Prosperity means many different things to many different people. For some, it means wealth. For others, health. Or education. Or a sustainable environment. The resources—financial or otherwise—that society needs to make collective progress, while stretched, exist. But they’re often not allocated efficiently or effectively.
The United States ranked eighth overall in US News & World Report’s Best Countries global rankings this year. However, we dropped to 17th for quality of life and 24th for comfortable retirement.
Despite these challenges, progress is being made. And the private sector has a unique role to play.
Technology companies are reinventing the old economy and outmoded business models, creating new economic and financial opportunities. Digital platforms are expanding their reach and improving access to information and education across the globe. Advances in medicine are making health care more attainable and affordable.
The financial services industry is central to this evolution. As the bridge between savings and the real economy, we facilitate the flow of capital into areas that have a meaningful impact on people’s lives and, thus, their prosperity.
As a sector, we provide debt and equity capital for public and private companies’ growth needs and venture capital to start new enterprises. This includes investing in and supporting the issuance of municipal bonds that fund schools, hospitals, and safety and utility services, and serving as a long-term investor in high-quality, affordable housing. We help finance infrastructure projects, including green energy. We support the real estate and agriculture sectors that create tangible benefits for local communities, organizations, and governments. And we can do it while earning fair returns.
As an asset manager ourselves, we help our institutional clients invest in a range of sectors, asset classes, and strategies—investments that fuel economic growth while delivering returns that support each client’s constituents. As an insurance company, we take in premiums, pool that capital, and redeploy it back into communities.
Our own portfolio of responsible investments continues to grow and reached $52 billion as of December 31, 2018. Last year alone, we invested $7 billion to help finance projects that support communities and contribute to a healthier environment.
The end result of the financial services sector’s support of the real economy is thriving communities. Better jobs. Rising wages. Greater access to better quality education and affordable health services. A more sustainable environment.
But we can accelerate our actions. The public and private sectors need to work more closely together with a partnership-based approach to building communities that prosper. And we need to make sure that our collective investments are directed at areas where we can make the biggest impact.
If we can do this, our global community’s path to prosperity will be far smoother. And far faster.