On hindsight, the past year was filled with surprises. Two wars were waged. Large Banks failed. Crypto moguls became criminals. US interest rate rose to a 22-year high… …The list goes on.
It is as important to be reflective as it is to prepare for what comes next. As 2024 is upon us, individuals and businesses need to gear up and anticipate risks and trends ahead.
Here are six important themes to look out for in the coming year.
1. Geopolitical Risks Continue
2024 will continue to be deeply influenced by various geopolitical challenges. In 2023, events like the Israel–Hamas war and the Russia-Ukraine conflict, coupled with persistent tensions between the US and China, left a lasting impact on global investment, policy, and macroeconomic backdrops.
In a global risk survey carried out among 130 businesses by Oxford Economics, almost two-fifths of respondents viewed Israel-Hamas war as a significant risk to the global economy over the next two years. The situation of Israel/ Hamas war on the ground remains highly fluid, with the potential for escalation still very much present.
Any spillover in fighting beyond Gaza, or a deterioration in diplomatic relations between local Arab regimes and the West, would lead to a disruption of the transit of energy supplies through the Strait of Hormuz. This strategic waterway facilitates the shipment of approximately 20% of the world’s oil supply.
The sovereignty of Taiwan is a focus for the tension between China and the US. Given Taiwan’s crucial role and near-monopoly in advanced chip production, any potential military engagement between China and Taiwan would significantly impact its global supply. The upcoming Taiwanese elections in January 2024 will play a major role in setting the stage for the next year.
Meanwhile, Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is extending to the next year. Ongoing economic sanctions on Russia and support from North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) countries to Ukraine, further strain relations and create uncertainty for businesses in the region. The outlook for 2024 remains cautious as a dramatic breakthrough appears unlikely.
In addition to these major events, other geopolitical concerns will stem from government policy shifts, particularly around industrial policy. This will require companies to align their investment, footprint, and commercial to closely align with the evolving demands of public sector stakeholders across different jurisdictions.
2. Interest Rate to Stabilize
In 2023, the global interest rate environment was primarily influenced by the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic. Central banks across major economies, like the U.S. Federal Reserve and the European Central Bank, initiated gradual rate hikes to curb the inflationary trends that surged during the recovery phase. The interest rate crisis in the US extends beyond its territorial borders and affects emerging economies, for instance India, thus reshaping the global economic landscape.
According to the International Monetary Fund (IMF) survey, soaring global inflation rates in late 2021 and 2022 prompted monetary policy shifts. The World Bank noted that advanced economies, which had maintained near-zero rates during the pandemic, witnessed a significant policy turnaround as they juggled supporting economic recovery and controlling inflation.
As we advance into 2024, global interest rates may expect nuanced adjustments. The IMF forecasts a stabilization in inflation rates, potentially leading to a more measured approach in monetary policy across various economies. Furthermore, according to the World Economic Forum’s analysis, emerging markets might face continued pressure to raise rates to manage capital outflows and currency depreciation risks.
In contrast, developed economies might see rates plateauing as they aim to sustain the economic momentum without triggering recessionary pressures. The Federal Reserve’s projections indicate a possible slowing of rate hikes as the U.S. economy seeks a soft landing. The inflation is likely cooling across G10 and other markets.
The demand and supply of goods have reached equilibrium, and the ongoing impact on core goods disinflation is anticipated to persist through next year. As per the latest media report, the Bank of America predicts the ease of interest rates by the Federal Reserve starting in the middle of the following year. If benchmark interest rates come down, this may reduce mortgage and credit card rates, among other borrowing costs.
3. AI Gaining Traction
The rise of artificial intelligence (AI) took the work by storm this year.
When OpenAI’s ChatGPT launched at the end of 2022 it quickly became a sensation. The AI chatbot app was estimated to have reached 100 million monthly active users in January 2023, making it the fastest-growing consumer application in history. Many other AI apps and software emerged over the year.
Adoptions of AI exploded in 2023. Many companies across industries embedded AI into their businesses. As newer and better AI tools become available, this trend will likely gain even more traction in 2024. Apart from corporations, individual’s career and daily life will also be heavily influenced by AI in the coming year.
According to Forbes, education, software development and data security are some of the industries that will see AI flourish in 2024. On the other hand, career domains such as marketing, operations, procurement etc. will also face disruptions from AI, especially on tasks that it can perform faster, cheaper, and more efficiently.
While interest in AI will continue to rise in 2024, so are concerns revolving it. Privacy, security, and ethics are major issues plaguing the neck-breaking rise of AI. When legislation cannot catch up with advancement and the future is unpredictable, businesses and individuals become wary of the drawbacks of AI.
In a recent survey by Pew Research Centre, 52% of Americans are more concerned than excited about AI in daily life. Companies that rush to develop AI products and services may not receive the market response they anticipate; new rules and regulations could also limit AI possibilities.
Having said that, the advancement and adoption of AI will certainly continue in 2024. Corporations and individuals need to understand the developments of AI, but use it with caution and careful consideration of its pros and cons.
4. Blockchain Industry Transformation
This year, the blockchain industry expanded beyond its initial cryptocurrency roots, demonstrating its versatility across various sectors. Supply chain management, finance, healthcare, and governance witnessed significant advancements. Businesses increasingly adopted blockchain for its core attributes: transparency, security, and decentralization.
The rise in decentralized finance (DeFi) applications, non-fungible tokens (NFTs), and enterprise blockchain solutions paved the way for revolutionizing the industry altogether. According to a report by Deloitte, a significant number of companies had already initiated blockchain projects, and many were in the process of exploring its potential applications.
The blockchain industry will substantially transform in the upcoming years. Key drivers of this change will include technological advancements, regulatory clarity, and a deeper understanding of blockchain’s potential. One of the significant shifts could be the movement from proof-of –work (PoW) to more energy-efficient consensus mechanisms like proof-of-stake (PoS), which would address environmental concerns.
Next year, several trends and developments will shape the blockchain industry. The entry of more institutional players into the blockchain space, particularly in finance, supply chain, and the public sector, will likely lend credibility and stability to the industry. More precise and comprehensive regulations will provide a more stable and predictable environment for businesses and investors in the blockchain space.
As the industry matures, the focus will likely shift towards creating real-world solutions that are sustainable, efficient, and have a tangible impact.
5. E-Commerce Growth
The e-commerce industry has seen significant growth over the past decade, and as we approach the end of 2023, international revenue has exceeded $6 trillion. Projections for the upcoming year indicate a continued surge, reaching an estimated $6.9 trillion. The growth is expected to sustain over the next few years.
China has by far the largest retail ecommerce market, accounting for more than half of the total global sales, followed by the US, the UK, and Japan. Beyond the major players, Philippines, India, Mexico, and Argentina emerge as the fastest-growing nations. These markets represent untapped opportunities for expansion and growth for businesses.
Looking ahead to 2024, China and the United States will likely continue to assert their dominance in the e-commerce market, with more nations adopting the trend. This growth, however, comes with rapid transformations in the industry, driven by evolving technology and consumer behaviours.
One notable trend shaping the e-commerce landscape is the rise of B2B e-commerce. Digital catalogues, streamlined ordering systems, and customized pricing are becoming the norm in the B2B eCommerce space. Forrester forecasts that B2B online sales are set to surpass $2.3 trillion in 2024 and could exceed $3 trillion by 2027.
Moreover, social media is another transformative factor for E-commerce. Social media platforms have evolved into full-fledged sales channels, allowing users to make purchases without leaving social media platforms. There is expectation that social commerce will generate a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 31.6 percent from 2023 to 2030.
Additional emerging trends in the e-commerce landscape for 2024 include the integration of e-commerce with augmented reality (AR), a focus on sustainability, and the application of AI, etc. Understanding and leveraging these trends can help businesses gain a competitive edge and strategically prepare to meet the challenges of 2024 and beyond.
6. Sustainability and Green Business Practices
This year, the business landscape witnessed a paradigm shift towards sustainability and green practices, driven by Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) considerations. This shift was not merely a compliance-driven approach but a strategic realignment towards long-term value creation.
Businesses increasingly recognize the financial and reputational benefits of sustainable practices. An increase in investors’ demand for ESG-compliant portfolios, consumer preference for sustainable products, and stringent regulatory frameworks advocating for green initiatives led to businesses focusing more on sustainability than just profitability.
The World Economic Forum reported a significant rise in green financing and ESG-focused investments, illustrating a clear trend towards sustainable business models. The evolution of green business practices and ESG integration will likely happen profoundly in businesses next year. The transition will move from broad ESG principles to more specific, actionable, and measurable sustainability goals.
Companies will likely focus on decarbonization efforts, with a significant push towards renewable energy adoption, waste reduction, and sustainable supply chain management. In the coming year, we will see the rise of ‘sustainability-linked’ financial instruments, connecting financing terms to achieve specific ESG targets.
A more informed and environmentally conscious consumer base will continue to drive demand for sustainable products and services, influencing business strategies. Therefore, enhanced transparency in sustainability reporting will be crucial as stakeholders demand greater accountability and tangible proof of ESG commitments. Moreover, Cross-sector collaborations and partnerships will become more prevalent as tackling global sustainability challenges requires joint efforts from businesses, governments, and civil society.
Sustainability and green business practices are set to define the year 2024. As companies increasingly embed ESG into their core operations, the focus will shift from ‘why’ to ‘how’ to implement sustainable practices effectively. This transition presents challenges and opportunities, requiring a holistic and forward-thinking approach to ensure long-term business viability and positive societal impact.
The business world is witnessing substantial investments in generative AI, blockchain, and e-commerce. As these trends continue to develop, we expect to see increased funding and product development. The opportunities are vast, and the only limits are those imposed by a lack of imagination and adaptability.
However, amidst this progress, businesses are advised to maintain vigilance, specifically monitoring fluctuations in interest rates and geopolitical risks. These factors are essential metrics for pressure-testing your planning for the upcoming year.
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In continuation of our commitment, we remain dedicated to addressing the issues and topics that drive growth in your business, while providing assistance in navigating global risks. For further insights or personalized advice on establishing and expanding your business, we invite you to reach out to us via the provided hyperlink below.