Accuracy Talks Straight #1
Managing partner, Accuracy
Thirty per cent of jobs are ‘remote-workable’.
That is the conclusion of a French study led by the Ministry of Labour during the first lockdown, an unprecedented period during which the use of remote working became the norm overnight for many sectors of activity.
One year on from the birth of this revolution, and thanks to the feedback of over 450 colleagues, I would like to share with you some invaluable lessons learned.
A setting conducive to concentration
Despite a certain feeling of distrust and thanks to our extraordinary capacity to adapt, remote working has proved itself. It facilitates, when the home allows it, a setting that favours the concentration necessary to perform certain tasks like drafting reports, for example. It also proves to be efficient in the following concrete cases: short interactions with colleagues; presentations of simple documents; and meetings with a limited number of participants, well-prepared content and a predictable flow.
An obstacle to learning and creativity
Remote working imposes a certain distance, however, no matter what technological tools are chosen or how frequently they are used. This distance slows down the smooth running of a quality learning process. Indeed, such a process can only take place in direct contact with the realities of the job. The apprentice has to be able to observe, question and understand best practices to be able to get to grips with them. Remote working also diminishes creativity by depriving us of the precious interactions that take place outside of the nitty-gritty of the job. It is these interactions that make up the life of an office, a team, a company. An unexpected comment here, a nod or shake of the head there, an encouraging look … so many exchanges that make it possible to call something into question or to be audacious and which allow us to innovate together.
Ultimately, if a company is understood as simply the sum of its parts – or rather the sum of isolated individuals – it is meaningless. Remote working deprives us of this key aspect of the group, of this shared project nourished every day by our interactions, our agreements and disagreements: conviviality, giving us a sense of belonging and being useful.
The food for thought on this topic is vast and, as the health crisis continues to affect us and obliges us to adapt once more, I invite you to share with us your feelings on this new way of working.
On 21 January 2021, whilst visiting the Centre for Nanoscience and Nanotechnologies (C2N-CNRS) on the Plateau de Saclay (the European Silicon Valley), President Emmanuel Macron unveiled his ambitious Quantum Plan. The aim of this plan, which relies on France’s excellent research credentials, is to close the country’s gap in terms of investment.
It must therefore promote work and research on computers, sensors, calculators and even cryptography. In total, almost 1.8 billion euros will be dedicated to this five-year plan.
The plan ‘is a plan for the whole ecosystem’, the French president also announced, proof that technologies will emerge on the market in particular through certain start-ups in the quantum technology sphere.
One of the most promising, Quandela, is one of the first companies in the world to commercialise photonic qubit emitters in the form of single photons. This first technological building block is essential for the creation of future quantum calculators.
Created in 2017 by Pascale Senellart (CNRS research director), Valérian Giesz and Niccolo Somaschi, Quandela is a spin-off of the C2N-CNRS. The team’s objective, based on this light pulse technology, is to improve the calculating speed of research computers and ultimately to build the first quantum computers.
The possibilities offered by such a development are immeasurable, from the potential discovery of new medication thanks to simulations of molecular interactions to applications in aeronautics or banking by enabling virtually infinite data and risk analysis.
Quandela is at the heart of the quantum revolution and is approaching the next step in its growth thanks to fundraising realised in July 2020 with Quantonation (the first venture capital fund dedicated to quantum technologies and innovative physics) and Bpifrance (via the French Tech Seed fund). This fundraising will in particular make it possible to accelerate the commercial deployment of the next generation of products.
Quandela has been supported for some months by La Place Stratégique – an organisation sponsored by the French state (Ministère des Armées, Direction générale de l’armement, Agence de l’innovation de défense, Gendarmerie Nationale), large corporates (Thales, Arquus) and the firms Accuracy and Jeantet – avocats – whose role is to assist the young companies that will count in tomorrow’s world.
Customisation and personalisation in the beauty sector
Abel Perea Burrel
Senior manager, Accuracy
The personalisation of beauty is much more than just simple marketing innovation
Marketing and innovation have always been key success factors in beauty and personal care companies. This is even more so the case today in an environment where the consumer has access to a much broader offer and greater information thanks to the internet.
Historically, marketing and innovation cycles were mostly product-centric, focusing on the continuous improvement and upgrading of product ranges and brands. However, this marketing routine has been brutally disrupted by new growing consumer expectations. Indeed, marketing and innovation have now become customer-centric to feed the need for natural products on the one hand and more personalised products on the other.
We know that growing concerns for the environment and organic products are structural.
But when it comes to the customisation and personalisation (hereafter C&P1) of beauty products, to what extent should we consider this as a major structural trend or just a marketing gimmick to please millennial consumers?
We firmly believe that the customisation and personalisation trend will significantly reshape the beauty industry as it directly drives brand differentiation and business economics.
Below we will detail how and why.
The C&P trend is driven by customer expectations and enabled by technological innovations
Graph 1. Drivers and enablers of the C&P trend
Three drivers generated by customer expectations
The growing appeal of customised and personalised beauty products reflects a change in the expectations of consumers, notably in mature markets saturated by a standardised offer and overconsumption.
C&P enables consumers to select the ingredients used in the products (trend to offer sustainable, vegan, cruelty-free or organic products).
inclusion and diversification
Customised beauty makes it possible to fulfil customer needs that are not addressed by mass-market products (e.g. Afro-Caribbean haircare, women with darker skin tones).
Two technological enablers
The growing convergence of the online and offline worlds and the increase in BtoC are paving the way for the development of customised beauty.
advancements and the rise of new industrial technologies
The combination of scientific and technological advancements offers a unique opportunity to obtain consumer data, analyse it and understand consumer needs in order to create fully tailored beauty solutions. The significant strategic value of consumer data is greater than ever for beauty and personal care companies.
The combination of these two enablers materialises through five main solutions or ways of operating that companies have implemented in their C&P strategies.
1. High-tech beauty
In the wake of personalisation through algorithms, several major players are developing high-tech beauty products providing customers with a complete personalisation experience. These companies use artificial intelligence, augmented reality or even 3D printing to be at the forefront of beauty technology.
To illustrate, L’Oréal presented a new device at the 2020 Consumer Electronics Show called ‘Perso’, which is expected to be launched in 2021. This device creates high-end personalised skincare, lipstick and foundation products. The product operates in four steps: (i) a personal skin assessment is conducted thanks to the ModiFace technology (artificial intelligence); (ii) the user’s local environmental conditions are then assessed by the device thanks to geo-location data; (iii) the user is able to customise the product formula for specific wants or needs; and (iv) eventually, the device produces the cosmetic product taking into account all of the required parameters.
2. Personalisation through algorithms
An increasing number of beauty and personal care players offer personalised cosmetics created by algorithms. Customers usually answer a questionnaire or undertake an assessment to ascertain their needs, whether it be online or in store. Answers and/or results are then analysed by algorithms to determine the product formula that best matches their individual characteristics.
For example, the French brand IOMA offers personalised skincare cosmetics based on an online questionnaire or an in-store skin assessment. An algorithm will automatically recommend the ideal formula from more than 33,000 possible combinations. Information on consumers such as skin assessments enrich IOMA’s skin ‘Atlas’, a database which summarises, compares and samples skin data to develop new skincare solutions.
3. Face-to-face consultations
In order to find the most appropriate cosmetics for each individual, some brands have put in place face-to-face meetings with experts to help customers create personalised products tailored to their specific needs.
As part of its Technology Incubator, L’Oréal launched Color&Co, a direct-to-consumer brand specialised in personalised hair-colouring kits, in 2019. Its value proposition lies in a ten-minute free video chat with a specialised colourist, who creates a personalised kit adapted to the customer’s wants and hair specificities, which have been described previously in a short questionnaire. The product is then directly shipped to the customer’s door and contains everything needed for the customer to dye his or her hair at home. Face-to-face consultations therefore provide consumers with personalised cosmetics that aim to answer the growing demand for inclusion and diversification.
4. Mix & Match products
Several brands are currently offering ‘Mix & Match’ products, which allow customers to make a choice between all available components and to build customised products matching their own expectations.
For example, Guerlain launched ‘Rouge G’ in 2018. It is a customisable lipstick offering customers the possibility to choose their lipstick colour from 30 available shades and to select their favourite lipstick case from 15 different proposals. Therefore, Mix & Match solutions enable consumers to express their own individuality and can be used as a means to better retain customers through a co-creation process.
Chatbots have been increasingly used on company websites and on social media in order to provide customers with a more tailored approach to service. Indeed, chatbots usually direct a consumer towards an item that he or she might enjoy. They occasionally work together with augmented reality technology, which enables customers to try beauty products virtually before buying them.
By way of illustration, French makeup retailer Sephora launched a smart beauty bot, Sephora Virtual Artist, allowing customers to try on a wide range of makeup products instantly (lipsticks, eyeshadows, eyeliners, etc.) by uploading a selfie into the corresponding app. Having benefitted from a customised user experience, customers can then purchase their favourite products directly on Sephora’s mobile website. These five solutions differ in terms of the initial investment required, the complexity of their implementation and the degree of personalisation (see graph below).
Graph 2. C&P solutions in the beauty and personal care market
Successful C&P operations should lead to more profitable business economics
Beauty companies expect C&P to generate a large positive economic contribution, which should improve their profitability significantly and structurally.
Capture retailer margins via disintermediation
The personalisation business model is based on building a direct relationship with the consumer. This is revolutionary for beauty companies as personalisation tools and platforms enable them to circumvent traditional retailers and capture their distribution margins. Indeed, the trade-off between incurring additional distribution costs and saving profit from retailers is beneficial to them.
Invoice a price premium
C&P mechanims also provide significant potential for price premiums: consumers perceive the value of customised and personalised products to be higher. The analysis of several product samples representing various C&P solutions reveals that the applicable price premium increases with the degree of personalisation offered. On average, the price premium charged for these products is found to be close to +50% of the reference product (see graph 3).
Graph 3. Premium charged analysis on degree of personalisation
These price premiums further take into account business model and cost structure adaptations required to shift from a mass-market to an individual on-demand business model. To fully capture the underlying value of the C&P trend, beauty companies would have to invest in solutions up front and may also incur higher production and distribution costs.
Increase consumer base, enhance loyalty and increase purchase order frequency
The shift from product centricity to customer centricity and thus tailored solutions for customers is based on the increased quantity and spectrum of data provided by final customers. The data collected goes beyond the traditional direct contact details (email, phone number, home address, birthday, etc.) as customers are required to input their individual specifications, such as skin tone, product preferences (colours, shades, etc.), product expectations, appetite for natural products and more. Providing truly individualised solutions to customers has a positive impact on customer acquisition and loyalty and further increases barriers for the customer to leave and use other brands.
Further, the availability, subsequent analysis and use of this precise consumer data provides an opportunity for beauty companies to develop and implement their own BtoC business models. This not only makes it possible to bypass traditional retailers, but also makes it possible to implement personalisation-based subscription models. Such models are already being implemented in the beauty space with, for example, ‘The Dollar Shave Club’ and even in other FMCG sectors with, for example, Nestlé’s ‘Tails.com’, a personalised pet food subscription concept. These models enable companies to increase consumer purchase order frequency by automating the ordering process.
A successful C&P strategy can double the LifeTime Value (LTV2) of one client
There is a lot of value to be created by addressing the C&P trend driven by the points mentioned above, that is, capturing retailer margins via disintermediation, benefitting from price premiums (see graph 3) and enhancing consumer loyalty and therefore increasing purchase order frequency (see graph 4).
Whilst price premiums may seem to be the most evident source of value, we found that consumer acquisition & loyalty, as well as disintermediation are the key drivers of lifetime value linked to the business models focused on C&P.
Additionally, beauty companies will be required to make initial investments and organisational efforts to foster innovation, build industrial capacity, and develop and maintain digital BtoC platforms. These investments may seem expensive from a business perspective at one point in time, but the opportunity cost of doing nothing may prove to be more expensive: beauty companies may lose relevance in the eyes of the customer and subsequently lose sales and market share.
Graph 4. Impact of the personalisation and e-commerce on LTV
Ultimately, the C&P trend is not a marketing gimmick but a major economic repositioning of the industry. By transforming their business models, beauty companies can leverage on this trend and create significant lifetime value.
1 Lifetime value (LTV) corresponds to the monetary value of a customer relationship, based on the present value of the projected future cash flows from the customer relationship.
2 Whilst customisation refers to specific changes performed by an end-user to adapt a product to his or her specific needs, personalisation is done by the system itself, which will identify customers and provide them with content matching their own characteristics.
Philosopher, partner at Wemean
The crisis has forced us to stop looking at things and finally see them. Let’s share a few words on this distinction, which comes from the philosopher Bergson. Most of the time, we put labels on situations, enabling us to quickly identify them and move on to action. To paraphrase Bergson: when we look at an object, usually, we don’t see it; what we see are the conventional signs that enable us to recognise the object and distinguish it practically from another, for convenience.1 However, as Bergson would go on to say, it is only when we pay attention to the uniqueness of things that we can really see them – and therefore measure their singularity in order to provide an adequate response, to adapt and to truly innovate.
By plunging us into an unprecedented situation, the crisis has shattered our preconceived filters. At first blinded, our eyes have gradually been opened. We have seen the dysfunctions that we previously considered normal. Remote working has become some sort of optical apparatus, a veritable telescope helping us to put many things into perspective: by seeing ‘at a distance’ (the literal meaning of the prefix tele) the way we work, we can measure, for example, the importance of direct human contact, as suggested by Frédéric Duponchel in his editorial.
Above all, we have started to explore our blind spots and hidden regions – these zones that can be identified by the ‘Johari window’2 , a matrix that reminds us of our individual perspectives and biases. Each individual, just like each organisation, has his or her ‘arena’ (known to self and known to others), ‘façade’ (known to self but unknown to others), ‘blind spot’ (unknown to self but known to others) and ‘unknown’ (unknown to self and unknown to others) – it is the exploration of this last zone that the crisis has made possible, or rather necessary. We should note that to realise this exploration, numerous organisations lean towards the clarification of their ‘vision’: the fact that topics like the ‘raison d’être’ and the ‘mission’ remain high on the company agenda shows the fundamental need to adopt new ways of seeing one’s business.
To train for this new way of seeing, reading a recently published work of art history alone qualifies as an ocular workout: in Le Strabisme du tableau. Essai sur les regards divergents du tableau3 , Nathalie Delbard invites us to take a fresh look at classical portraits and discover that numerous subjects in the pieces have a slight squint, not because of problems of sight, the author explains from the outset, but because the painters thus encourage us, the viewers, to shift our gaze off-centre. Our points of reference are wavering, but new perspectives are opening up. As Apollinaire put it, ‘Victory above all will be / To see well in the distance / To see everything / From close / And let everything have a new name’. 4
Sophie Chassat is a philosopher, a partner at the advisory firm WEMEAN and a corporate director. She works on strategic issues linked to the contribution of business projects: defining them, activating them operationally and determining their impact on governance.
1 Bergson, Madrid conferences on the human soul (1916) in. Mélanges.
2 The Johari window was conceptualised by Joseph Luft and Harrington Ingham in 1955 to represent (and improve!) communication between two entities.
3 From L’incidence Editeur, 2020. The title can be roughly translated as ‘The squint in works of art. An essay on divergent gazes in works of art’
4 “La Victoire”, in. Caligrammes (1918). The original French: ‘La Victoire avant tout sera / De bien voir au loin / De tout voir / De près / Et que tout ait un nom nouveau’
Consequences of the development of green finance for companies
Academic adviser, Accuracy
Since the Paris Agreement was signed in 2015, the fight against global warming has established itself at the top of the agenda for many companies. The reduction of greenhouse gas emissions has become a priority, requiring the implementation of new management systems. In this context, so-called green finance, which enables environmentally friendly project financing, is gaining traction. The development of green finance has major consequences for companies and raises multiple questions: how can we define the concept of green finance? What does it mean for companies? What is the role of the financial sector? What financial instruments have been specifically developed to meet company needs?
What is green finance?
Green finance groups all financial activities that contribute to the fight against global warming. For this reason, it is also called ‘climate finance’ or ‘carbon finance’. It is not ‘sustainable finance’. Sustainable finance, which has a broader definition, prioritises responsible investment (RI) and adds environmental, social and governance (ESG) criteria to purely financial criteria.
Green finance calls into question one of the major principles followed by financial analysts. Traditionally, finance has no other objective than to facilitate the allocation of resources to the most profitable projects, without consideration of their impacts on the environment. By contrast, for green finance, only the projects that favour the transition from fossil fuels should be considered. This does not mean that the notion of profitability ceases to exist; nothing prevents companies from choosing the most profitable projects from amongst the green projects available; what changes is the order of priority. The search for profitability is now subordinate to the green nature of the investment.
What is climate risk for companies?
As Mark Carney explained in his famous speech from 2015 on ‘Breaking the Tragedy of the Horizon’, climate risk can be broken down into three distinct risks. First, the occurrence of extreme climate- and weather-related events (hurricanes, droughts, etc.) may generate a physical risk that materialises through the destruction of certain assets and losses of activities for companies. Transition risk is linked to regulatory changes decided upon by public authorities, which may lead certain companies to call into question their economic model or even to disappear altogether. Let us take the example of the automotive sector: because of regulatory changes, the manufacture of combustion engines (petrol or diesel) will diminish drastically in the decade to come, even though these engines utterly dominated just a few years ago. Finally, liability risk related to non-compliance with environmental legislation may generate significant financial damage and interest. We can imagine that in the more or less distant future, companies may be pursued legally for endangerment of others, as were, for example, tobacco companies.
At first glance, one might consider that the majority of these risks will not materialise in the short term and that companies have the time to adapt. We think, on the contrary, that companies must anticipate these risks and quickly implement the appropriate management processes to deal with them. Certain sectors must adapt now: their longevity is threatened. In this way, in the oil and gas sector, certain major players have started to invest massively in new sectors (batteries, electricity, etc.) and to diversify their operations significantly. As for the less polluting sectors, the need to reform may be less urgent, but the trend remains the same. Large groups will gradually force their subcontractors to reduce their carbon footprint and pressure will be high on SMEs. Access to financing in good conditions will also require compliance with emission criteria (and more generally with ESG criteria). This is what banks explain, as their credit distribution models develop in this sense. The image and value of a company’s brand is now inherently linked to its ability to contribute to the fight against global warming.
How can companies manage climate risk?
Climate risk is not the subject of a centralised management process in the majority of companies. Today, two large departments are involved in the management of climate issues: the sustainable development department ensures the operational management of projects compatible with the fight against global warming. This means enabling the company to comply with its climate commitments by proposing operational solutions to reduce its carbon footprint throughout the value chain. For example, can the company replace one material with another whose production emits fewer greenhouse gases, without altering the quality of the final products? How can the more virtuous suppliers in terms of emissions, etc. be selected? The finance department centralises the information and produces financial and extra-financial reporting in relation to environmental performance. Climate reporting will become a central part of a company’s financial communications in a context where financial information will become standardised under pressure from the financial community and public authorities. Investors request more and more information to evaluate not only emissions but also all negative externalities. In the years to come, the sustainable development and finance departments will have to cooperate further and produce together new indicators that incorporate both financial and environmental performance.
Moreover, the companies in certain sectors (power plants, manufacturing plants, etc.) are subject to emission ceilings. They are granted a certain quantity of emission rights (quotas) but can purchase further rights on the market if they find that they do not have enough (or indeed they can sell their rights if they find themselves with an excess). The European Union has committed to a policy to reduce the number of quotas available, which should automatically generate an increase in their value over time and result in new constraints for companies.
What is the role of the financial sector?
For the financial sector, the aim is to redirect activity as a priority towards projects compatible with the fight against climate change. Most of the large players in finance, whether banks or investment funds, have made commitments to reduce the carbon footprint of their portfolios. As a result, some banks have stopped financing companies that operate in the coal sector. More generally, one may question the financing of ‘fossil fuel’ companies; the continuation of their activities would challenge the objectives set to limit global warming (certain writers talk about ‘stranded assets’ to discuss these fossil fuel assets). Banks are now obliged to undertake climate stress tests and measure the impact of climate risk on their solvency. Article 173 (paragraph VI) of the Loi sur la Transition Energétique pour la Croissance Verte (Law on Energy Transition for Green Growth) requires portfolio management companies to publish information on the consideration of their ESG policy and therefore on the consequences of their investments on the climate.
To help investors better grasp this new environment, public authorities have implemented ecolabels in various countries that require labelled funds to invest significantly in green assets. This is the case in France with Greenfin, in Luxembourg with LuxFLAG Environment and LuxFLAG Climate Finance, and in Nordic countries with Nordic Swan Ecolabel. These labels are backed by a taxonomy that defines what a green economic activity is. The taxonomies play a major role in this respect because they guide investors in their investment decisions. The European Union has created a draft taxonomy that distinguishes between carbon-neutral activities (low-carbon transport, etc.), transitioning activities (building renovation, etc.) and transition-facilitating activities (production of wind turbines, etc.).
What are green financial instruments?
In this context, new financial instruments have been developed by markets and banks with the aim of promoting the transition to greener energy sources. For example, green bonds have experienced spectacular growth in the past few years. They are bonds from which the funds collected must exclusively be used to finance or refinance, in whole or in part, green projects. For a company, issuing green bonds generates significant additional costs (administrative costs linked to the issue process, legal costs, audit costs, reporting costs, higher mobilisation of staff, etc.) for a very limited reduction in the cost of financing. According to financial literature, the additional costs equate to seven base points, whilst the premium is only two points. However, issuing green bonds enables companies to increase their investor base, secure the issue even in difficult market conditions and generate organisational gains (better cooperation between the finance and operational teams, increase in competence of the finance teams on subjects linked to ecological impact, etc.). Green bonds are not the only green financial instruments that have been developed. Banks, for example, have started to securitise green assets (that is, issue securities on the market whose value is based on the repayment of green loans). The development of this market will depend, however, on regulators, which may reduce the capital costs of the banks that finance this type of loan or even make the financing costs of ‘brown’ assets more expensive.
In conclusion, the fight against climate change has created in only a few years a new paradigm. For a company, considering that it need not pay any attention and just continue business as usual seems like a risky choice. However, although the route has been mapped out, a great many questions essential to the deployment of green finance projects and tools remain unanswered. The transition to greener energies is particularly technical; the physical measures, just like the financial ones, are either subject to disagreement or considered insufficient. Convergence is expected to take place in the coming decade and will further accelerate the changes under way.
2021: an eristic year!
Senior economic adviser, Accuracy
Gillian Tett, one of the chief editors at the Financial Times, commented earlier this year that people in New York found it harder to part with their Christmas trees after the holiday period. Has the COVID crisis really changed our relationship with time and space? Private and professional life is intertwining, just as the line between home and office is blurring. Are our points of reference changing? Will we find them again when the pandemic has finally been put behind us?
We should keep in mind this warning about possible behavioural changes taking place when we wonder what 2021 has in store for us. Of course, we should start this forward-looking exercise by taking a look at the macroeconomic forecasts. They bring hope. The IMF has revised its figures for global growth upwards: +0.3 points to 5.5%, after -3.5% in 2020. At the IMF, they seem to think that the loss of economic activity generated by the health crisis is going to be more than compensated! Can we say then that everything is going back to normal, back to business as usual?
No. And we must consider other approaches to better understand the upcoming period.
Let’s stay on macroeconomic territory for a while and note a few points:
1. Recovery remains highly conditional upon developments on the health front. If the decline in the pandemic is delayed even by only a few months, the first half of the year will be lost to the recovery; performance for the whole year will clearly be affected. Taking the example of the eurozone, we can see that growth fell by over 7% in 2020. Under the commonly accepted idea that there will be a net decline in the pandemic from spring, the economic rebound could reach between 4% and 4.5% this year. Delay the decline by just three months and a third of this growth would be cut!
2. The big growth figures that we’re talking about shouldn’t mask the point that it will take time to get back on the track that was expected before the pandemic. According to the World Bank, by 2022 there will be a shortfall of four trillion dollars in wealth creation. This is more or less the size of the German economy and is not something to be sniffed at. Should we fear being ‘condemned’ to another episode of slowdown in potential growth after a major crisis, even if its origin is neither economic nor financial? To make sure that we don’t have to respond in the affirmative to these questions, committing to a recovery policy that prioritises supply over demand seems essential. Will this be the case?
We must also ask ourselves what lies behind these figures, which retrace the developments of very broad economic aggregates. In difficult times such as these, we often see, behind the averages, an increase in standard deviations. This means that certain households, certain businesses and certain countries are suffering more. The least qualified have been the most affected by the downturn in the labour market. How much time will it take for any improvement in employment to reach them? It’s also clear that prospects are not the same for a small business in the tourism sector as for another in the digital sector with global activities. Finally, a country heavily involved in manufacturing industries and with significant room for manoeuvre in terms of supportive policies (Germany, for example) is in a better position than another specialised in labour-intensive services and constrained by long-deteriorating public accounts. We must wonder about the economic, social and political implications of this divergence. Are we heading towards less growth (convoy theory?), more inequality and ultimately less harmonious societies – both internally and with others – which are therefore more difficult to manage? If this is the case, what measures should be taken to counter these risks?
We should also consider the changes in behaviour brought about by the crisis:
1. A whole series of innovations already in progress are accelerating, whether it be digitalisation, distance selling, remote working, telemedicine, artificial intelligence or biotech. Certain sectors (transport services and upstream industrial branches, for example) will have to reinvent themselves.
2. Households and companies may change their trade-off between spending and saving: more caution, just in case, and so more savings? The economic and financial implications of such a change would be significant, namely a declining investment trend and interest rates coming to rest once again one notch lower than before.
3. Those responsible for public policy are therefore facing a complicated environment to grasp in all respects: they must manage the past (a heavy and high public debt) and prepare for the future (facilitate the structural changes towards the energy and environmental transition and also towards digitalisation). But what will the consequences ultimately be for productivity and growth profiles or the financial performance of companies? How much time will it take for all this to be visible, if it happens?
When we can’t see tomorrow very well, it’s only human to hang on to what we know – yesterday. But this ‘back to basics’ only makes sense as a springboard to dive into the new opportunities provided by a changing world: after a crisis, it’s often out with the old and in with the new. Let’s keep our Christmas trees longer than usual if it makes us feel better, but let’s make sure to keep an eye open for the weak signals of a changing world. That is how we progress!