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Quick Take: Nicolas Firzli on the upcoming WPC Forum in Brussels

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8th  WPC Forum, Brussels 23 & 24 May 2019: Pension and Insurance in the ‘Age of Geoeconomics’

Nicolas J. Firzli is Director-General of the World Pensions Council (WPC), a Paris, France-based international association of public and private pension institutions, and an Advisory Board Member for the World Bank Group Global Infrastructure Facility (GIF).

GBV: Nicolas, you are one of the original coiners of terms such as ‘The New Silk Road’ and ‘The Rise of Real Assets’. (1) Do you think the current Sino-American crisis could reverse the secular trend towards increased pension and insurance investments in infrastructure and private equity?

NF: For short, no. “Brexit”, “Trumponomics” and Xi’s “Chinese Dream” are mere symptoms of the end of the neo-liberal golden age (1980 – 2018): they mark the return to more Colbertist and Mercantilist forms of economic development. But globalization and cross-border investments aren’t over: institutional investors will keep on seeking the best risk-adjusted returns available across asset classes and jurisdictions (“country attractiveness”). Private capital will remain a scarce commodity valued and courted by intelligent policy makers (bonds) and entrepreneurs (equity).

As predicted by Georges Doriot (Harvard) and Igor Ansoff (Carnegie Mellon), the CEO of the future will need to think like a military strategist and run his company (or pension institution) like an elder statesman.

Our upcoming annual conference held in Brussels 23 – 24 May 2019 will explore the meaning of that paradigm shift across all asset classes, with special sessions on “Risk Management including Country-Risk” with the International Insurance Society (IIS), “Impact Investing” with the World Bank and “Infrastructure Investment” with leading asset owners and academics from across all G20 nations.

GBV: Some say the “Pay-As-You-Go” pension systems prevailing in countries such as France, Italy and China will make it harder for them to deploy the kind of long-term capital needed to invest for the future: would you agree?

NF: Yes and no…  Of course, countries such as France need to beef-up their embryonic “Second Pillar” funded systems. But one has to look beyond narrowly defined notions of pensions: in some of these countries, for fiscal and cultural reasons, long-term retirement savings often takes the form of life-insurance contracts, which can make up for the perceived financial gap: see our “Pension vs. Life Insurance Mapping” shown here. This important issue will also be discussed at the upcoming World Pensions Forum. There are still a dozen seats available for retirements experts and pension and insurance executives who may want to attend the conference.

GBV magazine will attend the conference and publisher Eric Muller-Borle will moderate one of the Friday morning panels.

(1) Firzli, M. Nicolas J. “Infrastructure Investment in 2019: Glad Tidings and Rising Geoeconomic Tides.” Revue Analyse Financière 70 (2019)

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