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Spring 2020 Newsletter

It’s time for a change

Over the long course of my adult life I’ve witnessed a transformation in corporate culture. Back in the 1970s, opportunities to get rich quick were few and far between. Financial success generally required decades of gradually ascending the organisation ladder, hoping to acquire the coveted key to the executive toilets eventually. It created a climate of risk aversion – one mistake could ruin your prospects for life – but it also fostered a culture of thinking long term.

Fast forward four decades and the pendulum has swung to the other extreme. Executive pay is so barmy that failure can (and usually does) result in life changing payments. Encouraging gung-ho behaviour with scant regard for the consequences. I’ve been banging on about this for some years but even I hadn’t realised until recently quite how dire it has become.

Last month I read Bad Blood [1] – a riveting account of the rise and fall of Theranos. Founded by Elizabeth Holmes, it promised to revolutionise blood testing and at its peak was valued at $9 billion. It collapsed in 2018 when it became clear that its technology did not work. But what was truly frightening was that this company had started providing test results to people despite knowing that these were unreliable.

Then we have the still unravelling story of Boeing. Formerly the proudest aircraft manufacturer in the world, it now looks as if it may have turned a blind eye to safety concerns in order to meet financial targets. Risking human lives in order to secure a bonus is a sign that capitalism may be terminally ill. It explains why there is so much anger and distrust among populations. But before we write off capitalism I hope it will have a chance to redeem itself, to get back to looking after all of its stakeholders. That’s what the B Corporation movement [2] is about and I’m proud that EQ was one of the founder UK members.

In this issue, we bring you details on a new climate change initiative and insight on how we are adjusting your portfolios to address changes occurring in the global economy. You can also read about recent award success and details on the next EQ Foundation event [3]. Please drop me a note if you have any thoughts or comments at: john.spiers@eqinvestors.co.uk [4]

John Spiers
Chief Executive