Looking Ahead: What 2020 has in Store for Corporates and Some Perspectives

2020 Would be all About Managing the Known and Preparing for the Unknown

What a year 2019 turned out to be for corporates. If there is one word that defines and captures what the corporates went through this year, it is uncertainty.

Right from an unpredictable President of the United States, fond of making and unmaking policies on Twitter to the ongoing trade wars and the uncertainties surrounding them, to the runaway climate that threatens to upend the careful calculations made by business leaders.

Indeed, if not anything, business leaders this year would have got a taste of things to come in the emerging Fourth Industrial Revolution as they learnt to grapple with working and operating in real time. This brings us to what is in store for next year that is 2020.

Whether it is a global corporation or domestic focused ones, it is clear that the extreme uncertainty and unpredictability of market events and political happenings are likely to continue next year as well.

Therefore, it is better for corporates and business leaders to be prepared for the Unknown by having a grip on the Knowns and drawing up plans to mitigate the impact of the former that are inherently random.

Trade Wars, De-Globalisation, Nationalism, and Populism to Test Corporates

Let’s start with the impact of the trade wars between the United States and its trading partners which include most of the countries in the world.

It is our view that trade wars are here to stay and despite whatever one thinks of them, the de-globalisation and the incipient nationalism and populism means that there would be more walls erected around the world.

Indeed, if not anything, 2020 would witness more inward looking policies from nations worldwide, though the financial sector would be welcome to be as global as possible given the need for funding in different parts of the world.

Talking about globalisation and nationalism, it is clear that populists worldwide are having a field day and hence, corporates can expect policies such as reserving jobs for locals and other protectionist measures going into 2020.

Whether this would be detrimental to their fortunes or they would find a way around excessive populism remains to be seen.

Whatever is the result, it is also the case that business leaders should follow the lead of Indian Information Technology firms that have ramped up hiring local talent in the United States as a way of ensuring that they are in the good books of nationalists such as President Trump.

Exponentially Accelerating Technology and Battles over Data would Define 2020

Having said that, a key trend that started a few years ago and accelerated in no time and is now threatening to go beyond the realm of control is the impact of new technologies on the operations of corporates.

Indeed, as one can see the dizzying pace at which new technologies are being released, it is clear that it is no longer a case of a benign and harmless tool but instead, technology is making corporates dance to its tunes.

In other words, going into 2020, corporates have every reason to fear that instead of them being masters of technology, it is the other way around as technology takes over and we are its slaves.

Already, business leaders are gasping for breath as exponentially accelerating technology means more uncertainty and need for agility and adaptability to real time changes.

In addition, business leaders also have to deal with a borderless technology competing with inward looking use of it.

Apart from this, 2020 would also witness more battles over data and the saying data is the new oil would soon become a reality with governments, corporations, and the citizenry fighting with each other on access to the same.

Social Unrest, Climate Change, Migration, and Other Shocks to the System

Any reflection on what 2020 has in store would be incomplete without mentioning how social unrest and political disruptions would impact corporates.

Indeed, given the rising incidence of disturbances and societal riots and other forms of disruptions, business leaders would have the added headache of planning for downtimes due to such events.

Moreover, with the masses erupting everywhere, there would also be the threat of losing working days due to strikes and other chaotic events.

On the other hand, climate change induced weather events would also be challenging and disruptive to the operations of the corporates.

Added to this is the other kind of crises such as the large influx of refugees and migrants to the Western world that is another kind of risk.

Therefore, 2020 would be all about how corporates can navigate the turbulent waters of such converging events.

Needless to say, all risk mitigation models would have to be reworked and added threat perceptions taken into account.

Indeed, some experts are predicting another Lehmann Brothers kind of shock (referring to the collapse of this firm that sparked the Great Recession in 2008) to the global economy in 2020.


Last, as the saying goes, Forewarned is forearmed, and hence, it would be better for business leaders to gather as much information as possible and prepare their firms for the year ahead.

A key positive trend is that with large numbers of Millennials entering the workforce and moving up the organisational ladder, it is time for the Boomers to give way and let those under them take over the reins.

The former are not only more prepared but also have their pulse on how to steer the ships and hence, a generational shift is something that is in the offing.

To conclude, 2020 promises to be as exciting and exhilarating as it is unpredictable and uncertain for corporates.

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