Thinking aloud on taking responsibility
I recently had a meeting with a next-generation client in her late twenties. She’s starting to take on her family wealth duties. I’ve known her since she was a teenager. She has always been interested in sciences and pharmaceuticals. But on this occasion, for the first time, she talked about where she was born, in the Middle East.
My client told us that she wanted to put funds towards responsible innovation in developing gene therapies. It’s a controversial topic, but the Arab world suffers the highest global rates of genetic disorders, with some 900 endemic pathologies.
Together we set out to redesign her portfolio. There will be meetings with analysts, discussing companies doing relevant work. Her investments will continue to generate long-term returns from established markets, but will also contribute to responsible innovation and empower her to make a difference in a field that matters to her.
This young client made me think about responsible innovation and what drives it. It’s guiding transport, agriculture, medicine. Health-related investments feature prominently – some prompted by personal experience, like that young woman.
But society plays its part. Climate change has long been a major topic – its effects are evident across the socio-economic spectrum. These things don’t discriminate.
Of course, responsibility means different things to different people. Clients are asking about it more than ever – women most. Sustainability informs young people’s choices about how and where to study and live. It’s a non-negotiable when entering the job market. The younger generation is forcing the hand of corporates; companies that don’t respond will lose out on both investment and the best minds.
Responsible innovation is in the next generation’s DNA and it has to be programmed into future economies. The current generation was the catalyst for change – individuals found voices; problems became visible and demanded answers. But we’re a digital world away from how our oldest citizens were brought up. My father turned 100 recently. Talking to him reminds me how much the way we think has changed. Covid showed us how fast we can adapt when pushed. But it was and is hardest of all for the eldest among us.
As Pictet innovates in how it communicates, it becomes more difficult to reach our most senior clients. We’re asking them to use apps and platforms our youngest clients would choose. Some have embraced it. Others understandably refuse to give up personal interaction. I hope that need for human connection never evaporates. Innovation and empathy must go hand-in-hand. The modern economy must fulfil our needs while respecting and conserving what we have – and that includes our fellow humans.
The corporate world is a super tanker that cannot change direction quickly. But the seed of responsibility was planted long ago and is now firmly rooted in the investment world. Corporates are being forced to respond. Everyone wants to find out if a portfolio totally focused on responsible innovation really can give the returns we’ve seen historically. All of us are trying to determine the best way to the right outcome. In my experience, Pictet always finds the route.