The 22nd Campus for Finance WHU New Year's Conference, named "The Cleansing Effect of Crises – A Change in Global Economy," took place on January 19th and 20th, 2022. Organized by students of WHU – Otto Beisheim School of Management, this year's conference gathered 15 international financial experts and speakers, as well as representatives from both the corporate and academic worlds, who addressed the future of a financial world in a state of transformation.
"This year, we come together once more in a completely digital setting," said Professor Markus Rudolf, dean of WHU, in his opening speech. As was the case last year, the two-day conference could not be held on campus. What has become clear over the course of 2021 is that the COVID-19 pandemic will not come to an end after only a few difficult months; it could potentially drag on for years to come. For the German economy, 2021 was a year of transformation and recovery after the severe slump in 2020.
What should companies focus on during the crisis?
Referring to adidad's impressive balance sheet in 2021, CFO Harm Ohlmeyer quoted Intel co-founder Andy Grove: "Bad companies are destroyed by crises. Good companies survive them. Great companies are improved by them." Ohlmeyer provided interesting insights into the challenges the pandemic had created and the decisions adidas, and he in particular, had to make over the last year. He mentioned that the profit and loss statements for most companies may not be decisive enough on their own, and the free cash flow could represent a bottleneck. Flexibility, a focus on e-commerce, and a globally oriented mindset are helpful in such a crisis, he said, and that they had played a crucial role for adidas last year.
A “future-proof mindset” is crucial in our world of rapid technological progress
Sandra Navidi, CEO and founder of Beyond Global LLC, sees a bright future for the ways artificial intelligence (AI) can be applied. Her optimism is founded on the developments in the automation of production and business processes to date, which will, in her opinion, continue to accelerate. She said that it was impossible to know which tasks machines could take over in the future, but that it would probably be easy to algorithmize calculations in the financial industry. Moreover, the developments in this field would create new professions, for example in the fintech industry. According to her, it is most important to have the mental tools to adapt to change, which includes staying up to date, curious, and willing to learn.
Dr. Markus Habbel, Senior Partner at Bain & Company, on the other hand, sees AI as a tool to make companies and employees more productive and to increase revenues. He said that, for human resources development, AI was of secondary importance and that the future lay in a hybrid model, one in which humans and AI complement each other.