Wealth Strategies

SALT Conference Spotlight On China, AI, Latin America

Charles Paikert US Correspondent New York May 22, 2024

SALT Conference Spotlight On China, AI, Latin America

The state of the Chinese economy, and the rise of Latin America as a manufacturer and the impact of AI were among the topics that wealth managers at a New York City conference wrestled with, as recounted by our US correspondent.

Anthony Scaramucci, managing partner at SkyBridge Capital, may have famously (infamously?) only been Donald Trump’s communications director for 10 days, but “The Mooch” still knows how to attract big names – and a crowd.

The opening day of his annual SALT iConnections conference in New York City featured a future NBA Hall of Fame player (Carmelo Anthony), a former secretary of defense (Mark Esper) two members of Congress (Mikie Sherrill and Steve Womack) as well as a host of top executives from around the world.

Investment topics highlighted featured China, artificial intelligence and the burgeoning Latin American market. Here are some highlights:

Despite believing that US relations with China are “not going to get better” anytime soon, Weijian Shan, executive chairman of Hong Kong-based private alternative investment manager PAG, said there are still opportunities in China for American investors, particularly those who can buy control of Chinese companies.

It’s a “buyer’s market,” according to Shan and values abound. “You can make very good money in China if you know what to do and how to do it,” he maintained.

China’s leaders are obsessed with overtaking the US as the world’s top economy by 2045, the 100th anniversary of the People’s Republic, according to Esper. To achieve that goal, China is investing heavily in AI, research and development and also prioritizing domestic consumption to boost GDP, Shan said.

In the US, there’s one thing both Republicans and Democrats agree on, Esper said: “Get tough on China.”

Artificial intelligence
Not surprisingly, all the panelists discussing the impact of machine learning on Wall Street and Main Street were extremely bullish. 

Gareth Shepherd, co-head of Voya Machine Learning, predicted that AI’s biggest impact would be in the form of healthcare breakthroughs and compared the advancement of AI to the transformation of air travel. In the 1950s “there were six people in the cockpit and it took two weeks' wages to fly somewhere,” Shepherd said. “Today everything is better, faster and stronger.”

The biggest issue regarding AI won’t be what it can do, but whether regulation can keep up with the technology’s astonishing capabilities, said Igor Jablokov, chief executive of Pryon, a generative AI software company. The market opportunity for AI “can’t even be measured,” Jablokov said. Which company will benefit the most? “It will be a curveball,” he predicted. “Someone we never heard of.”

Will AI development cost jobs? There’s a “zero per cent” chance jobs will be cut as a result of AI said Ken So, chief executive of Octagon, a generative AI startup. “I am long human,” said Shepherd. “AI will help us do the things that matter without the friction.”

Where will AI jobs be centered? California, said Shepherd and So. Jablokov disagreed, and made a case for western North Carolina, the home of fast-growing data centers, banks – and Apple’s future AI headquarters.

Latin America
Investors looking for “massive opportunities” should head south to Latin America, said Laura Lemann, managing partner at Maya Capital

Companies are more efficient and profitable now because “the quality of founders” has improved so dramatically, Lemann said. Nearly half of today’s founders have been involved in previous startups and have learned from their earlier mistakes, she said.

Smart companies are experimenting in smaller countries like Columbia, Chile and Argentina before expanding into Latin America’s largest and most lucrative markets, Brazil and Mexico, said Shu Nyatta, managing partner at Bicycle Capital

Both countries are benefitting from favorable economic tailwinds, Nyatta explained. Mexico is taking advantage of “near shoring” its ability to attract manufacturing plants because of its geographic proximity to the United States. Brazil’s economy, meanwhile, continues to be bolstered by its global dominance in commodities, including being the world’s largest exporter of corn and soy.

Another distinguishing feature of the Latin American market is the ability of a product or service to “make life better for 99 per cent of the population, instead of making things a little better for one per cent of the population,” said Marco Camhaji, managing partner at Upload Ventures. “That is the opportunity.”

Register for FamilyWealthReport today

Gain access to regular and exclusive research on the global wealth management sector along with the opportunity to attend industry events such as exclusive invites to Breakfast Briefings and Summits in the major wealth management centres and industry leading awards programmes