Every year, Blackstone brings together the CEOs of its portfolio companies across the world to discuss the trends shaping their businesses today. It is a valuable opportunity to share strategies for growth and compare notes on how to best navigate the current global environment.
At our 2017 CEO Conference, the leaders of Blackstone’s Private Equity business convened more than 60 CEOs to examine the regulatory, economic, and operating issues at the top of attendees’ minds. Additionally, presentations from senior Blackstone leaders and our Portfolio Operations Group addressed ways to drive value creation and efficiency across industries.
Navigating the Current Political and Economic Landscape
At the conference, several broad trends emerged among the participants. Our portfolio company CEOs generally believe that the current policy environment is very favorable to growth. In a pre-conference survey, this sense of optimism was a constant in their macro-economic outlooks for the United States.
Optimism was a constant in CEOs’ macro-economic outlook for the United States
That said, the final shape of potential policy changes in Washington remains an unknown. With this in mind, legal and policy experts addressed the potential implications of possible reforms to tax policy, healthcare, trade, and regulation to best prepare business leaders to plan and react.
Attendees also discussed the slowing productivity growth in the macro economy. Against this backdrop, we stressed the importance of the private equity model, which is designed to generate productivity across economic cycles, and we shared our optimism around increased productivity through the investments and improvements we make across our portfolio. While macro-economists struggle to better quantify the way tools like big data, mobile technology, and the Internet of Things will impact productivity at the macro level, our specialists were excited to share how these factors influence our investment approach.
In conversations surrounding the global economy, we shared our outlook for what’s to come around the world. While Europe was looking more stable economically, we explored the drivers of low GDP growth in that region and the ongoing political polarization that could re-shape the European Union. We also looked at the positive economic trends in India, as strong GDP growth and a stable policy outlook create a business-friendly environment.
Accessing Value Creation - Tapping into the Resources of Blackstone
In light of the current outlook, we focused much of the conference on the enduring value of being in the Blackstone portfolio across different policy environments and economic cycles. Indeed, the vast majority of the value Blackstone creates in its private equity business is driven by EBITDA growth and operational improvements.
This is achieved through an integrated approachbetween our Portfolio Operations Group, advisors, boards, portfolio company senior management and deal teams. The conference was an opportunity for CEOs to hear from each of our Portfolio Operations specialists. Our specialists discussed our approach to operational improvements, such as our online purchasing procurement platform that leverages economies of scale and many other initiatives that set companies up to grow under Blackstone ownership.
A key resource at the conference was intellectual capital represented by the other attendees in the room. By bringing these leaders together, we were able to foster connections across our portfolio companies. This knowledge-sharing helps CEOs think outside their industries, learn from companies that have faced similar challenges, and build their professional network toward future dialogues to improve their businesses.
By bringing these leaders together, we were able to foster connections across our portfolio companies.
The conference concluded with three breakout sessions to facilitate these conversations. Senior Managing Directors at Blackstone kicked off conversations around growth, productivity and leadership. Then CEOs within our portfolio spoke on best practices, and the breakout sessions ended with roundtable discussions and further idea sharing on how to best address head-on the challenges and opportunities companies are seeing in their businesses today.
The conference was well received by our CEOs and Blackstone leaders. We believe the event was a vital part of our overall goal of working collaboratively with our CEOs to help provide resources and insights that help their companies better navigate the current regulatory and economic environments toward long-term success.