example are the massive supplements promoting Travel in all the weekend newspapers.
The World needs to learn to live with "less" and for a start dramatically reducing arms manufacturing

Ramon Vasquez
January 30, 2022

Dead ON ! Half the stuff we are supposed to need is actual garbage stuff ! Ramon .

Michael2
January 31, 2022

Good to read some discussion about reducing the demand side of fossil fuel use. Very concerned about the companies who have led us to the edge of the abyss, knowing full well a problem was developing, lobbying governments and using political donations etc to keep on doing what they are doing i.e. the hydrocarbon companies and big polluters, are now the ones who will ‘lead’ the way out of trouble. Can they be trusted after such an egregious abuse of trust?

Trevor G
January 27, 2022

“ But if we don't have proper government policies to navigate the demand side of energy versus its supply, we're going to have big imbalances. “

I wonder what policies he has in mind?

George
January 27, 2022

Always cute hearing from a billionaire about connection to communities. Is this a new term, 'stakeholder capitalism'? Beyond a few companies with CEOs who give their companies a different culture, the number one stakeholder is the shareholder and the other stakeholders are to be tolerated but their interests never come first at the expense of profit.

 

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