Future Themes: What’s reshaping markets, economies, and society?

Science, society, sustainability, and systems. These structural forces are shaping our world. They’re also our Future Themes research categories. Get a quick rundown of the specific areas of focus from Portfolio Manager Dáire Dunne.

The views expressed are those of the author at the time of writing. Other teams may hold different views and make different investment decisions. The value of your investment may become worth more or less than at the time of original investment. While any third-party data used is considered reliable, its accuracy is not guaranteed. For professional or institutional investors only. 

Wellington’s Future Themes centers on four structural research areas: Science, Society, Sustainability, and Systems. Below is a quick preview of our Future Themes research teams’ specific areas of focus. Our goal is to extend our horizons, ignite debate and collaboration, and identify potential investment opportunities ahead of the market.

Science

Medical automation

This team is studying automation in genetic screening, testing, and analytics. These technologies have the potential to revolutionize disease treatment, particularly for rare diseases. What are the central cost issues? How would more efficient drug development reduce costs? If novel drugs could ease or eliminate the burden of lifetime treatments for example, would they lower costs for the entire health care system? If so, what impact would that have on society’s approach to health care?

Enterprise automation

What’s next in the evolution of enterprise automation, and how will this disrupt business models and the sources of competitive advantage? Predictions about software, artificial intelligence (AI), and “big data” are nothing new. But as this team dives into the emerging capabilities of cloud-based native applications, they’re finding some ideas that have been discussed for years, or even decades, could soon become reality — with transformative consequences.

Factory automation

What needs to happen to take human/robot collaboration on the factory floor to a much higher level and across more industries? This team is exploring current limitations and potential solutions. How will factory-automation business models evolve? What is the potential for factory automation as a service (FAAS)? What happens if a single country dominates this market? Finally, and most importantly, they will explore the implications for labor markets and broader society, including issues like worker re-skilling, universal basic income, and robot taxes.

Society

Persona: 20-year-old living in an emerging market

Looking through the eyes of a young woman living in India in 2025… Will acceleration of digitization have evolved the nature of entertainment, education, and relationships? Are “games” no longer just for fun, but a fundamental tool for her work and education? If e-sports have become universal, what does that mean for the very idea of sport? As AI and new forms of content delivery challenge the meaning of traditional education and communication, will this woman and millions of her cohorts be able to expand their scope for relationships of all types: personal and professional?

Persona: 45-year-old living in a developed market

How will a middle-aged mother of two in Germany in 2030 live? How will she capitalize on the economic opportunity created by the time savings of not commuting to work and the cost savings of living in a more affordable location? Will she generate an income by leveraging her interests and offering her expertise online? As she gains new skills thanks to online educational resources, what more will she seek to accomplish?

Persona: Retiree living in China

An 80-year-old man gingerly climbs out of bed to face the day on 1 August 2040… Because life expectancies are much longer than they have been (100 years and counting), and because the retirement age has climbed to 75, what are his options? As a recent retiree, he is focused on living a healthy and fruitful life for the next 20 years. How will personalization of his diet and health care contribute to his longevity and improve his happiness and quality of life? How will new forms of entertainment and connectivity enable him to establish meaningful companionship in a virtual world, even if his physical mobility is limited?

Sustainability

Climate migration

This team is researching the why, where, and how of climate migration. What prompts migration? Will climate migrants cross country borders? Will they follow established migratory routes or pioneer new, unexpected ones? What are the consequences and outcomes of migration? Does climate migration have the potential to bring positive economic benefits to receiving countries? These questions are shaping the research and are already leading to some fascinating paths forward.

Water scarcity

The team is also looking at the disturbing issues of water scarcity and water access. Based on Wellington’s climate-science partnership with the Woodwell Climate Research Center, we believe the world will soon face a major global water crisis. This team expects the causes and results of water scarcity to be counterintuitive. For example, with many water-stressed regions likely to experience more droughts as well as more extreme precipitation and flooding, what solutions will they need? What are the misconceptions about water scarcity, including supply/demand imbalances and the potential for hydropower to be a reliable source of clean energy? The team will seek to answer these questions.

Systems

Digitization of money

What would it take for cryptocurrencies such as bitcoin to be a viable asset class on their own? What are the implications of central bank-issued digital currencies for the financial system? How are they valued? If central banks decide they don’t want to be left behind, what will they do? How could blockchain technology impact payments infrastructure? This team is delving into these topics through the lenses of software engineering, game theory, and cryptography science to explore how the concept of money as we know it today could change.

EM-ification of developed markets

Debt dynamics and institutional integrity used to distinguish emerging markets (EMs) from developed markets (DMs). This is no longer the case. Today, oceans of debt and weakening government institutions make some DMs look more like EMs. In a few cases, some EMs are starting to look more like DMs for the opposite reasons. This team is seeking to answer key questions about these shifts. Should huge government debt burdens matter to markets? What metrics should markets care about? Where are changes priced in? They’ll also be studying what aggressive steps policymakers may need to take to boost growth and reduce the risk of widespread downgrades.

Throughout 2021, our research teams will be publishing some of their findings and related investment insights. Please check this space periodically for updates.

Please refer to this important disclosure for more information.

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