The first Wharton Global Forum in three years convened in Singapore in March and included a master class on fintech, a conversation with Jon M. Huntsman, Jr. C87 HON10, and an attendance of nearly 900 alumni and thought leaders from around the world.
To kick off the event, Dean Erika James offered a message of unity in the face of shared challenges. “We have workforces in need of addressing gender imbalance and biases,” said James. “We have countries underprepared to respond to health and infrastructure crises. We have political discourse that suffers from a lack of balance and respect. And though these global issues have differing localized causes and symptoms, they share a common cure — organizations willing to work beyond boundaries to discover holistic solutions.”
James proposed a shared commitment to conversations that facilitate a perpetual exchange of ideas.
“We [must] gather the best and brightest minds together to reimagine how we reach collective goals,” she said. “And to this cause, I pledge to offer Wharton’s insights and our leaders, but also to push for the needed exchange of thoughts and engagement of thinkers from outside of academia because their intellect is necessary for advancement.”
A conversation between James and Huntsman — former Governor of Utah and former U.S. Ambassador to China, Russia, and Singapore — echoed that theme.
“If you want to bring peace and stability to the world, you need a little more dance and you need a little more music,” Huntsman commented, after sharing that he and Singapore’s Deputy Prime Minister, Lawrence Wong, are avid musicians.
As Vice Chair of Ford Motor Company, Huntsman also made a few global business predictions: “You’re going to see the most profound industrial shifts, not just in the United States, but around the world … that will go deep into manufacturing, labor training, supply chains, new technology and mobility.”
The discussion concluded with Huntsman imparting what he believes are the three traits for successful leadership: demonstrating humility, listening twice as much as you talk, and articulating your vision. “The ability to lead with your heart as much as you do with your head is a telling example of effective leadership.”
Another familiar face took the stage as professor Itay Goldstein, Joel S. Ehrenkranz Family Professor and Professor of Finance at Wharton, presented a one-hour master class on current finance topics.
“Finance is always being advanced by technology,” Goldstein said. “The pace of technological change in the last few years in finance has been much faster than we have seen before.”
Goldstein deftly explained fintech, briefly discussed what is new in the sector, presented a case study on peer-to-peer lending, and connected blockchain to decentralized finance. Even though there is a big push to create a new financial system based on decentralization, the forces for centralization and intermediation are strong. Goldstein envisions a realistic middle ground where intermediaries continue to play a role, but innovative technology is leveraged.
The next Wharton Global Forum will be held in June 7-8, 2024 in São Paulo, Brazil. Check the Wharton Alumni website for more details.