When the Next Generation Vision was launched two years' ago by 21 young business leaders, backed by TheCityUK, our industry sent out the most powerful signal yet that we believe in the power of Generation Y to shape the future and help to lead the change in our sector. Our vision calls on the financial and professional services sector to remain successful, competitive and innovative over the coming 10-15 years, whilst at the same time becoming more sustainable, transparent and, importantly, a part of society not apart from it. We know that vision is within our grasp. But we also know that it will only become a reality if a new generation of leaders emerges with us, nurtured by those who've already succeeded and are ambitious for change.
And it's organisations like One Young World, a summit for young global leaders modelled on the Davos World Economic Forum and sponsored by TheCityUK members like Clifford Chance, PwC and Barclays, that will help us nurture that next generation of leaders, both within our industry and in others. A few weeks ago, in early October, over four days in Johannesburg, South Africa 1,300 young leaders from business, government and civil society from 190 countries discussed the big issues facing the world from sustainable business to protecting the environment. Established global figures from former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan and Nobel Prize Winner Muhammad Yunus to Barclays Global CEO Antony Jenkins and Virgin Group Founder Sir Richard Branson were on hand to counsel us. All of them passionately believe that change and innovation in the future will be powered by Generation Y, and that for business to do well it must also do good.
A strong belief in Generation Y’s ability to lead businesses that do well not just do good underpins One Young World’s mission. And this year, I was honoured to share the stage at the Johannesburg Summit with the B Team – a new high-profile network of global business leaders led by Sir Richard Branson, which also includes Unilever CEO Paul Polman, former Chairman of PUMA Jochen Zeitz, media mogul Arianna Huffington and African entrepreneur Mo Ibrahim. Sir Richard Branson opened the session by explaining that the B Team’s aim is to create a future where the purpose of business is to be a driving force for social, environmental and economic benefit. Working with a global community of advisors and partners including One Young World, the B Team seeks to develop and implement a “Plan B” for business that puts people and planet alongside profit. The B Team’s Leaders will focus on execution and action, catalysing and amplifying others’ efforts by undertaking specific global Challenges where their collective voice can make a difference. Sir Richard said he saw a key role for young business leaders in this mission.
Together with two fellow One Young World Ambassadors, I was able, on behalf of the One Young World 2013 delegation, to call on the B Team to incorporate three key principles into their work during my platform speech: empowerment of young employees, purpose beyond profit, and collaboration. My speech focused on empowerment of young employees, for example by appointing young employees to boards, give them a real voice in defining corporate governance; creating platforms within companies in order to learn from and listen to young people; and using young employees to improve accountability for top-level management. These global goals are very much aligned to the Next Generation Vision's ambitions here in the UK.
Underpinning my belief that Generation Y has a key role to play in shaping the future of business are big global trends: as globalisation speeds up, customer expectations shift, and the impact of social media rises, the global market place is now more complex than ever before. Businesses that want to stay ahead of the competition – especially in customer-facing sectors like finance and professional services – need Gen Y to help them understand and respond to the big trends that are already shaping the future: understanding tomorrow's customers; responding to the desire for more responsible business; and gaining a competitive edge in emerging markets. There has never been a time in history when the youngest people know more about what is going in the world.
In the fast-paced, digitally-enabled, multi-cultural and multi-lingual market place, every company now needs to balance Gen X's experience with Gen Y's dynamism, inherently global outlook, digital aptitude and understanding of responsible business. And adding a Generation Y perspective, as Cambridge University Alumni Advisory Board (on which I serve) has done, can be a powerful antidote to age-related groupthink in an era when the world is getting younger. Havas, one of the world's leading global advertising, communications and digital groups, has also led the way in empowering Generation Y. Last year, Havas Worldwide's UK Group Chairman, Kate Robertson, appointed me to her Board, working with six market-leading UK group companies, whilst other companies like Unilever, Telefonica and Coutts now engage their young leaders and next generation talent in their decision-making processes at a high level. I have also been privileged to serve as President & Trustee of Magic Breakfast, the UK's leading school breakfast club charity fighting child hunger and poverty, working with businesses and the community to solve a pressing social need.
Having spoken alongside Sir Richard Branson and heard first hand from the other B Team Leaders about their ambitions for change, I am more confident than ever that we can overcome many of the challenges businesses faces today so that the next generation will not have to face them tomorrow. The NGV's shares the B Team's ambition. We are looking forward to working with future leaders across the sector, and with policymakers, civil society, and all our stakeholders. Our vision is only the start of our campaign for more open, transparent leadership and more sustainable business going forward. We know we can’t change things on our own. We need to work with our colleagues across the sector, including the industry’s established and senior leaders.
So, help us turn our vision into reality. Join the conversation and tell us what you think on our website, Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn. Spread the word, in your workplaces, networks and communities. And above all, help us create a new generation of ambassadors for our vision by asking your colleagues to live the values we have set out. Established leaders can do much to nurture future leaders, but ultimately it's up to us to demonstrate we can do great things. The Next Generation Vision is our generation’s statement of ambition, a blueprint for change – and our call to action. Now it’s over to you. What will you do to turn our vision into reality in your community?
Follow Alan Mak on Twitter: @AlanMakUK
Watch the speeches from Alan Mak and the B team on this link.