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Thoughts from Davos

Andrew Nicolls, Senior Consultant

So what is the chatter in Davos this year? What are the hot topics of conversation between the great and the good of politics and commerce?

Climate still hot
Last year was the warmest on record and climate change is still proving to be a big issue. Al Gore and Pharrell Williams are amongst the big hitters ensuring the ‘biggest challenge of our generation’ isn’t disappearing as a key issue anytime soon. It has fallen down the agenda a little. Perhaps the perceived success of COP21 is allowing people to focus on other global issues that will affect our economies of the future?

Cybercrime and security
Following David Cameron’s controversial suggestion that governments should be given access to encrypted data and the European Court of Human Rights ruling that private messages at work can be read by European employers last week the whole issue of data, privacy and cybercrime is central. It is clear that cybercrime is a growing concern and will no doubt become a bigger global issue to the individual as well as employers. Interestingly, four people I have met today have told me that they work in the cyber security space, even if they are subsequently incredibly cagey about what it is they actually do!

The rise and rise of the robot
Everyone also seems to be focussing on robots, perhaps in reaction to Mark Zuckerberg’s comments that he wants a fully functional robo-servant? Apparently 50 percent of jobs could be replaced by robots in the next 20 years. However, there are clear concerns and in one session at the congress they were described as the next weapon of mass destruction.

Women leaders
As always, women are high on the agenda but still only 18 percent of attendees at Davos are women (and the cynics say that a lot of these are spouses of delegates). Nevertheless, there is an all ladies pavilion half way up the promenade which is covered in pink writing and only admits women, apart from the decorative waiters serving them – who are all men! So when Sheryl Sandberg said yesterday that men run the world and it is not going so well, can the women of Davos change that?

Future of Europe
Today it is all about Europe with Cameron and Osborne in town alongside every European prime minister. This morning’s session was focused on the Future of Europe with participation from the leaders of France, Germany and Greece. A year ago the overarching theme was that the EU was moving from one emergency to the next. Today the general feeling seems to be that, from an economic perspective at least, things have moved on and Europe is in a better place.

Other big themes concern security and the refugee situation. Manuel Valls, the French PM has stressed that the security issue was not just a French one and that Denmark and Belgium were also affected. The discussion moved onto the refugee crisis and the urgency of the situation over the next eight weeks as spring approaches and more refugees start to mobilise. An EU/Turkish agreement is imperative and it is also vital that there is a common foreign policy. The panel agreed that the Schengen Area is crucial but clearly not helping the current situation. However, there is no alternative as the Dublin system is not working. The session closed with all in agreement that the fragmentation of Europe would be a disaster.

So we move into another packed day in Davos with the words that are trending the most being China, future and revolution…..interesting, the only revolution I have noticed here is at the check-in desk at the Belvedere Hotel where a new badging system has caused an uproar!

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