GIC’s mission is to preserve and enhance the international purchasing power of the reserves under our management over the long term. These reserves are important to Singapore as a rainy day fund, an endowment fund, and a stability fund.
For the year ended 31 March 2019, we achieved a 20-year annualised rate of return of 3.4% above global inflation. Our 20-year portfolio volatility remained relatively low at 8.9%.
While the start of the last fiscal year saw financial markets pricing in a “synchronised global recovery”, we are back in an environment of “lower for longer”. Financial markets are focused on the US Fed’s next move in its monetary policy, trade tensions between major powers, and growing political polarisation. We are observing high risk asset valuations that mask weak market fundamentals and growing economic uncertainties. The investment landscape today continues to point to low and volatile returns in the future.
Growth forecasts were revised sharply downwards last year and markets correspondingly sold off. Policymakers across major economies shifted to more accommodative policies, after which markets once again priced in a “lower for longer” path for future interest rates, and markets recovered. While this policy shift is expected to remove the downside risk of over-tightening, its impact is expected to be limited. We expect global growth to remain subdued.
Political and policy uncertainties remain high, as ongoing trade tensions between the US and China, continuing fragmentation in Europe and the long-drawn Brexit process continue to weigh on business sentiment. This has discouraged businesses from undertaking longer-term capital expenditures, which has in turn contributed to weak global growth. Should the policy uncertainty lead to a deeper economic slowdown, major markets such as Europe and Japan would have little policy ammunition to respond and are therefore likely to experience a more protracted downturn. Emerging markets on the whole have more policy room to cushion against a global slowdown, though economies with larger imbalances and vulnerabilities could be exceptions. In short, policymakers’ scope to counter an inevitable downturn is limited. With high asset valuations and low interest rates, the case for investor caution remains strong.
Beyond the current cycle, structural tensions around rising income inequality, populism, and job displacements by technology are likely to remain. As policymakers around the world grapple with these challenges, it is imperative to preserve the system of open and integrated economies that has improved the lives of so many.
Notwithstanding current trade tensions, Asia remains a constellation of dynamic, open economies with some of the highest growth rates globally. We first invested in the region in the 1980s, and are today among the largest institutional investors in Asia. In the long term, we expect the region’s economic growth to remain strong and outstrip other regions. There are many compelling reasons to believe this: from the liberalisation of its markets, the innovative, driven spirit of its people, and its demographic profile. We discuss these in greater detail in our feature article, Asia’s Growing Importance in the Global Economy and Financial Markets.
GIC’s primary mission remains to preserve and enhance the long-term international purchasing power of the reserves placed under our management. As we face a low growth and increasingly uncertain world, we will rely even more on our long-term investment approach and global network of partnerships. Beyond taking advantage of any dislocations in the investment environment, we seek to work with our partners on creating new opportunities.
As a global investor, GIC looks to enhance existing ties and forge new relationships with partners worldwide. In October last year, we held our annual GIC Insights Forum in Beijing, in conjunction with our 20th anniversary in China, bringing together eminent thought leaders, business executives, and our partners. In March this year, we celebrated with 130 of our Latin American partners the fifth anniversary of our Brazil office, having invested in Latin America for two decades. More recently in April, we held our second Bridge Forum in San Francisco, co-organised by the Singapore Economic Development Board, bringing together Silicon Valley’s leading investors and start-ups with our partners in Asia to look at disruption in the financial services sector.
On 1 July 2019, we welcomed new appointments. Mr Tay Lim Hock succeeded Mr Goh Kok Huat as Chief Operating Officer, concurrent to his appointment as Deputy Group Chief Investment Officer. Mr Tay will further integrate operations, infrastructure and technology to deliver ongoing business services and longer term capabilities. Mr Arjun Gupta was appointed President (Europe) to continue to strengthen GIC’s platform in Europe by extending our business networks with partners, regulators and policymakers. Dr Leslie Teo was succeeded by Mr Kevin Bong as Director, Economics & Investment Strategy, and by Dr Prakash Kannan as Chief Economist.
I would like to express deep gratitude to Mr Goh Kok Huat and Dr Leslie Teo for their contributions to GIC, and for laying the groundwork for our future. I have had the privilege of working alongside them for more than a decade, during which GIC’s capabilities were much strengthened. On behalf of all in GIC, I extend my appreciation to them for their many years of dedicated service.
In conclusion, GIC will continue to invest in our people, capabilities and networks. We abide by a core investment principle – to “prepare, not predict” – in today’s uncertain investment environment. This will help us to deliver sustained long-term returns on the reserves under our management, for the benefit of Singapore.
LIM CHOW KIAT
Chief Executive Officer
Mr Tharman Shanmugaratnam was appointed as our Deputy Chairman on 1 May 2019. Mr Tharman is Senior Minister and Co-ordinating Minister for Social Policies, and continues to chair the GIC Investment Strategies Committee.
Mr Lawrence Wong was appointed to the GIC Board on 1 November 2018. Mr Wong is Minister for National Development and the Second Minister for Finance. He has been a member of the GIC Investment Strategies Committee since August 2017.
Mr Seck Wai Kwong was appointed to the GIC Board on 9 November 2018. Mr Seck is Chief Executive Officer of Eastspring Investments. He is also on the GIC Risk Committee.
Mr Chan Chun Sing was appointed to the GIC Investment Strategies Committee on 1 October 2018. Mr Chan is Minister for Trade and Industry, and Minister-in-charge of the Public Service.
Mr Carsten Stendevad was appointed to our International Advisory Board on 1 October 2018. Mr Stendevad is Senior Fellow at Bridgewater Associates and former Chief Executive Officer of Arbejdsmarkedets Tillægspension (ATP).
It has been our privilege to have benefitted from the experience and expertise of Mr Knut Kjær, who stepped down after his active service on the GIC Investment Strategies Committee for six years in November 2018. We also thank Mr Mark Kritzman, who stepped down from the GIC Investment Strategies Committee and Risk Committee in May 2019.
On 1 July 2019, we welcomed new appointments:
Mr Tay Lim Hock as Chief Operating Officer
Mr Arjun Gupta as President (Europe), based in London
Mr Kevin Bong as Director, Economics & Investment Strategy
Dr Prakash Kannan as Chief Economist, while retaining his current role as Head, Total Portfolio Management, Economics & Investment Strategy
For their years of dedicated service, we thank:
Mr Goh Kok Huat, who retired as Chief Operating Officer
Dr Leslie Teo, who retired as Chief Economist and Director, Economics & Investment Strategy