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Swiss timing

Professor Stéphane Garelli might well be Swiss, but if any of the delegates at the Finance Director’s Forum at Savoy Place were expecting a mild-mannered keynote to ease them into a busy day, they were in for a rude awakening. In an expansive canter through global economies – his theme was competitiveness, within and between nations and regions – Garelli showed adept comic timing and a flair for the dramatic. Which was just as well, given the often doomish figures he reported to the conference.

The stark facts behind government debts and deficits are well-known, of course, but the global imbalances in growth, trade and financial firepower now show a fundamental shift of power eastwards. In Western Europe and the US, there may well be a statistical recovery, but there remains a human recession, typified by unemployment.

Meanwhile China, India and the other fast-growing economies had built up such large currency reserves that their decisions over how to deploy their wealth could be a huge destabilizing factor. That’s an unnerving thought for UK FDs: global currency imbalances are bad enough, but if the net result is a weak economy and strong new competitors, the risk are amplified.

Perhaps the best route out of this competitiveness problem, said Garelli, is reindustrialization. Making and exporting things again would be a huge boon to both companies and their economies. But it’s going to need growth in productivity and exceptionally good planning – plus an explosion of creativity and entrepreneurialism.

And being Swiss, it’s not surprising that Garelli said timing was also crucial. Being right before everyone else, he emphasized, is as bad as being wrong. That’s an occupational hazard for FDs within their businesses – but the stakes now are higher than ever.

Taking the long view

It’s sometimes said that the FD is the guardian of long-term value creation. If that’s true, the messages presented by Logica’s Benelux CFO Jan Piet Valk need a wider audience. He’s spearheading the company’s sustainability push, and as he explained, having the CFO as a sponsor gives the issue real teeth.

There are compelling drivers – none of which requires a CFO to cry over felled trees. First, good governance, compliance and reporting, particularly with new regulations around issues like carbon emissions. Second, efficiency and cost savings – whether that’s fewer air miles or lower energy consumption. Third, there are business opportunities to support other companies looking to the real long-term.

The CFO is compelled to look at these issues. But although Valk made a fantastic case for sustainability as a CFO issue, this session was all the more compelling coming after dire warnings about commodity prices and resource scarcity in the Garelli keynote. Sustainability is no longer about being green. It’s about being able to make money within the foreseeable future.

Innovation is the key in a post-crisis world – David Smith, Editor, The Sunday Times

One of the questions I get asked most often, usually by people who are sceptical about economic prospects is: Where will the jobs come from? The other is: What will be the successful businesses of the future?

Anybody who can accurately answer the second question deserves our admiration and will make a lot of money. There will be developments in the future that we can barely predict now.

Only a few far-sighted people in the early 1990s thought, for example, that the internet, then quite primitive, would have such an enormous economic and commercial impact. The jobs and businesses of the future may be in sectors and areas we are barely aware of at the moment.

Economists can offer some general pointers about the likely shape of the economy in the coming years. So, we know there will be a continuing shift in the axis of business power from West to East. That shift was occurring before the financial crisis but in my view has been accelerated by it, by some 5-10 years.

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HR on the high seas: a special report


HR Business Network ask: What happens when you fill a cruise ship with influential HR leaders and thinkers give them access to swimming pools, sun loungers and quality restaurants from sunrise to sundown, and let them make the most of all the facilities for almost three days straight?

The impressive answer is that they barely use them, and instead all work very, very hard. To the colleagues they left behind on dry land, it must have sounded like a decadent jolly, specifically designed so they could put their feet up on company time.

But as HR Business Network found out, barely a toe was dipped in the water, the deck chairs remained empty, and the Aurora ship played host to three of the most intensive days in the HR calendar.

Read the full article over at HR Business Network

HR Business Network

Photos from our recent UK Event

We took some photos of our keynote speakers and speed networking session while we aboard Aurora.

Take a look after the break.

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