Investing Insights



As the COVID-19 outbreak intensifies and market volatility increases, get our latest insights.

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Our Journey to a Sustainable Future

As investors and advisors who focus on our clients' long-term success, sustainability is central to how we assess the risks and opportunities facing our clients. Read More (PDF)

Sportswear: Sweet Success Amid COVID-19?

Kwesi Smith, CFA

As a discretionary good, sportswear may seem an unlikely winner in the wake of COVID-19. But the category—which includes athletic apparel and footwear—has some unique characteristics that make us think it will emerge just fine. In fact, for stronger companies, we believe COVID-19 will be an accelerant as the companies leverage their connections with consumers and drive business through more profitable channels.

Digital Payments and Aerospace—Diverse Growth Opportunities

Ken McAtamney, Partner

New-economy digital business models proved resilient and defensive amid the pandemic-induced collapse in economic activity, and this widening performance differential is particularly interesting to us as investors in industry-leading growth companies. We are also interested in some of the more compelling structural growth companies in cyclical industries that have been particularly affected by the economic slowdown.

Outlook for Sovereign Debt Restructurings

Daniel Wood
Jared Lou, CFA

Historically, a combination of high yield and minimal default risk has led emerging markets debt (EMD) investors to enjoy strong returns—but the impact of COVID-19 has called into question the potential for such favorable returns in the future. Historically speaking, however, markets have overestimated the probability of default and underestimated eventual recovery rates.

Plant-Based Protein: More Than a Fad?

Rita Spitz, CFA, Partner

Earlier this year, a major global food and agriculture company announced the launch of private-label plant-based meat products, which will help retail food and foodservice businesses more easily capture a share of the growing plant-based protein market.

Small-Cap Value: Ignored but Not Forgotten

Matthew Neska, CFA

Being a value investor has been challenging over the past 13 years, and there have been echoes of “value is dead” within the marketplace. But history has shown that investors who stick with value during challenging times could be rewarded. 

COVID-19 Drives ESG Demand

Blake Pontius, CFA

Investor demand for environmental, social, and governance (ESG) integration has increased rapidly across regions and asset classes in years and is now poised to accelerate in the wake of COVID-19.

10 Things the Pandemic Could Change

Ken McAtamney, Partner

Many of the long-term structural changes to the U.S. economy resulting from COVID-19 will depend on the post-pandemic assessments that are made by policymakers and the political reception of their actions. This process really has not yet begun to play out, but in the meantime, we have begun thinking about the ways the world—and investment landscape—will change.

Accelerating Secular Shifts Are Reshaping Industries

Jim Golan, CFA, Partner

The COVID-19 pandemic is disrupting the lives of people around the globe and changing consumer behavior in real time. While the long-lasting impacts of this pandemic are yet to be seen, we believe the virus is rapidly accelerating several big-picture secular shifts within certain industries that have been developing for years.

Paths to Recovery

Olga Bitel, Partner

In determining where the current economic slowdown is likely to end up, it helps to consider the potential paths to recovery. Will the recovery be V-, W-, U-, or L-shaped? We will talk about why we are modeling the recovery the way we are, where the potential pitfalls are, and what the different bull/bear scenarios look like.

Attractive EMD Entry Point After COVID-19 Shock

Marcelo Assalin, CFA

The COVID-19 shock to the global economy has sent emerging markets debt (EMD) spreads to levels not seen since the global financial crisis. We believe this rise in EMD’s risk premium is overdone and underappreciates the fundamentals of the asset class, creating potential opportunities and an attractive entry point.

It's the Economy, Stupid

Brian Singer, CFA, Partner

As the markets continue to look for something on which to focus, I believe it is a good time to recall a phrase James Carville coined when he was a strategist in Bill Clinton’s successful 1992 presidential campaign against incumbent George H. W. Bush: “It’s the economy, stupid.”

Opportunities in EM Stocks Emerge

Todd McClone, CFA, Partner

Emerging markets (EM) equities have not been immune to the pandemic’s global economic shock, suffering along with other risk assets. Yet some EMs have fared better than others—and we see signs that there may be opportunities emerging.

Part 2: COVID-19, Science and Economics

The Active Share

In the second installment of our COVID-19 series, our moderator, Hugo Scott-Gall, co-director of research on the Global Equity team, discusses the scientific and economic implications of the path to recovery with William Blair Investment Management Research Analyst Camilla Oxhamre Cruse, who has a Ph.D. in medicine and M.Sc. in biochemistry, and Global Strategist Olga Bitel.

Engagement in the Work-From-Home Era

Drew Buckley, Global Research Analyst
Hugo Scott-Gall, Partner

In the wake of COVID-19, remote work has become a necessity for companies across industries—and instead of being a burden, it has created opportunities, both at William Blair and across the investment landscape.

Unlocking: When Will We Return to Normal?

Olga Bitel, Partner

As the COVID-19 pandemic spreads across the globe, an unprecedented lockdown has been imposed in more than 100 countries to minimize the spread of the virus. As the number of new cases globally appears to be peaking, markets are reacting positively, and we are beginning to look through to the eventual lifting of lockdowns.

Outlook for Energy Unchanged

Lotta Moberg, Ph.D., CFA

To help us understand the dynamics currently driving the global energy market, we utilize game theory and macro thematic analytical frameworks. Recent developments have caused us to update our energy/Middle East game theater to reflect evolving interests.

COVID-19 Leads to Dispersion in EM Debt

Marcelo Assalin, CFA

Many emerging market (EM) countries will likely be hit harder by COVID-19 because of structural vulnerabilities and weaker institutions—in other words, their ability to contain the pandemic and their capacity to stimulate their economies. But while there is reason for concern, there is also reason for optimism.

Nonlinear Thinking in a Linear Market

Brian Singer, CFA, Partner

“The saddest aspect of life right now is that science gathers knowledge faster than society gathers wisdom,” wrote science fiction writer Isaac Asimov—a thought that rings true today as policymakers struggle to catch up with what’s occurring in the world.

COVID-19: Healthcare Is More Protected

Thomas A. Sternberg, CFA, Partner

The global response to the spread of COVID-19 has sparked an unprecedented decline in economic activity, and no industry is immune. However, the healthcare industry appears far more protected than most other sectors from coronavirus-related economic disruption.

EM Debt: Looking Through the Challenges

Marcelo Assalin, CFA

Investors are reassessing their portfolios and asset allocation due to the uncertainty created by COVID-19 and its potential impact on both the global economy and prices. At this time of rising uncertainty and heightened volatility, we share our latest thoughts on investment opportunities across emerging markets (EM) sovereign debt and how we seek to capture them.

COVID-19: Science and Economics

The Active Share

Hugo Scott-Gall, co-director of research on the Global Equity team, discusses the science of the coronavirus and its global economic impact with Camilla Oxhamre Cruse, a global research analyst who has a Ph.D. in medicine and an M.Sc. in biochemistry, and Olga Bitel, our global strategist.

COVID-19: The Best Companies Will Likely Come Out Stronger

Ken McAtamney, Partner

The spread of COVID-19 globally has driven significant market volatility and a downturn not seen since the Great Financial Crisis—or the 1930s by some measures. With the quarter behind us, how did our global equity portfolios hold up?

COVID-19: Stress Testing

William Blair News

While the full impact of COVID-19 on the global economy is still unknowable, we are gaining perspective on its economic impact, and thus its investment implications. Captured below are perspectives from each of our investment teams. We are stress-testing companies using a common set of reference points. – Global Equity Team Global Equity Projected U.S. […]

COVID-19: William Blair's Proactive Response

Stephanie Braming, CFA, Partner

As the COVID-19 outbreak intensifies and market volatility increases, I wanted to take a few moments to update you on William Blair’s proactive response.

COVID-19 Implications: Updated Thinking

Ken McAtamney, Partner

Heightened concerns surrounding the spread of COVID-19 and the extent of its economic impact are driving significant volatility across asset classes globally. At this point the full impact on the global economy is unknowable, as it depends on the duration and strength of the quarantine now in effect across many locations in Europe and the United States.

Coronavirus Spreads to Emerging Debt

Daniel Wood
Luis Olguin, CFA

Markets began reacting to the potential economic impact of the coronavirus during the week of February 18, and we could see further volatility in the coming weeks—but we believe changes in emerging markets debt (EMD) spreads present a clear buying opportunity. Below we discuss our outlook and likely investment implications.

Coronavirus Shakes Markets—Likely Temporarily

Ken McAtamney, Partner

Last week’s change in the outlook for the spread of the coronavirus shook the markets, making it important for investment managers to provide clients with their analysis of the likely implications from a societal, market, and portfolio perspective.

Investment Implications of COVID-19: Worse Before Better

John Simmons, CFA

When we began discussing the coronavirus outbreak in mid-January, we ascertained that things would get worse before they were better. That is still the case, for public health and the markets.
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