Sheila Penrose: Protecting the future from the past

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Sheila Penrose (image)Events and meetings are winding down here in Davos, with the town returning to normality and skiers heading back to the slopes. So it’s time to share a few overall observations from this year’s World Economic Forum annual meeting.

The media’s concerns about the economic outlook are not shared by business leaders to nearly the same extent.

Yes, China’s growth is slowing as it transitions from export to domestic markets and from investment to consumption spending, but it’s still growing at 6+%. Yes, oil and other commodity prices are depressed, but that has economic benefit for some countries and sectors, just as it has losses for others. Yes, we’re still experiencing the long tail of the global financial crisis and artificially low interest rates, but the domesday predictions of ever-rising budget deficits, a bond market bust and high inflation haven’t come to pass. Yes, European growth lags and many parts of Europe are dealing with a refugee crisis, but the IMF estimates that immigration into Germany and Sweden, for example, will add to – not detract from – economic growth.

With the Fourth Industrial Revolution as its theme, the Davos meeting has driven home the breadth and depth of new technologies and how they’ll enable efficiency, innovation and collaboration at an inceasing speed. But, in a sense, that’s just the backdrop. It’s a challenge to incorporate new technologies; it’s a bigger challenge to ensure that the trust, motivation and values between colleagues, and with clients and investors, is intact and enhanced as we adapt to significant change.

As one speaker here said: “We must protect the future from the past, not protect the past from the future.”

As I prepare to return to Chicago, the input from the past few days confirms that JLL is well-positioned for the future. We lead our industry in digital technologies. We are diversified by geography and business line. We benefit from increased urbanization around the world and from global capital flows.

And, we have the values-based leadership which is essential in a culture of collaboration, client focus and excellence.


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