While crafting the accolade of Company of the Decade, it has become the opinion of the World Finance editorial team that – more than any other time in the past hundred years – the preceding 10 years has been the time for businesses to shine.
During its highs and lows, the global economy of the past 10 years has shown favour to those who have adhered to conservative strategies, and crushed those who have been reckless. This most recent depression has left few unaffected, and the companies that have come through it face an increasingly competitive business environment.
No one has been safe from the changes that have occurred, no matter their status or longevity. Exemplified by Lehman Brothers, global banking institutions have been brought to their knees through a combination of unscrupulous lending and poor investments. Those that have survived unscathed are those that have stuck fast to a sustainable model of investment, taking only moderate risks.
The decade has also been one of awakenings. The terrible events of 2001's terrorist attacks in New York fundamentally shaped the state of play of world politics. As an event it opened the eyes of all people to the accessible and yet exposed nature of the modern world – and how our political actions can have consequences far beyond our expectations. If anything has been learned from this in the corporate world, it is that it is no longer acceptable for companies to retreat into their own fields, ignorant of the wider world around them. The growing and global middle class is increasingly demanding ethical, considerate and sustainable behaviour from the organisations it supports. Those companies which have succeeded most in the past decade have done so through intimate knowledge of the markets they have the potential to involve themselves in, and using this to meet customer needs.
In the face of sweeping economic challenges, strong but tactful leadership has been required. The US has swung from one of its most direct and idiosyncratic presidents to arguably its most historically significant in hope of radical change. As its fortunes have waned, Europe has moved towards a more conservative-minded leadership, with the departure of charismatic leaders such as Tony Blair and the waning popularity of others such as Silvio Berlusconi. With leaders clinging to old certainties, the recovery in Western Europe is likely to be a painful, slow and less than certain process.
In contrast, China has accelerated along its path to economic dominance, in part as a result of the leadership of President Hu Jintao. Hu has increased the trading transparency of the state with the rest of world, pushing his nation towards its own brand of capitalism that has resulted in strong growth for the best part of the decade.
The power of technology
In parallel, one can observe notable correlation between successful businesses and those company executives that have valued substance over style, had an open approach to business and not feared to innovate when the time has called for it. Progress in technology over the past decade has also done much to alter the business landscape, often resulting in the demise of traditional methods. Modernisation has proved fundamental to businesses wishing to stay ahead of their competitors. As such, larger industries such as the energy sector have had to match an increasing demand for energy with the decline in easily accessible sources of fuel and the push for an eco-friendlier product. As in other industries, the best energy groups have met such challenges not only through seeking innovation and improvement in their current methods but through the exploration of new methods and technology to deliver products to customers more effectively.
The decade has also highlighted the importance of good products and branding. 2001 saw the first appearance of the iPod as apple's entry to the fledgling MP3 player market.
Ten years later the company's multi-product dominance in the portable entertainment market is unquestioned; the iPhone offering iconic design promoted with a sophisticated and focused marketing campaign. Many other companies have demonstrated that fine tuning and targeting their products intuitively is the key to securing the interests of an increasingly sophisticated consumer.
World Finance has witnessed and many CEOs have recognised a truly seismic shift in communication – a look in the average person's pocket will show just how. The mobile phone has gone from a basic communication device to becoming a virtual office for the business person on the move. The internet too has evolved immeasurably as a business tool bringing with it a seemingly endless string of opportunities with it. No industry remains untouched by this progress, and those enjoying the greatest success have been those who have used new technology to deliver products to their customers. They have aimed to stay one step ahead of the competition.
Having identified these trends of the decade, the World Finance editorial team has selected those companies that hold these themes as key principles to their business. These are the companies which for each country we have chosen to award the title of Company of the Decade.
Venture Capital Fund
Baiduri Bank Berhad
Royal Bank of Canada
Moneda Asset Management
UTI Mutual Fund
IFH Peru Ltd
The Energy Development Corp
Changi Airport Group
Zurich Financial Services
Guardian Holding Ltd