The 2023 Milken Institute Global Conference in Los Angeles is underway, and The Alexander Group’s Managing Director Jane Howze has a front row seat to the world’s foremost thinkers, innovators and leaders gathered to discuss solutions to many of the world's most pressing issues.
Headquartered in Santa Monica, California, The Milken Institute is a prestigious think tank with offices in DC, New York, London and Singapore.
The Milken Institute is a non-partisan and not-for-profit organization helping people build meaningful lives in which they can experience health and well-being, pursue effective education and gainful employment, and access the resources required to create ever-expanding opportunities for themselves and their broader communities.
As a frequent conference attendee, Howze has heard everyone from CEO’s and senators to celebrities and scientists deep dive into all matters of business, politics, public health and entertainment. While it would be impossible (even for Howze) to attend all 130 sessions, she did participate in multiple talks, including, “The State of the Global Financial System,” “The Future of Work: Charting a New Course,” and “Home Free: A Conversation with John Legend on the Path to Reentry after Incarceration.
Read on for Howze’s highlights.
The conference kicked off with an encouraging welcome by Milken Institute CEO Richard Ditizio, who asked the attendees to “lean into optimism, especially post-pandemic.”
He also shared harsh realities facing the global community, including the following:
-Two billion people globally do not have access to clean water
-37 percent of the world lacks internet access
- Gun violence has surpassed car accidents as number one cause of death for children in the United States
“Think about how challenges can be converted into opportunities,” Ditizio said. “Consider an issue that’s important and how you can solve it.”
Howze attended “The State of the Global Financial System” moderated by Stephanie Flanders, Head of Economics and Government, Bloomberg News; Head of Bloomberg Economics, interviewing Director Kristalina Georgieva, International Monetary Fund Managing Director.
Georgieva commended the banking and regulatory forces behind the global financial system during the pandemic, saying everyone should “think of the unthinkable.” She also addressed global resiliency.
“In 2020, we were anticipating depression, but it did not happen. Resiliency is for real. The but is, we have still have consequences…there’s more fragmentation in the world economy,” Georgieva said. “Growth is slowing down but inflation is not going down as fast as we want it to go.”
Georgieva was blunt about the current state of global inflation and where it’s heading.
“This year we expect inflation at 7 percent, globally it was 8.7% last year. By next year we would still have inflation uncomfortably above target,” Georgieva said. “Like it or not, banks have to sit tight and keep interest rates in a place where they can bring inflation ultimately down.”
Howze also attended a session about Global Capital Markets featuring Jane Fraser, CEO, Citi, David Hunt, President and CEO, PGIM, Rishi Kapoor, Co-CEO, Investcorp, Karen Karniol-Tambour, Co-Chief Investment Officer, Bridgewater Associates and Robin Vince, President and CEO, BNY Mellon.
The panel explored how policymakers and executives are striving to make sense of how the financial sector will differ in the coming decades, asking questions such as, how are industry leaders priming themselves for change and continued growth?
Flanders asked the panel if the rest of the world look safer to invest, rather than the U.S., a question thoughtfully handled by Vince, who pointed out the importance of “getting through the debt ceiling” issue. He also pointed out the upside of inflation.
“Inflation is also a magnet for people to invest in the U.S we’ve got deepest capital market in the world, huge economy , energy independence certainly for the transition…it’s an incredibly attractive thing,” Vince said. “If you’re a European manufacturing CEO right now, where do you want to make your investment in your next marginal plan? Diversify in Europe, go further east or the deepest capital market?”
The panel pointed out the global bright spots, including the Middle East.
“Japan, India and the Middle East…it’s a big shift coming out of pandemic. Some of the flow dynamics are changing,” Jane Fraser, CEO Citi, said.
Hunt echoed that sentiment saying globalization is entering a different, new phase.
“We are going to have one where regional flows and by many sources of capital like Middle East, India and Japan. We are really seeing momentum behind services…more stable globalization picture,” Hunt said.
A panel discussing the future of work was a natural session for Howze to attend and “The Future of Work: Charting a New Course,” didn’t disappoint.
Hosted by CNBC Anchor and Senior National Correspondent Brian Sullivan, the four-person panel explored how merging technologies, like Artificial Intelligence, will transform hiring, training, and retention and how business executives and employees can collaborate to create systems and an ecosystem that respect and honor the dignity of work, while prioritizing productivity and maximizing profit
One of the most astonishing bits of information came from Rodney McMullen, Chairman and CEO, The Kroger Co, who stumped the crowd when asked where the company’s highest volume store was located.
Hint. Think cold and remote.
“It’s Fairbanks, Alaska. Customers fly in, but a month’s worth of stuff and flyback out,” he said.
When it comes to AI, the future is now, but there's more to come. A decade from now, McMullen said the Kroger experience will be enhanced by AI, building upon what already exists in stores.
“Ten years from now, people will have the fresh food experience, even better than it is today. We use tech to inspire customers, offer recipes and help stretch the budget. We want to make sure you love eating,” McMullen said.
Ambereen Toubassy, CFO of Airtable, a spreadsheet-database hybrid, with the features of a database but applied to a spreadsheet, looks forward to the way AI will elevate and redirect work as it currently exists.
“We’re really excited about AI. It will allow us to focus more on critical thinking. The future of work is where do you work and how do you work and what do you work on?” Toubassy said. “AI complements people’s work.”
Entertainer John Legend was an inspiring panelist for the session, "Home Free: A Conversation with John Legend on the Path to Reentry after Incarceration." Every year, nearly 650,000 people leave prison and face a new set of consequences when they return home—from constant surveillance to denied access to employment, education and voting rights.
"Another interesting speaker was entertainer John Legend who has worked with businesses, and not for profits to help former prisoners get jobs after they are released. As he said, if they can't get a job, they can't eat, and they have no place to live, and the temptation to fall back into crime is a obvious out," Howze said. "It was interesting to see corporations that are trying to solve the problem."
Legend discussed his family's connection to the issue and reminded the crowd of the importance of hope.
"Think of all the second chances you have been given...coming out of prison, they are excluded from society, can't get jobs. Businesses need to reintroduce ex-convicts to society," Legend said.
The heart of the Institute’s work is the idea that societies prosper if they have an educated, healthy workforce; open and efficient capital markets; and effective social institutions. As a result, its events, research, and programmatic and policy initiatives explore the convergence of finance, business, health, and philanthropy and focus on a wide range of issues.
"This conference always gives me hope," Howze said.