GIC’s mission is to preserve and enhance the long-term international purchasing power of the reserves placed under our management. For the year ended 31 March 2018, we achieved a 20-year annualised rate of return of 3.4% above global inflation. In other words, the international purchasing power of the reserves almost doubled during the 20-year period. Our 20-year portfolio volatility remained relatively low at 9.0%, reflecting the benign market environment and a cautious portfolio stance.
As a long-term investor, our main focus is on developments which may shape lasting investment outcomes. These developments include fundamental forces such as economic growth, inflation, asset earnings and capital costs. Importantly, they also include valuation of assets.
Last year saw risk assets generate strong mark-to-market returns, as the global economy experienced broad-based growth with benign inflation. Relatively strong economic recovery in the US, aided by the continued accommodative monetary policy, was further boosted by expected tax stimulus. Other developed economies as well as developing economies also experienced economic recovery. Along with the fundamental recovery, valuations remained elevated or were stretched further across a broad range of markets.
The strong global growth environment has increased the prospects of a larger withdrawal of the decade-long extraordinary monetary stimulus. Monetary policy tightening poses market and economic risks even in the best of times; and with the limited experience in the unwinding of unconventional policies, even more so. In the last Annual Report we highlighted the unusual divergence between market volatility and uncertainty. Market volatility has since picked up, but uncertainty remains elevated. As a global investor, we are concerned about escalating frictions in international trade and investment arrangements. The tight integration of global supply chains will see tariffs or restrictions having a broader effect across markets than for just the countries directly affected. While the prospect of a near-term compromise remains possible, the deep-seated drivers behind these tensions — the lack of widespread participation in the gains from globalisation and concerns related to national security — mean that these tensions are likely to stay.
In view of the high asset valuations, the increased risk of monetary policy tightening across different jurisdictions and the elevated uncertainty, we maintain a cautious investment stance. Nevertheless, we remain ready to take advantage of potential dislocations. The jump in market volatility experienced in early 2018 offered an indication of potentially bigger market turbulence and opportunities in the future.
Beyond macro-economic and political developments, technology drives lasting investment outcomes. Along with its disruptive effects on global economies, technology reshapes investing too. The feature article in this year’s Annual Report — Investing in Technology Companies — delves into how we approach new technology investment opportunities and risks, and the benefits it can bring to our own internal processes. Organizationally, in the past year, we strengthened our leadership bench by adding a Chief Technology Officer to our Group Executive Committee. Ms Wu Choy Peng was appointed to the role to develop our technology vision, strategy and capabilities.
In the last year, we continued to expand and deepen our global network of partnerships. Beyond provision of long-term capital, we have strived to add value through active sharing of our ideas and relationships with our partners. We thank them for another year of fruitful collaborations.
In September last year, the second GIC Insights Forum brought together senior global business leaders to discuss long-term issues pertinent to the international business and investment community. This year, GIC Insights Forum will be held in Beijing, in conjunction with the 20th anniversary of our first office in China. We look forward to a gathering of our esteemed partners and senior policy leaders from around the world. In March this year, we held the inaugural Bridge Forum, organised in collaboration with the Singapore Economic Development Board, as part of the Global Innovation Alliance which was announced in Singapore’s Budget 2017. Our partners, including Singapore enterprises, benefitted from the networking and idea sharing at the forum.
We strengthened our sustainability effort in the last year, by further integrating environmental, social and governance considerations into our investment processes, corporate practices and procurement decisions. It is our belief that companies with good sustainability practices are likely to perform well financially in the long term.
In conclusion, we are prepared for the uncertainty ahead and we commit to delivering steady long-term returns on the reserves placed under our management.
LIM CHOW KIAT
Chief Executive Officer
Mr Koh Boon Hwee was appointed to the GIC Board on 14 August 2017.
Mr Koh is the Chairman of Credence Partners and has been a member of the GIC Investment Board since January 2016.
Dr Tony Tan was appointed to the GIC Board and as Special Advisor on 1 January 2018.
Dr Tan was the 7th President of Singapore and Former Deputy Chairman and Executive Director of GIC.
Mr Lawrence Wong was appointed to the GIC Investment Strategies Committee on 1 August 2017.
Mr Wong is the Minister for National Development and Second Minister for Finance. He is also Co-Chairman of the Singapore-Tianjin Economic and Trade Council.
Mr Uday Kotak was appointed to our International Advisory Board on 1 October 2017.
Mr Kotak is the Founder, Executive Vice Chairman and Managing Director of Kotak Mahindra Bank.
It has been our privilege to benefit from the experience and expertise of Mr Deepak Parekh, who stepped down from the GIC International Advisory Board.