Catalyst Or Barrier?

Editor Andrea Fiano's monthly letter to you, the reader.

JUNE 2020 | VOL. 34  NO. 6

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In preparing this month’s magazine—our annual innovation issue—we picked the best new ideas and inventions of the past year in five areas of financial services. But since the pandemic has changed so much in the last few months, we decided to also consider the financial innovations so far in 2020. Our cover story looks further down the road at the future of innovation, trying to understand emerging leading-edge developments.

And yet it seems odd to talk about future innovation in a world that seemed so different just a few month ago. Will the virus be a catalyst for new ideas? Early indications suggest yes, at least sometimes. Could it, at the same time, become an impediment?

Already, we see rising nationalism in many countries, and the reshoring of some manufacturing. Innovation—particularly in the transnational cross-generational ecosystem of a high-end innovation center—seems to be one of the most global forms of cooperation between countries and often companies. How will the global slowdown impact the pace and direction of the world’s creative problem-solving? It is not a surprise to find multiple different opinions, and scenarios, on these questions.

Paolo Sironi, global research leader for banking and finance at IBM, told us that “the pandemic has increased the awareness that the digitization process has not been completed, and has to be improved in order to increase the resilience of company processes in stress situations like the ones of a lockdown.” In medical research, and particularly in research for a Covid-19 vaccine, innovation and global cross-border cooperation have increased due to necessity. The finance industry has stepped up with innovation too. We hope that international politics—and the virus itself—will in the long term be more a catalyst for innovation than a barrier.

Andrea Fiano | Editor