Davos croppedTechnology Matters. Trust Matters. Accelerating the Career Ascent of Technology Leaders to Reimagine and Reinvent the Future State with the CEO and the Board of Directors

Over the past several months, we’ve been facing the geo-political headwinds of a global trade war. And while there have been occasional starts and stops in trade war negotiations between the U.S., China and other global powers, it’s become increasingly clear to me that global trade issues are just one of the factors that have been causing global stock markets to fluctuate over the past two months.

For starters, the markets hate uncertainty. The extreme volatility in the marketplace was exaggerated in December by hedge funds going short, the influence of program trading and the rebalancing of averages.

These shifts have been compounded by the hyper-aggressive trade war and the Brexit debacle. As part of our global research coverage at HMG Strategy, we are continually tracking these developments to gauge the economic impact of stock market volatility and the disruption facing the global economy and how it may influence business strategies for the technology executives we serve.

At the World Economic Forum held in Davos last week, an annual gathering of the global elite in business, politics, academia and science to discuss the most important economic and socio-political events of the world, corporate CEOs and industry leaders turned their focus away from the trade wars and stock market volatility to the need for greater data privacy to protect consumers. Bloomberg reported that German Chancellor Angela Merkel advocated for global rules on data privacy. Meanwhile, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe shared in a speech at Davos that his country is planning to propose a system for the oversight of private data use at the Group of 20 Nations meeting in June.

The need to protect customer data and gain the trust and confidence of consumers is also resonating among technology leaders. Every company “must adhere to the core principle of data as a human right and privacy as a human right,” Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella shared with Klaus Schwab, Founder and Chairman of the World Economic Forum.

“We’re navigating through a crisis of trust,” Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff told CNBC in Davos. “If they’re…abusing the data that they’re collecting…they need to (also) wake up and…realize that they can’t do that anymore.”

The promises – and perils – of AI and automation were also widely discussed among CEOs and other leaders in Davos last week. “People are looking to achieve very big numbers,” said Mohit Joshi, President of Infosys in a New York Times Magazine article. “Earlier, they had incremental 5 to 10 percent goals in reducing their workforce,” said Joshi. “Now they’re saying, ‘Why can’t we do it with 1 percent of the people we have?’”

“That’s the great dichotomy,” said Ben Pring, Director of the Center for the Future of Work at Cognizant. “On one hand, (profit-minded executives) absolutely want to automate as much as they can. On the other hand, they’re facing a backlash in civic society.”

As China continues to deepen its investment and progress with artificial intelligence and machine learning, billionaire George Soros warned that if Chinese companies such as ZTE and Huawei came to dominate 5G “they would present an unacceptable security risk to the rest of the world.”

Meanwhile, technology is dramatically changing the workplace in new – and in some cases – unanticipated ways. Speaking to CNBC at Davos, Workday Co-Founder and CEO Aneel Bhusri said that “The genie is out of the bottle. AI technology is in play and companies are going to use it, or else they won’t remain competitive.” Bhusri added that he expects AI is going to create a skills gap that companies need to prepare for that will require “massive retraining” ahead.

I agree with Bhusri that AI is going to dramatically change how companies operate going forward and that these changes will occur sooner rather than later. The jury is still out as to whether AI ends up cutting jobs or creating net new jobs – in my view, it will likely be a combination of the two.

What’s your view on this? We’d like to know. In the meantime, the HMG Strategy research team will continue to monitor the global economic shifts that impact strategic planning by technology executives with the CEO and the board of directors.