Richard Quest presents Quest Means Business on CNN. Image Credit: Supplied Picture


Conversations lead to change

The runners are off...Davos has begun. The agenda is clear: how to do things differently in the future, especially when it comes to the banks.

The discussion has been galvanised by President Obama's proposals to split the big Wall Street firms and ban proprietary trading. Stephen Green, Chairman of HSBC told me reform of the banks is needed but cautions against doing it in haste. And he doesn't like president Obama's proposals for banning prop trading by banks which he says is unworkable.

There are big thoughts being raised here today. Ben Verwaayen the CEO of the telecom company Alcatel-Lucent is promoting cohesive capitalism. He explained that companies need to set policies around a much bigger agenda than earnings per share. “I'm talking about issues...whether that's health, whether that's climate change, whether it has to do with the cohesion of society because of diversity. And companies need to contribute.“ This is true Davosian thinking.

Ben knows stating the principle is part of the process at Davos. Tom Glocer the CEO of Thomson Reuters - a seasoned Davos-hand – knows, “Ideas are generated independently. They begin to be socialised. They are essentially repeating what they've heard in the corridors here. The idea picks up traction.”

In the cold winter of Switzerland there is, as always, hot debate of these issues and these conversations will eventually lead to change.


Are you going to Davos?

This is the standard question the world's elite ask each other in the first weeks of the New Year.  Will I see you at the World Economic Forum?  For some the answer may very well be "not sure", "maybe", or even "probably not."  The CEOs of Sony, Facebook and Burger King won't be here. Steve Forbes is staying away. And President Barosso of the EU has decided to give it a miss too.  But don't think for a moment Davos is over and done with. The bankers will be out in force. 

Facing swingeing reform from President Obama and with more governments deciding how to impose punitive levies, banks like Citigroup, Barclays and Morgan Stanley are sending top executives.  They will no doubt be cautious not to be seen living the good life at a luxury Swiss mountain resort. The consultants will be meeting clients to cement relations and many CEOs will be eyeing up counterparts warily and pondering whether they should be doing a deal.

Davos will always have a unique role to play in the international calendar and this year is no different.

Tune in to Richard Quest each weekday at 9pm Cairo /9pm Kuwait /9pm Riyadh /10pm Dubai on Quest Means Business. www.cnn.com/qmb