Since the 2008 financial crisis and the onset of the Great Recession, a growing chorus of voices has urged the United States and other economies to move away from their focus on “quarterly capitalism” and toward a true long-term mind-set. This topic is routinely on the meeting agendas of the OECD, the World Economic Forum, the G30, and other international bodies. A host of solutions have been offered—from “shared value” to “sustainable capitalism”—that spell out in detail the societal benefits of such a shift in the way corporate executives lead and invest. Yet despite this proliferation of thoughtful frameworks, the shadow of short-termism has continued to advance—and the situation may actually be getting worse. As a result, companies are less able to invest and build value for the long term, undermining broad economic growth and lowering returns on investment for savers.
The main source of the problem, we believe, is the continuing pressure on public companies from financial markets to maximize short-term results. And although some executives have managed to ignore this pressure, it’s unrealistic to expect corporate leaders to do so over time without stronger support from investors themselves. A crucial breakthrough would occur if the major players in the market, particularly the big asset owners, joined the fight—something we believe is in the best interests of their constituents. In this article we lay out some practical approaches that large institutional investors can take to do this—many of which are already being applied by a handful of major asset owners.
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