Pessimism about growth is “part of the human condition”, but history shows there are actually grounds for optimism, former Macquarie Group chief executive Nicholas Moore says.

Amid a worldwide COVID-induced recession, Mr Moore said there was no shortage of challenges to confront.

“There’s a litany of genuine concern and worry,” he said in a question-and-answer session on Thursday with Qantas director Belinda Hutchinson for the Future Generation Virtual Investment Forum.

“But history tells us that long-term real GDP growth is pretty consistent.”

Mr Moore retired as Macquarie chief executive in November 2018 after a decade in the job.

He was succeeded by Shemara Wikramanayake.

Since leaving Macquarie, Mr Moore has taken on two chairman roles, including software start-up Willow and not-for-profit The Smith Family.

Willow was singled out by Microsoft chief executive Satya Nadella when he was in Sydney last year for its use of cloud computing to process the data generated by sensors in buildings and attached to infrastructure.

The former Macquarie chief declined to give any specific investment advice. However, in broad terms, he said, people should know their tolerance for risk, the time frame over which they were looking to invest, and their general areas of comfort.

Mr Moore’s comfort zone revolved around Macquarie and infrastructure-related activities, with technology an add-on because he always found it “fascinating”.

He said investors should have a balanced portfolio, always seek professional advice, and “understand what the downside could be”.

As for COVID-19 and the accelerated adoption of digital solutions, Mr Moore said he was trying to assess what it all meant. There would be more opportunities for Willow, he said, as the number of sensors in the built environment increased dramatically.

“We will see more sensors on everything,” he said.

“It’s a question of how we make sense of all that information and make intelligent decisions.

“We have a long way to go, I think.”

Asked about the likely impact on the broader economy, Mr Moore said most of the benefit would flow through to the consumer.

“We have great technology companies continuing to emerge in digital and the health sciences,” he said.

While Australians should be nervous about the future, the former Macquarie chief said there was no reason for pessimism.

He said COVID-19 would accelerate technological innovation, and you could see innovations now that had driven growth in the past.

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