Insights – Joseph Quinlan

Joseph Quinlan lectures on finance and global economics at Fordham University and New York University, where he has been a faculty member since 1992. He regularly lectures at various universities around the world. In 1998, he was nominated as an Eisenhower Fellow. Presently, he is a Senior Fellow at the Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies of Johns Hopkins University, Washington D.C., and a Senior Fellow at the German Marshall Fund in Brussels, Belgium.

Mr. Quinlan regularly debriefs policy makers and legislators on Capitol Hill on global trade and economic issues. He has testified before the European Parliament. He has served as a consultant to the U.S. Department of State and presently serves as the U.S. representative (Economic Policy Committee) to the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development in Paris, France for the U.S. Council for International Business. He is also a board member of Fordham University’s Graduate School of Arts and Science and serves on Fordham University’s President Council. In 2006, the American Chamber of Commerce to the European Union awarded Mr. Quinlan the 2006 Transatlantic Business Award for his research on U.S.-Europe economic ties. In 2007, he was a recipient of the European-American Business Council Leadership award for his research on the transatlantic partnership and global economy.

Potolicchio: When you hire analysts, what are you looking for?

Quinlan: I am looking for someone who is well-rounded, well-traveled and well-read, with an innate and incessant curiosity about how the world works.  A beginning analyst has to have the ability to absorb a great deal of information and data, and discern and decipher what’s noise, what’s important.  They have to practice their craft every day.  Wanting to learn about new subject matter, becoming familiar with unfamiliar regions of the world, digesting complex topics—all of these are traits I look for in an analyst.  A good analyst is one that turns over a lot of rocks (an unrelenting focus on research/topics) and then has the ability to connect the dots.  The latter takes time but is the fun part of research.  Finally, an analyst must have first rate communication skills—the ability to tell the story, create a compelling narrative is essential to any success of an analyst.

Potolicchio: What has been the most surprising thing about the US market?

Quinlan: While we are in the midst of the longest economic expansion in US history, some investors, only now, are just now coming around to the fact that the US economy, bar none, is the most competitive and resilient in the world, China included.  That many investors have been “surprised” by the dynamism of the US economy surprises me.

I attribute that to a number of variables but one in particular:  investors are constantly fed a daily diet of negativity (e.g., geopolitics, dysfunctional Washington, income inequality, climate change, etc), and rarely come up for air and realize just how good things are. The US economy is hardly perfect, but it is still one of the greatest wealth-generating machines in the world.  For a country to produce some $21 trillion in economic output, nearly a quarter of world output, with just 4.5% of the globe’s population, is truly staggering.  It speaks to the dynamic, entrepreneurial nature and DNA of the United States. 

Potolicchio: What’s a prediction about the future that would shock most observers?

Quinlan: I am an optimist by nature and believe the world is on the cusp of being a much better place due to the rise of women.  Women are the future—they are rapidly becoming the most important drivers of global economic growth, spearheading growth in various industries, ranging from finance to health care.  Around the world, women are better educated, better fed, digitally-connected, and more empowered, even in nations with strong gender norms and traditions. A girl’s future has never been brighter than today.  Yes, there are challenges to be overcome but the more women are empowered in society, politics, economics and finance, the better off the world will be.   

Potolicchio: How do you forecast global trends?  Is there a suite a skills can develop to do this?

Quinlan: Honestly, what helps me divine global trends is watching and understanding what’s happening in the “Big Three”—the United States, China and the European Union.  Yes, there are nearly 200 different economies in the world, but only three, in my opinion, can move the global needle in terms of trade, cost of capital, competitiveness, asset prices and the like.  At a minimum, you have to understand were the Big Three stand in the business cycle, and understand how each economic bloc is connected with the other. 

The best skills to forecasting global trends—read, read, and read.  Everything (like history, economics, politics) and anything (books on climate change, demographics, religion, etc).

Potolicchio: What is the best book that describes the modern world and where we are going?

Quinlan: Given the onset of the US-Sino cold war over trade/economics, a good book to read is Graham Allison’s Destined for War: Can America and China Escape Thucydides’s Trap?  It is one of the most important questions of our times.  Another good book:  Melinda Gates, The Moment of Lift:  How Empowering Women Changes the World.  Finally, the best book that captures the modern world is:  Factfulness:  Ten Reasons We’re Wrong About the World—and Why Things are Better Than You Think by Hans Rosling.  Bill Gates said it was “one of the most important books I’ve ever read.”  I totally agree.

Potolicchio: What’s a prediction on our current geo-economics landscape that you hold most people would disagree with?

Quinlan: Most people have written off Europe and believe the most important bi-lateral relationship in the world lies between the United States and China.  True, this relationship is important.  But so too are Transatlantic linkages, or the long-standing, deeply-rooted partnership between the US and Europe.  Europe still matters—in terms of geopolitics, economics, finance, etc.  With or without the United Kingdom, the European Union remains the second largest, wealthiest economic bloc in the world, and a key source of global earnings for Corporate America.  The best way to integrate China, India and even nations like Iran into the world economy is by the US and Europe working together to create the rules and regulations for the next decade and beyond.  Unfortunately, the EU constantly punches below its weights to the frustration of the U.S.   A US-Europe partnership that is permanently fractured/divided is very dangerous and alarming to the rest of the world.