Innovators Shaping Asia

A growing number of entrepreneurs in Asia are vaulting their businesses to the top of their industries in a very short time span. Their inventive strategies and willingness to take on risks in the market and in politics have propelled them to business success. This panel convenes some of these innovators to discuss the opportunities they saw, how they overcame challenging economic and political climates, and their outlook on the regional markets.

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Finding Opportunities in India's Next Chapter

India hopes to take on a more prominent leadership role. Strong domestic growth can translate to greater global gravitas. What is the path forward when global forces are making business activity more challenging? Where are the silver linings? What will impact India's course to becoming a truly global economic power? Our panelists will separate the noise from the key insights, and they will discuss how business leaders can successfully navigate the way forward.

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Recapturing the Taiwan Miracle: Diversifying the Economy Through Innovation and Collaboration

Big changes are underway in Taiwan. Its first female elected president, Tsai Ing-Wen, was inaugurated in May, heralding a break with the past in politics and public administration. In addition to the thorny entanglements between Taiwan and China, the island’s economic growth and competitiveness will be important issues for the new government to tackle in the coming years. The authors draw a roadmap to enable Taiwan to expand beyond technology manufacturing and leverage the benefits of globalization while solving the quandaries it presents.

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Wisdom in the Workforce: Unlocking the Economic Value of Asia’s Aging Population

Older populations are growing rapidly in a number of Asian countries. As working people reach age milestones and exit the labor force, questions arise: How will the traditional retirement years be financed? What will the future hold for national pension systems? How will the swelling costs of health care impact national budgets?

Costs, however, are only part of the story. The greater part is creating value.

Though some may mistakenly regard older workers as less productive and their skills obsolete, Asia can’t afford to waste this massive asset. This report evaluates crucial skill shortages in five countries: China, India, Japan, South Korea, and Singapore. It identifies methods to harness the strength of the mature workforce, detailing farsighted public policies and strategic private-sector employment practices to allow older workers to provide an effective solution that magnifies the success of their countries.

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Wisdom in the Workforce-HERO

Trade Finance: A Catalyst for Growth in Asia

While large businesses have resumed international trade at levels seen before the financial crisis, small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) have not fared as well. For these firms — the backbone of economies everywhere — growth is impeded by the limited availability of bank loans to finance trade. The problem is especially acute for SMEs in Asia, the world’s largest trading region and the one most reliant on trade finance.

This report points out the major impediments to financing in the region and recommends regulatory and procedural changes. It assesses the state of trade finance in Asia, paying particular attention to the ASEAN countries and the needs of SMEs. It emphasizes that to succeed, regional efforts to integrate trade law and procedures must be combined with the replacement of paper documents with electronic transactions, as well as standardized procedures across countries.

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 Trade Finance: A Catalyst-HERO

Creating Mechanisms for Conservation Finance in Southeast Asia

By 2015, Southeast Asian development and growth had contributed to significant habitat destruction, species endangerment and extinction, and the pollution of natural resources. Most of the conservation funding for the region came from international organizations and foundations, as opposed to region-based philanthropic entities or market-based funding sources.

To address Southeast Asia’s conservation needs, the Milken Institute convened NGOs, industry experts and donors for a Financial Innovations Lab in Singapore in February 2015. Participants discussed potential innovative financing mechanisms for conservation including development impact bonds and notes as well as impact investing funds and funds with ESG strategies.



February 2015


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Creating Mechanisms for Conservation Finance in Southeast Asia-HERO

Equity Market Anxiety and Other Risks to U.S. Economic Growth

If we required a reminder that the United States is more fully integrated into global economic and financial markets than ever, we received it by way of the latest turmoil in U.S. equity markets. By many measures, valuations had become stretched, so in some respects the markets were looking for a reason to correct. However, there is no doubt that the recent market anxiety was at least “assembled” in China, with components from the global supply chain, before being imported into the U.S.

Nevertheless, recent data on housing, consumer confidence, auto sales, capital goods orders and PMIs all point to underlying strength in the U.S. economy. Even the second quarter was stronger than previously thought with GDP growth being revised up to an annual rate of 3.7 percent. More impressively, final sales to domestic private purchasers rose at an annual rate of 3.3 percent, an upward revision from the first estimate of 2.5 percent.

So, where does this leave us? On balance, the U.S. economy is expanding at a 2.5 percent to 3.0 percent pace, but downside risks to the outlook have risen due to the correction in U.S. equities and financial sector stress. Equity market anxieties will knock just 0.2 to 0.3 percentage point off of U.S. GDP growth over the next four quarters.

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Equity Market Anxiety-HERO

Framing the Issues: Financial-Sector Development and Expanding Access to Credit in Myanmar

On July 26, 2017, the Myanmar Development Institute partnered with the Milken Institute Center for Financial Markets to host a strategic roundtable in Yangon. As part of the roundtable, financial-market regulators, officials from domestic commercial banks, financial-sector experts from development partners working in Myanmar, and academic and practitioner experts discussed ways to develop Myanmar’s financial markets.

The participants in the discussion agreed that Myanmar needs a specific roadmap/master plan for market development that examines the country’s financial markets from a holistic, economy-wide perspective and assesses the credit needs of private-sector businesses.

“Without a plan, we will only be working on a piecemeal basis, and we will end up creating issues which don’t exist today,” said one participant.

Key takeaways:

  • A roadmap should be focused on establishing strong institutions.
  • Banks and other market participants need a regulatory roadmap as part of a broader financial-sector development plan.
  • The roadmap needs to address the fact that the financial ecosystem in Myanmar is currently compartmentalized and limited.
  • The program would need to work through a genuine consultative process between industry and government
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Framing the Issues: Expanding Digital Financial Inclusion in the Philippines

The Philippines appears poised to become a world leader in the use of financial technology, or FinTech, due to several drivers. First, the geography of the Philippines, a nation of over 7,000 islands, demands an alternative to traditional brick-and-mortar banking infrastructure. Second, the population is young and mobile-savvy, with a median age of 25 years old, a mobile subscription rate of over 100 percent, and internet penetration of around two-thirds of the population. Third, the Philippines is one of the fastest growing economies in the world. As a result, this young population is increasingly prosperous, driving the demand for financial services. Fourth, the Philippines has a maturing sector of FinTech startups working across various verticals, including mobile payments, remittances, online lending, and small and medium-sized enterprise financing. Finally, the country’s financial sector regulators—the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) and the Securities and Exchange Commission—are supportive of the growth of FinTech and have taken proactive steps to help develop the industry.

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Framing the Issues

India Ahead: The Outlook for Business and Finance

India continues to command considerable optimism from the global business and investment communities. The Modi-led government has promised to introduce 'big-bang' economic reforms aimed at enticing investors and continue its efforts in strengthening bilateral relations with other nations. However, this phase of rapid growth comes at a time when the country faces a host of internal challenges such as rising unemployment, a population boom, ethnic tensions, security issues, and increased expectations for technological and infrastructural development. How are investors reacting to Modi's new mandate and planned policy reforms? Which sectors and industries are attracting fresh financing? What is the outlook of doing business in India?

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The Race to Cashless: FinTech in Asia


E-commerce and internet connectivity have pushed the growth of the digital economy in Asia. Underpinning these transactions are new and innovative technologies that have expanded financial services and market access to people and SMEs. But the ecosystem is growing increasingly crowded and competitive. Regulators are facing complex issues that are falling across multiple traditional legal frameworks. What are the biggest challenges to deeper adoption of FinTech and digital payments? How can businesses and governments better collaborate to foster innovation and entrepreneurship while safeguarding customer data?

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The Spirit of Asia: Entrepreneurs Building a Better Future

Asia has become a hotbed for tech start-ups. Venture capital investments have proven to be quite lucrative, and many governments are increasingly focused on encouraging and promoting homegrown innovation. What are the driving forces behind this success? Can Asia's startups really build a better future for the region? This panel brings together some of Asia's leading founders for a discussion on chasing dreams, creating growth, and the Asian entrepreneurial spirit.

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Playing the Long Game: The Future of Sports in Asia

Few things connect millions of people across geographies, time zones, and cultures quite like sports. The global sports market has been growing at a historic rate, led by a booming fan base across the Asia-Pacific region. What are the forces driving this growth? Will technology hinder or enhance the ability to engage fans and nurture lasting relationships? How has the power dynamics between athletes and team shifted over the years and what are the implications for branding, team loyalty, and viewership? Our panel discusses what it takes to stay at the top of the leaderboard in an industry driven by competition and passion.

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China: Pathways to Prosperity in an Uncertain Era



China has long promised the world that it would further open up its economy to foreign business and investment. Despite slowing economic growth, the economy still provides many attractive long-term opportunities. But an opaque regulatory environment and investment restrictions make it considerably difficult for foreign firms to reap the full benefits. What can businesses and investors expect from China's renewed commitment to deeper reforms and expanding openness? With continued downward pressure and a prolonged trade dispute with the US, what risk indicators should investors and businesses keep an eye on?

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Asia's Geopolitical Chessboard: Avoiding Checkmate


Geopolitical risk has become an ever-more important consideration for businesses with global supply chains and multinational operations. Global tensions, especially between the US and China over trade and technology, have heightened uncertainties and depressing economic activity. Meanwhile, regional disputes involving the South China Sea, North Korea, and Hong Kong are still in play. Our panel of experts share their analysis of the shifting geopolitical landscape and its implications. Who will make the next move? Who will blink first?

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Family Businesses: Sustaining the "Trust Advantage" in a Complex World


Family businesses in Asia play a significant role in the economies and societies in which they operate. They are accorded a higher degree of trust by key stakeholders--consumers, customers, partners, and employees--compared to other types of organizations. This trust factor is an important source of competitive advantage but is becoming even more challenging to maintain as the world evolves with greater digitization, data flows, and 24/7 scrutiny. As family businesses look at preserving their legacy and leaving a strong foundation, what are they doing to build a robust 'trust strategy' for securing the future?

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Avant-Garde in Culture: Philanthropy, Gentrification, and Institutions


Philanthropy, institutions, and urban development have a complicated relationship. Property developments go hand-in-hand with regeneration, which is often accompanied by gentrification. Art studios might be lost in the process and artists pushed out. At the same time, developers have realized that the most wanted properties are home to art--be they a hotel lobby, residential apartment or a public space. But some of the most recent developments are ahead of their time: art and culture are at the heart of their operation--open to the public, accessible, and welcoming. This panel discusses how art and philanthropy are linked and how gentrification may impact the philanthropy value of art and what the new generation of art centers, museums, exhibitions, and public programs will look like.

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Jobs of the Future


Technology and digitization are dismantling our conceptions of work. As advancements in artificial intelligence and cloud computing occur, firms must accustom themselves to these changes or risk falling behind. It is estimated that nearly 50% of current work activities are already automatable and a consensus has emerged that the workers will need a drastically different set of skills to maintain employment. What will the next generation of jobs look like? What essential skills should the next generation workforce be equipped with to meet technological demands and how can organizations invest in the development of their human capital? How can we build on increasing productivity to ensure that the jobs of the future provide shared prosperity?

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