Forbes: Panel Discussion With CEO Jean Eric Salata on Investing During Times of Crisis

HOW DEEP IS THE OCEAN? — THE OUTLOOK FOR LIQUIDITY

In this panel, which consisted of two private equity experts, a banker and a former Federal Reserve governor, a major theme was investing in the time of the coronavirus crisis. For Baring Private Equity Asia chief executive and founding partner Jean Eric Salata, being careful is especially important during this uncertain period. “In these environments where you have dislocations, you can make a lot of money, it’s also very easy to lose money,” he said, adding: “Never let a good crisis go to waste.”

Tan Su Shan, the group head of institutional banking at DBS Group, sees pockets of growth amid the pandemic. “I think [Covid-19] has created some real, differentiated winners,” she said. Tan identified several areas where she is seeing potential winners: digital, supply chains and sustainability.

Gateway Partners cofounder and CEO V Shankar is tapping into lessons learned from the 1997 Asian financial crisis and 2008 global financial crisis. “During and after a crisis is a great time to buy great companies at great prices,” he said. “So this is a great time for value investing. If you look at the last 10 years, the market has been focused more on growth rather than value, and probably this is the time to pivot back to value versus growth.”

Another lesson Shankar learned was to be patient in a crisis. “Sometimes it is better to wait and not rush. As the saying goes, ‘the early bird gets the worm, but the second mouse gets the cheese.’ It’s sometimes just better to wait and be cautious because you don’t know in a situation like this, where the bottom is,” he said.

Investors also need to prepare for fundamental changes in the global economy, such as in the transportation and hospitality sectors, noted Randall Kroszner, deputy dean for executive programs and Norman R. Bobins professor of economics at the University of Chicago Booth School of Business. “They’re just not going to come back to where they were,” said Kroszner, who served as a Federal Reserve governor between 2006 and 2009. “That’s true even in an economy like China, which has largely gone back to where it was, but those sectors [transportation and hospitality] are much smaller than what they were before.”

Salata gave praise to the Fed for its quick action in providing liquidity when markets started to freeze up in early March. “The Fed took the worst case scenario off the table,” he said. The need for continued government intervention to support businesses, which might otherwise fail, also came from banker Tan. “It’s good. We’re kicking the can down the road, we’re keeping employment,” she said. “But there might well be a cliff when that stops.”

What’s needed now is to restore a sense of safety to have public interactions, said Kroszner. “Until people feel confident that they can go out and shop, that people feel confident that they can go into the office, that they’re confident that they are not going to get infected, you’re going see much lower consumption growth,” he noted. “You’re going to need to get that kind of confidence to be able to get back anywhere close to where we were before.”