The Edge of Risk Menu Search
New thinking on corporate risk and resilience in the global economy.

Quick Takes

Asia-Pacific Embraces AI, While Other Countries Remain Wary

Source: Pew Research Center

More than half of the 20 countries surveyed believe that artificial intelligence brings value to their society, compared to 33%, which believe the technology creates a negative impact. This survey, by Pew Research Center, finds that less than half of the countries surveyed saw this technology having a positive impact on society in terms of job automation.

Views of AI were especially positive in the Asia-Pacific region, with 72% of the public in Singapore and 69% in South Korea seeing it as a good thing for their countries. Not surprisingly so, as many countries in this region have dominated the field of AI. For example, South Korea has the highest robots-to-human workers ratio in the nation, followed by Singapore. Singapore has also expressed a goal of becoming the world’s first “smart nation.” 

The COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated the use of AI technologies. Half of global businesses have increased the speed of incorporating automating tasks in their workday, while many executives see this technology as a key lever for success in 2021.

Trust in Businesses Rose During COVID-19 Crisis

Source: Edelman Trust Barometer

Trust in businesses grew during the COVID-19 pandemic, and business remains one of the public’s most trusted institutions, according to the 2021 Edelman Trust Barometer. However, public trust declined in most industries — with technology, fashion, professional services and automotive seeing the most significant reversals. 

Since business is more trusted than the government and media, 86% of the public now expect CEOs to take the lead in addressing societal issues — such as the pandemic’s impact, job automation and local community challenges. 

COVID-19 has added to the public’s personal and societal fears, with many worried about the future of the workforce. For example, the majority of Trust Barometer respondents are alarmed by the rate at which companies could replace human talent with artificial intelligence.

ESG Issues Are Getting More Attention From Directors

Source: Global Network of Director Institutes (GNDI), 2020-2021

Over 60% of global business directors surveyed said that COVID-19 accelerated their focus on ESG, sustainability and stakeholder value issues. Out of 2,000 respondents, the majority agreed that risk-scenario planning and decision-making needs to involve outside experts, according to the latest GNDI survey.

This increased interest in ESG values correlated with other highly ranked trends throughout the survey. For instance, 63% of directors expect COVID-19 to increase the competition for talent. Past surveys showed how companies with better ESG performance are likely to have both better employee engagement and greater attractiveness to prospective talent. Over half of respondents also believe there will be a growing emphasis on corporate purpose and board diversity. 

Just 17% of directors surveyed were satisfied with their response and ability to provide oversight during the pandemic. Although directors can learn from their response, they can also work with their management teams to prepare for future workforce changes — social and economic. By doing this, companies will be more equipped to absorb the shocks from these risks.

China Receives the Most Foreign Investment in 2020

Source: United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD)

China surpassed the United States for the first time as the largest recipient of global foreign direct investment (FDI) in 2020. China attracted an estimated $163 billion, compared to $134 billion in the United States. Global FDI flows in 2020 were an estimated $859 billion compared to $1.5 trillion in 2019, according to UNCTAD. 

China’s success was led by a steady recovery in GDP growth and effective government programs that stabilized investment during the first lockdown. East Asia and South Asia reported growth as well because of early rebounds in Hong Kong and a growing digital economy throughout India. West Asia, however, did not experience similar trends, as the region’s economy was devastated by the drop in oil prices.

The COVID-19 pandemic suppressed all investment activity — M&A deals, greenfield investment and cross-border finance deals. Global FDI flow is expected to remain weak in 2021. Although GDP growth and trade are expected to resume growth, investors will proceed with caution. 

How Businesses Can Help With the Vaccine Rollout

Source: Oliver Wyman's Consumer Sentiment survey, December 2020.

Nearly 60% of survey respondents in the U.K. and U.S. said they would be more willing to visit businesses in person once all the staff are vaccinated. However, the latest Oliver Wyman Forum survey indicates that less than half of Americans are “very willing” to get vaccinated, while nearly 15% said they would never get the COVID-19 vaccine. In comparison, 70% of U.K. respondents are “very or somewhat willing” to get the vaccine.

Vaccine skepticism in the U.S. is likely related to the significant drop of public trust in the government since the start of COVID-19. Americans received unclear messages from the previous administration about the pandemic. But businesses can help address this skepticism, as people’s trust in business surpasses their trust in the government and nonprofits. 

Some companies are already assisting in the vaccine rollout, including Microsoft, Starbucks and Amazon. These large corporations can assist with data storage, appointment scheduling and the delivery of supplies, as well as offer space for vaccination centers. Eventually, this vaccination rollout can revive the economy, benefiting the business community.

BRINK’s daily newsletter offers new thinking on corporate risk and resilience. Subscribe