25 Aug 2022
Boards and Recession Part One: The View From The US, UK, and Brazil
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Our global experts have provided country-specific perspectives on how boards are reacting to the recession. In this first of a two-part series, they examine the US, UK and Brazil.
Most major commentators believe we are either definitely headed into a recession or we are already there. Yet, what is less certain is the shape this recession will take. It is widely accepted that inflation, supply chain disruption, energy prices, and the war in Ukraine are the prime instigators. But how significant these factors will be for boards, varies widely depending on the type of business and the sector it operates in. While it is easy to see these issues as globally agnostic, individual countries and the businesses in them face very different economic outlooks.
Part one looks at the US UK and Brazil. Part two covers India, Japan, and Australia, read it here.
The US has experienced two quarters of contraction, so is technically in a recession. However, there does not appear to be any great angst among boards, and there certainly isn’t the same worried atmosphere that accompanied the 2008 crash.
Much of this has to do with the last two years; the pandemic was a trial by fire for every board in the country and they had to adapt quickly or suffer the consequences. The same sentiment is now very much at play, with inflation, supply chain disruption, and chip shortages settling in slowly. There have been no great shocks as with previous crashes and this is also tempered by low unemployment. Similarly, no one is planning to halt production lines or lay off workers when the demand for staff is still incredibly high.
If the economy looks like it will swing towards a crash, then US boards will use the lessons learned from the pandemic and adapt swiftly.
If anything, the current environment is emphasising the need for board diversity. A blend of individuals – those who have an appreciation of business cycles, have tried and tested experience, combined with those who lean into innovation and bring fresh perspectives – are likely to come out of this stronger.
This ‘recession’ is unlike any other for the UK, with two years of supply chain disruption, the war in Ukraine, inflation, and rapidly changing consumer sentiment from rising energy prices would usually signal an economic crash. Surprisingly, unemployment is at a record low, wages are rising, and there are still a lot of people with money they were unable to spend during the pandemic. This means boards can’t simply ‘get out the recession folder’ and implement ‘a’, ‘b’, and ‘c’ like they might have done previously.
Additionally, shareholders are very much looking for certainty, there are no risky decisions or drastic actions taking place. To put it in perspective, no one is getting fired for buying shares that don’t go up, but they are getting fired for shares that drop in price. For this reason, fund managers are only buying shares they are 100% certain will increase in value.
In this environment, boards are reacting rather than trying to get ahead of events.
Recruitment decisions are being driven by the need for experienced, mature, and considered board members who will not do anything ‘rash’, though this also means they may miss an opportunity.
The interest rate in Brazil reached 14% yet there are signs this has started to decelerate. Most companies have also released higher than predicted Q2022 results and GDP is expected to increase by 3% this year, signalling a revitalising economy. On top of that, the Bovespa Index boasted a 13% rally in the first two weeks of August. Increased volatility is expected up until the election in November. Nonetheless, this volatility should level out once the next president’s economic policies are integrated into the market.
The stronger-than-expected conditions bodes well for boards in many sectors, and, employment remains strong.
We expect the number of new executive searches to increase 25% by the end of 2022, primarily due to the recovery of the Brazilian economy.
Financial Services is demanding a huge number of executives due to the several fintechs and insurtechs that have grown in the last two years. New banks such as Nubank, C6, and others with over 50,000,000 clients are looking for a new type of professional that is hard to find in the current market, spiking demand.
Overall, Brazil’s boards are moving forward in an anticipated growth environment.
To discuss how the recession may impact your business, and how your board can prepare, please contact the authors, get in touch with us here, or your local Odgers Berndtson contact.
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