Our leaders at Davos — Ian Powell

Our leaders
at Davos

Ian Powell

Ian Powell, Senior Partner, PwC UK

One of the megatrends reshaping the world is rapid urbanisation and this will once again be a topic for discussion in Davos. What’s your view about this trend and its impact on business?

As cities develop, their role and importance is changing too. Becoming a hub of innovation and economic growth is now highly competitive among cities, and they require strategies that will enable them to differentiate the attractions they offer on a global, not just a national stage.

Cities are where all five megatrends most obviously collide. Rapid urbanisation is placing significant pressure on natural resources, creating tension between the rich and the poor, and generating challenges of overcrowding, congestion and pollution.

On the other hand, cities generate economic growth, cultural creativity, technological breakthroughs, political innovation and practising environmental sustainability.

Today, as technology forces us to re-think some of the economic reasons for having a large workforce in a central location, cities have a new appeal. People today want to live in cities rather than being economically compelled to do so. Access to amenities, a higher quality of life, social, cultural and leisure opportunities all attract people to cities.

These changes present complex and potentially far-reaching implications for businesses. In order to gain access to the pools of talent, businesses may need to move into, or even back into, the cities that they left decades ago. The result is seen in downtown areas that were deserted during the latter part of the 20th century being reborn as dynamic and thriving urban centres.

Watch Ian Powell’s Rapid urbanisation video.

Why do you think it’s so important that leaders from all parts of the world come together in Davos at the annual meeting?

The world has to come to a shared understanding and consensus on how it wants to address humanitarian, economic and social issues as a global community. Events such as the WEF Annual Meeting provide opportunities for representatives from all over the world to voice concerns and brainstorm solutions to address these universal challenges, and hopefully take steps together towards creating a better world for future generations.

What does this year’s theme ‘Mastering the fourth industrial revolution’ mean for business leaders?

This year’s theme ‘Mastering the fourth industrial revolution’ resonates strongly with the findings of our 19th Annual Global CEO Survey. Technology-led innovation is a key differentiating capability that can help CEOs create value in the most effective way for both business and wider society. Technology is no longer the back-office function it once was but is instead driving new and innovative ways of doing business. CEOs believe that technology is making a difference to the success or failure of business ventures, and shaping the face of business. We are seeing this in new C-suite functions like the Chief Information Officer, Chief Analytics Officer and Chief Data Officer.

Business leaders will need to understand how to use technology to help their customers and their staff, and this requires incorporating technology into their business strategy. Technology cannot be viewed merely as a tool or a tactic, it has to be a meaningful part of the business strategy.