The Short-Sightedness Of Wall Street When It Comes To Broadband Infrastructure Investment
from the short-term-thinking dept
Like any good short-sighted investor, Moffett has urged companies to not upgrade their networks, insiting that caps and overages are the "next generation of communications." The irony of course is those telcos who listened and didn't upgrade their networks are now having their lunch eaten by cable providers on a massive scale, which, if Moffett's firm and client investment interests lean heavily toward cable operators, is something that's working out rather well for him and them.Bode's piece focuses on Moffett's silly analysis that the DOJ's interest is in how Comcast and Time Warner are trying to stifle Netflix and Hulu and that will somehow increase prices (huh? what?!?) because they'd take away Moffett's preferred solution of anti-consumer data caps.
Less network investment, less competition, higher prices. Great for investors, not so great for you
However, I wanted to focus in on the larger issue here: the idiocy of short-term Wall Street thinking over long term strategy. Wall Street functions on a quarterly basis mostly -- with an occasional nod to looking out a full year, but rarely anything further than that. This creates stupidly short-sighted incentives that are deathly towards anyone with any long term goals or strategy. It argues that any big strategic investments don't make sense, because they cost lots of money in the short term, but you won't see payback until outside the myopic window of vision of these Wall Street analysts.
Perhaps that's great for day traders, but as Bode notes, it's bad for the public. And here's the thing: it's actually even worse for companies. It's unfortunate how many companies find themselves slaves to Wall Street analysts views in making their strategic planning efforts. Because that holds them back from actually making the important big strategic investments they often need for the future. Every so often you have a more visionary leader who simply ignores the folks like Moffett. You get situations like Ivan Seidenberg at Verizon, who ignored Moffett and invested in fiber -- which is why it's still competitive today. Unfortunately, as Seidenberg got closer and closer to retirement (which happened last year), the company backed away from continuing its build out. Short term thinking over long term thinking.
In some ways, this is the flipside to the Innovator's dilemma. It's an explanation for why big legacy companies fail to respond to disruptive innovation: because they can't. Because they can't put in the effort to be ready for disruption and instead leave themselves wide open to such disruption by not investing in their future, but rather by listening to the Craig Moffetts of the world -- such that the money that could be building a company for the future instead ends up in the hands of Moffett's real clients: the short-term investors.
If we want to build a stronger economy that builds jobs and continues to innovate, we have to figure out a way to diminish the power of Wall Street's short-term focus, and how to incentivize companies to understand what investing for the long run means.