It’s outlook season. Rejoice!
We know what the top financial firms are watching this year, experts have shared their best stock picks for the year, and analysts are telling us what to leave behind in 2022.
At Water & Wall, not only are we watching for snow in New York City (we haven’t had a big snow fall yet!), but we’re also paying close attention to other areas. Here’s what’s most top of mind for your Water & Wall team:
Sonia Wong – On China’s COVID-19 Policy
In 2023, I’ll be paying close attention to China’s approach to COVID-19 and how their policy continues to evolve. For the last three years, President Xi Jinping adopted a “zero-covid” approach to the pandemic, including mandatory lockdowns that impacted supply chains and the global economy. Towards the end of 2022, China finally began to roll back on some restrictions, no longer requiring negative tests to travel and mandating that work and local production could not be stopped in areas deemed “high-risk”. This easing of policy has led to a surge in cases and with morgues being reported as overflowing.
I’m curious to see what President Xi’s next move will be and the impacts it will have on markets around the world, especially as it was announced recently that China was pausing its semiconductors push amidst the surge in cases. I predict that more companies will consider moving their manufacturing hubs out of China similar to Apple’s decision to explore India to produce iPhones.
Jen Corletta – On Tax
Both of my eyes are on the global minimum tax deal.
To work, it will need unprecedented coordination from all countries involved and the outcome will shape our macroeconomic environment long-term. New documents released by the OECD in December prove that momentum is gaining, and multinational companies will need to start to recalibrate and model accordingly.
Alaina Hay – On Roe v. Wade
I’m all ears on Roe v. Wade and what companies have to say. Following the U.S. Supreme Court’s overturning of Roe v. Wade in June 2022, we saw companies rally behind their employees and publicly pledge to cover the cost of travel and/or medical procedures if not accessible in an employee’s residual state, including Amazon, Apple, and JPMorgan Chase per Insider.
Thus far in 2023, we’ve seen two major developments as Roe v. Wade now hinges at the state level and as the year progresses, we can expect more states to examine their abortion laws and likely put forth abortion bans or gestational limits (The New York Times tracks the latest on this). As these decisions proceed, I’ll be watching corporate communications.
Following the year mark of George Floyd’s death, we saw many companies under fire (rightfully so) for their lack of follow through on previous Black Lives Matter statements and public commitments to supporting, investing in, and recruiting a more diverse workforce. As the overturning of Roe v. Wade at the federal level comes to a year mark this summer, I’m interested to see what companies will do to honor their original commitments made in providing medical care to all employees residing in banned or limited states. I’ll be keeping a watchful eye on how corporations are declaring these efforts publicly, whether it’s just for good PR or a legitimate pledge.
Jesse Chen – On ESG and the GOP
2022 saw increased pressure on ESG from Republican lawmakers at both the state and federal levels, as politicians sought to curtail so-called “woke capitalism.” States like Florida and Texas drew splashy headlines for their proposed anti-ESG legislation, bills which are likely to be considered and passed by state lawmakers this year. Meanwhile in Washington, GOP legislators in both chambers of Congress were progressively active last year in trying to stymie ESG efforts.
Most recently, Senator Mike Braun and Representative Andy Barr moved to push back on the Department of Labor’s recently issued rule allowing plan fiduciaries to consider ESG factors in plan investments. While the split Congress makes any federal anti-ESG bills unlikely to pass, with Barr set to be a senior member of the House Financial Services committee this year, we can expect more noise on the Congressional level around curtailing ESG.
As we head into 2023, I’ll be watching closely to see what anti-ESG legislation passes on both the state and federal levels, how GOP state attorneys move to investigate ESG investors, and, critically, how the financial industry reacts to it all.
Rebecca Schmidt – On Crypto
To absolutely no one’s surprise, I will be watching to see how the Sam Bankman-Fried/FTX collapse plays out (at the time of writing this he was just released on bail into his parents’ custody).
I’ll be watching partially for clickbait reasons but mostly because I (and many others) believe this will force a real change within the crypto industry. I don’t think the crypto business is done, not even close, instead I think the SBF headlines will slow and we’ll either watch the industry survive a major setback or accelerate regulation.
While all of this news certainly created an uproar for crypto, there is some truth to ‘any press is good press,’ after all. At the time of writing this crypto was still in the depths of a bear market, yet many companies (including Goldman Sachs and others) said they still plan to spend millions of dollars to buy and invest in crypto companies now that valuations are lower. I’d be interested to see how the crypto market’s fall potentially creates investing opportunities now that it is priced reasonably.
Kevin Santo – (Also) On Crypto + Wealth Management
The number one thing I’ll be paying attention to in 2023 is the unfolding drama with the United States men’s national soccer team. Only the U.S. would have a decent World Cup run overshadowed by a blackmail story between lifelong best friends/former teammates.
But in all seriousness, I would say there are two industries/sectors I’m particularly going to follow in the new year. The first, and probably most obvious one, is crypto. Whether you’re a fan of the asset class or not, I just think the news is fascinating from a historical perspective. It certainly feels like a market-disrupting event we’ve seen before, just with new wrapping paper, and I’m curious to see how regulators handle it.
The second one I’ll mention is the wealth management space. I’ve been fortunate to learn more about the industry since starting at Water & Wall and am curious to see how the major wirehouses and RIAs react to changing industry in 2023. And that doesn’t even account for the new fintechs reshaping the industry as it’s in the middle of what seems like a long-term shift.
Katie Colleary – On Print, Typography & Color
I’m watching the re-emergence of printed materials! With more face-to-face engagement, the demand for printed content will go through the roof this year – especially streamlined smart pieces with bold, rule-breaking designs and high-end printing techniques like luxury paper stocks, embossing, gloss coats and foils.
Trends like “anti-branding” will be popular, and less-is-more is the new more. We’ll see more brands pushing the boundaries of traditional typography through text-based design paired with edgy, collage and texture elements. Hyper-bright neon’s are trending but so are the soft candy pastels – bubblegum brights are all in – and photography treatment is receiving the same punch of color. Gradients are back – and I am not mad at that either.
Designers have an opportunity this year to get trendy but stay sophisticated with a host of options. Pithy slogans, scribbles and sidebars paired with pops of unique color combos will be big. At Water & Wall, we’re excited to experiment and looking forward to seeing you IRL in 2023!
Andrew Healy – On AI in PR
While marketing & PR pros already regularly use AI-powered tools whether they know it or not (Google Analytics, sentiment tracking, social listening), this will be the year where the “AI in PR” discussion becomes completely unavoidable. Much of the current hype is of course tied back to the December launch of ChatGPT, an experimental chat bot that immediately caught the attention of… I don’t know… pretty much everyone overnight. But before you rush to dismiss this as just the latest tech fad that will fall short of expectations, take note of Google’s reaction: they’re so concerned with the implications of this, they’ve referred to it as a “code red.” When one of the largest and most successful global tech companies of all time is taking this seriously, it’s time for the PR space to do so as well.
Are you freaking out? Don’t! Take a breath, stretch your legs, and go pet a dog. I find that usually works. And if you’re still freaking out, shoot me a note. I’d love to chat about this with you. And while you’re at it, go read Humans are Underrated by Geoff Colvin, the longtime Fortune editor and author, where he brilliantly argues that automation will free up workers from mundane, repetitive work and let people do what PR and marketing pros do best: storytelling, relationship building and making meaningful connections.
Matt Kirdahy – On Talent
Our focus at Water & Wall is always on people. That applies to the names and faces already part of our exceptional team and the ones we want to be a part of this team sooner than later. In 2022, there was talk about a “war for talent,” which is poor phrasing about a persistent issue, at least in our industry, on finding the right people to join your team. The focus on “right” though always seems to be homed in on skills and almost not at all on chemistry. Yet it’s the latter that’s the most difficult to achieve and it’s what I think will be the focus this year as the so-called “war” wages on. How do you get the right people to get together, especially virtually, then like each other and then achieve the desired business results? I’m confident we know how and I’m certain we won’t tell. 😊