The CEO’s Perspective

2020: A Year We’ll Never Forget

December 2020 / 2 mins 20 secs
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A year ago in my Client Focus letter to you I made the comment: “The year and decade ahead will undoubtedly mean change.”

Well, I was not expecting the amount of change we have lived through in 2020. It certainly has been one for the history books.

COVID-19 has shaken every facet of life as we’ve known it. Looking back over the year, it has been inspiring to see communities come together to serve each other. Nothing has brought home the impact of the crisis more than the growing number of families without enough food.

Since the onset of the crisis, William Blair has been working with community partners in Chicago and London, supporting their stepped-up programs to feed the hungry. In December, we expanded our support of food banks in each of the 16 communities around the world where William Blair offices are located. These efforts are featured in this issue of Client Focus.

William Blair has also come together to serve clients in today’s expanded digital environment. While we miss meeting you face-to-face, we have tapped the latest technology to stay connected with you and deliver our services around the globe.

Most recently, Investment Banking in October hosted 95 companies and nearly 1,000 investors for its annual Private Equity Conference. Traditionally held in Chicago at a downtown hotel, this event was pivoted to a virtual setting for the first time and drew participants from across North America, Europe, Australia, and Asia. Attendance was up over 40% compared to last year.

William Blair Investment Management and Private Wealth Management are expanding their reach through more online client events and communications. In June, Equity Research and Institutional Sales & Trading migrated their 40th Annual Growth Stock Conference to an online experience. The conference was a huge success, drawing our biggest crowd ever of 3,000 participants—triple the 2019 attendance.

We look forward in 2021 to hosting more events and client meetings, whether digitally or in-person. Much will depend on COVID-19.

John Ettelson
John Ettelson, William Blair President and CEO

But at year’s end there was good news regarding COVID: vaccines. Their development in record time has been an astonishing scientific achievement.

Tim Lugo, head of William Blair’s equity research biotech team, provides an update in this edition of Client Focus on the latest developments from Pfizer, Moderna and the other vaccine candidates along with an approximate timeline for rollouts.

For a broader glimpse of key investment sectors to watch in 2021, Alaina Anderson of Investment Management and Equity Research analysts Nick Heymann, Ryan Daniels, and Bhavan Suri share their thoughts on renewables/climate issues, infrastructure, healthcare, and technology.

So as we wrap up 2020, I am genuinely looking forward to 2021—hoping for fewer surprises than we experienced in 2020.

Wishing you and your loved ones a joyful and safe holiday season.



President and CEO