The World Unites
On July 22nd, 1944, delegates from 44 countries met at Bretton Woods, New Hampshire, to ratify the Bretton Woods Agreement. The pact laid down the conditions for a global financial system capable of rebuilding the world economy, which was devastated by war.
On the 76th anniversary of the Bretton Woods Agreement, after having significant discussions with global economists, philanthropists and his peers in wealth management, Mr. Lo helped spearhead the launch of The 195 Project, which is a foundation pending incorporation in the United States and the United Kingdom.
The project’s prime goal is to expand on existing research on how the global economy can adapt and respond to the aftermath of the Covid-19 pandemic. Global markets have outgrown some of the principles defined in the Bretton Woods Agreement, rendering them obsolete. New solutions are now required to ensure that new, young, innovative, and energetic generations of leaders prosper.
Many experts argue that Covid-19 has simply been a catalyst setting the stage for market correction. Besides recognising lessons learnt from the 1944 Bretton Woods Agreement and addressing the urgent needs posed by the Covid-19 pandemic, Mr. Lo’s think tank aims to aid the generation of 2020 in recovering from one of the worst recessions of the past few decades.
As an aftermath of the Covid-19 pandemic, the world’s leading economies have contracted to a great extent, causing youth unemployment to reach dangerously high levels and the wealth disparity between the rich and the poor to increase dramatically. More than half of the shares owned by American investors are held by the richest 1%, according to a research conducted by Goldman Sachs. The wealth of billionaires has surged during the pandemic, and the number of billionaires has also grown significantly. However, such extraordinary wealth can bring real prosperity and well-being only when it is invested wisely, for the greater good of the shared global community.
CNN founder Ted Turner has stated that his philanthropic contributions of more than US$1 billion are “the best investment” that he has ever made. Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates describes philanthropy as “the best capitalism”, as it allows wealth to “create good circumstances for other people”. Warren Buffett and other such philanthropists have taken a “giving pledge” to donate a majority of their wealth towards bringing about multigenerational change for the greater good of the people. Michael Bloomberg has been increasing his giving every year, and has donated approximately US$2 billion so far towards eliminating burdensome student loan debts.
Intelligent investment and distribution of philanthropic assets can be more challenging than earning the wealth itself. For example, the fortune of giving philanthropists continue to accelerate and escalate every year. The combined wealth of the 62 living “giving pledgers” in the US who were billionaires in 2010 has increased by 95%, i.e., from US$376 billion in 2010 to US$734 billion as of July 18, 2020, according to a report generated by the Institute for Policy Studies. Although these state of affairs are indeed favourable, they can serve the larger good only if they are met with rigorous and insightful research regarding the best practices and strategies within the world of philanthropy. And that is the urgent and hopeful mission of the 195 Project.
As responsible business leaders, we all have a moral responsibility to show the world that capitalism can be conscientious. Our challenge is to demonstrate that the wealthiest 1% do have a conscience, and that success in business is less driven by zeros on a ledger, and more by the reward of seeing others lead better lives as a result of our good work.
"Markets operate on fundamentally different metrics to comply with the strict stipulations agreed at Bretton Woods, where centralised regulations have set mandatory liquidity at 1%”, Mr. Lo commented. “Today, capital can flow freely between jurisdictions.”
Moral and Fiduciary Responsibility
A sudden flow of US dollars into countries that have a weak rule of law will pose a significant risk of graft and fraud in the absence of a pragmatic policy that rewards recovery. Just as businesses have a financial responsibility to give their clients the return on the investment, they have a prevailing legal and moral responsibility to drive philanthropy that builds capacity. Many UHNWIs already operate effectively in challenging markets, and they understand the importance of compliance. Hence, they refuse to deviate from transparent business and adherence to the rule of law.
At The 195 Project, we recognise that the precepts agreed upon in the Bretton Woods Agreement after World War II no longer apply to the world in the aftermath of the Covid-19 pandemic. Incremental shifts have occurred during the decades following the agreement, which have now colluded with the pandemic to create circumstances that generate great concern. Therefore, discussing the problems that have erupted as a result of the pandemic has become the immediate priority.
The Lo family has been into philanthropic giving for many years now. Mr. Lo believes that understanding how to offer hope, perspective and respect to the generation of 2020 in the post-pandemic landscape is critical to the future of global markets.