European Family Office & Private Wealth Management Forum 2012 in Geneva

The annual Family Office & Private Wealth Conference explores the challenges and opportunities associated with investing in emerging markets, alternative investments, real estate, direct energy and numerous other asset classes. It also addresses many of the softer issues related to this, such as tax and regulation, asset protection, philanthropy, structuring a family office, and many more.

Organised by the Opal Financial Group, the  summit is held at the Intercontinental Hotel and is very well attended, with several hundred of the key investment decision makers in Europe in the audience and participating in the dialogue. My colleague Richard Shaw spoke in one of the panel sessions this morning and Magnus Caspar is also attending.

It is day two of three at the conference, and there are two interesting trends to report from the discussions.

The first is a consistent and seemingly unanimous belief in the malaise of the Euro and the inevitability of a Greek exit from the Eurozone.


The Decline and Fall of EuropeThe keynote speech today was given by Dr. Francesco Bongiovanni, talking about the conclusions of his recent book The Decline & Fall of Europe, where he provides a very lively and witty survey of Europe’s illness and decline.

podiumAccording to Dr. Bongiovanni, the failure of the European project is inevitable and we cannot currently even predict the new disasters that will be upon us one week from now. Europe stands on the brink of a monumental fall, wrestling with colossal economic, social, political and strategic challenges.

His conclusion is that increasing impoverishment and instability for Europeans seems inescapable and that the causes and consequences of a decline is going to affect the entire world. It is a portrait of a Europe that indulged too many illusions and is now awakening to bankruptcy.


The second trend is a strong belief in investment opportunities in the frontier markets.

That is, new emerging markets beyond BRIC, such as Nigeria, Ghana and Kenya. The opportunities in such markets provides a changing landscape for investment funds and other professional investors. Today, Africa feels like China did in the 1990s, at the beginning of rapid industrialization. Quite important in this trend is the strong re-emergence of belief in value investing.

While hearing all this, I cannot avoid to think of the markets previous belief in “go east” and the emergence of Asia. During the previous crises in 2008 some of my friends moved permanently to China, where they have been enjoying the economic boom. Shall we now so quickly shift focus, from the Far East to a rapid emergence of Africa and Latin America?

In not so distant history, macro economic trends played out over century’s and then decades and now the trends seem to shift intra decade. We do live in interesting times.

However lets not be so consistently gloomy. We at Bearing believe that the negative trends can be countered at least on the corporate level, through smart implementation of corporate innovation. We do still have a knowledge and experience gap between Europe and the developing world.

We also believe that individual places even in countries or regions going through decline can very well become winners, by consistent and focused work with place management place development and place branding.

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