Digitalization + unique culture + social impact = is it enough to attract young investors?

Sustainability formula and success stories for Sicily and Malta...

Wisdom of magic toads: kiss me and I will fulfill millennials’ dreams…


The term of sustainability is well established in scientific literature; however, behaviour peculiarities and diverse perception of this term among representatives of different generations makes this topic relevant and value-adding to both scientific and business world. Based on KPMG (2017), in order to be sustainable and socially responsible, companies need to start realigning their communication strategies and business models with the expectations, behavioural patterns and career motives of the millennials: they currently comprise 35% of the UK workforce, and it is estimated that this number will reach 50% of the global workforce by 2020. Therefore, nowadays creative leadership should be oriented to recruitment and engagement of millennials via modern technologies and newest global business trends, such as the increasing popularity of gig (online and on-site service jobs) and sharing (offering goods and services via platforms) businesses, based on digital or physical platforms (for instance, more than one in every five adults in South Korea is related to these forms of business, GEM 2018/2019).

After surveying over 70 millennials, KPMG (2017) identified a set of characteristics of this generation, such as technology-orientation, focus on a holistic image, seeking for new challenges, job changing, culture-focus and work-life quality (according to the Economist Intelligence Unit Limited 2016, 56% of millennials are centred on organizational values), openness to innovation and flexibility, social impacts (87% of interrogated  millennials across 29 countries stated that financial indicators were not sufficient to measure  business success, Deloitte’s 2016 Millennial Survey; 84% of millennials focused on investment related to Environmental Social and Governance; Morgan Stanley survey,2018), security, digitalization, and many other aspects.

Based on the Accenture Report, prepared by Thompson and Blomquist in 2017, 60-67% of millennials were willing to use a great diversity of digital instruments, such as computer-generated recommendations, self-directed investment portals, gamification in order to learn more about investment, interactive mobile platforms with social media and indices, and transaction tracking software. They were driven by hybrid solutions and services (tech-human), which were of attractive price/quality/ convenience ratios.

While tackling business sustainability, Kurian et al. (2017) focus on “Z” generation, because to engage them, companies need to start from their teachers and parents. To drive sustainable and profitable growth in the future, first of all, companies should acknowledge the main treats of   “Z” generation, such as the multi-tasking nature, entrepreneurial spirit (72% of teenagers intend to start business of their own), networking competences, willingness to get involved into shared-value and gig economy, big data use, and etc. Nonetheless, GILE experts believe that to be successful companies need to bring advantages and strengths of different generations together in order to reach synergy and cut generation gaps in various areas.

In light of demographic changes (for instance, in North America, over 30 years not less than $30 trillion of investment will derive from Baby Boomers, Generation X and Millennials; International Finance Corporation, 2019). To reach such results, the investment behaviour of young people should be monitored and the effectiveness of financial support initiatives, dedicated to youth, should be tracked. Notwithstanding these trends, according to the United Nations (2018), youth expenditure tracking remains challenging.

The economies facing ongoing economic challenges, for instance Sicily, should focus on the future while trying to unlock potential of young investors, who are often driven by social impact rather than by pure profitability. According to the research of the Economist Intelligence Unit Limited (2016), 93% of millennial investors are driven by the capability to create bigger social value-added. It is logical that representative of this generation need more information about social innovation and social entrepreneurship, as they are big data “children”. Thus governments should draw more attention to education in social entrepreneurship. Understanding the social innovation concept is particularly important to adults from 18 to 24 years old. For instance, 48% of representatives of this age group in London would donate more if they understand the concept of the social initiative better (Economist Intelligence Unit Limited, 2016).

This is in line with the observation of International Finance Corporation (2019): younger investors are more driven by socially and environmentally centred investment strategies: to generate money, while creating social value-added via innovation and creativity. Although, according to Dentons (2018), over the past decade, many G20 countries set strategies to cultivate youth entrepreneurship culture, young entrepreneurs still feel abandoned while entering tiny local niche markets. It might be particularly frustrating in tiny economies, such as Malta or Sicily.

Family business-centred islands, such as Sicily, should acknowledge the motives of next generation leaders to run sustainable innovative family businesses while generating big social value-added. According to GILE Experts, it is time to realign business philosophy with expectations of new generations and reallocate organizational expenditures while drawing more attention to positive externalities and social innovations. Researchers of Economist Intelligence Unit Limited (2016) call for the initiatives facilitating affordable education, gender equality and environmental protection, among others.

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Moreover, to make business processes and products more attractive to younger generations, Mediterranean economies should draw attention to combination of digital entrepreneurship and social impacts. Within the research of IEMed European Institute of the Mediterranean, Santana (2017) emphasizes quality job creation via digital or technology-based entrepreneurship, which could contribute to sustainable, inclusive regional growth.  Based on International Finance Corporation (2019), the young investors’ potential to create impacts might be fully unleashed while bringing together complementary roles for social entrepreneurship, venture capital policy reforms, and regulations. Taking into account that young impact entrepreneurs and smaller companies lack financial capacity and experience, efforts and competences of different age investors as well as collaboration projects between early-stage and mature businesses should be encouraged to unlock future impact investment opportunities and cut gaps between different generations.

Based on EU Startup Monitor Report 2018, prepared by Steigertahl and Mauer (2018), 71.1% of people working in startups are involved in collaboration with large corporations (Fortune 500 companies) and/or SMEs, although Startup-SME union is a predominant form of cooperation (three times more common, compared to collaboration with large companies).  Thus, the European society will slowly but steadily transform with the innovations that are created, developed, and brought to market by startups. Such collaboration calls for higher creativity level and sustainability. In general, team or organizational creativity systems, if they are well-structured and organized, could generate bigger economic and social value-added. Backström and Söderberg (2016) reveal the importance of process structuring for self-organisation and the creativity of the group; thus, the group processes should be encouraged in all industries and at all levels. A similar argumentation was provided by Mashini and Cousin in CoopStarter report (2017), while linking youth leadership with cooperative entrepreneurship.

Individual economies should acknowledge and follow the digitalization trends of the whole Meditarenian region (including South and East), as many synergy effects could be reached via collaboration and networking. For instance, digitalization and e-commerce are particularly appealing to young generations: the value of e-commerce by 2020 is estimated to read 180 billion dollars, as it experiences an annual improvement of 33% since 2012 (Glaeser et al., 2015).

Based on National Youth Policy towards 2020 (prepared by Parliamentary Secretariat for research, Innovation, youth and Sport, 2015), the EU countries, such as Malta, should use various financial support mechanisms, such has as Erasmus+ as an opportunity to reshape attitude, perception and behavioural patterns of young people via learning mobility, cooperation for innovation and exchange of good practices. Indeed, acknowledgment of the role of youth in social, economic and cultural life of the EU economies and application of adequate means of engaging young people in entrepreneurial ventures and social-economic affairs might be the only way for the regions which lack break-through ideas to make the environment more attractive for citizens, tourists and investors of different generations. Already in 2013, relying on OECD research, Green underlined the importance to identify particular niches for young entrepreneurs in innovative sectors which could make regions more competitive and edgy.

The attractiveness of an economy among new generations can be indirectly illustrated by incoming tourism trends. Local tourism or real estate agents should start taking into account the needs and behaviour patterns of young travellers; as for instance, in 2018, Parvez and Kashem examined consumer behaviour patterns of young tourists in Bangladesh, as they were the largest contributors to domestic tourism industry in this country. To attract young tourists in Bangladesh, the authors suggested a set of diverse activities, such as scuba diving, parachute gliding, under water walking, para-gliding, surfing, beach walking, scooting, trekking, cycling, bunk jumping, cable car, and many others; of which the majority could be also available at night. Parvez and Kashem (2018) emphasize the role of integrating local people into decision-making, protection of built and natural environment, as well as respecting the local socio-culture; however, a more effective innovative marketing strategy to attract young tourists is necessary via dissemination of information.

Young tourists might become potential investors; however, their needs and expectations should be met. Based  on survey of 1156 members of the largest Italian association of student and youth tourism, Buffa (2018) reveals the significance of sustainability for young tourists and admits that  young tourists’ profile differ with regards  to sustainability (in terms of decision-making processes, motivation, and behaviours). Moreover, sustainability is liaised to unique features of a territory, such as natural resources or cultural heritage. For instance, the research results of 336 interviews with tourists in Romania (SibiuRegion) and Italy (Sicily Region), show that gastronomy is one of the unique and value-adding characteristics of these regions; thus, the link between destination image and food events should be strengthened (Privitera et al., 2018).   Territorial authenticity calls for new innovative tourism services along with environmental protection and specificity of resource usage.  GILE Experts add that similar success formulas could be applied in real estate and refurbishment business.

In spite of strong economic performance, some countries, such as Malta, face the threat to vanish the potential of young investors, hit by disintegrated approach to climate policy, heavy construction and demolition waste, and reliance on waste disposal (recycling rate for municipal waste reads 6 %, compared to the EU average of 30 % and to the 2020 target of 50 %; Country Report Malta 2019, European Commission).

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Fucà et al. (2019) address another critical aspect of tourism and satisfaction of citizens, which is image and reputation, regarding a set of aspects, such as security, participative and innovative community, and quality or safety in the built environment. Thus, sustainability aspect in branding is gaining its importance: 15% of millennials would rather purchase products from a sustainable brand. Based on EY’s Attractiveness Survey for Portugal (2018), GILE Experts suggest that Portugal’s success in foreign direct investment is significantly influenced by its image of the most peaceful country in Europe and the best European country for expats, along with 86% of respondents considering it as socially stable and being ranked 3rd (among 163 countries in 2017), based on  Global Peace Index (Vision of Humanity).To continue, one of the conclusions reflects the essence of effective innovation strategies, which is community engagement in planning processes. From the economic point of you, Portugal and some other countries of the EU, such as Italy or Malta, should focus on improvement of their positions, based on Economic freedom Index (ranked as moderately free, Miller et al. 2019), as this indicator might be of particular significance to young investors.

Young people need innovative and modern products and processes, which are impossible without the expenditure in R&D. While analysing socio-economic situation of Sicily, Azevedo (2015) noted that 1 % expenditure for R&D out of the regional GDP shows that this region lags behind the Italian average (2 % of GDP),  while the connection between firms and research is weak. Thus, entrepreneurship (for instance in creative industries or innovative tourism), internationalization, innovation (particularly service and social innovations), and smart specializations/ niche are effective vectors for the period of 2014-2020 and beyond.

According to Doorley (2019), Ireland went one step further and reallocated budget towards the anticipated increase in the number of young people, aged 10-24 (13.2% between 2015 and 2025). This country showed a great example to other regions how to empower 40,000 adult volunteers to collaborate with young people and cut unemployment rate of young people which in 2018 read c.a. 12% (an additional investment of €22m was recommended to reduce the long-term unemployment of young people) via expenditure in youth work services and voluntary youth organisations, employment and education initiatives, as well as social protection schemes (Doorley, 2019; National Youth Council of Ireland Pre-budget submission 2019).

While presenting the position of the European Commission, Duell (2018) argues that the combination of entrepreneurship training, counselling, mentoring, financial assistance, access to physical and network capital and follow-up services is the best formula to unleash the potential of the youth, however a special attention should be paid to competences and self-employment career opportunities of socially vulnerable young people. Notwithstanding that younger people are more willing to use modern technologies and are more intuitive in digital initiatives, GILE Experts believe that only symbiosis among different generations can lead to entrepreneurship sustainability, cut generation, education and competence gaps, as well as help young investors learn how to make effective and efficient investment decisions. Networking, cooperation, digitalization, social impact investments, shared value economy could be the areas where younger investors could teach the more experienced ones; however, in a set of areas, such as business intelligence, effectiveness, efficiency, productivity and many others, millennials and “Z” generation professionals and entrepreneurs will need their senior and more experienced colleagues’ help  to make it happen.



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