23 December 2020
During a Brunswick Review interview last March, I was asked to compare the financial collapse of 2009, when I served as Deputy Secretary of the US Treasury, with the black swan of 2020, COVID-19.
“Then, we had a financial crisis that bled into the real economy,” I responded. “Now, we have a much more complicated, much more uncertain set of circumstances. The basic rhythms of life have stopped. People aren’t traveling, they’re not aggregating, they’re not interacting, they’re not transacting. The things we have long taken for granted are no longer taken for granted. And there isn’t a strong sense when, if ever, there will be a return of what we used to call normal” (Page 56).
Nine months later, COVID-19 remains a crisis for human health and the global economy. But there is another factor I mentioned in March that remains true: There is a critical role for the private sector to play in making progress on both.
What comes to mind is not just the pharmaceutical and biotech industries’ record-breaking progress in pursuit of a vaccine, or the manufacturers that swiftly built capacity for making PPE, disinfectant and medical equipment. I think of companies across industries figuring out ways to keep customers served, employees retained and society functioning in a radically altered environment.
One legacy of the pandemic is the arrival in general parlance of “WFH.” So named, this edition of our magazine brings you Brunswick Review stories posted online during the first months of the pandemic. On Page 32, IBM Chief Information Officer Fletcher Previn takes us inside the tech giant’s COVID-19 response. Other examples of outstanding leadership through COVID-19 can be found in our profiles of South Africa’s Adrian Gore, CEO of health insurer Discovery (Page 72), and Kerala’s Health Minister K.K. Shailaja (Page 69).
In this issue, our coverage of race and equality includes an interview with Shellye Archambeau, one of Silicon Valley’s first Black female CEOs and a Director on the board of Verizon, who expresses “cautious optimism” about Corporate America becoming more racially equitable (Page 42).
For inspiration on staying strong amid adversity, see our interviews with Kim Chambers, the marathon swimmer (Page 99), and British explorer Sir Ranulph Fiennes (Page 92), and read the account of Brunswick’s own Admiral Mike Rogers, a veteran of long confinements aboard ships and submarines (Page 36).
The COVID-19 pandemic, the economic crisis and all-too-frequent reminders of structural racial inequity have meant that 2020 has been an extraordinarily challenging year for all of us. I am hopeful for a brighter 2021.