First day of the conference was kind of mixed pleasures. On the positive side was the sessions before noon and meeting old acquaintances. On the negative was the afternoon, which actually also was OK.
By Kenneth Brandborg | The 14th of May 2019
The morning started up with answering one of my unspoken questions: Where is ethics on the agenda? The answer came from Poul Smith, CEO & president himself. With an agenda around disruption, ethics has no place. It must be and will always be an unchanging golden standard to aim for – even though we must admit that the competence of hitting where you aim is sometimes rather poor in the industry.
So without ethics we leave the stage to all the disrupting elements currently roaring in our world. First up was a familiar face – the entertaining political/makro analyst. This year’s version showed up with Superman socks (they even had a cape attached): Peter Zeihan. To my surprise he was a glowing Republican, and as most republicans he has made an inverse Uffe Elleman (If you can’t join them – beat them (after the 1992 EU referendum and EC championship)). Many republicans have changed view on Trump and are suddenly under the impression that Trump is part of a greater scheme designed by the Republicans to restore America in a new world order. The end of the old world order ended in the autumn 1989 in Berlin, when the wall fell. It has just taken us about 30 years to realize. Two distinct notes must be made to the presentation from Peter Zeihan. Firstly, there is a disturbing connection between army/weaponry and trade politics. Not only by Peter, but by many economists linking military policy and trade policy. Secondly, Peter made demographics interesting. A couple of my old professors could learn a thing or two here. The most surprising statement was that in 2022, the American baby boomers will retire – the consequence will be a quadrupling of rate of return, according to Peter. That is what I would call a bold statement. But only the second boldest during his presentation. The boldest statement was calling, Clinton, Bush Jr. & Obama for the boulevard of morons – and leaving Trump out. I think most Europeans sees it somewhat differently.
Second speaker seemed very boring in comparison to Peter Zeihan at the first glance. But after a couple of minutes of warming up, he acted like a ‘Data Evangelist’. Gestures, language and speech could just as well have been found in a church on a Sunday. None the less the subject was really interesting. Linking the ancient marketplace to issues with banking, data and democracy challenges in a neat and elegant way. I can only recommend that you find the recorded version online on the CFA institute web side. His name is Viktor Mayer-Schönberger.
His reasoning was as follows; The market has always worked. When we settled on prices, we introduced price discovery in the market. For some years now, price discovery has been ‘too little’ so we have expanded to a broader ‘data discovery’. The implications are many, and some relatively grim. But Viktor had a relatively simple solution: Put taxes on data. The superstars on the corporate sky is currently companies that own data, and prospers immensely on owning the data. Force these giants (Apple, Facebook, Amazon, Ali baba and so on) to share and democratize data. The link drawn from the technological data disruption to political disruption was both elegant and alarming, and drastic measures to democratize data must be made to secure stability in the future.
The afternoon delights
Last on the agenda today was another classic: a panel discussion on some relevant topic. This year the topic was: Disruption. The moderator was around 60 years and the panelists where all 50+. Seasoned CIO’s. On the plus side there were gender equality. But having old people discussing disruption is like having a kindergarten discussing how to mix the perfect dry martini. It doesn’t work. Now am I just grumpy? Possibly, but let me give an example. All five panelists all claimed that they had been investing sustainable for years and years. You could then wonder why are we sitting at a panel discussion where it is considered disruptive to live up to the Paris accord. It almost seemed like the panelists meant that the one to blame was Nature, for not paying attention to all the good doing the CIO’s did. Disappointing – We must be able to do better!
On a happy note – almost
The rest of the day was spent on smaller sessions. One where I found my self counting to 3 by clapping, snapping and doing disco moves. That was all good fun.
The last note today is not on content, but on organization. I have attended Annual Conferences in multiple countries, and it gives you a benchmark of how good organizers are around the world. Americans are the best! They just know how to handle 1500 -2000 people. Moving them, feeding them and so on. Brits do not! They are terrible inefficient setting up unnecessary rules on funny stuff. For example, I went for breakfast in the exhibition area. There was no queue, but we could not take the food ourselves – it had to be served. And you could only choose one item. You were welcome to stand in line again and chose another item. Why? Just because – and in no time, the queues just grew and grew. Needless to say, the same operating model was helpless during lunch, when 1500 people wanted to eat at the same time.
I’ll be back tomorrow.
Kenneth Brandborg, CFA
Co-founder & CEO SapioX