The COVID-19 pandemic marked a turning point for the business world

How did the COVID-19 pandemic affect the future of the world's leading companies?

photo_camera AP/RICHARD DREW - New York Stock Exchange, 12 March 2020. The stock market had its biggest fall since the Black Monday crash in 1987

The early days of the COVID-19 pandemic sent capital markets plummeting across all sectors, but they recovered rapidly thereafter. This caused the Standard & Poor's 500 index - known as the S&P 500 - to make the biggest rally in its history in April 2020.  

The COVID-19 pandemic marked a turning point for the business world. That is why the Centre for Future Readiness at the Institute for Management Development in Switzerland studied more than a decade of data from 2010 to 2021. This study ranked publicly traded companies against their main competitors according to their post-pandemic economic preparedness and their survival in a future of rapid and unpredictable change. 

The study conducted an analysis of 86 companies, chosen for being the highest earners, in the four highest-earning industries: fashion and retail, automotive, financial services and technology. 

The rankings were topped by Tesla, Lululemon, MasterCard and Google, all of whom reflected a good preparedness for the future. While companies such as Apple, Twitter and Spotify underperformed their competitors. 


The United States was the best performer in this ranking with forty companies. It was followed by China and Germany with seven each.  

COVID-19 proved to be an important test for companies. A test that has rewarded those companies that best adapted to new trends, and punished those that hesitated to renew themselves before the pandemic. 

Professor Howard Yu, the study's author, said his work could help "smart executives not only to recover from the recent economic shock, but also to better respond to the disruptions of tomorrow". 

To compile the list, a ranking was carried out on objective measures to arrive at a composite score. An artificial intelligence algorithm then compared this score with the industry average. 

Only data was used, and critical drivers of innovation, such as financial fundamentals, investors' expectations of future growth, employee diversity, cash and debt, brand equity, business productivity and openness to new ideas - among others - were ignored. 


Sixteen retail and fashion companies with revenues ranging from USD 3.2 billion to USD 44.5 billion were analysed. In addition, other factors such as e-commerce strength, mobile app presence, Google searches or the ability to customise offers were also analysed. 

Sportswear brands Lululemon and Nike ranked first and second. The researchers, before the pandemic, had already changed their behaviours in major operations. This has put them ahead of luxury brands such as Hermes and Burberry. 

According to IMD, lower-ranking brands, such as H&M or Under Armour, "will find it difficult to compete in the coming years".  This is because they applied digital tools in addition to existing operations, which helped them to fight the pandemic, but not to continue competing after it.  


In order to carry out the ranking, 19 publicly listed car companies were analysed, looking at data from 2010 to 2020. Although four traditional companies (Toyota, BMW, Ford and Hyundai) ranked second to fifth, Tesla once again came out on top. 

This is due, according to IMD, to the conservative outlook of the traditional car companies and the problems when it comes to the electrification of vehicles. In addition, brands such as Audi were particularly affected by the chip shortage. 

In addition to Tesla, according to IMD, two Chinese companies - BYD and NIO - are equally prepared to survive future crises. 

Paying companies
PHOTO/REUTERS - Tarjetas de crédito de Mastercard Inc

Despite the pandemic, traditional payment companies, such as Visa or MasterCard, managed to be among the top players. According to IMD, this is mainly because they developed a system of collaboration with their competitors, creating a system of programming interfaces, which allowed them to develop easy applications with access to PayPal or Square. 

AFP/TOBIAS SCHWARZ  -   Logotipo de la empresa estadounidense de búsqueda en internet Google

In this research, 29 technology companies, leaders in hardware, software and semiconductors, were studied.  

The five top-ranked companies are Google, Amazon, Microsoft, Facebook and AMD. According to IMD, these businesses "have an entrepreneurial orientation, a willingness to expand from their core businesses, the ability to scale quickly and a shared internal vision of the future". 

In addition, the research showed that the flexible structures of these companies allowed them to make quick decisions during the pandemic. This made it easy for them to adapt.

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