Davos 2018 learnings

Davos: What Goes On Beyond the Widely Broadcast Keynotes

As the world eagerly followed the outcome of talks at this year’s World Economic Forum, hosted annually in the Swiss ski resort of Davos, questions around the purpose of gathering 3000 of the most prominent chief executives and heads of state in this remote village naturally arise. The role of Davos divides opinion, yet few have an insight into the conversations that take place, beyond those that are presented to the world from the press covered main sessions. In fact, there are an additional 16,000 people who descend on Davos every January, to take part in the hundreds of smaller panels and discussions, taking place across the town.

Perhaps most importantly, and also somewhat surprisingly, Davos is alive and buzzing with energy at night. With a wealth of events hosted in the main hotels and along the Promenade stretching through the town providing drinks and ample opportunity for networking, it is in the evening where the well-established mix with the young and entrepreneurial, exchanging ideas and contacts, and setting the stage for the year ahead.

Nocturnal Davos attendees are dominated by tech entrepreneurs, distinguishing themselves from politicians and corporates by their casual manner and age. The dialogue between the two, however, is rife. This year, you would be hard pressed not to have overheard conversations about cryptocurrencies and blockchain, which dominated the night-time agenda. “CryptoHQ”, the blockchain hub which opened its doors for the first time this year at Davos, acted as a focal point for networking and serious negotiation. As more and more financial institutions recognise the technology is here to stay and its resulting ramifications for financial services inevitable, the influence of tech leaders in blockchain technology on the corporate elite is undeniable.

While excitement for sophisticated, cutting edge technology has the potential to eclipse all else, many organisations still shy away from issues surrounding technology that is second-nature to most. The use of social media and private messaging platforms from the workplace poses significant problems for regulated firms, and raises questions of data security, as well as simultaneous employee freedoms. Amidst this, SMC hosted a panel discussion about social media and its impact on data privacy at Davos. Among the conclusions made by panellists, who included Jayne Plunkett of SwissRe and Pierre Goad of HSBC, were that social media is a central part of our society, and so must be addressed with education and monitoring within the workplace. Despite its pervasiveness, the use of personal social media within the workplace remains an often-ignored topic within financial services. As organisations open their minds to advanced blockchain technologies, we hope that safe social media usage is also seen as an integral part of their future.

While many aspects of the World Economic Forum’s annual meeting deserve critical assessment – our CEO Kitty Parry was one of only 20% of female attendees – the inclusion of technology start-ups in the discussions give it a renewed edge.