How Gen Z Is Going to Revolutionize Capitalism
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How Gen Z Is Going to Revolutionize Capitalism

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How Gen Z Is Going to Revolutionize Capitalism

Ken Costa is an investment banker in the city of London. He has been at the heart of the financial markets for well over 40 years, having observed the evolution of capitalism socially, economically, and even spiritually. He is currently chairman of Helios Farifax, the largest private equity group in Africa. He also chairs Glorify, a meditation app. His work has been featured in The Financial Times, The Wall Street Journal, The Times, and The Telegraph.

Below, Ken shares five key insights from his new book, The 100 Trillion Dollar Wealth Transfer: How the Handover from Boomers to Gen Z Will Revolutionize Capitalism. Listen to the audio version—read by Ken himself—in the Next Big Idea App.

The 100 Trillion Dollar Wealth Transfer Ken Costa Next Big Idea Club

1. The Great Wealth Transfer.

I’ve observed several shifts in how we operate in our economy, both in the world and socially. My first observation is the drive toward the East. “Go East” has been a cry for many people over the last decade.

My second observation is that green is good. There has been an effort to move from a carbon economy (a brown economy) to a green or environmentally friendly economy.

My third observation is the feminization of finance. It’s been wonderful to see how women have become increasingly important in the provision, distribution, and management of capital. By the end of this decade, well over $5 trillion will be in the hands of women financiers.

But above all, the $100 trillion handover is a tsunami. It’s a seismic change. The handover I’m referring to is the flow of money from one generation (presently, the Boomers) to the next (Gen Z and the Millennials). This change will either make or break capitalism.

2. Empowerment follows this wealth transfer.

Anyone will say that when one generation dies, another inherits their wealth. That’s normal, but never before have we seen not only the quantity of wealth being transferred from one generation to another, but also that this wealth transfer is not far off in the future—it’s happening now. The Bank of Grandpa and Grandma are helping to pay for deposits on homes, college education fees, and apartment rentals (which are expensive in almost all cities globally).

“Never before have we seen not only the quantity of wealth being transferred from one generation to another.”

This wealth transfer is different because, at the same time as the wealth is being transferred, a new generation has empowering tools that we’ve never seen before. Firstly, technology is empowering. It is a generation that is not afraid of the future and has no fear of artificial intelligence or quantum computing. Embracing that future gives them a new power that was absent in a previous generation. Secondly, Gen Z and Millennials are media savvy and have enormous, unprecedented influencer capacity on their peers. And thirdly, as told to me by a young person I was mentoring, we have a different agenda. Your agenda as a Boomer was to make loads of money. Gen Z and Millennials are on a mission to work well, earn well, and do good for the world.

In that respect, the rising generations have an agenda that will establish environmental justice and equality as key values for the future. But will those values destroy the very basis of the value creation that is at the heart of the market economy?

3. The Clash of Generations.

When the Occupy movement (which was a global anti-capitalist movement) arrived in London, I remember when activists tried to storm the stock exchange, and eventually ended up on the steps of St. Paul’s Cathedral. There was a very real threat that violence would break out and that the cathedral would be stormed. I was asked by the Bishop of London to arbitrate and mediate between the demonstrators encamped outside of St. Paul’s and the city fathers. I will never forget when one intelligent demonstrator said to me, “If your system of capitalism and the market economy is so good, why is it only good for you and not for our generation?”

This clash of generations is perhaps one of the most disturbing worldwide. Boomers react to Zoomers (my nickname for Gen Z) by thinking that they are a feckless group who don’t want to work hard and feel entitled to receive far more than they have earned. On the other hand, the Zoomers look at the Boomers and think they are analog people with no social awareness and who do not share the values that Zoomers want and need for the world they are inheriting—a world they see Boomers as having taken massive advantage of.

The growing silos between the generations are evident in every country: The Z community throwing mud at the Boomer community, and vice versa. So far, the divide keeps growing.

4. The Great Clash of Generations will damage capitalism and result in social dislocation.

One of my great heroes is Nelson Mandela, whom I met several times when I was a trustee of the Nelson Mandela Children’s Fund in London. I remember vividly him saying to me, “Ken, it is very easy to make for disagreement. It is very difficult to make for peace. You must make for peace.”

So, I’ve asked myself, how do the two generations avoid clashing and become cooperative? I believe we need both generations. We need the hindsight of the Boomers because we have been through inflationary times, we’ve seen recession, and we’ve seen hardship. But we also need the insight of the Z generation, who can navigate the future far more robustly. The Z generation doesn’t want feedback, but they want feedforward. They want to know what the insights of the Boomers mean for the future. How will the future change the way in which I operate today? If we combine the hindsight of my generation, the Boomers, with the insight of the next generation, I believe we can create the foresight necessary to establish purpose-driven financial services and business. Purpose matters.

“We must recognize the social creative importance that a new generation would attach to creating wealth.”

What we really need is socially energized capitalism. The next generation is very committed to community, social action, and social concerns because (unlike almost any other generation) this generation is more creative and has more tools available for them to be creative. We should be drawing the socially energized part of the equation from this generation without forgetting that it is, nonetheless, capitalism. It is important to assess that we are not moving forward based on just one side of a values-driven world but also one that sets importance on creating value and enabling as many people as possible to share in the future market economy. We must recognize the social creative importance that a new generation would attach to creating wealth.

5. The great meaning of co-s.

We’ve all heard for a long time now about co-working, co-leading, and co-learning—many different “co-” words. These words are not just helpful management tools. The thought that, “We are co-leading this business,” is a fundamental shift from the way the Boomer generation cooperated as opposed to how the Z’s now work together. Therefore, co-s are vital to recognizing that we must work together for the future. The meaning of co- is needed for the extraordinary movement of capital into the hands of the next generation so they can finance their own agenda and also take into account the history and backstory of a previous generation. I love what British Prime Minister Winston Churchill said: “The longer you can look back, the further you can look forward.”

This is a time for us to look forward. I look forward to the heading of reinventing co- as the basis on which one generation will work with another. I mentor many young startups, and we work together despite the generational gap. I provide some insight and hindsight into what a young business might look like, whereas they provide a newness and fresh creativity. The mentoring, coaching, investment of time, and sympathetic understanding of objectives pursued by the next generation will make the co- that I’ve been talking about.

With a reinvented co-, we can avoid the clash of generations and instead find the cooperation of generations. There is another dimension in co-s, which is a worldwide longing for deeper spirituality, a desire for meaning, and the why behind work. What are the objects of life? How can I pursue the objectives of a capitalist system without burning out? Burnout is one of the great disadvantages Boomers endured, and protecting the mental health of the next generation is vital. If we have an integrated, co-way of working together on the handover from the Boomers to the Z generation, it will not just revolutionize capitalism—it will affect and benefit every aspect of our lives, of our society, and of our spirituality.

To listen to the audio version read by author Ken Costa, download the Next Big Idea App today:

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