'I'd love to save the world, but there are people better qualified,' CEO says at Davos

  • Martin Gilbert, co-CEO of Standard Life Aberdeen, says WEF's annual conference is great for meeting with clients

The World Economic Forum describes its official mandate as "improving the state of the world." Those discussions occur, but business is also a large part of the organization's annual event in the Swiss mountain town of Davos.

Davos "is very efficient for people like myself because all our clients are here, so you get a lot of meetings done," Martin Gilbert, co-CEO of global investment firm Standard Life Aberdeen told CNBC on the sidelines of the conference. "So it works, and everyone's here."

As for the forum's dialogues on world-changing developments, the executive said: "I'd love to save the world, but there are people better qualified at saving the world than me."

Gilbert, who estimated he clocks around 50 meetings during the four-day conference, says he's more suited to participating in discussions about longer-term investing: "That's something I do feel passionately about ... If we all take a longer-term view to investing and investing in infrastructure, it will actually make the world a better place."

Gilbert says his company's average holding time on an equity is 10 years.

With around $900 billion consolidated assets under management, Standard Life Aberdeen is Europe's second-largest fund manager following last year's $14.8 billion merger between Standard Life and Aberdeen Asset Management.

Martin Gilbert, chief executive officer of Aberdeen Asset Management Plc, speaks during an interview in London, U.K., on Monday, May 16, 2016.
Jason Alden | Bloomberg via Getty Images
Martin Gilbert, chief executive officer of Aberdeen Asset Management Plc, speaks during an interview in London, U.K., on Monday, May 16, 2016.

Global markets have been rallying as of late, but Gilbert said he's anticipating a correction.

"I'm not sure we're going to get a serious fall because the global economy is pretty benign at the moment, but there is too much complacency. The market isn't pricing in any shocks."

If U.S. inflation increases at a faster-than-expected clip, that could cause the Federal Reserve to tighten faster, he warned.

The world's largest economy "is surprising on the upside," but it's not clear how much of that is due to President Donald Trump's policies, Gilbert continued. The corporate tax cut, however, was definitely a positive move, he added.

Closer to home, the fund manager said the U.K. government was in "a tough spot" amid ongoing Brexit negotiations. Officials at 10 Downing Street "probably didn't realize" the sheer importance of financial services to the U.K. economy, Gilbert said.

In the case of a so-called hard Brexit, parts of the industry could migrate to New York or Singapore, according to the executive, who added that "Dublin could be a big winner as well."