Wisdom from Day One of the Fortune Global Forum

June 9, 2021, 10:05 AM UTC

Good morning.

The Fortune Global Forum got underway yesterday, with a rock-star slate of CEOs and the ramifications of a year-like-no-other on the agenda. Some excerpts. (Warning: I’m running long today.)

On the future of work and life:

“We are definitely going to be hybrid. We think that is really the wave of the future. It’s not going to be a free for all. It’s going to be a structured, hybrid, workplace where we are going to try and take all the good things we learned during the pandemic, and couple that with all the great things we knew with what we used to call normal.”
Chuck Robbins, CEO, Cisco

“Our advice is moving from a discussion around hybrid work to what I’m calling the omni-directional employee experience. It is really about both connection and experience for employees.”
Julie Sweet, CEO, Accenture

“Every CEO has to think about making their organization a place where people feel safe coming and talking about what they need now. We can be more flexible. It’s a different kind of resource management. We need to challenge ourselves to make new deals.”
Heather Kernahan, CEO, North America, Hotwire

“All of our companies are facing challenges on the talent side, because today you can work for anybody, anywhere.”
Karimah Es Sabar, CEO, Quark Venture

“Sometimes in life is you value things when they are taken away from you. Travel is probably that. We are going to see the biggest rebound in travel ever….Travel is going to be back, bigger than before, but it is going to be different than before.”
Brian Chesky, CEO, Airbnb

On people, planet and purpose

“Shareholder value was once the measure of a company. Now the people, the planet and purpose are becoming very, very important.”
—Sunil Prashara, CEO, Project Management Institute

“Just because we can’t agree on everything doesn’t mean we can’t agree on anything…There is a great opportunity to lower the carbon intensity of today’s energy systems even as we work to build tomorrow’s energy system. It is incumbent on us to meet both of those challenges.”
—Mike Wirth, CEO, Chevron

“It has been 32 incredible years. What I have learned, day in and day out, is that it’s the power of people that makes the difference. It is the only sustainable competitive advantage.”
—Carlos Brito, CEO, AB InBev (Stepping down July 1)

“Purpose has always been a part of great companies. In the last few years, that has become even more important, both to build a great company and build value…We see the separation between winners and losers is even more accentuated around this axis on purpose.”
—Ari Libarikian, Senior Partner, McKinsey & Company

“Purpose is so fundamental and important…The social ethos of a brand is very important, because increasingly purchase decision are driven by ‘How does this brand treat its employees and communities’…That is going to become more and more important.”
Harit Talwar, Chairman of Marcus, Goldman Sachs

“What all of us are doing as CEOs is incredibly complex…We are all trying to solve for a societal common good…What we are attempting to do is focus on the long term, sustainable, positive impact that we are trying to have on people’s lives and do so in a way that fits societal expectations of our times…I think it is a wonderful time. But it’s not simple.”
Michelle Seitz, CEO, Russell Investments

“We put a call center on the South Side of Chicago. It opened this week. We plan on bringing 1000 jobs to the community…You can give money, you can talk, but what’s most important is you do something.”
—Roger Hochschild, CEO, Discover Financial Services

“If we don’t have a healthy planet, we can’t have a healthy humanity.”
Kevin Johnson, CEO, Starbucks

On diversity and inclusion:

“The investment business is all about great judgement, and you cannot have that unless you have a diversity of experiences and backgrounds and cultures. At Carlyle, we’ve studied this. We can see diversity drives better results. Among our portfolio companies, those with diverse boards grow 12% faster than those without.”
Kewsong Lee, CEO, The Carlyle Group

“What this showed us was your average or poor leaders were sort of outed. If you weren’t out and about talking to your Black and brown leaders about what was happening, well, they called us out on it.”
Tricia Griffith, CEO, Progressive

On the overall effect of the pandemic.

“As a company, I just think we are so much better for what’s occurred over the last 18 months because we had insights and feeling about what producers, actors, distributors, people were thinking about what we were doing.”
Josh Sapan, CEO, AMC Networks

On an industrial policy for semiconductor manufacturing in the U.S.

“It’s necessary. Right now in America we make 0% of cutting-edge semiconductors…. It is a national security risk that we are so dependent on China and Taiwan and other places for this technology…This will be probably the biggest thing I work on as Secretary, and we have got to get it right.”
U.S. Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo

On telemedicine in China:

“Before the pandemic, we were looking at about 3-5% of consultations online. Through the pandemic it went as high as 20%. Our research shows as much as 34% of consultations can be online, and it can go as high as 60% if it is integrated with in person visits…We believe this is a huge growth opportunity for the next five to ten years.”
Jessica Tan, Co-CEO, Ping An Group

On dawn delivery service in Korea:

“You order before midnight, you wake up, and it’s just waiting for you…The way we define ourselves is we want to create moments of ‘wow.’ We aim for unrealistic experiences.”
—Bom Suk Kim, CEO, Coupang

On the mega-merger of Gojek and Tokopedia in Indonesia:

“It’s not about efficiencies or cost cutting. It’s about growth, about capturing more opportunity together…We think the shared customer base between the two companies will offer that one-stop shop… for e-commerce, payments and on-demand.”
—Kevin Aluwi, CEO, Gojek

And finally, on why MicroStrategy is issuing junk bonds to buy Bitcoin:

“The road to serfdom is working exponentially harder in a currency that is exponentially weaker….Long term, Bitcoin is digital gold.”
Michael Saylor, CEO, MicroStrategy

“I think it is great you guys are doing that.”
Changpeng “CZ” Zhao, founder and CEO, Binance

Aren’t you sorry you missed it?  More news below.

Alan Murray



Mastercard vaccines

The Mastercard Foundation is donating $1.3 billion to shore up Africa's COVID-19 vaccination drive. Over three years, the cash will be used to vaccinate 50 million people, strengthen public health institutions and boost African vaccine manufacturing and logistics. Foundation CEO Reeta Roy: "This initiative is about valuing all lives and accelerating the economic recovery of the continent." Washington Post

Inflation fears

China's producer price index—which reflects the price of goods leaving Chinese factories—rose 9% last month, beating economist forecasts. It's the biggest increase in nearly 13 years, and will feed into global inflationary fears. Financial Times

Supply chains

Following a 100-day review of the issue, the Biden administration is creating a new government supply-chain task force. The report, which focused on four sectors—semiconductors, large-capacity batteries, pharmaceuticals, and rare-earth elements—also called for a new public-private consortium for producing essential medicines, more investment in car-battery production, a new financing program for U.S. manufacturing, and a new "trade strike force" to attack other countries' subsidies. Wall Street Journal

Startup diversity

SoftBank is extending its diversity-focused startup accelerator program, Emerge, into Europe. The program, which has been running in the U.S. since last year, is open to startups that have a scalable, viable product, and at least one founder who is non-white, female, LGBTQ+, disabled or a refugee. Last year in Europe, more than 90% of VC money went to startups with an all-male founding team. CNBC


Salvadoran Bitcoin

El Salvador's lawmakers have backed the proposal of President Nayib Bukele for Bitcoin to become legal tender in the country, which will happen in three months' time. Is that a good or bad thing for the cryptocurrency? Fortune's Jessica Mathews dives in: "Eloisa Marchesoni, an innovation management consultant focused on cryptocurrencies, was initially excited about El Salvador’s endorsement, but has become skeptical of whether accepting Bitcoin as legal tender would help the people of El Salvador, where the poverty rate is very high… Reliance on remittances could also be challenging for Salvadorans given the significant price volatility of Bitcoin." Fortune

Regulating cryptocurrencies

Republican SEC Commissioner Hester Peirce doesn't agree with her colleagues' attempts to strictly regulate cryptocurrencies. "I am concerned that the initial reaction of a regulator is always to say 'I want to grab hold of this and make it like the markets I already regulate'," she told the FT. "I am not sure that’s going to be great for innovation." FT

Internet outage

Websites from the White House to Reddit to the BBC fell over yesterday due to a bug at Fastly, the content delivery network (CDN) giant that they depend on to serve their users quickly and at high quality. Fastly fixed the problem within an hour, but the incident has revived fears over how much of the Internet depends on a small number of big players to stay operational, and the vulnerability that situation introduces. Fortune

Flight refunds

The British competition regulator is probing British Airways and Ryanair over their failure to refund flights that passengers could not legally take, thanks to the pandemic. Ryanair only offered the option of rebooking, and BA offered vouchers or rebooking. The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) thinks this may be a breach of consumer law. CNBC

This edition of CEO Daily was edited by David Meyer.

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