GUEST ARTICLE: The Web At 25 - Reflections From Rothschild

Rothschild , UK, 4 April 2014


The following comments are from Hugo Capel Cure, Mark Wallace and Rupen Patel, co-heads of Rothschild Wealth Management & Trust’s UK investment research team. They look at the impact of the Web 25 years on - including how it affects wealth management.

The following comments are from Hugo Capel Cure, Mark Wallace and Rupen Patel, co-heads of Rothschild Wealth Management & Trust’s UK investment research team. This publication is grateful for permission to reproduce the comments about the impact of a technology that is continuing to transform how wealth managers, as well as others, do business.

Predicting the direction of markets may be popular, but then so are horoscopes; neither are particularly good guides when making important decisions. For our part, we are more interested in dealing with uncertainty than forecasting the future. Technological change makes our task harder, by adding complexity, challenging norms, and re-defining many of the ways in which we live, work and communicate. These themes are explored on the following pages, where we consider the impact of the internet on business and set out the implications for the way we invest.

“The most profound technologies are those that disappear. They weave themselves into the fabric of everyday life until they are indistinguishable from it,” said Mark Weiser, former chief scientist at Xerox PARC.

In March 1989, Tim Berners-Lee filed the proposal for what was to become the World Wide Web while working at CERN. Twenty five years on, the internet and the web (which are actually different things, but synonymous in everyday use) have become like electricity: almost-invisible technologies that we now take for granted.

Yet consider how much has changed. We have instant access to a library of information that is unprecedented in its breadth, size and rate of growth. Anyone with a smartphone can broadcast to a global audience, whenever they want from wherever they are, limited only by access to mobile reception. Email and social networks are re-shaping the way we interact and communicate. In some areas, automated systems are replacing humans (how many people have you spoken to at Amazon?) while digital products and services are changing the way we read, keep records, take photos and listen to music. At a deeper level, emerging research in neuroscience suggests internet technologies are likely to alter the way that we think, particularly for children growing up with touch screens.

Companies are at the forefront of these revolutionary changes and here we focus on the impact of the internet on business. Twenty five years in, we attempt to survey the landscape, identifying three major trends that have, are, and will continue to transform sectors and industries. We then outline the implications for our investment approach, followed by some specific investment examples.

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