Davos is done, and we're all back home dusting melted snow from our dinner jackets, and sorting through fistfuls of business cards. Overall I was left with three impressions of Davos 2010:
Firstly, the monumental failure that was Copenhagen. The lack of a legitimate policy framework against which countries and indeed companies can align their objectives was a fault line that ran through discussion-after-discussion at Davos. It is now too easy for good women and men to do nothing.
Secondly, ‘the new normal’ within financial services. There is no doubt that the world has changed and that this new world order, or 'new normal' as it is knowingly referred to, is still ill-defined, I don't believe the bankers are at one with one another; or that the regulators are at one with each other; or that the politicians are, either. And certainly none of those tribes are meaningfully engaged with any other.
Yes, there is a tremendous amount of work going on by technocrats to solve the twin issues of capital and liquidity. Nonetheless, that work is not satisfying the population at large, and it is that voting populus that the politicians now care about. The roots of this battle lie in familiar territory: compensation and her discontents.
From where I sit, there is still very limited consensus within the banking (or indeed the private equity) community as to how best to respond. My basic hunch is that the world divides into two camps: those that get it (that the good-old-days are over), and those that don't. What is clear is that any solution needs to encompass the G20 in its totality, and resist the unilateralism epitomised in a US-only, UK-only or Federalist-Europe only response. Our markets are now unapologetically global; our solution must be, too.
Thirdly I was left with a timid optimism, despite it all, and renewed faith in humanity's ability to pick up the pieces, move on and begin again. At the UN's World Food Programme (WFP) dinner, this resilience was abundantly clear. I arrived harbouring my habitual scepticism towards any United Nations solution (with its connotations of slow-moving bureaucracy), but was blown away by what I saw and heard. A moving account from Josette Sheeran, Executive Director of the WFP, fresh off the plane from Haiti, described pragmatically and honestly what she had seen and done in Port-au-Prince. Save the Children was there, so too was World Vision, the International Red Cross and the World Economic Forum's Professor Schwab. What Josette's analysis demonstrated was that the challenges are real, logistical, troubling but that the fundamental commitment to solving this multi-laterally, by whatever means necessary, is alive and well. Good people doing good things.
It is that simple proposition I will take with me into the year ahead.
Paul Fletcher is Senior Partner at Actis, the world's largest private equity firm specialising in emerging markets, leading the firm from its London headquarters. He's been blogging exclusively for MT from Davos.
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