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UBS brings top Nobel Laureates to Singapore to explore global trends that shape our world today

On 30 August 2017, UBS brought the world’s top Nobel Laureates in Economics Sciences to Singapore in the first leg of its global Nobel Perspectives Live! forum. More than 1000 university students attended the “Global trends that shape the world” forum which featured four Nobel Prize Laureates in the field of economic sciences:

Michael Spence

Michael Spence of New York University Stern who received the prize in 2001 for research on the dynamics of information flow and market development, discussed the rise of technology and artificial intelligence and its effect on global labour markets.

Roger Myerson

Roger B Myerson of the University of Chicago, who was awarded the Nobel prize in 2007 for the foundation of mechanism design theory, discussed the application of game theory in political decision-making and voting systems.

Robert Merton

Robert Merton of Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Harvard University, who won the Nobel Prize in 1997 for his research on financial theory, outlined how financial markets have made the world better off.

Peter Diamond

Peter A Diamond of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology who focuses on labour markets and won his prize in 2010, discussed the demographic challenges inherent in labour markets.

Guest of Honour Baey Yam Keng, Parliamentary Secretary for the Ministry of Culture, Community and Youth, addressed the students and kicked off the panel discussions at the forum.

Immense development in technology and digital capabilities, including those related to artificial intelligence, data analytics and robotics, are reshaping economic paradigms. UBS analysts note that artificial intelligence (AI) will present greater risks to manufacturing-driven economies, compared to those driven by the service sector such as Singapore, Hong Kong and India.

“Singapore is in a sweet spot to ride the AI wave and emerge as one of the key innovation leaders. Based on our research, potential AI-related job losses in Singapore will be relatively limited because AI will most likely affect medium-skilled jobs that involve predictable and routine tasks, and Singapore has the lowest exposure to this group within the region,” noted Mrs Tracy Woon, Vice chairman Asia Pacific, UBS Wealth Management.

Mrs Tracy Woon added, “We hope that Nobel Perspectives Live! will provide a platform for Singapore’s youth to discuss issues that are close to their hearts, and ask questions that will guide us for tomorrow.”

UBS Nobel Perspective Live - Token of Appreciation

 (From left to right: Michael Spence, Roger B Myerson, Peter A Diamond, Baey Yam Keng, Tracey Woon, Robert Merton, Paul Donovan)

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 (Seated on stage from left to right: Michael Spence, Roger B Myerson, Robert Merton, Peter A Diamond, Kelvin Tay)

 

At the press briefing, all of the four Nobel Laureates see a strong role for Singapore in the global economy.

Nobel Laureate Michael Spence said, “Singapore is better positioned than any others to take advantage of a multipolar world. One of the top global trends that would impact the future of youth is the rise of Asia as a dominant force in the global economy.”

 

Nobel Laureate Roger Myerson shared, “Singapore’s relative importance to the world will only increase, even as America remains an important country for the foreseeable future. The balance between the great civilisations of the world such as Western Europe and the North America-centred world is a long trend that is likely to continue.”

 

Nobel Laureate, Peter Diamond elaborated on Singapore’s advantages in an increasingly uncertain world. “Singapore is a well-governed country. The fact that it is small is an advantage. In my opinion, there is no need for a new socio-political model, especially in country like Singapore.”

 

Nobel Laureate, Robert Merton said that Singapore by its sheer size gives it the ability to adapt to change as long as it pursues the right kind of education processes that would help make it capable of responding to change. “Because of the way you’re trained, you’re capable of responding to change, to events that you couldn’t predict. And instead of being fearful of uncertainty, you look at it and say that we are equipped probably as well as anybody [to face that change].”

 

On the future of AI and robots taking over jobs:

Nobel Laureate Michael Spence is of the view that artificial intelligence is an enabler, instead of something that could replace humans “AI as we understand it now is a tool, not a substitute. When we did empirical work before, we used to spend hours and hours just digging up data. Now we spend much less time digging up data and more time understanding it.”

 

On Singapore’s education system:

The Nobel Laureates cited Singapore’s education system as offering flexibility, and this will help it adapt to change.

Mr Spence said, “Singapore has made a concerted effort to create an environment of trust, and having that trust is enormously powerful for the sort of things that Singapore does. Trust is essential, because people will be willing to do things for you.” Mr Diamond agrees, saying that education in an open society such as Singapore “would give you the chance to prosper with all these new opportunities.”

In addition to its “well-developed education system”, Singapore’s governance and civil service system is also a key advantage, according to the panellists. “Singapore is a well-governed country,” said Mr Diamond. “You have an intelligent, well-educated, civil service. You have a system that takes their input seriously. That helps shape an environment where you can get a good education, good jobs.”

 

On changes in labour markets:

While automation can reduce reliance on cheap labour and stifle the Asian growth story, Mr Spence does not see it as a primary threat in Asia. “It is a threat but not a threat primarily in Asia. It is primarily a threat for early stage late-starting developing countries for whom the labour-intensive process oriented manufacturing is the natural first step. Lots of these are in Africa, some in Latin America and maybe two or three in Asia. But most countries in Asia are now middle income and above, and this is not an issue.”

The Ridge is also proud to present an exclusive interview with UBS’s Chief Marketing Officer, Johan Jervøe.

Johan Jervoe 1

Group Chief Marketing Officer of UBS, Johan Jervøe reveals the importance of asking the right questions in this exclusive interview with The Ridge and how UBS’ launch of Nobel Perspectives Live! can help change and shape the world of today and beyond.

The Ridge: Why UBS Nobel Perspectives Live! in Singapore?

Johan Jervøe: We are very committed to the region. Singapore obviously has been a key location in the Asia Pacific region for UBS for more than 50 years. It does come without saying that when you think about the growth of the world going forward, Asia plays a key role.

Over the last 20 years or so, the wealth aggregation in Singapore has really made the country a significant hub, outside of the typical financial centres. This is something that we wanted to capitalise on, communicated by bringing the Nobel Perspectives Live! forum to Singapore for the first time.

For Asia and Singapore in particular, education plays a really big role in addressing new issues and solutions of tomorrow which therefore, makes it apt to launch this in Singapore.

The commitment of UBS Nobel Perspectives Live! to education since 1972 is shared through over 140 videos screening interviews with the Nobel Laureates’ (watch here). To give you a bit of perspective, it’s not about the discipline that you are in love with. For instance, if you were running a shoe manufacturer, you will most probably be working with Olympians and world champions. Similarly, if you’re an economist, you will be consistently engaging a long-term perspective of upcoming trends and needs affecting the economy. In this light, UBS brings learning through developing a relationship with the Nobel Prize Winners in Economic Sciences who are our gold medalists.

It is interesting when you see how something (UBS Nobel Perspectives Live! forum) you work on for so long, is booked out immediately. It just communicates back to us how important this is both for the internal audience as well as the external audience.

The Ridge: What is the background of the UBS Nobel Perspectives Live! series and how far has it come?

Johan Jervøe: At UBS, we are passionate about economic theory, as we believe that any first-rate view on the world’s financial markets, and, ultimately, investment advice, require a deep and nuanced understanding.

The Nobel Perspectives Live! Forum is an extension our collaboration with the world’s top Nobel Laureates in Economic Sciences.

We have been interviewing with these Nobel Laureates on their award-winning theories to make their Nobel Prize winning theories more accessible and share this cultural heritage of human knowledge with clients and the public.

We realised that as a part of our client focus and long-term view, it is essential for people regardless of age, the stage in life they are in, students or workers – who constantly ask questions that aren’t easily answered – to communicate and listen to the unique thoughts of these unbelievable thought leaders.

It would be a good way of describing our passion of being client-focused, being involved in markets, and understanding the big picture of the economy.

The Ridge: What are some of the latest UBS branding campaigns and key areas of focus by UBS?

Johan Jervøe: First and foremost, it’s all about the questions at the forefront of the minds of our clients, whom we are in close contact with.

Secondarily, it’s really about asking questions of life, which I think is important in the financial service industry. This is more than the typical picture of a financial advisor hard-selling a product, talking about themselves, or what they can do for you.

After a serious amount of research and about 7000 interviews with various stakeholders, we wanted to create a campaign to establish UBS as a bank that has strategically transformed and is the top wealth manager globally, a universal Swiss bank, a leading investment bank and asset management business.

Be curious
Communicating a new way to help you find the right answers, really starts with curiosity – You will hear that from any of the Nobel Prize winners. Curiosity is what makes humans drive innovation and create solutions. If there is no curiosity, we wouldn’t have four wheels on a cart, neither will engines and cars exist. We would stay with horses and that’s about it. That curiosity is cultivated and built in UBS. We are curious about what our clients need, curious to find a solution, and curious to drive innovation in to the market place. We want to campaign and establish this appetite and culture of curiosity.
Embrace diversity
If you want to be innovative and forward-looking in business, use advertising as a guide. Advertising isn’t the easiest tool where sharing much content about your own business and products is prevalent and this sometimes overshadows the talk about clients and their needs.

That’s the change we took in 2015. We established a commitment to diversity: who you love, what you believe, what you don’t believe, if you trust in innovation, if you don’t trust in innovation. This is diversity which we embrace to recognise different paths of solutions.

The same mechanics work for a company. Having a diverse workforce (eg. gender) in itself brings colour and effectiveness to the firm.

You do better by having a diverse group of people working for you. Why? Because having a diverse group makes you ask diverse questions – questions that you will never ask when you work alone or with the same type of people only. You can see how this all comes back to asking the right questions, keep pushing the status quo, which is exactly what the economists do when they start developing their theory.

The interesting part is that in the long-term, your most creative mind process thinking happens between 25 and 35 – that’s the beginning of the Nobel Prize winner – when he or she creates a theory and then works for 30 to 50 years on that theory and eventually, introduces the model to the world. That’s quite a different kind of business when you start thinking of it that way and this long-term commitment to research is really what UBS recognises as a good way of expressing ourselves.

In today’s world where there should be an online perspective that is available to everybody, UBS feeds this trend on our website with all the videos that bridge diversity and curiosity.

The Ridge: How can students contribute to value creation in today’s context and beyond?

Johan Jervøe: Firstly, setting expectations of what business and work means in a clear way such that the corporate world can react to it is imperative. When I started out in business, the default idea was always we hire 30% more, look around, the bottom 30% of you will not be in next year. It was very clear individualism – you’d just have to work hard, be better, get better results and you see good results next year. That was the attitude. It didn’t change from when I started being a business consultant to when I joined a fast-moving consumer good company – there a very clear first sort of indication that it was all about individualism.

We all know, both from studies, from any research or finding, that teams get better solutions. I think the current generation of students has a big responsibility in making sure that people in businesses understand their work preferences and how a fulfilled work lifestyle looks like.

Life is a part of work and work is part of life. The integration of work and personal life is essential – we should not work simply to make a living. The leaders of tomorrow need to understand and acknowledge the work preferences of their generation so that the people simply enjoy work and this will overspill to a better lifestyle.

Secondly, I think the appetite for innovation and pushing the status quo is more prevalent to you when you are younger. It’s a little bit more difficult when you’ve established your career and are now part of the system. You should leverage that opportunity when you are in your studies.

Lastly, we need to determine and encourage life-long learning. Learn one thing, go out to work and it may be any job but always learn something new. Find something you’re good at, you love, and you’d be fine. Don’t forget two things – academically smart and street-smart are two independent things and having both makes you successful. Applied science – be part of the ‘applied’ component. People hire those who can apply to what the business needs. With this, team work, human communication, and breaking status quo environment, is where I think you can strive as a young person.

The Ridge: What is your advice for young undergraduates who are seeking to equip themselves with the skills that will stand them in good stead for the workforce?

Johan Jervøe: Simply work hard. I don’t think this should stop at a certain age. The greatest leaders are the best team players. Why? Because they know how difficult it is to lead the team.

For myself, sometimes I am leading a team, sometimes I am in a team and these are two different skills sets that are so essential. Being on teams allows you to have that advancement in whatever you do for a living.

Look at your business like how you are playing a sport. If you were to play tennis, how do you become a better player? You train harder – hard work. Yes, there’s a proportion of talent, but even more so on the attitude. When I look for employees I look for three things. I look for the cultural fit of that person to the job, your skills and talent and the attitude. I do think that having the right attitude is half the battle won towards success. Everyone has their strengths and weaknesses and being team players, who can work on a team and get the best out of a team, is what I look for, as opposed to candidates that are skillful but not a team-player. That’s the mind-set. It is always the mind-set. There is a saying that from sand to silicon, it’s all your imagination. And I think that’s life.


About UBS Group AG

UBS provides financial advice and solutions to wealthy, institutional and corporate clients worldwide, as well as private clients in Switzerland. The operational structure of the Group is comprised of our Corporate Centre and five business divisions: Wealth Management, Wealth Management Americas, Personal & Corporate Banking, Asset Management and the Investment Bank. UBS’s strategy builds on the strengths of all of its businesses and focuses its efforts on areas in which it excels, while seeking to capitalise on the compelling growth prospects in the businesses and regions in which it operates, in order to generate attractive and sustainable returns for its shareholders. All of its businesses are capital-efficient and benefit from a strong competitive position in their targeted markets.

UBS is present in all major financial centers worldwide. It has offices in 54 countries, with about 34% of its employees working in the Americas, 35% in Switzerland, 18% in the rest of Europe, the Middle East and Africa and 13% in Asia Pacific. UBS Group AG employs approximately 60,000 people around the world. Its shares are listed on the SIX Swiss Exchange and the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE).

Visit www.ubs.com for more information.